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: “..do 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…sending..email…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.
  • “..my 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.

SCOTUS: Barrett Confirmed

As I expected, on Monday night the Senate confirmed federal judge Amy Coney Barrett as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

For those keeping the tallies, we now have six Republican-appointed Justices–Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts–and three Democrat appointees: Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Of the six Republican appointees, Roberts appears to be wobbly while Kavanaugh has been mostly conservative with some centrist leanings; Barrett, of course, is untested. The other three–Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch–have been conservative.

However, as I said before, whether this means Roe v. Wade is dead, that’s different ballgame.

Without Barrett, it is doubtful that SCOTUS would even take a challenge to Roe. And even if they do, Barrett–while having all the markers of a hard-Catholic conservative in the tradition of Scalia–is not a guaranteed anti-Roe vote. She does have a history of showing respect for precedent. It will take a very strong legal case to go against a precedent that has been in place for nearly 50 years and has been bolstered by one direct case (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) and many peripheral cases.

Having said that, Barrett–at least on paper–is a worthy pick for SCOTUS. If she won’t kill Roe, then Roe will be with us for at least another 50 years, assuming the country does not break up.

As for the upcoming election, it’s anyone’s guess. On one hand, every national poll is showing Biden with a commanding lead, even in “battleground” states that Trump won 4 years ago. On the other hand, we have Vox Day–who predicted that Trump would be a force years before he even entered the 2016 race–predicting that Trump will win the popular vote AND the electoral vote.

4 years ago, I voted against Trump in the primary, but held my nose and voted for him in the general election. My reasons:

  • Court picks. I trusted Trump to make better court picks than Hillary. And I’m not just talking about SCOTUS. On this front, I feel vindicated.
  • Appointments to other government Departments and agencies. I remember how Clinton and Obama used the IRS and FBI to target their political rivals. Egregious abuses of power were never punished. Filegate, anyone? Lois Learner, anyone? Disk drives destroyed, anyone?
  • Hillary was set to use the apparatus of government to expand public indoctrination in critical race theory and intersectionality. And those are increasingly being used as tools to weed out “troublemakers”.
  • In the wake of Obergefell, Christian-owned businesses became targets of Big Gay. Under Hillary, those attacks were set to intensify. What gays want to do in their privacy is one thing, but forcing business owners to recognize gay “weddings” is a different thing.
  • Those of us who remember Hillary’s attempt to hijack the health care system when her husband was President, understood her objective to use ObamaCare as a stepping stone to socialized medicine.

As I said, I would have taken a shotgun blast to the balls before voting for Hillary. I do not regret my vote.

Am I a MAGA? Not by a long shot, although I will concede that Trump has delivered on the key reasons I voted for him. I will definitely NOT vote for Biden. My state is arguably the most pro-Trump state in the union.

What do I think will happen? I don’t know. My gut says this is going to be a LOT closer than anyone thinks. Are the polls so far off that Trump wins? I don’t know. Could he win the popular vote, too? I don’t know. But then again, it’s all about turnout.

I WILL say this much:

In 2016, we supported Rand Paul, a very popular Senator. But by the time the Kentucky Caucus arrived, Rand–polling in single-digits against Trump–had suspended his campaign. Trump was a juggernaut. While there were many Trump bumper stickers that year, we didn’t see many Trunp yard signs.

This year, it’s a different ballgame. At least half the yards in my development have Trump yard signs and there are many Trump flags flying. One flag in my walking route says “TRUMP No More Bullshit”. There are a LOT of angry voters who are extending both middle fingers to the establishment.

In the part of Michigan where MrsLarijani hails, we noticed many Trump signs. Does this mean that Michigan could once again go to Trump? I don’t know. But outside of Detroit, Michigan is a completely different state.

In June, we visited Colorado on family-related business. While we were there, we took #toddler to a very nice park so she could play. There were a lot of families doing the same thing. I saw a lot of angry folks, and let’s just say they were not Antifa. These folks were conservative.

(While Colorado will almost certainly go to Biden, it is entirely likely that what I saw was an indicator of the anger in Middle America.)

I can also tell you that much of Pennsylvania is angry. The shutdowns by the Democrat governor–and the riots in a Democrat-controlled Philadelphia–have made a reliable blue state very much a bubble state. Trump took Pennsylvania in 2016.

Is what I’m telling you an indicator of what is going on nationally? I don’t know that answer. But like I said, my gut tells me the endgame is going to be surprising. Trump could win if the level of energy I’m seeing on the ground is any indication and assuming we don’t get widespread fraud.

If Trump takes Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio–and at least one mainstay state (Pennsylvania or MI or Wisconsin and Iowa), this Tuesday will be very good for him.

And from what I’m seeing, that outcome is not out of the realm of possibilities.

SCOTUS, Roe, State of the Union, Where We’re Going

Background

In 1992, Then-Governor Bill Clinton (D-AR) was running as a Democrat against incumbent President George H.W. Bush for the Presidency.

At the time, we were in a short-lived recession that mainstream media was making out to be much worse than it was. Clinton was hailed as an economic savior who promised middle class tax cuts whereas Bush was cast as an aloof, uncaring rich man who couldn’t be trusted, as he broke his “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” pledge.

Socially, Clinton was very liberal–pro-abortion, pro-gay rights–and his wife was a very radical feminist who promised to be prominent in her husband’s administration and was rumored to have Presidential aspirations of her own.

But any attempts to hit Bill on that, or his extramarital affairs, or his wife’s radical views, were met with, “The economy, stupid!”

Character didn’t matter. All that mattered was The Economy, Stupid.

Meanwhile, as the media insisted that the incumbent Bush promise NOT to use Roe v. Wade as a “litmus test” for Supreme Court (SCOTUS) picks, Clinton promised to do exactly that. And no one in the gaslighting corps of Mainstream Media bothered to call him on that.

Complicating matters, that year SCOTUS decided the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, which was the first major challenge to Roe v. Wade.

At the time, Roe appeared to be in trouble.

The Court had four sure-fire votes against Roe: William Rehnquist and Byron White (the two dissenting votes against Roe in 1973), and Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, up to that point, had proven to be reliable conservatives. And Sandra Day O’Connor was thought to be leaning toward shooting down Roe. A 7-2 vote to kill Roe was not out of the realm of possibilities.

Instead, O’Connor could not get herself to overturn Roe. Kennedy and Souter joined her, turning a 7-2 vote to kill Roe into a 5-4 vote to keep it.

While this alarmed the pro-life stalwarts, they were drowned out by all debates about The Economy, Stupid.

I know this because, at the time, I was President of a county Right to Life chapter. I was also on the board for a maternity home and a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. (Those were in addition to my day job as a systems engineer at a GM account.)

I worked hard to warn folks that a Clinton victory would result in liberal SCOTUS picks that would set us FARTHER back. The 1992 winner was all but guaranteed to get two SCOTUS picks.

That’s exactly what happened.

That November, Clinton won the 1992 election. While he only carried 43% of the popular vote, he gained plenty enough electoral votes. And Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. My state went to Bush, but my district was very “blue”: GM workers–mostly UAW workers–provided that margin.

As I predicted, it didn’t take long for Clinton to get a SCOTUS opportunity. In fact, he got two of them:

  • 1993: Byron White (one of two dissenters in Roe) retired, and Clinton subsequently picked Ruth Bader Ginsburg to fill that slot.
  • 1994: Harry Blackmun (the architect of Roe) retired, and Clinton picked Stephen Breyer to fill that slot.

