Be Careful of the Bad-Mouthing Woman

My sister is in one of those situations at work where three women have combined forces to torture her. Well, there’s one ring- leader, who is new to her department this year, and she’s just evil. The other two are followers.

I was talking to my sweet niece, and her young adult heart was shocked because what they’re doing is bullying! “How can they get away with that?” she asked. I told her bullying is learned – kids learn it from their parents.

My sister will be moving to another department; it will all be good for her. As we talked about it last night, I mentioned that she can be glad she’s not related to any of them. Then she said, “The talk worse about their husbands!”

Folks, if she’s talking bad about people all the time, she’s talking bad about you, too. If she doesn’t have the strength to stand alone from people like this, distance yourself. It’s not bad to be a follower … after all, if everyone were leaders, there’d be no reason to lead. Just be careful of the woman who does not wisely discern whom she follows.

Just Give Cash

One of my girls’ teachers is getting married this summer, so I thought I’d go online and check out the wedding registry. I figured they’d be registered somewhere.

I searched and searched, but could not find anything. A further search, finding them on facebook, brought me to their Wedding Page … which has a link to Registry. And under Registry they shared that they’ve “been together” for many years and have all they need for setting up house … but, they’d really like to travel … so, would we please just give cash!

Sigh. Big sigh. Wow. Our culture has degraded the value of waiting until marriage to live together, and hopefully have sex, to the point where couples feel no inhibition asking for money in lieu of gifts … because they have everything they need … because they’ve been living together for several years.

Judgement in Progress?

While I am not a thrash metal fan, nor a fan of the group As I Lay Dying, it is notable that lead singer Tim Lambesis, a Liberty University alumnus and outspoken Christian***, is now a convict: busted for attempting to hire a hit man to kill his wife. He received 6 years.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken were divorcing after 13 years of marriage, due to an affair by Webb.

Moreover, the recent demises of Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips–two of the pioneers and key figures in homeschooling–have sent shock waves throughout many Christian homeschooling circles.

And if that were not bad enough, the sexual abuse convictions of Nathaniel Morales have blown the lid on a major evangelical group–Sovereign Grace Ministries–and impacted two key public figures in the “New Reform” movement: C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris. Other key figures–Tim Keller, John Piper, Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Don Carson–have come out in defense of Mahaney, and, given the veracity of what was established in open court in the Morales case, now have egg on their faces.

(The implication is that some of the most prominent Christian ministers have put themselves in grave danger of being on the side of those who covered up child sexual abuse.)

These cases are the tip of the iceberg in an evangelical landscape in which pastors are committing suicide, cheating on their wives, and even committing murder.

When the stories of sexual abuses–and coverups–by the Catholic Church broke, the impact was disastrous. Leaders in some of the largest archdioceses in America actively worked to cover up abuses by priests. The extent of the scandals was worldwide, impacting every continent. Whatever his other faults are, the current Pope is doing an admirable job cleaning up the mess.

Protestants, on the other hand, have no room to talk. From false doctrines prominent on TBN, to scandals throughout the “Christian music” industry, to pastors running off with their secretaries, to parachurch “leaders” engaging in sexual misdeeds, and pastors engaging in profound authoritarian overstretch that leads to cults and egregious abuses, the Church in the United States is becoming synonymous with scandals, false doctrines, and spiritual abuses of the worst order.

I’m not going to put words in God’s mouth here, nor do I claim to be a prophet.

But could it be that the Church is receiving judgement?

If so, the response should not be one of coverup, but rather one of contrition.

We all know what the world is all about. The problem is the Church is looking like the world. Same doctrines, same same scandals. Only with a Christian face.

Not a good place to be.

***Correction: As Ingemar pointed out, Lambesis is now admitting that he–and other members of his group–have been Atheists for a while, even as they acted the part as Christians in order to market themselves to that segment.

