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What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university?

On this episode of The Roys Report, Judson University President Gene Crume joins Julie to discuss how his university responded to the coronavirus crisis. They also explore the controversial decision at Liberty University to keep its campus open. And Julie & Gene talk about whether Christian colleges and K-12 schools will be able to survive financially in the wake of the pandemic.

This Weeks Guests

Gene Crume

Dr. Gene C. Crume, Jr. was named Judson University’s sixth president in February, 2013. Before coming to Judson, Dr. Crume served as an independent consultant working with institutions such as Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and the Peru State College Foundation (Nebraska) on issues related to external relations (marketing, communications, fundraising) and strategic planning. Dr. Crume spent a significant portion of his career at his alma mater, Western Kentucky University (WKU), where he served as the Executive Director of the WKU Alumni Association and taught as an adjunct instructor. His career also includes serving as Executive Vice President and Assistant Professor at Midland Lutheran College (now Midland University) and President of the Indiana State University Foundation.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home where we’re all sheltering in place. So, you may hear a bit of a difference in sound quality, but like many of you we’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation. And I do hope and pray that you’re doing well and staying safe right now. Well, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University. And Gene, like thousands of college presidents around the country, has been trying to deal with the coronavirus pandemic while also educating students, protecting their safety, and keeping a college afloat. And as you can imagine, it’s been an extremely intense ride. So, I’m very grateful that he’s taken the time to join me today and I’m looking forward to hearing about what that’s been like at Judson during this crisis. We’re also going to discuss the debacle at Liberty University. As many of you have heard, that’s where University President, Jerry Falwell Jr., decided to keep the school open. And now one student has tested positive for COVID-19. Another is awaiting results and eight students are in self-isolation. So, kind of a crazy situation there, a very controversial situation. And we’ll be getting to that a little bit too. But before we dive into our discussion, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Of course, one of them is Judson University. And just a reminder that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20th, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. And the speaker will be General David Petraeus—a four star general and former director of the CIA. That’s a ways off but you’ll want to mark your calendars now. Also, I want to encourage you right now to support your local businesses. They need our help. They really do and if you plan and if you happen to be looking for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. At Marquardt, you can do your shopping online at BuyACar123.com. And if you want to test drive a car, Marquardt will drop the car off at your home for an extended test drive. Plus, right now Marquardt is offering 0% financing for 84 months. So again, just go to BuyACar123.com. 

Well again, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. He’s also a friend, and a great supporter of The Roys Report. So, Gene, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me. 

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Thank you, Julie, for the opportunity. Look forward to chatting with you. 

JULIE ROYS:  So, I would just like to hear the story of how things unfolded at Judson. When did you first find out that this is going to be something where you’re probably going to have to move classes online and close the school for all intents and purposes? When did you find out about that and how did the decision-making process go?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, we’ve, you know, like everyone else, we’ve been following the story of COVID-19 from its beginning, and tracking the impact as it was starting to hit the country. And, you know, we had talked about that. One of the preparedness scenarios you go through when you do tabletop exercises in higher education is pandemics and specifically the flu. What happens if a flu outbreak hits? I know school superintendents go through that. School principals go through that. My dad was a school principal years ago. And, you know, flu would disrupt the school year at that time for only a week maybe or several days. But it’s not an unusual exercise to talk about how you respond to a pandemic. What is unusual now is the length of time and the uncertainty as we go forward. So, at Judson, with our senior leadership, what we talked about at length was if the time came that we needed to shift to a digital learning space, we knew two things. Number one—that the decision was going to happen very rapidly, meaning within a matter of hours, not necessarily days that we had days to think about it. And number two was once we made our decision, we are going to stick with our decision. And so, our decision was to go to a digital learning format. We’ve been very blessed because God prepared our institution 25 years ago, by having an adult program. And so we’ve been delivering learning through a digital platform now for, you know, well over a decade. But it’s always a challenge when you have traditional students who live on campus in a residential environment. And how do you respond to them? And how do you have a conversation in regard to our decision will be to move as many people off campus as we can—move to a digital learning platform and encourage the residential students to shelter in place with their families, because that is the best place for them to be. So that was sort of our thought process. And what really helped me was chatting with some presidential colleagues at other Christian universities as well too—Kurt Dykstra and particularly at Trinity Christian. You know, we just kind of have a nice fabric and network there to talk about what this looks like. And obviously on March 13, we made a very different decision than maybe Liberty and some other schools did. And that was—we were going to respond immediately, move to digital learning format, and protect the public health and safety of our faculty, staff and students.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, so it was a different decision than Liberty made and that one has been such a really a lightning rod in just the headlines. Everybody’s talking about this and a lot of criticism now, especially now that someone’s tested positive for COVID. And I do know there are some extenuating circumstances. And for example, Liberty, I know, has a number of international students who they say didn’t have a place to go. Although my understanding is 1,800 students returned to that campus after spring break. 800 of them have already left at least. So clearly 800 of them didn’t have to be there. Don’t know how many are international students. I actually reached out to them, but I haven’t heard back—not a big surprise. I’m sure they’re hearing from a lot of people. But what do you make of that decision in—and that’s on the east coast where it was even, at that point, more prevalent? COVID was more prevalent than it is here, I think, at the time. What do you think of this decision to keep the college open, especially with a school like Liberty that can do online classes so well.? I mean, they have over 100,000 online.

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.: They do. I think there’s a couple of interesting perspectives in which we can examine the case at Liberty. Number one is just a basic leadership lesson. You know, one of the things that I try to teach from a leadership perspective is—it is very difficult to walk in the shoes of another leadership team, and to look at the decisions that they have to engage in at the moment in time they have to engage in them. It is much easier to sit outside of that and look into it and observe, criticize, even at sometimes, applaud, which could be inappropriate, the decisions that people are making. Because we don’t have all the facts, we don’t have all the details. I think it’s one of the reasons Julie, it makes your work particularly hard—is that, as a Christian journalist, you know, you’re like a marketer and a high school coach. You get second guessed all the time on what you’re doing because your job is to look outside-in. And a lot of people respond to you—well, you just don’t know all the facts and details. Which is true. We don’t know them all. But we do know some things that are pretty clear and that is Liberty’s schedule was different than Judson’s. We’re blessed that we start early in the year. And that means our spring break was that first week of March. And we were blessed to get three mission trips in the first week of March to Belize, the Dominican Republic, and to Scotland. All three trips came back—no health concerns with any of the people on the trip. Those were three low priority areas at the time that they went. So, we were fortunate because we had Spring Break early. They had a different Spring Break schedule. They start their school year differently. So that’s point number two—context is everything in these situations. Because of when your school year runs, when it operates, what your student body makeup is, and what that looks like. We still have, at Judson about 36 students on campus. Most of our students on campus are either international students, which makes up the majority of that group, or they are graduating students that have—this is their transition plan. I mean, it’s not going to be fair to them to send them far away, in a couple of cases, only to come back here and look for a job. They’re working through finishing their internships from where they are. And we have a couple cases, too, with a couple of our students that staying on campus with their room and board and their meal plan. Because of their economic environment, that is the best option for them. They’re safer, they have three meals a day, they’re in a nice secure location, and that is—it doesn’t place them back in a vulnerable position. So, every school has context. That’s number two to go through. And then number three, you know, with President Falwell and Liberty, it just—he is who he is as a person. And some people will appreciate that if you’re in his orbit. And for a lot of people, on the outside looking in, you know, he’s going to make the decisions that he’s going to make. And he’s taken a brazen approach to those. And when you teach crisis leadership, sometimes at moments like this, it really exposes you to be second guessed, and it exposes you from a liability standpoint. So, I’m sure they’re wrestling with all that at Liberty. I just know our context, at Judson, was much different, as were many of the schools here in the Chicagoland area.

JULIE ROYS:  So different in that you got your Spring Break done earlier. You also were further along in your semester, but not different in the sense that you’ve got students living in dormitory housing and trying to feed them in cafeterias. And I mean, I’m looking at that, and I know I’ve heard from some healthcare professionals, had Lina AbuJamra on, who I know—Dr. Lina, is somebody that you know well—last week. And she was just like, “Communal living is a nightmare when you’re dealing with a virus. I mean, not advisable.” I know professors at Liberty who told me, and sent me texts, that they had received. saying, “Hey listen, we want you reporting to work, doing your classes online from your office as opposed to at home.” I know some people who wrote back and said, “I’m not doing that.” And some of them had health situations that are outstanding. But why? I mean, I just don’t understand the logic of it. I mean, some of this seems ill advised. And I know you’re probably loath to criticize another college president but it seems a little bit nuts to me. I mean, sitting from my standpoint. Again, I’m looking from the outside-in. But I’m thinking, hmm, that was quite a stand to take that you may really regret and does it expose the college to liability?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  You know, obviously at Judson, we made a very different decision. So, I think, my best response is our decision was probably the polar opposite of theirs. And that probably reflects our thinking as juxtaposed to what they were thinking at Liberty. With that being shared, I will tell you, Julie, the day we announced that we were going to encourage our students to move home, within two hours, I had a phone call from a parent who asked me immediately about refunds. And I used the terms crisis and global pandemic, both of those terms were challenged by this individual, because, “the government hadn’t declared anything” even though here in Illinois, Governor Pritzker had already declared an emergency situation. So, you know, we had a different legal authority where the governor had already clearly stated that this was going to be a concern. And so, you know, either way, you’re in a tough spot, because I mean, my wife’s sending out, the night of the decision, before we announced it the next day. I’m on the phone. We’re talking with our team. And I’m looking at my wife, Cindy, and I said that we’re going to make the decision to go digital—get people off campus. And her response was, “What if this is a wrong decision?” And I said, “Well, here’s what one of my presidential colleagues said, do you want to be that one school that delays this decision?” And I think that’s the case with Liberty. They’re the one school that delayed the decision. And there are circumstances and consequences that come with that. And they will now have to walk down that path given those circumstances. We made a different decision. And I think, for our community, that has worked out very well. And we think we really, really minimized the exposure to our faculty, staff and students with the decision we made. So, unless you’re sitting in there in the room and unless you know Mr. Falwell as a leader, the best I can do is sit here and just sort of speculate on what they were thinking. But given what our decision was, we pretty much had a different plan than they did.

JULIE ROYS:  But I’m guessing you didn’t call any parents “dummy” on Twitter for their (laughter).

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  I teach a very different communication style in my marketing and public relations class and I don’t advocate confrontation with your clients.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, yeah. That seems a little ill advised. I was a little shocked by that. Any of you listening—there’s a story up on my website about that. So, you can check it out at JulieRoys.com. But you mentioned Governor Pritzker and your situation when you’re deciding to close the school. But we also had, here in Illinois, elections at about the same time. And you’re a polling place and that put you in a very interesting situation, too. Because Governor Pritzker said we’re going ahead with elections. So, tell me what that was like in interfacing with the government on an issue like this?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Yeah. And let me let me start that response by saying this. I really believe one of the unsung heroes, in the decision in Illinois, were the polling workers. Wow. In our conversation with the director of elections for Kane County, what he had to go through and the exposure that the state put the polling workers—exposure that they put them—that position they put them in. That was very challenging and the fact that they did run the election and it went as relatively smoothly as it did. You know, they deserve a lot more credit than we’ve given them. And I don’t think people spend enough time thanking them and lifting them up because they were in a very vulnerable position. That was our conundrum. We did not want to be a polling place. We had already made the decision that we move most of our folks off campus. The prospect of bringing in over 1000 individuals, outside of campus, onto campus, into one of our facilities went against everything we had been told—everything we had been told. And so, it was an inconsistency that troubled us a great deal. So, we shut down the entire campus. We locked every building and we only made available that particular polling location. The Kane County officials had been gracious. They’ve offered to come in and clean the building, which we appreciate. That still hasn’t been done and we understand the bumps with that. But, you know, that’s been several weeks now and we still have a building that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned because of the promise of coming in and doing that. And to me, that’s on the state decision by moving forward with the elections. But other states made a similar decision so we can sit and criticize Liberty for the decision they made. And yet we sit at a paradoxical spot here in Illinois when it seems like we made a similar decision for political purposes and politics. Voting is politics. It is a community service but it was disconcerting to us to say the least. I do appreciate our county election workers—the grace they provided us—but we were basically told we’ll pursue legal action if you don’t keep your polling place open. So, you know, we felt like we were backed into a corner. I think we managed it about as well as we could have. But, you know Julie, even Scriptures are clear about this as well too in regard to the things of politics and the things of man versus the things of God. And it’s going to reshape how we look at our community service outreach. God willing, we will host Love Elgin Day, which is a very large, comprehensive community outreach effort that has a Heal Elgin Day and free dentistry and free clothing and the food bank. And God willing, we will be the host site of that in November. That we find as our Christian witness. That’s serving the underserved. Being a polling location, we’re gonna have to really reassess that. I don’t know that that’s necessarily Scripturally directed from our perspective. Now, it is a nice public service, but it’s not necessarily connected to our Christian witness.

JULIE ROYS:  It’s interesting with elections. We’ll never know how that impacted the spread of the disease. I mean, because with something like that, it’s unlike a church that has a meeting and or choir practice. If you read that story, it was that one state where a choir came together and 45 of them now are, I mean, 45 are tested positive with COVID.  Two are dead. And I know that’s changing all the time. But with I mean elections, people from all over come in and there’s no necessarily connection. So, we’ll never know. And I just hope and pray it didn’t make it a lot worse, but we don’t know. You know, one of the things I am concerned about and I know this concerns you is the online learning platform. And it sounds like Judson was pretty well prepared for this to go online. I know my husband’s a teacher. They’ve gone online. So that was kind of new for his school because it’s a high school and high schools don’t generally teach online unless you’re a homeschooling platform or something. But there are people saying this is going to set back education. I know you’re committed to finishing out the spring semester, but there was a Washington Post commentary by Kevin Hoffman, who’s the former head of education in Tennessee. He writes, “Years of research shows that online schooling is ineffective and that students suffer significantly learning losses when they have a long break from school. Now they’re getting both in a hastily arranged mess. And kids who suffer most from the summer slide are the low-income students, the ones already struggling to keep up.” So, let’s talk about this. I mean, I have homeschool friends who are just like, “yeah, we’ve been doing this forever. This is no different for us.” You know, we’re kind of glad the rest of the world is getting a taste of this. When you’re used to it, when you’re prepared, you can do online. But a lot of places aren’t and how is this gonna set back education?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, I don’t think it’s going to set back education. I read that same article. I would be comfortable challenging his knowledge of the data about learning environments and how well students learn in different environments and whether or not there’s a setback or not. I would offer two pieces of data that have been pretty consistent over the last 30 years. Number one, the quality of the educational experience is directly connected to the quality of the teacher in the classroom, whether it be homeschooled, or whether it be in a public-school environment or private-school environment. The quality of the instruction, the quality of the teacher absolutely shapes the quality of the learning environment for the student. That’s where students perform. We’ve seen lots of studies on class size. We’ve seen lots of studies on blended models of having technology enhanced learning and making it all in-person learning. And the data goes both ways on a lot of those. The second piece of data that people don’t talk a lot about is that for the past 20 years, the data seems pretty consistent now, that when a student enters their freshman year high school, by the time they graduate from high school, and even if they go on to college—if you’re a B student as a freshman in high school, you will probably graduate college as a B student. So, there’s very little academic performance above the level you enter that your educational experience. So, B students in high school tend to be B students in college. A students tend to be A students and C students tend to be C students. The only thing that does change, that dramatically, is overcoming trauma, or coming out of different socio-economic environments. But mostly students stay pretty consistent with their academic performance from their freshman year high school. So, learning online or digital learning in person, doesn’t really seem to affect that as much. So, I think, with all respect to homeschooling parents, they’ve got a really good point of saying, “Yeah, we’ve been using blended models for a long time and it’s pretty effective.” Now the challenge is, a good number of teachers in the K—12 environment, and with traditional, residential colleges and universities—a good number of those teachers only use technology to augment the learning experience. And it’s still very much in-person as a foundation. So those professors learning to adapt to an all-digital environment is a bit of a challenge. There’s a famous saying that the teacher arrives when the student is ready. And that’s true in the classroom. And that’s true on the digital format. So, I have to be more diligent with my class in staying connected with my students right now to make sure that they are staying on top of their coursework. Because I will not see them two days a week right now. And so, there’s a little bit more diligence. But I’ve got a lot more resources now than relying on waiting for them to walk into classroom D at Judson University Lindner Tower. I could email them. I can’t tell you, Julie, how much texting I’ve been doing with my students and or replying to them via social media. It feels like, at times, the most difficult way to get in touch with my students is send them an email. And the easiest way is to send them a Facebook message and I’ll get a response back. So those are adaptive pedagogical structures that we can work with to help encourage them to be engaged, check in on them, find out what’s going on. The other thing we do know is that there are some students that will gravitate towards learning in-person as a more preferred learning structure. That doesn’t mean that they can’t adapt to the digital means. I think we’re seeing that, with schools switching to pass-fail as their grading system for this semester, there’s nominal data, if any really at all, that says pass-fail structures right now will actually benefit the students. I understand the anxiety and the trauma and reducing stress. And those are all very good, valid points. But when you’re a faith-based institution like Judson, it seems like God has created us for moments like this to walk alongside of our students to help provide support and comfort and a sense of, you know, peace and grace to them. And to let them know that, “Hey, God’s walking alongside side of you. We’ll get this figured out. Take a deep breath. And let’s talk about what you can get accomplished between now and the end of the semester.” So yeah, that wasn’t one of my favorite opinion pieces. But you know, he’s entitled to his opinion. And I don’t know that I would hold that that is entirely accurate.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, we’re living this, in our household, because we have a 17-year-old senior who’s just finishing up school. And she’s kind of, I mean, she’s bummed that there’s not going to be a prom this year. She’s never gone to prom and she was kind of hoping to do that. But she’s loving, actually, the freedom of the online and she’s doing quite well. I think she’s almost doing better now than when she was at school. Because maybe the social environment is so distracting that it’s a little more difficult to study and to keep your head there. My husband is an AP Statistics teacher. They just found out, not too long ago, that the test, the AP Stats test, isn’t going to have the last two chapters on it. So, there was great celebration in our home because not only is he a teacher of that, but my daughter is in his class. So, she was very excited to hear that. But it does make me wonder. I mean, here’s—my daughter is not going to probably be going into a mathematical field, knowing her. But I thought, you know, my son, who by the way, was a B student in high school and became an A student in college. So, there is hope parents. But he was going into an engineering field. Stats would have been probably important for him to have those last two chapters. I mean, what about some of these students who test out? I mean, I’m just thinking they’re testing out of a college course. But they didn’t really fully complete it. And is that going to be a problem?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, it will be in certain academic disciplines. And that’s what we’re looking at on a course-by-course in an academic program, academic program basis. There is a big difference between general education courses, which are designed to broaden your overall knowledge base and to help you learn how to think critically. And certainly, at a liberal arts school, like Judson, that’s a big part of it. It’s to help you learn how to think critically about issues, problems, information that you’re receiving, data that you get. In certain academic programmatic areas, it will make a difference. And, for example, we have a nationally recognized architecture program. And there’s just no shortening those classes. I mean, it is important that they complete the majority of their academic requirements in the term. Nursing courses are much the same way as well, too. And so, you know, there are certain academic programs where that requirement is going to have just a different level of stringent expectation than other academic areas. Now, that doesn’t mean in those other academic areas, they’re easier. It just means that there’s a different educational structure and expectation with that. Because what we often see, is that if you’re gifted in mathematics, mathematics is going to feel a little easier for you. If you’re gifted in the humanities, and if you’re gifted in public speaking, those are going to feel easier to you as well. And so, it depends on the course. It depends on the structure, the instructor. And it just depends on what did your syllabus say and what were you trying to convey, throughout the full course of the semester, that they needed to learn. And it’s really a course-by-course basis more than anything else.

JULIE ROYS:  So, let’s look at finances because I know this is the big issue right now, right? We’ve got a disease that we’re trying to stay alive, as a society, but financially, some are asking is the cure worse than the disease? Because financially, so many businesses are going to go under. And it is a crisis economically. And I know for small Christian schools, you guys have been tightening your belts already. And now this hits. What is going to be the financial impact in our small Christian Schools, not just colleges and universities, but also K-12. Are they going to weather this? 

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  It’s going to be challenging. That’s the short version of it. And in that regard, we’re no different than small business owners. We’re no different than people that own their own hairstyling salons or restaurants, or they own a local store. It’s going to be hard for everyone. Because the economics of this just don’t add up. You know when you take people out of the marketplace, it can only have a negative consequence to it. So there will be lots of businesses that will unfortunately not make it during this challenging time, economically. And I think there’s a fair question to be asked about stay at home orders and the scope of those orders, and the types of businesses that are required to shut down. But that also needs to be blended with—we’ve seen so many examples of crowds gathering that people tend to do foolish things in large groups. So, it is a complex formula for Christian schools, K-12, as well as higher education. We’re already starting to see some of the effects of that. You know MacMurray here in Illinois, as an institution announced this week that they will most likely be closing at the end of this term. So, they can’t meet the ongoing concern clause. And so, they’ve already agreed to teach, arrangements with some other schools downstate. And a small Catholic institution, not small compared to us, but a Catholic institution in California already announced that they were closing as well, too. And so that’s before the CARES ACT relief package from the federal government was finalized. And these schools have already announced that they don’t feel like they can continue. So yes, it’s going to be a real felt effect in terms of the economics of it. In some ways at Judson, we’ve been working through the tough economics of this state because Illinois suffers from three challenges when it comes to enrollment at colleges, universities. Number one, is the fact that more people have been moving out of state than moving in. Number two has been there’s just fewer 18-year-olds being born and that birth trend will continue to decline now pretty rapidly between now and 2035 and 2040. And then the third part is in the year 2000, roughly between 15 to 20% of the 18-year-olds going to college went out of state. Last year that was 50%. Those are three big market losses that Illinois has already been languishing under for the last six years. So, we’ve been tightening our belt at Judson for the last five or six years. And in many ways, Julie, that was God’s provision to us for this moment right now. I can’t imagine how much harder this would be for us had we not already made some operational budget decisions to tighten our economic belt last August, September, October, November, December and January. This would be a lot harder for us had we not, and our team had done a great job of just cutting our operational expenses. So, it’s going to have a felt impact. The CARES ACT—what they did on the federal level will help. That will certainly help us provide economic relief to our residential students who we will find some way to help refund a portion of their housing and of their meal plan. So that will be very helpful to them from an economic standpoint. That federal CARES ACT will help us provide those funds to do that. But the underlying business conditions are going to be tough, but we are blessed to be on stable ground. A lot of schools aren’t. And a lot of K-12, Christian higher education institutions aren’t because the birth rate has just declined and there’s fewer students interested in that type of educational environment.

JULIE ROYS:  But I think an encouragement to people who obviously are being stretched right now, economically—everyone is. But to remember those institutions, the nonprofits, that you believe in, they need your donations now probably more than at any other time. And they’re the hardest to give. So, it’s going to require more sacrifice. But just a reminder to us that if you love what the mission of an organization is and what they do, don’t forget to give to them during this time. And some people can’t. And, you know, I’m sure institutions understand that but important to support and to give. But you did bring out something that—because I posted this on Facebook about the CARES ACT and the fact that Christian institutions, nonprofits, even churches will be able to take some federal money or loans. And a lot of people pushing back saying “Man, you don’t want to take any money from the government.” Of course, Christian schools, I mean, you’ve been—your students have been taking federal funds for a long time. S,o there’s very few Christian schools that don’t take any federal funds. And I think, probably, Grove City and Hillsdale might be the only ones. But do you—does that make you nervous at all taking money from the government with that ACT?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  No, it doesn’t make us nervous at Judson University. But part of that is understanding, you know, at least for me, as a President. The way I lead, you know, Christ made it very clear or what Christ said, well, whose pictures on the coin? It’s Caesars. So render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and unto God, what’s God’s. And any time you deal with the state, whether it is with state sanctioned marriage, from a moral standpoint, whether it is taxes, whether it is monies that are distributed from the state, there’s always political conditions and human conditions and human requirements. And that’s just part of it. And you either agree to those rules or you don’t accept the money. And like you mentioned, there were two great examples of the institutions you shared, that have already made that decision. And so, if the conditions are too onerous for us, then you know, we understand that may not be an economic resource that we want to tap into. There are certain grants we don’t apply for. There are certain foundations that we don’t apply to just because of the conditions or from a Christ-centered perspective, we just don’t feel like that’s a good fit for Judson University. And taking money from the State of Illinois, or from the federal government, is much the same way. You have to be careful. You have to understand that there are conditions that come with that. And at least for Judson, if those conditions ever truly jeopardize our faith identity, that’s no longer worth the cost to us.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, we have time for just one last question. And it’s probably one of the most important. And that is—spiritually, how are you helping your students, your faculty, your staff really grow during this time? Because we know, whenever there’s hardship, this can be a time—maybe even more than normal life, right—where here we can really see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually, to come closer to the Lord. So, what are you doing and how are you seeing people being impacted, spiritually, by all this?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, the important part of the spiritual piece of it is that you really understand if you had made the right investments leading up to this moment in crisis. That’s true with everything. You know how prepared you are, by how you’ve been living out your spiritual identity every day up and to this point. And so, with what we’ve done with chapel led by Chris Lash, and our provost. The way we invest in our students spiritually, the way that as a faculty and staff we invest with each other, with our prayer structure. The way our Board of Trustees prays for Judson. The fact that even simple things like every Sunday, we post on our social media ways that faculty and staff and alumni and friends and parents can pray for Judson University. How you live out your faith, day-to-day, should be strengthened through moments and times like this. Because when you’re in trauma or you’re in crisis, there’s no all of a sudden, trying to gorge and feed spiritually, really quick, just to get you up to speed. That doesn’t work out, generally, pretty well. But the second part is, then there’s a great opportunity to witness—to talk about if you’re sitting in a place of peace. Again, it’s hard, it’s challenging, God’s gonna get us through it. And people look at you and go, “Why do you have this confidence?” Then it opens up your mission field and saying, “Well, because that’s how we live every day. You know, we’re not promised anything tomorrow or promised this moment in time and how we invest that is incredibly important.” So that’s what we’ve been sharing with our students. So, chapel has switched to moving the content online and Chris Lash posts, on a daily basis, messages that our students can then tap into. We did suspend chapel credit. So, we moved all the students in that environment. We do give a chapel grade, but we move them to basically pass-fail so that we just encourage them to take advantage of those materials as well. Different prayer groups—making sure that we stay connected. Asking simple things like as a faculty member, or as an administrator, asking our students, how can I pray for you? Letting them know that our faith leads us and guides us at a time like this, too. So, because of the investments we made, we feel like switching and moving into a slightly different format. Just—it’s God’s just giving us a different way to share the message God wants us to share. And I think Julie, you see that exact same thing with the ministry that you do. The fact that we’re now doing this through zoom and your podcast continues on, all be it in a different format, maybe not in the studio. Even though Eric you know, sitting in a studio it looks like but we all have different ways of showing or casting that. The churches are the same way. The churches have done the same thing. They’ve moved to providing their church services in a digital format. And some do it on Facebook. Some play some on YouTube. Some still do local broadcasting as well. So, we’re no different than the church. If you’ve been investing in your flock, and you’ve been diligent on how you live out the faith day-to-day, you just feel confident God’s going to help you move into this new format. And spiritually, people should thrive in this environment because you’re experiencing how God helps us overcome challenge.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I was somewhat amused by—I was listening to Chris Lash and he was he’s talking about St. Benedict. And I thought, well, that’s good to talk about the monks because we’re all living kind of a monastic life right now. Right? We’re sort of in our abbey so to speak. But I think Christians, throughout time, have dealt with very difficult situations. Isolation sometimes can be a good thing—solitude with the Lord. But at the same time, I think you’re right that this is an opportunity to connect. And some of us are connecting through online platforms or texts or whatever with people that normally we just see and it’d be casual. And now we’re engaging in more substantive conversations with them because of the crisis. So, it is an opportunity. And I just appreciate, Gene, what you’re doing—the way you’re providing leadership, both in an academic way, but also in a spiritual way there at Judson. And I do appreciate you so much taking the time. So, thank you. Appreciate you.

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Absolutely. Thank you, Julie for the opportunity, and thanks for your ministry. 

JULIE ROYS:  You bet. Well, again, joining me today was Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Hope you have a great day. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.

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Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront https://julieroys.com/podcast/dr-lina-abujamra-report-from-covid-19-battlefront/ Thu, 26 Mar 2020 18:24:47 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7713 Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront Read More »

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What’s happening on the COVID-19 battlefront? And how should Christians respond to this rapidly changing crisis?

On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Lina Abujamra, a pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries, joins Julie to discuss this crucially important issue. Lina has been working long, ten- to 12-hour days, responding to those with medical issues in the midst of this pandemic. And she offers not just sound medical advice, but spiritual guidance for Christians seeking to navigate these uncertain times with wisdom and faith.   

This Weeks Guests

Dr. Lina AbuJamra

Lina AbuJamra is a Pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries. Her vision is to bring hope to the world by connecting biblical answers to everyday life. A popular Bible teacher, blogger, and conference speaker, Lina has authored several books including: ThriveStripped, and Resolved. You can listen to Lina’s podcast on iTunes or Podbean and find her boosting your faith all over social media. Lina is the host of Today’s Single Christian on Moody Radio and of Morning Minutes, a daily audio devotional available on her website.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, how should Christians respond to the Coronavirus pandemic? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home in the Chicago suburbs. Like many of you I’m sheltering in place. So instead of recording at our studios at Salem Radio, we’re recording this podcast through Zoom. And I believe the sound quality is still good, but perhaps not as good as it is normally. But like everyone else, I’m learning to make do and I’m just so grateful that we live in a time where we can work from home and do classes online and churches online and podcasts online. So, praise God for that. I’m also grateful to have with me today Dr. Lina AbuJamra. Lina runs her own ministry called Living with Power, but she’s also a pediatric ER doctor and has been on the front lines dealing with the coronavirus crisis. So, I’m super grateful that she’s taken time out of her extremely busy schedule to join us. And I know she’s going to have just some really important insights on how we, as Christians, should be responding to this crisis. But before we dive into today’s podcast, I want to just take a moment to thank our sponsors. Again, a main sponsor of this podcast is Judson University. And they’ve been fantastic friends and supporters of my work. And I would just ask that you pray for Judson and other Christian colleges and universities just struggling to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Our other supporters are the Illinois Family Institute and Marquardt Buick. If you want to stay current on policies impacting faith and families, I encourage you—check out IFI’s weekly podcast. Just go to IFIaction.org/podcast. Well again, joining me today is Dr. Lina 

AbuJamra, founder of Living With Power, but also a pediatric ER nurse and a wonderful friend and sister in Christ. So Lina, welcome. I’m so appreciative that you took the time.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’m happy to be here, Julie.

JULIE ROYS:  So again, you’ve been up since very early this morning. What, for the past 10 hours doing, what do you call it, telemedicine? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I left the ER two years ago and after a career of 18 years in the Children’s Hospital in Chicago– and then at one of the community hospitals. And phased out into telemedicine because of the growing work we were doing in the Middle East with Syrian refugees. And so, my practice in telemedicine has grown tremendously as insurance companies have across the board basically recognized that as a service that alleviates cost and volume overload to urgent cares and ER’s. So over the years we’ve seen it grow to incredible numbers, but nothing like the last two weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. People have avoided going into the ER’s and the urgent cares and doctor’s offices. So, it is now a common thing to hear your patients say, “We called our doctors and they will not see us because we have a fever.” And so, patients have had to use the telemedicine services in order to get care, not only for coronavirus issues but also for regular health issues. And many patients, of course, are scared to go in, and smartly avoiding to go in if they don’t have emergent conditions—so urgent care type things. And so our volumes have gone from typically, and you know, you’ll have 50 to 100 patients waiting in the waiting room on a busy day—to 1500 to up to 1900 at one point, I think, a few days ago, on a regular basis—anytime I tap into the app and try to do work. And so for the past 10 days, I’ve been working a little extra hard, trying to do my share of helping the system and helping people who are looking for care and are willing to wait up to 15 hours at times—and still showing grace to myself when I call them at 4 in the morning because that’s when I start.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And so, what percentage of the people who are calling you right now have coronavirus related concerns?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I don’t have the actual data, but just my impression looking is about 50% right now, I would say, maybe less, maybe 40%, but not much less than that. And it’s grown tremendously over the course of the week. And the conversations have changed. And I said, literally, it’s a week today—it’s Wednesday, maybe a week and a half. But I remember a week ago Friday, so 10 days ago, I was back in visiting my mother in Florida and the conversations about coronavirus were growing. But still nobody was thinking we would be where we were today, even though we were watching Italy, kind of expand in their issues and in the severity of the problem there. And so, I remember coming home on Saturday, trying to scramble to get my own toilet paper not knowing what would happen. And just all of a sudden, seeing the waiting room go from like, again 100 to 1000 patients. And then that Saturday, Sunday a week ago, I sort of started to make sense of these conversations, knowing very little about coronavirus, and educating myself as I was trying to also figure out what the resources were for patients. And now, 10 days later, people have a good handle on some things and a lot of chaos on other things. And so, my job is to try to triage them appropriately and treat them when I can and provide some sense to most people, who are sitting somewhere in their homes, wondering whether they’re going to die.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, my goodness. And this must be so scary for folks that actually do have other conditions as well. Because, you know, I heard just this morning that a friend of mine has a kidney stone right now. And, you know, is in incredible pain. And what do they do with that? And she’s afraid to go into the hospital and rightly so. I mean, I can understand that. And so, there’s just the amount of anxiety for our friends and neighbors who aren’t healthy right now. I mean, I’m glad they have your service that they can call but, I mean, this is tough. This is really tough for Christians to be in this situation and not feel anxiety.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No question about it. It’s tough for any human and I think Christians are supposed to be able to get a handle on fear and anxiety. But I think we’re also human and I think we’re grappling with readjusting lives. And that’s just a medical part we’re talking about. And of course, so many layers of fear—loved ones who are now, of course, in the last week, as things have exploded, besides doing the medical work, and I’ve been averaging 10 to 12 hours of medical work a day but we’ve also done a lot online. I have a ministry where we do Bible teaching, discipleship and we have really gone on just full, you know, mode. We started a Facebook community group. I’m teaching online. I do these Facebook Lives. I’m educating about coronavirus on Facebook Live with a very, you know, growing people-group that is tuning in and listening. Encouraging people spiritually through what I’ve called “Covid Updates with Dr. Lina”—two, three-minute segments where I just handle you know, every couple of days, sort of an issue that comes up to the surface. And people just bombarding, you know, with of course, their questions. But opportunities to redirect the perspective of the conversation to Jesus and seeing Him just do a work of reuniting people in ways that maybe we had not expected before. People are listening. And so, we’ve really seen immense fruits in what God is doing in people’s lives. And the peace that only God can bring has become much more evident to me as I’ve been able to do some of those endeavors. It’s been exciting.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, that is exciting. And it’s neat to see how something that, you know, Satan intends for evil—no doubt about it—yet God can use it for good. And it is an opportunity, I think, for ministries, like yours and other Christian ministries and churches, to step up. I know, just this week, I was talking with one of our pastors. In fact, he called yesterday. And my husband and I shepherd a group, a small group, with another couple, and we’ve kind of divvied out. It’s kind of a medium-sized group. We call it small group, but it just keeps growing. So, it gets bigger and bigger. But we love, you know, these people under our care. And, so he was shepherding me, but then it was like, well give people in your group a call. And so, we’re all calling and I was saying, you know, some of these people, I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation on the phone. But because of this crisis, or having those one-on-one conversations—and I found out things that were that were going on in their life. And there was kind of that personal one-on-one connection that that we didn’t have. We’re doing our community group, we normally meet on Monday nights. We did a Zoom group. So, we met by Zoom. And it was neat to see how God was ministering through us, to each other, on Zoom on this group meeting you know, using online platforms. But really, I mean, don’t you see this as an incredible opportunity for the church to be the church. Because when there’s pain, when there’s suffering, that is when the church can step up in some ways and be the church in a greater way than maybe it even was before? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Oh, I mean, I don’t have a question that God is using this crisis to purify His church. I think that there’s a lot of money and time and energy spent on church activities that has, I will go as far to say zero value in terms of souls and ministry and care of individuals. And I really believe that all the negative of coronavirus aside and all of the fear, I think there’s something that is going to happen out of this in the way that we do church, that is going to massively and radically change the New Testament church that is now in existence. And I think that is for good. I really believe that.

JULIE ROYS:  Boy, there’s so much I could talk about on that because I’ve seen it, too. And when we even met for church two weeks ago, not this past Sunday, because this past Sunday, we weren’t allowed to be in each other’s homes. But we had neighbors in our home to watch our church service online. And we prayed together. And it was powerful. Even my 17-year-old daughter was like, “Man that that was really cool doing church in a home.” And so, I do think there’s neat things coming out of that. And even with my neighbors, we put notes in some of their mailboxes just saying we’re here to help. If you need anything, let us know. So, I do think there’s opportunities for community. But, let me turn this to the seriousness of corona because it seems like in the Christian community, there’s two camps. There’s one camp that’s saying, “Man, this is really serious, and it’s everything its cracked up to be. And as Christians, we need to be, kind of, on the forefront of taking seriously what our governor tells us. Shelter in place, whatever.” But there seems to be another part of our community that’s saying, “This is a lot of hype. It’s kind of blown out of proportion.” In fact, let me play a clip. This is from Dave Ramsey. And Dave, I guess, at his workplace, one of his employees came down with coronavirus. And David sent out an email then on March 15, soon after, to all of his employees said, “Hey, listen, we’re keeping the offices open. I expect you to report to work.” That email then got published in the Nashville Scene. And we’ll talk about what happened as a result of that. But just a few days earlier, Dave was comparing the coronavirus to Y2K and saying, “People just need to calm down.”

DAVE RAMSEY: You might get the flu; you might get a virus. You’re more likely to die of a car wreck. But you didn’t quit driving cars. I don’t understand you people. Statistical analysis. You didn’t quit. You still smoke. You’ve been smoking for 15 years. We know that kills you. And you don’t stop that. But you’re hiding in your house right now and afraid to come out. This is just, it’s crazy. Hysteria really makes smart people look dumb. Because they are. Their critical thinking skills have melted down. So just go back to Y2K. When your friends are going crazy right now, just look at him and say, “Bless your little heart,” which is Southern for “You’re stupid.”

JULIE ROYS:  Well, again, that’s Dave Ramsey and kind of making light of it—kind of saying hey, if you’re going crazy in this whole thing. I don’t know kind of sounds like he’s saying you’re stupid. He did, after the Nashville Scene, published that he was staying open in an email that he had sent out to his staff on March 20. Then he reversed course and now they are closing their office. But Lina, let me throw this to you. Is this just like Y2K? And are people just overreacting to everything?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Look, about three or four weeks ago, when people started hearing about coronavirus in China—before it started crossing the waves and before it hit the dock in Italy—I think there was a sense that it was out there, not over here. And I think we all thought it was like the SARS. I mean, to cut people some slack. And so, there’s a sense that maybe it wasn’t that serious. I remember even being at the dinner table at my sister’s house and my nephew telling me that there was a patient at Northwest Community who had it. And even talking to some of my colleagues and we sort of thought, yeah, let’s see what happens. Like I think, there was maybe some skepticism early on. It didn’t take long to start to see. I think Italy was sort of that wake-up call to most doctors. I really do. I think the idea that a country could be pummeled by a virus to this degree, and of course, everything started happening very quickly at that point. And China had taken immense measures to keep people, you know, socially isolated. And then of course, Italy was late on the game and that. And people use Korea, of course, as a great example, and on and on. But it was very, very quick before people sort of woke up and realized. And the doctor community, the professional community was like, “This is not a joke. Like, okay, this is not the drill. We’re not going outside for fire.” It did not take long and you will not find anywhere right now—anybody in the medical field will tell you, “Yeah, this is just another Y2K.” So, with all due respect to that clip, I hope that was, I don’t know what the date on that was. But my hope is that that was at least 10 days ago, or maybe a week ago—to not make the person who said this sound like he is—so they’re stupid, I think is what he says at the end of the clip. And so, you know, when I hear things like that, that just seems—and again, with all respect, people love Dave Ramsey. He’s given some immensely wise counsel on finances that people will need financial counsel. But there’s a point where you sort of listen to this. And as a doctor, I sort of tune them out. I’m done with that. I can’t listen to that. It’s is just nonsense. And that puts people in danger.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and I think, too, he was thinking financially, don’t pull everything out. We’ve seen crashes before. And I think he brings some calm there. Although, I don’t think any of us know even financially what’s gonna happen with our stocks or retirement funds. It is a little bit nerve racking. But right, I do think they’re, to be fair to him, we have had disasters happen before in the stock market, and it’s recovered. And so, I do think there’s a point to which you should keep it calm. I’m a little less forgiving to Jerry Falwell, Jr, who recently decided to keep Liberty University open. Everything else is closing. Lina is it safe? Is there a way to do, “safe” being on campus in a dormitory type setting? I do think they have some tents outside and they’re trying to have smaller groups. But is this something we should be doing? I mean, it seems a little crazy to me, but maybe that’s just me.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, I mean, yes, of course. I mean, I think it’s sort of shocking it to a certain degree, and it’s surprising to me that it’s legal. I wonder what leeway the staff and the students would have. I mean, that always comes up. Is this something that they’ll lose their job or what happens if they don’t abide by that? Because I think humans have ultimately a personal responsibility to watch the news, listen and make decisions. You know, we’re not robots. And I think right now is too soon. Again, this is March, I guess, look at the dates, 25th is too soon for people to be in what would be considered sort of a communal living. Now, you know, I think if a teacher goes into her office or his office, and they’re alone, and they’re not meeting, you know, it’s socially isolated running a class from the office, I can understand that. But students in a dorm community, I think you’re putting the students at risk. And I think it is absolutely contraindicated at this point where the numbers in the United States are nowhere near their peak. So, we’re, we haven’t even I mean, I think we’re at what 60,000 today on March 25th. I predict that by the weekend, we’d be well over 100,000 cases. And you do the math, you know. And so, you’re just contributing to that. And so now the conversation of course in the US has been like, when do we go back to normal? And I put a video out yesterday that was, sort of, picked up a lot by people. Because the sentiment was in the video, and you can catch it probably on one of my social media pages. But, in essence, you know, we’re going from Chicago to Florida. We’re not even in Kentucky. And we’re asking, “Are we there yet?” And so, my fear, right now, when people are saying well, “we’re going to go back to normal”, my fear is if people go, “back to normal,” to any degree, is this—I think people think that coronavirus is like the flu. And if somehow you can integrate back into society, and some people will get it, and then you’ll be homesick for a little bit, but everything will sort of go back to normal. I think that’s sort of the crazy part of it is it’s not the flu, right? You’ve got a longer incubation period. You infect more people. And so now you’ve sent 10 kids into a dorm or 20 or 100. Say 5 of them have the coronavirus. They give it to 2.3 other people who give it to 2.3 other people. Now, you know, people who are saying, “Well, I don’t see the point. The ER’s are not, you know, overrun with people.” First of all, that’s ignorance. They are. And secondly, watch New York. I’ve been really sort of baffled by the fact that the American people think that New York is another country. Like they’re over there, and that’s their problem. And we’re over here and we’re okay. You know, we’re in Texas or Alabama or wherever, you know. Even Washington State has done a good job of keeping their numbers down for now, but it is a completely different setup than New York. And of course, Dr. Fauci’s made a point, I think, as of even yesterday to remind people that we’re not doing massive testing. We are doing more and more of it. So, we will have more numbers in the next week or two. So, for Jerry Falwell to say, okay, kids can go back to the dorm is so premature, that there’s just no excuse for it, let alone logic.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, and I think of our witness, what is this doing to our Christian witness? I know one of our—a business that I love. I’ve always been a big supporter of Hobby Lobby. They’ve taken some great stands. But I’m just baffled right now that they’re open. And I had a reporter—she’s not a reporter for a Christian outlet. She’s a reporter for a secular outlet. And she reached out to me privately. But I think she is a believer. But she reached out to me and this is what she said—just some personal venting. “Julie, these Christians such as David Greene, who are keeping schools and businesses open, despite government shelter in place orders, are making me so angry. I believe they are sinning. And the Bible specifically calls for us to obey civil authorities God has placed over us unless to do so conflicts with God’s higher law. They need to be called out for their sin. Church worship, one might have a First Amendment argument.” But again, she’s saying this idea that God will protect us from this virus and we can go out there and kind of flaunt our liberty and our freedom, as you said, we need to think not just about our own personal safety, but the personal safety of others—that we become a host and we can carry this disease elsewhere. And so, we need to, again, I’ve been sheltering at home. I haven’t gone anywhere other than a bike ride and a walk. And thank goodness, my husband’s willing to do the grocery shopping, and he does most of that. But, I mean, we need to be thinking about our neighbor as in, don’t infect your neighbor and don’t get infected, so you don’t infect your neighbor. Right?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, and I think it’s gonna become–I mean, the sad thing is, there’s really two scenarios. Really, at the end of the day. I mean, you can be pragmatic about the whole thing. And so, think about it. You can either abide by shelter in place until the numbers level off and there’s more data and there’s more medical not political but medical advice as to what’s okay. And input by doctors who, right now, frankly, are—many of them are too busy and too inundated. Like I’ll literally get asked regularly about things that will flash. Like somebody will write an article somewhere about some medicine or some blood type. And I’m like, man, I don’t—it’s not even in my radar. Like, you know, so you’re like googling it and you’re going, it is so irrelevant to the care of sick patients in that moment, that you can’t even—you know, you’re trying to bring people back to like, “Okay, you don’t need to know that.” That’s like you’re trying to read a Ph.D. paper when you’re still in like the sixth grade. And I’m not being insulting, I’m just being real. Like, I don’t even know that stuff. And so, I think people need to kind of to tune it back a notch and sort of let the medical community get to that stage where they can say, “Okay, now is okay, from a public health perspective, to be back out in the open.” And I think this is hard for people to hear. So, one scenario is, yeah, you listen, and you wait. And it is stressful. And I think we can talk in a minute about the financial implications of this. Which I think is the driver here. People live paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a six-month reserve, they’re not Dave Ramsey. It’s ironic that he’s pushing his people to go in because if he abode by his principles, they should be able to work from home for six months. And so, it doesn’t make sense to me. Now, in the meantime, there are other scenarios. You say, “Screw it, we’re not going to do that.” We’re going to go back to normal because we’re Americans, and we can do this.” And everyone goes back to normal and you live to see the consequences. Now, are you willing to do that? I mean, what I’ve seen in Italy,, and what I hear from my friends who are on the front lines, it’s already mass chaos. And today I had a conversation with a doctor who has friends in New York. It is not good in New York. And, that’s regardless . . .

