On February 17, 2015 The Wondering Eagle had its first blog post. This blog was born out of an incident involving a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington. A year later there are 206 posts and 65,000 people who have read. This is a birthday that needs to be celebrated. I also examine how this blog came to be, critical moments along the way in 2015, and what you can expect to see in 2016. To The Wondering Eagle…Happy Birthday!
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.”
Henry Ward Beecher
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Acts 20:35 NIV
Today The Wondering Eagle turns 1. This blog has existed for one year and is starting its second. From February 17, 2015 until today I have written 206 posts which have been read by 65,000 people. In this post I want to explain how this blog came about and what led me to blog.
How this Blog Came About and a Meeting With Eric Simmons
I never had plans to start a blog. In my case life is busy enough with working full time. Living in the Washington, D.C. area is hard due to how transitory the city is, inability to find community, cost of living and the type of personalities the D.C. area attracts. I’ve written about this before. What happened with me is that a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington gave birth to a false accusation. I repented of my side of the mess and approached 140 people. But Andrew wouldn’t repent or own what he did, and the false accusation remained in effect. Dee Parsons had me speak to both a chaplain who has worked with the military and an attorney who she has referred people to through her blog. This attorney heard the situation out and believed that I was sitting on a defamation of character lawsuit against Andrew and explained the reasons why. He wanted the situation to be diffused and pointed out how it could blow up and affect not just current employment but future employment as well. Having heard all that news I also set out to find a local attorney in the D.C. area. I needed one who is familiar with this kind of situations, as the military. I found one and after consulting with him he wanted to see what happened in time and was waiting in the wings. The attorney Dee had me speak with felt it would be good to approach Redeemer and try and work things out with them. I approached a number of people who I know from SGM Survivors and asked them…”would this work?” They gave me some of their insight, and expressed their concern about the corruption inside Sovereign Grace.
I reached out to Eric Simmons for the first time I believe in December 2014. We were scheduled to meet. But I screwed up the time, if I recall the time was something like 9:00 and I thought he meant 9:00 in the evening. Instead I got an email as I was leaving for work from Eric Simmons saying I am here. I saw that and realized “Oops.” In an email I apologized for the mix up, wasting his time and offered to buy him lunch or dinner. This is all off my memory. Knowing that their offices are in Portico’s location I now realize it was not that much of an inconvenience as all Eric did was walk across the street. In January I met with Eric Simmons for about 15 minutes at Northside Social if my memory serves me correct. I already spoke with him by email in which I apologized for some of what I wrote about himself, and Redeemer Arlington over at SGM Survivors. Eric was amazed as to me approaching 140 people. I know many people are, especially since I did something that Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney can’t or won’t do. Dee Parsons joked with me one day on the phone about how maybe I should preach at T4G. I laughed and said, “maybe I should….” I do like Eric Simmons and respect him, and wish him well in life. In my meeting with Eric Simmons I told him while sitting across from him at a table that I was going to start a blog. He was a little exasperated but said “Fine…” In regards to the situation with Andrew White, Eric said that he would have Jordan Kauflin reach out to me, and he also contacted Andrew. I got an email out of the blue from Andrew proclaiming the situation was resolved and a request not to contact him. That was the problem he was being respected, I didn’t contact him but he wouldn’t work things out nor tell me why. The false accusation wasn’t resolved, remained in effect and since he withdrew, and I couldn’t contact him it was just dragging it out and making it worse. Andrew was going to bring about a lawsuit. Because of the false accusation Andrew gave birth to this wasn’t over by a longshot. During this time one of the attorneys I spoke with told me about a couple of legal avenues that I could pursue to resolve the problem. One was to fire off a legal certified memo forcing Andrew to retract the false accusation and write a note where his handwriting would be certified by an official notary. That letter would then be sent to me, and in exchange I would agree not to file a lawsuit against Andrew. It was risky. If that didn’t work then there was the prospect of a lawsuit.
