Disturbing Trends, Domestic Violence and Churches, Failure to Report Crimes, Leaving the Church, No-Talk Rule, Russell Moore, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches

Questionning the Morality and Ethics of Samuel James and His Recent Article

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 Samuel James, ERLC, watchdog blogs, abuse, and the church

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Merriam-Webster defines the following:

Morality

beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior

the degree to which something is right and good : the moral goodness or badness of something

Ethics

rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad

It’s important to take note of the meanings above when reading this article.

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https://twitter.com/samueljamesblog/status/596766978725060608

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Samuel James is Communications Specialist at The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and works directly for Russell Moore, who is President of the group.

Samuel James’ most recent blog article, What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses The Rest of Us, left quite a few people disturbed.

I tweeted about this particular article on Friday:

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I will be covering points 6 through 9 in this article. You can read the rest at his site.

At first, I was struck that this was yet another person giving the warning about “watchdog blogs:”

7) Don’t start a “watchdog blog.” Seriously, don’t ever.  

We’ve seen that before.

And then I discovered that Samuel James had preemptively blocked me on Twitter. We’ve also been seeing more and more of this pattern on Twitter. Mr. James then went on to block several others who were either bloggers or others who questioned him about his article:

Samuel James, ERLC Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 7.29.17 AM

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So, what we have here is, “I get to say what I want to say and you don’t get to respond back.”

That’s just rude. It’s also the pattern we see in abusive authority figures:  the no-talk rule. The no-talk rule prevents others from raising the alarm of abuse because any kind of negative talk is shoved under the carpet. If you can’t talk about the problem, then no one else will know about it. The dark secret stays contained and abuse continues.

But all of the above is trivial compared to what follows. I wonder about Mr. James and what he thinks about morality and ethics after reading the next paragraph, and I shudder to think about the group he represents (ERLC) if they believe as he does. This next paragraph is a doozy:

6) Don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER even passively, suggestively, or indirectly legitimize or rationalize bitterness and suspicion towards the church. If someone says to you, “This is why I don’t go to church,” they might think they’re telling the truth, but they’re not. They don’t love the church because they don’t love Jesus. Saying, “Yes, you have a point, church can be so frustrating” feels like empathy, but it’s not. It’s self-preserveration at the cost of slandering Christ’s body.

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Mark Lawrence’s response to Mr. James on Twitter is very important:

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https://twitter.com/RevElmerFudd/status/597338987032883200

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G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) also left a response to the article on their Facebook page:

These types of posts written by church “leaders” are so damaging and hurtful for many reasons. Pious demands for silence are inconsistent with light, truth and love.

And finally, the last two comments:

8) Don’t read the comments.

Note:  Samuel James closed the comments on his own blog article.

9) Don’t leave a comment.

Note: Samuel James closed the comments on his own blog article.

Now, let’s take a look at ERLC’s first three ministry statements:

MISSION

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission exists to assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.

MINISTRIES

1. ASSIST CHURCHES IN APPLYING THE MORAL AND ETHICAL TEACHINGS OF THE BIBLE TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

Provide research, information resources, consultation, and counsel to denominational entities, churches and individuals with regard to the application of Christian principles in everyday living and the nation’s public life.

2. ASSIST CHURCHES THROUGH THE COMMUNICATION AND ADVOCACY OF MORAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS IN THE PUBLIC ARENA.

Represent Southern Baptists in communicating the ethical positions of the Southern Baptist Convention to the public and to public officials.

3. ASSIST CHURCHES IN THEIR MORAL WITNESS IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES.

Provide information resources that inform and equip churches for active moral witness in their communities.

Mr. James’s statements are inappropriate and distasteful, especially to those who have been harmed by the church. The issues that many bloggers discuss are of moral and ethical concerns: how sex abuse cases are handled in the church, how pastors use their position of authority as a spiritual weapon, how the church handles cases of domestic violence, how the church takes care of the oppressed.

I wish Mr. James could read just a week’s worth of my e-mails and get a reality check to what many are experiencing. I also question what kind of ethics and morality is going on at ERLC that Mr. James could produce such a piece.

Since, Mr. James does not allow comments, blocks people on Twitter who engage him (and even people who don’t), he leaves me no choice but to blog about it. And now you may have the opportunity to share your thoughts, too.

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143 thoughts on “Questionning the Morality and Ethics of Samuel James and His Recent Article”

  1. Who here thinks that his “elders” are carelessly throwing Mr. James under the bus? He may be congratulated for being brave by these same people. Why? Because they can let him take the fall for the things they would like to say, but are smart enough to not post. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually gets “reigned in” publically by the more mature members for being youthful and overeager. Sadly Mr. James is probably parroting the same sentiments that he hears in his work and church environment.
    I would like to empathize with Mr. James if anyone was crass enough to criticize his fiancee. She is in no way connected to his blog and doesn’t deserve to be dragged into the discussion.

