Ironman Chattanooga 2018: T Minus 30 Days

On October 10, 2015, I had one of the worst days of my life.

I DNFd (Did Not Finish) at my very first triathlon, Ironman Louisville–I was pulled at mile 17 of the run, with 9.2 miles to go, as I missed the cutoff time for the final turnaround.

I had spent 8 months, from ground zero, getting my swimming ready and that compromised me on the bike and run. I made the bike cutoff but trashed my legs. I had no legs coming out of T2 and bonked at mile 10. From there, it was a slow-motion train wreck.

The worst feeling was, after that, MrsLarijani bawling when I came up short.

I felt like the old Philadelphia 76ers after their 1977 NBA Finals loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They blew a 2-0 lead, and lost in 6 games. It was bitter. The team took out ads: “We Owe You One!” Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the star of that team, was without a championship.

I was angry. No…angry is too soft. I was pissed.

Wanting to give MrsLarijani a break, I sat out 2016–did a half-Iron, some centuries, and an Olympic-distance triathlon. Last year, I planned on doing an Ironman, but Abigail and the Battle of NICU was my big endurance event last year. Abigail showed her Ironbaby creds.

This year, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. September 30 is D-Day.

I’ve been training like all get-out since April. 

I figured Chattanooga would be the fitting place to take care of business, as that is where I met MrsLarijani and that very area is where MrsLarijani and I spent plenty of time during our engagement.

As for the race itself, the swim is slightly easier than Louisville, the bike is about the same–not as hilly as Louisville, but 4 miles longer and hot temperatures can make it a killer–and the run is one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit.

This time around, I’ve been biking like crazy: 8 century rides so far, one of them 160 miles. I have 2 more planned (tomorrow and next Saturday) going into taper, with long runs on Sunday morning. (To put that in perspective: I had 5 going into IMLOU 3 years ago, but this time I’ll have double that. And a lot of long rides to go with that.) 

I haven’t been neglecting swimming or running, but Ironman–as I learned the hard way–is all about the bike. I’ve upped my swimming starting this week, and nailed a 90-minute swim this morning, adding a 15-minute transition run to it.

(Transition-running after every swim and bike has been a big part of my repertoire this time around. And my long runs have been the day after–not the week after–my long bikes. I’m not treating this like training for a marathon.)

My strategy going in is simple: take it easy on the swim and let the current be my friend, keep it steady on the bike to ensure that I have legs going into the run, and don’t get stupid on the run.

And when I’m going through Hell on the run, I’ll just mutter to Satan, “Yippie kiyay…”

It took the old Philadelphia 76ers team six years–which included two more losses in the NBA Finals and an embarrassing 7-game loss in the Eastern Conference Finals–to get their championship. And it was the one remaining player from that 1977 team–Julius Erving–who sealed it in game 4. 

That was a wonderful day: Doc had his championship, and the Sixers delivered on their “We Owe You One” promise.

My goal is to do the latter. And after that, to be able to stand.

I plan on being a “one and done” with the Iron distance. My back, neck, knees, and hips are reminding me to stick to activities that have little or no impact.

But like those Sixers of old, I have some unfinished business.

Here is the highlight video from last year’s Ironman Chattanooga.

Spiritual Abuse

A woman, who has commented on a couple blogs I enjoy, shared some of her story of physical abuse from her father growing up … abuse he perpetrated in the name of God, which elevates it to Spiritual Abuse.

Unfortunately, I understand Spiritual Abuse … from my own parents, from my first husband, and especially from my ex-in-laws, retired from a career in ministry.

I was pondering the story of this precious woman, whose experiences drove her to atheism …  and the things I experienced … and then swirled around to what my daughters experienced.

Separating God from Church

At this season in my life, where life is relatively calm compared to most all the previous years of my life, I have time to ponder the past, the choices I made, the things I did and didn’t do as a person, a woman, a wife, a friend, a mother. Some of that pondering is good, and some I just need to stop thinking about. One thing I often think about is when I pulled my daughters and myself out of church in the wake of the divorce. I did so because every Sunday something happened that left at least one of us crying all the way home, and I decided I did not want my girls to equate church and church people with Jesus and God. So we stopped church, and I separated God from church and those church people who do stupid, harmful things.

Contemplating the Past

Hindsight is not 20/20, as is often stated; rather, it’s distorted. We cannot recreate the past in the present. Much of the time I find myself deflated and critical of myself when I look back; some of it is justified, much is not. And this hovering question of whether or not I should have removed us from church wavers in and out of my conscious thought from time-to-time. Did I do the right thing? Was it best?

In light of this woman’s story … my personal experience … and pulling my girls and me out of church – and one other thing I will share last in this post – I have concluded it was the right decision. And here’s why:

The Store Incident

There was a pivotal incident years ago when my girls’ Dad tried to force them to do a terrible thing. My Aspie Girl fell into an autistic meltdown and was incapable of obeying him, causing him to become intensely angry. This was in a large store, and he was so angry he commanded Oldest to come with him and leave her sister, whom she knew was incapable of controlling herself or of helping herself. He left the premises and proceeded to leave all together (I do not know if he actually drove away and came back or simply went to his car and came back.)

Oldest fell apart. She was still young – middle school – and incapable of handling all of this but knew it was wrong to leave her vulnerable sister unprotected. She found herself curled up in a corner of the large store, calling me, crying, begging me to come get them right away because Daddy left them. I left immediately to drive the 45 minutes to get them. In that time, she was able to get her sister, tell her Mommy was coming, Dad came back in, they left, went to his place, packed their things, and met me at a restaurant parking lot. And this was when he did the unthinkable … this was when he told our Oldest, who had been a Daddy’s Girl since she was born, that he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and if she was going to be like that, then call her Mom to come get her; he didn’t want her.

Using the Bible to Justify Wrong Behavior

Two weeks later when he picked them up for his regular visitation time together, as he drove off he handed Oldest a sheet with Bible verses about children obeying their parents, chastising her for disobeying him and not leaving the store with him, leaving her sister alone. She threw the sheet back at him, told him she already knew those verses (and she did) and that she would never abandon her sister. Again he told her he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and to call her Mom to come get her, which I did.

A Pivotal Moment

As I thought of all these things – the woman who shared her story of spiritual abuse, my own spiritual abuse, and what I will share at the end of this post, I realized that it was for that one, pivotal moment, and the days and years that followed, that I believe God led me to pull us out of church and separate God from church all those many years earlier. If they related God to church people, and therefore related God to their own Dad – who never, ever missed a church service even to be with them, at that moment my Oldest would have turned from God.