I heard all this and all I wanted is for Andrew and I to sit down and lay everything out on the table. In a series of conversations to discuss, retract, and for us to heal each other. Remember after all…I made mistakes as well. We both did. I thought that given the pain that I could teach him about grace if he recanted and apologized for what he did. Sadly that never came to be, and what could have been the greatest theological lesson of his life was aborted by Andrew. It is for this reason and the way the process broke down that I believe Andrew is no longer above reproach. Having Andrew lead a Bible study in Colorado Springs is kind of like having C.J. Mahaney preach at T4G. Neither should be teaching. Now if Andrew repents then I will take it all back then I believe he should be more qualified to teach and would be quite a gift to the church. I would strongly encourage him to teach, as that is the type of individuals the church needs.
Against all this I discussed the idea of starting a blog with Dee Parsons in a phone conversation I think for the first time in December 2014. She encouraged me and thought I could do a lot. She said I had a heck of a story, and that because of what Andrew did to me that I would be able to relate well to others. So she encouraged me forward. Plus she felt that it could help me get the situation with Andrew and Redeemer Arlington out of my system. Julie Anne Smith said that if I was going to blog that I needed to have thick skin to endure the insults, comments, and sometimes harassment. And in an email she explained some of what she endured. So I registered my domain name The Wondering Eagle with GoDaddy in late January, and purchased a platform form wordpress in early February. A year ago today this post that I am linking to was my first post. What should happen? Someone from my Bible study at Fairfax Community Church went for my jugular. So Julie Anne Smith was very correct. That is how this blog came to be. It was born out of pain and a false accusation, yet it was something I never planned on doing and would have scrapped if Andrew approached me, wept what he did and said, “Eagle I am sorry…I was wrong..” and repented profoundly and deeply. If that took place in a series of conversations that were sincere, heartfelt and backed up his words with actions like I said a few sentences above in all likelihood I would have cried with joy, taken down all the posts about him and scaled this back significantly. About a couple of months ago Jordan Kauflin said in an email to me that I was not going to be able to let go of this issue. In the way things played out no…because there was never any closure. The process was aborted by Andrew. I explained what I would have considered repentance in this post here. Now if Andrew did all that I have written about then I would have felt pleased and would have shut a good portion of this blog down. After all if something is resolved then why continue writing about it? That would show bitterness and anger on my part. That would show that I am not committed to working things out and am more concerned with nursing a grudge and feeding it. It would reveal me to be insincere.
But that was how The Wondering Eagle came to be. Since I was going to be writing about Redeemer Arlington in this blog I set out and met with Eric Simmons and face to face told him that I was starting a blog. To date there have been 55 posts written about Redeemer Arlington. That total includes this post as well. My personal favorites include these posts here, here, here, and here. That said there is a lot more to write which will come in the course of time. Having explained all that let me review the key moments in the history of this blog.
A Review of Key Moments in this Blog
I am not going to do a repeat of the year in review like I did in December of 2015. If you want to read that you can do so right here. Instead I am going to share my personal favorites and explain why I liked them. I also want to share as to some of the feedback I have been getting which is quite strong, and good.
