Does Christian Fundamentalism Cause Mental Health Issues?

Mental Health Issues and Christian Fundamentalism

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There’s been some great discussion on fundamentalism in the previous post about “Bethany,” who over time was able to see the relationship she was in as destructive and abandoned the relationship.  I thought it might be good to give the topic a post of its own, so I have copied some of the comments that represent the gist of the conversation and have added a bit more to the mix.

The underlying question I’m reading between the lines is does fundamentalism lead to mental health problems?  Or were the problems already there, and the fundamentalism ideologies accentuate existing mental health issues?

 

NJ writes:

When I think of the term fundamentalist, I think of not just the original “fundamentals”, but of a certain subculture within Protestantism. Think support of Prohibition due to teetotalism, denial of anything but young earth creationism, a complete eschewing of dancing, going to the movies, use of tobacco in any form, listening to the “devil’s music”, as well as a tendency toward insularity and negativism.

Missdaisyflower:

It may be that certain types of faith expressions or churches that hold to particular doctrines are more appealing to men already prone to be controlling or abusive (such as neo Calvinism, gender complementarianism, fundamentalism), so certainly single women may want to be on extra special guard if dating men from those backgrounds, but one thing I learned in all my reading about all these topics is that abusive men come in many shapes and sizes, and from many types of religious backgrounds.

Bike Bubba:

Regarding whether fundamentalism leads necessarily to Gothard patriarchy, girl doesn’t leave the house until she’s married, must homeschool, must try to do a family business, woman shouldn’t work for someone besides her husband, pastor/father is unaccountable authority figure, and the like, my take is that if we look closely at the Scriptures, all of this is either not stated in Scripture or flatly contradicted by Scripture. You will not find a requirement to homeschool in the Scripture (though my family does), nor will you see a command to have babies until the wife dies “be fruitful and multiply” does not mean “get your wife maimed or killed in the process”), and the like.

So my contention is that if one really values the first fundamental, the authority of Scripture, one will come up with some very different conclusions than most “fundamentalists” arrive at. I would guess that Keith (of our “shared peeve”) would agree and note that you will tend to find many of the most truly “fundamental” people outside of churches that identify as fundamental.

Make sense? I’ve personally been working through the issues of why many so-called “fundamental” churches deny their theology through their practice, and am convinced there are a number of reasons, historical and sometimes theological, but mostly historical.

Song of a River commented:

Hi everybody, sorry for my slow response. Long day here.
@Bike Bubba–you said earlier that you “treasure fundamentalism”. Here already you and I are different, but I respect the fact that you frequent and support a site such as this one. So far as causative factors of mental diseases and disorders are concerned, it is complex. Having experienced true fundamentalism interwoven with patriarchy, quiverfull and SAHD theologies, interwoven with Southern Baptist and Presbyterian theologies, along with emotional manipulation/abuse and neglect, it is difficult to remove one from the others in my mind. So I may be calling out the wrong villain, but in my experience, I have always seen fundamentalism as the root of other ideologies, and the full picture has been one full of destructive forces. In my mind, if a context brings out abusive or sick natures in people, then that context is a causative one. If someone could have lived outside the given context, in “normal” circumstances, and not become abusive, mentally ill, mental disorder, etc., then, wasn’t the context (church, cult, school, whatever) the causative factor? Of course, it is sometimes doubtful whether the person could have lived alone on the moon and not been an abuser.

Wheaton College has an article on fundamentalism and its roots in America:

Fundamentalism was a movement that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within American Protestantism reacting against “modernist” theology and biblical criticism as well as changes in the nation’s cultural and social scene.

 

Since the 1940s, the term fundamentalist has come to denote a particularly aggressive style related to the conviction that the separation from cultural decadence and apostate (read liberal) churches are telling marks of faithfulness to Christ.  (Source)

I like the way David Pakman tears things apart and this video is an interesting find on the subject:

 

 

What are your thoughts?  This seems like a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” question, doesn’t it?

An Update on Bethany: Almost Trapped in the Christian Patriarchy Movement

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Last year, I posted a personal story (A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy) from “Bethany” who was struggling in a relationship with her boyfriend, whose family was involved in the Christian Patriarchy Movement influenced by the likes of Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, etc.

I received a follow-up e-mail from Bethany, almost a year later who has written about what has happened since then. I like stories with good endings and this is one with a good ending, but it took a little bit of maneuvering to get there.

~JA

 


 

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This time a year ago, I was torn down and heart-broken because the man I was in love with had returned to the fundamentalist teachings of Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.

Having suffered from emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual abuse in this relationship, it’s safe to say I was a mess. I had trouble eating and sleeping. I cried so much my eyes burned all the time and I was constantly worn out from this. I was distracted frequently from thinking about him. After being so close to someone for months on end, I found it extremely difficult to learn to live without him.

 

I thank everyone at SSB, especially Julie Anne, for being there for me during this hard time. Your comments and support helped me through this break up more than you can possibly imagine. During a time when my head was telling me he was not good for me but my heart was still yearning for him, the daily reminders were very helpful.

Returning to school after the holidays was hard for me. I was scared of seeing him because I knew the pain that it would bring. I was also worried about completing a 19-hour semester while still recovering from the traumatic end of a relationship. When I returned, I decided to make a change in my daily schedule. I figured any change that I could make to my environment would be good for me since I was forced to stay at the same school as him. I stopped going to the campus ministry where we met and were in leadership together. At this point, I had also made the decision to prepare and apply for physical therapy school again. With such a heavy semester on top of my emotional, mental, and psychological baggage, I cut way back on every aspect of my life besides church and school.

Little did I know that his plan was to try to get me back under his thumb.

