Will You Listen To Us Now?

Will You Listen To Us Now?

My  Silicon Valley startup job continues to be a conduit of many blessings, not the least of them being the way it compels me to keep social media pushed to the outermost edges of my time. That necessity is why I wasn’t able to do much more than glance at the headlines and now viral images from the Houston Chronicle and NBC News reports about abusers of young girls and boys hiding in plain sight for years inside SBC churches and New Tribes Mission-led ministries, until this weekend. I believe that choice was entirely Spirit-led, and not just because I was striving to obey Paul’s exhortation to be faithful with my time during the work week. I  believe it was because God knows my personal history, and my heart on this topic, and how crushed with grief and anger I would have been had I read it earlier.

It wouldn’t have been the first time.

I’ve alluded at times to the various ways I’ve been adjacent to the sin of childhood sexual abuse. Each time I’ve done so, I’ve noted that I’m not free yet to be specific about the details of the most serious of those situations (although one day I may be). What I can say is that my story has parallels to the ones emerging from the New Tribes Mission scandal, and it spans multiple generations.

Even with the constraints that keep me from being able to tell my story, God has still given opportunities to redeem it. There are distinct patterns to the stories of sexual abuse:

  • the way it’s perpetrated;
  • the way perpetrators manipulate and exploit the trusting to hide their wickedness;
  • the ways victims’ appeals for help are all too often dismissed or denied by those with a specific call to listen and protect;
  • and the circumstantial, emotional and spiritual devastation victims and their families experience when the truth is never believed and earthly justice is never pursued.

People who have experienced abuse, or been adjacent to it, are uniquely equipped to recognize those patterns.  

This ability is what helps abuse victims and survivors identify and try to help one another. It enables us to translate the words and actions of abuse survivors as they process their suffering that those who are privileged to have no experience of abuse misread, misinterpret and, if I’m being honest, sinfully judge out of their experiential ignorance.  And it also produces in us a strong compulsion to warn those who don’t have our same educated instincts, when we observe yet another story, another pattern, beginning to unfold.

We know how the story all too often ends. We can’t bear for others to be unwittingly complicit in enabling the consequences if the pattern isn’t broken. So we we try to speak out. We warn. We entreat. And when we are ignored, we lament. We grieve.

I followed the SGM story closely for all of those reasons. The patterns were crystal clear. The responses of those with both authority and spheres of influence to disrupt the pattern were textbook.  I and other women writers in the TGC ecosystem at that time spent every point of relational capital we had ever earned, privately appealing to different brothers in that same ecosystem to simply listen, if not to us, then to those with direct knowledge and experience who could help inform their understanding and correct their false assumptions. We kept our conversations confidential. We hoped that our trustworthiness would set us apart from those judged to be watchbloggers and gossipmongers, earning us future opportunities to be heard and believed. Our hopes were dashed.

CJ Mahaney’s path back from reproach to respectability then honor followed the usual pattern. He spent a season out of the limelight until an invitation to speak at T4G 2016 signalled his return, even though none of the issues that prompted his season of exile had been resolved. A few brave men in ministry spoke out publicly, beseeching T4G to rescind the invitation. Most women I know were silent, at least in public. When even the loud and public voices of men weren’t heeded, what could be accomplished by the gentler, quieter voices of women?

Mahaney’s T4G session providentially coincided with the one time of day I more often have to listen to livestreams relatively uninterrupted-my dinner prep time. I don’t remember what I was cooking that night. But I do remember leaning over my chopping board next to something simmering on the stove and listening as the audience silence signalled Dr. Mohler was approaching the stage.

As Dr. Mohler began to pour words of blessing onto CJ Mahaney like an Old Testament father onto a son, my heart sank. And then came the now infamous joke about whether there might be anything controversial on the Internet about him, and references to unpopular sports teams. (Dr. Mohler had apparently missed this lengthy piece in the Washingtonian, published just two months earlier.)  My stomach churned. My eyes swam with tears (and even now they are falling afresh down my cheeks as I type.) My heart brimmed with righteous indignation. And I decided I had to write *something*.

The Bible is replete with warnings about not sinning in the midst of anger, and of the importance of bridling our speech. I take those warnings seriously, as a Christian, but also as a woman whose greatest gifts and most besetting sins have always involved words.

The Bible also contains a notable collection of stories about how even the righteous words of women are too often wrongly perceived and dismissed by men. There’s Hannah, whose silent tearful prayer of distress was misjudged and rebuked by Eli the priest as drunken emotionalism. There’s the widow appealing to a judge Jesus calls unrighteous, who grants her appeal not because it’s right, but because she won’t stop bothering him. Then there is Pilate’s wife, and the women of the resurrection.

The Bible makes it crystal clear how wrong these responses were. But all too often, even today and even among Christians, when women speak with any kind of intensity – out of anguish, out of righteous anger, even out of unmitigated joy at the discovery of a resurrected Savior  – all too often they are judged as overly emotional, as gossips with unbridled tongues. They’re ignored at best, and vilified and slandered at worst.

That’s why, even as I wrestled over what to write, I knew that the way that I wrote was every bit as important.

So I grounded my words firmly in the Scriptures, and distilled all of my distress about what had happened on that stage at T4G into a single paragraph. Other than Mahaney, I named no names. I revealed no confidences. I made no angry demands. I tempered every word so that it could be read in as gentle a tone as I could possibly convey.

Even with all of that painstaking effort, I sent my words off to be published with no small amount of trepidation. To simply reference acronyms like SGM and T4G critically, out loud on the internet, was to risk aligning myself with the watchbloggers and gossips*. But then I thought back to all of the women in the Bible whom God vindicated in the midst of the accusations of their “idle tales”. So I clicked “Send”, and left the results up to God.

From “The Mortification of Spin”, April 26, 2016

In the days that followed, I was thankful that the Biblical issue on which my circumstantial concerns were based was the one that most resonated with readers – that Christian institutions have set themselves up for these kinds of scandals precisely because they have continually used extra-Biblical and even anti-Biblical arguments to keep women from bringing their God-given voices to bear on them. I was relieved when there was little to no criticism that I’d added my name to those calling out SGM and T4G specifically, and Dr. Mohler indirectly. I was not surprised that my words and those of innumerable others were largely unheeded. And I was once again dismayed and hurt as, over the course of the next several months, Dr. Mohler’s words became the justification for so many others in church leadership and Christian ministries to dismiss the situation. That, too, was part of the pattern.