- My first vulnerable post is this one right here. It’s called “Why Don’t Evangelicals Talk About Gluttony.” In this post I explained my weight loss surgery that I had to under go, the reasons why; and how I contemplated after the fact that evangelicals don’t talk about gluttony as a sin. There are many sins that can destroy a person’s life..alcoholism, drug addiction, affairs and picking up prostitutes all can wreck marriages. Yet excessive obesity can kill a person, and yet the evangelical church is silent on that topic. This was one of the first post I have written and I decided to do so so as to set the pace of how open I wanted this blog to be. This was the first post where I laid my heart on the line
- The first open letter that I did is to a friend. It is to a guy who currently lives in Salina, Kansas. I met him in Washington, D.C. and we became close friends in the course of time. What makes this friendship especially unique is that he is the only one who knew me before my faith crisis, during it, and afterward. He didn’t walk away and still pursued me deeply. I composed a long post and launched it. James Crestwood read it hours before his third daughter was born. He sent me a text message saying as to how much he cried and said, “what a testimony to a friendship…” This is called “An Open Letter to James Crestwood” This is the first open letter I did and it led me to realize that this format is one I want to do regularly. To date I have written 18 open letters. If you have some time listen to the Peterson Brothers, they are James’ cousins and why I used them in this blog post. James as I know you will read this, I love you brother. Thank you for not quitting on me, as words cannot describe how much I appreciate and love you. If your daughter is still praying for me to get out of the hospital she can stop 🙂
- In January of 2015 I read an article where one of the founding members of the Newsboys proclaimed he is an atheist and rejected Christianity. He talked about the problems in Christian culture. I read that and wrote up a response and Dotty Young encouraged me to start blogging and said it was good stuff. That idea coupled with some thoughts in December 2014, and Dee Parson’s encouraging me to write helped this come about. So before I ever had a blog I already had my first post. This is called “An Open Letter to George Perdikis.” Thank you Dotty!
- Reconciliation and forgiveness is another theme I wanted to pursue. From the most difficult reconciliation I accomplished to the amazing story of Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Renee Napier contacted me and was impressed with what I wrote about her. I offered her to use the post as much as she wants for free. I’m not doing this for the money. I had honestly hoped that Andrew White and I could duplicate what Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge did. That is what I prayed for daily.
- I wrote a post about John Piper and his prostrate cancer. It led to a piece of writing called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” When I was a Kool-Aid drinker I gave this to my Mom after her battle with pancreatic cancer. It hit a nerve with my Mother and she came in my room and cried and told me that “cancer is not a gift from God.” I respect my Mom’s courage in calling me out, even years later when I was in a faith crisis. This post is called “My Mother’s Pancreatic Cancer, John Piper and Me.” I was playing around on the internet the other day and I’ve seen this tag the Desiring God website a couple of times. 🙂
- The biggest challenge in my faith crisis is the problem of evil. I still need to write a post explaining why Reformed Theology makes the problem of evil worse. But I want to have the problem of evil feature prominently in this blog. So I wrote the following two posts. The first one is an overview of the problem of evil and how it played in my faith crisis. The second one is a thank you to Pam Palmer and the others that filed a lawsuit against Sovereign Grace. Through their legal action in confronting allegations of criminal activity they helped teach me how to confront the problem of evil. The problem of evil is still a major issue and one that I believe is a legitimate reason for rejecting Christianity. Despite that I believe in God and live in the tension. Expect to see a lot more articles on the problem of evil in the course of time.
- One thing my blog is going to be unique in regards to is writing about atheism and doubt. I plan on going places that others will not go, and I plan to march boldly there. I would like my blog to be a bridge to the secular community. To date there are a number of posts, 62 in all about atheism. Let me highlight a couple. The first one is called, “Why Evangelical Christians Will be Unable to Reach Atheists.” After knowing both atheist culture and evangelical Christian culture I felt like I had to write that to illustrate the problems that exist. I also wrote about Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as well. I also want my blog to be able to have discussions with atheist and others. Its for that reason why I wrote this following post, which is called, “What this Christian Appreciates from Atheism, Atheists and Non-Believers.” Like I said, expect to see a lot more about atheism in the next year.
- The scandal at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church is forever linked to this blog. Let me explain how…one day I was done working out at the gym and I checked my voicemail. Dee left a Voicemail for me to call her and I subsequently did so. Dee had driven to Ashville, North Carolina and spent a day with Karen Hinkley. The Village Church tried to discipline her for annulling her marriage to a child pornography addict. In response I wrote a post and grabbed the title from Matt Chandler’s “The Explicit Gospel” The name of the post is called, ‘”The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants.” ‘ What had happened is that during the scandal when The Village Church was trying to discipline Karen, her friend whom she was staying with read my posts and had Karen read them during the scandal. What I wrote, Karen read and it gave her the courage to endure the situation and stand up to The Village Church. Karen’s friend told Dee over dinner that my posts reflected my heart and you could sense the passion in them. When Dee left she called me up first thing to tell me this and encourage me to keep writing. I remember sitting in my Nissan Sentra covered in sweat from the gym and the first thought I had was the following, “I wonder what Eric Simmons, Jordan Kauflin, and Andrew White would think to know that an incident form their church gave rise to a blog that gave a woman from The Village Church the courage to stand up to Matt Chandler?” I reflected on how Andrew’s inability to repent and own his mistake not only hurt me, and himself, but also Redeemer Arlington, Jordan Kauflin, and ultimately Matt Chandler. It’s a small world.
