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!

Does God Create Division in a Marriage?

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  

But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?

I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 

For from now on five in one house will be divided:

three against two, and two against three. 

Father will be divided against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Luke 12:49-53

I was reading this to my daughter the other day, and it struck me that the one major family relationship not mentioned is Husband against Wife and Wife against Husband. That got me pondering as to why this is because I do not believe it was an accident that it was omitted.

Remember when God created marriage in Genesis:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

And then in Matthew 19, Jesus says:

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~

which I believe God does supernaturally when a virgin woman has sexual intercourse with a man and therefore a woman is married to the man who gets her virginity at the moment he gets it, regardless of any civil or religious ceremonies that have or have not taken place or will or will not take place before or after ~

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~ God does not separate them, nor does God create division between a man and his wife or a wife and her husband.

And if her husband is an unbeliever?

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,  when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  I Peter 3:1-2

No where does it say a Christian woman is to leave her husband if he is an unbeliever. Because her husband is the man who got her virginity … because God supernaturally married them when the man had intercourse with the virgin woman and made them one.

There is one place where a caveat is given for a Christian woman to depart from her husband. If there is reason for a Christian woman to leave her husband – I would place abuse in this category – then she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband if it becomes safe for her to do so. Other than that, a Believer is not to leave their marriage.

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: 

A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  

And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  

But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. 

But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? I Corinthians 7:10-16

Superpowers, Trust, and the Value of Being a Parent

A little over a year ago we were praying for Amir and Mrs. Larijani’s baby Abigail who spent 49 days, many quite scary, in the hospital before she could come home. I am over-the-moon excited to report that this little one is doing exceptionally well! She is a very happy, well-adjusted, healthy baby girl. This Mother’s Day her Mama, Mrs. Larijani, wrote the following:

“I am a Mom because of this sweet one.

“Most days, I feel unworthy to be the one that can comfort her when she needs it. Sometimes, she gets so upset and screams so loud. She will reach or crawl frantically to me. I scoop her up and in a minute she calms right down.

“I get to be greeted by her smile each morning.She will crawl around saying “Mamamamamama” and not need anything.

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.

“I scan a room before leaving it to make sure she is OK.

“I can see what she is doing sometimes with a wall between us.

I can’t sleep when she is awake (unless I have the flu).

“I am learning to move faster than I have needed to move in several years.

“I can make her mad only to have her giggle 5 seconds later.

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.

“This one made me a mom. Her birth mother gave me the weighty gift of motherhood.

“How thankful I am for the both of them.”

I love this. I love so much about it. Her first Mother’s Day was amazing. This, her second Mother’s Day, was more reflective, and while still delightful because she’s a Mom, she’s had more time to ponder the weight of it all.

Superpowers

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.”

Isn’t that an amazing thing as a parent … the ‘superpowers’ our children give us? The power to calm their storm, to heal their pain, to empower them in weakness, to encourage them in anxiousness. But there’s also the power to hurt them in ways no one else can because we’re Parent. That gives us the power to teach them how to fail – hopefully with grace … how to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our own behavior, choices, and actions … to teach them that we’re all sinners, even Mom and Dad … and how to ask for forgiveness.

Not long ago my sister, who has been jealous of me all her life, made a snide comment about me in front of my daughter. She said something like, “Your Mom always thinks she’s right.” To which my daughter immediately responded, “Actually, no. My Mom knows she’s not always right and is very humble about it.” Shut my sister up. I taught my girls from the beginning that I’m not perfect, that I make mistakes, that I am in need of forgiveness, and I’ve had to humble myself many-a-time to tell them I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness. The beautiful thing about that? My girls have always forgiven me. Wow. So very powerful.

Trust

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.”

Trust is such an incredible gift. We can easily think it’s a given … that it’s owed to us simply because we are the parent. But that is not true. Trust is a gift … a very valuable, weighty, gift. One we should show great respect and handle with great care.

My daughter recently shared with me part of a recent conversation she had with a friend. She told her friend that she’s learned over the last couple years how much I protected her and her sister as they were growing up, and she said that while she thought I was the best mom ever before she knew, now she knows I’m the best mom ever to eternity and back.

Wow. I am so eternally humbled. That is a gift. And a responsibility. I do not take it lightly, nor do I mess around with it. I respect it. I handle it with care. And I treasure it deep in my soul.

Value

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.”

