Thursday, January 11, 2018

Is Your Pastor a Criminal? (It's more likely than you think.)

Another pastor's sexual abuse of a minor came to light recently. You can read about it here in Amy Smith's blog, Watch Keep.

The young woman was 17 years old when her youth pastor took her out to an isolated place at night and sexually assaulted her. Immediately after the horrific act, he "apologized" and then instructed her to keep it quiet and "take it to the grave."

Some people, even people in her own church, believe she was a "willing participant" and even an "opportunistic woman."

The church was not a safe place for this young woman. She suffered the worst devastation of her life in, and because of, the church.

People, this is preventable. One of the problems with abuse in the church is people's fear of talking about it. The church likes to keep their sin quiet so the world doesn't find out. This is why many perpetrators seek churches specifically as a place to find their victims. They know their secrets are more likely to stay secret in a church more than any other place on the planet. So, they go to churches, they put on the costume of righteousness and they begin grooming their victims.

So, the first thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Stop the silence.

Another thing perpetrators do is make sure their victims are seen as equally responsible for the abuse. This is done by making sure the victim is somehow framed in a negative light. In the young woman's story referenced above, she was immediately painted as "unforgiving" and "bitter" because she spoke out. She was told not even to talk to her own parents! She was not validated or treated with respect. He abused her, he gave her a faux apology, then painted her as the problem for her "unforgiveness." Realize this is part of the grooming; a part of the plan from the start. There is no reactionary behavior from the perpetrator....his actions are all planned out from the start, even his "faux apologies."

So, the second thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Keep all blame on the perpetrator.

In this particular case, this youth pastor's superiors went along with his cover-up. The girl was so traumatized that she finally said something to some trusted women in the church. Oh, but those women weren't to be trusted because they went right to the pastors and the girl got in trouble for telling! They should have gone to the authorities. She was further traumatized and further victimized by her own fellow church members. Gossip ensued, making everything worse, which it always does. What should have happened: the authorities should have been called and it should have been reported. The act itself is criminal and not reporting such an act is also criminal. So, at that point, you have criminals - people actively breaking the law - running your church. And, in this case, the perp got a standing ovation. My word.

So, the third thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Report the abuse to the authorities.

Some people think that if it's handled "internally" within the church, it's over. However, the law of the land, which we are commanded in Scripture to obey, says otherwise. We don't get to decide which points of the law we obey.

If your church is known for not being silent, for not blaming victims and for calling the authorities on criminals, a perpetrator is more likely to look elsewhere for victims. You see, perpetrators scout out their victims. They don't wake up and randomly find a victim....oh, no....they plan, plot, set themselves in a position to do their dastardly deeds and groom their victims carefully. That grooming takes time, is done meticulously and done with intent. A perpetrator will know if your church allows these things to be "handled internally" or if they are handled properly and legally. This is part of their scouting process; they have to know how a church will handle them.

If your church handles things "internally," you are more likely to have perpetrators in your midst.

This can be prevented. It doesn't have to happen.
More to come on this subject. One blog post can't possibly cover every point.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Does your Outfit Make you a Rapist?

Amid all the revelations of abuse by people like Matt Lauer, Roy Moore and others in the news, I can't help but think of all the abuse going on within the church. There is no less abuse going on in the churches than there is in Hollywood, politics and the news media outlets, it's just kept even quieter.

While there seem to be many reasons this is so blatantly common, there is one common thread that will ensure it will continue: blaming the victims. One person described what she considered provocative dressing as "reverse sexual harassment." She said that women who dress "like current celebrities" are "just as guilty of sexual misconduct as men."

This equates dress with rape.
Wear the wrong outfit and you're guilty of rape, abuse and violence against women??
Oh, my.

This is wrong.
This attitude is part of the problem.
This attitude fuels a culture of abuse.

As long as men are given this type of pass, they will continue to abuse. Dress doesn't matter in the least. Women in Burqas are raped and abused all the time; it's rampant. Nuns in Habits have been raped and abused.

As long as people in your church have this attitude, you can be sure abuse is going on behind some closed door somewhere in the building, or behind a car in the parking lot, or in a quiet hallway after a youth meeting, and it will continue to go on. I guarantee it. It's happening every single week. And just like ABWE*, church leadership - all made up of men and men, only - will blame the victim. This guarantees it will continue. These men have to keep the women out of leadership in order for their abusive ways to continue.

