This post today is a journal entry that is an analysis of Andrew White’s evangelism of Eagle. Eagle rejected Christianity in 2009 and met Andrew White in late 2010. Eagle hoped the friendship would be similar to that of Scott Van Sweringen. Instead it was the opposite. Andrew placed intense pressure at times to get Eagle involved in Redeemer Arlington, Eagle refused after reading SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge. Eagle pushed back hard as an agnostic when he was more of a militant atheist. The relationship fractured on May 8, 2013 about a couple of weeks before Eagle returned to the Christian faith. This is an analysis of what Andrew White from Redeemer Arlington should have done. This was a hard post to write…I cried a couple of times in writing this entry.
“We must school and train ourselves to deal personally with the unconverted. We must not excuse ourselves, but force ourselves to the irksome task until it becomes easy.”
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and un-prayed for.”
“Reckon then that to acquire soul-winning power, you will have to go through mental torment and soul distress. You must go into the fire if you are going to pull others out of it, and you will have to dive into the floods if you are going to draw others out of the water. You cannot work a fire escape without feeling the scorch of the conflagration, nor man a lifeboat without being covered with the waves.”
“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.”
Before I journal anything I have something I need to write about. About 3 or so weeks ago I had a conference call between myself, Jordan Kauflin, and Andrew White. We made some good progress in resolving some of issues I have written about here. I learned of things from Andrew’s perspective and he learned of what I endured. Andrew apologized for the false accusation that he gave birth to which is all I wanted to hear. Andrew also said that I became emotionally and verbally abusive when I was in my faith crisis. I was under the Hitchens kool-aid but for Andrew’s benefit I owned it. I wrote him a letter further owning the emotional and verbal abuse. In addition to forgiving him for the false accusation, I also forgave him for a number of other things as well. There are still a couple of outstanding issues I am praying for but I am going slow. I think its unreasonable to expect so much so soon, and I do want to take things in stride. I also want to be caring and sensitive to Andrew White’s needs as well, plus I am praying hard for him. In the course of time there are several things I would like to journal about. Those issues are:
- An open letter to Andrew White thanking for the evangelism he did of me.
- A post on what I am forgiving Andrew White of and why I am forgiving him.
- A post on reconciliation and what it means to reconcile with someone when there are issues and difficulty.
- An open letter to the leadership of Redeemer Arlington and wishing them well, and explaining how I was wrong to group them together and view them as “company men” of SGM. Why I believe Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons have spiritual potential. I’m a firm believer in placing credit where it is due and this is important to contemplate as well.
- My hope for the future, what I am praying for in regards to Andrew, placing this in context of the faith crisis I had and working at seeking peace with 140 people.
Its with that said that I had originally planned to analyze what went wrong in the friendship, and also what Andrew White should have done to someone in a faith crisis. I want to be clear in writing this I am not bullying, picking on or being mean to Andrew. I am just trying to be forthright. I am blunt I know that, but I am also trying to reflect on the situation. This will be a post on the challenges of evangelizing an agnostic/atheist. While I proclaimed myself to be agnostic, after thinking it through and considering what people said while I was repenting…I was probably more militant atheist in the end.
In early 2010 I took a gamble and it opened up the lines of communication with Scott Van Sweringen. Scott worked at a homeless rescue mission in Kansas City, Missouri was an Elder in his church and graduate of Moody Bible Institute. We started to have difficult but detailed discussions about faith. While I appreciated the discussions as time passed I longed to have these kind of faith discussions with someone local in the DC area. I didn’t know what to do as I distrusted churches, was skeptical of Christians, and weary. I remember the first time I met Andrew and the way he popped into the basement of work, and shaking his hand. I thought nothing of it at the time. While I was hoping to have faith based discussions Andrew made some faith based comments to me in a Starbucks when I happened to be with him. That took me back. I often pay attention to people around me and I noticed that he didn’t mix faith and politics which is what lead me to avoid and blow off a couple of other co-workers who wanted to engage me. After what Andrew said combined with what he didn’t say I mustered the courage to send him the following email below. Privately I was hoping that I could meet someone like Scott Van Sweringen locally that I could talk to about faith. I was looking for help as I was profoundly lost and in emotional turmoil.
