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.

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…

#churchtoo: What Do We Do With King David?

Two weeks ago, Matt Smethurst and Rachael Denhollander ignited what turned into quite the Twitter war over her contention that King David’s conquest of Bathsheba was not a consensual affair but rather a sexual assault.

(For the record, I agree with Denhollander, and that is a position at which I arrived almost 30 years ago.)

But accepting that assessment–that David indeed committed rape–leaves us in a quandary: how does this affect our theological assessment of King David?

This is not a trivial question, as–over the years–commentators, both academic and devotional, have given a large amount of time to David. Beth Moore became a rock star with her Bible study, A Heart Like His. Just go to Google and search for books about King David and you’ll get a voluminous number of results.

First, I want to address the blowback against Denhollander, some of which I incurred in the Twittersphere.

The backlash was severe, coming from a faction of hardline conservative–hard Calvinist–devotees. This crowd, with very few exceptions, was very combative, not collegial at all, and downright insulting. Myself and a Twitter ally–a pathology professor–were called “stupid”, “liar”, “fool”, “heretic”, and told “you don’t know the first thing about Scripture”, all for pointing out the obvious, including the Hebrew and basic grammatical structure of the text.

Personally, I was not so much offended as I was beside myself as to why they were so passionate about digging their heels regarding this matter.

Keep in mind that as an old-school conservative, I am used to hard fights about tough issues: Biblical inerrancy, inclusive language, the Atonement, the Deity of Christ, the veracity of miracle accounts in the Bible, the Resurrection of Jesus, the end times, pedo-versus-credo baptism.

In those fights, it gets spirited to say the least. But in this case, the “David did NOT commit rape” crowd was fighting as if this was the last stand against the enemies of Jesus.

Oh, and then they “blocked” me. I’m not so much offended at that–I’ve got thick skin and big shoulders–but mildly entertained at the level of angst that they seem to convey. For people who oppose the “easily-triggered” crowd, they were quite easily-triggered.

My question to them: what do you have invested in this that explains the butthurt? Has Rachael Denhollander hit a nerve?

Kyle Worley provides as an insightful piece, writing in Christianity Today, as to why it’s hard for people to accept that David was a rapist.

My take: most people cannot envision themselves as rapists. We can see ourselves having illicit sex given sufficient motivation and opportunity; we can see ourselves doing great bodily harm to others given sufficient provocation; given the right circumstances, some of us may even be willing to kill another person.

But rape? We run from that one. No one likes the “sex offender” tag. Not even a sex offender.

But that brings us back to King David: what do we do with King David? What do we know of his character? Do we view him as a great man of God? Do we view him as a sexual predator and a murderer? How do the Scriptures assess him in the final analysis? And what are some of the implications of that for us as Christians?

First off, it is important to remember how David came onto the scene. The first king–Saul–started out strong but turned sour in a hurry. The Israelites had picked him, as he looked the part: he was the tallest man in the kingdom and looked like a warrior. Despite some early successes, he fell out of favor with God, as the Judge-Priest-Prophet Samuel chastised him for showing an utter lack of regard for the things of God.

After Saul failed a sufficient number of times–particularly in his disobeying the command of God to kill the Amalekites (including all livestock) and leave everything as an offering–God had Samuel anoint the next King.

As you read the story, God led Samuel to the tribe of Judah, to the house of Jesse. As Samuel met the seven sons of Jesse, God indicated that none of them were His choice for King. Then Jesse told him there was another son: the youngest, who was out taking care of the sheep. (In other words, the lowest of the bunch, as he had the task no one else wanted.)

That son was David, and that is the one God chose, and Samuel–in turn–anointed him as the next King.

The next time we see David, we see the Philistine warrior–Goliath, a 9-foot super-fighter–challenging the Israelites to send out a fighter to take him one-on-one. The Israelites, including Saul–ironically the tallest man in the kingdom–were not up to the challenge. One day, as David was taking food rations to his brothers, he took up the challenge:

What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?

I Samuel 17:26 (NASB)

The response by this brothers was nothing short of an insult, amounting to, “You sure talk tough for a sheep herder who’s not even a fighter.” And David’s words to Saul were poignant:

Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

I Samuel 17:34-37 (NASB)

Clearly, David is a man of faith in God. For a young man–otherwise untested in battle–he’s confident that he can win. Is it because he knows that he has been anointed as the next King (which happened in the preceding chapter)? Is it because he sees Goliath as less-threatening than a lion or a bear? Is it because he has a level of marksmanship that awaits Goliath, who has no idea what kind of unconventional attack he is about to experience? I believe David knew that God was on his side, and–as of that point–he also was on God’s side.

The depth of David’s faith–and understanding of God’s word–is laid bare in the Psalms. He understood the importance of meditating on God’s word (Ps 1); he had a glimpse of the Godhood of the Messiah (Ps. 2); he trusted God for protection from the wicked (Ps 5); trusted God for mercy (Ps 6); worshiped God fervently and called others to do so (Ps 8, 9), implored God for forgiveness (Ps. 32, 51), extolled the great mercies of God (Ps. 103), spoke greatly about the law of God (Ps. 119); gave glory to the providence of God (Ps. 23).

We also know that David had great respect for God’s order. In spite of being the anointed King, David respected that Saul was King until he died, and David was in no rush to make that happen. He was willing to wait his turn. In fact, he was best-friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. His first wife was Saul’s daughter Michal. Even when Saul tried–on multiple occasions–to kill David, he refused to fight Saul.

Even when he became king upon the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David was gracious to Saul’s legacy, extending kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. In taking the throne, David would become the standard for Godly kings.

