Tennessee Baptist Convention Demonstrates SBC’s Duplicity

FWIW: I have no problem with the TBC ousting FBC Jefferson City, which called a woman to be their pastor. I see no Biblical precedent for women pastors, I see plenty of Biblical admonition against women pastors, and the TBC has the prerogative to decide which churches with which they will associate.

OTOH, I do agree with Deb when she excoriates the SBC for their duplicity: the same SBC that has taken decisive action against churches that recognized gay “marriages”, and called women as pastors, refuses to show similar zeal toward stamping out child molesters and other predators from their ranks.

If the SBC would show the same sense of urgency about ridding their churches of pedophiles–and forcing churches to recognize their “family jewels”–the Church would be a safer place for women and children.

And no, this is not a “church autonomy” issue. Issues of autonomy do not include things that ought to be fundamental. After all, if a congregation denies the Deity of Jesus, I hope we all would consider that grounds for expulsion.

A church, for example, is free to determine the way in which they deal with immorality that becomes known. Whether they excommunicate an adulterer, or put him (or her) under discipline as he or she demonstrates repentance, it’s a judgment call. But what they cannot do is call immorality a good thing or ignore it altogether.

This is why churches that have decided to recognize gay “marriage” were given the left foot of disfellowship.

The problem, however, is that the SBC has done exactly that: ignored obvious immorality. After all, when the SBC decides to form a committee to investigate the sexual abuse epidemic in their ranks, but then refuses to fund the committee charged with that investigation, that is tantamount to ignoring obvious immorality.

To be fair, this is not just an SBC issue; this dynamic has been prevalent in other evangelical, particularly neoCal, circles.

But the SBC has the golden opportunity–I would suggest a golden imperative–to lead the way on this.

So far, their response doesn’t rise to the level of underwhelming.

RIP Jana Novotna

While the world revels in the long-overdue departure of that mass-murderous POC that I will not name on these pages, we get a sobering reminder of how life is not fair: 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna died at 49.

The story of her 1998 victory–her lone Major Championship in singles play–is itself an epic tale.

In 1993, Novotna–known more for her doubles play–was on the cusp of winning the Wimbledon Championship. Up 4-1 and serving at 40-30 in the 3rd set, she was only five points from victory.

She would double-fault, lose her serve, and then suffer the most epic meltdown in sports history.

The awards ceremony was hell to watch, as she cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.

It would be four more years before she got another chance to win at Wimbledon. But once again, in 1997, she came up short.

Jana Novotna was 0-2 in Major championships. She was not known for her singles play to begin with. She was not supposed to be able to come back from two very nasty defeats.

No one, however, gave Jana Novotna that memo.

In 1998, five years after the most epic choke in sports history at the time, Jana Novotna won on Center Court, capturing the 1998 Wimbledon Championship.

Her road to the final was no picnic, either, as she had to beat Venus Williams–the older half of the most dominant sibling duo in the history of tennis–in the quarterfinal and Martina Hingis, who had beaten her in the 1997 final, in the semifinal.

In the final, Novotna prevailed over Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets, taking a tie-breaker for the championship.

Presenting her the trophy was none other than the Duchess of Kent.

While Jana Novotna would not go down as one of the all-time greats in the tennis world, she does stand out for one major accomplishment.

When you look at the worst meltdowns in sports history–from Greg Norman blowing a 6-stroke lead in the final round at the 1996 Masters, to the Houston Oilers blowing a 38-3 halftime lead against the Buffalo Bills, to the Atlanta Falcons’ gift to Tom Brady in this year’s Super Bowl–it is otherwise unheard of for teams and athletes to come back to avenge those defeats.

The only thing close would be the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers, who blew a 2-0 lead against the Seattle Supersonics in the 1977 NBA Championships. Julius Erving would run commercials in the Philadelphia area, saying, “We owe you one!”

The Sixers would come close two more times: in 1979-80 and 1981-82, losing each time to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the Sixers would finally deliver: after signing All-Star center Moses Malone, the Sixers would storm the NBA in 1982-83, going 65-17 and then dropping only one playoff game en route to a sweep of the Lakers in the finals.

But even that pales in comparison to Novotna–a doubles specialist–facing down the stigma of the worst choke in the history of tennis, avenging her defeat on Center Court at Wimbledon.

Novotna was 49.

TWW, Piper, Manhood, Womanhood, and Gender Roles

While I have significant agreement with Dee with respect to her take on John Piper and his proclamations regarding “gender roles”, I think there is a larger set of questions that this begs:

(1) Just what are we talking about when we speak of “gender roles”?

(2) What does Scripture say about this?

As an endurance athlete–not a particularly competitive one, but one who completes large events–I belong to a cycling club and a triathlon club.

In the cycling club, I belong to a group that does a set of century (100+ mile) rides. The leaders include a husband-wife team. The wife–JBP–is a strong rider and does most of the leading, as she generally serves as the pacer for the group. She’s a badass on the bike. Her husband, BP, is fine cyclist in his own right, but she does most of the leading.