Horsey Hundred 2014: No Crashes, Tough Ride

Last year, I rode the Horsey Hundred, which is actually 104 miles. It was my first organized bike ride, not to mention my first “century” (100-mile) ride. Lots of folks thought I was crazy for trying it, but I finished in remarkably comfortable fashion.

This year, I decided to take the Kentucky Century Challenge. It’s a series of four centuries: the Red Bud Ride (April), the Horsey Hundred (May), the Preservation Pedal (June), and the Hub City Ride (September). Finishing all four carries a free cycling jersey. Finishing three gets you the jersey for $30.

The Red Bud Ride was otherwise uneventful except for my crash at mile 16. But I finished well, and managed to recover in time for the Horsey Hundred.

Like the Red Bud, the weather conditions were just about perfect. It was in the mid-50s at start time, and sunny. The high was projected to be in the upper 70s, and I knew that would make the back 50 somewhat challenging. I was right, but the real challenges came from an unexpected angle.

The first two stages were fairly short: barely 12 miles apiece. The course for those stages were relatively mild, with the worst part being the traffic stops. There were a lot of riders opting for the century route, so that made for a significant amount of congestion and long lines at the rest stops.

Still, the first two stages were brisk and uneventful.

The third stage–which is 27 miles long–is probably the second hardest of the stages, but only due to its length. The terrain, while hilly, isn’t overbearing.

Moreover, due to the heavy volume of riders, I made no effort to go fast. This was a ride to enjoy, so I was intent on taking my time. I pulled into the Millville stop at mile 51 feeling pretty good.

There was one problem, though: the rest stop was out of food! In other words, the riders in my cohort–and there were many–had just finished 27 miles, and had a very difficult, hilly 20-mile stage ahead, and they had no carb replacement other than Gatorade.

Let’s just say that there were some angry riders.

Still, I sucked it up, filled up my water bottles with Gatorade, made sure I had plenty to drink, and got going.

The 4th stage–what I call the “Clifton Stage” (named after one of the key roads) is very dangerous and very difficult. There are some really steep descents with L-turns at the bottom. (Last year, two riders got in a very bad accident.) At the bottom of the descent are some very long, steep ascents. Last year, I had to get off my bike and push it up the worst of the descents. My goal this year was not to do that.

I succeeded: I only dismounted from the bike to get a drink.

Still, the lack of food at mile 51 started catching up with me. I could feel myself hitting “the wall” at around mile 60-65. It wasn’t painful, but I could feel myself slowing down.

Pulling into the rest stop at mile 71, I knew that the worst was over. That was the good news.

The bad news: this rest stop was also out of food!!!

The next stop–at Keeneland (the horse race center)–was 17 miles away. In other words, I would go nearly 64 miles without food.

While only mildly difficult, I struggled at the Keeneland stage. I was clearly out of carbs. I had hit the wall. I was going to finish, but this was going to be more challenging than expected.

At Keeneland, they had a small amount of food left. I downed some bananas and some PBJ sandwiches. Also downed some Gatorade. 17 miles to go. There was 8.3 miles to the next stop, and then 8.3 flat miles to the finish.

The ride to the last stop was easier than I expected, now that I had carbs in my system. At the last stop–Bethel Presbyterian Church–there was plenty of food. Really nice, large cookies, powerbars, trail mix, root beer floats, orangutangs, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and

I passed on the root beer float, but had a cookie, some trail mix, and downed some Gatorade. 8.3 to go.

The remaining stage was fairly easy. Felt good, albeit tired. Soreness was minimal. In terms of time, it was one of my worst showings ever, but–admittedly–I had intentionally set out at a slow pace due to safety considerations. There was a high volume of riders throughout, and the descents were dangerous due to that high traffic.

At the end of the day, however, it was a nice finish. I wasn’t even sore on Sunday.

Next stop: Preservation Pedal, in just under 4 weeks. Will need to replace at least one of my tires, but I should otherwise be ready.

2 down, 2 to go.

The Gospel Coalition, Covenant Life Church, and the Limits of Loyalty

About 9 years ago, I was faced with a dilemma.

