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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the time, Roe appeared to be in trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s exactly what happened.

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

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

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

Elections have consequences.

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

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

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

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

I’ll say it again: elections have consequences.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided that #NeverTrump == #HillaryWins.

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

Again, elections have consequences.

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

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

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


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


But let’s assume we get Barrett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If that happens, mark my words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoever sheds man’s blood,

By man his blood shall be shed,

For in the image of God

He made man.

Genesis 9:6

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

The principle: homicide always carries a price.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think long and hard about what happened to Russia.

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

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

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

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

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

Ravi Zacharias: The Incontrovertible Fraud

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

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

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

Except the Narrative was total crap.

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

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

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

And very few will hold him accountable for it.

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

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

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

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

But last week, something changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

Pro-Life: Adjusting My Focus to Be More Congruent With My Views

First, some opening clarifications:

(1) My position on abortion remains unchanged: I support a full reversal of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. I oppose abortion except for cases of danger to the woman’s life.

(2) Supporting the continued legalization of abortion is not a pro-life position. (After all, even though laws prohibiting rape do little to stop its occurrence–and even though we do a crummy job pursuing such cases–we would not consider the de-criminalization of rape to be “pro-woman”.)

(3) All parties in the abortion–unless the one receiving the abortion is under coercion (which happens: ask me how I know)–are culpable. That goes for the “physicians” and “nurses” who perform them (to whom I assign majority blame), the woman who consents to have that done to her, and the sperm-donating jackwad who passive-aggressively (or in some cases just plain aggressively) pushes for the abortion.

(4) While I do consider the woman proportionately culpable, I do empathize with her on several levels:

  • She is under great pressure to go this route by an abortion-industrial complex that markets the practice with great expertise.
  • She often gets little or no support from her boyfriend (in some cases husband). Sometimes, the latter will put great pressure on her to do this.

But that does beg the questions:

(1) How do I view women who have had abortions?

(2) What do I believe society needs to do to parties complicit in abortions in the event that Roe and Doe are overturned and abortion becomes criminalized?

What necessitates this post? In an ongoing dialogue I’ve had with a very good friend of mine, it’s gone sort of like this:

Her: If Abigail got pregnant unexpectedly, out of wedlock – have you considered how you would respond?

Me: That’s a grandbaby, even if it’s not the ideal way I would have hoped.

Her: What if she chose to abort?

Me: I’d be heartbroken.

Her: She would be, too.

(No, I will not let you pound on her. She is a friend of mine, and is pro-life.)

On the other hand, from time to time I review my prior posts on certain topics. And upon reviewing my pro-life-related posts, quite frankly, I’m disturbed at some of my own commentary.

First off, I’m going to tell you a bit about my journey in the pro-life cause, as it is atypical for a guy.

Let me explain…


I’ve been pro-life ever since I knew what abortion was. It always seemed a no-brainer to me. It was like, “Duh…everyone knows that’s a baby!”

As a teen, I often listened to preachers on the radio who reflected my views. And from everything I saw in Scripture, there was no case for a contrarian view. So I was always a pro-life supporter on this matter.

But when did I enlist in the pro-life cause?

That came in my final semester at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I was a member at FBC Daytona Beach. The wife of my Sunday School teacher–NM–gave her testimony one January morning. She’d had two abortions, the first being in 1973.

NM described her lifestyle at the time, and also the way abortion was sold to her, although she did not minimize her own guilt. Her testimony was that of someone truly broken over what she had done. I felt awful for her. I remember walking up to NM and giving her a hug after class.

She wanted folks on her side. I was already there–as my politics were always pro-life–but NM had recruited me to The Cause.

After I graduated, I became involved in The Cause on several fronts: I was a chapter president of Right to Life; I became a speaking director for a maternity home; and I got recruited–by a woman who’d had a prior abortion–to be a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. (Back then, they let men do that.)

So for 3 years, I wore all 3 hats, but most of my work involved counseling clients at the CPC. During that time, I was the most active volunteer: I had about 500 clients. Most of them were just there for the free pregnancy test and the WIC/Medicaid/IPO referrals, some were abortion-minded, and–yes–some were post-abortive.

How did I treat the latter?

Well…I didn’t give them hugs, but that was only because I was in a counselor role. But I did empathize.

