While JD Greear Was Scolding Republicans, JD Hall Was Getting them Elected
JD Greear and JD Hall — You could hardly find two pastors who are more at odds with one another.
While JD Greear was campaigning to become the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, JD Hall was helping churches across the country understand the need for an SBC exodus.
Today I listened with interest to JD Greear’s annual SBC Presidential Address. (See my notes here.) It was what I expected. There were some true statements, mixed in with a large and fetid chunk of trash, all wrapped in the pages of a Bible that seems mostly unread.
But this article is not about that JD. It is about the trustworthy one: JD Hall. While JD Greear was superintending the largest Southern Baptist decline in 100 years and blaming it on your Republican parents and on those Facebook warriors who think a good Christian cannot be a Democrat, the other JD was taking a break from Christian polemics.
Would you like to know what JD Hall has been up to for the past five months? In a word: Stewardship.
JD (Jordan) Hall understands that Christian manhood requires taking personal responsibility — for your church and even, to a degree, for the direction your society and nation are going.
Jordan Hall’s story is one that needs to be told. It is worth your attention. There are many people who would want to accomplish the kind of things he has. Hall is not what most limp-wristed SBC pastors would call a polite man. But he is a man who knows what civilization depends on, and who is willing to say what needs to be said in order to teach others.
As Pastor Doug Wilson has pointed out, “Desperate times call for faithful men, and not for careful men. The careful men come later, and write the biographies of the faithful men, lauding them for their courage.”
Jordan Hall is a man capable of building. And he is capable of tearing down, when needed. May such a thing be said of all of us. In this article, you will see both sides of the man. Like Shane from the famous Western novel, in Jordan Hall you meet the kind of man who comes upon an injustice and simply does what it takes to right the wrong — no matter the cost.
For nearly a decade, Pastor Jordan Hall has been a steady figure on the evangelical landscape. He has cast a long shadow across the Christian blogosphere. He is no stranger to controversy. Rather, Pastor Hall has been able to routinely reach out from one of the most rural locations in the United States to every corner of the globe. He has grown his website platform from a fledgling blog to a website with more than a million readers a month. Topics on his podcast, the Polemics Report, have regularly worked their way into the evangelical news cycle. His social media postings have caused virtual earthquakes on more than one occasion.
The Montana pastor split hell open for Christian book retailers when he exposed the industry’s greed in 2015 by publishing Alex Malarkey’s open letter to Lifeway. Malarkey reached out to Hall to get help telling his story; book retailers were selling an account written about him supposedly visiting and returning from Heaven, but no matter how many times the young man told them the story was untrue, they wouldn’t pull it from the shelves. After publishing the open letter that he wrote with Malarkey, his rebuke to the Christian retail industry became the largest news story in the world for two entire days.
Malarkey reached out to Hall after seeing a massive grass-roots uprising on Twitter, led by Hall, against Lifeway Christian Resources. Known as #the15 (because Ed Stetzer referred to Hall as “one of the 15 angry Calvinists always mad about everything”), thousands of pastors and laypeople across the theological spectrum spent nearly a month bombarding those Hall calls the “Evangelical Intelligentsia” with #the15 hashtag he created to make the movement go viral. Five years later, you can still see people with road signs for Interstate 15 serving as their social media avatars. Only days into the Twitter protest, Stetzer reached out to every famous and mutual friend he and Hall had to get him to relent (it did not work). The movement was here to stay.
Hall recalled waking up to see his Pulpit & Pen logo over the head of Matt Lauer on the Today Show in 2015 and summarized it as surreal. But over the course of several years, citations of Hall’s writings would find their way to publications ranging from the Washington Post to Maxim Magazine and it became the new normal. In the last year, Hall has been interviewed for publications that included the New York Times and Newsweek. Most of these interviews are regarding his work in the counter-cult movement. Wikipedia gives him a notable mention as one of the champions of the movement.
Hall engaged in several high-profile debates on theological topics, with one defeated opponent abandoning his position only months later and another opponent ending their debate in literal tears, for which Hall earned the reputation as an impossibly tough opponent. Hall’s website also ran articles exposing evangelical scandals, which inevitably led to the torpedoing of fallen ministers ranging from Ergun Caner to Clayton Jennings to Greg Locke.
In the years leading up to the great evangelical divide over social justice, Hall spent most of his energy laying out the case against the movement and documenting the liberal drift of Southern Baptists and evangelical institutions. But just as the movement was coming to a head in 2020, Hall almost disappeared completely from the evangelical scene, letting others take his work and documentation and carry the mantle instead.
