An article about why its necessary to discuss the negative in evangelicalism. How the negative issues need to be addressed in order to make evangelical Christianity healthy. Policy on comments and a way ahead.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights
“There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever before”
Henry David Thoreau
When you go to the doctor your physician runs a battery of tests as part of an assessment of your overall health. While 90% is okay what is the doctor going to focus on? What is your medical provider going to speak to you about? They are going to focus on the issues that are a threat to your health. Your doctor is going to talk about your weight, high blood pressure, last lab work, if your pre-diabetic, etc… Its not easy to hear, but hear it you must if you want to get healthy. Another way to contemplate this is the following, think about your regular dental check up. What is the dentist going to be concerned about? Is your dentist going to emphasize the 31 teeth that are in good shape? Or are they going to be concerned and focused on the last molar that has a deep cavity which needs to be cleaned and the crown you need made? The dentist is going to be worried about the molar and the crown. In short order you focus and deal with the negative to help get better.
I would suggest that your spiritual health is just as important as your physical and emotional health. Altogether they work in cohesion with each other and for you to be fully healthy your spirituality needs to be part of the mix. It is for this reason that I intend to take on, and discuss parts of evangelicalism that need to be discussed. Why do I believe that? Many parts of evangelical Christianity are diseased and sick. There is little to no accountability for many ministries. There is deep corruption in a number of churches. There are Pastors in churches who have surrounded themself with Elders who are “yes men.” There are seldom checks and balances and the wolves are running around destroying the faith of the sheep. When you run a ministry and the fruit of that ministry is online blogs with names like, “Watch”,”Musings From Under the Bus”, “Survivors”,”Refuge” etc… you know you have a problem. Its not going to go away, in fact this problem is growing and I would suggest it is a very threat to the Gospel of Jesus Christ himself.
The negative needs to be talked about because many pastors have platforms. They have blogs. The attention of audiences, and in other cases the full backing of the Evangelical Industrial or Reformed Industrial Complex. This blog and my focus will be on the sheep in the pew, those in the small group and those on the sidelines. Those are the sheep that need attention, love and care. They are the ones that need a voice today. It deeply distresses me that when I pushed back from Christianity for years I could watch the mess unfold in Seattle with Mark Driscoll from a far, see that he is a fraud, thug and bully but interact with some Christians who sung his praises and couldn’t discern that he was a fraud. For me having Mark Driscoll run a church is kind of like having Ted Bundy run an online dating service. Or in other words its like having Bernie Madoff be the Treasurer for the local PTA. It bothered me to no end that I would be invited to a Sovereign Grace Ministries church at one point and see all the red flags about the organization but knew others that couldn’t perceive or see these problems. This isn’t just affecting and hurting people within the faith, its giving people on the outside reasons not to explore faith.
But there are a lot of hurting and broken people and in order to help them get better the negative aspects of faith need to be tackled and addressed. Now I also know that people don’t want to hear these issues. Who wants to hear about a pedophile situation in an evangelical church in Milwaukee? Who wants to hear about what happened to Paul Petry, Bent Meyer, or Rob Smith? Who wants to hear about a pastor that sued a housewife in Portland, Oregon? Who wants to hear about the issue of pedophilia in the Southern Baptist Convention? Who wants to hear about an Evangelical Free Church being theologically hi-jacked by a Neo-Calvinist thus leaving people spiritually homeless? No one does. I get that and I understand that, but if evangelicalism is going to get healthy again this stuff needs to be tackled. Its a threat to the Gospel, its a threat to the church, and quite frankly spiritual manipulation, abuse and questionable theology is also sin itself. What did Jesus ask Peter three times? (John 21:15-17) Feed his sheep. He didn’t say three times barbecue and slaughter my sheep. Part of the problem I would suggest is that the wrong people are in the pulpit or running ministries. The people who shouldn’t be teaching are; whereas those who should be teaching are not. I intend to write about this from the perspective of someone in the pew. And yet with my demons, faults and issues I would never seek a church leadership position, even if I find a church to call home. However, I would also challenge the church to inquire, become involved and develop a deep concern for people. I’ll be blunt in saying this…I don’t think some people are going to heal from the Mark Driscoll or SGM mess. I think some people are going to be stuck or they are going to walk away from Christianity…and in all honesty I can’t say I blame them. When you are so burned by religion, fundamentalism, etc.. walking away is natural and I believe healthy.
