This Shouldn’t Generate Any Controversy

A friend posed this question/scenario on a Facebook thread earlier. I wanted to read the whole thing and the easiest way is to copy/paste it here, and then reply. So it evolved into a blog post…

Here is the scenario etc:

Jack, hypothetical and honest scenario – Your church is going through the hiring process of a new pastor. He is a super solid guy who has been with your congregation for decades. Actively involved in youth group both as a student, then an intern when he was in college, and even a volunteer now as an adult. The youth pastor loves him and all the youth can’t stop raving about how cool and awesome he is. 

Unbeknownst to you he sexually assaulted your daughter when she was in the youth group as a student and he was an intern at the time. She never told you or anyone because she was afraid of the embarrassment, shame, guilt, and the too loud whisper in her head that says “maybe I shouldn’t have (fill in the blank: dressed that way, stayed that long after youth group, laughed so easily at his jokes… etc.)”

Days before the hiring committee selects him as a new pastor your daughter finally speaks up. She shows you detailed journal entries from the time of when it actually happened, and tells you how she revealed her assault in vague detail to another female small group leader a few years ago. You’re even able to confirm with the small group leader that your daughter did indeed seek counseling for being assaulted by an active church member, but made a passionate appeal not to tell anyone until she was ready. Additionally, your daughter revealed it in such vague detail to the small group leader that the leader was completely unaware of the seriousness of the issue. Perhaps she thought it was a miscommunication between the two.

What do you do? You’re in complete shock because you have loved the committee’s selection up to this point. The guy is a stand up man who has never given the slightest hint that he’d ever do something so evil and awful to anyone, let alone your own daughter. More over, you even have the thought, “will the committee believe me if I stand up for my daughter’s accusation? Will the congregation understand??” How would you handle this? How is this different from the current news? 

I am aware that there are sick political games being played on both sides on this. I believe the democrats are weaponizing her story and I also believe there are too many republicans doing all they can to get the judge voted in before it’s too late, regardless of whether it’s true or not. I don’t deny those things. 

But from a person perspective. Human Ford, and human Kavanaugh. One is lying and one is telling the truth. How do we handle it? How would you handle it if Ford was your daughter? How would you handle it if the committee was your congregation?

Here is my response:

Couple things before I answer –

  1.  The scenario is not necessarily similar. You are writing this as it was an actual event; neither I nor anyone else at this point knows if the California professors story is true.
  2. I’d hope I am enough a man of character that the fact (in your story) that the girl was my daughter would not impact the way I responded.

Now, my response…

I would go to the church leadership, in private, with the girl/daughter and tell the story. I am, at this point, not sure what I would do if the girl refused to go with me. I’d probably drop the whole thing…but, again, I don’t know.

Assuming she went with me, I’d recommend that the leadership called in the potential pastor (without me or the girl present) and say something like, “We have been told that long ago you assaulted (not sure if I’d name her or not at this point) a girl. What do you have to say about this?”

His response would dictate the rest of the scenario. Obviously he would either admit it or deny it.

If he denied it I would not hold a general church meeting and say, “So and so has been accused of sexual assault. We need to know if anyone else in the church would say they have been assaulted by him.”

might hold a general meeting and tell the church of the accusation, and that there is not enough “evidence” to decide the truth of the matter. I’d probably let the accused speak. And I’d allow for a vote (if that’s the way the church functioned)

Sexual assault is a horrific thing. But the fact that it happened, in your scenario, years ago, and that there has been no other accusation makes it fuzzy at best. Why would my daughter/girl “make it up”? No idea. Is it possible she did? Yup. Is it possible she made it up without even realizing it was not true? Yup.

If the accused admitted that yes, in fact, it happened; I would demand that he tell it to the church. Whether he tearfully confessed or simply confessed does not factor into my decision. I don’t know his heart; I don’t know her heart.

Then I would have them vote.

In other words, in my mind, the accusation in and of itself is not the proverbial deal breaker.

