Does evangelical Christian culture drive people to embrace pornography? Plus looking at the harm that accountability relationships do to people. In my life accountability led to three painful situations. It destroyed one friendship from Campus Crusade in Wisconsin. Helping someone from Sovereign Grace’s Redeemer Arlington with accountability as an agnostic backfired as I faced a false accusation from someone who was frightened about adult pornography. And at Fairfax Community Church I learned how unhealthy churches can potentially use confessed material against people. And this happens while celebrity pastors like Mark Driscoll or C.J. Mahaney are not held accountable. Today’s post at The Wondering Eagle is about a warped aspect in evangelical culture.
“Nine-tenths of the appeal of pornography is due to the indecent feelings concerning sex which moralists inculcate in the young; the other tenth is physiological, and will occur in one way or another whatever the state of the law may be. On these grounds, although I fear that few will agree with me, I am firmly persuaded that there ought to be no law whatsoever on the subject of obscene publications.”
“Sexually progressive cultures gave us literature, philosophy, civilization and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust.”
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT
Garrett Kell’s Del Rey Baptist
Garrett Kell is the pastor of Del Rey Baptist (or Kel Rey Baptist as they call it over at Capitol Hill Baptist Church) here in the Washington, D.C. area. He wrote a post for The Gospel Coalition in August of 2017 that was pretty bold. In that post he talks about his past pornography addiction. He writes about “indulging” in porn, his relationship, and going to plant a church in New Jersey before confessing his pornography addiction. He then deals with the ramifications and the redemption he found in time. You can read the post in, “I Was a Pastor Hooked on Porn.” When I write and research at The Gospel Coalition that post has popped up from time to time and I wanted to incorporate it into this post.
Many evangelicals are fixated on pornography. The Neo-Calvinists are especially stuck on this topic. When I go to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition or other blogs its almost as if every time I conduct research I always see another article about pornography or lust. Here are some examples from a recent search.
- Russell Moore, “I’m Addicted to Pornography. How Can I Defeat This Sin?”
- Derek Brown, “Heaven, Hell, and the Fight for Purity.”
- Ashley Chesnut, “3 Unhealthy Responses to Loneliness.”
- Mo Isom, “Jesus’s Compassion for Those Who Love Porn.”
- Derek J. Brown, “Frank Questions About Pastoral Ministry.”
- Benjamin Vrbicek, “Among Those Shadowy Brides.”
- John Piper, “Move: How Laziness Feeds Lust.“
- Greg Morse, “Is Pornography Your Therapy?“
- John Piper, “Hold On: Do Not Grow Weary in Fighting Lust.”
- John Piper, “Avoid: The First Step to Defeating Lust.”
But here is another point to consider. What exactly is pornography to evangelicals? You would think that porn would be a Hustler video, Victoria Secret catalog or something more? But some evangelicals have a warped view of even what pornography is, let me illustrate with an example. Jared Mellinger is the current pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church outside Philadelphia in Glen Mills. Covenant Fellowship is affiliated with Sovereign Grace Churches. In 2011 Jared Millinger compared blogs to pornography. You can read about that in Brent Detwiler’s blog. So if you are reading this blog, this is the equivalent of pornography as defined by Sovereign Grace.
In Criminalizing Sex do Evangelicals Drive People to Pornography?
Here is the question that also weighs on my mind. Because of how evangelicals can be about sex do they drive people to embrace pornography? After all sex is treated in such a taboo manner that many evangelicals fear sex. They fear making a sexual mistake or more in dating. This actually leaves many single in life because they fear making a mistake. But is one of the by-products of evangelical culture is that they drive people toward pornography? How does this happen? Well dating can be heavily taboo especially when you consider all the accountability that goes into the process. Men and women who are dealing with human sexual drive that is repressed then turn and embrace pornography in response. Could that happen? Yes I believe it can. Is that why pornography is more consumed in religious parts of the United States instead of secular areas? The tool that the evangelical church often uses to keep people from porn is a program that is called accountability. It means different things to different people. For some you meet in a coffee shop and allow your personal life to be grilled. In other situations people use companies like Covenant Eyes to set up filters to allow someone to go through your internet viewing history. Accountability can be harsh and traumatic, let me share three experiences that were painful and taught me not to trust accountability ever again. Let’s look at three situations from Wisconsin and the Washington, D.C. area.