- This blog was birthed in pain from a false accusation from a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington. Of all the posts I have written about Andrew this was the hardest to pen. Yet it needed to be written. As an Air Force Captain Andrew White taught me why rape and sexual assault is a serious issue in the military. In the end its about an abuse of power. Andrew abused his rank when he gave birth to the false accusation. Words kill, and words harm, that is why I led the post with the Missouri gubernatorial candidate committing suicide. When I read that story in the Washington Post I knew it was time to write this post. When I wrote this there were times I cried at my computer because of how painful this was. To relieve it in detail was hard. The name of this post is called, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.“
- At this blog on weekends you will find classical music, soundtracks and Broadway production scores. I explain why in this post here called “My Own Personal Renaissance.” I had a personal renaissance during my faith crisis. This actually has been popular and has led to some interesting emails and comments by the arts community which honestly has surprised me. There are a lot of people who love classical music and Broadway as I have learned. Expect to see this continue.
- One thing that was hard but that I had to do is write about the church I was baptized in. We parted ways and I was frustrated over how things went. I ran into authority issues with Andy Gingrich. Plus while I was at Fairfax Community Church I stumbled across information that was kept from the congregation. The Care Director Eric Nickle was on the Virginia sex offender registry. The church had concealed that from the congregation. I carried that information in an awkward manner when I was involved. I discussed it with Dee Parsons in the lobby of the Baltimore Marriot in June 2015 and she encouraged me to write about it. I did, and the name of the post is “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?” This post led to the church being picketed, disrupted a sermon series and interrupted Andy Gingrich’s and Rod Stafford’s mancation in Kenya. (Rod and Andy…sorry guys!) I am still hoping that FCC can repent and say they were wrong to conceal the information. I still can’t believe the first church I got involved in was highly corrupt. Good God!
- The other force you have to reckon with today is Reformed Theology. For the record the reason why I reject reformed theology is for this one simple reason (which I need to write up in a post…) Reformed theology makes the problem of evil worse. So let me highlight a couple of posts highlighting issues in Reformed Theology today. I wrote this post about what is 9 Marks and how Mark Dever made it absolutely worthless. You have “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” which is a popular book among many. If you have that I would suggest you have a good stash of toilet paper. It will be a little rough though, like Neo-Calvinism church discipline. The post I wrote is about how Mark Dever violated at least 5 of the 9 Marks when he let C.J. Mahaney flee Covenant Life Church. The name of this post is called, “9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless” I wrote another post on how to improve Neo-Calvinism. I wanted to offer suggestions that could help. For example even though I believe Reformed Theology makes the problem of evil worse I am still open to learning it. It just so happens the current crowd is corrupt. Now from time to time I will listen to Wade Burleson who I deeply respect, but many others on the conference circuit today I wouldn’t trust to feed my goldfish. So I wrote this post called, “Eagle’s Recommendations on How to Improve Neo-Calvinism and Make it Healthy.”
- The other factor is when I had my first guest post. Ryan McLaughlin who told his story on SGM Survivors and is one of the guys I am fortunate to know wrote a post about the Eastern Orthodox faith and why he converted to it.