But something happened between his anointing in 1 Samuel 16, and his assault with Bathsheba in II Samuel 17.

During the time in between, David killed a large number of people in battle. When he was first anointed, he was a lowly shephered who had fought off a bear and a lion. But from there, he killed tens of thousands of Philistines. This is one reason why God would not let King David build the Temple.

This high death toll is a big deal, even if it was in the course of “just war”. Any time you kill someone, even if the killing is justified, there is a price to pay. This is because justifiable homicide is still homicide. And the more you kill, the more it impacts your soul.

And that large death toll was a likely factor in making David cavalier–even Machiavellian–with the lives of others when it became expedient.

But there was another factor that seemed to play against David: his own success. From his victory over Goliath to his years on the run from Saul to his ascent to the throne, David was successful in his endeavors. Even as Saul sought to kill him, he still managed to score great victories against the Philistines, and even gained a popular following. As a King, he enjoyed great success against longtime enemies of Israel.

That also likely stoked a pride in David that lurked under the surface. That pride may have motivated him to stay in Jerusalem during that fateful Spring. That would be the kind of pride that says, “I’ve been successful; I have a competent army; they don’t need me; I can defeat my enemies without even being on the battlefield.”

Why do I point these things out? David’s “great sin” was not a spontaneous act, but rather a series of actions that required (a) a heart inclined to evil, (b) premeditation, (c) the use of other people to carry out the evil, and (d) purposeful action. In the process, David showed a callous disregard for the Law of God, a sense of entitlement to what was not even his, a callous disregard for the well-being of others, and a callous disregard for the lives of others.

Had David gone to battle like he should have, we would not be having this discussion. When he saw Bathsheba, he began lusting immediately. Had he stopped there, we would not be having this discussion. Had he harkened to the warnings of his men–that Bathsheba was married and therefore off-limits–we would not be having this discussion.

But let the record show that a man after God’s own heart–who cherished God’s word, who had a deep faith and understanding of the character of God–trampled over all that is holy and pure and did the unthinkable: he took another man’s wife, got her pregnant, whacked her husband to cover it up–oh, and she mourned over her husband’s death–and then tried to make himself look like a great hero by taking her in her pregnant widowhood.

And while some will point out that God forgave King David, we cannot ignore the terrible consequences of his actions:

  • His first child with Bathsheba would die;
  • there was perpetual turmoil in his house;
    • Amnon raped his sister Tamar;
    • Absalom killed Amnon;
    • David exiled Absalom;
    • Absalom mounted a coup against David;
    • David was forced to flee Jerusalem for his life;
    • The most powerful King in the region couldn’t even protect his wives from being publicly raped by his son;
    • Absalom would be killed in battle;
    • Adonijah tried to make himself the King as David neared death;
    • Even in Matthew 1, God calls attention to David’s sin, referring to Solomon “by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah”, even as he refers to Jesus as “the son of David”;
  • his taking of the census resulted in mass death among his own people;
  • David–while not dying in the disgrace that Saul did–left this earth with a whimper;
  • successive kings would lead Israel to idolatry, then civil war, beginning a descent to captivity.

Was David a man after God’s own heart or was he a rapist and a murderer who played fast and loose with other people’s lives and dignity? Yes: he was all of those things.

Theologically, David was the closest thing to a Messiah in the Old Testament. And yet he was short of the glory by at least half a universe. He committed not just one, but rather two, death penalty offenses, one of which was a sexual assault on a married woman.

And yet, even as his actions reflect a profound spiritual degradation, I would note that David still was notable in his character.

When Nathan confronted him and gave him a prophet-to-king smackdown of all time, David’s response was one of uncommon humility. Contrast the way he received Nathan’s rebuke–admitting his sin–with the way other kings (Joash, Asa) responded to prophetic rebuke.

Contrast David’s response to the way many preachers and evangelists–caught in scandal–have responded. David does not respond with any expectation that he should live; in fact, he states that the offender “deserves to die” (II Samuel 12:5) and does not retract that when Nathan responded, “Thou art the man!” He owns his failure. When his son dies, he does not whine about the consequences, nor does he–at any subsequent point in his life–complain about his consequences.

In fact, for the remainder of David’s rule, he was humble in his dealings with others. When we read the Psalms, we see his anguish over his sin (Ps 51: “my sin is ever before me”) even as he rejoices in God’s forgiveness (Ps. 103).

The implications are staggering, as, without a doubt, many ministers today have committed similar abuses of power–taking sexual license with people in their care. The Andy Savage/High Point fiasco of 2018 brought this reality to light, as a 22-year-old Savage–a youth minister at the time–took 17-year-old Jules Woodson to a dark place and solicited a Clinton.

Many of Savage’s defenders called attention to King David and implored the Church for forgiveness, as Savage had “repented”.

The problem is, that wasn’t the case. When confronted with his past, Savage attempted to minimize what he did, spinning it as a “sexual incident” and even an “organic moment”. Even after his resignation–in which he finally admitted that what he did was “abuse”–he later tried to downplay the #churchtoo movement.

Over the years, the scandals have been voluminous. And almost every time the pastors are exposed, the immediate talk is of restoration: when will they return to ministry. Their fans will cite King David.

But in so doing, we miss the point. In so doing, we overlook the horrid trail of damage, the victims left in the wake. And before you overlook these offenses, chalking them up to “youthful indiscretions”, talk to the victims and ask about what they went through.

