“Don’t let depression kill you; let the church help (Sign outside of a church)
As some of our readers’ may have noticed, there are a few changes in the format of TWW. We hope to complete these changes by the end of the week. We have consolidated all of our archives in an easily accessible fashion and will work to incorporate the comments sections from our older blog posts over time. However, the major change is this. My fellow blog queen and I have decided to reveal our full names. These will be accessible on a new page called “About Us” which will be posted in the next couple of days.
We imagine that some readers might think that we are making a stand against anonymity because certain leaders have been railing against anonymous bloggers, going so far as to call them names such as ”narcissistic zeroes” as the godly, loving, Calvinista Matt Chandler did recently. (Tomorrow we will be addressing said shepherd in a direct fashion so stay tuned).
Such an assumption would be incorrect. In fact, let us state this bluntly. TWW upholds, defends, supports and understands the need for anonymous blogging and anonymous commenters. This blog will always protect, defend and encourage anonymity in order that truth might be exposed and that churches and leaders might be held accountable. We believe that this policy will encourage people to freely and confidently share their pain and concerns about the church in America. Well, actually, we have been receiving some comments from Brazil, England, and Thailand, so perhaps this blog will be a haven for those who have been hurt by the “evangelical” church throughout the world.
Why do I put a quote around the word “evangelical in the last paragraph? Because I believe that there are a goodly number of churches that have morphed the evangelical church into an entity that might be unrecognizable to those who have gone before us. Michael Spencer, the recently departed Internet Monk, used a term that is apropos. He believed that the church of today is foundering about in the post evangelical wilderness.
Besides the ever-present nonsense of the health and wealth gospel as exhibited by the toothsome Joel Osteen, there has been a movement within the SBC and Reformed churches to “take back” the country and the Gospel-order is deliberate. Secondary issues have been moved to the forefront and much time and money is being spent to proclaim these issues as vital to the survival of the church.
The most visible of the American churches today are defined by hyper-authoritarian pastors who function as mini despots backed up by elders and deacons who act more like Mafioso enforcers than the overseers as written about in the Bible. Church discipline, once reserved for backsliders and men who moved in with their honeys, is now routinely used for those who have disagreements with the way things are run.
Instead of a good old-fashioned Baptist “hash it out “ conclave, pastors routinely throw out those who would disagree with their pronouncements. Pastors are not to be questioned. To quote one pastor who I used to think was one of the good guys, “I provide the direction for this church. The elders implement that direction and they have only disagreed with me twice in 28 years!” Our very first post proclaimed our concerns. It was called "Who Hijacked My Church." You can read about it at this link.
Approximately four years ago, the idea of TWW began to take shape. It has never ceased to amaze the two of us how God brought us into contact with one another. We are two average women would be most likely overlooked into today’s personality driven churches. We did all the typical things: led Bible studies, taught Sunday school, worked in the nursery, and were members of small group Bible studies, baked brownies (my recipe is better than Deb’s), etc.
Both of us have a particular passion for trying to understand what is going on the world of faith. We always ask “why?,”much to the dismay of a few former pastors. We both love to read and research and have found the Internet in invaluable tool that quickly brings facts to light. Both of us served on a community panel for our local newspaper and learned the pros and cons as well as the biases involved both in news reporting and editorial commentary. And that is what we thought we would do. Our early goal was to comment on today’s news stories from the angle of evangelical faith. But something didn’t come together. There was a roadblock that seemed insurmountable. Many of our friends believed we would never get this thing of the ground, perhaps thinking it was some sort of pipe dream.
Until “it” happened. We were suddenly enmeshed in a situation that exposed the underbelly of evangelicalism. Until that moment, except for a 1-½ year stay in Ed Young Jr.’s church, I had always had wonderful experiences in church. I had open pastors, great elders and deacons, and good friends. Yes, we disagreed on many points, we dealt with sin issues but love and respect were the hallmark of these churches. We both had heard rumors of people having been hurt by the church but thought that these churchgoers were a bunch of whiners.
Suddenly things changed and we were slapped upside the head. We intimately experienced the pain of many in the church and the intensity of the ache was unexpected. Some have accused us of being bitter (a word that is often misused to stop conversation). We actually do not feel mordant (a much cooler word than bitter, evoking images of Lord of the Rings). Instead, we now believe that “it” happened for God’s gracious purpose. He had to open our eyes to the harsh reality in some of America’s churches because we would need to understand such pain and injustice in a personal way in order to understand our readers. And that pain became the support that bolsters this blog. It may be difficult for some to believe this but we are now grateful for the experience. We have a gut understanding that gives us empathy and passion for those who have been taught wrong and done wrong.
In the beginning, we imagined that we would merely discuss faith in the public square but, within a few weeks of starting TWW, we began to get emails, telling us of painful church circumstances. Often these emails would start off “I know you are not going to believe this but…” Because of God’s providence, we did believe the stories because we had experienced similar pain. In fact, so many of the stories have familiar elements common to our own experience. It’s as if a playbook has been written and we are finally reading the completed work.
We have sat with grown men who told us their stories with tears streaming down their faces. We have watched in disbelief as elder boards and denominational entities closed ranks and protected the guilty. We have recorded instances of pastors actively pursuing and causing irreparable harm to those who would disagree with their exorbitant lifestyle. We have watched religious (I find it too difficult to call them Christian) men threaten others over differences of opinion.
One only has to read Wade Burleson’s Hardball Religion to realize that some of these “pastors” and “leaders” are behaving in both a threatening and unbiblical fashion. We wrote of one incident in which a pastor told ladies in a church not to help a pregnant, bedbound woman because her husband criticized him for certain incidents involving pornography on church computers. We wrote of another incident in which a man had his mailbox knocked over and a fire set in his backyard for criticizing a pastor. Mac Brunson kicked a woman off church grounds because he was huffy that her husband criticized his excessive lifestyle. He also had his "bodyguard/policeman go to the police to seek a little good old-fashioned Baptist retribution. Hallelujah, brother!
We also wrote of an elderly lady who was escorted out of a church by police for simply asking why the new pastor had disbanded the deacons. He called the police from the pulpit, whilst preaching, giving new meaning to “honor your mother.” You can read about it at this link.
We have seen pastors arrested for pedophilia, rape, embezzlement and extortion. We have heard pastors tell women to return to their physically abusive husbands. We have seen elders start false rumors to harm the reputation of a member (it happened to Dee). Many of these religionists act as if they are in a Crips/Bloods gang war. If you step onto a particular street, you are now on the preacher’s territory and he gets to knife you. It’s got to be in the Bible somewhere.
And who gets criticized for this? The anonymous blogger, for Pete’s sake! We have a statement to all of the pastors out there who strut around, thinking that they are specially anointed and can do no wrong. We include all of the sycophants who pretend they are elders or deacons while covering up for the pastors. The reason there are anonymous bloggers and commenters is because YOU have created a climate of fear and mistrust in your churches. It is YOU who refuse to admit wrongdoing and think you get a pass on sin. It is YOU who call those who bring concerns to you, the problem. YOU are the ones who have turned the church of Jesus Christ into some sort of ego gratification club with a veneer of religion to assuage your guilt. You are the ones who are thin-skinned weenies who can’t take criticism without whining and running to find ways to destroy your brother.
I am grateful that I, once again, belong to a church in which I can freely share my concerns and suggestions without fear of retribution. I am grateful that I can disagree on a tertiary point with a pastor and not get thrown out of a Sunday school class by insecure, malignant teachers.(This happened to a teenager and a grown man that I know). We have heard one too many stories to ignore the fact that there is a cancer growing in the post evangelical church. When Wade Burleson dared to comment on the Ergun Caner, liar extraordinaire, debacle, his family was threatened; by a “good” Baptist man, I have no doubt.
There are many in the churches who do not want to hear the stories that we publish here. They must. We will continue to stay our course and protect the storytellers until the church once again becomes a safe haven for those who are seeking kindness and understanding. Shame on these pastors who have allowed this atmosphere to become acceptable within the church of our Lord.
Finally, we know that there are good pastors out there that labor faithfully. Some have commented on this blog. We have heard from discouraged professors at Liberty who cannot speak freely of their disgust of the Caner situation. Why? Because they are afraid they will be fired. May God give them strength to carry on.
We anticipate that some might ask us why we have stayed anonymous until this time. First and foremost, it was the wish of our families who were concerned about potential “retribution.” Isn’t it sad that they needed to be concerned about this? Their feelings were justified. Secondly, we wanted some time to pass after a certain negative situation. This blog is NOT and has never been a blog about a particular church or situation. We believe that this is clearly evident by the diversity of subjects on which we have written.
As time has gone on, our families, and, if truth be told, we have become more comfortable in the blogosphere. We believe that we write with integrity and honesty. We make mistakes but try very hard to be truthful. Jeff Anderson, the world renowned expert attorney who has successfully defended countless people who were abused by priests, told us that as long as we tell what we believe to be the truth, we should have little to fear. He said that the most that any church can do is throw us out. Although it hasn’t happened to us, standing up for the Truth is worth getting kicked out of church. Besides, as that great theologian, Woody Allen once said, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.”
Until recently, the bully pulpit was reserved for the bully preacher. But, just like real life bullies, these preachers can’t stand it when the tables are turned on them. That is what the Internet has done. And that is what TWW intends to do. We will stand up for the lost and let down and give them a place where their words may be heard. And we will stand by them in their pain. We also will provide a place for debate to occur. So, if any of these pastors want to give their side of the story, they are welcome. We will print their words exactly as they ask unless we deem them to be abusive.
We will continue to bring you other stories of interest that affect the practice and perception of the faith in the world. We will continue to debate secondary Biblical issues and difficult Bible passages and we are always open to suggestions. Our friend, ARCE, has sent us several articles that should make for interesting conversation.
Finally, we want to thank all of the readers and visitors for their encouragement. We are even grateful for those who disagree with us! We love a good debate and controversy is the lifeblood of any blog! We have stories in the pipeline about a Harvest church, a cult in Dallas, Christopher Hitchens, and Hugh Ross . When we first started, Deb asked me if we had enough things to write about. Now it seems as if we don’t have enough time to cover everything!
NEW FEATURE: You will see on the soon to be published “About Us” that we have made it easier for you to contact us by both email and even Google phone. How’s that for accessibility and accountability? I wonder if Mac Brunson has a direct phone number to reach him? How about Matt Chandler? I'm sure they are too busy contending with anonymous bloggers.
NEW FEATURE: One of our frequent commenters, Lydia, often exhorts readers to read and study the Bible for themselves. In the next couple of days, we will be adding Bible verses to the bottom of each post. If followed, these passages will assist the reader to read through the Bible in one year. We plan to follow this ourselves and will be open to questions or comments regarding the reading plan. By the way, use any translation you like. Just read.