The Funeral Incidents

Another incident ocured several years later at their Daddy’s funeral where their grandfather and uncle (both pastors) led the service. The things their paternal grandfather and uncle did and said surrounding his death and in that service and the days and weeks and months following were nothing short of deplorable. It was so bad that people of great respect came up to us later and told us they were sorry for what happened. It was so bad that the funeral director, even though she was bound by law not to reveal details, said to me, “It’s because of people like him that I do not believe in God.” They did terrible things and said terrible things, even of their own son/brother at his own funeral.

If I had not separated God from church people, my beautiful daughters would not be able to separate God from what these, who call themselves children and representatives of God, these who are biologically related to my daughters, did and said (and continue to do to them and me).

Oldest’s Thoughts

I shared these things with Oldest recently and asked her how that first experience would have altered her perception of God had she not already separated who God is with what her Dad and grandparents and uncle did and do … I asked her how she thought that would have changed the trajectory of her life from that point, and with realization she soberly said, “I’d be really messed up right now.”

Mama’s Gift

It is HARD to be a parent, and it has been super hard for me to face these things and these choices and the years we’ve lived after them … wondering if I did the right thing … hoping I did the right thing.

And then these moments of revelation come about. A gift from God. And I am grateful. So grateful.

Spiritual Abuse

Any abuse done under the umbrella of God: supposedly in the Name of God, for the supposed glory of God, to supposedly honor God, supposedly because of God, using the Bible to justify the acts and/or words, or done by a person who represents God … all of that then is elevated to Spiritual Abuse.

And I’m beginning to believe that of all the forms of abuse, Spiritual Abuse is the most severe. Why? Because, in the words of Andrew Klavan, “It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”

Andrew Klavan’s Thoughts

In all honesty, I do not know who Andrew Klavan is. A friend on facebook put up one of his video shows highlighting a totally different topic than I am addressing here (he covers many topics in the episode I am fixing to share). In the midst of this video, Klavan begins to talk about the sexual abuse in the Catholic church and says some very profound things.

I take this further and relate it to all Spiritual Abuse as I defined above, not simply in the Catholic church. All Spiritual Abuse has devastating effects because again, as Andrew Klavan states, “it destroys the pathway to faith in God.”

In Ep. 560 – Hell on Earth | The Andrew Klavan Show, Klavan talks about Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church from 15:00 – 21:49. Here are some quotes that struck me – which I personally relate to all Spiritual Abuse in any church and/or by any person who represents God or does anything in the Name of God or uses God for their own purpose:

(16:00) Andrew Klavan:

“What does it [spiritual abuse] do? It puts up a barrier …”

(17:00) Andrew Klavan: quotes Matthew 23:13-15 NLT:

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

(18:35) Juliann Bortz (molested by a priest in her Catholic High School):

“The collar is still a trigger for me. They murdered something in me. Something died. Everything I believed, died.”

(18:40) Andrew Klavan:

“They took away her faith. They closed, did what Jesus said, they closed the door of heaven.”

(20:00) Andrew Klavan:

“If you are closing the door to the Kingdom of heaven, you are committing a sin against the Spirit that is immense.”

(20:23) Andrew Klavan:

“The enemy is the devil who is in your church. He is in your church. This has got to be pulled up, root and branch.”

(20:50) Andrew Klavan:

“Seventy years of taking away from people their path into the Kingdom of God.”

(21:15) Andrew Klavan:

“It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”   

Consequences

How this world thinks it will escape the consequences of their actions is beyond me because they are all through the Bible and history. Yes, His grace and mercy and love are great … but it is because they are great that we face the reality and consequences of sin.

If it were, as some claim it should be, that God excused such behavior because He is a God of love, then His grace and mercy and love would be weak and powerless. We know that this is not true and cannot be true because God is All-Powerful. Therefore His grace and mercy and love are powerful and come from a place of power, never of weakness.

Many times the Bible says, “Woe to him who … ” God is very serious about life and how we live it. And He is very serious about those who hurt others.

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:1-2 (NKJV)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! Matthew 18:6-7

Help

There is help and healing for those of us who have been abused in any form, including Spiritual Abuse. I am not a counselor or expert of any kind, but please do seek out qualified help in your area if you’ve experienced any of this on any level. God really does exist, He really is God, He really is Holy, He really is Healer, He really is Love, and He really is Good.

Holy God, spiritual abuse is so overwhelming for me. I cannot think of it for long or it completely pulls me under into dark places. But You can handle it. You are God. Nothing is too big or too much for You. There is no place we can go that You cannot find us. Thank You. My heart is heavy for this woman who was turned from you because of the violent abuse of her own father in Your Name, but not nearly as much has Your heart is burdened for her for Your love for her is greater than all other. I lift her up to You, Jesus, and I pray that, in Your time, You will gently draw her back to You in ways that only You can. I pray for anyone reading this that has experienced abuse in any form, especially spiritual abuse. Draw them into Your loving arms. Lead them to places and people who can help them heal. May they know they are never alone and that You are God. Thank You for protecting my daughters and me. Thank You for loving us and caring for us and healing us. Thank You for being God. I need You, and I love You, in Jesus’ Holy Name, Ame

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

About Debt-Free Virgins With No Tattoos

Fair disclosure:

(1) In my single days, I did not discriminate against women who had prior promiscuity or who had tattoos. I dated both virgins and non-virgins. The relationships that failed, failed for reasons having nothing to do with sexuality or body art.

I do not believe that virginity is the be-all/end-all.

Is it a bigger deal than our culture wants you to think? Yep.

Is your world over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of enjoying sex when you get married over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of having a good Christian marriage over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

And as I say this, I also realize that there are women and men who are not virgins, and are not so due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e. sexual abuse). I’ve known very few Christian men who would have a problem dating or marrying a gal in that boat.

(2) Nor, in my single days, did I discriminate against women who had debt. However, looking back, I will say this much: if a gal had carried a higher debt load than I would have been able to support, it would have been a show-stopper.

With that out of the way, it would not be unfair to say that Lori Alexander made herself the mother of all lightning rods with this post.

The title alone struck a cord in the Twittersphere. I first noticed it when Ashley Easter linked to it. The condemnations were quick and unending. Most of my friends in that sphere attacked it.

My immediate thoughts, before reading the article, were “Well…duh…men tend to want their women to have minimal baggage, and the same is true of the women with respect to men.”

