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Stained glass cross crown 3rexesblogspotcomThe concept of Christian Hedonism is new to me.

I first saw mention of it a few days ago on, of all places (one might think), the PuritanBoard forum. One of their Presbyterian contributors goes by the moniker ChristianHedonist.

He links to a 1995 post on the Baptist Desiring God site which discusses the theology behind Christian Hedonism.

There is a danger that Christian Hedonism, which revolves around doing good deeds, could nod towards a works-based semi-Pelagianism, if misunderstood or misapplied. This is why I am unsure of it.

However, for Christians well on the road to sanctification — those who are like Samuel Rutherford or those who are resilient and have a better relationship with our Lord — this type of hedonism focusses on the delight experienced in serving God.

The Desiring God article on Christian Hedonism says, in part (emphasis mine):

As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied, but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues; and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory.

We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people

º that “abuse suffered for the Christ [is] greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26);
º that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35);
º that they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Philippians 3:8);
º that the aim of all of Jesus’ commandments is that their joy might be full (John 15:11);
º that if they delight themselves in the Lord he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4);
º that there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6);
º and that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:11).

It seems unlikely that most people could become Christian Hedonists without moving into semi-Pelagian ‘works’.

I, for one, am not yet at that stage, but one day in the future, who knows?

Many years ago my mother had a colleague who had a chaotic home life.

Something dire was always happening to her or her children. They also had ongoing financial problems. Yet, she claimed they were all devout Christians. Mom gave me a daily update on this lady’s life. My word, it would have made a riveting television serial.

My mother found it amazing that this woman often quoted the Bible and then said of her problems:

The Lord will provide.

To Mum and me they seemed to be disconnected from what God wanted them to do. We couldn’t imagine that He wanted them to live in a messy house, fail exams, neglect their health or mismanage their meagre income.

They appeared to be awaiting a miracle.

There are many Christians like this. Not the ones suffering a few years of upsets but those who make it a lifestyle.

Yet, as The Baptist at The Other Christians says in his post ‘Don’t let God be an excuse for you not to act’:

God is helping but you have to do your part. You need to go to the doctor, work with your fellow man, vote…actively participate in the world.  Not doing so is sloth, which is a sin and separates us from God. 

He says that God has given each of us certain gifts that He intends for us to use in our daily lives.

Living an orderly life in line with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes honours God and reflects a good Christian example to others. In other words, it’s a means of evangelising and drawing others to Christ.

My mother’s favourite saying was

God helps those who help themselves.

Note the contrast of her outlook with that of her colleague.

If we want to do well in our studies, we need to apply ourselves. If we want a good marriage, we need to seek the right partner. If we want a new job, we need to present ourselves well at the interview. A good life doesn’t fall into people’s laps. There is a lot of energy, work, wisdom — and prayer — involved.

Even though I am a bit long in the tooth, I still enjoy reading biographies of self-made millionaires and billionaires, past and present. It’s fascinating to read that some of these men and women came from humble origins. They started out by working long and hard at a profession to become not just good at it but excellent. They sharpened their craftsmanship, interpersonal skills and innovative ideas. Not satisfied with that, they continued taking them to the next level. Most of them then started philanthropic funds. Some think of Bill Gates here. I would also add Andrew Carnegie.

Incidentally, the origin of my mother’s favourite saying is not Ben Franklin’s 1757 volume, Poor Richard’s Almanack, but rather Algernon Sydney, a 17th century English parliamentarian, political theorist and philosopher. He included the maxim in his work Discourses Concerning Government, published in 1698. That said, a similar and ancient Greek maxim appears in Aesop’s Fables, namely:

The gods help them that help themselves.

Since that time, manuscripts of Aesop’s Fables have travelled around the world and have been adapted by nearly every culture and major world faith through the millennia.

It was my favourite book as a child. If your children don’t have a copy, please buy them one. With the Bible in pole position, Aesop’s Fables is the next best book for them to reread and treasure.

Reading about Andy Griffith’s demise at the age of 86, millions of Americans must have felt as if part of them had died, too. I know I did.

Although many television fans around the world connect Griffith with his later incarnation as Matlock, for Baby Boomers and their parents, Sheriff Andy Taylor represented the best father and wisest sheriff in America!

Surprisingly, Griffith never won an Emmy for his role as Andy Taylor. However, he was such a great actor that many Americans were shocked to see his promotional advertisements for Barack Obama co-starring television son Opie, director Ron Howard.

SpouseMouse (who is English) and I happened to see his campaign announcement for Obama in 2008. Our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Did Opie talk him into this? Or was he always a Lefty?’

Almost every thread that allows comments on Griffith’s obituary has many from disappointed, if not angry, Americans. We had connected Griffith so closely with Andy Taylor — a modern-day Solomon — that it seemed inconceivable he would promote any political candidate. Sheriff Taylor would have said, ‘This is a free country and I’m not going to influence your choice.’

I don’t know who was behind those adverts, but if it was an Obama operative, it was a cynical move which probably didn’t work very well with devoted viewers of The Andy Griffith Show.  Regardless, this serves to illustrate how closely a good actor is linked with his principal role — and how much we are mistaken in drawing a conclusion between person and persona.

However, although raised early on as a Baptist, Griffith later joined a pietist denomination, the Moravian Church. Many pietists are left-of-centre in their utopian emphasis on love and harmony. And it turns out that Griffith did support Democrat candidates in North Carolina. There are a number of Moravian congregations in Griffith’s home state of North Carolina.

His obituary on Fox News stated:

Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy and as a child sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and for a time contemplated a career in the ministry. But he eventually got a job teaching high school music in Goldsboro.

Moravians settled in the coastal Southern states during colonial days. Regular readers will recall Methodism’s John Wesley. Wesley became an Arminian — free-will Protestant — through his encounters with them:

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them …

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely …

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services …

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God …

Back now to Andy Griffith’s life. Twice divorced, he married a third time and left a widow, Cindi Knight, as well as a daughter from his first marriage to Barbara Bray Edwards.  In 1996, he recorded a CD of hymns which went platinum and won a Grammy Award the following year.

Griffith was buried within five hours of his death. Fox News tells us that he was a private person (emphases mine):

Griffith protected his privacy by building a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him. Strangers who asked where Griffith lived in Manteo [North Carolina] would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith helped Long’s father build the house where the family lived in a community of bohemian artists with little money, sharing quart jars of homemade vegetable soup with each other.

[Close friend Craig] Fincannon described Griffith as the symbol of North Carolina, a role that “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend. With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor.”

The Andy Griffith Show started a trend on CBS for rural sitcoms in or of the South — The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction among them. This genre continued throughout the 1960s until the head of the network, Fred Silverman, pulled the plug on them and made a dramatic switch to purely urban comedy shows which have continued from the 1970s to the present day.

This programming switch is now referred to as the rural purge. It also affected the two other main networks in making shows more ‘relevant’:

The numerous cancellations prompted Pat Buttram (“Mr. Haney” on one of the canceled shows, Green Acres) to make the observation: “It was the year CBS canceled everything with a tree—including Lassie“;[2][3] Lassie actually survived the initial rural purge.

The first rurally-themed show canceled by Silverman was Petticoat Junction. In September 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS. All in the Family premiered in January 1971 as a mid-season replacement. Both series provided the urban demographic, cutting-edge social relevance and ratings that CBS sought.[citation needed] These ratings successes prompted Silverman and the network to cancel Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Hee Haw, Lassie, and The Jim Nabors Hour at the end of the 1970-71 season. Another series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour lasted until the end of the 1971-72 season.

ABC also was looking for younger audiences, and in May 1971 canceled shows that skewed toward rural viewers (such as The Johnny Cash Show) or older viewers (Make Room for Granddaddy and The Lawrence Welk Show). NBC also targeted rural and older oriented programs in its cuts, eliminating long-running programs such as Wild Kingdom, The Andy Williams Show and The Virginian, all of which ran nine seasons or more.

Several shows were still popular when the axe fell:

What made these cancellations puzzling were the fact that they had come prior to 1970, at a time when CBS had yet to air any of their more “sophisticated” shows and gauge their popularity with the television audience. The success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and newer variety shows such as The Flip Wilson Show and The Carol Burnett Show in 1970 would allow for the mass cancellations of most of the now “undesired shows” at the end of 1971 despite their high ratings and popularity. Both Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies had dropped from the Nielsen top 30 by the 1970-71 season, yet both shows continued to win their respective time slots and had a loyal following, warranting renewal for another season. Other shows that were still pulling in even higher ratings when canceled included Mayberry R.F.D. which finished the season at number 15, Hee Haw at number 16, and The Jim Nabors Hour at number 29.[7]Nevertheless, the course had been set by the networks and the shows were cancelled to free up the schedules for newer shows.

The inclusion of demographics into determining a series’ worth to its sponsors meant that high ratings alone did not necessarily warrant a series for renewal. Series such as ABC’s The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were never truly a ratings hit; however, both series appealed to a younger demographic and thus were renewed for three more seasons.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that the shift to nearly exclusive urban and suburban settings — with certain subsequent exceptions, e.g. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie — helped to shape the opinions of America’s viewers. The result was that ‘urban’ was seen as ‘desirable’ and ‘rural’ as ‘backward‘. I would enjoy reading a critique of this, if it exists, showing that the shift helped to denigrate the America which lies between the two coasts. My hypothesis is that the rural purge indirectly gave rise to the term ‘Flyover Country’ and explains why the South is still so despised, despite the fact that many Northerners have moved there for lower taxes or to reunite with families whom they left in the 1950s and 1960s. And let us not forget the clement winter weather and the springtime magnolias which rival England’s!

