Challenging Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini – Part 3 of 3: Apparent Assumption of Trustworthiness Left Unexamined, and Final Thoughts.

A three-part series of opinion and research/resource articles by “brad/futuristguy” on the recent Christianity Today interview with Saeed Abedini:

  • Part 1: Introduction, and He Gave No “Answer” to the Allegations.
  • Part 2: He Raised Unchallenged Accusations About His 2007 Domestic Assault Case.
  • Part 3: Apparent Assumption of Trustworthiness Left Unexamined, and Final Thoughts.

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3. The Christianity Today interview seemed to embrace an unexamined assumption of Mr. Abedini’s trustworthiness.

The way I see it, there are some significant indicators that Mr. Abedini apparently holds to personal autonomy instead of submission to any credible authority for personal/organizational accountability. This is something that would affect his credibility and trustworthiness, and ultimately disqualify him from a role of overseer/elder in a local church. That disqualification certainly would also apply to his seeking a role of prominent national or international ministry – which seems to be what is currently happening, as he ramps up his speaking platform, launches a website, and gives interviews.

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Ordination

Mr. Abedini may be ordained, but that is unclear at this point. Ordination would be one potential indicator of adequate theological preparation and vetting by peers through in-person questioning to discern his doctrinal knowledge and some measure of his spiritual maturity.

Although the Wikipedia entry for Saeed Abedini states that he was ordained in 2008, it does not indicate by what church, denomination, or other certifying body. In my preliminary searches, I could find no confirmation of that date, nor mention of any organization that ordained him. There is a date of June 18, 2008 mentioned in the January 2016 American Evangelistic Association (AEA) Spotlight newsletter (see page 1) – but the wording is ambiguous as to whether Mr. Abedini was an Ordained Pastor when he came to them, or became an Ordained Pastor by them. Quote:

Pastor Saeed has been connected with the American Evangelistic Association as an Ordained Pastor since June 18, 2008, when Dr. John Reinhold, who was then President of AEA, invited Pastor Saeed into the organization.

Beyond times and dates, the deeper question here is whether Mr. Abedini meets biblical qualifications for a prominent role of public ministry, the equivalent of an elder. And there may be instances where an ordination council or its convening organization can exercise discipline if a minister they ordained later fails to meet biblical qualifications for public ministry. So, if AEA did ordain him, do they continue to have any role of responsibility over him? If he refused spiritual oversight and accountability, would they remove his ordination or other credentials with their organization?

Licensing

Mr. Abedini holds licensing credentials with the American Evangelistic Association (AEA). From investigative work done by Julie Anne Smith, it appears that AEA licensed him with no particular vetting process. It also looks like AEA licensure is open to anyone who applies and pays membership fees. For details, read her article, Vetting, Accountability, Licensing, and Promoting for Pastor Saeed Abedini: Exploring What Went Wrong and How (Spiritual Sounding Board; February 2, 2016).

Commissioning

In my preliminary searches, I could find no evidence that Mr. Abedini has been commissioned or otherwise functioning within any kind of denomination or official network. I’ve especially checked to see if some key organizations that Mr. Abedini has associated with have any official connection in this regard.

Although news reports state that the Abedinis have attended Calvary Chapel Boise, I have not found anything about his being commissioned or officially “sent out” into ministry through them.

Mr. Abedini occasional mentions his connection with Franklin Graham, who is CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), but I have not seen any information suggesting that Mr. Graham or his organization oversees, sponsors, or commissioned Mr. Abedini.

The American Center for Law and Justice previously served as legal representation for the Abedinis when Saeed was imprisoned in Iran, but that relationship was not one of authority/oversight. Also, according to an ACLJ spokesman quoted in a Washington Post article of February 1, 2016, that formal relationship ended shortly after Saeed returned to the United States. (However, an endorsement for Saeed Abedini by ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow appears on Mr. Abedini’s Premiere Speaking page for reviews.) That Washington Post article also notes that the Abedinis are no longer working with the DeMoss Group, a PR agency whose clients include BGEA and ACLJ.