Ask Jules Woodson–she’s easy to find on Twitter and is outspoken about her experience. Ask Anne Marie Miller. Ask Brooks Hansen and Kenny Stubblefield; ask Kim Rung; ask Kelly Haines. And if you want to know what drives the predatory abusers, I can direct you to experts such as trauma therapist Mike Phillips and University of Michigan pathologist Julia Dahl, who will teach you more than you ever wanted to know about narcissists and their grooming and damage control techniques.

Sadly, by glossing over these abuses–chalking them up as “oopsies” or “screwups” or “mistakes” or “misconduct”–we overlook the price born by the victims, and, worse, the ugliness of sin.

David, by accepting Nathan’s rebuke, accepted that he was entitled to nothing good, that he deserved to die, that he did not deserve to remain on the throne let alone remain in the covenant that God had established with him. When was the last time you heard a minister–caught in his sin–admit that much?

We could use a lot more humility among our clergy and Church leadership, and less entitlement. And the better we understand how an otherwise Godly King abused his power and took a married woman for his own sexual pleasure–and comitted murder to cover it up, and then tried to spin himself as a hero–the better we’ll be able to understand that need for humility.

May we not become like David before we ‘get it’.

Kansas channels Stone Cold Steve Austin

If you don’t get the title… when he was performing in WWE, Austin regularly popped fingers at authority figures, opponents, the crowd, or whoever his antagonist at the time was. Often double-barreled.

The Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team is indisputably one of college basketball’s flagship programs. And it’s one of the programs most tied to the recent NCAA recruiting corruption scandal. Last month, the Jayhawks received a notice of allegations from the NCAA, stemming from the school’s relationship with Adidas, the apparel company most tied (so far) to the scandal.

According to this post from a popular University of Kentucky sports blog:

There are two ways to respond to rule-breaking allegations. You can decide to lay low, comply and embrace a straight-edge lifestyle to prevent any further damage, or you could deny any rule-breaking whatsoever and become defiant. Kansas chose the latter in the most over-the-top way imaginable.

For starters, Kansas posted a video promoting Snoop Dogg’s appearance at Late Night in the Phog, the team’s first preseason practice. The video featured longtime Jayhawks head coach Bill Self wearing a T-shirt with Adidas’ logo and a chain with a dollar sign. Mind you, this was four days after receiving formal charges from the NCAA.

(Kansas is one of many schools that makes said practice into a major evening event; Kentucky’s version is known as Big Blue Madness. “The Phog” is a nickname for the Jayhawks’ arena, Allen Fieldhouse; it’s named after one of their past great coaches, Forrest “Phog” Allen.)

Then came the event… with Kansas going full Stone Cold, sticking two middle fingers right in the NCAA’s face. Complete with the following:

  • Pole dancers during Snoop’s performance.
  • Kansas’ mascot “smoking” a huge fake blunt during said performance.
  • Snoop firing a money gun into a section where Kansas recruits were seated. Granted, the money was obviously fake, with Snoop’s face on it, but still…

The aforementioned post from the UK sports blog even threw in a dig at the Louisville basketball sex scandal, saying “Kansas brought Minardi Hall to Phog Allen.”

(Minardi Hall is Louisville’s men’s basketball dorm, alleged site of several of the parties that triggered that scandal.)

Kansas couldn’t backtrack from it fast enough. Self said he was caught off-guard by Snoop’s performance; he had gone back to the locker room early on and didn’t see most of it. Kansas’ athletic director Jeff Long—no stranger to athletic scandal, since at an earlier post as AD at Arkansas he had to deal with the fallout from the revelation that the head football coach was (1) having an extramarital affair and (2) had hired his mistress for the team’s office staff—issued an apology. Actually, two apologies, since his first version made a very awkward reference to the pole dancers that caused no end of snickering on the Internet.

I could say more about this, but I think it speaks for itself.

David and Bathsheba: #metoo Before The Hashtag

In the Twitter world, Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition tweeted the following:

https://twitter.com/MattSmethurst/status/1179912370103160832

To which Rachael Denhollander responded:

In point of fact, Denhollander has a good point. Sadly, her view is not shared across the board among people who ought to know better. Over the years, I have, on many occasions, heard the David-Bathsheba “affair” portrayed as a case where Bathsheba bathed in plain sight in order to be seen by King David. The commentaries include everything but a winking eye, and poor David—he just couldn’t control his lusts!

I kid you not. Even in a Bible Study Fellowship presentation 23 years ago, a guest presenter provided exactly that take. And this was a fairly learned group of men.

Allow me to burst that bubble….and this, ladies and gentlemen, is not rocket science. (I’m going to use ESV for the translation, although–to be honest–it doesn’t matter. Pick any translation you wish: on this matter, it’s clear as daylight.)


Picking up 2 Samuel 11, starting at verse 1:

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

The chapter begins with a layout of the background:

  • It was Spring.
  • It was a time during which kings typically went to battle. And we know that David is himself a warrior who has established himself as an Israelite king to be feared and respected among her neighbors.
  • The Israelites were enjoying military success.
  • But David–a warrior-king–did not go with his troops.

In other words, David was not doing his job.

Picking up verse 2:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.

While the ESV translation says “late one afternoon”, the Hebrew literally translates “in an evening”. (NASB indicates “when evening came”, KJV says, “in an eveningtide”, and NIV indicates, “in an evening”. For once, the NIV is actually closer to the literal Hebrew rendering.)

So let the record show, when David saw Bathsheba bathing, it was evening. This is an important detail.

Picking up verse 3:

And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

Keep in mind that, at this time, David is married. In fact, he has at least two wives of whom we know by name: Michal (Saul’s daughter) and Abigail. When he saw Bathsheba, the proper response would have been to look away and go back to his official business, meditating on God’s Law, of which he wrote so eloquently in the Psalms.

