I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face. Johnny Depp
The short answer to the title is, "I really don't know."
Last Friday, we posted on a incident in which a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Chris Tynes, attempted to see a pastor to ask questions about their response to a pedophile situation in the past link. TWW had received a couple of emails about the situation and were made aware of the You Tube video that shows Tynes' interaction with security guards at the church.
Tom Rich posted on this situation on Thursday here. The Associated Baptist Press posted on it here. I spoke at length with Chris regarding the details of his story. Because I lived within a mile of Prestonwood and Bent Tree Bible Fellowship and my kids had attended at Trinity Christian Academy, we had many intersecting points in the story. I asked him some question and he demonstrated knowledge of all of these entities.
Not only did we have a copy of the You Tube video of his encounter with the security at Prestonwood, I had received a call back from Prestonwood refusing to comment on the story.
This story meant a lot to us because, last fall, we posted the saga of Amy Smith who exposed a pedophile who had been asked to leave Prestonwood a number of years ago link. This man went on to molest children in other states. As most of our readers know, child sex abuse and cover up by churches is a hot button topic for us. Her story is heart wrenching.
As I reviewed the situation, I noticed some atheist sites on Chris' Facebook page. However, they did not, at first, cause me concern. I spent a number of years at the Ex Christians site link trying to figure out why Christians leave the faith. Those folks, albeit blunt, taught me a whole bunch and I am grateful for the experience. I assumed he was doing the same thing. That might have been a mistake.
On Saturday evening, we received a couple of comments, one from Norway and one from Chile, referring to concerns about Chris' Facebook likes. These were the atheist sites. Although TWW gets comments from all over (including Antarctica), the comments from Norway and Chile were firsts for our site. There comments were so similar to one another that we thought it was some sort of campaign to discredit Tynes.
Deb spent some time studying Chris' Facebook "likes" and became a bit concerned about the stridency of some of the sites. In other words, these were not like Herman Mehta, Friendly Atheist link. These "likes" were also of recent origin which raised a red flag. There was even a picture of The Flying Spaghetti Monster dressed like Santa Claus. This "monster" is a creation of atheists who use arguments for its existence as a way to mock Christian arguments for the existence of God. We wrote a bit about that a few years back here. There is a site dedicated to the Spaghetti Monster link.
I wrote Chris and asked him to respond to our concerns and he did so in a comment which I placed under the post here. The reply was reasonable, thoughtful, and believable.
However, since that time, more questions have been raised. We have been discussing this with other bloggers who have been following this story. Chris has been changing up his Facebook site, eliminating some of the questionable items. For example, he has added a picture which he says is of his son being baptized by Jack Graham. Here is a link to his likes. I cannot guarantee that they will be the same ones that are there as I write this. They seem to change hourly.
I also received an email purportedly to show "threatening" tweets that he has removed from his Twitter account. I do not believe they are threatening. One discusses how Prestonwood Baptist looks like the Death Star. It also says he was targeting Pastor Buster's parking spot. All of this seems to me to be the observations of a man who believe he is doing battle with his church ala Star Wars. My son uses such verbiage as well. When Tom Rich was involved in his lawsuit with FBC Jacksonville, a post was raised as a potential question. You can read about it here. However, in this day and age of Columbine, we must be careful when we are talking in a public forum.
Today, I emailed Chris to ask him some hard questions but he has not returned the email.
Several people have sent us emails claiming that we all have been played. Played? Maybe. But then again, perhaps he is a troubled man who is struggling with his faith. If he played us, he played many other people. But what game did he play? He is asking questions about Langworthy that should be answered. What does it matter if he is "playing" us? Shouldn't we be able to simply answer the query? If the church has already done so, they certainly didn't deign to talk with me about that.
Unfortunately, there are still unanswered questions about the response of the church to the Langworthy incident. Will this get lost in the uproar about the "motives" of Chris Tynes? That is what concerns me the most.
Here are some closing thoughts and questions.
- Prestonwood should have leveled with us and Associated Baptist Press. They didn't. It makes me think they are hiding something.
- Chris Tynes should have answered my email. He didn't and that makes me think he, too, is hiding something.
- Has Prestonwood invited this man in to meet with someone on the pastoral staff? Have they gone to his house to attempt to show love and concern for both him and his family?
- The next time we, at TWW, are confronted with a similar situation, we will do searches of Facebook and Twitter accounts, if they are accessible. If they are not, we will ask why they are not.
- Had we found out that Tynes was an atheist activist (I am not saying he is. I do not know what he is.), we would have still published this story. We would have nuanced it, though, with that information.
- Churches should meet with, and answer, the hard questions of members. When it comes to child sex abuse, they should meet with anyone who has a concern. The safety of children, along with the truth, should come first.
In some ways, I feel like I don't have a handle on this situation and I wanted to share my concern with our readers. I feel like I should have investigated Chris' past history on Facebook and Twitter in greater depth. I apologize for not asking harder questions earlier. I felt it was important to share this with our readers ASAP.
PS: I want to thank those who have sent me comments and emails that contend for the innocence of Prestonwood in this matter. I have read your thoughts and that is what prompted me to call contact Chris and write this post. I appreciate the hard questions that have been asked.