Systematically Seduced in a Church Youth Group

“Wolves are very resourceful. All they need to survive is for people not to shoot them."      Bob Ferris




 4/9/11 correction:  I had planned to provide full credit for the information included in this post to Josh White, reporter extraordinaire of The Washington Post. He has done a superb job in reporting this story! Here is the link to his article.


Our intent and practice here at TWW is to ALWAYS give credit where credit is due. I realize now that I should have cited The Washington Post at the beginning of the series, instead of at the conclusion (which will be featured on Monday, 4/11/11). I sincerely apologize for my failure to cite the article at the beginning of the series on Vienna Presbyterian Church.





Just a decade ago, Vienna Presbyterian Church (VPC) was looking for someone to energize its youth program. The individual who appeared most qualified was a Calvin College graduate with “glowing” recommendations. His previous experience included working as a residential adviser at his alma mater, serving at a church in Alabama, and working as a counselor at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. In 2001 VPC hired Eric DeVries as a youth director.



Shortly after Eric DeVries was hired by VPC, the church was contacted by a staff member at the Pennsylvania camp where DeVries has previously worked. They reported that while at the camp, DeVries had contact with a 14-year-old girl. Furthermore, they informed the church that in order for DeVries to ever work at the camp again, he would be required to undergo counseling.

Somehow, DeVries was able to convince the church staff that his contact with the girl was not physical. It was limited to texting (which he claimed was aimed at boosting her self-esteem) and e-mails. The interim youth director at VPC brought the matter up to DeVries, who chalked it up to just a misunderstanding. Apparently, no further action was taken by the church to investigate DeVries.




Soon after DeVries was hired, the youth group began to thrive, with new members being added. DeVries, who must have been an extremely youthful thirty year old, was able to relate to the teens extremely well. He created a tremendous level of enthusiasm and energy in the group which helped him to earn the approval of the parents and church leaders in fairly short order.

In the spring of 2002, a seventeen year old female met DeVries at a pool party hosted by her parents at their home. DeVries began doting on her, and she loved it because he treated her like an adult. Unbeknownst to her parents, this youth director was telling dirty jokes and spending a great deal of time talking about sex. It seemed to be his passion.



During this teen’s senior year of high school, DeVries began grooming her for a relationship. Three days after this young lady turned eighteen, DeVries invited her to his place for a romantic Valentine’s Day rendezvous. What happened that night might have been treated as a crime had it happened just 72 hours earlier. This VPC youth director had seduced her into an intimate relationship. He had such a strong influence over her that he was able to get her to deceive her parents by keeping their meetings a secret. He led her to believe that they had a future together.

Tragically, DeVries used his position as a Christian role model, friend, and mentor to seduce other female teens in the youth group. Somehow, he was able to engage in romantic relationships with five or more of them at the same time! How was that possible? He cleverly instructed each of these swooning teens to keep their relationship with him a secret… And they did!

Once DeVries had earned the trust of the teens’ parents and church leaders, he became bold in his behavior toward those he was grooming. His highly inappropriate behavior included:

  • Inviting one of them to his office and reading the passage from Genesis that speaks of how Jacob waited seven years to marry Rachel because his love for her was so strong (this teen was 15 at the time)
  •  Buying beer for a teenager at a minor league baseball game in North Carolina
  •  Cuddling on out-of-state trips
  • Giving a massage
  • Stroking a teen’s arm at a party while watching Terminator 3 and complimenting her on her smooth skin
  • Sending texts to teen girls and signing off with “Love, Eric”
  • Kissing a teen girl in his church office and groping her in a broom closet
  • Texting a girl about how he was thinking about kissing her and spelling out what his sexual boundaries were when she turned 17
  • Groping one of them under a blanket on a flight back from Mexico, with other members of the church seated nearby
  • Undressing one of the girls on a ski trip
  • Sending notes on index cards to various girls insinuating that he was deeply connected to them and that they might have a future together
  • Professing his love to one of them at a two-week camp in Pennsylvania, claiming that if he had a ring he would be willing to marry her right away


Sadly, too many teenage girls at Vienna Presbyterian Church were systematically seduced by their youth director. One of them admitted to having been so psychologically manipulated by DeVries that she would have done anything he wanted. These young, impressionable girls were “under a spell”.

The sordid saga continues tomorrow, so stay tuned…


Lydia's  Corner: Joshua 3:1-4:24 Luke 14:7-35 Psalm 80:1-19 Proverbs 12:27-28




Systematically Seduced in a Church Youth Group — 72 Comments

  1. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    just curious: is this church in Vienna, VA?

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    Yep-know the story?

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    no – i used to live in northern VA.

