More Bad News for the GOP (The Truth About Ken Starr)

That foundation of integrity among conservative leaders was in fact a sludgy sinkhole. That is how we got Trump.

I’m not the least bit happy about this. In fact, it straight-up pisses me off.

In the first Bush Administration, Ken Starr was the Solicitor General and had an excellent reputation in DC as a straight-up, by-the-book, rule-of-law attorney. In fact, at one time, Bush had considered him for a Supreme Court nomination.

During the Clinton Administration, Starr was tapped as the Independent Counsel for the Whitewater investigation. In that capacity, Starr secured many indictiments and convictions. But the investigation seemed to be going nowhere.

But Clinton had another problem: Paula Jones, a former state employee, had an active sexual harassment suit against him. And that was working its way up the court system. Jones’ team had been tipped about an intern who allegedly carried on an affair with Clinton in 1996. Her name was Monica Lewinsky. Clinton made evasive denials in his deposition, and that set off an investigation by Starr.

Ultimately, the Starr report was damning to Clinton: providing explicit details of the acts in which Clinton and Lewinsky engaged. Many considered the report “TMI”, although I would argue that Clinton was the culprit: he insisted that he had no sexual relations, so that forced a detailed accounting of what the actual relations were.

(Folks, let’s get one thing straight: oral sex is sex. Some try to argue that this is not true because it technically was classified as sodomy; I disagree. Even if you accept that classification, sodomy is a form of sex, as even a perverted form of the act is still a form of the act.)

At the time, the left excoriated Starr for the tawdry details whereas the right lauded him for giving us the unvarnished truth. I was on the right (and still am): had Clinton simply admitted to the affair from the outset, none of the details would have been necessary. The blame on this is not on Starr, but rather on Clinton.

Starr was a hero of the right, and one of the most hated by the left.

To the left, he was a smear-master who produced porn as a legal filing. To the right, he was an God-and-country Eagle Scout who loved God, taught Sunday School, and was just doing his job.

He would go on to serve as the dean of the law school at Pepperdine, and the President and Chancellor at Baylor University. In 2016, he was forced to resign at Baylor due to the institutional mishandling of sexual assault cases.

At the time, some of us didn’t know to what extent he was culpable in that, although I believed he needed to resign: the buck stops at the top, and Baylor needed new leadership that would make the protection of victims a higher priority1.

When Trump was impeached, Ken Starr helped Trump’s defense.


Sadly, the latest revelations–that Ken Starr himself carried on an affair with Judi Hershman, who was his public relations advisor during the impeachment of Clinton–are probably the last nail in the coffin of the Old Guard conservatives.

The Clinton impeachment was a Great Revealer. During that fracas–and its aftermath–many conservatives would have their own scandals laid bare for the world to notice:

  • Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) was outed for a past affair that produced a child.
  • Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), one of the leading pro-life figures in Congress, was outed for a past affair that led to the divorce of the woman.
  • Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) was outed for her past affair.
  • House Speaker Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) resigned, his affair being public knowledge. He also left his wife and married one of his aides.
  • Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), who took over as Speaker when Gingrich resigned, was himself forced to resign when his affair came to light.
  • Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who took over as Speaker when Livingston resigned, was eventually outed–after retiring–as having molested a high school student during his time as a wrestling coach.
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was exposed as a client of the D.C. Madame.
  • Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) was exposed for his affair with the wife of a staffer.
  • Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) was busted for soliciting a homosexual act in an airport restroom.
  • Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) was caught sending seemingly-grooming messages to teenage pages.

That foundation of integrity among conservative leaders was in fact a sludgy sinkhole. That is how we got Trump.

And now, the man who exposed Clinton–who came off at the time as squeaky clean–has now been exposed. As a friend of mine put it: “He went from taking on the abuser (Clinton) to aiding and abetting the abusers (at Baylor) to defending the abuser (Trump).”

At best, conservatism is in crisis. I would contend that conservatism is dead. They aren’t “conserving” anything worth conserving. Right now, what passes as conservatism is QAnon anti-vax hackery.

Right now it’s the Party of Moloch on one end and the party of QAnon on the other. All while we have a Church that, die to her own scandal-ridden culture, has failed to provide a counter-culture alternative to the darkness, one of unity and love, affirming compassion, care for life, acting as a refuge from the world.

The outlook does not appear to be encouraging.


1The interim President who succeeded him was David Garland, a New Testament scholar at Truett Theological Seminary, an arm of Baylor. He had been my NT professor during my days at SBTS. His wife–Diana Garland–was a social work professor and a scholar on the issue of clergy sexual abuse. She, sadly, passed away in 2015.

Book Review: “Jesus and John Wayne”, by Kristin DuMez


My Christian journey began in 1976 when I was 9: my first stepmother–M–had aligned with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). At the time, we lived in Albany, GA.

M was a longtime, old-school Reagan supporter while being very supportive of the Civil Rights movement. She was very patriotic, pro-life, pro-“traditional values”. The church circles we frequented for the ensuing three years shared most of those sentiments.

During my un-churched years–January 1979 through September 1985–most of my exposure to Christian preaching was via radio. I remember listening to Jerry Falwell in the early 1980s: I listened to “The Old Time Gospel Hour”. I remember listening to other preachers on those radio networks. They were overwhelmingly conservative. And very patriotic. Especially Falwell.

For a time, I received Falwell’s newsletters.

I was an old-school God-and-country Cold War conservative. Communism was evil. Abortion was evil. Free enterprise was good. Homosexuality–heck, all sex outside of marriage–was evil.

During my college years, I occasionally listened to James Dobson’s radio program. Everyone in my circles did. In my senior year, my Sunday School teacher’s wife recruited me to the front lines of the pro-life cause. I started a pro-life group at my alma mater.

After graduation, I became very involved in pro-life causes: a crisis pregnancy center, a maternity home, and a county Right to Life chapter. I gave money to Concerned Women for America and Eagle Forum. I received monthly newsletters from Beverly LaHaye and Phyllis Schlafly.

I was a hardcore conservative all the way.

I still am. I remain an old-school, gun-totin’, pro-life conservative, although I am less married to the “country” side of “God-and-Country”: while I would maintain that America is the greatest country in world history this side of the era of Joshua in Israel 1.0, I do not see America as “the last great hope on earth”, as Reagan once said of her.

(Any Christian knows the answer to the issue of what is the only hope on earth, and that is Jesus. Everything else will pass away. The Christian longs for the Kingdom of God. And here’s a news flash: it’s not going to be America with Jesus in the White House.)

At the same time, the dynamic that propelled Trump to the front of the pack in 2016–and which stoked a very dysfunctional cult of Trump among many evangelicals–was troubling. Many of us were voting against Hillary–and that’s fair–but a lot of evangelicals were for Trump, and that included no small number of white nationalists. I know this because I remember sparring with them. Heck, I still spar with them.

The issue is what drove that? Was it just the fringes? Or was there something intrinsic to evangelicalism that made for a climate in which Trump was attractive to a wide swath of them?

Enter Kristin DuMez, a professor of history at Calvin College, whose PhD is from Notre Dame.

DuMez has made a bold proposition: evangelical support of Trump is part of the very DNA of evangelicalism, going back well over a century.

Reading the introduction to her book, I wanted to throw it in the trash. I was thinking, “Just what we need: another slash job against conservatives.” But I still wanted to give her a fair shake.

So I kept reading.

Fair disclosures

(1) Reading her book, DuMez and I are not on the same political page. I do not believe she gets the pro-life sentiment that exists at the ground level among the rank-and-file, and that drives much of our voting.

(2) I can attest that there is deep concern at the ground level over the future of gun rights, and this also drives the voting. I live in a “red” state (Kentucky) that has gone from “quite blue” to deep “red” in less than 30 years. It is not because the politics of Kentuckians has changed much; it is because the Democrats are no longer the party of Truman and instead are the party of NARAL and Planned Parenthood, for whom abortion is a sacrament.

As for gun rights, my father’s side of the family is from a country (Iran) where government controls all the guns, and people live in tyranny. Gun rights are a check and balance against (a) a government that can be given to usurping liberties, (b) opportunistic parties that could try to seize power if social order breaks down, and (c) malevolent parties seeking to do harm to others.

(3) Moreover, while her presentation of the conservative reactions to the My Lai Massacre is spot-on--at the time, the heroes who intervened to stop the massacre were largely seen as traitors, with some Congressmen pressing for their Courts Martial–I do believe she fails to mention the other side of the Vietnam war: the Communist threat was a big deal. Vietnamese suffered greatly at the hands of the Communist government. Most of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who fought there, did so with honor and valor, and were fighting a legitimate enemy. The country to which they came home–fractured, divided, at war with itself–is not the country they left when they answered the “Greetings” mail when their draft number came up.

Sadly, with Vietnam, our government failed miserably, and the result was devastating to us, but even more so for the Vietnamese who fell to Communism, and the Cambodians who would suffer in one of the worst proportional genocides in modern history as a result of our failures.

(4) As for race relations, I am not a fan of Critical Race Theory; I also oppose slavery reparations, while conceding that we do have a systemic injustice problem in many sectors of society. OTOH, I do not appreciate the way many Social Justice advocates have used CRT to bash America and take blanket aim at white folks. I contend that one can be patriotic and appreciate our system of ordered liberties, while conceding that our Founders were way short of the glory on race relations while leaving us a system that allowed us to remedy that severe shortcoming.