In the triathlon club, we have everyone from hacks like me–who enjoy the swim/bike/run disciplines but who aren’t all that competitive–to very competitive athletes who have qualified for the Boston Marathon and have completed many Iron-distance races, to some who are professional triathletes who are on the edge of qualification for the Ironman World Championships.

One of our best triathletes–EH–is a woman. She is among the fastest swimmers in the club, as she has swam the 2.4-mile Ironman swim distance in well under an hour, and she has knocked out the marathon-portion of an Ironman at a sub-9 pace in near-100F heat!

Are their physical makeups–and they are both very fit–unBiblical? I see no case in Scripture to suggest that there is anything wrong with what they do. (Both are Christians BTW.)

EH’s husband, a physician and Army veteran, is not as fast as EH in triathlon, nor is JBP’s husband as fast as JBP on the bike. In their cases, the husbands are not as dedicated to the sport as their wives are, although they are otherwise good athletes in their own rights.

But what does this have to do with “gender roles”? Everything.

While I am quite the patriarch–although I’m more of a laid-back sort–I see no Biblical requirement that I must be the primary breadwinner in the home.

In the Larijani household, that just happens to be the case. But, if MrsLarijani was the one pulling the bigger bucks, I would be the one staying at home with Abigail and teaching her how to prank everyone!

(A couple years ago, the day after the Air Force Marathon, MrsLarijani and I–unable to find another church to park for the morning–went to an OPC church in the area, The folks were pretty friendly, although they appeared to grimace when MrsLarijani told them that she had a job outside the home. That’s called being ridiculous!)

Nor do I see any Biblical requirement that there be only one breadwinner. In a perfect world, one would always be able to stay at home with the kids, but–let’s not kid ourselves–that is not always possible.

(And don’t come marching in here telling me the story about the homeless mother who homeschooled her kids–who now attend Ivy League schools on full rides–while living in a homeless shelter. The particular is not the general, so if you come here to promote such, I will cyber-flog you without mercy.)

Ergo, I present Gender Role Principle #1: division of labor is a flexible matter, and is up to the husband and wife to work out among themselves.

(The best time to work this out is before the wedding, so that way each will enter the marriage with a sober and realistic understanding of how those roles will likely play out.)

As I say that, some folks may raise the question as to whether this undermines a patriarchal family structure. My answer: of course it doesn’t. The issue of who has the higher rank in the house is not the same the one who has the higher income. You will search the Scriptures in vain for any such principle that equates one’s income to one’s level of authority in the home.

At the same time, it does beg the question of how authoritarian do the Scriptures require the husband to be? The answer: not very.

The positive command that husbands get: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” (Ephesians 5); the negative (don’t go there) command: “don’t be harsh with them” (Colossians 3).

Similarly, wives have a command: “submit to your husbands in all things as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5)

While the same passage carries a command of mutual submission, the particulars are commanded differently for the husband (love your wives as Christ loved the Church) and the wife (submit to your husband as to the Lord).

How should that submission work out? My answer: general deference by each, with the husband and wife working in collaborative manner, as the wife gives the husband the benefit of the doubt on the final decision unless there is something obviously immoral, abusive, fraudulent, or otherwise malicious in play.

The husband, while having the higher rank, must take care not to abuse that rank.

That means he ought not make decisions in a vacuum. When he got married, he accepted his wife into the role of help-meet, and that means–unless her faculties are medically gone–he ought to be working with her on their future, rather than being an autocrat.

In other words: husbands, don’t be douchebags.

(Similarly, it is not the job of the wife to veto everything and then demand “mutual submission.” In fact, she should be his “help-meet”, not obstruct him.)

In public, they need to treat each other with respect, not correcting each other every minute. If you can’t respect your mate, then one or both of you clearly have a theological problem.

If you, the wife, cannot submit to your husband, then it is on you to show that, Biblically, you are not bound to submit to him. Is he being abusive? Is he pushing you to go along with something immoral or fraudulent or malicious?

No? Then suck it up and submit to him as to the Lord.

If you, the husband, cannot love your wife, then you need to evaluate your reasons against Scripture? And keep in mind that, just as Hosea went to great lengths for Gomer, Jesus has gone to great lengths for a very imperfect Church that almost never has honored Him well.

In other words, my default answer is suck it up and love her as Christ loved the Church.

That means you ought not undermine each other. If there are issues, then deal with them in the home, not online or on camera. Don’t go airing your crap like a reality TV show.

So, how ought a husband lead?

First of all, he needs to be humble with respect to his rank. Even if she knows more than he does, he can still seek wisdom and understanding and be prayerful and humble. He can go to his pastor or his small group. He can ask his wife about relevant Scriptures and bounce questions off her. He can foster a collegiality that will pay off. He can research issues on the Internet, as good, conservative Bible commentary is plentiful.

And if she has any semblance of godliness, she will respect that humility.

