Sunday, May 5, 2013

007 "hitman against bad publicity"

Lawrence Swicegood
When I wrote about evangelicals’ “long history of using militaristic metaphors,” readers sent me some more examples. Here’s the one that I just couldn’t resist sharing.

At the Gateway multi-campus megachurch in Texas, their public relations guy is Lawrence Swicegood. To quote my reader, he’s the church’s “hitman against bad publicity.”

With his 007 pose in the church's online staff directory, it looks as though Swicegood might be pointing a gun, but I think it might actually be a journalist’s tape recorder. Whatever it is he’s pointing, presumably that’s his “deadly weapon of choice” in protecting the church against bad publicity. (I imagine the church probably thinks this looks edgy and cool; personally, I think it’s in poor taste – but you can decide for yourself.)

Gateway describes itself as “a Bible-based, evangelistic, Spirit-empowered church.” Much like the Prestonwood Baptist multi-campus megachurch – also in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex – Gateway is huge and has enormous financial resources. It’s 2012 financial report shows annual revenues of over $75 million and assets of over $156 million.

People often ask me why there’s not more media coverage of the Prestonwood clergy abuse cover-up scandal. I’ve gotten the same question about many other churches around the country, including many other churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

But look at their resources. A church like Prestonwood has a constant stream of ready revenues from all those tens of thousands of members who think they’re putting their dollars in the offering plate to do God’s work. Meanwhile, a big chunk of those dollars actually get used to hire a paid “hitman against bad publicity” – a guy who’s paid to keep the corporate brand – oops, I mean church brand – clean in the media.

Swicegood used to do media work for the White House. He even played golf with the President (and yes – he makes a point of telling people about it). So, I expect Swicegood is probably one heckuva good spinmeister and I don’t imagine a guy like that gets hired on the cheap.

I think you have to assume that most other megachurches – churches such as Prestonwood -- also have high-powered and highly-paid public relations people. That’s a big part of how churches such as Prestonwood are able to minimize, and sometimes totally squelch, ugly stories like a clergy sex abuse cover-up scandal.

For still another view on the assault metaphors of many prominent evangelicals, consider these comments by Southern Baptist guru Richard Land. With the recent announcement that he would become the new president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Land proclaimed that his goal was to produce graduates who would be “the green berets and paratroopers of God’s army, and who will be used by him to win tremendous victories….”
Related posts:
Boots, biscuits and Prestonwood Baptist, 3/18/2013
People to remember in the Prestonwood/Morrison Heights scandal, 2/9/2013
Baptists should heed mother’s call for accountability, 1/29/2013
Prestonwood saga shows clergy abuse database is overdue, ABP, 8/19/2011