 

Shortly after the semester started, I noticed that I ran into him an awful lot for it to not be planned. Eventually I concluded that he had figured out my class schedule and would sit around the campus buildings just to see me come and go from classes.  These meetings were also confusing to me because I still had deep feelings for him and his behavior was so unpredictable. There would be days where he wouldn’t dare to look at me and there were days where we talked for at least an hour. I felt like I was walking on eggshells just like I did at the end of our relationship because I never knew what to expect from him.

 

On the days he decided it was okay to talk to me, he was not even pleasant. He was rude and always said hurtful things to me, which did not help my case given how fragile I was at the time. He mostly talked about how terrible aspects of my life were, from my friends and family to where and how I lived my life. He practically criticized anything he could about me. This caused me to not like him as much and helped me recover from him when I saw how unkind he was toward me. I learned, however, through my extensive study of these fundamentalist religious groups that this was his way of getting me back. I am firmly convinced that his father was feeding him instructions on how to get me back under his control. He was simply using the manipulative tactics on me that have been used on him his entire life: fear, control, and withdrawal of affection. The more I saw into his life, the more I wanted to be far from it.

 

Throughout this semester, I was still hoping that he would change and come back to me. I sought to meet with a man who was educated and trained to deal with people who have been influenced by churches with dangerous and cultic teachings. My mother came with me to this meeting for moral support. I learned a lot from this man and he educated me on the psychological tactics that my ex-boyfriend was subject to throughout his life from his father. It was a very eye-opening meeting for me but I still held onto that desire for him to see the light and come back to me. This man was more than willing to counsel him, so he asked me to open the door for him. I asked to meet him one day and was very nervous about it to say the least. I knew his response would be a defining moment in my recovery process. What resulted was very disheartening to me. When I first mentioned this man, he seemed willing to think about paying him a visit. It didn’t take him minutes, however, to talk himself out of it, become defensive, and make excuses for why he couldn’t visit the counselor. I gave him the business card anyway and decided that this ship with him had sailed.

 

By the end of the semester, I had watched him go down hill tremendously. He had dramatically changed his appearance and I knew he was not taking care of himself because he looked sickly. I knew by this point that there was no hope for us, but I wanted some answers and closure from him. I asked to meet with him one last time and he was even more unkind and rude than those little snippets of conversation I got from him throughout the semester. He gave me an ultimatum and said I had 30 minutes to speak with him. I knew he didn’t practice what he preached so I wasn’t too concerned about this time limit he had imposed upon me. I don’t remember the details of our conversation since this was back in April, but I do remember him trying to still put on his charm and act like nothing he did to me was wrong and that our whole situation was all the fault of my parents and me. I could truly see the crazy in his eyes and speech and I knew things were way beyond well with him.

In this moment I finally stood firm and called him out on his poor behavior and that I knew the truth about him and his family. I showed him that I had gained my strength back and he would never be able to control me again. Needless to say he was bewildered by my strength, but it was important for me to be able to call him out on his wrongdoings and show him that I could not be torn down again.

 

It took a whole semester for me to let go of him, but I saw him be so unkind that he made it to where it was impossible to miss him. I knew that I didn’t deserve to put up with someone like him. The Lord proved to me time and time again, and is still proving to me today, that I made the right choice to leave my life with him behind and start again. At the end of that horrible semester, I was given good news by my adviser that I was able to graduate a year early from college and apply for physical therapy school! By the grace of God, I was interviewed by this school in early September and was accepted just a few weeks later! After being told for months how stupid I was, I was overcome with joy to be one of the first picks into a doctoral program!

 

As I move forward in my life, I take a lot of lessons learned from this difficult experience with me.

For one, I learned that you can have a desire to help all people but that does not mean that all people will be helped. As much as I wanted my ex to be helped, he wouldn’t let anyone help him. This was incredibly frustrating, but I learned that people can only be helped if they want to. Second, a lot of people can be falsely mislead about you, but that does not mean that a manipulator can fool everyone. While some of the people in my life believed the lies my ex told about me, I still had friends that stood by my side and refused to be swayed by him. Thirdly, there are followers of these fundamentalist leaders that will always remain faithful to their movements, regardless of any evidence indicating that they are not good things to be associated with.

 

With the failures of Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, and Mark Driscoll, I have watched my ex’s family continually defend their systems and teachings regardless of the abusive findings that have come out. I have also watched them slip further into madness and it horrifies me to know that there are still young children involved in this. I still love and miss all of my ex’s siblings, especially his two sweetest and youngest sisters who are around 11 and 7. Furthermore, I have learned to never put my faith in a religious movement or minister. I have noticed more how a person’s faith is completely shattered when a religious movement falls to the ground or a person is discovered as corrupt.

 

 

I have been asked on more than one occasion how I can still be a Christian after dealing with my ex and his people. My answer is simple: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:2).” On CHRIST the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. I put my faith and hope in Jesus Christ only, not in people or religious movements. When I was told that I wasn’t living for God because I wasn’t serving the man in my life as a slave and having multiple babies, I understood that these people did not speak for God on my behalf. People today are fortunate to have personal relationships with Jesus and I am so fortunate to rely on Him above everyone on this earth.

 

I hope my story encourages someone who is going through hardship to not give up. More importantly, I hope by sharing my story with you that I can lead someone who has been discouraged by Christendom to find their way back to Christ. The true Christ. Our Lord Jesus who wants us to look to Him and Him ONLY for guidance, strength, and refuge. When I decided to give my life back to Christ and away from my ex and his family, I was amazed at the ways He worked through me to glorify Him. He gave me continual evidence that I was meant to be a light on this earth and that’s not something I can do if I am hidden away to be an eternal breeder. I was also meant to use my passions and talents to serve God’s people by providing them with healthcare through physical therapy. I hope to continue to achieve great things in the name of Christ Jesus my Lord, for I have so many things to be thankful to Him for!