JULIE ROYS:  What is it like? What did he say it’s like in the hospitals?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Chaos. The word is chaos. People everywhere—even here in Chicago—everybody’s showing up to get tested. And so, and of course, you’ve got to tune out, you know, to tease out the sick people from the non-sick people. The difference is the volumes are bigger in New York, so the hospitals are full. The ICU’s are full. The doctors are getting—many, many doctors have gotten infected. It’s not like this is a real risk. So, I want to ask the American people, in those situations, like what are you going to do when, yes, you go back to normal, but now you no longer have doctors who can manage you? Because they’re all home because they’re sick, or they’re dead? Or they’re on two-week quarantine, you see. Now what are you going to do when you show up to the hospital? Not everybody can do what I’m doing, sit at home and see patients. I’ve seen 100 patients a day on the phone every day from 4 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon—every day for the past 10 days. And I have no foreseeable change at this point. And I’m constantly feeling guilty about the fact that there’s a thousand patients waiting when I hang up and say, “I’m done for today.” 

JULIE ROYS:  It’s so hard.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  So now, yeah, so for the listener who’s like going, what are doctors are excited about? Because we’ve seen lesser disasters, nothing to this degree. And we know the impact of a lesser disaster.

JULIE ROYS:  You know, and I’ve been thinking about what is our responsibility? Like I know my husband and I, a week ago when I heard about this, I’m like, shoot, we should order on Amazon some facemasks. Well, of course, you can’t really get them. But if I do get them now, I realize I can’t keep them for myself. I’ve got to give them to the hospital. I’ve got to give them to the fire department. I’ve got to give—you know, I can’t keep those. I’m not a first responder. And the first responders don’t have enough facemasks. I was reading today, as well, that the food banks—in fact I have a call into our Northern Illinois Food Bank trying to find out some more information. But a lot of these food banks are in crisis situations because they’re not able to stock the food right now. What’s our responsibility as a church to go and help some of these food banks? I think we need to be thinking. I mean, again, we’re believers, we should be different. So, what can we do? How can we reach out? And so, speak to people. Speak to us right now. I mean, maybe, you know, some things I’m not even aware of. What are some things that we can do to begin helping our communities and being a part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Well, I think that that is, right there, the case in point. I mean, I think Christians who are leading the discussion to break the rules set by governors in order to track the people. So rather than saying what can—I mean, we’re doing the very opposite of what one should be doing, right? We’re literally challenging. And now like I’ll give you another example before I– maybe some practical things. But like a Christian school in the Chicago community sent out a letter to students. And I know that because it’s very close to some members of my family. And in one same letter, they announced when the kindergarteners through whatever grade they have, is going to be going back to school. They’ve already set a date to go back in April. And in that same letter, talked about how there was an exposure of coronavirus in that school through a parent. In one letter. And you’re like, “Okay, that is not okay.” You want to know what a Christian should do? It’s not that. You see what I mean? And so now you kind of go well—okay, patience, like the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, patience. Let things play out. We are 8, 9, 10 days into this. That’s it. It’s simply prayer. Settle down and get on your knees. I honestly—I’m shocked. I see occasional people praying here and there. I am shocked that I have not seen massive movements of prayer in that greater evangelical or whatever we call the Eva-complex. Like it’s still articles on this, articles on that. But we have your prayer movements that are calling people back to God—that are calling people—calling on the Lord for healing. Like, desperate healing. Like, science is doing the best it can. Where are the leaders in the Christian community that are rising now and saying, okay, here’s how this is gonna play out? Now individually, I see a lot of good work being done by Christians. I have so many Christians that send me emails and ask me the question, “How do we help doctors? How do we support them?” And the face mask, sewing of masks for doctors, is something very practical that people have been able to do. Trust me, people have been so kind to me on the phone. Like I can tell, you know, Christians and non-Christians alike, you know, the little kindnesses. I call people after 12 hours of waiting and they’re not complaining. They’re asking—they’re thanking me for taking their call. And there is—and I can tell the Christians. They’ll even say to me, “We’re praying for you.” And little things like this, that when I’m at my wits’ end, I think, “Okay, I can do this a little bit longer.”

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, that, you know, that’s great to hear. And I will say, just actually a few minutes before got on this podcast, so I haven’t really looked into it. But I did get an email from somebody who, I guess, they’re doing a massive online prayer and call to prayer, . . .

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  That’s awesome.

JULIE ROYS: . . . where we all get on and we start praying together. So, I mean, stay tuned for that. I’ll publicize it if get more information. And hopefully we can do these as a Christian—a larger Christian community. I mean, we’ve been doing it as our small groups and as our church community groups. But we need to do this, I think, exactly like you’re saying in a big, collective way be praying for one another. Let me ask you just some really practical questions, though, because I know a lot of people are asking about this right now. One is, and this is what’s so weird about this disease, is it seems to present itself so radically differently with different people. Like some people have no symptoms, zero symptoms, and they can be a carrier. So that’s scary. Some people, it sounds like the incubation period is 14 days. I’ve read an article today that said it could—there was somebody that it was 27 days. That it just can be a very large, long incubation period. So, it makes people wonder, okay, gee, my throat feels a little sore. Should I be calling? Should I be going in? Or wow, I had 102 fever for the past three days. What should I do? So, speak to those people who right now are thinking, you know, when do I know it’s time to do something? What do I do?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I mean, I sort of think I’ve read that there’s four categories. I’ve really boiled it down to three categories in my mind. And there’s the asymptomatic carriers, there’s the typical sick—fever, cough, trouble breathing, sort of that triad that everybody’s familiar with now. Plus or minus other things that will come up. Like now, the newest article someone sent me—it’s like loss of smell, taste and smell. So today, we had a person with a chief complaint, of course, I can’t smell. Like, I mean, it’s just funny because there’s no other symptoms or diarrhea. You know, so they’re like—and I remind people that part of the bad cases, like fever, cough, shortness of breath. So you’ve got asymptomatic. You’ve got the typical symptomatic of what would look like the flu. Another blessing is I think the flu numbers are trending down now. So, it’s easier sort of to tell the difference. And then you’ve got that—sort of a lot of people now that present with what I would call bronchitis/cold symptoms—that you’re like, I don’t know, I guess it could be. But it could also be a cold. But what I know for those people is you don’t have to be tested and you don’t have to go in because you’re going to get better. Now, if they have high risk factors, they might need to be tested for a number of other reasons. And so, that’s what I tend to do a lot with people is answer those questions. And apart from those very sick people—so, there was a season a couple of, maybe a week and a half ago, where the asymptomatic ones was, you know, we were hunting down like travel related contacts and exposures. And I think now we have enough numbers to where—I don’t know that those factors are a point anymore. I mean you might be an asymptomatic carrier. We don’t, I mean, it could be for anyone. I think that is what it is. I think really the people that I’m worried about now are the ones who present with fever, cough, shortness of breath. And here’s what I found. I’m finding more and more, as we get into this, it’s not that hard to see until when you have it. It’s not like an enigma. Do I have it or not? It’s getting now to a phase where I can tell who has it. And then when we get into it, and clinically, I now have a good sense of who has it. And that’s without exposure risks. Am I right every time? I don’t know because I’m not running the sample. But these people are sick. And those are the ones that need to be at the front of the line getting tested, go into the hospital and those numbers are going to continue to grow. And so, if you’re the person with a sore throat, a little bit of the sniffles, don’t stress it. You’re the person who should be using telemedicine. Don’t rush to the ER. Those are the people who are now going to the ER’s—going, “We want to be tested” and being asked to go home. If you have the coronavirus, it is so mild. It’s a moot point. And everybody should be taking some social isolation precautions, some measures of Clorox wipes the house, those things that we have been now trained to think about. Sneeze into your hand etc., etc. But if and I tell people now, the last thing I’ll say about this, like, I’ll get couples now who call and it’s clear that one of them might have it. Well, they’ve been in the house for a week, right? So, you can quarantine them. But what’s the point? Because the person who’s with—you know, yeah, now if you know they’re positive, sure, shut the door to the room they stay in, but you’ve already been around your spouse for the last week. And so, the odds are, they’ve already been exposed. So, it sort of seems like they’ll go out of your house, practice social isolation, but you don’t have to, like, wear some kind of astronaut suit in your own house. You just have to sort of still stay away from the kids, stay away from the grandparents. Take a little more seriously some of those things that you might have been lax on before.

JULIE ROYS:  And what about—I was reading an article, too, that was saying, the first few days it often resides in the throat and that there are some things we can do like drink hot liquid?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  There’s no—I mean, all of these things are not harmful. It’s like when you have a cold, you take vitamin C. Is it gonna keep you from getting a cold? Maybe, but I mean, you know, like, it makes you feel good. Like you did something. But if you’ve got a virus, it’s going to give you a cold– that sort of many factors play into it including how stressed you are, how tired you are, how, you know, how much viral loads you’ve had. Which is, again, why we try to maintain distances and Clorox wipe everything in your house, etc. And so, no, I mean, these are all good things, you know. Do them. And it gives you something to do, you’re sitting in a house for now.

JULIE ROYS:  But you’re saying it doesn’t really do anything, right? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No, there’s no treatment, other than symptomatic care—just supportive measures. Most people, 81% because the number that started now, will do really well. And 3%, again, the number that started, we don’t, not exact because we don’t know how many have it and how many are dying, but let’s say up to 3% are dying. And then sick people in between. The load on the medical system and I’ll repeat that why this is such a big deal. If you look at the percentages of how many people could get it in the United States, and just extrapolate based on what we’ve seen so far, how many of those could get really sick? And how many of those could need an ICU bed? And how many of those—the system cannot manage it. And we’re seeing that now play out in New York City. This is key. You’re seeing it play out. And you go, “Well, we’re not in New York City. We live in Iowa, everybody lives in,”—okay. Then go out to the restaurant and see what happens in a week. But that’s, again, you used the word at the beginning of the show. It’s just I’m not going to use the same word—that’s just not smart. I’m not gonna say stupid, but it’s just not smart. And so, when you go back to normal, I think you have to give it a little bit more time. I don’t know the answer to that. I appreciate the sentiment of optimism. But I think still, it’s too soon—that I can tell you—to make those predictions. It’s too soon.

JULIE ROYS:  And right now, what is the situation when it comes to testing? I’m hearing—

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better.

JULIE ROYS:  It is better?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better. You can get a test within, in some places, 4 hours, but 24 hours is sort of standard. We were at 4 days before. Now I have people, my friends, who will tell me. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I have a friend who’s diabetic, had a fever, I felt like they need a test.” I don’t order the test, I said to them, “Here’s what you need to do. Call the COVID hotline.” And I’m thinking they’re gonna be on the phone for hours. I had two people in the last 24 hours that I know outside of my work that called and have already been tested. 

JULIE ROYS: Oh, that’s fantastic.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  If they need it. What you’re not going to get is that 24-year-old or a 35-year-old who has a scratch in his throat, or her throat. And they’re like, “I just want to know if it’s COVID.” You know, you might—there are some places in the United States that are doing random testing, but I’d be shocked if that person gets to test because you got to save it. There’s an order of—there’s clinical symptoms. It’s like if I went in today and said, “I want a flu test.” I’m not going to get a flu test. “Well, I want an X-ray of my chest. I want to see if I have pneumonia.” Well you have symptoms. And so, there’s a logic to it. So, if you meet criteria, and doctors quickly are very comfortable now in making those decisions and nurses and allied health professionals. I mean this is—a week is a short time but it’s also a long time when you’re thinking about it and seeing it. And so, trust the process. The health departments are working hard. It is much better than it was. Can it get better? It will be better. It will be better. They’re working on fast tests. So, I’m optimistic about all of those things. The numbers will come in. There’s no question in my mind. And you’re seeing it by seeing how many—today 60,000 patients, by the end of the week, I believe we’ll be over 100,000. Some of that is because people are being tested. We’re a big country with 300 million people, many of whom have flown through New York City. And we’re gonna start seeing those increases. Not a reason to panic. But now you can build data and you can make conclusions so that Dr. Fauci and his team can come on the news and say here’s a logical date when you can go back to normal as opposed to making a prediction ahead of time and you’re living to regret it. And I think people will start to regret it when close loved ones will start to hurt. And I think until then, I think people will complain. I grew up in Beirut in the middle of the Civil War and that’s the case. It’s when it hits you or hits close to home. When a bomb hits your house, it’s much more personal than when it’s done in another city. And so, I hope we don’t learn the hard way.

JULIE ROYS:  I hope so, too. And I mean, it’s interesting, your perspective, having grown up in Lebanon and experiencing being in a war zone. I mean, this is a war zone. Right? 

LINA ABUJAMRA M.D.:  This is a war zone. In some ways, I mean, different. But in some ways worse. In some ways it’s a new challenge. We I grew up in the war, we were used to it. This is a new product, a new way and against everything American. I’ve been in the United States long enough to know this is everything that is not what we’re used to.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, it’s so unusual. I mean, I’ve never in my lifetime, have I seen this, and I know people are comparing it to the Spanish flu. Well, none of us were alive during the Spanish flu. So, and we kind of think we’re beyond that with our modern medicine, but we’re really not.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  But wait. But we are. But I do think—I mean, I’m—this is my optimism is: A) We believe the world can heal any second and this can go away. Today in this, I don’t have any doubt about that. But even from a science perspective, I don’t have a question that a year from now there’ll be a vaccine. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to stay in the house for a year. No, but you don’t have to. There’s so much happening on the backside of science. But we’re a week into it. I go back to reminding people like, literally, there hasn’t been enough time for this, for us to be talking about, you know, about when we are going to go back to church, right? Having said that, I think—or, by the way, or the dorms or students who could be doing things online and now are putting themselves in harm’s way. Or a kindergarten class who could be doing—I  saw my nephew do a Zoom class with his teacher. I know it can be done. Sat through the whole thing. He could sit for four hours on that. It’s doable, it is doable. That’s the part that baffles you is why are we pushing to put people at risk when there are ways that you can creatively create space for the people who need to come up with the technologies, do it?

JULIE ROYS:  Right, absolutely. And Liberty University, which we were talking about earlier. I mean, they have what 100,000 people who are taking classes online. They’re experts at it. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I did have a question regarding the tests. I know at one point—I’m glad to hear we can get them a lot quicker now. How long does it take for the results to get back?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  As soon as 24 hours. No, I mean, most people are within 24 hours. And the 4-day waits are no longer the case. Again, and I don’t want to I mean, I haven’t caught up today. I don’t. I literally finished seeing patients and got on the phone and everything is changing day by day. But I mean for me, expectation of 24 hours is not unreasonable. I think it can—it’s faster in some places. It’s much better. Yeah. This is, again, a week into it. It’s incredible. So, there is more testing. It will—and then I think people will always look back and say, “Could they have started it sooner?” I mean, in December, China was talking about the coronavirus. “Well, why didn’t we start doing it?” Then no. It was like it was over there. This is why again, play the same scenario. We’re looking at what’s happening in New York, and we just think it’s like another China, right? I mean, it’s just the way that we’re handling it. It’s like it’s some other city. You know, “everything  that happens there stays there.” On the contrary, how many people have flown in and out? How many? I mean, just start thinking about the implications. And it is a lot—and New York is a lot closer to Iowa than you might think.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and that’s the thing. Right now, we’re seeing how integrated our world is, you know. I mean, when the Spanish flu was happening, to get from Europe to the US, they had to take a ship, which took several weeks. I mean, now it’s a flight and we are, we have a global economy. It’s totally different. And so, we’re in unchartered territory. And we’re seeing people. you know, like you said, this is gonna really hit home when it’s loved ones. I know for me, something that made this hit home for me was and again, this is someone from kind of my generation. Sandi Patty, singer songwriter, so many of us familiar with her. And she recorded a video and put it on Facebook, and here she has tested positive for COVID now. And she’s in the high-risk group. And it really struck me, you know. Hearing her voice and hearing what she had to say. In fact, I pulled a clip from it. I thought it would be helpful to even listen to it and hear her, in her voice, describe what she’s going through.

SANDI PATTY:  There was a thing I want to say to everybody. This is not fake news. This is real. This is everything that they say that it is. And we’ve just got to take it seriously. I’m really, really thankful that Don and I are first taking it seriously for ourselves. And when we make the right choice to quarantine ourselves, not only are we protecting ourselves and thinking about ourselves, it is the right decision for everybody else, too. And secondly, I’m really thankful that we have a church that decided we can still have community online. And so, you know, we’ve been doing online rather than bringing out our large numbers together on Sundays and Wednesdays. So more to come in the days to come. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re feeling and all of that. But do your part. That’s all you can do. We can’t do everybody’s part for them, but we can do our part. So do your part. It’s wisdom. And God has also given us faith, but He’s also given us wisdom. So, this is the time to utilize that wisdom. So that’s all I have to say about that. Except I wish you could see my husband sitting in the chair. He’s been yawning so bad. Because [phrase not transcribed.] So, thank you for being attentive. [phrase not transcribed.] And God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. So, I pray that all those aspects of God will be shown to you. Okay. Please take care of yourself. Wash your hands, moisturize and all that stuff. And be safe.

JULIE ROYS:  I love the way she answers that, at the end you know, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. That’s what we can rest in as Christians. Did that hit you the way it hit me when you heard that Lina?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I mean it says—that was about four days ago I saw it on something like that. And I honestly my thought was, she’s not as well as—I mean, as a doctor, I thought man, she looks a little sick. I would honestly say that I felt like she was winded and trying to put a good face on for people. And I respected that she did that video. And yet that was four days ago before people, before the frenzy. Where now, the conversation I’m hearing now—again every day is a mass shift. Which, when I first saw that, people were still on board this, “Ah, we’re going to stay home.” We went on in my town in Chicago, we went on shelter-in-home, not quite on lock-down. And now, like in the last 24 hours, the shift and momentum of, “We want to be back by Easter. We want to be back out doing our normal stuff.” Okay, maybe not completely normal, but somewhat normal. And so, how quickly we forget. And so, all I think about when I hear even now, I think she sounds even more short of breath than I remembered. And so, she’s making it one step at a time. And I think this is the point that I think doctors are trying to make. It is not a simple flu. It is like the worst flu that you’ve ever had in your life, if you have a good outcome, as opposed to the people who get admitted. Once you get admitted, you know that you’re in bad shape. And of those a lot of people end up dying. If you get on the vent—you’re, that’s you see, that’s the problem. And so, I know that people have been sort of focused on, “Well it’s still elderly.” Or, you know, every asthmatic is nervous because there’s been a big press about the fact that it affects the lungs. And so, everyone’s calling in for inhalers. You know, but I think at the end of the day, it’s so, you know, it’s not just them that suffered. It’s everybody. I mean, Sandi Patty’s not that old. There’s been others now in the news that have been younger. And you can see it, they’re not well, you know. They’ve talked about their experiences, many of them and you can catch those. It’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m certainly not taking it lightly. And to be honest, as a doctor, they may come right now. I hear in New York, they’re calling all doctors not just ER doctors, but ophthalmologists, gynecologists, people that have not been in emergent care, to man the ER because there’s not enough doctors. And the doctors are themselves getting infected. So, they’re going to have to leave—some sicker than others—for a couple of weeks. And so, they’re calling all of those people in in Illinois. They’re calling retired doctors to come back and work. I know I’m doing telemedicine now, but the day will come—and I’ve looked at possibilities of deploying with Samaritan’s Purse and praying in wisdom over whether I should deploy to New York City. And honestly, I’m scared. And I have the Spirit of God in me. And, you know, I know that. But I also want to do the smart thing. And I want to help the most people. But I also want to live boldly and smartly. And so, think about that, as we’re thinking about integrating our lives. Think about people like me who don’t have a choice that they will come when there’ll be enough sick doctors. If we continue, you know, taking lightly, or if we go to take it. Because I don’t think people are taking it too lightly now. But if we change our stance and start taking it lightly, you’re putting us at risk. And we don’t mind it up to a certain degree. But there’s a point where, like I said earlier, like, what are you going to do when you don’t have a doctor anymore to care for you? And incidentally, many people have experienced that now in the primary care settings where they have fever, and cough, and they’re told do not come to the office. And so, what are you going to do when now you don’t have an ER doctor? You’ve got a gynecologist trying to manage your airway. Right? And that’s not a good place to be, Americans. And so that’s, I think, the dynamic of medicine that doctors are aware of and people are not. And so, you think what’s the big deal? Well it might not be until you’re in the hospital and wondering what’s going to happen to you because there’s not a doctor or a nurse or a respiratory therapist to help manage your care.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, yeah. And the best thing we can do right now is be as careful as we can be and be safe. And Lina, you mentioned prayer. And so, I want to end this by giving you an opportunity to pray for us as a Christian community, but also for our neighbors, for our country, for our world, as we face this coronavirus pandemic. So, would you pray for us?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’d love to. Our Father in heaven, we are so thankful to know You. We’re thankful that our hearts are connected to You through your Son, Jesus Christ, and that we could come boldly into Your presence and ask for peace. And so, God, right now, I ask for peace in the midst of chaos. But there are so many people who are so afraid. I ask that Your Spirit would just immerse through Christians to touch the lives of those who are struggling with anxiety, with depression, with fear, with stress, with how they’re going to manage their families with the tensions in the home. But God, I pray with all my heart that You would bring healing to this coronavirus. God, simple prayer Lord but I pray that God, yeah, that You would be with the sick, that You would be with the American people who are trying not to spread infections. But God, simply put, that You would heal us of the coronavirus however You choose to do it. Lord, we believe that You are the God of all miracles. You’re the God of the Old Testament and the New. You brought up all the plagues and then You stopped them in a second. You opened the Red Sea and allowed Your peoples to go through it. God You did this over and over again. And then You brought yourself down to earth in the form of Christ and rose from the dead. So we know You can do anything. And so, God, in the name of Christ, I ask that You would heal our lands. God, not just United States but all over the world to think about the impact on countries who don’t have the infrastructure and the technology. India are populated with billions. God, we pray that You protect people, that You would shed Your light through to many, Father, so that many would come to faith through this disaster that has come upon us. So God, we recognize that we are sinners. We repent of our sins. We ask that You would use this crisis to bring us to full repentance as Christians, Lord. That we would come to a place of reckoning that there are things that we have done that have been contrary to the way that You want us to live. And God to do it, that we would go back to the purity of the gospel, to loving our neighbors, to understanding one another, to sharing Jesus with one another. And God, I pray that You would use this as an opportunity for us to see redemption in a massive way throughout the world. We thank You God, that You’re a God who hears us—that You’re a God who loves us, that You’re a God of healing, not of sickness. That You are a God of light and not of darkness—of peace and not of chaos. And that even in the midst of this, Your presence is real and near us. And we give You all the honor and the glory. God we ask Jesus that You would come back soon and reign over this world. Father, we long for You. Our hearts, in these seasons, long for more of You. Bring deliverance in every aspect of our life. And we give You all of the honor for all of these things. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

JULIE ROYS:  Amen. And that’s a powerful prayer. And you can see why Lina’s—the name of her ministry is Living With Power. Lina, how can people connect with you if they want to get those daily updates that you’re doing? Which are fantastic, by the way. I’ve been following those and just really enjoying them.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. The best thing to do is go to LivingWithPower.org. It’ll connect you to everything we’re doing. Join our community. We have live, every Thursday, from seven to eight. I’m doing live Bible studies with our community and then through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can access all of those from our site. You’ll be able to catch all of those videos. So email me on the contact page, if you have any questions. I’ve asked people to do that. And they have a lot of medical questions. I’m brief in my responses, but I try to answer just about everybody who’s emailed me. I think I have a couple waiting still for today’s email. So go to the contact page at LivingWithPower. org.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, thank you so much, Lena. I’ve so enjoyed this and thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me, just go to julieroys.com. I hope you have a great day. Stay safe. Stay well and God bless.

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The Problem of Narcissist Pastors https://julieroys.com/podcast/the-problem-of-narcissist-pastors/ Thu, 19 Mar 2020 21:40:17 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7633 The Problem of Narcissist Pastors Read More »

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They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing—pastors who are narcissists, who claim to be serving God but are really serving themselves, and leaving a path of devastation in their wake.

In this episode of The Roys Report, Chuck DeGroat —a professor, clinical therapist, and author of the book, When Narcissism Comes to Church — joins Julie for an enlightening discussion. 

DeGroat offers keen insights on how to identify narcissist pastors, as well as the church systems that protect them. He also describes the many faces of narcissism, explaining how narcissism manifests itself differently in various Enneagram personality types. And unlike many of his therapist peers, DeGroat explains why he believes some narcissists can be healed of their condition. 

This Weeks Guests

Dr. Chuck DeGroat

Chuck DeGroat (LPC, PhD) is professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and senior fellow at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. He served as a pastor at churches in Orlando and San Francisco and founded two church-based counseling centers. He is a licensed therapist, spiritual director, and the author of Toughest People to Love and Wholeheartedness.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. Pastors who are narcissists who claim to be serving God but are really serving themselves and leaving a path of devastation in their wake. Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be talking about an extremely serious problem in the church—the problem of narcissism. And joining me will be Chuck DeGroat—a professor, clinical therapist and author of the book, When Narcissism Comes to Church. But before I talk to Chuck, I just want to say a brief word about the crisis we’re in concerning the coronavirus pandemic. And I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. I know I haven’t. And I’m glad that churches and Christian institutions are taking this seriously. Many are closing and encouraging people to just stay home. I think that’s a wise word right now, but I think it’s hard, isn’t it, as Christians, to practice something called social distancing, right? I mean, we want to love people and be near them. But one way to love our neighbor, right now, is to not infect our neighbor or be infected by our neighbor. So I think it’s wise that we stay home. And hey, you can listen to podcasts maybe or get caught up on ones that you’ve missed. But here’s what I’m noticing. Families are being forced to spend time together during this crisis. We’re doing church at home, right, as our churches are live streaming their services? Or we’re doing meals at home as restaurants are closing. And I know our family, in the past few days, have worshipped and prayed more together than we probably had in the entire month prior to this whole crisis. So friends, I really think that we need to embrace this crisis as an opportunity to grow together as families. I mean, obviously Satan wants to push us apart and get us to really come down on each other. And you know how sometimes too close a quarters can be a problem. But I think what God wants us to do is grow together. And so I really encourage you. Do family devotions, gather for meals, draw  together closer as a family during this time. But it’s not only an opportunity, I think, for our families to come together, I think our communities can come together as well. I got this idea from our pastor. His family put a note in the mailboxes of their neighbors. And the note just said something simple like, “Hey, we know this is a stressful time, just wanted to let you know that our family has plenty of food. We also have a stash of toilet paper.” (If that’s true for you, you can say that.) If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask and also know that we’re praying for you. And hey, if there’s a way that we can pray for you, especially, please let us know.” So that’s an idea. I just think of something we can do to reach out to our neighbors and love them during this crisis. Also, you may have heard, local blood banks are saying that there’s a critical shortage of blood right now. Many blood drives have been canceled. So if you’re not in a high risk group, and you’re healthy, you may just want to consider giving blood. And lastly, let’s remember that God is sovereign, right? This pandemic is not a surprise to Him. And His Word says, in Philippians 4: 6 & 7 —“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” So God’s got this. And no matter what happens, we can trust that He will work His purposes in all things. Also, I do want to ask that you pray for one of our sponsors of this podcast, Judson University. Like many colleges around the country, they’ve had to send students home and move classes online. Spring sports have been canceled and this is a huge transition for them. So please remember Judson students, faculty and staff in prayer and also your local schools and maybe colleges where your sons and daughters are going to school as well. They need our prayers. Also another one of our sponsors, the Illinois Family Institute, has been forced to reschedule its Education Forum that was set for April 25th. So stay tuned for more information on that in upcoming podcasts. And please pray for our friends at the IFI as well. I’m sure this is a trying time for them. 

But again, today, we’re going to be discussing narcissism—a huge issue in our church, one that I honestly wasn’t even aware of probably two years ago, but has come crashing to our awareness as more and more of these church scandals have broken in the news. And I’ve been a part of breaking some of those. And often, at the center, is a narcissist pastor. So I am so glad to have professor, author, clinical therapist, Chuck DeGroat with me. So Chuck, welcome, and thanks so much for making the time.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, thank you for doing it, too.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and how are you guys facing this crisis? I know you’re at a seminary. So probably classes online and probably a trying time for you, right?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, it’s a trying time for all of us. I mean, I’m grateful that we’re into distance learning already. And so we can transition our classes online. But I was also a pastor for 15 years and I’m trying to be available to pastors because I know a lot of my friends out there are just really anxious right now. Right? We’re all anxious. And so just trying to be present to them and to my students and to my family. And I love what you said at the opening about connecting as families. We’re experiencing that right now with my 18 and 17-year-old daughters and it’s so good.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, it is good. I know we did church at home for the first time in, boy, I don’t know how long on Sunday. Our pastor live-streamed a sermon. So we were able to listen to that. We had neighbors of ours, that we do a home group with and they came over. We washed our hands and we practiced not coming to close and that, but it was such a special worship time that we had together. I pulled out my guitar for the first time in a while and we just worshipped the Lord together. We prayed for each other. There was an amount of sharing that was just probably a little deeper, a little more vulnerable than usual. And afterwards, my 17-year-old daughter said to me, “Wow, that was just really neat. Kind of like, what the early church probably did.” I think it is an opportunity for us. It’s always an opportunity, any crisis, to be the hands and feet of Christ. So, yeah, it’s an interesting time to be alive and to be the church, so. 

Well, let’s talk about narcissism. And I think I’d mentioned before we went on this podcast, when we were just discussing, our number one, my number one podcast or radio show, has been on this topic of narcissism. And I think there’s just a hunger to know more about it. Because it has become a big issue in the church. And many have fallen prey or victim to narcissist pastors. But for the person listening, who is kind of new to this whole topic, what is narcissism, at least when it becomes sort of a pathological problem?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well, so, and I think you just said something important on it when it becomes a pathological problem, right? Because we know that narcissism exists on a spectrum. Theodore Millon did some research on narcissism years ago. And I’ve been using an assessment, that he put together a while ago, for the last 10 or 12 years with pastors. And it places each of us who take this assessment on a spectrum, between narcissistic style, type and disorder. And when we get into disordered relating, we want to use the DSM-5’s definition of it. We talk about a kind of grandiosity. They need to be on stage. It’s all about them—a profound sense of arrogance, self-centeredness. We talk about a lack of empathy—pastors who just can’t be present to the pain of another. Maybe what I’m finding, and I know maybe you’re finding this, too. I’m finding that pastors are becoming more psychologically savvy. And so, I’m adding to this the caveat that pastors can be, what I call, faux-nerable, not vulnerable.  They can sort of make you think that they get what’s going on in you. But that second piece is really important—that it’s not a real sense of empathy. And then the DSM-5 talks about impairments of identity, or pyramids in identity and intimacy. And that just means that there’s volatility in their relationships and volatility at work. And this is what we see—this grandiosity, this lack of empathy and this volatility in all areas of their lives.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and we are seeing it in the church more and more. And I know that’s, kind of, where you encountered it from sort of a personal standpoint. Tell me a little bit about how you experienced narcissism in the church and how it impacted you?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well probably for a lot of people, I didn’t have words for it early on. And even going back to seminary in the mid 1990’s, I experienced this sort of culture where narcissists could thrive. But I didn’t know, I thought it was me. I thought I was the problem. And often times when we talk about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, we talk about gaslighting, and that sense that we’re going crazy—that there’s something wrong with me. But, yeah, I encountered this early on in seminary and in pastoral ministry and I don’t think I fully realized the trauma it caused in my own life and in my own body, even during therapy over those years–that experience of feeling bullied or feeling manipulated or just feeling crazy—that I encountered. And I don’t talk about specific details of my story. I try to keep that story relatively private because it was a long, long time ago. But I know that I woke up the night before last at 3 AM with some anxiety. And I traced it back 17 or 18 years ago to some pain I experienced in the church. And lots of folks, who are survivors of narcissistic abuse, will talk about a kind of on-going trauma that they experience in their bodies over the course of days and weeks and years—the fight/flight, freeze/fawn kind of dynamics of trauma. And it can be really painful and debilitating for folks.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and you mentioned this term gaslighting. That is a term that again, two years ago I would have been like what’s gaslighting? I never heard of that before. I mean, this has become a part of our vernacular, at least if you’re in a survivor community at all or have access to survivor communities. This is just so common—this gaslighting. And you said, too, I thought I was crazy, like I hear that so much. But I’ve published things about, like most recently about James McDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. People will write me and say thank you for publishing this. I thought I was crazy. This is so affirming and healing for me to hear. I’m not crazy. But talk about gaslighting and this trauma how—what is gaslighting? And how does that kind of make you feel crazy?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, right yeah. It’s a way that narcissists manipulate by communicating in some way, verbally or non-verbally, that you are the problem. I was talking to someone just the other day who was experiencing this, even in the context of this coronavirus pandemic that we’re in right now, where she didn’t feel like she was doing enough for this lead pastor who was expecting her to get supplies and get video technology ready for an online worship service. On and on and on it went. And she thought she was the problem because he was communicating to her that it wasn’t fast enough and efficient enough. And as I talked to her, I said, I said these words again, “You’re not crazy. You’re doing as much as you can.” And she said, “I am?” And I said, “You are? You absolutely are.” And I think that’s just that dynamic. It’s a form—it’s a subtle form of emotional abuse. And when we talk about emotional abuse, we talk about abuse without a physical scar, you know? It’s a wound to the soul. The problem is you. And I think, if I had one go for this book more than any other, I hope people pick it up and understand better what they’re dealing with so that they can recognize that maybe they’re just not crazy.

JULIE ROYS:  And that’s so important. I mean sometimes that’s just step one, because you. And people in the church are usually somewhat introspective and willing to look at where they might be a fault, right? I mean, that’s how we come to Christ. We admit our fault. And so when somebody’s telling us that we’re doing something wrong, or that it’s our problem. Even if we’re like, “Wait a second, I’ve done an awful lot. Why is it always my problem?” It’s still, we’re susceptible I think to those messages. And so it is so important to be able to put our finger on this and to begin to—one, name it, and two, to begin to work at our own healing. I want to dive into that a little bit. So you’re at a church, and you’re seeing some things with your pastor, say. And you see some grandiosity there, perhaps, but at the same time, I mean that the church is growing. Good things are happening. And so how do you know when this is really something that needs to be addressed? And if you’re in it, how on earth do you address it?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, that’s a great question. The first thing has to do with your own care. I think sometimes we move too quickly to addressing something that we’re not completely clear about. So I always tell people to get some time with a trauma-informed therapist—a therapist who understands narcissism and abuse. And not all do. Not all therapists are helpful, or a spiritual director or mentor at least who gets what’s going on. And do the work first of identifying how you’re experiencing it. That’s really critical before you can ever sort of lean into helping a narcissistic system. You’ve got to make sure that you’re clear on what’s going on inside of you. And you’ve got to make sure that you’re clear that that’s your call. It might just be that you need to step away from that system, or to protect yourself or to be safe. And that’s fine. I have to tell people all the time, people who think that it’s their responsibility to fix the system, no, it’s okay to step away if that’s what you need. But what you’re wanting to pay attention to are some of the classic signs of narcissism that we see from pastors—that sense that they make all the decisions, their impatience with others, feelings of entitlement, a sense that there’s, well, in staff at least of being threatened or intimidated by the lead pastor. They need to be the best and brightest in the room. I spell out all the characteristics of pastors who are narcissistic. And when you experience that, it’s a matter of taking that really seriously, first and foremost, as I said, what’s the impact on you? And then doing the work of healing so that you can begin to lean in and perhaps talk to someone who has some power—an elder, a leader in the church—in a way that you can begin to express the pain that you’re experiencing and talk about what might be done next.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so you’re talking about somebody talking to somebody in power, an elder or someone like this. And yet, at the same time, I’m hearing you say this word “church system.” And that’s something that you talk about in the book—about this is just not, it’s just not a man that’s at the top. There’s often an entire system that sort of forms around him so that often, those elders who are supposed to be protecting the flock and protecting the mission, are protecting the pastor. And they’re not doing what they need to be doing. So talk a little bit about these systems and how they work to protect the pastor.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  That’s right. So oftentimes, as you say, they are loyal soldiers. And it, those who report what they are experiencing find that it’s a dead end—that they protect the narcissistic leader. And so one of the things that I talk about, and I’m really convinced by, is that narcissism doesn’t exist in isolation. It takes a village, you know? It takes a system and there are always people who enable narcissism within the system. And they’re often deeply embedded beliefs or mental models, I like to say, that enable narcissism in a system. And so it’s a setup for people to sort of follow the charismatic, grandiose leader. And they participated in it. And they’re complicit in it. Every once in a while—Imean, I’m working with the church right now where there are a couple of elders who get it and they’re working hard to protect the flock. But every once in a while, you do see signs of life out there, like the one I just mentioned. But oftentimes it’s unsafe, even as you mentioned, to talk to another elder or leader. They’ll sweep it under the rug, or they’ll make you feel crazy. And they’ll say, “Surely it can’t be him. He’s a great leader. God used him. God has blessed our church.”

JULIE ROYS:  And there are some systems, I mean, that are more conducive aren’t there to narcissism than others? And we’re hearing this a lot with mega churches and celebrity pastors. Because, obviously, to be up on a big stage and a big platform can be a big deal. But at the same time, we also have some who would rather be a big fish in a small pond. And you see narcissism there. There’s no place that’s probably immune from narcissistic leaders. But talk about where the systems that are most conducive to this and how, you know, how in these, if you’re in a church like this, yeah, how can you safeguard against it?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, so it’s a really good question. And I think you’re right about larger mega churches, perhaps being more conducive to narcissistic systems, in the sense that they are predicated on growth and success and efficiency and image management and things like that, right? At times, they’re sort of run like businesses. And I want to qualify that. And I want to say not all large churches are implicated in that but many are. They’re sort of like petri dishes of consumerism, right? They’re just modeling what sort of the corporate strategy might model out there. And so, yeah, this is where we see it. We see it implicated in structures within systems—structures that are very hierarchical or structures that give the lead pastor way too much power where there’s not accountability. Or where there are leaders within systems that are Yes-men or Yes-women. Even church plants often, because in church plants you usually have a charismatic lead pastor, and really a leadership team that that lead pastor recruited. And so the people that this person recruits are generally people who are on board, who agree, and, you know, with narcissism who probably adore that lead pastor. But you’re also right to mention smaller churches. And we see a kind of more vulnerable form of narcissism. It’s not as grandiose. But it’s more like, you know, “We’re the pure church. We’re the church of 50 people, but you know, we are—there’s no other church in town that preaches the gospel. We’re the only church that tells the truth for this long, right? We’re special, we’re chosen.” And that’s a subtle, vulnerable form of narcissism that we’ve got to be on the lookout for.

JULIE ROYS:  I was really interested when I was reading your book, when you said that a colleague of yours says that , if ministry is a magnet for narcissistic personality, who else would want to speak on behalf of God every single week. And then you said that in your own work, which includes 15 years of psychological testing among pastors, the vast majority of ministerial candidates, on the spectrum of cluster B DSM V personality disorders, feature narcissistic traits. Most prominently that these rates are even higher among church planters. So what you’re saying is, I’m seeing a lot of this in pastors and in our planters. I mean, that’s scary to hear.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. I mean, I had to reckon with this myself as someone who started out in ministry over 20 years ago now. There’s something about it, you know—the Master of Divinity. And now I tell my students about this, right? Master of Divinity, right? And what a strange thing, we get up on stage, when most people are afraid of public speaking, right? We get up on stage and we speak, “This is the word of the Lord.” You know? And there’s something about that, that where, as you said, I’ve been doing this testing for a long time. And I think we were talking about this before the show. Sadly, there’s far too little research on narcissism in the church. But my own work, over the last 10 or 15 years of doing these assessments, really shows pretty clearly that pastors, the large majority of pastors, test in this cluster B. Now cluster B is narcissism, but it’s also histrionic personality, and borderline personality and antisocial personality. And all of those are sort of like shades of narcissism, right? And so, we can see whether it’s grandiosity or emotionality or drama or need to be the center of attention or whatever form it shows up in. This is why I really try to nuance narcissism in this book. I want people to see it, not just as the caricature of the big, bold, charismatic leader, but I want us to see it in its more subtle forms, as well. And there are people who don’t need a church of 1,000 or 10,000. They’re perfectly happy with their church of 50. Feeling like we’re special. We get it. We’re pure. We’re the elect. And no one else is. And that’s narcissism, too.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I hear that a lot when I interview sources at churches that have had issues like this—that there’s like this sense of purity, you know. It can be doctrinal purity, it can be, you know, just in the way that they practice. But yeah, we are the one and only church and that is, I think, a telltale sign. And you know, that’s pretty dangerous. I mean, to think that you have the corner on Christianity. I have been in so many different types of churches and denominations in my, you know, 40 plus years of being a believer and nobody has a monopoly on it. In fact, I find that there’s just a beauty in every expression throughout the church of who Jesus Christ is and how He wants us to express Himself to this world. And so, yeah, I find that really problematic when I hear that. And there’s something you said that I’d like to dive into a little bit. But you’re talking about like these—you didn’t, I don’t think, use the word faces of narcissism but you do in your book. You talk about these nine faces of narcissism. You actually tie it to the whole Enneagram of different personalities. I thought that was fascinating. So I don’t know if we can get through all nine but maybe give us a taste of a few of them.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, well, you know, the Enneagram is really hot nowadays. People are reading all kinds of books on it. And I’ve found it over the years. I was first introduced to it over 20 years ago. So, I found it a helpful tool. It’s only a tool. It’s not the Bible, you know, but I do think that when most people talk about narcissism—and I asked them if they know something about this Enneagram—I ask them, “What’s a classic type of the narcissist?” They’ll talk about the three—who’s the achiever, the person who likes to be on stage, the person who likes to win and be successful. Or they’ll talk about the Enneagram Eight, who tends to be more powerful, and a charge, kind of command and control leader. I want to say what about the Five, the Enneagram Five, who tends to be more quiet and distant, but he’s intellectual? He knows better than you do. And I’ve done plenty of marriage counseling, over the years, where I’ve done counseling with a woman who’s pouring out her heart. And her husband, sitting there taking notes on a yellow pad, writing it all down, you know, he’s up in his head. He’s disconnected, not empathetic. Or what about the Enneagram Six, who I call the hyper vigilant narcissist, who always has to be in control? Who sort of always making sure that everyone knows the rules. You’re either in or out if you’re living according to her rules, you know. And so, what I want to say is that, in the narcissism conversation, let’s not get caught up on simply the definition of narcissism is grandiose. But there’s this more subtle form of vulnerable narcissism, that tends to be more passive aggressive, tends to be more subtle, tends to be more self-pitying, tends to, sort of, it’s almost like snake-like. Like it’s really sinister in its impact in that it draws people in and sort of uses them and spits them out. And that can be a really subtle form of narcissism that might not look like that grandiose, charismatic leader.

JULIE ROYS:  And oddly enough, this person who, you know, can take different expressions, but normally they come across as sometimes feeling superior or very confident. All of these things, that you’re saying in your book, betrays a profound shame and often secret addictions. And so, they’re covering over something, right?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. I think that’s the thing that in my work over the years with narcissists, I’ve come to see like the behind the scenes story, right? And behind the scenes, when you’re dealing with someone who’s narcissistic, there is inevitably some sort experience of shame or insecurity if you can get there. And with narcissistic personality disorder, you rarely if ever get there. But when people are in the narcissistic spectrum, when you get down to it, it’s the bully who was bullied when he was young. And so, you know, there is always a story of shame. And what I like to talk about is it’s like at a very early age, they developed this self-protective wall within—sort of like they woke up at seven years old saying I’m going to develop a wall but sort of subconsciously this wall is put up and they begin living. They’re really hidden from everyone else because they’re scared to be vulnerable, right? And so, they live out of this self-protective strategy. They live from that sort of outward facing side of the wall. And that’s all you see. Sadly, what we don’t see and what they don’t allow us to see, is the vulnerable scared little boy or little girl within. And every now and then, when I’m doing this work, I’ll be working with someone who lets me, I often say, let’s be behind the stage, behind the curtain. And I will get to the story of this little boy, this little girl in a lot of pain. And they’ll say something like, “Chuck, I’m just so scared. If I show who I really am, I’ll be beat up, I’ll be rejected. I won’t be successful. I won’t be able to lead anymore. I can’t do that. I’ve got to show up as my stage self.” You know, and that’s, if they ever allow you to get there—and this is really, really rare—but if they ever allow you to get there, there’s a possibility that we can start doing some work. And we occasionally see people willing to do that, and who, over a long period of time begin to grow, but it takes a long time.