The Andy Griffith Show differed from the other rural shows, partly because it was modelled on Griffith’s home town of Mount Airy. Griffith loved North Carolina, and the show reflected this. As other journalists have pointed out, we laughed with the characters — not at them.

Griffith’s show demonstrated man’s fallibility in a poignant, instructive yet positive way. We knew that they wanted to do the right thing but, like all humans, couldn’t. Although not outwardly intended as such, the sitcom showed man’s tendency to sin and the healing which biblical values (mercy, forgiveness, obedience) produced. Every episode ended with balanced reconciliation and resolution. Griffith poured his Moravian faith into this gentle comedy, which was full of fun moments.

Viewers are still picking up on this, even if they are unaware of it, because the show has never been off the air since cancellation in 1968. It’s been running for 52 years, most of that time in syndication.

Most of the cast have now gone to their rest. George Lindsey, who played Goober, died in May 2012. Jim Nabors, who went on to star in the spinoff series Gomer Pyle, USMC, is still alive as, of course, is Ron Howard who played Andy’s son Opie.

Griffith and Don Knotts — Deputy Barney Fife — were close friends in real life and remained so until Knotts’s death in 2006. From the start of the show, Griffith let Knotts carry the comedy, for which he won five Emmy Awards.  Griffith decided to play the ‘straight man’, demonstrating fairness and wisdom. Many were the times Sheriff Andy rescued his deputy from a potential accident with his firearm!

Just as Andy Taylor treated everyone equally, he was also an exemplary father to his son Opie. The online obituary comments reveal that children from dysfunctional homes found comfort and encouragement in the programme: there really were good parental models to follow. Those half-hour episodes showed them the positive side of family life.

In 1996, NBC’s Today show featured a series on famous police shows. In this clip, presenter Matt Lauer interviews Griffith and Knotts. They explain how, although the show was set in the present-day, it also portrayed the Mount Airy, NC, which Griffith knew during the 1930s. Yet, even the small Southern town where my family and I lived for a season in the mid-1960s (job transfer for Dad), was similar to the fictional Mayberry — whilst imperfect, there was virtually no crime and many neighbourly values were evident.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Griffith explains that they purposely wanted to keep the show clean and ‘pure’, taking out any questionable jokes:

The next clip is from the backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. It was an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring the late Danny Thomas (Marlo’s father). Thomas, travelling through Mayberry, gets stopped for speeding. He spends time in the cells. Andy Taylor is not only the sheriff but also the Justice of the Peace and the local newspaper editor. Here we see his wisdom as a lawman and shades of Matlock’s canny questioning:

In closing, some fans of the show might be unaware that the theme tune, which Griffith did not whistle, actually has lyrics. Here Griffith sings The Fishin’ Hole:

Rest in peace, Andy — and thanks for the enduring memories!

Further reading:

Andy Griffith – Wikipedia

Rural purge – Wikipedia

‘Legendary television actor Andy Griffith dead at 86’ – Fox News

‘Why People Love The Andy Griffith Show‘ – RCP

‘Andy Griffith sings original lyrics … – Zap2it

‘Andy Griffith — already buried’ – TMZ

‘George “Goober” Lindsey dead …’ – TMZ

A particular quote has popped up in many places on the Internet since the US presidential election in 2008. It’s also appeared on UK websites since then.

I saw it a few days ago on a French forum, so it’s spreading.

The quote comes from Dr Adrian Rogers, a Southern Baptist pastor, broadcaster, author and three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention. It often carries the date ‘1931’ after it. However, that was the year Rogers was born. He died in 2005 of pneumonia after complications with colon cancer treatments.

It’s important to keep in mind, especially for those deciding on whom to vote for and how far the welfare state can extend.

Wikipedia explains:

the quotation is part of a longer sermon by Dr. Rogers’ from 1984 in a larger series titled God’s Way to Health, Wealth and Wisdom (CDA107),[7] but it also appears as a passage in Dr. Rogers’ 1996 work Ten Secrets for a Successful Family complaining that “by and large our young people do not know either the importance or the value of honest labor”.[8]

Here’s the quote (emphases mine):

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don’t multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don’t have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

And this is pretty much where we are today. We’ve reached near parity in the US, UK, France — and no doubt other nations in the West — with regard to workers and those who reap the benefits via the dole and other assistance programmes. Those who work think about scaling back — earning just enough to keep their families afloat.

N.B.: Although the Wikpedia page says that Rogers appeared to support slavery as a biblical position, on the Talk page, his son David wrote:

I know for a fact, personally, that he did not support slavery, with the only exception being a recognition of the Old Testament practice under the theocratic society of Israel, as stipulated by the Old Testament law. He never once suggested, however, that such Old Testament practices, carried out historically in a very specific context, justified in any way the modern-day practice of slavery, either in early American life, or anything similar.

Evidently, the quote by Cecil Sherman, in his autobiography, relaying a supposed personal conversation with my father, hinges on Sherman’s personal credibility. I was not there personally to verify what was or was not said in that conversation. However, I can say that the quote, as stands, in Wikipedia, is totally out of character for what my father may have normally said, and fails to provide the necessary context for understanding it correctly, even if it were recorded accurately.

It is also well known that Mr. Sherman has been actively vocal in his leadership on the opposite pole of my father in denominational politics, and his opposition to the movement with which my father was identified, and may well have motive for manifesting personal bias in the things he says and/or writes about my father.

So — let’s not allow a controversy on the main page to detract from a great quote, applicable to all Western nations.

Now — where did those jobs go?

Over the past few days I have been researching tobacco use by notable Christian clergy and authors.

An article from 2010 at Christian Century, ‘The nicotine journal’ by Rodney Clapp, provides a good précis of famous Christian smokers from the 20th century. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison in Fortress Press’s extra­ordinary new edition of his collected works … remains almost endlessly suggestive and stimulating theologically. But in this reading I noticed how often the imprisoned Luth­eran pastor mentioned tobacco. There are, in fact, no fewer than 20 entries in the index under “Smoking.”

“I am very grateful for any smoking supplies,” Bonhoef­fer mentions in one letter. In another he adds his “special thanks for the smoking supplies and to all the kind donors of cigarettes,” and elsewhere he offers gratitude for “cookies, peaches, and cigarettes.”

Bonhoeffer often re­inforces his gratitude with superlatives and exclamation points. “Maria’s and Mother’s cigarettes were magnificent,” he writes. “I thank Anna very much for the cigarettes.” And: “I thank you very much for everything, also for the cigars and cigarettes from your trip!” He praises a Wolf cigar for its “magical fragrance” and on another occasion declares, “I’ve lit the big cigar and am enjoying it immensely—thanks very much!” When his dear friend Eber­hard Bethge delivers a cigar sent by Karl Barth, Bon­hoeffer finds it so fine that he staggers at its “truly im­probable reality.”

Bonhoeffer’s nicotine en­comia brought to mind other theological figures who smoked. C. S. Lewis incessantly smoked cigarettes and a pipe. J. R. R. Tolkien appeared almost elf­ish in the author photo for The Hobbit, grinning and grip­ping a pipe. Barth, too, liked a pipe but sometimes smoked cigars. Other confirmed smokers in­clude Paul Tillich, Rein­hold Niebuhr, James Gustaf­son and Richard John Neu­haus.

Enthusiastic smokers can also be found in the ranks of conservative evangelicals. The British Baptist C. H. Spur­geon believed cigar drafts prepared his throat for preaching. Chal­lenged on this practice, Spur­geon replied that he would continue unashamedly to “smoke to the glory of God” …

Strenuous objections to tobacco use arise not only in fundamentalist or evangelical circles. When theologian Paul Ramsey appeared on the cover of the Methodist magazine the Christian Advo­cate, it was not his remarks on war but the photo of Ramsey with a pipe in hand that sparked a storm of controversy

Given the health concerns related to smoking, I will attempt no theological apologia for the activity other than observing that the existence of volcanoes—not to mention liturgical incense—suggests a God who apparently has a special interest in fire and smoke.

We cannot be sure about the Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen, although Clapp notes that Machen did write his mother about smoking, saying:

When I think what a wonderful aid tobacco is to friendship and Christian patience I have sometimes regretted that I never began to smoke.

Clapp editorialises, making it clear that he has no time for cigarettes, which he is sure are harmful. (Why? Tobacco is tobacco. Smoke is smoke.) His choices are pipes and cigars. Such a rationale surely excludes the ladies who would look a bit eccentric smoking either, although some do.

Setting cigarettes aside, I think pipe and cigar users enjoy smoking because it provides three substantial plea­sures. First, a high-quality cigar or a well-packed pipe presents occasion for patience (as Machen noticed). It takes at least 45 minutes to finish a decent cigar. That is time set aside for backyard meditation or contemplation. Few things better slow down a busy day and bring it in for a relaxed landing than a burning stogie and an iced bourbon.

Second, smoking in the company of others enhances conviviality. Conversation as­sumes a satisfying pace as the talkers pause periodically to draw on their pipes or cigars.

Third, smoking is an excellent aesthetic pleasure. There are the tools—cigar cutters, lighters and pipe cleaners—whose use is a soothing ritual. And smoke itself moves with visual elegance, in serene white or blue undulations, with a languorous ascent into the sky.

The two comments he received are disappointing but typical of our times. ‘The horror!’

Still, it’s good to know of more clergy and notable Christians who enjoyed and appreciated the rituals and comfort which are unique to tobacco.

More to come.

Dr Wryzek’s blog, So What’s the Point? provides a thought-provoking insight into the 21st century Church.