(I’ve always said it plainly: men and women each have their general preferences. It does not make either side mean or unfair, it just is what it is. As an example: women, as a group, prefer tall men. As someone who is more akin to Reepicheep than to LeBron James, that put me at a disadvantage in my single days.)

At the same time, while the title of the article–fairly or unfairly–generated controversy, I found the actual article to be a bit ridiculous in places.

Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best. He calls debt a burden and urges us to live lives of sexual purity.

That’s true, and it is true of the men as well. When Paul gave his many admonitions regarding sexual ethics, he did not merely aim them at women.

OTOH, Alexander is not far from a point here that is worth mentioning: from the stats I’ve seen, the male virgins, in raw and percentage terms, outnumber the female virgins. Intuitively, I expected the opposite, but that is apparently not the case. And given that men–irrespective of how much you shame them–will tend to prefer a virgin over non-virgin, that does not bode well for the ladies, at least not on the margins.

Now, for some of the more controversial content:

There are many reasons why Christian young women should carefully consider whether or not they go to college, especially if they want to be wives and mothers someday. Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, sexually available, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.

That depends on your major. If you major in any of the STEM fields–even biology, where evolution is a commonly-held belief among faculty–they aren’t going to bother you, as they are more concerned about your academic performance in fields that require hard analysis, than they are about your worldview. If you’re a Christian and oppose evolution, you may get some derision here and there, but if you can do the work, the static you get will be minimal.

In fields like engineering, it’s even better: no one cares if you’re gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, but if you can’t calculate the shear, torsional, and bending stresses on the main spar of an aircraft under various loading conditions, then you’re going to have a problem.

One woman wrote to me and gave her opinions on why women shouldn’t go to college. (I have added my thoughts in parenthesis.):

“Men don’t want to marry a women with debt. Most of this debt comes from college. They would also prefer a woman who still lives at her parent’s house that has not had other relationships. Do those two things and you will be highly sought after.” (I’m not sure about men only preferring women who still live at their parent’s house and have had no other relationships since some young women have no choice but to live away from their families and some have had their hearts broken by men they thought was ‘the one.’ I would agree that most men don’t want to marry a woman with a load of debt! That isn’t right to bring into a marriage.)

Sure, men would prefer their women to have no debt. And this is rational: they realize that, as soon as the first baby arrives, her income stream is probably going to dry up, at least in the near-term. If she wants to be a SAHM, then he’s going to need to be able to cover for everyone, and that means he will need to support her debts as well as his. That’s economic reality.

At the same time, there is nothing in Proverbs 31 suggesting that a woman must forego college and take on no debt and live with her parents until her knight in dented armor shows up.

I would also suggest that men ought to be careful about the debt they take on in their single days. As they consider college or professional paths, they also need to think in terms of potential return on investment (ROI) as well as payback time. Not all college paths are prudent.

“If they go to college, they are unlikely to stay home raising their children to pay off the debt and use the degree they spent years on.” (I have seen this in many young women’s lives, sadly.)

What I just said about the men–that they need to consider ROI and payback time–applies to women, and for the reasons stated. If you’re coming out of college at age 22 and you want to get your debt paid down before you become a SAHM and that takes 5 years of all-out work, that puts you at 27 before you consider children. Your peak fertility years are now behind you. And if you’re not married yet, the most desirable men in your cohort are now taken.

(At that point, the best available men are going to be socially-awkward, short, geeky PITA types–like I was. :))

Calling me names won’t change the reality, because I didn’t create it.

“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.” (Sadly, most young Christian women wouldn’t listen to their husbands since they’ve not been taught to live in submission to their husbands. However, it’s the older women who are called to teach the younger women biblical womanhood and most husbands have never seen it modeled in their lives so they wouldn’t know what to teach.)

Lori, you lost me here.

“Teaching their wives the correct way to act, think, and live”???

Are you kidding me, Lori?

Where have you been for the last 50 years?

Let’s be honest here: neither sex is lighting up the world for Jesus right now.

From my own observations: the men need themselves to be taught how to love, act, and live in a Godly manner. They sure aren’t learning that at church, with all the half-baked and plagiarized sermons coming from the pulpits.

The men are downloading porn at such a rate that you now have men–IN THEIR 20s–who are getting married and cannot get it up with a real naked woman in the room.

The men are also racking up mountains of debt that they must take many years to pay.

And the men who are most desirable? They tend to be the “Alpha Males”, who themselves have a crap-ton of sexual baggage of their own.

Right now, as for church attendance, singles are largely falling off the map. When they graduate high school, both sexes often leave the church, but the men seem to be taking a longer time coming back. We can argue all day about why that is, but let’s be honest with ourselves: that is the situation on the ground.

There are lots of things to challenge about the culture, including the mantra that college is good.

There are good and bad reasons to go to college.

Good Christian women will go to college, some will even go on to law and medical school. Some will become doctors, lawyers, engineers, IT professionals, even businesswomen.

Good Christian women will also stay home, perhaps go to trade school, and forge different niches.

Good Christian women will move out, work on their own, and forge a path that is more independent.

None of those things, in particular, are evil.

As a Body, we need to have a larger discussion about debt. Especially student loan debt.

Fact is, college is not the marginal benefit that it was 30 years ago. There was a time when a 4-year degree in ANYTHING would guarantee a good job and a quick ROI, but that is no longer the case.

And when you factor in debt, the benefit of college CAN be dubious. Not just for women, but also for men. It may be for you, it may not be.

There is no hard “this is what you must do” plan for everyone, but rather teens and their parents need to make rational and sober decisions in this area.

As for the secular mindset of colleges, that is not a new phenomenon, although some departments may be more hostile to Christians than others. The larger issue in that regard is this: parents and churches need to do a better job equipping their children to deal with a hostile world.

At the same time, being marriagable is more than being a debt-free virgin with no tattoos.

While those are good things that would–ceteris paribus–make a gal more and not less attractive, they are not substitutes for Christian character.

Class dismissed.

After-Action Report: Ride Across INdiana (RAIN)

Going into this year, I had two bucket-list items I wanted to tackle: Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) and an Iron-distance triathlon. I had hoped to do those last year, but life got in the way–good, but challenging events–and I had to pass on those. Instead, I settled for the Kentucky Century Challenge and a smaller triathlon.

I enjoyed those rides, which included the Bourbon and Bluegrass Ride–arguably the best century ride in Kentucky last year. But this year, I decided to tackle RAIN and Ironman Chattanooga (IMCHOO). My plan was to use RAIN as a training ride for IMCHOO.

