Weekly reads is a collection of interesting and informative news articles and blog posts from around the Interwebs.
Most people are only aware of spiritual abuse in a peripheral sort of way – not something I begrudge them, honestly – but the reality is it’s an epidemic claiming many victims, most of whom don’t even realise it’s happening until after the fact – if they ever even realise it at all. In this regard, two recent stories are of interest, both of them reported on the excellent blog Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB for short). The first is that Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham and popular author, is probably on his way to making a “comeback” – this barely a year after he left ministry in disgrace, having had an extramarital affair (which Julie-Ann, author over at SSB, is quick to point out is more akin to clergy sex abuse as the affair originated with a woman who received counselling from him). Here’s the kicker, though: shortly after news of his affair broke, TT actually had the temerity to blame his wife because she did it first. It was later revealed that this affair wasn’t actually his first, though. Classy guy, am I right? He married the woman he had the latest affair with in August, and more recently wrote an article for ExPastors.com that many believe is a first step in “public repentence”. A book is probably on the way.
Why do we care about this? Why should we care about this? Succintly, because public redemption without private repentance isn’t just happening in the spheres of the megachurch and the popular pastor/author; it’s happening all over the place, in all kinds of churches with all kinds of leaders and congregations. And people are getting away with it. Perpetrators actively foster conspiracies of silence and their adherents happily help in maintaining it. How we react to situations as visible as TT’s will affect how we react when it happens in our own communities, in our own churches with our own leaders.
Interestingly, this is what TT’s own cousin had to say about it:
The second story is on Saeed Abedini, an American pastor detained in Iran in 2012 and released earlier this year, who has filed for divorce from his wife. Saeed was the darling of the Christian American persecution complex and made a “pet cause” by popular evangelicals, who chose to turn a blind eye on worrying behaviour on his part. Last year November his wife Nagmeh revealed (privately; the information was leaked) that Saeed had been abusing her throughout their marriage – verbally, physically and sexually. She wrote about it on Facebook in January of this year. Saeed filed for divorce because Nagmeh insisted he receive counselling, and he has since violated restraining orders taken out by Nagmeh.
More troubling even than this is the fact that he’s still actively pursuing ministry. In no way is he being held accountable for his abuse. It’s only onwards and upwards for Saeed! What strikes me about his writing and TT’s piece on ExPastors.com is that there’s a distinct whiff of persecution complex around them. Neither demonstrates sympathy or indeed much awareness of their victims.
And to round off this week’s look at shitty ministry: the New Creation Church in Oregon, America has written this helpful guide if you’re looking to join their worship team. Only goodie-goodie teenagers from the eighties apparently need apply, because anyone who is fat, has piercings or tattoos or thinks wearing shoes with white soles to church is okay do not qualify.
The problem here (beyond the obvious of being total doodie heads) is that they’ve firmly placed brand above Jesus. According to their church website, there’s no dress code for the congregants, but I wonder how long it is until the anvil of “peer pressure” drops on you if you decide to attend regularly or to volunteer.
A few weeks ago Crossway announced that they had finalised their flagship Bible translation, the English Standard Version, with a few final “tweaks” before the text became “permanent”, meaning it would not be revised or changed in future. This decision was met with concern, because the ESV – which has always firmly allied itself with complementarianism – tweaked verses in Genesis for a consciously more complementarian reading. I find this especially ironic considering how often complementarians accuse egalitarians of a “selective reading” of the Bible!
Well, they’ve now apparently reversed their decision (also: a fun game to play is “Spot how much pro-ESV/complementarian bias there is in that CT article!”) I don’t hold out much hope that the ESV will be any less complementarian, but this does at least show the occasional power of (good) outrage.
If you enjoy psychology, check out this article on a study done on narcissists. Basically a bunch of researchers tested a group of students’ interactions and friendships over time. They discovered that while narcissists may initially appear more likeable, they quickly lose friends/influence. But most interestingly, this doesn’t seem to phase them much, because narcissists aren’t really looking for friends, only an audience, and nothing beats a fresh audience!
An oldie but goodie – a fascinating interview with Eugene Peterson, academic, author, pastor and probably best known for translating The Message Bible. I especially liked his take on churches:
A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people.
This article was fascinating. It looks at an unusual case of suicide vs murder. And it’s totally true:
You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
(Two in this case):
Have a great weekend!