Commissioning would be an indicator of responsibility to a sending organization and accountability to an oversight body – instead of acting as a “free agent” who does whatever he decides. So, it would seem his going to Iran in 2013 was of his own accord. Also, as stated in recent reports, Mr. Abedini believes that God is telling him to leave his children and go back to Iran to minister. That may be how he senses he is being led, but is that really wise, given all factors in his situation? Unless things have changed very recently, he is a dual citizen of Iran and America, but Iran does not recognize his American citizenship. Given his past record of detainment, arrests, and imprisonment in Iran, isn’t that a situation that could use outside counsel to ensure he considers the potential consequences – including re-imprisonment?

If there is no other sending agency involved, then this likewise would seem to be his own personal decision. Or, it might perhaps be strictly under the auspices of Saeed Ministries, Inc., the non-profit organization for which he is Executive Director. But that, too, is problematic when it comes to substantive oversight and accountability.

Non-Profit Agency Governance Issues for Saeed Ministries, Inc.

The following comes from public records at National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), which is directly linked with the Internal Revenue Service database on non-profit agencies. So, some of the public information posted there is supplied by the IRS.

Saeed Ministries, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) that was begun in 2011 (the year its Form 990 was submitted), and the IRS ruling date for its non-profit status was in 2013. The Form 990 states their mission as being: “Increase the advancement of the Christian religion through orphanages, TV broadcasting, conferences, seminars, crusades, leadership training, and Bible printing.” (See details from NCCS page at this link.)

EIN 452822205. (EIN is the Employer Identification Number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service.)

NTEE Category X-20 Christianity. (See NTEE codes at this link. NTEE stands for the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities.)

According to the public records for the non-profit agency – Saeed Ministries, Inc. – Saeed’s wife Naghmeh and his two sisters, Zibandeh [elsewhere spelled Zeebandeh] and Elnaz, serve as members of the board of directors. The composition of the board may have changed since then, but I could find no public record of that happening.

An all-family board has inherent conflicts of interest, and would be insufficient to exercise appropriate oversight of Saeed, who is the organization’s Executive Director (although some recently articles state that he is the “Exclusive Director”). To complicate the concerns about his accountability even further, Saeed and Naghmeh are in the process of dealing with legal separation.

What’s Missing?

So, it seems that what is missing from all these potential indicators of responsible submission to authority is as significant as what is said. Consider the fact that Mr. Abedini does not seem to mention ordination, commissioning, or licensing. What does that say about his being sent out under authority of any organization, or having been evaluated and approved by peers or authoritative bodies which can also remove their credentials and/or endorsement? Or does he act as an autonomous individual, possibly just playing “the God told me …” card to silence any who question the wisdom of his decisions? If he is not submissive to any Christian mentors and authority figures, how are we to trust the truth or wisdom of other things he says?

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Some Final Thoughts

Saeed Abedini presents himself as someone worthy to be trusted, supported, and emulated. Should he be? I believe a deeper examination into Mr. Abedini’s trustworthiness is urgently needed, because he is currently attempting to reengage in public ministry through speaking and writing.

On April 21, 2016, Premiere Motivational Speakers Bureau, launched their page for Saeed Abedini. This is an international agency with one U.S. branch office (Franklin, Tennessee) and four international branch offices (Calgary/Canada, London/UK, Brisbane/Australia, and Rio de Janeiro/Brazil).

[ADDED 05/05/2016: Given the body of evidence that strongly suggests that Mr. Abedini considers himself under authority to no one by God, I have to wonder what standards Premiere Speaking uses to evaluate potential clients. I also wonder what responsibility level (if any) they take for Mr. Abedini’s ministry, as it appears they are the only formal organization now actively engaging and promoting him.]

In the last weeks of April 2016, Mr. Abedini appeared in articles or interviews with:

Christianity Today, The CT Interview: Saeed Abedini Answers Abuse Allegations, by Katelyn Beaty (April 24, 2016).

Christian Today, Saeed Abedini denies abuse allegations; ‘Satan wants me to stop preaching the gospel’, by Carey Lodge (April 26, 2016).

Charisma News, Pastor Saeed Abedini: God Called Me to Leave My Kids, by Jessilyn Justice (April 27, 2016).