Secondly, he needs to pick his issues that are worth standing firm on. Everything is not a life-death issue, and most of the time there is room for middle ground. And sometimes, decisions can be deferred–tabled–until each has had sufficient time to deliberate. BTW: most of the time, if you feel rushed, it’s probably a good idea to slow down and get your bearings.

At the same time, when you must be decisive, you need to stand your ground. There have been a few–and I do mean a few–times where I have had to mince no words and say, “God put me in charge; you accepted my leadership when you said, “I do”, and right now you need to follow me on this.”

That is rare. In 8 years of marriage, we’re talking less than once a year.

Thirdly, stay off the hard fastball.

Jesus administered a hard smackdown on his Disciples only one time that we know of, and that was his rebuke of Peter. While Jesus was very direct in His teachings and admonitions, hard rebukes were the exception, not the rule.

If she gets easily-offended, then ask her, “Given that this issue must be addressed–and given that it is my responsibility to confront the matter rather than let the fox roam in the vineyard–how can I ask it in a way that does not push your buttons?” (I’ve done this before.)

Sometimes she has an answer, other times she doesn’t. In those cases, I just say, “Look…I’m going to keep addressing the matter as I need to. If you have ideas on how to do this, we can keep having that conversation.”

(I tend to prefer the soft curveball for her, while reserving the high-inside fastball for almost everyone else.)

But as for “gender roles”, it’s not a question of who is stronger, although–as a general rule–men are physically stronger than women.

It’s about what God commanded.

So far, I’ve focused on gender roles as to how they ought to play out in the marriage, but we still have a remaining matter: what about gender roles within the Church?

  • Are women allowed to teach? If so, whom?
  • Are women allowed to preach? If so, in what capacity?
  • Are women allowed to hold particular offices, such as that of deacon or elder?
  • To what extent are women permitted to participate in the ministry of the larger Body?

With respect to Church offices, at first glance it appears that there is a default principle, in 1 Timothy 2:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

In that, you have a guiding principle: women are generally prohibited from teaching or exercising authority over men.

Does that, however, preclude them from all teaching? If so, that would fly in the face of some of the most uber-patriarchal churches in America, as the ranks of children’s church, Awana, and women’s classes are dominated by…women teachers.

I would submit that the context merely precludes them from such roles with respect to men. In the context of the Garden, Adam–who was with Eve when the serpent engaged her–did not make any effort to correct Eve in the conversation. He did not interject, even though he knew the command. In fact, he went right along with her and ate of the fruit–as she was deceived–even though he knew better.

The curse of the garden, in turn, included a Patriarchy that is dysfunctional: she would have the desire to have what he has, and he would have the desire to squash her at every turn.

Paul was addressing that dynamic: that is why women are precluded from such offices–particularly overseer–in the Church. It’s not a preclusion from all teaching or authority, just that which involves any form of leadership over men.

Again, this has nothing to do with physical strength.

Nor has this anything to do with how smart anyone is.

Nor has this anything to do with “cultural context”, as the reasons given are theological and not cultural.

It has everything to do with (a) Creation and (b) the Fall.

Some might ask how this squares with what we see in Scripture, as women served as prophets (Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, Anna), judges (Deborah), and deacons (Phoebe, Priscilla).

I would suggest that it squares just fine.

Prophets were messengers from God, and were not in positions of authority. The good kings–David, Solomon, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Josiah–consulted them and heeded their advice. Bad kings–or kings that started good and went bad–ignored their advice and/or terrorized them altogether.

Judges were political, not spiritual, leaders who arbitrated cases on behalf of their fellow Israelites. At the time, the spiritual authority was vested in the priests, and women were precluded from that office. There was one instance where a woman ascended a throne in Israel: Athaliah. And that went badly for her.

One prophet–Miriam–challenged the authority of Moses, and was stricken with leprosy.

In the NT, Phoebe served under Paul’s leadership, and Priscilla worked in concert with her husband Aquila. The dynamic between them with respect to Appolos would be akin to MrsLarijani and myself working with anyone in my small group.

(I’m the teaching leader in my small group, although I tend to be low-key in my style. In other words, I don’t go running around saying, “shut up, I’m in charge here!” I’ve been with the group for years, and have proven myself over time. They defer teaching authority to me, but I’m careful not to abuse that. MrsLarijani is an active participant with me, although she doesn’t do the teaching.)

I guess what I’m getting at is this: in a marriage, there is lots of room for flexibility with respect for “gender roles,” even if you are a patriarchal Neanderthal like myself.

Ditto for within the larger Body, with one caveat: women are precluded from positions where they are over men.

The problem, however, is when folks like Piper insist on particular gender roles, especially in marriage, even though there is plenty of room for liberty–even within an otherwise patriarchal structure–for a husband and wife to work that out between themselves.

Roy Moore, Culture Wars, and Culture Shift

Fair disclosure: I am neither convicting nor exonerating Roy Moore. As I assess this situation, I am irritated with Moore on certain matters, while skeptical of the accusations.

In his defense:

(1) The timing is suspicious.

(2) Gloria Allred. Any time she inserts herself into a scandal, I get skeptical of whoever is making the accusations.