Get your head out of the sand, people.

The problem is not how women dress. The problem lies with the abuser, in this case, men. The problem is patriarchy, a system that forces women to share part of the blame for the sins of men.

I don't care how someone is dressed, no one has a right to rape, abuse, touch, intimidate and threaten them.

Those who blame the victim on any level are part of the problem.

Fixing this culture of abuse starts with educating our sons that they are entitled to nothing....that sex is not a need....that aggressive behavior will not be tolerated.....that they are not better than women and God did not give them exclusive rights to leadership.

It also starts with teaching our daughters that they are the boss of their own bodies, even after marriage, and they do not "owe" their husbands sex. We have to teach our daughters that their relationship with God is not filtered through their father or husband, that they should have a voice in their church and can refuse to be part of a church that will not allow it, and that they, too, can be leaders.

I have to speak out against this kind of thinking lest any victim anywhere would think I agree with the idea that any victim is partially to blame.

People in prominent positions in conservative Christian organizations try to silence me on this all the time.

(*ABWE is the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism whose prized doctor, Donn Ketcham, created an entire system of abuse in Bangladesh to fuel his pedophilia, abusing nationals as well as fellow missionaries and their children. When the children grew up and started telling their stories, ABWE blamed them, tried to silence them, and wouldn't listen to them, yet exalted the doctor and allowed him to go into private practice in the States with no disclosure. There, he was given free reign to abuse even more victims and is only now, in his eighties, facing the charges. ABWE keeps going as though nothing happened, leaving the victims in their dust and calling themselves righteous.)


Friday, October 6, 2017

How to Start a Cult

L. Ron Hubbard wrote massive volumes of books and courses on Scientology, a religion he made up, and Scientology now has millions of followers who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy his books and take his courses. The vast majority go so far as to devote their entire lives, forsaking spouse and children, to follow these teachings. Some people have found their way out, however, and now help others who have been hurt by Scientology.

Joseph Smith, high on something in the woods, wrote the Book of Mormon and created a cult that has followers to this day, although the polygamy he wrote into it and cherished is now relegated to a few sects mainly dwelling in Colorado and Utah.

John Piper and Wayne Grudem, along with a few other misled, insecure men, wrote a manifesto on what they consider "biblical manhood and womanhood," wherein they twisted the Bible and added a multitude of "inferences" to justify their twisted interpretations about what they think men and women should be doing with their time. This manifesto is so popular and widely accepted that pastors and missionaries refer to it more than the Bible, itself, when it comes to questions of gender roles, of which there should be none.

Cult leaders do not encourage independent, critical thinking. As a matter of fact, they discourage
independent, critical thinking. Every single cult leader demands that their ideas, interpretations and concepts are followed to a T and their followers face dire consequences if they do not adhere to them. John Piper even wrote a set of arguments against those of us who have taken issue with any of his interpretations.

A few weeks ago, I was compared to a cult leader because I strongly encourage independent, critical thinking when it comes to Bible study. I was criticized for using a lexicon for Bible study. I was criticized for following and praising the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, even though Luke praised them for looking things up for themselves.

I encourage independent, critical thinking.....the person who criticized me encourages extensive use of commentaries for Bible study. You tell me who looks more like a cult leader. Hint: One who encourages the use of man-made material over the Bible is much more like a cult leader than one who encourages independent, critical thinking.

So, one key to starting a cult is to make sure you do not ever encourage independent, critical thinking. Make sure your subjects are following something other than the Word of God, like a commentary or books written by some wealthy faux Christian author, or, better yet, write your own.

Another key to starting a cult is to subdue women. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood does this so well that even otherwise solid evangelical pastors embrace much of this teaching. Part of subduing women includes minimizing how women served throughout the Bible. The teachings of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood actually teach that Deborah, the Old Testament judge, was only used as a judge because she gave priority to men, which they say proved God would never use a woman to lead a man unless she showed priority to that man.

I've had more than one Christian person throw the links to this false teaching into my inbox along with warnings about how God will not bless me if I don't give priority to men in my life. I have news for those people: It's too late for God to not bless me since He already has.