Elections have consequences.

To be honest, I expected Ruth Bader Ginsburg to live to age 150.

Ideologies aside, she was a badass: a total fitness nut. And while she was a reviled figure among conservatives, I often point out that, by the time she arrived at SCOTUS in 1993, all of the major abortion decisions had been made: Roe v. Wade (1973); Doe v. Bolton (1973); Planned Parenthood v. Akron, Ohio (1976); and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

RBG was appointed by President Clinton, who–while campaigning in 1992–promised to use support of Roe as a litmus test for his SCOTUS picks. And he won.

So, while I was at odds with RBG and Breyer, I have no issues with them being on the Court.

I’ll say it again: elections have consequences.

That is why I could not vote for Clinton in 1996 or Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004 or Obama in 2008 or 2012. During that time, Obama replaced two center-right picks (Souter and O’Connor) with two very left picks (Kagan and Sotomayor).


In 2016, Donald Trump–a longtime abortion advocate–embraced the pro-life cause in his pursuit of the White House. Many of us–myself and MrsLarijani included–doubted his sincerity on this issue. We felt he was pandering for votes. This is why we both voted against him in the Kentucky primary.

Complicating the race, Antonin Scalia–one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court, and a Reagan appointee–died. President Obama–who already had two picks (Sotomayor and Kagan)–subsequently nominated Merrick Garland to fill that slot.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to delay the confirmation vote until after the election, effectively making the Presidential election a referendum on SCOTUS.

From my vantage point? While I loathed Trump, I loathed Hillary even more. On the sexual abuse issue, I considered it a wash: Trump was the face of P*ssygate whereas Hillary built her political career on the backs of her husband’s victims.

I remembered the debacle of 1992: while Bush was uninspiring, I would have trusted his SCOTUS picks over anyone Bill Clinton was set to nominate. I also remembered the radicals that the Clintons appointed to the apparatus of government, Donna Shalala and Janet Reno being at the top of the list. I remembered FileGate: it stood out as proof that the Clintons were not above using the apparatus of government to harass their political opponents, thus bringing back the era of “Black Bag” jobs.

While I had no special affinity for Trump, I would have taken a shotgun blast to the balls before voting for Hillary.

I decided that #NeverTrump == #HillaryWins.

And so I held my nose and voted for Trump. It’s a vote I do not regret.

Again, elections have consequences.

Because Trump won, instead of Merrick Garland (a hard liberal) we ended up with Neil Gorsuch, a generally-reliable conservative.

In 2018, when Anthony Kennedy retired, Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh. While Kavanaugh would not have been my choice–I was hoping for Amy Coney Barrett–I would trust him more than any pick Hillary would have made.

Am I in the MAGA camp? Not by a long shot. What I CAN tell you: I’ll take him over Hillary Clinton 10 times out of 10.


But here we are, less than 3 weeks away from the 2020 election. Trump has had three SCOTUS picks: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett (pending). Barring a last-minute snag, Barrett will be confirmed.


But let’s assume we get Barrett.

That leaves us with a SCOTUS lineup that features SIX Republican appointees: Clarence Thomas (Bush I), Samuel Alito (Bush II), John Roberts (Bush II), Neil Gorsuch (Trump), Brett Kavanaugh (Trump), and Amy Coney Barrett (Trump) and three Democrat appointees: Stephen Breyer (Clinton), Elena Kagan (Obama), and Sonia Sotomayor (Obama).

Some pro-life enthusiasts are licking their chops, thinking that if all six of those BushI/Bush II/Trump appointees vote to kill Roe, it’s a 6-3 vote and Roe is dead.

Some have hung their hat on Amy Coney Barrett as the savior of the unborn. I do not share their confidence.

While, at face value, ACB seems to be an excellent pick, I am not holding my breath in expectation of Roe going down. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Like I said, I remember 1992. It’s very easy for armchair quarterbacks to say how easy it is to kill Roe. Trust me: even if you’re a die-harder, it won’t be easy.

You and I don’t face death threats for being pro-life. You and I won’t have our kids targeted because we’re pro-life. ACB will have a bounty on her head. Her husband will have a bounty on his head. All seven of their kids will have bounties on their heads.

If ACB kills Roe–and I hope she does–then her courage will outshine the late, great Col. John Ripley (USMC).

Also, you need to remember that the chances of Roe going down will depend on the quality of the cases presented by the Attorneys General of the states who will challenge Roe. One of the reasons we ended up with Roe: the crew in the anti-abortion side didn’t care, and put up a tepid defense.

And all it takes for Roe to stand is two of those “right-leaning” Justices to get too cute by half–appealing to “international law”, catering to multiple whataboutisms, deciding that precedent has made any challenge insurmountable. And if that happens, then Roe will live by at least a 5-4 vote. Combined with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, stare decisis will make future challenges very difficult if not unlikely.

If that happens, mark my words:

  • Barring a breakup of the country altogether, Roe will not go down in our lifetimes. Abortion will be a modern “high place” that not even a “good” ruler can take down.
  • It will be the end of the GOP. Pro-life conservatives will have no more incentive to vote Republican. That will have major implications for a variety of issues, both local and national.
  • The acceleration to Civil War II will intensify.
  • The fight within the Church on this issue will also intensify.

If Roe DOES go down, then what happens next will depend on the scope of the reversal.

  • If SCOTUS merely punts the issue back to the states, then not much will change except in states that are pro-life at least marginally (mostly “red” states). “Blue” states will see no change. (I mean seriously: do you honestly think New York or California–the most baby-killing states in the union–are going to lift a finger to ban abortion?)
  • If SCOTUS declares children in utero to have 14th Amendment protections as persons, then all Hell will break loose. A breakup of the union is entirely possible. If Dems control the House, Senate, and White House, then you’ll see an attempt at a federal law (a) codifying abortion rights and (b) precluding the federal courts from addressing the issue. If the Senate has a filibuster-proof majority, this is very much a possibility.

As for where the country is heading, that’s a different ballgame.

In the wake of the Civil War, President Lincoln once suggested that the bloodshed in the war was God’s demanded price of America for slavery. Ann Coulter, remarking about that, wondered what the price would be for abortion.

While I do not want to get into the game of blaming this or that catastrophe on abortion or [fill in the blank with your pet peeve sin], I’m going to posit some principles from Scripture:

  • The shedding of blood always carries a price.
  • There will always be a reckoning for that bloodshed.

In Genesis, Cain became the first murderer, killing his brother Abel. A few generations later, we have Lamech, committing two murders and bragging about it to his two wives. By the time we get to Genesis 6, the violence was so bad that it was one of the motivating factors for the Flood. After the flood, as God established a new covenant with Noah, He said:

Whoever sheds man’s blood,

By man his blood shall be shed,

For in the image of God

He made man.

Genesis 9:6

When God handed the Law to Moses, the Law was emphatic about bloodshed: wanton killing (murder) was punishable by death, and even unintentional killing (manslaughter) carried a price: one had to flee to a city of refuge.

The principle: homicide always carries a price.

When you look at the lives of people who had a lot of blood on their hands–including the good guys such as David–the bloodshed had an effect on them. (I posit that it made David cavalier in his dealing with Uriah when faced with his impregnation of Uriah’s wife.)