RAIN is exactly what the name describes: a ride across the width of Indiana. They bill it as “one day, one way, 160 miles”. The course is mostly flat, but it does have some significant climbs–long but not really steep–to keep you honest. While I’m an experienced century (100+ mile) rider, I’d never taken my bike longer than 115 miles on one day. And at IMCHOO, the bike distance is going to be 116 miles. I looked at RAIN as a means to get myself mentally prepared for the long grind of the bike course of IMCHOO.

Going into RAIN, my plan was simple: aim for the same RPE (rate of perceived exertion) that I plan to aim for the bike portion of IMCHOO. I figured if I felt good at the Greenfield rest stop (almost mile 115), I will be in a good place as my final ten weeks to IMCHOO commences.

The week of the ride had me concerned about the weather outlook: all week, the indicators were for thunderstorms on race day. I wasn’t worried about rain–I’ve biked in conditions that included both rain and cold temperatures–but I’m no longer fast enough to dodge lightning. My hope was for the rain the be light to moderate.

I hoped to finish RAIN inside 12 hours: I was giving myself room for rain delays and even a bonk on the last portion of the ride.

In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised.

The temperature at the start of the race was probably in the low to mid-60s. Very comfortable. Skies were overcast with the forecast calling for sporadic rain.

The first rest stop was at mile 40, so I had the following: water in my Speedfil hydration bottle, Gatorade in my secondary bottle, and pancake syrup for my emergency carbohydrates for late in the race.

It was so comfortable that, for that 40-mile stretch, I never went to the Gatorade. Coming into the first rest stop, I was wet from the rain but otherwise comfortable. Timewise, I was killing it by my standards, averaging just north of 17 mph. I felt VERY good, almost like I was barely working.

The line at the rest stop was long, but–after a little delay–I snuggled with my baby girl, chatted with my wife, filled up on carbs and topped off my water bottle and got moving.

The second rest stop was about 25 miles. Again, it felt effortless. There was rain, but that had a cooling effect and actually made the ride more enjoyable. The wind was light but at our backs.

At mile 60, with 100 miles to go, I joked with one of the riders: “I think I’m warmed up for my century ride now!”

Going into rest stop #2, I actually felt rested. I chatted with the wife, snuggled with my baby girl, filled my water bottle, got my carbs, and got moving.

The 29 miles between rest stops 2 and 3 also felt effortless. It was the best I’d ever felt at that stage of any century-distance ride. I noticed some chafing, but I wasn’t tired. I hung out with the wife and baby, downed some lunch, topped off my water bottles, and got moving again. Next stop: Greenfield, IN.

The 29 miles into Greenfield were difficult, but only due to the Indianapolis traffic: we had several long red lights, a few stop signs at busy intersections, and one train delay at a railroad crossing. Those slowed me down by about 10-12 minutes. Otherwise, the stretch was good.

At Greenfield (Garmin had me at mile 113), I felt VERY good. For the most part, I felt like I had accomplished one of my goals for the day.

The rest of the ride was 47 miles of nice highway on US-40 going into Richmond, with a stop 19 miles in at Dunreith.

Just as I pulled into Dunreith, we got our hardest downpour of the day. But it was short-lived.

At Dunreith, I got some last-minute carbs just for insurance purposes. I also made sure to top off my water bottle and Gatorade bottle. Snuggled my baby, kissed my wife, promised her I’d take it easy on the slick roads. 28 more miles to the finish.

At that point, I wasn’t so much tired as much as I was just wanting to be done. My worst problem was chafing, not fatigue. I felt like, if the race were 200 miles, I had enough in the tank to get that done.

That last 28 miles were really nice. That stretch of US-40 coming out of Greenfield was, on its own, worth the ride. We had an entire lane to ourselves, it was well-maintained, it was flat. (Well, except for the two final climbs.)

With 14 miles to go, I went to my emergency carbohydrates–my pancake syrup–for the first time. And I only did that as a precaution, as I knew there were a couple climbs at the end.

At mile 151, we had a long climb: not a steep climb, but a long one. I felt like hammering through it as hard as I could, but I stuck to my plan of sticking to my planned Ironman RPE.

At about mile 157, we had another climb: not as long as the one at 151, but enough to let us know how good the flats were. When that was over, I knew the finish was near.

Sure enough, as my Garmin indicated I was on the last mile, I saw the cones directing us to the finish at Earlham College.

I finished right at 5:30PM. My total time was 10 hours and 30 minutes, including the port-a-potty lines at the rest stops, the long red lights, the one railroad delay, and a few long delays at intersections.

According to my Garmin, my total moving time was 9 hours and 30 minutes. 16.8 mph average. And to my surprise, I was able to hold a 16+ pace well into the final stretch. My drop-off at the end was due to the two long climbs and some red lights. I did not bonk.

That was my fastest pace of ANY century ride. Even at the end, I was nailing solid split times, better than any of my training rides. Normally, my legs are gone at the end; not this time.

On the positive side:

(1) My preparation for IMCHOO appears to be going well. I now have 5 century+ distances for the season, and even in the off-weeks I’m getting solid bike-run combos in. My performance at RAIN was better than any of my previous rides–training, scheduled events, even the sub-100s.

I hit it out of the park.

(2) I was able to maintain my RPE throughout the ride. I expected to bonk, but it never happened.

(3) The weather was perfect. All of my prior training rides had been in hot and humid conditions with persistent headwinds. This time, I got good weather, and my body rewarded me.

Overall, the folks who worked RAIN put on a great event. The rest-stops were well-stocked, the course was well-marked, the police did a wonderful job of patrolling the tough intersections.

If you can do at least 80 miles of hilly riding, you can do RAIN. If you’re an experienced century rider and want to expand your horizons to get some bragging rights, this is a ride for you.

If you want a long ride for a regular annual challenge, this is a ride for you.

This was my favorite long ride to date. I give it 5 stars.

Watered Down Teaching

My Aspie-Girl just got back from a week at church camp. She went with the church she attended with her Daddy and has grown up going to church camp with these kids. It was their last year as seniors, so it was a BIG deal for her to be there and to stay for the whole week.

The down side – she said all the teaching was very elementary and watered down and hugely disappointing.

And I’m thinking in my head as she’s sharing this with me … my daughter, whose severe dyslexia prevents her from reading much so she listens to audio Bibles … who hasn’t gone to church regularly in years … found the teaching to be elementary and ineffective.

We cannot depend on church to teach our children about God. We have to do it in the home. Talking and teaching about God, the Bible, and praying are an integral and normal part of our lives. It’s how life is in our home; how it’s always been. If this had not been our norm, she would have a very weak foundation, indeed.

