Comedy is a weird thing. It’s a place where people can get on stage and say things that have a thread of truth to it, but most people would never say publicly. And it causes people to laugh because someone was bold enough to say it. Some of those things said can be hurtful when it comes to race, physical appearances, gender, etc.
So, I found it peculiar when I came across pastor and marriage speaker, Mark Gungor, who also happens to be a comedian.
From his website’s “About Mark” page:
Mark Gungor is one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and relationships in the world today. Each year thousands of couples attend his Couples’ Comedy Events. Mark’s candid and comedic approach uses unforgettable illustrations and the power of laughter to teach proven principles that are guaranteed to strengthen any relationship.
For over a decade, Mark’s materials have been the #1 resources for improving relationships used by the US Military.
What made me look up this guy?
This week, there has been a firestorm on Twitter between Mark Gungor and Sheila Gregoire. Sheila Gregoire is an author, speaker, and blogger at, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. She recently published a new book, The Great Sex Rescue, which includes the details from research she and her team conducted asking over 20,000 women about what they believed about sex, where they learned that info, and how it has affected their marriages/sex lives. Her discoveries from this research has been groundbreaking. It has shown that many popular books promoted in Christian Evangelical circles has been harmful to marriages and women.
I may have the sequence of events out of order, but I do know this: there was an exchange between Mark Gungor and Sheila Gregoire. I read through the tweets and I saw Mark Gungor using ad hominem attacks against Sheila. I saw Sheila respond back with data, addressing the issue. She used no ad hominem attacks against him.
Side note: I’m cracking up at Sheila’s new updated Twitter profile (pardon the yellow frehand highlighting). It reminded me that years ago, I updated my profile to include “sheep lady blogger” based on an ad hominem attack by Tullian Tchividjian, whom I was calling out for clergy sexual misconduct. I thought that was a cute name and so I added it to my Twitter profile – lol. These guys, though! They think they are insulting us, but they truly are complimenting us as Sheila mentions!
Back to the story . . .
I noticed Twitter followers mentioning that Mark Gungor had blocked them. I have gotten a lot of push back from spiritual bullies on Twitter, and their normal modus operandi is to block people if they are challenged. Healthy people are comfortable in their shoes and will engage with folks who question/challenge them publicly. They have no need to block, they just answer respectfully and move along. So . . . when I saw this behavior, the warning flags popped up for me. Why does Mark Gungor have a need to use ad hominem attacks against Sheila Gregoire and others who challenge him on his Facebook page? And why does he feel the need to block so many people. . . . unless he fits a particular pattern of behavior that I’ve seen and reported on over the years.
So, I observed his behavior on Facebook and Twitter yesterday and today. And now I am done observing. I’m sharing because I am so freakin’ over male Christian evangelical leaders getting a free pass on treating women poorly both privately and publicly, and especially from a platform and position of spiritual authority, and then normalizing this behavior. Mark Gungor doesn’t get to hide behind his comedy act anymore because his social media interactions are displaying his true colors. He is behaving like a bully, and a bully has no place behind a pulpit, PERIOD.
You don’t have to go to any great lengths to see his atrocious behavior. It’s out there and evident. But what’s really frustrating to me is why has this man been given platforms and free passes for so many years? Why are people paying to hear him at conferences? Well, enough is enough. My female advocate friends have gotten wind of this dude, and you will probably not hear the end of this until there is an end to this. By that I mean heartfelt public apology, repentance, and retractions. Therapy would be good, too.
There should be no place in Christian evangelicalism for Mark Gungor’s behavior which devalues, disrespects, and demoralizes women. If Gungor is allowed to continue having platforms, then it is a clear picture that Christian evangelicalism is not, and probably has never been, a safe place for women. If Mark Gungor’s messages about women are considered “normal and ok” then no wonder Christian women have not been given shelter from their abusive spouses. No wonder so many women are joining private online groups and gathering strength to leave their abusive husbands and churches.
So, because I hardly know where to start, there is so much, I’ll start with this little gem which was posted on his Facebook page. I was told that he may have taken it down. If that is the case, then we should be seeing a public apology about it. But we won’t. Because that’s how bullies behave.
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been getting notifications on Twitter and one just came in from @mmmirele on Twitter:
“Apparently Mark Gungor took down the post that brought attention to him “due to a gaggle of emotionally triggered people commandeering the comments.” What a horrible man.”
She said it.
So then, Jackie tweeted that she had to see Gungor for herself, so she simply went to YouTube and looked him up. She described the video she watched, so I reached out to her and asked her to send me the links. I’ve only watched one. But here is one of the videos she sent to me. It’s only 8 minutes long:
Tweeter @BexVangelical saw my tweet and watched the video and reported some serious concerns. I asked and was given permission to copy @BexVangelical’s tweet thread here. It’s good!
But first let me set the stage. In the video, Gungor draws a picture of a big heart and says, “We’ll call this the girl’s heart.” In this talk, he’s referring to a woman in a marriage, not a minor girl, but an adult woman. When is it ever appropriate to call a woman a girl? Do we call men, “boys?” No, we do not.
Below the heart, he draws a smaller smiley face which he refers to as “the place of happiness.” (I’m not sure whose happiness at this point.) The placement of the smiley face is important. It’s lower than the heart on the body. The title of this video is “A tail of two brains” so take a guess at what the smiley face refers to. Yeah, that . . a wife’s genitalia. Imagine being a woman sitting in his audience as he’s repeatedly pointing at the “smiley” face knowing what he’s referring to. Notice, there’s no picture of a penis. It’s all focused on
girls women. Please note in BexVangelical’s tweets the heart and smiley face emojis and what they are really referring to.
Thankfully, Bex VanGelical summarized important parts of the video so I don’t have to. I feel like I’m re-living my own trauma as I read her tweets. So brace yourself, survivors:
So, there’s that. But wait, there’s more . . . .
Sex Abuse Survivor Shares How Mark Gungor Responded to Her Personal Story
Last but not least, a woman named Lexi has come forward with a personal story of how Mark Gungor handled her sexual abuse case at his church, Celebration Church. Lexi was 17 years old in December of 2016 and says she was sexually assaulted by a 19- or 20-year old member of the church. Lexi told the church leadership, who then told her she’d need to meet with Mark Gungor and tell him.
Lexi and another survivor (same perpetrator) visited Mark Gungor and writes: “We explain what happened with Jim [abuser], and the first words out of Mark Gungor’s mouth were ‘what were you guys thinking?.'” Gungor told the other survivor she “should have known better than to get in the backseat of a car with him.” Can you say victim blaming? Ugh. His response was so inappropriate.
Needless to say, the response from Mark Gungor had a detrimental affect on Lexi. Lexi writes: “I have been diagnosed with PTSD from the assault and spiritual abuse I experienced at Celebration Church. I am permanently traumatized from my final experiences there. This affects my daily life and relationships.”
Well, there you go. There is pastor and speaker on marriage and relationships, Mark Gungor. And I came out of blogging sabbatical to report this. Ho hum.