Why do I say this? homicide always carries a price. Even justifiable homicide is still homicide. Anyone who is cavalier about killing people–even people who deserve it–doesn’t know Scripture well. Jehu killed off a lot of bad people, but even his mass bloodshed was condemned by God through the prophet Hosea.

Even worse, when nations enshrine mass bloodshed, there is always a reckoning. And nothing says “enshrine mass bloodshed” like legalized, subsidized abortion.

Now keep in mind, I’m not piling onto women who’ve had abortions, as I’m not referring to individual baggages.

Oh noes, I’m referring to the establishments that have enshrined abortion. On top of government, you have the players who gave us the Sexual Revolution, feminism, progressivist elements with big academic and corporate ties and monetary incentive to profit from abortion here and abroad (Planned Parenthood), and even religious groups that either (a) support abortion or (b) whose opposition to it barely rose to the level of rhetorical.

The apparatus that clings to abortion rights is much like the apparatus that clung to slavery, and the arguments from the pro-slavery side were almost identical to those coming from the pro-aborts.

But just as the 250 years of enshrined, institutionalized human trafficking that was American slavery came with a price, the almost 50 years of enshrined, institutionalized abortion–which has claimed at least 60 million–will not come without a price.

What that price will be is anyone’s guess. But if you look at how destabilized the United States has become, I’d say we are getting a glimpse of what that price could be.

My prediction: we are heading for a catastrophic division that will make the Civil War pale in comparison. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a soft breakup of the country.

The worst part: we are on the front end of a post-Christian generation. As the Church continues its decline, Christendom will also decline. And while many will call that a good thing–as Christendom had many hypocrisies and inconsistencies–the downside is that, for all its faults, Christendom helped put the Civilization in Western Civilization.

My take: we are heading toward an era of barbarism, and real persecution of Christians will become reality in America within the next 20 years.

Is institutional, legalized abortion the only cause of this? Not hardly. I would suggest that it’s a number of factors. But 60 million dead, that’s got a Hell of a price. That alone should cause all of us to shudder.

Reflecting on the destruction of Russia by Communists, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn had this to say:

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Think long and hard about what happened to Russia.

What was once a hub for a major sector of Christianity was hijacked by radical, militant atheist government for 70 years. The persecution against Christians was severe: Orthodox priests were shot, skinned alive, boiled alive, fed into furnaces, frozen to death, and had their innards fed to rodents. The Red Terror alone claimed over a million Russian lives. The Church in Russia was a major recipient of the reprisals.

Don’t think for one second that it can’t happen here.

While I would hesitate to say that America was ever a Christian nation, we have been a nation with a Christian consensus. But that consensus is waning, and hostility to Christendom is rising.

Make no mistake: the nearly 50 years of institutionalized, enshrined mass bloodshed will have a price.

Minus Great Awakening III, the trajectory in the United States is dire.

Ravi Zacharias: The Incontrovertible Fraud

While I was on my Thanksgiving break during 2017, I checked my Twitter feed and noticed a tweet from Amy Smith (@watchkeep) referring to Ravi Zacharias as a “con-man”. I also saw an article by Warren Thorckmorton regarding Ravi’s false inflation of his credentials, having claimed to have an earned doctorate degree (he had honorary doctoral degrees).

The academic fraud was bad enough–in my world, it’s an immediate firing offense if you are determined to have lied about your vitae–but his problems were worse than that.

The news at the time centered abour Ravi’s settlement of a lawsuit with a couple from Canada–Brad and Lori Anne Thompson. At the time, the evangelical world was solidly behind Ravi: The Narrative had Lori Anne (LA) sending RZ unsolicited nude photographs, then extorting him for money, forcing RZ to sue them to protect his good name.

Except the Narrative was total crap.

I suspected as much from day one, when Steve Baughman mentioned RZ’s suicide email:

I’m thinking the “mediated settlement” was engineered to allow for Ravi to keep official evidence under wraps so he can go on denying otherwise damning revelations like that.

In fact, if you think about it, the lawsuit, and then the settlement, allow for Ravi to say that he sued the parties involved and forced them to settle with him. It allows him to have his cake and eat it too.

And very few will hold him accountable for it.

This turned out to be the case. RZ, in an interview with Christianity Today, threw LA under the bus, while hiding behind his Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) when the hard questions came up. CT gave him the kid-gloves treatment.

More revelations would surface, particularly his coercing 16-year-old Shirley Steward–pregnant with his brother’s child–to have an abortion, even making the abortion arrangements for her. Julie Anne has the receipts on that. I blogged about that story at the time.

After his cancer diagnosis in March, I appealed to him on Twitter and Facebook to apologize to Lori Anne. The response: a few DARVO (Deny Attack Reverse Victim and Offender) attacks from hired guns, almost all of them women. It was a pattern of his to hide behind skirts.

Ravi, sadly, would die on May 19, 2020. On his deathbed, RZ received a lot of praise from Big Evangelical leaders, although Christianity Today and the Washington Post did manage to call some attention to his known scandals. Some of his devotees took the time to attack Lori Anne Thompson, compounding her own trauma.

But last week, something changed.

Steve Baughman, who has chimed in here and has been a decent conversationalist, dropped the mother of all bombs on the late Ravi Zacharias.

  • RZ owned two “health spas” in Georgia.
  • Those health spas offered massage therapy, yoga, and Ayurveda. (I’m not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of yoga, but Ayurveda is Eastern Religious quackery and should set off a number of red flags.)
  • Multiple women involved accused RZ of sexually molesting them during massage sessions.

Note: While Ravi was notorious for his chronic back problems, as someone who has my own share of back issues, I wasn’t buying that angle. RZ had access to the best medical and therapeutic care that money could buy. He could have gone to a reputable chiropractor–many of them have licensed massage therapists. He could have gotten physical therapy.

While I would not have an issue with a Christian man receiving a massage from a woman therapist–it is a legitimate therapy–Baughman does make a good point that this undermines his claim that he had never been alone with a woman not his wife.

That alone begs an independent third-party investigation on RZ. Yes, he is deceased, but he may have other victims. And the allegations include bringing women in internationally for his spas. That merits a human trafficking investigation by the FBI.

Most recently, however: yesterday, Julie Roys broke a story, providing email transcripts that clearly vindicate Lori Anne Thompson and reveal Ravi Zacharias as a grooming predator who tried to manipulate his way out of exposure.

Today, Julie broke part 2. This details the grooming behavior. Read it for yourself. Trust me: there are receipts behind this.

A few months ago, before the latest bombs were dropped, I wrote a detailed piece about Ravi Zacharias: he built his ministerial empire on a foundation of blood, fraud, and abuse. I also did an Image Repair Analysis on his press release in the wake of his settlement with the Thompsons.

I concluded then that he was a fraud and he was lying.

The record now vindicates me. But more importantly, it vindicates Lori Anne Thompson.

Random Thoughts on COVID-19

Originally, when I heard the reports of the SARS-Cov-2 virus and the outbreak of COVID-19 coming out of Wuhan, China, I didn’t expect this to be a big deal in the United States. (Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t even think so either.)

Why did I not initially think this would materialize here?

This would not have been the first time that a nasty virus originated in Asia (MERS, SARS, Hong Kong Flu). And, in each previous case, very little of note materialized in the US.