…Anyhow I was surprised to hear you mention your involvement in an evangelical church plant. I’ve been involved in evangelical Christianity for 10 years. I did a mission trip through McLean Bible in 2007 and was a leader in Campus Crusade at Marquette University in Milwaukee when I was in grad school. However, due to a number of things that happened, and a lot of wrenches from life I more or less actually lost my faith and what I believed in. I was so overwhelmed with doubt on so many issues and had a number of bad church experiences in the process. The last time I went to church was back in 2009, and in all honesty I have a hard time stomaching church right now.
Some of what killed my faith were questions about such issues as why a loving God would allow evil, to why are evangelical Christians subjective about what is sinful, to what happens to those who die who never heard the gospel due to historical or geographical limitations to other theologically difficult issues in the Bible. For example why would a God who creates morality and asks us to follow his commands through his son, would sometimes break those commands. In my case I just think of how in the Old Testament God said not to murder and yet would commit murder.
I tried wrapping my mind around some of this stuff and it really went no where and some of the questions I asked at McLean Bible or National Community Church didn’t go over too well.
So with that I’ve been speaking with a couple of friends. We’re had a lot of conversations over some of the hard stuff but I wanted to ask you…does any of this relate? Have you dealt with incredible doubt or can you understand? Please understand I am not trying to ridicule or give you and your faith a hard time. If this is interpreted that way…then please forgive me.
When work is over this week I am jumping on a train on November 16 and headed to Kansas City, Missouri. I’m going to visit a close friend of mine in Kansas who was a missionary over in Kenya and is a new father. His daughter is attached in this email, he sent me this picture the other day. New baby clothing that I bought her. We were close friends as evangelicals back in 2006 through today, and somehow our friendship has survived this spiritual situation. So that said…I’m looking forward to heading to Missouri.
Thanks for the ear…I just want to see if any of this rings true for you.
And within an hour I got the following response from Andrew White.
Thanks a lot for the email. I appreciate your willingness to be so open and vulnerable — very brave.
I’ll keep my response short because I think much of this should be hashed out in person, over many days, and definitely over much coffee . But I think you should know that yes, I do struggle with many of the issues that you brought up. Those questions are tough and can very much shake one’s foundation. In many ways I am struggling with some of those questions right now. I briefly mentioned that my entire family are not believers (I don’t like that term but I never know what else to use). That in and of itself has been a source of many tears, much questioning, and strength-sapping wrestling over the past 10 years since I repented and gave my life to Christ.
Without trying to answer your questions in detail, I am very confident that the best way to address them is head-on. Many churches seem to run away from the ‘tough stuff’ in Scripture: those seemingly contradictory passages or stories of God being unloving or just weird (rape in the Bible? God commanding the Israelites to slaughter children and mothers? Jesus saying he came to separate families? Paul commanding women to be silent and wear a hat in church?), etc. But what I think is needed is storng men willing to stand up and throw up a fist to God and say, “This is all jacked up! Why are you commanding this? Why are you so contradictory? Why do you talk about love but then act so unloving? How can you judge people that never gave a chance to know you?”. But what is also required is for those same strong men to be ready, able, and willing to listen to what God has to say. What I am slowly starting to learn is that all these questions that you and I bring up actually are addressed in Scripture. However, it takes a willingness to dig deep and hear the “whole council of Scripture” (i.e. not to be tempted to just rip verses of passages out of context but actually try to see what both the Old Testament and New Testament have to say about the same topic that we are having trouble with). It’s definitely not easy…
I have a good friend tell me one time that he “loves how God is big enough to allow us to scream and pound on his chest; all while just holding us close.” I love that imagery: of a little kid just screaming and wailing at their dad, saying, “Why?!” or “How could you?!”.
Another thing that I’ve been wrestling with lately: Job 38-42. I think it really relates to the issues you have brought up. As you probably know, God allowed Job’s life to absolutely be ripped apart literally overnight (kids dying, wealth disappearing, disease covering him, etc.). Naturally, from our American “just make me comfortable now” perspective we empathize with Job as he laments and cries out to God, asking why He would ever let something like this happen. God just listens. For 37+ chapters God listens. He listens as Job pounds on His chest and wails.
God finally answers: “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you will answer me'”. (Side note: I think it’s hilarious that God basically tells Job to ‘man up’).
Then for the next 2 chapters God just relentlessly asks these mind-blowing questions that reveal how huge and powerful He is. It’s an incredible read: one of the rare times we actually read God describing in detail his own character.