Still, I also do not see CRT as the greatest threat to Christianity–although Christians need to engage it and critique it, which the conservative seminaries (sadly) are NOT doing1. And as Christians engage CRT, it is on the Christian to provide a more equitable, united framework in the Body, one that is inclusive of all colors and ethnicities. The prayer of the Christian is “thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”, and that behooves the Christian to act compassionately and equitably, welcoming all races and ethnicities. This also includes helping those who have been systemically disadvantaged to participate as the rest of us do.

(I could write an earful about the economic disadvantages between blacks and whites, and the problem is you cannot reparation your way to equity. The problem is one that will take generations to remedy, and that involves preparing Blacks for not just college, but STEM careers and trades that actually pay well. The participations of Blacks in STEM fields is abysmal, and a lot of that is due to schools that fail to prepare them for those college tracks.)

To make a long story short, the current situation is one in which the “woke” crowd is engaging in something akin to a Maoist-style Cultural Revolution, whereas the “anti-woke” crowd is using the “woke” tag to (a) dismiss anyone not completely in their camp, or (b) shut down all efforts to address race-relations issues. If you speak up too loudly, you can lose your job and get blacklisted from many corporations. If you donate to the “wrong” causes, you can even get pushed out of your own company. Ask Brandon Eich. But if you do not bow and kiss the ring of the “anti-woke” elites, then you will also find yourself tribeless.

Back to DuMez

If you think DuMez is just constructing a hit job against modern conservatives, you would be wrong. She takes aim at the longstanding evangelical industrial complex (which I shall call Big Evangelical), which has longstanding roots in racism. In fact, the two forefathers of American evangelicalism–Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield–were each slaveowners, and Whitefield went even farther than that2. When you look at the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention, their founders, like Whitefield, made a theological mandate out of slavery, thus casting as good that which was clearly evil. And make no mistake: this atrocity was very much a life issue then as abortion is today. Kidnapping was a death penalty offense in Scripture, and the slave trade was trafficking in kidnapped persons. Do with that what you will.

As you read DuMez, what emerges is a comprehensive, devastating indictment against Big Evangelical, an empire whose objectives and priorities were (and are) often about power and influence, with the result being the preaching of a Jesus that is incongruent with Scripture. This has led us to the current evangelical mess that includes a neo-Arian heresy on the Trinity.

I found myself irritated at some times where DuMez over-generalizes, while conceding that she’s not wrong about many key players, and the toxicity they brought with them.

I remember the newsletters from Falwell and Beverly LaHaye. I also did my share of homework on the evangelical movement and their history in the pro-life cause, as I was always at a loss as to why Blacks–who are generally quite pro-life on the issue–were mostly absent on the front lines of the pro-life cause. As someone who headed up some pro-life groups, I struggled to get Blacks involved. Why was that?

To know the answer, you have to understand the history of evangelicalism on this issue. And DuMez does a splendid job presenting that. The short answer: evangelical leaders didn’t start caring about abortion until government started de-segregating public schools. In fact, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, W.A. Criswell–pastor of FBC Dallas, TX, a major conservative leader in the SBC–was supportive of the Roe decision. Here is what he said at the time:

I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person…and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.

W.A. Criswell

In point of fact, the evangelical movement did not start rallying around abortion until the 1980 election cycle. At that point, the leaders used abortion as a unifying issue for their causes. This was great for Christian publishing, Christian radio, the homeschool movement, and many para-church ministries that emerged from this. It was also a major factor that led to the election–and re-election of Ronald Reagan.

(For the record: I liked Reagan and think he was–on balance–a very solid President.)

During the Civil Rights era, evangelicals–with few exceptions–were pro-segregation. Even the revered Billy Graham was very much a segregationist early-on. In the South, the reaction was seen in the many Christian private schools that emerged, as white families often took their kids out of public schools, ostensibly for a “better quality” of education. The Christian homeschool movement was rooted in the Christian Nationalism of Rushdoony, with his influence heavy on most Big Evangelical players: Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, the list goes on3.

When LaHaye and Falwell spoke of de-segregation in their newsletters, they spoke of “forced busing” while speaking nothing regarding the disparities that came with segregation.

(For the record: I went to integrated schools during my time in Dayton, Ohio (1974-76), Albany, Georgia (1976), Orlando, Florida (1977-79), Memphis, and Tennessee (1980-81), and can speak only positively about those experiences. Memphis was the city in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and yet the racial tensions in that integrated school were very low. It was a very positive experience. But even during the 1990s, I never heard LaHaye, Schlafly, or Falwell speak positively about de-segregation. The talking point I always read and heard from them was “forced busing”.)

So when DuMez writes about the white nationalist overtones among Big Evangelical leaders, she’s not wrong.

Muscular Christianity and Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

But the other component about which she writes–“Muscular Christianity”–is also controversial, as she writes from the standpoint of an egalitarian. It is easy to read her initial takes and dismiss her as “another feminist seeking to trash all patriarchy”. And being a patriarch myself, I was skeptical of her coming out of the gate.

Sadly, to her credit, she does a great job assembling a damaging historical case against modern complementarianism. Many of us who fought the Boundless crew in another life, were up against exactly what she chronicles. To be fair, the Muscular Christianity trend is not a new one; it was a reaction to the “Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild” model, which was also problematic. Unfortunately, Muscular Christianity made for a Militant Jesus. And in the era of the Cold War, with a godless Communist enemy, it became easy to marry that Militant Jesus with Peace Through Strength, while presenting America as a beacon of freedom. After all, we did conquer the powers of evil in World War II; we literally saved the world. It was on us to now save the world from Communism.

Against that backdrop, DuMez shows how John Wayne–of all people–became the role model for Americans in general, and a symbol of Christian virtue. All in spite of the fact that John Wayne was a man of dubious moral character whose life did not reflect that of one regenerate in Christ, although he apparently did convert to Catholicism shortly before his death. Oh, and his military record was nil.

None of that stopped him from becoming an icon of American strength, an icon that conservatives would use to promote their causes. John Wayne was the symbol of American strength. And as DuMez points out, evangelical leaders co-opted John Wayne.

While the term “toxic masculinity” is often a code word used by feminists to dismiss any masculinity, we need to be honest here: there is a cult of masculinity in evangelicalism. The players exemplifying it: James Dobson, Doug Wilson, Owen Strachan, John Piper and most of his circle to include his Bible college and seminary, C.J. Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace world to include the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler, Al Mohler and SBTS (which includes two major proponents of ESS), The Gospel Coalition, the list goes on.

As she presents her historical case, she provides a timeline of the evolution of modern “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, which would have been impossible without the Christian publishing industry. Marabel Morgan, with The Total Woman, promoted a modern version of that submissive wife paradigm. Her view was, “It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him.”

While the Scriptures definitely teach wives to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord”–it’s in Ephesians 5–there is no command for wives to worship their husbands. And while her advice for wives to make themselves more sexually available to their husbands is not–on its face–bad advice4, it is not a cure for an abusive marriage either. The problem is that many pastors did exactly that with Ephesians 5: they decided “submit and pray” was the answer for an abused wife to an abusive husband. This, sadly, became standard counsel from many pastors. In the evangelical calculus, there was no divorcing an abused spouse from an abuser5.

But Marabel Morgan wasn’t the only culprit6. Tim and Beverly LaHaye (The Act of Marriage), James Dobson (Love Must Be Tough), Jay Adams (the Godfather of “Nouthetic Counseling”), each reinforced the harder delineation of gender roles.

In the process, however, the evangelical world failed on multiple fronts, using a model of manhood which was incongruent with Jesus, presenting a militant Christianity that was out of touch with Jesus, promoting a government paradigm that lacked compassion while championing the pro-life cause, and promoting a military in which the ends justified the means.

DuMez chronicles this in great detail, highlighting inconsistencies in evangelical support of torturing terrorist suspects, the elevation of Oliver North to hero status, and the promotion of a Warrior model for the Christian pastor. Her description of the issues surrounding the toxic evangelical culture at the Air Force Academy is as comprehensive as it is damning. Her historical presentation of controversies surrounding Lt. Col. Oliver North (USMC) and LTG Jerry Boykin (USA) are spot-on.

(And for the record: I find many likeable qualities in both North and Boykin, as each are complex figures who are neither all good nor all bad.)

As proof of her fairness, DuMez provided what I thought was the most balanced take on Promise Keepers that I have read. I went to many of their events: 1992 (Boulder), 1994 and 1995 (Indianapolis), 1996 (Memphis), and 1997 (Cincinnati). Her coverage of PK was very consistent with my own experience of the movement. In their early days, PK was (with some exceptions) pretty solid, while–over time–embracing leaders (Stu Weber) who promoted a more hardcore militaristic model.

Throughout her book, she does a fine job highlighting how many conservatives and evangelical leaders latched onto John Wayne as a role model, hence the title of her book. I also noted much irony in that–like John Wayne–many of the evangelical leaders never served in the military (some of them even had draft deferments during Vietnam), and yet they purported to speak authoritatively about a warrior model of manhood.

To me, the worst irony, however, is that these Warrior Manhood types–after talking a great talk–have copped out like utter cowards given the revelation of rampant sexual abuse by many conservative pastors and apologists in their ranks.

It would have been a game-changer if one of these high-flyers had told Ravi Zacharias, “Go to Hell and take your money with you!” Perhaps he would have repented.

Or perhaps we would have had a different outcome with Bill Hybels and C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris, had key leaders called out Bill Hybels and Willow Creek for his abuses and their coverups of those abuses, or C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris at Sovereign Grace Ministries for their culture and coverups of sexual abuse. Or if Mohler or Keller had confronted John Piper’s toxicity on marriage and divorce. The problem is less about JP’s view on the permanence of marriage–although I support divorce in the case of abuse–but rather the failure to take substantive action against the abusers.