JULIE ROYS:  And I want to just mention that I am giving away five copies of Chuck’s book, When Narcissism Comes to Church. If you’d like to enter to receive one of these books, just go to julieroys.com/giveaway. That’s julieroys.com/giveaway. And also this month, I’m giving away When Narcissism Comes to Church. If you donate to this ministry, any donation of $25 or more to The Roy’s Report, will get a copy of Chuck’s book. And this is how we fund all of the journalistic work that I do and those that I’m able to bring alongside me, sometimes as freelancers, to do this. It’s all through donations. So if you’d like to support this work again, just go to julieroys.com and either slash giveaway if you want to enter the giveaway or there’s a Donate button if you want to donate to this work. Chuck, I love what you said about getting beneath the surface, which normally with a narcissist they never let you do. But you, you know, I’ve talked to an awful lot of people who say they’re incurable. There’s nothing you can do with a narcissist. And honestly, as a Christian, I hear that and I’m just like, how can I really bring that together with what I believe in Christ? If anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creation, the old is gone the new has come. So I mean, I have trouble saying that anyone is beyond the redemptive work of Christ. And you say, no, I’ve seen some success. So tell us about that.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah, this will probably be the more controversial piece of this. But as a Christian, my conviction is that each and every one of us are image bearers. And so, when I sit with someone, even if that person doesn’t have faith in Christ, I’ve got to believe that this is a person made in the image of God. And there’s something about that—that we know the design, they’re made for relationship. They’re made for connection. They’re made to know and be known. They’ve got that deep hunger within but it’s covered by 1000 layers of pain and of self-protective strategies. Now, the reality is that with narcissistic personality disorder, we don’t see much change. And oftentimes what I say is that what I attempt to do is I simply attempt to sort of mitigate damage, you know. I’d like for them to step away from the church, step out of ministry. The problem there is that there’s not a capacity for self-reflection often. I don’t like this language of, “They’re just wicked. And they’ll never ever change.” Some of them step away from ministry. I know a guy who has narcissistic personality disorder that stepped away. It took a lot of work from a bunch of us, but he stepped away. He went into real estate. And I was like okay. He didn’t become a more kind and empathetic person in general, right? But I would say for people on this, the narcissistic spectrum, kind of lower down, narcissistic style or type like we talked about earlier, if there’s a capacity for self-reflection and if they can see how they impact people. In other words, if they can say, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize how I was hurting you, I didn’t realize.” And for that to be really honest, that’s where we can begin to see some change. But, this isn’t quick change. And these turnaround stories, that we hear about often, and I know you’ve been you’ve been a sort of a leader in exposing some of this stuff. But these stories of quick turnarounds that we hear about, I’m always very, very suspicious of. Because if you are narcissistic, even on the spectrum, you’ve got to step away for a significant period of time—be out of any sphere of influence, any form of leadership, and do some really, really hard work. And as in the case of someone I worked with about 15 years ago, it took about 10 years, and then he dipped his toe back in ministry again as an assistant pastor. But it took a long time and a lot of care and a high degree of accountability. And that’s just, you know, there aren’t very many narcissistic pastors willing to go through those trials to get there.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and just recently, James MacDonald returned to the pulpit and announced that he’s coming back. And it was just almost surreal listening to him talk about it. Because he said that the Lord allowed us to be separated from the church that we loved for a lifetime. “It’s a time of intense suffering for us.” I mean, I’m listening to him and it sounds like he’s been victimized by his church, not that he has taken advantage and victimized the people in his church. Which was, in reality, what happened. But this is what I hear from so many people, that talk about these narcissists, that they can hardly ever see how they hurt others– that they’re the victim, not the true victim. They’re unable to see it. And they’re not only unable to admit their sin and repent of it, often they literally can’t see it. Right?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. They can’t see it. And they live in this, what I call “hero-victim-martyr complex”, you know, where they love to play the hero. But they can flip the script and very quickly become the victim and even barter, you know—of these people who are not gracious enough to realize the gifts that God, that he is and God and the fruit of the ministry and all these different kinds of things. And, you know, we were talking about gaslighting, but there are people I’m sure who heard James MacDonald, you know the story well, much better than I do, but they’re likely people who heard him and said, “Oh, I must have been, I wasn’t gracious enough to him. God really is using him.” I’m sure there are masses of people who said, “No, I was just really too hard on him. This has been a hard trial, and I’ve got to be more gracious. It was me not him.” And this is the really—I’m sure it was maddening for you to hear that. This is the maddening part of this.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, you still hear it. I mean, it’s on social media. It’s like, “Oh, we just need to forgive.” And you’re like, forgiveness involves repentance. And there is zero repentance. And, you know, I’m seeing the same thing. This I mean, unfortunately, it’s not you that unique. There’s other pastors. I just heard a podcast done by Mark Driscoll recently. And it was shocking to me. They’re talking about what happened at Mars Hill. And I’m like, this is a complete rewriting of history. He doesn’t mention at all the bullying and abusive behavior that he had in the plagiarism scandal, the deception and none of that. In fact, when they asked him, you know, about some things that had happened again, it sounded like he’s a victim. I mean, I’m listening to him talk about how his corner in the yard and you know, people come by and throw rocks at them and a helicopter goes above their house. And, and the interviewer’s asking, “Well, what happened? What was the cause of this?” And he said, and he actually said it was mostly theological. It was my stance on LGBT. And I’m like, what? What?

JULIE ROYS:  I mean I just—and to him, he said he was just preaching biblical and it’s about his biblical stances he took. I was stunned because if you know the history of Mars Hill, you know that he was actually removed by his elders because of just severe problems with, you know, the way he treated people. And it was about to be, and this is where I think this is so instructive, he was about to be given a plan by his elders, a restoration plan. And that’s when he bolted. And so that’s what I’m seeing happens when you’re saying they need to step away for 10 years or whatever. There needs to be a submission, doesn’t there, to get to the place where you hurt people, not just go someplace else?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. And when we’re talking about narcissistic pastors, we’re often talking about an abuse of power. And that’s really important. Often times these pastors, when they’re painting themselves as a martyr—I know one prominent pastor who had affairs. He said, “You know, kind of, what’s the big deal? God forgives me. I had an affair. I’ve forgiven, let’s move on.” But the reality is, it’s an abuse of power. Those of us in leadership, those of us, particularly in pastoral leadership, are called to a kind of integrity and accountability that others aren’t called to. We’re all called to integrity and accountability, obviously, but as a leader of a flock, as a leader of a large flock, there’s obviously a higher call, right? And so, I think the sad thing about this, guys like Mark or James or others, is exactly what you said earlier. Like forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card. When we wound another or when we wound a flock, there’s reparative work that needs to be done over time. Just as if, you know, a couple, a married couple goes through a really hard season where there was some kind of betrayal. There’s often a kind of work that needs to be done to gain that trust. And to watch some of these folks go from one place to another, and sort of recreate their ministry, and then to point the finger and said, I got a bad rap. You know, I’m the victim here. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote this book. I want us to become really crystal clear about what we’re dealing with so that people can say, “Oh I’m not crazy. This is manipulative. This is gaslighting. I’m clear about it now. And we need to do something about it.”

JULIE ROYS:  Well, lastly, I would like to talk about how a church heals. Because what we’re seeing and actually I talked to somebody just this week, who said, “You know, we’re seeing what some people have predicted that with these mega churches, they only last as long as their pastor and then they’re done.” And so, you have this huge building, this huge system all built up around really a cult of personality and then the guy turns out to be a narcissist.  And you know, damages his church. And he ends up imploding. And now the church is left with this huge hole. And a system that is created around the celebrity pastor. And what do they do at this point? I know there’s an awful lot of people who say, “Well, they should just fold and you know, start independent churches out of it.” And yeah, that is what happened at Mars Hill, in large. But is there a model or is there a way that churches can heal after having a narcissist pastor leave?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Yeah. That’s such a good question. And I think it depends. It depends on how honest they’re willing to be about their own participation and complicity in it. I was working with a very large church a while ago. And I try to make sure when I do this work that I cloud up the details. I get too many emails from people saying you were talking about me. And so I always mix details with my stories, okay? So that people don’t have to send me those emails. But I was working with a large church where the lead pastor was asked to resign after some work of naming the narcissism. And the leadership of the church, at that point, kind of said, well, that’s the problem. Now the problem is gone, and we’ll be okay. So they kind of put a band-aid on it, and they had a couple of congregational meetings and they appointed another leader. And I said, “You guys, there’s so much more work to do. And if you’re willing, let’s engage that work.” But unfortunately, they weren’t willing. The hard part is now they’ve got to get honest about how they participated in the problem. And that honesty—it’s really, really difficult when you’re still licking your own wounds, when you’ve been hurt, you know. I talk about this as below the waterline work. I mean, we put band- aids on big problems above the waterline but when we go below the waterline, we have to start naming things like deeper patterns that existed over time. We need to start talking about how our structures and our systems and our church polity and procedures play a role in this kind of thing, enabling narcissists. We’ve got to talk about mental models. In other words, implicit beliefs about who ought to be up there. As an example of this is at Willow Creek right now. And I think I could say this. They came out with a job description that looks a lot like their previously pastor job description. Which tells me that they’re not doing the hard work of asking, “What about our structures? What about our systems?” What about our implicit beliefs about who a lead pastor is?” One of those needs to change. And that’s really the hard work that takes a lot of time. That, speaking as a consultant, many, many churches don’t want to do that work because it’s just too costly.

JULIE ROYS:  And it’s so hard. You’ve been operating on one paradigm, and you bought into that paradigm and that’s why you’re there. And then when you find out it’s broken, to go back, which is really I think is what needs to happen, is to go back to the drawing board and saying, we need to redo. God, what are you calling us to do and to be? And how did we participate in this? How are we complicit with it? And really have a season of repentance and of healing and of it bringing in outside people. That’s the other thing. It’s like bringing in some people with some objectivity because I don’t think if you’re in the midst of it, you can see it. Can you?

CHUCK DeGROAT:  No you can’t. And that’s the hard thing. Is it’s sort of like you’re in that pot of boiling water. And at some point, you realize this is the scalding me, you know. This is hot. And so, yeah, you actually can’t see it until it starts to burn you. And this is where it does take wise outside investigators, who are trained in understanding these kinds of organizational dynamics, to do the work of truth-telling. And the work that you do often Julie of naming realities that people simply don’t want to name. And that’s hard. It’s painful. But we’ve got to do that work.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I remember when I was first embarking on some of this work, I actually thought the institution I was blowing the whistle on would embrace it, and the leaders would embrace it. And they’d want me to continue investigating what’s going on and really get to the bottom of it. I naively thought that’s what we would do. Because that’s what needed to be done. And unfortunately, it was more about image protection. And then soon I was booted out of that system because I was destroying the image, you know. So I became the problem. But man, it just is something where we needed a great deal of humility, I think, in our churches and in our systems. And we need to be willing to fail, too. That’s the other thing. I see this fear of failure where we’re so afraid of losing what we have that we don’t even ask, “Does God even want it to continue?” And can we just put this on the altar and bring it to the Lord and say, “You know, either heal us and make us healthy, or we don’t want to go forward? Either I go forward or I don’t go forward in it?” It just has become a real problem, not just in institutions, but I think throughout evangelicalism. So thank you, Chuck. I thank you for this book. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. And we just pray that God continues to bless it and increase your ability to help others. So thanks.

CHUCK DeGROAT:  Well, we’re all in this together, right? So grateful for your work and it encourages me that there are a number of us who are working at this from different angles. And so keep it up, Julie. Thank you.

JULIE ROYS:  Thank you, Chuck. And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to julieroys.com. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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How to Identify & Recover from Spiritual Abuse https://julieroys.com/podcast/how-to-identify-recover-from-spiritual-abuse/ Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:20:41 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7505 How to Identify & Recover from Spiritual Abuse Read More »

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Spiritual abuse has become a hot topic as more and more pastors and Christian leaders have been exposed as abusive or toxic. But how do you identify spiritual abuse? And how do you recover from it?

On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss this crucially important topic with Remy Diederich, a pastor and author of Broken Trust: a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse

Remy knows first-hand the pain, confusion, and damage that spiritual abuse inflicts on its victims. And with compassion, he offers helpful steps to help victims know if they’re in an abusive and toxic system, how to break free, and then how to heal. 

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How Ministries Misuse Money https://julieroys.com/podcast/how-ministries-misuse-money/ Tue, 10 Mar 2020 16:30:17 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7396 How Ministries Misuse Money Read More »

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Book-buying schemes, inflated fund-raising claims, & cures for coronavirus! It’s stunning the ways some Christian ministries are falsely raising funds and/or misusing them.

On this episode of The Roys Report, I discuss these kinds of financial shenanigans with Warren Cole Smith, president of MinistryWatch.com—a Christian donor watchdog group. We also explore how the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was formed to protect ministries, not donors—and how the ECFA has failed over the years to hold ministries accountable.

This is a must-listen for anyone who gives money to ministries and wants to ensure that those funds are used properly.

This Weeks Guests

Warren Cole Smith

Warren Cole Smith is President of MinistryWatch.com.  Before joining MinistryWatch, he held leadership positions at The Colson Center for Christian Worldview and WORLD Magazine.  Warren also hosts the weekly podcast “Listening In,” a long-form interview program heard by tens of thousands of subscribers each week.  Before transitioning to a career in ministry 20 years ago, Warren 15 years in the corporate world, including seven years as the Marketing Director for a major division of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global accounting and consulting firm. 

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Karen Swallow Prior & Discerning “Discernment Blogs” https://julieroys.com/podcast/karen-swallow-prior-discerning-discernment-blogs/ Fri, 28 Feb 2020 15:29:49 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7318 Karen Swallow Prior & Discerning “Discernment Blogs” Read More »

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She’s a popular Christian author, speaker, and professor at Liberty University. But according to some bloggers and critics, she’s also a liberal, a feminist, an animal rights activist, and gay-affirming destroyer of the faith!

This week on The Roys Report, I talk with Karen Swallow Prior about what she really believes (she’s none of those things)—and why it’s important for readers to  discern what the “discernment bloggers” are saying. We also talk about spiritual warfare and whether the bus that hit Prior in 2018, after she spoke out about misogyny in her denomination, was a spiritual attack.

I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful conversation and believe you will too!

This Weeks Guests

Karen Swallow Prior

(PhD, SUNY Buffalo) is an award-winning professor of English at Liberty University. She is the author of On Reading Well, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Prior has written for Christianity Today, the Atlantic, the Washington PostFirst Things, VoxThink Christian, and The Gospel Coalition. She is a senior fellow with Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, a senior fellow with The Trinity Forum, and a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  She’s a popular Christian author, speaker and professor at Liberty University and come fall, she’ll become the first ever research professor at the [College at] Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. But she’s also a liberal, a feminist and gay affirming. At least, that’s what some bloggers and critics would have you believe. Well, welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be speaking with Karen swallow prior a fascinating Christian personality, but also a controversial one. And I’m really looking forward to talking with her about her views on some things about smear campaigns. I really think she’s been a target of some very vicious ones, and also delve into some of the issues that she’s passionate about issues like misogyny in the church, gay Christians, and pro-life advocacy. But before I do that, I want to just take a minute to mention the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, a university shaping lives that shape the world and Marquardt of Barrington. And I want to let you know that Judson has just announced its speaker for its next World Leaders Forum, which will be held October 20. At the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. That speaker will be someone who’s seen a bit of controversy himself, General Howell Petraeus. He’s also a four-star general and a former director of the CIA and I know it’s going to be a fascinating event. So, for more information on that, just go to JudsonU.edu. Also, if you’re in the market for a new or used car, I encourage you to check out my friends at MarquardtBuick.com. As I’ve mentioned before, Dan Marquardt is a friend but he’s also a whistleblower. He stood up to power and corruption within the church and he’s someone I can fully recommend without any reservation. If you want a car dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. Just go to MarquardtBuick.com. Well, I am so excited to have Professor and author Karen Swallow Prior with me today and I know she’s just gotten out of class and gotten to on her phone so that she can be with us. So, Karen, welcome such a pleasure to have you.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Thank you, Julie. Boy, that was quite an introduction.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and you have been a lightning rod of sorts, I think because you’re willing to go across the aisle and make friends. And I think that makes you a target. And I know that you and I probably disagree on some issues. But I’m committed as a journalist to representing you fairly on those things. And what I’ve seen is that people don’t always represent you fairly. And so, I wanted to give you a chance to come on. Also, because I love the stuff that you write. I love engaging with you. And I love engaging with people who are very gracious in their engagements. So, I’m really looking forward to this podcast and I hope you are too. So you’re a professor at Liberty University. And that’s a school that’s had some controversy as well. But what I want to talk about is you just recently took this professorship at Southeastern. And when you did, boy, the internet erupted with people saying all sorts of things about you. And I know just this last weekend, we were doing some Facebook interaction and, and someone got on there was a guy by the name of Jordan Hall—does a blog called Pulpit and Pen—and started calling you things that I’m like, well wait a second. That’s not really who I know, Karen to be. And so, again, I would love to talk about some of these things. But why don’t we just start with, you know, a piece that was done a while ago, saying that you’re, for example, a liberal. That you’ve written for Sojourners magazine, and this proves that you’re a liberal. Are you a liberal?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Not by any definition of the word. So no, no. Just asked my liberal friends. I am a theological conservative. I’m a political conservative. Of course, those terms are always understood in context and our relative. I mean, I’m probably not as conservative as some people and more conservative than others. And so, we of course have to understand what the terms mean. But here I am, I’m finishing my 21st year teaching at Liberty University founded by Jerry Falwell who began the Moral Majority. This has been my home. I have always been in Baptist churches. Grew up for the most part Baptist and Southern Baptist. There are so many people out there in my world that would just laugh think that anyone would consider me liberal. Now, do I have some views that people more conservative server than me don’t have? Sure. I do. And I do write for secular, liberal progressive publications. And very intentionally so because I want to take my message to those places and do more than preach to the choirs.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and I think the first time that I talked to you and had you on a radio program, it was my previous program called Up For Debate, and I think we were discussing animal rights. And you happen to be with the humane—was it the Humane Society, I believe? 

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yes. 

JULIE ROYS: And I, you know, I’d done some research on the Humane Society. They spent a lot of money on lobbying and lobbying for causes that you know, as Christians, I’m like, yeah, I’m not sure I really agree with that. And so I kind of, when I read that I thought, well, Karen Swallow Prior is going to be representing this viewpoint where, you know, people just don’t have a distinction between human beings and animals and, you know, not understanding that we’re—as human beings—the pinnacle of creation. Well, then I get to talk to you and I realize, no, you’re a part of the Humane Society for a very targeted sort of strategic reason. So, talk about that. Because I think that’s almost a great just an example of how you do sort of walk this line of trying to befriend somebody that might be a little bit different yet finding some common ground.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Oh, yes. This is actually a great example to use. So I believe in animal welfare, not in animal rights. And I am following a long tradition that began with evangelicals in the early 18th and late 18th, 19th centuries, including William Wilberforce who at the very same time he was working to abolish human slavery, also founded the first society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because the evangelicals of that time understood that being cruel to God’s creatures, needlessly, coarsens in human hearts and leads to other kinds of sins and vices. So they have this sort of holistic view, of stewardship of all of creation. And animal welfare was part of that. And so I had written a number of pieces on that talking about animal welfare as a stewardship issue for Christians. And got the attention of the Humane Society which was just beginning a faith Advisory Council, because it is a very secular worldly organization. But they saw the opportunity to have common ground with people of faith and so yeah, that’s how I became kind acted with them. And it’s a way of just—you put it perfectly—it’s not that I’m in total agreement with everything that they do. But they’re a big umbrella kind of organization, and they wanted to hear from people of faith. Why would I turn them down? And it’s been a really wonderful experience. And I don’t want to share personal stories, but I know that God has used me to help people in that organization, find Him return to Him and grow in Him. And it’s just a huge blessing.

JULIE ROYS:  I think the fear often is that you know, who’s using whom in organizations like that, right? I mean, there’s a concern that sometimes if we come on and we give our credence to what they’re doing, then really, they’re just using us to get to the clientele that follows us, right. Did you ever feel like that might be happening?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I mean, that’s definitely a legitimate concern with any kind of organization that we would partner with. And it’s something to be aware of and be cautious about. But no, I never felt that way. I mean, really, I think it’s the opposite. I mean, they elevated my voice, I think, by supporting my work on evangelicals and animals. And so, it just expanded what for me is this more holistic view of what it means to be a Christian and a good steward of God’s creation. And so, it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, I think.

JULIE ROYS:  Now, I think something that probably made you even more controversial perhaps, is back in 2018, when Paige Patterson and the whole controversy hit about that. And for those of you listening if you’re not familiar with this, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at the time was Paige Patterson who was sort of the leader of this conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. And yet, there were some videos that came out and some audio and it was some of it was shocking, you know of Paige Patterson defending encouraging a wife to stay in a physically abusive marriage because, “hey, it brought her husband to church so it was worth it.” Or calling this 16 year old, “built,” in this sermon illustration that just I mean, I listened to it—just sounded kind of creepy and doing things that were just really inappropriate. Here’s this hero of conservatives in one sense of, you know, the word. I mean, Paige Patterson had stood for inerrancy and brought those things back and at the same time, you’re hearing things that just sound horribly misogynistic. And so, there were conservative women who came forward and said, we’re going to stand against this. And I spoke out against Paige Patterson at the time I thought it was just indefensible stuff that he had said. And yet you did that it was I thought it was courageous to do because you’re a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, you’ve been part of Southern Baptists. You’re here you are at Liberty University, a Southern Baptist school, and yet you’re speaking very boldly on it. Pretty controversial stand yet. It really had an impact. I mean, talk about that, from your perspective, being on the inside and deciding to take a stand what that was like.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, thank you that really was a good recap of those events. And, you know, just to bring a little bit of perspective, more of a perspective where I’m coming from, I mean, when I was growing up, Independent Bible Churches and Baptist churches—the Southern Baptist Convention was too liberal for us. You know, this is a pretty conservative resurgence. And so, I watched myself and my family really come into and be part of the Southern Baptist Convention because of the conservative resurgence, because that reflects our views of inerrancy and gender roles and family and culture. And so, I only knew Paige Patterson really from that background like so many kind of a hero. And so when these video clips and audio clips from the past came out, yes, I was shocked as well. And I just believe that something like that is disqualifying for a leader. And I was approached by someone who was a victim. And because of that, was not in a place to speak out. And I have this platform. I have this visibility and I believe before God, again to go back to stewardship, that I need to steward that well. And so I said, “I will speak up for you and for others. And so I thought I could take a leading role, because I am not a victim. I have some vulnerabilities, obviously with my employment and my connections and so forth. But really, I felt I’m in a place where I can do what others cannot and I’m going to speak up so that’s what I did.

JULIE ROYS:  And as fate would have it, or God’s sovereignty or Satan was against you, I don’t know how you put all those things together, but an awful thing happened. Yet something that you know, well, I’m really curious on your perspective of just how God has even used this event. But on May 23 2018, the same day that then president of Southwestern Baptist, Paige Patterson was asked to step down for these misogynistic statements he had made, you stepped in front of a bus in Nashville, Tennessee, and you were almost killed. And so, you made a statement. You said, “I believe this whole issue about women in the church and the treatment of women and the treatment of minorities, that is such an evil in the church and that those who are speaking out against it are vulnerable to the works of the enemy.” Did you feel like that was the enemy coming against you?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, I am a good Baptist. And I really don’t think and talk about spiritual warfare a lot except with my more charismatic brothers and sisters might do. So, I really do not speak in these terms often. But it felt very bizarre. It felt very mystical and strange. And I don’t mean to say when I talk about spiritual warfare that, “Oh, God is on my side and Satan is on someone else’s side.” It’s not that clear cut. But we know that we are fighting powers and principalities. And that Satan is sowing confusion towards one another and towards God,  and just what we should be doing. And so, it was actually, I had been up all night that night doing interviews, waiting for Southwestern’s decision. Got up that morning, had done some interviews. So this was very much in my mind. I got lost and distracted and that’s when I stepped in front of the bus because I couldn’t find my way. I was turning back to go to my hotel. And you know, I don’t know on this side of heaven, what was happening in the spiritual realm. But I also know that [when] I was released from the hospital, eight days later, I was strapped to a gurney going on medical transport to head back to Virginia. And that’s when someone sent me the news that the board had removed Paige Patterson. And those two coincidences are just seemed like more than coincidence. And what someone told me—I didn’t come up with this myself—I’m too Baptist to think in these terms—but a woman friend of mine who had been attending the same conference, I was there to go to just talked about how all of those broken bones in my body were kind of a symbol for the brokenness of women in the church. And you know, whether that’s what God intended it to be or not, it is that. We can see it that way. And I felt very much like that is how God has been using me in this issue and others. And it’s not easy. And it’s obviously painful in that circumstance. But I just, that’s all I want. If God is using me to reveal things, and to reveal hearts and expose what needs to be exposed. I’m here for it.

JULIE ROYS:  And God has been doing so much in this area. This whole #ChurchToo movement. We’re seeing women who have been victims speaking and people believing them—people in power believing them. And it’s been, you know, honestly, I’ve just been dumbfounded, as I’ve seen, you know, just recently what happened at Willow Creek. And not just what happened with Bill Hybels but more recently with the other co-founder Gilbert Bilezikian and several people alleging sexual misconduct by him. And speaking. And almost immediately the church saying, “Yeah, we believe the victim. And we should have done something years ago.” And so we’re seeing just a real change in the church. And yet at the same time, I just heard recently Paige Patterson starting a new conservative group within the Southern Baptists. I’m like, really, this is who’s going to be leading? You know, a conserv . . .  really? What is that conservative group about really? Do you know much about this?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I don’t know more than what’s been on Twitter and Social Media. So, I don’t. I just, it is an opportunity. Again, I think the lines are being drawn more clearly. And it’s hard and painful to see it. But it’s also I think, a blessing because we can see, again, hearts are being revealed. And God is dealing with us and we have to choose sides, I guess. And we need his wisdom and discernment more than ever.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I mentioned this at the top and we’ve been talking about a couple, a few other things, but I want to come back to it. And that is some of the stuff that is being put out by so called discernment bloggers. And last weekend, I was on Facebook and happened to have written a story about Mark MacArthur who’s the son of John MacArthur—a member of the board of his Dad’s radio ministry Grace to You. Well, this Mark MacArthur just got charged by the SEC for fraud. And it’s a major story. We were talking about it on Facebook. Someone gets on there. I mentioned his name before, Jordan Hall, and somebody had mentioned on Facebook that MacArthur’s Masters University has been put on probation by its accreditor. And Jordan Hall responded, “MacArthur made a menopausal feminist accreditation hack angry and got dinged for it. It’s hardly a controversy.” And I was just, my breath was taken away. I’m like, “You did not just say that. You did not just say that.” This is a pastor and a blogger. And he’s calling somebody—well he’s deriding somebody for being biologically female by calling her menopausal. And so I said something about it. I was like, “That’s not okay. You can’t cut people down just because they’re biologically female.” And then he came back at me and deriding me as a feminist, which you’ve read my book, Karen. I mean, “a feminist?” I mean, there’s a lot of feminist Christians who are angry with me for some of the things I write, but I’ve never been called a feminist before. It was just so shocking. He wrote, “You’ve basically become a poor man’s feminist, liberal version of Janet Mefford. It’s been sad to watch your woke rebirth from afar.” And I said to my husband, I said, “Neal, watch, he’s gonna write a hit piece on me.” I’ve never had a hit piece before. This was kind of a new—I’ve had a lot of people mad at me for what I write. I get that. Because I report on things that people would rather not hear. But I’ve never been called, you know, I’ve never had a hit piece that just I mean, I read it and it was calling my journalistic integrity into question simply because I called Wade Burleson a, I think I called him a “Southern Baptist insider.” We can argue whether he’s a Southern Baptists insider. He’s been a pastor and a Southern Baptist Church for 28 years, was on a missions board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He may be on the outs more now, but he still gets contacts and he still gets me information. So, he seems to be. But that and calling me a feminist, and I’m like, “Really?” This is the most disingenuous post I’ve ever seen. I was just I mean, my breath was taken away. I was just like, this is ridiculous. It’s just not true. It’s a mischaracterization. This is my thing with being a journalist. I report on a lot of people I disagree with. But my goal is always if they read my piece, I want them to say when they read how I’ve represented them for them to say, “Yeah, that’s really what I believe.” And then we can argue whether or not that’s the right belief or not. But to misrepresent, that’s what really bothers me. And so, I want to look at a piece that was done about you. And you know what, I don’t have the date on this. This was put out a couple of years ago. It was 2015 right? This was the first time this was done on you. 2015. And in it, it says okay, it has a lot of things we mentioned. You know whether or not you’re liberal because you write for Sojourners magazine but let me look. I just want to even just dig into some of these things. So, it was said here that you did a glowing book review of Loving My LGBT Neighbor for Christianity Today that says, “The LGBT movement is much like the Christian community, in that it draws from diverse backgrounds and moral beliefs.” That’s a quote from you. In the article, Swallow Prior lauds the author for being or for arguing for nuanced positions of LGBT questions and, “a sympathetic portrayal of same sex attraction. For example, Swallow Prior writes, ‘The book also addresses some trickier issues with wisdom, humility and generosity. For example, Stanton’s call to accommodate transgender persons in their use of public restrooms is as commonsensical as it is refreshing.’” Now, you and I might disagree about that. I do want to say, Glenn Stanton is with Focus on the Family. He is not a liberal at all. I mean, if I were reading this and I didn’t know better, I would say, “Oh, that Glenn Stanton, that Loving My LGBT Neighbor. That sounds like a liberal book.” It’s not. Glenn Stanton actually has—I know Glenn a little bit. And he has a very orthodox view on this.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: But and the article doesn’t mention what Stanton’s solution was. The solution, the accommodation he was asking for is single stall bathrooms for everyone.

JULIE ROYS:  So, he’s not, And what else it sound like is he’s for transgender men going in, you know, the opposite gender bathroom, right?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. So, someone else did a follow up blog too, because he couldn’t believe that Stanton and I would support what it sounded like. Because that’s what he was calling for. That was his accommodation which I even before the transgender issue, I always thought that, you know, single stall bathrooms would be my preference anyway, so.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and so let’s go over some of these other things. Because one of the things I’d like to do, I think, as we go through some of these is to help people become discerning consumers of the news. Because we do have—I  really actually hate the term fake news because I think it’s so abused as just, you know, it’s a derogatory term we use whenever somebody publishes something we don’t like, we call it fake news, right? But there is so much out there on the internet that may be true, may be false. And so, I want to go through this. And I want people to see how things are done. And I also want you to give you an opportunity to respond to some of these things. The Atlantic, he writes that the Atlantic ran an article entitled Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University, and alleged that Liberty University has backed away from its vocal opposition to gay marriage. As he came out he lists Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty—this is the author of the article—as one who was sympathetic and supportive of his decision. I sensed, at least this was my sense reading it, that that you were wanting to love people who identified as gay at Liberty yet. Would you say liberty is becoming, is dropping its vocal opposition to gay marriage?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, it’s not. Not gay marriage or homosexual behavior. We still have the same Code of Conduct rules that have always been in place. So, I really have no idea where that charge comes from at all. So.

JULIE ROYS:  And yet, you’re friends with the author who wrote a piece that was quite critical of Jerry Falwell Jr. You’re friends with him, you know him. And he is openly gay. Why? Why do you have friends like that? Why do you associate with people like that?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, this particular person was a student of mine, here at Liberty. And that was the piece that he wrote long ago that that article refers to—when he was here as a student at Liberty—and was gay. And I was one of the first adults that he told. And I referred him to a counselor here on campus who holds to a biblical view of sexuality and who counseled the student and over the years. He tried to not be gay, but then decided to be gay, just as you know, it’s a long, complicated history. And he knows that I disagree with him. You knows that I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. But he also knows that I love him and he’s a person in my life who I keep in my life. And he has no doubt about either one of those things, what my beliefs about sexuality are, and that I love him.

JULIE ROYS:  I have a friend like that. Brandon Robertson. He was a Moody graduate. And I remember being at National Religious Broadcasters convention and seeing him. He was on a panel and I just felt sorry for him. He’s like, 200-some. And he’s up there in what seemed like a pretty hostile environment. And they came at him pretty strong. And I remember afterwards, I just came up to him, and I’m like, “I’m so sorry.” Because I just didn’t feel it was hospitable the way he was treated. I disagree with Brandon. I really do. My heart breaks for him. Because I think he’s making a choice that will be for his own destruction, Yet I love Brandon. I care about Brandon. And I just, I remember when I just said that to him, he gave me this huge hug. And we ended up praying together. And we’ve since gotten together numerous times for coffee. When we’re at similar conferences. We don’t live in the same city or anything. But, you know, even to this day, if I reach out to him, he’ll always respond. He’s always gracious and kind and I care about him. And I think it’s important that we care about people and yet, what I see happening with you here, you attended, it looks like an LGBT Film Festival. You got your picture taken with a lot of people who identify as gay and what was said about you as a result?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, the irony of that is that that film festival was sponsored by an organization called Level Ground, which seeks to bring together different people at different faith backgrounds. It’s primarily Christian, but some who are affirming of the homosexual behavior and others who aren’t. And they invited me specifically to come—twice—to come and share the traditional biblical sexual ethic. And they have a difficult time finding people who will. So I came. And I was there to present that biblical view. And yet that part of the story is not shared. It’s just the picture as though I’m there approving that. Of course, I love these people and I, you know, and I’m there to enjoy the event. I was always there to do this specific thing. And I did. I’ve been twice. And others won’t go, but I will.

JULIE ROYS:  And I can understand those who won’t go, I don’t know if I go, you know? I just sit there and think, “Oh, boy, I cannot be partners with them. Do I agree with what they’re doing?” And I can certainly understand those. And I might put myself in that group who would say I think what they’re doing is destructive. I don’t I think it’s helpful. I’m not going to be a part of it. At the same time,

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: I can respect that. Yeah. 

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. I mean, and we can have that conversation. “Is that really a healthy thing to do?” Because, I mean, “Either you’re for me or you’re against me.” And what? Are they for Jesus? And what they’re doing, does it help to be there? But here’s what I really don’t like. And I see this a ton with discernment blogs, is they get a picture of people together. And then they say—this is just, to me, it’s the biggest leap of logic—, “because so and so is in a picture with so and so, they must endorse everything that this person believes.” I mean, where do we get that? That is just the worst journalism possible. And yet people are getting away with it. And it’s not okay. When you see those pictures, I wish people would say, “Okay does this person really endorse him? Is that why they’re there?” And here’s a really, really radical idea. How about reaching out to that person and asking for their comment on why they were there and hearing their point of view? Has anybody from you know, some of these blogs that have been so vitriolic against you, have they ever reached out and tried to have a conversation with you?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: At one point, I believe that particular blog did. There was a claim that they called my office and that there was no message. But at that point, I probably would not have spoken to in anyway because it’s very clear to me, without getting into all the details, that I am being lied about intentionally and misrepresented. And that’s what’s not excusable. I mean, clearly, we can agree on whether we should go to this event or partner with this organization. Those are legitimate areas of disagreement. But what cannot ever happen is for intentional misrepresentation to take place. And that is what’s happening. And who that really hurts is not so much me although, you know, it does sometimes hurt, but it hurts the people who are being misled and who are believing things about the world and about the church and the state of things that are not true. That’s very, very grievous.

JULIE ROYS:  While we’re on the topic of LGBT issues, I do want to ask you about Revoice. This is a conference where you’ve also spoken, where you’ve endorsed. And one where quite frankly, we disagree. We’ve disagreed on this. I don’t know if we disagreed openly on Facebook or whether we’ve, whether that’s been in private message. I can’t remember. But I know we’ve discussed it. And yet, we can disagree agreeably on this. I don’t think because you showed up at Revoice that you are necessarily endorsing everything at Revoice. But If you would, I mean, I don’t want to state what the conference you are there. I’ve only seen what’s what’s been written about it. I’ve never attended one. What is the purpose of Revoice?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, well, just one minor correction. I didn’t attend the conference. Before the conference was being organized . . .

JULIE ROYS:  You didn’t speak?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No.

JULIE ROYS:  My bad. Okay.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, I just had an endorsement of the conference. I am friends with the main organizer and a couple of the other organizers. They are Southern, fellow Southern Baptists, who believe in the traditional biblical sexual ethic. They have same-sex attraction. In one case, he is married to a woman and they have children. He’s still open and honest about his same-sex attraction. Another friend who has helped to organize it is single and celibate. And the mission of the organization—and I’m just paraphrasing—but the mission is to help those who are same-sex attracted to live out the traditional biblical sexual ethic, whether in biblical marriage or in singleness. Now the difference, the thing that people have trouble with—and I understand this is an area of disagreement—is that these people have not abandoned the labels. They are open about their struggle. They in some cases have just simply—God has not removed that struggle from them. He does sometimes and sometimes it takes longer. Or sometimes that struggle will always be there. And so, they are open and honest about their attraction and their struggle. Yet they want to be and to help others adhere to the biblical sexual ethic. And so, I am in support of that mission. So, I offered an endorsement of the conference. I had a time to go on their website. And I think they’ve had two different conferences. And the first one did not require the speakers to be in support of the biblical sexual ethic. So, they had some different speakers there of different views. And I believe in the second one, or the one coming up, they have made that requirement, because they’re learning. And, again, it’s a mission that I support. I think that the conference and the organization has had some growing and some learning to do. But the mission has remained the same and that’s one that I still believe that we need to help our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters live biblically faithful lives. And there is no one size fits all for all of them in that struggle. And the church needs so much more conversation in that area. And they are going to make mistakes. We are all going to make mistakes. And we’ve made mistakes in the past. I’ve known so many Christians who had this struggle. And in previous decades, the approach was to be quiet about it, pretend otherwise, get married, don’t tell anyone. And I’ve seen that backfire so many times that I’m willing to take the risk to support my brothers and sisters who are trying a different way but still want to be faithful.

JULIE ROYS:  By the way, I want to mention, the Illinois Family Institute is having a worldview event. I promised them I would mention this. But it’s coming up March 7. Saturday, March 7 10am, to 3:30pm at the Village Church of Barrington, Illinois. If you’re listening and you’re in the Chicago area, I encourage you to go to this. Dr. Michael Brown, who is a leading apologist has written some books about this actual issue and also answering your toughest questions. Always a great radio interview, by the way. And Dr. Robert Gagnon who’s a professor of New Testament theology at Houston Baptist University. He’s going to be there. So if you’re interested in that, I really encourage you go to IllinoisFamily.org and find out about that event. But speaking of same-sex attraction, gay identity, the one problem I had with that conference—is what you mentioned—is about embracing gay identity. And I feel like there’s a there’s a—what did I call it? It’s almost like just despair that God can do anything about that. And that it’s okay to embrace this identity that seems rooted in our, our sinfulness. And my passion in this area is—because I go to a church that has dozens of people, literally dozens of people that have come out of that. And have come out of it for 20, 30 years. Is it a place where they can’t talk about it? Now, actually, it’s a place where they can talk about it and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s fine. You know, we have other people that had that that struggle too.” The taboo is gone. And I love that. I feel like it’s one of the most healthy environments. But it’s also a place where there’s faith for transformation. Now, does that mean that God’s gonna make you straight? You know, that’s where I feel like when we’re talking about mischaracterizing people, I feel like the whole entire community that believes in transformation gets painted as, “pray the gay away.” Right?” And that’s not them. I’ve been to Restored Hope Network’s conference. And I’ve spoken at the conference. And this is a group that believes in transformation. But it is anything but, “pray the gay away.” I mean, these are people that live with the reality of how difficult this struggle is and yet have seen people transformed over time. And you know, the degree of that transformation is different in different people and but we have to believe in God’s ability to change, don’t we? I mean, isn’t that as Christians we have to say . . .

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Oh. Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think that, yeah, I don’t think that the people in Revoice necessarily don’t agree with that. I think they’re mischaracterized a great deal too. Now there are some of the presenters at that original conference that definitely were problematic. And I would have very different views. But in terms of the mission and the organizers of the event, I think that they have been mischaracterized. And I don’t think that they embrace this identity. That’s language that their critics use, not that they use.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, what I would love to see, I would love to see Revoice invite some of these people from say Restored Hope Network that believe in transformation strongly. I wish, I would love to see a conference where these two sides come together and really debate it and talk about it. Because I think there are different camps and they’re nuanced. And I think they often don’t get characterized as nuanced. But I would love to see some healthy debate and these different sides brought together. That’s just my two cents on that one. But . . .

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No, I think that’s a great idea, Julie. I think that that could happen. And I think the biggest obstacle to things like that happening is the kind of attacks and mischaracterizations that make people afraid and vulnerable when they shouldn’t be because we’re having honest discussions about these things. And that’s why I’m having this conversation with you. I think it’s so important. Because there’s plenty of room for Christians to disagree with one another. But what I’m seeing happening more and more is that we actually don’t even know what we disagree about because there’s so much misrepresentation, mischaracterization going on, whether intentional or not. But that’s what we’ve got to get past.

JULIE ROYS:  Agreed. Well, I wanted to get to one of the accusations against you which is—and this one floors me. Because I do know a little bit of your background. I want you to talk about your background with this issue. But you’re extremely pro-life. And this is something that you’re passionate about. And yet, because you wrote I guess at one-point you talked about a certain person’s book as “refreshing and hopeful.” And he’s pro-choice. And you said abortion is “radically complex, and there’s no conservative position or liberal position.” I’m not really sure what you meant by that, but I want to give you a chance to explain it. But then it was kind of said that you’re not really pro-life. How do you respond to that?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah, I don’t know what either of those quotes or books are talking about. They may be distorted, or misrepresenting. I don’t know. I think the first one was a book by a pro-life person, actually, who was writing about pro-choice people. So no, I can’t explain. It was it was it

JULIE ROYS:  It was Charles, I don’t know this guy.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Charles Camosy. Yeah, he’s very pro-life. He’s Catholic. He’s very pro-life. But he wrote a book looking for common ground between pro-life and pro-choice as a pro-lifer. Okay, so because he was doing that, somehow that’s compromise. No, I am very pro-life. I stood outside abortion clinics as a sidewalk counselor for 10 years and I was arrested a few times for doing that as well as for sitting in. This is all in the late 80s, early 90s. In my previous city, I’ve served as a volunteer in crisis pregnancy centers for years, I served on the board of directors. I’m a faculty advisor for the pro-life student club here at Liberty University. I write frequently on abortion. I tend to be compassionate about it and I’ve done post abortion counseling with women at crisis pregnancy centers. And so I don’t know what to say about that other than it’s just this complete misrepresentation. And I don’t know why. But again the result is that it is confusing people and sowing needless confusion and chaos within the church. Because people who are not doing their due diligence and checking out the facts are just simply believing that that the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is being overrun by people who don’t share beliefs when we do.

JULIE ROYS: And you’ve been—I know you’re a part or you were a research fellow. Are you still a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: No. I resigned last year

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And but I’m guessing you’re resigned amicably?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Yeah. We we basically have some different strategic approaches to issues and so we’ve just, yeah, parted ways. But I love the work of the ERLC. And actually, that is, to be completely honest, it was becoming a fellow with the ERLC that put me on the radar for these discernment blogs. And that was something I walked into not really knowing that the ERLC is viewed as liberal by some Southern Baptists. And so, their attempt to attack me was really an attempt to attack the ERLC, which is, again, very grievous.

JULIE ROYS:  And that’s headed by Russell Moore, who was an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. I haven’t heard him be as critical—because I mean, he got so much backlash. I haven’t heard him be so critical, although I think things he said beforehand, some of them needed to be said, And you know, we can disagree about whether that means you still vote for Trump or not. But he’s been outspoken on that. But, you know, his social justice issues, I think some people would say ERLC has been pushing more of a liberal agenda with that. Do you think that’s fair or not?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well again, we kind of go back to the beginning of our conversation where these terms liberal and conservative, really only have meaning when it who’s to the left of me and who’s to the right of me, right? Because they don’t, they’re not really tied to very objective absolute definitions. And I think we’re living in a time where some of the old categories and the old systems are falling away. And that is a good and beautiful thing because we have inherited a cultural Christianity, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, if I can say that. I mean, every denomination has but there are certain cultural traditions, history and baggage that comes with our denomination just like with any other. And we’re living in a time in history where some of those are falling away and most of us are striving to see the biblical truth apart from our culture. It’s very hard. It’s been hard for every generation and every part of the world. We’re living through a particular moment. And so we would say, I think we could say that the categories of liberal and conservative Republican and Democrat that was true in the second half of the 20th century are not true now. And we all need to—and we’re not going to do this in total agreement—but we all need to get past the partisanship, past the political parties, past liberal conservative labels that are tied to American political culture and not biblical Christianity. And we need to find that consistent thread of biblical Christianity no matter which party or which side it falls on. Because that’s the thread that we need to follow and our culture does not match up. It never has, it never will. But for far too long, we have been making our allegiance based on these cultural categories.

JULIE ROYS:  Amen. Let me just ask you this. We’re running out of our time together, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But as Christians who represent Jesus in this current cultural era, and I think especially with the divisions within the church, how can we, as ambassadors for Christ, reach out and how can we really address those within the church? Who might disagree with us? What advice would you have?