It’s pathetic how watered down this teaching was to youth.

Kennedy Retires. Will Roe Go Down? Not So Fast

First, a few stipulations:

(1) I’m very much in the pro-life camp. I’m opposed to abortion, and support its criminalization. People who have abortions–provided they are doing so out of choice and not compulsion–are murderers, as are any parties who perform or assist in them. The repeal of Roe v. Wade would trigger great celebration in my household.

(2) (1) is the key reason why I voted for Trump over Hillary in the 2016 election.

(The other reason: from my experience in government, I saw it imperative that we do everything possible to hold off the onslaught of the Marxist SJWs that would complete the hijacking of federal government if Hillary won. But that is a different discussion.)

—–
With that out of the way, I am thrilled to see Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring. Originally billed as a conservative pick by Reagan, Kennedy became a total cuckold in 1992 in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, when he joined Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter to betray the unborn by refusing to overturn Roe.

His leftism extended to the Lawrence v. Texas case, which opened the door to the infamous Obergefell v. Hodges decision that redefined marriage.

Good riddance, Mr. Kennedy. Don’t let the door hit you in the rear-end…

This obviously creates a wonderful opportunity for President Trump to nominate a solid conservative to the Court, which currently has four hard liberals (Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg) three hard conservatives (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch), and one mostly conservative Chief Justice (Roberts) who got too cute by half with ObamaCare and refused to reverse himself when he had the chance.

A hard conservative would tilt the court to the right, and this would seem to spell the doom for Roe v. Wade.

This is why the left is acting like Armageddon is near: they know that their right to murder babies is in the greatest peril since 1992.

Making matters worse for them, this is a midterm election year.

What does this mean?

(1) With the retirement of Kennedy, the Democrats–who depend on the abortionista base and the labor unions for money–now must go all-out to take back the Senate.

If they fail here, it will be a worse defeat for the Dems than the Reagan elections. This is because Trump may get not just this pick, but potentially two more Court picks, thus creating the most conservative Supreme Court in the last century.

That means the GOP will likely keep the House, as the Dems must pour their resources into Senate races, as they have several vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election as well as a few vulnerable Republicans they hope to challenge. If the GOP holds serve, it will be a major victory.

Having said that,

(2) Trump still will face a major battle to confirm his next SCOTUS pick.

Currently, Republicans have a 51-49 edge in the Senate. Two Senators–Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK)–are pro-abortion and could easily scuttle any nominee they don’t like, and with little consequence to their re-election prospects. If they flip, Trump won’t have the votes.

Meanwhile, the two Senators from Arizona–John McCain and Jeff Flake–are very anti-Trump. McCain is on his deathbed and could easily vote down any Trump pick just to stick it to Trump. Flake, also a Trump-hater, could also vote it down out of spite.

That’s 4 potential GOP votes against a Trump pick coming out of the gate.

If Trump wants to get his pick confirmed, he will need to appeal to Red-State Democrats who are on the bubble.

That will be a very tall order.

I’m old enough to remember when President Reagan nominated Robert Bork for SCOTUS. Six Republicans voted against Bork. The biggest embarrassment came from my home state at the time–Pennsylvania–when Arlen Specter (R-PA) attacked Bork. When he abandoned Bork, five other Republicans on the bubble also followed suit. The Bork nomination died, 58-42.

From there, Reagan nominated Douglas Ginsburg. His nomination never made it to a vote, as his past marijuana use created too much controversy.

Reagan would then settle on Anthony Kennedy. And we know what happened from there.

Trump and McConnell have their work cut out for them.

My prediction: there will be no vote on a SCOTUS pick until after the election.

(3) Even if Trump gets his pick confirmed, it does not guarantee that Roe v. Wade will die.

My cynicism on this stems from two observations.

First, recalling Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

At the time, the conservative majority on the Court seemed poised to kill Roe. O’Connor unexpectedly sided with conservatives in the 1989 Webster case, hinting that she might be up for sticking the fork in Roe. And Bush had appointed two conservative Justices–Souter and Thomas–who, at the time, were living up to their billings.

A 7-2 vote to kill Roe seemed plausible, and would have been poetic, as a 7-2 vote created Roe in the first place.

But in the Casey decision, O’Connor could not get herself to vote down Roe. Souter and Kennedy would join her.

What seemed like a 7-2 death-knell for Roe turned into a 5-4 affirmation of it.

Currently, you have 3 justices who will almost certainly kill Roe: Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. I put Roberts on the bubble only because of his misstep on Obamacare.

For Roe to fall, you need at least one woman on the Court who will vote to kill it. It will take a woman to get the other 4 conservatives on-board.

None of the current woman on the Court will do that. Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor are hardcore pro-aborts.

There is a woman on Trump’s short list: Amy Coney Barrett. A charismatic Catholic and mother of 7.

If Trump nominates Barrett, you will know he is serious about kicking Roe‘s ass.

And if she gets in, I would rate the chances of Roe going down at about 70%. She will have the chance to be Deborah and Jael, in one fell swoop.

But that’s a big IF, for the reasons stated. If he nominates Barrett, the Bork hearings will be a walk in the park in comparison. Democrats will be in full meltdown.

Second, I am not sure if the ranks of the Church are serious about killing abortion.

I say this from experience. I have been in many churches and have given presentations on various angles of the pro-life cause. I was a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. I was a speaking director for a maternity home. I spoke in a lot of otherwise conservative churches. I’d say that the vast majority of my abortion-minded clients were otherwise professing Christians. (I only recall one who was an Atheist.)

Here’s the thing: the Church has a mother lode of family jewels under the surface. Many families that would identify as pro-life on paper, have a pregnancy-abortion scandal under their tent. They may agree with you about the reality of abortion, but they want it there for their kids “just in case”. These are the types who voted for Clinton in 1992.

Combine that with a cadre of otherwise conservative ministers who have demonized Christians who supported Trump over Hillary–yes, Thabiti Anyabwhile, I’m talking about you–and you have a critical mass of confusion among the Body. It also doesn’t help when popular evangelical authors like Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans are not forceful on matters of life and, in the case of the latter two, have jumped off the cliff for every SJW cause under the sun.

(And no, I’m not saying that ministers need to tell people who to vote for; it is, however, perfectly appropriate for a minister to say that particular issues are of very significant importance, and that those who vote with those issues in mind are not selling out to the devil.)

So, to make a long story short, Kennedy’s departure is a great opportunity. But victory for pro-lifers is far from certain in this matter.