But instead, he decided to entertain his lusts. In so doing, he asked his men about her. And their response was to the general effect of, “Uhmmm….your Majesty…she’s married, and you know both her husband and her father.” (Based on what transpired, he knew that Uriah was one of his most valiant soldiers.)

Had he dropped the matter there, all would have been well. Except he didn’t stop with that veiled admonition. We learn this in verse 4:

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.

Now I’ve heard some commentarors use this passage to show that the David-Bathsheba “affair” was a consensual one, and that she was at least partially at fault. What gets lost in that take is that the passage does not say that.

Let’s just say that, if you’re a woman whom a king wants, and that king sends his men for you, you have two acceptable responses: “Yes, I will happily serve His Majesty” and, “which clothes does His Majesty prefer that his women wear?” Bathsheba had no choice; due to the power differential, “consent”–as we understand it–was simply not possible.

Moreoever, verse 4 gives us an additional, and important detail as to what Bathsheba was doing in the first place:

  • “Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.”

In Old Testament Israel, women were deemed unclean during that wonderful time of the month that Aunt Flo dropped in for a week. At the end of that week, women ceremonially washed themselves and were then declared clean. That is what Bathsheba was doing!

When women are sexually assaulted, a common response–albeit an unfair one–is to question the degree of victimhood of the woman:

  • What was she wearing?
  • Was she a prostitute?
  • Was she acting seductively?
  • Did she really want it and then just claim rape now that “buyer’s remorse” has set in?

2 Samuel 11:1-4 is not implying that those responses are legitimate in such cases; at the same time, those 4 verses are telling us that such a response–even if you think it is valid–isn’t in play here.

  • It was evening;
  • Bathsheba was bathing as part of her monthly purification.

In other words, Bathsheba was doing everything “by the book”. She was being discreet. In spite of her proximity to very powerful people, she is acting so as to not be easily-seen. She is the one minding her own business.

Contrast that with the way the passage presents David.

  • David wasn’t doing what he should have been doing.
    • He should have been on the battlefield with his troops, but he remained in Jerusalem instead;
    • Even in Jerusalem, it was evening and he should have been attending to his wives or other official business;
    • When he saw Bathsheba, rather than turn away from his lust, he chose to entertain those lusts by asking about her;
    • In spite of a veiled warning, David sent his men and took Bathsheba, at which point “he lay with her.”

In point of fact, the Scriptures put 100% of the blame on King David and none of it on Bathsheba.

This was not an “affair”; affairs are consensual acts of infidelity. (This is why the Law commanded death for both offenders in such cases.)

This was not consensual; in fact, it was a #metoo assault long before the hashtag arrived.

Mass Shooters: Nihilism On The Margins

With the latest mass shootings–in El Paso (22 dead) and Dayton (9 dead, not including the gunman)–we are now getting the obligatory calls for gun control, with new focus on “mental health” issues. We’re getting the same old arguments:

  • We have a white supremacist problem. (The El Paso shooter was a White Nationalist).
  • The El Paso shooter was a Trump lover, so it’s Trump’s fault.
  • Access to firearms is too easy.
  • We must have a better way to keep mentally-ill people from obtaining firearms.
  • We need to ban “assault weapons”.
  • We need “Red Flag” laws: laws which allow for the rollback of Second Amendment rights–even allowing firearm confiscation–from people who might be violent, even if they otherwise have no criminal record.

So far, I have yet to hear anyone–not on the news, not in either political party–take notice of a large elephant in the room: Nihilism.

Let’s get a few things straight:

  • While many “mass shooters” indeed have mental problems–the Sandy Hook and Aurora shooters are perfect case studies–mental illness is not what drove them to kill people. People who are depressed, bipolar, and even schizophrenic function without slaughtering people. When you flip that switch to plan and execute a mass assault, it is not mental illness, but rather a character issue.
  • As abhorrent as racism and white supremacism are, such views alone do not move a person to walk into a store and mow people down. Does such a person have an ideological motive? Sometimes. But killing innocent people at a store or a festival or a concert usually requires more than just a lower view of another race of people.
  • Economics has nothing to do with this. Mass shooters tend to be middle-class.

And here’s the thing: look at the largest mass shootings–Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas (MSD), Santa Fe, El Paso, Sutherland Springs, Orlando, San Bernardino, Dayton, Pittsburgh (Tree of Life), Wisconsin (Sikh temple)–and you will find a common thread.

It’s not ideology. Two (San Bernardino, Orlando) were Islamist; two were death worshipers with Nazi leanings (Columbine); four were white supremacists (El Paso, Charleston, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh); one was hard-left/Antifa (Dayton); two were mental cases (Sandy Hook, Aurora); two were alleged bullying victims (Santa Fe, MSD).

Nor is it mental illness, as every mass shooter was not mentally ill.

Here’s the commonality: Every single one of them has/had a Nihilistic outlook on life.

What is Nihilism? To put it simply: it’s a line of thought that rejects the premise that life, or anything about life, has meaning. In the mind of a Nihilist, there is no objective morality.

While there are philosophers–most notably Nietzsche–who develop this framework, one does not have to study philosophy to be a nihilist; one only has to reach the conclusion in one’s own mind that life has no meaning and that there is no objective morality.

Can one suffer mental illness and reach that conclusion? Yes. But depression is not a new phenomenon; some of the best people in the Bible suffered from depresssion. No, Nihilism seems to be an epidemic among younger folks.

