Pastor Chuck O’Neal, The Blogger, Phil Johnson and Overuse of “Slander”

“Slander cannot destroy an honest man – when the flood recedes the rock is there” Chinese Proverb

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Man at Wailing Wall-WikiCommons

I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post. There are several competing stories within this thread and I will do my best to integrate them.

Press Release From Pastor Chuck O’Neal

At 11AM EST, The Wartburg Watch received a press release from Pastor Chuck O’Neal. I asked permission to reprint it in part since it is quite lengthy. However, he asked that it be printed in full. So, we have created a separate page at TWW and will provide the link to it at the end of the following excerpt.

To preface the release he wrote, “Things are not always what they first seem to be. Here is a small portion of the rest of the story.”

"There is another side to the story. Beaverton Grace Bible Church wants to present its side of the story before anyone rushes to judgment. In Nov. of 2008 a man was removed from the staff of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC). Since that time, Pastor Charles O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church have been the targets of a three and a half year campaign of defamation by a group of former church members and attenders who are close personal friends of the former staff member. The church elders and the pastor did little to defend themselves over these three and a half years, believing that the individuals would tire of the effort and eventually cease the defamation.

However, that did not prove to be successful. In fact it was counter-productive. The defamation campaign escalated recently when one of the former congregants established a blog on the internet with the intent of reaching a broader audience. This divisive group has used review websites, blogs, the police, the Department of Human Services, and now the local media in their three and a half year campaign to destroy Pastor O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church with false accusations that range from ridiculous to criminal.

The facts will show that this is not a free speech case. Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church. He, his family, and the church were subsequently investigated by the authorities and the case was dismissed as unfounded. His only response to these vicious charges was to state his own denial. As the campaign has escalated the postings on the internet have falsely accused Pastor O’Neal of being a “wolf,” a “liar,” a” narcissist” and one who “knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and the children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place.” In yet further escalation, Julie Anne Smith stated that the church allows “sex offenders having free reign in childrens’ area with no discloser to parents… .” This is most likely the second worst thing that can be said about a pastor and a church and most certainly constitutes defamation.

Continue the full press release at this link.

Phil Johnson, John MacArthur and Grace Community Church

Phil and I had a series of respectful emails regarding GCC’s involvement in this now international story. I want to stress something. Phil was courteous and open with me. I even tweeked him by referring to myself as a “discernment diva.”(I couldn’t resist ☺) He didn’t bite and continued to address the situation at hand. Frankly, I was surprised by the open nature of our communication. I know that he and I will not see eye to eye on a number of theological issues but, in this instance, at least, I believe that he tried to explain a difficult situation with kindness and without pulling any punches.

I asked permission to post the emails and he gave me permission to print the following. He said that if I wished to print more, to let him know and he felt that he would approve any request on my part. However, I think the excerpt is enough.

"Chuck O’Neal did phone me this morning and we talked for more than an hour. . . .

Here’s my summary of Pastor O’Neal’s side of the story: He says he was accused of many things over several years’ time—including child molestation and other gross crimes. At one point the police actually came to his door and questioned him about the abuse charges. They launched an investigation that included state-ordered medical examinations of his children. He was cleared of all those accusations by this investigation, but his wife was terrorized by it, so he began to seek advice from other pastors on how to respond. That prompted his call to Grace Community Church, in which he was put in touch with the only responsible staff member who was available at that moment to take a random call. That staff member is not an elder but is a generally knowledgeable and trustworthy counselor. (I’m not going to name him, but he is a tenderhearted shepherd . . .).

Pastor O’Neal says he doesn’t remember the exact language the counselor used, but he says one of the suggestions the counselor made was that he should see a lawyer to explore his legal options. He took that as tacit approval that a lawsuit might not be out of the question. That started the process.

Around March of this year [one of our elders] learned of the situation somehow and encouraged both Pastor O’Neal and his accusers to resolve the matter without going to court. My understanding is that [the elder] spoke to all parties and concluded that both sides needed to yield somewhat. He encouraged Pastor O’Neal to withdraw the lawsuit and his accusers to withdraw some of the material they had posted online. [The elder] says neither side budged but simply dug in with even more firmly adversarial positions.

Pastor O’Neal acknowledges that it was clear to him after talking with [the elder] that our elders were basically opposed to the lawsuit (especially the request for monetary damages), but by then his own study of 1 Corinthians 6 had convinced him that there are “loopholes” permitting Christians to file lawsuits in certain extreme situations. He was convinced his situation is one of those exceptional cases. He seems to have correctly understood that [the elder from Grace] did not share his perspective on that, but he says he thought [our elders weren’t] taking a hard-line stance—as if [we] regarded his opinion as a matter of preference rather than a biblical position.

Anyway, Pastor O’Neal did not have Grace Church’s encouragement to sue and he understood that.

Could Grace Church have given better, clearer counsel in this case? In my opinion, yes. The initial counsel given was almost certainly too ambiguous and not emphatic enough. (The fact that even Pastor O’Neal doesn’t recall precisely what the counselor said is sufficient proof of that).

I reaffirmed our official position with Pastor O’Neal this morning: We believe the course of action he has chosen is wrong and that he should drop the lawsuit, even if every claim his accusers make is false and everything he says they have done to him is true.”

Last night, before a meeting, I sent Phil the following email.

“There have been a number of comments, both on our blog and others, that state that Grace has not expressed concern for the blogger involved. There is a perception that the major concern is for the pastor and that his concerns and statements take precedence over the woman involved. Frankly, that has been my perception as well. Do not forget, this was one of those situations in which a church wide shunning was involved.

I believe it would go a long way for the church to express God's love and concern for BOTH parties to this lawsuit. If not, as the media continues to escalate this, it could come across that Grace is part of a good old boy network and that the pastor is king and that a church member is expendable.”

Surprisingly, Phil beat me to the punch. As I was sending that email, he was involved in a lengthy telephone conversation with Julie Anne. She found that he was sympathetic and concerned about her side of the story. For that, I am grateful. Julie Anne is under a lot of pressure and I am appreciative that he was able to allay some of her concerns.

 

The Streisand Effect in Action

Julie Anne left a negative comment on Google about the church. The pastor is suing her for $500,000. Today I checked and there are 548 comments, terribly negative. Wouldn’t it have been better for the pastor to “turn the other cheek?” This sort of publicity will not bode well for the church in the future. Here are a few comments from the site. Note: the lawsuit does not promote a positive view of the Church.

“What jerks – suing someone for an honest review. What a bunch of typical religious con artists. “

“As a fellow Christian and long-time attorney (pro bono) for several state and national church organizations, I am appalled at your church's blatant attempt to snuff out free speech rights for a fellow Christian and ex-congregant. The institutionalization of Jesus' teachings into religion with its intransigent dogma and dictatorial suppression of dissent, challenge, and even mere questions is one of the biggest perversions ever perpetrated on the human race. It makes me sad to say this, but I (at least sometimes) agree with my atheist friends who maintain that a world without any kind of organized religion might just be a better place. However, IF you are gonna call yourself by His name, then please act like you have the unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, grace, and mercy that was, for His time, the most revolutionary and radical message ever preached. It still is today, but unfortunately Christians rarely practice what they preach.”

“Inappropriate behavior, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:39, do follow what you preach, And this is why I dislike religion.”

“A church who sues someone for $500K for posting a review on Google is a church who knows not about turning the other cheek.”

I think the following comment may have been provoked by  our good friend Sergius who recently did a hilarious post, Tithe or Die, based on Steve Gaines' weird sermon on tithing. Link

“I went to Beaverton Grace Bible Church and my first born son died. Pretty good service all-in-all, but now I can't go to a chuck-e-cheese without looking really weird (I only go there for the atmosphere, and excellent service, duh). Definitely not worth it”

In light of this, does the pastor believe it is in the best interest of the church to continue? Is it really worth it? 
 

The Overuse of the Word “Slander” and “Defamation.”

As many of you know, we at TWW have had our share of critics. We have been called a whole bunch of names (Assyrian is one of my favorites). Instead of striking back or deleting the comments, we embrace them and have started a list of “What the World is Saying About the Wartburg Watch.” Link. (I  added Discernment Divas).

We believe that good humor is a more sensible way to respond to such attacks. We also take the example of Jesus who, when accused, did not respond with fire and brimstone but with questions, silence and love. We do, from time to time, employ cutting wit and hope that can be found somewhere…

Christians, throughout the millennia have been known for the alternative responses of love and grace. Today, they appear to adopt the values of our culture-marketing, money , anger and retribution. Do any of today’s leaders in churches and ministries have enough strength to truly “turn the other cheek?”

The words “slander” and “defamation” are being so overused by today’s churches and leaders that they are virtually devoid of meaning. True slander and defamation occur when people say things that they know to be not true.

For example:

  • If someone were to report that Billy Graham was transgendered, that would be blatantly untrue and truly slander and defamation. However, knowing Graham, he would probably laugh it off.
  • If someone were to say that Mark Driscoll’s pornovisions are creepy and raises questions about his sexual theology, they would not be guilty of slander.
  • If one to report that they believe that CJ Mahaney abused his position as SGM’s President, they would not be guilty of slander. It is simply an opinion.
  • If someone were to report that a church exhibits cultlike tendencies for overuse of church discipline for “questioning authority”, they are not guilty of slander.
  • Furthermore, for all the leaders who are living lifestyles that put them in the top 10% of income earners, I have news for you. It is not gossip for people to wonder about their pastor’s $550,000 house while he is giving sermon after sermon on raising money for a new building.

Some Christian leaders are so thin-skinned that they cannot take critique; gasping and moaning about their critics as if they are being abused on the level of the early Christians. Folks, this is simply not true. The last time I checked, the Coliseum is now in ruins.

Mac Brunson, of FBC Jacksonville, took to the newspapers to call a former member of his church a “sociopath.” He was then voted one of the creepiest people in Jacksonville by the local newspaper. Can you imagine how impressed the good people of Jacksonville would have been if he had said “You know, I get the criticism and I still love Tom Rich and can’t wait to tell him so.”

For all their chit chat about “masculinity,” many of these men act like thin-skinned wusses who can’t take it. Take it from a woman, woman up and turn the other cheek or, better yet, laugh about it and go on. Show the world that you are strong in your ability to tough it out by turning the other cheek, just like Jesus. Love on those who disagree with you. Hug them, invite them to lunch, and tell them how much Jesus loves them. Can you imagine what might happen? 

Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 44:1-45:12 1 Peter 1:1-12 Psalm 119:17-32 Proverbs 28:8-10

Comments

Pastor Chuck O’Neal, The Blogger, Phil Johnson and Overuse of “Slander” — 175 Comments

  1. So . . . 4/5 of the very long press release was Pastor O’Neal’s justification for a law suit and most of that was quoted from Calvin. Absurd! Did he actually send that release to the press at large? He expects pretty much if he thinks the world at large will understand his reasons. All they will see is a pastor (someone with power) seeking revenge against the little guy. What a way for Christians to show love.

    He needs a few lessons from Wade Burleson on how to interact with people.

  2. As a long time mediator (40+ years), sometime arbitrator (aka private judge), and for the last 12+ years an attorney:

    Suing is the path least likely to result in a good outcome in the public view of the plaintiff, particular if the plaintiff is corporate or large or viewed as an inappropriate entity for a plaintiff (pastor, church, non-profit). Mediation is the path most likely to result in a good outcome in the public opinion sphere.

    Second, as a mediator and as an attorney, I am of the opinion that I never hear the whole truth, but only snippets wrapped in misleading untruths. BTW, most attorneys will tell you that a quick way to lose a suit is to hide the truth from the attorney, and that most clients hide some part of the truth or have come to believe something that is not true.

