After Eighteen Years, Paige Patterson Contradicts Himself About Domestic Violence (Updated)

(See “everybody should own at least one” update at the end of the post)
On Saturday April 28, Jonathan Merritt tweeted a link to a blog with an 18 year old audio of former Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson advising women not to divorce abusive husbands.


After a social media explosion, Patterson issued a response on Sunday on the website of the seminary he leads, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The comments were made in March 2000 at a Southern Baptist Convention conference (co-sponsored by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and had been posted several times over the years on various blogs and websites. Over the years, several writers (including me) have asked Patterson if these views are his current views. Now, 18 years later, he has responded and the outrage is growing.

Black Eyes

Here is what he said in the audio after he is addressed by an unknown questioner (click the link to listen).

It depends on the level of abuse to some degree.  I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel.  There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help.  I would urge you to understand that that should happen only in the most serious of cases. I would cite examples of it but the examples that I have had in my ministry are so awful that I will not cite them in public. That’s enough to say however, that there’s a severe physical and/or moral danger that’s involved before you come to that. More often, when you face abuse, it is of a less serious variety but all abuse is serious.
There are two or three things that I say to women who are in those kinds of situations. First of all, I say to them that you must not forget the power of prayer. Just as one of your little children comes to you with a broken heart and crawls up into your arms and looks into your face and with tears running down his cheeks asks you to intervene in a situation. If you have anything in you of a loving parent’s heart at all that’ll bring you to your attention and you’re off and running. And now if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more shall your Father in heaven do good if you ask of Him. Do not forget the power of consecrated concentrated prayer.  Get on your face and ask him to intervene and He is a good and a dear heavenly Father at some point He will intervene. I give one brief example of it.
I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”
And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis. And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.
And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.

In his statement on Sunday, Patterson wrote about that woman with the black eyes:

Many years ago in West Texas, a woman approached me about the desire of her husband to prevent her attendance in church. He was neither harsh nor physical with her, but she felt abused. I suggested to her that she kneel by the bed at night and pray for him. Because he might hear her prayer, I warned her that he could become angry over this and seek to retaliate. Subsequently, on a Sunday morning, she arrived at church with some evidence of physical abuse. She was very surprised that this had happened. But I had seen her husband come into the church and sit down at the back. I knew that God had changed this man’s heart. What he had done to his wife had brought conviction to his heart. I was happy—not that she had suffered from his anger, but that God had used her to move her husband to conviction of his sin. I knew that she was going to be happy for him also. That morning, he did make his decision for Christ public before the church, and she was ecstatic. They lived happily together from that time on in commitment to Christ. There was no further abuse. In fact, their love for one another and commitment to their home was evident to all. She herself often shared this testimony. For sharing this illustration, especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise. However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.

Turning from Bad Advice

I once recommended sexual orientation change efforts. I don’t now. I actively denounce them now. I don’t pretend that I always opposed them. I regret my former advice and I have written many lines since about 2006 to turn from that bad advice.
Rev. Patterson in his Sunday statement wrote, “my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ.” As Jacob Denhollander first pointed out on Twitter, that’s not exactly correct. Denhollander said:

No, Mr. Patterson, that’s not true. That’s exactly what you did.

Patterson even warned the woman that her husband “may get a little more violent” before he sent her back into an abusive situation with the advice to pray for him.
If Patterson truly believes women should leave abusive situations then he should decisively turn from his prior position. It isn’t just poor politics to share such stories in “the climate of this culture.” Even if this one story is true (and I would like to hear from that couple), that doesn’t make the advice generally correct or wise.
Patterson says he agrees with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood statement on abuse. If that is true, that is a good thing. He would also do well to recognize that his advice in 2000 and that statement now are incompatible.

Additional information: “I think everybody should own at least one.”

In reading more about Rev. Patterson’s views on women in ministry, I came across a quote that I wanted to check out. See below for the quote about “owning at least one woman.”
According to the May 4, 1997 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, embattled seminary president Paige Patterson answered a question about ordaining women with the following quip:

“I think everybody should own at least one,” Patterson quipped when asked about women.