America’s Dumbest Criminals Strike Again!

Figure it’s time for me to get back into posting a little. How, may you ask? Well, let’s get back to a favorite theme of mine… stupid criminals!

How about this one… a Florida moron Googles “how to rob a bank” and proceeds to do just that? Needless to say, he soon got caught.

Or this one: Man in Georgia decides to rob a game store. Before doing so, he disguises himself, using plastic wrap from water bottle packaging. It didn’t work… his face was clearly visible despite the “disguise”. Not to mention that he didn’t bother to cover a distinctive tattoo on his right forearm. It took the police a couple of days to catch him… but not until after they told the public, “You can help us catch him, once you stop laughing.”

And a creep in Pennsylvania put a hidden video camera in a porta-potty at a construction site, and recorded several victims before a worker found the device. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for future users of that toilet, he forgot that he had recorded himself setting up the cam.

And finally, another moron out of Florida. He bought some meth and had a bad reaction, and thought that his dealer was cheating him. So what does he do? Calls the local sheriff’s department and asks them to test it. The cops were more than happy to oblige… and arrest him once they confirm that it was indeed meth. The quote at the end of the linked story is absolutely priceless.

To shamelessly adapt a famous H. L. Mencken quote, police will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of your average criminal.

Southern Baptists and #ChurchToo: A Homeowner Analogy

Many years ago, Jim bought a new home. It was in a good location, it looked nice, and it was a very popular house. Jim entertained many guests there.

But as the years passed, Jim started to notice a problem. His basement had some cracks, and–when it rained–water was leaking into the house. The walls of the basement started bowing. He clearly had a foundation problem. He also noticed some termites in and around the house. He had heard the horror stories about termite damage, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time.

So Jim, realizing that this was an imminent threat to the house, hired the right people. He had a structural engineer assess the problem; he hired the best contractors to install rebar to reinforce his foundation; he hired a landscape firm to install French drains to provide easement. He even installed a sump pump.

In short order, Jim had the best foundation of any house in his neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Jim failed to address his termite problem.

So, as the years progressed, his foundation remained strong, and the house looked very good from the outside. But, unbeknownst to Jim, the termites were multiplying, eating the wood in his house, and weakening the structure of his home.

This year, things got bad in a hurry for Jim, as an entire portion of his roof completely collapsed.

Calling in the contractors, they determined that the extent of the termite infestation, and the damage, have rendered his house on the verge of condemnation. Without immediate, extensive renovation, his house will collapse by the end of the year. The money required for the renovation would be at LEAST half the value of the house itself. It would be a painful cost, but–sadly–he is facing this problem because he failed to address it when doing so would have been inconvenient but otherwise harmless.

Now, his options range from very painful to disastrous. If he punts on the renovations, he will lose everything. But the cost of renovation will be very exacting.

—-
In a nutshell, I’ve just described the Southern Baptist Convention.

About 45 years ago, the SBC was drowning in liberalism. They weren’t as liberal as the Episcopalian Church USA, or the Presbyterian Church USA, or the United Church of Christ. But they were heading in that direction.

A couple of bright, young stars in the SBC–Paul Pressler and his protege Paige Patterson–teamed up with old-school conservative stalwarts like Adrian Rodgers and W.A. Criswell and mounted a frontal assault on the liberalism problem. In the ensuing years, the SBC flushed out the liberalism and re-established themselves as an evangelical denomination with unwavering Biblical conservatism defined by Classical Fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, under the surface, the SBC had an abuse-coverup culture. A critical mass of churches, associations, and people within the SBC entities had some horrible and embarrassing family jewels–sexual abuse, intimidation, domestic violence–that they swept under the rug. Victims were often dismissed, maligned, told to “get over it”, were discouraged from reporting their abuses to authorities, or were told that authorities were contacted when in fact that never happened.

As now-disgraced serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar learned, those victims grow up. The victims of the old-school SBC “keep it all in the family” paradigm have become adults. And they have a voice. The Internet and social media have in fact become force multipliers that have amplified that voice.

Today, a large section of roof has fallen off the SBC house as their 2018 annual meeting approaches. The abuse scandals have shaken them to the core, and there is no hiding from them.

Paige Patterson has been fired, his title and compensation–including his retirement home at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS)–taken away.

And his problems may not be over, as he remains a defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit against his mentor, Paul Pressler.

In other words, by year’s end, the two most prominent architects of the conservative movement in the SBC–each enshrined in stained glass at SWBTS–may see their legacies forever tarnished by severe abuse and misconduct.

Here’s the real problem, though: if this were merely about Pressler and Patterson, it would be a tempest in a teapot, as they are only two people.

Sadly, the abuses and coverups are much, much worse, and more far-reaching than Pressler and Patterson. The abusers and their enablers have infested churches, local Baptist associations, state conventions, denomination entities, and the highest echelons of SBC leadership. Just this year, Frank Page, the President of the SBC Executive Committee, was forced to resign due to a sex scandal.

Paige Patterson is slated to preach the keynote sermon at this year’s annual meeting. Unless the convention holds a vote to stop that–or unless Patterson demurs–it will happen. And if Patterson preaches, it will be a catastrophic defining moment for the SBC.

What is needed: serious, unadulterated repentance. Many victims have been steamrolled over the years. The SBC needs to apologize to them and seek to make amends to the extent that this is feasible.

But the change needs to go further than that, (a) we need to rid the termites from the house, (b) repair the structure, and (c) make fundamental changes to discourage termites from entering the house.

(a) and (b) will be difficult and painful. Many current leaders–some of them very popular, and with letters after their names–must be held to account.

But (c) will take a lot of soul-searching, as that is going to require a major cultural change. The existing ministerial-industrial complex rewards charisma over character, and this makes it easy for predators and those of otherwise unscrupulous motives, to join the ranks of ministers.

Make no mistake: when a youth minister is taking a girl in the youth group home and deliberately goes to a remote place, pulls his pants down, and solicits a Clinton, that is more than just a young horndog with self-regulation issues; in fact, that reflects a person who will use people under his care to service his twisted desires.

Make no mistake: when someone is abused, reports that abuse to the church, and the church–in turn–lets the minister resign and go elsewhere, and they refuse to report the conduct to authorities, it reveals a dark truth about the church: they are materialistic, just like the world, and more interested in their personal prestige than in doing the right thing for someone abused by one of their own.

The SBC must face that sordid, ugly truth, repent of serving Mistress Mammon, and start training ministers who love God and refuse to pay homage to Mammon.

