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SGM Survivor Speaks Out about Josh Harris

I ran across this note from Elle Renee on Facebook and asked permission to share it here. I have lost track of how many blog posts and articles are currently posted about Josh abandoning his faith and divorcing his wife, Shannon – I’m talking CNN, New York Times, Washington Post – this thing is big!! Major news sources are sharing a bit of his background and informing people of what he has shared openly on his public Instagram posts. However, many bloggers are going further, and in my opinion, adding fuel to the flames unnecessarily.

It’s interesting to note that Elle is not the only SGM survivor I have communicated with who shares similar feelings and concerns about Josh and Shannon. I think that is important. These are people who were in the thick of spiritual abuse at SGM – they get it, yet they are not demanding apologies or anything from Josh.

Here is Elle’s post. I find it more balancing and agree with her completely. ~JA

Note: Elle’s Facebook post links to the ChurchLeaders.com article, Josh Harris Says He’s ‘fallen away’ From Faith

This story just makes me so sad, especially in light of my previous post on spiritual abuse. Indulge me an extra long post as I wrestle aloud with some thoughts on this one here on FB.

This is Joshua Harris.

If you’re familiar with the uber conservative, homeschooling, evangelical movement, you know his wildly popular book from the 90s, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”

If you’re familiar with the current conservative, Together 4 the Gospel, Gospel Coalition, neo-Calvinist, reformed, charismatic & specifically Sovereign Grace network of churches, you’ll recognize him as ex-Senior Pastor at SGC flagship church in Maryland.

He was groomed for leadership by SGC founder/president/lead pastor, CJ Mahaney. His name is familiar if you’ve followed any of the sex abuse scandals in Sovereign Grace churches in the news from 2011-2014.

I am particularly interested & grieved over this story for a number of reasons. One, I attended a Sovereign Grace church from 2002-2011. Two, my life exploded in 2011 (to include within this church & faith) at the same time “the documents” & the beginning of the sex abuse info & significant issues with CJ, et al, was being exposed. (unrelated circumstances, but crazy to have so much of my personal SGC exposed to me at the same time it was happening at a national level!) This also affected Joshua Harris, who, by this time, was senior pastor in MD.

I read a lot of the documents & paid close attention to the numerous news stories for several reasons. One thing that jumped out at me as a couple of the earlier years went by was Joshua Harris’ attitude. I noticed a mark difference between him & some of the other leaders in SGC. I won’t pretend he did everything right – I don’t know the details enough to comment on that. However, he seemed to shift & present a spirit of humility.

He began making some HARD decisions, choices that were not going to ingratiate himself with CJ or other SG leaders. He started to do some REAL reflecting & what he discovered was that he & the church had made some significant mistakes over the years. He began to listen to the people, really listen, & was willing to do some inner gutting.

He talks about inspecting his actions, his thoughts, his feelings, his words, his counsel, etc. – and as he shares in this article & other places, what he found wasn’t super lovely. In fact, some things were plain ugly & grievous to have to admit. The amount of shame & guilt that must have plagued him in various seasons, I can only imagine.

Y’all, they had IT ALL. A.L.L. They were wildly successful, beautiful young couple, three children. Both creatives (writer, singer) besides being ministry leaders. He was tapped by THE “denomination” leader. I’m assuming up until 2011 they figured they had found the golden groove of Christianity.

Yet, when it all exploded – and they had the option & power to side with the “safe” leaders (CJ Mahaney & others), they appear to have sided with Truth. Even though it jeopardized their church family, their standing with SGC, their friends, their community, their support… and as time continued, even their book sales & income & careers. Over the last few years, Josh has recounted his advice in his book & asked forgiveness for much of the content & especially how it was weaponized & used to oppress young people, and especially women. I cannot even imagine what that was like for him, his wife Shannon & their children at this time.

And this guy – he was just a kid when some charismatic, powerful christian leader back in the 90s told him he was “special” & began to take him under his wing. They like to call it discipling or mentoring and evidence of grace & love. But if you dig a little deeper, I’d call it taking advantage of a naive, idealistic 19 yo kid. I’d say he was love bombed & groomed & unless he was a PhD student armed with info on personality disorders, he wouldn’t have had any idea. He was selected because he was moldable & easy to manipulate into what CJ though he should be, for CJs purposes, under the guise of “God’s purposes.” Tons of rewards for behaving the way he was “supposed” to as a “good” christian.

I can’t imagine the level of psychological trauma, pain & horror as Joshua (and Shannon) began to discover a lot of their framework for their life was built on religion & false fears & manipulated, pseudo acts of “love.” And like anyone coming out of spiritual brainwashing, you ask yourself, if you could be duped or simply wrong in one area, where else are you wrong? If you can’t trust this particular spiritual leader, who else can’t you trust? If I believed one thing about God, was so sure I was right but now am confident I am wrong about a part of God, well, what else could I be wrong about with God?