A friend of mine, a longtime therapist who has counseled mental health patients and trauma survivors for years and who is opposite of me on gun control, puts it this way: “Mentally-ill people barely overcome themselves; to say mass shootings are a mental illness issue ignores the real problem.” He and I don’t agree on the problem–he says it’s the guns–but we agree that it isn’t a mental health issue.

Can one suffer other traumas and flip the Nihilism switch? Yes. But trauma alone doesn’t explain the growth of Nihilism among the general population. Otherwise, our country would have been a big free-fire zone at the end of the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

No, what we are seeing today is a completely different animal.

Even worse, I don’t think there are easy, pat answers to this. I realize that many Christians will point out: “we’ve taken God out of classrooms”, “we’ve rejected God as a society”–and they’ll point to abortion, gay marriage, the whole LGBTQIAWTH brouhaha as examples. And while that may be part of the answer, I don’t think this completely explains the problem.

I would submit that it comes from a number of factors:

  1. Societal trends have taken a large number of people away from meaningful relationships, including with the opposite sex. This includes social media, porn, community structures, and even the degradation of the nuclear family to name a few. As a result, an increasing number of men are growing up to be “incels”: men who are smitten with profound hatred and anger toward women, as they lack even the most basic social skills necessary to have even platonic relationships–let alone any romantic relationships–with women.
  2. The Church is losing her standing in society due to a mountain of scandals and other “own goals”.
  3. As the Church has lost ground in society, other elements have risen to fill the moral void.

Over the last 20 years, America has seen the growth in the “nones”: those identifying as atheists, agnostics, or otherwise having no religious affiliation. As the Church has declined, those identifying with the Head of that Church have declined as well.

No, I’m not suggesting that all mass shooters are atheists–although many of them are.

I am suggesting that in a society in which Atheism and agnosticism are more popular, some of the tangential ideas that come with those outlooks–among them the premise that life, and elements of life, have no meaning–also become increasingly popular.

And no, I am not suggesting that all Nihilists are going to become mass shooters; most, in fact, do not.

I am suggesting, however, that if I have a Nihilistic outlook, then it’s a lot easier for me to rationalize going there. And on the margins, that is exactly what is happening.

How do we fix this problem? There are no pat answers.

I can tell you that it’s not simply about “getting God back into schools”. God isn’t worshiped in most Christian homes. Posting the Ten Commandments on a school wall isn’t going to solve this issue.

How many Christian families read the Bible at home? How many pray with their kids? How many parents teach Biblical principles without making it the death of a thousand dogmas? How many live out their faith with minimal hypocrisy?

I can also tell you that it’s not just a matter of getting more conservative theology in the churches. The evangelical world is largely conservative in her theological outlook. The availability of solid Biblical study information for every American–including Bibles of every translation imaginable, Greek and Hebrew study guides, theological commentary, apologetics resources, Church history, all for free via the Internet–is unprecedented in history.

None of those things can account for a Church stained–in Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical sectors alike–with terrible scandals that span all levels of Church life from the local church body to the highest offices. In a world desperate for a meaning to life, the Church could not be weakened at a worse time.

While the SBC and other conservative sectors have declared Complementarianism as the hill to die on–even as their denomination drowns in sex abuse/coverup scandals–they miss out on a chance to provide a real answer to much larger problems in this world. Youth ministers are often shallow in their Christian walk, lacking the depth to provide substantive answers to teens who search for answers. Single adults are largely ignored by the Church, offering no hope to the incel who will never see the love in the Body of Christ, therefore never appreciating the meaning of that Ironman triathlon known as life.

The liberal denominations are busy offering the world a watered-down version of itself, conservatives are offering a robust theology soiled with abuses by wolves, who in turn get their cover from the masses.

Meanwhile, a significant subset of younger adults are deciding that life has no meaning, joining the ranks of the Nihilists. And while 99% of them are otherwise harmless, that one percent is flipping the mother of all switches.

At this trajectory, we are well on our way toward the breakup of our nation.

Joshua Harris Kisses Jesus Goodbye

It would be a major understatement to say that Joshua Harris has had quite the rise, and fall, in the Christian world.

As an otherwise intelligent, but untested, young man, he rocketed to the forefront of the evangelical world with his landmark book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In it, he made several controversial propositions:

  • Dating–in which relationships are often temporary–only conditions people for marriages that break up, contributing to the divorce culture;
  • Dating also contributes to more sexual immorality;
  • Courtship is the prefered model.

The book would become a best-seller; it would make Harris a proverbial rock star: he would go on to serve as a pastor under the wing of C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church. As a high-profile megachurch figure with two bestselling books, he was one of the “go-to” men in the evangelical world. Even though he got where he was, not on the basis of having fought the good fight and having kept the faith, but rather on the basis of a bestselling book that promoted an unproven thesis without Biblical veracity. The book would become the field manual for the Purity Culture.

At Covenant Life Church, Harris became both a victim of, and a perpetrator in, one of the most abusive church settings in the history of American evangelicalism. While former Boundless editor Ted Slater, a friend of ours, contends that his experiences at CLC were very good, it is also demonstrably true that Mahaney and Harris–and the others in their circle–left a trail of victims that extends miles. The overbearing, micromanagy church discipline model, the sexual abuses by staffers–and ensuing coverups–those are a matter of record, and Harris continues to be mum about his own culpability in that.

In 2014, in the wake of the fallout over the sexual abuse scandal and resultant lawsuit–which was dismissed due to Statute of Limitations and not merits–Harris ultimately resigned from CLC and subsequently decided to attend seminary.