    Third, as stated elsewhere on this blog since this whole thing blew up: slander or libel is very hard to prove and to win. First, you have to prove that the statement was factually false — not easy, and not merely an opinion. Second, you have to prove that the person KNEW it was false, or acted with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false — also not easy, requires getting into the head of the accused. Third, you have to prove that the statement was financially damaging to recover money — also hard to prove.

    So there are relatively few such suits and only a small percentage win.

  3. No idea about all the back and forth, but I decided to poke around their site a bit and found this.

    They have a long piece called “Doctrinal Statements” that is fairly boilerplate. More telling was their 5 point “Statement of Faith”. The first four points are about their “High View” of God, Scripture, Doctrine and Holiness. These first four points together have a total word count of 164, or an average of 41 words each point.

    Then there’s the fifth point, and let me tell you, it’s a doozie. All by itself it’s 128 words. I’d say that makes it a priority. Here’s what it says:

    “V. We Believe In Spiritual Authority.
    God Himself has established order in every area of our lives, and the church is no exception. God in Scripture has clearly given us the structure of authority for the church. Christ is the head of the church and He mediates His rule through the shepherding of godly elders (pastors) (5). These elders (pastors), having a high view of God and Scripture, being devoted to the preaching, teaching and practicing of sound doctrine, and being examples of personal holiness before the congregation, are responsible to lead the church. The Bible teaches that the congregation is accountable to the elders (pastors) and that the elders (pastors) are accountable to God. Therefore, all decision-making authority is vested in the elders (pastors), who shepherd the church (6).”

    As I said, I have no idea about all the back and forth allegations, but this part speaks volumes.

  4. Arce: We all would have welcomed mediation. We made every effort for mediation in the months after we all left. A pastor offered mediation and Chuck declined. By the time Grace Community was involved, the lawsuit was already filed. The whole thing is ridiculously sad. The one very positive thing about this is that God seems to be using this horrible situation to highlight the very difficult topic of spiritual abuse.

    But my heart aches every time I read a comment from someone on my blog or a private note that says: “this is exactly why I left the church.”

    I just got home and read a few e-mails from people reprimanding me and telling me to repent. Oh, the emotional yo-yo I am experiencing.

  5. RE: O’Neal’s press release? TL:DR.

    If they did indeed have a registered sex offender running loose in their church without appropriate safeguards, that should be easy enough to establish as a yea or nay. But, as Arce has said repeatedly, the onus is on O’Neal and his church to prove that Julie Anne (and the other co-defendants) have made false statements and made them with malice aforethought. A tall order, IMHO.

    Thanks to Phil for clarifying the situation from Grace Community’s standpoint. Hopefully the lack of support from Mohler’s church will weaken O’Neal’s resolve to see this through. The whole thing is only making him and his congregation look like the self-righteous hypocrites that many in the world consider all Christians to be. And that is truly sad.

  6. That statement was so long, boring, and completely off-topic in many areas.

    Julie Anne, I am so sorry for you and feel for the emotional yo-yo you’re experiencing. Stay strong.

  7. Bad Dog,

    The authority statement rightly reflects Chuck’s attitude. My husband worked with Chuck and was fired for not going along with the way Chuck sees things. Don, my husband, questioned Chuck for trying to control areas of the congregants life. Things like women needing to be silent in Bible study, who our kids courted/dated. Then how he was preaching with too much emphasis on the law to the diminishing of the Holy Spirits leading in a believers life. Many questions over time. People came to my husband with their own concerns. Don talked to Chuck about these things, like normal people would, and it all ended in an hours long meeting between Don, Chuck and the two church elders. He was told if he can’t repent of his criticisms he would have to go.

    There is more to the story and I would never expect people to just believe what I write. The proof is in how Chuck is handling himself now and even more so if one takes the time to listen to a few sermons. Legalism abounds…the signs are there, one just needs to look.

    Another interesting aspect to this story is all the people who have left the church. Many before we ever went-September 2006 -November 2008-and many after we left. This is a small church of around one hundred or so. When we were there, there were three elders, Chuck and two others. Well, one of the elders, who had been in the church over 15 years, as well as a group of other long time congregants, left around six months ago.

    Hyper-authoritarian leaders with no real accountability are extremely dangerous to themselves and others.

    We are praying God would have mercy on Chuck and humble him.

  8. Julie Anne,

    My sweet sister, if people are telling you that you need to repent, well, we ALL need to repent everyday, right? Let them know you are and move on. I have known you for years and can say I don’t know a person who is more honest and self examining than you. You are handling this unique situation with much grace and love.

    They don’t know what it was like to be in the twilight zone we were in. Hey, if we hadn’t lived it we wouldn’t believe it either!

  9. Michelle, your account sounds about right, and sadly, all too familiar. It’s almost as if this is a franchise which has been sold all over the country!

    In my opinion what you have in this lawsuit is the inescapable logical progression of the authoritarian mindset.

    An authoritarian is by definition unable to walk away from or tolerate a perceived challenge. Within the church they use a series of tools – exhortation, manipulation, intimidation, ridicule, and discipline – to assert and maintain control.

    If those should fail, they are obligated to rise to excommunicative discipline.

    But in this case, they were challenged by someone who they were unable to touch by those means (Julie Anne). And, as I said before, by their nature they are unable to walk away (which is why all the appeals and criticisms to turn the other cheek, etc. will fall on deaf ears).

    So, they “study the issue” and discover – lo and behold – it is totally appropriate to sue people who criticize you.

    As an aside, I am convinced that this is exactly the process by which “Bible-believing Christians” in a former era – including some heroes of the faith who are celebrated today – determined by “studying the Scripture” that it was “clearly Biblical” and in no way inconsistent with the NT and the love of Christ” to KILL PEOPLE who challenged their doctrine or authority.

  10. Excellent insights, Bad Dog.

    “As an aside, I am convinced that this is exactly the process by which “Bible-believing Christians” in a former era – including some heroes of the faith who are celebrated today – determined by “studying the Scripture” that it was “clearly Biblical” and in no way inconsistent with the NT and the love of Christ” to KILL PEOPLE who challenged their doctrine or authority.”

    We have heard from two sources that Chuck O’Neal said during a teaching time something to the effect that my husband was fortunate he didn’t find himself in a dumpster. Hmmm….sounds a little like murder in the heart to me. That is just my opinion! :)

  11. Julie Anne,

    When I told my story and started my refuge blog, those “repent” comments/emails really got to me. I would search my heart and take it to God. They start to bother you less and less. I got tons of criticism for lots of things, as do Dee & Deb. I followed their advice and made a “what people are saying about Mars Hill Refuge” and just try to laugh. People who have not been in these situations just don’t get it, and don’t realize that their finger wagging, condescending lectures just solidify the very points against legalism we are trying to make. Fight on!

  12. Do you all have any idea how many Chuck ONeal type wannabe Calvinist pastors SBTS is churning out? They are legion. In your face, young, brash, entitlement mentality, narcissistic and totally committed to the Calvinistic doctrine of elder rule and the pew sitters obeying their masters. It is frightening. Those of us who live at ground zero encounter them often.

    While I appreciate Johnson’s irenic position with you guys. He and his boss are still having CJ Mahaney, “Apostle” of the a shepherding cult, wuss and spiritual abuser extrodinaire speaking to young minds full of mush who happen to be impressionable pastors who hang on every word. If Johnny Mac thinks CJ is ok then he must be, right? That is how this stuff works. Shame on them.

  13. “As an aside, I am convinced that this is exactly the process by which “Bible-believing Christians” in a former era – including some heroes of the faith who are celebrated today – determined by “studying the Scripture” that it was “clearly Biblical” and in no way inconsistent with the NT and the love of Christ” to KILL PEOPLE who challenged their doctrine or authority.”

    This is exactly it. I am honestly amazed that people cannot connect the dots between Calvinism and the darkness from whence it came. You cannot seperate the man and his tyrannical behavior from what he taught as truth.

    I am even more amazed this doctrine has taken hold in the NC format in the land of the free. People want to be under these men’s hold…like non thinking zombies with no Holy Spirit? It just seems like all these legalistic religions are growing…Islam, Calvinism, Mormonism. It is shocking to me.

  14. “I just got home and read a few e-mails from people reprimanding me and telling me to repent. Oh, the emotional yo-yo I am experiencing.”

    Julie Ann, When you have time and after this mess is over, I really recommend John Immel’s book, Blight in the Vineyard. He addresses this very thing. Once you have really healed those screaming “repent” at you will only make you sad…..for them. You are smashing their idols (pastor, church, religion) and they don’t like it one bit.

  15. “…Phil was courteous and open with me. I even tweeked him by referring to myself as a “discernment diva.”(I couldn’t resist ☺) He didn’t bite and continued to address the situation at hand. Frankly, I was surprised by the open nature of our communication…”

    I wonder if his response would have been as amicable had you announced yourself as one of the Witches of Wartburg (in jest of course).

  16. Muff
    Or had I introduced myself as Dee, Mother Superior, the Philistine (I was called that once).

  17. Julie Anne
    Start your list “What the world is saying about Julie Anne.” Trust me, one day you will laugh over the names.In fact, we shall have a reunion with all our friends and we will share our lists and make a master list! And laugh and laugh…

  18. Debbie
    I bet you have a list of names you were called. Be sure to compile them. One day we shall have a party and read our lists and laugh so hard we will cry!

  19. I think God is using what O’neal intended for evil…for good. Julie Anne is doing a great job advocating against spiritual abuse and using her broader platform well. Glad to see the TWW Crew picking this up and getting so much response from Phil Johnson and Chuck O’neal. Great blogger journalism.

    As a Master’s College (John MacArthur) alum, I’m glad to hear Grace’s (MacArthur’s through his spokesman Phil J.) response. As one who has been advocating for reforms in the Calvary Chapel System and reporting on much of their abuse issues…I am watching this situation very closely. I’m a fighter (probably due to the intense physical and psychological abuse I endured growing up at the hands of a Calvary Chapel Pastor) and would love the opportunity that Julie Anne has.

    I think the lawsuit is a good thing to get at the truth and to shine a bright light on this pastor and this church. It is much easier to defend than to bring a case in these types of matters and it is much more newsworthy when a Pastor/Church sues an abuse victim which helps get the word out about the issue of spiritual abuse. The allegations of child abuse and molestation really concern me. It sounds like those issues were investigated already…I hope they were investigated thoroughly and if there is more info about those issues, I hope it comes out in the lawsuit.

    Julie Anne, stay strong, fight the good fight. If you are telling the truth, the truth is an absolute defense in a Defamation case.

  20. I don’t like my last comment; this is a difficult situation. I think Arce pointed out in his lawyer role, you actually NEVER know all the details; certainly not the hearts.

    Kudos to Deb and Dee for presenting the pastor’s side.

  21. I bet you have a list of names you were called. Be sure to compile them. One day we shall have a party and read our lists and laugh so hard we will cry!

    Oh yeah I do, along with a list of supposed motives for doing what I was doing. They are all what spurred me to keep going. I knew I had to be on the right track, I hit a nerve. :) Comparing would be interesting.

  22. “Stop this Train, Where The Light Is?”