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Wow, I mean, so much of this does take place on social media. And that that caused more harm than good, I think. But it is a mission field and it can be used for good. So I just urge every Christian who’s on social media to act on social media the way you would in person. Don’t say something on social media that you would not say to them in person. And if you are in person, and you have a question, or you don’t understand something that’s been said, you would say, “Oh, I don’t understand. Can you explain more?” We need to do more and more of that. We need to not believe every source that we see whether you know, I mean, we don’t believe CNN, or the New York Times, is giving us the entire truth or an unbiased perspective. Well, neither should we assume that the discernment blogs are doing that. We need to go back to the original sources. We need to not believe a picture or a meme or quote that might be taken out of context, but we have to be circumspect and sometimes we just have to be a little bit skeptical too. And the verse that just kept coming to me, as we were talking, Julie about all these issues, is one of my favorites is from the book of Zechariah. And it’s in chapter eight. “Speak the truth to one another. Render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your heart against one another. And love no false oath. For all these things I hate declares the Lord.” That verse covers so much of what we’ve been talking about this hour. 

JULIE ROYS:  You know, and I think in the New Testament, when it says to always have an answer for the hope that you have within you, but do that with gentleness and respect. And if we’re supposed to treat non-Christians with gentleness and respect, how much more within the church should we be treating each other with that kind of respect that we want to be treated? It’s the Golden Rule right. Treat one another with that assuming the best. At the same time, there’s a time to be prophetic. There’s a time to speak out, there’s a time—and I will say, I love social media, because with the investigations I’ve done, and just seeing the change that comes as a result of people having power to speak. And I think that’s what social media has given the public, a place to speak, who don’t have platforms who aren’t, you know, the gatekeepers, and they get to speak and so, I love that, but we still need to do it with gentleness and respect. So, Karen, you’re somebody who does that extremely well. I appreciate you. And I appreciate talking. And I wish we—I would love to do it more. Talking about things on that we disagree about but doing it in a way that hopefully brings more light than heat. So, thank you, and thank you for your ministry and what you’re doing and just really Blessings to you as you go to Southeastern next year.

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR Ph.D.: Well, thank you, Julie. I so appreciate your work. It is an honor to be talking with you on your program.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, well thank you. And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com Hope you have a great day and God bless.

 

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So. Baptist Insider Accuses Denomination of Abusing Power & Silencing Women https://julieroys.com/podcast/so-baptist-insider-accuses-denomination-of-abusing-power-silencing-women/ Fri, 21 Feb 2020 17:26:35 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7214 So. Baptist Insider Accuses Denomination of Abusing Power & Silencing Women Read More »

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The largest Protestant denomination in the country, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is facing allegations of back-door meetings, heavy-handed power-plays, silencing women, and trying to remove critics of President Donald Trump —all while responding to a massive sex abuse scandal. 

This week on The Roys Report, Southern Baptist Pastor and longtime SBC insider, Wade Burleson, speaks with me about what’s happening behind the scenes within the denomination. Specifically, he talks about the refusal of the SBC Executive Committee to rent space for the upcoming SBC Pastor’s Conference if the conference keeps a female spoken word artist on the program. We also talk about the Executive Committee’s recent decision to commission a task force to scrutinize an SBC group whose leader has openly criticized Donald Trump.

All this, and a disturbing story of how Burleson urged the SBC more than a decade ago to track sexual predators, but the leadership refused—this week on The Roys Report.

This Weeks Guests

Wade Burleson

Wade Burleson has been the lead pastor of Emmanuel Enid for 28 years. He is an author of several books, and writes regularly on his award-winning blog called Istoria Ministries. Wade and his wife of 37 years, Dr. Rachelle Burleson, have four kids and 3 grandkids. He has served two terms as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and held many positions within the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Acts 29 & Bullying In The Church https://julieroys.com/podcast/acts-29-bullying-in-the-church/ Sat, 15 Feb 2020 14:29:07 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7161 Acts 29 & Bullying In The Church Read More »

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Last week, the church planting network, Acts 29, fired its CEO, Steve Timmis, for allegations of abuse and bullying. But now, there’s evidence that Acts 29 President, Matt Chandler, knew about Timmis’ abuse five years ago. But instead of dealing with it, he and the board fired the whistleblowers!

In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie Roys talks about what happened at Acts 29 with Stephen McAlpine, an Australian pastor and popular blogger who helped bring Timmis’ alleged abuse to light. But the two also look at the larger issue of spiritual abuse and bullying in the church. And Julie airs some shocking audio from both Chandler and Acts 29 founder, Mark Driscoll, revealing abusive attitudes dating back almost a decade. 

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Abortion Survivor Tells Her Story https://julieroys.com/podcast/abortion-survivor-tells-her-story/ Mon, 10 Feb 2020 21:42:19 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=7111 Abortion Survivor Tells Her Story Read More »

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Melissa Ohden is someone pro-choice activists would like to ignore. Ohden miraculously survived a saline abortion in 1977. And in a new, controversial ad, she and other abortion survivors ask, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me I shouldn’t exist?” 

In this latest episode of The Roys Report, Ohden shares her amazing story of survival. She also talks about the battle to change Americans’ hearts and minds about abortion, and the work she does with The Abortion Survivors Network and Faces of Choice. 

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Sex Abuse Victim of Willow Creek Co-Founder Speaks https://julieroys.com/podcast/sex-abuse-victim-of-willow-creek-co-founder-speaks/ Fri, 31 Jan 2020 17:11:59 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6943 Sex Abuse Victim of Willow Creek Co-Founder Speaks Read More »

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Ann Lindberg went public with her story of abuse by Willow Creek Community Church co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, less than a week ago. And since then, there’s been a firestorm of controversy surrounding her allegations and how the church handled them. This week on the The Roys Report, Ann shares vulnerably with Julie Roys about her harrowing story, which began 35 years ago.

She talks about how Willow Creek’s failure to protect her and to restrict Bilezikian after she reported the abuse severely damaged both her emotional and physical health. And she responds to questions about how she could have stayed in a relationship for years with an abuser, sharing openly about the deficits from her childhood that made her vulnerable to abuse. 

Note from Julie: In the podcast, I refer at one point to Bilezikian’s relationship with Ann Lindberg as an “emotional affair.” I realize now that was a bad choice of words because “affair” suggests a relationship between two consenting adults and misses the power differential present between a pastor and a parishioner. I’m really sorry about that and hope it doesn’t add to the shame any victim who hears this podcast feels. As Ann expressed, I also pray that this interview brings healing and understanding to other victims.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  Why would someone sexually abused by a spiritual authority stay quiet and why would a person ever stay in a relationship with someone who’s abusing her? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today’s podcast is brought to you in part by Judson University, a university shaping lives that shape the world. Well, today I’m going to be discussing a very sensitive subject. Yet sadly, a subject that recently has grabbed headlines and that is sexual abuse in the church. But more specifically, we’re going to be discussing the abuse that my guest today says she endured by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church. He’s also a professor of New Testament emeritus at Wheaton College, where he taught for 20 years. In fact, when I was a student at Wheaton College, I actually had Dr. Bilezikian he can for a class he was also known as Dr. B. That was back in the mid 80s, also when my guest today got to know Dr. B. And I remember back then he had a reputation for being a flirt. Everyone knew it. In fact, I reached out to my sister who also was a student. And she texts me back and she said she remembers Dr. B. She remembers the saying that if you wanted in a you sit in the front row, and you wear a short skirt. Friends, this was at Wheaton College. This was at the evangelical flagship school as a lot of people call it. But what everyone said was, “Oh, he’s French.” And somehow that excused his behavior. And I’ll be honest, I was super naive back then. I never would have thought that a spiritual authority a professor, a leader in the church could ever prey on unsuspecting students or members of a congregation. That thought just would not have entered my mind. If that’s what my guest today says Dr. B did to her. Her name is Anne Lindberg. And just a few days ago, Ann posted her story of abuse on Facebook, which started 35 years ago and she reported to the church 10 years ago. Up until this week, there’s been no public admission of any wrongdoing. Dr. B has continued to mentor and teach at Willow Creek. He was honored at the church’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2015 as the Living Legend of Willow Creek. Until 2008 teen the cafe at Willow Creek was actually named Dr. B’s but wow have things changed in a very short period of time. Just two days after Ann posted her account on Facebook. And then I and another blogger, Julie Ann, we re-posted to our blogs. Acting senior pastor Steve Gillen sent an email to staff at Willow Creek. In it he said that the church believes Dr. be engaged in, “inappropriate behavior.” And the harm that he has caused, “was inexcusable.” The next day Willow Creek elders published a statement which, was sent to congregants. It stated that the church is heartbroken over the abuse of a congregant by a church co founder Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian. The elders said that the victim came to them told them about it 10 years ago, and they believed her. The abuse included but was not limited to, “hugs kissing, inappropriate touching and sending overly personal communication.” At that time, the church said it restricted busy came from serving but “the restriction was not adequately communicated, resulting in Dr. Bilezikian serving and teaching in various capacities over the years.” Wow. So and welcome and thank you so much for coming in. You must be exhausted after this week.

ANN LINDBERG: Thank you, Julie. This isn’t a position I ever thought that I would find myself in. And I had to think about it a long time and I didn’t realize how much the secrets weighed on my conscience and on my health. And the only reason I decided to come forward was for the sake of other people, because I was fairly sure that I wasn’t alone. And in that fact, I wish I’d spoken earlier. But I’m here for the people who haven’t had therapy since 1987. And I’m here for those who are still hurting, and still broken and still afraid and afraid to tell anyone. And so I want there to be something out of what I’ve gone through and just stand in front for those people.

JULIE ROYS:  We started talking and corresponding months ago.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  And I know your story again, goes back years but could you have even imagined I mean, when you posted on Facebook and I didn’t even know you were going to do it, I saw it go up and then you sent me a private message and alerted me. But I didn’t know you’re going to do it. You You did that. mean one that took some guts. What made you do it now to go public? And what did you think was going to happen?

ANN LINDBERG: Well, I really thought about it back in 2018 when I met with Manya Brachear of the Tribune, but I just wasn’t ready then. I hadn’t gone through all of my journals.

JULIE ROYS:  And Manya, by the way, was the reporter who first broke the stories of the women who said they had been abused by Bill Hybels.

ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

JULIE ROYS:  Former senior pastor at Willow Creek.

ANN LINDBERG: Correct. Yes. And she left the Tribune before I was able to get all my information together. So I sat with that for a while. And it took me a year of going through 35 years of journals and emails and finding postcards and things like that, to write it. And it was a brutal year writing it. But my health is so much better than it’s been in years. So what finally made me I had been waiting for a go from God. And I didn’t know what it would look like or sound like. But I was listening to a sermon, and the person was talking about when it’s time to express your anger and not. And there was a line in there. And he said, “Sometimes it’s time for the whip.” And he talked about Jesus clearing out the money changers. And . . . I don’t hear God’s voice. But I heard “Go.” And so I thought, “Now? Now it’s time to go?” And so that was about two or three weeks ago. And so that’s when I started trying to reduce 57 pages to an article that people would actually read.

JULIE ROYS:  You said 57 pages that ended up being 3000 words. Which again, I posted to my blog, Julie Anne with The Spiritual Sounding Board, she posted to her blog. The word of it spread so fast. And and then Willow Creek responded. But for all these years, my goodness, no one was responding.

ANN LINDBERG: No.

JULIE ROYS:  And I know for you that took a toll on your health, right?

ANN LINDBERG: Oh, it was horrible. Everything from breast cancer to a stroke to a nodule in my lung to vocal cords disorder, damaged nerve endings. And my doctors told me it’s all from the stress. And in fact, one of my doctors said that every time I go to Willow, it’s like, ingesting poison and being re-traumatized. And I know that every week I shake every week that I go. But I’ve gone because I loved Willow, and I didn’t want to give up on the people of Willow.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So you’re still going to Willow Creek?

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. I don’t know, though that they’ll let me in.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, you have heard some communication, Jeff Mason an elder, did reach out to you.

ANN LINDBERG: Well, yes. But . . .

JULIE ROYS:  And this was, which night was this? This was Tuesday night, he reached out, right?

ANN LINDBERG: Tuesday night, yes.

JULIE ROYS:  Where they published their statement.

ANN LINDBERG: And it was, he asked me a couple quick questions. I refused to do it except on a recorded phone call. So I called him back. But then he was ready to get off the phone. And I said, I have a couple questions for you. And so I wanted to know if it was finally, if Steve’s response meant and his calling me meant that the victims who have already come forward about Bill Hybels would finally have their chance to speak at Willow.

JULIE ROYS:  You meant Jeff, not Steve.

ANN LINDBERG: I’m sorry, Jeff. Yes, Jeff. And if Steve would finally have his day in and just speak.

JULIE ROYS:  And when you say, Steve, you mean . . .

ANN LINDBERG: Steve Carter.

JULIE ROYS:  Steve Carter. Yes, former pastor who resigned in 2018 over the way that Willow Creek handled the women the victims of Bill Hybels.

ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. So you confronted him for that.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And the elder told me that they were thinking about that and considering that and can I say what happened after that?

JULIE ROYS:  Sure,

ANN LINDBERG: Okay. Well, I texted Steve Carter to say, “Guess what? They said they’re considering letting you speak.” And he responded back saying that actually he had talked with the gentleman that morning and they had told him, “Absolutely not.” So I just felt disheartened to get in another phone call with being told something that apparently wasn’t true again.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. And Steve’s wife Sarah has tweeted. I saved the tweet where she said they have spent $20,000 in legal fees trying to disentangle themselves from the church without signing an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement, which a lot of employees at Willow have done just to get the severance because it’s the only way they can, supposedly, I mean, this is the story that they’re telling. But good for you for asking for that, at least. During that conversation, any apology?

ANN LINDBERG: Well, he said, “On behalf Half of the elder board, we’re sorry for what happened to you.” That was pretty much it. No, not really an apology. Certainly not an “I’m sorry.” One of those vague apologies that Willow likes to do.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So why did he call exactly?

ANN LINDBERG: I’m not completely sir I’ve maybe to feel out where I was on it or do damage control or hope I’d say everything’s fine or something like that. He got off [not transcribed.] But when I told him I was recorded line he got off as fast as he could.

JULIE ROYS:  Sure. By the way, I’ve reached out to Jeff Mason, the elder board, Steve Gillen, the acting senior pastor at Willow Creek. I’ve reached out to everybody that you named in your story. Some of them have responded. If you want to read an story. I did post it JulieRoys.com. You can read the entire account. You can also read the stories as they’ve been breaking and the responses. I also reached out to Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian. At first he said that he would meet with me and interview with me along with his wife. And then after the account came out that Willow Creek was saying they believed you, then he said he didn’t want to meet anymore. And he retracted that, although he said he was postponing, I think till end of February. But we’ll see. And the offer’s still open. I would be happy to talk to him. But what I’d like you to do is take us back. I know,

ANN LINDBERG: Please.

JULIE ROYS:  I don’t want to say everything. Obviously, we can’t recount everything that’s happened in 35 years. But help people understand. Because I’ve talked to a lot of abuse victims. And especially when they’re victimized by a spiritual authority. How did you get drawn into this with Dr. B? How did it start and what was it in you that drew you to him?

ANN LINDBERG: I’d already been through a tremendous amount of abuse from early childhood on. And then on top of that, I had an engagement breakup. And we were, I was attending a very small church with only a couple of hundred people. And the way I found out that he was breaking up with me was when his girlfriend told me that they were getting married. So I decided the church was a little too small for the three of us. And I’d been getting invitations to Willow for about four years. But consistently, what they would say was, “It’s really fun and there’s lots of cute guys.” And I thought those were terrible reasons for attending a church. So I didn’t take them up. But I finally decided to try it. And I thought, “God, I’m really serious about getting to know You. So I’m going to sit way up front where I can’t see the cute guys, I won’t get distracted, and where I can concentrate on You.” And so that’s how I picked fifth row, aisle, close to center as I could get because Lakeside [auditorium at Willow] didn’t really have a center aisle. And I sat there consistently. And starting late October. Dr. B preached a lot of the mid-weeks. And I think it was the very first week if not the very first, the second one then, that I saw his eyes fixed on me. And I thought, “That’s bizarre.” Because I was under the, I didn’t understand that you could see past the floodlights. And so I thought, “I can’t imagine why anybody would be watching me, so must be somebody behind me.” Or anything else. But week after week, this kept happening. So I didn’t do anything for over a year. I just sat there, tried to concentrate on God. And finally in December of ’85, so now more than a year later, I’d seen somebody off and on who was all into, speaking in tongues. And so I decided to stand after one of the services and ask Dr. B if he had anything written about speaking in tongues. And I also thought it would answer my question about whether he’d been watching me for over a year. So after the service, I stood in the back of this very long line that reached past the end of Lakeside and into the auditorium. So lots of people. And I’d been standing there maybe five or ten minutes when I saw him lean around the line and look all the way to the back and saw me and he left the front of the line, and came all the way back towards me. And I had no idea what why he was coming. I was afraid I was in trouble. And he grabbed both of my hands, kiss me on both cheeks, and said, “I have been wanting to meet you for so long.” And he said, “Will you please have a seat and wait for me?” And I just sat there in bewilderment. I had no idea what this was about. I could not think of a single reason why the Legend of Willow Creek would be watching me for over a year.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm, the Legend of Willow Creek because here he was, one of the co-founders.

ANN LINDBERG: Right

JULIE ROYS:  I know there’s quite the story of him mentoring Bill Hybels.

ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

JULIE ROYS:  And the church getting started. So he then talks to you after this service.

ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

JULIE ROYS:  And shows you a great deal of attention. I know when you told me this story earlier you said, “Wow, people here at Willow Creek are so friendly.” I mean, at first you were kind of taken, like just that he had a very pure interest in you.

ANN LINDBERG: Exactly. I thought, “Wow. Somebody actually sees me wants to mentor me.” And I thought that was just really cool. I hadn’t had that.

JULIE ROYS:  And something you said to me. “He was about the age . . .

ANN LINDBERG: of my father. Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  Father, why is that significant?

ANN LINDBERG: That might make me cry. Loved my father. I think my father loved me as best as he could. But I don’t think he ever said he was proud of me. He said he loved me after I had a stroke and he was afraid I was gonna die. But other than that, not a whole lot of attention or affirmation from my father. And so Dr. B, being only one or two years younger than my father and him seeming to want to have a relationship with me or be interested in me or think I was interesting or anything like that felt like getting a father’s attention. And that that struck me deeply.

JULIE ROYS:  You had this hole.

ANN LINDBERG: Oh my gosh yes.

JULIE ROYS:  And any hooked that hole. And I’ve found this with so many abusers or predators that they seem to sense. They have like a sixth sense for what that weakness is. And they know how to hook.

ANN LINDBERG: Yeah,

JULIE ROYS:  And you know, I’ve been in co-dependent relationships before. Happened to me once actually. And it was enough. It was devastating. And learned a lot about myself and that whole process. But when you’re in it, you don’t realize what’s going on.

ANN LINDBERG: No, no, I was clueless.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And you had no awareness that that might be a weakness. And yet, he kind of, describe what happened from there and how you got into, you know, and allowed the abuse.

ANN LINDBERG: Yeah,

JULIE ROYS:  I shouldn’t say allowed because I know every time you objected.

ANN LINDBERG: Every time I try to talk them into

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, and forgive me for saying that because I know that’s true.

ANN LINDBERG: Thank you.

JULIE ROYS:  But I mean, how you stayed in the relationship, despite the abuse would probably be the way to say it.

ANN LINDBERG: Right. Well, when I finally got to talk to him that day, I told him that I was looking for some information on speaking in tongues. And he said, “No problem. I just wrote something.” He said, “Why don’t you stop by my office and pick it up?” And again, I thought, “My gosh, this church takes such a personal interest in people. I get to go to Dr. B’s office and pick up this literature.’ And I thought maybe learn more about God. I was kind of stunned. And so that afternoon in December, I went up to his office. It was a third floor office, and all kind of all by itself. And it was quite a meeting. He was already talking with three young college men. And so I had some time to look around his office. And it was a fascinating office, lots of books, lots of philodendron plants draped everywhere. But then my attention was caught by a banner that he had across most of his desk. It was about four inches high. And it said, “Better to burn than marry,”

JULIE ROYS:  which is the flip

ANN LINDBERG: Correct.

JULIE ROYS:  of the verse.

ANN LINDBERG: I knew there was the verse about being better to marry than burn. And I thought, “Why would he have this banner on his desk and that would hurt his wife’s feelings?” And, “What is that about? And he’s a professor.” And I just, I couldn’t imagine why. So that was top of my list of things to talk about. So, when the the young gentlemen left the office, Dr. B invited me to have a seat. You did ask me if you locked the door. And you know, I don’t know if he did. I wasn’t thinking to pay attention to that, or I’d have probably run.

JULIE ROYS:  Right, because you were unsuspecting.

ANN LINDBERG: Right. So we spent about five minutes talking about speaking in tongues, and he gave me the literature. And then I said, “Before we talk about anything else I need to ask you about this banner.” And I said, “Can you tell me why this is on your desk?” And that was all he needed. So I got to hear about his life from birth on basically. I got to hear that at four his mother died and you’d never known the love of a woman, never been hugged and told he loved him. And that his father was a cold, loveless man who never told him he loved him. And then I hate talking about Maria. I mean, I had guess I have to say that part too. He said that he had never loved her, that it was a marriage of convenience, that they both wanted to be youth pastors and they were under the under the impression that they had to be married to the youth pastors. And so he said it was more like a business arrangement. And that hurt to just hear that. I hurt for her. And then he said, once she started having children, Maria decided she did not want to be a youth pastor, according to him. And he said he discovered that Maria was a cold, bitter, heartless person, who didn’t even love their children and that he wished he hadn’t married her. And then he went on to say all kinds of things about me that he was, he could see me what this wonderful, empathetic, deep hearted person I was and how he needed somebody like me around to continue doing ministry–it’s draining as it was and all that. And I’m not sure if you talk for an hour, two hours, I just know it was getting dark by the end of the conversation. And so he basically told me he needed me. And this was at a time in my life where I wasn’t sure what God wanted to do with my life. So that was extremely confusing. And so I had enough to wrestle with right then. But when it was, you know, getting dark and it was time to go. We left his office. Well, we walked outside the door and he turned and closed it. And I was on the left side of him–the left side of the hallway, or of the stairs. And without warning, after he locked the door, he turned around and shoved me with both hands against the wall and stuck his tongue down my throat, which is really quite appalling. And then while I was still trying to push him away from me, he grabbed one of my breasts. And I was finally able to push him away. And he started skipping down the steps. I have never seen a 50 something year old man skip. But he was skipping. And he was laughing. And he sounded like a teenager or a child. And he got to the bottom of the steps, and he said, “You make me so happy. You make me feel like I’m a teenager.” And I mean, I was thinking, “What the heck just happened?” And I don’t remember the rest of that day. I kind of went into shock.

JULIE ROYS:  I bet. So yeah, your emotional state, I can only imagine after something like that. How did you process that?

ANN LINDBERG: I didn’t have anybody to process it with. I, he had already made it clear I was important to his keeping Willow going. So I loved Willow. So I didn’t want to say anything that might harm Willow. I couldn’t tell my parents, because everything was my fault, according to them, you know. And I didn’t have any friends that I felt safe. I mean, he told me I needed to keep a secret. So I didn’t. It just weighed on me and I didn’t even realize how heavy that weight was.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And he also really spoke to that need to feel important,

ANN LINDBERG: Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:   . . . to feel needed, to all of those things. So then what happened from there? And it continued.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  Not specifically like that but . . .

ANN LINDBERG: No, I never let him grab my breast again. And I never went to his office again. And there was never a time when he managed to suddenly attack me and give me a kiss that I didn’t have him away. And I never voluntarily gave him one for sure. In fact, my sole aim was to try to get him to get help, which he absolutely refused time after time after time.

JULIE ROYS:  But you would have sort of an agreement. I don’t know if it was spoken or not.

ANN LINDBERG: It was spoken.

JULIE ROYS:  It was spoken. Okay. Where you would, whenever he preached, you would sit in your normal location. But you would wait for him afterwards because a lot of people would want to talk to him.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And he would ask me to wait. I don’t remember how you initially asked me. But every time he spoke, he would ask me to wait for him. And I did. I still wasn’t sure what to do with the whole, “he needed me and Willow needed me,” and all that kind of stuff.

JULIE ROYS:  And that went on. So afterwards you wouldn’t you go to the car and talk afterwards.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. And we’d wait until pretty much everybody was gone. There were a couple of hanger-on-ers that seemed to want to talk to him, but he didn’t talk to them. So I never have figured that one out. But we’d talk in the church for a while until they basically were vacuuming or something. And then we’d go sit in one of the cars. We didn’t make out in the cars. That wasn’t gonna happen. I did have a door I could get out of. But we would talk for a long time and sometimes we talked about God, which that was the part I liked. And then other times we would just talk about us his life.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. Did he ever physically assault You again?

ANN LINDBERG: Wait it depends upon if you call grabbing somebody and kissing them when you didn’t want it, “assaulting.”

JULIE ROYS:  That would be abuse.

ANN LINDBERG: I never allowed them to grab any other parts. There were times that we took walks where we held hands or put arms around each other’s waist. And the only reason I agreed to that was it kept his hands tied up. It meant he couldn’t surprise me.

JULIE ROYS:  It eventually broke off.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  And that’s when you started dating your husband?

ANN LINDBERG: Well, I think I’d been seeing him less towards the end of 1987. I know that I saw him on October 31 in 1987. I have in my notes. But yes, my mother had picked out a husband for me. And I was the obedient child. And so this person was willing. I sort of gave in. And then said, this was around Christmas time, and he had Christmas at our house. And I agreed to marry him. And meanwhile, my mother came, was told that she had stage four cancer. And they gave her two weeks to live. And so she asked me to please get married before she died.

JULIE ROYS:  So you got married. The relationship with Dr. B

ANN LINDBERG: Changed.

JULIE ROYS:  It changed.

ANN LINDBERG: Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. How did it change?

ANN LINDBERG: Well, he no longer, I think he’s only, well, that’s my only guess. I can’t prove it unless I talk to other people. I think he only likes single women. So you know, maybe it’s just the thought that somebody else is having relationships that makes him uninterested. I don’t know.

JULIE ROYS:  You must have been in a lot of conflict during the, what was it? About two and a half years?

ANN LINDBERG: Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  . . . that this was going on, even though you’re trying not to allow him physically to touch you. Yet, there’s an emotional affair going on. And you’ve got to feel bad, as a believer. You know, this is wrong. How did you, explain what was going on inside.

ANN LINDBERG: You know, I was still, even though I grew up in the church, my church really didn’t teach the Bible. They just taught little passages. And so in a lot of ways, I was still a baby believer and still trying to figure it out. And, you know, my parents had told me that I was an accident, not an accident at birth but not the child they wanted, and that I shouldn’t exist. And so, I mean, I hate saying that to my brothers, if you’re listening.

JULIE ROYS:  You had a sister who . . .

ANN LINDBERG: . . . who died. A year ahead of me. Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  So there was trauma in your family.

ANN LINDBERG: And so I was the replacement child, on top of that. So I wasn’t, given that my mother said I was breathing somebody else’s air, that shouldn’t be there. I wasn’t sure if I had a purpose. And so I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life. I really didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know if I had gifts. I didn’t know if I had anything to offer the world. And meanwhile this person is telling me that he needs me for Willow to continue, that if I stopped seeing him, Willow will fall apart. And that I was the only person in the world that understood him. Everyone else had an agenda. They wanted to get close to a famous person. So I kept asking God, “Is this what you want me to do is to just keep begging Him for help?” And I wasn’t mature enough to know that, “No,” God would have said no to that. So that was a lot of it was I kept saying, and he asked me to call him Gil, I would say, “Gil, please get into marriage counseling.” And he would say, “It’s too late for me.” And he’d say, “And besides, I can’t divorce her since she hasn’t cheated on me. And I’d never be allowed to preach again, if I divorced her.” And I’d say, “Please get into a men’s group.” And he’d say, “I don’t like men.” And I’d say, “Please talk to Bill.” And he said, “Bill Hybels would never understand.” That part I’ve wondered about since then. So there are all these reasons I knew. But tell me how depressed he was. And that I was the only cheerful spot in his life and just on and on and on, to where I felt like I was in a cage and couldn’t get out.

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. So you got married, your first marriage ended in divorce.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  I know there’s a episode in between where as you were getting the divorce that you say he reached out to you.

ANN LINDBERG: My divorce was final–I’d been separated for a year and a half–my divorce was final January 18, 1998. And he called me on New Year’s Day to tell me that I was this hero for going through a divorce from a very abusive marriage and parenting myself, that he had the greatest of admiration for single mothers. And then 10 days after my divorce was final. I got a postcard from him from I forget which country. And so I guess I was single again. But I didn’t ever allow him to touch me. Except for the one time in 2004 where he kissed me on the cheek.

JULIE ROYS:  So, then there’s a lot of years in between. You marry your current husband, Mark.

ANN LINDBERG: The love of my life.

JULIE ROYS:  And you begin getting counseling, getting healthier. 2010 . . .

ANN LINDBERG: . . . was brutal.

JULIE ROYS:  That’s when you said, “I’m going to tell the church.” Tell me about that.

ANN LINDBERG: I spent 20 years before I told my first therapist. And then the second therapist, I told. And she just went off the rails, she was so upset about it all. And so I started taking it more seriously and talking about it. So in 2010, I finally had the courage and I called and I asked Bill’s assistant, if I could talk to Bill. And she said, “No.” And I said, “This is a really important subject. Can I please talk to him? I want to keep it private.” And she said, “No.” And I actually liked this person. She was just following protocol. And then I asked if I might speak to an elder and she said, “No.” And I said, “Look, this is about Dr. B. And I really wanted to stay private.” And she said, “No.” And so I was referred to the now infamous or famous Elder Response Team, the ERT. And so we ended up having three different meetings that year in 2010, with Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta. And to say they were draining is an understatement. I shook and cried through the whole thing. I felt so shameful and wicked and just bad about myself. And they acted like they weren’t hearing anything that was a big deal. And so that just made it worse. Chris not so much. Chris Hurta is a kind person. But Scott Vaudrey is devoid of any of emotion. And I didn’t really get the feeling they took me seriously. And at the end, Scott Vaudrey kind of shuffled his papers, whatever and said,  “Well, you know, since this didn’t go to sex. This doesn’t need to go any farther.” And me with my, “Everything’s my fault” mentality thought that meant that that week they weren’t going to kick me out of Willow.

JULIE ROYS:  You expected to get kicked out?

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. I thought they meant me. And that they’d let me stay because it didn’t go to sex. So every week,

JULIE ROYS:  You must have felt so much shame.

ANN LINDBERG: It was awful. So every week for until we talked to Chris again, I would shake coming into the church. I still shake, actually. I got there because I never knew, “Would this be the week they would kick me out?” “Would  this be the week that they told me I was a terrible, horrible person and get rid of me?” So it definitely started affecting my health badly. In 2010, I spent a lot of the year in bed with many doctors. In 2011, I had breast cancer. And at that meeting, yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  Did they communicate to you that there will be a restriction put on Dr. B?

ANN LINDBERG: Yes. My husband helped with this asking and we wanted to know, I wanted to make sure Bill Hybels heard about this. And I wanted to know what his response was. And I wanted to make sure the Elders were told. They never really did answer me about the Elders. But I was told that Bill Hybels said that Dr. B would never speak on a Willow Creek stage again. Now they, I didn’t realize that that was such strategic wording until the last few years.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, so fast forward. There’s an incident where you get an email from the head of the marriage ministry, saying that Dr. B is mentoring.

ANN LINDBERG: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  Is mentoring volunteers and there’s an Advance conference coming up and encouraging people to go to it. This was in 2017.

ANN LINDBERG: 2017. Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  Explain what happened there.

ANN LINDBERG: You know, it’s not her fault. She didn’t know. She was old friends with Dr. B. And nobody had ever told her. And she was very excited about this opportunity. She told us she, I think she contacted everybody who’d ever been in the marriage ministries, and said, “What a wonderful opportunity this was that Dr. B would be doing a marriage leading seminar.” I always thought was so ironic when they were talking about him leading marriage seminars. And so I forwarded the email to Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta and said, “You know, you might want to be concerned about this.” And I thought the agreement was, you know, they wouldn’t do this. And the next day, Pat sent out another email saying, you know, “You still have time to sign up for this.” And he still spoke, Scott [Vaudrey] and Chris Hurta.

JULIE ROYS:  And there was an email that went out encouraging people still to go to this Advance conference. Now I knowI have reached out to Scott Vaudrey. He said he misread the email. And then in 2018, after he resigned that then he went back and looked and read your email and he said he felt sick at that point and said it was the biggest mistake of his ministry life, that he didn’t respond, he didn’t do anything. How do you receive that?

ANN LINDBERG: What crosses over into slander? My experience with Scott has not been good. I’ve had him yell at me before. I’ve had him say really nasty things. I’ve never had him look at me with anything like empathy. I’ve never heard anything remotely close to “I’m so sorry for what you went through.” I think he’s a very smooth talker, a very smooth rider. And I absolutely don’t believe that.

JULIE ROYS:  Did he ever reached out to you and apologize?

ANN LINDBERG: Golly, no, no, heck no.

JULIE ROYS:  There also was a situation in 2015, where there was a 40th anniversary. And I have just a short clip from that anniversary. We’re going to play that and then I’d like your response to how you felt when . . .

ANN LINDBERG: Sure.

JULIE ROYS:  . . . you heard this.

BILL HYBELS: [Recorded Voice] Tonight, we make our permanent contribution to this historic stadium by installing our one and only true legend from Willow Creek church. And I’d like to ask you to all stand respectfully right now. Stand respectfully.

ANNOUNCER:  [Exciting music. Crowd Cheering] Standing five foot seven and weighing 170 pounds, former president of Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon. Professor at Wheaton College and Trinity University, earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Paris his graduate degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and his doctorate from Boston University. An author, a teacher, a much sought after counselor to world leaders. Put. Your. Hands. Together. For the One and Only. The Indomitable. The Living Legend of Willow Creek Community Church. Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian!

JULIE ROYS:  The Living Legend of Willow Creek. They say, the church says, back in 2010, it believed your story. Restricted him from speaking. And then immortalized him in 2015. Did you go to that?

ANN LINDBERG: I did.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. What was that like?

ANN LINDBERG: I felt nauseous for one thing and a bit angry too. And then I thought, “You’re breaking what you said.” But then I paid attention. And he wasn’t “on the Willow Creek stage.” So . . .

JULIE ROYS:  So technically,

ANN LINDBERG: . . .technically, he didn’t violate what Bill Hybels had said. I had never said, “Please don’t talk about the Legend of Willow Creek.” So I just, It just made me aware that Bill Hybels had not disseminated the information to other people.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I hate to draw this to a close, because I’m sure there’s so much more we could talk about. But I think the final thing I just want to know is what would you have to say to other women out there who have been abused by spiritual authorities and feel like they haven’t been taken seriously? Speak to that person.

ANN LINDBERG: Well, something I’m learning is that you don’t have to always be controlled by your trauma, and that there is life after trauma. So that’s the space I’m starting to enter. And I would give them encouragement to keep doing whatever it is that helps them keep plugged into themselves. For me, it’s been journaling. And I would say, do that. Take the next right step, whatever that is for you. That doesn’t mean go confront immediately. Just, if there’s one tiny–I really believe in tiny steps more than big steps–take that tiny step that you can withstand. And then take the next tiny step that you can withstand. And hopefully have at least a couple people around you who will support that. But the little steps that you take, that you make part of your lifestyle, become permanent. And that’s what’s really important. And that’s what I would encourage other people with is to have hope. To believe that God really does love you and that he can take you through this.

JULIE ROYS:  Well Ann, I want to thank you so much for coming in. I know it’s not easy to talk about this and to relive some of the trauma that you’ve experienced. But I’m deeply grateful. So thank you.

ANN LINDBERG: Thank you. But can I just say that I would do this 100 times over if anybody gets helped through this. So, thank you for the privilege.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, again, you’ve been listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Julie Roys.com. Thank you so much for joining me. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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How Should Pastors Relate To Power? https://julieroys.com/podcast/how-should-pastors-relate-to-power/ Sat, 25 Jan 2020 17:58:56 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6800 How Should Pastors Relate To Power? Read More »

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Why do so many rock-star pastors implode under the spotlight? Why do modern-day churches become so entangled in growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? This week on The Roys Report, I’ll be talking with Author Kyle Strobel about how Christians have succumbed to the temptations of power. Then we’ll learn about Jesus’ seemingly contradictory path to power. To find out what Jesus’ path to power is, join us for The Roys Report.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Why do so many celebrity pastors implode under the spotlight? And why do so many churches get so focused on growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And there’s no doubt that the Christian church, or more specifically the Evangelical Church, is going through one of the toughest seasons in her history. Megachurch pastors are resigning in disgrace. And megachurches are folding in the wake of scandals. And while some of this trouble can be chalked up to the age-old temptations of money and sex, there’s always this nagging issue of power. Power and the abuse of power has been a recurrent theme in all of these recent scandals. And as I’ve broken these stories about James McDonald or Todd Bentley, or Bill Hybels, people who have been victims of similar abusive  leaders, they always reach out to me. They email me or they message me. And the abuse can happen in either a small church or a big church. But the dynamic is always the same. Power-hungry pastors jockey to control their boards and their congregations. They take for themselves instead of thinking about the people under them. People get hurt and the cause of Christ is suffering. And you can’t help but ask in the midst of all of this, where is God? Jesus said whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily. But many Christian leaders, pastors even, aren’t doing that. Why not? Well, according to the late author and theologian, Eugene Peterson, all of us have a choice. He said and I quote, “We follow the dragon and his beast along their parade route conspicuous with the worship of splendid images, fond of statistics, taking on whatever role is necessary to make a good show and get the applause of the important. Or we follow the Lamb along a farmyard route—worshipping the invisible, practicing a holy life that involves heroically, difficult tasks that no one will ever notice, in order to become our eternal selves in an eternal city. It is the difference politically between wanting to use the people around us to become powerful, or entering into covenant with people around us so that the power of salvation extends to every part of the world that God loves.” Well, joining me today is someone who spent time with Eugene Peterson and theologian, J. I. Packer, civil rights activist John Perkins and several other respected leaders and explore this issue of power and godliness; the right use of power. His name is Kyle Strobel. He’s the co-author of a book called The Way of the Dragon or the Way of The Lamb—Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. So Kyle, welcome. I’m so thrilled to have you join me.

KYLE STROBEL:  Thank you so much, Julie. So good to be here with you.

JULIE ROYS:  And I should mention. Kyle is also a Systematic Theologian and Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology at Biola University. You’re also the son of this obscure Christian author and apologist. Some may have heard of him. His name’s Lee Strobel. (Laughter) Actually, a million seller, author and just very prominent apologist. And somebody I’ve known for over 30 years and had on this program. So it’s pretty cool to have you on, Kyle. And to speak to his son. And he is one of the, I mean, speaking of this whole issue of power and use of power and platform and everything. I know I have found your dad to be one of the most humble guys that I know and just unassuming. And you would not know when he walks in the room. I mean, he doesn’t act like he’s the most important person in the room. He actually makes you feel like you’re important. And it’s a pretty cool thing. So I don’t know him from living with him. But I’m guessing you’ve experienced him the same way.

KYLE STROBEL:  Oh, totally. No, he’s a real gift. And I think, you know, in many ways, I think the Lord has been particularly gracious to him, in terms of never really—and I don’t know how much of this is just the Lord’s grace or his own discernment—but never really giving him his own thing. I mean, he’d never run an organization. You know, he never had a branding that had kind of names his own. It’s never really been about him. He’s always been partnering and doing stuff with folks. I mean, even in many ways, my own writing career, which is unusual to then, especially in spheres I work in, to do so much partnering in writing. In many ways is modeled after him—in the Mark Middleburg and him and he has several partners. You got a partners list and I think that’s, recognition that we don’t have to build things around our sole personality.

JULIE ROYS:  And I’m sure an amazing mentor to have. But I want to say something. When I first became aware of your book, I was in the midst of reporting on James McDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. And you sent me your book with this note saying, “God bless you and your work. I hope this encourages you in all you’re doing.” I don’t even know you Kyle. And you said this to me and I was like, wow, thank you. That deeply touched me. But when you wrote this book, you couldn’t have possibly known what was going to happen and all these scandals that were about to break. Could you?

KYLE STROBEL:  No. That’s right, yeah. When we started writing this, I mean, it took us about seven years total to write this book. And so when we started, this is way before you really saw any of these scandals coming out. It’s before the Mark Driscoll scandal. It’s before—I mean, at the time, of course, you have sex scandals and money. You have those sorts of things. But in terms of power, not a lot of people were talking about it. And for Jamin and I, you know, when we started this whole thing, it was driven—I mean, a big part of what we saw in the church, and we had seen these problems, even if they didn’t go public. We had seen things behind the scenes. We had friends telling us things they had seen in churches. But for Jamin and I, what really struck us is, when we really felt called to write this book, was how much of this problem was already in our own hearts—that we struggle with this problem. And we’re seeing what it’s doing to the church. And so we really felt called. We need to highlight this. We need to, kind of, shine a light in these dark places. And that means for us, in the dark places in our own hearts.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And you talk about that in your book. You say the first temptation of power is to view the problem as out there. It’s somewhere else and ignore the problem in our own hearts. And I know I’ve done a program on narcissist pastors. And I remember the expert that I was talking to was talking about how, yeah, there’s this narcissism that’s really toxic that causes real problems. And we don’t want pastors who have that. But, you know, all of us have a certain amount of narcissism. And that could be good, right? You know, and I’m like, well, okay. I can see how it can have a benefit, practically. But Biblically, there’s really nothing good about the narcissism in our own hearts. There’s nothing good about our own desire for adulation and power and control. And I love that you get very personal in this book. You get vulnerable and you talk about it in yourself. So talk about that. What did you see in yourself where you said it isn’t just out there? I’ve got this problem.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. Well, you know, I grew up in an evangelicalism and at Willow Creek where you know it there were passed the power. I mean there’s a reason why narcissists are oftentimes gravitating towards ministry because it’s a very quick path. And, you know, when I felt a calling to ministry, that calling was very closely tied to my own brokenness; to my own grandiosity. And as I grew in knowledge, which happens when you go to Bible college and seminary. And, you know, there was there was a lot of temptations there. And I think what the Lord did for me—and then going, you know, going back to my father, actually, he’s a great model for me of this—just incredible honesty about what is going on in your life. And, you know, I was, you know, in seminary, if I’m honest, you know, I do feel, I believe I was called. But when I was in seminary, I was here because I wanted to be great. I wanted to have a big platform. I didn’t want to sit by the bedside of a person dying in a hospital. Like that wasn’t my fantasy. And yet, you know, I’m keep reading Jesus saying the crazy kinds of things Jesus likes to say. Like the first will be last and the last will be first. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And over and over and over again, Jamin and I both were confronted with these things. And we kind of looked at each other and we said, we, you know, the Bible is talking about this other power that we don’t get. Like, we have to make sense of this. And so in many ways, both of us, as we wrestled with our callings to go into ministry—for him pastoral ministry, for me more academic ministry—was a path of kind of wrestling through our temptations. Naming what we see, not only in our own life, but what we see in the church. And then really honestly naming what Scripture very clearly states that Jesus and the kingdom have an entirely contrary power system than the world.

JULIE ROYS:  And often to find your calling, your true calling, in Christ, you need to give up something. And even Jamin talks about that in the book. How at one point, he had this offer to go to this huge megachurch. And that’s where so often we see this grandiosity. Not always. I mean there’s some humble megachurch pastors out there. But we often see this grandiosity pool and it’s this big draw. So it was go to that big megachurch or go to this small church where you’re not going to have that big platform. And he had to really wrestle with that. And yet he felt God calling him to that smaller church. We need to go to break. But when we come back, I want to talk about some of these sages. You talk about traveling around the world. How cool that you were able to do that and talk to some of these people who have wisdom in this area. And can help teach us how to go the way of the lamb instead of the way of the dragon. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. With me today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb. We will be right back after a short break.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  How should pastors and Christian leaders relate to power? Certainly, power isn’t inherently bad. But how do we distinguish between the good and godly views of power and the evil and worldly power that’s all around us? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And there’s no doubt that we’ve seen a lot of the world’s kind of power seeping into our churches. And sadly, some of our churches today look and behave more like Fortune 500 companies than like New Testament churches. And our pastors often act more like CEOs than shepherds. But how do we change that? And how does the church—and Christian leaders—how do we start using kingdom power the way that God and Jesus embody it? Well, joining me today to discuss this issue is Kyle Strobel. And he’s the author of the book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And by the way, I’m giving away copies of Kyle’s book today to two lucky listeners. So if you’d like to enter to win, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you’d like to join our conversation today on social media, you can do that. To get to us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter our handle is @ReachJulieRoys.

So Kyle, in your book, interesting, chapter 4, you start out with a description of a church that you visited. Sounds like you had some friends that attended their, correct?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, that’s right.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. So I can I ask how many years ago was this?

KYLE STROBEL:  Oh, wow. I think about now probably 13 or 14 I guess.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And this was before I mean, anything had been reported about Harvest Bible Chapel or James MacDonald, at least [before] I had reported or started exposing anything there. There were some rumblings there, The Elephant’s Debt (a blog) had published and done some things. But what you noticed when you went there is fascinating. I’m just going to read the beginning of this chapter because it’s really fascinating. You talked about how on a Sunday morning you attended a church.