If patriarchy is supposed to be protective of women and children–and it ought to be–then inaction in the face of abuses is inexcusable. If you’re going to talk a big talk about Manhood, then you’d better show up when it’s time to kick ass for Jesus. Otherwise you need to shut up and go home.

With the issue of Trump, while DuMez provides a controversial take, I cannnot totally dismiss her assessment. In my discussions with DuMez, I pointed out how Kentuckians reluctantly got behind Trump–he did not carry a majority in the 2016 Kentucky caucus–once the nominations were complete. And most Trump voters I knew were voting not so much for Trump but rather against Hillary. And Hillary did more to galvanize Trump’s base than Trump ever did. Just as he lost on the margins in 2020, he won on the margins in 2016.

At the same time, DuMez’s description of the problem almost certainly fits for the 2020 election cycle. The three preceding years set the perfect backdrop: #metoo, #churchtoo, the Charlottesville riots, the Black Lives Matter riots, the Defund The Police riots, reactions to police shootings. On top of that, there were sectors in the Church–conservative ones–that had embraced a NeoConfederate, “Lost Cause” ideology that minimized slavery and even Jim Crow. And that sector was solidly in the Trump camp.

DuMez often points to the White Nationalism element. And while I thought that was overgeneralized, I cannot dismiss the effects that that element had on the margins. I saw that at the ground level in Kentucky. I have seen churches divided over it. I’ve seen the blowback even in my own otherwise very conservative, Acts 29 SBC church. I witnessed the SBC leadership all but fellate Trump. I’ve seen otherwise conservative leaders in the SBC get run out of town for bucking the string of leaders who jumped onto the Trump Train.

OTOH, DuMez minimizes the effect of the Clinton sex scandal and the dismissal of it by the powers that were at the time. It is my contention that THAT is what paved the way for Trump.

In 1998, it was obvious that Clinton had flouted the powers of his office, ingratiated himself sexually with Monica Lewinsky, and went to great lengths to cover it up. At the end of the day, he lied to the Grand Jury and committed impeachable offenses. And the Senate refused to remove him.

At the time, I remember every argument that the liberals–and their water-carriers in the media–made in defense of Clinton:

  • “It was only about sex.”
  • “This does not rise to the level of impeachment.”
  • “It wasn’t even sex. It was just [oral sex].”
  • One reporter, Nina Burleigh, famously said, “I’d give [Clinton] [oral sex] just for keeping abortion legal.”

By failing to take action against a President who got busted doing these things–in office–they paved the way for Trump. When Trump, a thrice-married philanderer who has bragged about his conquests, came along, it’s not like our political class had any room to contest him on that. After all, (a) neither party was serious about taking on Clinton when they had the chance, and (b) many others had their own baggages. So there we were with Trump, in no small part because we let Clinton skate in 1998.

Still, as I said, her take on the White Nationalist element of the right has merits in the dynamics leading up to the 2020 election.

David French, in assessing Jesus and John Wayne, said the following:

At the end of the day, the truth is simple to assert, but difficult to live. The goal of Christian masculinity isn’t John Wayne and Jesus. It’s just Jesus. There is no need to hype the “manliness” of the Christian man. There is a need to foster his obedience—an obedience in which he may sometimes find himself a warrior and protector. Sadly enough, however, as Du Mez ably describes, he may need to defend the vulnerable from the John Waynes in the church itself.

That last sentence sums up my sentiments. I do not share DuMez’ egalitarianism, although her critique of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is valid. Complementarians and patriarchs need to soberly re-assess their model and the way they execute it.

Women and children are not being protected in those circles, and in fact the leaders in those circles have covered for abusive parties at almost every major turn. It’s long past time to destroy the good-old-boys network and start cleaning out the ranks–and that includes repudiating (even anathematizing) the proponents of ESS/EFS/ERAS–or else we are going to face a much worse crisis that lurks.

If the Church does not protect the weak from abusive parties–the “John Waynes in the church”–then how can they reasonably claim to speak authoritatively over any crisis in the world today?

Overall: 4 stars out of 5.

1What I mean by “engaging and critiquing” CRT: they need to research it and write scholarly presentations to critique it. This is what contemporary theology professors and ethics professors at seminaries need to be doing. They are NOT doing this. Writing essays about what others are doing with CRT is not the same as writing peer-reviewed papers challenging CRT. Christian ethics professors also have a duty to promote a counter-culture framework that both confronts abuses of power–individually and systemically–and promotes Body unity.

2And Whitefield was instrumental in getting slavery legalized in Georgia: in doing so, he made slavery a theological mandate! In other words, he “sanctified” what was–in reality– a human trafficking operation that represents a 250-year blight on our heritage.

3I know a little about this, because I went to one of those schools: many of the teachers were Bob Jones grads. And in that school, the presentation of Tennessee history glossed over the factors that led to the Civil War.

4I would suggest that husbands and wives ought to foster a relationship in which they are generally deferential to each other. And that also means husbands ought to seek their wives’ sexual experiences pleasurable. It also means that men need to make themselves available for their wives. The caveat: if the relationship, however, is abusive, riding him like a Derby horse is not going to transform him into a caring, Christian husband who emulates Jesus. You are not going to sex your way out of an abusive marriage.

5And yes, wives can be abusive, too.

Book Review: “Simply Trinity”, by Matthew Barrett


Over the course of my life, I’ve observed a wide spectrum of the evangelical world, and even some fringe groups, and even cults. While I’ve never been in a cult, I have been in churches that proved to be on the fringe. In those cases, I managed to get out “while the gettin’ was good”, before the implosion went down.

But here’s the thing: one of the telltale signs of a movement that is in danger of going off the reservation–or has already moved off the reservation–is abandonment of the fundamental understanding of the Trinity.

I realize that the Trinity is difficult–arguably impossible–to comprehend from the standpoint of our temporal, finite frame of reference. So being confounded by the complexity of it is understandable. On the other hand, if you’re going to be a minister or a teacher, you need to have a good understanding of Trinitarian theology, and that includes an appreciation for the amount of thought that the Early Church fathers put into articulating a Biblical understanding of the nature and character of God, one which culminated in the Nicene Creed.

The point I’m making here: when someone comes up with a novel articulation of the Trinity, you need to be very wary.

So, in 2016, when Dee Parsons alerted me to some high-flying complementarian leaders who were promoting the doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS, also known as Eternal Functional Subordination, or EFS*), I was immediately very skeptical of this doctrine.

Why was I skeptical?

  • In almost 1,600 years post-Nicea, which includes Medieval scholars, schisms, Reformation scholars, many Councils, and post-Reformation scholarship, the most iconic theologians never articulated such an understanding of the Trinity, and in fact they specifically rejected any premise of eternal subordination of the Son.
  • Particular leaders within the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) were advancing ESS in order to provide theological support for their complementarian model for gender relations. While I identify as a patriarch–I believe that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, and that 1 Timothy 2 generally precludes women from eldership in the Church–I have a serious problem when people create God in their own image in order to justify their position. And that is exactly what the ESS proponents at CBMW were doing.

In the years since, I’ve kept the ESS debate on my radar. Also, during that time, I started reading some of the Nicene and Post-Nicene theologians, just to see what their takes were. What was really poignant: many of the arguments that the Arians made at the time–and the responses of the Nicene crowd–sounded eerily similar to the ESS debate today.

In more recent years, the ESS debate has heated up, with Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Denny Burk, and Owen Strachan–of the CBMW–advancing the case for ESS. Ware and Burk are professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Burk is at Boyce Bible College, which is part of SBTS), and Strachan was a theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (he left MBTS this past Spring to take on a position at a different seminary).

I also noticed some pastors in local churches advancing ESS. I warned one of them–whom I know–to RUN from ESS, and gave him a mach 5 version of why it is a very bad doctrine. Five years from now, he will either be thanking me or wishing he’d listened to me.

One of the reasons that ESS has taken hold in evangelical circles is that, at the ground level, Baptists and evangelicals don’t really understand the Trinity. Ministers barely get it, if at all. And most laypersons are totally clueless. Fact is, if I started talking about ESS to the average guy in my church experiences, they would look at me like a deer in the headlights. That has left a Church situation that is very susceptible to neo-Trinitarian heresy.

Enter Matthew Barrett, a theology professor at MBTS.

Barrett, who was once a student of Bruce Ware during his student days at SBTS, began to pick up on some of the neo-Trinitarian ideas coming from Ware and his camp. As a theology professor, he did his homework.

The fruit of that labor–Simply Trinity–is both an excellent primer on Trinitarian theology, and a theological and exegetical case against ESS.

In ST, Barrett does an excellent job highlighting some key concepts that form the bedrock for understanding the Trinity:

  • (a) eternal relations of origin;
  • (b) eternal generation;
  • (c) the difference between the immanant Trinity (the ontological nature and character of God) and economic Trinity (the expression of the Trinity toward the created order, especially in the economy of salvation); and
  • (d) simplicity: the premise that God is not made of parts, that God is one divine essence.

Throughout the book, Barrett brings the discussion back to these fundamental concepts. A very key point, that Barrett brings home, is the historical understanding that the only distinguishing characteristic among the members of the Trinity are their eternal relations of origin: The Father is eternally unbegotten, the Son is eternally begotten, and the Holy Spirit is eternally spirated; i.e., eternally proceeds from the Father and Son. (As Barrett says it: “These relations alone distinguish the persons, identifying each person’s personal property.”)