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    This guy was bad news.

    It makes you wonder just how many more DeVries are out there all across America.

    Just terrible.

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    When I was in my early 20’s I was an associate pastor and a youth director. I was also a married father. Thinking back I can remember how easy it would have been to take advantage of a young gullible girl. As a male knows, testosterone causes a problem if it is not acknowledged and overcome with a true commission to Christ. I saw a potential problem and prayerfully looked for help. The Lord led me to never be alone where there might be something inappropriate from me or I was in a place where untrue accusations could be made besmirching my name. I would not counsel a young lady without my wife or the senior pastor present. Years have gone by, and now I am the senior pastor. Those under my direction are warned of potential problems and inquiries are made about anyone new coming on the staff. I am sure this sounds self-serving, and I am not presenting myself as immune to infidelities. But I Give Our Lord the praise for the fact that in over 30 years as pastor He has kept me. It so saddens my heart to read of horrendous things that are going on and Christ is put to an open shame. I have told my members many times that a church is not often hurt by external things but from internal things where oft times it is someone who attests their dedication to Christ. The spirit of Judas is still very active in the hearts of those who are interested only in the loaves and fishes.

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    You are a wise man. All of us are tempted to sin and all of us are tempted to sin in different ways. Billy Graham was never alone with a woman. In his autobiography he tells of a time when he realized he was in a hotel suite with a female reporter alone. He immediately left the room.

    I think that many young pastors know about this temptation; yet they allow the situation to develop, perhaps because they do not have your strength. I believe churches must make strict guidelines about contact between adults and children and enforce them, including firing a youth pastor or two who step over the boundaries. The church must deal with this decisively.

    And when a terrible thing happens, admit it. I think you will find this story very interesting because it ends differently than expected.

    So, you sure you don’t want to come to NC and start a church? 😉

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    There are many, many of these guys out there, and churches invite them in with open arms because they have some sort of nonsensical belief that, if someone is a pastor or a seminarian, they are above reproach. The evangelical church in America is seeing more and more of these incidents. The Catholic church has nothing on us. We must face this problem with boldness, and today you will see how one man did precisely that in this situation.
    I wish a few churches that I know would have had the guts to do this, but there seem to be too many ho-hum pastors who are far more interested in their “authority” than in really living the Gospel.

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    Please…do you really believe that every non-Christian male abuses young girls and lacks self-control? Belief in the supernatural is NOT required as evidenced by the millions of males who seem to be able to control their urges to rape and pillage quite well without any assistance from beyond.

    Here’s an interesting question for all you finger shakers out there…groping, kissing, text messages, talking about sex..these are all normal activities for teens 15-18. For instance, if the guy had been 19 and the girl 18, would you have taken offense? What if the guy was 20 and the girl 17, or maybe the guy is 25 and the girl 19.

    My point being, when is it immoral and when is it normal, healthy behavior. Is it decided by the civil statutes of the state or country, so while a 19 you male and a 17 yo female might be alright in one state, it is immoral in another? Can we even find 2 people on this blog who can agree, in all cases, as to what situation is moral or immoral?

    Now, when someone is a youth paster, it does impose a different level of responsibility, similar to if I have a supervisor at work..I would think it wise to refrain from relationships with those who work under me…but morality?

    I’m not saying what he did was right or justifiable…but I do think we tend to wave that morality banner a little to freely.

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    Abuse occurs when someone in a position of authority uses that position to garner sexual favors.

    I know that you do not agree with the sexual mores of the Bible but there are those of us who do. Therefore, such activity, while pervasive and acceptable by many, is not acceptable within our belief system. When we hire a youth pastor, we do not hire him to booger our kids but to support our views on acceptable morality.

    It would be like hiring someone to work with a Muslim youth group and he takes them out of BLTs. That is outside those boundaries.

    Also, suppose one has a vegetarian group with no values except for high fiber diets. if one hired a young man to work with kids to help them with their vegetarian diet and the guy uses coercive measures to get them to eat steak, then he is not following the values for which he was hired.

    Also, the law is explicit that certain activities are against the law whether or not individuals agree with said laws. There are idiot groups, like NAMBLA which advocates sexual activity between adult males and young boys. Sorry but it is offensive and also against many people’s values systems, religious or otherwise.

  10. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    You answered your own question. It is immoral for a person to abuse a position of authority in order to seduce inexperienced, immature young people. If the man was a public school teacher of no religion, it would just as immoral. If it were a woman in authority seducing young men under her authority, religious or not, it would be just as immoral. Also, in pretty much every one’s book, the whole lying and juggling six relationships at a time, regardless of gender or position in life, is considered immoral.