Christian Post, Saeed Abedini: Americans Crave Revival but Some Pastors Only Care About Church Growth, by Stoyan Zaimov (April 29, 2016).

Christian Daily, Pastor Saeed Abedini: God is calling me to leave my children and return to ministry in Iran, by Lorraine Caballero (April 30, 2016).

On April 30, 2016, he launched the Pastor Saeed Ministries website.

The reason it is important to investigate the issues and patterns raised in this series of three posts is the same as for anyone seeking a prominent profile as a spokesperson and role-model of Christianity:

To protect members of the Body of Christ and its reputation from those who are UNqualified to serve due lack of spiritual maturity or ministry skills, and from those who are DISqualified to serve due to falling short of character and behavior standards set forth in the New Testament.

I understand that these are exceptionally uncomfortable issues to address – questions about character, credentials, transparency, responsibility, accountability. But, if we fail to validate the questions and investigate for answers, we end up commending someone we really shouldn’t, and the reputation of the Body of Christ suffers for it.

One final question for Christianity Today and other members of mainstream Christian media:

When does reporting the news and interviewing a figure who is in the midst of controversy become implicit support for his or her platform?

And what will we as readers do?  I hope this series has been helpful in our beginning to answer that question as well.

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Series Links

Challenging Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini – Part 1 of 3: Introduction, and He Gave No “Answer” to the Allegations.

Challenging Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini – Part 2 of 3: He Raised Unchallenged Accusations About His 2007 Domestic Assault Case.

Challenging Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini – Part 3 of 3: Apparent Assumption of Trustworthiness Left Unexamined, and Final Thoughts.

Resource Bibliography on the Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini Situation.

 

54 comments on “Challenging Christianity Today’s Interview with Saeed Abedini – Part 3 of 3: Apparent Assumption of Trustworthiness Left Unexamined, and Final Thoughts.

  1. Without any answers to these questions, there is sufficient doubt about his credibility to debar him from any position. Anybody who supports him does so at their own risk.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Saeed’s summary of the two perceptions of him the public is left with: “One of them is a hero of the faith, one of them is an addicter (sic).” This is a false dilemma; struggling human who sins is a third option. But I get the headiness of being regarded as a “hero”…is this his true desire?

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  3. I find it disturbing that Mr. Abedini seems to be positioning himself as an expert on revival, when there are as-yet-unresolved allegations that he plagiarized the outline/material in his series of messages on revival. (See Part 1 in this series for details.) We will have to wait and see how that issue unfolds, but Christian media seems to be going along with his emphasis on revival. Things like that continue to stretch thin the credibility of such media and erode my stance of good will toward them.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Could going back to Iran be an attempt at recreating his positive status to regain public favor? Seems to me he was viewed as a “good” Christian while in prison in Iran and now that his in America he is a “bad” Christian.

    I really do think that being released from a prison in Iran must have been a huge high and then having the poop hit the fan made it a huge low. He went to the top of the world to under the garbage heap pretty quickly. That is a large drop in a short amount of time.

    I also think there are cultural things going on as well. I am not familiar with all the details of the story. I have no idea how long this couple has been in America or how high their level of English is. To be really honest I had thought that if he is caught lying about his legal and marital issues, how is it he is believed about his experiences in jail?

    Is the Calvary Church Pastor saying anything in all of this? I can’t understand Christians hiring PR firms. Seems so worldly to me. Flabby journalism on CT’s part is well put!! Seems to be the trademark of many Christian news outlets.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The current blindness in the Evangelical world seems to be showering grace and forgiveness on the powerful who have messed up and reserving skepticism and judgment for the weak who can’t keep their pain contained in the box reserved for all negative emotions.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. @kay … as far as a timeline, I added this to the Resource Bibliography page a few days ago.

    The following “quick facts” and concise timeline of Saeed Abedini’s background and imprisonment in Iran was posted by the American Center for Law and Justice. ACLJ served as legal representation for the Abedinis until after Saeed was released in January 2016. This timeline was apparently prepared through the DeMoss agency, and covers up to early June of 2015.