- The most difficult post to write and subsequently one that received the nastiest response all dealt with Cru, or formerly Campus Crusade for Christ. Let me explain what happened with the first post. In researching online I noticed that George Mason Cru actively recommended Sovereign Grace Fairfax. Given all the problems SGM Fairfax had I found that deeply disturbing. I was deeply involved in Cru in grad school and the chapter at Marquette University I am responsible for helping to plant. I still respect and think highly of Cru but I also realize that there are problems within Cru as well. So I wrote about a post called “Why Does Cru at George Mason University Recommend Sovereign Grace Fairfax? Is that Wise?” I emailed it to one of the George Mason Cru leaders Brett Miller and I got the nastiest response I have yet to see. When Dee Parsons heard about it she wrote a post as well. Eventually Brett Miller recommended I speak to Vince Hinders who was one of the defendants in the Sovereign Grace Fairfax lawsuit. Really? I thought…I am going to speak to a defendant and just take his word? The lack of critical thinking skills is appalling and quite disappointing. The second post is the most difficult to date and labor intensive (which by the way is being currently passed by a much bigger project) is called “A Comprehensive Overview of Cru’s Winter Conferences for December 2015/January 2016 … Paul Tripp, Curtis Allen, Kenji Adachi and Scott Nickell are Some of the Speakers.” In that post I went through a total of 9 Cru Christmas conferences and researched each speaker and analyzed them. I gave each conference a yeah or nay based off the speakers. It took a couple of weeks to research that post. I have decided that will become an annual event at The Wondering Eagle, as I care about the health of organizations like Cru.
- I love history, I think that comes through very clearly at this blog. I studied history in college and grad school. In college I took a Communist and Post-Communist Theory class where I had to read speeches and documents to understand communism and differing communist theory. In the process I also studied how authority was practiced in different ways. So for example I read Lenin, Khrushchev, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. I also studied the Weimar Republic and read deeply on the collapse of German democracy and the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich. I have to say when I was in college and grad school reading about Soviet and Eastern European dictatorships…never in a million years did I foresee that I would see similar principles and totalitarian policies in organizations like Mars Hill Seattle or C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace. There are three posts about history and theology that I want to feature. The first one is about Neo-Calvinist membership covenants and draws parallels between how they function and the Berlin Wall which East German leader Walter Ulbricht erected to keep people confined to East Berlin. The Berlin Wall became the greatest symbol of the Cold War and the sign of greatest oppression. The name of this post is “Neo-Calvinist Membership Covenants: The New Berlin Wall Amidst a Theological Cold War?” Another article details the similarities between the Sovereign Grace scandal and Watergate. As “Deep Throat” the most famous person in American history who leaked information to Bob Woodward in the movie “All the President’s Men” told a young Washington Post reporter to “follow the money.” When it comes to C.J. Mahaney, “Deep Throat” is still speaking and telling the church to “follow the money.” The name of the post is called “When it Comes to C. J. Mahaney; What the Evangelical Christian Church can Learn from Deep Throat and Watergate.” The final history post deals with one of the greatest tragedies in the history of NASA. It was the first time the United States lost a man in flight. It also included the loss of one school teacher from New Hampshire by the name of Christa McAuliffe. Against the disaster of the Space Shuttle Challenger President Ronald Reagan used the event as a means to challenge the Soviet Union to be transparent by saying. “We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public.” So it should be with the evangelical church, mistakes, errors and problems need to be exposed. God is glorified when we air out dirty laundry. The name of the post is called: “Why the Modern Evangelical Church Needs to Air its Dirty Laundry: Lessons from the Challenger Disaster and Ronald Reagan’s Call for Soviet Transparency.”
- The final key moment is when I used the movie Rush to explain and teach from the Book of Ecclesiastes. But there were a couple of others that followed…from idolatry, faith and redemption in The Dark Knight Rises, to reconciliation and death in Source Code.