    So, as far as that goes, the lying and misuse of authority are the immoral behaviors of great concern, and the fact that he engaged in those two immoral (and illegal) behaviors in order to gratify his own sexual needs at the expense of minors, makes it also a prosecutable crime.

    Romantic relations by young people between each other in most situations is no one’s business but their own. However a youth pastor, who deservedly or not represents spiritual authority to the people under his charge, secretly hitting on minors is hardly on the same level as two college students hooking up at a party. It is the abuse of authority and the age of his very young victims (I won’t call them girlfriends because he did not publicly acknowledge them as such, so let’s not give the relationship a status it doesn’t deserve) that make his actions immoral.

  11. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    What does “booger our kids” mean?

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    Stuff that pedophiles do. Euphemism.

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    The red flag came early on and they ignored it. I have seen this countless times and I can tell you why nothing is done: Saving face. It is that simple. The folks who made the hiring decision wanted to save face. They did not want to admit that after all that time, they made a hiring mistake. Mistakes in those kinds of positions are hard to explain away to the church especially when a place he used to work had already decided he had to undergo counseling before he could come back? How did they miss that one?

    Ignoring the red flag only makes the pervert bolder because they think they can talk their way out of everything because of their outward success and charisma.

  14. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    “Also, suppose one has a vegetarian group with no values except for high fiber diets. if one hired a young man to work with kids to help them with their vegetarian diet and the guy uses coercive measures to get them to eat steak, then he is not following the values for which he was hired.”

    That was beautiful. :o)

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    Germane to this post, there is an episode on ABC’s 20/20 human interest show tonight that profiles alleged abuse by an independent Fundamentalist Baptist sect. (ABC’s website says it will air on Friday, April 8, @ 10:00 pm PST and 09:00 pm CST & 08:00 EST?)

    One snippet stated that these morons advocate thrashing a 2 wk. old baby’s bottom to “teach them the seriousness of sin”. I have never resorted to name-calling until now, but this is just too much to bear.

    The Bible can be a good thing if we temper it with reason and common sense. When the Bible becomes an object of unquestioning worship, it can strip us of our very humanity.

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    Dee and others,

    I think you are using the word moral where the word ethical belongs. Something being moral isn’t tied to what type of job that you have. To use the example from above…

    Taking a group of kids out for BLT’s is not immoral, but it is unethical if you are working as a youth director for your local mosque (do they have youth directors?), and the kids you take are Muslims who you trick into believing that no one will find out.

    What I asked in the original post was how do you define which situation is immoral, the Bible does not provide detailed specifications.

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    I have worked with churches where the senior pastor went astray and was sexually involved with an adult female in the congregation, while still married. My own sexual morality (which I did not live up to for a period in my late 20s and early 30s, until a spiritual reformation early in my 31st year) is that sex belongs in marriage or an acknowledged permanent relationship between persons of equal responsibility.

    In one instance, it was a counseling relationship that I had advised the pastor against. There is an ethic that is often taught in graduate counseling, psychology, and ministry training that I raised with him, because I had used it when teaching ethics: Never presume that you are the best counselor for any particular person, and quickly make a referral to someone else whenever there is any chance of a romantic relationship developing, because such a situation is inherently unprofessional, unethical, and immoral.

    Another instance was the second time the senior pastor had become involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, this time with a staff member. That is an unequal relationship for two reasons, one he was the pastor, two he was the employer of this employee. That makes it unprofessional, unethical and immoral. It is taking advantage of the unequal relationship for sexual benefit. This one left damage all over the place, including nearly destroying what had been a budding mega church in an ideal location to grow.

    Anytime one of the parties is in authority over the other, or has a responsibility of spiritual or ethical maturity with respect to the other, an intimate relationship is likely to be unethical and immoral.

    BTW, any man seeking a permanent relationship with a woman, meaning he has fallen in love with her, should have the love maturity, respect and self-restraint to wait until after the wedding to consummate the marriage. My experience is that it is worth the wait.

  18. Notice: Undefined variable: button in /home/guswo2wr8yyv/public_html/tww2/wp-content/plugins/quote-comments/quote-comments.php on line 127

    Thanks, Dee — that’s a euphemism I’ve never heard, and couldn’t find a definition for. I don’t think I want to know where it comes from.

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    I’ve encountered entirely too many situations like this in schools and churches, and it’s wrenching to see what it does to the victims. I’m not familiar with this particular church, but I did check out their website and I was heartened to see their response to the situation. I pray that there will be healing for the church and for the victims of this youth director.

    If anyone else is interested in seeing the ministry that the church is building out of this horrible series of events, you can find it here:

    BTW, in case anyone was wondering, I’ve been a lurker for a while and really like the blog, so I thought I’d start joining the discussion.

