Happy Anniversary to Me #14

Fourteen years ago today, I started this blog with these words:

This is a test, nothing but a test. A test of your routine blogcasting network.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but with the encouragement of my former pastor Byron Harvey, I launched into the wild world of blogging. I started out on the old Blogspot platform and then moved to WordPress in 2006. I moved from there to Patheos in 2013, just in time to cover the demise of Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia. When Patheos decided I was too hot to handle, I moved really quickly back to this independent format on WordPress. Since 2005, I have written 4,865 posts according to WordPress backroom counter.

Maybe when I hit some milestone like 15 years, I’ll throw a party. For now, I noticed the date while looking up some old posts and thought I would quietly remember the occasion. Some readers have been along since near the beginning and some more recently. Perhaps regular readers could indicate when you started following the blog and what story or topic brought you in. I appreciate you, your tips, and feedback.

John MacArthur’s Story About MLK Jr.’s Assassination and Evil Insinuations

For many years, John MacArthur has told a story about the night Martin Luther King, Jr. died. Although the details vary slightly with the telling, the summary is that he, John Perkins and some other civil rights leaders traveled from Jackson, MS to Memphis, TN the night MLK was murdered. They went to the Lorraine Motel and stood where King was killed. They also went to the nearby boarding house where James Earl Ray carried out the shooting.

A February 2019 investigative report filed in the online NOQ Reports questioned MacArthur’s story via the testimony of civil rights leader Charles Evers. MacArthur named Evers as one of the civil rights leaders present in Jackson that night and implied that Evers went with the group to Memphis. Evers denied knowing MacArthur and denied going to Memphis with him or anyone the night King was murdered. In fact, news accounts of the day make it improbable that Evers could have made that trip.

One crucial eyewitness who has remained silent is civil rights icon John Perkins. Perkins was with MacArthur in Mississippi that night and MacArthur has indicated that they were together for the trip. Perkins did not speak on the record for the NOQ Reports article and declined to speak directly to me. However, he did authorize his daughter Deborah Perkins to speak for his Foundation about the issue. Deborah Perkins told me in a March phone interview that Charles Evers’ denial of MacArthur’s story was correct. I also interviewed Evers who told me that he didn’t go to Memphis that night. My summary of those two interviews was as follows:

In summary, when John Perkins’ representative had the chance to confirm John MacArthur’s story, she declined to comment; then she spontaneously affirmed the accuracy of the person who said it wasn’t true. This is what I can offer at this time. What it means is surely in the eye of the beholder.

Now comes Brent Detwiler who has taken just about everything written on this subject and compiled it into a lengthy article which he says is the most important one he’s ever written. If interested in this subject, it is worth reviewing since it brings together what has been written and adds some new correspondence.

Did I Make Effort to Talk to Perkins?

My point with this post is to comment on one small aspect of that correspondence from Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, the ministry of John MacArthur. Johnson appears to act as MacArthur’s public voice. At least on this matter, Johnson has been doing that. In an email attributed to Johnson, Johnson says the following to Detwiler:

My original challenge to Mr. Throckmorton stands for you: If you seriously want to investigate John MacArthur’s account, you need to ask John Perkins one simple question—namely, “Is it true that you went with John MacArthur to the Lorraine Motel in the wake of the MLK assassination?”  Throckmorton made no attempt to get an answer to that question, but published a piece full of evil insinuations anyway—to his own embarrassment.

Here is the background for this paragraph. In prior correspondence, Johnson suggested that I contact Perkins with the question: “Is it true that you went with John MacArthur to the Lorraine Motel in the wake of the MLK assassination?” I told him at that time that I had already contacted John Perkins through Perkins’ website. I wanted to ask Perkins this exact question. Knowing that MacArthur and Perkins were friends, I asked Johnson if he had more direct contact information. I did not get a reply to this question.

