Attorney/Politician/Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn and the Sex Abuse Coverup in the SBC

Clive Kim @pexels.com

“If you tell me the truth, I’m gonna be mad but I’ll get over it. If you lie to me I’m never gonna be able to trust you again. your choice.” link


Years ago, Amy Smith of Watchkeep told me is her dogged attempts to get an abuser, John Langworthy, to face trial. She had been an intern at Prestonwood Baptist Church when John Langworthy was quietly told to hit the pavement. By this time, there had been reports of abuse. Langworthy would move to Mississippi, where he would molest again. Eventually, he was caught, and his victims came forward. He confessed his crimes to his church. Enter the well-known attorney, Philip Gunn, whose story I will tell here. Amy Smith has pursued this story at a high personal cost through the years, and I am grateful for all she did to help find the victims of this predator.

Who is Philip Gunn?

Here is his bio on his website. Please note the last entry. He was an elder at Morrison Heights Baptist Church, where he met Langworthy. He was also a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Al Mohler’s school.)

Philip Gunn began serving the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2004. On January 3, 2012, he became the 61st Speaker of the House of Representatives in Mississippi. This is the first time in 136 years a Republican has held this title in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

…After graduating from Baylor, Gunn earned a J.D. from The University of Mississippi Law School, where he was elected Student Body President.  He is an attorney at Wells, Marble, Hurst PLLC in Ridgeland, Miss.

…Gunn is actively involved in his community.  He is a current member of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce. Before being elected to the House of Representatives, he served on the Clinton Public School Board.  He is a former Elder at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton and former Chairman of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees in Louisville, Ky.

I know that some folks will tag me on the following story. I have some feelings about it, but due to the fact it is political in nature, I am not going to cover it here. Mississippi lawmaker asked about a hypothetical 12-year-old child molested by a family member says they should have to carry that pregnancy to term.

Do you think Russell Moore and Al Mohler have changed their minds about Gunn?

I understand that the Langworthy thing wasn’t known to them at the time they said the following. I do question some of their puffery. Mohler knew that the election of Gunn brought honor to Mississippi? Moore knew that Gunn was a humble, decisive servant leader? Really. How did they know that? I am getting a bit tired of the “humble servant leader” phrase being thrown around. Most celebrity Christians are neither humble nor servants. I wonder how it applied here.

Please pay attention to his pastor, who is waxing eloquent. Gunn is the finest of all politicians that his pastor knows. He thinks Gunns has unquestioned character. Full Stop. The guy was part of a hard-hitting, well-known law firm. Somehow, I wonder about all this as we go further in the story. I need to hear from you all on this section.

In 1999, Baptist Courier posted New Miss. House speaker is seminary trustee

A Southern Baptist who is a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the newest speaker of the House of Representatives in Mississippi.

Gunn, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives since 2004, was unopposed in his bid for speaker. And, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger newspaper, members of the House met Gunn’s election with cheers and a standing ovation.

“This is a tribute to the leadership of Speaker Gunn, and his election brings honor to the people of Mississippi and to the board of trustees of Southern Seminary,” seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a letter to the trustee board.

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, said he’s proud of Gunn as a fellow Mississippian.

“He’s a humble, decisive servant-leader who knows his roots and his vision,” Moore said. “I love working with him at Southern Seminary and pray for him as he leads the greatest of the 50 great states.”

Gunn is a member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton.

“The Mississippi House of Representatives has elected a true Christian statesman to its highest position,” Morrison Heights senior pastor Greg Belser said. “I know of no finer man in politics anywhere. Philip Gunn is a man of unquestioned character and a deep love for Christ and the church while balancing the enormous demands of family and community service. He is the real deal.”

Gunn, a man of “unquestioned character” and the church’s lawyer, reportedly advised the elders to keep their mouths zipped about Langworthy and his reported confession to the church.

During this time, he served on the SBTS Board of trustees and was an elder at Morrison Heights. In 2011, Baptist Global posted Church leader questioned about handling of sexual abuse allegation

Philip Gunn reportedly advised elders at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., not to talk to police about their internal investigation of former associate pastor of music and ministries John Langworthy, who faces trial on eight felony counts of gratification of lust stemming from acts alleged to have taken place in the early 1980s.