What is Job’s response? “I had heard by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes”. Job’s response was basically, “I had no idea what I was talking about. You are God and you can do whatever you want.” Anyways, I want you to know that you are in friendly territory Eagle.
Those questions are very important to ask (and as important to answer). At the end of the day, I am confident that much of life cannot be understood this side of eternity. We are simply foolish humans with small, foolish brains. And then you add this rebellious sin nature to all of the foolishness… Definitely not a good recipe for figuring out the mysteries of the universe on our own. Thank God for a Savior. Its our only hope…
Thanks for you email and time Eagle. I look forward to walking through our doubts, questions, criticisms, and wailings together…
Instead of a friendship in the course of time we butted heads. He started to place incredible pressure on me to attend Redeemer Arlington. I began to become horrified based upon what I read about Redeemer Arlington on SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge. We clashed, we fought, and we each did things to each other that were awful. Two situations stand out which never should have happened which I think is profoundly sad. The first one was Andrew and I standing in the lobby at work, him in his BDU’s and me in a dress shirt and tie practically screaming at each other over Sovereign Grace. He called it the “healthiest church he knew” while I called it a cult. This was between two men in their thirties. Then there was another time we met in a smoothie shop in Alexandria. Andrew who loves to draw and loves art, was taking art classes. But he wanted to meet with me and talk about faith before art school. So we sat in a smoothie shop and he again invited me to Redeemer Arlington. I looked him in the eye just face to face and told him that while I was open to exploring Christianity, I was not going to explore Christianity in Sovereign Grace. I told him that if he were involved in any other church then yes I would honestly give it a try. But there were too many red flags from SGM Survivors. I was burned by my past and I was haunted and living with scars from Mormonism. I didn’t need Sovereign Grace…I needed help. Sovereign Grace due to all its corruption and problems was the issue. It became a barrio to me having faith. After what I read at SGM Survivors my resistance to Andrew’s pressure intensified my desire to stay away from a Sovereign Grace church. But in that smoothie shop I remember Andrew just looking away with this dazed look of intense disbelief to hear of someone willing to try out a church but not Sovereign Grace due to all the problems it had. Honestly its hard to write this, to ponder and reflect on it, especially as I am crying in thinking of the pain this conflict brought about. My faith crisis was hell….but this conflict became the deepest regret in my life. And that is why I am working so hard to redeem it.
On May 8, 2013 things fractured and I found myself dealing with a false accusation which I managed for 13 months. It was psychologically terrifying to deal with a false accusation. Dee Parsons helped me manage it, as she knew Human Resources law from all her years in management herself. As I reflect on what happened I am amazed I am not an atheist….one thing I will say I think my life can be a walking warning to the dangers of fundamentalism and cults. The cult part that haunted me was Mormonism, and fundamentalism was all the John Piper and other stuff I followed. Even today I brush shoulders with atheists and in the recess of my mind I privately think to myself, “why isn’t that me?” Andrew as I told you on the phone I forgive you for the false accusation. Despite all that happened I love and care about you, and I am praying that we can communicate and be in touch again. This time as brothers in faith. That said, let me spend the rest of the evening and the next day writing in detail as to what you should have done with me. I offer this as a means to help guide and teach you. I am not here to belittle, criticize and be difficult. Like I have told you before I am open to your thoughts and I am willing to let you engage or edit anything I put on paper.
What Andrew White Should Have Done
There are a number of things that I believe could have changed the situation that would have had a different result. Let me go through them, one by one.
Avoid Raising Celebrity Pastors Especially John Piper
The first thing Andrew should have done is dialed down the celebrity pastors considerably. In 2012-2013 Andrew White reminded me of how I was from 2004-2008. I look at you Andrew and I almost saw myself in another stage of life. What should have happened is that you should have been more sensitive to the celebrity pastors and not pushed some of them. Tim Keller is fine…there are a couple of issues with him but I am willing to overlook them. I remember the one time at work that I emailed you and told you CJ Mahaney was a fraud. I had read how he blackmailed Larry Tomczak on SGM Survivors and read the transcript of the blackmail. It was deeply disturbing to read. My email to you stating that Mahaney was a fraud caused you to blow. As I recall from the email you sent me the following day you blew so much that you couldn’t get any work done the day you read my email. You also told me how much you liked Mark Driscoll, as I believe you started to read him when you were deployed to Iraq. So let me just ask was it worth it for us to fight over these celebrity pastors? I mean consider…Mars Hill Seattle is history, and CJ Mahaney’s days are basically over as a preacher/teacher. In light of what happened too many people make celebrity pastors idols and identify with them instead of Jesus I would contest. I plan to write about in the near future. But this became a needless issue for us, and a point of contention to me.