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    I too like the attorney Arce, Have seen more than one situation where the pastor was involved in a tawdry affair outside his marriage. In several instances it was with the piano player or a secretary or someone he had supposedly counseled. Karl seems to think morality is not mentioned in the bible. No not the word anymore than pediphilia , but such things taken in reality is just called “sin” in the Bible. I get no pleasure in the fall of someone who is suppose to be an example of Godly rectitude. I certainly agree also that none of us are above reproach because we are all sinners saved by the grace of God. It is good to remember the simple definition of grace. Dee mentioned a word i hadn’t heard in a lone time, “booger” When as a child I heard it we associated it with what we “enlightened” ones would see as unmitigated gall. Well sunday is near the only day the preacher does anything according to some so I have things to do. I have really been intrigued with this blog. Our “glamorous hostess” are adept at choosing subjects not spoken of too often especially in a church setting. that might be a short-coming light is always better than darkness where nefarious things are concerned. I also have read with interest the comment that are given. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone but try to be descreetly honest.

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    Did you even read my post…I never implied morality wasn’t mentioned in the Bible…I said the specifics of what constitutes moral vs immoral are not always specified.

    For example…

    a 19 yo male that courts an 18 yo female … immoral or not?
    a 22 yo female that courts a 17 yo male .. immoral or not?

    the Bible does not provide details on which one, if any, are normal behavior vs immoral…so my question was, as a Christian, on what basis do you decide which category each choice fits into…is it based on state or country law, is it individual opinion, if so what makes one person’s opinion better than another’s?

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    So glad you chimed in. Welcome!!!

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    Hi Amy! Glad you changed from lurker to commenter!

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    Karlton, They were marrying at 12 back then. Not only that but marrying several at a time. :o)

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    Yes they were, but the question becomes was that moral, if yes, they is it still moral, and if no, why not. Since as Christians you believe morality derives from God and God is unchanging, then it would seem morality would not change either…

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    Karlton, the question is why you want to derail every single thread with these types of questions for Christians. It is obvious we are not as rational and logical as you are. We also live by faith.

    Aren’t there athiest/christian forums for those types of questions?

    We are starting with the premise that is it immoral for a youth minister to hit on his charges.

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    Dee and Deb, There are churches that have found out the hard way it is best to hire married youth pastors. NOt that eradicates any problems but the young wife is around.

    I am speaking strictly from a pragmatic point of view when it comes to institutional church. But the problem is most youth pastors are burned out by 30 and ready to move on from that genre of ministry. It is a huge problem. I am not against youth groups but they present challenges and can quickly become little cults of personality.

    Some of the best youth groups I have witnessed have regular contact with and work along side older people in the church. Relationships with older people are encouraged who become mentors. But many churches segregate the youth even making their own church within a church.

    Historically, young people have always learned by being around older people in both work and the church. We have lost that iin our culture for many reasons. The word “teen” was not even in our vocab until recent history.

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    I do not feel it is a derailment of the thread to discuss the underlying motivation for why people call these actions immoral as opposed to simply unprofessional or unethical. You may be starting with he premise that hitting on his charges is immoral, I believe that isn’t the correct word to describe the problem. If you are unwilling to examine your premise then what’s the point of the discussion.

    The sarcasm about me being more rational or logical than you was uncalled for, I am simply trying to discuss how you came to the conclusion that his actions were immoral when the Bible doesn’t give any specifics about age relationships. Simply calling something immoral doesn’t necessarily make it so.

    Thirdly, since I haven’t received any negative feedback from either Dee or Deb regarding my posts being off topic, unprofessional, unwanted or immoral I will continue to operate under the assumption that they are appropriate and welcome…if you feel otherwise then I suggest you communicate your displeasure to them.

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    The position of youth minister in a church often carries an expectation of very high performance — many hours, planning events, recruiting additional adults for transportation and chaperoning, counseling youth, conducting worship services, meeting with a youth committee and perhaps other church leadership, etc. It also typically carries either a part-time salary, or additional responsibilities (music, children, general church recreation, etc.) that often are not terribly compatible with the youth related responsibilities. It is extremely difficult to keep the youth engaged and satisfied and the parents happy with the program. Many churches assume that the youth minister will do the program, and he or she gets little parental or other church adult commitment and support. So the burn out is high and many youth ministers get ousted for not meeting the performance expectations which are often in conflict with each other.

    Very demanding job in most churches. Not often paid fairly for the time required (not formally, but through competing expectations of all of the constituencies).

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    “I am simply trying to discuss how you came to the conclusion that his actions were immoral when the Bible doesn’t give any specifics about age relationships. ”

    Why have you focused on age? The focus is his position and what he was hired to do.