The church was known for being biblical. And as we waited for our friends to arrive—
you’re waiting for some friends—we noticed something odd at one end of the lobby—a huge model of an ancient ziggurat. A ziggurat was a pyramid shaped building that increased in height with steps. Importantly, this is what the Tower of Babel probably was. “Why in the world did they have a huge Tower of Babel in the lobby?” I muttered to Kelly. Of all the images in scripture to portray, especially in a church not often in the business of making images, the Tower of Babel seemed a strange choice. Why portray a story about human arrogance in your church lobby? The only thing I could imagine was that the children’s ministry had created a huge model for their Sunday school classes. So, we decided to check it out. I was wrong. It was a massive Fountain. And what was most shocking was not the exorbitant cost of erecting such a tower in their lobby, although that was certainly troubling. What was more disconcerting was its purpose. At the foundation of this edifice were huge boulders and on each boulder was a plaque that name something the church had achieved. Let that sink in. Without realizing the implications, someone built the Tower of Babel in the lobby of a church with the foundation stones representing their own achievements. Someone built a model of the biblical portrayal of human arrogance as a physical representation of their own success. The church no doubt believed God had been a part of these achievements as we are all prone to do. They undoubtedly assumed whatever they did was for God. But the hubris undergirding these achievements was unveiled with the presence of this statue. If God really was the focus, why not include other churches or ministries? Presumably God is at work elsewhere, right? What could possibly be the goal of spending a fortune to erect such a monstrosity other than proving that they had something to be proud of? This is a perfect example of the idolatry of specialness –that you talk about earlier in the book—that J. I. Packer had talked about. “No matter how genuine the desire, the quest to win and feel powerful had seeped into the veins of this church.”

Wow. I mean, to read this—was this the Rolling Meadows campus of Harvest?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  That you saw this, and you recognize this and yet, so many didn’t notice, didn’t recognize it. This is I mean, it’s stunning to me, that this was going on, people weren’t recognizing it. But how it’s an idol. It’s idolatry. Right?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And you know, when churches—and I think it gets so difficult when the second we tie our activity to God, it is amazing how easy it can be to justify things that are unquestionably evil. Things that are unquestionably toxic. And yet people not say anything, because if they look around, there’s big things going on. And they say, “Well, God’s at work, right? And so what are we to do?” I mean, I’m amazed, you know, I’m sure this happens to you as well, you know, the second people find out we’ve written a book on power, you can imagine the stories that we hear. And one of the most shocking things to us was how many people we heard say something like, “Oh, you know, I know so and so is so arrogant. But man, they can preach.”

JULIE ROYS:  Right. It’s the great justification or rationalization of all of it. 

KYLE STROBEL:  That’s right.

JULIE ROYS:  And when I talked to even early elders that were part of that church, they said, “Well yeah, the pastor twisted, James MacDonald twisted the truth. He was doing things that were wrong. He was belittling people, but so many people were coming to the Lord.” And yeah, we do justify it. And you know, let’s turn to say the flip side. That’s obviously the way of the dragon that you talk about. You got to spend time with J. I. Packer. Tell me a little bit about that and what you learn from J. I. Packer that’s the antithesis of what was represented by say that ziggurat in the church.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, well Packer, like all the sages, I mean, meeting with the people we met with, I mean, here are folks who they just had taken a different way. They, you know, at the time when we met with Packer, he was writing a book which would eventually come out and called, The Weakness is the Way. And it’s him just not only reflecting on scripture, which is what the main purpose of the book was, but just even his own life and recognizing, “Jesus is right about this.” And you know, one of the things that for us, the sages did, you know, because it’s easy when we read Scripture, it’s easy to read Jesus and kind of, we assume it’s true because it’s the Bible. But deep down, we don’t buy it. Like how many Christians believe the first are last and the last are first? How many actually believe that our power is only found in our weakness? And so, what these sages were, were models of, “Look, these guys have done this.” These men and these women like they’ve lived this way. And they’re powerful human beings now. And that’s what we had never really had all that often found in the church. And you know, Packer is a great example of it. And when Packer says—I think you mentioned it earlier—that the kind of critique of specialness and how he sees a church, that is longing for an experience and is longing for specialness. That’s a church now set up to be used by a toxic leader. And each of the people we met with in a different way highlighted these things. Some just—J.I. Packer obviously—but Eugene Peterson. You know the fact that he went to his Presbyterian and said, “I can no longer Shepherd the people you’ve given me because I know all their names I’ve been in all their homes and all the kids names and there’s another couple hundred people in the town that don’t come to church that think I’m their pastor anyways. And so they have problems, they come to me and I can’t do it anymore. We’re gonna have to church plant. We’re going to have to split the church because I’m at my breaking point.” And they said, “No.” And so he said, “Well, I can no longer pastor.” And he walked away. I mean, that is an entirely different kind of thing where he’s looking at the call and recognizing, “If I continue to do this, I will abandon the pastorate to keep pastoring.” Whereas so many see not abandoning the pastorate, but they kind of see the pastorate as a way into something that is really, if we’re honest, not pastoral. It’s a kind of Guru. And the call to kind of embrace this way that is against scripture’s call to be a shepherd of people. And instead to be their Guru is really one of the great temptations–I think—in ministry today that so many have embraced. And the sad reality is I don’t think any of these guys got into it because of that. You know what, at some point, they just love Jesus. And they wanted to be faithful. And yet they didn’t anticipate the temptations that were coming. And they weren’t prepared for them.

JULIE ROYS:  I think what you touched on is really interesting. There’s two things. There’s one: the pastor wanting to be special, the Christian leader wanting to be special. And many of us who have been in ministry, I know I felt that totally, totally felt that. And wanting to be respected and people to listen to you. That temptation is there. But then there’s this other side of the people in the church wanting to be special. Of us wanting to be part of this big thing God’s doing and we’re going to hitch ourselves somehow to this train of specialness. So, I want to talk about that when we come back. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. With me today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It.  We’ll be right back.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Why are prominent pastors and ministries imploding around us? Could it be they’ve succumbed to the seduction of worldly power and they’ve forgotten the way of Christ that to gain something, you must lose it? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about how pastors and Christian leaders should relate to power. Sadly, we often see pastors and churches incorporating the values, principles and methods of the world. But what is the right way to handle power? And how is kingdom power different from worldly power? Joining me today is Kyle Strobel author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And I want to remind you that today I’m giving away two copies of Kyle’s book. So, if you want to enter to win The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you’re just joining us and want to listen to the first part of our discussion today, I’ll be posting the complete audio of today’s program to my website about an hour after the podcast. Just go to JulieRoys.com, and then click on the podcast tab. So, Kyle, you know, we’ve talked about the leader and the ways that they often embody power and these temptations of power. But it’s also the congregation sometimes. In fact, you write in many places, churches openly affirm the way of below. You talk about the way of below is the way of the dragon so to speak. “Instead of being told how desperately I am in need of God, I’m reportedly told how much God needs me.” And we like to hear that don’t we?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, you know, one of the ways that I think churches have kind of subconsciously or maybe consciously, I don’t know—subconscious is a more generous assumption—is that maybe they’ve kind of assumed that if we give them a kind of Guru that they can look up to and they can follow—because we like to kind of hitch ourselves to someone that we think is great—and if we’re told that we need to give ourselves to be a part of something that needs us, and that we have this very clear cut mission, because we’re this special place, that suddenly we get this—notice how so many of these things, it’s not that they’re totally wrong. They’re just wrong enough, where they can be painted with the gospel brush that makes it sound like, “No, we’re doing this for God and His glory.” And yet, right behind that, you can kind of start to peel back something that reveals, “Well, actually, we’re trying to do it for us and for our glory, and maybe for this person’s glory.” So in many ways one of the things that has come out of the studies on toxic power is not only that there’s people looking for it to become toxic leaders and narcissists who are embracing these things, but actually congregations want a toxic leader. They want someone to kind of gaze upon and think, “Wow, I’m going to ride his coattails.” 

JULIE ROYS:  It’s almost like codependency isn’t it?

KYLE STROBEL: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, you talk about somebody who’s very, very different. You refer to her as a powerfully weak woman. I love the oxymoron. Someone named Marva Don. Someone I had never heard of. Talk about her and how maybe she’s an example for us.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. Marva. Marva is an incredible woman. I mean, here’s a person who, you know, she did her PhD. She’s kind of done some really serious work in biblical studies—theology—an actually is probably the only person we interviewed that had done even academic work on that very topic we were asking about. Most of the people were talking about their lives. And for her it was interesting, because she had done academic work in the area but she also just embodied it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met a person with more physical maladies than Marva Don. She had just had a foot amputated before we met her. This woman was, I mean laundry list of suffering. And, you know, as long as the Lord gave her a mouth to speak, she would say, she’s out there proclaiming His word. She’s co-written things Eugene Peterson before. So that’s usually where people kind of run into her. But Marva you know, for us, she became a real turning point. You know, one of the things that happened with Jamie and I as we write this book, and the reason we took so long is we wanted to allow the book to be what it was supposed to be. A problem with a lot of Christian books is—and this is true about any book I suppose—is oftentimes you get a contract and you’re told to write a book in six months.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, my goodness, yes. I’ve been through it once. And it’s—wow—brutal.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And so it’s like, and it’s not a great space for wisdom, right? That’s not a great space to kind of do something with depth. And so we thought, you know, let’s just give us the space to allow this project to be what we think the Lord wants it to be. And we had an idea, but we wanted to be open to be surprised. And she surprised us. We did an interview with her, and neither of us wanted to go the direction she pushed. We kind of weren’t prepared. But Marva made it clear that if you’re biblically in a talk about power and weakness, which is the main theme that we were wrestling with, that you also have to talk about the powers and the principalities. And for us what became a really important image from James 3, the image you mentioned earlier, the way from above versus the way from below. And James calls the way from below the way of, “the world the flesh and the devil.” And that changed things for us. Because when we looked at the James MacDonald’s of the world, those situations, like everyone that could see these things clearly, we kind of thought, “Wow, it shouldn’t be this way. This is worldly.” But suddenly scripture was pushing us to say something that was harder to say, which is, “This is demonic.” And then we started seeing Jesus do this when he calls Peter, “Satan,” to his face. And tells him he’s setting his mind on the ways—not of God, but of man. Where He links, the way of the flesh with the demonic. And so, what became clear for us is that, you know, there’s a power system that is shared by the world, the flesh and the devil. And we might think of it as power and strength for the sake of control and often domination. Whereas the way of Jesus—the way from above—is power in weakness for the sake of love. And that early temptation we had—and actually it was Martin Luther King and our study of him that helped us see that this was a temptation—was to think that, “power as such is bad.” And we then realized “No, that’s not the case. Actually all of this is for power. Christians should be powerful. But power in weakness for the sake of love means love is power.” And true love is actually the kingdom functions. To put it in economic terms, which is where a lot of our power themes come from, the economy of the kingdom is love. And that changes everything. And that’s what Marva really pushed us to consider that actually the great tragedy is not simply toxic leadership. The great tragedy is that demonic power is being wielded to try to further the kingdom. And it is warping the soul of the church from within. And we began to see this. And I think, you know, and in many ways much of your work has actually done a great job of exposing very clearly that that this has seeped into the very heart of evangelicalism under the guise of a church that should have been seeing this. Of a church that that knows scripture and therefore should be recognizing this and yet didn’t—just missed it entirely.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and it’s not one church. It’s the entire evangelical industrial complex—which you referenced in your book—it has seeped into an awful lot of ministries. Man, this is a great discussion. I’m looking forward to continuing it. We have to go to break. But when I come back, I’ll be speaking more with Kyle Strobel author of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb. We’ll be right back.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Rather than following the way of Jesus, too many Christians chase relevance and influence. They’re seduced by worldly power instead of the path to kingdom power. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And that’s the opinion of my guest today, Kyle Strobel, author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It. And I’d love to hear what you think. To comment, just go on Facebook, Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or on Twitter, my handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Kyle, right before break some powerful stuff you were talking about in the last segment, that we’re not talking just about, “Oh, this is a good way or a bad way or a better way.” We’re talking about the ways that the church is operating is actually in some cases outright demonic. In fact, Marva Don, you were talking about, she writes, “I was at a pastoral conference once and the pastors were trying to outdo each other as to who had the most important congregation. That was demonic.” We need to start naming it, don’t we?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. No, I think that’s important. And that became an important moment for us. That the temptation we had, you know, I think we talked particularly in evangelicalism for us the problem is the flesh. That we’re bad we’re fleshly were fallen. And therefore, we do fleshly things. And so that could kind of become a bit sterile actually. Like we don’t feel the weight of that.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and then you hear “Everybody’s human.” 

Whenever you bring up any fault. When someone’s taking a half a million-dollar salary or a million dollar salary. “Well, everybody’s human. So, they’re a little greedy. Look at the good they’re doing.” Right?

KYLE STROBEL:  Totally. And that’s where we have to see that the actual system of power is different. You know, I think one of the, if not the, and in my mind, greatest temptation in the church today is to use a worldly and fleshly and demonic power grid to kind of weigh the church. And you see this. I remember one of the things Dallas Willard said to us is he said, “Couple hundred years ago, and for all of church history, you could have been seen as a faithful pastor and not been a good preacher.” And he’s like, “I don’t think that could happen today.” And even the focus on good preaching there, what he means is kind of rhetoric, right? Like how the average person judges what powerful preaching is. And quite honestly the grid we’re using to weigh what a successful church is, what a meaningful church is, these are worldly fleshly, demonic systems. Jesus didn’t judge things this way. You get that famous image about David being made king as a child where it looks at the heart. Well, the similar thing happened in the church, God kind of looks to see the heart of a church. Does that mean it’s going to be the most influential? Does it mean it’s going to look powerful? Not necessarily on worldly terms. And I think the assumption has been, if a church appears powerful in worldly terms, God’s the one doing that. And I think the entirety of Scripture pushes the other direction and unveils there’s something vastly different going on. And so I think one of the things that has happened is that we’ve—the word that I don’t know if you heard this word a lot, but one of the words that has been ruined for me by people is the word anointed. Because it just covers sins for people. It’s like, “Well, you know, sure that person is a narcissist, but they’re anointed.” And what they mean is that they’re savvy in certain ways that get things done. And that’s again, worldly. That’s just not what the kingdom is. When you talk about discerning the way of Jesus, it is the way of kind of a weightiness of soul. And you just don’t find that in these places. And so, I think we have to adopt an entirely different method of thinking about the notion of success, of thinking about what does it mean to judge something kingdomly, rather than worldly? But we haven’t.

JULIE ROYS:  You know, it’s interesting when you talk about anointing. It reminds me a little bit of the scandal with Todd Bentley. I don’t know if you followed that at all. It’s somewhat outside of the evangelical tradition that I’m sort of planted in because it’s more of a charismatic. But here’s a guy who had multiple affairs and sexting issues and every. And finally, there was several charismatic leaders who came together—and some of them you know; Dr. Michael Brown, somebody I respect a lot. I love Michael. And then they finally together, issued a finding and a judgment after researching everything, and saying, “This man should not be in public ministry.” There was one part in there though where they talked about anointing. And it is possible. I mean, I look at Old Testament kings who were anointed to be kings, and they were as evil as all get out. And the anointing might have been there to be king. I mean, we see with Saul, it’s taken from him and given to David because of his evil. But it’s very confusing. And I know I talked to a pastor who had known James MacDonald very well. And he said, “What just messes with me is he seemed like God’s anointed. He seemed to have all that, he was Saul and I was his David.” And he said, and you could tell this was, you know, 15 years post leaving, and he’s still confused by it, still wracked by it. Like, “How do I put that together that this man who seemed to be such a man of God—had such impact—was so corrupt?” I mean, how do we put that together? It’s very difficult.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah. And what I worry about is when you know, anointing, that term is loose in a dangerous way. Because I’ve seen the same thing. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of churches where someone has an affair. Of course, the woman, they get rid of her. She’s kind of not allowed anymore, but he’s anointed. So, we’re going to rush him through some sort of process. We’re going to get him back in ministry. And oh, shocker, two years later, has another affair. And it’s this crazy notion that somehow—because it almost inevitably, because this person can stand up in front of people and wow them—they’re anointed. And there’s plenty of people that can do that in this world. Most of Hollywood is filled with people who can stand up in front and wow people. It’s the assumption that somehow the church, you know, I think there’s an assumption that God will so protect the church that he won’t allow these kinds of people to come to power. But again, scripture’s full of stories where God for whatever reason, allows his people to walk down folly, foolish roads. And I think one of the things that has happened with, particularly in America where I think because for so long, evangelicalism has had a kind of cultural power, we’ve been able to tie these things. I mean, I think, you know, 20 years from now, this might not be a non-issue. Yeah. You know, that we’re going to hit a point where there’s going to be a certain amount of sacrifice and suffering to embrace a public ministry. That will maybe just undermine all of this. But for the time being, the church is still very much a place where this kind of power can be had. And again, when you think about pastoring, like do we judge our pastors by the grid of love? And how do we know that? Because I’ve met many pastors who are total narcissists, who you put them on a stage, they can appear like they really cared about love. But it was rhetoric. They know what needs to be said. And that’s such a great danger if that’s how we’re judging people. And you know, if you’re at a church, if you’re listening to this and you’re at a church—do you want to know what one of the best ways to think about how a church thinks about power is if either imagine or look at the last time you hired someone. What were you doing when you hired someone? I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve met that have never bothered asking a future hire if they pray and what their prayer life is like. It just never came up. And so yeah, you know, I think hiring someone’s an interesting model to look at because every kind of temptation you have kind of comes out when you hire someone. Particularly with the head pastor. Are you looking for someone who’s going to wow you? Or are you looking for someone following Jesus? Those two things will require two totally different ways of going about interviewing, of the kind of questions you ask them, of what you. Almost every church wants a video of someone preaching.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and if you look at the job descriptions too, they’re very telling.

KYLE STROBEL:  Totally.

JULIE ROYS:  Very telling. In fact, Scot McKnight wrote a very good blog post couple months ago just even analyzing Okay, Willow Creek’s looking for a pastor. Let’s look at this job description. What does the job description say that we’re looking for? And I think that’s important for us to soul search about. What does that say? That’s a great point.

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, yeah, those statements, you know, when churches write out those job descriptions, those are a kind of a mirror back to the church of who we are. And it reveals the soul of the place. And it’s scary because quite a lot of them are not looking for a pastor even though they’re calling it a pastoral hire. They’re looking for a guru.

JULIE ROYS:  Tell me this, because we don’t have a lot of time left. But how do we change that culture? Because we’re talking about a culture, so often. It can be a person, right? It’s planted by a person. But they create this culture, and it becomes systemic. And I’ve seen this with churches where they can get rid of the problem person, supposedly or ministry, the problem person, but that culture is entrenched, that way of thinking is entrenched. How do you change that at a church or at a ministry?

KYLE STROBEL:  Yeah, that’s a great question, but a hard one. You know, I think in many ways, you have to have two things go on there. There’s has to be a change in elder boards. And the leadership can be whatever your church structure is, whatever the kind of leadership.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, let me ask you that, though. Because often what happens, there’s a change, but all the people that assume leadership are from within. So, they’re within the culture. Does it have to be from without?

KYLE STROBEL:  Well, not necessarily. I mean, I think that you have to start on both ends, like you have start at leadership and there also has to be a kind of grassroots movement in a church where a church just kind of in studying scripture, I think very clearly says now like, “No, this is not what it means to be the church.” And then hold their leadership accountable. And this is what the way unfortunately, particularly in evangelicalism where you have a lot of churches that have no—I mean, Willow’s a great example, right? After Bill [Hybels] they’re like, “Who do we turn to for help?” There’s no denomination. And so, when you have a lot of these independent churches, the danger is there’s nowhere to go. And the person probably has so much power they’ll just force you out. And you know, that James MacDonald is famous for this, right where there’s kind of these scare tactics and these like, you know, heavy handed like, “I’m going to force you into submission or scare you enough that you just shut up.” And unfortunately, often those moves are done behind closed doors. And so you might get an Elder board that learns about them. But, you know, one of the things that I think is important is when you think—let’s use elder board as an example, just because I think most churches have something like that, we have this group of elders—I think there that we all we need to ask some serious questions about why the group is the size that it is. Like James MacDonald, so how many were there? Like 30, 35 or some crazy number?

JULIE ROYS: It was over 30.  

KYLE STROBEL: Yeah, well that’s a power move right there. Like if you have 30 people in a room, there’s too many people to know what the other person’s thinking. That is what a toxic leader wants to do, because now you control the room because you can manipulate different sides of the room at different times. And behind closed doors, you can approach one person and tell them to step in line because all the other people will go against them. And all the stuff that happens there. The fact that there’s any more than 10 probably is a bit suspicious in my mind.

JULIE ROYS:  I hate to do this, but we’re running out of time. We could continue this a long time. But I think what I’m hearing you say is we need to get back to basics.

KYLE STROBEL:  And we need to reevaluate every level of what we do around a biblical notion of power.

JULIE ROYS:  Absolutely. And it just reminds me of Mark 10:42-45, where Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Kyle, I thank you so much for reminding us of that today. So appreciate your book and your input today. And just a reminder, if you missed any part of this show or want to listen again, just go to JulieRoys.com. Thanks again for listening. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or are such efforts counterproductive? And should Christians simply aim to support people with same-sex attraction, and even accept gay identity? This week on The Roys Report, Julie explores this issue with two Christian leaders with two different perspectives. Anne Paulk of the Restored Hope Network encourages Christians to offer hope of change and healing to those with same-sex attraction. But Ty Wyss of Walls Down ministry says Christians should simply accept LGBT persons without any pressure or expectation of change.

This Weeks Guests

Anne Paulk

Anne brings more than two decades as an author, speaker, spokesperson and advocate for men and women struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions to her role as executive director of Restored Hope Network. Her mission in leading the organization is to, quite literally, restore hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin, especially those impacted by homosexuality. She has appeared on Focus on the Family Radio, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalkIn the Market with Janet ParshallEquipped with Chris Brooks (Moody Radio), among others. She is the author of Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Harvest House Publishers), and she also has written for Spirit Led WomanCharisma and The Gospel Coalition. Anne lives in Colorado and her greatest joy is being mom to her three sons.     

Ty Wyss

Ty Wyss is the founder and president of Walls Down Ministry in Indianapolis where he helps the theologically conservative church to love LGBTQ people generously through seminars, support groups, & soul care. He also has his masters in counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University and specializes in helping people of faith find congruence in their faith and sexuality. He lives in Indy with Rachel, his wife of 11 years and 2 young boys, Beckett and Asa. 

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or are such efforts counterproductive and shouldn’t Christians simply aim to support people with same sex-attraction and even accept gay identity? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be discussing how to minister to people with same-sex attraction with two Christians who have two very different approaches. One of my guests, Anne Paulk, says God can heal people from same-sex attraction. In fact, it’s something she says she’s experienced herself and has helped many others experience as well. And as the Executive Director of Restored Hope Network, an organization devoted to helping people with same-sex attraction find hope and healing in Christ. My other guest, Ty Wyss, says he doesn’t encourage people to pursue trying to change their sexual orientation. He says he believes that God can change people’s sexuality. But as someone with same-sex attraction, healing or change is not something he’s personally experienced, nor is it something he’s interested in pursuing or encouraging others to pursue. Ty is the founder of Walls Down, a ministry that equips the church to reach out to LGBT people, not by offering hope of change necessarily, but by simply inviting LGBT people to experience an abundant life in Christ. So I’m really looking forward to today’s program. I think it’s going to be extremely informative. And in a way, it’s a follow up to a show that I aired a few weeks ago with two survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon. Both Luis and Angel told me that God had delivered them from same-sex attraction. And then that claim sparked quite the debate on social media. People challenged whether the deliverance that Luis and Angel had experienced was it normative or was that just an anomaly? Someone encouraged me, actually, to reach out to Nate Collins who’s the founder of a controversial conference called Revoice. Revoice is controversial because it affirms gay identity and holds that same-sex attraction is normally immutable or an unchangeable condition. At the same time, Revoice is not gay affirming. The conference organizers are clear that they believe God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. So we did actually reach out to Nate Collins and invited him to join us. He didn’t respond but I’m really glad that Ty Wyss has agreed to be with us. Ty supports the Revoice Conference and has actually led a workshop there. So perhaps we’ll have time today to talk about Revoice as well. But first, let me just welcome our guests. Ty, thank you so much for joining me today.

TY WYSS: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Appreciate that.

JULIE ROYS:  Sure. And Anne you’ve been on this program before, but I appreciate you being willing to come on and talk about this topic with someone who may have a very different perspective than you. So thank you.

ANNE PAULK:  You bet. It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much, Julie. And thank you, Ty.

TY WYSS:  Yeah. Thank you.

JULIE ROYS:  And I always do appreciate it when Christians can come together and we can reason together in an agreeable manner about something that we may feel passionately about that at the same time, have different perspectives. Let me start with you, Ty. Before I ask you, I do want to know, just the topic of this whole program and how to minister to people with same-sex attraction. But I’d like to just sort of establish your position on homosexuality. You’re not gay affirming, correct?

TY WYSS:  Right. That’s correct. Yeah. I believe that God created one man and one woman to be together in marriage.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. And you are married with children, but same-sex attraction is something that you personally struggle with.

TY WYSS:  Yeah, that’s right. It’s kind of in that in between space. Sometimes it feels like so.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, you’ve obviously walked through this yourself. You’ve had churches respond to you, I’m guessing, in different ways when you admit that.

TY WYSS:  Sure.

JULIE ROYS:  From your experience, and also, I’m guessing, your study of the Scriptures, what do you believe is the best way to minister to a person who has same-sex attraction?

TY WYSS:  Yeah, well, you know, the place that I start and the place that I enjoy when people start with, where people start with me, is hearing my story first, and seeing how that experience has, my experience with both faith and sexuality, has impacted my life both really positively and negatively. I feel most honored by that. Because I feel like somebody’s not trying to sort of have an agenda. They really just want to hear something. So I feel like that, for me, that’s the best place to start. Because I think it treats people as individuals and kind of forces you to lay down whatever agenda you might, consciously or unconsciously, have.

JULIE ROYS:  So tell us a little bit about your story.

TY WYSS:  Yes. So I would say, I kind of realized I had the same- sex attraction when I was, I would say 12, was probably when I realized, oh, gosh, I think I might be gay. And kind of started to accept that and started to wrestle with that quite a bit. And then at 17, that’s when I came out to friends and family. And kind of came out to everyone at that point. So it was just kind of and I wasn’t raised in faith. I wasn’t really thinking about what God thought necessarily. I really more thinking about what my community would think—what my family would think.  Would I still be accepted and loved? And so that was really kind of more of where my thought process was. And then so I was out into the gay community in Columbus, Ohio. And really felt like I found a really good community. Really found great friends—dated men, marched in pride parades, went to gay rallies. And really felt like the gay community was the family that I really probably belonged with. Because it felt like these people were like me more than anybody else that I had really met up to that point. So that was kind of my experience coming out. So I don’t know that I had a bad experience with LGBT people or the LGBT community. But then, Jesus started to meddle in my life as He typically does with people. So meddled in a good way. And I thought He was drawing my heart. And I was interested in Christianity and I was a freshman in college when I felt like He barged into my life in a very beautiful way and just revealed to me His kindness and His goodness. And I really felt like that started the seeds of wanting to know what God was like and what He really thought of me. So.

JULIE ROYS:  So take us from that point to the point right now where you’re married and have children yet are still pretty openly struggling with your same-sex attraction.

TY WYSS:  Yeah. So gosh I was 19. And there to, I had been attending a Bible study on campus. And then there to attend a Sunday morning service where my parents had started to go to church, even though they didn’t go to church. Growing up, they had started going to church since I’d come out of the closet. And so, I went to their church on a Sunday morning, when I was in college and walked away with just an unquestionable feeling that God likes me. And which was much more powerful than God loving me for some reason. To say that God liked me, felt like He wanted proximity, wanted to be close, enjoyed and delighted in my heart. Didn’t need for anything I need to change for that to happen. Which, you know, usually people are wanting you to change. Now since I’ve come out, people are wanting, or everybody has an opinion about my life and my sexuality. And I felt like God proves that He enjoyed and delighted in me first and so that really caused me to be comfortable to at least ask the question. God, what do you think of my sexuality and is what I’m doing okay? Because I believe His heart, from that point on, I mean, I’m simplifying of course. But for Him to, for me to actually care what God thought now was a pretty profound shift. And I felt like He was speaking to my heart just really saying, this isn’t what I have for you. Will you trust me that I know what’s better for your life? And I was kind of caught with like, I think I do. I think I do trust You to do that. I don’t know why I trust You to do that, but I think I do. And so I kind of surrendered my sexuality the best way that I knew how. Not with trying to be straight. I didn’t really know if God could do that or wanted to do that. But it felt more congruent for me to just say, you know what, I’m just not going to date anyone and just see what how this Jesus thing goes. And so, the long story short is I started to follow Christ. Surrender my sexuality. Stop dating men. Not as simple as it sounds, of course. But eventually did, you know, a couple years later did. Felt like I was introduced to the woman that is now my wife. And that’s a whole journey in and of itself. But really felt like God spoke to me, before there was any feelings of attraction or desire for her, that this would be my wife and that I would need to trust Him. And so that was and again, I mean, it was just kind of like, again, I don’t know why I really trusted Him to do that. That seems very, that seemed impossible. This part of me seemed completely fixed in every way possible. And to even want to be, to desire a woman seemed really not that. I didn’t know if I wanted it.

JULIE ROYS:  Hold that thought, Ty. We need to go to a break. But when we come back, I want to hear the rest of that story and then now, how that’s informed the way that you explain to the church how to minister to others who are in the position you were. I want to hear from Anne Paulk as well. What’s your story? How does it relate? Also, how it may be different and how do you approach ministering to people with same-sex attraction a little bit differently. We’ll be right back after a short break.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  What’s the best way for Christians to minister to those with same-sex attraction? Welcome to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m exploring this issue with two Christian leaders with two very different approaches. One, Anne Paulk of The Restored Hope Network, encourages people with same-sex attraction to pursue personal healing and even hold out the hope that God might change their orientation. The other, Ty Wyss of Walls Down, says he doesn’t encourage Christians with same-sex attraction to pursue change. Instead, the focus of his ministry is simply equipping churches to love LGBT people and invite them to experience the abundant life in Christ. And by the way, if you’d like to comment on today’s discussion, I encourage you to go to facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys or you can join the discussion on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @ReachJulieRoys. So Ty, before the break, you were telling about your story and how you struggled with same-sex attraction. Well you didn’t struggle at first, you weren’t a believer. So you just gave in to it. And then God began to work in your heart. You came to Christ and you began to trust Him with your sexuality. Then how did that lead to you getting married? And today having kids and how does that work out in your life?

TY WYSS:  Yeah, sure. So, you know, as I was saying before, God had brought this woman into my life and then said this is who I have for you, will you trust Me? And I really just said, for whatever reason, said yeah, I do trust You. And I was honest with her about that. Which I think is super important that I said, you know, this is something that I don’t know that I can ever—I  certainly can’t make myself attracted to women, even though you’re very beautiful. And I’m very much still attracted to men. Like that has not changed. And so if you want to find help for that, then if you feel like this is God as well, then I’m willing to, I’m open to pursuing this and seeing what this might look like. And the long story short is, even though God did not change my attraction to men, I do feel like He opened up my heart to love Rachel, my wife. Which I think is really interesting. And I use that verbiage on purpose because He did not make me attracted to women in general. There was something about Rachel that, as I got to know her, that there was a genuine appreciation for her. That really kind of blossomed into, what I would say is, I wanted to extend intimacy into the bedroom—intimacy that we were already experiencing heart-to-heart, face-to-face. I felt like was being like I was being pulled, or invited really, to experience the sexual relationship and that was just more, maybe more of an outgrowth of that. And so I don’t know that I experienced it as an intense desire as more of it was like a longing and an openness. So we ended up getting married. We didn’t have sex until we married. And then several years later, we decided to start a family. And we have two beautiful boys, five and one. And I’m attracted to men. And she knows that and we have navigated that, I feel like pretty well, but it has definitely brought challenges without question so.

JULIE ROYS:  This is a really interesting—your story is really interesting because most of the people that I’ve heard talk about this—Christians who identify as gay or say they have same-sex attraction and haven’t experienced any deliverance from that— usually say, well, we have to stay celibate for life. Which sounds, you know, pretty lonely and just not that appealing to, I think, an awful lot of people. Your story is very unique in that you went down that road despite the same-sex attraction. I want to invite Anne into this discussion now because Anne, I’m guessing there’s a lot of things that Ty just expressed that are very similar to your story. Yes?

ANNE PAULK:  Yeah, actually there are. For one, I wasn’t given a command to leave homosexuality. As I embraced homosexuality, when I was a freshman in college, is when I began to embrace that I’d had the feelings for a long time. And I believe they originated out of sexual abuse and my response to it when I was younger. I was four years old when that began, and it, thankfully, didn’t continue for a long time but really created some misconceptions and judgments upon men that they didn’t deserve as a block. Anyhow, there are lots of underlying things that were going on that, praise God, He helped me walk through later on. But when I was dealing with same-sex attraction, not as a believer, believing I was a Christian, but I really didn’t have any relationship with God. So I was very much like Ty. I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations on me at that time. What was intriguing to me was I was struggling with who am I? And what’s the purpose of life and then began to have dreams about Jesus kind of like what’s happening in Iran right now. There it was. UC Santa Barbara and my first year in college and I began to have dreams about Jesus. It was not—He was not welcome. Because I was, I was pursuing other things that I had, kind of had an inkling that He didn’t support. And then I just simply said, okay, well, who does He say He is anyway? And none of my friends could answer those questions. So I ended up at an on-campus group—a  Christian group, called Campus Ambassadors, that had a class called evangelism training. There I was as a non-believer in this thing trying to get my questions answered. At the end of that time, I had an encounter with the Person of God. So God was actually present the whole time. But He opened my understanding to recognize that He was actually present in the room, weaving in and out amongst the prayers of the saints. And I was pretending with my head bowed and hands together, doing what I thought you were supposed to do. And He, this remarkable Person, this Person of great authority, and yet kindness, this tender hearted one, but full of power at the same time—within the room, caring what we had to say. He was engaging with us. And there was a cut-out around me and I recognized that I had to have this Person in my life. So it was the love and kindness of God that actually drew me to Him. It wasn’t, hey, surrender your homosexuality now or feeling like that was a bad thing. I actually, you know, wasn’t sure what to do about it. I told the pastor afterwards hey, I am a lesbian and I experience this. And now what do I do about all this? How do I get this Person in my life? I was just so thankful that he told me the truth that homosexuality is sin, but that God is willing to come into my life. In that great exchange, the gospel is, you give your life to Jesus, He gives His to you. And that’s an amazing gift. Amazing. That changed everything overnight, not my sexual feelings. It changed my allegiance. It changed my affection to Him–my openness to want to please this One who’s now part of my life has filled me with joy. And so part of that was, no, I’m not bringing sin into the relationship. I’m surrendering that but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t change my feelings. I can’t do A, B or C. And, Lord, I’m yours. Do with me what you will. And so friends began to walk alongside of me who were Christians that I hadn’t really paid any attention to it prior. And a dear friend, Kirsten, taught me how to pray. We’d meet outside the food stand on campus, and we’d sit on a hill and just lift up our hearts to God out loud. And that was terrifying because I thought everybody was staring at me—this strange person sitting on a hill praying. You know, it just was interesting.

JULIE ROYS:  So, you ended up getting married as well. Though I’m wondering from that point of becoming a believer to the point you got married. You know, Ty saying those same-sex attractions, that’s still there. Those feelings are still there but I’m pursuing this. Did you find, and we just have a little bit of time. We’ll probably have to continue a lot of this on the other side of the break. But did you find that the feelings went away at any point?

ANNE PAULK:  Well, the first few years, no, in fact intensified. I was looking for a best friend sort of deal and with somebody who has same-sex attraction. That became more intense and caused my struggles to grow for that time. When I fell into sin, then I really, like okay God, here I am. You got to do something because I like the sin. But I’m Yours. So how are you gonna? I can’t do anything about it. I need help. And so He moved in my life to have me confide in some Christian leaders, who then walked me through a process of restoration. And connected me with a local ministry, Exodus Ministry, in the San Francisco area, which is where I was living at the time.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, I want to hear about that experience with Exodus or an Exodus related ministry because a lot of people know who are listening. Exodus folded and the leader, Allen Chambers, said that basically change is impossible. He doesn’t know anybody that’s done it. And that has changed a lot of the evangelical opinions about same-sex attraction. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report—here today with Anne Paulk and Ty Wyss. We’ll be right back after a short break.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER:  Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Should Christians encourage people with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek healing and change? Or is same-sex attraction something that’s generally unchangeable and our efforts, counterproductive or even damaging to try and change sexual orientation. Welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, I’m exploring how to minister to people with same-sex attraction with two Christian leaders with two different perspectives. Anne Paulk, of The Restored Hope Network, believes sexual redemption and healing is available to the person with same-sex attraction and encourages them to seek it. Ty Wyss of Walls Down doesn’t encourage Christians with same-sex attraction to necessarily seek change in their orientation. In fact, he’s okay with them embracing gay identity so long as they don’t act on that identity. And he trains churches on how to reach out to the LGBT community without pressure and without a lot of conditions. And, by the way, if you’re just joining us and would like to listen to the first part of today’s program, I’ll be posting the entire audio to my website soon after the end of today’s broadcast. Just go to JulieRoys.com and click on the podcast tab. Also, if you’d like to learn more about the different views on homosexuality within the church, there’s a blog post I’ve written that I think you’d find really helpful. You just go to my website and search for an article entitled Revoice Conference Reveals Churches Failure to Address LGBT Issues. And in that article, there’s a graphic with the four views on homosexuality within the church. And I think you’ll find it just really informative. Again, just go to JulieRoys.com and then search for Revoice Conference Reveals Churches Failure to Address LGBT Issues. And I think both my guests today, Anne and Ty, might agree with that topic. That in the past, the church hasn’t done a real stellar job of dealing with people who have same-sex attraction. Anne, I’m going to give you a chance to pick up where you left off with your story. Which, to me, brings up—you said at a certain point after you became a believer, and you began to deal with your same-sex feelings, you were referred to an Exodus related ministry. Describe what happened in that ministry.

ANNE PAULK:  So it was the most helpful thing in my life as far as dealing with homosexuality. It was a tremendous time, a gift to me. I had been seeing a counselor because feelings and thoughts of the early molestation had been coming up to mind. And I wanted to begin to grapple with what was keeping me stuck in homosexuality. I knew God forbid acting upon it. So I knew the basis for it had to be—there had to be a way to surrender more and more of myself so that He could move in my life. And so I was pursuing counseling. It was very helpful. But there was a time when I was really grappling with pain and in that 50-minute segment really wasn’t all that helpful. So I got connected with a local Exodus Ministry or affiliated ministry that was run by Frank and Anita Worthen. And drove an hour each way to get to this meeting and it was so valuable. I saw men and women around me, who weren’t perfect in any way, shape or form, still struggling with homosexuality, but God was on the move in their life. I could see them changing in front of my eyes. One of the gals had been wearing—my friend dawn, she’s still a dear friend of mine—she had been wearing a tool belt around her waist coming into one of the meetings because she was a cubicle office furniture builder. So there she was, she was tough as nails I’ll tell you. But over the years’ time, I saw her soften and become more the woman of God that He intended. I could see her just beginning to lean in and trust God’s leadership in her life. And it was due to being part of this group. There was no dishonesty that we brought into the group. It was simply here I am; this is what I’m going through. And, you know, let’s pray for one another. And that was—I so appreciate that about Ty’s testimony, too. His focus is on leaning in with being honest. And that’s so primary. It’s so significant. My ex-husband was not able to be honest, and that’s what propelled his fall back into homosexuality, in my opinion. So honesty with God—honesty with one another is so profound. So I was struggling with various things. And I remember one of the leaders said hey, you need to forgive your mom. And I thought what do I need to forgive my mom for? That was just kind of lame I thought. But I just went along. And so okay, look, I’ll pray. You need to thank God for your hips. I’m like, I will not thank God for these big hips. (Laughter) And so anyway, it was just funny. There were a couple of funny little things. The weird thing about it is when I followed through and said, alright, You’re leading, I will follow. I’m just going to go for this. Actually, significant things changed in my heart. Like, the next day, I remember thinking, Mom, let’s go clothes shopping. That’s antithetical to everything I’d felt before. It was the oddest thing. And I wanted to buy very feminine clothing. It was just really a weird thing. And all I did was trust the leadership to take me down this road towards healing. And the trust resulted in this heart change that began. Over time when I dealt with the molestation when I was young, and forgave the individual from my heart. Which was impossible to do. God had to do it. And I told him so. Look, you know, this is it. To forgive legally is one matter, to forgive from the heart is a whole different thing. So You’re going to have to do this in my soul. And He indeed did it. And I remember having joy at the mention of the person—the name the next time. And I thought, whoa, okay, that’s like never happened. So I knew He was at work in these critical things. As a result of being at work in those things, I began to enjoy being a woman. I began to enjoy bonding with other women as a woman, like a sister. Like one beautiful gal, she was an airline attendant, she threw her arm around me and said, “Anne, people say we look like sisters.” And I thought, oh, yeah, sure. (Laughter) You’ve got to be joking. And I think I said that out loud. She said, ‘No, I feel so privileged that they think we look alike.” And every little bit was like putting love and affection and kindness into my cup. And over time, I remember one time I was at, it was a Vineyard Church, and I was admiring this female worship leader. And I thought, you know, normally I would have had feelings towards her—same sex attraction. And, in my mind, something weird happened. It was, I don’t want her. I want to be like her. Huge difference. Huge. And these things began to set the stage for noticing how different men and women were. And that I felt I began to feel like just another woman. And that set the stage for potential of getting married. 

JULIE ROYS:  So you found over time, and we have to go to break. I hate to do this. But over time, your feelings did change as God began to work on some of those broken areas of your heart.

ANNE PAULK:  Right. That’s right. And so my goal is, of course, in giving care, is to provide people opportunity to allow God to work in those pretty intimate areas of their lives and heart.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, we need to go to break but when we come back, I want to hear more about that. I also want to hear from Ty as well. What he thinks of that. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And we will be right back after a short break.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER:  This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  How should Christians and churches minister to people with same-sex attraction? Should they simply accept and affirm gay identity while encouraging them to remain celibate? Or should they hold out hope of change and sexual redemption and encourage people with same-sex attraction to seek healing? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m discussing this controversial issue with two Christian leaders with different perspectives. Anne Paulk, of The Restored Hope Network, has experienced change in her orientation and says churches need to offer hope of healing and equip leaders to help people find that healing. Ty Wyss of Walls Down says focusing on healing and change can be, especially when it’s the focus on change, can be counterproductive and can push people, LGBT people, away from the church. And he says the church needs to be more welcoming and avoid pressuring LGBT people to change. And by the way, if you are just joining the program and want to hear anything that you’ve missed, I’ll be posting the complete audio to my website about an hour after the end of this program. Just go to JulieRoys.com and then click on the podcast tab. So Anne, before the break, you were telling your story. I thought it was fascinating how you said you got in this ministry. And as you began to deal with your abuse that you had from childhood, as you began to deal with feelings of unforgiveness towards your mother, you just began to change. And you began to accept your feminine identity. You began to embrace that.

ANNE PAULK:  And actually, enjoy it. Not just accept. It was amazing. Yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  And through that process, your same-sex feelings went away? Or were they still there and do you still struggle? I mean, what’s the degree?

ANNE PAULK:  Good question. They primarily went away. A huge change had happened in them. That was probably when, gosh, 25 years ago. So that created the opportunity for me to notice that men were really different and then to be kind of intrigued by that. Whereas I had been around them for so long, but didn’t feel complete as a woman. So, my same-sex attraction remained but it was very minimal at that point. It dominated most of my days, even before Christ and for the first few years afterwards, till I got some help. And then it became lessened. It became kind of muted to some degree. And then as I grew as a woman and felt more secure as a woman, my struggles diminished. But if any insecurity popped up, that would be the go-to comfort zone. All of a sudden, I’d find myself—it didn’t matter what area of insecurity I was dealing with, I would probably struggle with some degree of same-sex attraction with who knows who or nobody. It just popped up. But over time, amazingly, the more I exercised the good things in my life, the less the old dominated. And it took a backseat and then basically got out of the car. Now that’s not really—there can be times of struggle when I went through the divorce with my husband. And realized he was, you know, not being faithful, over a long period of time, and really fighting for our marriage. It created an environment of great vulnerability, and I struggled with same-sex feelings, but not actions at all. So, yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  So, I find this fascinating, but it’s also—I worked in a ministry, I volunteered in a ministry, where we had a number of people who dealt with same-sex attraction. And I’ve seen people walk through that similar process. So, I do believe in healing. I am curious, though, Anne. Would you call what you experienced reparative therapy or conversion therapy?

ANNE PAULK:  No, actually, I wouldn’t call it either. I would call it transformation. Because God’s in the business of transforming lives. He really—He’s not in any business, per se. He is in—He is just actively involved in bringing sons and daughters more into the likeness of Christ. That is exactly what He does. And leaving behind sin is part of that equation.

JULIE ROYS:  So, Ty, I’m curious as you’re hearing this story. I know you said specifically, in some of the pre-correspondence that we had to the show, that you don’t believe in conversion therapy or reparative therapy. And I think that any—I know Restored Hope Network gets sort of labeled as, you know, conversion therapy, or reparative therapy. Anytime you say that there’s hope of change, that seems to be the pejorative term that’s used for a ministry. But how do you respond to her story and this idea that, you know, as she worked on these issues, they began to change? I know that you haven’t experienced that. So it might be like, well, it’s great for you. But, you know, stinks to be me, you know, kind of thing. So, tell me how you respond.

