Roy Moore, Culture Wars, and Culture Shift

Fair disclosure: I am neither convicting nor exonerating Roy Moore. As I assess this situation, I am irritated with Moore on certain matters, while skeptical of the accusations.

In his defense:

(1) The timing is suspicious.

(2) Gloria Allred. Any time she inserts herself into a scandal, I get skeptical of whoever is making the accusations.

(3) The accusers have what appear to be significant holes in their stories. The latest accuser appears to have produced a forged “yearbook signing” by Moore, which–if authentic–would debunk his contention that he did not even know her. Others are working for the DNC in some form or another.

(4) The fact that he did not have sex with them–not even Monica-style–is huge. Fact is, given his reputation, he could have made a move on any of those women, and they likely would have gone along. That he kept it in his pants reflects an uncommon level of restraint.

(5) He appears to have asked the parents of the gals for their permission to date them. That is not predatory behavior.

OTOH, Moore is in a pickle, at least partially of his own creation, for one serious reason: his pursuit of gals who were on the bubble of adulthood–while being in his 30s–is, fairly or unfairly, creepy by today’s standards.

If I were the father of a teenage gal, and a 32-year-old man asked me for permission to date her, my answer would be a firm-but-polite no. Not because he is a bad person, but because the maturity gap simply is too wide. If she were in her early 20s, I’d grill him and–if he measured up–allow him to date her.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing is the unfolding of a multi-front war, featuring the Old South versus the New South, particularly old-school Fundamentalism versus newer Christianity. The confluence of these elements could not have come at a worse time.

When we refer to Fundamentalism, I am not referring to the Fundamentals–Biblical inerrancy, Deity of Christ, Virgin Birth, Substitutionary Atonement, Resurrection from the dead, and eventual Second Coming–but rather the “cultural Fundamentalism” that defines many conservative sectors. Those include:

  • Homeschoolers who use materials published by Gothard, Phillips, or Pensacola;
  • People who are members of the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB);
  • Hyper-Patriarchal families who adhere to an “Umbrella” theology;
  • Those who harbor racialist sentiments, potentially empathizing with the KKK;
  • KJV-only adherents;
  • Hard Calvinists.

Many in those sectors are proponents of marrying their daughters off at a young age. At face-value, that isn’t a bad idea: given that fertility begins to wane in the late 20s, it is within their best interests to marry sooner into adulthood rather than later.

The problem is that many are taking this too far: marrying them off in their mid-teens (sometimes 14), rather than early adulthood. And in these cases, mere age difference hardly tells the story. At 42, I married MrsLarijani, who was 14-and-a-half years my junior. She was 28 and had been out of college for four years. If I were 32 and she was 18 or under, that would have been iffy at best.

So when a West Point grad and Vietnam veteran like Roy Moore–at 32–pursues gals who are 16 and potentially younger, it ought to set off red flags.

At the same time, given the cultural backdrop–late 1970s, a country at war with itself, with the Sexual Revolution in full throttle–it is understandable that someone like Moore, an old-school culture warrior, would want a younger gal who had minimal baggage in order to marry and start a family.

And given that he asked the parents of the gals for permission to date them, that is what you expect in a gentleman of the Old South. Those do not appear to be the actions befitting a predator.

At the same time, a fair number of conservative Christians in the South are seeking to divorce the South from what are often seen as backward customs.

  • While they may not oppose Patriarchy, they don’t subscribe to “Umbrella Theology” either.
  • They may support younger marriage, but aren’t thrilled with borderline “child brides”.
  • They aren’t into heavy drinking–and they may even be teetotalers–but they don’t buy into the farce that Jesus merely turned water into grape juice.
  • They aren’t thrilled with the fact that many churches in the South have “family jewels” that include everything from sexual abuse to lynchings.

Compounding matters, the Church is in the midst of a slew of sexual abuse scandals encompassing NeoCal and Fundamentalist circles, including the defamation of victims and the failure to defrock those proven to be offenders.

No serious Christian–who pays attention to these things–wants to be on record for enabling a predator.

Against the 1970s backdrop, it is understandable as to why Moore would have desired a younger woman to marry.

Against today’s backdrop, it is understandable as to why a Christian would look at Moore’s actions in the 1970s and have serious reservations.

Compounding matters, the mainstream media–the “drive-bys”–are clearly grasping for any straw they can find to hit Moore.

Ultimately, someone is not telling the truth. Either Roy Moore is lying, or his accusers are lying. In the absence of hard evidence–stained dresses, receipts, phone logs, voice messages, sex tapes–it’s their word against his.

I can totally understand why one would be skeptical of Moore; I can also understand why one would be skeptical of his accusers.

Unlike Trump, Moore is flying the God-and-country banner. If he’s a creep, then he is, at best, the hard-fundamentalist hypocrite father on Footloose. If he’s innocent, then his accusers are as phony as the Duke Lacrosse accuser.

Which way should you vote in this election? That’s your call. If it were me, I’m on the bubble, although I’m extremely skeptical of his accusers. I do, however, want him to address the accusers in specificity.

If he’s innocent, he needs to keep fighting.

If he’s guilty, he needs to get out.

The Alabama Senate Race and Roy Moore

Honestly, the issue of Roy Moore–particularly the latest allegations against him–is a tossup. I will neither condemn the man, nor will I proclaim his innocence.

In all honesty, the only people who know the truth about this are Moore and his accusers.

The one accusation that is most troubling is the allegation of his sexual proposition of a 14-year-old. (He was 32 at the time.) If true, that’s a major problem.