Oh by the way before I move into the John Piper issue I have to tell you this. You know the story of my faith crisis that I told at The Wartburg Watch in August 2014? Well in the course of time I found out that it was traded and read by a number of former members of Mars Hill and it gave them comfort. I was baffled as to why others would find it interesting. Honestly who would be interested in my story?
In regards to John Piper I think you needed to be more sensitive to what my family went through with my Mom and pancreatic cancer. My Mom survived something that she should not have Andrew. She deals with survivor guilt, and its been hard on her. Along comes her son high on the John Piper Kool Aid who gives her this pamphlet telling her that the cancer that nearly killed her was a gift from God. A number of people’s jaws dropped when they heard that from me. For me it drove me in rage. Why? My Mother called me out on the carpet and cried in front of me and in between sobs she told me that cancer was not a gift. I had so pushed my mother’s buttons that years later she forced a clash with me on the topic. Even today it gives me a cramp in my stomach to talk about it. I remember the one time I went to Redeemer Arlington with you and I listened to Eric Simmons preach I remember him saying that the way to respond to pain and suffering is with 3 simple words..”I don’t know.” But that rage from being burned like that drove me for years, and was like gasoline on a fire. So in light of my family’s pain and what I put my mother through for you to talk about how much you like John Piper, etc… as you did a few times. That was so not needed. What would have helped you Andrew is if you kept that to yourself and avoided it all together. If you need a refresher as to what happened with my mother you can read this post that I wrote here.
Healing from Mormonism and Respecting Issues with Sovereign Grace
Andrew I think you meant well but I don’t think you knew how much I was haunted by Mormonism. Today, June 17, 2015 I am finally feel free of it. It took nearly 15 years to purge it form my system. All the guilt, shame, anger, pain, disbelief, the times I asked myself, “What the $%#@ were you thinking!” It took a long time to get that out. I wrote this post to explain what it was like to detox from Mormonism, I’d recommend you read it. I have another post about my descent into Mormonism in the works now. So here I am with all this baggage from Mormonism and you do two things that became problematic. With all my concerns you start to place pressure on me to attend Sovereign Grace. Sovereign Grace Ministries was the first religious movement since my days in the LDS faith that I came across that was bleeding horrific stories and problems online. The last time I dealt with these kinds of red flags where when I was up to my eye balls in Mormonism. I had enough scars Andrew I didn’t need more. When you started to invite me to Redeemer Arlington I still felt sick about church because of previous faith experiences. When I saw all the negative stuff about Sovereign Grace online I was at first puzzled. Were you honestly joking with me? With all I was reading at SGM Survivors you honestly wanted me to come to Sovereign Grace? At first I was deeply confused and wondered surely you can’t be serious? Here is the problem….Andrew contributed to and fed my faith crisis by inviting me to Sovereign Grace. Let me spend some time explaining why. A few years prior to meeting Andrew White I had pushed back and walked away from Christianity. I was burned out, and overwhelmed by doubt. The biggest doubt that consumed me was the problem of evil. Every time I heard about some horrific act of evil, whether it be a murder in Baltimore where a man slayed and cannibalized his roommate; or watched the Newtown massacre unfold in Connecticut I turned around and wondered why? The problem of evil is the single best reason in my book to reject God. As Andrew knows I often phrased the question like this, “Why would a loving God allow a three year to be sexually abused? Why is such a God considered good?” So being stuck on the problem of evil was one of the biggest issues I had to contend with in this faith crisis. Against that I then had to contend with Andrew White inviting me to the Sovereign Grace denomination which was known for covering up child sex abuse. I began to realize this when I read SGM Survivors. So here is the problem, you have a proclaimed agnostic walking around asking why would a loving God allow evil while using and seeing acts of evil to justify atheism/agnosticism; meanwhile you had an Air Force Captain and Care Group leader of Redeemer Arlington from 2011-2014 who called it the “healthiest church he knew” and was pressuring me to attend who was inviting me to a denomination that was engaged in acts of evil and criminal activity. For me being invited to Sovereign Grace amidst the cover up of child sex abuse helped me to justify atheism, thus Andrew White by pressuring me to attend helped to perpetuate my faith crisis and agnosticism/atheism and helped drag it out. I wrote about this in detail in this post here. By the way given how I viewed the problem of evil this is why