TY WYSS:  Yeah, well, I think as a counselor, I have learned to respond to people’s stories in reserving judgment. And saying, you know what, I’m going to take the things that you’re saying, and I’m going to at least consider them. Even if part of that makes me want to respond with rejection or things like that. So I certainly don’t doubt Anne’s story by any stretch. I would say that there are similar things that I’ve experienced in the way that really God has encountered me, or that I’ve encountered Him rather—in that the vows that I made against masculinity because of abuse that I experienced as a young boy, or just my own hatred of masculinity, I think plays a part in how I experienced men. And I think that God has, certainly, in my walk with Him, has certainly come to me and asked me to forgive men, masculine men. And to surrender the vow that I made against masculinity. And not in a way that says, and if you do this, then you won’t experience as much or any attraction to men. But really just as a way of relating better to my brothers. And I have followed Him, not somewhat reluctantly. Sometimes angrily and sometimes in surrender. Eventually in surrender in that. And I have a much better relationship with straight men and allow them into my life in ways that has been very, very healing for me. To her and again, I think it’s similar to Anne, where I actually enjoying my gender and enjoy my gender representation in ways that I didn’t really think was possible. But that has not changed my attraction towards men. I think it has made me a more whole person. And I enjoy my life more. I enjoy relationships and friendships more. But as far as attraction to men, I just don’t think that that has really, it just hasn’t, for me,  hasn’t affected my sexual orientation. And I think that so for some women, I think that, from my understanding of some of the evidence of sexual orientation, that women’s orientation is a little bit more fluid than men. And men seem to be a bit more fixed. Not that we want to paint people in categories, or paint with people broad brushes but necessarily. But that has been my experience, not just with me, but with a number of other people that I have come across—has been that men’s orientation seem to be a bit more fixed. Whereas, women seem to be a little bit more fluid.

ANNE PAULK:  I mentioned that in my book, but research since then, has actually come out by a lesbian researcher in Utah. Have you heard of Lisa Diamond? 

TY WYSS:  I haven’t.

ANNE PAULK:  Okay, she’s a lesbian researcher. She’s on the committee, the task force for homosexuality for the APA. And her research has shown that men and women both have more likely to have sexual fluidity. In fact, that’s a common component amongst LGBT identity is that it’s not necessarily fixed. It’s like the Kinsey scale one to seven. But that over a lifetime, people tend towards heterosexual identity in their changes. And this is from a completely secular research perspective. Fascinating, I thought.

TY WYSS:  That is really interesting. I do think that’s really interesting. I do think that our sexual orientations, or our sexual feelings or just how we experience our sexuality, is really fluid— much more than what culture would want us to believe. As if it’s this fixed, immutable, 100% unchanging thing forever. And I think, yeah, even secular science says this proves that so. But I would love to look into that. So thanks for that.

ANNE PAULK:  Yeah, that would be fascinating. Can I ask you one other thing? If you don’t mind, Julie.

JULIE ROYS:  No, go ahead.

ANNE PAULK:  Ty. You mentioned that your sexual attraction hasn’t changed towards men. I understand that you’re attracted to your wife and that’s wonderful. But I was wondering if there’s been any minor changes in the frequency of your attraction—the intensity of your attraction? I mean, I guess the thing that I’ve been frustrated with over the last 10 years, probably has been this soundbite philosophy where it’s all or nothing or it’s this or that. I mean, it’s almost like that there’s a light switch opportunity rather than a dial of options of answers. And I prefer to have the dial because I don’t think life is generally made up of light switches on human sexuality or identity or feelings or thoughts. And so, where would you—compare yourself now to the man you were 10 years ago or when you first came to Christ? What’s the difference in, actually, maybe the intensity or frequency or whatever of your attractions to men? Even though you still have them.

TY WYSS:  Yeah, so I love that metaphor of a dial. I think that that’s really helpful. Actually, so I didn’t even deal with the sexual abuse until about five years ago in my story. And so, I actually felt like things were, probably in my mid to probably my early to mid-20s was very relatively not as—my attractions weren’t as intense. And then once when I experienced them, and it wasn’t reparative therapy. It was just really therapy for the sexual abuse. That really, in many ways, it has healed my soul in beautiful, beautiful ways. A lot of ways it has also stirred up a lot of things as well. And so I would say where I’m at today, as a 34-year-old man, is that I experience probably more intense attraction to men than I did in my mid-20s. But I would also caveat that with I feel like my heart is a lot more healthy and whole. Which I know sounds like a paradox. And if you’re asking me, I think that’s not what I was expecting. I was expecting maybe a little bit more, a little bit less attraction to men once I dealt with these issues. And maybe that is to come. I don’t know. But as a 34-year-old man, sitting here doing this interview, my attraction to men is actually more intense.

JULIE ROYS:  So let me, we just have two minutes. I hate to do this, but we have two minutes left. Really quickly, Ty. So based on your experience, and how your understanding of Scripture and God working, you say to the church, what? When you have a person with same-sex attraction. What if you could just boil it down to one thing? What would you say to the church?

TY WYSS:  Yeah. Walk alongside them in a way that relieves them of shame where they’re able to be open about their experience and they don’t have to edit their life. And let God be the dictator, almost a dictator, but the leader, the shepherd, of how they steward and how they identify. And let that really be a journey without all the agendas and expectations.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, let me throw it to Anne. If you can do this one thing. You’ve got about 30 seconds,

ANNE PAULK:  Okay. I would recommend to the church to keep the door of transformed lives open. The gospel is nothing if it doesn’t include everyone in that picture of come to Jesus, surrender your life, be made new into His image. And that includes forsaking sin—sin-based identity. And it’s not the either/or, us/them. It’s let’s all walk into Jesus together and walk in faithfulness, indeed stewardship. But also surrender and let Him move and even in the area of feeling. It’s possible.

JULIE ROYS:  Thank you. And thank you Anne and thank you Ty for just openly sharing with your experience. I appreciate that so much. There’s one scripture that comes to mind with this issue for me. It’s II Corinthians 5:17—”If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” Does that mean that when we get saved, we automatically become this new creation that has no sin nature, that has none of these bad desires? No. But I do believe in progressive sanctification and I always leave open the possibility that God can change anything, and that includes sexuality. That’s my view. I’d love to hear from you. Again, you can go to JulieRoys.com. Thanks again to Anne Paulk and Ty Wyss. Thanks so much for joining me. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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The LGBT Indoctrination In Public Schools https://julieroys.com/podcast/the-lgbt-indoctrination-in-public-schools/ Sun, 05 Jan 2020 00:07:53 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6650 The LGBT Indoctrination In Public Schools Read More »

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Boys are being allowed in girls locker rooms—and schools are teaching curriculum that promotes LGBT lifestyles. This week on The Roys Report, I’ll be talking about some of these developments with Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute. Also joining me will be 2 parents from Evanston School District 202. Find out what students today are encountering in the public schools. And how parents and citizens can oppose LGBT indoctrination. Join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life, and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!

This Weeks Guests

Julie Neely

Julie Neely is a mother and a wife. She has lived and worked in Evanston, IL for sixteen years. She is a Creative Director by day — but her primary passion is love of God, family and serving in her community.

Dr. Jessica Hockett

Dr. Jessica Hockett is a 20-year education veteran, author and consultant. She and her family live in Evanston, Illinois, where her children attend public school.

Laurie Higgins

Laurie Higgins became the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008.  Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years in Deerfield High School’s writing center in Deerfield, Illinois. Her cultural commentaries have been carried on a number of pro-family websites nationally and internationally, and Laurie has appeared on numerous radio programs across the country.

Show Transcript

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  The LGBTQ agenda has taken over many public schools and now students, as young as five or even pre-k, are being taught about gender identities and gender fluidity. And boys, who identify as girls, are being allowed into female locker rooms and bathrooms. Welcome to the Roys report brought to you in part by Johnson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re going to be discussing this alarming LGBTQ agenda in the schools and what you as parents and taxpayers can do about it. And I don’t know anywhere in the country where this agenda is more pronounced than here in my State of Illinois. The superintendent of the largest High School District in Illinois, District 211, now says that he wants to sexually integrate locker rooms and bathrooms. In other words, he wants boys and girls who identify as transgendered, to have unfettered access to whichever bathroom or locker room they choose. Meanwhile, the school serving the Chicago suburbs of Evanston and Skokie just celebrated Equity Week. During this week, pre-k and kindergarten kids read I am Jazz, a picture book about a transgender girl. And they read My Princess Boy, a picture book about a gender non-conforming boy who likes to dress in girls’ clothing. First graders made pride flags and practice gender neutral pronouns. Second graders were taught concepts like gay, lesbian and non-binary. And older students were taught about gay rights pioneer, Harvey Milk, and cross-dressing women who supposedly fought in the Civil War disguised as men. But this isn’t only happening in Illinois. Just this year, four states—New Jersey, Colorado, Oregon and Illinois—have enacted policies requiring public schools to include lessons on LGBTQ people who have contributed to society. Meanwhile, in Maryland, the Department of Education is revising its history standards for high schools to include LGBTQ related topics. Massachusetts is recommending books like I am Jazz for elementary school students and last year, it introduced an optional history unit promoting LGBTQ themes. This LGBTQ agenda is rapidly infiltrating our schools and it’s impacting our children. But what can we do about it and what should you expect if you publicly decide to oppose this agenda? Well, joining me today in studio are Julie Neely and Dr. Jessica Hockett—two parents from that school district that recently celebrated Equity Week. And their stories are both eye opening and I would say sobering. So Jessica, welcome. Glad to have you here.

DR JESSICA HOCKETT: Thank you.

JULIE ROYS:  And Julie, welcome to the program.

JULIE NEELY:  Very nice to be here. Thank you.

JULIE ROYS:  Also joining me is Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute. She’s a cultural affairs writer there and she’s been covering LGBTQ issues for what over a decade, Laurie? A very long time. 

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Eleven years, yep. 

JULIE ROYS:  Eleven years and writes very clearly on this topic. So I’m thrilled to have you all in studio. So thank you for making the drive and being here. And I do feel like what’s happening in this Evanston-Skokie district, where they’re having Equity Week where I know Jessica and Julie where you are. This is sort of a microcosm, I would say, of what’s happening all over our country. So I kind of wanted to start with talking about that because I think a lot of people listening will be able to—one, see this might be coming to a school near you, but—two, to see what’s in store. So let me just ask you, Jessica, how did you even find out about this Equity Week? Was this something that was promoted for a long time and you knew it was coming or kind of thrown at you last minute?

DR JESSICA HOCKETT:  Sure. Well, on September 24, I believe it was the Evanston-Skokie School District 65 sent out an email to parents announcing the forthcoming celebration of LGBTQ Equity Week. I think in that first full week of October, they mentioned that students would be doing some different lessons and activities. We got, at our school, an email newsletter from our principal about that as well. She gave some very brief summaries of what would be happening at each of the grade levels, but there was no link to the actual lessons. We had to request the actual lessons and so we got the link to the actual lessons. And, for my husband and I, we read all the lessons and we said to ourselves, okay, we need to opt our students out for this. And so we began the process of talking to our principal and saying, is there opt-out for this? Can we take our kids out of school? And the district’s response was no, there is no opt-out provision. We had a lawyer’s review these lessons. They do not fall under the sex education statute an Illinois School code which would afford opt-out. And so, no, there’s no opt-out provision. We took our kids out for the lessons anyway. Yeah, pick them up at school, each of them respectively, elementary and middle school and then brought them back after the lessons. 

JULIE ROYS:  Wow, that’s stunning. 

DR. JESSICA HOCKETT:  Yeah, the teachers were very accommodating. And we were treated very respectfully within the school. But the district itself would not afford any kind of recognition that the objection to the content of the lessons was understandable or okay.

JULIE ROYS:  Interesting. So Julie, you also found out about this. How’d you find out? You got the same emails I’m supposing? 

JULIE NEELY: Receives an email. Pretty uneventful email. Like oh, okay, that’s interesting because we knew that there had been something passed in the state. And then it was just literally like three days before it started, that week before the program is supposed to start, that the email with the link was sent home. And then as I started going through it Friday night, I was dumbfounded and alarmed and wasn’t sure what to do about this because it just seemed inappropriate, particularly at the lower grades. My children are not in the lower school any longer, but I was still troubled deeply by what I found.

JULIE ROYS:  OK, so you guys, you went public a little bit with this. Right, Jessica? I mean, yeah, so your name got out there, what, not just through social media but through other avenues as well, didn’t you? 

DR. JESSICA HOCKETT:  Sure. 

JULIE ROYS:  Tell us a little bit about that and what the reaction was when your name got out there publicly.

DR JESSICA HOCKETT:  So I wrote, my husband and I wrote a letter. It was an open letter. We put it in a Google doc. We sent it to other people who, we thought, maybe would be interested, particularly within our church, who had, also have children in the school district. And we said, we’re writing this letter and anybody else who wants to put their name on it as a supporter can do that. And so we had about 50 or so other parents and community members put their names on it. We sent it to the school district. And then we didn’t hear anything. I think for a couple weeks or so. We didn’t get any response or any acknowledgement that they, that the school board and administrators had received our email. And then my husband went to a school board meeting and spoke up about this. And said, you know, you haven’t even responded to our email. And only then, I think it was the next day or maybe two days after that meeting, did one school board member respond and say, oh, I didn’t see your email. It went into my junk. Which you know, that very well could have could have been the case. I don’t know that it was the case for all of the recipients. But yeah, so that’s they didn’t acknowledge necessarily our arguments as valid. They stayed the course.

JULIE ROYS:  And Julie, didn’t you put something out on social media?

JULIE NEELY:  I did not. 

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, you didn’t?

JULIE NEELY:  I read many things on social media. And frankly, I was really had to think and pray quite a bit before I even signed the letter. Because what I found on social media in District 65, parent and guardian groups that were on social media, just an immense amount of hostility people were posting. There were a couple of posts. One person posted a few screen grabs and said, you know, what do you guys think about some of this curriculum that’s being, you know, proposed for our students next week? And wow, a very harsh backlash was an onslaught of just negativity. I would say, within a few hours, four to five hundred emails or messages on Facebook. Just a lot of hostility and picking apart the words that the person had used. And there was no room for any other thought other than full embracing of the curriculum and the topic.

JULIE ROYS:  Very interesting because you’re watching that and you’re taking notice. So I mean, how many people sit there and see this and say, oh, well, this is what happens to somebody who speaks up. I’m just going to stay back. And but then it kind of gives the impression that everybody’s on board with this. Do you get the impression that you’re most everybody is on board or that most everybody is scared to say they’re not on board?

JULIE NEELY:  No, I suspect there are people who are very hesitant to speak up. But I also know parents of all types, all walks of life, that are not necessarily Christians. I know many people who are speaking up to their principles, to their teachers and are upset about this. But whether they’re speaking out, they’re not signing the letter necessarily. I haven’t seen them at the board meetings. So but they’re speaking to their immediate teachers.

DR JESSICA HOCKETT:  And we’ve spoken to teachers, too, who had grave concerns about implementing the curriculum. And I should also mention that my first, the first thing we said in the letter to the school district was you just told teachers about these lessons on September 13. That they would and it was mandated. Basically, you have to throw over anything else that you have planned. And you have to implement these lessons, which really is professionally disrespectful to the teachers and not the right way to implement any curriculum.

JULIE ROYS:  Right. Well, and I know that your children, even though they weren’t a part of this program, were impacted by it. So I want to talk about that when we return from break. And I want to hear from Laurie Higgins as well—kind of giving us an overview of how this is happening around the state, around the country. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And we will be right back after a short break.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  What do you do when you discover that your kids’ schools indoctrinating them to embrace the LGBTQ agenda? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m talking with two parents whose children attend schools that recently celebrated Equity Week. During this week, children as young as five or even pre-k, were taught about gender identities and gender fluidity. Students made pride flags and practiced using gender neutral pronouns. And as Christians, who embrace a Biblical sexual ethic, these parents were appalled. But what do you do when the LGBTQ agenda comes to your school? How do you engage and how do you talk to your kids when they come home and they start expressing maybe errant ideas about gender and sexuality or even attitudes towards their own gender and sexuality? Well, that’s our discussion today. And if you’d like to comment, I encourage you to go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or you can join us on twitter. My handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Well again, joining me today is Dr. Jessica Hockett and Julie Neely, whose children attend Evanston- Skokie District 65, which just celebrated Equity Week. Also joining me is Laurie Higgins—cultural affair writer with the Illinois Family Institute. But Julie and Jessica, I wanted to ask you, before I go to Laurie and we find out a little bit more about, kind of, what’s happening around the state and around the country. I want to know how your kids were personally impacted, even though you pulled them out. Did you pull your kids out too Julie?

JULIE NEELY:  I did not. I have one child in District 65. The other one is in 202. I did not.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So your child stayed in for these lessons. You pulled them out, Jessica. But even so I’m guessing yours were still impacted. Yes, Jessica?

DR JESSICA HOCKETT:  Yeah. I mean, especially my daughter is very verbal and explains all of her thinking and always tells us what’s going on at school. So she knew and so did our son. We were very upfront with them. Like, this is what the school is teaching. It’s not what we believe is right. It’s not consistent with what God says about people and who people are. And so we’re going to be taking you out as a way of, you know, standing out, standing up against this. But you know, my daughter, especially, you know, she’d come home and bring her back. And then friends would talk with her at lunch about like why are you leaving? And why are you gone? And so she came home with a lot of ideas, and really has been all year because this isn’t just a one week thing there. And the school board has said that. They’re integrating it throughout the year. And so, you know, she came home that week and was like, okay, so my friends say that, you know, that a lesbian is two women, like they love each other. But there’s different kinds of love, right? And so, we said, “Yeah, you know, God tells us, the Bible tells, there are different kinds of love.” And she was grappling with that. So, “I love my friend. Right? But does that mean . . . “ I’m like, “No, honey, that’s not what that means.” We love her questions and all kids have questions as they encounter the world and their experiences. And we want to be able to help her make sense of those things within a Biblical framework. But to have the school assume that position of teaching things related to sex and sexuality and gender and then say, “This isn’t sex education and you can’t take your kids out.” That’s an affront, as a taxpayer, honestly.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Julie, how about your child that’s in the school? How is he or she? I’m sorry, I don’t know which it is.

JULIE NEELY: One, I’ve been told I can’t assign a gender. But at this point I refer to him as “he.” I mean all of our hearts are just so heavy because obviously there are children in the school who do feel uncomfortable and with who they are and how they identify. And so we do want to love and care for all those people for sure. And frankly, we have LGBTQ people in our close family. So this is not a new topic for them. We’ve been discussing this since they’ve been little, little kids. And as soon as they started asking questions, we had answers for them or discussions. So how has it affected him? I think if anything it generates more conversation. And he was in the classroom for most of the presentations. And I think they varied a lot from teacher to teacher to teacher. I think some they had some autonomy in what they were teaching from . . .

JULIE ROYS:  And how old is he?

JULIE NEELY:  He is 12. He is in 6th grade. But he did say, last week, they have half-days first Wednesday of each week. That half day Wednesday tends to be LGBTQ curriculum. So, in his gym class, they watched a movie of transgenders around the world. So that’s, he mentioned that. And I don’t know if it really impacts him deeply. You know, he does—he’s also a talker and talks about what’s on his mind. So maybe that’s helpful. But it’s just heavy for all of us because there’s no room for conversation to dialogue with. Because we want to understand, better understand, where they’re coming from, or I do, but there’s just there’s no room for conversation dialogue. You are either fully embracing it or you are a hateful, close minded bigot. There’s no room in-between.

JULIE ROYS:  And it’s tough for your kids, too. I remember my son, who’s now, he’s 26. He actually, we just had our first grandchild, which we’re totally excited about. But I remember when he was in high school, there was sex ed program, and we pulled him out and we had an alternative program that he did with us. And, you know, he was kind of the kid was the third eye. And I don’t think our kids necessarily appreciate that that much. It makes it very difficult for Christian parents because you’re in this position of do I, you know, throw them in with an agenda that I don’t agree with—where they’re going to be exposed to (I guess in high school, they’re exposed to it anyway) but you really want to be able to take that time and teach them gender and sexuality as you understand it Biblically—from a beautiful, you know, very redemptive standpoint. And instead, you’re having to pull them out, do it separately, and it’s very difficult. Laurie, you have engaged with this for a very, very long time. I know that even your kids, back when they were in school, which is how many years ago when they were at Deerfield high school? 

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Well, my kids are a range in age from 30 to 40. I have four of them. So, it was really not there for the first two. It started when my son was in high school, and then it was really picking up steam when my youngest was in high school. And she was affected by it because I worked in the same high school, and I was speaking out in the community, and that affected her in the school. I do think when we’re talking about the impact on our kids, we have to make a distinction, a developmental distinction. You know, if we have a junior in high school, and they’re being exposed to ideas, it’s different from if they’re starting to be exposed to it in kindergarten. And it’s that much more dangerous at the kindergarten. You know, part of the mind of a young child is if they like someone, they tend to think everything about them as good. As we get older, we start to make those distinctions. You know, you can say, well, here’s this person who has a lot of admirable qualities, but they have some really wrong ideas and engage in some really wrong acts and we can still love them. Little children—it’s like, if my teacher says something and I love my teacher, then everything she says must be right. And that’s why the left understands. We have to capture their minds and hearts when they’re very young. Much easier to capture the mind and heart of a 6-year-old, than a 16-year-old or a 26-year-old. 

JULIE ROYS:  Help us understand what just happened with this Equity Week and this curriculum that really is not just explaining about LGBT issues. It is celebrating and it’s teaching kids that they have to celebrate it or if they don’t, then they’re not okay. I mean, they’re bigots. They’re hateful. That kind of curriculum, how common is that right now across, you know, the whole country? I mean, is this happening everywhere? Or is it just in the really liberal districts? Because let’s face it, Evanston is one of the more liberal areas. Illinois is a more liberal state. 

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Well, so if we talk about the whole state, we did pass and it was signed into law by Governor Pritzker, the Inclusive Curriculum Act, which is now law which will require, it takes effect in July of 2020, will require every K through 12 school to, I will say, indoctrinate, overused perhaps but truth, indoctrinate all children with a leftist sexuality ideology. They’re requiring that the roles and contributions of homosexuals and trans-identified persons be taught to children. Well, of course, the roles and contributions of homosexuals, I’m going to leave off the trans-identifying persons, they’ve been taught for years. I mean, kids have learned who Sally Ride is or the writing of James Baldwin, or Oscar Wilde. What the differences, teachers didn’t have to say, oh, and by the way, they’re homosexual. Now, they will have to say that. And when you were talking earlier about the opting out, not only do many schools not allow you to opt out if it’s not in sex ed, and I’m talking about across the country. Once you’ve integrated it into every subject, through every year, how do you opt them out, other than pull them out of schools? So, we have these laws now in Illinois, so it’s going to come to every school. So far, they haven’t issued guidance or guidelines on how it’s to be implemented. So, a more liberal community is going to have much more of it present than a more conservative community. 

JULIE ROYS:  Well, again, that’s Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute. Also joining me today, two parents from a district that just celebrated Equity Week—Dr. Jessica Hockett and Julie Neely. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. And we’re talking about this LGBTQ agenda and is it coming to a school near you? Chances are it probably is. And chances are you’re going to need to have a response. So, when we come back from break, we’re going to talk about that. How do you respond in a winsome way in a way that’s Christ honoring? We’ll be right back.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: More of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  There’s no doubt that raising our children to embrace a Christian sexual ethic is increasingly difficult in today’s world. But what do you do when the school that your kids are attending is teaching them something that contradicts everything you believe? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about LGBTQ indoctrination in public schools and also the impact that this LGBTQ agenda is having on kids today. Joining me to do that are two parents whose children attend schools that recently celebrated equity week. They are Dr. Jessica Hockett, and Julie Neely, and their children attend schools in the Evanston, Skokie district 65 in Illinois. Also joining me is Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute who has been reporting on LGBTQ issues for more than a decade. Although Laurie, it used to be just LGBT, and I guess I’m shortening it. Isn’t it LGBTQQIAAP? You know, I don’t know. I mean, we’ve gotten to the point where people are saying there’s an infinite number of sexualities. It’s gotten to the point where it’s, you know, frankly, from my perspective, and I think from a biblical perspective, it’s just ridiculous because God created Adam and Eve. He created two genders. And He created marriage for man and woman, to unify beautifully, wonderfully, and to reflect the Godhead in this incredible symbol. And we’ve missed it as a society. And sometimes when I think about this, I think why is it that that Christians, the one thing that’s leading to persecution of Christians is this LGBTQ agenda? I never would have guessed this 10 years ago, but when you understand gender and sexuality and that that is the one symbol that God gives us to understand his relationship with the church. You can understand why Satan might be attacking it. So, let’s talk a little bit about how we can engage in a way that won’t be hateful, but talking to you, it almost sounds like you’re . . . Is there a way any way that we can talk about this issue and it not be hateful? Laurie?

LAURIE HIGGINS: Well, there are ways that we can speak that are not hateful and that are not . . . 

JULIE ROYS: Perceived hateful.

LAURIE HIGGINS: Well yeah. There is no way that we can talk about this issue with people who hold dissenting views without being perceived as hateful. And the sooner we give up that hope, the sooner we will be more proactive in doing what we should be doing. In addition, we have to be willing to be persecuted as Christ followers. And I don’t see the church being willing to.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and let me ask you about that. Both Julie and Jessica, have you felt persecuted for speaking out on this issue?

DR JESSICA HOCKETT: I mean, I expect it.  I mean, we choose to live in a pretty liberal community. So, I know when we—our kids know—we have the minority viewpoint. I’m surprised that not all the Christians I know in Evanston are willing to speak out.

JULIE ROYS:  It’s always a minority, I hate to say that.

DR JESSICA HOCKETT: That surprises me that the group of us that is willing to stand up and speak out is so small. So, I think that’s why I’ve been a little perplexed.

JULIE ROYS:  I remember when we engaged with the school district back when we were in Stevenson School District, there were a lot of Christians there. And I heard from a lot of them. They were so glad we were speaking out, and we were doing something. But then I would ask them, “Well, why don’t you join us?” And then it was, “Well, if I do that, I’m afraid, you know, my kid might be punished, and they might get a lower grade.” And I’m like, “You know, Christians are being killed around the world.” 

DR JESSICA HOCKETT: Exactly. 

JULIE ROYS:  I think we can get a lower grade. But anyway, Julie, have you felt persecuted? Or do you just Are you afraid? 

JULIE NEELY: I’ve been fearful, for certain. I am an arts professional. And I’m fairly new—coming to faith—10  years. And so yeah, I have many close friends and colleagues who run the gamut as it does our world. And I love them all. But they may not love me back.

JULIE ROYS:   And that’s something we just have to sort of embrace. I think you’re right on that. Laurie, I wanted to talk about too, we were talking about how our kids are affected. There’s this thing called rapid onset gender dysphoria. This is kind of new to me when I was reading about it. But kids are all of a sudden—what a shock—in impressionable years, hearing about there being trans identified and that they can identify whatever. And then all of a sudden, we have boys saying they think they’re girls and girls thinking they’re boys, right?

LAURIE HIGGINS: Yeah, the phenomenon called rapid onset gender dysphoria, or some people call it adolescent onset gender dysphoria is actually a phenomenon of adolescence. So, these are kids who never experienced gender dysphoria or demonstrated, you know, they weren’t . . .

JULIE ROYS:  Define gender dysphoria for a second.

LAURIE HIGGINS: Gender dysphoria is the discomfort with your biological sex in essence. Now they’re trying to massage the definition a little bit to say it’s stress caused by that dissonance between your biological sex and your internal subjective sense of oneself. Gender dysphoria is a real phenomenon. And it can often emerge at very young ages—three, four years old. It’s been around for years. A very small minority of kids experience it. And it’s been historically primarily boys. Now we’re seeing an incredible explosion of adolescent girls identifying as boys or non-binary. And the phenomenon is what they’ll call a social contagion. And we are all familiar with that. We have that with anorexia—eating disorders. We see that with cutting, even. Kids will go on social media, and they will see YouTube videos of people who are talking about their trans experience. And they will say it provides a lens through which they reinterpret often normal experiences, sometimes experiences that come from being molested when they’re little. But they will instead of looking at that molestation or whatever, whatever their experience is, this provides a lens, “Ah, I feel that way because I’m actually trans.” And in England their primary gender clinic is called the Tavistock Clinic. Over the past few years. there’s been like a 4,000% increase in the number of girls who identify as trans. In fact, the Tavistock clinic has lost 35 psychologists over the past three years because these psychologists are concerned with the overdiagnosis of gender dysphoria or trans experiences and prescribing medications for that. So, this is a real phenomenon. And it needs to be addressed because we are chemically sterilizing and surgically mutilating children.

JULIE ROYS:  That to me, that any chemicals or any surgical intervention would be allowed before at least the age of 18, where they’re no longer minors—I would say 21. Because, come on, up until 21, there’s so much happening. For the men, the two lobes aren’t completely fused till they’re like 26. I mean, let’s give them a chance. And we find that most of the transgender identified kids as teenagers, grow out of it. So why would we take that kind of intervention? And I’m not surprised, Laurie, that you say that there’s a rapid onset of this transgender identity among girls. Because I think in our society, being masculine is good. Masculine things are good. Feminine things are really not. And this is something where I’ve said even the feminists, they need to get on to this because basically, when they’re saying, like Gloria Steinem said, “We’re becoming the men that we wanted to marry.” What is that saying about us and how we view our own gender and sexuality that we don’t embrace and think motherhood is something worthy? Jessica, I know something happened with your daughter coming home that you kind of went “Whoa, where did this come from?” We’re going to talk about that when we come back from break. Again, I’m with Dr. Jessica Hockett and Julie Neely, two parents in District 65 that had an equity week recently. Also, Laurie Higgins from the Illinois Family Institute. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We will be right back after a short break.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  The LGBT agenda is infiltrating our schools. But how do you fight it and what do you do when you become the target of bullying because of your Christian beliefs? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re discussing how LGBTQ activists have taken over many schools. They’re pushing their agenda in school curriculum. And joining me are two parents who have opposed the LGBTQ agenda in their children’s schools. They are Julie Neely and Dr. Jessica Hockett. Also joining me is Laurie Higgins, cultural affairs writer with the Illinois Family Institute. And by the way, if you’re just joining the program, or you just want to hear this program again, I will be posting the complete audio to my website about an hour after the end of this program. So you just go to julieroys.com and then click on the podcast tab. 

Before the break, I had talked about—or I just sort of teased something that I know happened to you, Jessica—that your daughter came home and expressed an attitude that you were, kind of like, what the heck? Where did this come from?

DR. JESSICA HOCKETT:  Yeah. I’d actually been seeing bits and pieces of it over the past couple months or so. But this week on Monday, she came home and said, “How’s school?” And she’s said, “Ahh lunchtime.” And she started telling me about how some other girls were teasing her, and another girl, about being girly- girls, you know. Because they were talking about makeup or other things, you know, that are a little young for third grade. But she said, “Yeah, there’s, they’re just they’re making fun of us because they say we’re girly girls and I just because I like lip gloss. And, you know, I told them my mom wears lip gloss, too. And she’s not a girly girl and I want to stand up for my friend but I know they’re going to make fun of me, too.” And so it just, it struck me and then she connected it back to a lesson they did at the very beginning of the year about, you know, boys can wear makeup and she was making those connections. I had no idea about that lesson but she’s really working through, you could tell grappling with this. Hey, what does it mean to be a girl in a way that I don’t think a third grader should even have to confront and think about? And it’s like she’s now almost, I won’t say bullied, but now having to deal with teasing based on some things that are being done that are supposed to prevent that. It’s like a different kind of bullying to me. And then I’ll just mention really quick. I did notice, too, in her school, that this week that there’s a series of posters up. And one of them talks about being, I think, transgender affirming. And it says on it, “everybody has the right to choose their own gender by listening to their own heart and mind—everyone gets to choose if they were a girl or boy or both, or neither or something else, and no one gets to choose for them.” And so we’re trying to weigh about how to, you know, push back against and fight against that poster. But, you know, this is what she’s being told, you know—indoctrinated with at school. 

JULIE ROYS:  And people who say that public schools are religiously neutral are completely off base because that—right in that document, you know, in that poster is a worldview. And that is that you define reality. Anything you think becomes reality. And there is not a transcendent God, to Whom we have to look to truth. There is no truth outside of ourselves. It’s all inside of ourselves. And it just drives me crazy that they’re allowed to do that in the public school. That they’re allowed to push a worldview. But then at the same time, I have to admit that you can’t really have, you can’t teach unless you’re teaching from a foundation of a worldview. So, we have to pick some. So, when they pulled Christianity out of the public schools, they had to replace it. And they have replaced it with, honestly, a worldview that’s very postmodern that says you define reality. And in even that matter doesn’t matter because our bodies don’t matter. They don’t speak to us. They don’t say anything. As Nancy Pearcey writes, they’ve taken the megaphone which should go from our bodies to us. And it should speak to us, right? Instead, we’ve turned the megaphone around and we’re speaking to our bodies and telling it what it is. It is, in some ways, the original sin because we want prideful—we want to define things. So the question becomes, then, you know, and as I’m discussing with you, and I think a lot of us have realized that, you know. I pulled my kids out of the public schools and put them in private schools. That has its whole other set of issues. But I just, it’s very difficult. Is that what we do? Do we pull them out? And then people say, well, you’re not salt and light. Although, I’m like, well, you know, I’m not raising missionaries right now. I’m raising children that are not—they’re not formed yet. And we don’t ask our children to go out on a mission field yet. So, you know, let me throw that to you, Julie. You’ve had, this is your third child to come up through the public schools, right?

JULIE NEELY:   I have two.  

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, I’m sorry, two—your second child. I just gave you another child.

JULIE NEELY: Thank you. Yeah, I’m blessed. My youngest son will be thrilled.

JULIE ROYS: (Laughter) But you’re saying we’re going to stay the course.

JULIE NEELY:  They would love to be homeschooled. I’ve been told that a new number of times over the years. But we have many homeschoolers in our family and in our community. But I don’t see it now. I would be open to it if I saw things in an impact on them that truly was troubling that couldn’t be countered. I mean, this is all troubling. Don’t get me wrong. But if there’s a personal impact, if it’s, you know, some of the things that Jessica’s describing then I would give more pause and pray more about that topic.

JULIE ROYS:  Although, I have found in raising three kids that often by the time I find out about it, it’s pretty far gone. But let me throw that to you, Laurie. What do you think on the whole, pulling kids out of school? I mean, you write about what’s happening in the public schools all the time. I know you want parents to be involved, go to the school board meetings, do stuff. I remember it was in South Carolina—the woman who was elected to be in charge of the Education Department for, I think it was South Carolina, was actually a homeschool mom, which made a huge bunch of news maybe about 10 years ago. Do you remember that?

LAURIE HIGGINS: I don’t remember that.

JULIE ROYS:  But you don’t have to. Here’s the thing. You don’t have to actually even be in the schools to be engaged politically.

LAURIE HIGGINS: No, you don’t. You don’t even have to have kids in the school in order to serve on a school board. There’s many people whose kids have grown up and they serve on the school board. I used to say, I mean, I do think we have to be involved with our schools. It’s a stewardship issue. Our taxes are paying for people to teach this garbage to our kids. But once they sexually integrate restrooms and locker rooms, I don’t think that Christians should have their kids in public schools. As you said, I mean, you were speaking to me here when you said our kids aren’t missionaries. Missionaries don’t go out into the mission field until they’re spiritually mature and specifically equipped to deal with the culture in which they’re going—toward which they’re going. So our kids, I mean, you were talking about, you know, Jessica, what your daughter came home, having to defend at school. They can’t understand these concepts yet. She shouldn’t have to defend. I mean, the reason she’s a girl is because she’s biologically a girl. It’s not—our sex is not determined by what our tastes and clothing or makeup are. Which is the hypocrisy and incoherence of the leftist ideology—is they say, oh, our social conventions are stereotypes are socially constructed and arbitrary. And yet they define our existence as male or female. It’s completely incoherent. But I think, now, Christians really have to be, you know, you say, it seems like everything’s okay with our kids. But as you were saying, Julie, sometimes we don’t find that until they’re in college or out of college. We have the impact. If we can’t go to a school board meeting, or be on social media because we, as adults, don’t want to experience the wrath of the tolerant, how can we expect our kids to? If they go through elementary school, middle school, every day they’re barraged by these ideas from their teachers— from posters on walls, from policy about bathrooms. And then we expect them to come out unscathed. It’s not going to happen. And these policies, these bathroom and locker room policies are teaching children that biological sex is irrelevant to modesty and privacy. It’s teaching them that in order to be compassionate and loving, they have to relinquish their own physical privacy where they undress and go to the bathroom. It’s outrageous.

DR. JESSICA HOCKETT:  Right. I mean, we don’t let our daughter change in front of our 12-year-old son. I don’t—or vice versa, right? Like we practice modesty at home. I don’t know why it should be okay for her at school . . .

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Undermined at school. 

DR. JESSICA HOCKETT:  Right. Exactly. Undermined.

LAURIE HIGGINS: Because I have people, trans-identifying people and others on the left, who’ll email and they’ll say, “Oh, will you share bathrooms in your—you only have one bathroom in your home or two bathrooms?” 

JULIE ROYS: Not at the same time.

LAURIE HIGGINS: Yeah. And I’ll say, “Kids start on their own naturally—at like 6, 7, 8 years old—they’ll start saying to their sisters, the sons will, “Get out of here.” You know, they don’t take baths together. They don’t undress in front of each other. And for most kids that starts to develop naturally. We cultivate it and encourage it because it’s a good thing. So, I don’t think, I don’t see how—but here’s the deal. Many parents are unable for a number of reasons to homeschool and can’t afford private school, existing private schools, especially if they have multiple kids. So, churches have to either create affordable schools or make funds available that any parishioner who wants to get their kids out of these public schools can be able to do it.

JULIE ROYS:  And how many schools or how many churches are doing that?

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Very few. Doug Wilson does it. His church does it in Idaho. We had him out and he said any parishioner that comes—they have their own school, their Logos School—but any parent who wants out of the public school, the church makes it happen.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. Well, let’s talk just briefly about some of the legislative recourse that people do have. I mean, if you’re in a school district, like I mentioned District 211, here in Illinois, we have a superintendent who wants to integrate the public or the bathrooms in his school and the locker rooms. This seems like one of those that we should be able to fight. I mean, is this something that is just a foregone conclusion, or is this something where we can say, “This is a little ridiculous?” There’re safety issues involved here. And we were even talking about a person who’s been raped—imagine if you’ve been raped—the trauma of being in a locker room and then hearing a male voice.

LAURIE HIGGINS:  Right. No. Well, I do think that they could stop the policy if every theologically Orthodox Christian in District 211 showed up at that school board meeting and spoke as if they believe their beliefs were true. We often—Christians speak self-consciously and ashamed about our views. And we shouldn’t. I mean, these are true and that means speaking boldly, not disrespectfully but with the same kind of boldness and confidence that the left expresses their views. They should be able to change that policy in that school district. But it isn’t enough people. And you know, the schools, often, will bring in outside representatives from outside organizations, like Equality Illinois and the Human Rights Campaign and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, to come in and formulate their policy and push this. And have people come to these local school board meetings. I wrote an article on—was it District to 211? Oh, the school board meeting, that they had, all this outside money from trans-activists including one of the Wachowski brothers—you know, who did Matrix— poured $10,000 into his local school board election here in Illinois in order to transform the complexion of the school board. So that’s what we’re faced with.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and Julie, you were saying how initially you were scared, but you went to a board meeting. You spoke up. What was that like?

JULIE NEELY:   It took a couple meetings. I went—the first one and yeah, yes, I did speak up and definitely was fearful. 

JULIE ROYS:  You did it.

JULIE NEELY:  But I felt so internally drawn like I have to speak. And I do believe that a lot of this curriculum is harmful to young children. So, I have to speak.

JULIE ROYS:  So, you spoke according to your convictions. And I’m just thinking II Timothy 4:2 & 3 says, “Preach the word. Be prepared in season and out of season. Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Friends, that’s the culture we’re living in right now. But we need to speak up. We need to say what is the truth. To do it, as it says, with patience, with careful instruction. But if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it? We are to be salt and light. And if there’s ever a time where we can be light in the darkness, it’s now. It’s when the darkness is great. So, I just really encourage you. Speak up. Resist a godless agenda but do so with patience and love. Turn the other cheek. Don’t return insults, but don’t back down either. And again, my thanks to Laurie Higgins from the Illinois Family Institute, Julie Neely, Dr. Jessica Hockett. So appreciate you being with us today. And just a reminder, if you missed any part of this show, or just want to listen again, go to julieroys.com. We’ll have that podcast posted within the next hour. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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Pulse Shooting Survivors Say Change is Possible for LGBT Persons https://julieroys.com/podcast/pulse-shooting-survivors-say-change-is-possible-for-lgbt-persons/ Sat, 28 Dec 2019 21:21:08 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6613 Pulse Shooting Survivors Say Change is Possible for LGBT Persons Read More »

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Two Pulse nightclub survivors say they’re no longer gay after turning to Christ in the aftermath of the 2016 shooting. Yet in this follow-up to The Roys Report, “Is Change Possible for Gays and Trans?,” Luis Javier Ruiz says, “It’s not a gay to straight thing; it’s a lost to saved thing.” Both Ruiz and survivor Angel Colon tell Julie their gripping story of survival and transformation.

This Weeks Guests

Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon

Luis Javier Ruiz and Angel Colon are survivors of one of the most  deadly mass shootings in American History. Luis J Ruiz and Angel Colon are CEO’s of the ministry “Fearless Identity,” which brings hope and understanding to the LGBTQ community and the church through education, biblical clarity, and support in a judgement free environment for those seeking the option to change. We bridge the gap between the marginalized, misunderstood, wounded, and survivors
to bring those individuals to wholeness in Jesus Christ.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Well thank you so much for joining me for The Roys Report. I am so excited about today’s podcast, which is a continuation of a broadcast that I did on July 20th that concerned whether or not change is possible for gay and transgender people. And that was a powerful broadcast, included 3 former LGBT persons with incredible stories of transformation and change. And I encourage you, if you missed that broadcast, you’re going to want to go back and listen to it. I don’t say that that often, that you need to go do something. But I’m just going to tell you, that was a great broadcast and I really do highly recommend it. You can find it at my website JulieRoys.com.

But there are so many messages in our culture, even in the church, claiming that sexual brokenness is this incurable condition. But friends, it is just sin. And as I read scripture, there seems to be a remedy for sin. I believe it’s called the cross of Jesus Christ. Well today, I have two guests who have experienced that remedy. But for both of them, there was an event three years ago that forever changed their lives. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. And yet God used that really horrifying encounter with this mass murderer to call these men back to Himself. And so I am so excited today, again, sort of a continuation of this broadcast we had about whether or not gay and trans people can change. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, welcome. So great to have you on the program.

ANGEL COLON:  Thank you so much, thank you for having me.

JULIE ROYS:  And Luis, it’s a pleasure to have you as well. Welcome.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Thank you. I’m so excited.

JULIE ROYS:  So, we were joking before we went on air that you guys probably get more hate mail than I do because you are speaking into one of the most hot-button issues in our culture. About LGBT whether or not you can change. Whether or not this is something that God can transform. And I just love your message. And I love everything that you guys are about. But what I want to do is just start with that night when that PULSE shooting happened. And your experience, what happened there, how you survived that event. So, Angel, why don’t you start us off and tell us what happened that night that that mass murderer came into that PULSE nightclub.