Dr Wryzek has studied theology and has also spent time as a pastor. One of his latest posts, ‘Are Your Church Leaders Doing the Right Thing … Really? (Part 1)’ followed the line of the Episcopalian Mockingbirds on legalism and ‘working’ for the church. The Mockingbirds posited that there were two classes of churchgoers: one which served and one that was served.

Although I wasn’t of this mindset until the last decade, I now believe that many pastors put to ‘work’ the middle and upper-middle class members of the congregation. The class ‘to be served’ is only on the receiving end of their gracious ministrations, as ordered by the pastor. It is another way — perhaps a ‘nudge’ — to get people to redistribute their wealth and time ‘for the church’. Meanwhile, they and their families get left behind.

One proponent of this perspective is a Baptist pastor, the Revd David Platt of the Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama. Dr Platt is firmly committed to overseas missions, which is laudable. However, from what I have read of his theology on other blogs, it seems that he wants wealthy Americans — I use the term advisedly — to finance his missionary ministry with large sums of money.  Hmm.

Yes, as Christians, we are all called to charity, however, as with fruits of faith, we do this in various ways. We are not cookie-cutters. Platt proposes a ‘Radical Experiment’  which involves, as one would expect, money and time, some of which should be spent in small groups — the ecclesiastical collective flavour of the month.  Small groups often involve public confession of sins which are in general no one else’s business except yours and God’s. In the small group — a pietist innovation from centuries ago — the congregant humbly confesses before the appointed leader. If you’re thinking Communist Party here, you would not be wrong; check out the late ex-Communist Bella Dodd’s story of public confession before the local Party Leader.

I can appreciate Platt’s enthusiasm for missions, but to apply emotional blackmail to faithful Christians who are no doubt are already giving to their church and various charities — free time included — is bang out of order. It is not Platt’s business to coerce people into the redistribution of their wealth, which is really what this is. The Holy Spirit and God’s grace will move Christians towards a decision which is right for them as individuals and families.

Anyway, what happens when the money runs out? People like Platt seem to think it is an endless resource when it is, in fact, as Baroness Thatcher pointed out, quite finite, especially where redistribution (socialism) is concerned.

I’m not saying that Platt is a socialist by any means, but he seems to have fallen into a trap. Jesus’s advice to the rich young man was situation-specific. The young man said that he was faithful to all the commandments. This then begged the question: what was the only thing left which was required of him? Jesus tested him; in today’s parlance: ‘Well, if you’re that good a person, then, please, join My apostles and Me. The only prerequisite is for you to sell your possessions and donate the proceeds to the poor’. In other words, Jesus called the young man out.

It is unlikely that Platt’s congregation and adherents are self-proclaimed keepers of all the Ten Commandments. I certainly am not, even though I keep praying for the grace for increasing sanctification. We are all sinners, and almost all of us would fully admit that. So, why should Platt  feel he is authorised to develop a Radical Experiment for wealth redistribution? In any case, the first word — ‘radical’ — should start ringing alarm bells.

Seriously, if one’s ministry is that compelling — to use language which Platt’s generation would understand — then, money should just come flowing in naturally. Platt shouldn’t even need to hammer on this topic. However, as it is, his move comes across as arrogant and unbiblical — even if he doesn’t intend it to be that way.

I don’t think that Platt, as well meaning as he probably is, is using actual force or cruelty, just emotional blackmail. ‘Look at how much you have and how little they have’.

The Revd Wade Burleson, also a Baptist, has a balanced appraisal of both sides of Platt’s radical idea, accompanied by helpful Bible verses — the best I’ve read yet.

However, there is another aspect to this subject, which might come as news to Platt:

There are many European states which take in many people from the developing world every year. Not just a few dozen, but tens of thousands per Western European nation annually. These migrants do not want Platt’s sort of 19th century missionary charity in their own lands, even if they happily accept it as a stopgap measure; many are looking for economic opportunity in the West.  We European taxpayers provide every assistance to those coming to our countries — at the expense of our own — believe it.

To my American readers: In all sincerity, donate money and time as you wish, but do not give up your holiday homes or bulk savings for the missions unless you can afford to and really want to. We Europeans are redistributing our ‘wealth’ — via taxes — to those arriving from former colonies as well as in tens of billions of euros (pounds, etc.) in foreign aid to their homelands. Therefore, today’s taxes address the material problems the missions once did. This is the truth. So, relax, enjoy your families and contemplate your retirement. May it be an easy and happy one in this time of economic crisis.

But, I digress.

Back to Dr Wryzek, who writes of pastors employing emotional blackmail in more malign ways (emphases mine):

Because once a pastor always a pastor, I’m disturbed (probably in more ways than one!) at the condition many churches and their leaders are in these daysBut, this is nothing new; similar leadership degradation happened to Israel and Ezekiel 34 … describes what Israel’s shepherds did that brought them under God’s judgment and how the problem was solved.

You’ll notice the very first indictment is they used material and monetary resources reserved for the flock, and from the flock, to insure their own personal security and plenty; they became exceedingly fat while the sheep became skinny. Making this number one suggests it is particularly irritating to God (putting it mildly). Next, because of this inordinate self-preoccupation they lost track of the sheep and didn’t bother to go after those who either wandered away (the Hebrew word suggests ‘scared off’) or seek after those who became lost altogether (literally ‘perishing’). Furthermore, they failed to take care of the weak (malnourished), provide healing to the sick and bind up the broken (alludes to treating wounds caused by wolves). Finally, they ruled the remaining sheep (the ones not scared off or not yet dead from neglect) with force and cruelty ...

The ‘force and cruelty’ is a bit more subtle and is very often disguised by ecclesiastical authority (the minister/laity distinction or the so-called ‘Moses’ model of ministry are examples) and tricking the sheep into thinking they exist for the sake of the shepherd instead of the other way around. Using the force of guilt to manipulate a flock into supporting dubious, self-serving programs is one quite effective example. This works by appealing to loyalty for the shepherd (“I’m your loyal pastor so help me out here”), or by using the Bible to coerce some kind of behavior, usually about giving money (“…give to this ministry and God will give back to you even more”). The sheep feel bad if they don’t respond as directed or, much worse, might even feel they’re letting God down and this is just plain cruel.

If any of the above is happening to you or the flock you’re part of at least consider confronting the leadership or find a safe haven somewhere else. Blind loyalty to a person, persons or denomination just because of some ‘past’ good old days or long-standing history isn’t going to cut it because we are in the last days and the kind of ecclesiastical disintegration we are witnessing is a precursor, and contributor, to the great apostasy I think is already beginning (2 Thess. 2:1-3).

Pray for guidance when receiving pastoral requests for time and money. Avoid feeling pressured. Focus on your families’ needs first, then those of others.  Charity begins at home.

A must-watch on BBC2 — ending Friday, March 30, 2012, is Reverse Missionaries.

My heart went out to these three people — two men and a woman — as they make their separate ways to our shores for a brief attempt at evangelising the British.

One would think that the established churches would be doing that, but, no, our intrepid evangelists from Jamaica, Malawi and — this Friday — India see us for the ungodly heathens that we are.

The first programme, featuring Baptist Pastor Franklin Small from Jamaica, showed the challenges he faced in King’s Stanley, Gloucestershire (western England). King’s Stanley is an old village but now also a commuter exurb for people who work in Bristol. Pastor Franklin hoped that people would display a kindly, well-mannered disposition, which they did, except where God was concerned.

Pastor Franklin visited King’s Stanley because his inspiration, the Revd Thomas Burchell, grew up there. Burchell was baptised as a young man into the faith at the Baptist chapel called Shortwood, on the outskirts of town where non-conformists had to worship. Around the 23-minute mark in the film, a lady who lives in the house where Shortwood once stood said that it had four ancient footpaths leading to it, whereby worshippers could come from miles around to attend Sunday services, morning and evening. If you’ve read my posts on non-conformism and pietism (see Christianity / Apologetics page), you will recall that this was common practice. Laws at the time protected the established churches in Europe — Anglican and Lutheran — against renegade (non-conformist) Anabaptists and pietist groups.

The lady who lives at the site of the former Shortwood chapel told Pastor Franklin that a Baptist church of the same name is in St James, Jamaica. He reacted enthusiastically, because although he knew the church, he hadn’t connected it with Burchell. You can read more about Burchell here in an old issue of The Baptist Quarterly.

About Shortwood in Gloucestershire (p. 2) The Baptist Quarterly has this record (emphases mine):

Thomas Burchell was born on 25 December, 1799, at Tetbury in Gloucestershire, and could boast among his ancestors Sir Isaac Newton, while has paternal grandfather was the Baptist minister at Tetbury.

It was while training to be a cloth manufacturer in Nailsworth, that he came under the influence of the Shortwood Baptist Church and from then onwards his thoughts were turned towards the mission field. Once more this little church was to supply a missionary for the island of Jamaica. During this particular period there went out from the fellowship, Mrs. Coultart, Joshua Tinson and his wife, Burchell himself and then his niece Hannah Bancroft who married Samuel Oughton; later in 1840, Jabez Tunley and Eliza Tainton who had married Samuel Hodges of the L.M.S., later to become a Baptist and to serve many years in the West Indies.3

Once in Jamaica, Burchell described his mission work, mentioning the Shortwood church he established there:

Every alternate sabbath is occupied in attending to duties of the church at Gurney’s Mount, or Shortwood, or some other place. In addition to this, I frequently go into the country to preach in the interior, at fifteen or twenty miles distance; and, until lately, I had to supply other places at thirty or even thirty-five miles’ distance: so that when I inform you that last year only, for thirteen successive weeks, I journeyed at an average of one hundred and three miles per week on the affairs of the mission and during ten months travelled three thousand one hundred miles, you will be convinced that my toils were not inconsiderable; especially if you keep in mind the climate, and that there are no public means of conveyance.

