Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Mars Hill Mess

A lot of you have surely heard about it or read about it by now, but for those who haven't, check out this account of what "church discipline" looks like in the Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill world...
Part 1
Part 2

Today, Matthew posted Spiritual Abuse Must Stop, inspired by the responses to the Andrew/Mars Hill story.

Also, check out this related piece from the ladies at The Wartburg Watch. 

I don't have a lot to add. Matthew and Deb (as well as Andrew and Sophia) have addressed it pretty thoroughly. All I can say is it's obvious that the Shepherding movement influence is alive and well - at Mars Hill in particular, and in the neo-reformed, elder-led movement as a whole. So many layers of spiritual dysfunction are evident in the "leadership" at Mars Hill, so much absolute power become absolutely corrupted. "Church discipline" seems to be an issue (more like a weapon) ever at the ready for Driscoll, always on the tip of his tongue, always on the periphery of his "teaching". It even came up in the recent Christianity magazine, Justin Brierly interview I wrote about last week, and seemingly out of left field. It's what leads me to the opinion I posted there...

His Christianity is all about him. His position as pastor is all about his power - an effort to make up for some significant failings somewhere in his psyche, because without that power, he's nothing - and he knows it.

The Andrew story, and Mars Hill's handling of it, only makes that opinion all the more firm.

The really sad thing I'm noticing in the aftermath of these stories, though, is the cult of personality being formed around Driscoll. The comments on Matthew's blog...just mind-boggling. If THIS story won't get your attention and make you seriously consider/question the "ministry" and tactics of a leader and his church, nothing will. Nothing. It's the same kind of cult of personality that supports and upholds a man like Bill Gothard - people always at the ready to figuratively (maybe literally, in some cases) lay down their life in defense of him, even in the face of the slightest of criticisms. And worse yet, it's the same kind of cult of personality that allowed Jim Jones to create the People's Temple and Jonestown, do terrible, terrible things to the people there (while they supported him rabidly), and ultimately kill them - because they were afraid to or unwilling to question.

We ALL need to step back from time to time and see if our allegiance is to a man, a movement, a cause, or to Jesus Christ. If it's to Christ, it seems to me that our first concern would be for the people wounded by men like Driscoll, rather than rushing to defend his reputation. It brings to mind a quote from Quivering Daughters...

"It is a grave disservice to the heart, soul, body and spirit of a woman when she is given the subtle message that the truth of her own pain is not as important as the reputation of the ones who inflict it."

That says it all. Apply it to the people wounded by Mars Hill. I think you'll see it fits there, too.

My hope is that this whole episode will serve as an EPIC wake-up call for a lot of people, especially for those in the "halfway house mode" of their journey. My fear is that it won't.


  1. I wonder if they considered that unrepentant sinners would not even bring up their sins to anyone in the church. But Andrew brought it up and that is a sign that he wants to make it right in my book.

    1. I couldn't agree more. If he weren't repentant, he wouldn't have even brought it to anyone's attention. That, along with the bizarre cult of confession contract they expected him to sign, shows me that it wasn't so much about Andrew's repentance and restoration...but about his submission to Mars Hill leadership and their ability to control him.

      Mars Hill perfectly fits the profile of an abusive or destructive religious cult or group.

    2. Call me a fundamentalist, but where are covenants/contracts/pledges in the writings of the Apostles? Where does Jesus command such things?

      This first question would cut to pieces most of this cult-like behavior. The words of Jesus, without our traditions blinding us, shine rather clear and the Gospel banishes such corruptions.

    3. Andrew's story is much like what goes on in Scientology, including forced confessions ("auditing")and "declarations" against "suppressive persons" (SPs)that break up families and cause untold heartbreak. For more on these phenomena, see Tony Ortega's excellent blog on the Village Voice website, "Runnin' Scared".

  2. Unbelievable. Discipline is for the unrepentant, and it's obvious that this guy felt awful about what he did, and took it right to his fiancee, which was exactly the right thing to do. I find it creepy that the contract insists on details of his prior indiscretions, as if the pastors are voyeurs.

    When I left my abusive husband, I was given a "separation contract" which was to spell out how often we would 'date,' and go to church and church activities and all sorts of controlling stuff. Dude. I'm leaving you for just these sorts of issues. Duh.

  3. "It wasn't so much about Andrew's repentance and restoration...but about his submission to Mars Hill leadership and their ability to control him."