There you have two keys to starting a cult:

1. Write a manifesto that sounds real close to what the Bible teaches.
2. Subdue women.

Every single modern-day cult has done these two things.


Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Give your Kids the Gift of Grit

I recently listened to a TED talk about grit by Angela Lee Duckworth. You can find it here. The talk is four years old, but I just ran across it because a friend shared it on Facebook. I found her talk very interesting because I can help her find the one answer that eludes her.

She said parents and teachers daily ask her,  "How do I build grit in kids?" or "What do I do to teach kids a solid work ethic?" and "How do I keep them motivated for the long run?"

Her reply, "The honest answer is, I don't know."

But I know! I know how to build grit in kids. I know how to teach them a solid work ethic. I know how to keep them motivated for the long run. And it's not rocket science.

Ms. Duckworth said the best idea she's heard on how to teach grit is a growth mindset. That's not a bad thing, but it, alone, will not build grit.

This is it. There is one thing that builds grit over all other things and that is: Critical thinking.

Critical thinking shatters the herd mentality that tells us we have to wait for someone else before acting.

Critical thinking shatters the notion that anyone else has the power to approve or disapprove of anything we say/do/think/feel/write/love/hate......etc.

Critical thinking shatters the teaching that it takes a village to raise a child.

Critical thinking is independent by definition. If we ascribe to a herd mentality, we will stifle our own ability to operate outside the herd. Critical thinkers don't follow the herd. They aren't being rebellious, they are simply following their own line of thinking and it's different than everyone else's.

Critical thinkers do the one thing herd followers don't do: They think.

Instead of simply following the herd, they stop, look things over, ask pertinent questions and often find that following the herd won't work for them, so they veer off the beaten path to a lesser-followed path, or even more often, they create their own path.

They think.
They think for themselves.
They think before taking action.
They think instead of react.
They think in critical terms, not with assumptions.
They think in factual terms.
They think.

Critical thinking is the key to grit. Critical thinking gives a person the motivation to keep on keeping on because they've made their decisions based on their own reasoning and not based on what someone else has told them. Critical thinkers are intentional in their actions, are not afraid to question others and not afraid to go against the herd.

Teaching your kids to be critical thinkers will give them grit.
Read my Christian Standard article on critical thinking here.

What exactly is critical thinking? In dictionaries I consulted, it is defined as "The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment."

That's a good definition, but it might be surprisingly difficult to practice in today's world. Not too many things are presented as objective any more. The news outlets report news with a judgment.....and Donald J. Trump's election to the US presidency was an excellent example. Every liberal media outlet reported the election with bias. They did not simply report the news, they reported with bias. They are not/were not critical thinkers. They could not report with objectivity.

It's really no different in the church. Pastors preach with bias by telling people how to apply God's Word instead of just giving God's Word and knowing the Holy Spirit can handle the application. They need to get out of the application business and get back to simply presenting God's Word as He has written it and let it go. Pastors who focus on application are people of little faith.

Objectivity creates critical thinking and critical thinking creates grit.

Do you want your kids to have grit? Teach them to be critical thinkers. Encourage them to question you. Encourage them to question everyone....their pastor, their teacher, their aunts, their uncles, their grandparents, their neighbors, their friends, etc. A bonus is that kids who question are less likely to be abused. Most abuse happens by people kids know....arm your kids with critical thinking and they will not be vulnerable to abuse. More on that here

Grit creates advantage.

This is my last point. Grit creates advantage because it does not function without objective, critical thinking. Newsflash: Your kids are already seeing things though their own eyes and they are already questioning. This is why a 3-year-old will ask "Why?" 10,000 times a day.....they want to know how things work....why things are the way they are. We, as parents, often squelch their questioning because it makes us tired or we have other things on our mind or we are distracted or busy, etc. As hard as it might be at times, encouraging curiosity builds critical thinking and critical thinking creates grit. 

Do you want your kids to have grit? If so, teach them critical thinking. Every single one of our eight kids has critical thinking skills and every single one of them has grit.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Do You Recognize the Bible?

Do you recognize the Bible? Can you recognize false teaching? Many pastors, teachers and authors, even in mainstream evangelical churches, aren't preaching the truth.