Accountability Destroys a Deep Friendship from Campus Crusade in Milwaukee
In 2000 I arrived in Milwaukee to attend grad school at Marquette University. In May of 2001 I met a guy who I call “Zach” at a Campus Crusade retreat in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Zach had a distinct laugh, and a warm smile. He enrolled in the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2001 and in time became the leader from Crusade at that campus. I was the male leader for Crusade at Marquette. One time we sat down in a coffee shop and discussed sexual purity. I was up to my eyebrows in the culture and we each agreed to hold each other accountable in pornography and sexual purity. Regularly when we met we grilled each other and asked questions. I thought this was normal. From the time in Cru to when I graduated and when Zach graduated we kept this up. When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2005 Zach and I kept up accountability by phone. I visited Milwaukee in 2008 and he put me up and we hung out and talked. I have fond memories of him and saying goodbye at the airport as he dropped me off.
In 2009 I started to experience a faith crisis. And I lashed out at a lot of people, and Zach was one of them. But there was almost a year where Zach went silent and I had a sinking feeling that something was not right. In 2009 he popped up on Facebook messenger asking me how I am doing. I explained at the time that I am an agnostic and I tell Zach that in the accountability I didn’t appreciate the dishonesty. He lit up and went into a frantic rage. “I’M A BAPTIST AND I SHOULDN’T BE DEALING WITH LUST!!!!” Zach then goes on talking about the evangelical sexual purity culture. He expresses his frustration that females he meets turn him down because of his past. They are looking for “Mr. Perfect.” In that same conversation he tells me about his brother coming out as gay. His brother attended John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist. He went through hell and Zach explained that he cried hard into his pillow for an extended period of time over his brother’s suicidal thoughts due to evangelical culture. At the time I didn’t consider any of this. All I thought about was the times I confessed my heart out in a program that evangelical culture promoted. Zach pulled back from me and I never heard from him again despite attempts to reach out in time. In time he pulled back from almost everyone who knew him in Crusade in Milwaukee.
Today Zach lives in Chicago and is an atheist. The last I heard he is done with Christianity after seeing the issues in the culture. He is married to an atheist who welcomes, loves and embraces him. Whereas in 2009 I was livid today I mourn the death of a friendship that was one of the longer ones in my life. Zach was fried and I should have seen that and empathized. Today I do and hope that I can tell him that I love and care for him with no strings attached one day. I don’t blame him for walking away from Christianity. Instead, I understand having been burned and fried myself. Accountability destroyed the friendship and added stress to it which helped end it. We never should have done accountability as I reflect back on this mess. I wrote Zach and open letter two years ago expressing what I would say to him if I could. You can read that in, “An Open Letter to Zach (Campus Crusade Student Leader UW – Milwaukee 2002-2004)” But this would not be the last time I would see the harm that comes in evangelical accountability programs.
Andrew White from Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington. Pornography is a Sin but Not the False Accusation I Endured
The next situation happened with someone I knew from a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church known as Redeemer Arlington. C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace deeply pushed accountability. From Covenant Life, to Sovereign Grace Fairfax to other churches accountability was deeply ingrained. If you want to read the history of Redeemer Arlington you can do so in, “The History of Eric Simmons’ Redeemer Arlington: Formerly of Sovereign Grace Ministries now of Acts 29.” When Redeemer Arlington was planted in 2010 accountability was deeply entrenched. I had a co-worker who claimed he was “addicted” to pornography and as such did accountability at Redeemer. He was in a “sex-addicts” support group. The book that is used at Redeemer Arlington is Ed Welch’s “Crossroads (Study Guide): A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction.” His name was Andrew White (pseudonym) and he was an Air Force Captain who engaged and evangelized me. He wanted me to get involved in Sovereign Grace. He asked me to once meet another person from his sex addiction group who I call Dan Glenn (also a pseudonym). You can read about Dan in, “The 104th Reconciliation with Dan Glenn, Andrew White’s Friend from Redeemer Arlington.” Today I believe Dan is a social worker in Arlington County, Virginia here in the D.C. area.