…Gunn, an attorney and Baylor University graduate, claims church leaders are bound to secrecy under priest-penitent privilege.

…Gunn denies the church is withholding evidence, saying the charges against Langworthy are now public knowledge since alleged victims have come forward.

County prosecutors say they would still like to know what Langworthy told church leaders and may file a subpoena to force them to testify.

Enter Amy Smith, who, even in 2011, was standing firm about the wrongheadedness of internal investigations.

Amy Smith, a victims’ advocate, worked for a year behind to scenes to make public that Langworthy was accused of sexual abuse of young males in 1989 while serving on the staff of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. She says leaders at the Texas church including future Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham took the allegations seriously enough to fire Langworthy but did not report him to the police.

…“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May,” Smith said Nov. 30.

“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police,” she said. “It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”

Then came the SBC Guidepost’s investigation.

Fast forward to 5/22 when Mississippi Today posted Philip Gunn’s connection to the Southern Baptist Convention sexual abuse scandal.

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn was closely involved in one of the harrowing stories featured in an explosive investigation into the mishandling of sexual abuse within Southern Baptist Convention churches.

…Though Gunn is not named in the report, his involvement as an attorney in the case was scrutinized broadly by the state and national press and even Southern Baptist-focused and other religious news outlets.

…  The speaker was unable to be reached for comment regarding this article.

…Jack Graham, who once served a stint as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, allowed Langworthy to be dismissed quietly and did not report the abuse to police at the time, the report said.

Langworthy immediately moved back to Mississippi, where he landed a job in 1990 as music minister at Morrison Heights and later as a choir teacher at Clinton High School. Langworthy held those jobs until 2011, when details of his abuse were first made public.

Langworthy confessed his abuse of children to the church, and Amy Smith shared the confession video with journalists who broadcast the story. Victims saw this and came forward.

 Langworthy confessed to the Morrison Heights congregation in August 2011 that he abused children during his time in Texas and while he was in Mississippi before that. Smith then shared video of Langworthy’s confession with journalists in Texas and Mississippi, and the story was broadcast. Several victims of Langworthy’s saw those news reports and alerted authorities. In September 2011, he was indicted in Hinds County on charges of sexually abusing five boys ages 6-13 in Jackson and Clinton between 1980 and 1984.

Gunn appeared to try to make the whole thing “go away.” Amy Smith was having none of it.

Gunn emailed Smith in May 2011 “to discuss a resolution,” he wrote. Smith declined to speak with Gunn and perceived his email as an effort to sweep the allegations under the rug.

“Seems to me like he was asking to offer me something to go away to be quiet and that was not acceptable to me, that’s not protecting children and I simply said no,” Smith told WJTV at the time.

…Sherry LeFils, a former Texas probation officer who worked with thousands of sex offenders, said at the time that she had three phone conversations with Gunn regarding Langworthy’s case. She told WJTV that one phone call, in particular, struck her as odd.

“My take was what we can do to make this right, to make this go away,” LeFils told WJTV.

Smith, who prosecutors later credited with the work that ultimately inspired Langworthy’s victims to come forward, blistered Gunn publicly for that position.

…Gunn and other church leaders maintained they found no evidence that Langworthy abused children in his 21 years as music minister at Morrison Heights. But what church leaders knew was never divulged publicly because a trial never occurred.

Even after his public admission to the Morrison Heights congregation, Langworthy cut a guilty plea deal that kept him out of prison. He served five years of probation, could have no contact with the survivors of his abuse, and had to remain registered as a sex offender. The state’s sex offender registry says Langworthy died in 2019

Amy Smith detailed the Guidepost investigation on her blog

Amy Smith reviewed the Guidepost Investigation in Prestonwood Baptist Church and pastor Jack Graham named in SBC abuse report.

During my time of advocacy trying to get the truth about Langworthy made public, I encountered Philip Gunn, then serving in 2011 as an elder and lawyer for Morrison Heights Baptist Church as the Langworthy case unfolded. He was a Republican member of the Mississippi House of Representatives at the time. He is currently House Speaker. He called and left me a message in the spring of 2011 to speak with me to “discuss a resolution.” I said no.

She quoted the following from the Guidepost Investigation.