And so Johnson’s assertion to Detwiler is not true. I asked Perkins via his Foundation if he had accompanied John MacArthur to Memphis in the wake of MLK’s assassination. Perkins himself did not reply, but a representative from his foundation did and said that someone from the foundation would reply after they talked to Dr. Perkins following his return from a business trip. In addition, they wanted me to submit examples of articles that I had published in the past. I then heard from a representative that Perkins Foundation co-president Deborah Perkins would talk to me after her father returned. The results of that interview are reported here.

In fact, I made significant efforts to get an answer to that question and Johnson knows it because we discussed it via email. Despite the fact that Deborah Perkins is John Perkins’ daughter, the co-president of the Foundation, and spoke as a representative of the Perkins Foundation, Johnson called Deborah Perkins’ answer “hearsay.”

Furthermore, my article contained very little in the way of insinuation, evil or otherwise. I wrote:

I asked for response or comment from Johnson and Rev. MacArthur (through Johnson) but they didn’t response by the time I published this. I will be happy to add any response they offer.

Without a lengthier interview with Dr. Perkins, I still don’t know in detail what happened that night or if there was ever a trip to Memphis (within a week, a month?). Perhaps everybody involved has a fuzzy memory for the events of the time.

In summary, when John Perkins’ representative had the chance to confirm John MacArthur’s story, she declined to comment; then she spontaneously affirmed the accuracy of the person who said it wasn’t true. This is what I can offer at this time. What it means is surely in the eye of the beholder.

It is perplexing to me how Mr. Johnson can get an “evil insinuation” out of this. It is also simply wrong — and I believe Mr. Johnson should correct his statement now that it is public — that I made no effort to contact Perkins. I did, and I still hope to hear Dr. Perkins personal statement about what he did the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I believe his daughter spoke officially and with the authority given to her by her father, but there are those who will only heed something from Dr. Perkins himself.

Former Liberty University Faculty Member Describes Workplace as “Shifty, Dishonorable, Unprincipled, and Hypocritical”

Liberty University is in the news a lot lately but not for great reasons. Yesterday, I called attention to a tweet from LU president Jerry Falwell, Jr.  which disparaged fellow Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore. Moore had lamented the treatment of migrant children at the U.S. southern border. Falwell, Jr. is taking much heat over his behavior unbecoming a college president.

Today, I became aware of a scathing Facebook post from a former faculty member at Liberty. Brian Melton was an instructional mentor at LU from 2014-2018. He worked a full load but was not considered full-time for the purpose of benefits. However, he had sufficient interaction to form an opinion. Since he didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement, he is now speaking out.

If you are considering LU as a faculty, staff, or student, you should read Melton’s posting. Here are his concluding thoughts:

My own personal narrative aside, I knew of many other people treated worse than I was–a whole list of persons I liked and respected. If the last few years had taught me anything, it was that while there are still many excellent people to be found there, Liberty University as a whole was as shifty, dishonorable, unprincipled, and hypocritical a work environment as could be offered. I could not trust my family to them, and I increasingly found it hard to have my reputation associated with an organization that had proved itself so often without honor. (Yes, I’m old fashioned that way.)

Melton’s posting supports what I have been saying about fears of speaking out at LU.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. Slams Russell Moore on Treatment of Refugees

I can’t remember anything quite like this. Political loyalties have reduced self-styled Christian leaders to public wars. Witness Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s tweet today to Russell Moore.

The arrogance here is obvious. His reaction isn’t relevant to Moore’s comment. Moore didn’t even mention Trump but Moore’s concern about the treatment of migrant children implied enough disapproval to throw Falwell into a frenzied attack.

Falwell is the president of a Christian university. I cannot imagine the president of my college doing anything like this. I can’t imagine the president of any reputable college or university comporting himself/herself in this way.

Moore said what many are feeling. I suspect there are numerous Trump voters who want to see children take care of. Moore did nothing wrong and a lot right.

I feel very sad tonight for Liberty staff and faculty, at least those who would like to speak out but can’t because their jobs are on the line.  Students, parents, and alums probably have the most leverage. Apparently the board is MIA or in complete accord with Mr. Falwell.