    Backgrounder: Pastor Saeed Abedini.

    http://demoss.com/newsrooms/aclj/background/backgrounder-pastor-saeed-abedini

    Liked by 2 people

  7. To be really honest I had thought that if he is caught lying about his legal and marital issues, how is it he is believed about his experiences in jail?

    This is something I am exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If Saeed goes back to Iran, as he stated he wants do, does he expect the US Government to support him and plea for his release if he ends up in prison again? I can’t think of any reason he would go back except for the attention. Has he not heard of brushing the dust from his feet and going elsewhere? Does he think he could go back and not be immediately thrown in prison?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. From investigative work done by Julie Anne Smith, it appears that AEA licensed him with no particular vetting process. It also looks like AEA licensure is open to anyone who applies and pays membership fees.

    Like a Diploma Mill?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. @Mark:

    The current blindness in the Evangelical world seems to be showering grace and forgiveness on the powerful who have messed up and reserving skepticism and judgment for the weak who can’t keep their pain contained in the box reserved for all negative emotions.

    “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER. And those who are too weak to have it.”
    — Lord Voldemort

    Liked by 1 person

  11. @Shy1:

    Is returning to Iran a bit of a threat or guilt trip, because things have not gone the way he wanted them to here?

    At least that’d make him someone else’s problem — the Ayatollahs’.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “Is returning to Iran a bit of a threat or guilt trip, because things have not gone the way he wanted them to here?”

    Pity party? I think he expects a gasp from us. As in, ‘my situation is so horrible here i would rather go back to an Iranian Prison’.

    It is not playing as he might have intended. I can see how that statement would make donors to ‘free saaed’ a bit angry. Franklin is in a no win on this guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. First–I find it very puzzling and troubling that there is nothing available currently to make it clear re: the questions about his ordination, licensing and commissioning. Why has this not been answered? By him and/or by his supporters?
    Second–He may be hedging his bets with the expressed desire to return to Iran. After all, he can make that the emphasis of his “ministry” and perhaps deflect legitimate concerns about his family situation. Plus, he might be able to raise a bunch of money for his “ministry.” Then too, he may be so narcissistic that he would rather risk being a Christian martyr and making that his legacy(and guilting Nagmeh forever), than to acknowledge his desperate situation before God and repent of his abuse and neglect of his family.
    Finally–This, indeed, may well be a man in PTSD and in need of serious medical and mental help as he continues in this apparent manic activity. For sure–something is seriously wrong about this situation and Christians burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge it does not mean that “all is well”!! When will God’s people wake up !?!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. According to a poster at Phoenix Preacher, Iranian church leaders urged Saed to leave during his last visit because he was endangering the church there, Many in the Tehran church knew of “his arrogant and glory seeking endeavors in Iran while behaving in an indiscreet manner.” (comment #22 )
    http://michaelnewnham.com/?p=24837 — Naghmeh Says ACLJ Told Her To Lie, Says Saeed is Under Church Discipline

    Other enlightening comments by the same poster:
    39, 42, 48, 53, 54, 60, 61, 75, 79, 81, 86, 89, 92, 96, 112, 144

    Liked by 3 people

  15. “Finally–This, indeed, may well be a man in PTSD and in need of serious medical and mental help as he continues in this apparent manic activity. ”

    Exactly. But that does not give him a pass for claiming his wife a liar, his attorney incompetent and so on even down to what he was doing in Iran in the first place.

    He is burning a bridge too far. He needs to be quiet and seek professional help. I think he wants a “Ministry” instead. Too often guys like this do not know how to do anything else.

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  16. If I were his counselor–if in fact he is receiving counsel at all–I would be raising Hell about him fighting this out in the media. Same goes for people at his church in Idaho, the Graham association, and others. Do they not care enough about this guy, per NancyJane’s comment, to make sure he’s healing?

    Same thing for his promotional agency. OK, they make money by booking people, and he’ll be a draw. I get that. But….do they not care what this is going to do to him in the long run? Same thing with the journals–does no one care enough about the guy to let him know that hashing these things out publicly isn’t going to help him?