    HowDee Ya All,

    …there’s a train a’ commin’?

    hum,  hum,hum…

    …♪♫♪ I hear dat train a comin’!
    It’s rolling round the bend,
    And I ain’t seen Biblical sunshine since I don’t know when,
    I’m stuck in dis “indispensable”, a proverbial church tyrannic prison, and time keeps draggin’ on!
    But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to Kan-tuck-ee?
    (or was it Texas?, with stories ragin’ wildly, I can hardly tell…)

    …♪♫♪ U see da sweet peper-proverbial JzMac a’ wavin’ as da train rolls down da tracks, “dis here attack is jus some loose blogger, swet’in at da jaw! “, “nothin ta worry bout, da’ll get what they deserve…huh?”(ah? can you believe it?)!”… in da mean time, put one more on da barby?, n’ pop anodder cold one for me…”

    hum, hum, hum…

    …♪♫♪ When I was just a baby, 
    My mama duin told me straight up,
    Son, Always be a good boy, 
    Don’t ever play with church Guru’s!
    They juz sue’d a blogger in California? just to watch um bleed…
    When I hear dat church bell a ringin’, I hang my head and cry…

    …♪♫♪ I bet there’s proverbial pastor folks, 
    A’roastin’ God’s lit’l child’rn in dat forward fancy dining carz,
    They’re probably drinkin’ cap-a-cheno’s and smoking real fat cigars. 
    Well them bloggers should of see it a’ commin’
    Ya know free speech can not be free…
    But those sad proverbial preacher people keep a movin’ and that’s what tortures me… 

    …♪♫♪ Well if they freed me from this ‘indispensable’ proverbial preacher’s prison, 
    If that railroad train was truly mine,
    I bet I’d move it on a little …farther, down the line!
    Far from dis here proverbial church prison tyranny, that’s where I’de wanna stay!
    And I’d let that lonesome whistle,
    blow my spiritual tyranny church blues away…

    (sigh)

    S㋡py
    ___
    Comic relief: Johnny Cash – “Folsom Prison Blues”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Ts4M3irWM&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    (lyrics below reflect parody adaptation, disclaimer: U.S. Title 17 infringement unintended)

    John Mayer – “Stop this Train, Where The Light Is”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQDxtzf-FDM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Bonus: Jeff Beck – “People Get Ready?”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omjS9QxZ-8w&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  23. From Chuck O’Neal’s press release: “Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church. He, his family, and the church were subsequently investigated by the authorities and the case was dismissed as unfounded.”

    Does anyone know any more about this? I’m not saying that this necessarily justifies the lawsuit, but it’s very serious if someone reported this to the police with little or no evidence. But I can’t assume anything because I just don’t know.

  24. All I need to know about Phil Johnson and MacArthur is that they endorse CJ Mahaney. Everything else is window dressing that covers the authority = truth gig.

  25. Julie Anne,

    I would like to write about what started this whole mess: the departure of the staff member in 2008. Obviously, folks don’t get stirred up to the degree they did over trivial events for a three-year period. Let me guess, the person wouldn’t play along with the transition that was going on. I would like to focus on what started all of this, and I think others should to. My email is pmd@inbox.com
    Thanks,
    paul

  26. I know this: the accusations fall in line with New Calvinist behavior. They only discipline concerning matters that threaten the infrastructure (people who question doctrine, don’t tithe, etc.), but look the other way on moral issues.

  27. So, are Calvinista churches going to add a new bullet point to their boilerplate belief statements?

    Something like: “We believe the Word of God instructs the elders and pastor of the church to sue those who after having been shunned speak out in a public forum.”

    Why they could even use the Beaverton press release to prove to the world that their belief is founded in the actual Word of God.

  28. Jeff B: I’ll respond to this:

    No one reported Chuck O’Neal for suspected sexual abuse.

    What DHS does on their own accord is their business.

  29. Honestly, you all should knock off this “Calvinista” jazz. I think O’Neal’s acting very foolishly, but when I read that sort of ignorant mocking, it makes me think the mocker is just as ignorant as O’Neal. If it’s bigotry to say that all black people love watermelon and play basketball, then it’s bigotry to smear Christians with Calvinistic doctrinal beliefs as mindless authoritarians. I’ve known, and read about, plenty of obnoxious, bullying Arminian preachers. Bill Gothard is no Calvinist; and the Presbyterian believers that know about this situation show no sympathy for O’Neal.

  30. Arce:

    I was trying to figure out the time line in your short bio. You have been an attorney for 14+ years? Is that correct?

    You say some good things in your post about defamation and libel.

  31. What you should question is the authoritarian tradition in the independent church movement, and its roots in both Charismatic apostle-leader doctrine as well as the “elder rule” movement that came out of Dallas Seminary during the 1980s and 1990s. It has nothing to do with Calvinism.

  32. I am not going to try and sort this one out.

    After reading the Pastor’s post (especially the part about the firing of a staff person and how this upset some people), it seems as though there are a lot of facts in issue here that need to be sorted out. I actually think that a lawsuit (putting this into the hands of a neutral court) might be a good thing. Put people under oath, get to the truth, find out if someone in the opposition group did lie to DHS etc., get the paper and computer records of everyone involved (this usually includes getting the hard drives of the computers) and see if defamation or libel is being spread etc.

    The other thing I would say is that even if a church is justified in bringing a lawsuit, it still might not be the wise thing to do.

    There is the perception problem, as we can see here.

    There is also the engergy problem. People come to a church because of the good the church does. If the energy of a church is wrapped up in fighting in court, there is less energy to be doing the good things.

    There is also the fact that the plaintiff, as well as the defendant, open themselves up to intrusive discovery.

    One time a man came to me. He had been libeled. He wanted to sue his accuser. The accuser was the kind of guy who thought he was right and would never give up, and was a bit unstable. I told the man who had come to me that if he filed a lawsuit, the accuser would be able to depose him, to get all of his records (paper and computer records), to investigate his life, and that would be so intrusive that he had better make sure the lawsuit was worth it.

    So the church and its staff, not just the defendants, will be the subject of discovery.

    If this has not already been done, the church should identify those things in the criticism that actually could constitute slander and ask the opponents to remove all of that material and apologize for putting it out there (this, of course, assumes that there is such material – but I seem to have read somethign about pedophiles in the nursery or someting), and that if they did that, the church would drop its lawsuit.

    Finally, if the church suit goes forward, it should reduce the ad damnum (the amount sued for) to only the costs it has incurred to defend itself plus $1.

  33. “It has nothing to do with Calvinism.”

    Jack, All one has to do is read about the historical Calvin and his influence in Geneva, the law of Calvin’s Geneva and those who were hunted down by magistrates for refusing to go along with the state church to see the tyrannical roots of Calvinism. You cannot separate the man from the religion he systemized. But many try to.

    Authoritarianism is in other groups and movements, I agree. But with Calvin it was systematized and is a bonafide “religion” that even uses his name to this day.

  34. Jack

    You said “then it’s bigotry to smear Christians with Calvinistic doctrinal beliefs as mindless authoritarians.” You also said “you all should knock off this “Calvinista” jazz.” Have you read our blog to know why we use the word “Calvinista? Calvinista does not equal Calvinist. We have no problem with those who adhere to Reformed doctrine. I would suggest you visit our “About us” section and read our definitions, then you might understand the issue better.

    As for “What you should question is the authoritarian tradition in the independent church movement, and its roots in both Charismatic apostle-leader doctrine as well as the “elder rule” movement that came out of Dallas Seminary during the 1980s and 1990s.” Have you not read our blog beyond this post? We have extensively covered other groups and will continue to do so. We are NOT a one giraffe circus although we are entertaining.

  35. Julie Anne, et al
    Julie Anne: Thank you for your response. “No one reported Chuck O’Neal for suspected sexual abuse. What DHS does on their own accord is their business.” I tried to convey that as tactfully as I could. I continue to stress that Child Protective,etc. must keep the identity of anyone who reports abuse strictly confidential. This is very serious business. If he thinks he knows who reported him, he did not get it from official sources so any stated identity is strictly conjecture.

  36. The “authoritarian tradition,” apostle-leader,”and “elder rule” concepts are not ONLY in “independent churches.” They are in many places. Calvinism won’t fix what’s broken either. There are concerns with Calvin’s ideas as well as with the conduct of the man himself. Scripture is a good place to look for correction, not the highly knowledgeable men, dead or alive.

  37. david
    I have often said that we ll must be careful when we “know” what a particular verse means. There is a resin for the thousands of denominations and theological perspectives. As I read Pastor O’Neal’s reasoning, I was impressed how quickly people can find verses and theologians to “support” their point of view. That is why I despise dueling with Bible verses.

    One day, I may do a post in which I defend an odd point of view, using only the Bible to argue it. The atheists have done that quite well with the simplistic arguments some Christian use to prove there is God. They invented the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” They take our supposedly “ironclad” apologetics to prove that such a being exists.

    It is the Spirit who eventually convicts the person.

  38. Anonymous
    As usual, you are a voice of reason. You said “if the church suit goes forward, it should reduce the ad damnum (the amount sued for) to only the costs it has incurred to defend itself plus $1.” That is why I would attend your church. I have a feeling that such thoughtfulness is not the case in this situation.

  39. “Honestly, you all should knock off this “Calvinista” jazz. I think O’Neal’s acting very foolishly, but when I read that sort of ignorant mocking, it makes me think the mocker is just as ignorant as O’Neal. ”

    Actually, O’Neal is strongly Calvinist. He highly respects John Mac, Phil, Steve Lawson, et al.

    I just read Paul Dohse’s post: http://paulspassingthoughts.com/2012/05/16/beaverton-scandal-is-just-more-new-calvinist-spiritual-tyranny/

    Wow – never made all of those connections before. Paul, lets talk.

  40. Bridget2
    You hit the nail on the head. “Calvinism won’t fix what’s broken either.” I hadn’t thought of it in that way before. That is what I love about our blogging community. You stretch me to think. Calvinism is just one more way to figure out and box in what Scripture “really says.” God is beyond our wildest imaginings and that causes us to try to nail Him down so that we contain Him. Yes, there are absolutes but I am with CS Lewis. There will be many,many surprised in heaven. (One thing I know, I will be reporting to Jesus and not bossed around Mahaney.-Pox on ESS)

  41. I have been a licensed attorney since November, 1999, having received the J.D. in May, 1999, and passed the bar, taken in July, 1999. Prior to that, I had worked in a number of careers that involved legal matters, including having worked on Congressional staff, managed environmental impact statement development, created and operated several businesses, founded a non-profit, performed professional analyses of the legal and political issues around emerging technologies, etc. I worked in a company that decontaminated PCB-containing high voltage equipment as the chief environmental, safety, government affairs, and administrative officer; while there I wrote a part of the federal law that modified the handling of some hazardous materials. For ten years prior to law school, I taught courses on environment and occupational health and safety regulatory compliance and did related consulting work with over 300 companies, and served as an expert witness.

    I have been a member of Baptist churches since age 9, and have been a Baptist deacon about half of the years I have been an adult.

    I have been a mediator at varying intensity for over 40 years. My education includes undergraduate study in the sciences (broadly) and mathematics, graduate study in social psychology, including conflict and conflict resolution, and a post-doctorate in mathematical psychology and social epistemology.

    As an attorney, I have worked with churches where there were issues of pastoral sexual misconduct, helped churches with reforms to governance structures, and helped churches and related organizations set up non-profit organizations that could carry out ministries and be eligible for grants from foundations, while still having church oversight.

    If you have any question that I have not answered, please ask Dee or Deb for my email address and I will be happy to correspond with you and send you a resume if you like.

  42. Arce and our readers

    Let me add my two cents about Arce. He has helped many, many people behind the scenes, as well as Tom Rich. I said it before, Arce, you were so helpful to Tom and that is before you got to know us better. Thank you so much.

  43. dee

    Yes, and then you should tell everyone your odd point of view is the “Word of God”. That way people will be scared to challenge it.

    I think it’s probably a logical fallacy when this tactic is used to win an argument but I don’t know which one.

  44. Anon said: People come to a church because of the good the church does. If the energy of a church is wrapped up in fighting in court, there is less energy to be doing the good things.