In any case, this is a new low and I don’t think there is a bottom.

 

What if the Children at the Border Belonged to You?

What if the children held in the facilities described in the ABC News report below belonged to you? Would you express your outrage? What would you do?

From the report on the ABC News website:

After assessing 39 children under the age of 18, she described conditions for unaccompanied minors at the McAllen facility as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

All the children who were seen showed evidence of trauma, Lucio Sevier reported, and the teens spoke of having no access to hand washing during their entire time in custody. She compared it to being “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

At the same time, the Trump administration argues that basic necessities aren’t basic at all.

As for the conditions at detention facilities, lawyers for the Trump administration last week argued that providing basic necessities, like soap, was not a requirement of the Flores agreement. Three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly asked if the lawyers if they were arguing that “safe and sanitary” did not include the ability to sleep soundly or use soap.

To Trump supporters: What if these kids belonged to you?

I realize this blog post won’t do much, but I ask my readers to tweet it and spread this on social media. I ask you, if you blog or write, to write stories about it. Ask friends with larger accounts to keep writing and complaining. Call your representatives and senators. Apparently, marches are planned. Go, if you can.

Court Evangelicals: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

We live in a time when the organized religion of the party in power is silent. Many religious right court evangelicals are sloppy drunk on power. They don’t speak for the poor and powerless and weak. They are arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. How this administration can be lauded as pro-life, I cannot understand. I get the anti-abortion policies, but I don’t see how subjecting born, living children to these conditions simply for being refugees (for any reason) is pro-life.

For readers who might protest that all of this is the fault of Congress, I want to remind you that Congress for two years was in the control of the GOP. No, there is no excuse. Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could have a deal tomorrow. Trump could today direct his agencies to treat children humanely. He obviously does what he wants on everything else. If he wanted children to be treated well, things would change.

If your son or daughter was in one of these places, what would you want someone to do? What did Jesus teach us? What we want others to do to us, do to others also. Surely this applies to our children. Would I want this kind of treatment done to my children? American Christians spend millions to send missionaries to these nations to help people. Now they are here. They are starving and sick and crying right in our borders. It seems like the least we can do is to treat them humanely as we would want done to our own.

To contact your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can give the operator your zip code and you will be routed to the appropriate office. The offices log the calls to assess sentiment so any expression that you want to see children taken care of humanely will help. If you know your Representative, you can also find the Twitter account, and send emails.

See also this New Yorker account.

Was Mark Driscoll Disqualified or Not?

This post is some inside baseball for those who remember the end of Mars Hill Church. If you know nothing of that story, you might want to do some catching up.

So here is a little background for the post. Mars Hill Church was co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was a lightning rod for controversy and attracted a large social media following and many detractors. Near the end of 2013, he did a radio interview with Janet Mefferd during which she credibly accused him of plagiarism. Driscoll was dismissive of Mefferd and it started a war which I entered. I thought Mefferd might be wrong but soon agreed with her and found citation errors of various sorts in more of Driscoll’s books. All of that led to various disclosures to me by Mars Hill insiders of problems heaped to the Seattle sky. Eventually, the church planting network co-founded by Driscoll — Acts 29 Network — removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership. Finally, Driscoll resigned while being investigated by his elders, and then the church closed, splintering into several smaller churches.

At the end when Driscoll resigned,  a committee of then current elders were investigating formal charges filed by around 20 former elders. After conducting many interviews, the elders wanted to place Driscoll into a plan of restoration but he resigned. When he resigned, the governing board of Mars Hill (a super board including some non-member leaders) said Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry but did not release a report from the investigating team. In fact, the report of that team was one of the most carefully guarded secrets I have ever seen. There were more leaks about the Mueller report. I tried to get that report as did others, but no one would even discuss what was in it. Given how leaky Mars Hill Church had become, it was a surprise that the report didn’t slip out.