ANGEL COLON:  Yeah of course. Well June 12th 2016, of course a night that I will never forget. But leading up to that night, already a couple months before, there was something tugging in my heart. I grew up in church, so I knew everything about Jesus. And throughout the time that I was out of God’s will, I missed worshiping God, because that’s what I did. I was a worshipper. And a pact that I made was to never use my gifts for the world. And for 8 years, I never sang no song, no music, nothing. I kept that pact. And throughout those 8 years, I still talked to God. And in 2016 I was already fed up with the lifestyle. Because not only was I consumed in homosexuality, but I was also a cocaine addict. And that year, I started to pray. And I started telling God, “Lord, I need you back. I want you back. I’m yearning for You. I miss You, I miss worshipping You.”  And I started to tell my mom, “Mom, please pray. I need to come back to God’s will. I want to come to God’s will.” And as we all know, a mom’s prayer is one of the strongest prayers there is out there. So I started telling her that, and a couple months before June, I started praying to God and I told Him, “Lord, You know my situation, You know my heart, You know I want to worship Y ou. But I cannot do it on my own will. Please help me come back to You.” And at that moment, I call it the dangerous prayer. And I said, “Lord, do whatever You have to do to me for me to come back to You. And I don’t care what it is.” And I kept on praying like that. And June 12th came. I made it out. Went to a house warming party first. We made it to PULSE nightclub and 2:02 everything just changed in an instant. I went to go get my drink, my last call drink. I came back to the main floor. And I was chatting, and all of a sudden, I heard a loud POP! to the right of my ear. I was looking forward. I saw an orange flash. I dropped my drink. And in that moment, I just heard the shots going POP! POP! POP! I decided to turn to my left to run. But I, at the moment, I didn’t notice that I was only about 5 feet away from the shooter when everything started. So, at the moment that I turned to my left to start running, I was already shot on my legs. I felt taps, this hard, hot taps on my legs. And I fell down. And I tried getting back up at that moment, but in seconds, the club was in chaos. Everyone trying to run to one door. And I was about 10 feet from the door. So, I tried to get back up to run to the door. But at that moment somebody trampled me. They stepped on my left femur and I heard my left femur snap in half over the music, over the screams, I could hear my bone breaking. I fell back down. I couldn’t do anything at this moment. I couldn’t move. My legs were in pain. People are falling on top of me. I can hear screams. I can hear glass breaking. Every time I look up, I see bodies just falling down, one by one. Everyone’s trying to exit through the same door until everyone who can, makes it outside. I hear the shooter outside. And at this moment, I look up and I just see bodies all over the place. It’s quiet in the room. I can’t believe what’s happening to me. You know, I’m trying to pinch myself from this nightmare that I’m in that I’m not waking up. And there was a lady next to me who fell down. And she was in pain. I grabbed her. She was a mom. She was there with her son. She pushed her son out of the way, and she got shot. And I held her hand and I told her, “It’s going to be fine. It’s gonna be fine.” And at that moment I hear footsteps coming in the door. So, I quieted down. And I start hearing pops again. But this time it’s slower. And it keeps happening. Pop! Pop! And I come to realize that the shooter is now shooting at everyone that is on the floor, making sure we’re all dead. So, I hear the pops coming closer and closer. The lady next to me is panicking and yelling. And I’m telling her, “You have to be quiet. He’s coming our way. Pretend you’re dead.” And I hear the shots getting closer and closer. And she’s yelling. And at that moment I decide to hold my breath, cover my face, stay still, pretend I’m dead until he leaves. And I’m hearing the pops, pops. And all of a sudden, I hear a loud-loud POP! I felt the heat. I opened my eyes. And I see the body of the lady jump up and down. I feel her hand let loose in my hand. And I look into her eyes, and her eyes just close. And at this moment, inside, I’m panicking, thinking to myself, “someone just got murdered in front of my face. I’m holding her hand. I’m next. I’m next. I don’t know what to do. I’m next.” I’m trying to pretend I’m dead, but I’m panicking inside. And I can feel his evil presence behind me. I can feel that stare, when someone’s just staring at me, and you know they’re there behind you staring at you. But I’m finding something weird. And it’s that I don’t hear any pops. I don’t feel shots. He’s just there. And I’m thinking to myself, “OK, Lord. This is the time You’re giving to me to make peace with You, because I am about to die.” I’m in the middle of the dance floor. Nothing is covering me. I am out in the open. He’s gonna shoot me. He’s gonna shoot me in the head, in my back. He’s gonna shoot me and I’m gonna die. There’s no way I’m gonna survive this. So, I started praying to God. And I’m turning to the Lord, “Forgive me God. Forgive me for what I have done to You because you didn’t leave me. I left You. You never leave us. You’re always there. It’s always us who stray away, Lord. But please forgive me, because I’m about to die. Please take me with You because I’m about to die.” And I kept praying like that. But nothing was happening. Nothing was happening. A couple minutes pass by and I can still feel the evil presence behind me. I’m like, “he’s there. The shooter’s there. Why is he not shooting?” And in that moment, something clicked in my head. And I felt spiritual warfare going on, on top of me. I can feel something heavy. And I said, “you know what? No!” And I change my prayer. And I started to prophesy upon my life. I started to say, “Lord, You promised that I had a purpose in life. You promised me that something big was happening with me. You promised me there was a ministry in my future. And none of that has happened. So that means that I need to leave here alive. And I’m going to leave here alive. And when I leave here alive, I’m going to worship You for the rest of my life, Lord.” And I kept on prophesying upon my life. I can feel the atmosphere changing because that’s what happens when you prophesy upon your life. You change the atmosphere. The Lord gives to you the power and the authority to change the atmosphere wherever you are. And that’s what I was doing at that moment. I was prophesying upon my life. And I kept on praying. I kept on praying. And in the moment that I said, “Amen,” from that prayer, I heard a loud POP! I felt my body jump up and down. I felt a heat in my mid-section. And I just saw black. At that moment, I thought I was gone. I thought I was dead. And then I heard footsteps walking away. And I took that time, I moved a little bit. And I opened my eyes and I said, “Lord, Thank You! Thank You I am alive.” All of these people around me are dead. I look around again and everybody that was around me was dead. And I am alive. And I just started thanking God, “Thank You Jesus! Thank You Lord!” I kept telling Him, “Thank You! I promise You the moment I get out of here I am testifying about You. I am worshipping You for the rest of my life. Thank You for protecting me. Thank You for being here with me, Lord.” And at that moment, I see a light through the door and cops coming in. They grab me. I asked the cop to carry me. And because there’s procedures, they only can drag me out of the club. I tell them “do whatever you have to do to get me out of here.” And started to drag me. And I can hear the shots going on in the other room. So the cop is trying to run, both of us forgetting that there’s glass shattered on the floor. So, I’m feeling the pain of the glass going through my wounds. But at the same time, I’m just telling the cop, “Go! Go! Go!” I was scared the shooter was going to come back in and start shooting us in the room. But thanks to God I made it out of the club. By His will, I am here today. And, you know, I made it. I got to the hospital. The chaos is going on in the hospital. But luckily, I was able to get into surgery that morning. And a couple days later the nurse comes in. And throughout those couple days, I’m thinking I thought I was only shot 3 times, ‘cause that’s what I remember. Some slaps on my legs and the last shot that I received. But the nurse comes in and tells me, “Angel, you were approximately shot six times.” At that moment, I’m just thanking the Lord. I’m like, I don’t know how. I don’t remember six times. I don’t remember any of that. He said, “Yes, by the fragments and the bullets that we see, you were approximately shot six times.” And, you know, I couldn’t figure out how. But of course, today, I’m like, “It was all Jesus.”  By the grace of Him I am walking today with no cane, with no wheelchair, no crutches. I am walking again, testifying and assuring to the world that God is real.  

JULIE ROYS:  That is one of the most phenomenal stories I’ve ever heard. 

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, is change possible for gay and trans people? The world says, “no.” But my guests today say, “yes.” Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, I’m just envisioning as you’re saying you’re lying on the floor, and you’re praying not just, “God help me” but you start engaging in spiritual warfare. And I’m just imagining in my mind, like you said, you felt this spiritual battle above you, of the angels fighting the demons. You know, the principalities of the air, and of God, you know, and they’re fighting on your behalf. That is amazing. And it’s amazing in that moment that God gave you that ability to do that, and that insight to do that.

ANGEL COLON: Amen, yeah.  The Lord, that night, gave me strength every time I was shot. I didn’t yell every time I was shot. I didn’t move. It was like this strength came upon me, that the Lord was already telling me, “I know what I’m gonna do. Relax.” And it was just, He was there.  He was there with me the whole night.

JULIE ROYS: Well, if anybody doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of God, that kind of story is one of those that you just can’t help but escape that there was some sovereignty there. And God chose you to survive. And I know you probably lost some friends. Some of the bodies that you saw around you were people you loved. And that must have been heart breaking. Am I right?

ANGEL COLON: Yeah, it was just crazy. Seeing, you know, just a couple seconds before that we were dancing. We were chatting. Everyone was happy. And now everyone around me is dead. It was something to get over, especially the PTSD. But the Lord, you know has healed me from that as well. So to Him all the Glory.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, and to be able to even talk about it, you know, what, 3 years ago, not that long ago, but to be able to talk about it is just a testimony to God’s grace and the power of Him working in you. And I’m guessing, Luis, you’re hearing this, I know you’ve heard it probably from Angel telling a million times. But I doubt that really gets old, does it Luis?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Right. It’s powerful. Every time I get choked up just hearing it. Yeah, it’s a beautiful story.

ANGEL COLON:  Actually, I’m going to add one more thing. The amazing thing is that the house party that I was in, I crashed into Luis.

JULIE ROYS: Oh really?

ANGEL COLON:  And, yes. And it’s crazy, you know, to know that 3 years later, who would know that we would be in ministry together, fighting for the kingdom of God? And now we’re here. That is just, you know, it’s so crazy, and I love it!

JULIE ROYS: So when you say you crashed in, you mean like you guys met at that party beforehand or did you know each other before?

ANGEL COLON:  We already knew each other a couple years before that, but I hadn’t seen him for a while.  And that’s part of his story that I crashed into him that night again. I had not seen him for a while and it was crazy.

JULIE ROYS: So Luis, pick it up there, from your perspective.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yes, absolutely. So before PULSE happened, and just a little snippet of it. I was in the scene. I think, but I was more bound by alcohol and drugs. And just getting out of the military at 15 years learning how to become a civilian (laughter) you know?  Growing up in the church, having parents that always prayed for me and never compromised the truth, I would find myself in the church. And my problem wasn’t that when I would go into the church, this church was, I think, more focused on trying to see the change outside than inside. So I had to like check the box. And I had to do a lot of religion and relationship. And, you know, you get saved. And then a week later you need to have a girlfriend. Because that’s what salvation looks like, and not the fruits of the Spirit, you know?  And things like I needed to walk different and talk different. So, it just got me to a place where I ran back to the LGBT community, you know? Because I didn’t find true love or the love that I was looking for in the church. I went and tried to find it in a counterfeit love outside. So 1 year before PULSE, I found a church. I was drunk. Found a church that was open like at 3 o’clock in the morning. And I was like, “what is going on in here?” So I stopped. Luckily, you know, I didn’t get into no accident. I believe God was watching over me. And I entered into this church and this little lady sat next to me while this worship was going on. And I was like, “Wow, this is amazing—three in the morning and these people are just worshipping God.” And long story short, she brought me to know Jesus. And I accepted Him as my Lord and personal Savior. And like Angel said, that I disappeared for a while. So, I literally tried it again. I said, “You know what, I’m going to give this a go again.” And for a whole year, I was just, I deleted all my Facebook. I cut friends off. I mean I disappeared for a whole year just trying to find this change, you know? To find, I just wanted to pray the gay away. Do things that I thought, you know, would bring change. But it actually brought more struggle because I was doing things on my own strength and then not depending on God’s strength. And I didn’t have that community that I have now. And so was struggling. And when I brought my, brought to the attention some people my struggles, they were all for me until they found about the struggle. Then they would distant handshakes and distant hugs, you know? (laughter) So on my birthday weekend I saw a couple of friends at the mall. And this couple at the mall had invited me to PULSE for my birthday weekend. And it was gay days as well. So they invited me to that. And I was like, “you know what? I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna go, no one’s gonna find out.” The whole world found out. (laughter) So, mine was a struggle I was having where I just blew up. Instead of going to my pastor to sit down and talk to him or other people where I can, you know, I didn’t have that. I didn’t reach out for that is the better answer. And because I didn’t reach out for that, I was like a bomb. I exploded. And I went right back. And so that very night, it’s crazy, because I had signs everywhere. You know, it’s like God was warning me like from everywhere. This prophet came to the church and he just said that, he knows that I’ve been struggling and that the Lord knows that there’s things in my life that will occur.  And not out of a place of fear, but he saw people around me trying to fight for their lives. Running for their lives.  He didn’t understand but he was like there’s people surrounding you. They’re running for their lives. I don’t know what the Lord’s trying to tell me but they’re running for their lives and just telling me that, you know, be careful and to get more into the Lord. And then a week later . . .

JULIE ROYS:  And how far, how much before the PULSE shooting was that? That he prophesied that?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:   This was a couple weeks before. And I grew up in the church too, so it was hard for me to receive prophecy like that. For me, because I was already struggling and I was going through my stuff, I was like, “OK, this guy must have talked to the pastor. This guy must have talked to some people.” And, you know, “I’ll pray about it.” But, you know, I was just so on the fence with it, growing up in church, some things you just become cold to. And then like a week later, my Mom calls me and she tells me, “Hey I need you to sit down. I just had a dream.  And if you had a mom like I did, she used to have dreams so that I could just go to church.” Do you know what I mean? (laughter)  She was like, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” A lot of times it was to put fear in my heart so that I could run back to church. So, I was like, “Mom! I’m going to church. Don’t worry. Everything’s OK!” And she’s like, “No-no-no-no. This dream is very different. This dream has me freaked out.” She said that in this dream, I was at a club and that everyone around me was dying. There was blood all over my clothes. There was blood everywhere. And that I had looked up—and she was looking down in the dream, and I looked up and I said, ‘Mom! Help me!’ And she woke up instantly and activated the church to pray. Told my Dad to pray. She hadn’t told me this ‘till she reached out to me. And during all this, I was just telling her, “Wow, Mom. Please pray for this. Like this is crazy.” Like I’m going to church and I got kinda mad. Because I was just like, “She’s using things to get me, to put fear in my heart.” And then after that, on the way to PULSE I had a fight with 2 guys from the church that were trying to stop me from going. And they were just like, “Hey, it’s your birthday weekend. Let’s hang out with you. You don’t need to go to the club. Just hang out with us.” And it got into a big old fight. So it’s like God was trying to like, “Hey! Hey! I’m trying to protect you from something.” And so, I went to a house party. And at that house party, I was with a lot of friends that are no longer with us. And I was celebrating my birthday weekend. A friend was celebrating his new apartment. And invited us all over. I saw Angel Colon. And he looked at me and he said, “Hey, are you going to PULSE?” And I was like, “Yeah! I’ll see you there! I’m going to PULSE!” That was our last time that we saw each other for a long time. And I ended up going to PULSE. And like Angel said, everyone was having a great time. People were saying, “Happy Birthday!” to me. There was so much going on that night. And it was last call for alcohol. It was about 2 in the morning, 2:02. And all of a sudden, I hear someone saying, “Run for your life!” And I look over to my friend that invited me to PULSE, and I said, “Why are they trying to kick us out of the club?” They just said, “Last call for alcohol.” And, you know, I’m hearing what sounds to be like fireworks. And I’m like, “Whoa! What is that?!” And right at that instant, the shooter’s in front and just shooting away. I mean I can see the muzzle and everything. And my friend grabs me because I was a little tipsy, and he said, “Run for your life!” And when I looked back, he was shot. His boyfriend was shot—jumped in front of him. People were fending for their lives. Everything happened so fast. We were trying to get out of this small little door. Imagine everyone from the club trying to get out of this small door. It was just so crazy. People were screaming. I end up in the patio area where people are jumping over the fence. But I was too scared to because I was like, “Okay, this guy’s going to shoot people down.” And then we find a little area to the back where we’re kicking it down to try to fend for, to try to escape. And as we kick down the fence, my foot gets stuck in the fence. I fall down. And I’m being trampled on because everybody now sees this exit. And I was in pain. I was hurting. I couldn’t get up. And long story short, I just ended up at the 7-11 across the street.

JULIE ROYS: So, how’d you get out then? I mean your foot’s stuck. People are trampling you. How’d you get to that 7-11?

LUIS JAVIER RUIS: That’s the amazing part of this story is that out of nowhere someone came back, I guess, to see if he could try to help people, or what. And he picked me up and he said, “Come on, let’s go!” And walked me over down to the 7-11 where I was able to sit down and see other people that were hiding inside of the 7-11. And that’s how that happened. I didn’t go to the hospital where Angel Colon was at or anybody because I was scared because they were saying that the shooter was going to go into the hospital or other shooters were going to go to go finish the job. So we were all in fear, scared. I ended up going to the hospital the next day. And I finally got like a . . . one part that I forgot to mention was that while I was on the floor, I pick up my phone to call my mother. And as I call my mother, because I thought like I was going to die, I was in pain, I was in, like you know what, I have no other choice but to say, “I’m sorry.” And I call her and she’s hearing these shots that are, she’s hearing me like freaked out. And I’m like, “Mom! Mom!” And the phone dies.

JULIE ROYS: Oh my word!

LUIS JAVIER RUIS: The phone completely dies. 

JULIE ROYS: Your poor mother.

LUIS JAVIER RUIS: Yes! 

JULIE ROYS: Your poor mother.

LUIS JAVIER RUIS: So later on . . . I put her through it! Later on, she tells me that she called my Dad, she wakes up my Dad to, you know, pray and tells the church to pray. So I’m at the hospital bed the next day. And I’m just seeing the names pop up on the TV as I’m texting, “Hey! Did you make it out okay? Are you okay?” And then BAM! I’d see their names on the screen—Dead. Dead. Dead. And their picture. That whole day, everyone was just watching names, you know, come up on the screen. And like I told everybody, imagine losing one friend or someone that’s died. Imagine losing like 49. You know, granted, I didn’t know all the 49. But I knew a great load of them. After that, about a week later, I find out that I’m HIV positive. And I knew nothing about the disease. I just knew people were gettin’ it. I thought to myself, “I would never get it.” But because I was living a promiscuous life, I find out that I’m HIV positive. So imagine dealing with deaths and then dealing with this. And I just blew up. I could not do this no longer. And that’s when, on my bed, I asked God to come into my heart. I said “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m a gay man. I need Your help. I don’t know what to do.” You know? And I’ve asked Him into my heart. And this is where I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, “It’s not a gay to straight thing. It’s a lost to saved thing. Fall in love with Me. Fall in love with Jesus.” And that’s what I learned to do, you know? And it took a while ‘till I got into a church. Because a lot of the church, they were calling me and they were saying, “Hey, that’s judgment from God! Like what were you doing there in the first place? You shouldn’t have been there.” So imagine now, all these events are happening, and man, the church, some of the people from the church, not everybody, some of the people they were just like, “You shouldn’t have been there. What were you doing there? That’s judgment from God because homosexuality is abomination.” Oh, it was terrible. And like I said, it had to be intervention from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus. So I said, “I don’t want anything but You,” that change was able to come into my heart. Then later on I found a church and a pastor that loved me and that supports everything that I do. And I was able to walk through the journey of change, you know? And I was able to learn how to fall in love with Him and give him all of me. And not just my sexuality. And it changed my life forever. Forever.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. The story is so powerful I mean there’s so many ups and there’s so many downs too, I’m hearing both of you saying, “the church didn’t know how to help me when I wanted it and when I was looking for it.” And yet at the same time God broke through. An incredible and miraculous story. But let me rewind just a little bit if I could. And then I want to get into your process of healing since PULSE and how that worked out. 

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report, with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Well welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. The story is so powerful I mean there’s so many ups and there’s so many downs too, I’m hearing both of you saying, “the church didn’t know how to help me when I wanted it and when I was looking for it.” And yet at the same time God broke through. An incredible and miraculous story. But let me rewind just a little bit if I could. Luis, your Dad, he’s a pastor right?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yes, He’s a pastor.

JULIE ROYS:  So, here you are as a young man. You know, when were you aware that you had same sex attraction?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  It happened at a very young age. I want to say, oh man, maybe 7 years old I found out. And back then, it wasn’t like today where we have internet, so, it was magazines and things like that I would find and he would find in my room, and what’s it called. Through all this process, my Dad being a pastor, it wasn’t that my son was coming out as gay, or because he was abused when he was a kid by his uncle. So he saw me as another abuser. You know, back then we don’t have what we know now. And it’s not so open like then. Back then people thought of gay people as, you know drug addicts and sleeping around and AIDS and abusers, you know? Because that’s the way he saw gay people, in his life growing up. So it’s just in our relationship, as a pastor, it questioned his ministry. I mean there is just so much going on that I thank God that finally we were able to fix all that.

JULIE ROYS:  You said you were abused by an uncle when you were young?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  No, no. My father was abused by his uncle. Yeah so because he was abused, he saw me as an abuser. He didn’t see me as, “Oh my son’s coming out as gay.” So, they questioned their ministry. They questioned their self as parents. I mean it was a journey for them as well. 

JULIE ROYS:  Sure, but as a young man I’m sure you don’t know how to process any of that. It just feels like probably a lot of shame.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Right. Yeah, it was. It was a lot of, “You’re going to hell. Abomination.” Because the church didn’t know how to react to it.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And Angel, same sort of thing?

ANGEL COLON:  For me, yeah I was about 5 years old when I started to notice at a very very young age. And my parents, they were very involved in the church. But it was something that I always heard you know, “abomination, you’re going to hell. It’s not right.” And every time someone would mention homosexuality, you know, there awkwardness in the room. So I didn’t feel safe or comfortable, you know, to bring it up. But at the same time, growing up as a teen and still having this same sex attraction, I didn’t have a mentor that could speak to me. I didn’t have a community that I could reach out to. Every time I would think about it, someone would preach about homosexuality, but it was preaching with hate. I felt that hate. I could feel homophobia in the preaching. So that would scare me. And I wouldn’t speak about it. There was no openness in the church. You can only speak about certain sins and certain struggles that you’re going through. But if the sin or the struggle or the temptation was hardcore, it was something you didn’t really bring it up. It was only you and Jesus. Which is right. But at the same time you need someone there with you. You need someone that you can speak to because if not, everything is going to bottle up inside and that’s what happened to me everything bottled up inside, until I was 18 years old. My dad ended up cheating on my mom with my best friend, a girl from church. That destroyed me. That turned my life upside down. And I was like, “you know what? If he can do that and he’s a minister, then I can live my life the way I want to live my life.” I don’t blame everything on that but that was the thing that helped open the door for me to just leave with no excuse, with no remorse, with no fear. So, when I came out, it was very easy for me because I was like “Dad you did this. Okay, I’m gay.” So, to come out for me, it was easy. It was more, it was crazy but it was like a revenge. Like, “Look, you did this well I can finally come out and you think you have to be okay with it either way.” You know? Because that’s the way I told my dad when I came out. Or when he found out, I was like, “You live your life with your wife. That means that I can live my life with mine. And you need to respect me the same way that I am respecting you.” So, basically, “you need to get over it.”

JULIE ROYS:  That’s powerful because I think a valid criticism of the church is that we speak so much about homosexuality but we don’t talk about divorce and adultery and, you know, all these other things that are going on rampant in the church. And how can we have a moral platform to speak into homosexual sin if were not speaking into heterosexual sin and what’s happening there. And your story just points out that it’s all sin and we can’t look at one and not at the other. I mean, that’s hypocrisy.

ANGEL COLON:  Yeah, and the crazy thing now is that we get so many messages from pastors and evangelists, people in their ministry that are struggling with this but they are scared to reach out for help because the church is going to kick them out of the church, their own church. You know, people from the church are going to treat them a specific way. And that is horrible. You should be able to reach out to someone and ask for help because at least you’re speaking out about it, you know? You’re confessing it and that you need help. So the church has put a lot of fear into people that they don’t even speak about what they’re going through.

JULIE ROYS:  And the problem is, you’ve got the church where you don’t feel like you fit, where you feel like you’re judged, where people don’t get you. And then you have the gay community, that’s very accepting, very loving, and where you can have a feeling of belonging instantly. And it’s not hard to figure out why struggling persons go to the LGBT community when they have that experience in the church. So, I mean, I think your testimony is powerful. Let’s move now, fast forward beyond your time at PULSE. So you’ve had this experience with God, both of you, within days, or the day of the PULSE experience. And you’re making peace with God but now you’ve got to walk it out. And that process of walking it out, you kind of tried it before, Luis and not been real successful. And Angel you’d fought with it too. I mean you wanted to worship the Lord but you couldn’t. So what changed? And talk about that process now of walking out, “Lord I’m going to follow you and I’m going to forsake this same sex attraction.” Tell me what that looks like.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yeah, so I had to die to a lot of things. I had to understand that it was not deprivation, it was preservation. I had to understand that it wasn’t a formula. It wasn’t a how to or 5-steps to be delivered. It was Jesus. You see, I was making freedom my god and not Christ Jesus my God. I felt like that I need in this walk that I had to understand that if I did fall, that His grace would be there with truth. You know, for a long time, I thought that if I slipped, I messed up, and I have no other way to be redeemed. I might as well just go back into the things that I was doing. But God had to do a rewire of my heart. Not upgrade my heart. But replace it with a new one. You know, because I was very broken. I was sexually addicted. I had a lot of rejection. I was an orphan. Though I had a Mom and Dad, I still felt like an orphan because when this happened, they rejected me because I was gay. They loved me but at the same time, they just couldn’t accept things. So, I had to deal with that, you know? I got love and support from a community that said, “Hey, we’re going to stand by you. We’re going to pray. And we’re going to walk with you through this journey. And it wasn’t easy. And it hasn’t been easy. We’ve never arrived, and I don’t ever want to say, “I’ve arrived.” But I definitely want to say that I’m walking now with a sight on Jesus. And it’s all about Jesus. It’s Jesus that I came to when I accepted Him at the beginning. And it’s gonna be Him when He accepts me into the kingdom of heaven. So I have to put my eyesight on Jesus and just know that if I don’t have Jesus at the forefront and the center of my heart and fall in love with Him, I’m talking about a deep love-sick relationship with Him, then all these formulas, how-to’s, counselors will do nothing for me but just put me in a cycle of sin. A secret cycle of sin at that. So, the more I lay my head down on Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, the less I have to lay down my head on a psychologist’s lap, or, you know, someone that’s trying to bring change to my life. So, all this is great, and I love it. And I know many men of God this has been helpful to. But, like I said, the forefront of my change was Jesus and direction of the Holy Spirit, that intimacy with the Father.

JULIE ROYS:  And do you still struggle? I mean, it sounds like, yeah, it’s still there. But maybe not as powerful as it was before, the same-sex attraction?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yeah, I tell people that all the time. If you’re looking for this perfect changed person, I’ve not arrived yet. I definitely have to use the “don’t look twice” rule. Do you know what I mean?  And I have to trust that God is going to be in that journey, you know? I no longer desire to be with a man. But temptation still comes when I wake up. Temptation still comes. Now I have the tools to respond to temptation.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to The Roys Report with your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well can gays and transgender people change? The world says they can’t. But my guests today say they can. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. I have two guests. These men are survivors of the 2016 PULSE nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people. But both of these men somehow, miraculously, escaped with their lives. So excited to welcome Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz. So Angel, what about your process?

ANGEL COLON:  Yeah, well I was laying in the hospital, I thought that night was the hardest process, now being in pain in the hospital, now seeing every time I did therapy, how I knew that my life physically was going to be changed. But then I came to find out that the process afterwards was going to be the hardest part of the process. I ended up being the first interview after PULSE, the first interview of all of the survivors. I had no idea it was gonna go down like that. They had just asked me a couple days after to do a quick press conference with the doctors. So, they put me in a wheelchair. They gave me the medications so I could be OK. And as I get strolled into the room, I go in and there’s 100’s of cameras, 100’s of people in that room. I had no idea this was gonna happen. And they’re like, “Hey, can you please share what happened that night?” So, I shared my story. And after that, I came back to the room. And 20 minutes later, my name was all over the world.

JULIE ROYS:  Sure, it was.

ANGEL COLON:  I had no idea this was gonna go down like that. I started getting calls from all over the world. Interviews while I was in the hospital. So, it was kinda like overwhelming for me. Everything was happening so fast, in the hospital. I wasn’t really having time to heal, at that moment. It was just so fast. My room was full every day in the hospital until, you know, I was discharged. And my name, I became like a local celebrity. Everywhere I went, someone wanted to take a picture. 

JULIE ROYS:  That initial interview, did you tell them about what had happened as far as your prayer and what transpired spiritually for you that night? How open were you about it?

ANGEL COLON:  I wasn’t open yet, at that time. I just shared what had happened that night. I kept saying, you know, I kept mentioning God’s name. But I still wasn’t open yet, clearly, on everything that happened that night. So, when I was discharged from the hospital, they started having events for the club, events in other states. So, I was starting to get invited to all these things. I was hired for a speech company to do some speeches on LGBT, the PULSE nightclub. I was getting paid very, very, very well. I started flying to California, to New York. I went to the GLAAD awards, which is like the gay Oscars. Out100 magazines, I was in magazine covers. And I was going to church as well at this time. I gave my life to Christ. I started to worship. And months later I started to notice, I’m like, “Wait, Angel, okay so what are you doing?”  Now I’m attending to all these things. I’m still kind of living a double life because I still was, every time I went some where I would meet a guy that I liked and I would kind of date him. And, you know, and get to know them, and then come back home and go to church. And I was starting to get offered movie offers, reality TV show offers, a gay dating show offer. And to my head, I would think to myself, “Why are these people not seeing that I’m going to church, you know?” I’m posting me worshiping. I’m posting that I’m in church. And then I come to realize on my own, they’re so happy with me going to church because they think that I’m their role model. They think I’m an advocate. They think I’m a gay Christian. And they’re like, that blew my mind. And I was like, “No! No! No! That is not what I want to portray.” You know, it took me a good year, year and a half to really stand firm after PULSE. And be like, “Lord, I am sorry. I didn’t even notice that I, this whole time I’ve been living in two waters. You saved my life in this tragedy. And I’m here living in two waters. How dare I?” You know, that’s how I started thinking of myself. “How dare I? Why am I not testifying 0f what You’ve done in my life? Why am I not testifying of just You? Not even me. Of how great You are, how powerful You are, how real You are?” And you know, I would fight with the Lord because, you know, I still had same sex attraction. I would tell the Lord, “Lord, I went through this tragedy. I gave my life to you. Why am I still feeling this way? Why, you know, why have you not changed me?” Because I still had the hope that the Church gave me, that you will know that you’re free once you don’t have that struggle anymore. And that was a false hope that I had in me. Until once again, you know, I changed my prayers. Something clicked in my head and I said, “You know what Lord, once again, I am sorry for what I’ve done. I give you my heart. I surrender to you completely. And I give you my struggle. I give you this temptation that I’m going through. I give you this. But not only that, I give you my whole heart.” A lot of times we tend to idolize just one part of our heart. And we ask the Lord to change that part. And we totally forget that we’re messed up completely. There’s more to us, you know, that God needs to work on. And I told the Lord, you know, “Take it all. Take it all. I’m sorry. I’m going to focus on loving You. I’m going to focus on my relationship with You. I’m going to focus on getting to know You more.” And at that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “That’s all He wanted. He wanted all of you. He wanted everything. He wanted you to surrender to Him. Don’t worry about the rest. He’s going to take care of your baggage. Just focus on Jesus. Focus on your relationship with Him.” And at that moment my life changed completely. At that moment I got to connect again with Luis. And I remember I wanted to actually share my testimony to the world of me leaving the homosexual lifestyle. And I remember Luis did it first. And I was scared because of all the backlash and persecution that he got after he did it. And I saw him going through that. And I was like, “Oh no. Like, I know I need to do that. I’m scared.” And I remember telling him, “Luis, I know I need to testify. I’m scared. I just saw what you went through. I saw the pain you went through.” The Lord told me, “You need to go through this, and I will take you to another level with Me.” And I did that, and once again my life changed. I got backlash, persecution. But the person I became after I started testifying to the world, after I’d shared to the world that He is my God, that change is possible, that I’ve left the homosexual lifestyle, my level of boldness and fearless just reached to something else. God, at that moment, God changed us both, you know, Luis too, after he testified. Like we became someone else. We became these men, these soldiers, these generals that aren’t scared anymore, to share where ever they can go, the gospel of God. And my life, you know, changed, you know? And at that moment, I knew that the real definition of freedom and deliverance was that you can look at temptation in the face. And you can tell that “I don’t want you. I want Jesus.” The true meaning of freedom and deliverance is when you can overcome that struggle. When you know that you’re not a slave to that temptation anymore. That’s how you know what freedom and deliverance is. And it’s a feeling of, it’s amazing knowing that you’re free, knowing that you can overcome these temptations through Jesus. Because that is the answer that we need. That is the only answer we need is Jesus. And He’s amazing and I fall in love with Him more and more every day. Now I know what true love is, what true peace is and what true happiness is, in Jesus.

JULIE ROYS: Your story is just, I mean it’s so powerful. And your testimony of how you became a different person, just like Second Corinthians 5:17 says, you know, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. And when we step into the light in faith, like you did, and testify to the Lord and say, “This is how I’m going to live,” make a public testimony of that, we begin to live in that new creation, in that new reality. And the old truly is gone. And we become that new creation. And I just love what you’re saying. I remember once, just being challenged, “Hey, if you’re going to a new environment, tell them quickly that you’re a Christian. Just make that public testimony.” Because, you know, if they find out a year down the line, “You’re a Christian? Wait. Why didn’t you tell me about that a long time ago?” All that communicates is, “You weren’t really serious about it, were you?” I mean, if you’re serious about it, everybody would know. Because this is your passion, your love. So, I love that. We just have a few minutes left. We’re going to have to wrap it up pretty soon. We could talk for hours, man. But I want to talk about, you know, you have a new ministry now called Fearless Identity. I know you’ve got these Freedom Marches coming up. And the church, I think, you know, you’re forging this path that I think is avoiding two ditches in the church. I think we have, we heard both of ‘em today. We heard one where you said, you know, as a kid your church really went sort-of into that ditch of rejection and, you know, “just pray the gay away and you’ll be better. And we want you to look like this.” And not really dealing with the inner struggle and with you as a person and the process that you needed to go through. I think that’s one ditch, is that rejection. The other ditch, you talked about, Angel how they loved it, man, when you were posting that you were going to church, and you were “out and proud” kind of thing. And we have this affirmation where it’s like not just affirming the person, but now we’re affirming the sin. And saying, “this lifestyle is just fine.” And you guys, I think, are taking what I see as, this is the Biblical road, and showing the church, modeling for the church. And I have to say, you know, I happen to go to kind of a strange church, we’ve got dozens of people that have come out of this lifestyle. Many of them, you wouldn’t know it because they don’t really talk about it anymore. It’s years in the past. Some of them are married and have kids. They’re living a different life. But I’ve seen lots of people come out of this lifestyle. So, for me, it’s not like, this bizarre thing that nobody can do. It is something that people can do. But they can’t do it in their own power. They have to do it by the power of the Spirit. And I do think what we have in the church is, it isn’t a sexuality crisis. It’s a faith crisis. Because we don’t believe in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ anymore. You know, we believe God can raise us from the dead someday, but He can’t change our sexuality. I don’t understand that whole entire way of thinking. But speak to it, would you, your ministry now, and how you’re calling the church to walk this road of transformation, yet love and acceptance at the same time of the struggler.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yeah, so Fearless Identity was actually birthed through persecution. All the persecution that Angel said. That when I shared my testimony, and he shared his, we’re getting backlash like crazy. What we were seeing with the backlash is people were coming to Jesus! Like it was so crazy! It’s like, people were so scared to share their story, but in all this, in the behind the scenes, God was working because I had ex-lovers that were coming to Jesus because they saw a Facebook Live that they were making about me and laughing about me. And people like in high places were talking about me. This brought people to email me and say, “Hey, I want to know about this Jesus that you’re so in love with. How do I do this?” So, that’s how Fearless Identity. So, what we’re doing is we’re sounding the alarm in the church. We didn’t talk about it before. So now Fearless Identity, Angel and I and our team, we’re being vocal. We’re being transparent about it. And we are actually implementing or making small groups in the churches where people can come and have community. One thing that Angel and I saw when we grew up is, we felt like we were alone. Like we had no one to talk to about this. Like, the men could talk about their pornography issues, and their lusting over women. But when we rose our hand and said, “Hey, uh, I like guys,” it was a whole elephant in the room. We couldn’t talk about it. In fact, there was a lot of rejection. So, we want to build communities in churches, and we want to spread it like fire. But the main thing that I’ve seen, and I spoke to Angel about this the other day, is that we are bringing the message of people returning to their first love. Like if you will return to Jesus, and your first love, then you don’t need this magic pill. You don’t need these special words. You have the Man that makes the change, with the Holy Spirit, that will allow you to speak to that coworker at work that is struggling with homosexuality, or that person that you know, or that family member. Because you’ll reek with Jesus. You’ll reek with the Holy Spirit, that everything around you will provoke anyone, the prostitute, the liar, the prideful heart, the homosexual, whatever the case may be, to want what you have. Because of that secret place that you’re in, in the public it would just speak so right. You’d want to be in it. You’d want to be provoked to it. So that’s what we do. (laughter) We’re very transparent. And then with PULSE. PULSE was the vehicle that God is just using to let people know that, that was grace. I should have been number 50. We should have been number 50, 51. But because of His grace, we are standing here today.  And we are alive, and we are breathing to share the message of Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.

JULIE ROYS:  Amen! You know it reminds me of Joseph saying that thing that you meant for evil, that Satan meant for evil, God turned to good. So God can use even the Satanic, awful, hateful, murderous events and turn it for good to His kingdom. One last thing, you guys, as I understand Freedom March is coming up in September?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: Yes.

JULIE ROYS:  And coming back to Orlando? Is this right?

ANGEL COLON:  Yeah! Yes.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ: So exciting! So exciting!

JULIE ROYS:  I want to go! Man, I want to be there for this. But, tell us about it.

ANGEL COLON:  Yeah . . . all the other Freedom Marches we have done have been amazing. We’ve seen the lives, the souls come to Christ. And . . .

JULIE ROYS:  Describe Freedom March. I’m sorry, describe what that is. I mean, I know what that is. You know what that is. But people listening, they may not know. What are these Freedom Marches?

ANGEL COLON: No, yeah. It’s mainly a march event. We start off with prayer, of course. We do a worship set, as well. And then we give the opportunity for 12 overcomers to speak and share their testimonies on how they’ve overcome homosexuality. And we do an altar call at the end because we know that at every march we know that there are going to be souls that are going to come to Christ. So we do an altar call. And then after that we march around that property, marching and letting the town know that there is change through Jesus Christ.

JULIE ROYS:  OK. So that’s the Freedom March Orlando. You going to be doing this same kind of event there Saturday, September 14th, 2019. If people want information, they go to FreedomToMarch.com. You can hear all about it. And so both of you will be there, right?

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Yes, we are hosting the event. So we are so excited.

ANGEL COLON:  Yes, you are!

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  It’s going to be fun.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow, well, we’re going to need to pray for you and uphold you and support you in that. I mean, you guys are pushing back the darkness and you’re right on the front lines. So, man, I appreciate what you’re doing. God bless you guys and thanks for taking the time to tell your stories. And thanks more for your fidelity to Jesus Christ and your testimony. So thank you.

LUIS JAVIER RUIZ:  Thank you for the opportunity.

ANGEL COLON:  Amen.

JULIE ROYS:  You bet. Well, and thanks to all of you listening for joining The Roys Report. Again, I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to connect with me, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up for email updates at my website. And if you’ve liked this podcast or have any feedback, I encourage you to leave a review at my website or at Apple or Google Podcast or wherever it is that you’re hearing this program. Thanks again for listening and God Bless.

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The Case For Christmas With Lee Strobel https://julieroys.com/podcast/the-case-for-christmas-with-lee-strobel/ Sat, 21 Dec 2019 18:00:19 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6571 The Case For Christmas With Lee Strobel Read More »

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Is Christmas an elaborate hoax—or the pivotal point in human history? This week on The Roys Report, I’ll be interviewing atheist-turned Christian, Lee Strobel, about The Case for Christmas. Is the virgin birth really a concept that intelligent people can accept? What about the idea of God incarnating a man? Lee will be sharing new material not included in any of his best-selling books.  Join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life, and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!

This Weeks Guests

Lee Strobel

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books and curricula that have sold fourteen million copies in total. He is Founding Director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. His books include The Case for Christ, which is also available as a movie on Netflix; The Case for Faith; The Case for a Creator; The Case for Grace; and The Case for Christmas. He and Leslie have been married 47 years and divide their time between Houston and Denver.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Is Christmas and elaborate hoax or the pivotal point in human history? And can an intelligent person really embrace that God became a man or that a virgin conceived a child? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re going to be examining Christmas. And when I say Christmas, I don’t mean the trappings of Christmas, the tree and the gifts and the holiday parties. But Christmas itself. The birth of Christ, the incarnate Son of God in a manger in Bethlehem. Sure, we sing the songs about His birth, and we put out nativity scenes on our front lawns. But do we really believe the Christmas story? And are there any good reasons to think that the biblical account is actually true? Well, joining me today as someone who used to be an atheist, but then he investigated the claims of Christianity. And to his surprise, ended up embracing the faith that he had railed against for his entire life up to that point. His name is Lee Strobel. And for many of you, he needs no introduction. He’s authored more than 40 books that have sold 14 million copies. And his book, The Case for Christ which tells about his personal journey to faith has been made into a movie that’s now available on Netflix. He’s also done lots of other “Case For” books, including The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for Grace and the book we’re going to be talking about today, The Case for Christmas. So Lee, welcome to the program. It is such a joy to talk to you.

LEE STROBEL: Well, thanks Julie. Always great to talk with you. Hope you having a great Christmas season.

JULIE ROYS: We are. Although it’s kind of just going to begin after today because [I’ve been] working up into this point. And then I’m looking forward to doing a lot of last minute Christmas shopping.

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, me too. I got a little bit ahead of me.

JULIE ROYS: Well, it’s good to know that there’s some other last minute folks like me out there. You know, I was thinking the last time we talked I think was in 2017. That was when your movie came out about your life. Was absolutely phenomenal movie. And people, if you have not seen The Case for Christ, that movie is just so, so good. Just so enjoyed that. But since then, before we jump into The Case for Christmas, I want to talk just briefly about something that just happened—I think in August, wasn’t it?—that  the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics opened at Colorado Christian University, correct?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, we’re very excited about it. What we’re going to be doing is offering dozens, in fact, well over 100 online accredited courses, starting this fall, in the area of evangelism. And what we call “applied apologetics,” by that we mean that our goal isn’t to create ivory tower academics or intellectuals. It’s really the great people who are confident and equipped to be able to share Jesus and defend the Christian faith in their everyday world. And so we’re going to be launching our first courses next fall and looking forward to people who just want to take one or two courses just to learn more about why we believe, what we believe. And others who want to get an undergraduate degree or a master’s degree or even a PhD. So, we’re going to have a lot of opportunities to go further in understanding that the basis, the foundation, of the Christian faith.

JULIE ROYS: Well, I have a senior in high school right now. So, Colorado Christian is on the list. This is my baby. So, my very last one.

LEE STROBEL: It’s great school I’m telling you, you know, we looked at a lot of different schools where we wanted to perhaps, land our center. And I just love Colorado Christian. They’re just awesome. The more we’re involved, the deeper we go, the more we find the godliness of their faculty and the passion of the students and the solid—that’s one of the top growing Christian universities of any kind in the country. High quality—and anyway, I’m kind of a become a become a cheerleader for Colorado Christian.

JULIE ROYS: Well, I love Colorado, so we’re actually out there in January, and definitely gonna swing by the school and take a look. So [I’m] excited about that. I think it’s so important for schools to have apologetics programs and classes. And there’s too few, I think, Christian schools that do. So hats off to them. That’s outstanding.

LEE STROBEL: It’s also one of the few Christian Schools—I think the only one I know of—that requires every student—whether you’re a nursing student or a business student or whatever—every student takes a course on relational evangelism—learns how to share their faith. I think that’s awesome.

JULIE ROYS: That’s fantastic. And you know, sometimes at those Christian Schools, they need to evangelize each other sometimes. 

LEE STROBEL: (laughter) Yeah, that’s true.

JULIE ROYS: That’s an important thing. Well, let’s dive into this book. I actually looked on Amazon. The Case for Christmas, which came out—what, five years ago?—it’s still on the top 100 list. 

LEE STROBEL: Is that right?

JULIE ROYS: It is. So, there aren’t very many books that have that kind of staying power. So, I think that speaks to the content of it. And also, to your popularity as a writer. But let me just start with sort of an overarching question. Now that you’ve invested years in researching the evidence for Christmas, in all of your investigations on Christmas, are there any traditions that you found don’t withstand scrutiny?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, I really have. It’s fun as I’ve tried to separate sort of the, the holiday from the holy day and the facts from the fantasy and the truth from the tradition I’ve I found that certain things have kind of come into our popular conception of Christmas but don’t really have a biblical basis. I’ll give you a good example. The popular conception of the Christmas story is that Mary and Joseph, because of the census, called the Bethlehem, she is about to give birth, and they come into town and there’s an innkeeper that says, “Sorry, no room at the Inn. So, they don’t have a place to go. They go into a stable or a cave and she gives birth among the animals, and then puts the baby in the manger. Well, there’s a problem with that is there probably was no Inn and no innkeeper. There were commercial lodging places available in the first century but probably not in Bethlehem. It was a small town and it was not a major thoroughfare. But the key is the word that’s used there that’s translated as, “Inn.” It’s a Greek word called kataluma. And it’s only used two times in the New Testament. And the other time it’s us is the place where the Last Supper was held, where it clearly means a spare room. And so, if Luke wanted to say this was an Inn, this was a commercial lodging institution, you would use a different Greek word. But he used kataluma. And the best translation of kataluma is, “guest room.” In fact, if you were to look at the NIV version—the New International Version—it says that there was no guest room available for them. And you can trace that back. I traced it back to the year 1395 where John Wycliffe’s translation used the word, “chamber, room.”  And then later the King James Version kind of picked up this idea that was it was an “inn,” and that’s kind of what spawned the story. But so, let me explain real quickly what this involved. In the first century in this locale the typical house had one large room, but it was divided in two parts. The first part the larger area was the family room. And that’s where you would cook and eat and sleep. And then there were a few steps down to the animal room. And this is where the family donkey or the cow or a couple of sheep would spend the night. So at the last thing in the day, they would bring them into this section of the room that separated by some stairs—there might be half a dozen stairs that go up to the family room—and the animals would stay in there. And there was a manger in there. And then often these animals during the night would come up these little stairs into the family room. And they would hang out with the family, you know the sheep and so forth. And so, they had a manger in the family room as well. So, what some houses did is they added a second room. This was the kataluma—the guest room. And it had its own entrance—its own exterior entrance. So, this is the room that Luke was referring to. So, what he’s saying basically is that they came into Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph had relatives there. They went to one of the relative’s house and it would have been great for pregnant Mary to be in the guest room but there was no room—it was already occupied. So, she had to give birth in the in the living area. And of course, there were animals around. And she did give birth among the animals. And there was a manger there. And so all that is probably accurate. It probably is not by the way accurate that she was on the verge of giving birth when she came into town. That actually comes from a second century account that’s pretty much legendary and not based on historic reality. If you read carefully, Luke chapter 2 verse 6 says that the time for the baby to be born came while they were there in Bethlehem. So that could be they were there five hours, are there five weeks. It’s unclear. So, she may or may not have been on the verge of birth. So anyway, that’s just one clarification that I think add some historical validity to what probably happened.