Having studied as much as I could on the subject–and having been mentored by a counselor who was herself post-abortive–I handled those cases with grace that was not simply trained, but also heartfelt. I felt for them the way I felt for NM.

During my time at that crisis pregnancy center, one of my teammates–TC–befriended me. She was post-abortive. We often counseled clients as a team–we were usually on the same shift–with her in the room with me. TC and I were BFFs. She was married, and her marriage was rocky: he was abusive, and she sometimes took it out on me at the CPC (sometimes to the concern of other volunteers). But we always walked away friends (to the surprise of those same concerned volunteers). When I moved to start my seminary studies, TC wept.

In my 3 years, a grand total of zero of my post-abortive clients said they’d do it again. One of them–my favorite client ever–summing up her sentiments on the issue, put it succinctly: “Oh fuck no!”

In my professional life, I’ve met only one person who is happy about her prior abortion, and she’s an atheist.

What I’m getting at: while I have always been pro-life in my worldview, my enlistment in The Cause–and the bulk of my work in The Cause–was driven by empathy for post-abortive women. Heck, they were the ones who recruited me!

How do I view post-abortive women from a theological standpoint?

Do I view them as murderers? Do I view them as victims? Do I view them as proportionately culpable in a murder?

The long answer:

(1) some of them are indeed full-on murderers;

(2) most of them are partial victims to a government-murder complex that markets what amounts to murder with the greatest New York sloganeering;

(3) most of them are proportionately culpable to some extent.

I put the majority blame on the government-industrial complex (which includes “physicians” and “nurses” who perform abortions) for making this hideous act appealing and easy.

May that entire complex rot in Hell.

I also put proportional culpability on most of the men involved in the pregnancies.

Of the men: some are innocent–the women abort against the wishes of the fathers (ask me how I know this)–but let’s be honest here: if you’re a man and you want the easy sex and you don’t care about anything but getting your own pleasure in life, then abortion is the mother of all “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. And many men have called in that card.

Hear this: if you are a man who got a woman pregnant and you actively–or passively by neglect–pushed her in that direction, then you also have proportional culpability.

And yes, I do believe that the woman receiving the abortion–unless she is under coercion–has proportional culpability. There is no pretty way to spin that.

(What complicates all of this? Keep in mind that with most forms of murder, we tend to legislate and punish it. But with abortion, government actually subsidizes the practice and even its marketing. So I would not put all post-abortive women and the men in, say, the same league with convicted first-degree murderers. There is a world of difference.)

How do I believe this should be handled legally? Like I said: let states handle this status quo ante; i.e., enforce it the way we did prior to Roe v. Wade. Some states will let it go on unabated; other states will have tighter restrictions.

Before Roe, states weren’t investigating miscarriages and in fact prosecuted illegal abortionists as they surfaced. I’m for doing that. I’m also for educating women and men regarding the responsibilities that come with sex.

Now how do I view post-abortive women from a personal or theological standpoint?

I’ll just state it up front: if you’re post-abortive and tell me, you’re more likely to get a hug from me than you are to get any form of condemnation.

I’m all for God’s grace and forgiveness, and I believe the Church ought to be a fountain for said grace. From the time in 1990 when I listened to NM until now, that has been and remains my view.

If you have any heart for the things of God and have an abortion–and yes, women will do this, just as King David did with Uriah–then the guilt is going to be crushing as all get-out, and you probably are going to need counseling, probably from a real therapist.

David lamented in Psalm 51: “my sin is ever before me.” Even as God took his sin away, he was a broken man. His conduct for the duration of his life reflects that.

As a member of that Body, I see it as my responsibility to be a conduit for that grace.

On the other hand, I can look at my prior commentary on this matter and conclude that I fell way short of the glory in that department.

In closing, I apologize for many of my prior comments on this issue and other issues. My motives were knee-jerk anger and I make no excuse for it. I accept that I did not extend grace as I should have.

I considered taking my blog down completely, but decided against it.

Why will I keep it up?

I will let the record show what I was then and am today: good, bad, and ugly (hopefully not in that order), but hopefully increasingly refined in God’s proverbial crucible.

#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’.

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.