But in late February, I ran into a friend at the gym, who works in infectious disease control: he remembered me from the NICU days when I worked out at the Planet Fitness in Lexington. We made some small talk. Then the issue of C19 came up.

Him: “Are you ready for this coronavirus?”

Me: “I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. It’s all hype. This is not a new thing.”

Him: “Trust me: this is going to be a national clusterf**k. The health officials on the West Coast didn’t have the right training. We don’t have the testing capacity. There’s no way to contain this now.”

Me: “What do you think is going to happpen?”

Him: “The whole country will be shut down.”

Me: “Is this by design?”

Him: “Yes and no. If they had the training and tests ready, we could have stopped this. But to be honest, a lot of folks in government WANT this to go to s**t. They want control of your life.”

A few days later, a friend of mine on FB, whose wife is an anesthesiologist and whose politics are VERY right-leaning, issued a warning to everyone in our FB group: SARS-Cov-2 is indeed a Big Flippin’ Deal and this is a major threat to a large part of America. He said “social distancing” is the only way to deal with this, as the testing capacity simply was not there.

I’m pretty good friends with a pathology professor on one of my social media lives. I flat-out asked her, given my situation–I’m 53, have asthma, have had multiple bouts with pneumonia (one of which almost killed me), and have lungs that are crap–if I was overreacting by wanting to work from home.

She advised me to do exactly that.

Ergo, since March 10, I’ve been working from home.


Not long after that, most of the country was shut down, with only “essential businesses” open. It’s a given that the economic blowback is going to be nasty. Heck, it already IS nasty.

In just a few short weeks, the United States went from being the greatest economic superpower the world has ever seen–with full employment–to what will likely amount as, at the very least, a collapse that will feature unemployment exceeding Great Depression levels. Hopefully, that unemployment will be short-lived.

Think of it this way: the greatest economic superpower in world history as been brought to a grinding halt by a microscopic enemy. This is worse than a massive WMD strike.

And of course, almost immediately, many Americans became concerned about (a) whether we are overreacting, and (b) when can we re-start the economy?

Others, from Christian circles, railed about the government frowning on–even banning–large gatherings, as this would preclude regular church assemblies. Some pastors defied these orders, others livestreamed their services, while others cancelled services altogether and complained of persecution.

Many, from the right, are contending that the shutdowns will kill more people than the virus would, and that we should never have shut anything down.

Stoking that anger was glaring inconstency from government over what constitutes “essential business”.

Abortion clinics were not shut down, so slaughtering babies in utero is “essential”? Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) called abortion “life-sustaining” in her decision to keep abortion mills open.

In Kentucky, chiropractors, dentists, and dermatologists are “non-essential” whereas abortion mills are “essential”, all while “elective medical procedures” have been suspended. (So abortion is not “elective”?)

The shutdown of “elective procedures” has had blowbacks all its own: physicians, nurses, and technicians are being furloughed; dentists are being hit particularly hard.

And while the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people is a measure to promote “social distancing” and has legitimate scientific basis–as several “clusters” of C19 outbreaks occurred from church gatherings–some state and local governments sought to ban “drive-in” church services, a ban which has no scientific basis, as there have been NO outbreaks tied to drive-in services.

(FTR: I don’t endorse drive-in services; I just don’t see a good reason to shut those down.)

Meanwhile, the GDP, as well as tax revenues going into state coffers, is collapsing. The blowback from this will be severe.

Toward that end, the questions arise: do we save the economy or do we save lives? Which approach actually saves the most lives?

Along those lines: can we save lives while at least mitigating the economic carnage?

Even then, it’s fair to ask whether the shutdowns were necessary. Sweden–yes, SOCIALIST SWEDEN–did not even shut down the way we have.

They informed people to socially distance themselves, gave them the proper advice to do the right thing, and–for the most part–they have.

(The downside: the story of Sweden on this is not all rosy, as their death rate per million people is more than twice that of the U.S. On that front, the United States is actually pretty solid.)

Some have argued that the seasonal flu often kills more people. To date, COVID-19 has killed 60,000 Americans whereas the CDC estimates that the flu typically kills between 15,000 and 40,000. In 2018, the estimate was closer to 80,000.

The problem with that comparison: (a) the COVID numbers are actual counts whereas the flu numbers are algorithmic estimates; (b) the COVID numbers include the effect of social distancing; and (c) even in 2018, the seasonal flu did not overwhelm ICUs in urban areas: you did not have the meltdowns in multiple Western countries with advanced health care systems.

Complicating matters is the inconsistent message we have received from our own government.

As of today (4/30), government is effectively telling us that we MUST wear masks if we go to stores or to work, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Trouble is, that’s not what they were saying before.

And while people have to eat and therefore must be allowed to get groceries, I can also tell you that grocery stores are quite dangerous from a social distancing standpoint. Wal-Mart has better protocols in place now, but I can tell you that this was not the case two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, you have pastors at prominent churches, who have been crying persecution, as government bans on group gatherings of 10 or more have effectively shut down most in-person church services.


First, for the record, I will make the following stipulations:

(1) I DO believe that the social distancing mitigation strategies–IN GENERAL–were necessary and HAVE saved lives.

(2) I also believe that our government has exceeded its Constitutional authority in its quest for control over our lives.

Those two statements can be true at the same time.

The shutdowns need not have been Draconian, and in fact most businesses could have stayed open, with hygienal and social distancing measures in place.

(3) Government shutdowns amount to a Constitutional taking of private property for public purpose. At the same time, the Fifth Amendment requires that government compensate us for this taking of our property. The realist in me says we will never be compensated for this, and that the current “stimulus” is akin to “bread and circuses”.

Having said all of that, here is where I stand:

  • I’m for saving lives first. Public action on this must focus on saving lives.
  • I am willing to sacrifice my economic well-being to save lives.
  • I do believe that, minus social distancing, we’d have at least 5 times the number of cases–and deaths–that we have now.

Skeptics will contend that 90% of the COVID infections are mild and are no big deal. And while that is true, the problem is that remaining 10%.

And COVID is killing people in very weird ways. Yes, the COVID pneumonia that results in respiratory failure is prominent. But many are also dying of blood clots, or organ failure due to those clots. Cytokine storms–which were a major culprit in the 1918 flu pandemic–are also prominent in COVID infections, claiming a number of lives.

And then there’s the issue of when (or whether) we will develop immunity. What made COVID-19 dangerous is that it is a novel coronavirus: humans had no prior exposure and therefore no immune response.

But then one can fairly ask (a) are we ever going to get a vaccine for this? (b) What about herd immunity? (c) Does social distancing help or hurt along those lines? (d) Will this virus come back in multiple waves? (e) Are there other treatments for COVID that are effective?

So far, there appears to be a vaccine in the making, but I am not putting any stock in it anytime soon. For the record: I’m a pro-vaxxer; I just think it’s going to take time–at least a year, possibly two–before we know if this vaccine is going to be any good.

The issue is what are we going to do for the next 3-6 months? A vaccine is not going to be in play for that horizon. The issue is what can we do in the near-term?

The concept of herd immunity is not difficult to understand: for a lot of viruses, if a large number of people have antibodies and are immune, then that protects others in the population. So getting people vaccinated or otherwise exposed to the virus so they’ll develop antibodies, should–in theory–help stoke that immunity so that this “novel” coronavirus will lose its novelty.