    Like

  2. After reading both of his articles, my mind is shouting two things: 1) He’s a very, very young version of Tony Miano and, 2) his writing style resembles Doug Wilson with its condescending, arrogant, wordsmith-y let’s see how superior I can make myself appear because, ya know, that’s what Jesus would do… manner.

    (btw Samuel, these two things are NOT pluses for one’s Christian walk, no matter what your ERLC professing Christian leaders are saying. Humility, truth and deference toward others is what Jesus loves.)

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  3. Ann: I agree regarding the man’s fiancee. I don’t think family and friends are fair game.

    I suppose those who are best situated to critique/correct him are SBC members. If older pastors are letting him take the fall, that is a shame.

    I have three complaints regarding what he has written; 1) He uses the phrase “fellow Christians”. This is troubling because it does not specify how one determines who fits in this category. 2) he speaks of “embarrassment”. Does he mean here minor things, such as the sermon being too long, or the pastor experiencing flatulence? certainly we should not point such things out. But sexual abuse, financial wrongdoing and spiritual abuse are of different character. 3) the idea that one should not discuss the serious problems occurring in some congregations only serves to perpetuate sinful actions.

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  4. “Silly- boy men” LOL. Lydia I wish you had NOT said that. I have a sister n law and a friend that use that term all the time. From now on whenever I hear it I will picture a pudgy balding dude, with a patch of hair in the middle that looks like a lousey hair replacement surgeon attempted to sod his head.

    I do believe a earlier post hit the nail on the head, this youngster is in over his head and has a greatly inflated view of his enfluence.

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  5. “The primacy of the local church” is regurgitated Piper.

    I read his follow up post and it screamed NPD tendencies. He now basically blames those who read his blog and comment on them as not having a life. but he covers himself well in proving he has a life in spite of writing the blog posts by telling us his routine of going to the grocery. Hee hee. Sorry but this is too typical. He is not even clever with it.

    He wants to be treated as the wise sage without behaving as one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. He is obvisously a golden boy who in the favor of his “authorities” and hasn’t yet been bitten by those he so humbly defends. A degree does not equal wisdom. Although is seems to spawn arrogance more oft than not……. Especially when you have very little life experience to back it up.

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  7. It’s hard to tell if the kid has NPD tendencies or not. Certainly, there are things that give indications, but of course even a trained mental health professional couldn’t know. And for that matter, the average teen (or unusually immature twenty-something) acts somewhat NPD-ish anyway. I unfortunately did way back when.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m going to guess he might have been trying to stroke some higher powers with this post and certainly thinks he’s currying favor with those powers by playing the martyr–and he may well be. I’ll bet he’s terrified to face legitimate challenges to his position in a public forum, it can be embarrassing to be shown up and not have a cogent response to a thoughtful question, especially if you’re not quite competent enough to generate a position of your own and are only parroting the thoughts of superiors. It can be a nightmare to look at those replies.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Among the “embarrassments” he mentions is blasphemy, unless I have read him wrong. This is more than a mere embarrassment. How does a church leader justify not criticising a “Christian” who engages in blasphemy? I admire a young person who contends for a position well, but this article does not qualify.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Julie Anne,

    OT: lemonaidfizz posted this link on TWW.

    It seems to be a letter from Tony Jones’ lawyer about Julie’s participation on social media, and lists TWW, Naked Pastor, Brad Sargent, Ryan Stollar, SSB, Amy Smith’s Watchkeep, and many others.

    I’m not sure, yet, what it’s all about, but thought you might be interested.

    Like

  11. Oh, wow! I didn’t know it was going to post a pic like that. Sorry!

    JA response: that’s fine. No big deal 🙂

    Like

  12. I’ve heard through the grapevine about that, but I haven’t read any of it, BTDT. I’ve got too much homework to do. I figure if the court wants me to do something, I will get some official notification. Haven’t had any subpoenas lately.

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  13. From what I can tell, Julie is supposed to contact each blogger and request that her comments be removed. She is then supposed to supply proof of correspondence to Tony’s lawyer. I don’t think any action is implied toward any of the bloggers mentioned.

    I feel sick.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s more than a little ironic that Mr. James calls himself a Communications Specialist but won’t allow people to communicate with him. Obviously, he is in the wrong profession. If you can’t take the heat, Mr. James, then you don’t belong in the kitchen.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. “I’m going to guess he might have been trying to stroke some higher powers with this post and certainly thinks he’s currying favor with those powers by playing the martyr–and he may well be”

    Bingo. There is a big push in that movement to shame watch bloggers. I have seen this theme discussed on several pastor blogs in comments. No one names names or is real direct but the sentiment is there: People are sinning on social media and dissing the local church. Oh and they repent of their social media forays. It is all so tiresome and typical. They are cowards.

