A personal reflection on hate. How I was called on hate when I was in my faith crisis and drinking the Christopher Hitchens and other evangelical atheist kool aid. Realizing that in this one instance Andrew White was correct about me hating Sovereign Grace and my efforts to own it, repent of it and seek forgiveness from Sovereign Grace.
“Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win, unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself”
Richard Nixon August 9, 1974
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses“
Proverbs 10:12 ESV
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
1 John 3:15 ESV
There is much to write about in my faith crisis, but there is one thing I want to explore today. How I approached Sovereign Grace and asked for forgiveness for realizing I was wrong about one aspect of my life. Here is the background to help put things in context. My faith crisis roared in 2009 and I pushed back from church and Christianity. I was overcome with doubt, and I didn’t know how to deal with my doubts. There were so many issues that kind of made it the perfect storm in so many ways. In time I eventually started to discuss things with a couple of people. One of those individuals my life crossed pathes with in November 2010 was deeply involved at Redeemer Arlington. He started to invite me, invited me often, and frequently. He also placed pressure on me on the process. Today I think he made some honest mistakes but I am hoping one of these days he will own them. When I first started to get invited to Sovereign Grace I started to look into the denomination and research it online. I was shocked by the negative information that was hemorraging out of the organization. Blogs, websites, and story after story of manipulation, discussion of SGM being a cult, cover up of alleged child sex crimes, alleged spiritual abuse, and CJ Mahaney’s alleged blackmail of Larry Tomczak. I was stunned by what I read. And my response to Andrew White was to resist. We started to fight, and we started to clash. Then we reconciled a couple of times and more information poured out about SGM. I’m not proud of this at all, actually it deeply hurts – still. Against all this my faith crisis got worse and I started to read and look into more the hardcore evangelical atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and The Friendly Atheist. Hitchens claims that we are to clash with religion. When you’re consuming material from Christopher Hitchens and your raging about how Christianity is a cancer and how corrupt it is, and how society would be better off had it not exist; and then your being invited to a church in a denomination that is bleeding alleged child sex abuse stories; well it helped drag out my faith crisis in many ways. It helped feed it and confirm what Hitchens and others were saying about the harm of religion. Hitchens calls for religion to be ridiculed, confronted and not respected. And in many ways from that mind set I did that. As I said my faith crisis was dark and brought out a lot of dark feelings. Again if I didn’t drive home my point let me re-iterate, I am not proud of this at all. During this time Andrew White sent me an email claiming that I had so much hate for Sovereign Grace. I dismissed it and the fighting intensified as the lawsuit kicked off and I read more about the alleged cover up of child sexual abuse in SGM. Upon hearing how Sovereign Grace forced a 3 year old to forgive her molester, I used to ask Andrew regularly and repeatedly in person and by text, “is it the Gospel to force a 3 year old to forgive her molester?” Plus there was the time I gave him a spoon in Redeemer in front of a couple of his friends where I referenced the lawsuit by telling him that “since its the Gospel to spank an adult woman, this spoon will help your faith.” None of this I would do with the mindset I have today. On May 8, 2013 the relationship fractured and I faced a horriffic betryal. It thrust me into the darkest season of my life. There are times I don’t know how I got to here today, it was that dark. So that is the quick context of everything so I could set this post in order.
On August 20, 2013 (I believe) I was in my condo reading SGM Survivors one night. I was reading the latest post by Stephen Altoregge where he then wrote about how real people were being discussed. As I sat at my computer a thought popped into my noodle. It was of an old email that Andrew White had sent me a while back stating that I had hated Sovereign Grace. Now during my faith crisis as I said I had feasted on a lot of evangelical atheist material. And I want to be clear that I am not giving Sovereign Grace a pass on covering up child sex abuse. But that night at my computer I felt a horrific feeling of dread where I realized the difference between disagreement and hate. I had crossed the line and I did hate Sovereign Grace. Andrew White was correct in this instance. When I realized it I sat at my computer and cried. I felt awful to realize that I was in the wrong. It was like an a-ha moment, where I realized and became convicted. That said I needed to confess it. In the course of time I really wanted to approach Redeemer Arlington and have a series of discussions with them but due to what Andrew White had alleged and the false accusation I was managing that was going to be impossible. So I decided to approach Stephen Altoregge of Sovereign Grace Indiana, Pennsylvania instead. I chose him because of his post in SGM Survivors, and he was what I thought of when I thought of the someone going to bat for SGM on social media. So on a spur of the moment situation I wrote to Stephen Altoragge on Facebook, and I wrote the following below. I want to share my raw correspondence:
This is going to be a letter of personal confession to you. I never would have imagined writing nor sending this, however after reading your post in SGM Survivors today as well as your own blog post; I was moved to write. My heart just felt moved.