How did the Baptists in Gloucestershire come to know about Jamaica? Wikipedia relates:

Burchell, along with James Phillippo (1798–1879), William Knibb and Samuel Oughton was one of the group of early Baptist missionaries sent from England to respond to requests from pioneer African Baptists who had become free from slavery, for support in establishing chapels and education in Jamaica. They were representatives of the Baptist Missionary Society of London and followed the pioneering preaching of the African George Lisle.


It is not uncommon for Jamaican parents to name their children ‘Burchell’; indeed it is almost as popular a Christian name as Manley.

Pastor Franklin was saddened to see that the Baptist church in King’s Stanley had very few members in attendance. He believes that the church needs young people for the next generation of a continuing congregation, so set out to meet them wherever he could — local youth football (soccer) matches and the community centre.

His two possible converts were young Daniel and the considerably older ‘Big Kev’ (he lifted his shirt to show his tattoo). Daniel related that he had been bullied at school, but started playing football at the weekends. He and Pastor Franklin took flyers around town inviting people to church. Big Kev had the pressing issues of disability — heart and respiratory problems. He was thinking about euthanasia. Pastor Franklin was no doubt shocked but didn’t show it. He asked Kev, a churchgoer in his youth, why he fell away from the faith. Kev said that it had a lot to do with the death of his sister in her teens. And these are the big issues: ‘How could God do such a thing if He were loving?’ And ‘If there is a loving God, why am I in such a mess with a cocktail of pills to take every day and a mobility scooter?’ Those weren’t actual quotes; I’m paraphrasing.

Because Pastor Franklin walked around town every day and with such a wide remit — with the local Baptist pastor’s permission — he made a lot of friends in a short space of time. Kev — a hard nut to crack — finally attended Small’s bank holiday church festival, where Pastor Franklin related the story of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-34, also Matthew 8:19-26, Luke 8:40-56). Kev told him afterward that he might just have changed his mind about God — because Pastor Franklin cared enough to visit him at home.  Pastor Franklin advised him to ask for the Lord’s help.

Daniel palled around with Pastor Franklin — because he cared enough to play football with him and the other lads. Daniel did indeed bring his family and a few other people to the Baptist church to hear him preach.

It seems we need a larger presence in our communities of pastors and churchgoers. Pastor Franklin believes the church can bring a community together. The programme showed that he might have a point. However, it might have been little more than a novelty factor — unless our clergy are willing to keep up the momentum. This is why I advocate Bible first, then church. Pastor Franklin would no doubt disagree with that, because he was saved on — and from — the streets of Jamaica in his youth by a local pastor. The film showed that Pastor Franklin has also saved local kids in his Jamaican neighbourhood from a life of crime, largely by engaging with them in football first.

The second episode featured a Charismatic pastor, the Revd John Chilimtsidya from Blantyre, Malawi. Pastor John heads a church which has grown from 25 to 800 people in just a few years. He believes this is thanks to energetic preaching and lively music. I’m not sure about that as a universal rule, but it works for him.

Pastor John travelled to Blantyre, Scotland, to visit the home of his Christian inspiration, the missionary David Livingstone. Yes, he of the ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ with which Henry Morton Stanley supposedly greeted him.

Many of us assume that Livingstone grew up in a privileged household, especially as he had a medical degree. However, he grew up as one of nine family members, spanning three generations, in a one-room ‘house’ — what we would call a studio flat — in lodgings for textile mill workers. (Pastor John could relate, having been one of 12 family members growing up in one room.) Livingstone grew up as a Presbyterian (Church of Scotland), then joined the Congregational Church. The BBC film showed a tour guide at the mill describing how the young Livingstone would perch a Latin grammar book on one end of his spinning machine to read a new word, do what he needed to do on the apparatus, then come back to read its definition. The tour guide related that he was not well-liked by the other boys at the mill.

Wikipedia reveals:

… David, along with many of the Livingstones, was at the age of ten employed in the cotton mill of H. Monteith – David and his brother John worked twelve-hour days as “piecers,” tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines.

Livingstone’s father Neil was very committed to his beliefs, a Sunday School teacher and teetotaller who handed out Christian tracts on his travels as a door to door tea salesman, and who read extensively books on theology, travel and missionary enterprises. This rubbed off on the young David, who became an avid reader, but he also loved scouring the countryside for animal, plant and geological specimens in local limestone quarries. Neil Livingstone had a fear of science books as undermining Christianity and attempted to force him to read nothing but theology, but David’s deep interest in nature and science led him to investigate the relationship between religion and science.[3] When in 1832 he read Philosophy of a Future State by the science teacher, amateur astronomer and church minister Thomas Dick, he found the rationale he needed to reconcile faith and science, and apart from the Bible this book was perhaps his greatest philosophical influence.[4]

Other significant influences in his early life were Thomas Burke, a Blantyre evangelist and David Hogg, his Sabbath School teacher.[4] At age nineteen, David and his father left the Church of Scotland for a local Congregational church, influenced by preachers like Ralph Wardlaw who denied predestinatarian limitations on salvation. Influenced by American revivalistic teachings, Livingstone’s reading of the missionary Karl Gützlaff‘s “Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of Chinaenabled him to persuade his father that medical study could advance religious ends.[5]

The film showed that in Malawi, a number of streets and places still bear the names Livingstone and Blantyre. Meanwhile, here in the UK, Livingstone has been largely discredited for having ‘imposed’ Christianity on Africans. He was the source of British jokes and comedy sketches in the 1970s and 1980s, which portrayed him as an inept fool when Stanley happened upon him.  Pastor John would have been most disappointed to find that out.

As it was, Pastor John found the town of Blantyre, near Glasgow (west coast of Scotland), ‘sad’ because of its lack of faith. He had assumed we British would all be full of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, he saw drunken young people falling about the streets of Glasgow when he went out with the local team of Street Pastors.  He was specifically instructed not to evangelise: ‘If it worked, we would do it’. He said that what he saw would have been illegal in Malawi.

Another difficulty for Pastor John was the staid worship in the Congregational Church in Blantyre. Again, fair enough, but we British are a low-key people. Horses for courses. Pastor John wanted to hold a service at the local outdoor skateboarding venue but the older members of the church said that it was a place for young people and that they would be chased away. I can believe it. Anyway, he preached there at a pre-announced day and time. The youths were welcoming and respectful. Then they joined Pastor John and church members at the Congregational Church for a cookout.

Whether that will increase the church, I cannot say. It might have made a difference for some, such as one of the church’s Boy’s Brigade mothers, who had fallen away from the faith, again — like Kev from King’s Stanley — because of a family member’s death. Pastor John helpfully explained that we did not have any say over our entry into this world, nor have we any control over our exit. He said what my mother often said, ‘We don’t know why, but things happen for a reason. God has a plan in mind’. The Boy’s Brigade mother found that helpful, and it seemed to get her back on the road to church.

Both preachers were upset at what they found in the United Kingdom, and rightly so. More than a century of Fabianism has deadened our souls. As Pastor Franklin said, we are spiritually naked, by and large.

To my readers considering a missionary path, there is no finer place to start for English-speakers than the United Kingdom. Please come. If you can bring New Testaments with you, all the better, as the Word of God will be indispensable and a tangible memory of your visit.

Whilst assembling the following sources, I ran across an illustration called ‘God’s Hierarchy’ in the Daily Kos. ‘God’s Hierarchy’ appeared in a 1974 Bill Gothard manual (it’s a must-see but requires permission to use).

Gothard, for my readers outside the United States, is a cultlike Christian leader who has been around for some years, although I had not heard of him until last year. Americans who have come under his influence would say that was a blessing.

‘God’s Hierarchy’ shows God (represented by a triangle and arms) with a hammer in His hand. The hammer — the father of the family — is pounding a huge chisel — the mother.  The chisel as mother is cutting the jewel,  the teenager. That is Gothard’s and the ultraconservative Christian’s idea of the family. It’s not what I grew up with but might be familiar to some of my readers.

So, it was not totally surprising to read about the Islamic version of this linear top-down relationship in the Telegraph. An imam in Catalonia (Spain) is under police investigation for advocating battering ‘errant wives’ (emphases mine):

Abdeslam Laarusi, an imam at the Badr mosque in Terrassa near Barcelona allegedly issued instructions during Friday prayers on how to beat unruly women without leaving telltale marks.

The Muslim cleric advised using “fists and sticks on various parts of the body to avoid breaking bones or drawing blood”, investigators said.

“He provided concrete examples of the manner in which wives should be beaten, how to isolate them inside the family home and how to deny them sexual relations,” said the police in a statement, saying they had received testimony from numerous witnesses.

The imam, a Moroccan immigrant who is married with five children, was called in for questioning by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, on Tuesday …

Muhammad Kamal Mustafa received a 15-month prison sentence and a 2,160 euros fine for inciting Muslim men to physically abuse their wives in his pamphlet “Women in Islam”.

In it he wrote: “The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body.”

Afterward, whilst browsing my blogroll, I came upon the latest posts from the Sola Sisters about Rick Warren’s continuing overtures to Muslims! One post asks what the King’s Way document actually says, another demonstrates that Saddleback pastors know it is an interfaith document and the third discusses one of Warren’s pastors, Abraham Meulenberg, speaking near Nice (France) in 2011 at an ecumenical conference. Photos show him lecturing on the commonality between Christianity and Islam!

It won’t be long before Warren’s fellow Baptists join him in this effort. It would seem as if the complementarians among them would have lots to learn from their Muslim brothers. (Sarcasm alert.)