The article isn’t in digital format (except here) but has been referred to by several bloggers over the years. I looked it up in a newspaper database. Sure enough there it is.
The article was in response to plans by moderate Southern Baptists to start new seminaries in the wake of the conservative take over of convention seminaries. One of the hopes of the moderates was to ordain women. Patterson didn’t agree and expressed himself with what the reporter took to be a joke.

Get Your Manhood On! Stronger Men's Conference Coming Up

Hat tip to Jonathan Merritt on this most bizarre of rituals in evangelical Christianity: The Stronger Men’s Conference.


I liked this response to the video on Twitter:


I like rock & roll, and fast stuff and sports and things but I don’t think those things make “real men” and I certainly don’t understand why they are featured at a conference for “real men.”
As far as cage fighting, I have a word of knowledge for anyone trapped in that cult – Get. Help.
On another promo for the TestosteroneFest, John Gray said God didn’t call men to be domesticated, He called us to have dominion. Take that ladies.

New Study: Trump Support Associated with Christian Nationalism and Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:

“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.

Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.

Make America Christian Again

In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
 
*The title of the Sociology of Religion article is “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Further reading:
Does Christianity Need Donald Trump’s Help?

Christianity Today Calls for Independent Investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries. SGM Leaders Say They Don't Have the Authority

Today, Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote an op-ed calling on Sovereign Grace Churches to submit to an independent investigation of allegations of covering up past child abuse at associated churches. Here is the gist:

To put it simply: Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC; formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries) and its individual churches and leaders who have been accused of failing to adequately respond to past incidents of child and sexual abuse should submit to a thorough, truly independent investigation.

For years, SGM has been fending off allegations of covering up child abuse. In the last couple of months, SGM has been under renewed pressure due to a sustained confrontation from Rachel Denhollander (source, source). Denhollander, the first to make public abuse allegations against Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, recently made a compelling case on her Facebook page for SGC to launch an independent investigation of the allegations.
Another influence on Galli’s editorializing is a former ministry partner of SGC, Brent Detwiler:

We call for a fresh and thorough independent investigation not because we believe SGC guilty of every one of its critics’ charges. We are as bewildered as anyone and simply don’t have enough information to make a confident judgment on the matter. We see, however, that SGC and some of its individual congregations—and pastor C. J. Mahaney (founder and former president) in particular—are under a cloud of suspicion. A former ministry partner of Mahaney turned critic, Brent Detwiler, has been chronicling the controversy for many years and claims that 100 pastors, 300 small group leaders, 40 churches (including his own), and 12,000 members have left SGC churches largely over what they claim has been abusive and deceitful leadership.

SGC Responds

SGC has already responded to the op-ed. CT gave the denomination a heads up earlier this week which allowed SGC leaders to craft a response for their website. The full response is also below:

Recent public statements have called for Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) to undergo an “independent third-party investigation” of our history and current practices to determine if sexual abuse is being covered up and abusers protected in our churches.
We believe it is the Church’s obligation to lead in any realm related to justice for or protection of any child who has been harmed. Our difficulty is this: the most specific accusations involve allegations made in a civil lawsuit filed in 2012 involving two churches that are no longer part of Sovereign Grace. As to those two churches, we have no authority, no right to their pastoral records, and no access to their internal reports. We, therefore, have neither the right nor the ability to agree to, require, or conduct an investigation of these churches. One of those churches has already performed its own third-party investigation, but SGC has no access to that report or details from that investigation.
Secondly, SGC is a denomination consisting of 72 churches, each of which is individually constituted and governed by its own board of elders. While there is a specific process by which a charge may be submitted against an elder by any current or former SGC church member, SGC leadership has no authority to mandate an investigation by an outside authority upon all of our churches. We are therefore unable to authorize an independent third-party investigation of SGC and its churches.
Clearly any specific allegations of child sexual abuse should be reported to criminal and child protection authorities, regardless of the passage of time. We recognize the critical importance of treating child sexual abuse seriously and its victims with compassion. To this end, SGC has taken specific steps in recent years to better understand and address the risk of child sexual abuse. Since 2014, we have provided the MinistrySafe child safety system to SGC churches free of cost, including training, screening forms, policies, and proactive reporting practices.
To ensure that any survivor of child sexual abuse in our churches feels protected and cared for, we have sought ways to further strengthen our practices. We are exploring the involvement of an organization with expertise and objectivity in dealing with issues of abuse to assist our pastors and elders in this regard. This is intended to help ensure that allegations are reported, cases are handled legally and wisely, and abuse survivors are provided proper care. It is our desire and goal to maintain consistency in all SGC churches where child sexual abuse issues are encountered, and, specifically, to provide compassionate care and support to those who have experienced past sexual abuse.
In sum, we desire to walk transparently, to grow in our ability to better address this risk, and to honor Christ in the way we care for those who have experienced abuse.