(Having spent some time at seminary myself, this set off some red flags for me, as that signaled to me that Harris was “trying to find himself”. I saw a fair share of these types at SBTS: they go to seminary expecting to find the answer to some internal conflict they are having. I do not recall one instance where that ended well. In fact, when I was there, there was one suicide.)

From there, he began to question the basis of IKDG in light of the trail of damage it caused. On one hand, the developments seemed positive–he finally repudiated the very book that made him a rock star. OTOH, he still did not come clean about his role in the abusive system at CLC, particularly the coverups of sexual abuse and the overbearing system of church government.

Then, a little over a week ago, he Instagrammed a message that he is separating from his wife. Any time a major evangelical figure has a marital failure, it’s a very big deal. In Harris’ case, it is far, far worse: he became a mega-star in the evangelical world for promoting a formula as a key to strong marriages that last. And his was failing.

Most in my circle were concerned that this was the prelude to the next chapter in his life: I Kissed Jesus Goodbye.

And sure enough, on Friday, Harris announced exactly that. In his announcement, he also specifically apologized to the LGBT movement. (Yes, there is an elephant in the room.)

At Wartburg Watch, Dee has expressed considerable skepticism about Harris’ stated “deconstruction”, and I agree with her for exactly those reasons.

Here’s my take, and I think Dee is absolutely correct: Joshua Harris’s “deconstruction” is, at least in part, a cowardly attempt to shirk his responsibility for his role at Sovereign Grace, which was was a cog in the abusive machine that is NeoCalvinism. It’s not just CLC and Sovereign Grace; it’s 9Marxism, it’s in many Acts 29 sectors, it’s various SBC churches, it’s a model of church government that micromanages peoples’ lives; attracts and encourages ministers who are narcissistic and Machiavellian, promoting them as models for leadership; promotes a good-old-boys network by which the key leaders travel to conferences, get paid lots of money, promote each others’ books, and market their brands; all while ignoring–even covering up–flagrant abuses at their churches.

Here’s my hot take: many of these “preachers” aren’t even Christians. And if you think Joshua Harris is a one-off, you’d be mistaken. There are thousands of Joshua Harris types in the evangelical world. He is the tip of the iceberg.

Those who know me or have casually followed my blog, know that I don’t like to throw the “false teacher” tag around very often, as I’m a big-tent Biblical conservative. There are many pastors and ministers who are concerning to me, but I don’t throw the “wolf” tag at them, as I prefer to let them out themselves. Many in the discernment blogging community suffer from the hammer-nail syndrome: when you’re a hammer, everything is a nail. For many of them, if you’re off on one little micro-detail in the Bible–not a young earth creationist, not a five-point Calvinist, etc.–you’re a heretic. I don’t waste my time throwing such invective around. If you affirm the basics–a high view of Biblical authority, the Deity of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary Atonement, the bodily Resurrection, the Second Coming–you’re inside the realm of sound doctrine.

On the other hand, being a peddler of false doctrine is not the only qualification for being a false teacher. It’s easy enough to target the Joel Osteens and the Benny Hinns and the Creflo Dollar types, but let’s be honest here: you can preach exceptionally on Sundays and Wednesdays and still be a wolf. And if you think Prosperity Theology is just about material riches, you’d be mistaken.

I would contend that modern evangelicalism promotes its own brand of Prosperity Theology. The type of pastor they seek to develop and promote–from Bible Schools to seminaries to churches–is more akin to a business executive than a shepherd. One of my pastor friends, speaking of Harris, said, “everyone around him said ‘he’s a natural at expositing Biblical text.'”

My response: Biblical exposition is not brain surgery. Fact is, I can take someone of good intelligence and oratory skills, teach him how to study the Bible, show him some good commentaries and resources, and–with some practice–he can exposit well enough to preach. And he can do this while not even being a believer. This is because exposition is something we can objectively teach. What we cannot impart, however, is a relationship with God.

I can teach you the fundamentals of Biblical exposition; I cannot make you like Abraham, who made time to offer sacrifices of thanks to God, or returned to Bethel to seek God after a big failure, never giving up even as it took 25 years from the time of his calling from God until–at 100 years of age–his promised son was born.

I can teach you how to navigate the Old Testament, especially how to read it in light of Jesus–that is a lost art among modern evangelicals. I cannot make you like Moses or Elijah–who loved God. I cannot make you like Peter, who fell on his keister and failed often, but would go on to be the lead Apostle. I cannot make you like Paul, who–before God knocked him on his butt on the way to Damascus–was a major persecutor of Christians, who went on to become one of the greatest Apostles. Peter and Paul loved Jesus and were devoted to the well-being of His sheep. They were about Jesus; the “system”–in this case doctrine–was a something they preached from their love of Jesus; it was not a business model.

The problem is this: what if I am seeking to develop teachers, and I am fixated on developing qualities that are indicative of charisma and academics, while not cultivating the shepherdlike qualities that you see in Jesus and the Apostles from Acts through Revelation? The end-result: you get leaders who are more likely to take sexual advantage of parishioners, leaders who are more likely to be heavy-handed and micromanagy, leaders who can teach with great charisma who do not get along with people, leaders who do not love their wives or their children. They may be able to, like a competent sports coach, talk a great game about Xs and Os, but their character is majorly lacking because they are either immature believers or not believers at all!

Make no mistake: Big Evangelical gave us Joshua Harris!

He was raised in a system–homeschooled in a system, churched in a system, became famous by promoting his own system, learned how to preach and promote a system.

That’s not to say that all such systems are bad. Any educational regimen–homeschool, private school, church community, even public school–has to rely on a “system” at some level. Every church community has its own “system” that defines their bent or flavor; all of those are not evil, some in fact are very good.