Why are we teaming up with these people? Don’t discount for a moment the possibility that there’s more money and more prestige in this for Warren.

Back to domestic violence, however. As Anna Wood writes (please take a few minutes to read her post in full):

A man is abusive because he desires ungodly control over his wife. The sin of abuse lies in the abuser’s court.

When you meet up with an abused woman, remember these things:

When a woman is abused by her husband, it isn’t because

she didn’t submit enough (if she is like most abused women, she is far more submissive than most women ever have to be),

she didn’t obey often enough (in the name of obedience, he has likely commanded things that would disgust and frighten the best of us),

she hasn’t tried hard enough,

she didn’t love him enough,

she didn’t spend enough time in prayer for her husband and for their marriage,

she didn’t study the Word,

didn’t believe the Word

or didn’t try to obey the Word with everything within her.

Without further ado, below are resources which women (especially in North America) might find helpful in case of domestic abuse. Clergy and other church-based workers might also find them useful.

N.B.: I have not read the books, only blog recommendations and the Amazon reviews.


Cindy Burrell’s articles

Is substance abuse linked to spouse abuse?


A Cry for Justice

A Wife’s Submission

Submission Tyranny, in Church and Society

The Cross Is All

Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence


Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion

Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics and the sequel

Character Disturbance: the phenomenon of our age

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People


Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (Australia)

Hurt by Love

Not Under Bondage

These are just a few suggestions. There are bound to be many more resources in cyberspace.

End of series

Since I was a child I have never understood the (mainly) American penchant for non-mainline Protestants to beat their children to a pulp from infancy.

This is another reason why I do not advocate pietistic and holiness movements and why I started this series exploring the background to these groups. Yes, some are said to be gentler than others, however, even some Amish and Mennonite communities consider extreme corporal punishment to be necessary for the godly raising of children.

A brief background

In the 1970s, whilst America was looking at post-Dr Spock ways of parenting with patience, the new Christian Right advocated the more traditional method of ‘beatings will stop when morale improves’.

During that time, James Dobson, a Nazarene (a Wesleyan-derived holiness church), started Focus on the Family. From what I can remember through his newspaper interviews, he advocated breaking a young child’s will but not his spirit. I believe it was he who said that you must whip your child with an implement, having tried it on yourself first to see if it would hurt — a fallacy if ever there was one. As children grew, the size of the implement would increase in order to inflict more pain.

I wondered what would happen between a parent who had a black-and-white view of the world and a creative or analytical child. What would happen with an adolescent who was turning out to be more intelligent and articulate than the parent? I concluded that, according to Dobson’s model, the child would need to be beaten into submission.

In the fundamentalist worldview, any opposition to the parent — God’s familial representative — is sinful, ‘rebellious’ and counter-productive to a ‘godly’ home life.

If it doesn’t make sense to you, count yourself fortunate.

The same line of thinking extends to Christian homes for troubled girls and boys, some — like Hephzibah House — operated by Baptist organisations. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Other advocates of this type of abuse in God’s name were — and are — associated with Dominionism which began in the 1970s as a fringe movement and has now morphed into various groups and churches which mostly agree on the necessity to have a home worthy of God, perfect obedience and an unquestioning mind. Some leaders are pastors, others are laypeople — especially couples. In the 1990s, Gary and Anne-Marie Ezzo wrote books and course materials on biblically-based parenting. Over the past decade, Michael and Debi Pearl have been popular in ultra-conservative congregations. To provide more of a structured paradigm for the dominionist model as it relates to the home, pseudo-Calvinists involved in Vision Forum have been at the forefront of the homeschooling movement over the past several years. There are also pseudo-cultish leaders who are promoting the dominionist agenda and a formulaic way to make sure one’s home is favoured by the Lord. I’ll go into that much more next week.

For now, however, consider that we are now into our third generation — at least — of conservative Protestants who are supporters of primitive methods seen to bring about increased godliness and Christian domination. The necessary rationale and mindset revolve around the Old Testament, with the Gospels and Jesus Christ taking second place. The doctrines of grace which are essential to Lutheranism and Calvinism have been displaced by the drive for holiness and sanctity.

Balanced = lukewarm

There is a certain mindset which is in place for the extreme fundamentalist. They separate from the rest of us — Catholics and mainline Protestants — because we aren’t on fire enough for the Lord. We take more measured approaches to faith and home life. The extreme denominations see that as being lukewarm and damned.

Here is an illuminating quote featured recently at Commandments of Men in ‘Balance, Extremes and Swinging Pendulums’ (emphases in bold mine):

All three are concepts which turn into crutches for religious addicts – particularly those in the halfway house phase of the journey.

I fear that a lot of people may have misunderstood the point or context of “balance” that Cindy Kunsman brought up in her review of Courageous

“In real life, these formulaic practices tend to degrade into extremes of legalism which compete with balanced Christian living over time. As Vyckie Garrison notes, because the father-centered ideology redefines balance as sinful mediocrity and compromise to be resisted at all costs under most all circumstances, her family “did NOT want to be balanced. This is a core symptom of dysfunction found in families affected by addiction, a pattern of behavior that Vision Forum teaches as God’s ordained plan for godly living.”

Under Much Grace develops this further:

in dysfunctional households, family members learn that extremes are normal, and when they start to live in balance, it feels wrong. They associate their lives and have learned to experience life through extremes of despair and ecstatic joy, so the balance of everyday living doesn’t feel much like living. They have to chase a high, and this makes sense if they’ve spent a lot of time coping with tragedy and events that left them in despair. They learn to hate that place of balance, the zone where balance places most events in life as the dynamically weave around the midline between extremes.

In extreme religious groups which tends to attract people who subconsciously wish to avoid their pain, not knowing that it even exists in many cases, that zone of balance and emotional health gets redefined. Just as dysfunctional adults redefine balance in relationships as deadness and extremes of continual extreme passion and disdain as intimacy (actually the enemies of true intimacy), religious groups tend to redefine balance in religious life as conformity and lack of commitment to God. 

They learn to experience the world through a framework that prefers extremes and controversy, or rather through conspiracies and extreme themes of apocalypse and triumph. People mistake balanced Christian living as lack of devotion and lack of intimacy with God. Some use gender motivated “culture wars” to play out their unresolved and displaced emotions. Some use the chase of religious highs or the attainment of perfect piety as another way of displacing their internal struggle.

Please note that last sentence about piety!

And this introduction into the desired imbalance starts as soon as a child is born.

Extreme punishment is ‘cleansing’

The Revd Ronald E Williams, Pastor of Believers Baptist Church in Winona Lake, Indiana, and director of the Hepzibah House for ‘troubled teens’ (mostly girls) says in ‘The Correction and Salvation of Children’ that not beating your offspring into submission will consign them to hellfire. As others do, he uses verses from Proverbs to support his methods.

I’m going to map his perspective on a chronological timeline:

When should a parent start using the rod of correction on a child that the Lord has brought into the family? … A child very quickly demonstrates his fallen, depraved nature and reveals himself to be a selfish little beast in manifold ways. As soon as the child begins to express his own self-will (and this occurs early in life) that child needs to receive correction. My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year. To do this, a child must receive correction when he is a small infant. Every parent recognizes that this self-will begins early as he has witnessed his child stiffen his back and boldly demonstrate his rebellion and self-will even though he has been fed, diapered, and cared for in every other physical way.

On what occasions should a child be corrected? Whenever a child directly disobeys authority or shows disrespect and rebellion toward authority, that child should receive correction. Lesser infractions of course would receive lesser forms of correction with the rod being reserved for the more serious infractions.

It’s a cleansing ritual (this is scripturally impossible, by the way, because we cannot purify another’s soul):

The first part or the procedure of correction is highlighted by “Thou shalt beat him with the rod.” The one who does the beating, in other words, is the one who saves this child in a spiritual sense! Here is a very mysterious promise to a parent in the Scriptures, that consistent, Godly, disciplined correction of the child with the rod of correction will in some mysterious sense be instrumental in that child’s spiritual salvation from sin and death …

The beating spoken of in this passage is done often and consistently so that the child recognizes he will always pay a price that he does not want to pay for rebellion against his authority. Such a child who is Biblically trained and corrected will be far more likely to respond to the spiritual concepts of sin and salvation when he reaches the age of understanding. A vital principle for a parent to grasp in this business of child correction is that our children will leave our house to obey their heavenly Father in exactly the same way as they have obeyed their earthly father.

You can understand now why many on the Christian Right think that God or Jesus will give them a whipping if they sin.

Now, note:

Obviously, by the grace of God, there are exceptions to this general rule. By the mercy of God, the Lord has often reached down and saved a rebellious youngster who has left the home of parents who never corrected him in a Godly fashion. It must be remembered that he was saved by an all-wise, merciful, and loving heavenly Father who regenerated his heart even though his earthly parents were unfaithful in the area of correction.

That is the only biblical passage in the piece. We are saved by God’s grace, not parental or filial beatings!

Yet more on the cleansing ritual aspect:

A child may in fact be bruised by a session of difficult correction. In fact, the Lord has already anticipated this objection and has discussed it briefly in the Scriptures. “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly” (Proverbs 20:30) …

God makes the point that if a child is bruised during one of these sessions of correction that a parent should not despair but realize that the blueness of that wound cleanses away the evil heart of rebellion and willful stubbornness that reside in that depraved little body. I must hasten to add that no parent should deliberately seek to bruise his child nor should that be the goal of Biblical correction. I simply must agree with the Lord and declare that if a bruise does occur, God knows about it and will use it to cleanse the guilty heart of that erring child.


