A Bad Actor - Word&Way

A Bad Actor

Jenna Ellis, a Trump attorney who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has been busy lately. She turned over thousands of documents to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection; she joined the campaign of Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor sparking headlines because of his Christian Nationalism; and she repeatedly blasted Word&Way on Facebook.

Yeah, that last part surprised us too.

Earlier this month, we documented at A Public Witness how one of the Southern Baptist Convention presidential candidates, Tom Ascol, had been campaigning for the office on a variety of Trumpian and far-right media outlets. After publication of our piece, Ascol went on Ellis’s podcast. So, one of us (Brian) wrote a follow-up piece noting her role in spreading false claims about the election and ways that Ascol himself had amplified those claims during that time on both Twitter and his own podcast. That piece also highlighted the SBC’s continued silence on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In a runoff election the next day, Ascol badly lost the SBC presidential race. Apparently undeterred by another loss, Ellis attacked us on social media a few days later for reporting about her and Ascol. She suggested we weren’t really Christian. And she called us “a bad actor.”

Yes, someone who falsely claimed Donald Trump “won by a landslide,” who joined Rudy Giuliani to meet with lawmakers in several states to urge lawmakers to overturn a legitimate election, and who drafted memos urging Vice President Mike Pence to help destroy our democracy, thinks Word&Way is “a bad actor.”

When someone like Ellis criticizes our reporting, we’re probably doing something right. 

So, we watched our Facebook page erupt on Friday as Ellis’s followers bombarded us with vitriol, name-calling, and wild conspiracy theories. Despite her problematic history with the truth, she enjoys a large following with people ready to pile on in defense of her fairy tales about a “stolen” election. She not only posted screenshots of our Facebook page to stoke outrage, but she then added at least six comments herself to one of our posts. If she’s wasting time commenting on our Facebook page, that’s less time she can work to undermine our democracy. Just another way our journalism provides a public service!

One of her replies included a meme of Trump saying “nobody cares,” an ironic claim to make about the group you’re obsessively writing about online. She also thanked her dozens of followers who joined the dogpile in our comments section: “Appreciate everyone who came to also call them out for not being a news outlet and tell them what we think about their ‘reporting.’” Of course, considering that the chief counsel for the Republican National Committee called Ellis’s election suits “a joke” that were “misleading millions of people” but also getting her “laughed out of court,” she might not be a good source for judging credibility.

She’s not the first person to get upset at our award-winning publication for reporting the truth and calling out lies. Ascol added a comment on her Facebook page agreeing with her attacks on us, which isn’t the first time he’s gone after Word&Way for reporting about things he said. And Ellis justified her support for Ascol as part of a concern about the SBC “going woke.”

Yeah, that made us laugh too.

She’s not alone. Ascol and many of his other supporters also cited that absurd claim as a reason to vote for him. If you’re disconnected enough from reality to think the SBC is woke and liberal, you might just believe a number of crazy things like tall tales about stolen elections. Oh, wait.

Sadly, in this up-is-down, wrong-is-right worldview, Ellis also tried to justify herself with professions of her faith. She wrote in one attack on us, “My Christian faith is what I talk about most because at the end of the day, proclaiming Christ is all that matters.” At which point, we’d like to ask her to stop.

Such declarations from partisan warriors contribute to the rise of the “nones” as people walk away from churches. How can we expect someone to trust you on the truth of Jesus when you lie about a presidential election? How can we expect someone to believe that Jesus is Lord when you instead idolatrously support a partisan gospel? How can we expect someone to accept the demands of discipleship when such prominent followers of Jesus act as bullies?

And that’s why we at Word&Way will continue to call out those like Ellis who distort our Christian witness with heretical Christian Nationalism. Like Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania who wants to undermine our democracy in the name of God. Or like Donald Trump and his allies who want to rewrite scriptures. Or like those in both parties who sacrilegiously turn Sunday worship services into partisan campaign rallies.

But our resources pale in comparison to that of Jenna Ellis. That’s where you come in. You can support our journalism by subscribing to A Public Witness or by making a donation. Be a part of the growing community supporting this publication that Ellis thinks is “a bad actor.”

And make no mistake, this alternative voice is needed because Ellis keeps showing up at events designed to help Christians engage in politics. For instance, she spoke earlier this month at an event sponsored by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. With a straight face, she urged conservative Christians to care about “election integrity” even “in a society that continues to tear down truth.” She insisted that “our founders said that we are a Christian nation,” and then complained that people who believe that are called “Christian Nationalists.”

Screengrab as Jenna Ellis speaks at the Western Conservative Summit hosted by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University on June 4, 2022, in Aurora, Colorado.

“We have to answer that question of Christian Nationalist by saying, ‘Of course, I’m a Christian. Of course, I’m a nationalist’ — meaning America first,” she declared. “The only reason that America is great is because our founders recognized God first. And that’s what makes us still a Christian nation.”

Just like her efforts to overturn the 2020 election threatened our democracy, her heretical (and historically inaccurate) Christian Nationalism is dangerous to Christianity. Thus, when we see such bad actors corrupting our Christian witness in the public square, we’ll report on it. And we hope that instead of undermining democracy or trolling others on Facebook, such individuals will instead repent to be people of the Truth.

As a public witness,

Brian Kaylor & Beau Underwood

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