 

photo credit: Filmstalker via photopin cc

Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier’s Lawsuit against His Son: Abuse and Free Speech Case is in Appeals Tomorrow

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Pastor Bob Grenier and Gayle Grenier vs Alex Grenier and Tim Taylor:  lawsuit in appeals tomorrow at court

You may remember the #WhoWouldJesusSue media campaign a group of us put together to bring media attention to the legal case involving Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia and his wife, Gayle, against their son, Alex Grenier and Tim Taylor. Here is a brief video by Alex Grenier explaining the case and the media campaign we put together about 1-1/2 years ago:

 

 

 

tim

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Please be praying for Tim Taylor and Alex Grenier as tomorrow is their court date for appealing the lower court ruling on their anti-SLAPP lawsuit. Pray that the judge dismisses the case.  This case has been dragging on for quite some time.

I’ve linked to some of my coverage of the case below. The short story is that Pastor Bob Grenier (Calvary Chapel Visalia) and his wife Gayle, have sued their son, Alex Grenier, and Tim Taylor for speaking out about the abuses they saw or incurred. (Alex is Gayle’s son, Bob’s step-son.)

For some reason, the lower courts did not rule in favor of Tim and Alex. Let’s hope this next court process they will see that Tim and Alex did have protected speech when they spoke out against Bob Grenier. ~Julie Anne

 

Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier: Stories of Abuse As Told by His Children

Is Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier Tweeting about Lawsuit?

Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier Files Lawsuit against ..

Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier is Helping Which Victims ..

Alex Grenier Responds to Notice of Imminent Lawsuit by Calvary Chapel Visalia & Pastor Bob Grenier

SSB Gathering – January 25, 2015

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Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

Emerald Falls

 (Emerald Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon)

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John 10: 7-18

(7) Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. (8) All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. (9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

(11) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (12) The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. (13) The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

 (14) I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – (15) just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. (16) I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

 (17) The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. (18) No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my father.

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Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

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photo credit: Brian Bonham

Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month and Survey for Spiritual Abuse Survivors

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Well, it’s nearing the last week of January and I almost missed pointing out that it’s Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month.

Way back when I started my original blog about my abusive church experience, one woman found my blog and left a comment. Her name was Barb Orlowski. It was the very next week that I was sued by my former pastor and Barb was one of the original three people I contacted when looking for help during my very scary experience. She immediately networked and found supportive people who gave me ideas and encouraged me.

Barb Orlowski, a long-time SSB friend and commenter, has been written a book on spiritual abuse and has been researching the topic for years. She asked if I could pass along the following information about a spiritual abuse survey. If you haven’t taken Barb’s survey, I encourage you to do so. Spiritual abuse is easily dismissed by many, but those of us who have experienced it know how life-changing it can be. It’s important to have this research.

~Julie Anne


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Greetings Everyone!

January has been designated, for the past number of years, as:

*Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month*

Many bloggers have joined in to raise the awareness about spiritual abuse.

Some of you may be new to this negative church life experience and how devastating it can be. Finding others online, who have experienced spiritual abuse and hearing how they have slowly recovered, provides hope and help–especially if you have wondered what exactly has happened to you.

You may not be aware of my ongoing invitation for people who have suffered from spiritual abuse and who have recovered sufficiently–to fill out my online questionnaire.

This initial survey was designed for participants in my doctoral research project regarding spiritual abuse and how people eventually recovered from it.

Out of that project came my website: ChurchExiters.com and my book, entitled: “Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness.”

Bloggers have been a huge help in getting the word out for people to know about this opportunity to tell their stories and have these accounts added to the growing statistics of those wounded by spiritual abuse in their local churches.

A few years ago I was asked by a researcher in Australia if I could point them to statistics regarding how widespread spiritual abuse was. At this time, there still does not appear to be very many studies that I can point people to, apart from my own. This is a motivator to request that people–who were not involved in the original study–take the time in order to be a part of this new research project.

Please carefully consider the following criteria for participation in this opportunity to ‘Add Your Voice’.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

1. Carefully read through the criteria.

2. If you have considered the criteria and feel that you fit and that you will not be harmed by answering the questions, please proceed.

3. If you feel that this exercise could be therapeutic as well as help to bring you closure, please proceed.

4. Then Click on PLEASE CLICK HERE for Participant Questionnaire.

· Your completed questionnaire will be added to my ongoing file.
· Your comments will be kept completely confidential.

Thank You for being willing to share your story!

Looking forward to hearing from you as soon as convenient.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at this email address: info@churchexiters.com

All the best!

Barb Orlowski, D.Min.


 

 

Pastor Mike Sperou Will Have His Day in Court: Seven Women Come forward with Sexual Abuse Allegations

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Pastor Mike Sperou of North Clackamas Bible Community will get his day in court: indicted on three counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration of a child under the age of 12

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Mike Sperou North Clackamas Community, Church

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Last week, a much-anticipated church sex abuse story came out in the media. I’ve posted a lot of stories here – quite a few about people I do not know. This one is different for me and perhaps for some of you. A friend of our SSB community is watching “the rest of the story” unfold as his dark church and former pastor have now been exposed to the world.

Some may remember how Pastor Ken Garrett and I met. Ken’s church, Portland Grace Bible, is very similar to the name of the church that sued me (Beaverton Grace Bible Church).  I met him after news of my defamation lawsuit went viral. I’ll let Ken explain it from his private e-mail to me in May of 2012:

We found out about your situation when our church (Grace Bible Church, Portland) began receiving tons of hits on our website–accidental visits from people who were actually looking for your old church.  Also, we’ve received a nasty phone call, and a couple of nasty/scolding emails that were intended for Beaverton GBC!  Strange world! Actually got my attention, since on a very heavy traffic day, our church website gets about 8 hits!  No worries, it was fun to think for a few nanoseconds that our site was going to go viral! :)

I already liked this guy. The next part of the e-mail really touched my heart and has been the common thread of our relationship these past years:

The main reason I’ve written is to share with you that my wife and I were involved in an abusive “bible-based” church for 12 years. We did the whole thing: “discipleship training,” high-pressure evangelism, criticism and disdain for other “backslidden” local churches, etc. What a dark hole! What a painful exit it was for us, and our poor daughters! It was here in Portland, is still in existence, although they’ve changed their name.