The problem? We’re not sure that having antibodies necessarily gives you immunity. There have been reports of people surviving COVID-19 and then getting re-infected. Even the WHO is now sounding the alarm on this.

If that report is true, then this could be a gift that keeps on giving: we will almost certainly get multiple waves, and–unless we have the testing capacity in place to quickly shut it down–any future outbreak will cause major disruption. Nursing homes will be dangerous places for the foreseeable future.

And given the economic carnage–which will be very substantial–skeptics will question the veracity of the math models that predicted mass deaths, whether all of these shutdowns were worth it.


First off, I generally question all macro-level predictive math models coming from scientists of any stripe. Why?

As we have seen–more times than I care to count–predictive models at the macro-level are usually a fool’s game. Whether it’s climate change, whether it’s virology, wher it’s macroeconometrics, predictive models are usually off by very large margins.

(If macro models were reliable, then the human race would be near-extinct from Climate Change, what few would have survived would have been decimated by Ebola, and those survivors would be broke from all the hyperinflation.)

So with C19, I found myself initially skeptical for those reasons.

But what changed my mind? It wasn’t what the friend of mine from the gym said. It wasn’t what the anesthesiologist’s husband said. It wasn’t even what my pathologist friend said.

You know what changed my mind? It was what we had going on in real-time: Italy, Spain, France, and England–each a Western nation, each with a modern health care system–had COVID-19 meltdowns, as hospitals were overwhelmed with patients needing ventilators.

In those regions, physicians were having to literally decide who lives and who dies, as there were more patients than resources.

So yes, we had a legitimate threat in COVID-19, and yes, social distancing was/is necessary.

The critics, however, are right to call to account a government that has used a meat axe approach to shutdowns when a scalpel would have minimized the pain.

What do I think should have happened?

We already had established social distancing standards and hygienal protocols. It would have been a simple matter to require businesses to comply with those protocols as a matter of Due Diligence in order to continue operations. What would that look like?

  • Every employee who can work from home, is now working from home;
  • Increase spacing of cubicles; convert as many to offices as possible.
  • For offices that have two or more people, ensure that they are spaced at least 10 feet apart and not facing each other;
  • Provide appropriate cleaning agents in plenteous supply.
  • Ensure that employees get tested every two weeks. Positives need to stay home for at least 3 weeks.
  • All meetings need to be held electronically.
  • Manufacturing plants and warehouses must ensure proper separation and hygiene to promote a clean environment.
  • All medical and dental establishments may stay open, provided they have PPE.
  • All elective procedures may proceed, with the understanding that those can be shut down if locales end up with an “all hands on deck” situation.
  • All nursing homes are in full lockdown. All visitation is electronic. Employees must be tested every week.
  • Gatherings of 10 or more people should be highly-discouraged, with the warning that, if such a gathering results in an outbreak, the organizers could be liable for civil or even criminal charges.

Would that have prevented all shutdowns? No. It would have saved lives while minimizing the economic pain.

As for churches and other places of worship?

While respecting First Amendment rights, I’d put them on notice about being “That Guy” who started a major outbreak by being reckless. I would strongly advise them to limit gatherings to no more than 10, keeping people distanced. That may require having multiple services and/or reverting to livestreaming. If outbreaks occur–especially if they result in fatalities–then shutdowns may be on the table. I’d call churches to remember their heritage in saving lives, and use that to encourage livestreaming.

As for me? I was gung-ho about doing church from home. Why? I took it as an opportunity to do Church the way Christians in persecuted regions have been doing it for decades.

I told folks on Twitter to look at this as a firedrill for the day when churches WILL have to meet this way due to REAL persecution.

I hope I’m wrong, but my cynical side says we are on the front-end of a post-Christian generation that will last at least 50 years and will become severe. If we end up with Totalitarian government, we will experience real persecution. Otherwise, encroachments on religious freedoms are still imminent.

The day is coming when it will be on you to lead Bible study/worship in your own home. This is a good time for you to take stock in whether you are ready for that day.

If you are not, then this would be a great time to get into Inductive Bible Study.

What is more ominous to me than the medical or economic fallout is this: in both the secular world and even within the Church itself, I do not see a lot of humility.

Within the Church, I see little desire to seek God and repent for any personal or collective sins. And there are many of both.

No, I’m not the one who’s going to tell you that this is all about abortion or homosexuality. Yes, those are big deals, but those are far from the only “national sins”.

Materialism, anyone? How about trying to serve God and Mammon? How about racism? How about the monetizing of the Gospel?

How about the deluge of narcissist and/or sexually predatory pastors in the evangelical ranks? How about the ranks of clergy who are using porn? How about the coverups of sexual abuse?

In all of this COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen close to zero movement from pastors about any of this. And that doesn’t square with what we see in Scripture.

Jesus called attention to those aware of the collapse of the Tower of Siloam, which killed 18 people. His warning: “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”

In Revelation, we read of a world that gets hit by plague and calamity, and yet, at the end of chapter 9:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

And no, I’m not saying that we are in the middle of Revelation 9; I am, however, pointing to a troubling dynamic that we see now, that is representative of a people hardened to the point where they care not about the things of God.

Of course, Jesus predicted that this would happen: “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”

It’s like our country has been overrun by Nietzchke, Ayn Rand, and Peter Singer, all at the same time. And a large sector of the Church has bought into one or more of them.

The world is burning down, and the Church is in little or no position to provide the Answer.

Like Capt. Chesley Sullenburger–who parked US Airways 1529 in the Hudson River after a double bird strike–I’m a “long-term optimist but a short-term realist.”

I’m not hopeful for the short-term.

Trump Acquitted; It’s What We Deserve

I’m not surprised that President Donald J. Trump was acquitted, by the Senate, of the two articles of Impeachment. There was no chance that Democrats were going go muster up the 67 votes to remove Trump. It wasn’t going to happen. They knew it wasn’t going to happen. It was all theater. They didn’t even manage to get a simple majority. Both votes were straight party-line, except for Mitt Romney’s defection on the first Article.

As for the charges themselves, I don’t care whose side you’re on–honestly, I had no dog in this fight–the charges were petty and ridiculous. I would have said the same if the President were Obama.

Fact is, every dime of foreign aid we’ve ever given in our entire history has had some strings attached to it, a quid pro quo if you will. If Trump is guilty of abusing his power in the case of Ukraine, then every single one of his Predecessors is guilty of the same.

As for obstruction of justice, that’s bullcrap. If he had ordered the destruction of documents, that would have been a problem. But telling your people not to comply until the court decides the Executive Privilege issues, that’s not Obstruction. Not even Mitt Romney could get behind that charge.

All the Democrats have done is all but guarantee that Trump will win a landslide in November. It’s Trump’s race to lose.

As for whether Trump OUGHT to be the President, I will say this with the following disclaimer: I voted for someone else in the 2016 primary. I did not want Trump to get the GOP nomination. But once he was nominated, I decided to vote for him in the general election. Why? I would have taken a shotgun blast to the balls before voting for Hillary.

Having said that, I’m going to lay the cards on the table: Trump is President because he is the President we deserve.

Why do I say that?

(1) If we wanted a better President, we would have nominated a better slate of candidates. Outside the hard blue states, Americans had no desire for Hillary or the ideaologues she would appoint to run the apparatus of government.

