Today’s post is about why I am writing this blog. For those at Fairfax Community Church and others, this will explain what motivates me. I want to explain my reasoning and basis for writing these posts. I want you the reader, or the Pastor in the DC area to understand why I pour my time and heart into this project. My motivations are going to be laid out on the table and there should be no question as to why I am doing what I am doing.
“Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.”
“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself ‘I am going to produce a work or art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18:21 NIV
Before I get into the bulk of today’s post I decided on a whim to throw in the above video leading into this post. Its very thought provoking and deals with life’s journey and questioning. Today I want to address something some people may ask about and I want to state why it is that I write this blog. I never planned for this to be the case, this wasn’t my original desire to write a blog. There were a number of situations and circumstances that led to this coming about. I also want people who read me to understand what drives and compels me to write 4 posts a week amidst a busy schedule in life. The motivation varies and will be looked at in detail. For those who read this hopefully you will walk away understanding how my buttons were pushed.
The Power of Writing
The guy writing this blog has spent a lot of time in education. I went through college and grad school, and obtained a MA in American and European History. If you doubt it I have the student loan debt to prove it, after all going to a school like Marquette University was not cheap. That said, it is well worth the investment. As hard as Marquette was, I would not do anything differently. When you go to grad school I am realizing that you appreciate it much later in life. History is everyday, and history is always being made. History is never a dull or dying subject, instead its fresh, alive, and amazing. Words have power, words have toppled governments, undermined corrupt ministries and empowered people. I would like to do a long post sometime analyzing the power of words at a later date. Just stop and consider the role social media played in the Arab Spring. From Tunisia, to Egypt, to Libya, to Yemen, to Bahrain, to Kuwait, to Oman, to Lebanon, to Morocco and Jordan. Look at what social media and protests did? When the history books of the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt are written will it be said that Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook toppled the government? Many are saying that now. As a guy who loves history its a fascinating time to be alive because we are living in interesting times.
Totalitarian regimes have always been about controlling information. It doesn’t matter if its North Korea, East Germany or the Soviet Union, to keep a lid on and control people they had to control the media. This is part of the reason why this life long history student finds corollaries between Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev and the likes of theological dictatorships of CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. In the end the Soviet Union and Sovereign Grace Ministries did the same thing in trying to control people’s actions and thoughts. The Soviets censored and tried to control what people can read or process. Sovereign Grace also censored and tried to control what people can and can not read. The Soviet’s practiced re-education while Sovereign Grace practiced shepherding and calling people “bitter” who had differing points of view. In both systems of tyranny, greedy amounts of Kool Aid are necessary to thrive and excel in such regimes. Both totalitarian regimes redefined words for the sake of power and to silence the opposition. Whereas the Soviets sent people to Siberia or other parts of the country, Sovereign Grace would shun, and treat people as dead after driving those who dared to question from the organization. In both organizations thinking and asking questions could be a crime. Furthermore both organizations wanted to make independent thought a crime. In one example it could lead to physical death and in Sovereign Grace it could lead to spiritual death.
I know full well the power of social media. I ponder it during each post I write and do so knowing that I am using the most powerful weapon on the planet.
Fairfax Community Church after all is learning the power of social media, the damage there is done. Google Rod Stafford, Eric Nickle, Andy Gingrich or Fairfax Community Church. You can see the effects. Some people will leave and some will stay. Others who look into FCC will see the posts and stay away. My hope is that other churches in the DC area will learn from this experience and not repeat the same mistakes. But FCC has learned, of course part of the challenge is hoping they change course. I have a couple of additional posts about FCC in the works right now. But words have power, and social media is a game changer. I believe the internet is the new medium that has given voice to many.
A few months back it began to dawn on me as to how diverse my life is when it comes to faith and religion. For example let me list all the organizations and movements I have been involved with or explored by the time I turned 36.
- Roman Catholicism
- Evangelical Christianity
- Third Wave Theology
- Neo-Calvinism courtesy of John Piper
- Para church Ministries because of Cru
I actually wondered what I was going to do with all the atheism material I consumed. I had no idea a year ago, well today I do. Maybe you see me lean upon it when I’ve written some of the posts I have penned. Because of my background I can speak to many differing topics. The only topics I cannot speak to are the Home Schooling movement, parts of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a couple of others. It is highly unlikely it is not going to come up here on this blog. However two things I want to say, first if someone wants to write a post I would be happy to run it. Second, I’ve learned in my life to never use the word never, however, let me say its highly unlikely that I will be getting involved in any of those prior religions. I’m not trying to be rude or insensitive if you read this and you are Muslim or Hindu. Its that I just don’t foresee myself going in that direction. I respect them like I believe all reasoned people should, but its not the path for me.