Now we’re at Grace Bible Church in downtown Portland, where I’m the pastor. The main reason I wanted to write to you is to tell you that you are certainly not alone, the phenomena of abusive bible-based churches is not only real, it is largely unrecognized, and unappreciated by the church at large (just my opinion, here!). Of course, we are still, as a family, processing and healing from the whole experience, although we’ve been free for over 15 years now. I think the healing goes on until we finally see our tender-hearted Lord face to face! But, I just wanted to reach out and encourage you to hang in there, keep praying, and trusting in God. (Source)

What an encouragement Ken was to me in that e-mail while I was facing such a difficult period. Over the past couple of years, we have shared our church stories and Ken is one of two people who has taught me the most about spiritual abuse. However, Ken’s story is more than spiritual abuse, it also alleges sex abuse, including the sexual abuse of Ken’s two beloved daughters.

 

Earlier, when sex abuse allegations were reported, Oregon’s ridiculous Statute of Limitations laws interfered with this case; however, one more woman eventually came forward and the case was reopened. Thank God!  Now, a total of seven women have bravely come forward and reported to authorities.

 

The church’s name is North Clackamas Bible Community, in Clackamas, Oregon, and it’s important to understand that this “church” was not the kind of traditional church you and I think of, but was a community of church members who lived in rented homes in the same area. You can see the word community in the name of the church, North Clackamas Bible Community, but it might be more appropriate to think of “commune.” Members sold their homes to move into the community, they lived together, gave of their wages, did most activities together. Kids went to public schools, but came back “home” to the community.

Rick Bella covered this story in The Oregonian. When you read the article, you will read of classic spiritual abuse signs:  love-bombing, a charismatic leader, a manipulator, etc. But along with spiritual abuse, we read of allegations of sexual abuse:

The seven women – who ranged in age from 11 to 16 at the time of the alleged abuse – and other former church members said Sperou claims deep emotional scars from childhood traumas and the Vietnam War. They said the church, originally called the Southeast Bible Church, seemed to start with good intentions. But they said the church evolved into a cult-like organization that dissolved family bonds as Sperou sank into heavy drinking, drug use, adultery and sexual abuse of children.

You can see in the following excerpt how unhealthy this environment was for young girls:

The seven women said they felt honored if Sperou invited them to spend time with him. They could watch pay-per-view movies on his big TV and eat take-out Chinese food, pizza and ice cream. They would cozy up with him in bed, they said.

In a 1997 interview with police, Sperou acknowledged that, “girls were encouraged to spend time with him,” but said his wife or other adults were present when the girls came into his bedroom. He also told police that, “many times the girls would come down to his room to watch TV and while there would fall asleep and would subsequently end up spending the night.”

When detectives asked him whether he put his hands underneath the girls’ shirts while hugging them, Sperou told police that “he probably has” but that he “meant nothing by it.”

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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

 

The difficult thing about reading an article like this is that some might say, “who in their right mind would allow their child to be on the bed with their pastor?” Well, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a grooming and manipulation process. It happens to children and adults. You have to think – how did Jim Jones get so many people to uproot friends, family, jobs to move overseas? How did he get them to drink the Kool Aid? These were highly educated people who were duped as well. Church or cult leaders get to these positions because they are masterful, conniving, and evil, and it’s all about them.

But eventually, something seems not quite right:

At first, none of the girls thought it was odd that they and Sperou were in pajamas or underwear, lying in his bed together. They said they were completely in the dark about sex.

But it soon became uncomfortable.

Without quoting any more excerpts from the article, I want to encourage you to read the full article (including photos), Women wait 18 years to see Portland pastor face child sex-abuse prosecution. I have to say that I have never read a better article detailing a spiritual/sexual abuse case than this one by Rick Bella of The Oregonian/Oregonlive.

The following are the names of the seven courageous women who have come forward and are not afraid of putting their names and faces in the public spotlight in the hopes that justice can be served:

Emily Bertram, 33

Shannon Clark, 28

Bryn Garrett, 30

Jennifer Olajuyin, 32

Amy Robinson, 35

Rachel Schackart, 29

Jessica Watson, 33

You can read more details about these ladies at this article (also including photos): Meet the seven women who accused pastor Mike Sperou of child sex abuse

Ken Garrett has participated here, popping in when he can, sharing his expertise with us and joining in conversations. He’s also contributed a guest post or two. Now he is seeing his own former pastor go through the court process. Please keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers. Please pray for Ken and his family, for the seven survivors who came forward, and for perhaps other survivors.

Also, keep in mind as this case has become public, not only have the seven women had to rehash in their minds their horrific experiences, but their parents, family, and other former church members are likely processing and grieving their own experiences as well. This case has likely opened up old wounds. They might be going through questions like: Why did we stay so long? Why didn’t we do anything to stop the abuse? Where was God in all of this?

I had the opportunity to meet some of these precious folks at a picnic 2 summers years ago. As we gathered, we shared some of our stories. It was a sad, yet beautiful time, knowing that we were on a journey of recovery from a very difficult church experience.

Ken, we’re thinking and praying for you all, especially as the February trial draws near.

 

 

 

photo credit: Hayley Bouchard via photopin cc

Fast Food Evangelism

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Kathi digests dissects an “evangelism” video.

 

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This “how to” video on evangelism caught my attention not too long ago. Oh, there’s so much about this video….Where to begin?