I would imagine these are just some of the conversations & anguish Joshua has been wrestling with.

I’m not justifying any of his decisions – I’m actually choosing not to judge any of them at any level, certainly not here on FB. Sometimes, we are called to just show mercy – this guy doesn’t even know me & he’s certainly not accountable to me so I think mercy makes more sense.

So, with that perspective, OF COURSE everything is falling down around him 😞. Of course nothing is the same as it once was & he has no answer in the moment for how to move forward.

I think he needs our genuine love & support (they both do, I think, in this case) – not a weird, “I’ll support you by praying that God wakes you back up & you’ll see how you’ve gone off the deep end & turn your life back to Jesus but until then we either won’t hang out or when we do, it will always be to bring this back up & push you back to God/church/religion.”

Maybe they just need an “of course” from us – empathy, grace, space to grieve & process & heal.

*Maybe they need us to not fear their actions right now, but to love them enough to trust the God that’s in them to handle & redeem it all.*

Spiritual abuse is evil. He & Shannon have already been caught up in so much of this nonsense, from many sides, for decades. I pray they both find a season of rest, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, healing & hope from the Presence who showed up in the very same way when my faith was shattered. He is so very Kind & Patient in this process.

I hope we can be the same towards them, and others who are detoxing spiritual abuse.

49 thoughts on “SGM Survivor Speaks Out about Josh Harris”

  1. Thank you for sharing Elle’s thoughts, Julie Anne. It has been so disheartening to see the responses over the past few days. It’s so nice to hear this perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Elle Renee, your account parallels mine. I was in my own personal crisis in 2011/2012 and left the church at the same time as all the stuff hit the fan with SGM and CLC, having been a devoted member for 20 years. It was so disillusioning. In fact, I left as a teacher at CLS and then left the church at the time because I felt it was the only way I could leave my dysfunctional marriage. I sought help through the proper channels as I was taught, but received little support and a lot of pressure and judgment. I left thinking I won’t join a Girl Scout troop , I won’t be a “member” of anything!!!

    It took a lot of distance, and “deconstructing,” and thinking for myself, and coming back to myself, gaining a wider perspective, and now I’m healing.
    I feel similar to you in that I love the people there, and don’t judge them, or Josh, harshly.

    I worked alongside them and believe they were sincere. (I believe most of the people were very sincere, maybe a few are narcissists?)
    But, gas-lighting is what I discovered to best describe what I experienced both in marriage and spiritually, too. Now, mainly, I’d say that I’m learning to trust my “gut.”

    It was a group think mentality that pervaded at CLC and people were legalistic. I’ve always been open-minded, and even though for the most part my years there were very enriching, I began to see I didn’t fit the mold, and unfortunately I learned to not trust my own perceptions.

    My friend commented that all those years we couldn’t take notes fast enough, and as the saying goes, we drank the kool-aid. It’s been a long, hard, painful process for me, and part of that is knowing that nobody made us drink the kool-aid. I had to look within and figure out why DID I believe that these men who led and taught us were the authority on God.

    So, it was a breaking down of everything in my life, for me to come back to myself, and trusting myself, my instincts. There has been ptsr: post traumatic stress response to deal with, and yes the church was a factor, but what in ME allowed that? I’ve been doing a lot of healing with these discoveries, and sifting through who and what is accountable for what.

    I understand many of the 20 and 30 somethings in CLC were much more damaged by their family’s adherence to certain teachings; they didn’t have the ability that I had being an adult to choose. I try not to judge, but I do try to discern, and each of us is accountable for what we are accountable.
    The greatest thing I’ve learned is to have self-compassion and compassion for others. We need support not judgment.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful. And as someone who is deconstructing their own faith, by God’s mercy and grace, we need to show Josh and his wife mercy and grace. Just because we are deconstructing doesn’t mean we’re not believers any more. We are wrestling with which of our beliefs are wrong. Most of them are. And going forward, how to I show the love and kindness of God to everyone around me, not just other believers.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The author does an excellent job explaining why I both find this story far more interesting than some of the others and why his behavior, apologies, ‘deconstruction’ actually seems real to me. It feels like he’s really attempting to rethink everything he ever learned. He IS admitting mistakes. He IS apologizing, even if some don’t feel he’s gone far enough. Maybe he will. I have more hope that he will than any of the others I’ve seen caught out.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lori, I came from a spiritually abusive church background. I know Ph.D.’s in Bible, Philosophy, Political Science, Engineering and Physics who were all drawn into the false authority. For me, it’s only been through waking up to my abuse that God drew me out of that system. Don’t blame yourself. Their system is designed to trap people into thinking they are truly becoming holy, while the leaders suck them dry. It’s a twisting of the truth, because we ARE called to be holy and that holiness doesn’t look like the world, BUT we are never called to blindly follow men. Part of not fitting the mold was probably having some healthy boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Extraordinary! Elle’s post and Lori’s comments are great at pulling back the curtain and seeing what we need to see. So many of us can identify with what is being said. I hope this will help in some way to open the eyes of many and give them permission to get away from any group that they begin to suspect is trying to exert control over them. As many of us know, no one has to lay a physical hand on us to do incredible damage. They can do their damage through their sick manipulations that hurt us emotionally and spiritually. May God send healing to all who have suffered under SGM and the wide swath of harm that they caused.