I have never sexually assaulted anyone; but I am a convicted thief, drug dealer, and the only reason I don’t have other convictions is that I plea bargained. I served my time (and as a result of incarceration was confronted with the glorious gospel and converted), was released after a few years and have been in full time youth and prison ministry ever since.

Had I been convicted of a sexual crime I believe I could still be in ministry though, obviously, not with youth or children.

I appreciate your question/scenario; and I’ve thought long about it. The whole thing stinks, but I’ve typed what I believe I’d do. No one knows what they would actually do in such a situation, but that’s my answer.

 

#notmetoo

First, no one ever “deserves” to be raped or otherwise sexually abused.

Even the woman who said she was raped…after attending ten parties where, by her own admission, she “knew” rapes were happening did not “deserve” what allegedly happened to her. Though it does make me think that if I knowingly stroll through a minefield more than once I may be somewhat responsible for being blown to bits…

That said, I wish there was a #notmetoo group of women who would discuss the fact they were never raped or otherwise sexually abused, and who might, for the benefit of others, discuss what they did to help prevent such activity.

I think many preteens and young teens are scared these days.

I fear many young girls fear that every guy is a rapist-in-training. That fear is unjustified.

I fear many young men (and not so young) are fearful that some disturbed, angry, jilted girl is going to destroy their lives with a false accusation.

That fear is, tragically, justified.

Victimized by Parents?

I’m starting what I perceive to be a great book.

The title grabbed me: You are NOT Special and Other Encouragements. The author, David McCullough, Jr, gave a commencement speech that went viral a few years ago, and that birthed the book, published in 2014.

hovering parent

In the forward, he writes:

“Today’s teenagers are, too many of them, unwitting victims of their parents’ good intentions – or passive agents of their parents’ vanity, or pawns to their parents’ insecurities, or anxieties, or limited imaginations. They’ve become showpieces in an arms race to impress admissions officers, and thereby the Joneses, and perpetuate the legacy of privilege…Too often, though, their privileges are unwisely expended, in my view, and serve to promote, however inadvertently, swelling narcissism, assumptions of entitlement, superficial and/or robotic thinking. Empathy withers. Maturation is slowed or halted altogether. Self-reliance dies in the bud. And the anxious parent feels compelled to intercede once again.

Yup. At the risk of sounding racist; if I were to read that quote four decades ago I would have thought of my Korean/American friends (as well as other newcomers to the so called “American dream”).

Now…sadly…it is applicable to all.

 

 

Lawnmower Parents and Snowflake Spirituality

I wish I had written this…but it is from James Emery White. It would probably do you better to read this today than to watch the Kavanuagh hearings…

There’s a new parenting category. You’ve heard of helicopter parents, free-range parents, tiger parents… now there’s “lawnmower parents.” What does a lawnmower parent do? They “mow down all of a child’s challenges, discomforts and struggles.”

The idea has taken hold due to a viral post from an online community for teachers that said, among other things: “In raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids. We are creating a generation that has no idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle.”

The teacher author shared a story of “being called to the office, expecting to retrieve a student’s forgotten meal money or inhaler. Instead, a sheepish parent in a suit was dropping off an expensive water bottle after repeated texts from a child. Water fountains exist all over the school.”

This was actually tame.

Here are some of the “lawnmower” stories that came in as a result of the post:

  • The parent of a high school student who asked a teacher to walk their student to class to assure that the student would not be late.
  • A parent who requested someone from the cafeteria blow on their child’s too-hot lunch to cool it down.
  • A parent who called to schedule a make-up test when the student was clearly old enough to request a time.

To be clear, this is not about a parent’s willingness to help a child succeed. “The problem,” notes Hannah Hudson, Editorial Director for WeAreTeachers.com, “comes from a parent’s repeated efforts to eliminate any and all struggle so that children are ill-equipped when they grow up and life inevitably goes sideways.”