Before we get into the video itself, let’s look at the man in front of the camera. This is Eric Hovind of Creation Today. Eric is the son of Kent Hovind, a young earth creationist who established Creation Science Evangelism in 1991. Kent Hovind is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted of multiple federal offenses, mostly involving tax fraud and illegal cash transactions. Eric Hovind took over Creation Science Evangelism and renamed it Creation Today.

Creation Today seems to exist primarily as an apologetics ministry. There are plenty of seminars and classes being taught around the country. Most seem to focus on creationism, apologetics, atheism, evolution, and scientific teaching. Eric became well known in the critical thinking community when he seemed to be flustered by questions from an 11-year-old boy during a debate at Portland State University.

Back to the video. At the beginning, Eric states that because restaurants are asking for your name to make sure they get your order to you, this is a “great opportunity to witness.” When the employee behind the register asks for his name, he says, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Then adds, “Say it nice and loud. I want to make sure I hear it. I’m way in the back over there.” After paying for his food, Eric looks into the camera and says, “Now, all you gotta do is sit back and let them witness for ya. Pretty cool.”

Cut to receiving the food. Two employees shout out, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Eric says, “That’s a true statement right there!”

My immediate thoughts after watching this video are:

Eric is a lazy person if he can’t do his own evangelism.

Eric is a very smug person. I find his cockiness and demeanor in this video gross.

Add to that cockiness the insensitivity of having someone make a religious statement that they may not agree with just so he can make his “statement.” If I were the worker, I would have looked at the ticket number and said, “Right. You’re #218.”

One final note. Did you notice the description of the video?

Fine dining establishments are now asking for your name when you order. This turns out to be a great time to share the gospel!

This is Taco Bell for goodness sake! I’m not a fine dining connoisseur, but I do know that fine dining places do not ask for your name except for the reservation and that Taco Bell is not considered “fine dining.”

SSB Gathering – January 18, 2015

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Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

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Psalm 42

As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.

“O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

11 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

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I have a few different interpretations of Psalm 42 through music and art, the last one is more modern with captions and photography setting the tone.

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Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

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photo credit: Hannah in Hawaii

Are We a Christian Nation or Not?

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The marital rape post started veering off into a political direction and as I read through some of it, I think it is a topic worthy of discussion here.

I’ll use Ed’s last post as a starting off point and add a few of my words (which Ed probably won’t like), but he’ll still be my friend – lol.

 

Marsha,
Sorry but I disagree. However, I will say that when I first learned of the certain sect of Christianity that are pushing their hard line right wing agenda’s, I stopped labeling myself as a conservative Christian, although I am conservative that is a Christian. I believe that there are Christians on both sides of the aisle, progressive, etc. But, how many progressives nationwide believe in God vs. the conservatives?

Who is changing Christmas to winter break? When we used to say, Happy Holidays, it was because there were two holidays, Christmas and New Years Day. It used to be that all faiths (except Jews) celebrated Christmas, even atheists. Now all of a sudden the rest of us have to endure a “winter break” greeting? When I hear that, I ask, “What Holiday?” Things are getting nuttier in America these days.

I agree that it didn’t have the 2/3 vote, but it still had a majority that did not want God in the platform at all. So, the question in my mind is NOT how many voted for or against. My question is for those who voted against it, why did they vote against it? The majority voted against it, but the minority was called the winner. That was not right, based on the call for a vote.

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When I went to public elementary school in San Jose, California. I remember praying in class – we’re talking early 70s (yea, I turned 50 a few months ago – OY).  The school holidays were named after religious holidays:  Easter break, Christmas break.

Now I have kids in public school.  One school is filled with predominantly Mormon students and one day a Mormon student asked the public school teacher if they could pray before an event. I was there and witnessed this.  This was not on school grounds and the teacher said yes.  What if it was a Muslim student asking to pray in front of the whole class? Would I (or you) be okay with that?

I saw Brenda R.’s comment about Sharia law and did not find it offensive at all. Do you have any European friends? They will likely tell you how the religious landscape of their countries has changed in the past decade or so. Muslims have come into their countries in droves, buying land, sometimes attempting to get Sharia law integrated into the laws of their new land. The way I look at this is it is no different than the Christian Reconstructionists trying to infiltrate our US government and impose Old Testament laws into our current legal system.  I have big problems with that, too!

So, my opinion is:  let’s have Winter break and Spring break for schools. I don’t want Christ taught in public schools. I want my kids to be educated in the three Rs in public school and leave the religious education to the parents. I don’t mind a class on a survey of religions, but I don’t want our public schools to focus on Christianity as the foundational religion (even if I believe it to be so). We may have Buddhist teachers, Mormon teachers, etc, in our schools. We may have teachers who believe in Benny Hinn theology, etc.

So there’s my opinion. What’s yours? Please be careful when posting – this topic can get heated!

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photo credit: JeepersMedia via photopin cc

Phil Johnson Claims the Main Trouble in Churches are the Sheep, not Wolves

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Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church claims that sheep, not wolves are the main trouble with churches

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Yesterday, Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church tweeted this:

 

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He is assuming the primary problem are the “sheepiness” of sheep???  That does not surprise me. Let me show you my personal experience with three pastors at Grace Community Church. It is my opinion that Grace Community Church’s default mode is:

1) Protect the pastor at all costs

2) Assume the sheep are the cause of your church’s problems.

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I will share with you my personal experience that led me to come to those conclusions.

A few years ago, in response to my negative Google review, my former pastor said publicly that he had contacted a pastor at Grace Community who gave him the green light to sue me (my wording). I hadn’t received a subpoena yet, but knowing my pastor, I knew that me being sued was a likely possibility.

Here is the screenshot from Pastor Chuck O’Neal’s public lawsuit threat:

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By the way, notice how O’Neal says “under John MacArthur” – – – he meant waaaaaaaay under John MacArthur, but the way he words it, it almost implies the person he spoke with was at the top of the leadership.