    Thank you for posting this, Julie Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elle is spot on. I noticed Harris taking a more humble and open tack at a point in the SGM debacle. People who are all bent out of shape because “he lost his faith”, are missing the forest for the trees. Josh has taken steps to lose his spiritually abusive religion, not lose Jesus who is always on the side of the marginalized victims of abuse. His apologies–and I don’t know if they are enough but they seem sincere–prove he is still on the path of Jesus. He is willing to admit his past mistakes and expose the dark underbelly of evangelical abusive religion. As for their divorce, again, Elle has hinted that we can never know how this change effected their marriage. We need to err on the side of trying to understand and having empathy, not on the side of judging a man for honestly facing his part in an abusive cult-like religion.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sorry to go a bit off topic, but this may be overlooked since I posted it the other day in an older thread.

    I linked to an article (with some excerpts provided) called
    Why Don’t ‘Good Men’ Believe Women?
    in a comment on SSB _Located Here_, in the Ravi Z and the illegal abortion thread, for any who are interested.


  9. As for the Harris debacle, I am still really alarmed and turned off to see so many Christians attacking and severely criticizing the guy for one thing or another.

    If Harris is not getting criticized strongly for divorcing,
    some are criticizing him for going public with the divorce at all,
    or they are picking on him for not explaining the rationale behind his divorce to suit their nosy and busy-body preferences and curiosity
    (I mean, it’s really none of their business, but they act like it is)…

    Some other (usually conservative) Christians are criticizing Harris strongly for leaving the faith / questioning the faith,
    or for not going full-hog into an “Apology, Groveling, and Admissions Tour” about any role he may have played in SGM church cover ups of child sex abuse.

    (If Harris knows more about church abuse cover-ups or participated in them himself, certainly he should own up to that and make amends,
    but I don’t think it should be expected of him right now this moment,
    and I am just put off by the Christian abuse survivor advocates online who are acting like Popes and demanding that Harris jump through hoops to satisfy their wishes and on their timelines.)

    The dude has a lot on his plate right now, I don’t think it’s fair, wise, realistic, or compassionate for Christians online to be slamming him with a billion Tweets or, blog posts per day demanding he explain himself more, or answer their demands, etc.

    I have also seen a lot of Christians who are very cynical about Harris.
    Some of them think he’s lying or coming out publicly about all this just to receive hugs, candy, and sympathy from the Christian community, etc.

    It’s so weird, because that amount, or severity of, cynicism is something I’ve come to expect from certain portions of the Ex-Christian and Liberal Christian spiritual abuse blogs, groups, and sites,
    and not from otherwise mainstream / conservative Christians, but there you have it…

    I’ve been seeing conservative Christians acting just as cynical about Harris as any progressive Christian I’ve seen on sites who regularly bash the conservative churches day in and day out.

    I am not a perpetual Little Miss Ray of Sunshine, but even I get weary and tired of non-stop cynicism and negativity and have to take a break from those sorts of groups / blogs / sites / Twitter wars.

    I agreed totally with MWCAMP’s comment right above mine, a comment or two above.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @Daisy:

    As for the Harris debacle, I am still really alarmed and turned off to see so many Christians attacking and severely criticizing the guy for one thing or another.

    It’s not only chickens who peck any Defective to death in the barnyard.


  11. What she (Daisy) said. As a progressive Christian, it saddens me when we try to impose a timeline and immediate change (in the exact right words and actions) to those coming out of abusive or legalistic faith. I’m not surprised conservatives do it too though. Most of them have been doing it for years when they see people they perceive as not orthodox enough or having “heretical” ideas. Bottom line, all of us need to realize that change takes time. None of us change on a dime. And, change away from abusive systems, unhistorical theologies, and faith positions that harm others is always good.