There was never a time when the Father was not; there was never a time when the Son or Holy Spirit were not. Each is all God, but they are not separate “Gods”: you do not get “more” by adding them up, and–even if you could subtract (and you can’t, because God is indivisible: He is one)–you would not get “less” God.

Barrett also describes how the evangelical world became susceptible to “Trinity Drift”; a dynamic in which the evangelical world subtly began slowly embracing novel ideas about the Trinity, allowing a fertile ground from which ESS would emerge.

One of the most damaging factors in Trinity Drift was the rise of a social understanding of the Trinity, also known as Social Trinity: that the Godhead is a society of persons. This became the theological basis for the egalitarian movement, as well as all variations of Liberation Theology, including sexual liberation. (I can affirm what Barrett says, because I have gone toe-to-toe with sexual liberationists and socialists for whom the Social Trinity of Liberation Theology is a foundational truth.)

From there, Barrett issues a severe indictment against EFS/ESS:

  • EFS is a variation of Social Trinity, the difference being that the EFSers cast Godhead as a heirarchical social Trinity whereas Liberation Theologians cast the Godhead as a society of equals.
  • EFS is reflecting of a proof-texting, eisegetical approach to the Scriptures that conflates the immanant Trinity with the economic Trinity.
  • By injecting a heirarchy in the Trinity, EFSers are flirting with multiple heresies that the Church has spent no small amount of time fighting.

The book is not something for easy reading; most theology books are not. Still, Barrett provides an excellent explication of Trinitarian fundamentals, with very solid exegesis of Scripture and well-researched highlights of key Trinitarian scholars from the Nicene era to today.

One of the most important points to ponder here is something that evangelicals have with tradition: to what extent do we value traditions of Church fathers of prior eras?

Unlike Catholics–who sometimes equate Tradition on the same level as Scripture–modern evangelicals tend to take a low view of Tradition. As a result, modern evangelicals are not high on the theological takes of scholars of prior eras, with perhaps some exceptions for Luther, Calvin, and a few key Reformation-era theolgians such as John Knox.

The problem is, this mindset has contributed to substantial ignorance of past theological battles, and the issues that led to them. This has led us to the mess we are in today. While none of the Fathers were infallable, I would suggest that, where key doctrines have stood the test of time, we must give those very strong weight. Because, as Solomon pointed out, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Against this, Barrett provides a glimpse into history: using a Back to the Future style–he invokes the DeLorean–he takes the reader back in time to different eras, highlighting key scholars and their takes on the Trinity.

Where he proves exceptionally strong, however, is his exegesis of “aha” texts for ESS. His takedown of Ware is as thorough as it is brutal. The ESS/EFS model represents a manipulation of the Trinity, a case of theologians creating God in their image in order to advance their gender-relations model.

The conservative who subscribes to ESS will (rightfully) disagree with the liberal Liberation theologian who promotes socialism and sexual liberation. The problem is that while the two will disagree strenuously on the ends, they are in agreement on the means: each has molded the Trinity for their own purposes.

This is an ominous trend, as the ESS/EFS crowd, by embracing this model–which is the product of sloppy hermeneutics if not eisegesis–has left an otherwise conservative sector wide open to the threat of liberalism. This is because, if you embrace liberal frameworks, you undermine the foundations for conservatism, even as you outwardly affirm those.

One of my biggest areas of frustration with the neo-Calvinist movement–which is the sector that espouses ESS/EFS–is their stunning level of hubris in this matter.

If you’re going to advance a novel take on the Trinity, you’re going to need a very strong exegetical case. You have the burden of proof of showing that your claim of wisdom on this stands up to the Nicene fathers. You have the burden of proof to show why your exegesis justifies a paradigm that is mostly absent from the theological discourse of the last 1,600 years of a Church that has been patriarchal. (In other words, even a historically-patriarchal Church has not arrived at a consensus anything close to ESS in her two millennia of existence. So if you’re going to promote it, the bar is very, very high.)

Having studied the Scriptures, I see no case for eternal subordination of any member of the Trinity. While, in the economy of salvation, Jesus humbled Himself and gave up the glories of the eternal frame of reference to enter time and space as a man–living in submission as we all are subject (only without sin), dying for our sins, and coming back from the dead–what we see in Scriptures, from an eternal frame of reference, is an immanant Trinity that prsents the Three Persons as co-equal, not subordinate, with their distinctives solely in their eternal relations of origin.

This is the point that Barrett drives home thoughout Simply Trinity.

As a conservative, I see the Christian faith as a conservative one: we are committed to conserving the teachings of Jesus, going to great lengths in archaeology and scholarship to ensure that the Biblical text is solid, that we get meanings right, that we present God as revealed in Scripture. We also go to great lengths to ensure that we conserve foundational fundamentals: the Bible is not fake news, miracle accounts did happen; Jesus is God; Jesus was conceived/born of a virgin, Jesus did die for our sins, Jesus did come back from the dead; Jesus will come back again.

There is nothing conservative about ESS/EFS: it is a modern spin on an old-school heresy. It is the product of eisegesis, ironically coming from a crowd that exalts itself as committed to exegesis. The Trinity of ESS/EFS is man-made.

Barrett provides a call to the troops to return to home base, and embrace the Biblical, unmanipulated Trinity. And in the process, like Alexander in his rebuttal to Arius, Barrett–in his rebuttal of Grudem and Ware–provides a robust, Biblical explication of the Gospel.

I give it five stars.

*ESS/EFS is a doctrine that presents Jesus as eternally subordinate to the Father. In classical and historical understandints of the Trinity, Jesus is understood has being subordinate only in the economy of salvation whereas, in EFS/ESS, Jesus is subordinate to the Father not just in the economy of salvation, but also through all eternity. This is in conflict with Genesis, John, Colossians, and Revelation, which present a Jesus who is Creator and co-equal with the Father and Holy Spirit, with their eternal relations of origin being the only distinguishing factor. In my debate with a complementarian leader who insisted that EFS is not heretical, he insisted that EFS is not the same as ESS, which he believes is heretical. I disagree with him: EFS is an attempt at walking back ESS to make it seem more orthodox. But Barrett does a good job pointing out that this, itself has problems.

Details Emerge in Josh Duggar Case

Josh Duggar is in very serious trouble. There is no other way to spin this.

According to the evidence presented, he created a fairly sophisticated system for the purpose of crcumventing Covenent Eyes, a popular Christian anti-porn accountability platform. He created a separate Linux partition; the password was one that he made; he even covered it with a family screen saver. He used a Tor browser to access the “dark web”. He used BitTorrent for file sharing.* This is how people with these dark fantasies obtain the types of porn that Duggar obtained.

(I note this because it is important to point out that this type of porn is NOT something you will find on a conventional porn site. It is NOT something that you obtain accidentally. To obtain it, you have to be intentional in your methods. The people who exchange this type of media are very meticulous. Law enforcement goes to great lengths to track these guys down, and we are still miles behind.)

When the Department for Homeland Security raided his auto dealership in 2019, Duggar, without being told why they were there, asked them, “What is this about? Has someone been downloading child pornography?”

That was a confession.

Prosecutors claim the illegal images show child pornography involving minors ranging from the age of 12 to as young as toddlers of 18 months.

Faulkner testified that the images were exchanged via a peer-to-peer file sharing called BitTorrent. The forensic investigation also found a program on the desktop called Covenant Eyes, which allows a user to “quit porn” by reporting to an accountability partner — in this case wife Anna — if the user visits porn sites. To get around triggering a report, Josh allegedly installed a Linux partition, which divided the computer’s hard drive into two isolated sections to hide what was being viewed in one of them. He also used a TOR browser to surf the dark web. The way he accessed that part of the computer was by inputting a special password — and the one used was one Josh often used for other accounts, including for personal banking, which included his birth year in the password.

Almost as bad: Duggar is not only out on bail, he also gets unlimited visitation with his children, as long as his wife supervises.

Rachael Denhollander has a great thread on the whole mess.

At this point, we know what Josh Duggar is, just as we know what O.J. Simpson is. Whereas O.J. skated on the murder charges, I strongly doubt that Duggar will skate here. What IS bothersome is the patriarchs who are doing–and have done–next to nothing to protect Anna and her 7 children. Her family made her stay with Josh in 2015–they refused to support her if she left him–even when it became apparent that he was a very dark man who had cheated on her, even sleeping with a porn star.

I don’t want to hear another word about how “patriarchy protects women and children.”

EVERY DAMN TIME we have an offender in the ranks, the only ones protected by the system are the perpetrators. When it’s time to kick ass for Jesus, the victims–even when they are boys–are the only ones taking the beatings.

Tell me, how much protection did Josh Duggar’s sisters get? Tell me, how much protection did Anna Duggar get? Tell me, how much protection did any #churchtoo victim get when they went forward?

Tell me: who is looking out for Anna Duggar and her kids? She has 7 kids, including the airplane in the hangar. She is married to a husband who is turned on by the torture of infants and toddlers. He hates children. He probably hates women, too.

And yet, no one–NO ONE–in her family is helping her leave that POS. They forced her to stay with him in 2015. This is clearly an abusive marriage, but where are the patriarchs in this major league who talk a great game? Where is Mohler? Piper? Grudem? Ware? Wilson? DeYoung?


A couple months ago, I remarked that it would have been nice if an evangelical leader had punched Ravi Zacharias in the mouth and told him where to stick his empire. Peter once told Simon the magician, “may your money perish with you.”

Where are the Christian leaders with the dump truck-sized balls to call these guys out?

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine remarked–in a conversation about domestic violence–that, while leaders are all focused on what the victim (often a woman) can and can’t do, they need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE ABUSER.