I would not be thrilled about his DATING a 14-year-old, even if he were chaste about it, given that he was 32 at the time. Apparently, as a man in his 30s he was drawn, at the very least, to younger women. In and of itself, that isn’t a big deal, but 14? 16? I dunno…that’s under the bubble.

(MrsLarijani is 14-and-a-half years my junior, but I was 42 and she was 28. And before her, I pursued Christina, who was almost 18 years my junior: I was 41 and she was 24. Both were grown adults–and college grads–so I saw nothing inherently wrong with either pursuit, although, I must admit that, had I made it to the point of meeting Christina’s parents, it would have been interesting: I was not much younger than her mother.)

OTOH, Moore appears to have sought the permission of the parents in his pursuits, and that is indicative of an old-school traditional-values mindset: many Christian gentlemen in the South took that approach when they were interested in potential marriage, as it was their way of saying they intended to be honorable. And the world was indeed a different place in 1977. Remember the age gap of Elvis and Priscilla. And we ARE talking the Deep South here.

Moreover, his conduct over the years–from what we know of him–does not appear to jibe with that of a predator.

Still, given the flurry of sexual assault cases in Hollywood and the Big Media, no one wants to come down defending a predator, even unwittingly. Not long ago, the Republican Speaker of the House–Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL)–was a gunshot and a heart attack (Dick Cheney was VP) away from being President, and HE WAS A CHILD MOLESTER!

Do we want to go there again?

I’m not saying Roy Moore is that. I’m on the bubble, but leaning toward his innocence pending other evidence. I say that for three reasons:

(1) Timing. Roy Moore is not new to the political arena. He has been a lightning rod for a very long time. And these accusers are now surfacing a month away from a Senate election? If you smell B.S., it’s understandable.

(2) He has been steadfast in his denials. Not only has he denied the allegations, he has provided credible explanation for  his actions. Those do not appear to be the actions of a predator.

(3) His accusers, particularly the would-be 14-year-old, have their own credibility issues. At least one of them is working for the Dems. The 14-year-old has a history of accusing ministers of sexual misconduct. She has also filed for Bankruptcy not just once, not just twice, but THREE TIMES. I’ll give her a mulligan for once. I might even give her a benefit of a doubt for #2. But 3? I say that because, while we all are capable of making financial mistakes that could require Bankruptcy, there does come a point, especially with multiple filers on the Personal Bankruptcy front, that it reflects an issue of integrity. And while there are sexual predators among the clergy, I find multiple accusations from the same person against multiple ministers, to be far-fetched.

I remember being involved in a particular congregation. There was an older gal who frequented the services. She claimed to have been raped many times by multiple ministers. When she described the accounts, let’s just say we all–while otherwise empathetic with such cases–figured she was either lying or she was a seductress.

So yes, I’ve seen both sides of that coin. And while Boz Tchividjian is correct–very few child accusers make those stories up–it is also established fact that there are adult liars out there. Duke lacrosse anyone?

Could Roy Moore be guilty? Absolutely. If you cannot stomach the fact that he–being in his early 30s–dated women who were on the bubble of adulthood, I totally understand. I would probably deny permission of he asked that of my daughter and she were in that bracket.

At the same time, from what I am seeing, his actions do not appear to reflect someone who is bent on using teens to satisfy his sexual vices but rather one who simply wanted a wife with whom he could start a family.

At this point, I would give him the benefit of a doubt, pending revelation of hard evidence.

Perry Noble Announces Divorce

Disgraced pastor Perry Noble, who once pastored NewSpring Church before he was removed by his leadership team due to alcohol and “family issues”, and who has recently returned to preaching, is now announcing that he and his wife are divorcing. (HT: Deb at TWW)

FWIW: I have no idea who is guilty of what in his marriage, nor do I presume that his problems are all on him. For all I know, he could be the worst excuse of a husband, or she could be Jezebel incarnate, or they share various degrees of culpability. (My experience is that, the vast majority of the time, it’s the latter: neither side is completely blameless.)

At the same time, (a) if his fellow leaders removed him from the pulpit, then they likely had just cause to do so, and (b) even if his wife is the the culpable party in his marriage–I’m not saying she is, only suggesting that IF she is–then he is still not Biblically-qualified to pastor a Church, as, no matter how you slice this:

(a) he is not “above reproach” by any reasonable Biblical metric, and

(b) his house, irrespective of who is at fault, is clearly not in order.

Anyone who depends on his preaching is giving ears to a false teacher.

I don’t like to throw that “false teacher” tag around, but it applies in his case.

His only purpose at this time is to show you what a high-profile evangelical train wreck looks like.

Libby Anne and the “Evangelical Response” to Weinstein

By now, almost everyone who has been awake for the last three weeks is aware of the emerging conflagration in Hollywood, which began with the exposure of longtime sexual assaults by Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein–and the ensuing coverups by everyone who knew about it.

Weinstein, as we know, is neither the only sexual predator in Hollywood, nor is he even the worst offender. (My take: they are throwing Weinstein overboard to cover for worse offenders.)

In the aftermath of Weinstein’s indecent exposure, other sex scandals in the entertainment, political, and news media have come to the surface, some of them involving high rollers on both the left (Oreskes at NPR) and right (O’Reilly at Fox).

I am all for the exposure of such matters, even in the Church. When we’re dealing with sexual assaults, it’s best to uncover the family jewels, lay them bare for the whole world to see, punish the wrongdoers, affirm and support those wronged, and re-examine what happened to help prevent it from recurring.