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    I agree, if the focus is “his position and what he was hired to do” then I would argue that it is not “immorality” which we are talking about but rather simple unprofessionalism and I think that calling someone immoral is inappropriate if what you mean is unprofessional.

    On the other hand if you DO mean immoral, then my original question stands, you need to define morality and since the Bible is not specific in that regard, I am curious to know how you arrive at the conclusion that he is acting immorally (hence the age questions…when does flirting with a younger or older female (or male) become immoral and how is that judgement reached)

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    Karlton, I cannot take it out of the context of the situation written about here which is what you seem to want to do.

    I am simply reading this through the eyes of the victims as much as I can. Getting into the minutia of age and if “flirting” (we would also have to define flirting!) in this situation is immoral or not seems to be a whole other topic. This guy had a position of power and influence over teens who trusted those who hired him as a leader. He took advantage of that.

    Perhaps you do not think anyone was really victimized?

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    @ Karlton: how about stepping back from the age aspect a bit and thinking of similar jobs in a “secular” context – would such behavior be appropriate, or unethical and jsut plain wrong? I think you’re splitting hairs in this case. 🙂

    @ Lydia: agreed completely on your last post!

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    I never though of it in that fashion. Great insight. In the churches in which I have been a member, the youth pastor job was kind of the entry level job to go onto being a “real”pastor. I know that there are many youth specialists out there so i don’t know if this position is universally thought of as a stepping stone or not. Any thoughts?

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    Welcome to the blog and thanks for the link. We need to include it in a following post.

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    Well stated. Many pastors eschew outside counselors, wrongly believing that they have the wisdom to counsel. Sadly, not only can this harm a hurting person with their inexperience, but it can lead to the pastor being placed into an uncomfortable position. There have been many a pastor who have gone down the wrong path in such a situation.

    Also, you point about authority and unequal relationships is important. It is usually seen as coercive when one is either a counselor, pastor, etc.

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    Thanks for the info. Maybe we can talk about this next week. i will look for you tube videos, etc.

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    I think that your question may be confusing for a few. First, what do you mean by moral and who/what determines this? If a specific situation is not mentioned in Scripture, does this mean that God is not concerned about this? Can one extrapolate certain guidelines if one understand the big picture in the Scriptures? Could you define you perception of moral versus ethical? Can one be immoral while being ethical?

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    About the only difference between immoral and unethical is whether another person is harmed or taken advantage of. E.g., it is immoral to look at a friend’s spouse and spend much time thinking about being with that person in bed, actively. But it is not unethical to do so, unless one follows the thought with behavior adverse to the interests of the other party. It is both immoral and unethical do actually do the deed. Many would think that masturbation is immoral, but it is probably not unethical. Many people would treat safe sex between consenting adults (fully consenting, equality of status in the relationship) as immoral but not unethical.

    For most people, anything that is unethical is probably also immoral, but the reverse is not necessarily true. In some professions, there are additional ethical restrictions. For example, as an attorney, the Texas Bar says it is unethical for me to not provide my client with the “Texas Lawyer’s Creed”, but that is definitely not immoral!!

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    Adult pornography many would consider immoral but not unethical, unless one is in a ministry position where the expectation for the job is that one does not consume pornography, in which case the violation of the expectations of the professional position may be considered unethical.

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    As usual your logic is impeccable. I think the difficulty comes when we find that we do not agree with a standard value system. As you know, Thomas Jefferson did not believe in some portions of the Bible. In fact, he removed some things and republished it as the Jefferson Bible.

    However, he also made an interesting comment. I do not know if I am saying it exactly but he he implied that a society that did not adhere to some shared values would fall into anarchy. He then said, that as far as he was concerned, the Bible offered a good standard from which to build standards. I found this interesting, given that he did not agree with the Bible in many instances.

    I read some websites run by atheists. I learn a lot from them, especially how they struggle to formulate a value system which is based on humanist principles. I think that they, too, believe that there are standards that a society must delineate in order to function harmoniously.

    The problem remains in how we function as a pluralistic society. For example, the issue of euthanasia is tricky. Christians might stand against deliberately ending a life. A member of the Hemlock Society would think Christians are a bunch of sadistic dopes in this area.

    I think many Christians do not understand how fortunate we are in the United States as opposed to the Christians in the Roman Empire. I received an email from a man who claimed I was “persecuting” Ken Ham along with all those who disinvited him from a Homeschool conference.

    i asked the man a question to which I did not receive a response. I asked him to define what he means by persecution. There were many Christians, in the early days, who would have found a simple disinvitation preferable to serving as a torch in Nero’s notorious garden parties.