Now What?

Sadly, the impasse remains and it is difficult to see how it resolves. Galli ends his op-ed by saying that a fresh investigation is desperately needed for the sake of the victims, the SGC, the integrity of evangelical churches, and the gospel. It is hard to argue with this.

Rachel Denhollander Responds to Sovereign Grace Churches

Because I posted a link to an article from Rachel Denhollander and Sovereign Grace Churches’ response to her, I am posting a link to Denhollander’s extensive reply to SGC. I encourage readers interested in the ongoing saga of Sovereign Grace Churches to read the entire reply from Denhollander. She begins:

I have prayed and considered for nearly three weeks whether to respond to the statement by Sovereign Grace Churches posted on February 13th. This blog post is the most extensive statement by the organization with respect to serious questions that have been outstanding for nearly a decade. However, the response is misleading on several vital points, and leaves many disturbing questions unanswered. Because of this, I have chosen to respond in greater detail and renew my call for Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC, formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)) to submit to an independent third-party review of how they have handled reports of abuse.
This call does not rise from a sort of Javert-like obsession with SGC, but from the knowledge that evangelical churches are plagued with serious problems related to how we respond to and counsel victims of sexual assault. In fact, experts have stated that both the amount

Rachael Denhollander

of abuse, and the failure to report it, is likely worse than in the Roman Catholic Church – a religious organization often used by evangelicals as a byword for sexual assault scandals. Research bears out the claim these experts make. Because many churches are ideologically committed to the theories that lead them to handle abuse so poorly, many church leaders are very sincere, yet sincerely wrong. Sadly, these leaders and institutions also remain resistant to outside accountability or input. This is a serious problem that damages the gospel and pushes the most vulnerable away from hope and refuge. Addressing this issue is not damaging the Gospel, it is instead seeking to restore the Gospel and Christ to their rightful authority and priority over institutions and mishandled theology.

She continues to call for an independent investigation of the charges against SGC. It is hard to see any problems with this request. If SGC doesn’t trust GRACE then another person or group could surely be secured to do the job.

Billy Graham, Hip Youth Leader

As Billy Graham’s family, friends, and foes are reflecting on his life, many sides of him are being discussed and analyzed. This morning his grandson Boz Tchividjian posted this photo of Graham cutting up in a classroom.


Just before I saw this tweet, historian and former archivist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Jim Lutzweiler sent along the same picture with the back story. Jim said the photo came from “the private collection of Randy Miller, Research librarian at Liberty University.” About the scene, he said:

William Bell Riley was a big name in the 1920s–1940s. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis whose members included George Pillsbury of the flour family. Riley built a college for training young people. He came to North Carolina in the early 1920s to fight against evolution in the schools, a controversy that preceded the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. By 1947 Riley was dying. he needed a successor. At that time Billy Graham was a rising star in the movement called Youth for Christ. Youth had always been Riley’s passion. In short, Riley picked Billy Graham to succeed him in the presidency of his school. This was two years before Graham’s famous crusade in Los Angeles. Billy only presided over the school for a couple years before it began to fold and he chose full time evangelism. By the way, one of the students at Northwestern in those days was a Roger Peterson. I knew Roger. He told me that in chapel one day Billy told the students Christ would return prior to 1955, as Christ was to come within 7 years of the rebirth of Israel (i.e., 1948).
The fellow at the lectern in the picture is Richard V. Clearwaters. He had hoped to succeed Riley but Riley did not pick him. So he started Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and Central Baptist Seminary from both of which schools I graduated.
The first president of Pillsbury College was a fellow named Monroe Parker. Billy Graham had once told Parker that he, Billy, had converted under Parker’s preaching, not under Mordecai Ham. Parker told us this in chapel and he also published it in his autobiography.