To put it another way, the one who does not Biblically beat his child, in a loving and consistent way, in a very real sense predisposes that child for hell and even has a direct part in sending him there! This truth is precisely why the Lord says you “hate your child” if you do not chasten him betimes (Proverbs 13:24).


Although a hand may have to be used in an emergency session of correction, this is not what the Lord had in mind. Your hand cannot do an effective job of correcting since you will inflict about as much pain on your hand as you will on the child’s buttock. Your hand should represent love and affection, not correction. The Lord prefers this inanimate object called the rod.

This will be alarming to those of us not in this mindset:

Many parents in using the rod of correction on their child do so with an obvious lack of vigor and often stop short of the child’s will being completely broken. Manifestation of this error is illustrated in countless homes as a child gets up from his session of correction still spouting rebellious words and giving willful looks at his discouraged parent. The parent has no one to blame but himself for this problem since he did not completely break the will of the child during the session of correction. A child who is still willing to resist the authority of his parent after having received the rod of correction is still in need of more of that same rod.

Both my wife and I have often remarked that it is good that one of our children was not our firstborn. This particular child who came along later in our family was extremely willful and rebellious toward our authority and would often require sessions of correction lasting from one to two hours in length before the will would finally be broken! Had this child been our first, we may well have been tempted to despair of the grace of God.

In the first part of the article, he advocates that even young adults — especially girls — be punished in this way.

As long as you have a child under your authority and your home where you can directly supervise and correct him, there still is hope that you may turn that child from his wicked ways and break his will. You may still teach him to submit to authority in his life

A good illustration of this hope is found in the case of a mother who called me from a distant state about her troubled teenage daughter … I explained to the mother that we did not have room to receive the girl at the time because our beds were filled. However, I mentioned that I could give her a possible answer for her predicament. I also said, “But I doubt that you will follow through.” The mother, hearing that there might be a solution to her crisis, desperately implored, “Yes, I will take your counsel. What is your solution?” I then proceeded to explain that the mother should get a stick that would not break and get after that daughter until the daughter asked for peace in their relationship …

Three weeks later, I received a phone call from this same mother. I had forgotten who she was and was reminded of her identity only when she reminded me of the lock and chain she had purchased to secure her daughter. I remembered who she was at that point since that was a unique method of restraining the girl. I asked, “Well, what has happened since our last conversation?” The mother replied that she had taken my advice to secure a large stick that would not break, and to quote the mother, “I wore off her behind!” I chuckled at the mother’s response and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story … The mother then said, “And it has lasted for three weeks! But I think she needs it again this week.”

Note how the mother’s attempt to amend her daughter’s behaviour translated into a carnal desire to repeat the experience. Not unlike Christian Domestic Discipline with its ‘maintenance’ sessions: ‘Honey, I’ve saved your soul for the Lord and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!’

You can read more about Williams’s Hephzibah House here — not for the faint-hearted or sensitive, by any means.

Reformed Baptist minister Voddie Baucham promotes ‘first-time obedience’, which relies heavily on corporal punishment to break a child’s will. Baucham also believes that a child’s innate shyness is ‘selfishness’ and must be beaten out of him. He insists on being addressed correctly by toddlers after church. Carnal? This man is how many times the size of a small child? Why would he feel threatened by their shyness or social inadequacies?

I’ll go into more of his perspectives next week, however, these parenting methods raise several questions, as Under More Grace shows:

I wholeheartedly agree that letting children (or encouraging children) to engage in rude, disrespectful behavior as a toddler encourages “rank disobedience” later in life. Yet how appropriate is it for an adult to put a small child into a situation wherein the adult expects the child to behave like a rational adult, capable of demonstrating the emotional control of an adult? I think that reasonable tears of fear/hiding one’s face in shy behavior demonstrates an appropriate response under certain circumstances, and the intolerable sticking out one’s tongue are two very separate issues …

Fear is not a sin in a two year old, and fear can sometimes manifest as anger or as shyness. Even adults run to the Rock of our Salvation and hide in the clefts as the adult and valiant warrior Psalmist often did. We trust under the feathers of God and find solace in His shield and buckler when we are afraid, even crying out to our Heavenly Father. Why would this similar behavior be inappropriate for a two year old? …

I am also confused about what Baucham argues here regarding the apparent the virtues of a two year old, wondering how a totally depraved creature who has not yet come to faith in Christ with understanding and credulity can also be filled with the Spirit as evidenced by desirable behavior as a manifestation of willful choice. Does Dr. Baucham believe that good behavior always indicates the manifestation of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Can’t an unbeliever who has been conditioned with behavioral consistency and techniques of “child training” manifest good behavior, or can’t good behavior be feigned apart from the work of the Spirit? Cannot and do not unbelievers, consummate examples of “the good person,” raise respectful, polite and obedient children? How does one differentiate this “deceitful feigning” of good behavior from the miraculous manifestation of the indwelling Holy Spirit, all prior to the child’s mature and willful faith in Christ with understanding of the atonement?

This carnality under the guise of ‘godly discipline’ can be fatal.

Notional pearls of wisdom can lead to prison

Michael and Debi Pearl — an unassuming couple if ever there was one — have (amazingly) made their living in recent years by advocating that parents use a length of plumbing line to beat their children, starting in infancy.  It’s cheap and convenient, they say, because you can have them located easily all around the house and on your person.

In November 2011, America’s ABC News reported on three deaths that resulted:

In May, the 11-year-old daughter of Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., died after they allegedly used Pearl’s methodology, according to a reported The New York Times. The parents were charged with homicide by abuse Sept. 29 and have pled not guilty.

Hana, who with her brother had been adopted from Ethiopia, died from hyperthermia and malnutrition and was found face-down in her back yard, according to the report.

Police said Hana had often been whipped and was forced by her parents to sleep in the barn and to shower outside with a hose. They say that her parents had used a 15-inch plastic tube that is recommended by Pearl to discipline children.

You can read Hana’s horrifying saga here in the Skagit County Sherriff’s Office report.

More from the ABC article:

Lynn Paddock of Johnson County, S.C., was convicted in the first degree murder of her 4-year-old son, Sean, in 2006, and the teachings of Pearl came up in the trial.

The boy suffocated after being tightly wrapped in a blanket and his five other siblings testified they had been beaten daily with the same plastic tubing.

And, another terrible and moving case of Lydia Schatz, who died in Paradise. California, that is. In 2010:

7-year-old Lydia Schatz of Paradise, Calif., was “whipped” to death with rubber tubing for mispronouncing a word during a homeschooling lesson. She died from severe tissue damage and her sister had to be hospitalized.

An ex-fundamentalist blogging at I must follow if I can, is now a member of a mainline Presbyterian church. He lived in the same community as the Schatzes and recalls:

They homeschooled their 9 kids, dressed like Mennonites. And because of the long sleeves and long dresses, nobody knew the children were being beaten.

It was a wake-up call to realize I had helped to plant a tiny church which did not have the kind of resources that may have allowed us to confront the Schatzes. Instead, the church consisted of a few other Fundamentalist, home-schooling “breeder” families, who reinforced and encouraged each other’s isolationist views. Everyone looked to the Schatzes as shining examples in parenthood—not because any of us knew what went on inside their house, but because we all noticed how well-behaved their children were and secretly envied it. If only we had known

Karen at Then Face 2 Face has more, including the passage with the word which Lydia had problems with, which came from Frog and Toad Together, a book about true friendship. Karen tells us that the Schatzes adopted Lydia and her sister Zahria from Liberia (an unstable country where children are treated as cannon fodder).  Lydia and Zahria were in an orphanage at the time. You don’t make friends in an orphanage. You know you will never see your parents. Your relationships are nil. So it’s no wonder that Lydia stumbled over the same word again and again in a story about companionship and loyalty which she never knew.  This must have caused her great pain, a distress which she could not — or would not have been allowed to — articulate. (Having moved around because of my father’s transfers with his employer, I know to a lesser extent what Lydia and her sister endured. In that situation, there are no friendships, no Frog and Toad. It is not surprising that certain anomalies manifest themselves, triggers which would not feature in children who had grown up in the same town all their lives.)

Her adoptive parents couldn’t even show her a Frog and Toad example of security and gentleness.

Karen describes what happened:

I am haunted by Lydia. She died some weeks ago when communication with her adoptive parents became fractured as she read a Frog and Toad storybook during a homeschool lesson. She died because she was beaten until she went into heart failure. She died after her adoptive parents took turns holding her down while the other beat her with a 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line, for hours … She died because her parents, exactly the kind of godly salt-of-the-earth sorts of people that I have sat next to in Homeschooling conventions, relied for wisdom in a terrible situation upon the teachings of men rather than the Holy Spirit of God–or even upon their God-given common sense. Lydia died because horrible ideas have horrible consequences

Both of Karen’s posts are worth reading in full — moving and poignant.

Meanwhile, Michael Pearl is unrepentant.

Beatings can cause renal failure

Plumbing line is not the only implement which can injure or result in death. A switch off of a tree will get the job done, too.

In 2002, sons of a Baptist pastor beat a 11-year boy, Louie Guerrero, so badly that he was hospitalised for renal failure. You can see the photo of his back at this post at Under Much Grace, which has more on the story:

Louis Guerrero also required a blood transfusion.  (To my knowledge, there are now three cases of renal failure related to corporal punishment as a Christian practice.)

From a CNN transcript of the Wolf Blitzer show:

BOBBY TAYLOR, BOY’S ATTORNEY: They took him to this private home, and the person who took him was the — I won’t call him youth minister, but he was a 22-year-old minister, and apparently, he may have been the son of the minister of the church — cut a branch off a tree, made my client lay on the bed, and there began to beat him, and beat him for almost an hour.