Having said all of that, Christians need to be measured in their assessment of Hollywood, given that there is a mother lode of such family jewels in otherwise conservative Christian circles. Many high-profile conservative figures–from C.J. Mahaney to Joshua Harris to Tom Chantry–are proving to have been complicit in the coverup of sexual abuse, or, in Chantry’s case, possibly directly guilty of said acts.

(Chantry currently awaits trial, and he is entitled to a fair trial. I would be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge that the body of known evidence does not look encouraging for him.)

And to that extent, I think Libby Anne is generally on the money. I would, however, qualify that with these observations:

(1) In Election 2016, evangelicals, particularly conservatives who voted for Trump, had a very bad set of choices. The other alternative was a woman who built her career by covering for a man who is known to have committed such assaults.

(After all, I hope we are in agreement that when a sitting Governor pulls out his tallywhacker and tells a state employee, which is what Paula Jones was, to “come over and kiss it”, that is every bit as serious as Trump–assuming he actually acted up to his brags–“grabbing [a woman] by the pu$$y.”)

Ergo, voting for Trump does not equate to moral equivalence with Weinstein, although Hillary Clinton is in the same league as those who knowingly covered for Weinstein.

(2) I would also be careful in assessing the “evangelical response” to child sex scandals. Many evangelicals are speaking out, although not as boldly as I would like. Many are simply voting with their feet.

This is why Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) is in financially-tenuous condition today, as parishioners are fleeing the SGM ranks and many churches–formerly enthusiastic affiliates of SGM–have severed ties with SGM. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) even broke off their sweetheart deal with SGM’s “Pastor’s College” in the wake of the Nate Morales scandal.

And while Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard–and the boards that enabled them–have had their covers blown, it’s not like the evangelical world has rushed to defend them.

When they were exposed, some wondered aloud how that would impact homeschoolers. My prediction then: very little.

I was correct. While homeschoolers, many of whom relied on Gothard and Phillips for materials, didn’t go back to public schools, they are, as a group, voting with their dollars.

The market for homeschool curriculum has matured greatly over the years. Gothard and Phillips–while pioneers in homeschooling–are far from the only games in town.

Where Libby Anne is correct, however, is with respect to the Donn Ketcham scandal. This is because the Donn Ketcham scandal–which I referenced here–exposes the very same insidious dynamic in the Church that we see in Hollywood:

(1) with Ketcham, you had a medical missionary who was in high demand in impoverished Bangladesh, who attracted a large following on both sides of the pond, and whose removal would have had serious consequences. Sadly, as a result, a victim who spoke out was ostracized. Ketcham’s fellow missionaries covered for his immoralities as they told his victim, “Donn is needed here. You aren’t.”

(2) with Weinstein, you had a major movie producer who could make or break careers in Hollywood. Making him happy was often the difference between waiting on tables and making millions of dollars.

Just as with the missionaries in Bangladesh who covered for Ketcham, for everyone who wanted to make money in Hollywood, there was a benefit to keeping silent. Like Ketcham, Weinstein was needed, whereas actors and actresses–like missionary kids–were always a dime a dozen.

The takeaway for the Church?

When we compare the Ketcham affair with the Weinstein affair and others in high news and entertainment, one thing becomes obvious: in the case of Ketcham, the Church body–Association of Baptists for World Evangelism–acted exactly as the world operates.

They may disagree on worldviews, but the people involved–in Hollywood and the Church–are equally cold, calculating, cunning, and willing to throw people under the bus to look good and make money.

THAT is what needs to change.

What we see in Weinstein is exactly what we should expect from Hollywood.

At the same time, we ought to demand better from the ranks of the redeemed.

Piper Stepping In It (Again)?

HT: Dee at TWW

John Piper provides this advice, answering the question of “should we take our children to dangerous mission zones?”

Piper begins with this:

Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world? Short answer: Yes.

Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.

First of all, John is providing advice that has scant Biblical precedent, with the closest example perhaps being Paul’s mentorship of Timothy. Even then, we have no indication of Timothy’s age when he begins his tours of duty with Paul. Moreover, Paul does not provide this advice to parents regarding their children. In other words, what Paul did with Timothy is not a general command to other parents.

(My advice: that’s a judgment call, and that is totally up to the parents to decide upon prayer, prudent counsel, searching the Scriptures,  and appropriate deliberation, regarding whether the child(ren) is (are) of sufficient maturity and motivation for such a trip.)

Moreover, Piper is making a bold pronouncement as to why parents should take their children into dangerous regions: “Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.”

Does Piper have any statistics to back up his claim? I’ve met no small number of adults–who have abandoned the faith–who were raised by missionary parents or even pastors who served stateside, who sacrificed everything, including their kids, for the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m against a childrearing paradigm that insists on a “sheltered life”. I would also argue, and Piper would probably agree, that parents ought to take more initiative in preparing their children to engage the world and to expect that the world is not going to be particularly enamored with their Christian faith.

Fact is, the United States is a post-Christian nation and Western Civilization is in serious decline. Where the Christian was once highly-respected in the public square in Europe and the United States, that is no longer the case: Christians are under increasing pressure to keep everything close to the vest.

In other regions, it is more tenuous: in the Middle East, a public expression of Christian faith could get you jailed if not killed. In Islamic countries, if your father is a Muslim and you convert to Christianity, you could face anything from a prison sentence to a death sentence.