    This this this! That is exactly what I thought while reading the story. My VERY FIRST THOUGHT was "Wait....why are the asking him to repent when he already did?" His repentance was that me, an outsider!! Then I realized that it's not about if he repented; it's about if he was willing to jump through their hoops. And if he wasn't, they were going to call him "unrepentant" regardless of the state of his heart, as a manipulation tool.

  4. Guys! Guys guys guys! This is the best thing I've seen in weeks!!! I cannot keep it together after watching this video!!! (Some background knowledge of Driscoll's antics and controversy may be necessary to truly appreciate).

  5. Thank you, Lewis.

    Thank you for your continuing, unflinching stands on these issues, and thank you especially for this post. Well spoken, sir.

  6. Agree with the above commenter. Andrew had ALREADY REPENTED. According to Matthew 18, he fulfilled the FIRST step. Yet they insisted that he must PROVE to them that he had repenteed based on more than his verbal confession. Does GOD ask more of us than this? True repentence? Their contract was nothing more than their attempt to exert the control over him that they claim is God-given. Yet this control is mentioned nowhere in the bible. When a small group of men (it usually is men) claim that they have the authority and blessing of God to do whatever they want, that's a cult. See the cult definition on your purity ball post ;-)

  7. Oh man. I feel cussing coming on.

    That letter. THAT. LETTER.

    I having flashbacks to the day my ex-boyfriend declared me apostate and asked everyone to pray for my soul in his missionary prayer letter. Which went to people I knew.

    *But at least he didn't give everybody instructions on how to answer me if I said he shouldn't have done that.*

    I mean, the contract was bad enough, but when you send a letter like this *to an entire church* it is absolutely nothing but an abusive ploy for control. Based on the power of reputation, the power of social shame to bring people into line.

    My other thought is, what about the girl? Poor her! *She* needs reconciliation or closure from this crap. I mean, the guy hurt her very badly and was willing to confess it and repent, and what she *needed* was healing, time to go through the forgiveness process, a chance to figure out if she still wanted to be with him, a sense of closure if she didn't. But instead someone whose business it *wasn't* hurt him very badly back, thus completely confusing the original issue and basically guaranteeing that it's never resolved between them and that the whole thing is way more traumatic to her than it needed to be. I'm sure that letter "outed" her too, if more subtly. People must've known they were together after all.

    So, yeah. My mind is now made up about Driscoll. I wasn't %100 sure. Thanks.

    1. Oh, this is so true! The letter and all made his fiancee's personal business VERY public--without consideration for her feelings and without her permission (presumably). Perhaps she was comfortable with the "victim" role she was assigned, and that made it easier for her. Considering the amount of shame and guilt heaped upon the head of Andrew, I wonder what was said/done to HER when he admitted that his relationship with Andrew was also physical (does that mean sex?). Did she have to prove her repentance? Or was she simply a sheep following the "leadership" of her fiance, the man?

      I also wonder about the other young lady. Was she worthless in all of this? Did she also attend Mars Hill? If not, was that justification for revealing her personal business publicly? I don't find justification for any of this in the Bible...

  8. To me, the contract comes across as sexually creepy. It's creepy that they want his whole sexual history, in detail, to read. I guess when they're not allowed porn in that church, this is the closest they can get to having access to it and having it ordained by the church. Bunch of sickos.

  9. This man is popular because he is playing into everything that is easy for a male chauvinist to get into...kind of like you can be a self centered boy/man and Christian too! Certainly not that all males are chauvinistic toward women, but if a pastor is shooing you along that direction, isn't it an easy road to go down? And women are being bombarded with the "complementarian" message, from fundie and mainstream churches. It's being treated almost like an incantation...let's all submit without a word, always be available to my husband on his terms, and...poof! It's magic! A perfect marriage! It also ties in culturally with the pressure being put on women today to be smart,creative, and gorgeous...and God forbid you aren't perfect.

    I read a really good thing earlier about how the real danger in Christianity right now is not legalism, but authoritarianism. (Wade Burleson's post)That's easy to get confused about, but if you need a good example, look at Mars Hill.

  10. This is Drive By Anonymous:

    I tend to agree with Laura about authoritarianism being the real danger. In no way does this mean I'm against authority, just the abuse of it.