First let me state that I have not been a fan of SGM or even the churches that broke away. I’m very concerned for the people who were harmed by SGM. But I have to tell you that in many ways my hate and anger had crossed a line and I hurt a number of people in my life. I’ll expand upon this more below.
I’m not into reformed theology at all. Deep within I have a number of concerns, questions and issues with reformed theology. I’m writing from having read, researched and wrestled with the problem of evil for years. Actually I’m in the process of re-entering Christianity again having spent years as a skeptic. What actually drove me for years were doubt, church corruption, and past church experiences. But I hit bottom in early May and it forced me to do some re-evaluation in my life.
You see Stephen there was a guy who I interacted with for nearly 2 years who went to a Sovereign Grace Church. And the relationship was one of deep contention, anger, and frustration. I fought with him often and denied him the respect and love that he deserved. I said a lot of things that I wish I could take back. These words were said in person, through text and email. Knowing the pain I caused Andrew White is difficult to bear at times. You see we reconciled often, but then more information would hemorrhage about Sovereign Grace and though we fought World War III, I would then start World War IV. Many times I came across as wanting to be right and win the argument. Today this fills me with such shame. No argument is worth destroying a friendship. I wish I could go back to the beginning and show him constant love and grace.
Stephen I must confess that in many ways I’ve carried some hatred toward SGM and former Sovereign Grace Churches. Its one thing to disagree…and to be honest I will disagree; but its another to carry on resentment. I realized this when reading your post tonight on SGM Survivors. I lurk there and I remembered your comments on Rachel Held Evans (RHE) blog a while back. My reaction was one of disgust, I thought of you and other active Sovereign Grace members with a lot of contempt. And then when I read your resignation, and your post tonight about these being “real people” being discussed on Survivors I was almost moved to tears. Sometimes in the disagreement I have forgotten that people like you in Sovereign Grace have emotions, feelings, skin, etc… And it was tonight I just wanted to confess my anger toward Sovereign Grace.
I screwed up considerably with Andrew and having blown it so big; I’ve recently started praying for another person from Sovereign Grace to cross paths in my life so I can show him the love, and grace that I failed to show Andrew. I want to let you know that you will be in my prayers Stephen. You will be in my thoughts. Life transitions are hard and after reading about yours I will be thinking about yours. If you ever make it out to the Washington, D.C. area I will be happy to buy you a coffee or even dinner. I would love to show you the love and grace that I should have shown to Andrew and a couple of people from his church that he asked me to meet.
So with that I want to confess the hatred I’ve had toward Sovereign Grace. Please accept my apology.
Just to let you know that I’ve been getting back into Christianity again having been away for years. I’m scheduled to be baptized at Fairfax Community Church in November. In preparation for that I’ve gone back into my life and have reached out (and still reaching out) to as many people as I can and seek forgiveness for things I have said out of anger or pain. My list is up to 120 and growing but I have been forgiven by 85 people. It’s been a beautiful and moving experience. It’s also exciting studying scripture again and spending my lunches at work reading James. At this rate I’ll have memorized most of James by the end of the year without even trying. And I’ve also started to work with the homeless again through the church that I am involved in.
Amidst all that know that I’ll be praying for you. My apologies for having a cold heart at times and letting that drive me at times. I would also ask if you could pray for Andrew and that one day we could work out the differences, much of which I alone am responsible for. I would also ask if you could pray that I could be forgiven by 120, and that those people who I have been forgiven by; that love can help flourish the relationship. I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Good luck in your transition, and let me know how I can pray for you. If you find yourself in the DC area, dinner is on me.
With both love and respect
I still believe in everything I wrote above, and I want to go on record as saying I would re-write much of this letter all over. There are only two things I would change. The first is that I did cry in my kitchen so I don’t know what happened when I typed that, but for the sake of originality I decided to leave it as is. The second thing is toward the end when I say that “much of which I alone am responsible for” when referencing myself and Andrew White. What I would have actually said is that this quandary between Eagle and Andrew White was a mess between the two of us. I’d say my part is 60% and Andrew White’s is 40%.I’m just trying to lay it all out on the table here. We’re both responsible. The next day I got the following message back from Stephen Altoragge, and we discussed the situation through a couple of Facebook messages.
Wow. Eagle thank you for such a kind, generous apology. Man, I don’t even know what to say. I’m honored by your kind words. And it is so obvious to me that God is at work in major ways in your life! And of course, I totally forgive you in every way.
I can understand your feeling of frustration and anger toward people in the church. To be honest, I’m working through that myself right now. My wife and I are tempted to be angry and bitter toward particular people. But I don’t want that to control me. I know how quickly that could sink me. So please be praying for me that will help me in this area as well.
I praise God for how he is working to heal you in so many ways. I pray that he will continue to do so!