Redeem a Mess
The years from 2008/2009 until 2013 were dark, and a mess. For those who met me during that time I hope that is not the window that I am being viewed. I am hoping that I will be looked at differently as a result of what I did in seeking forgiveness from so many people. But my life has been affected by that time period. I read material I thought I never would read and went places I thought I never would go. My horizons were broadened significantly and gave me a way to look at things from a differing point of view. For example as I hinted at above I am a student of history, my background in theology was significantly expanded and I have been able to draw from one area to use in the other. I want to redeem a mess and take all this pain that came from evangelical Christianity and redeem it. You look at the Bible and there are many stories of messes being redeemed, that is often missing in evangelical Christianity today. My mess is out in the open, its all over the internet. Andrew White’s mess is also all over the internet and the more that is written the more it is documented. But I believe that redemption is key for a Christian and its necessary for faith. And I see that happening here. Plus I also step back and see the big picture I see how the lack of intellectualism in evangelical Christianity feeds atheism. I also see how the seeker sensitive movement feeds Neo-Calvinism. Last I can also understand how people burned out from Neo-Calvinism become atheist or nothing. These theological systems are all linked and in the big picture that needs to be remembered. Too many people focus on the individual tree, where as I analyze and look at the entire forest.
Connect with Others
This blog has been a lot of work, late nights, and some early mornings from time to time. But the benefits of it has stunned me. Let me just say this…I am amazed as to some of the people who have contacted me. Some of the individuals I have written about actually have reached out to say, “Wow…you did your homework!” One of the people who reached out to me was Renee Napier I wrote about the tragedy of her daughter Meagan and Lisa Dickson, along with the drunk driver Eric Smallridge. I guess when I started writing I thought no one would care as to what I have to say, but I am learning that there are many people who do. The joy of this blog actually has happened behind the scenes. I’ve been able to meet and get to know a few differing people. A couple of people from a couple of places have reached out and its been a blessing. There is one thing that you should know about me…I am a people person. I love to chill, talk and hang with people. I can’t imagine life going any other way. In my email I’ve had a wide diverse set of people that have wanted to talk or shoot me their thoughts. Some people don’t want to comment publically and email me privately and I get that. Some people live in fear of their church situation. And others have had a faith crisis and don’t believe anymore. I love all of them. They are each uniquely precious and valuable. Its actually due to my background that I can go from a person in the Neo-Calvinist camp to an atheist in differing emails. But getting to know other people has been a blessing. If any of you guys make it to Washington, D.C. I would love to meet you.
To Prevent Others from Getting Hurt
This seems like a no brainer and it personally angers me that I have to say this, but I don’t want others being hurt. The legacy of one’s faith should not be trauma, distress, false accusations, PTSD, child sex abuse, hiding things from the congregation, or allegedly engaging in illegal criminal activity. It honestly has troubled me that it can be so hard to find a good conservative church that is not fundamentalist, or seeker sensitive that is still tripped up on authority issues. Part of the reason why I wrote about my old church, Fairfax Community Church, is that I had already been through another church in Wisconsin that reeled in pain from a child sex abuse situation, I couldn’t bear the thought of staying silent on a potential situation. Fairfax Community Church and Rod Stafford sinned in hiding this information from the congregation. I didn’t want to wake up one day and read the Washington Post or listen to WTOP and hear the story of a sex abuse situation that I knew was at risk. I didn’t want to see Fairfax Community Church go through what Elmbrook Church outside Milwaukee once went through.
Likewise I listed up above all the religious traditions and faiths I have been exposed to over the years. It bothers me that people are getting hurt and wounded. The church should be a hospital for the broken, and its not, instead its a place that is cranking out the wounded. If one of my posts gave someone the power to make an informed decision about a particular church than I did my job. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. If you are angry that I am writing these posts, I want you to direct your anger to those churches, or pastors, who are creating the pain. I am just the messenger, don’t blame me. If you read this and you attend Fairfax Community Church and you are embarrassed or upset; don’t blame me, the leadership of FCC is the problem. In a perfect world none of this would have happened, but FCC has some authority issues as I have learned. If you are pissed about these posts pull Rod Stafford, Loretta Copper or Andy Gingrich aside and ask them. The church should be the very last place in the world where a person gets hurt. I think Jesus is weeping over the state of the church and the level of corruption within it.