The passing of months and then years dulled the sharpness of my sorrow, but not the memory of it. I continued to think and write about how women’s words in the Bible should inform the way the church thinks about the particular value of women’s words in the church, and in the world. I transitioned into consulting and then most recently into full-time work, where I’ve been given wonderful opportunities to live out the things about which I’ve been writing. Today my work is beginning to bear real fruit, but it’s left fewer cycles to write about it.

Then all of the emotion came rushing back to me this weekend as I read Dr. Mohler’s confession and expression of repentance, a confession for which I’d long prayed. And yes, I cried again.

Dr. Mohler’s admission of his error- specifically, the tasteless joking and his speaking from that podium out of ignorance of a situation that was far different and infinitely more serious than he had realized – and his expression of godly sorrow over it, greatly encouraged me. Unflinching statements of accountability and repentance are an ironic rarity amongst men whose vocation is to teach what it means to repent and believe the good news of the gospel, let alone those called to teach the teachers. I was also encouraged he admitted honestly that his decision to speak out now was in part because of the public pressure he had felt from survivors and their advocates. And not only did he acknowledge that pressure, he affirmed it as beneficial, and he urged people to continue.

Which is what brings me to write this now.

I praise God for His work in Dr. Mohler’s heart in opening his eyes to his hurtful words on that podium at T4G almost three years ago. I forgive him completely for them. And in the spirit of his affirmation that continued pressure from abuse survivors and those who love them is a good thing, would like to gently and respectfully apply that pressure in two specific areas:

  1. Does Dr. Mohler recognize that the hurt and damage his words caused was not only directly, on the hearts of victims and their loved ones, but also indirectly but much more broadly, as pastors and laypeople who follow him as a role model and leader used his words as justification to deafen their own ears to the cries of those hurt from the situations not only at SGM, but potentially in their own church communities? And would he consider speaking to that issue in the future – to warn those in both the pastorate and the pew of the dangers of placing too much trust in the words of earthly, fallible princes? And that Solomon’s oft-quoted admonition, that the one who states a case first seems right until another comes and examines him, must be applied as equally to the testimony of a seminary president from a conference podium, as it does to a female student at that seminary coming to the office bearing testimony of assault?
  2. In his honest confession that he ought to have listened to the survivors, has Dr. Mohler taken time to consider the reasons it took so long for him to hear them in the first place? Has he considered that the means some used, and the platforms some built, out of desperation for their voices to be amplified and the truth to be heard, only exist because there were few better, more solid ones on which they could stand?  Like so much digital jitter on a bad cell phone call, the messengers were being judged by the instability of the methods of their communication, instead of the veracity of their claims. How can institutions like SBTS and the SBC build and maintain platforms of appeal for abuse victims that are so solid that the unstable, potentially self-serving ones eventually crumble into so much digital dust from disuse?

To this second question I’ll offer one potential answer – the one that was the basis of my post almost four years ago. As you rebuild, consider the clear, repeated warnings of Scripture against pursuing this work without the influence and guidance of the wisdom of women. There are Abigails and Esthers, Deborahs and Jaels, Proverbs 8 women all throughout your organization. They haven’t deserted you, even though they’ve been sorely tempted.

Ask them for the help they’ve been gifted to give you.

Ask them to be your allies in this battle, the allies they were created to be.

And when you’ve commissioned them, listen to them when they speak.

——————————————————————————-

*The Christian “watchblogosphere” is as varied in motives as any other corner of the Christian internet. They have at times amplified half truths, disseminated error, and needlessly fomented conflict and gossip. They have also, often, been the early and only witnesses of truths that innumerable others lacked the courage to expose and call out. Both of these things can be true and cause for contemplation, sorrow and repentance at the same time.

Advertisements

From Rubble to Rebuilding

From Rubble to Rebuilding

Recovering from a natural disaster can be as disorienting as the experience itself. Once the earth has stopped shaking or the flames have stopped burning, you can’t rebuild right away. First, you have to assess the damage. You have to decide what’s worth keeping and what’s beyond salvage. You clear away debris. Things you previously took for granted you embrace with renewed gratitude when you find them still intact.

Even as the infrastructures you’re used to depending on to enable the ordinary things of life are themselves broken, you still have to keep going.  Meals still have to be made. Kids still have to go to school. Work still has to be done.

So you forge new paths to those ordinary things – new routes to school, new routines at home, new ways of getting food to the table. And it’s precisely in this season of clearing and navigating, of doing ordinary things in new ways and through different means, that the ideas for what and how to rebuild are born.

The last three months have been a time of spiritual and circumstantial clearing for me – of prayerfully working through the brokenness in my different circumstances, and asking God for wisdom and discernment about how to work through them – to salvage what can and should be salvaged, to clear away what’s broken, and as I work, to prayerfully seek God’s will about what He wants me to do next.

And as I worked and prayed, God lead me into a sudden collection of wonderful new experiences, including:

  1. Several weeks ago, the medical device company that designed the spinal tethering system that helped my middle daughter essentially beat aggressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis invited my daughter, her surgeon and me to speak at their quarterly all-hands employee meeting. The company is several years through the expensive and arduous process of receiving full FDA approval for the procedure, with several more years to go. Morale inside the company has been flagging. They wanted their employees to see what, or rather whom, their hard work is designed to benefit.
    I’ve designed and managed these kinds of strategic meetings in a professional capacity for years. So it was a providence and privilege of immeasurable size to be able to put that experience to work with my daughter to craft the right kind of presentation to encourage everyone in the way the executive team hoped. I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that kind of work in quite a while.
    God graciously blessed our efforts. We received so many kind words and emails about the impact our speeches had. And it was a profound blessing to see God take what at the time was an intense trial and use it for so much good for others.
  2. Barely 24 hours after we returned home, I turned around and flew out to Louisville, KY to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to participate in the Commonweal Project. A joint venture of SBTS and the Kern Family Foundation, the Commonweal Project was founded to promote study and conversation about the topic of human flourishing from a variety of different angles, with a Christian worldview as their unifying center. A collection of Christian scholars presented papers on the perspectives of various influential men and women throughout church history on a variety of topics related to God’s design for human flourishing. Some I’d heard of, like Anselm, Aquinas and Hannah More. Others were new to me, like Jacob Comenius. And still others, like Abraham Kuyper, had aspects to their spiritual and academic journey I’d not been taught. It was two and a half days of deep thinking and conversation with like-minded scholars and professors about the history of Christian thinking about what the fulfillment of the creation mandate actually looks like in day to day life. It was glorious.
  3. Parallel to the planning of both of these trips, an internet friend who has done far more writing, thinking and speaking on these topics than I reached out to me because he happened to be in my town Sunday for a speaking engagement.  The day after I returned from the Commonweal Project, my friend and I enjoyed a three-hour lunch together, along with my family and my pastor, turning the topics of faith, work, technology, gender, and the imago dei over for three straight hours. It was glorious.
  4. The following day, a project that I’ve been a small, private part of building for well over year finally went public. To quote from our mission statement, The Pelican Project is “ a group of Christian women who seek to advance a shared commitment to orthodox belief and practice across cultural, denominational, and racial lines. We desire to amplify the voice and presence of orthodox belief and practice in the church and the public square by fostering commitment to the common life of the church.” 

In the middle of this rather sudden convergence of opportunities and events, I began interviewing with a small but fast-growing software company about a full-time time position with their sales organization. My professional life has been one of more valleys and deserts than mountain peaks and still waters in recent years, which is part of the reason I’ve had both the time and the passion to think and write about the topics I do. I was nervous about returning to full time work. But I was excited about the potential of being able to join a tech startup where I could essentially be given a kind of working lab to live out all of the thinkings of things I’ve been thinking for the last few years. The question was whether they were as equally excited about making me an offer.

The offer came as I sat in the final session of the Commonweal project. The back and forth negotiation happened in the airport as I flew home. The final “yes” hit my inbox not half an hour after my friend and pastor and I said our goodbyes after our Sunday lunch. I  signed the final paperwork the day the Pelican Project launched. My first day on the job was the very next day.

That was just over 6 weeks ago. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, as most Silicon Valley startup jobs tend to be. But I’ve had almost daily confirmations that this work at this company is what God has been preparing me for through all of the different trials and tribulations of the last few years.

One of many providences I can point to – I made my first Christian friend on my second day on the job, and have met many others since. One is a senior leader who not only is really great at his role – he just happens to be an elder at a PCA church in another state lead by one of my husband’s oldest and best friends.

Meeting him and the other Christians at my new company has reinforced a lesson has God has impressed upon me in the last several years in multiple ways – that there is no more essential witness to my faith I could have at my new workplace than to simply do excellent work with an excellent attitude. Doing so is going to require a tremendous amount of focus and discipline – I still have a physical and spiritual family to care for and a home to keep running. With social media being pretty much the antithesis to both focus and discipline, blogging and Twittering is going to be pushed to the outer edges of my time for a while, if not eliminated all together. It’s a frustrating irony that just as God puts me in a context where I can begin to put into practice all of my thinking about Christian men and women working alongside each other in the world, I’ll have much less time to write about it. At the same time, I’m praying that once I’ve gotten into a good work rhythm, I’ll be able to carve out a few hours of focussed effort each week to write about how God is working in and through me in my new work, potentially through different, more formal channels than before.

Few who live through the losses of a natural disaster are able to look at what is built afresh and say that the losses that preceded the rebuilding were an unmitigated blessing. Loss is still loss. At the same time, as we look at what God has enabled us to build in the place of what was broken, we can see how God really does restore the years that the locust has eaten, and praise the name of the LORD our God who has done wondrously with us. (Joel 2:25-26)

Who is My Neighbor?

Who is My Neighbor?

Last week’s special Senate hearing about the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh overflowed with outbursts of emotion that were astonishing to witness. But beyond the fear and anger expressed in the room itself, it was the response from one quarter in particular in the days that followed that surprised me most of all.

In the days leading up to the proceedings, one lawyer close to the White House argued that “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like (the ones facing Brett Kavanaugh, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.” Numerous people offered arch observations about why the lawyer might feel that way. But then conservative Christian women began saying the same, raising their voices in a chorus of panic.

From one mother writing at The Federalist to innumerable others posting memes on Facebook and Twitter, conservative Christian women took the Internet by storm, protesting that the supposed assault on Brett Kavanaugh was an assault on their husbands and their sons. Women needed to stand together to do something about it.

42557755_10217910241372747_186808533092663296_n

At the same time, conservative complementarianism has also taught women that their role is to support the careers and callings of their husbands (and equip their sons to do the same). So its a logical extension of that belief is that if a man’s livelihood is wrongfully at risk, then it is part of a woman’s role to not just stand by her man, but stand in front of him.

There’s a very real way in which I share these women’s’ concern for the vulnerability of their loved ones. I have children too. But my children are girls. So my fears for my daughters’ vulnerability has been shaped very differently than the fears some mothers of sons are now feeling so acutely.

Before I had children, I was certain I would be a better mother to boys than girls. Even though I grew up in an almost exclusively female world, having only one sister and attending an all-girls school, my interests and abilities always seemed more aligned with boys. But God decided differently, giving me 3 daughters in 5 years, and so I quickly embraced being a mother of daughters as God’s specific calling for me.  And a signifiant part of that calling was and continues to be managing their vulnerability.

When my girls were young, my concerns for their safety centered on their physical vulnerability, in a way not totally dissimilar from mothers of young boys. While little boys interests often put them in physical harms way more than little girls, a girl and a boy who fall out of a tree from the same height will suffer the same fate when they hit the ground. Raising my girls to love to climb trees, and play sports and generally test the limits of their physical strength and gravity meant steeling myself to accept a measure of physical risk.  But my concern for the fragility of their bodies went beyond the fear of a few broken bones.

My family history has been scarred by the multi-generational consequences of child abuse in ways I’m not free to talk about in much detail. But suffice it to say that, as dedicated as I was to keep my daughters safe from physical harm, I was was even more committed to doing all I could to protect them from the greater harm to their bodies and their souls from sexual abuse. In those early years, my concern about their vulnerability to predatory men (or women!) was very much the same as would be for mothers of boys.  But as my daughters grew into the teenage years, that equity dissolved.