    Much food for thought. Thanks.

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    I believe it is possible to structure a moral system out of a non-religious or secular perspective. (I do not refer to humanism as secular or non-religious. I believe it is a religion of a sort for those who are truly committed to it. Few atheists really are.) If one starts with a democratic ideal that includes protection of minority view points, and adds a moral code based on the golden rule, either positively or negatively stated (the latter exists in many religions), the a set of ethics or morals can be derived.

    There is a reason that all of the ancient legal systems are very similar. That is because the social problems that arise from human interaction are universal and a system of laws or a moral code becomes necessary to have a society that functions. Thus depriving another of life, limb, property, or freedom becomes the subject matter of law and morality exists to carry that beyond the law to everyday interaction. In depth research would reveal that most of the laws against rape and adultery were in place to protect the property interest of the father or husband as the case may have been.

    Dissertations have been written on this problem. I will not write one here.

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    BTW, those who complain that any blog site is persecuting someone needs to visit a professional for a reality check and possibly some medications.

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    Sometimes I think I need meds as well. 🙂

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    Do you think our understanding of a universal value system is based on a moral law that was planted in us?

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    @ Dee: I think the person who referred to “persecution” would be better served by the word “criticize.”

    It just seems strange to me that disagreement = persecution to many people..

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    If we take the idea that we were made in the “image of God”, meaning to me that we have an eternal soul and the ability to know right from wrong, the ability to love, and the capability to reason regarding consequences of our actions. Then, of course, there is in us a moral sensibility. Whether that is what brings about the universal baseline moral code or just our experience in interacting with others in society is another question to which I will not know the answer in this lifetime. However, even societies of thieves have a moral code!

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    Belief in the supernatural is not a prerequisite for morality.

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    I dont think that is what Arce is saying. Belief in God is one way to determine a moral stance. As he said, even thieves have a developed moral sense. However, it is difficult to decide, in a pluralistic society, a set of morals that are then turned into laws that people’s will follow.

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    We have turned into a bunch of soft wusses!

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    I was trying to explain how living in society with other people results in the development of a moral code. It does not require belief in a supreme being. When I mentioned religions, I was merely pointing out that the “golden rule” broadly exists, across cultures, including some that do not believe in a supreme being.

    Dee then asked a question whether moral law implanted in us is the source of such a moral code and I offered an explanation from a Christian point of view as to how said source might operate even in non-believing societies. But that is not to say that belief in a supreme being is necessary to have a moral code.

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    Arce & Dee,

    Understood and apologies if I jumped the gun a bit. My original question, was directed to the tone of the article and some of the posts which painted this youth pastor as engaging in immoral behavior. What I was driving at was how do Christians, as a group differentiate moral from immoral given that they use the Bible as the foundation of their morality and yet the Bible itself is light on details, and tends to paint in very broad brush strokes. Does that mean that ultimately it is the up to the individual to define morality (if so, how is that any different from a non-believer who brings his own morality to the table), or do they base morality on the applicable legal system, so what might be “moral” in Connecticut is “immoral” in North Carolina (if so, is that truly morality) and in the end, on what basis then do we “judge” someone’s actions as moral or not.

    Lydia pointed out that the issues at hand were more related to the current position for which he was hired, and if so, then I was suggesting that possibly unprofessional or unethical might be more appropriate than immoral, if we cannot agree to a common definition of the term.

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    Taking sexual advantage of persons who are underage and thus incapable of truly being an equal partner in a mutual consenting relationship is immoral, unethical and illegal. Having a sexual relationship with two different persons, either of whom believes that the relationship is exclusive and based on an exclusive variety of love and affection, is both immoral and unethical.

    Whether those are SIN depends on your religion, or lack thereof. Whether they are moral or ethical does not require religion, but can be derived therefrom if one does have a religion. That was my point about the independent development of moral codes. The Bible is A foundation for morality, but one must be careful in application. The law of love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you would have them do to you (effectively the same thing!!!) is a sufficient basis for a determination of moral vs. immoral.

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    Looks like it’s time to consult the dictionary…

    Here is the first definition for “ethical” provided by

    “pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.”

    And here is a list of synonyms for “ethical” that can be found at the above link:

    “moral, upright, honest, righteous, virtuous, honorable”

    Now let’s see how another dictionary defines “unethical”.

    “morally wrong, or against accepted standards of behaviour, especially in a particular profession”

    According to these reliable sources, “ethical” and “moral” are interchangeable as are “unethical” and “immoral”.

    Why are we arguing about this? Frankly, it seems like a complete waste of time to me.