  12. I think Josh is fully into the “Take Your God and Shove It!” reaction phase of waking up to spiritual abuse. Sort of a “Mad as Hell and Not Going To Take It Any More!” flailing around as far as possible in the opposite direction.

    In time, he will either get stuck at the opposite polarity or after several back-and-forth over-reaction swings over several years will stabilize somewhere in the middle, as happened to both Wondering Eagle and me. There will be collateral damage along the way as things sort out; unfortunately it looks like his marriage is already a casualty.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I know I mentioned this over at the other blog a couple of days ago (I had to bow out the other day because one guy over there was getting pretty snotty with me),

    But as to this:
    — start HUG quote—
    In time, he will either get stuck at the opposite polarity or after several back-and-forth over-reaction swings over several years will stabilize somewhere in the middle, as happened to both Wondering Eagle and me. There will be collateral damage along the way as things sort out; unfortunately it looks like his marriage is already a casualty.
    –end quote–

    I skipped that phase myself. I never did a 180 and became a liberal or hippie flower child. I still stayed right of center.

    I guess I realized that the mistakes I saw in and among conservative Christianity (and the Republican Party) did not mean that the other side was any better… I still remained dubious of the left’s view of a lot of topics.

    Some of my views did change on a few topics, and I moved a bit closer to the center, but I didn’t drop out of the right side and jump into the left… doing so would be the same mistake but in reverse.

    I see a lot of Progressive Christians who have online groups who sit around all day, every day bashing secular and Christian conservatives, but they’re just as bad and hateful as the people they’re criticizing, quite often.

    I often just lurk at their groups, though. I seldom jump in on their own turn to ‘Tone Police’ them, like KAS likes to do on this site with people who post here.


  14. I think the biggest reason these people are so p*ssed is they are ashamed. They look stupid in front of their kids. They don’t act like they care if they look sadistic, but they want their kids to think they are smarter than everyone else.

    When my parents got caught in lies I always lost respect for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ashley Easter just posted this to Twitter,
    and it’s not something I agree with:

    _Ashley Easter Tweet Re: Josh Harris_

    I think her first point on her list is an assumption.
    She’s questioning his motive, being cynical, and assuming that he’s using his “story” to just market himself right now.

    Even if he is, it’s likely that’s because that is how he was groomed by his church and the EIC – it’s the only wan he knows how to communicate.

    It doesn’t mean or prove that the content of what he’s supposedly “marketing” is false or inaccurate.

    It’s really not her place, or anyone else’s, to sit in judgement of him at this time, to demand that Harris adheres to her / their preferred time line on speaking out against any info he has about child sex abuse cover-ups by SGM churches.

    She is just piling on too, like all the others who are yelling at him not just about that,
    but the ones who are screaming at him that he’s selling out Jesus, he’s going to Hell when he dies, etc.
    It’s awful.


  16. I think the biggest reason these people are so p*ssed is they are ashamed. They look stupid in front of their kids.

    Christianity Hurts, I think this does make some sense, if you are talking about people who pushed Josh’s IKDG philosophy on their kids (Am I understanding you correctly here?)

    A couple years ago I read Brene Brown’s book (I actually read two of them) and she talks quite a bit about the impact of shame on people’s behavior. It’s changed the way I think about a lot of these things, sometimes people are ashamed of their own behavior and instead of pulling back from it, apologizing, and trying to go forward they attack.

    She also talks about the importance of being vulnerable in achieving ‘wholeheartedness’. This was all useful to me.


  17. Thanks for pointing out Ashley Easter’s comments, Daisy.

    I want to address this one because I think it came up in a thread yesterday and it’s a thing that does bug me in a general way:

    I know tons of people with cult trauma who did the right thing re kid abuse

    This is probably true, and I don’t think anyone Josh included is saying he can’t be criticized for his behavior. However, people react differently to trauma. Two people go to war, only one gets PTSD. Why? Because there are more factors to look at than that. They have different personalities, different backgrounds, different intelligence levels, levels of previous trauma, experiences etc…

    Because some other person dealt with something differently doesn’t mean that everyone can do the same.

    At the same time, I get that there are a lot of people who were personally harmed by Josh Harris and people like him, and I completely understand if they have a different perspective on all of this, whether I agree or not. I asked the other day what Josh could even do at this point that would satisfy them fully and I haven’t really seen a full answer. [My own opinion is that some things once done can’t be undone and this is probably the case here.]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Lea said,

    — start —
    Because some other person dealt with something differently doesn’t mean that everyone can do the same.

    This one sort of bugs me, too.

    There is not a one- size- fits- all solution for everything and everyone.