The irony of a boy growing into adulthood, relative to a girl, is that boys grow into strength, while girls grow into relative weakness. Generally, although always with exceptions, woman’s physical strength is less than that of a man’s. And specifically, when a woman’s body gives itself over to nourishing another life, she experiences a type of whole-body vulnerability a man never will.  These inequities in physical strength and vulnerability have been hallmarks of conservative arguments about the distinctions of gender for generations. They’ve been at the center of conservative complementarian arguments that men are called to protect women in a distinctive way that women are not.

But while this idea that all men are in possession of a distinctive strength that makes them less vulnerable to harm has been universally argued, it is far from universally experienced. There are elements to strength and vulnerability that go beyond mere muscle mass. All men may be created equal, but not all men are treated that way.

This report published last year by the Law Department of the University of Michigan examining data gathered by the National Registry of Exonerations describes the inordinate proportion of African American people who have been wrongfully convicted, then exonerated, of crimes.  Specific to the crime of sexual assault, the report states that while “assaults on white women by African-American men are a small minority of all sexual assaults in the United States, …they constitute half of the sexual assaults with eyewitness misidentifications that led to exoneration.” Wrongfully convicted African American men also receive harsher sentences and spend longer periods of time in jail waiting to be exonerated and freed.

This data, along with the numerous tragic anecdotal situations of black men like Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Botham Shem Jean, and boys like Tamir Rice and Roy Oliver depicts the tragic reality that, to borrow a famous phrase, all men are equal, but some are more equal than others. And it’s what makes the deployment of stories about fictional black man Tom Robinson of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the very real black boy Emmett Till to bolster white women’s arguments that their husbands and sons are uniquely vulnerable to false accusations by women so disingenuous. What white women fear now, what they are demanding the nation hear and take notice of, is precisely what black women have feared for their husbands and sons for generations. Their fears have all too often been realized, time upon tragically unjust time. And their cries for justice have often gone unheard.

42484870_1824630987664907_1963678774515990528_o

There’s a sense in which the innate instinct all women have to protect the vulnerable closest to us, to the point of giving up our own lives, is a very good thing. It’s literally how God created us. But when we use our God-given instincts as justification for making the locus of our care only those who are closest to us physically, we neglect the greater spiritual reality of what that created instinct actually expresses – about the character of God, and how he expects us to express that character as his image bearers.

This is why the story of the Good Samaritan matters so much.

Jesus himself was interrogated on more than one occasion by Jewish legal experts on his understanding of the Old Testament law. On one such occasion, when a young lawyer asked about how to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied with the two commandments which are the sum of all the law and the prophets – to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The lawyer responded by asking him to elaborate on the definition of “neighbor”. This wasn’t because he was in a hurry to rush out and take Jesus’ words to heart. Like all lawyers looking for loopholes, he cared about who was outside that definitional line much more than who was inside it.

And Jesus exposed him for it.

Jesus took up the question and said:“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ — Luke 10:30-35 (CSB)

The elegance of the setup of the story is that the responses of both the priest and the Levite to the sight of an anonymous injured man on a road were entirely reasonable when viewed through the interpretive lens of the Old Testament law. The common assumption of the Old Testament definition of neighbor was that it referred to fellow Jews. Jesus declined to note the man’s religious identity, leaving an entirely reasonable loophole for two faithful Jews employ to justify their choice to look and walk away. More importantly, Jews from the tribe of Levi were set apart for service in the temple and needed to take particular care to protect themselves from ceremonial uncleanliness. Priests, in particular, were specifically warned to stay ceremonially clean by giving dead men a wide berth, which is what the man lying in the road almost certainly looked like. One can only imagine how little legal mental maneuvering it took both men to justify their walking on by.

But the Samaritan, himself an outcast in the eyes of the Jews, saw the man differently. He refused to use a mutual affinity like shared ethnicity as a minimum requirement for justifying his compassion. The priest and the Levite looked at the bloodied and beaten stranger of unknown origin and saw uncleanness. They responded with self-preserving obedience to the letter of the Levitical law.  The Samaritan saw a human being in need and responded with self-sacrificing love.

Arguments that appeal to our love for those who are “ours”- our sons, our daughters, our husbands -are arguments that appeal to the self-justifying statements of the lawyer that Jesus rebuked. They are appeals to the to the self-protecting love of the priests and Levites, not the neighborly love of the Samaritan.

Neighbor love centers our compassion not only on the people who are “ours”, but on all those who are God’s. Neighbor love is not only about people who are God’s through faith in Christ, but about all those who are His because they are made in His image. Neighbor love is love that is directed at those who are not like me – who share neither my identity nor the experiences that identity generates – and seeks their welfare in exactly the same ways I do for those who are.

For white Christian women like me, neighbor love means a concern for protecting all men from the injustice of false accusations, not just men who look like my white husband.  It means teaching my girls to seek the safety and welfare not only of their own bodies, but the bodies of those who are the least like theirs – to treat boys as brothers with both their actions and their words, and to call others to do the same.   And for those who are not like me, neighbor love looks exactly the same – seeking the safety and welfare not only of themselves, but for women like me and my girls, even, as the Samaritan did, at personal cost.

In Jesus’ death on the cross, he proved that his admonition to the lawyer wasn’t just a clever riposte deployed to win a legal argument. He himself was our neighbor as he showed us mercy, taking our sin on himself and being broken for us on the cross. The one who was so unlike us in his holy perfection, nevertheless identified with us in our sin and our suffering at the cost of his own life, to restore us and make us whole.

Jesus was and is a neighbor to us. All those who identify with him must go and do the same.

The Real Sin of Potiphar’s Wife

The Real Sin of Potiphar’s Wife

Every time a new report emerges of accusations of sexual harassment or assault about or adjacent to a powerful man in a prominent position, the time it takes for his defenders to reference the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife as a warning about the reality of women who falsely accuse men of assault can be measured in nanoseconds. 

It’s an infamous chapter in a famous and beloved story. It reads a little bit like an episode in a Shonda Rhimes soapy nighttime drama. So perhaps the reflexive comparison is understandable. But it’s also deeply flawed.