the SGM lawsuit helped me to work through and resolve the problem of evil. That is an essay I am working on now, and I need to explain my thinking especially as the problem of evil will always exist. There is no answer to the problem of evil. Now what helped was when Redeemer Arlington broke away from SGM but I still struggled to think of it as any different. This is part of the reason why based upon some personal experiences I realized I was wrong to think of Redeemer as being led by “company men.” That is an essay for another day in the future but I want to address this issue as well. What Andrew should have done is speak is acknowledge the issues of SGM. What happened and I saw this during the entire friendship is that he defended SGM/Redeemer at every turn in its existence. I remember him telling me about how great the SGM Pastors college is, his thoughts on CJ Mahaney early on in the relationship, SGM culture, etc… Then when Redeemer broke away he continued to defend it. I never heard him step back and say “Eagle SGM is mired in sin, its wrong, it engaged in criminal activity…that’s why we are breaking away. I don’t have any respect for CJ Mahaney” That never happened, if Andrew was more forth coming about SGM’s problems and vocal about it that would have helped, and it would have assuaged my fears.
Sticking to the Basics
The one thing Andrew should have done is stick to the basics and avoid material and conversations that are free from Neo-Calvinsit scandal and corruption. For example early on Andrew asked if I wanted to read JI Packer’s “Knowing God.” We started to read it and then Andrew stopped at Chapter 8 (checked this in my copy last night…) and in its place I found increasing pressure to attend Redeemer Arlington. I have more to say about that below. I have no problem with JI Packer’s “Knowing God.” I researched it and examined it and found it to be reliable. People from all over the spectrum liked it. Yes I believe Mark Dever’s Capital Hill Baptist endorsed it. But so has Stuart Briscoe, John Stott, Chuck Colson, and Billy Graham among others. The more I researched it the better it was as a candidate. What separated JI Packer’s “Knowing God” from the Neo-Calvinist books is that often with Neo-Calvinist books their avenue and audience is limited and exclusionary. In other words its an orgy of back slapping with people like Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, CJ Mahaney, Tim Challies, etc… all endorsing and promoting each other at the expense of the greater Christian faith. Furthermore much of Neo-Calvinism is entrenched in the Reformed Industrial Complex and dripping with cronyism that makes the Somoza ruling family in Nicaragua look ethical. So Andrew White should have stuck to JI Packer. The other thing is that he asked me if I wanted to read “Pilgrim’s Progress” and then never followed up on it. I raised it with him a couple of times and he never got back to me. I thought the best part of the friendship was early on when we would meet in a Starbucks or Subway and discuss in detail the chapters from “Knowing God” I will offer this to Andrew White…I am still open to reading “Knowing God”. If he wants to finish it I am game. Same with Pilgrim’s Progress I am game with that as well.
Andrew should have respected me in many ways…the biggest is that he should not have placed the pressure he did. The last time I encountered unhealthy pressure like this was when I was diving into Mormonism. I couldn’t believe some of the ways in which Andrew placed pressure on me. It occurred face to face, while exercising along the Anacostia River water front at the base we worked at, through emails, and through text messages. Andrew knew how I felt about Sovereign Grace and yet he increased the pressure considerably. I remember one day at work, in what I would say is somewhat common I would get an email that would say something like this, “Hey Eagle, I know you’ll probably say no but will you come to church this weekend?” Other times he begged and pleaded with me to come to church. I never saw a person act like this before. I remember one Friday night I got the most desperate text message I ever received in my life. It was from Andrew and it said, “Please!!! Will you come to my church I want you to see Jesus work!” I never saw such pressure, and I had a mental image in my mind of this 31 year old guy in tears and in anxiety about getting me to Redeemer Arlington. The main difference between Andrew White and the others who were involved in my faith crisis was the pressure. Andrew placed so much pressure on me I could mentally feel it. James Crestwood and Scott Van Sweringen would not place that kind of pressure on me and were more easy going. What Andrew should have done is lay off the pressure and show me unconditional love. Andrew as you will read this I want you to know that today I hold no hard feelings toward you and believe you meant well. But one thing you need to remember is that you are not personally responsible for a person’s salvation. In the end its a combination of the Holy Spirit and the person. In this case I had to be responsible for myself. You meant well brother, but pressure only causes more harm than good.
