In a video published earlier this month, Kardashian, a mom of three, approached the evangelical pastors with a parenting question: How do you raise your kids as Christians without forcing religious beliefs on them?
The question sparked a nearly 10 minute long conversation, during which the Veaches gave Kardashian tips on how to insert faith into ordinary moments in kids’ lives and discussed the importance of showing children unconditional love.
“If you have great parents that love you and teach you faith, you’re set up for success,” Chad Veach advised in the video.
“I feel like so many people don’t know unconditional love and so they think they have to lie or they have to pretend they’re someone else, or they have to prove themselves, because they weren’t shown that,” Kardashian said.
The eldest Kardashian sister is just one of many celebrities who have flocked to the Veaches for Christian counseling. Pop star Justin Bieber and actor Chris Pratt are also close friends with the pastors.
But the Veaches are much more than roving spiritual mentors to the rich and famous. They’re also the leaders of a brick and mortar congregation, Zoe Church in Los Angeles ― a church that has come under fierce criticism for its steadfastly ambiguous stances on LGBTQ rights.
Most evangelical churches hold unaffirming views about sexuality and gender. Some prefer a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach, claiming they welcome LGBTQ members, but ultimately refusing to ordain, hire or marry queer people. Zoe Church is part of a new wave of evangelical churches that choose not to discuss these topics at all, fearing that doing so could turn potential converts away before they get a chance to hear about Jesus.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2018, Veach said he doesn’t believe in bringing “politics into church.”
“We’re here to preach good news. We’re here to bring hope to humanity. We’re here to talk about God. This is not the place for a political agenda. This is the last place,” he said.
But Church Clarity, a crowd-sourced database, believes that this kind of ambiguity is ultimately harmful to people in the pews. It means that people can spend years of their lives in a church community only to discover later that their church won’t accept them for who they are.
The website, which scores churches based on how clearly they communicate their policies on LGBTQ people and on women in leadership, gave Zoe Church a score of “undisclosed,” which means that its researchers couldn’t find conclusive evidence of Zoe’s LGBTQ policy on the church’s website.
Zoe Church and Kourtney Kardashian have not responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Ambiguity around these issues is a “win-win” for conservative Christians in Hollywood and the churches they attend, according to Drew Goins, an opinion editor at The Washington Post.
“The celebrities get a place to worship and still seem woke,” he wrote, while the “churches get to raise their profiles. Unsuspecting LGBTQ worshipers, on the other hand, get nothing but the eventual shock that they’re surrounded by people who quietly condemn their identity.”
Chad Veach has served as executive producer for a film that referred to “same-sex attraction” as “sexual brokenness.” The film also featured an interview with an ex-lesbian Christian who left a same-sex relationship out of a sense of duty to God.
Insight about Zoe Church’s stances on LGBTQ issues can also be gleaned from the institutions with which it partners. The church runs a ministry training program, Zoe Leadership College, that awards degrees through Southeastern University, a Christian college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. Southeastern has a blatantly homophobic stance, and students who want to be part of Zoe Leadership College need to pass standards set by Southeastern in a “Christian Character Assessment.”
When Pratt came under fire earlier this year for attending Zoe Church, the actor defended the congregation by insisting that it is open to “absolutely everyone.”
“Despite what the Bible says about divorce, my church community was there for me every step of the way, never judging, just gracefully accompanying me on my walk,” Pratt said in an Instagram story captured by Insider. “They helped me tremendously, offering love and support. It is what I have seen them do for others on countless occasions, regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender.”
George Mekhail, Church Clarity’s co-founder, believes that churches should be clear about their actively enforced policies ― and congregants shouldn’t settle for “sugar-coated, commercialized ‘church’ environments endorsed by our favorite celebrity.”
A lack of clarity on these issues is harmful to children, too, Mekhail added.
“Kids mimic adults and if adults are unwilling to face difficult questions that challenge them and make them uncomfortable, then we are raising a generation of kids that will do likewise,” Mekhail wrote in an email.