Joseph was, for a time, the Hebrew slave of a prominent Egyptian military officer named Potiphar.  Moses notes that God blessed all of Joseph’s work with success and Potiphar took note of it, putting Joseph in charge of everything in his house (other than the catering) and making Joseph his personal attendant (vs 2-6).  God had apparently blessed Joseph in other ways because Moses writes that he was “handsome and well-built.”(v. 6b) So Potiphar’s wife takes note of him alas well, deciding that she wants him as a personal attendant of a different kind. So Potiphar’s wife propositions him, not once, but repeatedly. And Joseph repeatedly tells her no and tells her why (vs.8-9)

One day when all but Joseph are out of the house, Potiphar’s wife moves from persuasion to coercion, grabbing Joseph by his clothes and ordering him to sleep with her. Joseph runs, leaving only his garment in the woman’s clutches. Potiphar’s wife’s unfulfilled lust is transformed to rage. She uses Joseph’s clothes as circumstantial evidence to bolster the credibility of a story the rest of her household will already be inclined to believe that the foreign slave her husband had bought for the house had tried to rape her the minute she was alone. Her story achieves its purpose, and the enraged Potiphar throws the servant he once trusted into prison.

I can’t think of another Bible story that contemporary conservative Christians with a narrative to maintain about the prevalence of women making false rape accusations prefer to deploy more than this one, even as it’s literally the only one in the entire Bible that they can. There’s a particular irony that the numerous stories of women actually being assaulted in the Bible get so much less attention than the single story of one woman saying she was when she wasn’t.

But beyond the problem of elevating the story of the one over the many, there’s a greater problem with making this story simply about a woman’s false accusation. That interpretation ignores the clear, and clearly emphasized, power imbalance between Joseph and his accuser.

Joseph was probably physically stronger than Potiphar’s wife, but that is the only way in which his power exceeds hers. Joseph is a  slave from a foreign country, bought by Potiphar to serve in Potiphar’s house. Potiphar’s wife is… Potiphar’s wife, so closely attached to Potiphar’s authority that Moses declines to give her a name apart from it. Joseph too also temporarily loses his name, as Potiphar’s wife takes pains to diminish Joseph’s personhood by referring to him only in terms of the parts of his identity that are his greatest liabilities – his ethnicity, and his status as a slave (vs. 13-19).  Neither Joseph’s hard-earned reputation of trustworthiness and faithfulness to his master, nor the fruits of his labors, were sufficient defense against the hateful words of a powerful person wanting to simultaneously hide the sin of her predatory behavior and punish the innocent, powerless one who wouldn’t succumb to it.

The sin of Potiphar’s wife is the sin of any person with power who wields that power for their own selfish purposes – who exploits the vulnerability of those beneath them to both use them and abuse them when their evil desires are denied, and who destroys the lives of the ones they abuse in the name of keeping the sin of that abuse from being exposed.  The suffering of Joseph is the suffering of anyone whose attempts to live with integrity and purpose far above what their position in society might enable, are insufficient to withstand the determination of those above them to use their own position of power to abuse them.

The story of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph reminds us that the sinful proclivity of those possessing or even adjacent to power to exploit those without it isn’t bounded by gender. And it points to the time when another man, one to whom all power and authority had been given, set aside that power to become a servant to many, but suffered greatly for it (Phil. 2:7).

Like Joseph, Jesus lived a life of righteous, fruitful service, under the watch of a loving God. But like Joseph, He also suffered the ignominy of punishment based on trumped up charges of sin He had never committed. He atoned for the world of sins committed against the bodies of vulnerable women and men with His own. And He too emerged from darkness into the light of vindication, not just for Himself, but for all those who identify with Him.

The story of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph isn’t the story of an ordinary woman falsely accusing a man of assault and not suffering the consequences; it’s the story of a powerful person using her power to exploit someone weaker, and then bearing false witness against them to cause them to suffer even further in the midst of their vulnerability.  

But most importantly, it’s the story of the good news that there is no human power so great that it can ultimately thwart the purposes of an all-powerful and all-loving God.

“But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result ​— ​the survival of many people. “– Genesis 50:19-20 (CSB)

 

My Evangelical Earthquake

My Evangelical Earthquake

Last winter, as part of a family trip to London, we spent an afternoon at the British Natural History Museum. While we were there we encountered an exhibit that replicated what it might have felt like to experience of the 6.9 Kobe earthquake from inside a grocery store. I moved with the throng of other tourists onto the exhibit platform against my better judgment. For most of the crowd, this was going to be little more than an amusement park ride. For me, it would be reliving personal history.  

I was in my final semester of college the morning the Northridge quake literally jolted me awake at 4:45am with tremors so intense my head banged over and over against the headboard of my bed. So when the museum simulation began with its first jolt, the tourists chuckled and squealed, but I fought a full-scale panic attack. When it was over, I had to find a bench to sit on to collect myself.

It was 25 years ago, but the feeling of falling asleep in the safest place you know, only to wake up to pain and chaos, gets into your cellular memory and never leaves.

When I wrote about my journey to and through TMU, I omitted many of the specifics of my upbringing intentionally. The 6th commandment doesn’t come with an expiration date, and the process I’ve followed to try and separate what were objectively influencing factors from my subjective perception of them as a child is still very much in work. It’s sufficient for now to say what I did then –  that the baggage I brought to TMU as a wide-eyed freshman from Australia is precisely what made the Biblical blueprint for life I was taught there so attractive.

It wasn’t that the authority and submission framework was compelling in and of it itself- it was the promise of spiritual and circumstantial safety that came with it that drew me in.

The language of the spiritual danger of the evils of culture and lies of false doctrine spoken at TMU was the language I’d heard spoken all my life. Its familiarity was reassuring. Heresy was everywhere, and falling prey to it was as simple as reading the wrong book or accidentally striking a yoga pose at the gym. So we read books by all the “right” people (heavy emphasis on the Puritans, Calvinists and anything by John MacArthur), and were warned about all the “wrong” ones (secular psychologists, the Charismatics, anything by Beth Moore).  We learned which sociopolitical issues were essential for Christians to care about (abortion, marriage), and which were dangerous (feminism).

But while these outermost walls of spiritual safety were designed to protect our souls from dangerous theology or worldliness, we still needed a working system for living inside them.

That’s where complementarianism came in.