Atheist Thought/Perspective and How Close You Were
Let me illustrate this point with a story. Imagine if you have a Pac 12 football team that had a hard season. The team has taken on a number of opponents, absorbed injuries, had close calls but hung in there and thrived. Now due to their performance they dominated in the Pac 12 conference and went on to the granddaddy of all bowl games – The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. So this Pac 12 football team is playing in this high stakes football game. They played hard, and it was a difficult game. Now imagine the following…in the fourth quarter with less than a minute to go from winning the game this Pac 12 football team decides to walk from the game and leave the field. Why? The other team is too aggressive, mean and combative. The Pac 12 football team decides to walk away from the game while they were on the verge of winning because they want to protect themselves.
In many ways Andrew White did what that Pac 12 football team did in that story.
Andrew was in the closing and final stages of helping a person back to faith. He labored long and hard and hung in there through so much. He pursued me in faith at work, lunches, dinners, even the hospital when I had a medical crisis. Then at the very end he walked away while also giving birth to a false accusation. While I briefly explained that to Andrew in the conference call I would like to expand upon the following. Before May 8, 2013 I had a lot of internal turmoil about my friendship with you. I was on the fence realizing that I was going to have to make a choice between a Christian faith and the agnostic faith. I publically proclaimed to you and others tat I was agnostic, yet privately I was deeply disillusioned as I realized that agnosticism/atheism is a faith system. I realized atheism is a faith system when I went to the Reason Rally and was listening to Richard Dawkins speak. I realized that in the end Richard Dawkins was no different than John Piper. They are both evangelists for fundamentalism. So I had this growing internal angst about the things I was saying to Andrew. I mean I hammered Andrew, as I am sure Christopher Hitchens would have been proud of me. In my case I wasn’t giving Andrew a Hitch slap, rather an Eagle slap! But Andrew was not the only person I hammered. I hammered Dee Parsons. I hammered James Crestwood. I hammered Scott Van Sweringen. I hammered others as well. It came as a result of my atheist mindset. So I knew privately that I was probably going to be in the Christian faith again, but I needed to gather the strength to push back from the agnostic/atheist faith. Plus I knew if I was going to be in the Christian faith again then these fights and clashes I was having with Andrew were going to have to come to a close. Why? They shouldn’t be happening between two people on the same side of the fence. Then May 8, 2013 happened when I was crawling out from my faith crisis. Had Andrew held on a couple of weeks I would have in all likelihood rejected agnosticism/atheism. Andrew could have participated in someone’s baptism and if he asked me to come to Redeemer Arlington, then a couple of times I would have been okay with that course of action. Instead on the verge of coming back to the Christian faith I was hammered by a false accusation – really a crime – that I did not commit. It threatened my name, reputation and posed a threat to my ability to earn income. It doesn’t matter if it happened intentionally or unintentionally….the point is that it happened due to Andrew triggering it. It also thrust me into the darkest season of my life. I will say this…if how I conducted myself from May 8, 2013 until today hasn’t proved my character to Andrew White than nothing will work. I even engaged him through church leadership to help work at resolving this situation. When Andrew White won an award for Air Force Officer of the quarter if I remember correctly, the biggest risk I took under the false accusation I was managing is when I shook his hand and congratulated him on getting the award. After that happened I remember speaking on the phone with Dee Parsons who was amazed about the risk I took to congratulate Andrew, and thought it spoke a lot about my character. The one thing that I am still praying and hoping for is the following. My mother was deeply hurt by the false accusation that occurred from Andrew. I am hoping that one day Andrew will write a letter to my mother and apologize for what he gave birth to. My mother deserves as much respect as Andrew’s wife Jillian. However I am also hoping that his conscience will convict him. I am hoping that one day he will wake up in the morning and say, “I need to fix this with what happened to Eagle’s mother”. My conscience drove me to repent to 140 people for the pain I caused. I did it at phenomenal risk, expense and cost. I hope Andrew’s conscience will convict him as well.