It is a very humbling place when we, as parents, realize the extent of our importance and value with our children. Our children are born with a Mommy-Spot and a Daddy-Spot hardwired into the very depths of their beings, of their very souls, and if we don’t fill them, they will forever remain empty, abandoned, unfulfilled … and longing. No one else can fill that spot. That is a huge responsibility,

Now that my daughters’ father has passed, and I’m all they have left, they say from time-to-time, “Mom, you cannot die! You cannot orphan me!” I assure them that I pray all the time that God would let me live a very long time just for them. Neither of our families cared to invest anything in our children, so they don’t have any aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins who care one way or another whether that they’re even alive. This is a heavy burden for me that I pray about all the time … that God would enable me to be and become the Mother they need now and tomorrow and for as long as God would let me live on this earth. I pray that God would enable me to pour so much of myself into my daughters that, when I do pass someday, they will have enough to hold them over till they join me on the other side.

That’s … wow. That’s … humbling. Me? I’m not anything exceptional. I’m normal. I blend in. I’ve not done anything out-of-the ordinary in my life. I’m average. Except … to my daughters. To them, I’m everything. They not only need me, they want me and long for me.

That’s power. That’s trust. That’s value.

That’s me.

That’s a precious, priceless gift from Holy God, and I never, ever, ever want to take it for granted or to give it a value less than what it is.

That means I have to believe in myself and my own value. And that’s … huge.

A Christian Married Woman’s Priorities

It has been stated that a married woman’s priorities should be:
1. God
2. Husband
3. Children

I think that needs to be a bit more defined in the church culture these days. Women tend to skip Husband in there thinking that God is all they need, so whatever they believe God tells them, that’s what they should do.

God never ever contradicts Himself. He never changes.

In the Bible, God says in Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

in Exodus 20, God says:

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

God tells the woman in Ephesians 5:22:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

In Ephesians 5:33 God tells wives:

and the wife must respect her husband.

and in 1 Peter:3, God tells wives:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Sooo … in order for a Christian married woman to honor God and put Him first, she MUST obey God’s commands which are clearly written in the Bible. If she ‘believes’ she’s ‘heard’ God speak to her anything that contradicts what is written in the Bible, then what she believes she heard is a lie.

Rachael Denhollander for SBC President

Paige Patterson’s remarks at a 2000 CBMW conference–about which I was unaware until almost 2 weeks ago, but which have resurfaced due to the work of some watchbloggers–have ignited quite the conflagration in the Southern Baptist Convention.

This is because it isn’t simply about what Patterson said in a sermon in 2000.

This is because:

(a) Paige Patterson was–and still is–a very powerful force in the SBC. He was a co-architect of the conservative movement in the SBC, he was President of Criswell College, he was a two-term SBC President, and was President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), and is the sitting President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). He and his co-architect–Judge Paul Pressler–are enshrined in stained glass at chapel at SWBTS.

Many SBC leaders today, including SBTS President Al Mohler, would not be where they are today without Patterson.

(b) What Patterson said back then betrayed the way many SBC churches are predisposed to covering up family jewels.

There are a plethora of abuse scandals–including sexual abuse–that churches have swept under the rug by “passing the trash”: allowing offending ministers to resign, where they can go onto another church to carry on their abuses.

There are also a plethora of abuses within the ranks of evangelicals who are party to alliances including SBC leaders such as Mohler and Patterson, and yet no one has called out the abusers.

There are countless instances in which divorces occurred, with no fault to the offended party, and the SBC pastors have shunned those parties.

There are also countless instances in which pastors–who knew better–failed to report sexual abuse allegations even when they were required by law to do so.

(c) While the SBC has long claimed that they have no contempt toward women, that claim is dubious. The recent letter from Lifeway author Beth Moore revealed an underlying contempt for women in the evangelical world, and the SBC in particular.

And the complaints in her letter were credible, as Thabiti Anyabwile conceded in his own apology in response to Moore’s letter.

With the Southern Baptist Convention coming up, that brings us to a couple of important issues:

(1) Does the SBC allow Paige Patterson to give the keynote sermon, as he is currently slated to do? (I sure hope not.)

(2) Given the spate of abuses in the evangelical world–and given that there is an epidemic of sexual misconduct among clergy, as the studies I’ve seen (which were “self-reporting”) put the number of offenders at more than one third–what kind of leader can truly provide a culture shift while not abandoning sound doctrine?