    Excellent point. Some of us who have left have noted that there has always been a fight of some kind or another going on. Read the Google posts, the website – the words very clearly convey “war” about battles, fighting, seize the hill, that kind of talk. It consumes so much energy.

  45. Julie Anne I have read your story and my heart aches at what my brothers and sisters in Christ have to go through. My prayers are you and your family that the Lord our Savior gets full glory out of this situation and true healing and restoration occurs. These situations I believe are coming out because the Lord Jesus knows our hearts and hears our prayers and will stand with the oppressed.

  46. Julie Anne said:

    “Some of us who have left have noted that there has always been a fight of some kind or another going on. Read the Google posts, the website – the words very clearly convey “war” about battles, fighting, seize the hill, that kind of talk. It consumes so much energy.”

    Allow me to sum it up in two words – Masculine Christianity.

  47. David

    My point of view is THE Authoritative, Biblical and Gospelific, Absolutist View out there. If you do not adhere to it, I cannot guarantee that you will escape the fires of hell.
    Mother Superior

  48. RE: dee on Wed, May 16 2012 at 11:26 pm:

    Philistine huh? The person who called you that probably has no idea what he or she said in an extra-Biblical sense. You and Deb are FAR from the philistine here at TWW. A blog that recognizes and tolerates diverse beliefs and viewpoints is anything but philistine.

  49. Yes, and then you should tell everyone your odd point of view is the “Word of God”. That way people will be scared to challenge it.

    I think it’s probably a logical fallacy when this tactic is used to win an argument but I don’t know which one. — David

    Probably some variant of “Appeal to Authority”…

    Appeal to Cosmic-level Authority?
    Appeal to Ultimate Authority?

    Either way, it’s real common among “Men of Sin” trying to justify whatever they wanted to do anyway.

  50. Since the topic of authoritarian leadership and spiritually abusive church systems has come up repeatedly in the last few posts, I thought it might be helpful to offer a summary of ground-breaking research that was done over 50 years ago on identifying organizational and personality “cults.” (These are not the same as theological cults that hold to heretical doctrinal beliefs, though the kinds may overlap.)

    That research was done by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton in the mid-1950s. He is a psychiatrist, and he interviewed and counseled former P.O.W.s from the Korean conflict and others who had survived imprisonment, “brainwashing,” and social coercion in Communist China. His case studies and analysis were first published in 1961 in *Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China.*

    Here’s my most recent draft of a one-paragraph summary for Dr. Lifton’s eight dynamics of authoritarian organizations, from their absolutist paradigm to the methods used to align people with that all-or-nothing set of principles and practices.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    *Ideological totalism* is about creating the perfect paradigm of absolute truth about what everyone should value, believe, feel, do, and contribute in every aspect of life. *Thought reform* is about methods for getting every person to embrace that paradigm and to emulate the gurus who already embody it. Because this ideological system is the one and only true way to live, and the answer to all questions, we need to have its premises present everywhere, all around us, so we are constantly reminded of its values and re-educated to its truths. Thus we present the truth and refute error, even if it means applying restrictions to all forms of communication and even to relationships. That is because it is our sacred duty to follow this paradigm with purity and to eliminate any and all impurities. This calling challenges us to rid ourselves of personal imperfections and impurities through confession and re-education. And, sometimes, we must even contain or rid our society of those who would hold back its progress to perfection through their questions, criticism, or lack of zeal. We denounce all doubts, we uphold the truth! Whatever it takes to realign doubters with the truth, or to remove them if they repeatedly refuse, we will do, because those who do not contribute, do not count. We undertake this all as our moral obligation to our beliefs, to our leaders, to our society, to ourselves.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    I find this quite chilling – especially since I have personally experienced these dynamics at work in new church plants, young churches, older churches in transition, and old churches/ministries with new leaders. I have also experienced it directly or seen its impact on friends in a wide range of denominations and theological configurations. No type of Christian organization or theology is immune to being hijacked by purveyors of authoritarianism (which is not the same as exercising leadership) or by a paradigm of absolutism (which is not the same as believing in absolute truth). And it appears that this legalistic “leaven of the Pharisees” has been weaving its way deeply into the warp and woof of the North American Church.

    And, granted, dysfunctional ways and means in ministries are not always what that summary paragraph suggests. Those represent the extremes. However, it does take intentional work to keep an organization and its leaders from going in that direction. But wouldn’t it be better to infuse energy into sustaining a healthy and balanced ministry than to lose energy to wasteful and damaging strategies, structures, and activities? Wouldn’t it be wiser to focus on prevention instead of intervention?

    And it does not appear that many seminaries, training programs, and ministry networks invest much into equipping church planters, pastors, and other kinds of ministry workers and leaders with what they need to design and develop safe places for God’s people. There is widespread evidence of doctrinal totalism and control tactics on the increase. So, unfortunately, as we’ve been seeing, the wake-up call sometimes takes the rather jolting form of floodlights shining brightly through the personal accounts of spiritual abuse survivors.

    My hunch, however, is that this defamation-lawsuit-gone-viral has permanently changed the landscape for leadership in the North American Church. I expect an increase in the online posting by survivors of malignant ministries, along with their account of events and impacts, and the documentation that goes with them. I hope the discussions will be as constructive as possible, and that exposure of what has hidden in the darkness will spark both consciousness and a conscience for healthy organizational change … for the sake of the Kingdom and all who follow Christ.

  51. “Some of us who have left have noted that there has always been a fight of some kind or another going on. Read the Google posts, the website – the words very clearly convey “war” about battles, fighting, seize the hill, that kind of talk. It consumes so much energy.” — Julie Ann, as cited by Eagle

    If these guys can only function in a Universe of Eternal War, why didn’t somebody turn them on to Warhammer 40K instead of The Four Spiritual Laws? Would have saved the rest of us a LOT of trouble.

    When I read, and heard about Chuck O’ Neal it reminded me of this. Maybe this is why masucline Christianity is also being taught as well. It goes along with a military culture. With the changing world culture, and the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the military maybe some are choosing to embrace a form of faith..a neo fundamentlaism so to say that is kind of like a baston with a siege mentality influenced by military values.

    Dee, Deb & Julie…does that make sense? — Eagle

    Yes, it does. Very reminiscent of a military about to launch a coup against a “corrupted” civilian government. When all outside of your fortress is THE ENEMY…

    Though I don’t think it’s because of mustered-out veterans trying to militarize their churches. Most vets who have “seen the elephant” don’t really want to bring that part back with them. (Some do, but it’s very rare. Vets who fit into the service that well — the Professionals — usually keep re-upping until death or mandatory retirement. And those Professionals I’ve encountered usually don’t have that attitude.)

    I think it’s more military/war fanboys who have never seen it for real trying to live their fantasy of what they THINK war and military is like. Kind of like a Buttery Doughy Driscoll screaming “KILL! KILL! KILL!” at the ringside seat of an MMA cage fight.

  52. Eagle, I understand where you are coming from on the military/authority thing. But after working with many career military consultants who were retired officers I have found they really understand REAL “teamwork” better than just about anyone and were insistent on seeking front line input into everything. Sometimes I think the American military gets a bad rap where this is concerned.

    Now, take your analogy and map it to Mahaney and Driscoll. What is their excuse since there is no military experience involved? Mahaney and Driscoll are big into male authority/masculine Christianity yet one giggles all the time and hides behind Dave Harvey, Al Mohler and Mark Dever and the other wears Mickey Mouse T-shirts, puca shell necklaces and verbally beats on his wife from the pulpit about sex. And Piper would fall over if you put an uzi in his hand since he is so tiny.

    I think it comes down to real men never have to tell you they are real men or go on about their authority or sell the concept masculine Christianity. They just are…real men.

  53. “I think it’s more military/war fanboys who have never seen it for real trying to live their fantasy of what they THINK war and military is like. Kind of like a Buttery Doughy Driscoll screaming “KILL! KILL! KILL!” at the ringside seat of an MMA cage fight.”

    Bingo! Think the Bayly Brothers and their marriage is WAR teaching.

  54. Chuck is a former Marine. It’s all adding up.

    and this . . .

    “All I need to know about Phil Johnson and MacArthur is that they endorse CJ Mahaney. Everything else is window dressing that covers the authority = truth gig.”

    See . . . what is up with turning a blind eye to the abused? How can Phil/JohnMac align themselves with CJ who has countless scores of abuse in his churches?

    It’s so weird being in the spotlight. Friends from our former Navy days from all over the world are contacting me through the blog/Facebook. One such friend I haven’t talked with in a long while told me the story of her situation at SGM church. I didn’t even know she was at an SGM church. This was a church where a known pedophile was PROTECTED, while the mom and children were shipped away like rubbish. JULIE ANNE IS ANGRY, PEOPLE!!! AND I’M A REDHEAD!

  55. Brad,
    Excellent! Thanks for the info on Lifton. undermuchgrace.com has a ton of info about Lifton’s research and how it maps to these movements/churches/groups as spiritual abuse.

    As if Lifton is not scary enough, check out the Milgram study and how people responded to perceieved authority figures.

    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2008/09/more-about-milgram.html

    This is why it is good to teach your children to think while youb teach them to “respect” authority but always test everything. To be Bereans. We have enough mindless followers in this country as it is!

  56. “JULIE ANNE IS ANGRY, PEOPLE!!! AND I’M A REDHEAD!”

    Julie Ann, Being against injustice and wolves who use God to control people for their own ego is good anger. Righteous anger. We warn people. Don’t let people tell you that is a sin. They want you to believe that but don’t.

  57. Jack, All one has to do is read about the historical Calvin and his influence in Geneva, the law of Calvin’s Geneva and those who were hunted down by magistrates for refusing to go along with the state church to see the tyrannical roots of Calvinism. You cannot separate the man from the religion he systemized. But many try to. — Anon1

    The more I hear about how Calvin ruled Geneva in the Name of God, the more he sounds like a Christian Ayatollah Khomeini or Mullah Omar. Even to the point of turning all the churches into plain whitewashed walls, the only “decoration” the calligraphy of Suras from the Koran — I mean Verses from the Bible.
    Jack: You said “then it’s bigotry to smear Christians with Calvinistic doctrinal beliefs as mindless authoritarians.” You also said “you all should knock off this “Calvinista” jazz.” Have you read our blog to know why we use the word “Calvinista?” Calvinista does not equal Calvinist. — Dee

    I have always assumed “Calvinista” means something like “Hyper-Calvinist” or “Drooling Calvin Fanboy”. My writing partner (a burned-out country preacher) has told me horror stories of young on-fire Hyper-Calvinists he has encountered. So into Utter Predestination that even God has become just another puppet, Willing only what He Hath Been Predestined to Will. And how this is oddly reassuring — no need to do anything except Bee-Leeeve, no need to think, just Let everything happen as It Has Been Predestined, Eh Kismet.

  58. My father was among those dubbed by Tom Brokaw as the finest generation. He flew a B-17 deep into Hitler’s Reich. His squadron’s mission was to destroy Germany’s synthetic fuel plants and thus deprive the Wehrmacht of its ability to wage war. The losses were horrendous, over 26,000 men perished in the air war over Germany. More than from the Navy & the Marine Corps. combined.

    As a veteran, Dad had no designs or ideological agenda (1950s) for Holy Communion Church (Lutheran), that venerable old neo-gothic structure well over a century old. Church was church, work was work, and kids were kids, end of story.

    I think what Eagle laments is barely 40 years old and the product of a resurgent fundamantalism. I think also that Headless Unicorn is right about the fanboys who have never seen horror up close and personal.