    My sister has pulled this on me in years past. I’ve had generalized anxiety disorder for many years and she has a form of agoraphobia.

    Because she had to force herself out of her house to go to jobs she held, any time we’re talking and I explain how anxiety impedes me from doing this that or the other thing, she gets very judgemental, angry, and starts chewing me out telling me if she could do X when she had anxiety (over leaving her home), then myself (and all others with anxiety) should also be able to do X or Z or whatever.

    Over a year ago, that lady at that other blog got so furious with me for offering a more balanced view – she kept promoting psychiatry or 12 step programs for people, and I was like, I’m not opposed to any of that stuff, but they don’t always work for other people.

    She thought I was merely trying to be a “debbie downer,” or dissuade everyone from taking pills or seeing shrinks, which is no, not what I was trying to do.

    I used to see shrinks for anxiety and depression and take medications, and I’m sorry, but that stuff didn’t help me (neither did the Christian faith help me with that stuff).

    But anyway, Josh Harris is not like everyone else. People are not assembled on conveyor belts in factories.

    Just because A. Easter, or her victim friends, were able to do ‘X’ during their time of trial doesn’t mean everyone else is capable.

    The thing that is really rubbing me the wrong way is this attitude that Josh Harris owes people something right now this minute – they are insisting that he act to their timing.

    It’s an entitled attitude, I don’t care how “pro-victim” you are otherwise, there is something troubling about that attitude, IMO.


  19. I used to see shrinks for anxiety and depression and take medications, and I’m sorry, but that stuff didn’t help me

    [Sidenote: Putting on my MH hat for a second, if you haven’t tried medication in a long time or therapy you might give it another go. Drugs have improved and more evidence based therapies exist. Just a thought. For depression specifically, the best results come from therapy and medication combined. Totally up to you. I don’t know as much about anxiety except that I’ve found journaling helpful personally to sort through whatever is going on in my head.]

    The thing that is really rubbing me the wrong way is this attitude that Josh Harris owes people something right now this minute

    It’s interesting to think about what he might ‘owe’ to people in different areas.

    IKDG. He already pulled the book. He didn’t pull back as far as people wanted from it (is my impression from what people have said) but I recall the LGBT issue that people felt he had not treated as well as he ought and he seems to have changed his mind there. Maybe I should go see what people are saying about that after the most recent comments.
    SGM/abuse scandal. My understanding is the SOL has nixed the court cases, so I don’t understand the criticism of him running away because it feels like it made no difference? Maybe someone can explain that. Perhaps he has insider knowledge that should be shared. Perhaps he should apologize to individuals involved and I would actually think better of him if I knew that had happened in private and not been public, but then we wouldn’t know right?
    Everybody else. I don’t think he owes any of us a thing. He’s a stranger to me and I wasn’t personally impacted by anything he does. If he’s thinking through Christianity on his own I say good for him, I think that’s a healthy thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. It always looked like JH ditched rape victims and ran off to hide in Canada. Total turn off.

    It would be cool if he had the courage and integrity to tell the WHOLE ugly embarrassing truth about all the cover-up.


  21. “if you are talking about people who pushed Josh’s IKDG philosophy on their kids ”

    Yes. That is what I was saying.


  22. Josh Harris hurts the Fundagelical narrative. If he couldn’t keep it in his pants like all the others, then that fits the purity culture belief system that all men struggle sexually. But here is a guy who was the epitome of purity culture, the epitome of a successful pastor, the poster child for Fundagelicals everywhere.

    But, instead of falling the typical patriarchal way – by abusing his authority – he does the opposite. He thoughtfully apologizes for mistreating people and slowly walks away.

    That’s why the sharks are so vicious. It doesn’t fit their authoritarian mold. It doesn’t fit their purity culture / modesty mold. It’s true on both sides. All they can agree on is “apostatizing”. They’re trying to figure out how to surgically separate Harris from authoritarianism in a way that they can still justify the spiritually abusive church culture he once was a part of. This is a pretty typical “whistleblower” response.

    Hopefully the anger from being stabbed in the back by all his former “supporters” will drive him to expose the backstory for all of the SGM spiritual abuse.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I appreciate Elle Renee’s insights and compassion. Everything she shared makes perfect sense.

    It has been said that Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded. Let’s not be those people.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. (Headless Unicorn Guy could do a much funnier version of this but I’ll give it a try)

    The way that Josh words and presents his newest Instagram posts, it sounds like what he is really trying to say is:

    “Hello ladies. I’m available!!! None of that pesky old stuff I used to do to get in the way!!”


