Thursday, April 24, 2014

Doug Phillips Sues, and What Being Pro-Life Really Means for Marriage

                     Doug Phillips Sues and what being pro-life really means for marriage.

  So perhaps you haven’t heard the news that Doug Philips is planning on suing the men from his church who privately confronted him about his alleged improper relationship, and then exercised church discipline toward him. Although almost unfathomable, it is true. He accuses the men of intentionally ruining his business and ministry, Vision Forum. (Link to source at end of post)

   Riiiiiiighttttt, I believe totally financial ruin was the goal of his self described closest friends and followers, - why else would they have done it?

    According to these men, they went to his home hoping to clear up suspicions, and then, when they did ask ‘Have you had an improper relationship with Miss____” (the answer was yes) and ‘was it sexual in nature?’ (the answer was yes) they describe their deep pain and shock, and their expectation to act as biblical prophet Nathan, and find a broken hearted David. What they found was an angry, proud man who became so argumentative over the exact WAY they were conducting their visit, and was so loudly contentious they were forced to leave.

    When I posted publically first about this scandal, I lead with the fact that I was sad for him, his family, but more importantly for the thousands of followers who had been deceived. I then made some sweeping statements which to me seemed obvious but elicited a fire storm of debate, which actually caught me off guard, and in general the (pretty harsh) responses were one that ironically chastised me, urging focus on forgiveness, healing, and unity. I was accused of trying to destroy the body of Christ, leading others astray, angry bitterness and more.

   What became painfully clear to me  the first instant I read the story that included Doug’s comments that many assumed was an apology, was something of which I have come to realize most Christian’s are either completely na├»ve, or refuse to face.

    From the moment of this scandal breaking, there are certain things I absolutely knew. I knew because unfortunately I have far too much personal experience with this kind of man. I cannot pretend to have great compassion for him, but my heart breaks daily for the thousands of families who have listened and followed the advice of someone who was not only systematically and intentionally destroying the lives of those he claimed to love, but teaching others how to destroy those around them, women and children first.

    Last fall I wrote that while his family may have been unaware of his actual physical affair, and that while no doubt the last year has rocked and shattered their world in the cruelest, most public way possible - we can be sure that deep down, they are not surprised. They have lived for years in the shadows of a selfish, arrogant, and appearances obsessed man, whose only concern has been power, self glorification and control. They have lived with dysfunction, lies and heartache that will take years for them to identify and process.

   I should know.

   From the beginning, while others were calling for compassion, for forgiveness and healing, I have been fighting for the people who have had, and still to this very day have been allowed no voice: his family.

      From the beginning I have said that the cruelest thing we can do is to minimize or ignore the actions of a man who still has yet to show any sign of real sorrow for his actions and whose life has been dedicated to dangerous and destructive teaching.

   We Christians are often cowards. We would often rather forgive and forget certain things rather than to stand and face the whole, intense, ugly face of evil that comes wrapped in light.

   Using the name of God to get your way, to gain power, to make money, or silence or control other humans (especially your own wife and children) is evil; calling it biblical manhood and making millions selling that idea is cold, calculating, and damnable.

    As more details have surfaced about his sickening actions in the last ten years; the single girl with whom this over 10 year affair occurred was one of Bell’s best friends and a mother’s helper, almost certainly present while Bell was on bed rest through pregnancies, a close enough ‘friend’ of the family that they threw her high school graduation party and included her in family trips. It should be clear to even a casual observer that we are not talking about a sincere person who slipped in a moment of weakness, but a pattern of behavior that has affected financial, relational, and ‘ministry’ decisions for years. (There are credible allegations that at least one of Vision Forum’s ‘documentaries’ was staged and contains outright lies.)

   So why does it matter? So maybe this time I was right, - maybe a smile, patience and forgiveness isn’t what he needs in this case; but what can it hurt to hold off judgment? Why not always err on the side of grace? Does our response even matter? Even if Doug Philips has serious issues, - even if it has become blatantly obvious that we have a lot of reasons to feel very sorry for his wife and children, there isn’t much we can do, is there?

     I believe our response matters; I believe YOUR response matters more than you know.

    There are several areas that make Christian’s very uncomfortable. Abuse, domestic violence and mental illness/health are some of those areas.    