So, after seeing that note from O’Neal on Google Review, I contacted Grace Community Church (GCC) and spoke with the volunteer pastor of the day and told him my story of spiritual abuse at BGBC.  My intention was to find out if there was any record of O’Neal calling GCC and a pastor telling him it was okay to sue a former congregant.

This volunteer pastor said that he could see no record of my pastor calling, but couldn’t rule it out, either, saying that he may have had a direct number with another pastor instead of through the number where they log all calls.

This volunteer pastor and I talked for a while. I noticed that he didn’t have anything to say about my pastor’s behavior of threatening to sue me. I was shocked. But what he did do was turn the conversation around to me my sin issues which he was trying to get me to confess. He questioned the state of my family/marriage and clearly did not like that I had posted something publicly about my pastor.

Verdict with Pastor 1:

Pastor = innocent (even when told about lawsuit)

Congregant = automatically guilty even before hearing story

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Fast forward about a week, I did receive the lawsuit.  Days later, I also received a phone call from Bill Shannon of Grace Community. I had no idea who this man was and he seemed surprised that I didn’t know who he was in the GCC chain of command. He said everyone knows who he is. He actually told me to look him up which seemed a bit arrogant to me, but I did look him up as I spoke with him.

Since this guy was a counselor, surely he would be able to listen to me share my experiences and would have understanding that I was dealing with an abusive pastor. I had heard John MacArthur’s sermons on spiritual wolves. At the time, I was devouring them trying to understand what I had gone through. My experiences lined up with what MacArthur described as a spiritual wolf.

Well, funny thing happened. Bill Shannon nearly duplicated the previous phone call conversation with the volunteer pastor of the day. I also felt like I was a less than – that my story didn’t matter and that my only respectable Biblical place for me was to be using all my time on my family/husband.  He said he was trying to hear my side, but yet he defended my pastor. For the first time in my life, I felt like being a woman was hindering me from having a normal conversation with him. In fact, I told him something like: “I feel that if I handed the phone to my husband, you would give him the time of day.”

But what stumped me about these phone calls is this:  what kind of church leadership defends a pastor who is threatening to sue a former congregant?  Just the fact that a pastor was suing 4 and then later 5 congregants against scripture should scream “abusive pastor.”  We already had the evidence that he was going against scripture on suing Christians.

Verdict with Pastor 2:

Pastor = innocent (even when told about lawsuit).

Congregant = guilty

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Fast forward a bit and Phil Johnson got involved after The Wartburg Watch blog covered my story.

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Phil Johnson was on damage control mission trying to do whatever he could do to protect Grace Community Church from getting in the spotlight of encouraging a podunk pastor to sue former congregants.

I heard that Phil Johnson had talked with Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch and he shared with her what he knew, but what about me?  I was the stay-at-home homemaker sitting in Eastern Washington with a $500,000 lawsuit and had 10 days to respond to the court. If he found out that Grace Community pastors did not encourage Chuck O’Neal to sue me or even if they did and now were regretting it, wouldn’t a pastoral response (Phil Johnson is first and foremost a pastor) be for him to initiate a call to me? Ask how I am doing? Maybe offer prayer or assistance of some kind?  To reach out to Dee Parsons before reaching out to me personally showed that he was more interested in protecting Grace Community Church’s reputation.

I reached out to Phil Johnson and he called me. He did acknowledge that the lawsuit was wrong. Regarding some of the stories of spiritual abuse, he in general said something like, “if what you say is true about your pastor, then that is wrong.” I felt like he heard me well and even blogged about it in a positive light.

However, the following day, Phil Johnson posted a link to a blog with commentary about pastors suing congregants (referring to my story) on his personal and public Facebook page.  Here is Phil Johnson’s closing comment on that Facebook thread:

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Phil Johnson - Facebook - May 16, 2012

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That kind of stung. It seemed as if he was now saying I was now an out-of-control complaint blog.  So I actually questioned him if he was referring to my blog as “online nests of disgruntled, emotion-laden but biblically hollow chronic complaint” and his response to me was that he had never read my blog. Well, alrighty then, I guess it’s just amazingly coincidental how all of this came up: linking to a post about a pastor suing, and talking on the phone with a defendant of a $500,000 defamation lawsuit brought on by a pastor all within 24 hours.

Phil Johnson’s tweet shows what he believes: sheep create most of the church problems, pastors do not, and that is why I believe if you have experienced spiritual abuse and reach out to Grace Community, do not expecting any sympathy from their pastors. Even if you have a $500,000 defamation lawsuit in your hands from a pastor who is going against Scripture to sue you, the questions will go back to you and what sin you brought to the church.

It’s interesting that Johnson said in his Facebook note:

Abusive and heavy-handed, high-control church leadership is a serious problem among some very conservative churches, and those of us who are conservative should speak out against it. If there were fewer control freaks in church leadership, I think there would also be fewer out-of-control complaint blogs.

Aside from attempting to clear Grace Community Church’s name in the case against my pastor, it appears that Grace Community Church has not spoken out against the behavior of my pastor and in fact welcomes him and the men from BGBC with open arms each year at the Shepherds’ Conference (pics from BGBC men at Shepherds’ conference)- the very conference where O’Neal told a former church member that he would go Old Testament on him. Yea, there’s a wolf at the Shepherds’ Conference each year and:  crickets.

Yea, Phil, so go ahead and blame sheep. Bah, Bah

 

 

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SSB Sunday Gathering – January 11, 2014

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Spiritual Sounding Board – This is your place to gather and share in an open format.

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I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Psalm 121

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In honor of Andrae Crouch’s home-going this week, here are a couple of songs he wrote which have been sung in worship for years.