(2) If moral character really mattered, then we would have removed Bill Clinton in 1999.

That second point is huge: the reason we have Trump today is because we did not remove Clinton in 1999.

In Clinton,

  • As a Governor, he whipped out his donger, and told a state employee–Paula Jones–to come over and kiss it.
  • He used the power of his office to deny Paula Jones her day in court when she sued him for sexual harassment. (abuse of power anyone?)
  • As President, he abused his power by accepting sexual gratuities from an INTERN.
  • As President, he lied to a federal grand jury about his abuse of Lewinsky.

What I find interesting is the way that the left and right have switched sides over the years.

(1) When JFK deflowered Mimi Alford–an 18-year-old virgin before she began working in the White House–and then passed her off to “take care of” (perform oral sex on) his associates, character didn’t matter.

(2) When Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) killed one of his staffers, character didn’t matter: Massachusetts voters kept electing him until his death, and Senate leaders made no effort to remove him from the Senate.

(3) When then-Governor Bill Clinton (D-AR) whipped out his tallywhacker in front of Paula Jones, a state employee at the time, and told her to “come kiss it”, character didn’t matter.

(4) When then-President Bill Clinton was ejaculating all over Monica Lewinsky, character didn’t matter.

(5) When then-President Bill Clinton lied to the Grand Jury to deny Paula Jones her day in court, character didn’t matter.

(6) When Hillary Clinton commandeered the character assassinations of every woman, including Paula Jones, who came forward to accuse Bill of wrongdoing, character didn’t matter.

They lectured us then:

“It’s only sex!”

“It wasn’t even sex. It was just a blowjob!”

“This doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.”

“It was only in a civil suit.”

Reporter Nina Burleigh summed up the left in one sentence: “I’d give Clinton a blowjob just for keeping abortion legal.”

The worst fallout from Clinton’s scandal: younger folks were paying attention to Clinton’s argument that “oral sex isn’t really sex”, as the percentage of teens engaging in that act soared like a rocket into orbit.

Now that Trump is in office, I’m finally glad to see that liberals have decided that character does indeed matter.

The right, however, is not without their duplicity in this.

Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was well-known for his extramarital sexual conquests. But that didn’t stop the House of Representatives from making him their Speaker.

And make no mistake: that choice of Gingrich for Speaker was indeed fateful, as he was impotent to call out the President during the Monica scandal, as his own baggage was similar to Clinton’s.

Character didn’t matter to Republicans then, so they were in no position to demand that it matter when Clinton’s scandals blew up.

Other prominent Republicans had their affairs and/or perversions come to light: Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), Rep. Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), and later Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in 2006. With few exceptions, Republican leadership failed to crack the whip and force resignations.

Character didn’t matter in their ranks, so they were impotent to demand that it matter for Clinton.

When Gingrich stepped down and Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA) took over, we learned of his baggage. While he did the right thing and resigned, the larger issue is why he put himself in that position in the first place?

Even worse was Livingston’s successor: Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL). As Speaker, he fashioned himself as a dealmaker. But I was very suspicious of him for two reasons: (a) he did nothing to oppose the runaway spending during the Bush years, and (b) in 2006, as Speaker, he got CAUGHT attempting to cover up Foleygate. (The fallout from that is why the GOP lost the House in 2006.)

What we didn’t know at the time: Hastert, as Speaker, was two gunshots away from the Oval Office, ALL WHILE CONCEALING HIS PAST INDISCRETIONS AS A CHILD MOLESTER. He is now doing federal prison time for attempting to circumvent banking laws–that he helped write–in order to cover them up.

It is exactly this kind of duplicity among conservatives that has given birth to the alt-right. If they would compromise their marriages for some sex with scantily-clad staffers (or, worse, children), then there it is easy to see why they would compromise on other critical matters, like spending, immigration, abortion, and even anti-terror policies.

Against that backdrop, Trump–for all his baggage–is Mother Teresa.

The same left that covered for Bill Clinton, and even attacked women like Paula Jones–who, according to the record of events, was a victim of sexual harassment–in an attempt to deny them their day in court, has now decided that Trump is unfit for office.

The same right that correctly insisted that Clinton’s offenses rendered him unfit for office, are now insisting that Trump’s known baggage does not render him unfit for office.

My take: Trump is what the GOP deserves. He is where he is because Republican leaders–like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)–have talked a great talk while selling out the country. They have proclaimed their support of conservative moral values, but coddle adulterers and child molesters. And on social issues, they are all talk and no action.

Both parties have handed Trump the stick, and he is now beating them with it.

As for the left, I’m glad they have decided that character does indeed matter.

If both sides would apply that standard and demand better candidates, we’ll get better Presidents.

As for now, America gets what she deserves.

Class dismissed.

A Time of Reckoning for Ravi Zacharias

Over the past 30 years, few Christian apologists have had the impact that Ravi Zacharias (RZ) has had. In fact, RZ has been arguably the greatest public apologist for the Christian faith in the last 100 years, second only to C.S. Lewis.

Unfortunately, I have very bad news: in spite of the compelling, cogent case he makes for the Christian faith, in spite of the many people who have received Jesus because of his ministry, Ravi Zacharias is himself a fraud, a wolf in shepherd’s clothing.

Yes, you heard that correctly: Ravi Zacharias is a fraud, a wolf in shepherd’s clothing.

Does this mean that RZ has taught unsound doctrine? No. Teaching false doctrine is not the only way to be a false teacher; it is but one way.

It is possible to teach perfectly-sound doctrine and still be a complete fraud as a Christian. The life and demise of the late Iain Campbell—who carried on many affairs during his entire ministry life, and then committing suicide when those affairs became known—is a poignant example of this.

In the case of RZ, the issue is not the message, but rather the messenger. I don’t like to throw tags like “fraud” and “wolf” around–as I am a very “Big Tent” conservative, but RZ has earned it.

RZ, in spite of being an articulate defender of the Christian faith, has established his ministerial empire on blood, academic fraud, and abuse.

Part 1: Blood

In 1973, 16-year-old Shirley Steward became pregnant in a relationship with RZ’s 20-year-old brother (Ramesh). Ravi allgedly counseled her and Ramesh that the best way forward was to pursue abortion, and allegedly colluded with “Vickie S”, a parishioner in their church, to ensure that she could legally obtain the abortion.

For the record: I believe Shirley. It is my conclusion that Shirley is telling the truth.

Why do I believe Shirley’s story?

Here’s the short answer: The “shout your abortion” crowd notwithstanding, women don’t just tell the world that they’ve had abortions. That’s not how it works. When women do that, there is often substantial personal blowback. Even outside the Christian world, this is not seen as a good thing. In the Christian world, you risk major disrepute: many circles will brand you a murderer.

Shirley has no reason to lie about this, and in fact—by telling her story—has placed herself in the line of fire.

(I also believe Shirley’s story because I believe that Julie Anne–who broke the story–has researched this thoroughly. She has been around the block, has even been sued (and won). I know Julie Anne on Twitter and Facebook. Julie Anne, in her blogging capacities, is ironclad.)

It is my conclusion that Shirley is doing this because the pain of blowback is worth her telling the truth about Ravi Zacharias.

And yes, I put the blame for this abortion squarely on the shoulders of RZ: had he counseled her to carry, she would have carried. It is my view that RZ has blood on his hands. He did this early in his ministry life. And that has set the course for his double life.