    Have you noticed the influx of quiet whispers in blog land, and in Christian Mommy books on post partum depression? Timidly, quiet voices are rising, sharing their experiences and fighting the idea that their experience meant that they didn’t have faith, that they didn’t try hard enough, that they didn’t care.

   It is a teeny, tiny tremor, in the Christian landscape and it is desperately needed; something I hope swells to an earth splitting, permanent shift in our understanding of Christianity and mental health. 

   Mental health is not a hot topic in Christian circles. Praying harder, increasing your faith, and getting rid of glutton, sugar and dairy are.  If I had Xanax for every Christian I know that dismissively said, “Well I don’t give much weight to psychology because…’   I would be permanently chill.

     Most Christian’s seem content to leave alone the knowledge and progress science has made in understanding our minds and souls because this means we must understand how our doctrine and beliefs fit while we are perfectly content to embrace any new scientific knowledge that will help us loose 2o pounds, even while authors all claim to have the ‘biblically sound’ approach to permanently eliminating certain foods from our diet forever so we can have energy and look good.

     What church group doesn’t adore an intense, riveting, even gory story of personal tragedy, loss, and pain that ends with glory, redemption, and healing?

    What about when life doesn’t wrap up in neatly tied packages?

    What about when there are people in your life who you love who insist on addiction, abuse, or  destruction, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to help them?

   Is the point of Christianity to claim nicey-nice ideals that don’t remotely intersect with reality? (If I hear the meaningless phrases healthy marriages, strong families, traditional family values again I think I will puke.)

    As a Christian I fully believe in the incredible power of God. I believe he can change people’s hearts and lives, and I believe he can do it in an instant; I believe in miracles; but I believe they are rare, and that is why we call them miracles; they do not define our normal experience. 
     Something else I know about God? He has never forced a miracle on anyone. God is a gentleman. Change is a choice. God never forces change on anyone.

    I know people who claim to have had miraculous deliverances when they have a deeply personal experience with God. I believe them. I also know that for many, faith is the only way they are able to continue fighting their own personal demons after coming to faith; whether they are physical, mental, or circumstantial trials.

    Salvation does not mean automatically, instantly healed diabetes. It doesn’t mean a severed limb re-appears; that is something that most Christians accept. But there are other conditions that are generally unacceptable and almost intentionally misunderstood in Christianity.

    We all understand that in our unfair world, there are people with broken bodies, some from birth, and some who suffer damage later in life. Few Christians seem to appreciate that there are also people with broken minds and souls. Not broken in a ‘say a prayer and be saved and all problems are gone’ way, but in a very real, sometimes chemical, sometimes hereditary, sometimes circumstantially produced, but absolutely in a, ‘others around them need to be aware and know how best to respond to their condition’ kind of broken.

    There is always a place for understanding, treatment and compassion.
   There is also a desperate need to recognize that there are many people who despite what they say, are unwilling, or incapable of change. There is a desperate need in Christian circles to gain clear understanding of unhealthy and dangerous people and to know how to protect ourselves from their destructive behavior.

     Boundaries are not about forcing someone else to change, but choosing how we will respond to others choices. Boundaries are not the enemy of love and compassion; in fact, boundaries are the only means for practicing love and compassion to those people who are destructive.

      Throughout Christianity there are many differences in our beliefs, but one idea foundational to our faith is the incredible value of human life. Either we are cosmic accidents, reproducing mammals who strive to create our own value and purpose and sense of morality in life, or we are eternal beings, designed in the image of God, each priceless, each irreplaceable, each with inalienable rights and responsibilities, each and every one born worthy of respect and freedom.

    This belief have always been in conflict with the reality of human choices. So what do we do when we believe in an idea that doesn’t match the reality of life? To often throughout history the church has been a moral dictator, trying to force moral change on others, while ignoring the only thing we can actually really change; ourselves.  

     In my lifetime I have seen Christian ideology begin to slowly grow legs, and feet and hands.

     Being pro-life is an expensive belief. It is a statement that comes with incredible cost. It means that you recognize the divine value of each life.  It means getting personal, getting complicated, and getting involved.

     Life is messy; being pro-life means being pro-messy.

    Saying you are pro-life in the realm of abortion and unplanned pregnancies means being willing to personally experience the heartbreak that young unprepared motherhood, foster care, and/ or adoption entails.