I’ve noticed that, whether as a result of lawnmower parenting or not, there’s also a growing trend among younger Christ followers in regard to handling adversity. In short, many are spiritual snowflakes.

For example, I recently read of a Christian couple who actually considered becoming atheists because they had difficulty conceiving a child. They did conceive, mind you, but because they had difficulty, they began to doubt the existence of a loving God. I’m not diminishing the emotional heartache of not being able to conceive. I am suggesting that elevating such things to the level of spiritual crisis, leading to the rejection of faith altogether, reveals a very weak and shallow faith. A faith that had never been exposed to real challenge or, at the very least, never been discipled for a life of challenge.

This is deeper than the “health and wealth gospel” that is no gospel at all, being proclaimed in 4 out of every 10 evangelical churches. This is broader and more insidious. It’s the belief that we are entitled to a life free of difficulty and challenge, and when difficulty and challenge come our way we shake our fist at God in either doubt or condemnation. Or we simply collapse emotionally and spiritually and wallow in self-pity, elevating our issue to the level of Jeremiah’s lament or Christ’s passion. There’s no spiritual toughness, no spiritual backbone.

In his most recent book, Malcolm Gladwell explores several ideas, but his central exploration is how it is weakness that often makes us strong. Or, more to the point, strength comes from overcoming weakness. I was particularly drawn to the second part of the book, “The Theory of Desirable Difficulty.” There he tells the story of David Boies, who credits his dyslexia for forcing him to compensate by developing skills of observation and memory. Gladwell asks: “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?”

Here lies a deeply important and deeply biblical idea.

As a pastor, I’m often confronted with the confusion and bewilderment surrounding why God might allow pain and suffering into a human life. I know one of the reasons. It is to strengthen us, for what has wounded us most deeply is often what has made us who we are.

Think of how it works with our muscles. To build muscle, you have to actually tear the muscle. And then, when it heals, the scar tissue builds the muscle up and strengthens it.

Biologists have witnessed this in their work among plants and animals for years. They call it the adversity principle. They have discovered that habitual, ongoing well-being is not good for a species. An existence without challenge is not healthy.

You see it in the flabby animals at a zoo that have their food delivered to them every day.

You see it in rainforest trees—because water is everywhere, they don’t have to extend their root system more than a few feet below the surface. As a result, the slightest windstorm can knock them down. But a tree that is planted in dry land has to send its roots down 30 feet or more in search of water. Then, not even a gale force wind can knock those trees down.

It’s no different with our life. Our pain is often what has developed us, strengthened us, allowed us the ability to grow. And that is, of course, precisely what the Bible teaches: “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, NIV).

I am sorry for those who have early first trimester miscarriages, have a car breakdown when money is tight, have to put a beloved pet down or have a cousin who has shingles. But again, to elevate such everyday struggles to the level of spiritual or emotional devastation betrays a significant deficiency not only in faith, but in perspective.

I think of Corrie ten Boom who endured the horrors of Ravensbruck, the infamous Nazi concentration camp for women. (You can read her story in the anointed pages of her biography The Hiding Place.) After her imprisonment, Corrie traveled throughout the world, telling her story of suffering in the context of a faith in God. For 33 years following Ravensbruck, she never had a permanent home. When she was 85 years old, some friends provided her with a lovely home in California. It was a luxury she never dreamed she would have. One day, as a friend was leaving her home, he said, “Corrie, hasn’t God been good to give you this beautiful place?”

She replied firmly, “God was good when I was in Ravensbruck, too.”

So maybe the next time challenge comes, there should be less lawn mowing and certainly less wallowing. Perhaps we should just pick up a copy of The Hiding Place and be reminded of the role faith is meant to play in the face of adversity.

And remember that God is good to us there, too.