I’ve never been to those regions, but I am aware of the risks of being a Christian. As a Christian of Kurdish ethnicity who has studied such matters, I don’t have to go to Mosul wearing a sign that says, “Allah is a demon and Muhammed was a child rapist” to appreciate the risks that Christians in Iraq and Syria face every day.

I have also spent long hours studying the plight that Christians endured–and, in the cases of North Korea and China and Cuba, continue to endure–under totalitarian regimes, particularly communism. Abigail will not need to go to North Korea to learn such things.

In my younger days, as an old-school Cold War conservative, I tried to get into the military. And had my country called my name, I would have answered the call to fight. But my health issues–from asthma to severe disk problems in my back–precluded me from military service. And, at 50, I’d say that ship has long sailed. It won’t be happenin’.

Will Abigail go on mission trips when she reaches an appropriate age? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. The issue is where? There are plenty of missions opportunities here in the States, not to mention Central and South America, and those have risks of their own even if their volatility doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of Damascus or Raqqa or Kirkuk or East St. Louis.

If she wants to go to the Middle East or Niger or Sudan or the south side of Chicago, that’ll be up to her, although MrsLarijani and myself will ensure that she has counted the cost–and I’m not just talking financial–before she embarks on any such venture.

But is there an overarching Biblical prescription for parents to make their kids take those kinds of risks? Not really. Like I said, that’s a judgment call and there’s no blanket one-size-fits-all answer.

The Kentucky State Pension Disaster: My $0.02

First, some disclaimers:

(1) I am a Kentucky state employee. I am a non-merit employee.

(2) I am NOT part of any of the pension systems. When I hired in, I opted for a defined contribution plan.

(3) I have no gripe with any state employee or retiree who padded their retirements or retired early via any of the controversial practices–double-dipping, padding their overtime, or cashing in on large amounts of unused sick time–as those employees were/are merely playing by the rules of the system.

If there is blame to be assigned, then let it fall on those who created the system. More on them later.

The Kentucky state pension crisis, at $33 billion–which carries both short and long-term solvency challenges–is one of the worst pension crises in the history of the United States. This crisis has been brewing for most of the last 17 years and threatens the retirement checks of not just those workers in the pipeline, but also the retirees.

Those in the pipeline include not just regular state employees but also policemen, firemen, and teachers.

Given that the pension systems were over 100% funded in 2001, how did the system get to this point of insolvency?

(a) For one, in the wake of revenue crunches that began in the early 2000s–from the aftermath of the dot-com crash and the wake of 9/11–the General Assembly began to balance the budget by cutting corners: among those corners was not paying the actuarially required minimum payments into the pension systems.

(b) For another, over the years, the General Assembly created unfunded incentives that sweetened the deal for state employees in the pipeline:

  • Normally allowed to retire at 27 years of service, employees were given a window whereby they could buy 5 years, allowing them to retire in as little as 22 years of service. What that means: employees, who hired in when they were in their late teens or early 20s, are now retiring under age 40, with health insurance discounted in the same group as state employees. I know of employees who are able to retire at under 40 years of age. This means the pension system is on the hook for that person’s retirement for potentially more than 30 years. The general rule–27 years–is already quite generous, but the “window” puts an even greater strain on the system.
  • The sick and vacation leave accrual formulas are extraordinarily generous. Even for those of us not in the pension system, it’s the same: we can bank our overtime (up to 240 hours, although, over the years, this has become more difficult); we can bank our sick time in proportion to our years of service, and some employees have well over a YEAR of sick time accrued, and this is credited to state employees upon retirement; we can bank our vacation time in proportion to our years of service (here is the link). As you can see, these are far more generous than anything you will see in the private sector.

(c) Making matters worse, the managers charged with managing the pensions engaged in a level of malfeasance that, had the pensions been subject to ERISA, the managers would be rotting in prison.

Make no mistake, had the Kentucky pensions been a private entity, the pensions would have been declared insolvent, offloaded to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and retirees would take the mother of all paycuts. And the managers would be lucky to get less than ten years in prison.

(d) Worst of all, the General Assembly and three successive Governors–Patton, Fletcher, and Beshear–each ignored the problem.

Patton was too mired in sex scandals to have the gravitas to face the problem when doing so would have been a lot easier. And he allowed the continuation of many of the fat incentives that drained our systems. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums began on his watch.

Fletcher, almost immediately after taking office, became mired in a hiring scandal that depleted his ability to address the problem for his 4 years in office. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

Beshear–for 8 years–gave mere lip service to the problem. He helped implement small changes that amounted to pissing into a forest fire. And the failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

The General Assembly, run by Democrats for most of the last 100 years (Republicans won the House for the first time last year), was the principal culprit in both the design of the pension systems, and their failure to fund them.

Now, Governor Matt Bevin has inherited the perfect storm from Hell: a $33 billion albatross that the private sector must fund–as courts hath decreed it–while many state employees are facing the prospect of perhaps not getting the fat retirement that they were “promised”.

Bevin’s most recent proposals to reform the pension system are shockingly mild:

  • existing retirees would see no change in their checks, their Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), or their health insurance premiums;
  • those who retire before July would be able to cash in on their unused sick leave,
  • those who retire after July will no longer be able to cash in on that.
  • Those employees with less than 5 years of service will get transferred to a Defined Contribution–401(k)–plan;
  • those with more than 5 years will remain in the pension pipeline.

Even under the proposed changes–assuming that what the legislature passes will be similar–the Kentucky state employee will have pension and leave accrual rules that are light-years more generous than almost any entity in the private sector!