What are they preaching? The answer is simple: Human ideas. Human philosophy. Human reasoning.

How do I know this is not the Truth?

One young woman asked me that very question a few years ago. She and a co-worker had stopped by our house and after a time of visiting, they sought truth about the Word of God. She asked me point blank how I knew when a sermon was not based on Truth.

My answer: Say you're hearing someone preach John 3:16 and they talk about God's love and how much he loved humanity......then they veer off and talk about I Corinthians 13 and use that to define how WE should love, but they never establish a context for either passage of Scripture but simply tie them together all in the name of love. Oh, we ought to love! Are you loving? Are you loving the way 1 Corinthians 13 says to love?

Sounds so good, right?

Not so fast.

It's as though they decided to preach on love and looked up verses with the word love in them, then built a "sermon" which really isn't a sermon at all. If preaching isn't expository, it's not preaching at all, it's a talk or lecture. Expository means we take God's Word in context, without human speculation. The Bible is not a dictionary or an encyclopedia, it is a narrative.

Now let's say you're hearing a true expositor preach John 3:16.....the first thing they do after reading the entire passage (and inviting you to follow along in your own Bible), is to establish context. They ask pertinent questions....why say things this way? Why say "begotten Son?" Who is Jesus talking to? (He's talking to Nicodemus.) Why is he talking to him? (Nicodemus came to him at night and approached him.) Jesus knew his heart's condition......he told him no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Nicodemus was confused.....and Jesus wondered at him not knowing this, seeing he was a teacher of the Jews. Jesus goes on to explain some theology and hits a highlight as he helps Nicodemus understand by giving the example of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21) - and explains that, in the same way, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.....that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.....then he says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him will not perish but have everlasting life..."  and verse 17 cannot be left out...."For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

So, this very short, not-at-all complete summary shows the huge difference between man's ideas and God's intent. John 3 is all about God's great, unspeakable gift of eternal is not about what we should or should not do when we are loving others.

Now, this is not to say that we are not to love's simply that this is not what John 3 is teaching. This is not what John 3:16 is about.

And that is one example of how to tell if your pastor is preaching the Truth or preaching human ideas.

Stick to the Word.
It is enough without some human's ideas.
Take everything you are taught, no matter who is teaching it, and filter it through the Scriptures. If it does not measure up, it's not preaching and it's not accurate teaching. Get away from that sort of teaching/preaching.

If you want human ideas, tune into the news or read a book.

Do you recognize the Bible? Can you listen to a sermon and tell whether the preacher is sticking to the Word or going off on human ideas?

I really, really miss my husband's preaching. He is a true expositor...and true expositors, we have learned, are very rare, indeed.

Read your Bible.
Make observations of what you read.
Interpret what it says according to the passage context.
Find out more about Bible study here at


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More on Fitz. At First Baptist.

I recently wrote a blog post about something that happened to me at First Baptist Church in Laurel, MD. If interested, you can read that post here.

I want to follow up and say this:

Please, for the safety of your children and even your own privacy, be aware that no one there seems to think it's bad that Fitz is not uncomfortable being alone in a ladies room with a woman he does not know.

I was called out over this. I was told I "treated him like trash" and am "hurting the church" by speaking out about this.

Every single decent man in my life has said they would be embarrassed to find they had walked in on a woman in a ladies room. Every single decent man in my life has said they would very quickly leave the room if they walked in on a woman....that it would make them uncomfortable and they would feel terrible.

Did you catch that?

They would leave.....very quickly.....
They would be uncomfortable....
They would feel terrible.....

Not Fitz. He was not a bit uncomfortable.
He didn't feel terrible.
He felt victimized, telling others I "treated him like trash."

He stayed.

I left.

I left while a man stayed in the ladies room.
Doesn't that seem odd and not quite right to you?

He expressed ZERO embarrassment.
He had ZERO discomfort.

He literally stood there, smirking at me.
I had to walk within six inches of him in order to get out....he was blocking the door....he would not move....he stood there smirking.
And, apparently, "I'm hurting the church" to speak up about this.
Nah, the church doesn't need my help; they are hurting themselves just fine.
A "church" that further victimizes a victim while touting the Gospel has missed the Gospel message altogether.