  25. Avid Reader, profile pics are always kind of funny. I was thinking more ‘look at how thoughtful I am’. Although I will admit I like a fitted v neck on a man. My ex used to wear his for me a lot 😉


  26. I find this whole situation fascinating. I think Josh Harris is going to be fine — honest assessment and deconstruction is a good process to go through; much better than doubling down on destructive theology and firing missives at everyone who questions you.

    I wonder how many people who elevated Josh and put him on a platform are being equally introspective to consider how their actions have contributed to his broken marriage and struggle with faith. He surely was riding the “golden groove of Christianity” and his celebrants were fuelling that ride. And now it comes crashing down and too many of his former mentors and colleagues are kicking him when he’s down. Shameful.

    Yes he is fully responsible for his own words and actions, but we don’t live in a bubble — if Christianity truly is a relational, family community, then we all bear some of this burden. We are all complicit when we elevate people too high and then see the inevitable destruction that ensues. That certain leaders and mouthpieces can’t see that and aren’t willing to treat him with compassion only reveals the rotten fruit that they bear.


  27. I wonder how many people who elevated Josh and put him on a platform are being equally introspective to consider how their actions have contributed to his broken marriage and struggle with faith. He surely was riding the “golden groove of Christianity” and his celebrants were fuelling that ride. And now it comes crashing down and too many of his former mentors and colleagues are kicking him when he’s down. Shameful.

    Yes, Mike!! Exactly! They groomed/trained him for this position, so why aren’t they looking at themselves, too?


  28. Keep in mind that the people who promoted Josh into high ministry positions are the same people who believe all women ever born are incapable of serving in those ministry positions regardless of qualifications or actual calling to the ministry.

    Think about their logic. They promoted a young twenty something with zero qualifications because of who his father was but these same leaders will pass over thousands of highly qualified, skilled, and gifted by God other people simply because God made them women.

    Double standards are an abomination to God. Prov 20:10.


  29. “I wonder how many people who elevated Josh and put him on a platform are being equally introspective to consider how their actions have contributed to his broken marriage and struggle with faith.”
    Yep, I agree Mike. I find it hard to believe that all these leaders kicking him don’t have their own doubts/questions? Do they really think that they can hold all “doctrine” in a neat, tidy box? It takes courage to look your faith in the face and really wrestle with it. They’re only fooling themselves when they deny the need for this, and by not allowing anyone to do this without getting “kicked” out is so ungracious.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. “Hello ladies. I’m available!!! None of that pesky old stuff I used to do to get in the way!!”

    Tee Tee (that grandson of Billy Graham whose name I won’t even try to spell) is the poster child for THAT.


  31. Think about their logic. They promoted a young twenty something with zero qualifications because of who his father was

    American Christian Leaders could teach the Saudi Royal Family or the Kims of North Korea about nepotism.


  32. Albert Mohler is back from vacation and addressed the Joshua Harris situation in his daily briefing this morning. Noticeably absent was any mention of his relationship with Harris through The Gospel Coaltion; also absent was any mention of Mohler’s relationship with Harris’ one-time mentor, C.J. Mahaney. Here’s a link to Mohler’s homepage, where you should find a link to his daily briefing.


    Liked by 1 person

  33. From Carl Trueman’s latest article:

    “But he was also the product of, and a major player in, a wider movement that is proving increasingly problematic. As a product, he was exploited by those who saw in him a marketing opportunity and consequently gave him far too much exposure and responsibility far too soon. He was used. I wonder if any of the leading YRR lights have spent a moment reflecting about whether they and the culture they created bear any responsibility for this mess. Or is Harris’s apostasy merely another of those Satanic attacks that confirm that they are on the right track and must press on?” https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2019/07/kissing-christianity-goodbye


  34. Elle Renee and Lori,

    Thank you for your posts. As someone whose entire family escaped a church that functioned much like SGM, your comments resonate with me on a deep level. When you are in the middle of spiritual abuse, it is almost impossible to see through the fog. I choose to give Josh grace.

    This whole story has captivated me for several reasons. My older adult children immediately texted me about it because to them this is the first time someone has publicly apologized and owned to any degree the damage done by these teachings. Also Harris’ posts resonates with our family’s in the deconstruction process, though we did not have a term for it. We had to move away, breath fresh air, get professional ptsd and spiritual abuse counsel, and remove ourselves from traditional church. It was a long, painful process. Like Josh, I grew up in the culture (IFB) and spent my adult life in it. I knew nothing else. My husband however, did not grow up in church and was more quick to recognize the toxic and abusive environment. He brought me along and helped me see the light. So I can only imagine what Josh and Shannon (possibly, I don’t know her background) are processing since it is all they have known. Our marriage has stayed intact, but it was a war to process the spiritual and sexual abuse our family experienced. To be an adult with kids asking hard questions of who you are, what you believe, and what does safe look like are life altering, painful, but freeing. This process is not for the faint of heart.