So Clearwaters would have been the first Pillsbury Doughboy (sorry).
Thanks to Jim for the context. He added that Graham wasn’t much older than the students and related to them easily. I wonder if he ever ate any goldfish (you’ll get that if you grew up fundamentalist).

Billy Graham: The Transparent Evangelist

By now, most readers of social media know that Billy Graham passed away today. While he leaves behind many legacies, one seldom noted is his early dedication to financial accountability. In a 2016 Christianity Today article, a story is told of Graham’s conversion to transparency.

In the 1950s, one event solidified Billy Graham’s dedication to financial transparency, according to Grant Wacker, author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation
In Graham’s early crusades, he accepted “love offerings” made by the throngs who came to hear him speak. But in 1950, an Atlanta newspaper ran two front-page photos that changed Graham’s mind. One photo depicted “three or four gunny sacks stuffed with greenbacks,” said Wacker. Next to it was a photo of Graham wearing a big smile.
“The implication was that Graham was gloating because he’d just gleaned so much money from the crusade,” said Wacker. “It wasn’t true, but it appeared that way.” It was the beginning of what Wacker called “Billy Graham’s long-running effort to avoid the appearance of evil, as well as evil.”
By 1952, Graham required every ministry salary to be regularized and public. The elder Graham was the first to formalize salary transparency, Wacker said. “I don’t know of any other evangelistic organization that preceded his.”

It is a shame that the ministry that uses his name changed IRS status a couple of years ago and no longer files documentation of donations and expenditures. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is now considered a church. Churches don’t have to file such forms. All this does is shield information and reduce accountability, something that is contrary to Graham’s legacy.
However, today, we should remember that Graham’s principle focus in life was the Gospel. He stood in sharp contrast to “evangelists” such as Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn who brag about their wealth with no accountability or transparency.
Today, BGEA is broadcasting Graham’s sermons and crusades continuously.

Sovereign Grace Churches Posts New Response to Rachael Denhollander (Updated with Reactions)

In a January 31, 2018 Christianity Today article, former gymnast Rachael Denhollander described her experience being the first to make public abuse allegations against Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar. Her brave disclosures led to many more from other women which eventually led to Nassar’s conviction and sentencing for criminal sexual contact.
In the CT article, Denhollander confronted the topic of sexual abuse in the church and specifically raised the controversial case of Sovereign Grace Churches. She didn’t feel supported in her struggle against Nassar by her church because that church was sympathetic to what she believes to be a past cover up of abuse within Sovereign Grace Churches. Denhollander said she and her husband didn’t feel welcome in the church after she expressed concerns about SGM.
In response, SGC posted a blog entry challenging Denhollander’s knowledge of the case.

On January 31, 2018, Sovereign Grace Churches became aware of an article published that same day in Christianity Today. The article is an interview with Rachael Denhollander. Rachael was the first to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, and her testimony was instrumental in drawing attention to the horrific crimes he committed. We thank God for Rachael’s courage in confronting Nassar and commend her invaluable work on behalf of other abuse victims. Like so many, we were impressed by her faithful witness to Christ in such difficult circumstances. At the same time, it needs to be said that she is mistaken in her accusations made against Sovereign Grace Churches and C.J. Mahaney. The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and C.J. based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement and which are not true and have never been true. It’s extremely difficult to respond to false accusations without appearing unsympathetic to victims of abuse. It is our sincere hope that this brief statement has done both by speaking truthfully, respectfully and in a way that honors God.

Then, on February 5, Denhollander posted a response to SGC. In it, she issued a challenged to the organization to allow an independent organization, GRACE, to do an independent investigation of the allegations:

I am asking SGC to support their recent claim that I am making “false accusation”, “mischaracterizing” and communicating things that “are not true and have never been true”, and instead show true care for the victims by finally dealing transparently with these concerns, through taking one specific step:
Allowing GRACE, an Christian organization whose expertise is sexual assault and institutional dynamics, to do a thorough independent investigation of the organization’s historical and current handling of abuse complaints, which will be released to the public.