RW, a good friend of mine from church, was arrested and charged with child rape involving his granddaughters.

When I say he was a good friend, this is what I mean: we often frequented the gun range once a month. A former Marine, RW had taught me most of what I knew about how to shoot. I often hung out at his house on Sunday afternoons in between church services. His granddaughters were often there with us, and there was no indication that anything was wrong. I never saw anything suspicious. The granddaughters’ conduct appeared perfectly ordinary: they were goofy teens. They worked with me in AWANA, and we all got along well.

The arrest was, to put it mildly, a mother of a shocker. The year before his arrest, he had undergone a quadruple bypass and was still recovering from that. He had been unemployed and, not surprisingly, had been through bankruptcy. The church had taken up collections to help him, and he had few–if any–enemies in the church.

Needless to say, I was in between a rock and a very hard place, and challenged with the dilemma of what to do about this situation.

I had no idea if he was guilty or not. Like I said, I saw nothing remotely suspicious, so the charges were a lightning bolt out of nowhere.

I was also on very good terms with the granddaughters. I had no idea if they were telling the truth or lying. I knew this much, though: these types of accusations are very serious, and this is why we have a justice system.

While I wanted to think he was innocent, one thing really stuck out: after his arrest, I asked him very specific questions. I will not repeat those here, as I am not interested in this site being a haven for sexually-explicit conversations. He provided very evasive answers. That was a very red flag to me.

Within the church, we had people who wanted him burned at the stake. We also had people who swore to his innocence and insisted that the girls were lying through their teeth. I received a little static when I asked one of his defenders, “Did it occur to you that he could be guilty?”

My take: we needed to shut up and let the justice process work. I hoped he was innocent, but I also had a sinking feeling about this case. This is why we have a justice process. Everyone needed a day in court. These are the things for prosecutors and defenders and judges and juries to sort out. Well-established rules of evidence would be in play; RW would have a chance to cross-examine witnesses, provide witnesses of his own, challenge evidence, provide his own evidence, and make his case for the jury.

I was never called to testify by either side. His wife–after the fact–confessed to me that she had lied on the stand for RW.

Didn’t matter. The jury found him guilty of all counts–including at least one count of child pornography–and he got 20 years.

So what is my point in all of this? Yes, RW was my friend. We were shooting buddies. I was in his house almost every weekend. I WANTED the charges to be false.

At the same time, I knew–because of my observations of human nature–that it was entirely possible that he was guilty. I knew–definitively–that I did not want to be in a position of denying justice, or supporting those who wanted to deny justice, to abuse victims.

What drove my caution? A simple thought: Jesus/little ones/stumble/millstone.

I owed RW–and his granddaughters–a fair shake.

Contrast that with The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and a related group, Together for the Gospel (T4G), made up of high rollers in the Reformed/Evangelical community (Calvinist-leaning Southern and Reformed Baptists, as well as PCA Presbyterians and those in the Calvinist-leaning Sovereign Grace community). Their boards and councils include the likes of Al Mohler, Tim Keller, Don Carson, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Thabiti Anyabwhile, and–before the fallout in the Morales case–Tullian Tchividjian***, C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris. The editor for TGC, Joe Carter, had been known for hard-hitting, often insightful commentary.

Mahaney had long been suspect–there were/are accounts all over the blogosphere of abuses at SGM churches directly implicating Mahaney and/or his top pastoral staff.

When a civil suit against him–alleging coverups of sexual abuses–was thrown out due to statute of limitations (not merits) last year, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan co-authored a statement of support on behalf of T4G, and Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor came out in resounding support of Mahaney; on behalf of TGC.

This in spite of the fact that a criminal trial was pending, with facts yet to be established in a criminal court with rules of evidence in play. Look at the words of DeYoung, Carson, and Taylor:

So the entire legal strategy was dependent on a conspiracy theory that was more hearsay than anything like reasonable demonstration of culpability.