And she wasn’t wrong. For whatever reason, these chest-beating Manly Men are ALMOST ALWAYS mysteriously absent when it’s time to kick some ass.

During the war in Vietnam, one of the worst chapters in our involvement there was the My Lai Massacre: where two officers–Ernest Medina and William Calley–ordered and participated in the mass murder of as many as 500 South Vietnamese civilians. I would draw the comparson to #churchtoo.

My Lai Massacre#churchtoo
South Vietnamese terrorized by communists. They are taught that the Americans are the good guys who will protect them.People–particularly women and children–are taught that the world is evil, and that the Church is a refuge from the world.
A band of American soldiers targeted a village, killing everyone, and even raping the women.Clergy and other leaders, who should be protecting women and children, are instead taking sexual license with them.
The military sought to cover it up. Congress even tried to cover it up. President Nixon and the general public were sympathetic to the perpetrators (William Calley and Ernest Medina), even casting them as victims.Evangelical leaders have overwhelmingly covered for the abusive clergy. They often dismiss, attack, and malign the victims while casting themselves and the offending clergy as the real victims.
A helicopter crew–Hugh Thompson, Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn–took decisive action to stop the massacre. They turned their guns on American soldiers, ordering them to stop the killing. Thompson reported this to his superiors, who sought to cover it up.A contingent of victims and advocates–mostly women, some men–have reported abuses and coverups, and have fought to expose the perpetrators.
Thompson and his crew received major blowback at the time, with at least one lawmaker seeking to court-martial Thompson. Public sentiment was overwhelmingly against them at the time. Thompson was considered a traitor in many circles.The victims and their advocates are largely dismissed as liberals and troublemakers, even heretics. They are subject to passive-aggressive attacks by evangelical leaders. Even the conservative ones are subject to attack.
Today, Thompson and his crew are regarded as heroes.The victims who came forward are slowly being recognized for their courage. The advocates are receiving qualified vindication.

Right now, what we need are leaders like Hugh Thompson, Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn. THEY stopped the My Lai massacre. THEY turned their guns on Calley and ordered him to stop. THEY testified against Calley at his trial.

Where are the evangelical leaders who will stand up to the well-connected and financed network of abuse apologists, and the systems that enable them?

I’m anything but a liberal, an egalitarian, or a feminist. But as someone who identifies as a patriarch, I find the good-old-boy coverups to be evil on a very high scale. And Duggar is but the latest example.

*Tor and BitTorrent are NOT in and of themselves, evil applications. Good, upstanding software engineers and geeks use those every day without committing crimes.

Josh Duggar Charged for Child Porn

Back in 2015, when the news of Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters–and a babysitter–broke, I wanted to believe that he had put all of that behind him. He was 14 at the time he did that, a lot of folks wanted to think it was a case of adolescent sexual experimentation gone too far, he apparently faced the music, and by all indications at the time, those were not indicative of who he became as an adult.

At the time, I said this:

It would be fair, in his circle of accountability, to question him significantly about who he is today. Has he cheated on his wife? Does he use pornography? What changed in his conduct after his scrapes at age 14? Has he learned to control his passions in a way befitting a Christian gentleman?

Then, a couple months later, he was outed in the Ashley Madison hack. As horrible as that was, at least it was otherwise consensual sex with other adults. Yes, it was terrible; yes, it merited repudiation from the Church; yes, it merited derision from the outside world due to the hypocrisy of his acts. But at that point he had done nothing criminal, at least not as far as we knew.

Sadly, what we are seeing is that Duggar’s adolescent molestations were indicative of sexually-predatory inclinations, and he apparently developed a sexual attraction to children. He has been arrested on two federal charges of receiving and possessing child pornography.

Trust me on this: the truth of this is very dark. Adult porn is one thing: unless the parties are forced, at least the adults involved are engaging in consensual sex. They are degrading each other, and yes–the viewer of such needs to understand that viewing conventional porn is not innocuous: you are enjoying watching one or more people debase themselves for your pleasure. Repentance is more than just vowing to stop watching it, but rather learning to view people as Image Bearers–worthy of dignity–rather than sexual commodities.

Child porn, however, is a whole different circle of hell. A person who enjoys child porn is a person who enjoys seeing children harmed. Children do not consent to be used that way. This is full-on child abuse the magnitude of which is severe and unconscionable.

Book Review: Sheila Gregoire, “The Great Sex Rescue”

Over the last three years, I’ve made some very good friends in the #churchtoo wars. One of them has been Sheila Gregoire, who writes about marriage in general–sex in particular–from a Christian perspective. In the Twitter world, I’ve seen her take on some majorly wrongheaded teachings that have come from the more fundamentalist world, everything from “Biblical/nouthetic counseling” to some of the really toxic teachings regarding sex that are common in the evangelical world.

The latter served as a backdrop for her latest book, The Great Sex Rescue (GSR), co-written with her daughter (Rebecca Lindenbach) and epidemiologist Joanna Sawatsky, who helped design and conduct the scientific study that connected many problems faced by married women with the teachings of popular evangelical books. This was a common theme throughout the book: the toxicity in common evangelical books.

Before we get started, I would like to provide the following stipulations:

  • I am not a “sexpert.” Nor am I a sex therapist. While I will discuss sex here, I will discuss it from what I think a Christian mindset ought to look like.
  • If you suffer from physical or trauma issues, please see a physician and/or a therapist. If sex is painful for you, that is something for a physician to address. If memories from traumas are hurting you, there are therapies (such as EMDR) which are very effective, which were not available 30 years ago.
  • If you are in an abusive relationship, you need help. You need to consider pressing charges if the offenses constitute assault. You may even need an exit strategy.
  • This also applies to men who are victims. While we often associate abusive marriages with abusive husbands–they get all the press–it is also true that women can and do abuse their husbands. And if she is physically abusing you, it will be near impossible to salvage that.
  • Marital infidelity is never excusable.
  • Neither is porn use.
  • Contrary to popular perceptions, pornography is not exclusively a man’s vice. And when you factor in romance novels–which Sheila doesn’t–both sexes have a collective objectification problem. (I’ll have more to say on that.)
  • If she’s postpartum and you are trying to force her to have sex with you, then you are a douchebag.
  • While Sheila writes from a more egalitarian standpoint–and I am not an egalitarian–one need not be an egalitarian to be outraged at much of the toxicity in complementarian/patriarchal evangelical teachings on sex and their ramifications.

On one hand, Christians actually have better sex than other demographic groups. As we have pointed out here: married, conservative Protestant women are the most sexually-satisfied demographic group.

On the other hand, when you drill into some of those numbers, they still suck. Especially the “orgasm gap” (OG). While men reach orgasm over 95% of the time, women tend to lag well under 50%.

While Christians tend to fare better, it’s still pretty bad. GSR seeks to address the orgasm gap in specificity, and–in their research for the book–they sought to determine if teachings from popular evangelical books* were contributory to the orgasm gap among Christians. In their study, they also included secular marriage books to determine how the teachings in those books were received.

The bad and good news: the GSR team determined that a very large part of the OG among Christian women is tied to particular evangelical teachings.

Why is it bad news? Much of the evangelical world has transactionalized sex, using 1 Corinthians 7 as a pretext.

Why is it good news? If we can get folks to un-learn (in many cases simply re-frame) their understandings, then Christian women–who already have better sex than outsiders–would be violating noise ordinances on a more consistent basis.

While that last clause was only half-serious, my point is this: if husband and wife approach marriage in general–sex in particular–with the right mindset, we’d be collectively destroying every scientific study on the subject.

Early in the book, Sheila notes (correctly) that, while the penis is designed for both pleasure and procreation, the clitoris is designed specifically for pleasure. Husbands should look at that latter point as a good thing and run with it: make her pleasure a top priority.

(Her body was designed for it, right? You love her, right? So give her all she can handle, and make it your great honor and pleasure to help get her there. Arguing as a patriarch, you’re her head, right? So put your wants and needs on the backburner and serve her. Unless she has disdain for you–and yes, those types exist–she will appreciate that; and trust me: you’ll get yours.)

But here’s the problem, and we need to be honest about it: the OG is not simply about sex; it’s about the mindset with which men and women approach marriage in general, sex in particular. If her pleasure is not important to him, then HE is a major part of the problem. If she is using sex to control him, then then SHE is a major part of the problem. If pornography is contributory to this, then one or both of them have a degree of culpability.

But what are some of the toxic evangelical teachings?

Toxic Teaching 1: “Obligation Sex”

I’ll first give my take on the issue, and then present what Sheila had to say.

On one hand, 1 Corinthians 7 seems to support the premise of “obligation sex”, with Paul writing,

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise the wife also to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband also does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command.

1 Corinthians 7:3-6

This has fostered many teachings in this area (mostly at the women): “don’t deprive him or he’ll cheat”, “don’t deprive him or he’ll use porn”, “just have more sex”, etc.** It also fosters the “Every Man’s Battle” mindset that her riding him like a Derby horse is going to fix his lust problems.

And while having that sexual outlet in marriage can make the fight against lust easier, it is not a cure for the problem. (More on that later.)

Moreover, before you look at 1 Corinthians 7 and say, “AHA!”, no passage exists in a vacuum. Keep in mind that the same Paul writes of husbands:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are parts of His body.

Ephesians 5:25-30

That same Paul also writes,

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.

Philippians 2:3-8

And if that is not enough, I give you the words of Jesus:

But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 9:34-35

So let’s assume that, if you are the husband, you are the head of your wife. (That’s in the Bible.) That means the following principles apply to you:

  • You must love her as if she is your own body, because she is;
  • Her wellbeing comes before yours.
  • In the marriage bed, her pleasure needs to be your priority.