    You see, watchblogging has worked more than most think. Why? Because in ministry, image is everything and the watch blogs are embarassing them. What they used to be able to sweep under the rug is now public and being discussed in a way they have no control over. So, call it a sin. They have lost control of the one way message and convo. The scandals are costing them money in ticket sales, donations, etc, in ways that are not so evident to us. The big names are not the draw they used to be even if it seems like they are to us.

    That is why the big cheeses like Russ Moore have expendable guys like James to do the dirty work very willingly. I have watched guys like James come and go for years in the YRR movement getting their little chance at some fame for the big guys. Some are rewarded and some aren’t. James is trying very hard to make a name for himself by going after the perceived enemy. All the while Russ Moore gets to pretend he is everyones friend. He also has Joe Carter as a henchman. That is how it works.

    Some of the YRR big cheeses are already trying to rewrite the narrative because that movement has been tried in the public arena and found wanting because of scandals and doctrine. Some of the leaders are moving on to more cultural issues to change the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “It’s hard to tell if the kid has NPD tendencies or not. Certainly, there are things that give indications, but of course even a trained mental health professional couldn’t know. And for that matter, the average teen (or unusually immature twenty-something) acts somewhat NPD-ish anyway. I unfortunately did way back when.”

    That is why I said “tendancies”.

    I don’t think it is hard to tell at all but I have a lot of experience with narcissistic ministry leaders and their sycophants. . His second blog post was the clincher. And he is way past the typical teen with narcissistic tendancies of brain development. One reason people grow out of that stage is because it ceases to work as they move into the real world adn they are forced to process differently.. In that closed environment of which he is a part, it works quite well …….as long as he adores the gurus. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is snarky, Lydia, but based on the manner in which the young fellow carries himself and based on the way he looks (I’m being horrible–but just looking at the guy, don’t you see it?) he’s 20-something going on 12 or 10 or 8.

    I’ve also had some experiences with leaders and pastors whom I thought were of the NPD strain myself, but of the older, should-be-wiser, malicious and sadistic strain. I think the kid’s just the biggest nebbish in town, is extremely stunted, and may just not have grown beyond a 12 year old emotional development. He may be fine in time, not sure I detect malice and bona fide ugliness in him, just the terror of being thrust inth Dtector the public sphere all at once, knowing you’re way out of your class, facing the horror of being exposed as a fraud. Just a hunch.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “This is snarky, Lydia, but based on the manner in which the young fellow carries himself and based on the way he looks (I’m being horrible–but just looking at the guy, don’t you see it?) he’s 20-something going on 12 or 10 or 8. ”

    I have a friend who was a middle school principal for about 10 years.. His assessment of the YRR, based upon his experience, is they have about the same emotional maturity of the typical middle school boy but with a theological vocab.

    It might come from the cloistering that takes place. They leave youth group where they were introduced to the gurus and on to college (bible) where it is affirmed and then to work in ministry. They really do have arrested development. And what will change that if they continue to be rewarded for it?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I posted the following at TWW, but it seems apropos here as well:

    And to further elevate himself, Sam titles his blog after the Inklings…a group of writers and philosophers from an earlier time, including CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and George MacDonald. These men elevated God, and man’s access to him, in their writings. Sam has much to learn. I am sorry he has CHOSEN a public stage to display youthful folly, especially as one who also bears the image of his maker, and the name Christian (literally “little Christ.”). I wonder what the true Inklings would write about the financial and social power wielded by the corporate “church.”

    Additionally, I challenge every Christian “leader” and wannabe to examine the lives of Pastor Antipas and Bishop Polycarp. If the opportunity to unequivically manifest the glory of God to the world were behind both Door #1 and Door #2, and one of them was a huge book deal and public speaking gigs, and the other torture and death, would you choose one? Or would you walk away from the opportunity? God help me, I would take a pass. What would you do, Sam?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Daisy said: “Bosses, jobs, teachers, school systems -and of course many churches- would rather ignore, deny, or downplay their faults, injustices, and mistakes, and deny or ignore that there are abusers among them, than to do the right thing and fire, demote, or reprimand the abusers and support the victim.”

    Yeah. Parents, too. But of course you know that. This really resonated with me. It’s what I had to deal with when our children were bullied. Somehow it wasn’t enough to sympathize or empathize or whatever the heck it is to acknowledge their hurt. No, but they had to recognize that it takes two to tangle (I know the saying is “tango” but “tangle” makes more sense to my very literal brain) and that they might have done something to provoke the bullies.

    They found that so very hurtful and frustrating, and so did I, yet somehow I never could explain it in a way that made sense to my partner in parenting.

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  21. Daisy, you went on to say there are reasons why people have this tendency? Could you elucidate? Maybe it will help me to understand better. I’m so tired of being my head against a wall.