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Feel free to join the discussion.
You can share your church struggles and concerns.
Let’s also use it as a time to encourage one another spiritually.
What have you found spiritually encouraging lately?
Do you have any special Bible verses to share, any YouTube songs that you have found uplifting?

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photo credit: Gail

Marital Rape: Is it Even a Possibility in Christian Marriage?

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Is there such a thing as “rape” in a Christian marriage?

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JA note:  Thanks to Kathi for putting this post together this week as I’m finding my groove with a new term back at college.

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Robert posts on his blog, A Man, His Wife, and the Bible and is married to Amanda. That is all that we know about Robert, although I do think that his Doctrines and Beliefs tab tells us quite a bit.

With regard to physical abuse, Robert believes that it is not grounds for divorce. Robert also believes that emotional abuse is overused and overblown by women today. He does think that both sexes are capable of emotional abuse, but it is more “culturally acceptable” for women to be emotionally abusive.

Adultery is the only Biblical grounds for divorce, and adultery is defined as “physical intercourse with someone not your spouse.” Forget that emotional stuff because everyone does it.

When children enter the picture, a wife is to teach them to honor the Lord and her husband. And, let’s not forget that a wife is to submit to her husband in all things – including his sexual desires – which does not surprise me in the least about Robert’s view of sexual abuse considering the following (added spaces for easier reading):

Sexual Abuse: 

Biblically, we do not believe marital rape is possible.  Scripture clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that a wife’s body is her husbands and a husband’s body is his wife’s.

We believe consent is given at marriage.

We believe the teaching on marital rape is a poison in the well of women’s hearts and minds towards their husbands and marriage & does much damage.  However, we also do not condone a husband taking his wife against her will and strongly state that a man should not do so.  In situations of repeated and enduring refusal, professional help and Matthew 18 need to be worked through & not force to be used.

We also believe that denying a spouse sex is just as much abuse as forcing sex upon a spouse.

Lastly, we do not believe sex where a man and woman engage in sex while intoxicated is rape.

In closing, we put equal responsibility on each party in such a situation.  Any marriage where sexual abuse is taking place needs to get help from a pastor, or in some situations law enforcement. (Source)

Let’s pause there for a moment and look at the definition of marital rape:

Marital rape can be defined as any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) obtained by force, threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent. (Source)

Back to Robert…

How in the world can he honestly say that he does not believe that marital rape is possible when he states that he does not condone a husband taking his wife against her will? Taking a wife against her will is the definition of marital rape, therefore you must believe that marital rape is possible.

Robert doesn’t go so far as to say that sexual assault is a woman’s fault, but when I read this, I think he comes pretty close. He almost makes it sound that sexual assault is a result of a woman denying sex to her husband. And then to say each party has equal responsibility, but if raped while intoxicated is null and void? In the end, I think Robert’s belief that marital rape is not possible is because there are enough loopholes to get a man out of being accused of raping his wife.

Oh, by the way, when Robert says, “We do believe,” he is referring to himself and his wife, Amanda. He makes it very clear in the Doctrines and Beliefs that they both believe these things. This makes me sad for Amanda and I want to know if that is what she really believes. I certainly hope that this man is not a pastor. I can’t imagine that any woman who comes to them with problems in an abusive marriage will receive any help.

 


 

photo credit: Klardrommar via photopin cc

When Spiritual Leaders Use Contempt to Control

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Contempt and Control by Christian Leaders (Mark Driscoll, etc)

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My friend, Brad Sargent, has been working tirelessly on behalf of spiritual abuse survivors for decades, documenting people/cases, analyzing outcomes, watching behavioral patterns, etc. He spent over 300 hours documenting and compiling the BGBC Lawsuit Archive which chronicles my defamation lawsuit brought on by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church.

Since that time, and actually long before that time, Brad has been compiling notes on Mark Driscoll and now has over 50,000 words in the last 10 months for his Mars Hill Case Study. He’s been posting bits and pieces along the way and I happened to see his latest release, Capstone 2-7: Mark Driscoll’s Culture of Contempt. (I’ll keep you posted when he’s finished with the entire project.)

I’ve been on the receiving end when I didn’t comply with a leader and it wasn’t pretty (in fact, even yesterday with a certain street preacher on Twitter). What I have experienced and many of you have experienced is what Brad describes as contempt.

The following paragraph in particular is relevant to so many of us who are survivors. Brad has a way with words and I think his insight might help us to understand some of the dynamics going on with high-controlling spiritual leaders.  So many times I read his stuff and think, “that’s it!!!”  This is one of those times.  I have separated the sentences so you can really let them sink in as you reflect on your own spiritual abuse circumstance.

Contempt involves an arrogant attitude of superiority about one’s self, beliefs, abilities, opinions, etc.

This in turn leads to bullying actions like scornful comments and sarcasm, reviling and mocking, minimizing and invalidating, and other forms of put-downs and control.

You may be able to hide contempt for a while behind a veil of “charisma” or “edginess” or “relevance.”

But sooner or later, the core of contempt will ooze out of the depths of darkness in such ways that can no longer be disguised.

A pattern this deep is not accidental or inadvertent.

It is practiced and intentional.

Care to claim that it’s Christlike – even if there are likewise instances of appropriate attitudes and ministry? (Source)

Recall the interview Mark Driscoll had with Janet Mefferd when she challenged him on using Peter Jones’ intellectual property in his book. Now, it is commonly known now that there was a pattern of Mark Driscoll using intellectual property in other books he authored.

In the interview below, Driscoll wrongly accuses Mefferd, he belittles her integrity, calls her rude and unChristlike. He then attempts to put himself in an authority position over her as if he is her pastor. His behavior is contemptuous. Begin at around 15 minute mark to get the context.

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Think back on your church experience. Was your church leader showing contempt to you?  Did the blame shift to you when you questioned authority? Were you the subject of ridicule and put downs? Was your salvation in question when it previously was not?