Al Mohler may have had traction once upon a time, but that ship has long sailed. Mohler, who has failed to hold other leaders such as Mahaney, Dever, and Chandler accountable–the Deebs have more stones than Mohler on this–does not have the gravitas to deal with the SBC scandals. Given that he has said nothing about Patterson’s remarks for 18 years–and has said nothing since the recent revelations–tells me that, in spite of outstanding intellectual firepower, he is utterly unprepared for this task.

So who, on the horizon, can provide the combination of gravitas, sound doctrine, and firm understanding of the internal issues facing the SBC?

I present to you Rachael Denhollander, the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar. If you haven’t watched her statement at the Larry Nassar trial, you need to. It’s gold.

In addition to being a survivor of Nassar, she also has called for a truly independent investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries, providing a devastating legal case for why their “investigation” was not truly independent and why Mahaney and other leaders have much for which to answer.

Her speaking out on that matter effectively got her run out of her church.

But why do I think she should be the next SBC President?

(1) She’s theologically conservative;

(2) She has the desire and gravitas to push the Church to deal with the longstanding internal baggage, baggage which MUST be exposed and removed from the camp.

(3) For her, it’s not simply about exposing baggage; it’s about making the Church a refuge from the world.

If you go to a pastor today, it is nothing short of abhorrent that you could have about a 1 in 3 chance of being a sexual target.

While her husband, Jacob, has told me that they are members at a Reformed Baptist Church and not a Southern Baptist Church, I still think there is a compelling case for her to be SBC President.

Rachael, I don’t know you, and that’s okay. But the SBC needs someone who can bash some proverbial heads. (If you need to bash literal ones, I stand prepared to help.)

The SBC needs a cultural change. And right now, you’re the one who can do it.

Maybe your church can add an additional alliance with the SBC to make you eligible.

#DraftRachael4President

Abuse and Divorce: It’s Not An Exact Science

In the Twitter wars–in which I have been quite active–the Deebs, Amy Smith, and some other fairly knowledgeable folks–are pounding on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Paige Patterson, John Piper, Matt Chandler, and other complementarian (comp) leaders over their position on divorce, particularly whether it appropriate to recommend, particularly whether the Scriptures permit it, and what the Church ought to do for one who is being abused. Most of the context is the husband abusing the wife.

My view: at the very least, the minister needs to help the abused spouse find safety, and report the abuse to authorities, encouraging the abused spouse to press charges and force him (or her) to face the justice process. The abuser must also be subject to Church discipline if indeed he (or she) is a member.

Once abuse becomes physical and/or sexual, the score gets lopsided in a hurry. Can the marriage be saved? Yes. But it would require that the abuser have a come-to-Jesus session and submit to accountability like he or she never thought possible.

But make no mistake, divorce is a possible outcome, and in fact may be a necessary evil. I don’t like that fact, but it is what it is.

On most of that, the Deebs and I–and most of the other watchbloggers–are in agreement.

OTOH, others weighed in, suggesting that emotional abuse and financial abuse are legitimate reasons for divorce.

On the financial front, what part of “for richer or poorer” don’t you understand?

As for emotional abuse, I don’t think that’s an exact science. Ame can chime in here–as she has been on the receiving end of such abuse by her late first husband, and also has seen no small number of women frivolously claim “emotional abuse” to justify leaving a marriage they simply didn’t want.

I will also chime in, as there is much talk about how we must support the victims.

I support the victims, every one of them, including the children.

And that is why I contend that “emotional abuse” isn’t an exact science, particularly when you consider the ramifications of what children experience in divorce, as well as post-divorce life.

Before you ladies start tagging me, I’m gonna tell you to shut up and read on before you pass judgment. And if you can’t do that, then GTHO.

I was one of those victims. As a kid, I went through two divorces.

In the first one, my mom claims my dad was abusive. I do not recall him being physically abusive in those days, although he definitely got loud at times. Even then, I’ll grant my mom the benefit of a doubt here, because–well–she is my mom.

What happened after that for me was, for lack of better words, a Charlie Foxtrot.

It was the early 1970s, the Sexual Revolution was on, and–after the divorce–my mom would get a boyfriend: DA.

I didn’t like DA, and the feeling was probably mutual. I say that because of an experience I had one night.

Connecting the dots, I can conclude with reasonable certainty that he drugged me with LSD.

That night, I was having what appeared to be a very bad nightmare. I was in a forest, and everything was attacking me.