  59. “I have always assumed “Calvinista” means something like “Hyper-Calvinist” or “Drooling Calvin Fanboy”. My writing partner (a burned-out country preacher) has told me horror stories of young on-fire Hyper-Calvinists he has encountered. So into Utter Predestination that even God has become just another puppet, Willing only what He Hath Been Predestined to Will. And how this is oddly reassuring — no need to do anything except Bee-Leeeve, no need to think, just Let everything happen as It Has Been Predestined, Eh Kismet.”

    Headless, This is exactly what we are seeing in the YRR guys coming out of SBC seminaries and those planting Acts 29 churches. And yes, their “religion” only ends up making God NOT Sovereign over His own Sovereignty. ( I stole that from Arce)

    Thing is, they claim they are not hyper Calvinist. They also claim to be “elder-led” (when it is elder ruled. They claim they are preaching to totally depraved congregations (even while they insiste we must obey them…why? Aren’t they totally depraved too or does God like them more?)

  60. My father was among those dubbed by Tom Brokaw as the finest generation. He flew a B-17 deep into Hitler’s Reich. His squadron’s mission was to destroy Germany’s synthetic fuel plants and thus deprive the Wehrmacht of its ability to wage war. — Muff Potter

    Bloody Schweinfurt? Where General Galland massed all of Germany’s air-defense assets against them?

  61. “I think it’s more military/war fanboys who have never seen it for real trying to live their fantasy of what they THINK war and military is like. Kind of like a Buttery Doughy Driscoll screaming “KILL! KILL! KILL!” at the ringside seat of an MMA cage fight.”

    This has been linked in the comments here before, but it’s so good it bears repeating:
    http://theotherjournal.com/2011/06/28/the-confessions-of-a-cage-fighter-masculinity-misogyny-and-the-fear-of-losing-control/

  62. Eagle
    Now that is one fascinating comment. I think it would be illuminating to compare the military service of pastors/elders and authoritarianism. Is anybody at BARNA listening???

  63. HUG
    Why is it that authority is often linked to fear? Until recently, I had always looked at my pastors with a combination of love and respect.(Well, there was that short stint in Ed Young Jr’s church but that, I believed, was anomaly).Then I got an up front and personal view of retributive authoritarian pastors. I was shocked. I had never expected to see that. How short-sighted of me! But, i am a quick study and here i am today. TWW Axiom #10:If people fear their pastor then something is wrong.

  64. Brad
    I will be linking to your blog and Julie Anne’s momentarily. I am so impressed with the depth of your research. Wish I could afford you!

  65. Eagle,
    That makes sense. I believe that people who grow up in an authoritarian and an abusive environment have a tendency to gravitate to these type of churches also.

  66. Brad writes:

    “Since the topic of authoritarian leadership and spiritually abusive church systems has come up repeatedly in the last few posts, I thought it might be helpful to offer a summary of ground-breaking research that was done over 50 years ago on identifying organizational and personality “cults.”

    As I reflect on this topic based upon my personal experience, there is an important component that fundamentally contributes to this “spiritual abuse problem” and it has to do with the teaching that God ordains all things to happen, i.e. His sovereignty in good, bad and ugly things. I heard it in conferences, in class rooms, in Sunday sermons. These teachers, pastors definitely take it too far, to the extreme, to the detriment of their own faith and others’ faith. I do not hear enough of personal responsibility, consequences of one’s own sins… Extremism is the work of the flesh, a form of carnality. Perhaps my previous background with the Nazarene church (John Wesley) saves me from this trap and I got out of this crowd. I heard in a group meeting from the mouth of a pastor’s wife that one has to go thru humiliation in the church as a matter of fact, as a “God ordained thing” when from where I sat, it’s spiritual abuse of a member who did not know how to defend himself from the abusers. I was appalled by this incident and questioned if they took advantage of this marvelous doctrine of God’s sovereignty as justification for for their abusive actions. The saying goes like this: “if it happens, God ordains or allows it to happen.” and make the flock put up with their abuses. Those who follow this teaching also have to accept the abuses as from the hand of God and just put up and shut up!! Of course, the Devil wins big!

    I am not a theologian and do not get into theology; however, I see a negative and harmful trend with this kind of teaching among the undiscerning and the young in Christ. Is God the author of evil? and sin? and calamities? NO, NO, NO. but they make it look like God is, with this kind of extreme teaching.

    I believe in the goodness of God, as always. I want feedback from all of you. I need to learn more from everyone. Thanks.

  67. Julie Anne
    We have written so many posts about SGM that we were erroneously listed in some sources as an SGM blog! They just have so many examples of how to not to do church. I am adding your link to our blog role.

  68. Kelly

    You said “it has to do with the teaching that God ordains all things to happen.” That is try to a point. however, when it comes to us bloggers, they believe we are spawned from the pit of hell and somehow outside of the sovereignty of God. Funny how theology changes when it doesn’t benefit you. :)

  69. Julie Anne, thanks for your response, and dee, for your info about the anonymity of those who report child abuse. It would seem that O’Neal is assuming more than he knows or is simply lying.

  70. One more comment. A prominent preacher in a conference I attended said to the effect that if the church that you are attending does not teach the same doctrine (God’s sovereignty in all things, for God’s glory) then you “should get out of that church” and then he mentioned “as the Nazarene church” that’s when I jumped inside.

    I guess unless one buys their teaching lock, stock and barrel, one is not one of them and perhaps “not saved”. I decided to be NOT one of them because I smelled something fishy.

  71. Dee, I think it’s God’s gracious will that you and Deb have this blog to help many people and expose the works of darkness in our churches. I thank my God for you.

    We can’t let harmful things happen and do nothing. I am new to this blog but I already see the benefits of TWW to the Christian community. Your reward may be big in heaven.

  72. Dee … thanks for the encouragement. Processing such dark stuff is not really fun or financial, but it is profitable as a spiritual investment in creating safer places and spaces for Christian discipleship. And we are called on – required, in fact – to steward the gifts and opportunities God gives us. I certainly did not want the “gift” of experiencing five different kinds of spiritually abusive churches and ministries, but okay, now that my mystery basket of ingredient’s been opened and unwrapped, what can I do to re-purpose them into something redemptive and life-giving? (Yup, a fan of *Chopped*!)

    Meanwhile, picking up on Eagle’s comment and the follow-up thoughts from others, even if we’re well versed in Scripture, I don’t think we can understand the specifics of the WHY and HOW for authoritarian strategies and structures and their construction unless we understand paradigms (which are far more than just theological beliefs) and how they are put together. So, Eagle’s comment on military service, Christian leadership models, and authoritarianism easily ties right back in with Lifton’s analysis what lies underneath totalitarianism and “thought reform,” because it’s about absolutistic paradigms and getting people to live by them.

    Authoritarianism relies on absolutistic, black-and-white thinking that requires instant, full, and ongoing obedience. Some of that way of thinking [i.e., information processing style or, to put it technically, *epistemology*] matches with military service as a profession. Military conflict basically demands that sort of thinking; if you don’t stay in line and obey orders, you put yourself, your unit/”congregation”, and your mission at risk.

    However, peace-making has a whole different paradigm that involves not just analysis for this-or-that action, but considering options, and emotions, and relationships, and cultural expectations, and God’s providence and timing, and human foibles and logical fallacies … and attempts to optimize for the best human and humane results to complex situations.

    One thrives in an atmosphere of conflict, control, and, often, quick decisions. The other thrives in an atmosphere of complex interdependence, influence, and slow-growth. For better or for worse, the reality is that the epistemology at the core of a church’s paradigm conditions the entire environment in which discipleship takes place. Which *should* be the dominant paradigm of the future? Which will we choose …?

  73. P.S. No demeaning of military intended. As I noted, what is needed in wartime is not the same as in times of peace-making and peace. But how much of dominion theology, and denominational “influencing,” and toxic church/celebrity denial involves a defensive, militaristic stance? If we have the option to choose, why are some opting for antagonism and defensiveness instead of a Kingdom Marshall Plan of constructive discipleship and development?

  74. Kelly,

    I really liked your comment @ 2:23:

    “As I reflect on this topic based upon my personal experience, there is an important component that fundamentally contributes to this “spiritual abuse problem” and it has to do with the teaching that God ordains all things to happen, i.e. His sovereignty in good, bad and ugly things.”

    Since God is our starting point in all things, how we see Him really, really matters. I think that everything we become is outworked from our understanding of Him. Well, okay, an absolute like that might not stand up to scrutiny, but A.W. Tozer said much the same thing:

    “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

    (p.s. I also grew up in a Nazarene church so all of this calvinista stuff is like science fiction to me. Sigh.)

  75. Kelly
    All I want in heaven is to enjoy Jesus and many of my brothers and sisters that I have met on this blog. That is my fringe benefit!

  76. From my in-depth reading and personal experience with WWII vets who were in the same zones, some actively in combat and others in supply or other units somewhat to the rear of the actual fighting:

    The gung ho vets tend to be those who were to the rear of actual fighting. The guys who were consistently shooting or being shot at tend not to be as gung ho, and generally prefer to forget the whole thing. They are also less likely to be authoritarian in their relationships than the guys to in the units of the rear.

    There has been a lot of study of authoritarianism and the military by psychologists and social psychologists in the decade or so after WWII. I had a professor in grad school who had fled Germany to escape the final solution and who discounted any research that did not look at how people could have come to support Hitler and his final solution, or was not otherwise looking at authoritarianism.

  77. Kelly
    “I guess unless one buys their teaching lock, stock and barrel, one is not one of them and perhaps “not saved”. Bingo-that is why they often preface all they say by the word “biblical” or “gospel.” It means if you disagree with them, you are outside the kingdom but they would deny it vigorously.

  78. The Super Calvinistas all misunderstand sovereignty. Sovereignty is the authority or power to carry out your plan or your will. In the case of God, it is omnipotence. However, there is nothing about being sovereign that requires that one execute the plan or carry out actions to accomplish one’s will. What the Calvinistas downplay are the other attributes of God, including one mentioned a lot in the NT, His love for us, a love sufficient to send Jesus to the cross to redeem us. So out of His love, He has withheld His sovereignty to make us robots, so that we have the ability to choose to accept His gift of love, Grace, by believing in that gift in the person of Jesus. We are thereby adopted as His children and loved and lovingly corrected, and not struck down.

    I believe that God has a plan that includes all the choices we may make and how He will respond to each and every possibility to guide us toward Him. But some of those choices are harmful to others and represent a rejection of the entirety of the gift of grace. Thus the harm to innocents is not God’s will but the result of the rejection of His love for us.

  79. Arce:

    There does seem to be an inordinate emphasis on power instead of empowerment at work in the Calvinista mentality. Here’s an interesting quote on omnipotence from Lifton’s conclusions on authoritarianism:

    “What is the source of ideological totalism? How do these extremist emotional patterns originate? These questions raise the most crucial and the most difficult of human problems. Behind ideological totalism lies the ever-present human quest for the omnipotent guide – for the supernatural force, political party, philosophical ideas, great leader, or precise science – that will bring ultimate solidarity to all men and eliminate the terror of death and nothingness.”

    [*Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China* by Robert Jay Lifton, page 436.]

    It’s one thing to want to make an impact with our lives. I believe that’s simply part of how God designed us. But to do so at the spiritual expense of others and in keeping them enslaved to immaturity because the leaders have all the power to make decisions? Not right or righteous … but then, the pedagogue in ancient times was responsible for overseeing the pre-adult sons in the household and for making the decisions. In Romans, Paul tells us that system is the essence of legalism; but we’ve been set free to discern and decide (and be responsible and accountable!) for our choices as adults.

    If controlling, legalistic leaders want everything to run perfectly, isn’t their coercion actually creating the very thing they fear – – a false system that looks good but actually is evil?