    Seems to me that nobody around him loves him enough to read him the riot act. And that’s a shame. Yes, it’s bad when an obviously troubled soul makes his way into the ministry and makes his, and his family’s, life into a living Hell. It is far worse, though, when we see that, in effect, many others helped him buy z rated tires for the highway to Hell.

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  17. Btw — that Gothard-touted teaching about “spiritual covering?” Where the wife is “covered” when she obeys her husband, no matter what her husband tells her to do?
    Where only the husband is accountable and the wife patted on the head for her submissiveness? The whole “umbrella of protection” diagram?

    How’s THAT one working out for Naghmeh?

    She obediently voiced the lies crafted by her husband and “church leaders.” Just being obedient to God by submitting to those He put in authority over her . . . right?

    Anybody holding her husband and said leaders accountable? Hmmmmm???

    From my observation, Naghmeh is a blinking-neon example of the EPIC FAIL of that teaching in real life.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. @Bike Bubba. It appears Mr. Abedini does not submit to anyone for anything at any time, if I’m discerning the patterns accurately. I’m not sure if he’s in any kind of counseling at this time, but I do suspect at least some people have tried to break through with the truth. He does not seem inclined to listen. And if you look at what he states in the interview that Franklin Graham suggested about letting others defend him, he hasn’t listened to him either.

    As for Premiere Speaking, if anything goes wrong here (and given the trajectory of the recent interviews and news articles, I think it’s already on the way there), I would hope their vetting processes get made public so those potentially booking their speakers can evalute if/how trustworthy the agency is.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. @R.J. B — May 4, 2016 @ 1:38 PM. Thanks for the leads in the comments on that post. That’s an important piece of perspective that needs to be captured.

    I read pretty much all the content of the posts themselves that are in the bibliography, but not always every comment. Some posts have multiple hundreds of comments. (I likely did read most of the comments the first few weeks when they were first being interacted with more.)

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  20. Brad, points well taken, and I’ve sent a note encouraging an “intervention” to his ordaining agency. I encourage others to do so as well–you don’t need (or want) to recount everything, but simply note the separation, the plans for a repeat trip to Iran, and fighting the issues out in public….and how that’s not what a pastor ought be doing.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. It is patently obvious to me that Saeed is not and has never been qualified to be in ministry.

    It is also obvious to me that he is doing all the things which domestic abusers typically do: Lie. Deceive. Manipulate the impressions of others. Play con games. Have a grossly inflated sense of their own entitlement. Treat their spouses like dirt. Have a Jeckyll and Hyde personality — and the bad side is their real self, the ‘good’ side is just employed to manipulating people.

    It is also obvious that the evangelical church juggernaut is giving this abuser a free pass.

    The magazines and marketers who are giving Saeed a platform, are all violating 1 Timothy 3:7 — the verse which says that church leaders must be well thought of by outsiders.
    Saeed’s plea of guilty on domestic battery charges in 2007 and his ongoing lying and blameshifting about that, means that there is such a cloud over his reputation that the christian publicity machine should not be giving him any oxygen or air time at all.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. NancyJane, you said
    “This, indeed, may well be a man in PTSD and in need of serious medical and mental help as he continues in this apparent manic activity.”

    Raising the question of Saeed having PTSD is very unhelpful to a discussion like this. It hands him a gift-wrapped excuse on a platter.

    The vast majority of domestic abusers do NOT have mental illness.

    And many of us have PTSD but do NOT abuser others!

    Abusers CHOOSE to abuse. And even for the minority of abusers who have a mental illness as well as an abuse problem, that only means they have two problems, each of which need different treatments.

    Bringing up the question of whether Saeed has PTSD or any kind of mental illness for that matter, only muddies the waters. And it helps perpetuate the myth that abusers are mentally ill.