I woke up, but it didn’t stop: everything was still attacking me. I remember walking, screaming, and still being attacked. I remember my mom telling me it was just a nightmare.

But I was awake…and it wouldn’t go away.

I couldn’t [expletive or ten deleted] make it stop!

Eventually, it wore off, although I had occasional flashbacks until I was 13.

A year or so after that incident, my mom sent my brother and me to live with my dad.

And while I can say that my dad was far from perfect, I can honestly say that I was materially better off with him: he provided a household that had stability, he pushed us to work hard in school, and he was supportive of my choices in life. We even became running buddies later on in life. Yes, he could be difficult; that is why I enjoyed going to college away from home. He has mellowed out over the years, though.

I’ll grant that my mom was being emotionally abused. I would also contend that what I experienced after the divorce was worse than her emotional abuse. During that period between the divorce and the time we went to live with my dad, it was hell: lots of instability on top of what I described.

Some of you might say, “Well, that was just one incident!”

Yeah…and the flashbacks were a gift that kept on giving for several years. The worst part: not being in a position to defend myself, and not having anyone to defend me, and then being powerless to stop it.

But my case was miniscule compared to B.E., a former girlfriend and running buddy of mine.

When she was young, her mom was in a bad marriage, although it wasn’t physically abusive. She left her husband, claiming emotional abuse.

B.E., however got the bad end of that stick. Her mother would go from relationship to relationship, cohabiting with various men.

Aside from enjoying her mother, those men also helped themselves to B.E.

B.E. would grow up and embrace many self-destructive practices–drinking, cutting, drugs. She wound up in a homeless shelter where she would receive Christ and get clean and sober–she and I dated during that sober period–but would then float on-and-off into self-destructive behavior (hyper-spending, bulimia, and even occasional drinking). She mercifully broke up with me during the height of her bulimia bout.

So while I would grant that emotional abuse can be really, really nasty, I can also say that the threshold at which that becomes a trigger for divorce is pretty high.

I would also contend that we should have a marginal incentive to keep marriages together, particularly given that–from the stats I’ve seen–children generally do better with both parents at home. This is because crappy husbands can still be good fathers. And children deserve fathers and mothers.

Most of all, the Church ought to be marginally predisposed to keeping marriages together, because, well, Jesus taught exactly that: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” And no, there is no pretty way to spin our way out of what Jesus said on the matter.

That’s not to say divorce can’t be necessary in cases of abuse–divorce is evil, but it can be a necessary evil–but let’s accept that we must (a) hold abusers accountable to the extent that we can (including the justice process), and (b) still combat the divorce culture that gives the Church a divorce rate that is nothing short of shameful.

Class dismissed.

I No Longer Identify as Complementarian

For many years, I have identified as a complementarian. I did so because I looked at the term as just a modern way of referring to Patriarchy.

And, to be sure, at face value it has Biblical traction, as it rejects the attempts of the egalitarians to strip patriarchy from the Biblical text.

The problem is this: other than that, it is still short of the glory, as Piper, Mohler, & Co. have given us a framework that is just short of Islam in terms of its treatment of women, while way too soft on the men, all while imposing hard dogmatic gender roles that Scripture does not.

In fact, I would contend that complementarianism is a dysfunctional form of patriarchy that is cultural and not Biblical. It is akin to the type of patriarchy that we witnessed in Jesus’ time: Pharisees would not even speak to women in public (even though there’s no Biblical law against that) and wouldn’t let women learn the Torah (even though there’s no Biblical law against that, and even though women in the OT served as judges and even prophets).

Now some of you, reading this, will wonder, “Come on Amir, have you gone feminist on us? Are you an egalitarian?”

To that, I answer no on both counts. More accurately, HELL NO on both counts.

To be clear, I am a Biblical patriarch. As the Scriptures say, I am the head of my wife, just as Christ is head of the Church. It is on me to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.

What does that mean?

Well…let’s ask ourselves, how did Jesus love the Church?

Some would say that the “headship” is more figurehead than actual leader. I beg to differ. After all, Jesus didn’t sit around passively with the Disciples. He didn’t say, “I’m your head, but we are mutual partners.” No, he had headship and he was very intentional in the way he led.

He called out the Disciples to follow Him. Does this mean the man MUST do the proposing? No, but let’s be honest: it’s how we are generally wired. I’m not imposing a dogma–I’ve known couples where the wife proposed, and it’s rare–just acknowledging biology.