(3) The accusers have what appear to be significant holes in their stories. The latest accuser appears to have produced a forged “yearbook signing” by Moore, which–if authentic–would debunk his contention that he did not even know her. Others are working for the DNC in some form or another.

(4) The fact that he did not have sex with them–not even Monica-style–is huge. Fact is, given his reputation, he could have made a move on any of those women, and they likely would have gone along. That he kept it in his pants reflects an uncommon level of restraint.

(5) He appears to have asked the parents of the gals for their permission to date them. That is not predatory behavior.

OTOH, Moore is in a pickle, at least partially of his own creation, for one serious reason: his pursuit of gals who were on the bubble of adulthood–while being in his 30s–is, fairly or unfairly, creepy by today’s standards.

If I were the father of a teenage gal, and a 32-year-old man asked me for permission to date her, my answer would be a firm-but-polite no. Not because he is a bad person, but because the maturity gap simply is too wide. If she were in her early 20s, I’d grill him and–if he measured up–allow him to date her.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing is the unfolding of a multi-front war, featuring the Old South versus the New South, particularly old-school Fundamentalism versus newer Christianity. The confluence of these elements could not have come at a worse time.

When we refer to Fundamentalism, I am not referring to the Fundamentals–Biblical inerrancy, Deity of Christ, Virgin Birth, Substitutionary Atonement, Resurrection from the dead, and eventual Second Coming–but rather the “cultural Fundamentalism” that defines many conservative sectors. Those include:

  • Homeschoolers who use materials published by Gothard, Phillips, or Pensacola;
  • People who are members of the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB);
  • Hyper-Patriarchal families who adhere to an “Umbrella” theology;
  • Those who harbor racialist sentiments, potentially empathizing with the KKK;
  • KJV-only adherents;
  • Hard Calvinists.

Many in those sectors are proponents of marrying their daughters off at a young age. At face-value, that isn’t a bad idea: given that fertility begins to wane in the late 20s, it is within their best interests to marry sooner into adulthood rather than later.

The problem is that many are taking this too far: marrying them off in their mid-teens (sometimes 14), rather than early adulthood. And in these cases, mere age difference hardly tells the story. At 42, I married MrsLarijani, who was 14-and-a-half years my junior. She was 28 and had been out of college for four years. If I were 32 and she was 18 or under, that would have been iffy at best.

So when a West Point grad and Vietnam veteran like Roy Moore–at 32–pursues gals who are 16 and potentially younger, it ought to set off red flags.

At the same time, given the cultural backdrop–late 1970s, a country at war with itself, with the Sexual Revolution in full throttle–it is understandable that someone like Moore, an old-school culture warrior, would want a younger gal who had minimal baggage in order to marry and start a family.

And given that he asked the parents of the gals for permission to date them, that is what you expect in a gentleman of the Old South. Those do not appear to be the actions befitting a predator.

At the same time, a fair number of conservative Christians in the South are seeking to divorce the South from what are often seen as backward customs.

  • While they may not oppose Patriarchy, they don’t subscribe to “Umbrella Theology” either.
  • They may support younger marriage, but aren’t thrilled with borderline “child brides”.
  • They aren’t into heavy drinking–and they may even be teetotalers–but they don’t buy into the farce that Jesus merely turned water into grape juice.
  • They aren’t thrilled with the fact that many churches in the South have “family jewels” that include everything from sexual abuse to lynchings.

Compounding matters, the Church is in the midst of a slew of sexual abuse scandals encompassing NeoCal and Fundamentalist circles, including the defamation of victims and the failure to defrock those proven to be offenders.

No serious Christian–who pays attention to these things–wants to be on record for enabling a predator.

Against the 1970s backdrop, it is understandable as to why Moore would have desired a younger woman to marry.

Against today’s backdrop, it is understandable as to why a Christian would look at Moore’s actions in the 1970s and have serious reservations.

Compounding matters, the mainstream media–the “drive-bys”–are clearly grasping for any straw they can find to hit Moore.

Ultimately, someone is not telling the truth. Either Roy Moore is lying, or his accusers are lying. In the absence of hard evidence–stained dresses, receipts, phone logs, voice messages, sex tapes–it’s their word against his.

I can totally understand why one would be skeptical of Moore; I can also understand why one would be skeptical of his accusers.

Unlike Trump, Moore is flying the God-and-country banner. If he’s a creep, then he is, at best, the hard-fundamentalist hypocrite father on Footloose. If he’s innocent, then his accusers are as phony as the Duke Lacrosse accuser.

Which way should you vote in this election? That’s your call. If it were me, I’m on the bubble, although I’m extremely skeptical of his accusers. I do, however, want him to address the accusers in specificity.

If he’s innocent, he needs to keep fighting.

If he’s guilty, he needs to get out.

The Alabama Senate Race and Roy Moore

Honestly, the issue of Roy Moore–particularly the latest allegations against him–is a tossup. I will neither condemn the man, nor will I proclaim his innocence.