    It also helps perpetuate the naive and mistaken idea that mental health professionals all know how to identify and treat domestic abuse. If you came to our blog A Cry For Justice, you would start learning more about domestic abuse and you would be able to read scores if not hundreds of stories from survivors. Their accounts shows that many mental health professionals are pretty clueless about domestic abuse. And in their cluelessness, mental health professionals are often doing great harm to victims, and ENABLING abusers.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Actually Barbara, I agree with you. I was not trying to excuse Saeed, but to call other Christians to account for their giving him so much leeway. I frequently read A Cry for Justice and am a serious encourager for a friend in an abusive marriage. Just as I give no pass to her abusive husband, I give no pass to Saeed. I’m sorry that I did not make that clear.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. To be really honest I had thought that if he is caught lying about his legal and marital issues, how is it he is believed about his experiences in jail?

    This is the million dollar question.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Wow I read the link R.J. B posted upthread http://michaelnewnham.com/?p=24837 and most of the comments. It was so disheartening to read these people who will go to any lengths to excuse Saeed and spit scorn at Nagmeh. Times like these I’m almost ashamed to be a Christian. Sigh…
    I wonder if some of these people are embarrassed they were played by Saeed – it’s hard to admit they were duped, they keep searching for reasons it really was as they had invested their beliefs or else they just want the story to go away. Nagmeh is incredibly brave to stand her ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. “Wow I read the link R.J. B posted upthread http://michaelnewnham.com/?p=24837 and most of the comments. It was so disheartening to read these people who will go to any lengths to excuse Saeed and spit scorn at Nagmeh.”

    I had the same reaction. It was very disheartening and makes me glad I am out of that world.

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  27. “The vast majority of domestic abusers do NOT have mental illness.

    And many of us have PTSD but do NOT abuser others!

    Abusers CHOOSE to abuse.”

    Barb, this is something I really appreciate about you guys. You keep the main thing- the main thing. So much of Christendom is about helping the abuser. Even to the point all the abuser has to do is say the magic words and they are embraced as changed.

    The victims are expected to instantly forgive and forget or they are the sinners.

    You guys are intelligently and diligently changing that ridiculous unjust message.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Regarding PTSD, it strikes me that if I’ve got someone with known mental illness that tends to result in some societally objectionable and even legally actionable behavior in his case, I’m going to ask what he’s doing to deal with it and control it before giving him a pulpit.

    And if there’s no credible evidence he’s trying to deal with it, it doesn’t matter how much he says that behavior X is not his fault. I still don’t want that behavior out of my pastor.,

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  29. The thing is, the abuse that Saeed is accused of happened before be spent time in prison, so the PTSD excuse being floated about is simply smoke and mirrors.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. I wonder if some of these people are embarrassed they were played by Saeed

    I completely get that feeling, but at a certain point you have to realize you were wrong and suck it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. @ Brad/futurist guy 5-4-2:03

    Thanks for all YOUR archives of invaluable information.

    Imo, those comments support your (and other’s) statements and questions about Saed’s ministry. Looks like he was never accountable to church leaders in Iran, either.

    So …… what was he really doing in Iran anyway? What’s his whole gig really about?

    I’m now wondering if he’s always been a “plant” answering to a hidden “handler.”

    (Acknowledging my bias of distrust and super suspicion due to my own encounter with “things that were NOT what they seemed to be.)

    Liked by 1 person

  32. @nancyjane
    “Finally–This, indeed, may well be a man in PTSD and in need of serious medical and mental help as he continues in this apparent manic activity. ”
    That seems the least likely to me. He has a past history and that means we need to look for a solution that works all the way through.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. @Lea:

    I completely get that feeling, but at a certain point you have to realize you were wrong and suck it up.

    Not necessarily.

    The key to a successful swindle is to get the mark so financially and emotionally invested in the con that he can’t back out, even when he knows he’s being taken to the cleaners. Because backing out would mean admitting to himself that he was taken. That he was wrong. Especially if the mark has a public image/prestige to protect.

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  34. “I wonder if some of these people are embarrassed they were played by Saeed

    I completely get that feeling, but at a certain point you have to realize you were wrong and suck it up.”

    We also have to stop blaming people for getting sucked in…..initially. However, once the questions are out there and they continue to blindly support, then that is another issue. It can take a while to recognize sociopathy ….especially if you don’t live or work with them.