    Thankfully, perfect/mature love casts out fear …

  80. Eagle …

    I’m with you on the not being critical about the military, or disrespectful of their service. I was more trying to look at what goes on underneath a *militaristic mindset* in a Christian/church/denominational/theological context, because that seems to dominate so much of the make-over/take-over mentality going on these days … make-over the organization in the leaders own image or take-over the organization to enforce the leader’s doctrinal dictates.

    And what Arce noted on the attitude of those more in the rear of the battle zone was intriguing … need to think about that more …

    Meanwhile, even just yesterday I was in a conversation about how in the New Testament, many of the spiritual illustrations and applications are drawn from a society in which four of the main occupations were: soldiers, farmers, athletes, and servants/slaves. And how often did Jesus have soldiers who approached Him with questions and situations, and how did He respond to them? With … uhh … Christlikeness!

  81. Kelly –

    You’re correct that God is not the author of evil and sin, but He is the author of calamities, either directly (e.g. the Noahic flood), or indirectly by allowing man’s sin to come to “fruition” (e.g. the Holocaust). Because God is good, we have faith that there are ultimately good reasons for catastrophic events, though it might be unimaginable to us what they might be. That is why, for instance, it is wrong to tell the parents who have just lost their child that they should rejoice because God ultimately has a good reason for it. That would be “beyond our pay grade,” so to speak. Also, incredibly insensitive. Maybe, after a long period of time, they may begin to accept this by faith. Maybe.

    That pastor’s wife who said that “one has to go thru humiliation in the church as a matter of fact, as a ‘God ordained thing'”, is playing God. Let’s say her husband taught false doctrine and was publicly exposed for it. You could with equal justification (none) say that all of that HAD to happen. Only God knows what HAS to happen. But we do know that nothing happens “behind His back,” or when He is “distracted” by other things.

    You wrote: “A prominent preacher in a conference I attended said to the effect that if the church that you are attending does not teach the same doctrine (God’s sovereignty in all things, for God’s glory) then you ‘should get out of that church’ and then he mentioned ‘as the Nazarene church’ that’s when I jumped inside.”

    I would agree with him as far as God’s sovereignty and glory are concerned. These are not exactly radical ideas, and I don’t see how they can be seen as unbiblical. But, as with anything that’s true, these ideas can be abused, and used for abusive ends. That’s a different matter.

    As for the Nazarene church, I withhold any opinion out of ignorance.

  82. Brad,

    I fully agree. They prefer that the pew-sitters be automatons who regurgitate whatever the leaders have said as if it is programmed in and replaying at the touch of whatever button. An old Baptist idea is soul competency and soul freedom. That is that all persons have the freedom and capability to accept or reject the grace gift God has offered. That creeps into our politics and the enlightenment idea of freedom of conscience, which in a church context, means that we each have to decide on matters like church structure and organization, and where we will attend, for ourselves, except to the extent we CHOOSE to consult the Holy Spirit in prayer before deciding.

    I have often written, and now, btw, scientific research confirms, that a group (of Christians), working together on any problem or issue (if Christians, praying and led by the Holy Spirit) will make better decisions, over time, than will any individual. BTW, the NT idea that we are all priests also supports the idea of congregational polity — all of us equal and using the minds that God gave us to carry out the Commission he gave to all of us equally. And taking Jesus’ teaching not to be “lording” it over other disciples into account, these authoritarian pastors seem not to be followers of his teaching!

  83. I do not believe that God is the author of calamities. Things like earthquakes are the natural result of a living planet which reproduces through tectonics and volcanism the soil and other conditions necessary for life. Similarly, storms are necessary for return of fresh water to the surface of the earth. God created the laws of physics, chemistry and biology that underlie all of these things. To assume that events reflect choices God made to harm people is presumptuous and makes God into something I cannot worship, except out of fear. Because of man’s messing in the environment, we are experiencing more quakes and bigger storms, with consequent damage, but that is not to be put at the feet of God but of mankind, particularly Western industrial society.

  84. Arce,

    As I’m working on this post about Lifton’s eight criteria for identifying cults, I’m also working to identify “anti-dotes” that will counteract the overly absolutistic thinking and the mind-numbing conformity. So far, my list includes: individual and corporate discernment, self-determination/soul competency, priesthood of all believers, holistic transformation ministry (addressing mind, emotions, imagination, and will ~ so it doesn’t turn out to be “gnostic”), integrative and interdisciplinary teamwork, learning communities, design for creativity, sustainable organizational structures.

    We were made for far more than the legalistic strictures and strychnine of Celebrity Calvinistadom will ever be able to offer … and no one else but we ourselves is ultimately responsible if we don’t steward wisely and well the spiritual gifts, skills, and opportunities that Christ as the true Head of the Church has implanted in each of us.

  85. Julie Anne,
    Of course, the gang at GCC could say that SGM is a huge orginazion and CJ can’t be responsible for all that goes on, but then there is this:

    Transcript of Phone Conversation between C.J., [Mahaney] Doris and Larry Tomczak on October 3, 1997 [pp. 10-11]

    CJ:
    Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I. [now SGM].

    Larry:
    C.J., I‘m not in sync with any of the T.U.L.I.P., so whether you agree or not, doctrine is one of the major reasons I believe it is God‘s will to leave P.D.I. and it does need to be included in any statement put forth.

    C.J:
    If you do that, then it will be necessary for us to give a more detailed explanation of your sins.

    Larry:
    Justin‘s name has been floated out there when there‘s statements like “revealing more details about my sin.” What are you getting at?

    C.J:
    Justin‘s name isn‘t just “floated out there” – I‘m stating it!

    Larry:
    C.J. how can you do that after you encouraged Justin to confess everything; get it all out. Then when he did, you reassured him, “You have my word, it will never leave this room. Even our wives won‘t be told.” I repeatedly reassured him: “C.J. is a man of his word. You needn‘t worry.” Now you‘re talking of publically sharing the sins of his youth?!

    C.J:
    My statement was made in the context of that evening. If I knew then what you were going to do, I would have re-evaluated what I communicated.

    Doris:
    C.J., are you aware that you are blackmailing Larry? You‘ll make no mention of Justin‘s sins, which he confessed and was forgiven of months ago, if Larry agrees with your statement, but you feel you have to warn the folks and go national with Justin‘s sins if Larry pushes the doctrinal button? C.J., you are blackmailing Larry to say what you want!

    Shame on you, C.J.! As a man of God and a father, shame on you!
    This will send shock waves throughout the teens in P.D.I. and make many pastor’s teens vow, “I‘ll never confess my secret sins to C.J. or any of the team, seeing that they‘ll go public with my sins if my dad doesn‘t toe the line.”

    C.J., you will reap whatever judgment you make on Justin. You have a young son coming up. Another reason for my personally wanting to leave P.D.I. and never come back is this ungodly tactic of resorting to blackmail and intimidation of people!

    C.J:
    I can‘t speak for the team, but I want them to witness this. We‘ll arrange a conference call next week with the team.

    Doris:
    I want Justin to be part of that call. It‘s his life that‘s at stake.‖

    CJ:
    Fine.

    C.J. never spoke with us [Larry and Doris] again. He was not a participant in the critical phone meetings that followed

  86. Eagle,

    After the debacles of of non-discernment with the “Lakeland Outpouring,” I wrote a blog series. It started of with a post that gave my understanding of skills involved in the kind of Bein’ a Berean discernment that you’re talking about. Perhaps that would be of help to others:

    http://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/kingdom-leadership-after-lakeland-part-1-discernment-and-the-costly-descent-into-darkness/

    Besides that post, I wrote a tutorial on interpretation that includes the ideas that interpretation is an ongoing process of constant recalibration, and gives three different approaches to communal discernment, drawn from tribal cultures. It was part of a series on observation, analysis, and interpretation:

    http://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/taxonomies-of-emergence-part-5-tutorial-on-interpretation/

  87. Warrior princess? Mayhap. I also see Dee & Deb as Deborah and Jael in the Book of Judges.

  88. As a military veteran, (6 years), I would urge some caution that we don’t too quickly attribute to military experience what is more probably due to one’s own misreading of Scripture and poor modeling on the part of mentoring church leadership.

    Leadership principles, at least the ones emphasized to me in the leadership schools I was sent to, actually greatly emphasized leading with integrity, gaining trust, and being careful to put the needs of those you were in authority over before your own. Anecdotally, I have exerienced much more authoritarianism with malice in the church, from pastoral leadership with no military experience, than I ever did while in the military.

    I am not a combat veteran, but I served as an elder in a church for many years with a gentleman who was a platoon commander in Viet Nam–he was the least authoritarian by nature of any man I served with in that position. Military experience does not pre-condition one to being authoritarian–in fact, in my case, and perhaps many others, it may predispose one to recognize and reject it rather than blindly embrace it.

    Thanks for letting me share,

  89. “Now that is one fascinating comment. I think it would be illuminating to compare the military service of pastors/elders and authoritarianism.”

    You may be aware that Kip McKean, of the Boston Movement/ICOC and now International Christian Churches, is the son of a Navy admiral.

  90. One of the reasons they did not like me because I am a thinker and I make judgment on what I see and listen. They tend to like robots, automatons. That said, I was naive and gullible too, as in the past, but I learned my lesson and I do pray to the Lord and the Holy Spirit guides me into the truth and tells me to get out…

    Christianity is exclusive in the sense that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation but it is inclusive in the sense that all who belong to Jesus by spiritual birth are in God’s family. Denominations are the product of fallen men, not God.

    Exclusivity, as practiced in many denominations or exclusive clubs or groups, comes from pride with the mentality “only I get it right, only my group is better or the best; so, join us if you think and believe like us; if not, get out or be persecuted.” I think this exclusivity is the flesh and not of God.

  91. Rick
    I really appreciated your comments on the military. Both of us had dads who served in the military and my husband’s dad lost an eye on the Battle of the Bulge when he was barely old enough to join. I honor you for your service to this country and thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    I think many of us are perplexed about the hyper authoritarian junkies that seem to be invading today’s churches. Where in the world are the coming from? I am beginning to think they are being spawned in the hot beds of patriarchy that are found in today’s seminaries, especially SBTS and a few others.

  92. Again, I speak from personal experience – Deb mentions the “hyper authoritarians”, I do not normally use this word but I do know in reality what they are like.

    When they talk about “unity and diversity”, don’t you believe it. They want uniformity under a dictatorship, they may call it church leadership, elder-governed church or whatever, where they have all the say and the flock diligently follow, marching to the same and boring drumbeat. If any raises his voice, that sheep will be black listed. I am not convinced there is true unity even in their own ranks and diversity is a dead word. Uniformity is the goal so that they can “lord” it over the flock.

    I will write more about my take on “sovereignty” after dinner tonight, after much thinking on this subject.

  93. “I was a major fool over some of this material.”

    Eagle, I know what you mean. I got sucked in for a while but it was mainly about making money and hanging with the celebs. I started thinking that because the Reformed were always talking about the Sovereignty of God they would not be authoritarian like the seeker celebs were (but hid it better). Boy was I wrong. They are worse.

    But because I had certain things taught to me as a child, I had serious reservations about all of the authoritarianism and later a lot of the teaching of easy believism from the seekers and this dark despair of NC. I was taught from early on to be a Berean, that we are all priests in the priesthood if saved and that we stand alone before God. (soul competency). Growing up, the pastors I knew were just another priest in the priesthood and we knew him and his family well. We were at each others houses all the time. They were not “set apart” as some special class as so many are today in these business orgs we call churches.

    As kids we had respect for people but we were taught to never blindly follow anyone. I witnessed my parents having irenic disagreements with pastors, etc all the time. Iron sharpens iron. It was just not a deal breaker and the pastors did not expect allegiance to them. We were taught that favoritism was sin.