During this time, many wondered why Hall would step away. Although Hall’s closest supporters have maintained contact through social media and by subscribing to his podcast, those who only see his work when it makes the news might have noticed his absence. Hall has stepped down as the editor of Pulpit & Pen, which has recently been rebranded as PNP News, and hired long-time Canadian contributor, Dustin Germain, to provide daily content for the news site. Only occasionally do articles from Hall appear there, and sometimes weeks apart. This stands in contrast to the prolific writing that Hall has done for the last decade.
What has Hall been doing exactly? As it turns out, Hall’s story has been just as interesting in the last five months as at any time in the last decade, although surprisingly quieter. Since January, he’s been changing the political landscape in Montana and launching a new statewide political news publication that has taken Montana by storm.
During an important election year, Hall led a movement in his home county to petition the county commissioners with a request to declare it a sanctuary for the unborn and a sanctuary for gun rights. Hall used his position with the Republican Central Committee, which he was elected to serve as a precinct chairman, to call a town hall forum. In what some have referred to as “brazenness,” Hall and the committee requested the attendance of all elected officials in the county. Indeed, they attended when summoned, including all the commissioners and county sheriff. The meeting likely set an attendance record in the rural area for a town hall forum and petitions were circulated.
However, a local newspaper characterized the meeting harshly. The paper’s editor wrote an op-ed dredging up every controversy he has been involved with in the most negative light possible. (The editor then announced retirement). Some backstory: The paper had been feuding with Hall since it canceled his religion column for publicly rebuking a visiting evangelist in Dickinson, North Dakota. The evangelist had referred to President Trump as the messiah. Hall’s subsequent ejection made the news.
After such treatment from the press, the pastor hatched a plan: He would replace them.
His new publication’s website says:
“The Montana Daily Gazette was founded after negative press coverage in the Sidney Herald characterized a successful and peaceful town hall meeting addressing the Sanctuary Movement as ‘though a militia were forming.’ Incensed at their biased coverage…Hall believed that it was time to use his publishing experience to give a voice to alternative media in the Big Sky State. And so, he founded the Montana Daily Gazette to give traditional values a voice and to commandeer the online news market away from mainstream media which, more times than not, advocates for progressive policies and political candidates.”
Hall maintained his status as a credentialed writer with the town’s other newspaper, but knew his occasional reporting there would not be enough to make a big difference in local or state elections. And so, Hall used his experience in Christian website publishing to put together a new outlet for conservative news in Montana that he claimed at the time would “beat every newspaper in Montana in three months and have more readership than all of them combined in six.”
So far, Hall is on track. But in order to make that vision a reality, Hall knew he would have to give the keys to his polemics ministry to someone else and focus intensely on Montana politics until the end of the primary season. Combined with his work on the Gazette, Hall would also form an Independent Political Committee — commonly called a PAC — and use money from donors to target opponents who the preacher calls “fake Republicans.”
If that were not enough on his plate, Hall’s influence in the local Republican Party — although unofficial — would be challenged from the left, as a new effort developed to take back the committee for a more moderate faction of those who opposed his sanctuary initiatives. In the end, Hall would spend the first five months of 2020 launching a petition drive, founding a newspaper, forming and funding a PAC, and trying to maintain a conservative majority in 13 different local precinct elections.
Few would have guessed that the man seen preaching in his cowboy hat and flannel jacket out of the back of his pickup truck during the coronavirus lockdown that he was also waging a political war on three fronts. But that’s exactly what he was doing.
Hall explained that in 2007 a group known as the ‘Solutions Caucus’ formed in partnership between the extreme leftwing of the Republican Legislature and the state’s Democratic governor. This group of “RINO” conservatives would caucus with Democrats on important legislation, tipping the balance of power to Democrats, even though they were the minority party. One of the founders of the Solutions Caucus’ Democrat-Republican alliance was a political kingmaker and former legislator in Hall’s own town, and he was behind the candidacy of an incumbent the pastor felt needed to go and also the instigator behind the attempted local party coup. In reaction, Hall used his Montana Daily Gazette publication to target the Solutions Caucus around the state with pointed, polemical pieces just as he had a thousand times with problematic evangelical celebrities at Pulpit & Pen. In short, he used the same polemical voice to make a difference in statewide politics.
It seems to have worked. Montana’s primary last Tuesday ended with the coup against his committee being thwarted, his local opponent for state legislature defeated, and with a number of high-profile victories against the Solutions Caucus across the state that will likely change the face of Montana politics.