Andrew was frightened over pornography and brought it up regularly. I, meanwhile, was an agnostic, in reality more of an atheist influenced by Christopher Hitchens. Yet Andrew raised pornography and wanted me to get involved in his accountability group. I was baffled. In March of 2013 Andrew invited me to stay with him a couple of days. One of the things he asked me to do is to change the internet password to his computer. He said it was for accountability reasons, to be holy before God, and purity. I was a former evangelical at the time and I consented and changed the password for him. After all I knew the culture and what he was requesting. Shortly after that Andrew triggered a false accusation and the claim was born that I “stalked” him. This sent me into the darkest season of my life. I couldn’t believe what happened after all shortly beforehand he was asking me to change his internet password so he could not access porn while his wife was back in Colorado Springs. Who asks a stalker to change their internet access password? If you want to read more about the false accusation you can do so in, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days” and “An Open Letter to Andrew White.” The false accusation was psychologically terrifying. In seeing how an Air Force officer abused his authority I learned why rape and sexual abuse is a problem in the military. That is what “sound doctrine” and being “Gospel Centered” is all about. The false accusation never was resolved and I am very much stuck.
Today as I write this post and reflect on accountability and the mess with Andrew White and my efforts to resolve the situation from Redeemer Arlington I offer the following conclusions. According to Redeemer Arlington and Jordan Kauflin the pornography was the actual sin. The false accusation which caused deep harm and deeply hurt my life was not sinful. Evangelicals have a bastardized way of looking at sin. They become fixated on sexual sin and ignore others. Two attorneys understood what happened when I discussed it as did others who are secular. But the leadership of Redeemer Arlington and Jordan Kauflin did not have a clue on the seriousness of the situation and the harm it caused. This was my second brush with accountability. But then there was a third situation that was deeply troubling as well.
Eric Nickle on the Virginia sex offender registry.
Fairfax Community Church is Not Transparent with a Violent Sex Offender Leaving Me to be the Whistle-blower
As I endured a false accusation I cautiously attended Fairfax Community Church a mega church of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana denomination also in the Washington, D.C. area. In the process I tried to get involved in the church and had problems. Later on I learned that this is normal. After all I recently wrote of a female who was suicidal and in a mental health crisis who attended Fairfax Community Church and allegedly could not get help. You can read about that in, ““They Don’t Care About You!” A Woman Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts and in a Crisis Allegedly Couldn’t Get Help by Fairfax Community Church.” Eric Nickle led the men’s program that dealt with sexual purity. I attended a few times as I tried to get involved in Fairfax Community Church. Some of what I heard in the men’s sex group troubled me. This also was a form of accountability as I learned. But Fairfax Community had some deep issues. In the group one person appeared to be in the process of getting ready to report to prison for child pornography. He was under house arrest and allowed to leave to attend Fairfax Community Church. I realized that the church didn’t know the difference between child pornography and regular adult pornography. It was really treated one and the same. It was in this setting that I would eventually know that Fairfax Community Church mislead their congregation, let me explain. Eric Nickle once got the keys for the group to meet in the child classroom. He obtained the keys from the janitor. I thought nothing of it until sometime later on I learned that he was on the Virginia sex offender registry and listed as a violent offender. Despite Fairfax Community Church’s claims that he did not have access to children and sensitive areas, I learned that he did. After all the men’s accountability group had met in the child classroom. Eric had manipulated the system and did have access to children’s areas and Fairfax Community hid this from the church. That is how I know this church lied when they issued public statements and more. If you want to read more you can read, “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?” and “Analysis of Fairfax Community Church’s Second Statement on Eric Nickle Given to Amy Smith of SNAP.” It put me in the uncomfortable position of being a whistleblower after I left Fairfax Community. Rod Stafford’s church probably will never come clean about this situation. After all I am confident that this could have implications for their insurance policy and more.