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    Deb, I generally agree. Except that some professions add things to the unethical category that are not per se immoral. e.g., the requirement that I provide certain documents to my client, like the Texas Lawyer’s Creed.

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    Also, in medicine, one must get the patient to sign certain HIPPA forms and a copy needs to be provided to the patient. It is not an issue of morality but it falls under medical ethics. !5 years ago there were no HIPPA forms so ethics have changed in the last decade or so. Note the second part of the definition in regards to profession. Frankly, I am becoming burdened by so many of these Hippa forms and wished they were immoral so I could refuse them as being “against my religion.”

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    1. violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.

    “Lydia pointed out that the issues at hand were more related to the current position for which he was hired, and if so, then I was suggesting that possibly unprofessional or unethical might be more appropriate than immoral, if we cannot agree to a common definition of the term.”

    I guess I am just astonished that you have a concern that a “believer” would find his behavior “immoral”. Just because some very bad things were done in the OT, does not make them moral. God allowed a lot of bad stuff like polygamy and slavery. We find His intentions for us in Gen 1-2 and Revelation 20-21. All the stuff inbetween concerning humans is a result of sin. Except for God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. He was perfect.

    And yes, this means David was immoral. Solomon immoral. Abraham immoral and so forth. (GASP)

    In the end, I find the argument for using “unethical” or “immoral” an insult to the victims.

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    Agreed. In fact, it is dispassionate. Having witnessed a church’s coldhearted response to a group of teen boys who were molested, I have decided that far too many people are more interested in themselves than other people. If my kid had been molested, they would have had to cuff me and hold me down to prevent me from seriously harming said pedophile. My response would have been sinful and unethical but I think a fair number of people would agree that it may NOT have been immoral.

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    ok, since I seem to be unable to communicate the question and the reason for it with any success…I’ll just let it drop.

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    Lydia, Dee

    I do not serve as an attorney ad litem for children when parental rights are being terminated for the reason that I am not sure I could contain my temper when presented with solid evidence that the parent had abused the child or stood by while the child was abused by the parent’s live-in lover.

    I agree that it is a stupid argument. But it is necessary sometimes to respond to people who ask questions with a dispassionate discussion of terminology. As an attorney and an epistemologist, I have a real concern about appropriate terminology, because sometimes our words can limit our understanding.

    I believe that I have been fairly insistent that sex with one who is underage is abusive, illegal, immoral, unethical and every other thing that can be said against it. Same with sex with one who is under the care of someone with a professional or other responsibility for that person, such as one being counseled, an employee, student, etc.

    BTW our new DA here just ended the 20 year career of the best prosecutor of sexual predators in this area, and possibly in the U.S., because she supported her former boss, his opponent, in the preceding election. The bar is as up in arms about it as we can be without jeopardizing our work with the current DA. Her record of convictions and long sentences, especially for sexual abusers of children, is phenomenal. She effectively castrated many of them, because by the time they will get out of prison, they likely won’t have much ability, and many will die there. An example is a man in his late forties who, with good behavior, will be eligible for parole at 102.

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    Arce, what is interesting is that the dictionary definitions are not clear, either. the terms can be used interchangably.

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    I understood what you are saying. Good for the DA . There have been some especially un the north who have been soft. These terms can be confusing, especially when used in everyday language. I have spent most of a my evening tatting to delineate the differences an d how they affect us. In particular, in my conversations with atheists, I have found they are very cautious in defining the differences.I found that hard in some conversations at I appreciate any help I can get in understanding this. A philosopher I am not!

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    How does lace needlework delineate the difference between morals and ethics? 🙂

    My understanding is that “morals” primarily relates to one’s personal sense of and beliefs regarding right and wrong (internal) whereas “ethics” primaily relates to a code of conduct or rules of behavior in a particular social setting or group (external). But because the internal is evidenced in the external, it’s difficult to fully distinguish one from the other.

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    Well stated! It is kind of like baptism-an outward statement of an inner reality. Philosophy was never my strong suit.

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    I also was researching the topic, and came across a reasonable definition, although there are many shades of meaning, I think that is snippet captures the essence of the difference, where there is one.

    “Morals, are the rules and standards dictated by a group, whther it be family, country or religion, that we are told we must “conform” to when deciding what is “right” behavior. We are not free to think and choose. You either accept or you don’t! We are taught by society and religion that you “shall not lie” or you should “not commit murder” or you must do something because it is your moral obligation. The key issue with “morals” is that you are expected to conform to a standard of right behavior or you are not a moral person.

