Almost any difficulty will move in the face of honesty. When I am honest I never feel stupid. And when I am honest I am automatically humble.
– Hugh Prather
I approach this topic with fear and trepidation. In preparation for this post, I read a goodly number of articles, viewed some talks, and reviewed some blogs. Beth Moore has a veritable army of defenders and they are quite vocal in taking on any perceived (real or not) criticism of her and her ministry. One poor blog writer who had the temerity of question Moore’s theology posted some comments in which a fair number of words had to be bleeped out. Another had this to say. “I have been warned, no, actually I have been threatened; DO NOT write anything negative about Beth Moore”.
TWW experienced a few of those unprintable tongue-lashings when we discussed Mark Driscoll. Do these folks actually think this is a Christian response?!! So, with a deep breath, here I go.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of traditional women’s Bible studies. I couldn’t abide by the rules of BSF, I flunked pencils in Precepts, and I despise women’s conferences in which breakout sessions feature table decorating and scrapbooking. I once joined a church book discussion group, hoping we could discuss books by Tozier, Lewis, etc. Instead they decided to read Jan Karon’s The Mitford Series, which I enjoyed. When I suggested that we look at some of the theology presented in the books, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the women would not be interested in discussing such things. So, I quit. I just don’t do fill in the blanks very well.
I want to state a few things up front. I have no doubt that Moore loves the Lord and is following what she believes to be good and true. In other words, I have no intention on judging her motivation.
Secondly, I agree with every article written that says she is an attractive woman. Why articles written about Christian women always mentions their appearance( in Moore’s case: big hair, French tipped fingernails and lovely clothes) is beyond me. I guess plain women need not apply to be great speakers. But, have no fear; your blog queens will continue to do their part in bringing glamour to the evangelical church!
A number of blogs written by women, sadly, criticize Moore for allowing men to be present for her conferences because this means she is a woman who might teach a man. Great Scott! Head for the hills! What is she supposed to do? Have guards who forcibly remove anyone who has a “Y” chromosome? Can’t these big, strong, manly men police themselves? I believe that Scripture does allow women to teach men so I find this criticism to be unimportant.
I am also glad that Moore emphasizes the Bible in her teachings even though I do not always fall lockstep with her conclusions.
Beth Moore is big business and she, by virtue of her teaching, has set herself up as a role model. She has inserted herself into the public eye as a Christian role model and teacher. As such, she must be willing to open herself up to being analyzed by the public.
I am taking most of my information from the August 2010 Christianity Today which did a bang up job looking at Moore’s ministry. The two articles were entitled,” Why Women Want Moore” and “First Came the Bible”. I commend Halle Gray Scott and Sarah Pulliam Bailey for their frank review of Moore’s life and theology. Frankly, I was startled with some things that I learned and I am not sure many Christians are aware of these issues.
Mark Galli, the Senior Managing Editor of CT, made some interesting comments in his "Inside CT" column (p. 7). He said that, a few years ago, he was impressed with Moore and decided to assign reporters to do a story on her. However, years went on and no one seemed to be able to pull an article together. He goes on to say. “ We assigned the story to one writer, than another but for different reasons, the story was never completed. Finally, our inimitable online editor, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, managed to pull it off.” I found this an odd comment but, upon reading the article, I have a hunch as to why the others could not write an article. Read the following and decide for yourself.
It took several interview requests to achieve an interview with Moore. There was a strict time limit, one hour, and all questions had to be submitted and approved in advance or Moore would not do the interview. The reporter was only allowed access to the ground floor of her ministry and everything else was off limits. Follow up questions that came up after the interview were declined. Frankly, this raises the obvious question. What is Moore afraid of? There is a quote by an unknown author which states, “Truth fears no questions.” Moore should ponder that.
The tragedy of her son, Michael:
This, I believe, is the reason for her paranoia and well it should be. Did you know that Moore adopted a son and then gave him back to his birth mother 7 years later? This shocked me.
Due to Moore's reticence to give any information on this subject, it is difficult to determine the age of the son at the time of adoption. Several sources put him at about 4 years old. In her book, Things Pondered, she says “his name was Michael, that he had developed “alarming behaviors” and that his birth mother resurfaced, strongly desiring to reclaim her son”. (p. 23) She refuses to give any further details.
If this is true, than Moore has some serious explaining to do. Can any of you imagine giving away a son whom you cared for and loved for over 7 years??? Does the explanation of “alarming behaviors” excuse such an action? And then to give him back to the woman who gave him up in the first place? Huh?
I am a friend of a family who adopted a biracial infant who had fetal alcohol syndrome. I watched him grow from about 4-14 years of age This boy was hyperactive and needed much medical and psychiatric care. To say his behavior was “alarming” is an understatement. But his mom and dad stood by his side, loving him through the ups and downs and even got him through school. Today he is married and serving our country as a Marine. I know they could never fathom how anyone could give up a child.
Does Moore know how this appears? It sounds like she had a boy that needed more than the usual care and attention and she wasn’t willing to hang in there. Can the reader imagine what this does to the psyche of the boy who was given back? One might imagine that he could think that he is “damaged goods.” His own mother rejected him. Recently there was a high profile news story in which the American mother of an adopted Russian boy put him on a plane and sent him back to an orphanage in Russia, stating that she could not handle him. This family was roundly condemned for their action. Here is the story.