Well, yesterday someone who said he read the report (pretty good chance he’s right), disclosed at least one key fact. Here is what former Mars Hill Church Communications Director Justin Dean said in a tweet.

Mark Driscoll has given several narratives about the end of his time at Mars Hill. He rarely mentions the name of the church but has mentioned his previous “two decades of ministry.” Blogger Wenatchee the Hatchet has a detailed look at six different narratives of how the end went down.

At the time, the governing board said he was qualified but gave no explanation about their assessment in light of what Acts 29 had said. Also, after Driscoll abruptly resigned, the elders investigation committee read a statement which said Driscoll resigned instead of entering a restoration plan he had previously agreed to follow.

Now Dean tells me that the church leadership was going to let Driscoll keep preaching but step away from management. He would no longer run the show and make decisions. At that point, he resigned. He said God told him a trap had been set and that he was released to leave. He said God told him and his wife this. Odd that God didn’t tell any of the elders or other leaders about this.

Since Driscoll didn’t go through his restoration plan, I have no idea what that signifies for his ministry after Mars Hill. He planted a church in Phoenix and rarely mentions Mars Hill.

Wenatchee the Hatchet put together 8000+ words on this last night so if you want the long version, you can go check that out. Let me give you the digest from WtH:

If in Driscoll’s understanding of church governance and ecclesiology leadership is from the throne down and not the pew up, and if Justin Dean’s account is accurate that the Mars Hill Church governing board offered Mark Driscoll a restoration plan in which he would stop being in a managerial role and would preach, then the most plausible explanation for why Mark Driscoll resigned that takes all of his accounts as factual, face-value accounts is this: he decided that a church as a corporate entity in which he was not seated on the throne (as president and CEO) was not a church in which he would be a member.

WtH provides the receipts but Justin Dean opened the door to consider this. Remember, Driscoll once told his communications staff that he was the brand. If the brand doesn’t control the brand, then is the brand really the brand?

Image: James MacDonald (left) Mark Driscoll (right)

The Gospel Coalition Posts Helpful Vaccine Article

The Gospel Coalition often posts theoretical or theological articles. However, yesterday Joe Carter posted a helpful and practical piece on vaccines. In case readers need a Christian resource for their Christian anti-vax friends, I post a link to it and a few related comments.

The current resurgence of cases has been driven by a rise in religious exemptions. Anti-vax activists are increasingly vocal and have taken on pro-life arguments to bolster their cause. Prominent conservative evangelicals such as David Barton and “activist mommy” Elizabeth Johnson have spoken against vaccines.

Carter has spoken out before on medical issues. He wrote a scathing response to David Barton and Kenneth Copeland when they advocated treating PTSD with Bible verses. Given the fact that many Christians are using religious arguments to support their anti-vax position, I am glad to see this piece published by The Gospel Coalition.

I want to emphasize this part of Carter’s final paragraph.

If we choose not to vaccinate our children then we must accept that there will be some public institutions in which they cannot participate.

Especially in a public health crisis, I don’t believe parental rights are absolute. The state has a responsibility to protect all of us and in this case that might mean keeping unvaccinated children out of the general population, including schools.

Believers Eastern Church and K.P. Yohannan Use Indian Law to Attack Critic

While using a defamation lawsuit to attack critics didn’t work well for Harvest Bible Chapel, it may have a different result in India for K.P. Yohannan and Believers Eastern Church.

According to this The Hindu article, The Believers Eastern Church is behind a charge of defamation which led to the arrest of a longtime critic of the church and Yohannan.  Anush Solomon Joy, aka Solomon Samaritan was arrested and then posted bail after being accused of defamation and attempted blackmail. Over the years, Anush has contacted me as well as GFA former employees with various concerns about GFA. He has published a rather fantastical booklet alleging satellite and microwave attacks.

My impression has always been that the gentleman isn’t making serious or credible attacks  and that he shouldn’t be considered a threat to Yohannan. That the church is taking on someone who has no following and isn’t taken seriously is surprising and disturbing.  Microwaves aside, perhaps Mr. Anush has stumbled on to something and should be given a second look.