I think the sentences that spoke out to me the loudest were these:

A pattern this deep is not accidental or inadvertent.

It is practiced and intentional.

Oh boy, have I experienced this. We need to understand that contempt is intentional.  Do not be deceived by some gesture of good words that sound Christianese – look at the whole of the behavior. We need to identify it and knock the abusive pastor/leader off their self-appointed pedestal and really identify them as they are: the abuser.

 

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photo credit: Panegyrics of Granovetter via photopin cc

Dissecting Gracealone1’s Comment

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Sometimes we have commenters here who like to challenge us. Sometimes the language and tone used seem familiar to what we experienced in our abusive churches. Commenter “gracealone1″ has been engaging SSB readers on the comments in this article, JD Hall of Pulpit and Pen Launches Voice in the Wilderness Radio, and one of his comments in particular set off alarms for me. Most likely others had the same reaction. If you did, let’s talk.

The comment begins below and I added more paragraph breaks for easier reading.

 

-Julie Anne


 

Still here———-reading.

There is a great danger in how the after effects of spiritual abuse is handled. It takes no effort at all to let your emotions fester, to let anger rule your every word (something that seems to be the favorite accusation of those here who do not know the Biblical way to deal with abuse), to let bitterness swell to the point of hatred (some here are getting close), and to turn a deaf ear to the simple commands of the Lord Jesus. Some have fought their way throw this by the means detailed in the Scriptures and others continue their ill-gotten diatribes against those who would point them in the right direction.
There are many Biblical commands (there’s that pesky word again that few like) that lead in the proper way to deal with, get past and actually forgive those that have been abusers.

1) Thank God for the whole experience, no matter how long the duration or how severe the trauma you were treated to.

2) Did you seriously think that you as a Christian would escape such persecutions as these when your brothers and sisters have suffered far, far worse than we, now and throughout the centuries past? Why should YOU escape?

Heads are being removed even today for the testimony of the Savior, but somehow we feel it our right to bemoan our situation to the point of disgusting self pity, meanwhile sucking the life out of those we call upon to feel the same pity as we. Shame on you! Christ suffered the ultimate humiliation, His death on the cross, but yet we seek to justify our complaining of our “situation” rather than praise Him for being counted worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake.

Enter the “Warm & Fuzzy” crowd. Warm and fuzzy is completely useless here. In fact, it only does good for the one doling it out and accomplishes zero for the one who has been assaulted. Showing sympathy/empathy is not enough. Feeling sorry for another’s plight helps them how? It would be far more helpful to point such a person to the Scriptures, remind them of the promises of God for His beloved children, get them to seek their Lord and Savior until relief is realized.

If your description of the love of God does not go far, far beyond this blasphemous definition of “warm and fuzzy” it is highly likely that that person knows nothing of the love of God found only in Jesus Christ. [the question must be asked here for those in disagreement: did you ever repent of your sins? or was you ‘repentance’ bound up in the words “I repent”? For those who have known what it is to repent the answer is easy: it was probably the most emotional and gut-wrenching thing in their entire life. For those who have gone the deceitful way of easy-believeism it’s usually only a few words said in passing with the perceived or claimed ‘sincerity’ being immaterial].

3) Ask God for wisdom as to how to handle each persecution. If you walk with Him on a daily basis this will become a no-brainer (did you take up your cross today? if you did, then you should naturally expect to be crucified on it.) There are specific Scriptures that apply to all that I’ve said here and will be happy to cite them if you wish. There is more, but enough for now.

To allow the bitterness and ensuing hatred that is common to the natural man to control a person means that their persecutor has won the war, they are virtually useless in the service and obedience to the Savior, and things will likely only get worse over time. It results in constant attacks, especially toward those with whom they differ, skewed views of Scripture that accommodate their own specialized heresy, and an unteachable mindset (not unteachable by other men, but by the Holy Spirit). They refuse to humble themselves before the Lord and will get to the point where humility is only for the other guy, they have somehow (in their own mind) grown past the need to be humble before the Creator.

BTDT, if you had only read a little further you would have seen the real reason for my welcomed dismissal from SBCVoices was the fact that ALL of the commenters (by default, the moderator, too) had ganged up on man from Tennessee. They dog-piled this guy mercilessly over and over again simply because he asked a question that they did not feel was worthy of their consideration. So yes, I jumped in and fired at will. And guess what? I’d do the same for you in a similar situation.

To set the record straight, I am not a Calvinist (how many definitions are there now?) But I am a firm believer in the Scriptures that came centuries before John Calvin. Also, Calvin was right 100% when it comes to T U L I P. There are hundreds of verses that speak of predestination, election, being chosen, etc. etc. but those of the Arminian heresy dismiss them all in favor of man’s “free-will”. Something that has no part in a man’s salvation whatsoever. “You are saved BY GRACE through FAITH and that NOT OF YOURSELVES it is THE GIFT OF GOD. To state otherwise is to make the Word of God a lie and remembering that JESUS CHRIST IS THE WORD OF GOD one should take great care before they call Him a liar. If a man wants to believe the lie that by an act of his will he will gain salvation, then that man has no need of grace, and if grace is not how you were “saved” then you are still lost.

Pastor and Homeschool Leader Scott Brown Empathizes with Turkish President who says Birth Control is Treason

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Mark Driscoll’s New Website, New Image, and the Stuff He Forgot to Mention

Mark Driscoll’s new website: what he’s sharing about himself and what he leaves out of his story

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Personal Account from Former BJU Student

Rachel Patrick shares personal experiences at Bob Jones University

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Bob Jones University Sex Abuse Investigation and A Breakdown of BJU President Pettit’s Leaked Chapel Message

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Some Pastors Think They Get to Control the Details of Your Lives, Even the Colors of Clothes You Wear

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