I have a series of questions that I would like to pose and you will see why I arrived at the conclusion that I did on comments. When you are talking about spiritual abuse, manipulation and theology in order to have healthy discussions you need to lay it all out on the table. You can not censure, obstruct or refuse to listen to material that is unsettling. The moment a moderator starts to censure people because she doesn’t like their theology or is all about control…well in the end you just made yourself an extension or a “church plant” of the organization that you are writing about. I would suggest that Rachel Held Evans downfall in time is going to be traced to the moment she started to delete and censor comments on her blog. You can’t write posts about Sovereign Grace and its culture then turn around and and duplicate its practices because you don’t like the comments you are hearing.
The other day I received stinging comments from another moderator on another blog. In addition to everything else the biggest sin she committed was questioning my motives. And when she refused to even leave the door open to forgiveness it became clear to me that she is all about control. A moderator of a blog dealing with spiritual abuse should not be throwing people under the bus. Worse I must indeed ask this…when a said moderator is censoring and treating people harshly I have to ask…how is that person any different than CJ Mahaney?
While discussing it there is one challenge I have to the former SGM community. The former Mars Hill community in Seattle worked at building a website called Mars Hill Was. It documents the saga that was Mars Hill. I would challenge the former SGM community to pull together and compile their resources and do something similar. Build a website to document the SGM stories, CJ Mahaney’s sermons, the SGM lawsuit history, and the support that many Reformed leaders gave to Mahaney. When SGM Refuge disappeared many stories and facts documented disappeared with it. For the sake of history can I recommend that this is done so that the history of SGM be documented and preserved and the church can learn from the mess.
But for me this is not about control. Serving the sheep needs to be a privilege and not a right. And in that spirit I would like to propose a way forward. I am not going to be about control. I would like to open this up to other people. If you want to publish an article about your take on theology or your church feel free to do so. I’ll actually turn over the moderation and discussion to you and let you lead and guide the conversation. I’m also going to say the following. I am not afraid of hard questions or difficult discussions. My faith crisis was hell and I was willing to walk and wrestle with issues that many people are frightened to consider. It wasn’t easy for me. My search for truth led me through agnosticism and to explore atheism. I banged my head on the wall for about 5 years on the Problem of Evil. Therefore I am going to encourage everyone regardless of their theological background to participate.
- Are you a Young Earth Creationist? While I am an Old Earth Creationist I welcome your involvement here.
- Strict complementarian? Well I’m single so the issue doesn’t affect me very much but I have no problem with you engaging here.
- Universalist? Personally I am not, but I have no problems with you posting here.
- Open Theist? I am still working through that but I enjoy reading Greg Boyd’s articles and thoughts. So feel free to engage.
- Are you Neo-Calvinist? Well one of these days I’d like to write an article about how Calvinism makes the Problem of Evil worse. But I welcome you posting here and would love to have you be part of the community.
- Atheist? Do you like George Carlin? You can come on here and discuss away.
I would love and have no problem with people using my blog as a springboard to start yours. If my blog leads to more people writing about SGM, The Evangelical Free, differing forms of Fundamentalism, than I think the church will become healthier. In short order I don’t want people to feel intimidated or threatened. I want you to treat this place like your living room. Kick off the shoes, relax in the couch and make yourself at home. The point I am trying to make is that I am not so insecure that I can’t stand to listen to other points of view. There is strength in diversity, and I want to be able to have difficult conversations. In the next couple of weeks I would like to explore my Mother’s pancreatic cancer situation back in 2005 and what I did when I was drinking the John Piper kool-aid. I would also like to write about dealing with fundamentalism at a funeral in Butte, Montana in 2009. I would like to explore some hardcore atheist material and start a series on a faith crisis and how to engage or deal with a person in one. One thing I do want to say is that a comment may get stuck in moderation and due to work and life I may not get to approve it for a while. My East Coast Mom has her pug dog TULIP manning the computer approving away. I don’t have that luxury! So if something gets stuck please be patient with me. It will be approved when I get out from work or have access to my Android.
But at the end of the day Christians really should be known for love and grace. For those who do not know this there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. And the last thing Christians should do is add to it. Fundamentalism is not hard to find…on any given Sunday morning I could walk about a block from my apartment complex and be immersed in Fundamentalism 2.0. So if Christians are going to be rude, condescending, control freaks, etc.. let me say this. If that is Christianity its best if the church crawls into a cave, disappears and never show its ugly head again. There is too much hurt in the world and if Christians are going to add to that pain than I ask for that kind of faith to disappear from the face of western civilization.
Maybe another way to describe this blog is to have it be like the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775,1776. An environment rich with debate and different backgrounds. Labor intensive yes, frustrating yes; but when you consider the fruit being the Declaration of Independence then it was well worth it. So with that in mind I’ll leave you with a couple of clips from the Broadway Musical called 1776.