    My heart hurts for their kids. The turmoil of sifting through spiritual abuse is hard enough without divorce. But I have hope. We were honest and communicative with our kids. Our adult kids love God, but church looks very different from the conservative fundamentalists days. They see through Phariseeism pretty quickly.

    Do we love Jesus? Absolutely! Are we Christians? Absolutely! Do we give space for others to wrestle and question? Absolutely and so does the God of the Bible.

    The reaction of the “Christian” community is absolutely disgusting, but very predictable. Church is not a safe place to deconstruct and question. Like the article Julie Ann posted from Trueman, they eat their “own” without ever looking inward to see what responsibility or part they have had in it all. Self-righteous Pharisees, full of religion they term Christianity, but nothing of Christ. We, too, simply had to walk away from the fundamentalist garbage.

    This process takes years. It’s like peeling an onion. You get through one layer and it exposes even more. I have realized that spiritual abuse is the raping of the soul. You have to learn or relearn self because in these toxic environments self has been hijacked and programmed to act/feel/function to a certain standard. When you peel away that first layer, you feel exposed and vulnerable. Then it’s about finding safe and dealing with the gaslighting and brainwashing. That can only be done by leaving the people and places that practice those things.

    I pray Josh, Shannon and their kids find healing, hope and the real Jesus.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. It was a group think mentality that pervaded at CLC and people were legalistic.

    In my experience, a groupthink mentality can function very well as a Cult Leader without an actual physical leader. And there’s a threshold around 80% agreement in a group where groupthink locks in.


  36. I agree with this wholeheartedly and I’m thankful you have written this out so well. My first thoughts were that he knows so much more than any of us, being in the inner circles and boy I bet he has a story to tell. My second thoughts were how tough this must be for him and Shannon, to be fully transparent, to stop (hard stop) and announce that everything is being questioned/examined and we aren’t feeling good about where we’ve been leading people, done with the charade, cold hard stop.
    I’ve been praying for them, hurting for them and also thankful that some of this thinking has been exposed. It was a culture that affected so many of us and made us feel pressured and not good enough, for some it became a bind, for others it made them say “no thanks” to Christianity. No matter where you fall in the spectrum, it affected us and sometimes I’ve found myself questioning my worth based on whether I did or didn’t follow these strict teachings. It makes women feel responsible for the challenges of men – it is divisive. And big profits came for those who started it, and puppeteer’d it.
    I can only imagine how hard it’s been for Josh and Shannon to wrestle with it all.


  37. And there’s a threshold around 80% agreement in a group where groupthink locks in.

    Sidenote, HUG, but thing about this as applied to leadership, whether it be in church or politics or business, where it’s for example 80% men. (In these churches it’s pretty much 100%) It’s not really surprising they are making bad decisions when they refuse to allow input from anyone with a different perspective and only listen when they can be assured of agreement.

    It’s an excellent template for bad decision making overal.


  38. That is a beautiful post – Elle speaks as Jesus would. ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another….’. My adult children have behaved towards me as the ‘evangelical majority’ has towards JH. And I only disintegrated under 38 years of emotional/spiritual abuse from a vulnerable narc… I wonder whether JH would benefit from meeting Frank Schaefer……


  39. I’m a Christian; familiar with Josh and SGM etc. There is one thing throughout this entire thread that shows (sadly and ironically) that the problem with Josh, with SGM, and with the Church in the West in general, is the same problem: not living by the Scriptures. Did anyone notice that people are giving all kinds of opinions about how wonderful the comments on Josh are, and how bad the critical comments are–without a single reference to the Word of God? I see more fuzzy spirituality here than I can count. And did you realize that is exactly the same problem as SGM? Yep! Their problem–adding to the Scriptures, going beyond the Scriptures. This whole discussion sounds like neo-liberal, “emergent” ideas–where we talk about God, we make vast opinions, but never actually use the Word of God to assess EVERYTHING. I’m going to suggest that many of the SGM survivors have shot right past the Bible in their reaction to the vile twisting of Scripture used to cover up unspeakably degraded sexual activities.

    Look, let’s get to brass tacks. “Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded”. Yes, there are do’s and don’t’s in the New Covenant.

    “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” You cannot get soft on the Gospel. I didn’t see one single mention, in this whole discussion, of the cross, of the blood of Christ, of the atonement, of the resurrection from the dead which gives this life meaning; or of the judgment that we all shall face.