Forecast for 2016
Here is what you can expect to see in 2016. During the depths of my false accusation I prayed and hoped for someone to personally intervene and contact Redeemer Arlington, Andrew and myself and say, “Let’s work everything out and resolve all issues.” I couldn’t contact Redeemer due to the false accusation Andrew breathed to life. Therefore this blog is going to get in the trenches and work with people in difficult situations. Shortly you are going to hear a horrific story of Neo-Calvinist church discipline that is frightening. I want to use the story to highlight how Neo-Calvinism is not ready for church discipline. Not by a long shot. When you hear the details of what happened many of you are not going to be able to cease thinking about it. It is horrific, and expect to hear that soon. Dee Parsons is also going to write a post as well. These are the stories you can expect to see in the year to come:
- A study on examining the role and growth of Reformed Theology in the Evangelical Free Church of America.
- More movies and theology posts.
- More posts about atheism, starting with this Friday. I plan to write quite a bit in the upcoming year as I regularly read and scan atheist blogs.
- Hopefully, a number of posts by former Christians explaining why they left Christianity. Like I said, I want this blog to be a bridge and means to allow for discussion between two very different camps.
- More articles about Sovereign Grace as that scandal continues to drag on.
- A post about how Reformed Theology makes the problem of evil worse.
- More posts about doubt and evangelical Christian culture.
- More guest posts by other authors, I am open to anyone writing a post that includes absolutely anyone from Ryan McLaughlin to Jordan Kauflin. I am totally flexible and believe that opposing points of view are healthy and needed.
- Issues in Neo-Calvinism will be written about in detail, from problems with The Gospel Coalition, to membership covenants, to the shepherding movement re-embraced.
- A post about the Reason Rally in 2012. That was attended by me in my faith crisis at the time. I want to write about that before the next Reason Rally in 2016.
- The Reason Rally in 2016 will be attended by me. If you are an atheist who is coming to Washington, D.C. for the event then I would be honored to tag along with you and observe, listen and reflect.
- Open letters to Dee Parsons, and Mark Dever. I want to re-tell Dee’s story at Providence Baptist after all she is always telling other peoples’ stories but no one has told hers. The other issue that I want to prove is the following, since the Wartburg Watch proved that C.J. Mahaney gave money to Al Mohler (all together now…can we say a Gospel Centered Bribe!) and since it appears that it can now be confirmed that Wayne Grudem took money from C.J.Mahaney (see today’s comment in The Wartburg Watch post) I have this one question that is driving me nuts. Did Mark Dever take money from C.J. Mahaney? Was the Senior Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church purchased? Expect an open letter before T4G asking Mark Dever about all this and more.
- A couple of more posts about Mormonism.
- Re-examining “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” and looking at it through the lens of issues such as Sovereign Grace, and evangelicals converting to Mormonism. Is the lack of intellectualism and the ability to practice discernment not only attracts people to organizations like Sovereign Grace, but does it also allow for evangelicals to believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet and to embrace Mormonism? There are stories that I can tell you from my time in exploring Mormonism in college.
- Writing more about Cru, and its conferences.
- Looking at developments with Mark Driscoll, The Trinity Church and Robert Morris and Gateway Church.
- More stories about Calvary Temple in Sterling, Virginia.
- More posts about theology and history. For example in my mind I have an idea or writing about the Stock Market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression and explore the New Deal and how banking reforms were achieved to save the financial industry. I would like to draw comparisons about how evangelicalism needs reform especially the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, which I believe Mars Hill Seattle proved to be worthless. Plus I’ve also thought about writing a post about what C.J. Mahaney can learn from Richard Nixon and re-tell in detail Nixon’s resignation from office. What C.J. Mahaney can learn from Nixon in regards to humility. I’ve also thought about using Charlie Chaplin’s greatest satire that mocked Adolf Hitler, “The Great Dictator” before T4G. Many of you guys are going to be the benefit of my graduate level education 🙂
- What I respect about reformed theology and my hopes that Redeemer Arlington will be able to confront its past with SGM, and my hope it will be a strong, healthy presence in the D.C. area. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable about this blog.
- A couple of posts about Catholicism as well.
So that’s it…that is what lies in store for 2016. I hope you will join me. I am going to leave you with Sheryl Crow. As always I love you guys! Happy Birthday The Wondering Eagle!!