BLITZER: The child is reportedly conscious now, but has been in a local intensive care ward since the middle of last week. The incident allegedly occurred while the boy was attending a religious summer camp at the church, for Spanish-speaking children. But, church officials say that, because this happened at a sub-chapter for Spanish- speaking members, it’s not a church matter, and they won’t comment on camera …

BLITZER: The child’s parents refused to speak on camera, but they said when the young ministers dropped their son off at home, one of them told the parents they should discipline the boy further.

The Deseret News reported on December 13, 2003:

Joshua Thompson was ordered to serve 26 years for injury to a child and 20 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The sentences will run concurrently and he could be eligible for parole in 13 years.

Caleb Thompson was sentenced to concurrent 14-year sentences on the same convictions, meaning he could be eligible for parole in seven years.

Caleb Thompson, who held Guerrero down while his brother beat him, said he was sorry for causing the boy’s injuries.

In 2011, a Mennonite girl was removed from her home for the same reason. The Pearls’ whipping methods were also implicated.

This type of renal failure is related to rhabdomyolosis (physiology diagrams at the link):

Rhabdomyolosis describes the condition which follows massive skeletal muscle deterioration, liberating large amounts of muscle cell waste into the bloodstream. As a nurse in critical care, working in critical care for more than ten years and in nursing for twenty-five, I’ve cared for about four patients in active and severe rhabdomyolosis, two of which were related to metabolic/medical processes and two were trauma related. The trauma cases were patients that had major muscles that were torn apart in car crashes, and the damage was extensive and very visible. Some marathon runners and people in or training for triathlons can develop clinically significant rhabdomyolosis because of extreme and abnormal muscle cell rupture, showing high levels of muscle cells in their bloodstream after these types of events. My salient point here: moderate to severe rhabdomyolosis is not a common occurrence. It certainly should not be a consequence of spanking or discipline.

… I am concerned that cumulative damage can occur over time and that more acute damage (rapid onset of symptoms) may also occur in other children in the future. I’m also concerned that the church may never find out about most of these cases and cannot really get the information needed to truly evaluate the safety of Pearl’s method …

Zariah Schatz will live with compromised kidneys for the rest of her life because a part of her kidneys died. She may have enough function after treatment, but she will be compromised somewhat. As she ages, this will be a health concern for her.

Have there been undiagnosed cases of rhabdomyolosis and has it occurred on a chronic basis producing renal insufficiency in some children? Many of the communities of people who rely on the Pearl method eschew traditional healthcare. Some children are never issued birth certificates, born with the assistance of lay midwives. What else goes unnoticed?

I think that it would be wise for the church to take notice of these matters before one more child suffers. You only get 2 million nephrons in life (those tiny little wonderful miracle tubes in the kidney), and they don’t grow back if they get damaged. Could the plumbing line be ironically destroying a child’s own metaphorical plumbing?

As Christians, we all need to be aware of abuse of women and children. As was said earlier, those delightful, well-behaved children might be undergoing a daily calvary. Pastors, elders and teachers also need to be on the lookout for symptoms which could indicate abuse.

In the meantime, for the über-conservatives out there: no amount of beating will cleanse your child’s soul, although it may send him to Heaven sooner — and land you in prison.

For further reading:

Kidney disease related to Pearl (Under Much Grace)

Why good people make dangerous choices (Under Much Grace)

Links related to Lydia Schatz, the Michael Pearl method of child training and First Time Obedience (Under Much Grace)

Is Michael Pearl responsible for a girl’s death? (Tritone Life)

Ezzo feeding methods versus American Academy of Pediatrics

Gary Ezzo’s educational background and run-in with John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (documentation begins on page 2)

God isn’t your dad

A few more posts on spousal abuse, then I’ll close on the topic.

This is such an unpleasant topic to research in a Christian context, because I had been under the impression that the Church helps women in this type of situation.

However, today — in the 21st century — the pendulum is swinging back perhaps further than in the 19th century. Women, submit!

Here is Baptist minister John Piper in 2009 answering a question on domestic abuse:

He seems to half-smile the whole way through and gives a rather daft response.

Piper, for those who are unaware, is lead pastor of his church in Minneapolis and is the head of  Desiring God Ministries.

Many men and women of a Reformed persuasion rely on him for guidance in leading a Christian life. I’ve quoted him here once or twice. However, he has become clearly identified with complementarianism, which is that women should take second place to their husbands at all times except if the husband would cause the wife to sin (e.g. a three-in-a-bed romp).

So, you can imagine how a godly woman who is being abused by her ‘leader’ and high priest (imam) of the household feels when she hears Piper tell her to keep enduring then go to the church for help. After all, was it only verbal abuse or physical? To Piper, it matters, because it is a trivial issue. He doesn’t advise calling the police, by the way.  Ask permission before using the telephone?

The blog Emotional Abuse And Your Faith discussed Piper’s video (a partial transcript of which is on a Women in Ministry post). Emphases mine below:

When the women of his church that have been abused, and wake up and leave his church? John Piper is seriously going to wonder what happened. That’s the sad part …

Allow John Piper to hear from a child that realizes the church has told their Mommy that she needs to take verbal abuse for a season, and allow herself to be hit by Daddy. THEN the church will be called to help mommy with the aftermath. Ask the child to tell John Piper what effect that had on their life …

Jesus had harsh words for anyone who would cause a child to stumble, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” The Bible tells parents to be gentle and loving with their children (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) …

Please let them know that you have to be SURE what type of abuse you are dealing with so you will know how to respond. Please tell them that one kind of pain from the abuser is better than the other please. They truly need to hear this from your pulpit. How about a children’s sermon huh? Please tell the children the truth!

Readers offered other helpful Scripture passages on pastors and Christian relationships in general:

Matthew 23:10
King James Version –
Neither be ye called masters:
for one is your Master, even Christ.

The Amplified-
you must not be called masters ( leaders )
for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.
Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

Romans 12:1-2, which is written to “brothers,” men are told to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Tasha, a commenter, observes:

I have no problem with gender roles. Myself, I am definitely more on the complementarian side of things.

My problem is that Piper is saying that my temporary role as wife supersedes that as sister in Christ.

If my biological brother were in a pattern that damaged his soul (say… pornography, dishonesty, or pride) it would be my duty to warn him of the weeds Satan had been using to choke his soul.

Danni writes (emphases hers):

One verse should be sufficiently striking in addressing Piper’s advise to women to endure verbal abuse and only after physical abuse should they call the church for help. I Cor. 5:11 says the church is to put a “railer” out of the church and treat him as an unbeliever. A railer is a verbal abuser — not a physical abuser.

But the Word says far more. It says that a man who doesn’t provide for his family (and that provision, based on the whole teaching of the Word about a husband’s responsibilities, includes more than money) he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Does the Word mean what it says?

An abuser is an unbeliever (regardless of a “profession of faith” and all the right “deeds” – this is the Word’s judgment, not mine) and this puts a wife into the position of being married to an unbeliever (I Cor. 7) — to whom she is not bound if he is not “pleased” to dwell with her. An abuser is not pleased to dwell with his victim. His is displeased with everything — even if he refuses to remove himself from the house.

To which a complementarian — male, most probably — responds:

Physical abuse is horrible when committed by a man to his wife, but that same women (along with all other men and women) committed the unspeakable physical abuse in the torture and slaying of the Son of God. Swallow your pride and get some perspective! We should be praying for the abusive husband, excercising church discipline, and pleading that God would restore him – not getting angry, fighting back, or blogging about which of our rights were violated.

See, women are such whingers — it’s all about ‘rights’, isn’t it?

Swallow your pride and get some perspective!

Okay, I’ll up the ante with a few online stories on Minister Jacky’s blog — a Charismatic minister in Oxford (UK) who is offering advice to and an outlet for abused wives. Here is part of one American woman’s story:

I totally agree that I should not have to submit to him when he is leading me against the will of God (about going to church, etc.); however, in my case I must be willing to suffer very unpleasant consequences when I go against him. The church I am currently allowed to attend, with him, is 45 minutes from our home. In our six years of absence from our former church, which is less than 10 minutes from our home, we have attended four different churches. We attended this one for a period of about 2 years, left, attended two other churches, then went back to it. I have not been permitted to make any friends at the church. Since my husband has sort of started his own church, he now does not feel obligated to attend church elsewhere

There is absolutely no way I could see a psychiatrist or psychologist without my husband at least knowing about it. He often tracks my mileage on the car and questions me about exactly what I’m doing. Yes, there are confidentiality laws that protect psychiatric patients in the U.S., but good lawyers have ways of getting around that. He could dig for information if he really wanted to. And believe me, he always finds a way to twist the facts around in his favor. We do not have the finances for professional counseling, and my insurance does not cover it. As for the psychiatrist, I am not sure how to go about finding one that will meet my needs.

I have a good Christian friend/neighbor who is like a mother to me. She lives up the street and we just had a conversation about that very thing, after my last melt-down. She let me know that I could always go up there to get away for a bit, if I need to!

Piper and his fellow complementarians would say that this woman was overstating and complaining. Be happy in the Lord, sister! Take your stripes — verbal or physical! You, too, crucified Christ!

Here’s part of another story from Minister Jacky’s site:

The hard part can be that he is a tyrant vicitm, meaning he goes on these anger tyrades where I am left cowering and silent and then the next day is saying what a terrible person he is and how he is so messed up. This sounds like he is coming close to repentance but really I think it just pushes him to be more angry. I have heard the same thing for four years. I used to try and tell him what a good person he was, how I believed in him and what God had for him. That was part of the cycle too so I stopped saying anything.