Here is what I learned on August 20, and thought about as time passed. First of all there is a fine line between disagreement and hate, and its not very far to cross. A person can disagree and come to a different conclusion, however in the course of time when emotions ratchet up its easy to cross the line and to start to hate. And when you’re talking about things such as child sex abuse, corruption, spiritual manipulation, etc.. it gets very easy. Let me also state that I am not saying that one should not get angry. I am working at trying to explain a balance between the two. Anger is healthy, and good emotion. I believe God gave us anger as a spiritual gift. After all Jesus got angry in dealing with the Pharisees and turning tables over in the temple. As a man its appropriate and right to get angry over child sex abuse, and injustice to so many other issues. A man should get angry over such an act, and righteous anger is what we are called to be at times, especially when its necessary. So I am not saying that one should not get angry.
However, anger unchecked can grow and cross the line. In the process you can cross the line into hating. How can one hate? These are some ways I would suggest:
- You could harbor a grudge in your heart.
- You can seek out confrontation for the sake of confrontation.
- You can tear down and use words like a knife.
- You can manipulate your feelings to use that hate to control someone, or deny that person something.
- You can use hate to deny someone respect and love.
- You can use hate to hold a person and keep them hurt.
- Hate can be used to deny a person peace. I would suggest this is one of the cruelest things a person could do because Jesus came to give peace (John 14:27) and this can trip up a person spiritually.
- Hate makes it easy to live in an “us” vs. “them” mentality.
I put that quote by Richard Nixon up first because I think it speaks volumes and tells you about the personal effect of hate. He also is a good example of how hate can destroy, and how it brought down one of the most powerful men in the world at the time. That quote was from a speech that Nixon gave to the White House staff on August 9, 1974. He had just resigned the previous night on national television and became the only President to resign in US history. The problem with hate is that you can also become what you hate. When you hate you can and do indeed destroy yourself in time. Anyone and everyone is capable of destroying themselves. This can be a topic for another time but as I type this I have never really heard evangelicals speak about the sin of hate. At least not in the wings that I have walked through. But hate can be destructive and as Jesus says it can be the equivalent of murder. That is stinging and that is hard but sometimes the truth can be hard to swallow.
Those points above are some of the things I contemplated on as I wrestled with the issue of hate. From 2012 until 2013 I didn’t see this. I was largely blind, confused and in a dark place. In August 2013 I was overwhelmed by my emotions in this area. One of the things that hurt the most is that when I realized this, and had that “a-ha” moment I couldn’t tell Andrew and have a series of discussions with him as to how I was in the wrong. I really wanted to tell him that he was right in this instance. Due to Andrew White’s behavior I couldn’t repent of my hate to him, especially as I re-engaged in the Christian faith again. This had me in knots in many ways because it has helped deny me peace. This is part of the reason why I don’t think some people in Sovereign Grace will ever find healing. I think some people will be stuck and left in a state of perpetual pain. And I think that’s how some people will live out their life. That’s why I am praying that Andrew and I can work things out so that I can move forward. To the 136 people who forgave me or who spoke with me at length I want to say thank you for helping me move forward. The list is long and includes people from every church I have been in since 1999. It includes several Crusade directors, a Neo-Calvinist pastor, various Non-denominational pastors, Lutheran pastor, Southern Baptist pastor, Catholic Priest, Presbyterian missionaries, Senior Pastor of National Community Church, an Anglican Priest, various church staff, and so many other people to include an atheist as well who released me. Each one of those people helped me move forward and helped me to heal from hate. One thing I will say here to Andrew if he ever reads this is the following. If you are still angry with me, and have a hard time letting that go you will also cross the line into hating. And when you hate you will destroy yourself and those around you as well. That doesn’t have to happen, the way to deal with hate is to confess it to the person you hated. That’s why I cleaned up so much with so many people and why I am still pursuing it today.
As for me in closing my journal thoughts, I am still working through some of this as well. For example in the last several weeks I have wondered if I grouped and labeled Redeemer Arlington together unfairly. If I had made them guilty by association and lumped together then I will have to work that out as well. People can change…as I write this I reflect on how I once thought about Joseph Smith in my life. I actually thought he was a prophet and again I was wrong and had to admit that error. There was also the time where I once called Christianity a cancer. I had to admit that also as being wrong. Its hard to come forward and say I was wrong but its necessary. My identity is not in being right, my identity is in the Lord but its also important to admit when I am wrong. Its freeing, and its important. So I am still on this journey and I am still processing these feelings and emotions. So let me just re-state what I learned in my kitchen in August 2013. I did hate Sovereign Grace. I was wrong. And I want to go public in admitting I was wrong. My anger developed into hate, that was part of the problem. Andrew White I wish I could have that long talk and explain why and how I realized you are right.
So in signing off I’ll put these two songs from Sovereign Grace in my post.
One Pure and Holy Passion
All I Have Is Christ