The problem is, the Christian life is not about knowing a system, even if the system is good. Knowing and loving the system is not the same as knowing and loving God, whom your system articulates with eyes through which we will always see darkly on this side of eternity.

Still, when your system is attracting, developing, and rewarding ministers who are charismatic marketers who turn out to be scandal-ridden, then it is long past time to revisit the very system that is producing such ministers.

As for Joshua Harris, it is my hope he will spend some time with Satan so that his flesh will be destroyed and–ultimately–he may be saved. I hope that his ensuing years are times of utter misery, and that God bashes him upside the head with the almighty Louisville Slugger and brings him to his senses.


Update:

The Southern Baptist Convention Has An Existential Crisis

There is no pretty way to spin this.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting a damning collection of abuses that implicate Southern Baptists at every level of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The abuses and coverups include volunteers, deacons, youth and children’s ministers, music ministers, pastors, missionaries, even foundational leaders in the SBC. Most of us who have been following these things are not surprised. And trust me, this is not even the tip of the iceberg.

The abuse/coverup culture precedes even the Conservative Era (1980-present), but it has snowballed during the Conservative Era. There are many factors that have led to this disaster.

(1) The Conservative Resurgence–in which many moderates and liberals were run out of key SBC seminaries and institutions and replaced with Fundamentalists and Calvinists–fostered an institutional arrogance.

What do I mean by that? Here is the story you will hear:

The SBC was hijacked by liberals who believed that the Bible was full of errors. Those liberals dominated the seminaries and Bible schools and fostered a culture that was dead: they didn’t really believe the Bible, and this reflected dead preaching and teaching, and that caused the SBC to descend into the same liberalism that has destroyed mainline Protestants.

The conservatives–led by a grassroots movement of faithful Baptists and the organization of conservative preachers and activists such as Charles Stanley, C.W. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler, and Paige Patterson–saved the SBC from the onslaught of liberalism.

When it came to scandals, the conservatives never confronted the institutional culture that existed before; they just replaced a left-leaning structure with a right-leaning one, only with arrogance to boot.

Why do I say arrogance? The conservatives developed an “It can’t happen here” mindset.

Even worse, if a pastor or other worker DID sleep with a parishioner, it was treated merely as a “sexual indiscretion” rather than an abuse of power. (The liberals treated it that way, too. That’s how they addressed it at SBTS when I was there.) As a result, if a pastor had an affair, he was often allowed to quietly resign, move on to another church, and set up shop after a season of being under the radar.

What if a father rapes his daughter and she tells the church about it? They rally around him but show her the door. Ask me how I know.

What about the children’s worker who fondles a kid, and that kid reports it? The church tells the family “we’re taking the situation seriously”, lets the worker quietly leave and go on to another church, then he resumes his abuses. Ask me how I know.

When high-profile ministers cover up abuse in their churches, SBC leaders–who were financially-beholden to such churches–failed to confront those ministers.

Paul confronted Peter–“to his face”–over lesser offenses, but SBTS President Al Mohler could not find it in him to confront C.J. Mahaney over his coverup of at least one child abuser at Covenant Life Church.

(2) A culture that values and rewards charisma over character and competence, allowed a critical mass of narcissistic, sociopathic, Machiavellian personalities into the ranks of ministers, and then rewarded them based on metrics that are functions of charisma.

If you have winsome charisma and can regurgitate conservatism–and even better, do it with NeoCalvinist spin–you’ll go places in the SBC.

You have to make sure that you champion the hot products from LifeWay, preach inviting sermons that have enough conservatism to wow the masses but so soft that you step on no one’s toes. But if you play the game, you go far.

If you provide the requisite “fruits of your ministry”–growing membership, new baptisms, and, yes, more dollars going into the Cooperative Program–you receive great recognition. And as you get to know the right people, and say the right things at the right meetings, you get key appointments to the appropriate committees.

(3) A culture that throws victims under the bus to protect the institution.

This did not begin with the conservatives–truth be told, it’s a longstanding problem that goes back to the very foundation of the SBC–but it has snowballed on the watch of the conservatives.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler and his protege Russell Moore are a major part of the problem. Why? They are years late and millions of dollars short, as they sat for decades on this issue. For decades, they failed to call out key leaders, they have failed to demand change where doing so would have yielded better policies.

For his part, Mohler has begun to repudiate his longtime support of C.J. Mahaney, whose Sovereign Grace Church is now in Lousiville and who has given The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary $200,000. Perhaps that will lead the way for other Big Evangelical names to start distancing themselves from Mahaney, whose heavy-handed leadership, probable coverup of several sexual abusers, and systematic attacks on all who questioned him, ought to permanently disqualify him from ministry.

And make no mistake: the abuses and coverups extend from local churches to particular arms of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Former missionary Mark Aderholt, who is on trial for his abuses of 16-year-old Anne Marie Miller while he was a 25-year-old youth minister and seminary student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, went on to a distinguished career with the International Mission Board (IMB).

When Miller reported the matter to the IMB, their own investigation concluded that the abuses “likely happened” and that Aderholt was not truthful with them about it. What did they do? They allowed him to resign. Did they report the matter to authorities? No. Did they inform the next church he went to? No. Did they inform the South Carolina Baptist Convention, where he became a strategist? No.

(And don’t start here with the argument that the whole thing was consensual. He was 25; she was 16. Irrespective of what you think her issues were at the time, the fact remains it was on him to be the adult. If he wanted to eventually marry her, he could have steered her in the proper direction and exercised propriety. Moreover, given that he was in training for MINISTRY, it was incumbent on him to do the right thing.)