Happy Juneteenth 2019

Note: This is a reprint from last year with current amendments.

Happy day to celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S.  Juneteenth is a holiday in 40 states.

Here is a tweet from Jamar Tisby which links to an article which makes a case for Juneteenth as a national holiday. Whether Juneteenth should be the day or another day should be designated, there should be such a holiday to commemorate the end of slavery.

Photo: Public domain: Source: The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Date: June 19, 1900. Author: Mrs. Charles Stephenson

A Teachable Moment: Dinesh D’Souza Refuses to Take Back False Claim about Republicans Owning Slaves in 1860 (UPDATED)

(UPDATE – 6/11/19) – See below the post for an update.

For Dinesh D’Souza watchers, this headline is as shocking as proclaiming that water is wet. I post this incident because it is a clear and convincing demonstration that D’Souza shows zero interest in academic integrity.  Let me lay out the basics. First, D’Souza claimed in a speech that no Republican owned slaves in 1860. Here is the speech:

He said one Republican who owned a slave in 1860 would require him to take back his claim.

Historians on Twitter, led by Princeton’s Kevin Kruse, quickly rose to the occasion and found ten. Follow the thread below for the receipts.

To go directly to the thread with the breakdown of the ten found thus far, click here.

In essence, the method of finding Republican slave owners involves an examination of those who attended the Republican convention as delegates and then comparing that list with registries of slave owners.

For his part, D’Souza said the instances offered by the historians are “invalid” and he repeated his claim this morning.

I looked for counter evidence in D’Souza’s threads and nothing shows up. D’Souza said no Republican owned slaves in 1860, but in fact at least ten Republicans are on record as being slave owners during that year. It doesn’t change the fact that the Republican party generally opposed the expansion of slavery but it does prove that D’Souza’s specific claim is false. His handling of the matter also shows that he cannot be trusted in a dispute like this (as if there was any doubt).

This incident is a case study in cognitive dissonance for D’Souza followers. Will they believe their senses or go along with their loyalty to D’Souza? There is a solid research base in social psychology which suggests his followers will find some way to ease the dissonance and stick with D’Souza. Most will never know about it because they won’t read any of the historians’ posts. Some will simply assume the historians can’t be right because they are “libs.” Those who do engage with the material will have the most trouble. They will hang on D’Souza’s denials and assertions. A few may file this away as a “rare” mistake on D’Souza’s part so they can hold on to other things about him they like. A very few may actually reconsider his integrity.

Where this challenges to D’Souza eventually may have some benefit is to cause venues like Christian colleges and other organizations who might consider having him in to speak to reconsider. I use instances like this one in my classes as illustrations for concepts like ingroup bias, confirmation bias, belief perseverance, and cognitive dissonance. This one will go to the top of the class.

UPDATE – D’Souza admitted he was wrong on his claim with a sorry, not sorry tweet.

If you click the tweet and read through the thread, you will see the “sorry, not sorry” attitude of the response. He still hasn’t taken down the original tweet. D’Souza insists on promoting a false picture of historiography surrounding party realignment. He tells his followers that historians obscure the role of Democrats in the defense of slavery. They don’t obscure anything. He isn’t a great revealer of hidden truths. What D’Souza obscures is the fact that the parties realigned and that there were Republican racists all along the way. He also insists that the parties now are of the same character as they were 150 years ago.

His admission is striking and had to happen because he was caught red handed. His reputation should be in some jeopardy now for anyone who objectively evaluates his rhetoric. Prior to his admission, his claims were absolute. He said many people had already spent much time trying to debunk his claim. In fact, it took a few historians about 30 minutes to counter it. This was a devastating rebuke. D’Souza’s confident claims should never again be taken at face value by anyone. It isn’t that scholars don’t make factual mistakes, of course they do. However, true scholars aren’t as absolutistic and arrogant as D’Souza. He went out on a limb above a canyon, and it was cut off.