    I'll tell my own story in relation to Mars Hill. Several years ago as a newly married man, I was partners with an older man in a landscaping business. We had a contract with a church and their university to maintain the flower beds on campus. After the first frost, we were cleaning out the beds around noon next to the administration/business office bldg. Between classes we had to tempoarily stop because of the crowds walking by. As we waited, a girl stopped by, excited to see work with the flowers going on. She was homesick and the flowers reminded her of home when she and her mom worked in their flower garden. She asked if she could help. The question was never answered and she went on her way as we returned to work. My partner left after a few minutes and returned to his home. Withing 30 minutes the girl returned, dressed to work. So she joined in and for about an hour we cleaned out the flowers. I left and drove the truck back to my partners house. Before I reached the door, I was accosted. The phones had been ringing because, "I was working with a woman." Everyone was upset and that's putting it mildly. An apology and full confession was demanded. My question was, "For what?" I steadfastly refused to do so and my final reponse was, "I will do so when the men who have complained about my behavior do exactly as they have demanded from me because, while I was publicly working with a woman in full view of many people, they were pointing a finger at me from behind the walls of offices and behind closed doors while doing what?.....You guessed it!.......working with women.

    I did tell them that I might understand their position if I had been in some secluded spot our of view of others, but that was not anywhere near the case. So, forget the confession and apology.

    At the time, this church and University wasn't some fly by night operation. They had just built a 6000 seat auditiorium. Their enrollment was in excess of 5000 and were considered at the forfront of Fundamentalist activity. I watched as this entire operation imploded and within 5-10 years their enrollment dropeed to approximately 500. Eventually all church and school property was sold.

    Church discipline many times means nothing more than starting with part of the final step Jesus talked about in Matthew 18, treating the unrepentant as a publican and sinner. Forget about the private meetings required by Jesus. Many people suffer because of this violation, even the ones violating the words of Jesus.

    1. Oooo, working with women! One of the 7 deadly sins, I'm sure. :P

      How stupid.

    2. Wow. That is a really crazy story!

      "Church discipline many times means nothing more than starting with part of the final step Jesus talked about in Matthew 18, treating the unrepentant as a publican and sinner. Forget about the private meetings required by Jesus. Many people suffer because of this violation, even the ones violating the words of Jesus."

      Yup. My thoughts exactly.

      I've also noticed that people's definition of what that final step is, often looks pretty shady. When you think about it, that verse is calling on people to consider unrepentant sinners as nonbelievers. How do we treat nonbelievers? Well, we don't let them be in church leadership obviously, and we consider ourselves on a different life path from them, and we take opportunities to discuss with them where they might be wrong and what they might need to re-think. However, we still love them, include them in our lives, and enjoy the relationships we have with them.

      On the other hand, the church discipline practiced by many shady churches looks a lot more like shunning--a practice which I have never believed was the intent of that verse. In the case of Mars Hill, it looks like control (We won't accept your repentance until you complete this list of tasks that we came up with, and you get no say in letting us know what your own repentance might look like. Oh, and the fact that you brought this sin to your mentor because you wanted to quit it? Doesn't count as repenting and turning away from your sin. Do all this stuff instead).

      The other Anonymous

  11. (( To me, the contract comes across as sexually creepy. It's creepy that they want his whole sexual history, in detail, to read. I guess when they're not allowed porn in that church, this is the closest they can get to having access to it and having it ordained by the church. ))

    Bing-bing-bing-bing-bingggggg... you got it. You have to wonder just why one person (or group of people) would want to hear another person's sexual escapades in all their sordid detail. I came out of a church with a pastor who had about half the church in counseling ('s'cuse me.. "personal ministry") sessions where they would confess their deepest, darkest secrets and it seemed like the more twisted the confessions, the better he liked it. This is --not-- --normal--. However, emotionally vulnerable people can become entrapped in this bastardization of "confessing our sins".

    The cynic in me wonders if Andrew would have been pursued as aggressively for "discipline" had this girl not been the daughter of one of the elders.

    Jim K.

  12. Church discipline is a joke. No one to my knowledge has ever put church discipline into practice in any healthy, constructive way ever.

    In fact, in thirty plus years of sermons (sometimes five days a week) I have only heard one sermon that made any sense at all in light of the character and life of Christ and I have never seen it practiced. Since most of the harm done in Christendom is done BY those representing the official business of the church, my guess is that it will NEVER be enacted in any healthy way.

    (The healthy interpretation: the two or three witnesses clause does NOT mean people witnessing the confrontation over the alleged sin, or even to the alleged sin, but refers to a collection of two or three other people who had been harmed in like manner by the offending disciple. This would be not so hard to find in most cases of spiritual abuse, but no one is looking. In fact, victims are shunned, excluded and gossiped about and would likely find themselves called in for "church discipline" if/when they dared to seek justice. It's happened too many times to count.)

    Those scriptures are instead used to target and isolate people who might be in a position to bring to light the abuse of those in church leadership. That is the only way I have ever heard of them being used.