In all honesty, the only people who know the truth about this are Moore and his accusers.

The one accusation that is most troubling is the allegation of his sexual proposition of a 14-year-old. (He was 32 at the time.) If true, that’s a major problem.

I would not be thrilled about his DATING a 14-year-old, even if he were chaste about it, given that he was 32 at the time. Apparently, as a man in his 30s he was drawn, at the very least, to younger women. In and of itself, that isn’t a big deal, but 14? 16? I dunno…that’s under the bubble.

(MrsLarijani is 14-and-a-half years my junior, but I was 42 and she was 28. And before her, I pursued Christina, who was almost 18 years my junior: I was 41 and she was 24. Both were grown adults–and college grads–so I saw nothing inherently wrong with either pursuit, although, I must admit that, had I made it to the point of meeting Christina’s parents, it would have been interesting: I was not much younger than her mother.)

OTOH, Moore appears to have sought the permission of the parents in his pursuits, and that is indicative of an old-school traditional-values mindset: many Christian gentlemen in the South took that approach when they were interested in potential marriage, as it was their way of saying they intended to be honorable. And the world was indeed a different place in 1977. Remember the age gap of Elvis and Priscilla. And we ARE talking the Deep South here.

Moreover, his conduct over the years–from what we know of him–does not appear to jibe with that of a predator.

Still, given the flurry of sexual assault cases in Hollywood and the Big Media, no one wants to come down defending a predator, even unwittingly. Not long ago, the Republican Speaker of the House–Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL)–was a gunshot and a heart attack (Dick Cheney was VP) away from being President, and HE WAS A CHILD MOLESTER!

Do we want to go there again?

I’m not saying Roy Moore is that. I’m on the bubble, but leaning toward his innocence pending other evidence. I say that for three reasons:

(1) Timing. Roy Moore is not new to the political arena. He has been a lightning rod for a very long time. And these accusers are now surfacing a month away from a Senate election? If you smell B.S., it’s understandable.

(2) He has been steadfast in his denials. Not only has he denied the allegations, he has provided credible explanation for  his actions. Those do not appear to be the actions of a predator.

(3) His accusers, particularly the would-be 14-year-old, have their own credibility issues. At least one of them is working for the Dems. The 14-year-old has a history of accusing ministers of sexual misconduct. She has also filed for Bankruptcy not just once, not just twice, but THREE TIMES. I’ll give her a mulligan for once. I might even give her a benefit of a doubt for #2. But 3? I say that because, while we all are capable of making financial mistakes that could require Bankruptcy, there does come a point, especially with multiple filers on the Personal Bankruptcy front, that it reflects an issue of integrity. And while there are sexual predators among the clergy, I find multiple accusations from the same person against multiple ministers, to be far-fetched.

I remember being involved in a particular congregation. There was an older gal who frequented the services. She claimed to have been raped many times by multiple ministers. When she described the accounts, let’s just say we all–while otherwise empathetic with such cases–figured she was either lying or she was a seductress.

So yes, I’ve seen both sides of that coin. And while Boz Tchividjian is correct–very few child accusers make those stories up–it is also established fact that there are adult liars out there. Duke lacrosse anyone?

Could Roy Moore be guilty? Absolutely. If you cannot stomach the fact that he–being in his early 30s–dated women who were on the bubble of adulthood, I totally understand. I would probably deny permission of he asked that of my daughter and she were in that bracket.

At the same time, from what I am seeing, his actions do not appear to reflect someone who is bent on using teens to satisfy his sexual vices but rather one who simply wanted a wife with whom he could start a family.

At this point, I would give him the benefit of a doubt, pending revelation of hard evidence.

Perry Noble Announces Divorce

Disgraced pastor Perry Noble, who once pastored NewSpring Church before he was removed by his leadership team due to alcohol and “family issues”, and who has recently returned to preaching, is now announcing that he and his wife are divorcing. (HT: Deb at TWW)

FWIW: I have no idea who is guilty of what in his marriage, nor do I presume that his problems are all on him. For all I know, he could be the worst excuse of a husband, or she could be Jezebel incarnate, or they share various degrees of culpability. (My experience is that, the vast majority of the time, it’s the latter: neither side is completely blameless.)

At the same time, (a) if his fellow leaders removed him from the pulpit, then they likely had just cause to do so, and (b) even if his wife is the the culpable party in his marriage–I’m not saying she is, only suggesting that IF she is–then he is still not Biblically-qualified to pastor a Church, as, no matter how you slice this:

(a) he is not “above reproach” by any reasonable Biblical metric, and

(b) his house, irrespective of who is at fault, is clearly not in order.

Anyone who depends on his preaching is giving ears to a false teacher.

I don’t like to throw that “false teacher” tag around, but it applies in his case.

His only purpose at this time is to show you what a high-profile evangelical train wreck looks like.

Libby Anne and the “Evangelical Response” to Weinstein

By now, almost everyone who has been awake for the last three weeks is aware of the emerging conflagration in Hollywood, which began with the exposure of longtime sexual assaults by Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein–and the ensuing coverups by everyone who knew about it.