I worked in the private sector for ten years before hiring into the State. For three years, I was an Engineering Systems Engineer at Electronic Data Systems, which–at the time–was a subsidiary of General Motors.

Back then, we received no sick time to accrue, nor were we paid overtime, nor could we bank overtime, as we were “salaried” employees. We received two weeks of vacation time per year, and that time was “use it or lose it”. In fact, in 1992, everyone in my account had to take the vacation at the same time–during the two week changeover during which GM did their model transitions.

We did not complain.

None of us were on a pension plan; EDS did, however, have generous 401(k) matching.

For six years, I worked as a contractor for Seltmann, Cobb, and Bryant (which became SCB Computer Technology). We received no sick time, and any overtime–and they kept strict tabs on it–was paid, as there was no accrual. We received two weeks of vacation leave per year, and we were never allowed to carry over more than one week to the next year. There were no pensions, as all of us were on 401(k)s.

No one complained.

My point in all of this: no business in America could provide such generous benefits and expect to remain solvent.

Imagine if your company

  • allowed employees to retire at age 40;
  • provided full pension benefits to retirees for the duration of their lives;
  • allowed them to pad their salaries with overtime pay to calculate their retirement income, thus allowing some in the $30K-$50K range to enjoy retirement checks in the 6-figure range);
  • provided for COLAs even during recessions, even when employees were getting pay cuts.

How long would your company expect to remain in business?

If the private sector couldn’t even operate that way, and given that the private sector must pay for those benefits enjoyed by the public sector, then why foist them with such an insolvent system?

And before you–the state employee–start waxing eloquent about how the private sector enjoys your services, let me remind you of a few things:

  1. You, the government worker, produce NOTHING for the economy. Fact is, the minimum-wage burger flipper at Hardees does more for the economy than the hardest-working government employee. That is not to say that your work doesn’t matter; at best, however, we are part of the service sector of the economy.
  2. You, the Government worker, serve at the pleasure of the private sector. They pay your salary, your benefits, and even your pension. The taxes you pay wouldn’t be possible but for the contribution of the private sector.
  3. While you, the government worker, have endured hardships–including pay freezes, pay cuts (furloughs), and force comp leave uses–it pales in comparison to the private sector worker who faced job losses in the dot-com crash, the wake of 9/11, an the Great Recession of 2008. While my bottom line has been crimped over the last ten years, I have been able to keep my house and my job. I did not, like many private sector folks, face job loss, foreclosure, and even bankruptcy.

I’m not saying this to beat up the government workers–I am one myself. All I’m saying is that a little humility would go a long way. You have had it rough, just as those in the private sector have. There is plenty of misery to go around.

And while I empathize with the new employees (with less than 5 years of service) who will no longer be in pensions and therefore may not be able to retire at 27 years, I would also remind them that many of us in the real world would be happy to retire at age 70.

As for Governor Bevin, I’ve heard no small number of employees complain of his proposals, and call him every name in the book.

I have yet to hear that same level of angst aimed at Rep. Harry Moberly or Rep. Jody Richards or Sen. Julian Carroll or Rep. Greg Stumbo or Gov. Paul Patton or Gov. Steve Beshear or even Gov. Ernie Fletcher: they are the ones who got you into this mess.

Matt Bevin, whatever his faults, is the adult in the room telling you the truth.

Matt is an adult. Be like Matt.

Almost Everything That COULD HAVE Gone Wrong in a Home, Did

I will now attempt to weigh in on this sad, sordid account by Jeri Massi.

For a time, I’ve been following various watchbloggers. I often check in on the Deebs over at TWW, and also with Todd Wilhelm at Thou Art The Man, as well as Brent Detwiler and Warren Throckmorton. I also follow Amy Smith/Watchkeep on Facebook. I don’t agree with them on everything–Throckmorton leans well to the left of me politically, and the Deebs have a tendency to turn almost everything into a War on Complimentarianism–but they do a good job exposing atrocities and absurdities that various conservative elements have either ignored, swept under the rug, or are directly complicit in their commission.

Same is true for Jeri Massi, a Bob Jones University grad who also worked for a time at their publishing house. Over the years, she has done a remarkable job of documenting cases of sexual abuse and their coverups, particularly within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) ranks. Along the way, she has also done a remarkable job exposing the absurdities in the IFB world.

While I have my differences with her on a few things, I have found her blog to be otherwise very insightful.

Why do I follow these cases?

I’ve always considered myself on the side of, “Let the word of God be true, and every man a liar.” When the Scriptures say that something is good, then it is good. If the Scriptures say that something is evil, well…then it is evil.

If I commit an offense–even a small one, like, say, flipping off the driver who almost ran me over while I was on the bike–and the Scriptures say it is evil, then there’s no ‘splainin’ to do: I have a duty to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness.

That also means that, if there is an abuse or atrocity or some egregious sin among the Church–and I am assuming that either (a) the offended parties have reported it to me and/or (b) I directly witness either their commission or confession or another party admitting to the fact of their commission–then I have the duty to do the right thing.

That means (a) reporting the matter to authorities and cooperating with any investigation (if the allegations are criminal in nature) and (b) ensuring that people are otherwise protected from such abuses.

It is my view that conservatives, of all people, OUGHT to WANT to purge abusers–that includes abusive spouses, child abusers of all types, and abusive clergy–from their midst.

During my time at SBTS, I personally witnessed those who wanted to undermine the Scriptures, promoting a theological model closer to Molech and Asherah than to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Al Mohler–for all his shortcomings–ran that element off, as well he should have.