    Saying that you are pro-life and against human trafficking is an expensive belief; it means you recognize inherent worth of each and every person. It begins with leaving the comfort of ignorance. It means changing the conversation of how we view sexuality, a woman’s value, and it means facing that there is a very real dark side; a twisted hunger in men who live next door who create the market in the first place.

     Even though abortion/adoption and sex slavery have been willingly embraced as righteous causes, for which Christians have been willing to fight politically, socially, and in some cases, dedicate their lives, there is something just as sinister that has touched more lives than both of these issues combined.

-          1 out of 100, or 1% of US Woman are thought to have been involved in sex trade/human trafficking in their lifetime.  (This does not include estimated 600,000 persons male and female brought to the US for illegal labor each year – roughly the same number of Americans who will suffer from a heart attack this year.)


-          3 out of 10 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.


-               1 in 4 (over 30%) of all women the USA will experience domestic violence abuse from a man she believes loves her. 

This is separate from the 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused; the greatest majority by someone they knew in childhood, and 1 in 5 boys.


    More than HALF of all domestic violence occurs in households with children under 12, which means over 6 million children in the US witness domestic violence each year.

     Boys who witness violence toward their mother are more than twice as likely be violent toward women. Growing up in an abusive environment not only greatly raises the likelihood of mental health issues, but also greatly raises the vulnerability of becoming an adult victim.

  40% of teen girls say they know someone their own age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.   

  Every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten by her partner.

3 Women and 1 Man are murdered by their romantic partner every single day.    

  The consequences of the women and children who have been emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by someone in their family (90% is male aggression toward female) is staggering.

    Our hearts break at the clear, visible affronts to life.
  We recoil and our hearts break at the sight of a human baby in a garbage can, or a starving third world orphan’s tear filled eyes, (as well we should, and never live the same again) but what if these trendy causes that tear at our heart are dwarfed by something much bigger?

    What about the woman married to the guy in church that everyone thinks is a nice guy who daily mentally destroys his wife and children.

  What about the woman who doesn’t ever have an abortion but is addicted to numbing her pain and neglects her children? 4 children under the age of 5 who escaped abortion die from neglect in the US each and every single day.

   The controlling man that tells a child their whole life ‘your stupid, you aren’t worth anything’, the man who physically hurts them and then tells them it is love, who chases and screams at their mother.

   What about the woman who teaches her child to lie to protect her, the man who beats their sons to toughen them up, the man who fondles his daughter.

  How about the guy who is great- madly in love with his wife; maybe too much in love and can’t help that sometimes he ‘looses it’ and leaves bruises that she will cover, and that you will never see.

     What happens to those little girls? What happens to those little boys? They grow up. They bear the scars. They have holes in their soul. Often, they grow up and do the same.

    Where are these women, these children?

     You may find them in prison.( Those who suffered abuse in childhood are twice as likely to end up there.)  You may find them in abortion clinics.  You may find them on the street seeking another hit, trying to numb the pain. You may find them buying a woman, or selling their own body because they know that is just how much they are worth.

    But with numbers like these, they are all around you.

   One in four women. They are next to you at work, they sit by you at your child’s soccer game, and they are in your home school group.

   One in four women.  They sit next to you at church, they lead bible studies, they teach Sunday school; and so does he.

       There is no indication that these numbers are lower in religious families, and in fact some believe there is evidence that suggest that certain kinds of abuse are more likely to be overlooked.

      When church goers were polled, 95% of women say they have never heard a sermon directly address domestic violence or abuse. 81% of Pastors reports counseling at least one victim of domestic violence but only 8% say that they feel equipped or knowledgeable on how to properly approach the subject.

      These numbers do not surprise me in the least. I myself have never heard a sermon, or any kind of leader publically address this subject in ANY arena; including marriage seminars where you would think this would be addressed directly given the fact that one in four of the women have dealt with this issue, and even if they are not currently IN an abusive relationship (though many Christian women are) they most certainly are dealing with the long lasting effects of such an experience.

   Part of the dynamics of abusive and controlling relationships is that it usually takes a very long time for a woman in one to speak to anyone about the unpleasant aspects of her situation. Many are not even aware of how dysfunctional and dangerous their situation and relationship really is, even when it represents very real harm to her and her children. Even once she has spoken up to someone she trusts (usually first just small comments to test their listeners reactions) and even if she begins to have support and help (often difficult for women to establish or maintain in controlled relationships) it usually takes years for a woman to leave, even when she or her children endure physical assaults and danger.

