April 7, 2014

Feeling a bit disenchanted with Tullian

[correction 5-23-2014] I want to issue a bit of a retraction. I was under the impression that Tullian in his latest sermon series on Romans didn't address sexual sins because I didn't remember him dealing with it and I wondered why he glossed over it since it is so specifically addressed in the first chapter.  But I discovered today that I never finished listening to his first Romans series.  So while I still wish sometimes he would say  things differently, I'm not "quite a bit" disenchanted anymore.  But I will leave the following post up, trusting this correction will suffice [end correction 5-23-2014]

Not just "a bit."  "Quite" a bit.

I have been really excited about him now for a couple years.

He often quotes questionable people. He just quoted Rick Warren favorably in part 8 of his Romans series. Something about "if I thought law could change people I'd have been a politician, but I don't so I'm a pastor."  In a sense that's right.  But unfortunately, the way Rick Warren means that is not the way Tullian was supposed to have meant that.  Rick Warren preaches nothing BUT law-light and moralism and almost never gets the gospel right.  The exact opposite of what Tullian says he is all about.

Tullian does preach some law, and preaches the perfection God requires, yes. But it's not very specific when it comes to how we ought to treat each other.  The laws we break are limited to snapping at our spouses or speeding in traffic and then trying to justify ourselves.  It's "we are all screw ups and all in the same boat" which is true. But we also need to know that certain behaviors aren't going to be overlooked in the church and should not be found among God's people.  Why did Paul bother to write "such things shall not even be named among you" and the letters to the Corinthians shaming them for being proud of tolerating sexual sin in their membership? Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets preached warnings constantly too.  We need to hear it.

I try to listen from the point of view of an abuse victim because I know a gal who grew up being sexually abused by her AFLC pastor father for YEARS and no one knew it was happening until he finally went outside the family once all the kids grew up and left home.  And I dealt with bullying for a long time as well.  It's hell.

I am troubled because I hear nothing in Tullian's sermons that would give someone like a sexual abuse victim or any other victim of crime, or other hidden crimes, or constant bullying, any hope or idea what to do in such a situation.  Are they supposed to call the police? Or are they supposed to 'forgive?'  Are they supposed to tell someone and get the person in trouble?  Or are they supposed to 'turn the other cheek?'  At what point does someone have any right or even responsibility to cry out for justice even if it puts themselves and their loved ones in further danger?  Does Tullian know for sure no one in his local or even larger audience is in such a situation?  How does any pastor know it's not happening in his church?  I know personally a very good and faithful pastor who was for years pastoring an entire family where the father was sexually abusing the children, and physically and sexually abusing his wife. This pastor did not know it until a few years ago, when I told him of the family's history.   I am approximately the same age as the youngest of these children and she was a teenager and confirmed by this pastor who couldn't see it under his nose.  This pastor is about 15 years older than me.   I knew it when I was 18 and met this girl and she told me all about it.  I didn't know I should have told someone, however.  And so the cycle of silence continues.  It makes me angry that I didn't say something and angry that no one told me I should have broken her confidence!

These are the sheep we should be actively seeking out with our words, so that they will know they can and should and even must come forward and be set free from fear and bondage and their abusers held accountable.

"...whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Mt 18:6

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:2

We hear endless sermons on gossip, as if that is the thing that is threatening to devour the church.  But when for example sexual perverts and abusers can repeatedly prey on people in the church and successfully hide behind the 'gossip' card, we are obviously not even defining gossip correctly.  This needs to be fixed, unless we don't care that children and women are possibly suffering silently under a na├»ve pastor's watch.  Should they suffer even one more day of such treatment?  The very act of speaking out and offering them hope and courage may make the difference between them thinking Christianity is just a hypocritical facade and so walking away from the faith, and the truth that Christ indeed cares and rescues the helpless, the oppressed and downtrodden in our midst.

"...truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward." Mark 9:41

"...whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Mt 10:42

It’s always more “forgiveness” for the perp, never any “law” - which is exactly why the mother of an abuse victim is brainwashed to think she should keep allowing her kids to be victimized.  It brings tears in my eyes to think of an abuse victim in a congregation feeling a pastor is speaking hope to everyone (including her abuser) except him or her, feeling even more keenly the depth of their own emotional isolation, and coming to the conclusion that this whole Jesus thing is just meaningless at best, or a desperately cruel joke.

(related: Boz Tchividjian has a great blog post here (though I would NOT recommend Nouwen, who he quotes):
Flashes of light: Reflecting Jesus into the dark places of the church)

I have hated some of the unfair reviews Tullian has gotten, but I'm starting to wonder...he rarely speaks against any specific sin except self righteousness, bickering, silly foibles like blaming others for misplacing your keys, etc. It's almost like he isn't sure whether Jesus' blood speaks to the more egregious sins among us.  And when he has two brothers working as sex abuse prosecutors and running a ministry to help sex abuse victims, he really cannot claim ignorance of the subject.

For some great blog posts about addressing sex abuse in the church, check out the blog at
G.R.A.C.E (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment - www.netgrace.org