Sadly, by accomodating abusive pastors–including those who cover for child sexual abusers–Mohler now threatens to undermine those accomplishments. (I would also suggest that by transforming SBTS into a NeoCal echo chamber, he is also undermining Biblical conservatism, but that is a different discussion that is beyond the scope of this post.)

And that is what bothers me: while conservatives OUGHT TO WANT to keep abusers out of their ranks, their leaders have often done the opposite: they have coddled them, accomodated them, even excoriating the victims and others who exposed the abusers.

Now, to address the sad account of Peter.

Massi’s account of Peter is a necessary warning to every would-be conservative Christian homeschooling family, as well as an indictment of many within that sector.

FWIW: I am all for homeschooling. MrsLarijani and I want to do it for the following reasons: (a) in general, given technological advancements, it’s a better learning model than the traditional classroom, and (b) we wish to introduce her to the world as we see fit. We do not wish to shelter our kids–as we will encourage their participation in group and team activities and even athletics–but we DO want her to learn about the world on OUR timetable, not a schedule decided by a school board that promotes an agenda fed to them by teacher unions.

At the same time, homeschooling appeals to various subcultures that are fundamentally unhealthy:

  • Quiverfull adherents: these types generally eschew all forms of contraception, as they assert that having a large family is a commandment and that any contraception is an affront to God’s design. They are often very hard Calvinists.
  • Fundamentalists: these types are often in the hardcore Southern Baptist or IFB ranks, but they can also include Missouri Synod Lutherans, Church of Christ, Christian Church, and various evangelical stripes. Their ranks include Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
  • Ultra-Calvinists: these tend to come from the really hardcore PCA/OPC ranks. They are among the Elect, and that Election has passed to their children.

While there are many honorable families in each of these sectors, the dysfunctional ones–and that includes the family about which Massi speaks–in each of these three sectors have the following in common:

  • They are often driven by the mindset that they are better than everyone else, and their goal is to show the world–by their chlidren’s accomplishments–that they are better than everyone else. Pride is often A key–if not THE key–driver in their choice to homeschool.
  • They often have embraced–actively or passively–the worst realm of Headship Theology, the end result being a profoundly dysfunctional patriarchy that spawns abuses.
  • They often reject the most basic understanding of original sin, as they think their righteousness–imputed to them via Jesus–is conferred to their children as a result of their own faith. They think that while all have sinned and come short of the glory, their kids don’t have the need to learn self-regulation.
  • Worst of all, they often reject the God of Scripture, exchanging the Biblical Jesus for the pursuit of a contemporary model of life on this earth: just go to church, confess the right things, teach children these things, make them memorize enough Awana sections, and they will be healthy, wealthy, and successful, and mom and dad will have all the wealth and all the things and they will have it all on this earth.

What I am saying: their sin is, at the root level, idolatry. They love neither God nor their neighbor; they love the life they hope to have by following what their popular homeschool advocate told them they need to follow.

Follow that far enough down the trail, and that festers in a myriad of ways.

In Massi’s account, Peter’s father was a serial adulterer who never had to face the gravity of his sins until after he dropped dead of a heart attack. While he was defrocked as a result of his adulteries, he was able to move on and continue leaving a trail of damage, even working as a “nouthetic” (i.e. Biblical) counselor.

In Scripture, Paul was very hard on the men. He chided husbands for being harsh with their wives, suggesting that their prayers aren’t being answered because of their treatment of their wives; he admonished them, many times, against sexual immorality (even homosexuality and at least one case of incest), excoriating them for even tolerating it among their ranks. He also pounded them over issues of gossip, slander, greed, deceit, even racism, and other profoundly sinful behavior.

Paul was also tough on the women. He chided women who were disruptive to orderly worship; he commanded wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord; he said, “woman was made for man, not man for woman”. He even precluded women from particular church offices.

Even as Paul was pro-Patriarchy, he pulled no punches on the men. Men didn’t have special spiritual standing on account of their plumbing. They were responsible for their sins. And women have no less access to the Father than the men, nor do they need a husband to “redeem” them, as the work of the Redeemer is sufficient.

Still, Paul commanded believers to love God and extend that grace to one another. And that included raising children with the appropriate level of discipline–which would “drive the rebellion out”–while not being overbearing.

That job is not an easy one, as some of the best people in the Bible (including Jacob, David, and other kings who succeeded him) failed at it.

But here is the thing: in every failure I’ve witnessed or read about–including Massi’s account of Peter–there is a common thread: a profound lack of humility.

While everyone, on a continuous basis, will struggle with issues of pride, the worst-case homeschool disasters often begin with a runaway pride.

That is the type of pride that leads parents to overrule teachers or coaches or even other church leaders in matters of discipline and achievement. In team sports, fathers often chide coaches as to why their kid isn’t getting the right amount of playing time; they’ll question the teacher who gives their kid a lower grade; they’ll question the Awana leader as to why they had to sit their kid out of game time. The problem can’t possibly be with their kid; after all, he (or) she is part of a special-Elect.

Massi speaks of Peter’s mother, who was often frustrated with the lack of respect Peter showed for her, even as she overruled Massi’s evaluation of Peter’s learning. Peter rarely–if not never–was held to account for his sins. Peter followed in the arrogance (and deviance) of his father, and–sadly–that ended in disaster.

Do the Scriptures promote such a parenting model? Of course not.