SGC Responds

This evening, Sovereign Grace Churches posted a lengthy and detailed response to Denhollander’s request for an investigation by GRACE. In addition to a denial of the bulk of Denhollander’s allegations, the church organization flatly rejected her request.

Rachael calls for a “fair, independent” investigation into SGC led by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) because of the organization’s supposed neutrality. However, Boz Tchividjian, the leader of GRACE, has on multiple occasions written and spoken publicly in ways that suggest he has already prejudged the case against SGC. He has publicly indicted the motives of SGC as it relates to those allegations, and he has publicly criticized others who have expressed any support for SGC.

The rest of the statement takes on some of the points raised by Denhollander as well as others which she did not raise. It also refers to an independent investigation secured by Covenant Life Church. Covenant Life is no longer affiliated with SGC. However, this report has not been released to the public and remains mysterious.
Essentially, the statement from SGM denies a cover up of abuse. Although the church leadership team acknowledges “in hindsight that there were grave errors in judgment, and the abuse should have been reported regardless of the circumstances or a victim’s wishes,” they deny protecting abusers through a policy of not reporting abuse. Furthermore, the organization expressed regret over past mistakes and claimed to have improved their processes for handling allegations in the present.
I reached out to Rachel Denhollander for comment. On her behalf, her husband Jacob said she would respond to this new statement after a careful review. Later, Jacob Denhollander posted this tweet:


Other Twitter reactions to SGM’s statement range from approval to scathing criticism.

Christians, Pastors, and Mental Health Treatment

Desiring God, the ministry of John Piper, continues to receive negative reaction to a Twitter message about mental health posted on Tuesday (2/6/18).


Many readers, including me, felt the tweet implied that the cause of mental illness is a lack of faith. However, many believers experience emotional distress and many non-believers don’t. The tweet and later effort to put it in the context of a 2007 article fell flat. Adding insult to injury, Desiring God had nothing else to say, leaving the tweet in place and offering no apology. As Phoenix Preacher Michael Newnham wrote, “Being a Christian Celebrity Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry…”

Being a Christian Celebrity Doesn’t Mean You Are an Expert at Everything

Some of them think they are. And their fans often put them in that role. I rather like what Newnham has to say about his approach as a pastor to mental health concerns.

As a pastor my “expertise” is limited and I’m as broken and fallible as you are.
In some ways, maybe more so.
I don’t know how to fix your sex life, raise your kids, manage your finances, or treat your ills.
I’m not even that good at what I’m trained to do.
My job is to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, just as I am growing as well.
My job is to be present when you need me, to the best of my ability.
My job is to pray with and for you, that God will give you wisdom about the problems that are beyond my scope of expertise…which are most of them.
Sometimes, my job is to give you a referral to someone I trust can help you.

This is really good. Keep all of the Desiring God ministries and give me men and women like this in community churches everywhere.

Therapy Helps

The Desiring God tweeter should meet some Christians who found help from psychotherapy. I am the first to acknowledge (and call out) the shoddy and quack therapists, but I also know that therapy can be a lifeline to people when everything else (including the church) has failed them. Read the response of this Christian blogger with who responded to a challenge about therapy.

Last night I read a disturbing sentiment on someone’s blog. In effect, she said she doesn’t support therapy because there is nothing therapy can provide that can’t be provided through a relationship with God. This disturbs me because so many Christians feel this way or similar, and it is essentially a way of saying that all mental illness or emotional issues are a result of a broken relationship with God or a failure of faith. I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this; I lost many friends who made this conclusion out of ignorance or arrogance.

In response, she wrote:

The first thing to be said here is that yes, God can and does have the ability to heal anything. Read this blog if you doubt that. Yes, my hard work and new variations of meds and finding the right (and strange) combination of meds matters, along with many other things like vitamins and diet and sunshine, but that I’m in remission (partial or otherwise) is nothing less than a miracle.
However, I firmly believe that God uses tools to heal. For those with mental illness, one of those tools can be therapy. I don’t know a single therapist (even the really bad ones I’ve had and there were several of those) who have claimed to be a cure for anything just by themselves. Instead, therapy provides support while you do what needs done, just like a cast supports a fractured arm.
Bipolar illness damages my relationship with God. I am not good at connecting with anyone and I need help to do so. That’s one place therapy comes into play. I also need help with things that should be basic. Reading the Bible and understanding it is one of them. I can’t follow a “real” Bible. I use a children’s version when I can, but truthfully that’s not a lot. I just have a lot of emotions surrounding the inability to handle the real Bible that make it hard to stomach my watered down one. Maybe a better person wouldn’t struggle with the anger that I can’t be an adult in all things, but I do. It’s a side effect of an illness that took away so much of what I wanted in life.