    The thing is, when real disciples (like the survivors of Hephzibah House) DO get together with two or three other witnesses (who have been hurt in the same way by the person continuing to sin in the same manner), the church (business model- you know members and boards, etc.) REFUSES TO HEAR THEM. Every time.

    Fanda Eagles and New Tribes Missions- same thing. Everywhere the story is the same: church discipline is used to silence critics, not seek repentance from wicked actions by offenders (who are usually in leadership) or justice for the victimized. Victims are isolated from one another and cut off from being heard, as that is the unspoken job description of the sycophants hand-picked by the abusive authorities to make these kind of decisions. It's all done to protect the money machine and the people who profit from it.

    I would run fast and far from any "church" claiming the moral authority to "exercise" church discipline. Don't let them pretend they are zealous for truth or authenticity by such by-laws. They are zealous for control. That's what's in it for the "church" leadership- power over others. Don't get fooled again, peeps.

    1. I have actually seen one church that uses that passage healthily. The interesting thing is, they don't CALL it "church discipline." You'll never hear those words referred to as being what that passage is about. They just reference the passage, "Matthew 18".

      The other interesting thing is, the last step, instead of being the one they focus on, is the one they tend to skip. Their main point in using the passage is, if you have a problem with someone, if there's a conflict starting up, you take it to *that person* and not to someone else, whether to a friend to vent about it or to a leader to get them to lay the smackdown, no you take it to the person him/herself.

      Of course it didn't always work, even in that church. But it certainly seems to me to be the better interpretation of the passage.

  13. I was excommunicated along with all the other members of my congregation from the RPNA -- a reformed covenanted presbyterian church. After we were excommunicated from the church, the elders sent out a letter outlining the steps to repentance in which we could be restored to fellowship. Except they only sent it to members in good standing. None of those who were excommunicated ever received it that I know of. It was just window dressing. They really didn't want us back and were content to give us all over to Satan.

  14. this is part and parcel of the reason i'm not Christian and probably won't be.

    my mom converted around the time i turned 9. some years later, in an effort to please her, i started attending her church.

    i won't go into any gross detail, but suffice it to say that, at the time i tried to attend, my step-father had been abusing me in all senses of the word for over 2 years. and i had *originally* tried to get help from a neighbor, who then spent a half-hour lecturing on me on how "adultry is wrong" and how i was a this and a that [words not spelled, because Lewis keeps a clean blog and i'm trying to be a good guest] i was TWELVE the first time he raped me. but all this neighbor saw was that i LOOKED like "that" [i.e. an auburn-haired Barbie] and that her husband looked at me "that way" and therefor it was *MY* fault.

    2 and a half years later, i'm trying to do this church thing - and the church elders? agree with the neighbor. i was a *woman*, i was raped "inside a city" and "no one heard me scream" [except... THEY DID. the neighbor TOLD ME they heard it - and decided i "brought it on myself" because i "let" him in my bedroom, nevermind that when i'd tried in the past to keep him out, he beat the **** out of me] so it WAS my fault, and if i wanted to "join their fellowship", i needed to repent and and etc.

    honestly, if *MY* contract had been as... mild? ... as Andrew's, i might have done it. i'd been hearing from essentially everyone - neighbors, teachers, principle, fellow students - that it was my fault for over 2 years, and while i didn't exactly BELIEVE it, i didn't DISBELIEVE it. i was, strangely, willing to accept that it was my fault in an ACCIDENTAL sense [i "looked like that", and it happened almost literally over night and it took me a long period of time to get used to looking "like that", so i could have easily accepted a line that went something like "you didn't know it, but behavior X is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. it's not that you intentionally incited, you're not really to BLAME, but now you know and don't do that anymore"] and if ANYONE had tried to feed me that line, i'd probably have lived a VERY different life.

    but no one did. not even the church elders or pastor. my step-father's abuse and violations were PROOF that the "Sin of Eve" was strong in me, that i was a dirty girl who didn't DESERVE God's love or forgiveness, though i might be able to EARN it, with enough repentence - but the ONLY way to repent was to go over ever. single. "incident". in exhaustive detail. and list out all the things i did WRONG. i wore X. i took a shower when he was around. i didn't wear "modest" anything. i spoke back. i fought. [somehow, they decided that i didn't "scream" and therefor wasn't raped, while at the same time, i fought and that was WRONG, because he was my step-father and so in authority over me and my resistance was "rebellion"] i betrayed my mother.