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn was closely involved in one of the harrowing stories featured in an explosive investigation into the mishandling of sexual abuse within Southern Baptist Convention churches.

Sadly, she recounted the terrible cost of her involvement.

My parents have since shunned me. They told me and my husband in 2012 that they do not want to see us again. They stated in an email that we needed to live our lives without them. We had requested that we meet with them and a counselor/mediator. They said no because this was all my fault, and I needed to issue written apologies to John Langworthy, Neal Jeffrey and Jack Graham.

It looks like Philip Gunn wields tremendous power in the Mississippi state house and Baptist entities. Given the Langworthy situation, I wonder if his pastor still thinks he is the finest man in politics? Don’t answer that!

Comments

Attorney/Politician/Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn and the Sex Abuse Coverup in the SBC — 42 Comments


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    1


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    Last? Again…


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    “He called and left me a message in the spring of 2011 to speak with me to ‘discuss a resolution.’ I said no.”

    ~ ~ ~

    “No.”

    Such a little word. With such power.

    God bless Amy Smith.


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    no excuse for any responsible person with Gunn’s qualification not telling Church leaders to IMMEDIATELY report such abuses to the police – the professional qualifications alone are a staggering witness to the responsability of the professional to alert proper law enforcement

    covering up abuse of victims?

    to me this would imply an avoidance of professional ethics in the extreme and on more than one level

    wow, also imagine such a person giving ‘advice’ to the whole state that it ‘must’ force a child of twelve to bear the baby of an incest rape ??? No mercy, just extreme politics as usual?

    a strained ‘conscience’ (or lack of one) seems the affliction of many political extremists whose public behaviors in support of extreme treatment of women also include minor children who are victims of the sexual abuse of incest

    and yet such behavior is on the record – who votes for this?


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    drstevej,

    Aw cmon’ doc, surely your acumen extends beyond the number one?


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    Wild Honey: “No.”

    Such a little word. With such power.

    God bless Amy Smith.

    I’m reminded that “No.” is a complete sentence.

    Good article, Dee, and nice work stepping around the political issue to focus on Gunn’s attempted coverup of Langworthy. Interestingly, it was the political issue that brought his attempted coverup to light.

    Just a reminder: “the Internet is forever.” As proved again here.


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    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Good article, Dee, and nice work stepping around the political issue to focus on Gunn’s attempted coverup of Langworthy. Interestingly, it was the political issue that brought his attempted coverup to light.

    Yes, excellent work, Dee and Amy. God bless you both. And God bless your immediate families that are supportive of your work.


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    It’s bad enough, and then you get to the heart rending bit where she’s being shunned by her own parents.
    On the not infrequent occasions when this happens it’s not framed in the perspective where the parents reject their child for not participating in covering up crime, but that is what is actually happening.


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    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: nice work stepping around the political issue to focus on Gunn’s attempted coverup of Langworthy. Interestingly, it was the political issue that brought his attempted coverup to light.

    Thank you. I mulled on that for a bit. Then I realized. Just writing about him would lead people to find out about the more recent news.


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    Muff Potter,

    🙂


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    John: the parents reject their child for not participating in covering up crime,

    Well said.


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    Not “Attorney/Politician/Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn”.
    Philip Gunn, CHRISTIAN(TM).


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    John:the parents reject their child for not participating in covering up crime

    Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses with an Apostate child.
    Or Scientologists with a Suppressive child.


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    SBC’s good ole boy network should never cover crimes against children. How many more examples of this can be found throughout SBC?


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    Since the scandal recently exploded, has Russell Moore spoken specifically about Gunn’s involvement and his own regret (and lesson learned) about puffing him up?


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    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Just a reminder: “the Internet is forever.” As proved again here.

    “For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and come to light” … by the Internet!


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    Ruth Tucker,

    Hahaha, how quaint.

    In other abuse news, here is a story about a college soccer coach which is more of the same “protect the institution and let the abuser go elsewhere with no ramifications”:

    https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2659072424833/i-told-them-how-multiple-systems-failed-when-toledo-coach-s-alleged-sexual-misconduct-was-reported


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    Question of the day: “Why hasn’t God nuked the SBC by now?”


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    Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: the Internet is forever

    My dear wife adds “In this case, that’s why they call it a ‘net’; it has tangled yet another in its ‘web’.”