Articles in other statewide publications about Tuesday’s primary include titles such as: “Conservative Comeback!” and “The RINO Morgue Overfloweth.” Nearly every news publication in Montana recognized that a major shift had taken place in state politics.
Hall was candid about his role, saying, “There were a few races that I genuinely wonder if they could have been won without the work we did in exposing the Solutions Caucus. But several PACs, activist groups, and at least one or two other news outlets all played a part in effort. It’s the candidates who deserve the credit.”
Others certainly are crediting Hall’s new publication with Tuesday’s success.
A medical doctor and high-profile conservative activist who runs the Montana Pro-Life Coalition, Dr. Annie Bukacek, said on her Facebook page on election night, “Heavy Hitters in Exposing Montana’s [Solution Caucus]: Montana Gazette with Pastor Jordan Hall, Legistats with Ed Butcher and Lonny Bergstrom, Doctors for a Healthy Montana.”
I reached out to some other heavy hitters in Montana’s conservative circles and asked what they thought about Pastor Hall and his new publication as a part of this story.
Theresa Manzella, who had the highest profile victory of the evening and who defeated her Solutions Caucus opponent who most wrongly projected would win, said of Hall, “Using his pen and his God-given talent for articulating the truth as his weapon of choice, Pastor Jordan Hall has not only stepped onto the battlefield of Montana politics, but successfully waged war…and won…against a group of well-seasoned, fake Republicans who have been pulling the proverbial wool over voters’ eyes for the past 16 years.”
Her words of Hall were glowing, continuing with, “His ability to simplify complex political shenanigans, and articulate them in a manner that our citizens could not only understand, but more importantly FEEL the reality of, was the deciding factor for some voters.”
She concluded her statements with, “His articles and commentary added value to the election process and gave some Montana Christian Conservative legislators the voice and the edge they needed to be victorious against Goliath sized, well-heeled opponents. As one who benefited from his efforts, Pastor Jordan Hall is a Christian soldier who I’ll go to battle beside any day.”
Cindi Hamilton is a constitutional advocate who provided Hall the intelligence data he needed to figure out Montana politics in a hurry. She runs the Free Montana Project.
Hamilton said of him, “Jordan Hall came in like a wrecking ball several months back, immediately approached and started picking the brains of the well-known [conservative leaders], learning who we adored and who we were fighting against and why. It was immediately apparent that he had a real gift for rapidly investigating a topic and writing a very good article about it. He has such a way with words! It’s like he says what we are thinking, but just says it so much better.”
Hamilton added something that Hall’s evangelical followers already know, “On top of that, he is incredibly prolific! It seems like some days he puts out several complicated stories, getting everything right — his analyses are always spot on — and the composition of his articles are not only very coherent and illuminating but even entertaining.”
She then said, “So his Montana Daily Gazette took off immediately and became almost overnight one of the most widely read and shared news sources we Montana conservatives use. Still is. We love it and cherish him…His articles have had quite a large effect on the power structure of Montana politics, due to their accessibility, timeliness and popularity…We also feel like he’s a guy who walks the walk… I don’t think this is just a job for him — he’s a true believer.”
Jim White, who runs Northwest Liberty News, said of him, “An election is a collective effort, no doubt, but there are a few people who had a huge impact on the 2020 Montana Primary. One of those people is Jordan Hall from the Montana Daily Gazette.”
A number of lobbying organizations have sent feelers out to Hall to see if he wants a job in Helena or wants to serve as a campaign manager for several important races. When asked if he would consider such an opportunity, Hall said definitively: “Nope.”
Currently, Hall is back to conspiring with the PNP News Team and trying to discover how to best navigate “big tech censorship” — as he calls it — that has throttled his Christian publications since he took a hiatus to focus on state politics. His team is putting together a plan to circumvent their censorship in what Hall calls “a game of whack-a-mole.”
Over the weekend, with the election behind him, Hall placed the first call to his friend, Tim Hurd (he runs the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, a Christian media ministry where Hall’s podcast is hosted) since January. The two had not spoken in a long time.
Hall asked Hurd, “What’s happening in polemics these days? I have no idea.”
It’s likely you’ll see Hall emerge somewhere in the evangelical landscape again, with his dent in state politics sufficiently made. Or, perhaps Hall will retire from public life altogether. The Montana preacher has been known over the course of the last decade to step away from writing for six months to a year at a time, conceivably whenever it suits his fancy and returning whenever it peaks his interest.
When asked what was in his immediate future, Hall responded, “There’s church potluck on Sunday.”
Time will tell what the future holds, but because it’s Jordan Hall, it will probably be interesting to watch.