    It is absolutely proven that emotional, mental and verbal abuse is an indication that physical violence is most likely to follow at some point. This is something women in these relationships do not believe. Even though they may recognize some unhealthy dynamics, they are unaware that this is part of a progression. It is not hard to understand why. No one wants to believe someone they love is really capable of intentionally seriously harming them. Abusers are notoriously charming, smooth, and likeable in the good times, and professionals of painful and sincere and self hating sounding apologies, which is why their victims choose to forgive and believe their partner will change even though this pattern simply repeated over and over.

    If we believe in the value, the absolute divinely inspired incredible value of human life, if we believe in protecting the helpless, the weak, those who are unable to protect themselves, it is time we recognize a common, wide spread and very real threat to life from  some of the people who call themselves Christians. It means we must face the very real damage and destruction some men and women represent to those around them, and that they will never choose to change.

    Saying you are pro-life is an expensive belief. Do we believe it just enough to try to legislate other peoples choices and lives, or do we believe it enough to inconvenience our own? Do we believe it enough to give up favorite ideals of how things should be?

     In an attempt to find our way, Christian culture has worshiped ideas that were never meant to take pre-eminence. The purpose of family is to provide a healthy, loving, and safe environment for children as individuals to grow into their own, amazing personhood. The purpose of marriage is to demonstrate the incredible, lasting, committed love God has for us and a chance for each of us to individually participate in giving, and receiving that kind of holy love.

     Marriage and family were designed to bless, strengthen and build strong individuals who each will stand before God alone, on their own merit; individual lives were not created to be sacrificed on the altar of the idea of marriage and family. Instead of a place where we offer our own healthy, strong, individual, balanced life as a gift of love to others, marriage and family have become the place we feel justified to demand the lives of others.

     Healthy love gives; it even sacrifices itself and is better because of that choice, but what was meant to be a blessing, - a personal choice, a sacred offering, what was intended to be place where love can flourish has been distorted.

      Conservative Christian culture’s idea of marriage and family has become a gleaming golden shrine that is worshiped; where cowering women and children are offered with no regard for their divine and righteous  and majestic worth.

         Do you believe marriage is sacred? Do you believe it should be protected and that healthy marriages are important? This can only be second to the belief of the sacred value, and commitment to the protection and nurture of strong, healthy individuals.
    Supporting marriage doesn’t mean insisting that two people stay together until one of them cold bloodedly destroys the other mentally, emotionally, or physically. (Remember Jesus talking about divorce because of people’s hard hearts?)  If we believe in the sacredness of marriage, we must be willing to acknowledge there those who defile and destroy it along with their spouse.
   Do we believe in marriage just enough to self righteously legislate who, when, or how others marry, or enough to face the actual real threat to marriage? By the way, greatest threat to healthy Christian marriages isn’t the gay community, it is Christians.

    Conservative Christians say they are against divorce because it destroys marriage; but what about when their commitment to their idea of marriage destroys a person?

      This is why our response to public figures that destroy their wife and children matters. It matters because it is time we have very real conversations about the kind of men or women who pose a threat to the safety and well being of those they claim to love. It is time for honesty about the difference between people who make a mistake and people who live a pattern of dispensing damage and destruction to those around them.

         I don’t know all the details of Doug Philip as a husband and father, but I know that what he has said, written, and taught gives us all some pretty solid indicators and cause for concern.  I also know that statistically there are women right now in your life who can identify with his family, who are facing much worse than his actions and are painfully aware of your response. 

     Brushing over a man in leadership’s intentional damage of his family because he said or did some good things for others based on the idea of forgiveness,  sends the message to his wife, children and the women around you that they are justifiable collateral. Their lives are not as important as the people he supposedly helped.
    If we believe in the absolute, undeniable, God given value of each and every person; if we believe each human life deserves respect, protection, and freedom of choice; then we must be willing to choose inconvenience, courage, and heartbreak.
    Working to save lives means leaving ignorance and apathy; it means that we stare into the face of death and loss and evil and sometimes watch it win, but never, ever giving up.
   Sometimes the hardest part of fighting evil is giving up the ideas or people in which we want to believe.
  Are you brave enough to see the lives in danger next door? They need you.

Linking to