It is interesting that Moore will talk openly about her daughter’s struggle with anorexia. However, anorexia is one of those “understandable” or “good” sins, especially in Texas culture. Radical skinniness is a virtue in the outwardly obsessed, Texas doll-baby ethos. So, it is understandable that a daughter might want to look the part, especially with a skinny, attractive mother. Getting rid of a son with “alarming behaviors” is not as forgivable. Hence we have a possible reason for her reticence in speaking of this matter.
I strongly believe that if Moore is going to teach others how to live victoriously, she must come to grips with this secret part of her life and be more forthcoming. One person commented that Moore is “completely vulnerable and transparent.” (CT P.23) No she is not. Perhaps there is a legitimate reason for her actions. Unfortunately, I can’t think of one. No wonder she doesn’t want “follow-up” questions.
Moore is described as a “cornerstone” author for Lifeway. Translation: She makes them a lot of moola. As our readers know, the SBC owns Lifeway and Moore must be cognizant of and cater to the tender feelings of the SBC hierarchy. She makes a big point to say that she only teaches women. She addresses men who attend her conferences by stating, “I have no desire to have any kind of authority of you.”
I do not think Moore has to take care of the feelings of any guy who wanders into her lectures. This statement strikes me as a sort of apology. Why does she feel she needs to take responsibility for anyone’s actions? It is the man’s choice to be there. But, I would love this Bible teacher to define what in the world she means by having “authority” over a man. How do you speak with and without authority?
For example, how does one say the following authoritatively and non authoritatively “David should not have had an affair with Bathsheba.” Let’s see, should she say to men, “Maybe David should not have had an affair with Bathsheba?” Or, “Sorry for saying this but David might not should have had a relationship with Bathsheba.” Or “Deary me, do you think it was a bit forward of David to have an affair with Bathsheba?”
A Plea for Justice:
Moore states she was sexually abused throughout her childhood but she is vague about who did the abusing. Having been involved with several teens who were sexually abused, I am aware of the depths of pain of those who were harmed. Moore teaches others to overcome the pain of these acts, which she calls “strongholds,” and claims she has surmounted such grief in her own life.
However, she states that the abuse was never reported to the authorities. I beg her to reconsider this lack of response. We have written extensively on the issue of pedophilia on this blog. Here is link to one such article.
The average pedophile abuses over 100 children before he is brought to justice. It is safe to say that her abuser harmed others. Even if he is now dead, (she gives us no indication on his current or past status) the effects of his heinous behavior lives on in the lives of those he molested. This pain can linger for their entire lives. One only has to look at the Catholic Church to see the long-term pain caused by pedophile priests. The SBC also has a large number of pastors who have abused as well. Please read Christa Brown’s excellent blog stopbaptistpredators.org for further insight.
There may be others who are still suffering in silence. I beg Moore to name her molester and report the abuse to the police. If she has truly overcome this stronghold, she should be strong enough to help others who were hurt by the same monster.
The article entitled "First Came the Bible" (pp. 27-28) does a fine job analyzing Moore’s teaching. There are four points that are worth considering.
Moore shows some disdain for theology as seminaries have portrayed it. She is primarily self-taught and believes that Scripture needs to teach Scripture. Although she uses commentaries in her preparation, she claims to use her intuition for applying Scripture.
For the most part, she does stay within orthodox Christianity. However, she could benefit from the history of the development of the doctrine within the church as well as the years of careful scholarship by great theologians to help her guard against heresy and poor exegesis.
“Moore tends to portray humans as victims of sin wither through generational strongholds, bondage from past sins, or increasing oppression by Satan.” She also believes that we are in the last days and that demonic assault is reaching “a whole new level.” (p. 28) Such a statement is not based in fact but in feeling. What is the evidence that Satan is "taking it to a whole new level"? These statements need to be based in evidence, not feelings and emotions. Frankly, way too many Christians like to make a lot of hay that we are living in the last days. Its far more exciting to imagine that then to deal with the possibility that Christ may not return for centuries to come. Frankly, none of us know. We must stop crying wolf.
Secondly, this sort of teaching could possibly eclipse the main issue which is our human propensity to sin. We do just fine sinning on our own and we need to focus on our own guilt and the process of sanctification.
Moore often states she experiences direct revelation from God and even has conversations with God. (p.28) Scott, the author of this article, makes the following comment. “Readers may believe that direct revelation is normative, and the lack of such experiences means something is wrong.” (p.28) In other words, is God really directly talking or is Moore just pondering?
4. Pop psychology:
In her more recent books, Moore seems to share primarily through her own experiences or those of her readers. As Scott observes, her recent books appear to be “long on anecdotes and short on theology and biblical analysis.” (p.28)
I would like to end on a positive note. I am gratified to see a compelling woman teacher who is drawing women and men to listen to her speak. She emphasizes that all of us should be reading the Scriptures and growing in our understanding. But, it is also important not to make an icon out of Moore. She is imperfect like the rest of us and has some issues that warrant closer scrutiny.
Tomorrow, we are excited to be able to present an incredible new guest author. He writes of his experiences as an inmate of a local prison and how he found Christ in the midst of his incarceration.He plans to be an occasional contributor to TWW.