    1. Oh, Denelian. I am so sorry that not only were you violently sinned against, but that (insert profanity here) people told you it was your fault. It is NEVER a woman's fault when she is raped, let alone a CHILD. God does not judge you. I know his heart breaks as much as mine knowing this evil was done to you. IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. You are precious.
      <3 Robyn

  15. so i saw what i needed to do, right? i needed to "repent", publicly - i needed to get up in front of the whole church and list every freaking "sin" i'd committed for the past 3 years, in exhaustive detail. then each and every single "sin" needed it's own "repentence", and i needed to change EVERYTHING about myself and become “Godly”

    there was more. i don't remember it all. i *DO* know that i went to the first meeting armed to the TEETH with Scripture

    and the pastor looked at me, angry as hell, and said "i'm the authority here. what gives YOU the right to decide what's going to happen?" and i said "That's what the Bible says.". and he pulled out the quote used on Andrew [Matt 15-18]. which led to me walking out RIGHT THEN, because public humilation - of both me AND my mother - was NOT ON. i refused. this was the United States, and NO ONE had the right to *make* me do ANY of that, especially when i BELIEVED my step-father when he told me he'd kill my mother if i told her.
    so the pastor told me i was now "rebelling" against my mother, my step-father, God, the Church, AND himself. i asked, if he wanted the "sin" to stop, why the HELL hadn't he called the cops? because, as he said, i WASN'T ALLOWED to say "no", since that was ALSO rebellion and sin, and the only way out *I* could see was someone ELSE who knew about it to report it.

    and he told me "only those who have repented of their sin may escape from it."

    I again asked what my “sin” was.

    he said "Eve's. you ARE. just standing there, you're tempting me, causing me to sin. how much worse to live with you?"

    i can't get over it. most days, I think the PTSD isn't from what my step-father did, but from what everyone else around me - my neighbors, my teachers, the principle, this pastor - said afterwards. how they blamed ME, at 12, for looking like "that" and thus "making" him beat and rape me.

    i know - i KNOW - that not all Christians [not even MOST Christians] are like that. i know that even most CHURCHES would be appalled at what happened.
    but not enough to fix it. not enough to stand up and CHANGE it. the difference is one of degree - you can look at me and what happened to me and see that it was wrong, that the CHURCH was wrong. but when that same church lays the same guilt trip on a pregnant teen, whose only crime is BEING a teen [and ignorant about contraception] and not having a good support system, most don't see it as the same abuse that i went thru. when SHE gets hauled up in front of the Church to recite HER sins [but ONLY her; the guy who got her pregnant? sitting in the 5th row, smirking because he "got away with it", because he told the pastor how she "tempted" him on prom night] no one's horrified about how SHE'S being abused. or when it's a married man who didn't set out to cheat, who didn't mean to cheat, who did it only once and felt so guilty he threw up every time he thought about, who told his wife immediately and cried and begged for forgiveness - when HE'S dragged up and forced to recite every impure thought...

    it's a difference of degree. there are things where the Church SHOULD step in - abuse, for instance - to stop, or try to stop, the problem. but MOST things? those are private, and the rest of the world SHOULD NOT KNOW. because, as Jesus said, we ALL sin - how is HIS sin greater than anyone else's? it's NOT. coveting your neighbor's new car is just as bad as wanting to sleep with your neighbor's wife. but the first isn't going to get ANYONE dragged in front of the congregation.

    1. Oh, denelian, I am SO SO SORRY that this happened to you! My heart breaks for you and your story makes me MAD AS HELL at the same time.

      Nothing about your step-father's abuse was your fault! And this idea that screaming brings help in *our* society? Hell no it doesn't!!! I was raped in my own apartment with people in the house. I screamed. No one came.

      We had all been our partying, and we were all pretty inebriated. But that DID NOT give anyone the *right* to rape me. I screamed, and no one came. In fact, the next morning as we were all eating lunch, my roomie joked by saying, "What the hell, gf? It sounded like you were being raped last night. hahahahaha" I guess she thought I was "into" it?

      I looked at her, shook my head, and flatly declared, "I WAS raped last night." Then I left the room, a shocked and silent room.

      People tend to denial when they hear another person screaming for help. Ask any abused child. My abusive mom screamed at me regularly (she could go for hours) and once, only once, did a neighbor call to ask if everything was all right. Of course my mom lied, and she was mad *at me* when she got off the phone because my wicked rebellious heart was now disturbing the neighbors, but she did tone it the hell down after she hung up.

      Bottom line: people don't want to get involved. Not even if you scream for help.

