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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what are some of the toxic evangelical teachings?

Toxic Teaching 1: “Obligation Sex”

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 7:3-6

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:25-30

That same Paul also writes,

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

Philippians 2:3-8

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

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

Mark 9:34-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Teaching 2: The 72-Hour Rule

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

In reality, the Scriptures make no such command.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Don’t BOW in public,

(2) Stay off the AIR,

(3) Confess to no CRIMES,

(4) Do not KISS them goodbye,

(5) UNITY over SELF.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vice Admiral James Stockdale (USNR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ravi Zacharias: Image Repair Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time, Christianity Today covered the spa story.

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

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

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

There is no pretty way to spin this.

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

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

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

No one was listening.

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

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

All of their lives matter.

SCOTUS, 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.

Random Thoughts on COVID-19

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

Why did I not initially think this would materialize here?

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

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

Him: “Are you ready for this coronavirus?”

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

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

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

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

Me: “Is this by design?”

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

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

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

She advised me to do exactly that.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Those two statements can be true at the same time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I think should have happened?

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

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

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

As for churches and other places of worship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not hopeful for the short-term.

A Time of Reckoning for Ravi Zacharias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1: Blood

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

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

Why do I believe Shirley’s story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2: Academic Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3: Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

I would have zero explaining to do to my wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Intro: What Is Image Repair Theory?

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

Image Repair is part of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ChurchToo: Complementarianism and Patriarchy In Crisis, Part 1

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

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

First, some disclaimers:

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

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

#CHURCHTOO IS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON THE MEN

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

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

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

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

But it almost NEVER does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The latter is what I find bothersome.

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

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

Now here’s the thing: LEADERSHIP carries RESPONSIBILITY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just the beginning. More to come…

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’.