Now resuming the atheist thought perspective. What Andrew White could not see is that an evangelical atheist/agnostic is militant. Their words and behavior is not be taken personally. Andrew thought I was a threat apparently, and couldn’t deal with my mannerisms which were the result of the agnosticism/atheism at the time. I won’t deny I was difficult. There is a reason why I have cried in writing this, but what is also disturbing is that Andrew can’t associate the behavior with the faith crisis…apparently he thinks its who I am. I actually wrote a journal entry that explained why evangelical Christians are not going to be able to reach atheists. It was inspired by Andrew breaking off the relationship on May 8, 2013, as well as the comments of a couple of other evangelical Christians made to me when I interacted with them personally. Plus it was written with my knowledge and understanding of both evangelical Christianity as well as atheism which I explored in my faith crisis. While Andrew had problems with me Dee Parsons was the exact opposite. Dee Parsons who spent a good chunk of time at ExChristian.net and dealt with many atheists and former Christians saw through the language and hammering to see someone searching for answers. This Sunday School teacher formerly from Providence Baptist engaged me fully and reacted differently. But people like Dee Parsons are rare. What is profoundly sad is that a 31 year old Air Force Captain who was involved in the Navigators at the Air Force Academy couldn’t handle the strong push back and the way I hammered him. In the friendship he boasted of how he was in the healthiest church he knew and how his marriage and wife were being sanctified. Meanwhile I had a 59 year old Sunday School teacher from the SBC, and medical professional down in Raleigh who engaged and when I pushed back she saw me in the bigger picture. She had thick skin and lost some readers in order to pursue me. I still remember that one conversation on the problem of evil that lasted nearly 2 hours. It was this intense push and pull, back and forth, back and forth. Andrew I know you are reading this let me explain this to you. If you are going to evangelize someone again you need to develop two things. One is thick skin which I wrote about here, and second you need to realize that it is going to be uncomfortable which I also wrote about as well. After next week I will throw these posts about how to help someone in a faith crisis in the resources tab up above.
However, my gut is telling me that I will hear from you one day. Why? You are going to realize what you walked away from. You are going to realize that some of your fears are unfounded. I did notice that on June 20, 2014 you saw little to nothing wrong with what you did, where as 3 weeks ago you apologized much more and even during the conversation saw a couple of more things that previously you did not. I think this is but the beginning. I think this is going to haunt you and in time you will need release just like I needed release. I think as you push into your 30s, 40s and 50s that you abandoning someone in their spiritual poverty will weigh on you more. You are going to live with the guilt of the fact that you could have participated in someone’s baptism, when instead you made a major mistake. Going to a Gospel at Work conference, and sitting there journaling and taking notes while listening to an expository sermon where the pastor is asking, “Do you care for your co-workers and seeing God glorified in the workplace?” and knowing what you did to a co-worker I predict is going to haunt you. There is a reason why I put those quotes from Charles Spurgeon in the lead to this post. Evangelism is not supposed to be comfortable or easy, especially as in the end of the 5 people who deeply engaged and pursued me – Andrew White, Danny Risch, James Crestwood, Scott Van Sweringen, and Dee Parsons the one who walked away is the one who boasted of his faith and church the most. When that time comes for you to need release from that mistake and you want to apologize for mischaracterizing me I will be here waiting. I have found that in major mistakes it takes time to realize them, plus when you confess or seek forgiveness sometimes it opens other doors as you realize new information which is now part of the equation. Some of this may be hard for you to see, please note I am not trying to be difficult, hard, mean or verbally or emotionally abusive. Actually before I published this I asked someone who is familiar with the history that we have to read this over to make sure I wasn’t too hard. Instead I am trying to analyze what happened.
Next week I am going to look at what Scott Van Swenigan, James Crestwood and Danny Risch did right, and with that I will be done dissecting my faith crisis and exploring the question of how would or should you engage someone in a faith crisis. In closing Andrew since you like Superman and had a Superman mug at you desk at work I decided to leave you with the trailer from Man of Steel and a scene as well. Plus knowing how you like praise and worship music I left you with a newer Hillsong United song called “No Other Name”. I hope you enjoy it and that work in Colorado Springs is going well. I will work at writing you a letter of thank you and focus on the things you did well in the near future.