Is he going to walk in on you .......or your daughter...... next?


Thursday, July 13, 2017

It was Fitz. At First Baptist.

It was February, 2014, and I was in the ladies room at First Baptist Church of Laurel, MD. My sons were taking karate classes at the church and, as I often did, I drove them to class and took a scrapbooking project to work on while they had class for two hours.

I was having a great time and I was also drinking ice water. After a while, the ladies room beckoned and I went around the corner and entered the ladies room. While I was in the know.....I heard the main door to the ladies room open and close. I thought, of course, that another lady had come in to use the facilities.

Imagine my complete shock to open the partially-private stall door to find a man standing there looking at me with a smirk on his face! Immediately, I said, "Get out of here! This is a ladies room! Why didn't you knock to see if it was occupied?"

He said, "I don't knock. I ain't gonna knock. I got work to do."

I said, "Get out of here!"

He would not move. He was blocking the door; I could not get out. He stood his ground.

I said, "You can't just come in here at will and clean unless you know the room is empty!"

He said, "I do what I want. I got work to do. I ain't got time to do no knocking."

And he stood there, looking at me with a smirk on his face. I got bold. I walked over to him, passed within six inches of him in order to leave and did not take my eyes off him the entire time. He continued to smirk.

I was shaken. I was embarrassed. I was upset. I went to the security person on duty and told them what happened. That person didn't know what to do, so they called the building supervisor. I could hear her on his phone. When he told her what I had told him, she said, "Oh, that doesn't sound like Fitz."

So, Fitz was his name. I had not known that.

The security guard was flustered and didn't know what to do and I heard him tell the building supervisor, "She's right here...." as if to tell her I could hear their exchange. He hung up and shrugged at me. I told him I was going to call the senior pastor. He said the senior pastor was on the premises, in a deacon's meeting.

"Perfect," I said. His eyes widened in response. "Yes, please let him know I need to talk to him after his meeting."

Then I called my husband and told him what was going on. He was livid and was glad I was going to talk to the senior pastor.

When I told the senior pastor what happened, he was at first shocked and compassionate. Then, after assuring me their system of checking to make sure no one was in the ladies room would be revisited and they would stop this from happening again, he shook his head and said, "This just does not sound like Fitz!"

I was shocked he would say that to me. I looked at him and said, "But it was Fitz. He did this."

He replied, "I hear what you're saying, but it just does not sound like him."

And that's where he left it.

The church trustees met and put a protective practice in place. From now on, I was told, Fitz would have to have the security person with him, knock on the ladies room door, wait for an answer, slightly open the door, yell to see if anyone was in there.....and only if they were sure no one was inside they could proceed to enter and clean.

I observed this - they did it a total of one time.

After the one time they did it, I returned the next week to observe Fitz enter the ladies room with a small knock as he entered. He was back at it. I informed the security person and they said the trustees were handling the issue.

I did talk to a trustee. I was told, "Well, we discussed it and determined that it all happened so fast that no one really knows what happened."

I said, "I know what happened! I was there! No trustee discussed this with me so how was this determined without talking to the people involved?"

"Listen, we have all known Fitz a very long time and he's worked at the church for a long time."

And that was that. I stopped using the ladies room at First Baptist and we removed our membership. I still go to First Baptist's building from time to time as my sons still take karate there.....they are adults now and take themselves to and from.

I see Fitz from time to time when I'm there for tournaments or occasionally to meet a friend.....
and he smirks at me every time he sees me.

I fell into the trap.....I didn't voice this incident until now. I didn't voice it when church leadership minimized things and did not treat Fitz as the threat he is. Life got husband got cancer....we had to move several times....I dealt with it by leaving the church and warning a few other moms whose kids go to karate. But, I should have done this a lot sooner. Now that my husband no longer has cancer and we are settled into a home we bought, I've finally found the where-with-all in myself to tell this story and name names.

Beware of Fitz at First Baptist in Laurel. He is not a member. He is hired help who is working unsupervised many evenings throughout the week. I have never seen anyone supervise him. He saunters through the building, entering the various ladies rooms at will with no knocking, no warning and no apology when he happens upon someone using the facilities.