He taught the Disciples. You can do this even if she knows the Bible better than you do. That’s because it’s not about how much you know, but what you do with it. Seeking to rightly divide the word of truth is a lifelong pursuit, and as long as you are humble and bold–and committed to growing in your knowledge and wisdom–a good wife will generally give that a lot of deference.

He prayed for the Disciples. You don’t have to be a great Bible scholar to do this. You do need to be intentional, however.

He gave them specific instructions as to what to do. He sent them out; he warned them about issues to come; He told them what it meant to represent Him and what it would be like.

He comforted them. He warned them that things would get bad. He also promised that He’d be at work on their behalf.

He put up with them. The Disciples were always failing, almost always getting it wrong, always feuding over petty matters, overreacting, disbelieving. When He was in agony, they were busy snoozing. When He was arrested, they ran like cowards. When He was on trial, Peter denied Jesus. With the exception of John–who was there with Mary–and Judas, who hanged himself, none of the Disciples were around when Jesus died. But Jesus was patient and forgiving.

He had the guts to call things what they were. When Peter tried to keep Jesus from fulfilling his mission to die for our sins, the rebuke was as blunt as anything in Scripture: “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

Even then, Jesus was graceful and patient with Peter, restoring him after the Resurrection and charging him: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus did not have a passive bone in his body. And when he saw abusers and thieves perverting that which was holy, He ripped them hard and even physically drove them out. He told the Pharisees and Scribes where they stood (with Satan) and even derisively called Herod a “fox”. He was tough when the situation called for it.

Speaking of being tough when the situation called for it, Paul called out abusive husbands, even suggesting that God wasn’t answering their prayers due to their abuses. He also called out wives who were not respecting their husbands.

(Now let’s be honest here: how many pastors do you know who have the guts to call both husbands and wives in the same sermon, and if they do, minus a thousand disclaimers?)

Paul even had the audacity to call out Peter “to his face”. Imagine the stones it took for Paul to face down the ringleader of the Twelve!

And that’s what I don’t see from ‘complementarians’ like Piper, Mohler, Duncan, Dever, Anyabwile, and even Patterson!

In their world, kiddie-diddlers get deference: as long as they pass the background check, it’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” When accusations arise, they either intimidate the accusers or force them into silence by insisting that they forgive their abuser, while the abuser gets little or no punishment and no accountability to the justice process.

In their world, abusive spouses–especially when they are the husbands–get free reign. Even when they peruse child porn. The women get told to submit and pray, but not pursue legal recourse to hold him accountable. And divorce? That’s never on the table, no matter how many times he puts her in the hospital.

I mean seriously, a Biblical patriarch would at least beat the [excrement] out of the abuser, but Piper & Co. are too soft for even that.

Goodness, they lack the balls to even call out each other for abuses or severe missteps.

You want an example: Al Mohler, the foremost culture warrior in the theological world, never wastes time when an issue of major importance arises. When SCOTUS declares gay “marriage” sacrosanct, he’s on top of it. When it’s abortion, or feminism, or communism, he’s Johnny on the spot, and rightfully so.

But when Paige Patterson, at a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood conference, intoned about how he told an abused wife to “submit and pray”, all while not at least referring her to a shelter or advising her to seek recourse, and then–in a “clarification” after the Internet lit up–totally contradicting himself, MOHLER STILL HAS SAID NOT A FREAKING THING ABOUT THIS.

How about this: Hey Al, it’s YOUR Southern Baptist Convention. You have a HOUSE THAT IS BURNING DOWN. You may have a great relationship with Paige Patterson, and that’s all well and good; I’m sure Paul had a great relationship with Peter.

But now, it is on you to confront Paige Patterson, and publicly. His missteps were public; his rebuke needs to be public. And it needs to come from you, because–well–you are, fairly or unfairly, the spokesperson for the evangelical conservative world regarding theological matters.

It is on you to confront C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, as they are your friends, and call for an independent investigation of them. It is on you to confront ARBCA and Tom Chantry, calling on them to uncover the bodies and get the abusers out of their camps, and quit imposing dogma where Scripture does not.

But you guys–Piper, Mohler, Chandler, Duncan–won’t do that, as you aren’t Biblical Patriarchs.

You are cultural patriarchs, just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were cultural patriarchs.

And we are seeing the fruit of that.

As for me, count me out of your cultural patriarchal game.

Sorry, Dee, but I am a Biblical patriarch.

We’re in agreement, however, on one thing: complementarianism is load of crap.