Carefully Contending

counselThis is wise counsel (which I need to heed more carefully) from D. A. Carson as he comments on Galatians 2.1ff:

“While the Gospel is something worth contending for, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about this business. When Peter’s inconsistency is public and doing public damage, Paul’s rebuke is public (2.11-21). When Paul is trying to clear the air, find out what is going on, and present the tenor of his own work, he approaches the others ‘privately’ (2.2). His concern, after all, is the advance of the undiluted Gospel, not his own public vindication (emphasis added). When we find ourselves in the place where we must tenaciously contend for the Gospel, we must think through how to do so most winsomely and strategically.”

Supremely Sad

liar_liar_pants_on_fireSeptember 24, 1789 is the date the Judiciary Act – establishing the Supreme Court – was passed by Congress and signed by George Washington.

Happy Birthday, Supremes.

Happy?

Perhaps not. Now come other accusations against nominee Kavanaugh.

I gag when I read that the latest accuser (Ramirez) spent six days “carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney.”  Huh? Let’s gather together, sing a few rounds of Kumbaya, and “assess our memories.”

Then Stormy’s attorney utters a bunch of accusatory words, offering not the slightest shred of evidence or sources.

Wonder how many others are “carefully assessing”?

Let’s consider some possibilities:

  1. Kavanaugh’s first public accuser is telling the truth.
  2. This first accuser is telling the truth as she remembers it, but is mistaken.
  3. Kavanaugh is telling the truth in denying the event happened.
  4. Kavanaugh is telling the truth as he remembers it, but is mistaken.
  5. Blasely-Ford is lying.
  6. Kavanaugh is lying.

If you’ve never been drunk or high, possibilities 2 and 4 may seem ridiculous.

But as one who, sadly, spent many years as an alcoholic and drug abuser, I know such things can happen…ranging from confusion to a total lack of memory of some incidents.

Obviously points 1 and  3 both can’t be true.

As I’ve said before, if Kavanaugh is lying, not only should he not be confirmed, he should be disbarred. If it can be proven Blasely-Ford is intentionally lying she should be charged with something. If it can be proven that some Democrat leadership has played her in this episode, heads should roll.

But I fear we will never know…with certainty.

And I fear many good men and women of all stripes will not accept nomination for much of any position, simply because they don’t want themselves or their families put under the witch-hunting microscope of background checks.

So, on this birthday of the Supreme Court; it may also mark the week of its effective demise.

 

 

 

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Kavanaugh/Accuser Thoughts – and a Warning

Like you, I have no clue whether or not the Kavanaugh accuser is intentionally lying.

There are multiple possibilities.

Since you asked (or didn’t), here is what I think:

  • If Kavanaugh is lying (and I do not believe he is) he should not only withdraw, but be disbarred
  • Feinstein should clearly explain why she kept the letter secret for so long
  • It is  idiotic to call for an FBI investigation…of what? She doesn’t know when it (allegedly) happened, or where it (allegedly) happened. What’s to investigate? Besides, assault/attempted rape is not a Federal crime.
  • The statements of some of the Democrats are so beyond-idiotic it must be embarrassing to the majority of the party
  • Other than the fact he nominated Kavanaugh, this has nothing to do with Trump
  • So much for “innocent until proven guilty…”

So much more, but that’s enough…

Now, the warning (especially to those in vocational ministry, but applicable to all) {especially if you are male, but applicable to females also}

Back in the old days we were warned, “Never be alone with someone of the opposite sex.” Anyone with functioning brain cells knows that for several years that needs to read “Never be alone with anyone.”

On this you need to be “paranoid.”

All it takes is one accusation (true or false) and you are done.

Period.

The more vocal you are about Biblical absolutes – like abortion, or the fact that, Biblically, marriage is between a man and a woman; the more of a target you become.

And, as if anyone needed proof, this episode proves idiots of any stripe will do anything to discredit someone with whom they disagree.

Be careful! Be “wise as a serpant”.

I also wonder how many good men and women are going to turn down the opportunity to serve in any capacity fearing – with justification – the witch hunt. And I do mean “any capacity”…for this will, like dung, trickle-down…