Weinstein, as we know, is neither the only sexual predator in Hollywood, nor is he even the worst offender. (My take: they are throwing Weinstein overboard to cover for worse offenders.)

In the aftermath of Weinstein’s indecent exposure, other sex scandals in the entertainment, political, and news media have come to the surface, some of them involving high rollers on both the left (Oreskes at NPR) and right (O’Reilly at Fox).

I am all for the exposure of such matters, even in the Church. When we’re dealing with sexual assaults, it’s best to uncover the family jewels, lay them bare for the whole world to see, punish the wrongdoers, affirm and support those wronged, and re-examine what happened to help prevent it from recurring.

Having said all of that, Christians need to be measured in their assessment of Hollywood, given that there is a mother lode of such family jewels in otherwise conservative Christian circles. Many high-profile conservative figures–from C.J. Mahaney to Joshua Harris to Tom Chantry–are proving to have been complicit in the coverup of sexual abuse, or, in Chantry’s case, possibly directly guilty of said acts.

(Chantry currently awaits trial, and he is entitled to a fair trial. I would be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge that the body of known evidence does not look encouraging for him.)

And to that extent, I think Libby Anne is generally on the money. I would, however, qualify that with these observations:

(1) In Election 2016, evangelicals, particularly conservatives who voted for Trump, had a very bad set of choices. The other alternative was a woman who built her career by covering for a man who is known to have committed such assaults.

(After all, I hope we are in agreement that when a sitting Governor pulls out his tallywhacker and tells a state employee, which is what Paula Jones was, to “come over and kiss it”, that is every bit as serious as Trump–assuming he actually acted up to his brags–“grabbing [a woman] by the pu$$y.”)

Ergo, voting for Trump does not equate to moral equivalence with Weinstein, although Hillary Clinton is in the same league as those who knowingly covered for Weinstein.

(2) I would also be careful in assessing the “evangelical response” to child sex scandals. Many evangelicals are speaking out, although not as boldly as I would like. Many are simply voting with their feet.

This is why Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) is in financially-tenuous condition today, as parishioners are fleeing the SGM ranks and many churches–formerly enthusiastic affiliates of SGM–have severed ties with SGM. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) even broke off their sweetheart deal with SGM’s “Pastor’s College” in the wake of the Nate Morales scandal.

And while Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard–and the boards that enabled them–have had their covers blown, it’s not like the evangelical world has rushed to defend them.

When they were exposed, some wondered aloud how that would impact homeschoolers. My prediction then: very little.

I was correct. While homeschoolers, many of whom relied on Gothard and Phillips for materials, didn’t go back to public schools, they are, as a group, voting with their dollars.

The market for homeschool curriculum has matured greatly over the years. Gothard and Phillips–while pioneers in homeschooling–are far from the only games in town.

Where Libby Anne is correct, however, is with respect to the Donn Ketcham scandal. This is because the Donn Ketcham scandal–which I referenced here–exposes the very same insidious dynamic in the Church that we see in Hollywood:

(1) with Ketcham, you had a medical missionary who was in high demand in impoverished Bangladesh, who attracted a large following on both sides of the pond, and whose removal would have had serious consequences. Sadly, as a result, a victim who spoke out was ostracized. Ketcham’s fellow missionaries covered for his immoralities as they told his victim, “Donn is needed here. You aren’t.”

(2) with Weinstein, you had a major movie producer who could make or break careers in Hollywood. Making him happy was often the difference between waiting on tables and making millions of dollars.

Just as with the missionaries in Bangladesh who covered for Ketcham, for everyone who wanted to make money in Hollywood, there was a benefit to keeping silent. Like Ketcham, Weinstein was needed, whereas actors and actresses–like missionary kids–were always a dime a dozen.

The takeaway for the Church?

When we compare the Ketcham affair with the Weinstein affair and others in high news and entertainment, one thing becomes obvious: in the case of Ketcham, the Church body–Association of Baptists for World Evangelism–acted exactly as the world operates.

They may disagree on worldviews, but the people involved–in Hollywood and the Church–are equally cold, calculating, cunning, and willing to throw people under the bus to look good and make money.

THAT is what needs to change.

What we see in Weinstein is exactly what we should expect from Hollywood.

At the same time, we ought to demand better from the ranks of the redeemed.

Piper Stepping In It (Again)?

HT: Dee at TWW

John Piper provides this advice, answering the question of “should we take our children to dangerous mission zones?”

Piper begins with this:

Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world? Short answer: Yes.

Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.

First of all, John is providing advice that has scant Biblical precedent, with the closest example perhaps being Paul’s mentorship of Timothy. Even then, we have no indication of Timothy’s age when he begins his tours of duty with Paul. Moreover, Paul does not provide this advice to parents regarding their children. In other words, what Paul did with Timothy is not a general command to other parents.