    All these things were lived out as normal fellowship in the Body. And I was raised SBC. Things have changed drastically in the last 30 or so years. Now the SBC has their own pope and a ton of little wolves coming out of seminary who want to lord it over others.

    What we teach and model for our children is so important in this respect. I shudder to think where I would have ended up in a spiritual sense had it not been for that foundation.

  94. Dee, thank you for your kind words; I so appreciate what you and Deb offer the Body Christ here. I read much here–though I have never commented before, but I feel at home and understood here, and am very grateful for the variety of perspectives you’ve made welcome. I love your fearlessness–it reminds me of Jesus.

  95. So an honest question about the term “slander.” It’s my understanding that under American law, slander has to be demonstrably false (i.e., personal opinions don’t count). Does this line up with the New Testament Greek word for “slander” (if there is such a word)? I notice that none of these people who scream “SLANDER!” as soon as someone criticizes them ever go back to the Greek to support their claim, which makes me very suspicious.

  96. Eagle – I think you’ve hit on some important points re. some folks who come from the military (though certainly not all, as you’ve made clear).

    When I lived in the D.C. area, I met some really wonderful and admirable people who were either in the military or else wee retired from military service.

    That said… I also noticed that there were some “fringe” elements locally; people who were enlisted (mostly Marines) who had a strange, hyper-militaristic attitude about them. One of them was a guy who lived in the same apartment building as me during the mid-80s. He was soft-spoken and polite around me (in fact, he always called me “Ma’am”), but… he had a four year-old son whom he harangued for being a “sissy” and whom he once used *as the ball* during a game of water volleyball in the complex’s pool. (I didn’t see that personally, but some friends who were visiting did…) I have NO idea how this man treated his wife, but just thinking about that gives me the creeps.

    I have also known some folks – Vietnam vets – who were pretty messed-up and who were quick to humiliate people who were “under” them. In one case, it was a math teacher (ex-Marine) who made a friend of mine – a very bright boy – sit in a trash can as “punishment” for … I don’t remember what he did wrong, but knowing that boy, I think it was because he was smarter than the teacher in question. This man humiliated me (and others) publicly, referring to as as “sissies” and worse *if we messed up on answers to math problems.* (He was married and had two little girls – again, I shudder to think of what went on with them – and their mom – at home.)

    I really *do* think there are some unbalanced people who achieve fairly high ranks in the military (Patton, anyone?!) Mikey Weinstein has researched and written about this in great detail, partly due to the literal persecution that both he and, later, his son have suffered at the hands of so-called “Christians” at the USAF academy. His website is a gold mine of info. (And pretty scary, too.)

    Investigative reporter Jeff Sharlet has also written about Dominionists (many of them high-ranking) serving in Iraq – for Harper’s Magazine. I have a PDF copy of the article which I would be happy to send to Dee – also to Eagle directly, if he would like to exchange email addresses with me. It’s an alarming piece and – given some of the folks I was around in the D.C. area (civilian Dominionists), all too believable.

    Eagle, I’ll shoot Dee an email so that she can help us exchange email addresses…

  97. One other thought: I know that military-style chain of command “theology” (for lack of a better word!) was taught in many evangelical and charismatic churches back in the 1970s… in fact, either Time or Newsweek did an article on it, which is how I found out about it firsthand.

    It *could* be that this was some kind of Gothardite thing, though I suspect it was adapted by others and presented as their own idea.

    In any case, it was hyper-authoritarian and very harsh toward women and children.

  98. Brad said: “No type of Christian organization or theology is immune to being hijacked by purveyors of authoritarianism (which is not the same as exercising leadership) or by a paradigm of absolutism (which is not the same as believing in absolute truth).”

    This is exactly what we’ve seen happen in our church over the last dozen years. Two decades ago, the pastoral staff, support staff and elders came from many different colleges and seminaries, and the variety of backgrounds resulted in wise, gracious and Christ-honoring teaching and governance. Today every single one of them hail from a single college and a single seminary – well known Calvinist strongholds. Absolutism crept in on little cat’s paws, and we were too busy working, raising a family and doing ministry to take notice until it was too late. Our cautions to our fellow churchmen have been received with a condescending “Thank you for sharing.” We haven’t been tossed out – yet – but we aren’t warmly greeted anymore, either. Makes me want to shout, “Dude, someone stole my church!”

  99. Anon1 said: “I think it comes down to real men never have to tell you they are real men or go on about their authority or sell the concept masculine Christianity. They just are…real men.”

    SO true!!! Good posting!

    Arce said: “What the Calvinistas downplay are the other attributes of God, including one mentioned a lot in the NT, His love for us, a love sufficient to send Jesus to the cross to redeem us. So out of His love, He has withheld His sovereignty to make us robots, so that we have the ability to choose to accept His gift of love, Grace, by believing in that gift in the person of Jesus. We are thereby adopted as His children and loved and lovingly corrected, and not struck down.”

    This is so good, Arce – thanks!!

  100. When I first read that transcript of CJ & Larry & Doris’s phone call last year, it gave me the chills.
    It still does.

  101. “…Slander cannot destroy an honest man – when the flood recedes the rock is there…” – Chinese Proverb –

    Next thing ya’ know TWW’s detractors will say that TWW is teaching Confucianism.

  102. Julie Anne, I’ve been reading some on your blog. You are doing a good work over there. May the Lord bless, guide and protect you and your family.

  103. Julie Anne –

    Doris is not a redhead . . . she is a woman who knows what doing good and being upright is :)

  104. As I reflect on this topic based upon my personal experience, there is an important component that fundamentally contributes to this “spiritual abuse problem” and it has to do with the teaching that God ordains all things to happen, i.e. His sovereignty in good, bad and ugly things. — Kelly

    IN’SHAL’LAH…

    Headless, This is exactly what we are seeing in the YRR guys coming out of SBC seminaries and those planting Acts 29 churches. And yes, their “religion” only ends up making God NOT Sovereign over His own Sovereignty. ( I stole that from Arce) — Anon1

    It’s the YOUNG part of YRR that I wonder about. Just like Komsomol, Chairman Mao’s Red Guard, or those Iranian Students from the Seventies (“AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI! AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI!”), young and starry-eyed for The Cause. Will do ANYTHING for The Cause.

    “Look at you — Changing the Face of Europe!”
    Holocaust (miniseries – Babi Yar scene)

    When they talk about “unity and diversity”, don’t you believe it. They want uniformity under a dictatorship, they may call it church leadership, elder-governed church or whatever, where they have all the say and the flock diligently follow, marching to the same and boring drumbeat. — Kelly

    Just like the “People’s Republic of Tyranny” entry at T.V.Tropes:

    The more adjectives about “Freedom”, “People”, and “Democracy” in a country’s official name, the nastier a dictatorship that country is.

    The Unity and Diversity and Freedom of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — you know it as North Korea.

    Arce said: “What the Calvinistas downplay are the other attributes of God, including one mentioned a lot in the NT, His love for us, a love sufficient to send Jesus to the cross to redeem us. So out of His love, He has withheld His sovereignty to make us robots, so that we have the ability to choose to accept His gift of love… — Arce, cited by Ellie

    Doesn’t Islam also downplay the other attributes of God in favor of Omnipotence and Soverignity? According to Christian Monist, that results in “A God who is Omnipotent but NOT Benevolent.” What I call “God as Cosmic Kim Jong-Il”.

  105. @eagle.

    the guy in california wears non-designer camo. has 13 different styles (at least) of camo cargo pants – three for each season, plus liturgical for Lent. don’t ask.

    spiritually refreshing to find people who challenge my thinking, challenge me to be more careful, challenge me to be more compassionate – without demanding conformation or confirmation, for that matter.

    like you said, this rocks.

    tototally.

    just sayin’ …

  106. Hester
    You’ve got it! Just like the words “gospel” and “biblical” they define it the way they want.

  107. Bridget: Doris seems like a very strong person. I’d love to meet her. I can’t imagine going through that. When things happen to your babies (no matter what age), watch out!

    Eagle said: “Do others wonder that? Why would he gamble all that?”

    Because he’s a fighter. He will fight to the end.

  108. “Here’s something I don’t get…

    Does this guy realize that he’s probbaly going to lose, and lose big? Like in lose his job, church, house, etc… Why would someone gamble all that? How is he going to support his family? What will he do when other people stop attending and tithing? Does he realize that people from Beaverton all the way to New Zealand now know who is, and what he did?

    Do others wonder that? Why would he gamble all that?”

    Because he knew he was right.

    Trollop wrote a novel about it in 1869.

  109. “What I call “God as Cosmic Kim Jong-Il”.

    NT Wright calls it the “Spy in the Sky God”

  110. “AND it astonishes me to the fact that here I am in the Washington, D.C. area and I’m chatting with two lovely ladies who wear designer clothes as they blog and can then dialogue with someone in Indiana, California, Washington, etc… AND what gets me is that there are are people here who can relate, understand, etc.. So when I talk about my church experiences, drinking the John Piper kool-aide, Crusade, Third Wave, Reformed, etc… there are many people here who can relate. They know my thought process, and they (wherever they are sitting in this awesome country) can nod at their computer screens in agreement.

    How awesome is that? ”

    And we love your agnostic self. You are clever, funny and don’t get mad, okay? But you sound more Christian than most of the blind followers who could care less about the wounded around them but love their cult of personality.

    Ever asked yourself why you love justice and care about the unjust treatment of others? I am thinking of CS Lewis type questions here.

    All I know is that if I were going into an unfriendly zone, I would rather have you next to me than any YRR guy.

  111. I one time described my self to a law school (looking for how an old white guy could contribute to diversity in the school — I was the oldest in the class, only one with a Ph.D., and one of few with any practical experience, only one with teenage children and still married to their mother, but hey). So I said: “I am a Christian, Baptist (formerly Southern) deacon, intellectual, who has taught ethics and statistics to graduate students, reads and understands science, including nuclear chemistry, geology, paleontology, etc., and has been a student of the Bill of Rights and an advocate of church-state separation since the 7th grade (ca. 1958) and who studies Supreme Court decisions on church-state for fun. If you have another applicant like me, please send him my contact information so we can get together, otherwise, I think I am about as diverse as I can be.

  112. So, I have studied churches, and I can readily say, that claiming to be Baptist and having an authoritarian rule in the church is a contradiction in terms and the church should give up the Baptist moniker or change its polity.

  113. Arce –

    God’s creation was perfect, but mankind’s fall into sin caused His creation to fall also (Rom. 8:19-22). Natural disasters are one result of this. Yes, some are due to man’s poor stewardship of the environment, but God still is ultimately responsible for them because He allows them to happen. Possibly He does not allow some of them to occur. We certainly know that He is capable of thwarting them.

    “The One forming light and creating darkness,
    Causing well-being and creating calamity;
    I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:7)

  114. JeffB, Arce and others, thanks so much for your comments.

    It’s very late, so, I will try to be brief. Here’s my take on the “sovereignty of God”

    God can do anything He wants to do, anytime He wants to do it, anyway He wants to do it, use anyone He wants, for any purpose He wants to accomplish. However, God’s supreme rulership over His creation does not lessen man’s responsibility for their own actions and destiny. God creates humans with power of choice between good and evil. Man with a sinful nature causes a lot of problems for himself, others and environment and therefore, the consequences of sins… My Father God is long-suffering, patient in waiting for His timing. He is God, He may choose to take action or not, to intervene or not or to rescue or not. He is all-knowing, all-powerful at all times. One verse from Genesis that says “and they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Gen 15:16)

    Who knows His plan? His wisdom? To say God causes calamities is not necessarily accurate; there may be other factors you and I do not know nor understand. To blame God is just wrong and a cop-out. I learn to be at peace with what I do not understand; the verse I love is Romans 11:33 “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his inscrutable ways!”

