Dear President Mohler:
The title of this article is an adaptation of an iconic one-liner from the great Christmas classic Die Hard.
And yes, Al, you’re getting started a little late. That’s uncharacteristic of you, as you are usually quick off the blocks on so many other fronts of the Culture Wars. But, as that great philosopher, Bruce Willis, said, welcome to the party!
For years, many folks have been warning you about (a) the plethora of abusers in the evangelical and SBC ranks, and (b) their enablers at the highest levels, including the very NeoCalvinist circles that you frequent.
The abusers include pedophiles, sexually-deviant youth ministers, children’s ministers, pastors, and denominational leaders. The abuses included physical and sexual abuse, in addition to a toxic culture of church discipline reminiscent of the Shepherding Movement.
To be fair, I can understand much of your skepticism over the years. After all, most of the critics come from the left of you theologically and culturally, and they tend to criticize with agendas more in line with left-wing Social Justice Warrior (SJW) objectives that include waging war against all things Biblical.
I’m going to tell you a little of my story. You’ll find that our lives intersected at a critical juncture of your tenure.
I arrived at SBTS as an MDiv student in the Fall of 1993, just as you arrived as President. My first Sunday in Louisville, I attended Deer Park Baptist Church, which is on Bardstown Road not far from the campus. That Sunday, they stuck me into a Sunday School class with other SBTS students. The teacher was an MDiv student in his last trimester. The passage of study was 1 Corinthians 12, and the focus was on spiritual gifts.
After reading the passage, the teacher went into a diatribe about homophobia, insisting that “it is our responsibility to accept gays and lesbians into their rightful place in the Body of Christ.”
I decided to chime in: “Based on what we just read, and what you are saying, it seems that you are inferring that homosexuality is a spiritual gift.”
The rest of the class turned into a gang assault: them against me. I felt like a sniper taking on an entire platoon: I was getting good shots in, but I was outnumbered. I didn’t sign up for that, but–as you can attest–sometimes we end up having to fight battles for which we did not ask.
I had become, whether I wanted to be or not, a battlefield-commissioned officer in the Culture Wars.
That was the beginning of my baptism by napalm at SBTS.
During my time there, I saw–firsthand–your leftist critics assailing you for every offense under the sun. In their eyes, nothing you ever did, short of resigning, would be right. And they took it out on folks like me.
If you were pro-life, you were a misogynist.
If you opposed homosexuality, you were a bigot and a homophobe.
IF you accepted a high view of Biblical authority, you were a Fundamentalist (in the perjorative, not the classical, sense of the word).
If you had any Biblical reservations about women pastors, you were a sexist and a misogynist.
If you opposed bastardizing the Scriptures with inclusive language, you were a sexist and a misogynist.
They called you–and me by extension–everything short of a kitten-killer, seal-clubber, puppy-stealer, mattress-tag-remover…
All of this is to say, I understand your skepticism when their side raised accusations.
The problem is, while these types were hostile toward you, you made one mistake, and here’s what it is.
You see, during my time at SBTS, I got to know a good number of those liberals. I worked with some of them at the same side jobs. Almost all of them came from Southern Baptist backgrounds.
BC grew up in North Carolina. She had been sexually abused. While she was very intelligent, she had a number of male colleagues who wouldn’t even listen to her because she was a woman.
JK was from Louisville. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. As a college student, she was raped at gunpoint. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.
SK was from Louisiana. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. During her teen years, she was raped, at gunpoint, by a prominent church member who was also a police officer. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.
JD, a classmate of mine, was molested by a man during his childhood. He would struggle with sexual issues that led him to the pornography addiction from Hell. What kind of help did he get from the Church? They porn-shamed him.
These were friends of mine at SBTS. They’re still friends of mine today. As a conservative myself, their theology is not mine.
But what’s the point here?
They became liberals in no small part due to “conservative” churches whose leaders were either abusers, enablers, or simply failed to provide refuge from them in their pain.
And that brings me to a critical issue that YOU must address, because YOU are one of the champions for the model known as complementarianism.
(I believe complementarianism is a perversion of Biblical Patriarchy, and I’ll explain why some other time.)
But for the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that you are a Patriarch. I don’t believe you are, but let’s assume that you and I are talking, Patriarch to Patriarch.
The problem is, your model of patriarchy provides no relief for those who are abused. How do I know that? For all the talk of the Biblical permanence of marriage–which is a perfectly legitimate view that I hold–your patriarchal allies have done NOTHING to keep victims safe, to ensure that offenders are prosecuted, to admonish and rebuke–even excommunicate–abusers.
If you believe in the permanence of marriage–and you should–then the Church needs to provide the resources to keep families together as they address very difficult and complicated baggage.
If you believe that children need to be protected–and I believe you do–then you need to be all over the evangelical world, pushing them to report abuses, provide relief to victims, and calling out leaders–some of them very popular–who are guilty of either participating in abuses or enabling the abusers.
I realize that you have gone to great lengths to defend your friend C.J. Mahaney. And I can certainly understand why: Sovereign Grace Ministries has put out some great resources over the years. My church uses SGM music, which is very solid.
At the same time, Rachael Denhollander–the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar and provided a Gold Standard presentation of the Gospel at his sentencing–has provided a devastating assessment of SGM. Her husband, Jacob, is a PhD student in your school. They offered to reach out to you on this. You should take him up on that. You need to have them over for dinner and listen to them.
Cleaning up the mess in the SBC is no longer about liberals and conservatives. We won that front of the war.
Unfortunately, the SBC is infested with abusers and enablers. You didn’t ask for this battle–just as I didn’t ask for it on that Sunday morning in 1993–but it’s your duty to fight. Sadly, that is going to require taking on longtime friends, professional associates, and even popular ministers with letters after their names. It will be tougher than taking on the liberals.
But, recalling the theme at your inauguration, you are where you are for such a time as this.
Get ready for war, Al. And, once again, welcome to the party!