To date, not only has RZ not addressed this; no major Christian leader has called him out for it.

Part 2: Academic Fraud

In the world of Christian ministry, a terminal degree often means instant authority: in most church circles, you gain instant recognition if you have a doctoral degree of any type. If that doctoral degree is in a Christian area of study, that’s even better.

As a minister, RZ holds an MDiv degree from Trinity International University. He has also done a sabbatical at Ridley Hall in Cambridge. (RH is not part of the University of Cambridge.)

Those credentials are plenty good enough for his ministry: one need not be a PhD academician to be a solid Christian apologist. RZ has established that over the years: in spite of not being a PhD, he has been a prolific writer and speaker.

The problem is, RZ has misrepresented himself as a “doctor”, using his honorary doctoral degrees as proof. He has used that title to sell books and promote his ministry. When questioned about that, he suggested that this was standard practice in India. He finally backtracked under pressure and stopped using the title.

Moreover, RZ also misrepresented himself as having been a “visiting scholar” at Cambridge University, when in fact he did a sabbatical at Ridley Hall, which is not part of Cambridge. He also claimed to have been a “Senior Research Fellow” at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford. That also was never the case.

Any one of those misrepresentations would constitute an immediate termination offense in both academic and business circles. And yet RZ has used such tactics to bolster himself and gain great fame in Christian circles.

Sadly, no major Christian leader has called him to account for this.

Part 3: Abuse

While RZ tried hard to bury the details of his sexting scandal, Steve Baughman ensured that the world would know the truth about RZ’s sexting scandal.

In 2014, RZ met a couple at a conference. They became friends, with RZ maintaining a relationship with the wife—Lori Anne Thompson (LA)—via email. No one knew about this until 2017, when RZ filed a RICO lawsuit against the couple, accusing them of scheming to blackmail him.

In the process, some details of the relationship between RZ and LA became public, with (a) the revelation that LA had sent RZ nude photos, (b) LA informing RZ that she planned to confess to her husband, and (c) an e-mail in which RZ threatened suicide if she did this.

In November 2017, the lawsuit was settled via mediation, with parties agreeing to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). RZ dropped the suit “with prejudice”, meaning he would not refile it.

The problem? RZ’s public actions scream grooming and coverup.

Let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve had online and even real-life relationships with a number of women, some of whom are married. One of those, KM, I’ve known for over 24 years (Cubbie is even closer to her and has known her since her college days). I’m good friends with her husband, too, but I talk and email mostly with her.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve become friends with a number of women in the #churchtoo community. I’ve had Direct Message (DM) conversations with a number of them.

I have never had a conversation—voice, digital, face-to-face, or otherwise—with any of them, that I’d be ashamed to reveal to the entire world.

If every single one of them—TODAY!—decided to release every one of my conversations with them, I would absolutely welcome it.

I would have zero explaining to do to my wife.

My church elders would be pleasantly surprised to find a community online who is concerned for each other, prays for each other, discusses hard issues in collegial manner, and treats one another with great respect. We even—horrors!—express concern for many of our adversaries.

My point in all of this? If RZ was being blackmailed, all he had to do to shut this down—if he were innocent—was release everything!

As Solomon said it: “A man who walks in his integrity walks securely.”

RZ didn’t do that because he has things to hide!

Think about it: the porn/hookup industry notwithstanding, women don’t just send nudes of themselves. RZ claims they were unsolicited, but, if that were the case, a simple release of their email conversations would reveal the truth about that, as this would establish whether there was grooming behavior involved.

If any of my female friends sent me such a photo, I would be shocked, angered, and heartbroken. Why? It would be completely out of character, a total betrayal. And a complete revelation of my emails and DMs would quickly prove my innocence!

RZ threatened suicide because he knew there was more to it than his public statement suggests.

RZ did not release a complete record of his emails because he knew that his grooming behavior—conduct unbecoming of a minister of the Gospel—would be laid bare for the whole world to see.

And THAT’s what is incriminating: grooming behavior. Here’s why…

Let’s assume I am a minister, and I am in a running online conversation with Jane Doe.

If Jane Doe and I are in a conversation that is otherwise above-board, and she sends me a nude pic, then that would be clearly unsolicited: all I’d have to do is show my email records, and the whole world would see the truth.

But let’s say that Jane and I engaged in many sexually-explicit conversations (inappropriate), and THEN she sends me a nude. THAT’s not “unsolicited”, as my sexual conversation–for which I am responsible as a minister–constitutes grooming behavior. In that case, she was the frog in the kettle, and I slowly boiled her.

Make no mistake: RZ groomed Lori Anne. He boiled her.

Yes, RZ—using the power of his team of attorneys—eked out a non-disclosure agreement. Ravi’s public statement on this matter is loaded with Image Repair tactics that scream coverup, as I will demonstrate at the end of this.

But the gun is still smoking. And God doesn’t care about NDAs.

Conclusion

Now why am I writing about this? What is my interest in this case?

For one, I want Ravi Zacharias—and ministers like him—to face the reality of what they have done. That is the only way they have any chance of experiencing repentance. And make no mistake, RZ needs to repent. No apology would be meaningful apart from genuine repentance: a reorientation of the mind that is a fundamental part of regeneration.

Secondly, I believe in the worth of the lives of RZ’s victims.

Because I believe Shirley Steward, that means her unborn child died in no small part due to RZ’s pressure for her to abort. That child deserves recognition.

Shirley Steward, 16 years old at the time—under tremendous pressure from RZ—endured an abortion that she did not want. Everyone walked away and left her holding the bag: she carried the shame and the guilt and the post-abortion PTSD aftermath. Shirley Steward suffered greatly. We must recognize her suffering, and the role I believe RZ played in it.

RZ slowly groomed Lori Anne Thompson for his sexual pleasure. When Lori Anne informed him that she was going to confess to her husband, he threatened suicide. The NDA protects him, as he has—since the settlement—spun his side of the story to his liking, while hiding behind the NDA when anyone asks a hard question.

Lori Anne Thompson deserves vindication. Whatever improprieties she was involved in with RZ, RZ groomed her for them.

Finally, I believe in a God who cares about the truth, and cares for the least of these.

While RZ has been an excellent writer and speaker–an articulate proponent of the Christian faith–he has built his ministerial empire on a foundation of blood, academic fraud, and abuse.

Just as King David got many things right during his reign, God did not turn and look the other way when he raped Bathsheba, got her pregnant, then had her husband killed so he could move in like the good guy and be the hero by taking in a widowed Bathsheba. While God forgave King David, there was a horrendous price to pay. David was a broken man for the rest of his life.

Just as Ravi Zacharias has been such a prolific writer and speaker, God is still a God of justice. He does not excuse wanton bloodshed; He cares about His people telling the truth and not lying to inflate their records; He does not take kindly to those ministers who sexually groom and take license with women not their wives.

Just as King David humbled himself and received Nathan’s rebuke, Ravi Zacharias can own his atrocities, apologize to his victims, admit his fraud, repent, and retire from ministry while making amends to the extent that this is possible.

The Church is in a crisis: we have no small number of high-profile ministers who have been exposed for sexual atrocities, various abuses of power from financial malfeasance to heavy-handed, malicious leadership, coverups of sexual abuse. It is long past time to call them out, repudiate their actions, and call them to repentance, holding them to account.