Given the attacks on the victims in that statement, I would surmise that DeYoung, Carson, and Taylor–who hastily accused the victims of hearsay-based gold-digging–owe the world an apology for their hastiness.

I say that, because, in the criminal case, a CLC pastor (Grant Layman) admitted in open court to:

  1. Not reporting multiple allegations of abuse to authorities;
  2. Revealing that he had discussed this with the pastoral staff (each of whom failed to report the allegations to authorities).

So let’s see: a pastor fails to report, and a conference of pastors (at least two) leads to a decision not to report. That testimony went uncontested in the Morales criminal trial. Now, let’s compare that with the definition of a conspiracy:

An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors.

Making matters worse, Joe Carter–the editor of TGC–threw a fusillade of accusations––at people who merely sought to arrange for TGC members to meet with victims.

So effectively, Carter has–unnecessarily–made himself the henchman for all things CLC.

My point in this is that TGC and T4G have, for reasons known only to them, decided to commit ministerial seppuku by (a) coming out in unqualified support of Mahaney even though there were more facts to be exposed, and (b) threatening those who tried to put faces on the victims for TGC.

Oh, and, yes, I am aware that there is another civil trial going on, as CLC has an independent party investigating and seeking to establish facts and provide a more detailed report.

At the same time, the issue now is not whether there are liabilities. There were abuses; that much was established in open court. Pastors failed to report the abuses on more than one occasion; that has been established in open court.

At this point, the only question remaining is the extent of the “family jewels”. How many more are there to be exposed? Who were the ministers in the know? What did they do with the information? How widespread was this practice?

Does anyone wish to defend TGC and T4G’s support of Mahaney and attacks on victims?

***Fair Disclosure: Tullian Tchividjian has, to his credit, been very critical of TGC’s support of Mahaney.

Methinks Mahaney Doth Protest Too Much

In the wake of the Nate Morales trial, in which Grant Layman, C.J. Mahaney’s brother in law, admitted (a) not reporting multiple allegations of sexual abuse, and (b) having discussed this matter with the other pastors in 2007 (after which none of them reported the allegations to authorities), it would be a gross understatement to say that Mahaney is in a ton of hot water.

Make no mistake: this is shaping up to be the worst scandal in the history of Protestantism. This is worse than all the televangelist sex/money scandals combined.

So, yesterday, Mahaney released a statement of his own:

For nearly two years now, I have remained silent about a civil lawsuit brought against various parties including myself. During that time, many have urged me to respond publicly and address the accusations against me. These pleas have only intensified over the last week in light of reports of testimony in a recent trial. I look forward to the day when I can speak freely. For now, the simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying reality—for myself and others—is that in the face of an ongoing civil lawsuit, I simply cannot speak publicly to the specifics of these events. Even with those constraints, however, let me be clear about this: I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.

I am deeply grieved for those who suffered abuse while part of Covenant Life Church, as well as those beyond the church who were abused—and I continue to pray for justice to be served on their behalf and for God’s healing grace in their lives. I’m saddened, too, by the confusion and damage that has resulted from public comments and speculation about these events. Still, my trust remains in the Lord, who comforts the brokenhearted and promises in his justice and in his time to right every wrong.

In the grace of the gospel,

C.J. Mahaney

Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville

May 22, 2014

Mr. Mahaney, I’m going to be blunt here: I question your manhood.

CLC was your mother ship. It was your vision, your culture, your theological spin, your handpicked leaders whom you trained to do things your way. Even Joshua Harris was your handpicked successor who learned straight from you.

When things went well–your church grew, your books sold well, you got to go all over the world to speak at churches and conferences, you gained materially–you reaped those benefits.

And yet you take no responsibility for the abuses and misappropriations of authority that happened on your watch?

You inserted yourself into virtually every key decision, and yet you claim to be totally in the dark about not just one, not just two, not just three, but a mother lode of sexual abuses that happened in your church while you were senior pastor, and were covered up by your leaders whom you trained to do things your way?