But let me ask you: is your wife just a means to your ends? If so, I would argue that you are violating the “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church” principles in Ephesians 5 and Philippians 2.

Now am I going to give the wives a blanket pass here? Of course not!

Fact is, wives have a tendency to be reductionist with their husbands, too. Dissatisfaction comes naturally. Fact is, he can do everything right, and she can still transactionalize her husband in terms of his ability to provide, his status, his social skills, etc. Wives can–and do–undercut their husbands. Don’t believe me? I’ve seen it happen firsthand. My co-admin here–Ame–has seen it happen firsthand. I’ve seen women use sex to control their husbands. I’ve seen women humiliate and backbite their husbands.

You don’t think that won’t spill into the bedroom?

I’m going to ask the wives the same question I asked the husbands: is your husband just a means to your ends? If so, you are also violating Ephesians 5 and Philippians 2.

The answer here is not simply, “have more sex”. The answer is CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT EACH OTHER!

Do you LOVE her (him)? Do you WANT THE BEST for her (him)? Then be kind to each other, enjoy each other’s company, and seek to express that to each other in the bedroom. If you are having problems, see a doctor or a therapist. But if you love each other, then bring some agape to go with that eros. That will bring the stress level down and things will be more enjoyable. But if she’s not reaching orgasm, then you need to be concerned that she is not enjoying it the way she ought to.

In GSR, Sheila and her team determined that, when the wives felt that they were having sex out of obligation, they were less likely to achieve orgasm, and were more likely to find sex painful. When they did not feel obligated, they were more likely to achieve orgasm even though they had sex as frequently. In some of the focus cases, the women were having sex because they felt that their husbands might cheat if they didn’t (that’s what they were taught). When their husbands re-assured them that this was not the case, they still had sex as often, but it was actually enjoyable, as intimacy was better.

My take on this: let’s use some common sense here.

Men: first of all, let’s assume that your wife is otherwise good, and you’re a decent husband. Do you really want your wife to “put out” for you? Of course not! YOU WANT HER TO WANT YOU.

That being the case, what good is it if sex becomes a Sword of Damocles? Do you think that will make sex more appealing or less appealing? That’s the problem with “obligation sex”.

What I suggest: cultivate a relationship where you are each generally deferential to the other in the bedroom. If you each have that mindset, then those times when he or she is too tired aren’t such a big deal. Those times when she’s physically incapable (postpartum) aren’t so bad.

I look at 1 Corinthians 7 as a general principle of deference out of love: it’s not a “I get to screw anytime I want it” mandate, but rather an admonition to cultivate a healthy marriage so that deference is the default mode that goes both ways.

Toxic Teaching 2: The 72-Hour Rule

This common teaching is in the same vain as “obligation sex”. As Sheila points out, it began with James Dobson, who recommended this in the late 1970s. As a result, Christian marriage writers jumped on that and used it. Ergo, Christians often marry with the wife expecting to “put out” every 72 hours “or else”.

In reality, the Scriptures make no such command.

As for frequency, that’s between the husband and wife to work out. And that leads me to

Toxic Teaching 3: “He’s Got the High Sex Drive”

While, in general, he may want it more, the problem is that Christian authors categorize men and women particular ways, while the research actually shows that–even though there is some variance–there are “high drive” women and “low drive” men, and oftentimes there isn’t a lot of variance in the two irrespective of who has the higher drive. Why is that a problem? They often enter marriage with expectations framed certain ways–bolstered by the teachings of their pators–and then find themselves wondering if they got it all wrong when it doesn’t play out the way they were taught.

Women can have higher sex drive than the men. And while some men may read that and think, “that would be an awwsumm problem to have”, if you’re a lower-drive man you may find yourself struggling to accommodate her. And worse, she may think she’s doing something wrong if she’s high-drive, because that is at variance with what she’s been taught.

Toxic Teaching 4: “Men are visual/women are not”

Sheila correctly points out that, while men are generally more visually-stimulated than women, that does not mean that women are not visually-stimulated. And some women ARE as visually-stimulated as the men.

This spills over into the teachings regarding lust and modesty. In Purity Culture, women are commonly taught to be modest in order to help men avoid lust. This is because lust is presented as Every Man’s Battle. To hear Arterburn say it, men just can’t help themselves. So many pastors will take this and tell women to dress conservatively in order to help those poor men.

While modesty is a good thing–it’s good for your self-respect as well as a way to honor God by respecting your dignity as an Image bearer–Jesus put the responsibility for lust on the the one doing the lusting. And in fact, anyone who has fought this good fight knows what I am talking about: if I’m given to lust, she could wear a full Hijab and I would still find a way to undress her in my heart and mind. In other words: irrespective of how she dresses; if I lust, that’s on me.

But here’s where I’m really going with this: women also lust. It ain’t the men who are buying all those romance novels. Oh, and if you think that pornography is exclusively a men’s vice, you’d be mistaken. While men remain the largest consumers of conventional pornography, women are catching up.

In this department, I have a couple of bones to pick with Sheila:

  • While she does point out that some women struggle with porn, she does not provide a lot of guidance to the women on this. And that is concerning, as they are the likely demographic target for her book.
  • The issue of lusting by women is a big deal, as it is with men. She does a fine job attacking the Every Man’s Battle paradigm–and it needs attacking–but I do think that what we need is a more concerted effort to call men and women to a higher ethic here.

In the #churchtoo wars, I have become very good friends with a pathology professor who has extensively studied the effects of porn. One of the most important things she points out is that porn addiction is almost never just an issue of lust, although it certainly has a lust component. Oftentimes, there are underlying trauma issues; sometimes that requires a therapist. But one of the most important areas to confront with someone who uses porn is the way they see the participants. Getting users to see them as bearers of the Imago Dei helps them to confront the heart issues that drive the lust.

But addressing that requires understanding that lust is a heart issue in the person doing the lusting. And lusting means reducing the object of that lust to something transactional. If it’s sexual lust, then you are reducing an Image-bearer to someone existing for your sexual service. If it’s material lust, then you are reducing an Image-bearer to someone existing for your material benefit.

The opposite of that is loving them and wanting the best for them (i.e., wanting for them what I want for myself). Getting there means confronting the collective tendency we all have to objectify others. That cuts to the heart of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

Can you objectify your spouse? Absolutely. Wives can do that to their husbands; husbands can do that to their wives. And left unchallenged, that will become a major problem in a marriage. Sex is but one pathway for that to happen.

The male reader of GSR will be outraged at the level of disregard that husbands have had for the wives of the Orgasm Gap. On the other hand, the male reader will also be frustrated that the male perspective seems to get minimized here. The GSR team does not address porn use by women in depth–they don’t really address the romance novel problem–even though women are the likely audience. In the same vain, they do not address women’s lust issues substantially.

And in even when they address obesity (pp. 208-209)–which is a problem in sex, and they give good, medical reasons–they address men who don’t take care of themselves more directly than they do with the women, even though statistically women are every bit as likely (slightly more so) to “let themselves go” as the men.

(In their defense: they were confronting the conventional evangelical books that focus on her need to take care of herself but not addressing his need. Still, the issue of obesity is a problem for both sexes, and it is something that needs to be said to both. I say that not to shame anyone–I have consistently addressed that issue evenhandedly here–but just pointing that out.)

IMHO, the biggest issue that they expose in the common evangelical books is that there is a LOT of emphasis placed on HER need to please and satisfy HIM–even including performing oral sex on him***–but NONE on HIS need to please and satisfy HER.

That, my friends, is a legitimate gripe. To me, that is a major omission.

Given that the woman’s sexual organ exists exclusively for pleasure, then it logically follows that the husband needs to be concerned about ensuring that she enjoys sex the way she was designed to enjoy it. Christian sex authors need to emphasize this. If we endorse male headship, then part of the husband’s responsibility is to do his best to help her in this department, putting his own pleasure secondary to hers.

Personally, I wish Sheila and her team would also survey the boyz and write a companion book.

Overall, this is a very good read, as it exposes a large amount of toxicity that exists in common evangelical teachings on sex. Sheila does an exceptional job with her “rescue and reframe” exercises at the end of each chapter.

I give it 4 stars out of 5.

*books such as The Act of Marriage; Love and Respect; Sheet Music; Intended for Pleasure, among others.

**By that, I am not implying that the Scriptures are wrong; the teachings which spring from improper handling of the Scriptures–such as looking at a passage “in a vacuum”; i.e., not taking into account related passages and guiding principles that are pertinent–are wrong.

***Mark Driscoll said that in a sermon. On p. 212, Sheila quotes Driscoll:

She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter three says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.”

Gregoire, Sheila Wray; Gregoire Lindenbach, Rebecca; Sawatsky, Joanna. The Great Sex Rescue (p. 212). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

RIP Recon (2007-2021)

Recon’s 2020 Presidential Campaign Photo

As the commander of the 1st Feline Battalion, it is with great sadness that I report that Recon, the most decorated officer in the history of feline operations, has died from injuries sustained in a brutal rescue mission in North Korea last fall.

He was a faithful warrior up to the very end. But the horrid conditions in North Korea–including a catastrophe that led to him evading capture for an entire week–seriously injured him. He had blown off retirement to take on that mission.

Still, he survived, making it home and even showing signs of healing from his wounds. He even mounted an impressive Presidential campaign, defeating both Trump and Biden in a landslide, only to have his rightful election stolen by Biden and Trump.