Throughout Proverbs, you have the father imploring his son to listen and learn and seek wisdom with humility; you have the father admonishing his son–repeatedly–about the seductive nature of sexual sin and its end results; you have the father imploring his son to work hard and eschew laziness; you have the father contrasting the work of a wise woman with that of a foolish one; you have the father contrasting the behaviors of wise and foolish men; you have the father warning the son about being short-tempered; you have the father warning the son about deceptive and malicious people; you even have the father warning his son about the pitfalls of desiring wealth.

What you get in Proverbs–or, heck, the entirety of the wisdom literature–is a man (Solomon) who, in spite of all the wealth and privilege conferred on him by God, at the end of the day, calling on everyone to love God, to fear God, to obey God, and to make less of the things of this world.

As Cain seethed in anger over God’s rejection of  his offering and his acceptance of Abel’s offering, God issued a dire warning to Cain: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain did not embrace self-regulation that would lead to the mastery of his sin. And we know the rest of that story.

In Massi’s account, Peter–sadly–was denied the opportunity to feel the weight of his failures as a child. As a guy, he was never held accountable for his sins. He never learned self-regulation as his father never practiced it. His father was able to move in church circles with minimal hassle in spite of serial adultery. All the while, he was effectively told he was better than everyone else beccause he was a boy and had confessed all the right things and, most importantly of all, was homeschooled.

What are some key takeaways from all of this?

(1) We must not confuse the love of God with the love of dogmatic models about God.

I don’t care if you identify as Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Orthodox, or any other flavor of Christianity. I’m not here to debate the merits and pitfalls of the respective models. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The problem arises, however, when you fall in love with your theology.

Many–not all–homeschooling families have the tendency to fixate on their theology, and, as a result, construct a mindset of family life that is more conformed to that dogmatic model while not necessarily reflective of Scripture.

Even worse, if you are in love with your dogmatic model, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when bad times hit. What happens when you lose your job? What happens when your child ends up in the hospital? What happens if you fall into hard financial times? What happens if you or your spouse suffer a health crisis?

If you are trusting in your dogmatic model to protect you from these things, you will find yourself disappointed.

(2) With patriarchal authority comes great responsibility.

Make no mistake: Christianity is Biblically and historically Patriarchal. That is inescapable. Egalitarianism is a modern development.

At the same time, while the Scriptures do reflect a Patriarchal design, it is also true that the Biblical writers went to great lengths to admonish the men–particularly the husbands–about the responsibilities that come with their authority in the home.

There were abusive husbands then, just as there are today; Paul was emphatic in his warnings to men about that. Some parents were overbearing on their kids; had that not been the case, then Paul would not have had to admonish parents not to exasperate their children.

Nor did any of the Biblical writers coddle children; far from it. Solomon was emphatic about the need to discipline children. He who spares the rod hates his son. Parents who undermine teachers (as Peter’s mom undermined Massi) are denying their children the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.

In the real world, you aren’t always going to get the grade you might deserve. You can do everything right in your company, and someone else will win the contract. You might not get the promotion or the pay raise you otherwise rightfully earned.

Women need to learn about these things, but the men do especially. This is because, as they have God-given authority in the home as husbands, they are responsible for loving their wives as Christ loved the Church.

With the Disciples, Jesus was always admonishing them, teaching them, praying for them, correcting them, training them, and even receiving them warts and all. And He often did these things with humor to boot. (“Sons of thunder” anyone?)

(3) Headship Theology is Poison.

When I say that, I often get the question, “So you don’t think that the husband is head of the wife? It’s in the Bible, you heretic!”

My response: you don’t know the first thing about Headship Theology.

Headship Theology kind of goes like this…

(1) It starts with the premise that the husband is head of the wife. (So far so good)

(2) If the husband loves his wife the right way–as Jesus loved the Church–then she will submit to him the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(3) If the wife doesn’t submit to him the right way, it is because he is not leading the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(4) As a result, if there’s any sin in the house, it is the fault of the husband, because he is not leading the right way.  (Nope, not Biblical.)

While starting with a correct premise, the Headship Theology crowd takes that to lengths that are nowhere to be found in Scripture.

Sadly, the HT teachings foster a dynamic of abuse. This is because if he is responsible for his wife’s–and his children’s–sins, then this incentivizes him to exercise the authority to make them submit and obey as they ought.

Let’s look at the Scriptures here from the high-level:

(a) Jesus loves His Church perfectly and provides perfect headship. But even then, the Church has never been completely faithful. The history of Christendom is rife with atrocity and failure.

(b) There are cases in Scripture where husbands have loved the right way (wives have submitted the right way), and yet the wives (husbands) did not submit (love) the right way.

(c) There are cases in Scripture where sons failed even otherwise good parents.

Hosea loved Gomer well, but she still prostituted herself; Abigail was, by all accounts, a Proverbs 31 wife, but her first husband (who dropped dead) was a dirtbag; and there is no indication that Josiah, an excellent king, was a bad father, although his sin–Manasseh–would sacrifice his own son to Molech.

Headship Theology–a very common teaching in conservative circles–is profoundly un-Biblical and downright heretical. It’s long past time to dismiss it to the dung heap where it belongs.

Ultimately, if you are a Christian and seek to raise your children to love and fear God, you must first start with yourself.

That requires the humility to face your own sin and deal with your spouse with humility and respect.

Leadership and humility are not incompatible; in fact, the latter is essential to the former.