(My advice: that’s a judgment call, and that is totally up to the parents to decide upon prayer, prudent counsel, searching the Scriptures,  and appropriate deliberation, regarding whether the child(ren) is (are) of sufficient maturity and motivation for such a trip.)

Moreover, Piper is making a bold pronouncement as to why parents should take their children into dangerous regions: “Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.”

Does Piper have any statistics to back up his claim? I’ve met no small number of adults–who have abandoned the faith–who were raised by missionary parents or even pastors who served stateside, who sacrificed everything, including their kids, for the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m against a childrearing paradigm that insists on a “sheltered life”. I would also argue, and Piper would probably agree, that parents ought to take more initiative in preparing their children to engage the world and to expect that the world is not going to be particularly enamored with their Christian faith.

Fact is, the United States is a post-Christian nation and Western Civilization is in serious decline. Where the Christian was once highly-respected in the public square in Europe and the United States, that is no longer the case: Christians are under increasing pressure to keep everything close to the vest.

In other regions, it is more tenuous: in the Middle East, a public expression of Christian faith could get you jailed if not killed. In Islamic countries, if your father is a Muslim and you convert to Christianity, you could face anything from a prison sentence to a death sentence.

I’ve never been to those regions, but I am aware of the risks of being a Christian. As a Christian of Kurdish ethnicity who has studied such matters, I don’t have to go to Mosul wearing a sign that says, “Allah is a demon and Muhammed was a child rapist” to appreciate the risks that Christians in Iraq and Syria face every day.

I have also spent long hours studying the plight that Christians endured–and, in the cases of North Korea and China and Cuba, continue to endure–under totalitarian regimes, particularly communism. Abigail will not need to go to North Korea to learn such things.

In my younger days, as an old-school Cold War conservative, I tried to get into the military. And had my country called my name, I would have answered the call to fight. But my health issues–from asthma to severe disk problems in my back–precluded me from military service. And, at 50, I’d say that ship has long sailed. It won’t be happenin’.

Will Abigail go on mission trips when she reaches an appropriate age? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. The issue is where? There are plenty of missions opportunities here in the States, not to mention Central and South America, and those have risks of their own even if their volatility doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of Damascus or Raqqa or Kirkuk or East St. Louis.

If she wants to go to the Middle East or Niger or Sudan or the south side of Chicago, that’ll be up to her, although MrsLarijani and myself will ensure that she has counted the cost–and I’m not just talking financial–before she embarks on any such venture.

But is there an overarching Biblical prescription for parents to make their kids take those kinds of risks? Not really. Like I said, that’s a judgment call and there’s no blanket one-size-fits-all answer.

The Kentucky State Pension Disaster: My $0.02

First, some disclaimers:

(1) I am a Kentucky state employee. I am a non-merit employee.

(2) I am NOT part of any of the pension systems. When I hired in, I opted for a defined contribution plan.

(3) I have no gripe with any state employee or retiree who padded their retirements or retired early via any of the controversial practices–double-dipping, padding their overtime, or cashing in on large amounts of unused sick time–as those employees were/are merely playing by the rules of the system.

If there is blame to be assigned, then let it fall on those who created the system. More on them later.

The Kentucky state pension crisis, at $33 billion–which carries both short and long-term solvency challenges–is one of the worst pension crises in the history of the United States. This crisis has been brewing for most of the last 17 years and threatens the retirement checks of not just those workers in the pipeline, but also the retirees.

Those in the pipeline include not just regular state employees but also policemen, firemen, and teachers.

Given that the pension systems were over 100% funded in 2001, how did the system get to this point of insolvency?

(a) For one, in the wake of revenue crunches that began in the early 2000s–from the aftermath of the dot-com crash and the wake of 9/11–the General Assembly began to balance the budget by cutting corners: among those corners was not paying the actuarially required minimum payments into the pension systems.

(b) For another, over the years, the General Assembly created unfunded incentives that sweetened the deal for state employees in the pipeline:

  • Normally allowed to retire at 27 years of service, employees were given a window whereby they could buy 5 years, allowing them to retire in as little as 22 years of service. What that means: employees, who hired in when they were in their late teens or early 20s, are now retiring under age 40, with health insurance discounted in the same group as state employees. I know of employees who are able to retire at under 40 years of age. This means the pension system is on the hook for that person’s retirement for potentially more than 30 years. The general rule–27 years–is already quite generous, but the “window” puts an even greater strain on the system.
  • The sick and vacation leave accrual formulas are extraordinarily generous. Even for those of us not in the pension system, it’s the same: we can bank our overtime (up to 240 hours, although, over the years, this has become more difficult); we can bank our sick time in proportion to our years of service, and some employees have well over a YEAR of sick time accrued, and this is credited to state employees upon retirement; we can bank our vacation time in proportion to our years of service (here is the link). As you can see, these are far more generous than anything you will see in the private sector.

(c) Making matters worse, the managers charged with managing the pensions engaged in a level of malfeasance that, had the pensions been subject to ERISA, the managers would be rotting in prison.