In the complementarian blueprint as I was taught it, men and women were created to function in very distinct, almost oppositional roles. Men lead, women followed. Men were made to crave risk, women security.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 5.35.24 PM.png

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/52-6/parental-pictures-of-spiritual-leadership-part-2

The woman’s domain was the home and child raising, the man’s, everything else. God made male leadership and authority to serve as a protective shield for women, to create an atmosphere where women would be happy, fulfilled and secure.  To live inside this framework was to enjoy safety, stability and the blessing of God; to step outside it was to be in step with the world, the flesh and the devil.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 1.32.54 PM

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/54-17/gods-high-calling-for-women-part-4

I didn’t grow up in this kind of warm, stable environment, and I felt its lack acutely. Moreover, as a young believer, I longed for God’s love and approval more than anything else. And so I built my life according to the blueprint I was taught, at a significant cost that I willingly paid as an act of sacrificial obedience to God, believing that God would bless me.

Eventually, my understanding of the gospel matured so that I came to understand and experience the freedom of knowing that the basis of God’s love for me isn’t my obedience, but Christ’s. And so I began to live more freely, even as the ecosystem of my family’s life operated according to what the complementarianism model taught at TMU and GCC would define as ideal – every aspect of it aligned with doctrinal orthodoxy and overseen by committed Christian men.

Then the tremors began.

It started with the discoveries that the history of my spiritual forefathers I’d been taught had been majorly revised. I’d been taught all about their orthodox doctrine, but next to nothing of their heterodox practices – their advocacy for slavery, their propping up of racial segregation, their passive and active resistance of the Civil Rights movement – all of it in the name of doctrinal orthodoxy.

Then, contemporary spiritual fathers began to be exposed, men in the church whose doctrinally sound teaching had nourished my soul and enriched my faith. Some succumbed to political pragmatism.  Others fell into personal impurity. In one case, the enormity of his sexual sin was so great that its exposure drove him to suicide. Another awaits sentencing after being convicted of two counts of aggravated assault of a minor.

With one story after another, the closely guarded trust I’d placed in these men because of the purported purity of their doctrine was shattered.

Then earlier this year, the greatest tremor of all happened. In the space of a few months, I experienced a collection of trials that intersected every axis of my life at once – relationally, vocationally, financially, and spiritually. So I did what I’d been taught – I took refuge against the spiritual safety walls I’d been told would hold me up. But as I leaned on them, they crumbled into dust.

I sat amongst the dust and the rubble, hurt and disoriented, for a long time.

But for the last several months I’ve been rebuilding the structures of my life with better material, using a very different blueprint – one I’ve been taught by the prophet Jeremiah.

5 This is what the Lord says:

Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind.
He makes human flesh his strength,
and his heart turns from the Lord.
6 He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;
he cannot see when good comes
but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness,
in a salt land where no one lives. — Jeremiah 17:5-6 (CSB)

Jeremiah’s perspective on the consequences of trusting in men is very different than the one I was taught at TMU and Grace Community Church. Jeremiah compares trusting in the strength of human men to being like a juniper bush in a desert wasteland, with no water in sight, and the ground so thick with salt that whatever drops of rain fall from the sky are instantly leached away. Entrusting ourselves to human strength isn’t a path to safety or prosperity; it’s a recipe for disaster.

There was a time when I would have read those words and nodded right along with them.  I would have assumed Jeremiah just meant the unrighteous, the amorphous “pagans” I was taught Christians were so different from.  But I was wrong, and now I know from personal experience how right Jeremiah is.

So do innumerable others.

Over the last five or ten years, an entire cottage industry of websites and social networks has sprung up for people, many of them women but not all, whose stories are like mine in kind, and far, far worse in degree. They built the framework for the Christian life they were promised would be safe, and it collapsed. Even worse, when they asked for help to fix the damage, those called of God to be conduits of care, inflicted more damage by ignoring or dismissing them and denying there was anything to repair.

Crushed by the very infrastructures on which they’d been taught to rely, many are walking away, rebuilding their lives with blueprints of their own design. I’ve never understood that impulse like I do today. But I’m not joining them. Jeremiah’s words remind me that  I’ve got no more ability to cover and provide for myself than anyone else.

But Jesus does.

7 The person who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.
8 He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7-8 (CSB)

Placing our trust in the LORD, Jeremiah says, is like being tree planted by a river, with roots that reach out into the water to draw from a constant stream of nourishment. The heat of trials can’t hurt us. The drought from a lack of human provision or resources doesn’t frighten us, because the source of our life doesn’t come from them.  

To paraphrase another Rachael, “I don’t trust the church. I trust Christ.”

Trusting in Christ as the source of my life doesn’t mean I’m building a giant bunker around myself, so it’s just me and Jesus. Trusting in Christ means trusting His words about what he’s building and the means he’s employing to build it. I’m still totally committed to my church, and to my family (the rest, to be honest, is still TBD).

Trusting in Christ means I’m not going to be building a giant platform for myself on the wreckage of the church’s wrongs, nor joining forces with those who have. And trusting in Christ means trusting Him for the wisdom to know when to be quiet, like Sarah (1 Pet. 3:6), as I have been for a very long time.

But trusting in Christ also trusting Him for the wisdom to know when to speak up, like Abigail did (1 Sam. 25:24), and Esther (Esther 7:3-4), and the woman of wisdom in Proverbs 8 (Prov. 8:1-8). It means trusting Him with what to say, and, especially, with what happens as a result.

If the Internet seismograph is accurate, the tremors that are shaking American evangelicalism are far from over, and it remains to be seen which structures, which institutions, will survive.

What Jeremiah promises, and what I’m learning afresh, is those who trust in the LORD have nothing to fear. Neither do those whose trust has been in other things – in other men, or in themselves. But that is if, and only if, they repent of their sin, receive the forgiveness that is theirs because of Christ, and commit to dismantling those untrustworthy structures and rebuild new ones on Christ, and Christ alone.

Our Evangelical Authority Crisis (Part 2)

Our Evangelical Authority Crisis (Part 2)

(Part 1)

The more settled my convictions became that authority and submission are not ontological absolutes, the more I wanted to understand the theological foundations of Dr. MacArthur’s perspective. That study sent me down two connected, but distinct paths.