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  22. BTDT said: “True. For about the first year after parting ways with our cult, I seriously waited and hoped that someone would wonder what had happened. I hoped someone would call to sort out the problems and reconcile the relationship. I wanted someone to care. After a year passed I finally came to grips with the fact that they didn’t care. That first year was the most difficult emotionally. ”

    You know, I don’t even think they know we’re gone. And it’s been months. The one friend I remain in contact said the other day, laughing sadly, “You came up in conversation, someone wondered if you all had been sick or something because they hadn’t seen you in church that day.”

    And it’s been months.

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  23. refugee, you said

    “You came up in conversation, someone wondered if you all had been sick or something because they hadn’t seen you in church that day.”

    This is truly sad. I emailed my friend who left the church we both attended because she was getting a legal separation and didn’t feel she could get the support she needed as it is a strongly “marriage” oriented church. I want to know if anyone at all other than a lady that she knew prior to attending and myself had contacted her. I’m pretty sure that answer is no.

    I am divorced almost 2 years now, but I wasn’t letting that stop me. I wonder if anyone would notice that I was gone after being there for 5 years. Someone had asked me about my friend after she had been gone for a year. Her name is still on the table at our women’s group. I haven’t said a word.

    Something is really wrong with this whole thing.

    Brenda

    Like

  24. Amos,
    Have you looked to see just how many times the word “member” is used in the NT, as he seems to think it is an issue. I am more interested in the way the word is used. Sounds like a weekend project for me to work on. I am a “member” of the local church I attend, but I didn’t sign anything and would not do it again as I no longer see the point.

    I don’t particularly feel like I am “under” anyone who may think they are a leader. In fact the ladies that I feel the most discipled by are not “leaders” and one doesn’t go to the same church.

    Anyone who cares to answer: If you don’t go to a church (a building, tent or physical location with Jesus followers within) to meet other followers of Christ and get the community that I feel I need? Maybe you don’t feel that way about it. I didn’t go to any church for a long time and I felt like something was missing.

    Brenda

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  25. Brenda

    “Have you looked to see just how many times
    the word “member” is used in the NT,…”

    Yes I have… 😉

    In the KJV, “member” and “members” is 25 times…

    But, As far as I can tell…
    NO where in the NT, is it used in referrence to “joining today’s church?”

    But- I cudda missed that… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you, Amos. I somehow thought you would have. I was curious and do intend to do some research on that. A coworker is of the opinion that there were church leaders, “elders, deacons” in an organized meeting, but no membership involved and is not himself a member of the “church” he attends. The crazy part of that is he has been facilitating a small group for 3 years and now if he doesn’t join the church he can’t do that anymore. They have a 3 year limit, which I find a ridiculous rule.

    In the 1800’s and there were circuit preachers or none at all a family would read the Bible and discuss it around the table. Seems like a good way of doing it today in a way. I do like having corporate worship, but sometimes I wonder how God feels about it.

    Thank you, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Just read this again and noticed the guys he blocked for their gentle and respectful attempts at interaction on Twitter. They are older and wise men (!) and he is too foolish to listen to their different perspective. What a shame. I haven’t checked today but I haven’t seen myself blocked by him yet, despite my own comments. Perhaps he has muted me. In any case, he tweeted something snarky about Jesus saying He would build His church. Interestingly I had tweeted something about how Jesus will build His church in the context of this guy’s poor logic. Here’s the thing: if attacks on the church are coming from sin within, who loves the church more? Those who shut up and allow it to happen or those who speak up or get away from the sin? Is Jesus really wringing his hands over the stupid things people say or the reactions those stupid things said get, or is He, in fact, building His church? Is He, in fact, God? Not sure what such guys as Sam believe about God quite frankly, except that they feel a need to control rather than believe that God is God. Incidentally this controlling lack of trust in God (who is sovereign) also really confuses me when it comes from “Calvinists”. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Ps I’ve just commented on three great watchblogs. Streisand Effect much? 😉 Oh and don’t get me started on how much ordinary Christians who blog earn. Really mate? You want to pull that card? How much do your leadership buddies who blog earn in comparison? Hmmm? I thought so.

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  29. Melody: Your comment at 1:09 i.e. that exposing abuse and abusers shows love for the church is excellent. If a person cares about Christ’s church, abuse needs to be exposed.

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  30. That was my serious comment. 😉 Thanks for encouragement, Keith. Glad so many others feel the same and take the risk of talking about problems. Perhaps that’s how arrogant posts like this one we are discussing can be turned into good…they are a motivator for Christians to step up and speak out. How else can we grow if not “truthing it in love”? Anything less is hypocrisy.

    Like

  31. Every time I read SJ’s kind of 3-Day-Old Carp, I am reminded of the 25th chapter of Matthew. ‘Cause none of these whippersnappers seem to have read that….It might leave them convicted out of their own mouths, dontchaknow……

    Liked by 1 person

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