If they don’t, they will be irrelevant within the next five years.

The SBC And The Paige Patterson Disaster: My $0.02

First, a few disclaimers:

(1) I don’t know Paige Patterson. Nor have I ever met the man. I have a former pastor who is a friend of his. But otherwise, I only know him by reputation.

(2) I am technically a Southern Baptist, as my church is an SBC affiliate for local purposes.

For those unaware, Paige Patterson is one of the iconic Southern Baptist leaders of the last 50 years. He and judge Paul Pressler were the co-architects of the “conservative resurgence”, which led to the conservatives retaking the SBC from the liberals.

Over the decades, those conservatives took back every SBC agency–the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board), the Sunday School Board (which is now LifeWay), the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Missions Board), the Executive Committee, and, of course, the seminaries.

There are very few SBC leaders today who would not be where they are without Paige Patterson.

To hear the story, the SBC was in danger of going the way of the Episcopalian Church USA, the United Methodists, the Presbyterian Church USA, and other mainline Protestant denominations, until the conservatives rescued the SBC from the liberals.

And make no mistake, that story is 100% true.

The problem is that the SBC had more than just a liberalism problem; they had a longstanding culture that covered up scandals. When a pastor had an affair, it was treaed as just an affair rather than an abuse of of the power of the office. Conservatives didn’t invent the mindset, but neither did they confront it either.

Making matters worse, SBC churches became infiltrated with pedophiles, perverts, narcissistic pastors, and other abusers. SBC leaders, in many cases, covered up offenses. They let offending ministers and workers quietly resign, move on to other churches, and repeat their offenses.

SBC leadership did NOTHING to confront this epidemic.

Enter Paige Patterson.

On the surface, he was the face of the SBC. He would serve as President of Criswell College, two terms as President of the SBC, and then President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

His impact was so great that he, and Pressler, are enshrined in stained glass at the SWBTS chapel. (That is so North Korea, but I digress.)

Unfortunately, we are finding out the sordid truth about Paige Patterson. And it keeps getting worse.

With the June meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention approaching, footage surfaced of Patterson claiming to have told an abused wife to submit and pray for her husband. More footage also showed him condoning actions and mindsets that would promote the objectification of women.

As the SWBTS trustees were set to meet, a report surfaced, in which a student at SEBTS reported a rape and Patterson urged her not to report it to authorities.

The initial action of the Trustees was outrageous: they retired Patterson, promoted him to President Emeritus with full retirement benefits and a new retirement home on campus.

In the days after that decision, more information surfaced, showing a culture of misogyny that Patterson fostered at SWBTS, and also more allegations of sexual assaults of which Patterson tried to quash the reporting.

Then, on Wednesday, 30 June, the Trustees met again, this time terminating Patterson immediately, with no benefits or title.

This ignited a debate about what information they had that prompted such a reversal. On Friday morning, a wife of Patterson’s chief of staff published a scathing letter that included confidential documents–a probable FERPA violation–seeming to contradict the narrative against Patterson.

Last night, however, the chairman of the board of trustees published a damning, scathing letter detaling the new information.

Among that information: a stated desire to meet with a student who was reporting a rape to “break her down”.

Make no mistake: that firing was warranted, and it was rightly unanimous.

If I were his pastor, he’d be under discipline, one step away from excommunication. What he did was every bit as serious as immorality and fraud.

—-
This begs a lot of questions, and a time of reflection. If you think there are easy explanations for this, you’d be wrong.

This isn’t about women pastors or deacons. I can point to sectors of Christianity and denominations–the Eastern Orthodox, and the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), as well as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)–that are Patriarchal but lack this degree of scandal. I can also point to egalitarian churches–like Willow Creek–that have a very pervasive culture that breeds scandal.

At the same time, the SBC has embraced a theology that denigrates women. Complementarianism is nothing but cultural patriarchy cross-dressed in Scripture, bound in genuine leather.

And yes, there is a difference between Biblical Patriarchy (BP) and Cultural Patriarchy (CP).

In the Bible, the Pharisees practiced CP. Women were second-classers. They couldn’t learn the Torah from a rabbi. They couldn’t even talk to men in public. The Bible prohibits neither of those things, but the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were too good to bother themselves with women who were unimportant. And home life? A man was allowed to divorce his wife for the capital crime of burning a meal.

Jesus hammered Cultural Patriarchy. He talked to women in public, even recognized their faith on at least two occasions. He taught women in the same manner that He taught men. And when questioned about divorce, He gave an answer–challenging their culture of divorce–the implications of which leave conservatives frustrated to this day.

Biblical Patriarchy (BP) is a different animal. BP accepts the premise that (a) the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church, and (b) in general, particular offices (overseers, pastors) are off-limits to women.

In the Bible, Paul ripped into both sexes. He chastised husbands for abusing their wives,suggesting their prayers weren’t being answered because of their abuses; he chastised wives for not submitting to the husbands; he exhorted husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church; he ripped men for being sexually immoral. Paul even had the stones to challenge Peter–to his face–over his preference of Jewish believers over Gentile believers.

And don’t forget Jesus, who–in addition to confronting disrespect for women–also opened the door for children, even warning that those who do harm to children would be better off drowning with a millstone.

THAT’s Biblical Patriarchy.

In contrast, the complementarianismcultural patriarchy we are seeing today has made the church safe for abusers and little else.

That needs to change.

Biblical Patriarchy has been the standard in the Church for 2,000 years, and yet the degree of scandal that we are seeing–from the top down to the local church–is a more recent phenomenon. It precedes the conservative takeover of the SBC, but it got worse under the conservatives.

If you think the problems are constrained to Patterson, you’d be wrong.

If you think the other faction of the SBC–the NeoCalvinist wing–is any better, you’d be wrong. Given the track record of the NeoCals, they may even be worse.

C.J. Mahaney’s church is Southern Baptist, and yet Mohler has not called him out. Mohler has never demanded a truly independent investigation of Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, even though there is damning proof that Mahaney has committed some terrible wrongs.

Nor is the problem restricted to the SBC. The Gospel Coalition has failed to hold any of their members accountable for flagrant scandal. And in their theological formulation of complementarianism, the CBMW has endorsed a very controversial model of the Trinity known as the Eternal Subordination of the Son, which is heterodox if not outright heretical.

Baptist leaders are going to need to rethink the way they approach gender relations. Complementarianism is Cultural Patriarchy, not Biblical Patriarchy. Like the cultural patriarchy of Jesus’ day, compers promote a mindset that treats women with contempt and disrespect.