    Ethics are principles of conduct that you choose to govern your own life as a guiding philosophy. Call it semantics if you like, but I see a difference between “conforming” and “choosing.” With morals, the thinking has already been done, while with ethics there’s a freedom to think and choose your personal philosophy for guiding the conduct of your life. “

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    Except professional societies and regulatory bodies impose standards that are called ethics on many people, including doctors, nurses, attorneys, CPAs, judges, teachers, etc., etc., etc.

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    Yes, there are multiple overlapping uses of the words which makes it difficult to disguish one from the other. If I may give an example..

    I think that ethics provide a mechanism to weigh our actions and select the correct course by choosing between multiple guidelines which in and of themselves may be contradictory, for example I may, at the same time, feel that honesty is a worthwhile ethic or guideline to follow, and that intentionally hurting someone’s feelings is not a good ethic to follow. Now, here comes my wife, asking me if I like her new hair style. My ethics are in immediate conflict…but that is not necessarily problematic. I can choose to act contrary to my general belief that lying is bad, in order to avoid what I would consider, in this situation, to be the greater harm, that of hurting my wife’s feelings.

    Morality on the other hand tends to be treated as an absolute, objective set of rules to follow and there is no way to violate one of those rules, even in good conscious, without doing something immoral. So in the context of Biblical morales, if I tell my wife that her new hair style looks awesome, and make her feel good about herself, I have nonetheless lied and sinned, hence committed an immoral act.

    I think, even within professional bodies, as you mentioned earlier, there is still freedom to depart from the code of ethics, if and when it is justifiable.

    For example, and please correct me if I am wrong, but as an attorney I should be able to expect from you that everything we discuss is confidential. However, if in our conversations I reveal a plan to you, that includes the murdering of my neighbor, and you believe that this plan is in fact something I am going to carry out, do you not also have an obligation as an officer of the court to report this impending crime? There is an inherent conflict of interest in your obligations, but you are not considered a bad or immoral person because you choose one course of action over another, even if you are not required to do so by law. Whereas with morals, that is not the case.

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    The ethics rules explicitly allow me to act to stop the commission of a crime. However, there are other situations where there is a conflict and one must make a choice. A classic example: attorney represents defendant following a car accident involving a 17 year old who was injured but appears to have recovered. However, medical consultant to attorney examines young man and discovers that the accident has caused an aortic aneurism to form, which puts the young man’s life at risk. Legal ethics says attorney can not reveal the information because it is harmful to the interests of his client. Morality says you do not keep information from a person that would or could save their life. My solution — tell the client to reveal the information and if he refuses, resign, tell the attorney for the young man and then challenge the state bar disciplinary committee to impose some discipline on you for having acted to save a life.

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    Another example involves attorney representing a person who intends to commit perjury. There the out is that the attorney cannot help the perjury be committed but cannot act against the interest of the client. So the attorney allows the testimony but does not ask questions, just “Client, what do you wish to tell the jury?” and let it go at that. Both the judge and the other side’s attorney know what is happening but cannot act on that either.

    It is a poor solution but the only one the ethics rules allows.

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    Sorry, that was my comment, but I forgot to login, hence “anonymous”.

    So, we are in agreement. Ethics whether personal or professional do allow for some flexibility depending on the situation, but morals, at least religious morals, are more rigid, and a violation is a violation, regardless of the reasoning. I also think people see a violation of a moral code as some type of failure in the individual, whereas a violation of ethics can be challeneged and accepted with no implications of being a “bad” person.

    In your profession there exists the term “moral turpitude” an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man. I think that also sheds light on how morality is commonly viewed as opposed to ethics. Ethics doesn’t seem to carry the sense of vileness or depravity like immorality does.

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    The effect of the definition of moral turpitude varies across jurisdictions. It implies an act that is immoral regardless of the law. However, if one has been convicted of an offense of moral turpitude, generally that person is restricted from certain other acts that rely on honesty, including testimony or oath, serving as a trustee or executor, etc.

    It generally does not apply to a simple tort. It must be fairly extreme, showing a conscious disregard for moral obligation.

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    Good comments Arce & Karlton. They underscore the reason(s) why I bless providence that the American experiment was founded on principles that grew out of the Enlightenment & the Age of Reason rather than the Bible or any other holy book for that matter.

    As you’ve pointed out, religious tradition allows no latitude, no grey whatsoever when dealing with sexual mores, which generally speaking, are always the most egregious violations in most religious traditions.

    Where would we be if damsels could be stoned to death outside their father’s houses for not being virgins?

    I gotta be upfront and honest here, my own approach to the Bible and the Christian religion is very Jeffersonian, but not entirely. I hold to the tenets of the Nicene Creed as non-negotiable much like the axioms of arithmetic are when dealing with math. But the remainder for me anyway is not above the scrutiny of reason and common sense.