He was planning on making a run in 2024, but last week, kidney problems started mounting, and this week he stopped eating and drinking altogether. He even began to experience convulsions. His body weight had dropped 40%.

He died surrounded by Amir and Abigail.

Book Review: “Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot”, by Vice Admiral James Stockdale (USN)

My wife got me the perfect birthday present: Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot, by James Stockdale.

Many people remember Stockdale as the VP Candidate for Ross Perot in his 1992 Presidential campaign, who appeared out of his league in the Vice Presidential debate that also featured Sen. Al Gore (D-TN) and Vice President Dan Quayle.

(My theory: Stockdale was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, which ultimately killed him in 2006.)

I was already familiar with some of Stockdale’s backstory. The book was a collection of essays and speeches after his release from the Hanoi Hilton, where he spent 7-1/2 years. The book left me all the more impressed with his accomplishments as well as his character under extreme pressure.

(While Stockdale was a Stoic, one need not be a Stoic–I’m not–to admire the man and his accomplishments. And many of his life lessons offer practical takeaways for the Christian.)

Aviation nuts will eat this up, as well they should. Stockdale was one of the great military pilots of his generation: a graduate of the Naval Academy, a Naval aviator, a test pilot, a fighter wing commander. (During his time at the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, he was a mathematics tutor for celebrated astronaut John Glenn.)

At the top of his game, the Navy sent him to Stanford for graduate studies. While there, he decided to learn philosophy on the side. One of the professors–Phil Rhinelander–obliged him, and got him hooked on Epictetus.

Three years later, he was in the thick of the Vietnam war. He was an eyewitness to the faux “Tonkin Gulf” incident that ignited the American involvement in the war. Stockdale led the first bombing raids. He was on a routine “milk run” bombing when he was shot down and became a POW, spending the ensuing 7-1/2 yrs in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

In his words, as he descended in his parachute to what he knew was certain capture, he was “entering the world of Epictetus.” His worst challenges as a POW were not physical but rather the battle to keep what he called “the good man inside” intact.

As a POW, he was the ranking officer among a group of Americans who were constantly tortured for political purposes: the Communists thrived on getting Americans to confess to crimes, to do propaganda videos, to rat out other prisoners.

Stockdale formulated a strategy for perseverance that he instilled in his fellow POWs: BACK US:

(1) Don’t BOW in public,

(2) Stay off the AIR,

(3) Confess to no CRIMES,

(4) Do not KISS them goodbye,

(5) UNITY over SELF.

It was accepted that everyone would break under torture, but the principle was MAKE THEM EARN IT. In other words, take as much torture as you can handle, then give them as little as possible, and then share that with everyone else for their safety, thereby preventing the enemy to use such triangulation to break other prisoners.

For his part, Stockdale went to great extremes to avoid being used for photo-ops: he beat his face to a pulp; he even slashed himself. At one point, when guards discovered a letter that gave them enough information that they could have tortured confessions out of him to burn others, he attempted suicide in order to protect his men. (Providentially, his wife had made a public statement in Paris regarding POW safety, and his captors–put on notice–found Stockdale bleeding to death. They were able to save him. According to Stockdale, the torture stopped at that point.)

He was the ringleader of a group of POWs who were so resistant to their captors that they were segregated from the other prisoners. They were dubbed “The Alcatraz Gang”. Another member of that gang included Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton, who–forced to appear in a televised interview–blinked T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse Code, thus wrecking the photo-op. For that and other actions, Denton was awarded the Navy Cross.

For his dedication in captivity, Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor.

As a Stoic, Epictetus was Stockdale’s major influence. He focused less on his physical state but rather maintaining his self-respect, “the good man inside”.

For a Christian, Jesus taught something similar: “ not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell” (Luke 12:4-5)

One of Stockdale’s first realizations as a POW was, “I am my brother’s keeper.” And that was a major driver of his conduct in the Hanoi Hilton. Again, the Christian should have no conflict with Stockdale here.

And while Stockdale drew more on Epictetus than from Scripture, the Christian reader of Stockdale will resonate with his takes on Job, and even Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as they understood that (a) life is not fair, and (b) they need to stay the course no matter what.

For someone who was likely not a Christian–Stockdale was a Stoic philosopher who nominally acknowledged Jesus–he understood suffering better than most evangelicals do.

In fact, what we know today as the “Stockdale Paradox”, is a reality that Job, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, the prophets, and Jesus and the Apostles understood long before Stockdale arrived.

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale (USNR)

For Stockdale, that meant having the courage to withstand torture–and even years of solitary confinement–without betraying his men or his country. For the Christian, that means having the faith that God will give you the courage to face trials of all types as they come. We all aren’t going to face torture, or death by fire, stoning, hanging, or beheading; we can STILL face family tragedies, job losses, & other calamities.

In the pandemic, most of us have faced serious challenges with lockdowns and various policies centered around distancing. Many had to worship at home via livestream, missing out on contact with friends and family. Many people lost jobs and businesses. Many saw their pay slashed. Many ended up in the hospital; many COVID patients died in misery: alone in an ICU and on a ventilator.

Some of us, in the midst of all of that, had various personal traumas. Life on this earth is not fair. For the Christian, that Stockdale Paradox should resonate, as our faith is in a God who will provide what we need when we need it. And that need often includes perseverance.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego got that: they knew God COULD deliver them from the furnace. But even if He didn’t, they weren’t going to bow down to the statue.

They knew it could get a little warm before things got better. And they still trusted God.

The type of fitness required for this is not a function of your muscles, as the God we serve can deliver a child through a trial that will sink a Crossfitter. But if you have any preconceptions that life is fair, or that your devotion to God will insulate you from tragedies or hardships, then you are setting yourself up for major disappointments.

In fact, I would contend that if you think that life owes you fairness, then you are embracing a form of Prosperity Theology.

As most of the #churchtoo world can attest: life is not fair. You can do everything right and still suffer unjustly. You can be the perfect wife, but that doesn’t guarantee that your husband won’t cheat or beat you up. You can be the perfect husband, and that does not guarantee that your wife won’t ditch you.

When our child was in NICU clinging to life, a man in my church lost his wife–and the kids lost their mom–to cancer. Many years ago, I lost a longtime friend–an otherwise good Christian woman–to breast cancer. When Jesus was an infant, many mothers in Bethlehem could only watch as Herod and his thugs butchered their infants and newborns. Their weeping could be heard all the way in Ramah.

There is no indication from Scripture that those mothers deserved to see their children die. When a Stoic says that “the universe has no moral economy”, he is correct in this respect: there is no guarantee that good will be rewarded and evil will be punished on this earth. The Christian must accept that, in many cases, justice will not happen in this life. For many, the only justice we will see is on Judgment Day. And perseverance means keeping that finish line in sight.

A faith in God won’t necessarily keep you protected FROM tragedy; it WILL manifest itself in God giving you that “discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” And, as Paul said, “having done everything, to stand firm.”

Ravi Zacharias: Image Repair Analysis

In light of recent revelations about the late Ravi Zacharias–particularly the corroboration of the massage therapists who accused him of sexual abuse–I decided to separate my Image Repair Analysis of RZ’s public press release in the wake of his settlement of his RICO suit against Lori Anne Thompson.

“In October 2014, I spoke at a conference in Canada. At the conclusion of my talk, I met a couple who expressed an interest in our ministry. The wife asked if I would reach out to her husband because he had questions about the Christian faith. As requested, I followed up by sending an email and a book to him, and invited him to consider attending one of our educational programs at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).”

  • “I spoke…my talk…I met…our ministry”.
    • That’s BOLSTERING: it puts him in the position of superiority over the couple.
  • “The wife asked if I would reach out to her husband”.
    • That’s BOLSTERING: that bolsters his superiority;
    • it is also ATTACKING: it is a veiled cheap shot at the husband.
  • “I followed up……and book…invited him”.
    • That’s BOLSTERING: maintains his authority over the husband.

“Some months later, I traveled with my wife and one of our daughters to another part of Canada for a speaking engagement. The couple attended this event and invited my wife and me to dinner at a local restaurant afterwards. That was the second and last time I was ever in the same room with either of them.”

  • “I traveled with my wife and one of our daughters”.
    • That’s BOLSTERING: it creates the appearance of superiority and propriety, even though the facts indicate impropriety on his part.
  • “That was the second and last time I was ever in the same room with either of them.”
    • This is DIFFERENTIATION: he is pleading innocent to an act that of which he is not accused: the “I was never alone with her” defense is invalid, that is not the issue, as the offenses here are cyber in nature.

“Subsequently, she began to contact me via the email address I had used to contact her husband after first meeting them. My responses were usually brief. Then, last year, she shockingly sent me extremely inappropriate pictures of herself unsolicited. I clearly instructed her to stop contacting me in any form; I blocked her messages, and I resolved to terminate all contact with her.”

  • “Subsequently, she began to contact me via the email address I had used to contact her husband”
    • That’s ATTACKING: he’s alleging less-than-proper behavior from the outset.
  • “My responses were usually brief.”
    • That’s MINIMIZATION: he is minimizing his role in email communications with her.
  • “She shockingly sent me extremely inappropriate pictures of herself unsolicited.”
    • That’s ATTACKING: a simple release of all electronic communications would show context, as that would establish the nature of any conversations that might have led to the sending of such pictures. An unsolicited nude would be a scandal for her, not him. That is, unless they had carried on conversations that were sexual in nature, in which case it would be grooming behavior.
  • “unsolicited”
    • That’s DENYING and DEFEASIBILITY: he is denying any role in the picture exchange.

“In late 2016, she sent an email informing me she planned to tell her husband about the inappropriate pictures she had sent and to claim that I had solicited them.”