The SBC also has a storied history of saying they will look into this issue, but not doing it. Their fallback is always “but muh church autonomy!”

Fact is, if FBC Timbuktu ordained an LGBT pastor or deacon today, the SBC would move Hell to ensure that FBC Timbuktu was disfellowshipped as soon as SBC 2019 opened session.

If the SBC wanted to confront the abuse culture, they’d do it. But to do so will mean stepping on toes that are connected to very large amounts of money. It means that popular leaders–with big radio presences, book deals, and academic credentials–will have to face censure if not complete repudiation.

It will also require a total cultural transformation: from a culture of theological arrogance where predators operate under the radar to a vigilant, humble culture where victims are welcome and predators are not.

That is a tall order for the SBC. It is probably not the battle that new President J.D. Greear was hoping to fight. But this is every bit as serious as any fight that the SBC has faced in its history.

Greear had better be up to the call.

Abortion and Matt Chandler

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine from my seminary days–she leans a little left politically but is otherwise pro-life on abortion–posted this meme on her Facebook feed:

Yes, she is a friend of mine, and we had an otherwise collegial, low-key discussion about this matter offline. I did this to keep other FB friends of mine from turning this into a foodfight.

First: a few stipulations:

(1) Abortion is murder. Period. Abortion kills a living human being. You don’t like that? Calling me names won’t change that reality, as I didn’t create it.

(2) Abortion, in spite of being a great evil, is sold in America with the best New York ad agency sloganeering and political posturing. For a woman in a crisis pregnancy, it is easy to see how appealing it can be.

(3) Abortion, like other sins, is very forgivable. And, contrary to what you might think intuitively, the pro-life crowd is a very merciful and graceful lot with women who seek mercy.

(If you have had an abortion, you will have a harder time showing yourself mercy than you will have finding it in the pro-life movement.)

Still, the Chandler quote sticks in my craw. And here’s why.

First of all, abortion has been legal in all 50 states, for the full 9 months of pregnancy, for 46 years.

(And yes, before you start saying, “THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY SAID IN ROE!”, just hold your pants on and read: abortion IS legal for the full nine months when you consider the ramifications of the Roe v. Wade decision AND its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which SCOTUS ruled on at the same time on 22 January 1973.)

Because abortion is both legal and government-funded, Americans have killed about 60 million babies since 1973.

So let me ask you, Mr. Chandler: how high does the death toll have to be before we pass a law banning in utero infanticide?

Before we have any discussion about what pro-life is, and is not, on this issue, I’m going to lay the card on the table.

IF YOU BELIEVE ABORTION SHOULD GENERALLY BE LEGAL, YOU ARE NOT PRO-LIFE.

You think I’m being mean?

Think about it this way. if you believe that rape–which goes on nearly unabated in spite of laws against it–should be legal, we would rightly say you are NOT pro-woman, even if you otherwise support a myriad of rape prevention efforts.

Moreover, if you believe that child abuse should be legal, we would rightly say that you are not pro-child even if you otherwise support programs to prevent child abuse.

And consider our former national atrocity that was slavery. Those who supported slavery could not be reasonably considered abolitionists.

But back to Chandler’s quote.

On one hand, I’m all for the Church showing more compassion to women in crisis pregnancies, with couples stepping up to the plate to adopt and/or provide foster care.

At the same time, I can also tell you that, having been through training for foster parentage, and having spent two-and-a-half years on an adoption waiting list before we got picked and Abigail made her grand entry, Christians make up the overwhelming majority of adoptive and foster parents.

While we can reasonably argue that we need the Church to do more, it is also fair to say that Christians are hardly inactive on this front.

Perhaps if the Church spent more resources taking care of widows and orphans and less on high pastor salaries and building new churches in areas that are already inundated with them, you’d see more foster children receiving compassion.

The problem I have with Chandler here is that his statement is often used as a subtle form of blame-shifting for abortion, as well as a code-term used by people who wish to keep abortion legal. It fosters the “if only the Church reached out the right way, women wouldn’t murder their babies” mindset.

In point of fact, the waiting lines for adoption typically exceed 3 years. At Catholic Charities, the venue through which we adopted Abigail, the average wait is 3 years. (And they ONLY deal with infertile couples.) For many agencies, the average wait is about FIVE years.

There are at least two adoptive couples for every baby murdered in the womb in America. And most of those couples are Christians.

And while we are on the subject of abortion, I am going to make some hard statements here. Most of you aren’t going to like this, but I’m going to say it anyway.

(1) The death toll from abortion is proof that neither sex has a monopoly on evil. While we can all point to examples of “toxic masculinity”, the fact remains that toxic femininity is every bit as serious, even if pastors are scared to death of pointing to the elephant in the room that is standing on the blood of 60+million babies.

(2) Just as we rightly blame rape on rapists, it is fair to blame abortion on (a) those who make the decision to abort and (b) those who carry out the act. Yes, there are some women for whom the abortion decision is made FOR them–ask me how I know this. Those, however, are totally in the minority.

My point here?

Yes, let’s extend the best compassion that the Church can offer for single mothers, foster children, orphans, and widows.

Yes, let’s extend the mercy and grace of Jesus to those who, for whatever reason, have blood on their hands due to their participation in the atrocity that is abortion.

Still, we must continue to call abortion for the evil that it is, and demand that our legal system right this terrible wrong by ending its sanction of the practice.

If you aren’t for that, then you aren’t pro-life. Period.