      I am SO PROUD of you for walking away from the church that day! GOOD FOR YOU!! That was amazingly strong and self-protective, and I applaud your courage and good sense. Way to go!

  16. Please tell Andrew there are plenty of churches in Seattle that aren't like this, and are good places to heal. I know of many. I also know of many that are just like this. I was in one. I had something similar happen to me. It nearly destroyed my marriage. I am still dealing with the aftermath of this 'church discipline' 8 years later.

    Also, being a fellow Seattle member, Andrew is not the only person I know that has been burned and horribly treated by Mars Hill. Including two of my family members. Including my brother, who is now agnostic because of what happened there.

    The stories I could tell.

  17. Amen and amen. Thank you for keeping this thing in perspective. Very dangerous stuff, this people.

  18. God. THE LETTER.

    It starts almost exactly the same way as the letter my father-in-law sent out to friends and relatives when my wife moved out of his house. At the same time as he forced all her siblings to completely shun her. Praise God for Church Discipline.

  19. Hey Lewis,

    I've been reading your blog off an on for a while now. It hasn't always been easy because sometimes I've felt you've taken things to the opposite extreme, but then I have to ask myself if I'm not merely being defensive (for the record, I was not homeschooled, didn't grow up in a super-conservative home, and attended a slightly right-of-center church for the first twenty-two years of my life). I will admit you give me a lot to think about, and for that I thank you.

    This post, My heart broke for that young man. I, too, was in a situation of confessing a sin to some of the leaders of the church I was attending at the time, and their response was *so* different. They didn't need to tell me I'd done anything wrong because I laid it out before them with every fiber of my being bathed in humility and shame. They prayed with and encouraged me, caring for me like brothers should.

    I'm not all that familiar with Mark Driscoll, but this doesn't paint a very good picture.

  20. Denelian,
    I'm so sorry for what happened to you. The way those people reacted is beyond disgusting and I'm very ashamed of my fellow christians. The fact that they were christians makes it so much worse. They told you you were sinful for just being yourself, that God didn't love you just because you were you. While he made you that way. Did they completely lose their minds?
    I hope that you can find peace, and if it helps, know that God doesn't make rubbish.

  21. Denelian, I am so sorry for what your step dad did to you!! I hate what was done to you! I want to scream because your trust & your body were silenced & violated!! I wish the ppl in your life had run to your rescue & held you & cried with you!! I feel awful for you! Thank you for being brave & for sharing your story! Your abuse was not your fault!

    Lewis, you do/did a gr8 job keeping the Driscoll machine in perspective & speaking Truth! This stuff is very dangerous stuff!!

  22. thank you everyone.

    i feel bad - i didn't mean to rant all over Lewis' blog. but this touched a nerve - i was a kid, so it was okay for certain adults to punish me, at least in theory. but a GROWN MAN?! the more i thought about it, the more it seemed to be a natural extension of what i went thru [or rather, what i went thru was a natural extension of THIS] and i just...

    yeah. sorry

  23. Just wanted to throw my .02 in here. Denelian, the people who treated you so wickedly were not Christians. They couldn't have been. They were religious - that's it. If they were truly of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in them would have loved you and helped you. I'm so sorry for what you went through. :'(

    1. Anon 5:05, would that it were true, but it's not. The people in Denelian's life were all Christians by anyone's definition.

      I recently wrote a former elder of the church that was complicit in my mom's abuse of my sister and I, and got a similar crazy answer. After admitting no complicity, the man acceded that the church in question did a lot of spiritually abusive things, and even similarly spiritually abused he and his wife. So much so, that they no longer attend any church.

      But then he still had the stones to end his letter saying that the only hope for my sister's healing was in Jesus. He wouldn't life a finger to help, but Jesus would make it all better somehow.

      How boldly cruel! We were abused by a professing Christian with the approval and consent of the elder of the local Christian church, and myself and my sister were also both born-again Christians. By all measures, Jesus didn't help at all. He let those people abuse in his name, and if the Bible and salvation by grace is true, every one of them is in fact a Christian.

      The truth is Christians don't become magically righteous or good by their faith in any measurable sense that other humans can see. Some do, most don't. Doctrinally, it's all about their position with Christ. In practice, it's all about submission to the local church authority and the rules they lay out. The command of Christ to love like He loved has been replaced with hundreds of other rules, like don't drink alcohol, attend services regularly, commit to a Christianese vocabulary, whatever dialect you are near. But it is still what they themselves call, and the rest of the world accepts at face value, Christianity.