    But deceivers are some of the most clever people in the world. And if you don’t think like them, it can take a while. Some are obvious like Driscoll or Tullian. Players who need a stage. But many people like that sort of thing and that is reason enough to avoid them, too. They buy into cult of personality. And they need to rethink everything they believed.

    At the same time, I had to admit I was a total idiot. I paid a high price for it, too. I am not sure real lasting change can happen unless we admit our part in such and what caused us to be taken in. Sometimes the answer is we are too trusting.

    Be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. :o) sounds like good advice from our Savior!

    From what I can tell so far with my limited knowledge of the situation, Nagemah shows more giftedness in authenticity for ministry. Like Eve, she admitted she was wrong and told the truth about being deceived and going along. Like Adam, Saaed has blamed everyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. But deceivers are some of the most clever people in the world. And if you don’t think like them, it can take a while.

    Lydia, I’ve never been a hero worshipper of politicians or pastors or any of that, so I don’t get that aspect of it. But I had a bad experience last year with a liar and it was very hard to admit that I was so fooled but I know I was and I know I am too trusting too. I don’t know how to not be trusting. I’m not a natural liar, so it always takes me by surprise.

    But, you know, fool me once, ok/fool me twice? nope! Once you realize you made a mistake, I believe in accepting it and moving on.

    HUG, I think some of the higher ups are in on the con and unwilling to let go because of money. But the people in the pews just need to let go of their egos and realize they were fooled and learn from it and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. “Nagemah shows more giftedness in authenticity for ministry. Like Eve, she admitted she was wrong and told the truth about being deceived and going along. Like Adam, Saaed has blamed everyone else.”

    Exactly right!
    I’ve written about how Eve and Adam responded differently when God called them to account. “The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life”

    https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2016/04/17/the-womans-desire-in-genesis-316-lets-be-consistent-with-the-context-and-with-actual-life-pt-2-of-2/

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I agree with Kay who wondered if the reports about Saeed’s prison ordeal were true–maybe only partly true, whatever. How could we possibly know? Who was doing the reporting–Naghmeh, his family in Iran? He sure was healthy looking when he returned to the US, as someone has noted. I am foggy re: his family’s support–his
    parents and his sisters. Are they all Christians? Because if they are Muslim, wouldn’t they be repudiating him instead? I thought that converting to Christianity was almost an automatic death sentence in Iran. And where was he getting the funds for eight trips to Iran in 3 years? All this is very confusing–his credibility boat has been leaking badly since Naghmeh confessed to her part in the deception that he evidently insisted on. I found Sepideh’s information on Phoenix Preacher to be particularly damning. Seems like no transparency and too many deceptions. Who can justify supporting any “ministry” this man promotes?

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I think that countries overseas, that have high levels of corruption, are easily used to manipulate Westerners into believing lies. Keep in mind that Saeed knows the culture and language of Iran, Westerners don’t. This gives him a distinct advantage in controlling the dialog. Most Westerners will believe him since he is from that area and an “expert”. In these countries a little $$ goes a long way in hiding half truths. How would Westerners be able to check the facts? Who do you know over there that can give you honest feedback? Not like a person in NY calling a Pastor in California for a reality check, is it?

    Westerners come from a system of checks/balances and consequences for breaking the rules which is not the case in other countries. Many times others will look the other way for a small charge, or for a family member, in some cultures. I am always suspect of some of these stories overseas because it is easy to say, in a believable manner, such and such happened based on the word of some “expert” without providing a whole lot of proof. If I see a pattern of lying I tend to think that person lies across the board in some form, or fashion, instead of selectively.

    I can understand the wife going along with it because family is first in some worlds, then clans, then tribes, then country, we can throw religious groups or political groups in the mix as well. Belonging to group is very important to some cultures and covering up some bad stuff helps to keep the group together. There is safety, and identity, within the group, so being loyal is a must, even when some don’t deserve it.

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  39. Reading this article and the comments, I am reminded that back in the 1970s and 80s a person could answer an ad in the back of a magazine and become an “ordained minister” for, I presume, nothing more than a small fee….