1. The Eternal Subordination of the Son

One of Doctor MacArthur’s notable qualities is the constancy of his convictions. Said differently, he rarely changes his position on anything. On the occasion of the one notable time he did change his mind, he wrote about it here.

Dr. MacArthur once believed that Jesus was not eternally God’s Son, but that he became God’s Son through the incarnation. In this article published in JBMW in 2001, he explains how he came to change his mind, and to believe that Jesus’s “sonship” is eternal. Elsewhere, he describes the nature of Jesus’ sonship as eternally obedient, or submissive. Consequently, through Jesus’ relationship with His father as a Son, He is eternally submissive or subordinate to His Father.

ChildWhowasGod

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-34/the-amazing-child-who-was-god-part-3

This argument will be familiar to those who followed the Internet debate several years ago over the doctrine described variously as ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son), EFS (Eternal Functional Subordination), or ERAS (Eternal Relationship of Authority and Submission).  The controversy ignited partly because a group of Reformed women writers, including myself, had traced varying threads of problematic teaching in women’s’ Bible study materials back to this same place.  It’s a position held by other conservative theologians, such as Wayne Grudem. It’s also a position many other conservative theologians argue is unorthodox, outside the bounds of the Nicene Creed.

2. The pronoun attached to “authority” in Romans 13

Modern English translations take two approaches to interpreting the pronoun that represents “authority” in Romans 13: 4. The NKJV uses “he”, as does the ESV. But the NASB uses “it”, and so does the CSB. It’s a distinction with a difference worth considering.

Rom13-4

Dr. MacArthur’s remarks at the GTY blog were far from the first time he has used Romans 13 as the textual lens through which to interpret contemporary issues related to civil authority.

Romans 13 was the leading passage for a sermon he preached at a special Sunday morning service to honor the LAPD in the wake of the first wave of Black Lives Matter activism in 2015.

It was a featured passage (alongside 1 Peter 3) in a sermon series he preached after the LA riots in 1992.

It was the leading passage in a sermon he preached in the aftermath of the LAPD’s aggressive arrests of pro-life protestors in 1985.

Over the years, Dr. MacArthur has read this verse from different English translations. But when he expounds on it, he invariably equates authority with the people – the men – possessing it.

LAPD1

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-162/obeying-civil-authorities

LAPD2

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-419/how-god-restrains-evil-in-the-world

The belief that authority and submission are ontological absolutes rooted in ESS and in gender will invariably shape the way you view any number of issues our country is focused on today – domestic abuse, clerical abuse, sexual abuse, police brutality, and civil disobedience.

It will shape the way you interpret America’s troubling legacy of slavery and segregation, its lingering effects, and the Protestant church’s passive complicity and active participation in it.

It will justify telling a sanctuary full of police officers on a Sunday morning that they’re ministers of God, without telling them that they’re also sinners who rebel against God’s authority, especially when they abuse their authority or knowingly cover up its abuse by others. It will have them leave the service ignorant of their accountability and culpability, instead of convicted and driven to repentance and restoration through Christ, the one to whom all authority has been given by His Father.

Now, Dr. MacArthur’s arguments about absolute authority and submission are being put to the ultimate test, as the two institutions he leads are themselves accused of not submitting to civil authorities. The charges vary in type and in degree, but their unifying theme is that the leadership of TMU and TMS has repeatedly chosen to do or not do things required by federal law for them to be fully accredited. Ironically, many of the requirements in question are designed to properly contain authority and ensure that it is properly distributed and not misused. These are the issues they must address and make right to have their accreditation restored.

It remains to be seen Dr. MacArthur and the administration of TMU/S will submit to these mandates – whether they will recognize the damage this belief in absolute authority and submission has done to their institutions, let alone the hundreds and even thousands of men and women who have served and been taught in them.

The damage is not just from the doctrine itself. It’s the way Dr. MacArthur is drawing a line from this doctrine to differing Christian perspectives about how to faithfully pursue justice like Christ, and calling those perspectives a danger to the gospel. It implies that pastors who are attempting to faithfully shepherd their congregations to better align their understanding of justice with Christ are somehow going “off message”. It implies that church members who humbly raise these issues with their elders and pastors or other church members are somehow sowing division, instead of pursuing greater faithfulness to Christ.

I have watched over the last several years as the different branches of my spiritual family – my GCC family, my TMU family, my local church family, my Christian Internet family – are not just growing apart from each other, but growing antagonistic and suspicious of one another’s fidelity to the gospel.  There is a dividing wall of hostility being built against those who are working to tear it down in the name of the One who put such hostility to death on the cross (Ephesians 2).

What I am thankful for, in the midst of the shame of our factiousness playing out in front of a watching world, it has no power to defeat the actual gospel. As my pastor, Josh Camacho, wrote to me when I wrote to him about all this last week:

“There is no legitimate threat to the gospel, there is no worthy opponent to the gospel; the gospel has outlasted empires, emperors, and will outlast immortal creatures that defy it. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe and it is marching forth to the ends of the earth by the Sovereign will of Christ who is determined to build His church by the regenerating and renewing power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel will be fine. We might get ourselves into trouble…but the God who offered His only begotten Son for sinners will not be thrown aside by errant theology.”

And to him and to all of us, I say “Yes and amen.”

Our Evangelical Authority Crisis (Part 1)

Our Evangelical Authority Crisis (Part 1)

The flames over Dr. John MacArthur’s announcing his intention to write about why growing Christian concerns about justice issues are a threat to the gospel were still smoldering when news broke that both The Master’s College and The Master’s Seminary (TMU/S) had their accreditations placed on probation last month for administrative infractions (Dr. MacArthur serves as the president of both). Doctor MacArthur famously eschews most things Internet-related personally. But there is an entire cottage industry of websites and online communities dedicated to lionizing him or pillorying him over the things he teaches. Historically, it’s been his teachings – about the Charismatic movement, the Emerging church, complementarianism and most recently social justice – that have been the center of the controversy. Last week’s news about TMU/S was the first controversy that has even come close to involving him personally.

For Dr. MacArthur’s numerous detractors, this moment is the one they’ve been building their Internet platforms for. For his equally numerous and even more passionately committed followers, it’s just another day of Satan doing what Satan does.

But for me, as these overlapping controversies unfold simultaneously, it’s personal. And it’s painful.