  • “claim that I had solicited them”
    • That’s DENYING and DEFEASIBILITY: He is denying any role in her sending the pictures.

“In April 2017, together they sent me, through an attorney, a letter demanding money. I immediately notified members of my board, and as they advised, I personally engaged legal counsel.”

  • “In April 2017, together they sent me, through an attorney, a letter demanding money.”
    • That’s ATTACKING: He’s accusing them of blackmail.

“In response to the demand for money, my attorneys filed a publicly available lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The other side requested mediation rather than going to trial. We agreed to mediation and we reached an agreement in November 2017 to resolve the matter and dismiss my lawsuit. All communication with both of them has concluded, and the legal matters have been resolved. However, at this time, unfortunately I am legally prevented from answering or even discussing the questions and claims being made by some, other than to say that each side paid for their own legal expenses and no ministry funds were used.

  • “In response to the demand for money”
    • That’s PROVOCATION: he’s suggesting that his ensuing lawsuit was in response to a provoked act.
  • “ attorneys filed a publicly available lawsuit”
    • That’s ATTACKING: filing a lawsuit, using multiple attorneys, targeting a couple.
  • “The other side requested mediation rather than going to trial.”
    • That’s ATTACKING: He’s suggesting that, because they did not want to go to trial, that they are trying to hide something.
  • “unfortunately I am legally prevented from answering or even discussing the questions and claims being made by some”
    • That’s DEFEASIBILITY: He claims to have no control, preventing him from discussing details.
    • It’s also a form of DENIAL: he has denied allegations, and yet left obvious questions unanswered, all while using DEFEASIBILITY to avoid answering them.
  • “no ministry funds were used”
    • That’s MINIMIZATION: By suggesting that no ministry funds were involved, this makes the situation less important than it is.

“I have learned a difficult and painful lesson through this ordeal. As a husband, father, grandfather, and leader of a Christian ministry I should not have engaged in ongoing communication with a woman other than my wife. I failed to exercise wise caution and to protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I have acknowledged this to my Lord, my wife, my children, our ministry board, and my colleagues.”

  • “As a husband, father, grandfather, and leader of a Christian ministry”
    • That’s BOLSTERING: he’s reminding you of his superior status in multiple realms.
  • “I should not have engaged in ongoing communication with a woman other than my wife”
    • This is DIFFERENTIATION and MINIMIZATION: he’s creating a lesser offense—which isn’t even an offense—to take your attention to the offense for which he is on the hook. (Also, it’s utter hogwash. He’s saying, “If I’d only followed the ‘Billy Graham Rule…’ How about NOT BEING A DIRTY OLD MAN???)
  • “I failed to exercise wise caution and to protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety”
    • This is DIFFERENTIATION and MINIMIZATION: he’s admitting to a lesser offense as opposed to the one of which he is accused.
    • It’s also MORTIFICATION, although in a false sense: he is confessing to a non-offense.
  • “I have acknowledged this to my Lord, my wife, my children, our ministry board, and my colleagues”
    • This is TRANSCENDENCE: appealing to a higher authority to avoid accountability to the very people to which he must otherwise answer.

“Let me state categorically that I never met this woman alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to another woman—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility. In all my correspondence with thousands of people in 45 years of ministry, I have never been confronted with a situation such as this, and God and my family and close friends know how grieved I have been.”

  • “Let me state categorically that I never met this woman alone, publicly or privately.”
    • This is DIFFERENTIATION: he’s denying having committed an offense of which he has not been accused. (Note: whenever people use the word “categorically” in this context, it usually means they’re not being truthful.)
  • “The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to another woman…but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife”
    • This is DENIAL and DIFFERENTIATION: He is reframing the issue on his own terms, not addressing the obvious question: what led to the woman sending him those photos?
    • This is MORTIFICATION, although in a false sense. Jesus had many extended communications with women (Mary Magdalene anyone?), in spite of not being married to any of them.
  • “In all my correspondence with thousands of people in 45 years of ministry”
    • That’s BOLSTERING: re-reminding you of his superiority.
  • “I have never been confronted with a situation such as this”
    • That’s DEFEASIBILITY: he’s casting this as a situation that has come upon him—that he had no control over—rather than a crisis of his own making due to his own choices. He is casting himself as a victim.
  • “God and my family and close friends know how grieved I have been”
    • That’s REVERSING VICTIM AND OFFENDER ROLES: he is casting himself as a victim.

“In my 45 years of marriage to Margie, I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind. I love my wife with all my heart and have been absolutely faithful to her these more than 16,000 days of marriage, and have exercised extreme caution in my daily life and travels, as everyone who knows me is aware. I have long made it my practice not to be alone with a woman other than Margie and our daughters—not in a car, a restaurant, or anywhere else. Upon reflection, I now realize that the physical safeguards I have long practiced to protect my integrity should have extended to include digital communications safeguards. I believe—and indeed would counsel others—that the standards of personal conduct are necessarily higher for Christian leaders.”

  • “In my 45 years of marriage to Margie… more than 16,000 days of marriage”
    • That’s BOLSTERING: re-reminding you of his awwsummness as a husband.
  • “everyone who knows me is aware”
    • That’s TRIANGULATION: appealing to other people to deflect from the real issue at hand.

“The Lord rescued me at the age of seventeen, and I promised to leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth. He entrusted me with this calling, it is His; any opportunities I have been given are from Him. My life is not my own, it belongs to God. As long as He gives me life and breath I will serve out this calling He has given me. I am committed to finishing well, using whatever years He grants me to share His love and forgiveness, truth and grace, with people everywhere who are looking for meaning and purpose and hope. I bear no ill will toward anybody. God is the God of healing, and He promises a new day. May that be true by His grace.”

  • “The Lord rescued me at the age of seventeen, and I promised to leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth”
    • I’ll take TRANSCENDENCE for $500, Alex: It’s all about the Lord now.
  • “He entrusted me with this calling, it is His; any opportunities I have been given are from Him”
    • I’ll take TRANSCENDENCE for $1,000, Alex: HE’s been entrusted with the calling, with the implication that YOU are but a peasant.
  • “My life is not my own, it belongs to God. As long as He gives me life and breath I will serve out this calling He has given me. I am committed to finishing well…”
    • I’ll take TRANSCENDENCE for $2,000..OH DAILY DOUBLE!!!!: He’s now all wrapped up in his calling from God, his remaining years, finishing the race, and bestowing all good things on peasants. He’s untouchable now.
  • “I bear no ill will toward anybody. God is the God of healing, and He promises a new day. May that be true by His grace.”
    • This is BOLSTERING: he is making himself the superior person in this.

Given the known facts in RZ’s case, and given the use of Image Repair in his public statement, the conclusion is that

  • Ravi Zacharias is being less than honest,
  • Ravi Zacharias is hiding the truth, and
  • Ravi Zacharias is using corporate damage control tactics in lieu of addressing hard questions.

Ravi Zacharias: “Some…Conduct…Is More Serious”

Three years ago, I had a sinking feeling about Ravi Zacharias. I blogged about it then.

At that time, I believed he had a serious problem. As I looked at the public details, this didn’t smell right.

Then, in 2019, Julie Anne Smith broke a story of 16-year-old Shirley Steward, who was pregnant with Ravi’s brother (Ramesh). Ravi counseled her to have an abortion, even made the arrangements.

I was convinced that the evangelical world would explode, as no one would tolerate that, not even from Ravi.

I was wrong. No major Christian media outlet covered the story. Not one Big Evangelical leader called out Ravi Zacharias.

In March 2020, he was diagnosed with cancer. Many of us reached out to him, calling him to repent and apologize and drop the NDA and make things right. We were ridiculed.

When he died in May, he was lauded by none other than Vice President Mike Pence.

In September, however, several massage therapists–who worked at spas that RZ had founded and co-owned–came forward and credibly accused him of sexually assaulting them. Their allegations had corroboration.

In addition, details in the Lori Anne Thompson case surfaced, details that corroborated her and discredited Ravi’s narrative. Julie Roys reported those. Part 1 and Part 2.

This time, Christianity Today covered the spa story.

At this point, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) commissioned a law firm (Miller & Martin) to investigate sexual misconduct.

On December 23, as several apologists with RZIM had apologized to Lori Anne and called RZIM to come clean, RZIM released an interim report from Miller & Martin that stated (emphasis added):

While some of the massage therapists we have tried to interview are not willing to share their experiences with us, many have spoken candidly and with great detail. Combining those interviews with our review of documents and electronic data, we have found significant, credible evidence that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years. Some of that misconduct is consistent with and corroborative of that which is reported in the news recently, and some of the conduct we have uncovered is more serious.

There is no pretty way to spin this.

Three years ago, I said Ravi had some ‘splainin’ to do. I had a feeling that the whole settlement with Lori Anne had been engineered to cover the truth.

When Julie Anne broke the forced abortion story, I thought he was done. The story was credible; the receipts were there; combined with the academic/vitae fraud, surely major evangelical leaders were going to call him to account.

When I revisited his public statement in his settlement–and did Image Repair Analysis on it–I found a LOT of Image Repair, which is a high indicator that he was lying.

No one was listening.

Now that the spa workers have been corroborated by a law firm–and now that the law firm has found even worse offenses, we are learning the truth about Ravi Zacharias.

I am thankful that the truth is being laid bare now. I am thankful for the sake of Shirley Steward and her child, for Lori Anne and Brad Thompson, for the spa workers, and for any other victims who suffered at the hands of Ravi Zacharias.

All of their lives matter.