He is going through weekly counseling with a pastor right now – not for the abuse but for his own heart healing. This is great but nothing has changed for me at home. I feel so weary. At church I am counseled to fight for our marriage, to go through our house and declare God’s authority. It is very hard for me when I feel all I really want to do is crawl into a ball in the lap of God. I have been fighting since we have been married. I do 80% of the household duties while he sits and watches TV. Any request for help is met with another tyrade. Why is it also my responsibility to save our marriage? This cannot be dependent upon me. I really feel the need to rest. Deep down I love my husband but much of that has been buried by all of the hurt and pain. He can be very sensitive and very sweet but those times are overshadowed by the anger and then he can’t understand why it is hard for me to respond to him physically. I feel used. “Take up your spiritual armor” I just can’t right now.

Minister Jacky has a good response to Piper’s video:

I often get emails from women as a result of my own ministry. Usually the women have been given the sort of advice John Piper gives. Unfortunately, things tend to go from bad to worse and abusers are excellent at convincing Pastors and the like that they are no longer abusing while continuing to abuse.

I do not doubt John Piper’s love for Jesus. I have no doubt he wanted to help and gave the best advice he could. However, it just does not work.

If an abused wife said anything like John Piper suggests to an abusive husband it would actually be likely to increase abuse. This is a problem many who seek counselling for abuse come accross – they are told to do things that seem absolutely fine but are not wise in the context of the relationship. There are seemingly normal things you can say to an abusive person which make them worse

At least John Piper goes further than those misguided churches that suggest a woman continues to submit to a violent man ‘because it is scriptural – it happens

One Reformed pastor who does understand the issue is the Revd Jeff Crippen who co-blogs with Anna Wood at A Cry for Justice.

On Mr Crippen:

Jeff Crippen is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon and has been a pastor since 1983.  For the past three years, Jeff has studied the subject of domestic violence and abuse.  He began this study after he and his church suffered through an incident of sexual abuse by a member of their church … 

On Mrs Wood:

Anna Wood is a survivor of many years of domestic abuse and has been active in blogging about the topic in an effort to help other victims. Beyond that, first and foremost, she is a bond-servant to Christ. She is also a lifelong resident of the South, a Reformed Baptist homeschooling Mom of many who enjoys study, reading for pleasure, playing games with her children, cooking, homemaking and her crazy cats and dog. She sets aside as much time as possible for writing.

On both of them and their blog (in my blogroll, as is Anna’s):

We are not “liberal” Christians.  We hold to the solas of the Reformation.  We believe absolutely in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture.  We insist, along with God’s Word, that a person must be born again through faith and repentance in Christ if they are to be justified before God.  We say all of this because we have just established this blog, and already we have been hammered by a couple of fellows who seem to think that anyone calling attention to domestic violence and abuse has to be part of some kind of radical, Christ-hating, liberal, feminism that is conspiring against men.  Frankly, the tone of such attacks is identical to that used by abusers we have known!  We suggest such people work on their disguises a bit!  Their true self is showing!

Crippen’s take on Piper’s video is here:

we could go on for a long while  listing well-known authors, pastors,and  theologians who refuse to acknowledge abuse as biblical grounds for divorce.  The thing is epidemic in our churches, especially our conservative, Bible-believing churches.

What are we doing?  Why have we exalted men such as this to such a level of prominence that whatever they say, it seems, is God’s Word?  Are they prophets?  No.  Why are we acting as if they are?  Their books sell by the thousands.  As in the above youtube clip, here are these men who sit in front of large audiences, being asked questions about what God says.  Why?  Should we not embrace the Apostle Paul’s attitude

Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

And in another post, he asks us to uncover the Church’s resistance to help abused women.  Yes, unfortunately, John MacArthur is among those named. I think that, as wonderful as he is at explaining Scripture, MacArthur — like so many of these men — lives in a rarified atmosphere.

Crippen writes:

I am not a politician – I am a pastor.  A controlling, power-seeking man once told me years ago that if I did not become a better politician, I would never make it as a pastor.  I blew him off.  And I still do.  He was right in a sense.  Our church has grown small.  A politician would have kept them happy and the crowd would have stayed. But that is not the Christian pastor’s calling.  In fact, one reason abuse victims are receiving so much injustice in our churches is because leaders are playing the politics game

I believe that our primary mission right now, in light of the horrible ignorance of abuse in our own conservative churches and in light of the terrible injustices regularly being meted out to victims who seek help from their pastors, that our mission is to address this very problem.  I am not sure how yet.  Writing books and blogs and networking is certainly a pretty good start.  We need to sound the alarm, loud and clear, about what is going on.  We need to expose and oppose and correct the nonsense that the “big” leaders, like MacArthur, Piper, and Sproul (these are just 3 of many examples) have been feeding our churches for a long, long time – largely unopposed.  We need to issue a cry for justice and expose to as many Christians as we can just how wickedly abuse victims are being treated.  And how the evil abusers are being enabled and protected.  You know the story.  For many of you, it is your own story.

Now, here is the issue I that bring up to you with fear and trembling.  I do not think it is wise for us to allow ourselves to get all caught up in the complementarian / egalitarian debate, at least in regard to this specific mission.  Anyone who really “gets it” in regard to abuse and especially if they are truly Christians, has a burning desire for justice and for the correction of this evil, be they complementarian or egalitarian in their views of the headship/submission doctrine of Scripture.  I have my views in regard to this particular debate – most of you probably can guess what my position is.  (By the way, whichever side you might imagine I am on, I can tell you that I fully agree that the truly biblical concept of headship/submission has not very often been taught to us or by us).

And here:

… The fact is, most Christians do not know nor understand the mentality and nature of abuse.  They are oblivious to the nature of the sociopath and psychopath.  Which is to say, they have not really met evil.  Abuse victims have.  And that is why Christians who have been on the receiving end of the evil of abuse go ballistic when they hear leading evangelical pastors and teachers announcing that abuse is no reason for divorce.  No one is untouchable in Christ’s church.  Not MacArthur, not Sproul, not Piper.  If we have misrepresented them by saying that they teach that a woman beaten by her husband has no biblical grounds for divorcing him, then please send the quotations to us in a reply on this blog.  But don’t use the argument – “why, how dare you criticize these men of God”…

Wayne Grudem, a famous Baptist theologian, is also in this camp. Crippen says:

So, what would Grudem tell a woman who came to him with black eyes and a split lip?  I am granting that he would surely pick up the phone right there and then and call the police and see that the brute was thrown in jail.  Piper would, Sproul would, MacArthur would – I have to believe that.  But then what?  Would they tell her that she has the right to divorce?  From everything I am reading from these men, the answer is “no.”  They would tell her she can separate, but only for a time and during that separation she needs to keep working toward reconciliation.

Wayne Grudem is not my enemy.  He is a brother in Christ.  I am not setting out in naming names in these blog posts to simply attack these men because it makes me look and feel like the self-righteous big-shot.  I am simply sounding out A Cry for Justice – and I am saying that such men’s teaching in the church that, in God’s name, forbids beaten, terrorized victims to divorce their abuser (who has already destroyed the marriage covenant) is wrong.  It is injustice.  It is cruel.  And God is not pleased with us for teaching it.

Grudem has an ESV Study Bible. Crippen has this take on it:

The people who put the ESV study Bible together believe that a man can beat the living &^%$(* out of his wife and she CANNOT divorce him.  He can terrorize her (oh, and note that he gets a free pass the first time he punches her lights out – it has to be “repeated” instances of physical abuse), but she can’t divorce him.  She can separate, but always with the notion of reconciliation in mind.

Crippen and Wood are authors of a forthcoming book, A Cry for Justice: Recognizing Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Abuse in the Church and Rendering Justice and Help to Their Victims. More news when it is published.

Anna, a godly woman and the furthest from a feminist that you can imagine, has added her own insights. ‘Comforting the Abused’ is a perfect response to complementarians, and pastors should read it. Here is a brief excerpt:

Abuse isn’t anger issues, isn’t caused by lack of submission on the wife’s part and isn’t a momentary issue. A man isn’t abusive because he isn’t getting enough in the bedroom or because he is intimidated by his wife. Abuse is a long-standing pattern of treatment designed to break and control another person.

A man is abusive because he desires ungodly control over his wife. The sin of abuse lies in the abuser’s court.

And in ‘Silence Heard In Hell’, she writes:

There is a desperate need in the church today for godly men and women to be willing to openly address this issue. To educate themselves on domestic abuse. To be willing to call out the abusers. To minister to the abused. Believe the abused. Most Christians aren’t. Even most Christians in Reformed circles aren’t. By failing to speak out in behalf of the abused, by pretending this isn’t an important issue (or that we are somehow infringing on other’s rights by addressing it), we are speaking very loudly about it. Very loudly, indeed, and our silence is heard in hell …

The obligation to speak truth lies with each one of us. We’ve been silent far too long. We must teach about abuse and minister to the abused because the abused are important to God. This isn’t an easy issue to address; if you take a stand on it some folks won’t like you. Some already don’t like us for taking such a stand but that’s okay; it’s God Whom we seeking to honor, not a person. We’re walking into the fray and we invite you to go with us. We might get singed but since many of Jesus’ followers have been burned at the stake, that’s a small price to pay. I pray that many others feel the same.

It’s a cry and request to all our fellow Christian bloggers to please support our abused sisters in Christ and to help shine a light on nonchalance in this area.  If you don’t, please don’t be surprised when you find increased numbers of atheists and a greater belief that secular government is the only remedy to domestic abuse.

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