Another High-Profile Leader Abandons Christian Faith

A couple weeks ago, Joshua Harris, author of the infamous book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and former senior pastor at Sovereign Grace Ministries flagship Covenant Life Church, left his wife, renounced Christianity, and is now participating in gay pride marches.

This week, former Hillsong worship leader and songwriter Marty Sampson has announced that he is on shaky ground, citing issues with longstanding theological dilemmas.

The responses to each have been somewhat predictable. Harris has received everything from empathy and prayers, to outright condemnation. (Over here: I empathize with his departure from the cult of Sovereign Grace while calling him to account for his coverups of sexual abuse during his tour of duty at CLC.)

Sampson, however, struck a cord like no one else. Christian recording artist John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, dropped a long-needed hammer on the issue.

Cooper is making a point I’ve made over here several times: we need to stop elevating young Christians into positions of leadership.

Fact is, a young adult, no matter how intelligent, has not yet proven himself. Let him go to college or trade school, get a real job working long hours. Let him get married if he is inclined to that, and live that out for at least 10 years. Let him establish a track record of living the Christian life in the midst of hard seasons of life–career, marriage, children, or extended singleness if he doesn’t marry–and THEN maybe go to Bible school and/or seminary. Get some maturity in the faith before going the pastor route.

I found that, in my years coming out of college, I was well-liked by a pastor in no small part because I was a good public speaker. While that is not a bad thing to have if you’re going to be a preacher, it ought not be the be-all/end-all, as charisma is not character. Back then, I had some decent grounding on the fundamentals, but I still didn’t have enough grounding to be a pastor. I was a quick study, but–even as a straight-A student at SBTS in my mid-20s–I would not have considered myself qualified for that.

What prepared me as a teacher?

Was it seminary? Was it sitting under other preachers? Was it listening to great preachers on the radio?

Answer: None of the above.

Seminary was good in that I got exposure to some methodologies that top scholars use. That is helpful, as there will always be people who ask questions from those angles. Still, that does not prepare you to be a teacher. And none of the preachers I had were particularly solid teachers. Nor did I listen to popular preachers, as I have never been a fan of the celebrity preacher circuit.

So what prepared me?

  • In 1993, I bought an International Inductive Study Bible, promoted by Precept Ministries. I delved immediately in the inductive study method. The big picture clicked like nothing else. In the process, I learned to appreciate both the forest and the trees. (Yes, there is a punch line there….) I also wrote my own notes rather than reading the notes from other “study Bibles” that do your thinking for you.
  • As I studied the Scriptures, I gained a great appreciation for the life struggles chronicled by the wisdom writers and the prophets. Prosperity Theology is crap, and the corpus of Scripture tells us as much.
  • I gained a great appreciation for the presence of Jesus, even in the Old Testament. Reading the OT Christologically is a lost art among evangelicals.
  • I never stopped studying. Even though I sometimes consulted commentaries–seminary required that–I rarely use them except for comparison purposes.
  • I learned, from my college days, to always keep one foot on the ground. There will always be popular fads and popular preachers and teachers in the evangelical world. Big Evangelical is a vast marketing enterprise that has a huge amount of influence. But Church history did not begin with modern evangelicalism…
  • As I lived life, I fell down more times than I care to count. And I got back up every time.

Sometimes those falls were due to other people’s acts against me, sometimes they were my own sins, other times they were just bad things that happen in life that are no one’s fault. And yes, failure can be demoralizing. When you get your legs knocked out from under you every time you get moving, life can be very frustrating. When other believers treat you like crap because you aren’t like they are, it can get unnerving. Those of us who are/were long-term singles know that drill.

But life is more akin to an Ironman triathlon: it is long, and–while there are often times of triumph and euphoria–there will always be a suck factor.

Still, you keep swimming, you keep pedaling, you keep running or walking. You may stop to get water or electrolytes or carbs. You may stop to poop or pee.

But you never quit.

And the closer you get to the finish, you get encouraged, even amidst the mounting pain, even as you feel the pale dread of hitting the wall. Even as the pain and the dread hurt, you begin to see the endgame.

With very few exceptions, a young adult–no matter how intelligent–knows NOTHING of this. No, I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to take up endurance sports; I am saying that, to be an effective Christian leader, you need to have experience enduring–that’s what the Greek word for abide means–in Jesus.

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: