"You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness." CS Lewis
Interacting Spiral galaxies-Hubble/NASA
I know I say this regularly but I believe it is worth repeating. I learned how to look at life differently within the first week of my MBA program. One of those lessons was about the rules of the game. Not merely the written rules but the more important, unwritten rules that lurk underneath any successful business. All of you have been there. If you want to get something done in your company, your boss may not be the one with power. It is actually Fred who is about to marry the CEO’s daughter. So you learn how to do end runs around your boss and make nice with Fred.
This past week, a couple of readers shared their common experience of having comments deleted from Challies.com. Tim Challies is a Neo-Calvinist who talks a pretty good game of theology, Reformed-style. However, Challies has what appears to be an unwritten agenda and we think we know what it is. We are smart, as well as glamorous.
But, before we get to that, let’s talk about blogs.
Blogs are the property of the people who pay the bills to put them online. The blog editors make their own decisions about what they will talk about and what they will not talk about. Most bloggers tell their readers their rules right up front. Others, as you will see, are a bit cagey.
It’s kind of like going to the movies and watching the previews. The movie theater is going to try to induce you to buy popcorn, etc. so they interject attractive pictures of popcorn and drinks. Some theaters actually make sure the smell of popcorn wafts into each theater room. Why? Their profit margin is dependent on sales of food items, which have high mark-ups. In fact, previews are merely avenues for inducing you to buy food since food purchases abruptly decline when the movie starts.
Readers of blogs should understand that they are being sold a perspective on the part of the editors. There can be no expectation of “freedom” on the part of the commenter. The blog can choose to accept or not decline comments ad lib.
Most blog have some standards in regards to harsh language, personal attacks, or staying within the comment thread. Usually these values are spelled out, sometimes they are not. That is up to the editor.
Bloggers have to be concerned with legal issues as well. A blog cannot allow a libelous comment to stand unless they have unlimited resources to defend themselves in a court.
The Wartburg Watch
Here is our bottom line. We are more concerned about those hurt by the church than we are about the feelings of some rich and influential pastors. Those pastors have their admiring throngs, buddies on the circuit and a good old boys club to defend them. That is not the case for many of the people who have found their way to this blog. They share heart-wrenching stories of being shown the door, as well as insulted, by pastors who do not allow for even a slight disagreement.
We are their advocates. If someone critiques a post that we have written, we look for something in that comment that shows an understanding of the little guy and how she/he might have been hurt. If we see no acknowledgment of this issue, we will be dismissive or harsh with the commenter.
Also, we may allow a person, who is outside the faith or questioning the faith, far more latitude in expression than we would someone who is a devoted follower within the evangelical tradition. Remember they are hurt.
We may also encourage those who believe differently than the average evangelical to state their points of view. Many of today’s Christians do an awful lot of self-talk in their closed circles and it is important for us to learn to dialogue with people from all sorts of faith traditions, along with those who are non-believers. Once again, we will cut these individuals some slack. We are not always fair but we have our reasons.
Deb and I view this blog as a community. Some come once, others come and stay awhile. We care about people who stop here and are grateful that they take the time to share their points of view as well as their lives and stories. That is precious to us and we pray for them regularly.
Recently we have had several problems. One person made some potentially libelous statements. Another misrepresents himself, sending us vile messages and uses proxy servers to disguise even his geographic location. These comments were deleted. We rarely delete comments and leave notes when we do so. If a comment disappears, it may be a glitch. Please contact us.
Now let’s talk Challies.com
We are going to inform our readers our perceptions of a barely concealed agenda on this blog. We have no problems with Challies doing his thing but we want to help others who are confused when they visit such a site. In fact, there are a fair number of Neo-Calvinists who have the same style.
Here is the sequence of events.
1. Challies wrote a post with the following question: Should You Go to T4G? Here.
Analysis: He did not need to write such a post. If you are a cool NeoCalvinist, you go to T4G, period. But, being part of the in-crowd he wants to convince the rest of the poor schlocks out there to spend their dough and show up. But, I believe this post had another agenda.
He “interviews” Matt Schmucker, the de facto organizer of T4G, about the reasons why people should come to T4G. But, he then throw in this seemingly out of place question or is it?
“Based on recent events, do you anticipate that C.J. Mahaney will be present and a full-fledged participant?”
Astute readers should ask why this query was a part of this “interview.” When you see something coming in from left field, assume the play is in motion. It is vital for the uninformed to understand that Mahaney, the recently disgraced “Head Apostle” of SGM, is considered one of the de facto heads of the Neo-Calvinist movement. Warning, warning: you are about to get taken for a ride to a Calvinista truck stop.
2. Here is Schmucker’s seemingly “off the cuff” answer to this question.
“Tim, I have had the privilege to observe CJ publicly and privately through this very public trial. I can report that CJ is taking the reconciliation process very seriously, fully cooperating and humbly submitting to everything asked of him. More importantly, I have been surprised by the grace that is so evident in his life even as he’s digitally fried through anonymous posts. I can assure you that I would not be nearly as gracious.
Yes, I expect CJ to be present and a full-fledged participant at T4G 2012. He is exactly the kind of man we want to stand with—together for the gospel."
Now this is where it gets interesting. Challies, Schmucker, and others such as Ray Ortland, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, all part of the “Neo-Calvinist Illuminati,” appear, to us gullible women at TWW, to be involved in a full court press to get Mahaney back in business. None of them have expressed one ounce of concern for the hundreds of members along with scores of “degifted” pastors who have expressed sickening stories of child abuse, emotional abuse and controlling, authoritarian behavior on the part of members and leaders at SGM over many years. Mahaney has taken off for the hinterlands, leaving his own church, to hide behind the skirts of these patriarchs, like Mark Dever, who are not a part of SGM. These leaders have eyes only for him, not for the little people.
3. Warning: This is the part in which I get mad at Tim Challies. Let’s see what happens next.
Apparently, some people, who claim to have been harmed by SGM, take umbrage with the obsequious (meaning kissy, kissy) statements by Schmucker. They try to leave comments under the post.
David Kjos, the Comment Nazi for Challies, writes the following in the comment section.
“Memo to those who want to bring up the Mahaney/SGM situation: We're not going there. Period.”
And this is where this blogger cries out, loud and clear, “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves! You were the ones who brought up the Mahaney situation and fell all over yourselves, bowing at the altar of Mahaney preservation. You guys have already discussed Mahaney and then you tell everyone else to shut up! You said:
- He is submissive
- He is gracious
- He is exactly who we want at T4G
This is another puff piece to exonerate Mahaney. It is so ho hum that I almost fell asleep writing this. You guys get to say all the nice stuff and pretend you allow input but you are living a lie.
4. Could it get any worse? Yep.
Another reader, Diane, let us know she asked this question under the above David Kjos comment The blog Reformed Anglicanism copied the comment here.
“What does that even mean? Why not?” (referring to the fact that comments about SGM?Mahaney are forbidden).
Kjos responds, so authoritatively,
"If you don't know, you probably don't need to know. Because this isn't the place for that. "
She goes on to tell us:
"So, this comment sits for a while and then both of them disappear." (Note to rude pastors and comment Nazis: unless it is a vile or libelous comment, it is blog courtesy to say you deleted a comment but since when are Calvinistas instructed in etiquette?)
5. Now for the grand finale in this saga: TWW reader, David, informed us that his comments were deleted.
- Did he make a comment about Mahaney? Nope
- Did he ask questions about Schmucker’s comments? Nope
- His crime? He quoted Scripture.
Yep, plain old Scripture. Here it is own his words.
“Then I read the comments, and saw that any comments about said apostle or his flock are strictly "verboten". All, right, I thought… Just what comments ARE permissible? "Just say no? Heavens no, I won't go?" Those would answer the title question, but I did want to put the blogger to a serious test,
So… I remembered Jeremiah. I considered adding Isaiah 30:10, Ezekiel 13:10-16, and Micah 3:5 but decided to be short and sweet. The entire comment: They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14 and Jeremiah 8:11 (Ed. Note: both verses say the same thing)
Our reader tells TWW that:
”God's comment was there almost a day, and then– it wasn't. Gone… Just with the touch of a button by Tim or a helper. No refutation, no explanation, no form email explaining "your comment was appreciated but deleted". God's Holy Word, disagreed with and deleted, once again.. Although I had fully expected this to happen, I was still surprised at how hurt, shocked, dismayed, and angry I felt.”
6. The response of a gullible and really mad bog queen to Tim Challies:
Tim, once again, I have had some hurt people show up at my blog and you have contributed to this problem. Is this how you handle questions at your church? Is it your way or the highway? Do you delete people from your congregation?
Sir, you did not have the class to throw a bone to those people who have been hurt by SGM. Do you care? Or do you care only for your fellow rich, influential Calvinista leaders?
Let me make an “observation.” (Ask CJ what that means). Jesus spent most of his time with the lost, let down and looking. He comforted them and listened to them. He ate with them and walked with them. Conversely, He spent quite a bit of time chastising the Pharisees who placed unimaginable burdens on the people. Jesus called them white washed tombs and snakes.
Have you spent time talking to those hurt by SGM or even those hurt in other authoritarian churches? Would you like to talk to the huge numbers of people who have landed on our blog after being given the left boot of fellowship by members in your mutual admiration society? I recently heard a pastor say, after returning from one of your conferences, that he wished he, too, could get a book deal. Wow, he sure learned a lot about Jesus. Is this what it is all about?
To our readers:
Your blog queens took an enormous risk when we were contacted by a well-known, very hip, Neo-Calvinist pastor a number of months ago. We cannot tell you his name due to the promise of anonymity in our email section.We care for those who are hurting so we decided to put ourselves on the line. We thought that a kind and thoughtful pastor might engage us and ask us why we thought such things. We had heard he was a good guy and didn't march to the same sort of drummer.
So, besides expressing our concern for his recommendation of Ezzo’s books, we asked him to try to talk to his good friend, CJ Mahaney, on behalf of the many people who had contacted us about their painful experiences within this church. This was a few months prior to the blowup at SGM.
Folks, it was a hard but we care so much for the people who have lost their faith or who are barely hanging onto their faith because of the actions of this family of churches. (Family-yeah right) Guess what? As with his response to our concerns about Ezzo, he told us we were guilty of character assassination in regards to Mahaney. He never ONCE mentioned the hundreds of people who are hurting out there. Nope, all he cared about was his good buddy, Mahaney.
We learned another fact about this pastor that might be relevant. He was fundraising for his church and asked his congregation to forgo moving up to a new house and give the money to the church. Shortly after making that statement, said pastor bought a much larger home in a much nicer part of town. Could this be a symptom of a bigger problem within this movement?
At first I decided that it was a useless contact since all it got me was mad. But, I now realize it wasn’t for not. I began to understand that this whole thing is about these rich and influential leaders who take care of their own. Who are their own? Not the people in their congregation but the leaders who take care of one another. They would give up anyone in the flock, perhaps the entire flock, before they would ever question the tactics of their friends. So, he did us a favor. Alice learned a little more about the game of Wonderland and is less naïve (but still gullible and easily deceived according to these guys).
This crowd is a different group of pastors, dear readers. If you have learned one thing from this post, “let the tither beware.” Find the good guys out there. There are quite a few. Find a pastor who might show up at the hospital when you are sick. And run from the ones who push conferences.
One final thought, if any of you have had similar situations while dealing with your pastor or a Christian blogger and would like to share it with our readers, please feel free to contact us via our emails.
Oh, almost forgot this. Should you go to T4G? It depends if you want to hang out with folks who think that CJ Mahaney is "their kind of guy."
On a different note:
We were contacted by Jim over at the SGM Refuge with a request to promote the Adjudication Petition, which is a request to include Brent Detwiler in this process. This petition is for those who have been affiliated with SGM at some point. We are very happy to assist in this matter and ask that our readers go to the following site to read further and sign the petition here
Correction: 11/5 From Jim -SGM Refuge