So tell me, C.J., when is anything your responsibility?

I am intimately aware of the brand of Headship Theology that you and your ilk promote. I know of it because I have feuded with proponents of it–here and elsewhere–for years. You use your brand of Headship Theology to browbeat men and keep women down in homes. In that paradigm, everything is the man’s responsibility.

And yet, with these scandals at your church that happened on your watch and were covered up by your people whom you placed and trained to work in a culture you created, none of this is your responsibility.

Man up, C.J.

Here is Brent Detwiler’s assessment.

Second-Hand Therapeutic Smoke

Sooo … the FBI mulls making marijuana users into crack computer security squad!

The US Congress recently authorised the bureau to go out and hire an additional 2000 new staff, many of whom will be tasked with fighting cyber crime.

The FBI has a problem though – many of the best candidates for this type of role have a fondness for illicit herbs, Comey said – something that is currently a barrier to employment according to the bureau’s own drug policy.

ahhh … what to do?! what to do?!

“Go Forth and Fail”

wrote: My Commencement Speech to Rutgers’ Geniuses: Go Forth and Fail.

I needed a dose of sarcasm mixed with truth today. Here’s one quote from the piece:

And you just wasted $100,308 on tuition, fees, and room and board, assuming you were able to zip through Rutgers in a mere four years. Although you only wasted $53,996 if you were living in your parents’ basement. But you wasted $156,404 if you’re one of those bridge and tunnel people from out of state. Let’s call it a hundred long. Approximately 14,000 of you are graduating this year. That’s $1.4 billion wasted.

Why do I say “wasted”? Those of you who are, know why. Those of you who, for reasons unfathomable, are sober on this occasion may need it explained.

Finally, A Leader at The Gospel Coalition Speaks

Given the speed at which TGC rushed to the defense of C.J. Mahaney when the suit against him was dismissed last year, their response regarding the resignations of C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris–as well as the removal of Tullian Tchividjian’s blog–was a long time coming. This time, Tim Keller and Don Carson wrote the piece.

While the announcement is appropriate and strikes a decent tone–and in the interests of fair disclosure, I like Keller a lot, as he has often been a great source of admonition and practical instruction from the pulpit–I must question (a) how long it took, and (b) the failures of TGC to address serious problems among their council.

I also question TGC’s failure to censure/fire Joe Carter, who–as an editor for TGC–excoriated and even threatened SGM victims.

Fact is, Mahaney’s issues are well-known. It’s not terribly hard to find first-hand accounts of the abuses that went on in SGM churches, often directly at the hands of Mahaney or his pastoral staff, often at the hands of other pastors trained in a culture created by Mahaney. While I can understand TGC’s official desire to stick only to those things that have been ascertained as fact through rigorous vetting processes (rules of evidence in a court of law), there is now a preponderance of evidence of a culture at SGM/CLC that permitted–in many cases covered up–abuses, and where key leaders were negligent by any reasonable ethical standard of conduct.

And no, I’m not piling on Joshua Harris. Personally, I believe–based on the evidence I’ve seen–that he inherited a disaster from Mahaney, and was woefully unprepared to deal with the severity of the problem. As Charles pointed out, Harris was “in a bubble”. He learned everything–how to walk, talk, eat, drink, teach, preach, counsel, urinate, and defecate–The Mahaney Way.

Does Harris have culpability here? Certainly, although I would venture to say that the buck stops with Mahaney: it was his ship, it was his culture, it was his people, it was his methods. Harris needs to get out of there and take some time to observe from the outside, reflecting on what went right and wrong, and learning to embrace a ministerial paradigm that embraces freedom while providing an atmosphere of exhortation and admonition, being a safe haven for children, being sensitive to those coming from very abusive backgrounds, and intervening only when absolutely necessary. While he has culpability, he is also a victim of Mahaney whether he understands this or not.

As for Joe Carter, for every day he remains at TGC, their credibility gap only expands. He needs to go.