This person didn’t get sick by staring in a mirror, nor was the remission due to looking away from it. The Desiring God-style advice yielded frustration and as she said, condemnation from Christians. I urge pastors to put aside fear and reach out to local experts in mental health for referrals when someone in your congregation needs help. Not all encounters will go well but begin seeking referral sources now as you would sources for other medical and health specialties.
A Christian organization which may provide assistance is Christian Association for Psychological Studies.

Red Letter Christians Plan Revival in Lynchburg VA

The organizers are hoping for an April revival in Virginia.

This follows Twitter rumblings for several months and an open letter to Liberty University last November for a peaceful debate after Jonathan Martin was disinvited to speak at the school. That letter is below:

Dear Jerry Falwell, Jr.,

We know you did not intend to make national news this week by sending armed officers to escort the Rev. Jonathan Martin off of Liberty University’s campus. You have been clear about your support for President Trump. Rev. Martin has made clear his opposition. But this fundamental disagreement, you insist, is not why Martin was barred. “The University cannot be concerned with whether its actions provide additional oxygen to either side of a debate,” your official statement said. Your only concern, you insist, is the “safety and security” of your campus.

Despite the fact that Liberty University could not exist without federal loans and grants, it is a private institution. You have the legal authority to use its police force to stifle dissent. But you say this is not your intent: “Members of the Liberty community are always welcome to engage in peaceful debate,” you wrote. Though you might prefer to asphyxiate a prophetic Christianity that criticizes your personal political positions, you understand it is not in your interest to do so.

We write, then, to ask you to make good on your promise. If you are not opposed to a debate, then host one.

As fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we disagree with your celebration of Donald Trump as a “dream President” for evangelicals. Along with a majority of Americans, we experience his administration as more of a nightmare. But our disagreement is not about personality; rather, we see the stark divergence in our discernment about politics as a reflection of fundamental differences in how we understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. From Isaiah 58 to Luke 4 and Matthew 25, the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ speaks prophetically against false religion that props up injustice.

This divide is not new. It is as old as the many denominations that split over the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. As Frederick Douglass wrote in the midst of those divisions, “Between the Christianity of the slaveholder and the Christianity of Christ I see the widest possible difference.” In the 19th century, this basic divide led people like Angelina Grimke and William Lloyd Garrison to part ways with slaveholding religion in order to keep their faith. In the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel argued that we forfeit the right to worship God if we do not stand with the marginalized and oppressed. We contend that the greatest threat to Christianity in the 21st century is that our Lord’s gospel would be confused with the religion of white supremacy. In our estimation, you and others who see the Trump administration as a Redemption movement are contributing to just such a conflation.

And yet, we know from the scriptures and from our own experience that the truth of the gospel is greater than our individual and corporate sins. For this reason, we are willing to pay our own way to come to Liberty University and engage in the debate which you have said is welcome. Because we believe that a diversity of voices is essential in these matters, we write together as male and female, black and white, gay and straight ministers of the gospel. We are prepared to present witnesses in equal number to those whom you would choose to represent your perspective. We only ask that we be allowed to mutually agree on a moderator and set of questions beforehand and that we have access to livestream the debate via a production company that was started by one of your alumni. You can contact us via the office of Repairers of the Breach.

We write this open letter in hope that you will be true to the promise of your public statement about why Rev. Martin was removed this week and in greater hope that America might experience a moral revival as we face the truth about how the gospel has been compromised and receive the good news that another way is possible.

That letter was signed by many people also involved in the Red Letter Revival.
I hope this doesn’t turn into a commercialized event with books and CDs for sale. Inasmuch as the event focuses on separating church and state, I wish them well.