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    Ruth Tucker: has Russell Moore spoken specifically about Gunn’s involvement and his own regret (and lesson learned) about puffing him up?

    It’ll never happen. Mohler won’t issue a regret either.


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    “It looks like Philip Gunn wields tremendous power in the Mississippi state house and Baptist entities.”

    So did Judge Paul Pressler in Texas until he no longer did. These guys don’t know the persistence of victims of abuse demanding justice, or God who is their Judge, as they ought.


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    Max:
    Question of the day:“Why hasn’t God nuked the SBC by now?”

    Atheists have a simple answer to that one.


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    Ruth Tucker:
    Since the scandal recently exploded, has Russell Moore spoken specifically about Gunn’s involvement and his own regret (and lesson learned) about puffing him up?

    Why should he, when He Can Do No Wrong?


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    Hate the sin, love the sinner has been twisted.

    Hide the sin, protect the sinner.
    Hide the crime, protect the criminal ………
    at the expense and further abuse of the victim …………while appearing oh so Godly, holy, and righteous…….

    I hope this is coming to an end, falling victim to truth and the courage of the abused and their supporters.


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    Headless Unicorn Guy: Atheists have a simple answer to that one

    Yeah, but I prefer payday someday.


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    Max: nuked

    He doesn’t seem to nuke nowadays.
    As in Ezekiel, the wheels have left the Temple. In other words, God is no longer there. Which, IMHO, is worse than nuked. Godless and all manner of godlessness. Obviously. A glimpse of what is to come in the Hereafter. The place one doesn’t want to go to. Now or in the future.


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    Ava Aaronson: Obviously

    It’s a downward spiral. They might as well be trafficking women and boys and girls, the abuse is now so commonplace.

    Who doesn’t rise to power, (and all it takes is an elevated stage or an oversized pulpit or projection on a big screen, apparently), then shake down everyone’s pockets, then go after their women, boys and girls. Rhetorical question. Who doesn’t.

    Seems to come with the office. Keep reading the news, daily reveals. Follow LE and the DOJ now as they seem to be the ones dealing with this stuff. Prove this wrong – prolly not going to happen.

    It’s a downward spiral and our Shepherd has no part in this but to gather His sheep in His arms as they flee the godless Temple.


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    Ava Aaronson: the wheels have left the Temple … God is no longer there … worse than nuked

    Doing church without God and the pew doesn’t miss His presence.


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    Max: Doing church without God and the pew doesn’t miss His presence.

    What did Jesus say about “My sheep know Me and listen to My voice…” ?

    Maybe some folks in church are not there looking for Jesus. We know the church predators aren’t looking for Jesus.

    The Bereans always checked the Scriptures to vet what was happening in church – even vetting Paul. They were looking for things to add up.

    Churches where things don’t add up:

    Gretchen Baskerville’s list: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/unsafe/

    Trinity Foundation documents fraud: https://trinityfi.org/investigations/million-dollar-homes-become-status-symbols-of-televangelists-and-pastors/

    TWW documents clergy sex abuse, child sex abuse, among other things.


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    Max: Doing church without God and the pew doesn’t miss His presence.

    I don’t quite get this.

    As I’ve said before, Jesus doesn’t speak to most of us.

    The great commission seems to be make it up as you go along.

    That’s ok, live and let live as long as you don’t harm others but regards to abuse, there’s the abuser, the victim and ostensibly, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

    If he/she/it can make its presence known, it would be nice to put a bug in the abusers ear before the event happens.

    It’s something I never understood as a Christian, and probably never will.

    That’s why justice in this world matters. If there is a god, then its work is done with our hands.


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    Ava Aaronson: Maybe some folks in church are not there looking for Jesus.

    During my long church journey (spanning 7 decades), I would say that the 80:20 rule applies. Most folks go to church because it is family tradition, they are seeking a moral compass for their children, to socialize, to be part of a community. I don’t believe they expect to find Jesus there. As a result, Jesus has little authority and influence in much of the American church. Many of today’s sermons don’t even mention His name! It wasn’t this way when I started out in church … Jesus was the Main Thing … “faith” has drifted far from the bank, leaving Jesus standing on shore.


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    Max: the 80:20 rule

    Frankly, I’ve never thought in these terms.