    Also, I remember that pretty much any “church” type organization could declare their members “ordained” and no one could argue. I have a slightly amusing story in line with that. When I got married in 1981, the pastor who did the deed had been “ordained” by a “ministry” in Oregon that had since gone defunct. During the wedding rehearsal he said, thankfully NOT in my nervous mother’s hearing, that he’d give the line about “by the power invested in me by the state of Oregon, etc.” Now, this was a California wedding, and in California “any ordained minister” can perform a wedding, (I looked it up just to be sure it was going to be legal.) Between the rehearsal and the wedding I buttonholed the minister and told him for crying out loud do NOT mention Oregon, because my mother would immediately jump to the conclusion that the marriage was not in fact legal, thus I would be committing fornication on my wedding night, and THAT simply would NOT do! So during the actual ceremony he simply said, “By the power invested in me by the state, and in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Or words to that effect. And my mother was denied the opportunity to panic or throw a hissy fit. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Cranky, you still can get mail order/internet order ordinations. My brother’s wedding, and that of a couple of friends, were done by “ministers” of the “Church of Universal Life”. (sounds like an insurance company, no?) $40 apparently gets you your ministerial credentials, and a few more bones gets you a snazzy black t shirt with “Minister” emblazoned on it.

    Probably other ones out there, but that’s the one I know of.

    That said, the outfit that handled Abedini appears to at least claim to be on the up& up and would at least pretend to be concerned about the moral character of those ordained. We’ll see in practice, I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Just an FYI! Not sure if this adds anything to the story or not.

    Christian Care Ministry is a not-for-profit organization based in Melbourne, Florida.[1] It was founded by Dr. E John Reinhold in 1993 as a division of the American Evangelistic Association (AEA) with the goal of providing biblical healthcare solutions for Christians.[2]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Care_Ministry

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  42. Sadly, the persecuted-Christian-from-foreign-countries has become such a pop-cause among Western churches that it is attracting all those wolves and greedy false prophets that the New Testament writers said would come. Peter warned Christians to make sure that they were really being persecuted for their faith and not for something they had done wrong. I know (from first hand witnesses) of a case of someone who was seemingly arrested for their faith, but in reality, they had meddled in political affairs in which they had no business to meddle – as Peter said, “Let none of you suffer as.. a busybody in other men’s matters” (I Peter 4:15). In this case, if Saeed Abedini returns to Iran, he will be behaving recklessly, endangering the Church there (which is really large and well-established enough to take care of its own orphans), and, by abandoning his family completely, opening himself to the charge of denying the faith as per I Timothy 5:8.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Crankybeach said: “Reading this article and the comments, I am reminded that back in the 1970s and 80s a person could answer an ad in the back of a magazine and become an “ordained minister” for, I presume, nothing more than a small fee….”
    I ordained my cat that I had at the time, just to see if they would come through…and yup!! She lived out the rest of her life as an “ordained minister”.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. “Crankybeach said: “Reading this article and the comments, I am reminded that back in the 1970s and 80s a person could answer an ad in the back of a magazine and become an “ordained minister” for, I presume, nothing more than a small fee….”
    I ordained my cat that I had at the time, just to see if they would come through…and yup!! She lived out the rest of her life as an “ordained minister”.”

    We play “The Minister’s cat” all the time during extended family gatherings on the holidays. This will bring a whole new meaning to the game and I won’t be able to get it out of my head!

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  45. “But, you know, fool me once, ok/fool me twice? nope! Once you realize you made a mistake, I believe in accepting it and moving on.”

    Good for you! That is extremely healthy. One reason the long con works is because the mark is too embarrassed to admit they might have been conned. For that reason they simply refuse to see it as a con. This works especially well in churches and it works all the time in mega churches

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  46. Nabcyjane said: “I agree with Kay who wondered if the reports about Saeed’s prison ordeal were true–maybe only partly true, whatever. How could we possibly know?”

    We couldn’t. We can’t.
    Truthfully, I have been wondering for some time if he didn’t spin the whole thing out of whole cloth? I mean, the bit about him saying he wants to go back to Iran– Well, fine: go, then. Re-convert & stay there. I’m all for it. I’ll even send him the oars for his rowboat. (No good to me; I get seasick on the dock……)

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