      Many of our brethren in Christ are a shame and an embarrassment to the civilized world, but we don't get to say they aren't Christian. From the Inquisition, to the conquest of the New World, the Salem Witch Trials and Hepzibah House, whether we like it or not, they are all Christian.

  24. latest anon -

    while i know exactly what Shadowspring is saying, and sometimes agree with her, most of the time i myself don't consider them - and many, many others who claim to be - Christian. to me, a Christian is only *really* a Christian when they follow Jesus alone. they don't pick stuff out of the OT [and you ever notice how so MANY people follow SOME of the OT but never, ever all of it? they'll say being gay is some huge sin, act hateful towards gay people in direct violation of what Jesus said - but eat shrimp, wear clothing of mixed fibers, curse, lie, etc] they don't think the misogynistic writings of Paul have as much - or more! - weight as anything Jesus said, etc.

    in that sense, i know *very* few Christians.
    but i also believe that people have the right to define themselves. for instance, i'm half Cherokee, but i can "pass" for white [i have porphyria, and one of the affects of the disease is that it leeches melanin from the skin. i've become lighter and lighter - when i was 9, when it first kicked in, NO ONE could look at me and doubt i was Cherokee. now people see another white woman...] yet i'm still Cherokee, and make hospitals and such list me that way. if someone tells me they are Christian, even if i personally feel that they are not ACTING like a Christian, i don't argue - that's not my call to make. it's between them and God.

    thankfully, my specific brand of Pagan believes that Christianity is as real, as much the "truth", as anything [all religions are. God is omnipotent and omniloving - i believe that God approaches everyone in the guise that the PERSON can best accept. for me, that's generally Goddess. not always. God has at *least* as many faces as there have been people born]. i can trust God to know what She's doing. i think. on my good days, anyway :)

    Shadowspring; i haven't forgotten that i need to find that paper and such for you [about Lot and etc], but while i'm home from the hospital [23 freaking days! and they never did figure out what happened] my right leg still doesn't work so i can't even get to the room i think the box it's in is. erm, if that sentence makes sense.

  25. You don't worry about getting anything to me by any artificial due date. Just go with the flow. If it needs to happen, it will. In the meantime, heal and be happy.

    Peace and good will, SS

  26. SS;

    mostly, was just letting you i didn't forget. but thank you :)

  27. @denelian I don't think that you should have known any better, you were a little girl! As you shared your story, i didn't/don't see a stupid little girl. i see a girl who was tricked into being abused. i value what you shared with us, what you shared is worth hearing. you've carried a terrible terrible burden all these yrs. i'm so glad you felt safe here to share it. i don't think any less of you for what you shared k?

    @shadowspring golly, it makes me sad to hear you weren't validated heard or listened to by the perpetrator. that's sick and wrong. i hate that for you!!! he should be held responsible for his abuse!!

    lewis, how can i be sure to receive via email that other ppl have posted?

  28. This really reminds me of me being called to repentance by several pastors of several churches, none of which I attended even close to full time and none of which were even in my city. They got involved by the prodding of another person who claimed it was his Matthew 18 duty to e.g. secretly record my conversations and report them to these pastors. My attitude was more or less "Anything I'm struggling with is between me and God, and you guys and your churches should leave me alone. p.s. don't you think your behavior and this dude's behavior is totally out of line?"

    They in turn sent me e-mails such as the following: "You have not confessed your sins to God because you, in no way, are able to speak humbly of those sins to any who have labored to bring about such a repentance and you have displayed the contrary evidence to being right with God. . . Your communications suggest that this has escaped your notice and those same communications have been full of dissension, justification, revisionism, and accusation rather than manifest joy, love and peace at God's mercy.

    We can't fix your heart, we can only obey God by proceeding with the
    meetings necessary to assess the evidence for your sins in concert
    with the other churches that love you.

    You can still make right what is missing. This would
    involve successfully conveying your repentance, not merely claiming
    it. That can be done by one or both of two ways. Scheduling (on
    your own initiative) a face to face meeting with some or all of the
    involved elders in ----- and declaring to them your own and God's
    righteous assessment of your sins, without justification, lying,
    dodging the issue, or blaming others."

    I'm not sure how common this sort of thing is. But it's pretty much impossible to win in such a situation without flat-out denying everything you actually feel or think.

    1. The import of an e-mail like that is, "It is a sin for you to have boundaries." Erg.


    Sigh. This is off-topic. But read this and explain to me how A. This message could not be EQUALLY valid for husbands, and B. How we should NOT be worried about a woman who says that a frequent worry for wives is that they hope their kids don't grow up to be like their husbands, or that things are easier when their husbands are out of town.