    However, there is a parable with %s in Matthew 25:1-13, where there are originally ten elect but in the end, only five are faithful to the end. The rest are denied entry having sold out their inheritance (like Jacob & Esau? 50/50?) along the way, apparently. So 50% of the Elect make it. 50% of the Elect (not of the world, in general, but of the purported Elect), don’t. 50/50 from within. Sobering, nonetheless.


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    Ava Aaronson: 50/50

    And then there’s the 90:10 story, where Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only 1 returned to glorify God and worship him in gratitude (Luke 17:11-19). Billy Graham once said that he believed 85% of church members were lost. The odds are not great that most church attendees have it figured out yet … that’s why the Bible refers to only a remnant of true believers are in the Body of Christ; the rest are just doing church. We desperately need a genuine revival and spiritual awakening in America, but I don’t see much movement in that direction.


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    Max: the 80:20 rule applies.

    80% of SBC leaders give the other 20% a bad name. Are you sure it’s not more like 90:10 in this case?


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    Ken F (aka Tweed): 80% of SBC leaders give the other 20% a bad name.

    Actually, I think it is the other way around. The vast majority of SBC pastors in 47,000+ churches lead congregations of 200 or less in rural America. I believe most are faithful servants of God who minister through the week in Jesus’ name. The rascal leaders at the top and preacher-perverts scattered throughout SBC life have cast a dark shadow on the whole denomination.


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    Nancy2(aka Kevlar): I hope this is coming to an end, falling victim to truth and the courage of the abused and their supporters.

    All that has to happen is a huge payout handed down from the bench as in Catholic land where it bankrupted more than one Diocese.
    But then again, will they learn from history and take steps to protect themselves?
    Or do they think themselves immune because of the geography and the culture in which they live?


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    Max: Billy Graham once said that he believed 85% of church members were lost.

    I bless Providence that Graham won’t have a damn thing to say about where I’ll spend eternity.


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    Max,

    Data and numbers. For real.

    It’s wonderful that TWW collects stories, case studies AKA lived experience, that give us some perspective: qualitative phenomenological research.

    Gretchen Baskerville has lists of unsafe churches on her website.

    Trinity Foundation collects info & publishes church fraud data on their website.
    These links are all mentioned above in a comment.

    There’s now a scholar doing PhD research on Clergy Sexual Abuse. This, too, will produce real data. Thanks, Kristen McKnight for the link to information about this research, then tweeted by TWW.

    Here is what led to her research on a youtube vid: https://youtu.be/C3KUoyHScKE

    Data collected and published will clarify the numbers, what & whom we are dealing with, as well as where they are.

    Assess. Analyze. Address the problem.


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    Muff Potter: All that has to happen is a huge payout handed down from the bench as in Catholic land where it bankrupted more than one Diocese.

    “This country (USA) has an unbelievable ability to generate information and then not use it.” Author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short, etc.)

    So perhaps more than knowledge, consequences are needed to precipitate change.


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    Attorney/Politician/Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn and the Sex Abuse Coverup in the SBC

    There are toxic collaborations.

    Stephanie Black Stiles Koff, AKA LB or Lincoln’s Bible, is a screenwriter, daughter of retired Reverend Jeff Black, and the creator of “The World Beneath”. She documents toxic collaborations in this podcast: https://link.chtbl.com/theworldbeneath

    Spellbinding.


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    I came across a video from a Therapist regarding our favorite topic: Narcissism, but only from a Hindu perspective. I had not seen anyone talk about this before from the perspective of a different religion. So if you are curious what Narcissism does in the Guru Godman context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzD-GZBTQVI

    It looks like this is not an exclusive “Christian” problem. It appears this is a plague that is everywhere. I would also say that Jesus Christ is not the problem. He is the polar opposite of a narcissist according to what is written about Him. To claim that He is evil is to proclaim that what is the least selfish is actually the most. This makes no sense and is ultimately illogical. You cannot blame all Christians nor Christ himself for the evil actions of the minority. This is just a form of bias in the Racism camp in the form that “all Christians are #@*^%!” The fact this blog exists disproves such overly broad presumptions and Racist biases.


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    Mr. Jesperson: It looks like this is not an exclusive “Christian” problem.

    It’s just another form of Stupid People Tricks.