    “Behold the goodness and severity of God”. This whole discussion seems to make God to be a just patient and kind and loving. And He is! But he is also a God of wrath, of anger, of judgment–who says, “I kill, and I make alive”. The Good Shepherd is the one who came to the churches of Revelation and warned them to cease from sin and tolerating false teachers, or there would be severe consequences: “I (Jesus) will kill her children with death.”

    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matt. 19:9 KJV)… I don’t care how torn up (or not) Josh Harris is over his time at SGM, and sorting out the fallacies of Calvinistic theology: what he did in divorcing his wife is a sin that he needs to repent of. One is obligated to obey the teachings of Christ–there are no excuses for disobedience if you know what the Scripture says, which he most certainly does.

    No one here seems to be grappling with the fact that the Bible clearly teaches that people can fall away, and go to the eternal torment of the lake of fire: “4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
    6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb. 6:4-6 KJV)

    If Josh is being honest–and there is no good reason to believe otherwise–“By every standard I know to measure a Christian, I am not one” (I think that’s close to what he said)–then he is either on the road to, or over the edge of, falling away. I know, I’ve had those hopeful thoughts too…”Maybe he really hasn’t lost faith in the Lord, and just needs some time to sort things out…” But let’s face it: there are lots of people who have gone through things that are very traumatic (like believers who have been tortured, believers whose families have rejected them and tried to kill them, etc) who have not divorced their wife, promoted perversion, dissed a perfectly fine book on maintaining what God has said about purity before marriage, and denied the faith. I would say the soft-pedalling of Mr. Harris’ denial of the faith are made of the same stuff as the soft-pedalling of the scandals at SGM. In both cases, the Scriptures are not being used as the guide they should be.

    The need of the day for the church is to stick to the Scriptures. Discipline people who claim to be Christian but commit fornication (1 Cor 5-6), which is what SGM should have been doing. Stay faithful to your wife because God demands it, through thick and thin.

    Stop all this wringing of hands and fuzzy “deconstruction” talk. Just go the Scripture, read it, do it, and proclaim it. Do what God says to do, and forsake what God has forbidden.

    And don’t think I say this lightly, as I too have had my share of people who say they are Christians, especially leaders, do things that are wrong and try to make me feel like I’m the one at fault for trying to bring up the truth. I’ve laid there with my heart overwhelmed, with nothing to cough up in the way of strength, going to my Father’s throne in the name of Jesus, having only faith in the blood of Jesus as something I bring. I understand. THAT DOES NOT EXCUSE US FROM OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD. Don’t live life as a “reaction” to messed up people. Get radical with the Scripture. Stick to it. Proclaim it. Go to God the Father in the confidence he gives us in Christ, and ask for what you need–strength, wisdom, the Holy Spirit. He absolutely promised to give the Holy Spirit and wisdom to those who ask. (Luke 11, James 1).

    Revival is needed. Ged radical with God and his word–I mean, judge everything by it, let everything in your life be ordered by it. Don’t throw the babies out with the bathwater. If SGM overdid it on some things, just recognize that, and don’t throw out other things that are good. For example, like it or not…

    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Tim. 2:11-15 KJV)

    I don’t care what SGM did or didn’t do that was right or wrong about the role of women: I am not following them, nor reacting against them: I am only seeking to obey what God has laid out in this area of life…are you?

    Like it or not:

    34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
    35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
    36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
    37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:34-37 KJV)

    I don’t care what Josh wrote, or what C. J. Mahaney did, or whatever: this is what God said–this is what we are supposed to do. Just that simple. If every church that ever tried to limit the participation of women in church services was a bag of rotting spiritual sewage, that does not change the fact that this scripture is the Word of God, that we are obligated to do it. Period.

    Like it or not:

    24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Eph. 5:24 KJV)

    If every husband or church that taught this–if every author who wrote a book about this–was a two-faced hypocrite: we are obligated to obey.

    DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER! Let’s live by the Word of God, use it all over the place. Enough fuzzy talk. Josh is in dangerous water, and may possibly be on an irreversible road to eternal torment in the lake of fire. It’s just a fact of the Scripture. It is not wrong or “not loving” to say so.

    Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thess. 5:14 NKJ)

    Josh needs to be warned. So does anyone toying around with rejecting the Scriptures in any way. And–to pick up the theme one last time–just because SGM etc may have done a lot of warning that was, in fact, “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matt. 23:4 KJV)–does not mean that we should not be doing what the Scriptures says in this area.

    We have to stick to the Scriptures, no matter what. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4 KJV)


  40. Tom – I am sure you are right in saying falling away is a serious sin for a man to commit, but it strikes me as ironic that in doing so you labour the silent women verses and wife’s submission, when the problem is with what a man has done. Little bit of an echo of Gen 3 there?

    Liked by 2 people

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