Make no mistake, had the Kentucky pensions been a private entity, the pensions would have been declared insolvent, offloaded to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and retirees would take the mother of all paycuts. And the managers would be lucky to get less than ten years in prison.

(d) Worst of all, the General Assembly and three successive Governors–Patton, Fletcher, and Beshear–each ignored the problem.

Patton was too mired in sex scandals to have the gravitas to face the problem when doing so would have been a lot easier. And he allowed the continuation of many of the fat incentives that drained our systems. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums began on his watch.

Fletcher, almost immediately after taking office, became mired in a hiring scandal that depleted his ability to address the problem for his 4 years in office. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

Beshear–for 8 years–gave mere lip service to the problem. He helped implement small changes that amounted to pissing into a forest fire. And the failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

The General Assembly, run by Democrats for most of the last 100 years (Republicans won the House for the first time last year), was the principal culprit in both the design of the pension systems, and their failure to fund them.

Now, Governor Matt Bevin has inherited the perfect storm from Hell: a $33 billion albatross that the private sector must fund–as courts hath decreed it–while many state employees are facing the prospect of perhaps not getting the fat retirement that they were “promised”.

Bevin’s most recent proposals to reform the pension system are shockingly mild:

  • existing retirees would see no change in their checks, their Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), or their health insurance premiums;
  • those who retire before July would be able to cash in on their unused sick leave,
  • those who retire after July will no longer be able to cash in on that.
  • Those employees with less than 5 years of service will get transferred to a Defined Contribution–401(k)–plan;
  • those with more than 5 years will remain in the pension pipeline.

Even under the proposed changes–assuming that what the legislature passes will be similar–the Kentucky state employee will have pension and leave accrual rules that are light-years more generous than almost any entity in the private sector!

I worked in the private sector for ten years before hiring into the State. For three years, I was an Engineering Systems Engineer at Electronic Data Systems, which–at the time–was a subsidiary of General Motors.

Back then, we received no sick time to accrue, nor were we paid overtime, nor could we bank overtime, as we were “salaried” employees. We received two weeks of vacation time per year, and that time was “use it or lose it”. In fact, in 1992, everyone in my account had to take the vacation at the same time–during the two week changeover during which GM did their model transitions.

We did not complain.

None of us were on a pension plan; EDS did, however, have generous 401(k) matching.

For six years, I worked as a contractor for Seltmann, Cobb, and Bryant (which became SCB Computer Technology). We received no sick time, and any overtime–and they kept strict tabs on it–was paid, as there was no accrual. We received two weeks of vacation leave per year, and we were never allowed to carry over more than one week to the next year. There were no pensions, as all of us were on 401(k)s.

No one complained.

My point in all of this: no business in America could provide such generous benefits and expect to remain solvent.

Imagine if your company

  • allowed employees to retire at age 40;
  • provided full pension benefits to retirees for the duration of their lives;
  • allowed them to pad their salaries with overtime pay to calculate their retirement income, thus allowing some in the $30K-$50K range to enjoy retirement checks in the 6-figure range);
  • provided for COLAs even during recessions, even when employees were getting pay cuts.

How long would your company expect to remain in business?

If the private sector couldn’t even operate that way, and given that the private sector must pay for those benefits enjoyed by the public sector, then why foist them with such an insolvent system?

And before you–the state employee–start waxing eloquent about how the private sector enjoys your services, let me remind you of a few things:

  1. You, the government worker, produce NOTHING for the economy. Fact is, the minimum-wage burger flipper at Hardees does more for the economy than the hardest-working government employee. That is not to say that your work doesn’t matter; at best, however, we are part of the service sector of the economy.
  2. You, the Government worker, serve at the pleasure of the private sector. They pay your salary, your benefits, and even your pension. The taxes you pay wouldn’t be possible but for the contribution of the private sector.
  3. While you, the government worker, have endured hardships–including pay freezes, pay cuts (furloughs), and force comp leave uses–it pales in comparison to the private sector worker who faced job losses in the dot-com crash, the wake of 9/11, an the Great Recession of 2008. While my bottom line has been crimped over the last ten years, I have been able to keep my house and my job. I did not, like many private sector folks, face job loss, foreclosure, and even bankruptcy.

I’m not saying this to beat up the government workers–I am one myself. All I’m saying is that a little humility would go a long way. You have had it rough, just as those in the private sector have. There is plenty of misery to go around.

And while I empathize with the new employees (with less than 5 years of service) who will no longer be in pensions and therefore may not be able to retire at 27 years, I would also remind them that many of us in the real world would be happy to retire at age 70.

As for Governor Bevin, I’ve heard no small number of employees complain of his proposals, and call him every name in the book.

I have yet to hear that same level of angst aimed at Rep. Harry Moberly or Rep. Jody Richards or Sen. Julian Carroll or Rep. Greg Stumbo or Gov. Paul Patton or Gov. Steve Beshear or even Gov. Ernie Fletcher: they are the ones who got you into this mess.

Matt Bevin, whatever his faults, is the adult in the room telling you the truth.

Matt is an adult. Be like Matt.