And make no mistake: Ravi Zacharias is in grave need of repentance.


My Image Repair Analysis of Ravi Zacharias’ Public Statement on His Sexting Scandal and Settlement of His Lawsuit

Intro: What Is Image Repair Theory?

Image Repair Theory is the study of communication strategies that persons and organizations often use when they experience an event that adversely impacts their reputation or credibility. If a politician gets caught in a scandal, if an airline suffers a plane crash caused by negligence, if a church coverup of a sex scandal gets exposed, the response often involves some form of crisis communication. (Some of us cynically call it damage control.)

Image Repair is part of that.

Let’s say you’re a Senator who’s been visiting an escort service (i.e. sleeping with prostitutes). And let’s say you’ve just found out that the Washington Post is going to run a story the next day, detailing every visit you’ve ever made to that escort service, all the way down to every prostitute you’ve slept with.

In such a case, you’ll probably enlist a crisis management firm to advise you in your communications. And they will specialize in Image Repair.

Image Repair embodies the use of five fundamental strategies, each with associated methodologies:

  • Strategy 1: Denial: You flat out deny the act (“I never visited the escort service!”)
  • Strategy 2: Evasion of Responsibility
    • Provocation: claim that the action was in retaliation to a provoked act (“This is all lies, designed to destroy me for my support for pro-family causes!”)
    • Defeasibility: claim that you either lacked the knowledge of or control over the factors that led to the act (“I had no idea this was an escort service!”)
    • Make an excuse: claim that this was an accident or otherwise beyond your control (“I did not knowingly go there, but when there, I did not exercise perfect discretion.”)
    • Claim good intentions: Because act was rooted in good intentions, you demand to be judged by your intentions. (“I was just doing research.”)
  • Strategy 3: Reducing Offensiveness
    • Bolstering: you communicate to elevate your positive traits and establish superiority (“As a longtime supporter of families and children…”)
    • Minimization: you spin the act so as to mitigate its severity (“I spent less than ten minutes in the building.”)
    • Differentiation: spin the act, and even the discussion of the act, to contrast with acts that are more offensive, of which you are not even being accused (“I did not have intercourse with anyone.”) ;
    • Transcendence: Spin yourself and your work as agents or agencies for some greater good (“We must resolve this quickly, as lives are literally at stake.”);
    • Attack Accuser: This often takes a DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) signature;
    • Compensation: you offer to reconcile with the victims (usually on your own terms)
  • Strategy 4: Corrective Action
    • Promise to correct the problem
  • Strategy 5: Mortification
    • You admit responsibility and ask for forgiveness

In my MBA studies, we touched slightly on this in my Business Communications class.

But in the #churchtoo world, I was drawn to the work of a physician who, in her spare time, does Image Repair Analysis (IRA) on the statements of ministers and churches in their communication of their respective scandals. She taught me quite a bit about IRA. I started using it on myself just as a means of checking my motives.

Here’s the problem with Image Repair: when someone makes public statements using IR, it is indicative that they are hiding the truth or engaging in spin-doctoring to put the best face on their actions. In the Christian world, however, this is problematic in that leaders who use IR are avoiding transparency and–in many cases–outright lying. Heavy use of IR is indicative of that.

But now it’s time to do IRA on Ravi Zacharias’ public statement in his settlement of his RICO suit.


“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…sending..email…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.
  • “..my 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.

#ChurchToo: Complementarianism and Patriarchy In Crisis, Part 1

Those who’ve been following this blog have known that I’ve long identified as a Patriarch from day one. And in fact, I still do, although I am a laid-back one.

At the same time, it’s fair to say that it’s long past time to soberly assess the state of gender relations in the Church. #churchtoo has exposed the dark side of Patriarchy and complementarianism, and–make no mistake–that side is VERY dark.

First, some disclaimers:

  • I do not pedastal women by any stretch. Each sex has ways that their depravity rears its ugly head.
  • Men and women have been at each others’ throats ever since Adam threw Eve under the bus and even blamed God for providing her to him. Ever since then, women have had a “Men: can’t live with them/can’t live without them” mindset and men have sought to impose varying structures on women.
  • Yes, women abuse men too. Ame has provided horror stories about how this has gone on in apparently “good Christian homes” over the years. Those who know DV really well will attest that women can and do abuse men.
  • Yes, women abuse children, too. The ranks of women teachers who slept with their students are staggering, and seem to be ever-expanding.

Having said all of that, I’m going to lay the cards on the table:

#CHURCHTOO IS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON THE MEN

Don’t like that? Fine. I don’t either. But not liking that fact doesn’t make it less true. And make no mistake, it is fact.

Why is it fact? It is fact because IT HAPPENED ON THE WATCH OF MEN.

Yes, #churchtoo abuses have occurred–and do occur–in egalitarian churches. Even then, (a) most of the abusers are men, and (b) most of those who covered up the abuses are men.

But here’s the thing…Complementarians and even Patriarchs often contend that a Patriarchal structure protects women. And in theory, it ought to.

But it almost NEVER does.

The Southern Baptist Convention–which has codified complementarianism into their Baptist Faith and Message–has 700 cases of sexual abuse in front of them, in which there is actionable intelligence that they can act on TODAY, and yet they will not act on them.

There are ministers cited–who have felony sex abuse convictions–who still retain ministerial credentials.

There are others–whose abuses have been verified as they have admitted to their abuses–who retain ministerial credentials.

There are churches–shown to have covered for sexual abusers–who retain standing as chucrches “in cooperation” with the SBC.

I know of churches–that ordained abusive ministers–who have been petitioned to defrock ministers shown to be abusive. And yet those churches refuse to act.

(In the SBC, ordination is handled through the local church; to defrock a minister, the ordaining church has to do it. I have yet to see one case where they have done this.)

Fact is, when children report abuse, churches almost always cover it up in some form or other. This is not merely a Roman Catholic phenomenon; it is rampant among evangelical ranks. Especially complementarian and Patriarchal (C/P) ranks.

The latter is what I find bothersome.

In the C/P world, you often hear much talk about manhood and masculinity.

Men are supposed to be leaders, shepherds, protectors, pastors of their own homes. Men are supposed to be the leaders in Church, home, and general society.

Now here’s the thing: LEADERSHIP carries RESPONSIBILITY.

So why aren’t these patriarchs and complementarian Manly Men leaders being decisive about abuses by their own peers in clergy?

(I know the answer; I’m asking the question rhetorically.)

Why is it that a cadre of Manly Men–who are so decisive when it comes to planting churches to build their brand, or developing conferences to make their names great–can’t muster the courage to be decisive and call out their own ranks who abuse women and children and cover for those who do?

Why is it that a cadre of Manly Men in the SBC has sought to impugn the character of prominent women calling out these abuses, no matter how conservative they are?

The Founders–a shady group of SBC leaders trying to control the SBC, run by Tom Ascol–launched passive-aggressive attacks on Rachael Denhollander, who is herself a Reformed Baptist (a “1689er”). I can attest that she is not a Social Justice Warrior and is in fact very conservative.

Make no mistake: #churchtoo is on the boyz. And while I identify as a Patriarch, we need to be honest: the leaders in that sector don’t seem to want to move to clear the abusers out of their ranks.

They lecture us about manhood and courage, but they exercise neither when it involves calling out leaders in their own tribe.

That’s just the beginning. More to come…