Figuring out a Way Forward
I also write this as a journal to get the thoughts bouncing around in my head out on cyber space. I write this to process and try and find a way forward. I’m trying to find a way forward or a way ahead as I move ahead. How can I learn from my past to make sure that there will be no mistakes form the future? Can I avoid another situation like I did with Andrew White of Redeemer Arlington? I sure as hell hope so. What about Fairfax Community Church, can I avoid getting involved in another church that is being disingenuous in the process? I hope so and I also want to go on the record and say that there is no such thing as a perfect church. I get that, but why does the church have to struggle with authoritarian issues so much and be governed by mini Joseph Stalin’s who rule with an iron fist? I don’t get that so I write her to reflect and pursue the truth so that I won’t have history repeat itself. I do go to a church now, I am getting involved and I apply the lessons and pain from previous experience to hopefully prevent more pain from occurring.
Pain from a False Accusation
The other reason I write is because of the pain I am in…I endured a false accusation that was severe and ugly. If you want to read about it you can do so here and here. It could have destroyed my life, employment and future employment. I had an attorney who once explained to me why I had a defamation of character lawsuit so I knew how serious the situation was. I also don’t want others to endure what I have endured. However, when you go through something severe and traumatic it takes time to work out. And life happens which can give you a new perspective. I want to keep much of this to myself but in the last few days something has happened that has given me pause and helped me realize the enormity of the false accusation. I am wondering if its something the Lord is allowing me to see, to help put thongs in better perspective. All the same it has flooded me with emotions and re-assessed some aspects. I stepped back and looked at the false accusation in a new light. I actually saw how a false accusation can destroy and harm people. Not only that but it cheapens those legitimate claims where something substantial is going on. So I am still figuring things out.
If Andrew White would have contacted me and over a series of conversations said, “Eagle, let’s talk things out and let me express to you how sorry I am.” If he would have done that out of his own intuition and initiative I never would have started this blog. If in the early stages Andrew contacted me and in a series of conversations showed concern, and expressed heartfelt sorrow I would have killed this project and said, “Ok that’s what I wanted to hear….” But that hasn’t happened. Redeemer Arlington and I, along with Andrew had a conference call, and I have been in touch with Redeemer’s leadership over the situation. But it troubles me that this process has been so lopsided, in the sense that I am the one doing all the reaching out. It leaves me to wonder…what is Andrew White so afraid of? I was the one who reached out to Redeemer against a false accusation, I wanted to bring in a third party as I felt that was best. Plus I also wanted to bring in a third party who Andrew would trust, love, and be open to listening. It was a smart move on my part and the right move. But it haunts me that this process is so one sided. In my season of repentance I learned that the key to reconciliation and forgiveness is initiative. You can’t do the bare minimum and expect someone to buy it. A half baked apology is actually an insult and is like twisting the knife in someone’s back. If you want to work things out with someone on a scale of 1 to 10, you have to give a 15 in effort to work things out. I learned that in approaching 140 people. People know what humility is if they see it, the trouble is very few people actually practice it. And for the record no, humility is not shaving your head because your idol publishes a book about humility after allegedly practicing “Gospel Centered Blackmail.”
So I write his to get this off my chest. Not long ago Andrew visited work and I heard all the commotion, it left me to think, and wonder “What is he so afraid of still?” I’ve had many former members of Sovereign Grace who have told me that ex-SGM churches are unhealthy. I’ve also in the past had his communication examined by a couple of people who were ex-SGMers. It has been interesting to hear their perspective and look at the situation. Maybe the problem is that this is all just a legacy of CJ Mahaney unable and unwilling to own his sin, and it reveals itself in how it affects other people down the line. Either way its something that gives me grief. Those individuals that I have spoken to who have endured a false accusation in their life I am amazed that some are still haunted and troubled by it, years after the fact. I am realizing that maybe this is going to take time. I also had someone who spoke to me recently that was shunned by someone in SGM for nearly 10 years. The person who wronged him have slowly started to open up about what happened. That gives me hope, in that maybe time is the way forward. The old adage that time heals all wounds is crap and garbage. Time amplifies and exacerbates wounds especially when there is no healing.
But that said I think you now know the basics of why I write. I’m getting all this off my chest. One other quick reason to put down is to practice writing, and to learn. I still would like to master active tense versus passive tense. I’ve always struggled with that in my life, maybe I can affect change in that area also. In closing I will leave you with Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” This blog will be my fight song, and I will challenge and push back against questionable church activities, and practices. I don’t want the sheep to be hurt, mauled and barbecued. So now that you know why I write and the reasons behind it, you now know what compels me and drives me intensely.