Some you know some of the story of my journey to, through and then from TMU and Grace Community Church (GCC). Some of you know a lot more, because we’ve walked portions of it together – whether in person or online.

The Cliff notes version of my story is that I attended TMU (then TMC) from 1990 to 1994, and was a committed member of GCC for all of that time and 5 years after it (until I married and moved to Northern California, where I live today). When I first came to TMU from Australia, I passed for a Christian as only a Reformed Baptist pastor’s daughter could. In reality, I was a committed, albeit closeted, unbeliever, who planned to bide my time at TMU until I could transfer to UCLA to become a psychology major. I didn’t know that my plan to move halfway around the planet to get away from God was really God’s plan for me to run straight into Him. Through a series of providences, I came to be persuaded that God was real. It logically followed that everything the Bible said about Him, myself, and what I must do to be right with Him was true as well. So one night shortly before Easter in 1990, I confessed my sin of unbelief, asked Jesus to save me and committed to following Him for the rest of my life. But it would be over 12 years before I began to understand just what I had actually done (or more importantly, what God had done in me).

The grace of growing up in a home where the Bible was read regularly and deeply revered meant I was blessed to be more familiar with the basics of Biblical doctrine than the average new believer. But I carried some pretty deep wounds from how it had been applied in certain contexts. Now that I was actually a Christian, I was determined to do the Christian life right. And, as I repeatedly heard in TMU chapel and at church, there was no better place on earth to learn how. All that was required was to follow the Biblical blueprint TMU would teach me.

One principle that was essential to this blueprint was the concept of authority and submission. It was “built into every dimension of personality relationships”, and  was characterized by two distinct features:

Authority and submission were absolutes. Christ’s perfect, unqualified submission to His Father as His Son was to be the model for our unqualified submission to human authority. No matter how unrighteous and antithetical to God’s design the earthly authority was, unless directly commanded to disobey God, our call was to be like Jesus and submit to it.

submission

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1845/

Authority and submission were ontological dimensions of gender. Authority, or leadership, was inherent to being male, while submission was inherent to being female. The justification here was the order of creation in Genesis 2, and the parallels with God the Father and Jesus Christ as his Son in 1 Corinthians 11. Men were inherently called to be leaders, and women were called to submit to them.

(The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians, pgs. 253-254)

The picture Dr.MacArthur painted of authority and submission was a study in contrasts: of safety, stability and happiness when it was followed, and sinful, anarchic institutional chaos when it was rejected, like the difference between the nostalgic vision of Thomas Kinkade (whose paintings were notably popular with GCC families) and the dissipated, apocalyptic one of Hieronymous Bosch. Authority and submission was the glue God created to hold the institutions He designed for the flourishing of the world – the church, the family and the government – intact. Without them, chaos would reign.

I was drawn to this blueprint for happiness, especially its promise of blessing and affirmation from God. I had often struggled as a child to believe that God loved me or was pleased with me. I was ready to sign on for any system that a path to God’s approval. So the early years of my Christian life were built to its exacting specifications – through college, in post-graduate life as a reluctant career woman, and (finally) marriage and motherhood to 3 daughters in 5 years. And it was the circumstantial and spiritual burdens of early mothering that finally sent the whole edifice crumbling to dust. But then God stepped in, clearing away the rubble and helped me rebuild my theology on a more solid foundation. To borrow Brennan Manning’s quote of Lloyd Ogilvie, my life changed from living to earn God’s love, to living because, in Christ, I already possessed it.

Over the next several years, I went on a kind of Bible study pilgrimage, to understand what it meant to be a restored bearer of God’s image through Christ, not just as a person, but as a woman. That pilgrimage inevitably lead back to this issue of authority and submission and what the whole Bible really taught about it.  The answers I found in the Scriptures were far different than what I’d been lead to believe.

Without question, the theme of authority and submission does appear constantly throughout Scripture. But the depictions of human authority and human submission are hardly ones of absolutes.

The Bible regularly positively depicts men and women who resist human authority, in word and deed:

The Bible positively depicts those with authority submitting to people under them, in word and deed:

The Bible positively depicts women speaking with authority. It affirms the men and women who listen to them, while the ones who do not become object lessons:

The Bible even negatively depicts women who submit to their husband’s authority absolutely:

All of these stories find their culmination in Christ, who, while he was still a child under Jewish law, reminded his mother that his ultimate authority was his Heavenly Father, not his earthly parents (Luke 2:41-50). Throughout His ministry, he regularly exposed and refuted the extra-biblical authority of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-14). And on one memorable occasion, he took a whip to Temple employees and property (John 2:13-17) to make his point.

To be clear, the Bible clearly teaches that resistance to unrighteous authority is no more of an absolute in the Christian life than submission is. Peter uses Sarah as an example of someone who submits to her husband even when he is not exercising his authority rightly (1 Peter 3:5-6). And again, the ultimate example is Jesus, who for the joy set before Him didn’t despise the shame of being put to death on trumped up charges of blasphemy because a weak-willed Pilate capitulated to an angry mob (Hebrews 12:2).

The thread that ties the theme of authority and submission together in the Bible is not absolutism. It is the supremacy of God over all things, including human authority. Where human authority is shaped and exercised like God’s, we rightly obey it. When it is not, and as God gives us the means and the opportunity, we work to resist it in God’s name so that its shape matches His. When the opportunity doesn’t come, or those in authority resist us in return, we submit, not just to unrighteous authority, but also to the One who judges rightly, for God to do what He wills in His time.

Over and over again, the Bible shows that submission to God’s authority can include humble, faith-filled resistance to human authority, when it is not being exercised like God. It is not a resistance that is rebelling against God, but serves as an appeal to those in authority of the danger of God’s judgment for their own rebellion against Him in not exercising their authority righteously.

(Part 2)

(9/10/18 Editing note: Several friends in academia alerted me to an error I made with the word I originally chose to describe TMU/S ‘ accreditation status. I used the word “suspended”,  believing it meant “at risk of being revoked if identified issues remain unaddressed”, as that is where things stand. The term I should have used is “on probation”.  Both TMU and TMS remain accredited while they are addressing the issues. I’ve updated the post and regret the error. It was not from any intent to mislead or misrepresent the facts in any way.)