That is not a Patriarchy that recognizes Deborah, Abigail, the Queen of Sheba, Huldah, Anna, Phoebe, or Priscilla.

In fact complementarianism–which seeks to impose dogma where Scripture does not–is more of a Talibanized Christianity that bears no semblance to the liberty you get in Scripture.

Baptists need to rethink this and endorse a Biblical conservatism that promotes a healthy, accountable form of leadership and protects the vulnerable, making the Church a refuge from the world.

That also requires a commitment to building that culture at every level, from the local church to the highest positions of leadership

Welcome To The Party, [p]Al!

Dear President Mohler:

The title of this article is an adaptation of an iconic one-liner from the great Christmas classic Die Hard.

And yes, Al, you’re getting started a little late. That’s uncharacteristic of you, as you are usually quick off the blocks on so many other fronts of the Culture Wars. But, as that great philosopher, Bruce Willis, said, welcome to the party!

For years, many folks have been warning you about (a) the plethora of abusers in the evangelical and SBC ranks, and (b) their enablers at the highest levels, including the very NeoCalvinist circles that you frequent.

The abusers include pedophiles, sexually-deviant youth ministers, children’s ministers, pastors, and denominational leaders. The abuses included physical and sexual abuse, in addition to a toxic culture of church discipline reminiscent of the Shepherding Movement.

To be fair, I can understand much of your skepticism over the years. After all, most of the critics come from the left of you theologically and culturally, and they tend to criticize with agendas more in line with left-wing Social Justice Warrior (SJW) objectives that include waging war against all things Biblical.

I’m going to tell you a little of my story. You’ll find that our lives intersected at a critical juncture of your tenure.

I arrived at SBTS as an MDiv student in the Fall of 1993, just as you arrived as President. My first Sunday in Louisville, I attended Deer Park Baptist Church, which is on Bardstown Road not far from the campus. That Sunday, they stuck me into a Sunday School class with other SBTS students. The teacher was an MDiv student in his last trimester. The passage of study was 1 Corinthians 12, and the focus was on spiritual gifts.

After reading the passage, the teacher went into a diatribe about homophobia, insisting that “it is our responsibility to accept gays and lesbians into their rightful place in the Body of Christ.”

I decided to chime in: “Based on what we just read, and what you are saying, it seems that you are inferring that homosexuality is a spiritual gift.”

The rest of the class turned into a gang assault: them against me. I felt like a sniper taking on an entire platoon: I was getting good shots in, but I was outnumbered. I didn’t sign up for that, but–as you can attest–sometimes we end up having to fight battles for which we did not ask.

I had become, whether I wanted to be or not, a battlefield-commissioned officer in the Culture Wars.

That was the beginning of my baptism by napalm at SBTS.

During my time there, I saw–firsthand–your leftist critics assailing you for every offense under the sun. In their eyes, nothing you ever did, short of resigning, would be right. And they took it out on folks like me.

If you were pro-life, you were a misogynist.

If you opposed homosexuality, you were a bigot and a homophobe.

IF you accepted a high view of Biblical authority, you were a Fundamentalist (in the perjorative, not the classical, sense of the word).

If you had any Biblical reservations about women pastors, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

If you opposed bastardizing the Scriptures with inclusive language, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

They called you–and me by extension–everything short of a kitten-killer, seal-clubber, puppy-stealer, mattress-tag-remover…

All of this is to say, I understand your skepticism when their side raised accusations.

The problem is, while these types were hostile toward you, you made one mistake, and here’s what it is.

You see, during my time at SBTS, I got to know a good number of those liberals. I worked with some of them at the same side jobs. Almost all of them came from Southern Baptist backgrounds.

BC grew up in North Carolina. She had been sexually abused. While she was very intelligent, she had a number of male colleagues who wouldn’t even listen to her because she was a woman.

JK was from Louisville. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. As a college student, she was raped at gunpoint. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

SK was from Louisiana. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. During her teen years, she was raped, at gunpoint, by a prominent church member who was also a police officer. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

DW grew up in central Kentucky. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. In her childhood, she was sexually assaulted at church camps. No help from the church.

JD, a classmate of mind, was molested by a man during his childhood. He would struggle with sexual issues that led him to the pornography addiction from Hell. What kind of help did he get from the Church? They porn-shamed him.

These were friends of mine at SBTS. They’re still friends of mine today. As a conservative myself, their theology is not mine.

But what’s the point here?

They became liberals in no small part due to “conservative” churches whose leaders were either abusers, enablers, or simply failed to provide refuge from them in their pain.

And that brings me to a critical issue that YOU must address, because YOU are one of the champions for the model known as complementarianism.

(I believe complementarianism is a perversion of Biblical Patriarchy, and I’ll explain why some other time.)

But for the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that you are a Patriarch. I don’t believe you are, but let’s assume that you and I are talking, Patriarch to Patriarch.

The problem is, your model of patriarchy provides no relief for those who are abused. How do I know that? For all the talk of the Biblical permanence of marriage–which is a perfectly legitimate view that I hold–your patriarchal allies have done NOTHING to keep victims safe, to ensure that offenders are prosecuted, to admonish and rebuke–even excommunicate–abusers.

If you believe in the permanence of marriage–and you should–then the Church needs to provide the resources to keep families together as they address very difficult and complicated baggage.

If you believe that children need to be protected–and I believe you do–then you need to be all over the evangelical world, pushing them to report abuses, provide relief to victims, and calling out leaders–some of them very popular–who are guilty of either participating in abuses or enabling the abusers.

I realize that you have gone to great lengths to defend your friend C.J. Mahaney. And I can certainly understand why: Sovereign Grace Ministries has put out some great resources over the years. My church uses SGM music, which is very solid.

At the same time, Rachael Denhollander–the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar and provided a Gold Standard presentation of the Gospel at his sentencing–has provided a devastating assessment of SGM. Her husband, Jacob, is a PhD student in your school. They offered to reach out to you on this. You should take him up on that. You need to have them over for dinner and listen to them.

Cleaning up the mess in the SBC is no longer about liberals and conservatives. We won that front of the war.

Unfortunately, the SBC is infested with abusers and enablers. You didn’t ask for this battle–just as I didn’t ask for it on that Sunday morning in 1993–but it’s your duty to fight. Sadly, that is going to require taking on longtime friends, professional associates, and even popular ministers with letters after their names. It will be tougher than taking on the liberals.

But, recalling the theme at your inauguration, you are where you are for such a time as this.

Get ready for war, Al. And, once again, welcome to the party!