This is what I learned from the situation. Churches have no problem getting people to confess sins, their mistakes and more. In time at some churches in some situations they can and will use the information you confess against you. This shocked me to realize that Fairfax Community Church could act in such a brazen way. They put children and families at risk. They also dragged a guy trying to rebuild his life into the situation because of how corrupt they are. That angered me, because I was dragged into a stressful situation which I did not need. I blew the whistle because I didn’t want to read in the Washington Post one day about a sex abuse scandal at Fairfax Community that could have been prevented. I came from a church in Wisconsin that went through that by the way. Another item I learned from this situation is the creation of alternative facts by evangelicals. The fact that they did not know the difference between child pornography and regular adult troubled me. In being dishonest Fairfax Community created their own facts and narrative. But at the end could that be because churches like Fairfax Community are really a business?
Evangelical Accountability is Not About Spiritual Purity to Honor God, but Instead Control
Here is the problem with evangelical accountability as it exists. Many evangelical Christians sell themselves out in their quest to stay “sexually pure.” That they will honor the Lord by being pure in that method. So many evangelical organizations sell that perspective. However, in the end that is not why Acts 29, 9 marks churches, Sovereign Grace, Harvest Bible Chapel, Sojourn Network in Louisville or more promote and push accountability. In the end accountability is not about honoring God but instead its about being able to control a person. What happens is that a church obtains sensitive information from a person and later on can use it against that individual. With a pastor on the type of a pyramid by pushing accountability model a pastor can quickly and efficiently learn the dirt on the entire church. That is what accountability is about.
I read and get to know a number of people in many different churches over the years. And I have heard some stories that have left my jaw dropping. I had a friend and someone who was a member of Mark Dever’s Capital Hill Baptist Church. We would get together and have dinner or a beer from time to time. I remember one time hanging out in a restaurant with “Carson Wilson” and listening to him describe in detail his Capitol Hill Baptist Church small group. “Porn, porn, porn and masturbation is all they talk about!” He was angry and sick of his small group. He felt The constant discussion and confession of pornography week after week killed his desire to be in the Bible study. All it consisted of is discussing pornography. You couple that with being in a membership covenant at ground zero for 9 Marks and you have a recipe for disaster. You can read more about Carson in the following post called, “An Open Letter to Carson Wilson (Former Member and Blog Source from Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church)”
Who are Pastors Like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels and Others Accountable to?
But as we discuss the problem of accountability there is one glaring flaw that needs to be discussed. In churches that push accountability and ministries that stress it, who are the pastors who push this accountable to? A while back I spoke with someone I know who was involved in Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Seattle. Mark Driscoll’s church pushed accountability programs and reinforced them with church discipline. In the end who was Mark Driscoll accountable to especially since he fled and ran to Scottsdale, Arizona? What about C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace? SGM was all about accountability as I wrote above. But who was C.J. Mahaney accountable to? When his blackmail, and child sex abuse cover up came out he fled and took refuge at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. C.J. Mahaney was not accountable to anyone. Perhaps you are reading this post and saying the SGM and Mars Hill Seattle are old examples. Okay well what about Willow Creek in Illinois and Bill Hybels? Bill Hybels pushed accountability and profited from writing about charachter. Then you had the sexual harassment scandal and Hybels having his secretary performing oral sex on him. After all Bill is the one who wrote, “Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise.” Bill Hybels walked away from all the sexual harassment and abuse.
These examples illustrate how the evangelical model is broken. That is what this post is about. I have seen experience after experience and been involved in many churches to see the damage these programs cause. Its time to have a frank discussion about how this has failed inside evangelicalism. That is it for the day guys, please know that you are loved!