    Someone please stop the insanity, I'd like to get off now.

  30. @kristen & Katie B! exactly! what y'all said reminded me of an awesome site for studying cults, setting boundaries & understanding the whole mind control phenomenon.

    Here's a list of Setting Boundaries

    This is what I will do. This is what I won't do.

    I will not take this kind of behavior anymore.

    I'm not responsible for his (her) happiness.

    I refuse to be manipulated.

    I'm sorry, I wish I could help you, but I can't.

    Why did you say that to me? Do you know how I feel when you say things like that?

    I don't want to talk about this.

    I want to talk about this.

    I'm not responsible for fixing the problem.

    I'm not responsible for making others happy.

    He/she needs to be responsible for themselves.

    I can make my own decisions.

    I will let others make their own decisions.

    I feel angry...lonely...guilty...driven...afraid.

    I can respond calmly.

    I can say yes.

    I can say no.

    I am loved, forgiven, and accepted by God through Christ Jesus. (this one i hope isn't too triggery for ppl) but it's my foundation.

  31. Ok...I have to comment on boundaries. Boundaries are rules for YOUR behavior. They are not magic rules that will make other adults behave.

  32. i don't wanna derail the topic @ hand by my mentioning "boundaries" in my above post. however, i find it relevant to mention because i know being in a cult boundaries are dissolved when a person is pressured to identify with and merge into the group persona. And once out of the cult, ex-cult members must learn not only know how to reestablish boundaries, but how to reestablish (or for some people, establish for the first time) appropriate boundaries. AND i see this is the case with many who have come out of the Mars Hill Mess!!!

    @lucrezaborgia i know that there's a lot of time & energy spent on being "other-controlled". so i want to clarify that, one, i can't change ppl but on the flip side i can influence them and i can change the way i deal with them but that doesn't mean that'll magically make anyone behave.

    when i use the term "boundaries", i mean they are there to help me define my property (my guidelines) and what i will & what i won't be responsible for. i also have boundaries to keep things that will nurture me inside my fences and keep things that will harm me outside. they help keep the good in and the bad out. there's a verse in matt.7:6 which talks about keeping the pearls inside and the pigs outside.

    lucrezaborgia you made a very wise distinction.

  33. Frustrating. Troubling. Disconcerting. Sad. Frightening. I will freely admit that I underwent my own church discipline in 2000 at Overlake Christian Church and this story horrifyingly reminds me my own account, with much pain and trembling, even 12 years later. My heart BREAKS for Andrew. My flesh CRAWLS at reading this article. We are to be Jesus with skin on. We are to faithfully administer God's GRACE in its various forms. Legalistic tarring and feathering of God's chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, does NOT result in better community or better growth. It results in an impoverished church, a beleaguered sense of trust in God and the body of Christ, and cultivates a climate of fear-based worship where God's children are walking on eggshells. I can only imagine what Andrew must feel right now. Andrew, I love you in Jesus' Name. You are repentant, you have repented, and you are forgiven. I do not know you, I have never met you, but you are LOVED IN JESUS' NAME. I am deeply proud of you for bringing your sin into the light, and for bringing Mars Hill's leadership's sin into the light as well. Knowing church discipline all too well, I can freely also admit that one sin that cost me my position of leadership, my community at the church, my connection to the body of Christ there, etc., also eventually lead to an even greater sin which cost me my freedom and sent me to prison. I do not blame my actions on the church or the leadership, but I will indefatigably say that there is an inexorable tie between the church discipline / excommunication I received from Overlake Christian Church, and my eventual crime. Do I wish I could take back my crime? Yes. But I also wish with all my heart that I could take back the church discipline I received, and replace it with something restorative like a warm hug. Alas, warm hugs are not mentioned in Scripture for those undergoing church discipline. And such a legalistic, grace-lacking approaches only send us further down the drain, with no hope of compassionate restoration. Wash your hands of us if you will, you beloved megachurches, and in the process so subsequently condemn yourselves as unloving, uncompassionate, and unbiblical. Jesus loves me the same that he does me, and that is my Amen, because truthfully I'd rather ALWAYS be the guy beating his chest, saying "God be merciful to me, a sinner" than be you.

  34. Look, I don't care for Mark's teachings in general, but I think the Stranger and Matthew Paul Turner got this story wrong. See the commentary on this agnostic blogger who changed his mind regarding the situation over the last couple of days....

    There were a lot of things wrong with the Stranger's reporting on this particular instance....

    1. I didn't see anything there that would change my mind.