    To me, God’s sovereignty has to do with His power to do anything without external restraints although He may not choose to exercise this power on behalf of anyone or under any given circumstances.

    In and of himself the natural man has power to reject Christ but in and of himself he does not have to power to receive Christ because he has a sinful nature. I hope this makes sense to you. I am writing at this late hour as the thoughts come to me. I feel I am writing about someone I love very much and that Person loves me with an everlasting love and has drawn me with so much loving kindness, and that is my Father God.

  115. Arce

    I am so glad to have you as my token “Christian, Baptist (formerly Southern) deacon, intellectual, who has taught ethics and statistics to graduate students, reads and understands science, including nuclear chemistry, geology, paleontology, etc., and has been a student of the Bill of Rights and an advocate of church-state separation since the 7th grade (ca. 1958) and who studies Supreme Court decisions on church-state for fun.”

    Jerusalem on the Brazos-:)

  116. Anon1
    Spot on at 11PM:”because he knew he was right” And that is the reason for a gazillion denominations as well.

  117. JeffB
    There is always the question as to why God would actively create calamity.D’Souza theorizes that some calamities, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, are secondary to the particular way this planet is set up and that in fact, they are necessary to maintain the peculiarities of life on this planet.

    Then there is a problem with the Old And New Covenant. In the Old Testament God set up a series of “if/then” contracts. (If you bring the first fruits; the I will send the rain). However, the New Covenant is now in effect. So, I have particular issue that, when a tornado strikes, John Piper tells us that God did it to punish the Lutherans for allowing gays in the pulpit. (Not to mention that God allowed the bridge to collapse to bring Piper to repentance which seems a bit narcissistic to me.However, he is friends with Driscoll and Mahaney so that might explain it.)

    I am impressed that Piper claims to have an inside track into the motivations of the Almighty. Is God still punishing people today ala the Old Testament? If so, why does He seem capricious? For example, I would think if He is punishing people for accepting bad doctrine within His church, then He would smite the entire European community, along with Ed Young Jr., Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen.

    OK, I need another cup of coffee. It’s a bit much for me this early in the day.

  118. The gung ho vets tend to be those who were to the rear of actual fighting. The guys who were consistently shooting or being shot at tend not to be as gung ho, and generally prefer to forget the whole thing. They are also less likely to be authoritarian in their relationships than the guys to in the units of the rear. — Arce

    In World War Two, Bill Mauldin called them “Garritroopers” — close enough to the fighting to be issued combat gear, but far enough away to be out of actual danger. And Mauldin noticed the attitude — hypermasculine and spoiling for a fight.

  119. Spot on at 11PM:”because he knew he was right” And that is the reason for a gazillion denominations as well. — Dee

    “Nothing’s worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.”
    — Captain Mal Reynolds, Free Trader Serenity

  120. Kelly –

    I think that’s an eloquent and accurate description of God’s sovereignty. On calamity, you write: “To say God causes calamities is not necessarily accurate; there may be other factors you and I do not know nor understand.” Yes, there are always factors we don’t understand, but are any of them beyond His knowledge or control? You say that He can choose to intervene or not. Correct. But I would say that not intervening is causing – not directly, but indirectly. My point is that nothing takes place without His permission – therefore, He is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.

    The problem for us comes when “bad” things happen. I put the word in quotes because, though the immediate effects are certainly negative, we know that, God being good, there is ultimately a good reason.

    We look like fools when we pretend to know what the reason is. As dee points out, sometimes Piper does this. It’s amazing to me that he brings himself down to the level of Pat Robertson. He’s playing God. (Insert joke here.) And isn’t it amazing that the “reasons” are always those of which they approve?

    dee –

    We don’t even know for sure when God actively creates calamity or, alternatively, allows secondary processes to occur. But in either case, He is ultimately responsible.

    That’s an interesting point about the Old and New Covenants. But even though God no longer tells us (with the exception of Piper, Robertson, etc.) why He is causing or allowing calamity, we still live in a fallen creation among fallen people, so, unfortunately, calamities are to be expected, I think. We can only speculate as to the reasons. Maybe sometimes God is merely reminding us of His power, as He did to Job.

  121. Footnote on “The Overuse of Slander”
    Hester earlier asked, “So an honest question about the term “slander.” It’s my understanding that under American law, slander has to be demonstrably false (i.e., personal opinions don’t count). Does this line up with the New Testament Greek word for “slander” (if there is such a word)? I notice that none of these people who scream “SLANDER!” as soon as someone criticizes them ever go back to the Greek to support their claim, which makes me very suspicious.”
    So I spent a little time last night down on the corner of Strongs and Vines, and concluded that “slander” may indeed be overused in our modern Bible versions. The KJV uses it only of devilish talk in the OT and never in the NT. Other versions use it for several Greek words ranging from speech against to evil speech to blasphemy to diabolical speech, such as deaconesses and eldresses should not pursue. The ESV even has “slander” in II Cor. 6:8 in the place of the literal “defamation”, or “bad report”. THIS Greek word appears ONLY HERE in the NT, so I believe it’s especially instructive (as I understand it, the lawsuit is primarily over “defamation” rather than “slander”).
    Paul is giving a laundry list of situations in which ministers of God may find themselves. In “every way” he says ministers should commend themselves by putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault might be found
    with the ministry. Including, from v 8′ “through evil report (lit: defamation) and good report”.

  122. Pingback: But I Tell You, Resist A Censor. If Anyone SLAPPs You, SLAPP Back. | Popehat

  123. Jeff, God is not ultimately responsible for all calamity. It would be like saying that God is responsible for wicked that people do because he allows it. As it has already been stated, we live in a fallen world and calamity is part of it.

  124. Arce:

    I would enjoy corresponding with you. Thanks for the offer.

    Dee or Deb, I would be pleased to have Arce’s email address. Please send it to me.

    Thanks.

  125. Anonymous
    I am having trouble keeping up with comments. Did Arce say it was OK on the email deal. I definitely do not want to make a mistake with two lawyers involved. :)

  126. DaveAA
    I can assure you that they will tell us that we are misunderstanding this whole issue of slander and they will “prove” it by superior exegesis.Even now, there are people meeting behind closed doors to present the theology of blogs and let me tell you. Unless you are the “Band of Bloggers” you will be banned. We will become the Banned of Bloggers.

  127. ” can assure you that they will tell us that we are misunderstanding this whole issue of slander and they will “prove” it by superior exegesis.Even now, there are people meeting behind closed doors to present the theology of blogs and let me tell you. Unless you are the “Band of Bloggers” you will be banned. ”

    We are already seeing this on SBC Reformed pastor blogs. The Lifeway guy, Ed Stetzer, is advising the moderators and writers to make it more in line with the message they want out. They have token Non Calvinists posting but the old days of real open communication are over. See, everything they don’t like is sin now.

    The watch words from NC’s will now be: Unity.

    (And of course that means agreeing with them or never pointing out their actions and words don’t match)

  128. Well stated. “Nothing’s worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.” — Dee

    Actually, Dee, there’s one thing worse:

    A monster who KNOWS he’s Right With God.

  129. Dee
    Paul’s recommendation to ministers, that they commend themselves through defamation and good report alike, and thus avoid “slandering” the Gospel, likely will be proved by the band of bloggers to have been a first century cultural phenomenon, and no logger applicable today….. Or perhaps a discontinued miraculous gift…

  130. Kelly wrote:

    “…In and of himself the natural man has power to reject Christ but in and of himself he does not have to power to receive Christ because he has a sinful nature…”

    This is where I now part company with traditional orthodoxy. This axiom has always been since the time of Augustine and the medieval churchmen. It is rarely challenged although Erasmus wrote some pushback on the subject in one of his diatribes against Luther.

  131. Aaaand all the way over here in the UK I’m loving all you guys on this blog! And Eagle…wherever I go on the sane side of Christian blogs there you are! And HUG, you’re always there too. I wish we could all go down the pub.

  132. Eagle on 5/17 @ 10:09pm said:
    “… AND what gets me is that there are are people here who can relate, understand, etc.. So when I talk about my church experiences, drinking the John Piper kool-aide, Crusade, Third Wave, Reformed, etc… there are many people here who can relate. They know my thought process, and they (wherever they are sitting in this awesome country) can nod at their computer screens in agreement.”

    Spot on, Eagle. I so appreciate you. It would be lovely to meet you, Dee, Deb, and everyone here in person. Especially at the pub, Beakerj! :-)

  133. stormy –

    Good point. “Responsible” is probably not the correct word for things that He merely allows. The central point is that nothing occurs without His permission.

  134. Dee and JeffB,

    Why don’t we just shorten it to Banned Bloggers or “BB”.

    That could go along with Discerning Divas or “DD”.

  135. How about “Bandit Bloggers: Stealing the Truth Back from the Lies”

    Or that could be your first combo convo-book?

  136. Pingback: Beaverton Grace Bible Church pastor sues former parishioner for Google reviews | Bene Diction Blogs On UNITED STATES

  137. One big reason I don’t attend church: pastors and elders want to be called by titles, they want to be used by God to feed their ego more than to really serve in love, and they want me to be a number that tithes. I am God’s daughter and will not attend church unless the body there is a real church. I have been kicked off Charisma many times for stating my opinion there. They want to quiet those with strong opinions there.

  138. O’Neal was not reported for molestation, however by choosing not to turn in the teen who was convicted of rape and sodomy, Department of Human Services must have decided to evaluate his own children. When legally he doesn’t have to be responsible for turning in what he knew, morally and ethically he should have. My hats off to the DHS for furthering their investigation…for O’Neal dropped the ball on protecting many children for not taking care of the situation. Now he blames others for his misfortune-grow up Chuck! He also blames these women for his church loosing members, however the members who have left were not speaking with the ladies who left three and a half years ago.
    Typical bullying tactics from a man who will not take responsibility for a lack of faith and courage.

  139. “There’s Always A Bigger Fish…”
    *
    HowDee,
    *
    “What goes around, comes around,” they say.  But usually not like this…” – Paul Maartens, steamtunnelpilot
    *
    -snicker-
    *
    Remember “Chuck O’Neal, the Beaverton, Oregon, pastor who has recently gained notoriety for suing a former parishioner for libel, has found himself on the receiving end of a law suit—for the very same reason.   And while the defendants in O’Neal’s law suit have drawn considerable sympathy for being dragged into court by the pastor of a large church—presumably benefitting from the resources and good name of his congregation—O’Neal the defendant faces a significantly more formidable legal foe: The Vatican.”
    *
    Well… 
    *
    “Pope Benedict XVI, acting through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,  has filed a $1 million law suit against Pastor O’Neal for defaming the Pontiff, the papacy as an institution, and the Roman Catholic Church as an ecclesiastical organization, in comments he made to his congregation in a series of sermons preached at Beaverton Grace Bible Church in April, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II.   Particularly damning (no pun intended) were comments O’Neal made in an e-mail to a group of pastors, elders and layman just prior to these sermons”: 
    *
    http://steamtunnelpilot.blogspot.com/2012/05/what-goes-around-comes-around-they-say.html#more
    *
    found wanting in the day of reckoning? Who is going to have da last laugh now?
    *
    hmmm…
    *
    “When asked whether a law suit on behalf of one of the wealthiest and most powerful organizations in the world might lead to a backlash of negative PR for the Roman Church, Father Tarlati replied confidently: ‘Nobody looks as bad as this guy does right now.'”
    *
    S㋡py!
    ___
    Comic relief: “Summertime Blues?”
    *