Las Vegas Massacre: My $0.02

Irrespective of whether the Las Vegas gunman achieved fully-automatic fire via (a) a true fully-automatic weapon, (b) an illegally-converted semi-automatic, or (b) a “bump-fire” stock, the fact remains: this is only the third time in the last 83 years, the last being the North Hollywood shootout of 1997, that a fully-automatic weapon–converted, modified, or otherwise–has been used in a violent crime.

In the coming weeks, we will learn the ugly, sordid truth of this gunman. Initially, he appears to be a wealthy man with no criminal record or social media presence, otherwise irreligious and apolitical, who flipped the mother of all switches and meticulously planned and executed the worst mass shooting in American history since Wounded Knee.

If he had a religious or political motive for his attack, we will eventually find it. Many on the Left are praying to Molech that he was an honors graduate of Bob Jones University with a Life Membership in the NRA, whereas many on the Right are hoping he had found death-worshiping religion in Mosul.

At this point, for all we know, he was Atheist, agnostic, or simply had not given much thought to the matter while making his millions.

Initial reports say he was prescribed Valium for anti-anxiety, but other than that his mental health record appears clear. Other reports say he may have had some social issues–often unkempt, frequently berated his girlfriend in public–but was otherwise functional enough to be a successful businessman who made a lot of money and was at least able to have relationships with the opposite sex.

(That would rule out the possibility of him being an angry omega male who, out of despondency over unrequited love, jumped off the proverbial cliff.)

The emerging reports, and the crime-scene photos, indicate that the gunman, in order to achieve fully-automatic fire, used “bump-fire” stocks, rifle stocks which use the recoil to facilitate the manual use of the trigger, thereby achieving quasi-full-automatic functionality with semi-automatic action.

A bump-fire stock, while providing near-full-auto fire, does so at the cost of accuracy, as it requires a more deliberate use of the hand muscles to maintain fire. At the same time, because he was shooting into a crowd at a concert, he was effectively shooting fish in a barrel.

As I write this, the death toll is 58 (the official toll is 59, but I’m not counting the gunman, nor should you), with over 500 wounded. If the reports are correct, then everyone who made it to the hospital alive is still alive as of this writing.

As expected, the Leftards jumped on the wagon for gun control. Hillary Clinton broke from her Blame Everyone But Myself book tour to tweet for more gun control; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation targeting “bump-fire” stocks.

The NRA, to their credit, has been relatively cool in their response, as well they should be.

Here’s my take…

First off, a couple of disclosures:

(1) I oppose the Hughes Amendment of the Volkmer-McClure Act of 1986 (also known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act). If I were President, I would strike down the Hughes Amendment.

(The Hughes Amendment bans the manufacture of fully-automatic weapons for civilian purchase. Those manufactured before 1986 were grandfathered in, so that way existing machine gun owners would not be turned into instant criminals. The upshot: machine guns made before 1986 are still legal for purchase, anything after that is only legal for military and law enforcement and drug cartels of the government’s choosing…)

(2) I oppose the inclusion of suppressors (also known as “silencers”) under the Class 3 umbrella. Those, which are not a tool of criminals except in the movies, are a legitimate accessory for hearing protection and ought to be available for open purchase.

(3) I do support the inclusion of fully-automatic weapons in the world of Class 3 firearms. Those who would purchase them should require some vetting. What we saw in Vegas is exactly why we need that. It would not have prevented the Vegas gunman from obtaining them–he had the clean record and the deep pockets–but it would give more latitude to government to provide more extensive vetting that would keep the mentally-ill, or those discharged from the military for reasons other than Honorable or Medical, from obtaining machine guns. (While a Dishonorable Discharge is disqualifying, other less-than-honorable discharges short of that are not.)

In other words, some folks, on the margins, who would otherwise qualify to purchase semi-autos, may be worthy of exclusion from purchasing full-auto, as full-auto ought to have a higher bar.

But what about bump-fire stocks?

While technically legal for general purchase, bump-stocks effectively convert a semi-automatic firearm into a full-auto. This would seem to, at the very least, make them worthy of inclusion under the Class 3 umbrella.

Currently, the Leftards would like to ban bump-stocks altogether. Some Republicans are also entertaining the idea.

Here’s what I would support:

(1) Repeal the Hughes Amendment, making all full-autos available for purchase via the Class 3 process. This would drive down the price of full-autos and expand the ability of law-abiding citizens to own them.

(2) Remove all suppressors from Class 3 status, making them universally-available for purchase as an accessory.

(3) Classify bump-fire stocks as Class 3 firearms, requiring the regular Class 3 background check for purchase, but with the $5 tax instead of the $200 tax.

The only problem with (3) is how to enforce it against those already out there? You’d have to have some sort of grandfather clause. The problem is they aren’t stamped, and anyone with a 3-D printer and the CNC know-how can manufacture one.

You could include a window of time for the grandfather clause–during which you can get it stamped, having the larger background check waived and even receive a $200 rebate from the government–but after that, anyone caught with an unstamped bump-fire stock would have it confiscated (but would not be prosecuted).

And once the window closes, all legal transfers of bump-fires would have to occur via the Class 3 process, with violations of that resulting in confiscation but not prosecution. Any use of them in the commission of a violent crime, however, would result in a mandatory minimum of life imprisonment.

That would ensure that (a) those who want real-deal full-autos can get them at reasonable prices, while still requiring vetting, (b) those who want suppressors can get them easily, and (c) those who want bump-fires can still get them–at reasonable prices–but would require a class 3 vetting that includes a nominal tax, with penalties minimal for those not committing violent crimes.