JULIE ROYS: I’m just trying to figure out whether we have to change our nativity scenes. Are they okay? But we’ve got the manger we’ve got the animals but maybe not a barn type environment. Maybe a little bit different. Again, I’m speaking with atheist turned Christian Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christmas. We’re going to be discussing more things about Christmas. What’s true, what isn’t true and what’s the evidence? Please stay tuned. We’ll be right back.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Can intelligent people really believe in the story of Christmas—that God became man and a virgin conceived a child? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m discussing the case for Christmas with best-selling author and atheist turned Christian Lee Strobel. And by the way, I’m giving away six copies of Lee’s book The Case for Christmas today. And if you’d like to enter to win a copy of that book, you can do that by going to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you’d like to join our conversation today, I encourage you to do so on social media. To get to us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter, our handle is @ReachJulieRoys. So Lee, returning to our discussion, you were saying a little bit about where this “Inn” that we know that Mary and Joseph came to is probably not what we’re thinking of in our modern conception. And it was probably just a spare room in a relative’s house. What about the wise men? Because obviously, in many of our nativity scenes, we have these three wise men. My understanding is they probably weren’t there at Jesus’s birth either.

LEE STROBEL: Right. That’s correct. I mean, they came at some later time. And given the fact that King Herod ordered the killing of all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem, trying to figure out—he was trying to figure out when the birth had taken place, and he wanted to eliminate all possible suspects. So, within the first couple of years is when this happened. It’s interesting though, when you read the actual account in Scripture, it doesn’t say explicitly that they were led to Bethlehem by the star—the Magi. It says they were led to where Jesus was. And so perhaps Mary and Joseph had already left Bethlehem by then and were elsewhere. But wherever they were, that’s where the Magi were led and met with the with the child. Of course we also have the shepherds who, they were there. They came at the time that the baby was born, or shortly thereafter. And so we do have the accuracy of the Nativity scenes with the shepherd’s being there.

JULIE ROYS: Just not the Wisemen. And we have Wisemen in our nativity scene at home, but I really like it. So, I’m just keeping it.

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that. You know, when we made our movie The Case for Christ, we did what they call time shifting. There’re some things in movies where you have to shift some time to make it work. And that’s a little bit of time shifting. But that’s okay. They were ultimately there.

JULIE ROYS: Absolutely a little bit of artistic license there.

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, there you go. That’s a good way to put it.

JULIE ROYS: So, let’s talk about the reliability of these accounts that you’re obviously referencing in the Gospels. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each recounting different parts of the story of Jesus and his life on Earth. Can we really trust these? And what reason do we have that we can trust them?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, it’s interesting when we go back specifically to the account of the birth of Jesus in the gospels, there are two gospels that mentioned that specifically, and that’s Matthew and Luke. What’s interesting, though, is when you look at the number of times that Mary and Joseph are specifically mentioned in those two gospels, what you realize is that Luke’s Gospel tells the story from Mary’s perspective, which makes sense. Luke was sort of a first century investigative reporter. That’s why he’s one of my favorite characters of the first century. And he interviewed people. He checked things out, as he said, to make sure of the certainty of what took place. And so, he probably interviewed Mary herself or friends of Mary to get her side of the story. Matthew, on the other hand, writes from Joseph’s perspective. And when you think about it, it makes sense because Joseph the earthly father Jesus—not the biological father, but the earthly father of Jesus—died apparently before Jesus earthly ministry began. But Matthew became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. Well guess who else was a leader there? James, the half-brother of Jesus. And so it would have made sense that Joseph would have told the children the story of what happened with the birth of Jesus, and this unusual circumstance—this virgin conception. And that’s apparently where James heard it. And then he probably passed it on to Matthew when they were leaders of the church in Jerusalem. So you have two different perspectives. Why that’s important is this means we have two independent sources for the story of the Virgin conception of Jesus, which is the central teaching of the birth of Jesus—the incarnation. And these go back very early. So, these are sources that Matthew and Luke drew upon that go back even before the gospels were written. So, this takes it way back. Some critics say, “Oh, this idea that Jesus was born of a virgin, that was a later edition that the Christians later said, ‘Well, we want to bolster the divine credentials of Jesus, so let’s invent this story that he was born of a virgin.’” No. I mean, we have a story goes way back to the beginning to the first generation of Christ followers. Now the question comes up that “Well, what about John? And what about Mark? How come they don’t mention the virgin conception?” And then, “What about Paul? He doesn’t mention it either. So, what’s the deal?” And I think the answer is that not all the Gospels report every detail about the events of Jesus life. In fact, John was the last gospel written. And so, he doesn’t repeat a lot of material that’s already been made known in the other gospels. But it is interesting, there is a church tradition that says that John mentored in early church father by the name of Ignatius. And in the first century, Ignatius wrote a letter specifically confirming that Jesus was, “Truly born of a virgin.” So, where did he get that idea? Well, maybe from his mentor, John. And then Mark. Well, Mark doesn’t deal with the early years of Jesus at all. So, he doesn’t reference this. But he does in Mark 6:3, he refers to Jesus as the Son of Mary. Now, normally a Jewish person would be identified with the Father’s name—be, “the son of Joseph.” Even if the dad was dead. They would identify someone that way. But here we have an implicit acknowledgement that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. And then, in terms of why Paul didn’t mention it, I think that it simply wasn’t an issue relevant to the things that prompted him to write his epistles. He doesn’t mention a lot of details about Jesus. He doesn’t mention Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem. That doesn’t mean that those places didn’t exist. But then again, in Galatians 4:4, Paul says, “God sent forth his Son coming from a woman.” So here again, you have this reference that apparently something unusual about his birth. And in fact, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul talks about, in different ways, how Adam and Jesus came miraculously from the hand of God. And an early church apologist named Irenaeus later connects this with the virgin birth. So, he’s indicating that there’s something miraculous about his birth. So, I think we have good solid historical reasons to believe in the virgin birth. The records of the Gospels I think, are reasonable to believe from an historical standpoint. Especially when you look at their dating, you know, when you look at the book of Acts, we see that it doesn’t mention a lot of things that happened in the 60s A.D. Jesus was crucified either at 30 or 33 A.D. So, in the 60s, there were a bunch of things that happened that would have been in Acts had it been written later, but it apparently was written before about 62 A.D. Well Acts is the second part of Luke’s work—the first part being the Gospel of Luke—so that’s even earlier. And then one of the Luke’s sources was Mark. And so Mark is dated even earlier. So these are very close, you know, first generation This is stuff coming from the first generation, and so that gives it credibility. The other thing is, we see the careful nature. Luke has the most complete account of the Virgin conception and the birth of Jesus. And Luke has studied it and is known for being an extremely reliable historian. You can check the references that he makes to various things and they tend to check out. And over and over again where archaeology can confirm an event, it does confirm what Luke says. Now I’ll give you a great example of that related to the birth of Jesus. You know, the Gospels tell us that Jesus later grew up–after being born in Bethlehem—in Nazareth. And a lot of skeptics used to say, “Well, Nazareth didn’t exist in the first century. So, there you go—shows Luke doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” And yet, just a few years ago, in what had been Nazareth in the first century, archaeologists discovered a house from Jesus’ era. And what’s interesting about that house is it had limestone pottery in it. And what that means is that limestone pottery was used by Jewish families because they believe that would not make the food impure.

JULIE ROYS: So, Jews were in Nazareth! Hey, I gotta cut you off because we have to go to break. But when we come back, I want to talk about that some more. We’re also getting into some material that wasn’t in The Case for Christmas. This is new material about the virgin conception, which you’re not supposed to say the more correct term is virgin conception, not virgin birth. When we come back, Lee will explain to us why that is. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys speaking today with award winning and best-selling author Lee Strobel. We will be right back after a short break.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: More of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: We all love the story of Christmas, of a baby born in a manger and angels announcing his birth. But can an intelligent person really believe that a virgin gave birth to the Son of God? Welcome back to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m speaking with Lee Strobel, a former atheist and Chicago Tribune reporter who’s become a leading Christian author and apologist. And today we’re talking about The Case for Christmas. And I’m actually giving away six copies of Lee’s book by that name. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Case for Christmas, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you’re just joining us and you want to listen to the first part of our discussion today, you can find that at JulieRoys.com as well. I’ll be posting the complete audio as a podcast following this program. So again, just go to JulieRoys.com, and then click on the podcast tab. So, Lee right before break, you were talking about archaeology and Nazareth, and how archaeologists first believed that Nazareth really wasn’t much of a city and not one that the Jews lived in, in the first century. Now we’re finding that’s not true.

LEE STROBEL: That’s right. By the discovery just recently of this house, and by the way, they since then found another house from Jesus’ era right down the block. We have evidence that indeed, Nazareth did exist in the first century. And the fact that they had limestone pottery indicates that this was a Jewish Home. So, what’s interesting though, is this house that they discovered from the Byzantine era had been revered as being the very house that Jesus had lived in. In fact, they built a convent above this house to kind of recognize it as being the actual place where Jesus grew up. Now, we won’t know for sure. We can we can’t prove that one way or the other through archaeology. But what we can confirm is that again, Luke was right that Nazareth did exist in the first century. Jewish people did live there. And just one more case, where you look at the reliability of Luke.

JULIE ROYS: And I love how you write about archaeology as it’s sort of like the corroborating witness that we talk to as journalists. I mean, if you get a story, you go out and you try to corroborate it with people around it. You can’t necessarily find out whether the story the person told was true. But what you can do is find out, do the other details check out? 

LEE STROBEL: That’s right.

JULIE ROYS: And if the other details check out you say, “Sounds like a credible witness.” If they don’t, then you go, “Hmm, not a credible witness.” And it is amazing, isn’t it Lee, how time and time again, archaeology backs up what the Scriptures say? And there’s no other holy book like that.

LEE STROBEL: Exactly. And what this tells us is that Luke was a very careful historian. And that’s been recognized by secular and Christian scholars through the ages—that Luke was very careful. In fact, one archaeologist carefully examined the references that Luke made to 32 countries, 54 cities and nine islands. And he couldn’t find a single mistake. So that gives credibility to Luke and to say, “You know, this guy was not sloppy. He was very careful in what he reported.” And so, the implication is, therefore, he was probably careful in reporting really important things like the resurrection, like the birth of Jesus, and so forth.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, and we’re starting to get into—you did in the last segment, and I want to continue that—into some things that aren’t in your original book The Case for Christmas. However, it is in a curriculum that you put together The Case for Christmas and The Case for Easter: A Study Guide with DVDs. So, some of this information is available there, but it’s newer information that you’ve discovered. And one of the things—and I teased this before the break—is the virgin conception. Now you had said in some notes to me before the show, it’s really the virgin conception, not the virgin birth. Well, what’s the difference there?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, it’s a difference without much importance, but it is theologically important because we’re talking about how Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The virgin birth often is a Catholic term that refers to the perpetual virginity of Mary—that that continued through her birth through her subsequent life and so forth.

JULIE ROYS: How did she have other children?

LEE STROBEL: Well, that’s the thing. Catholics would say that those were cousins and not necessarily children that she had. But I think a clear reading, to me, of the New Testament is that Jesus did have half-brothers, including James who became a leader in the local church, the church there in Jerusalem. So, there is a slight distinction. Most people would use virgin birth and virgin conception interchangeably. And that’s fine.

JULIE ROYS: Well, let’s talk about the importance of the Virgin conception. Why is that so critical to our faith?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, two reasons. One is, the virgin conception makes it possible for Jesus to be both fully God and fully man. So clearly there was both a human and a divine influence in his birth. So, the full humanity is evident from the back of his birth my human mother, and his full deity is evident from the fact that the conception was by the power of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus can be fully God and fully man. And then second, the virgin birth makes it possible for Jesus to be born without Original Sin. Bible teaches that all people have inherited this corrupt moral nature thanks to Adam, my first father, but because Jesus didn’t have an earthly father, a human father, this line of descent from Adam was partially interrupted. And also, it’s interesting that the Bible says somehow in a way we don’t quite understand this conception by the Holy Spirit prevented the transmission of sin from Mary. How do we know? Well, when you read carefully what Luke says in his first chapter, he says, “The angel replied to Mary, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’” So, in other words, as a direct consequence of this, the baby to be born will be holy, that is, morally pure without sin. So, in some manner, this unbroken line of descent from Adam is interrupted by the Holy Spirit’s divine conception of Jesus. And so, Jesus is born without the stain of original sin. I like the way one scholar put it. He said, “It seems likely that the influence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful and sanctifying in its effect, that there was no conveyance of depravity, of guilt from Mary to Jesus.” So those two things are really important—that Jesus is fully God and fully man, he’s without Original Sin—those are foundational ideas. And we see of course, the virgin birth being mentioned in the Creed’s of the church. It’s an important doctrine that’s specifically mentioned in the Creed’s, that Jesus was born of a virgin. And so, it’s not a side issue. I think it’s an important, central issue.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, absolutely it is. Now there’s something I want to get into, we’re going to have to go to break. But when we come back from the break, Matthew references in the Old Testament, a passage from Isaiah where it says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.” Now some critics say that word that’s translated virgin doesn’t really mean virgin that that somehow the gospel writer got it wrong. That’s not the case, though.

LEE STROBEL: That’s right.

JULIE ROYS: And so, when we come back from break, I’ll give Lee a chance. To explain why is it that Isaiah uses the term he does? What does that really mean? Why did Matthew—and why do modern translators—translate that “virgin?” Is that right or not? Again, I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. Today with me, Lee Strobel an award-winning author and the author of The Case for Christmas. We’ll be right back after a short break.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Is there evidence supporting the biblical account of Christmas? And what about this idea of a virgin giving birth to a son? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m discussing The Case for Christmas with the author of the book by that name, Lee Strobel. We’ve had an absolutely fascinating discussion today. And if you’re just joining us and want to hear what you’ve missed, I’ll be posting the entire audio to my website shortly after this program, just go to JulieRoys.com and then click on the podcast tab. So Lee, right before break I was talking about, in Isaiah, when it references that this virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, they will call him Emmanuel. Some say that that word is wrongly translated as virgin that it should be, “young woman” or something. Can you address that?

LEE STROBEL: Sure. Yeah. And this was a common objection that people make. Isaiah, this reference that the virgin will conceive, give birth to a son, call him Emmanuel, that was written like 700 years before Jesus was born. And Matthew says this is a prophecy that applies to Jesus. Well, critics criticize it for three reasons. Number one, they say, “Well wait a minute, this was actually a prophecy for King Ahaz of Judah. And it was fulfilled centuries before Jesus was born, because it was a maiden who later got married and gave birth to a son.” And then they say, “And the word virgin is a mistranslation. The Hebrew word used there is almah, which simply means young woman.” If the writer had meant to say, “virgin,” you would use a different word, betulah. And the third thing they say, “Well, Jesus wasn’t named Emmanuel.” So, there’s kind of three problems with this thing. Well, here’s the answer. First, yes, the immediate prophecy was fulfilled centuries earlier. Some say it was with the birth of Mahershalal-hash-baz. Others say, “Well, that can’t be because he wasn’t called Emmanuel.” But here’s what’s important. There was a broader messianic context that remained unfulfilled until the time of Jesus. In other words, you can’t read this verse in Isaiah in isolation. It’s actually a part of a larger complex of verses foretelling the coming of the Messiah. So, in Isaiah 7, He is about to be born. In Isaiah 9, He’s already born and declared to be mighty God and divine King. And then in Isaiah 11, He’s ruling and reigning in the supernatural power of the Spirit. So, this broader context points toward the coming of the Messiah, which means Matthew was right in applying it to Jesus. In terms of the word almah used and meaning, “young maiden,” in those days, a young maiden was presumed to be a virgin. In fact, almah is never used in ancient history and in biblical Hebrew, it’s never used of a non-virgin. While the word betulah could refer to a widow, or a divorced woman, who wasn’t a virgin. So, I talked to one scholar, he said, “Look, if any notion of virginity were intended, almah is the best or the only word to do that job”. So, it is correct to translate it as virgin. And then third, what about the fact that maybe he was not called Emmanuel, He was called Jesus? Well, you know, biblical names are often symbolic. And Emmanuel literally means “God with us.” And that’s exactly who Jesus is, you know, hundreds of millions of people around the planet say Jesus is God with us. So, in that ultimate sense, he is Emmanuel. So, I think it’s appropriate for Matthew to have applied this prophecy to Jesus. I think it did mean Virgin. And the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that was done.  A long time before Jesus was born, did translated as virgin. So, I think it was appropriately applied to Jesus and it did suggest that There would be something supernatural about his birth.

JULIE ROYS: Well, and that happens throughout the gospels where you have the gospel writers saying, referencing something in the Old Testament that had a partial fulfillment or one meaning, and then the gospel writer gives it that full meaning. and that you know exactly how it applies. So, yeah, and it’s just interesting how myopic so often these criticisms are. It’s like they don’t see the whole picture. Yet they can sound credible. So appreciate you just sort of unpacking that. Let’s go to another criticism of the virgin birth. And I think this was popularized in The Da Vinci Code, and that is that the virgin birth was just stolen from pagan mythology.

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, you hear this a lot. And the example that’s often given and I think the one used in The Da Vinci Code was Mithras. There was a mythological God named Mithras, who lived supposedly long before Jesus was born. And guess what? He was born of a virgin in a cave on December the 25th. And he had 12 disciples. And He sacrificed himself for world peace. And guess what? He was buried in a tomb and he rose again three days later. So, then people say, “Well, isn’t that the real source of this story and that Christianity just borrowed or stole these ideas, plagiarized these ideas from this mythology called Mythraism?” Well, the problem is you dig into this and you find it’s totally unfounded. First of all, the myth says that Mithras emerged fully grown out of a rock, and he was wearing a hat. So there was no virgin. There was no virgin birth, he emerged fully grown from a from a rock. Secondly, he was born on December 25. Well, so what we don’t know when Jesus was born. The Bible doesn’t tell us the date that Jesus was born. In fact, in the year about 200 A.D., a bunch of theologians got together and said, “Let’s try to figure out when Jesus was actually, you know, what his birthday is.” They concluded it was May 20. Other say, “No, it could have been March, could have been April.” It was most likely in the spring, because that’s when the shepherds were watching their flocks at night. It’s when the ewes bore their young. And so, we don’t know the exact birth date of Jesus. And then it got be me about the fourth century. And Christians said, “Wait a minute, we have all these pagan celebrations with a lot of immorality taking place around the winter solstice. If we’re going to pick a date to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s make it December 25. It’s around the solstice and will bring a Christian influence to these pagan celebrations.” So that’s no parallel, either. And then you look, he didn’t have 12 disciples, the one version said he had one disciple, another versions that he had two. He didn’t sacrifice himself for world peace. He was known for killing a bull. And then finally, there was no belief in the mythology of Mithraism about his death. And therefore, nothing about a resurrection. So, this is typical of what we find. We find that these were people trying to bring parallels between these pagan myths and the birth of Jesus. They use secondary sources. They wrap it up in Christian terms and make it sound like it’s a parallel. They use partial quotes. They exaggerate. And it’s just plain inaccurate. You know, the fact that he was supposedly born in a cave. Well, Jesus wasn’t born in a cave. So, there’s no parallel there either.

JULIE ROYS: Wow. And there seems to be obviously something driving that, isn’t it? I mean, there’s some sort of bias that the authors bring to the table, and then they make the narrative fit, even if it doesn’t fit, and then it gets sold. 

LEE STROBEL: That’s right. In fact, a lot of this was brought up in the 19th century by some German theologians. And so the Christians got together in the early 20th century, and they refuted it completely. But what happened is, in recent years, a lot of internet atheists have gone back to these original claims that were made, ignoring the fact that they’ve been answered and responded to and refuted. And bringing it up again. And I know one author who was a Greek scholar wrote a book about it and said, “I don’t know why I’m writing this book. This has been refuted 100 years ago. But I guess I gotta do this again, just because this has risen again in popular culture.”

JULIE ROYS: Because everything that’s on the internet must be true. 

LEE STROBEL: (laughter) Exactly.

JULIE ROYS: Well, we only have about five minutes left. But in this last five minutes, I’d love to just delve into the topic about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah, and whether or not he matched it. Because there were so many—as we touched on, the Isaiah passage—so many Old Testament prophecies looking to what the Messiah would look like. And, I mean, what’s the likelihood that one human being would match all of these factors that the Messiah has to meet. And yet Jesus did so. Unpack that a little bit for us.

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, there was a scientist mathematician by the name of Peter Stoner who was part of Westmont College out in California. And he decided to do a study, a mathematical study of this issue. What are the odds that any human being through history could fulfill just 48 of these ancient prophecies? And so, he took to these prophecies. And they ran mathematical models on these things conservatively. And what he determined is that the odds of any human being in history fulfilling just 48 of these prophecies would be one chance in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.

JULIE ROYS: My husband who’s a statistician would say that, that doesn’t meet the null hypothesis. He would love this part.

LEE STROBEL: That’s right. Scientists say there’s a word for that: Ain’t gonna happen. It would be the equivalent of taking one atom and spray painting it red and putting it somewhere in the known universe, and then giving you a spaceship and letting you fly among the known universe, blindfolded, but you can open your porthole one time, and you could pull in one, atom. What would be the odds it would be the atom that had previously been spray painted red? One chance in a trillion trillion—the same odds that any human being could fulfill 48 of these prophecies. But Jesus did it. Jesus did it. And this tells us that, against all odds, Jesus has demonstrated that he is the unique Son of God, He is the Messiah, the one referred to in Isaiah as, “the Mighty God,” when it talked about the coming Messiah. We call it, “Mighty God.” And so, I think that’s just one more confirmation of the supernatural nature of the Bible, that it has these fulfilled prophecies. But also one more confirmation that when Jesus makes transcendent an messianic and divine claims about Himself, He backs that up. He backs up His divine claims by His resurrection from the dead, for which I think we have plenty of historical data being an actual historical event.

JULIE ROYS: We do. And that’s something you’ve written on extensively. Last thing. We had mentioned this too. And, just a piece of almost trivia, but the Christmas star. You write about that. And something that Hugh Ross said—seeing that you did the outer space analogy there, it made me think of it—that that might have been a recurring nova?

LEE STROBEL: Yeah, that’s one explanation. There have been a lot of different explanations given for the Christmas star. And I think several of them have some good credibility to them. But Hugh Ross, who, of course, got a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Toronto, says it may have been a recurring nova. A nova is a star that suddenly increases in brightness and then in a few months or years it grows dim. And they happen about once every decade or so. And they’re other sufficiently uncommon enough that they would catch the attention of trained observers like the Magi. But most people would just ignore it. They wouldn’t think it was spectacular enough to catch their attention. But most of these novae exploded just once. But there were a few examples of multiple explosions—a recurring nova, which means that this would match the description of how Matthew describes a star, which is that that star appeared, it disappeared, then it reappeared and then disappeared later. That would kind of fit the description of a recurring nova.

JULIE ROYS: Well Lee, thank you. I hate to cut you off. But unfortunately, we’re coming to the end of our time. But this has been a fascinating discussion. And what I love too is the way that you approached it—as a journalist looking for, “How can we know?” Just like you were saying the gospel writer Luke did. Why did he write what he did? He said, “Well, so that his friend, Theophilus would know the certainty of the things that he’s been taught.” And Lee, I think that’s what we can know with Scripture. It checks out. It is true. And we don’t have to check our brains at the door to accept the story of Christmas. We can actually investigate it and find that it’s true. So Lee, thank you so much for helping us discover the evidence surrounding Christmas. Just so appreciate it. And God bless you and bless your family this Christmas season. And just a reminder to all of you listening if you missed any part of this show or want to listen again, just go to JulieRoys.com. Listen to the podcast there. Hope you have a wonderful weekend and a very Merry Christmas celebrating Jesus Christ.

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Sexual abuse and coverup is not just an issue in the Catholic Church, as recent news of rampant sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches has shown. But how should churches and Christian organizations respond to allegations of abuse? And what should victims do if they want to report abuse, but are afraid? This week on The Roys Report, Boz Tchividjian joins Julie Roys to discuss this critical issue. Boz is the executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) and has more than a decade of experience investigating abuse and working toward redemptive solutions. 

This Weeks Guests

Boz Tchivdjian

An experienced litigator who has handled hundreds of civil and criminal cases, Boz Tchividjian has dedicated his career to empowering survivors of sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment to seek justice against perpetrators, as well as employers and other institutions who fail to protect people from abuse.  Boz is the Founder of GRACE, an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that is equipping Christian communities to recognize, prevent, and respond to abuse.  Boz is Of Counsel with the Florida law firm of Landis Graham French and represents abuse victims from around the country.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  It once was thought to be only a Catholic problem. But not anymore. Sexual abuse and cover up is ravaging the Protestant church, too. But what’s the solution? And how should the church handle allegations of abuse? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m going to be discussing this important yet difficult issue. And joining me to do that is Boz Tchividjian, and founder of G.R.A.C.E., an internationally recognized organization that equips religious organizations to deal with sexual abuse. Boz also is an experienced litigator and a former Assistant State Attorney at the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. While there, Boz created the first sex-crimes division at the Office of the State Attorney. And he personally prosecuted hundreds of sexual victimization cases. So, I’m extremely excited to have Boz on my program. And I’m really looking forward to drawing on his wealth of experience in this area. But before I bring him on, let’s just take a minute to talk about the scope of the problem of sex abuse in the church. According to the Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express News, nearly 400 Southern Baptist leaders have pleaded guilty or been convicted of sex crimes against more than 700 victims since 1998. In the past couple of years, mega-church pastors, like Bill Hybels and Andy Savage, have had to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. And in the Catholic Church, the revelations have been absolutely staggering. Last year, news media revealed a systemic cover up of sex abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania. And this year in Illinois, nearly 400 Catholic clergy members were accused of sexual misconduct spanning decades. It’s disheartening. And it’s shocking. Pastors, priests, lay leaders should be the first to defend children. And the thought that clergy and other Christian leaders would use their positions to actually prey on their sheep is so incredibly evil. But it is happening. And we have to be prepared to respond correctly if, God forbid, the unthinkable happens in our church. And it’s my hope that by the end of this program, you’ll have a decent idea of what to do if someone comes to you with an allegation of abuse in your church. Or, if you’ve been a victim of abuse, it’s my prayer that this program will equip you to report your abuse and also to hold your abuser accountable, yet at the same time, seek healing and protection for yourself. I can’t think of anyone who’s more qualified to help us do that then Boz Tchividjian. So Boz, welcome. It is a pleasure to have you on my program.

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Julie, thank you. Good to be here.

JULIE ROYS:  Boz, let me just start by asking the question I think a ton of us are wondering, “Why, why is this happening in our church?” Why this what seems to be an epidemic of sexual abuse in our churches? And also the cover up?

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Well, I think first and foremost, we have to remember that this has been going on for a very long time. It’s been going on, I would guess, since the very beginning. I think that just because, in the past few years, a lot of light has been turned on to this issue, especially within the Protestant world, doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly an issue. It’s now suddenly an issue that the church can no longer ignore. The church should have never been ignoring it. But because of the world we live in, and the various things that have come forward—“Me, too”,  Church, too”—I think God, obviously, is behind this and in bringing darkness to light. And so that is first and foremost. Because, I think, in some conversations I had with people like, “Why is this going on now?” I’m like, “Man, this has been going on for a long time.” Because I’ve talked to survivors for 25 plus years who have been facing this and have encountered mostly silence from churches that they have come forward to disclose. And so, for the very first time, we’re seeing some reaction. For the very first time, we’re seeing the Christian community, and many aspects of the Christian community, realizing this can no longer be ignored. And that this is literally destroying lives of individuals and it’s destroying the church. But I think, “Why?”  You know, that’s a great question. If we knew why sexual offenders offend, we would probably wouldn’t be having this problem. I will say this, that there is no boundary that offenders will not cross. And within faith communities, those boundaries are, in most situations, easier to cross. We live in a world of faith communities that people are trusting—more trusting in a faith community than outside of faith community. I tell people all the time. I said if a person walks into your church and, let’s say, he’s your new pastor. You know, you’re going to have a trust of that person simply because of his position—compared to if the person walked in and he’s your new custodian. You probably are not going to have as much trust. So, would you leave your high school or middle school kids with a new pastor, the new youth pastor who’s just arrived? Yeah, probably. Would you leave them alone with the custodian who’s just arrived? Well, maybe not. And so I think that it’s really important to understand that the Christian community is, just by its nature—by its nature of being more trusting than others, by its nature of always being in need of help, and need of assistance, need of volunteers—creates an environment for offenders that is very attractive. And I don’t just mean offenders coming from the outside, inside to the church, which happens quite a bit. But, you know, the most dangerous, in my opinion, the most dangerous offender in the church is the one who’s been born and raised in the church. And there’s lots of them. And they know the weaknesses and the vulnerabilities of the Christian community. And they know the language to use and the words to use it and the theology to distort. That is so, so dangerous. And most the time, the people who’ve grown up in the church also are the most well-loved and most trusted individuals in that church. And that’s a dangerous combination.

JULIE ROYS:  It’s tough. It really is tough. And I think you nailed it when you said we just tend to trust people that are in these positions; a pastoral position, especially if that pastor has ministered to you. The Holy Spirit has used him in your life. And it’s unthinkable, absolutely unthinkable, that he could betray the trust and actually sexually abuse someone in your congregation. Or even if it happens to you, it rocks your world. I’ve talked to so many people who have been abused just in the past couple of years. And what it does to them, it’s so devastating and grievous. But it is happening. And I think, because of what you’ve talked about, our inclination, often, is to believe the person, not the person who brings the allegation, but the pastor—at least that’s what’s been shown with a lot of the cover ups that now have become quite public. So, let’s go to that question. What do we do [when] you’re in a position of leadership or maybe you’re not even in a position of leadership—maybe you’re an ally or an advocate—but let’s start with the person in a position of leadership. Somebody comes to you and says they’ve been abused by the pastor.  What should you do?

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Well, I think we have to start off with definitions. And we use the term abuse. And I think sometimes we use that term, in many cases, in a much more narrow way than it should be. I come across people, in my opinion, and based on my experience, who have been victims of abuse by church leaders and it’s not always sexual. It can be emotional. It can be spiritual. Oftentimes they overlap. So, you know, I’ve yet to come across a situation involving sexual abuse that doesn’t have a spiritual abuse component to it—inside the church. And the same thing with emotional abuse. So, I think part of the important aspect is helping equip and educate our churches—not just leaders, but everybody—on what abuse is. Because if somebody comes and discloses something and you’re going, “Well, there’s no sexual contact involved so it’s not abuse and let’s move on.” You may be missing some really important red flags there. And some opportunities to address something that needs to be addressed. But I think that one of the dynamics that we have to remember is that within most church contexts, especially when the reported offender is any type of leader in the church, that person is the insider. And the person stepping forward usually is the outsider. And that is—when I say “the insider” I mean, the person who is in leadership—the person who is well beloved and well respected by the congregation, the person who the congregation feels like they know most is that person in leadership. The person stepping forward, oftentimes—not always, but oftentimes, the person stepping forward—has been targeted by that leader for particular reasons. And one reason is because they may be somewhat of an outsider. One reason may be because they may be somebody who has a reputation for having a troubled life. Or somebody that maybe not everybody in the church really knows at all. They may be a quiet person. And so, when that person—if that person steps forward to begin with, which is oftentimes not the case, sadly. But if they’re able to step out of the shadows and disclose and report, oftentimes, the immediate response from those around is to circle the wagons around the one that they believe they know—the one that they believe is in leadership.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, Boz hold that thought. I’m going to need to go to break. But when we come back, let’s pick that up. What do you do when someone comes to you with an allegation of sexual abuse? Again, speaking with me today, Boz Tchividjian, founder of G.R.A.C.E., which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. You’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We’ll be right back after a short break.

SEGMENT 2

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: How should churches handle allegations of sexual abuse? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m discussing this critically important issue with Boz Tchividjian and experienced litigator who’s prosecuted hundreds of sexual victimization cases. He’s also the founder of G.R.A.C.E. which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. And he’s the author of The Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries, a book we’re giving away today. I’ve got three copies of this book and to enter to win one of those copies, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. I heard from someone recently who’s been an elder Chairman at a church also an attorney, he said, “Everyone in church leadership should have a copy of this book.” Again, the child safeguarding policy for churches and ministries. If you’d like to enter to win that just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, Boz, I really appreciated what you said before the break about educating the church on what abuse is and how spiritual abuse often is a part of sexual abuse. It’s very rare when you have sexual abuse in the church that there isn’t spiritual abuse involved. And I want to encourage you listeners, I actually have a video from Wade Mullen, who has done so much work on spiritual abuse and what it is and the dynamics of that. And that is posted at my website right now. So, I encourage you go and listen to Wade Mullins talk on spiritual abuse at my website. Again, JulieRoys.com. Just an excellent resource there. But Boz, you were saying before that break when someone comes with an allegation of sexual abuse in the church, or even it might be spiritual abuse or emotional abuse often, we don’t know how to deal with it. But this person coming is often the outsider. The person they’re accusing is often the insider that we know really well. And so, being discerning in these issues, probably is extremely difficult. So how do we do that?

ATTY. BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN: Well, know first and foremost that most offenders in especially in that context—and this is at least what I’ve experienced in addressing this issue for 25 years—has been that the offender is going to be very effective in immediately spinning a narrative where he or she is seen as the true victim. And that the genuine victim, the narrative is going to be spun, that that person is really the perpetrator. That that person is for whatever reason, trying to destroy the life or ministry of this wonderful, great man, this great leader. And people in a church context—knowing what we already talked about—that they already know the leader and have some degree of love and admiration for that person—they think they know the leader—and don’t really oftentimes know the victim who’s the outsider, people will naturally gravitate towards the narrative that they find much more acceptable and much more comfortable. And so, I say all this because I think it’s really important to know these dynamics before we just say, “This is what you should do.” Because if you don’t understand the dynamics that are behind all of this, you may try to use a process and check off some boxes, but you’re still going to miss the mark. And you’re still going to end up hurting folks even in how you respond. And so, understanding that dynamic that within a very short period of time, that narrative will be spun, people will gravitate towards that narrative, because that’s the narrative they choose to believe. And shortly thereafter, that victim is either silenced or they’re shown the door. I can’t tell you Julie, how many victims or parents of minor victims who come forward to disclose abuse within the church, within weeks find themselves with no more community in that church. There’s something wrong with that. The one who should find no community, if any, should be the offender, not the one who’s been offended against. But time and time again, it’s because I think church leaders and church congregations don’t grasp these pretty complex dynamics to begin with. They look at it very quickly, they make a judgment call very quickly, and then they run with it. And usually that judgment call is running with, alongside and in support of the leader, the person they know. So that’s why I think it’s really important in every church and organization to have a developed response protocol that your church organization uses. And it doesn’t matter whether the reported offender is the senior pastor, or the it’s the newly hired custodian. You have to take the relationship aspect out of the equation and as much subjectivity out of the equation. And you have to be able to apply an objective process, that is not only objective in its process, but also in its nature. And that is, we can’t just because the reported offender is the senior pastor, “Well, we’re going to try to handle this differently.” I mean, think about this in this way. If, let’s say now, in the in the world I come out of in the Presbyterian world, you have a session. Most of those session members work on a pretty regular basis with the senior pastor and all pastoral staff. And suddenly, now, they meet, you know, once a month for session meetings, they go to retreats. They, I mean, all this stuff. And then suddenly, overnight, there’s an allegation made against the pastor, one of the pastoral staff members. There’s no way a session member can approach that issue objectively, because they have relationship with the main party of the of the complaint, the reported offender. And so, when you have relationship, there’s no way you can approach that in the objective manner that’s absolutely needed and critical in that in that situation. And so, what ends up happening is—even if they try to—what you begin seeing over time is a process that embraces—even subtly embraces—the reported offender. And oftentimes shuts down or minimizes or marginalizes the reported victim. So, having a protocol in place that says, “Listen, soon as we get this disclosure, here’s what we begin to do.” And it doesn’t matter who it is.

JULIE ROYS: Are you saying then that boards need to—because boards are always—I have yet to find a board that isn’t good friends with the leader. I mean, that’s how the boards work. And some of that’s necessary. I mean, you need to work with people that know you and, you know, obviously, you have a collegial kind of relationship with.

ATTY. BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN: We usually they’re there because of that leader.

JULIE ROYS: Right. Well, that’s true. And so, the question is, are you saying that boards are not effective to investigate this themselves? They need to have some process that puts the investigation in somebody else’s hands that might be more objective?

ATTY. BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN: Yeah, I think from day one, the board has to recognize that there’s a conflict of interest. There’s an inherent—if it’s not inherent, it’s at least a perceived—conflict of interest. So, we have to step away from being the decision makers and the investigators. So how do we do that? Well, first of all, understanding that—especially if it’s a disclosure of sexual abuse—that board members are not trained and equipped to be investigators. So, know your limitations. And your limitations as a board when a member of your board or leadership is accused of doing something like that—sexual misconduct or any type of sexual assault or abuse—is that you’re greatly limited in what you’re going to be able to do as a board to address this. And so I think the big things that the board can do is to receive the complaint, to make sure that the reported victim is heard, that is welcomed, that that person is supported, and that we do everything we can to connect that reported victim to a support network—inside or outside of the church—that could also be helping connect that person with a qualified therapist if that’s what they want. And they might be helping pay for that therapy. But on the on the other end of that is, yeah, this this has to be investigated. First and foremost, if it’s a disclosure of a crime or you think it might be a crime, it needs to be reported to the local authorities. Now, you know, we don’t tend to get into the nitty gritty of that, but I think it’s really important if it’s an adult that comes forward about being sexually victimized by a leader or anybody in the church, yes, that’s a crime and it needs to be reported. I think it’s really important that the church work with that adult to report the matter. We want to empower that person to move forward and make that report. What I find in a lot of churches is the churches will initially demonstrate real kindness and care and apparent concern for the victim. But what they’re really doing is they’re leading that victim away from actually reporting the offense to the local authorities. They’ll say, “You know, it’s okay if you want to report this, but I understand how difficult this can be for a victim. And the process can be really painful.” And by the time they’re done talking to that reported victim, that person has no desire to report this crime to the Police. We need to be the greatest advocate for this person. Say, “Man, we will walk with you to report this and we will be there to support you. You’re not going to do this alone.” And that’s what so many survivors are mostly afraid of and good reason to be. And that is that they’re going to walk this journey alone the moment they step forward and disclose it.
(A) They’re probably going to lose their church community and (B) They’re going to be alone.

JULIE ROYS: So tough, so tough. Again, that’s Boz Tchividjian founder of G.R.A.C.E. Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment. I’m Julie Roys. You listen to The Roys Report. We will be right back. I have so many questions based on what you just said, Boz. But we will be right back. Have to take a break. But when we do, we’ll talk more about reporting and supporting this abuse and the abused in the church. We’ll be right back.

Segment 3

ANNOUNCER:  And now, more of The Roys Report.  Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  One in four. That’s the percentage of women who have been sexually abused by the age of 18. One in six is the percentage of men who’ve been abused by the same age. Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And the statistics are heartbreaking. Sexual abuse has ravaged so many in our society, but it’s not just there out in the world, sex abuse is happening in the church. And these abuse victims and survivors are in our pews. How can we protect them? How can we advocate for them, help them heal? Well, joining me today to help us learn how to do that is Boz Tchividjian, founder and Executive Director of G.R.A.C.E., which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. He’s also an experienced litigator who’s prosecuted hundreds of sexual victimization cases. And we’re going to go get back into our discussion about how to report abuse in the church—how to investigate it. But before we do that, Boz is going to be making a major change. And I’m honored that he decided to talk about that change publicly for the first time here on this program. So Boz, please tell us about the change that you’re about to make and why you’re doing it.

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Oh, thanks, Julie. Yeah, it’s been a change that’s been coming for a while. But I decided last, a few months ago, that I’m going to, this May, going to be leaving my position at Liberty University School of Law. A position I’ve held for almost 12 years. And I’m going to be stepping down as the Executive Director of G.R.A.C.E. And I’m returning to the practice of law with a focus on representing victims of abuse. I have found in the work that I have done for years that there are so many survivors out there that need good, not only just good, but competent and zealous advocacy inside and outside the courtroom. And I’ve got a law degree. And I’ve practiced law for 15 years. And the more I’ve thought about it and prayed about it, I’ve decided I want to go back and use that law degree to zealously advocate for those who’ve been wounded, especially inside the church. There are a lot of lawyers that handle these cases and many of them are really good. And many of them should not be doing this. They don’t understand victimization. They don’t understand the church community“““““““` and church cultures. And they end up re-victimizing their own clients. And I’ve encountered so many of those survivors who’ve been actually re-victimized by the very lawyers who are supposed to be advocating for them. And so, the more I thought about it and prayed about it, I thought, that’s the next 20, 25 years of my life. I want to dedicate it to that and I’m excited about it. You know, I have to tell you, I’m, you know, it’s mixed feelings about stepping down as the Executive Director of G.R.A.C.E. It’s an organization that I started in 2004. I love it. I will always love it. I hope to remain on the board. But I also have been around ministry for most of my life and have always never liked when people, or individuals who start ministries, can’t let them go and are defined by that particular ministry. And G.R.A.C.E. has never been about me. It’s always been about serving and advocating for the wounded and educating and equipping Christ’s church. And so, I think it’s time that somebody come after me, who has maybe different gifts than me to take the organization and move it forward in a time that we are incredibly busy. We’ve grown more in the last 18 to 24 months than we’ve grown in the last 10 years. And so, it’s an exciting and important time in the life of G.R.A.C.E. And I just really believe that God has somebody selected, who will step into that position, and take it to where He wants to go, and that it will never be about a person. But it’s always going to be about the persons that we serve. And so, I’m looking forward to it. It’s again, it’s going to be, I’m certainly going to have mixed feelings about all of it. But I have a tremendous amount of peace. And I’m very excited about representing survivors. And I’ve already got a number of cases around the country where I’m doing that. And yeah, I feel like I’m putting my time and my talent to good use with what I know and the degree that I have and the experience I have as a litigator. 

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, well. We wish you well on that. And we’ll be praying for you and also for G.R.A.C.E. It’s just such an important organization. But you’re right, also very important to represent the sex abuse victims properly in court and to know what you’re doing. And you’re right. There’s just so few who know how to do that well. So . . .

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Well, just so for your audience, I mean, just so they know. I mean, G.R.A.C.E. is not going anywhere. We are here to stay. I long for the day where the world doesn’t need this organization. But we’re a long way from that. And so G.R.A.C.E. is, as long as there is this horror inside of the church, G.R.A.C.E. is going to be there. And we will never let that go. 

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, I appreciate what you’re doing. And it is a sign of a healthy organization when the leader can leave and it can continue. So, I trust that that will happen and be praying for a competent and really godly Executive Director to step into that role. But let’s go back to our discussion. We’re talking about reporting these issues. And then when a board gets an allegation of sexual abuse, how important it is for them to hand that off.  And one of my big questions for you—I know G.R.A.C.E. does these investigations, third party investigations. Are there any other because I’ve actually talked to boards who are like, okay, what do we do? Where do we go? I say, well go to G.R.A.C.E. But you can’t handle all of them. What are some other options that boards have as far as the investigating these things?

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Yeah, that’s a great question because there’s not a lot of options. You know, two options that I see oftentimes used, are either people come to us, or they hire a lawyer or a law firm. And, you know, my concern with that, and I say this as a lawyer, but G.R.A.C.E. is not a law firm. And we’re not a legal, you know, we don’t do legal work. But as a lawyer, a lawyer always has a fiduciary duty to his client. And that means if a church comes to me and says, “We want you, Boz, to do this investigation, as a lawyer, not in capacity of G.R.A.C.E., and we want it to be independent.” The challenge is how do I make that truly an independent process when my ultimate fiduciary duty is to my client, which is the church. And that can provide a possible conflict of interest or at least a perceived conflict of interest. And then the other problem I have, I think, with churches who go run to law firms, is that a lot of times, just because you’re a lawyer does not mean that you have the experience or the ability to investigate sexual abuse disclosures. You know, it’s like, if somebody came to me and asked me if I could handle a tax law case. I would never do that because I have no clue about tax law. And I don’t ever intend to know more about tax law than I know now, which is very little. That’s why I have an accountant. But it’s the same thing—is just because they’re a law firm, just because you’re a lawyer—so  if you’re going to go to law firm route, which, again, I’ve already expressed some of the reservations I have about that, you better go to a management law, employment law firm. A management employment law firm is a law firm that is almost exclusively represents, what we call, management, which is the employer.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. Hold your thought there. Short segment, I hate that. 

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Okay. No that’s fine.

JULIE ROYS:  But we’re going to need to pick this up on the other side of the break again. Again, what do you do? Who do you hire? Such an important conversation. Again, that’s Boz Tchividjian, founder of G.R.A.C.E., which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. When we come back, we’ll pick up this important discussion on handling sex abuse allegations within the church. We’ll be right back.

SEGMENT 4

ANNOUNCER:  This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Sexual abuse is a huge problem in both the Catholic and Protestant churches. But how can we create an environment where abusers stand in fear and their victims are emboldened instead of the other way around? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re discussing this critically important issue with Boz Tchividjian—the founder of G.R.A.C.E., an organization that equips religious organizations to respond to allegations of abuse. Boz, also, is an experienced litigator who’s prosecuted hundreds of sexual victimization cases and has a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding our issue today. And, by the way, if you’re just joining our program, and you want to hear what you’ve missed, I’ll be posting the complete audio to my website about an hour after the end of this program. Just go to julieroys.com and click on the podcast tab. Also, there’s just a lot of articles there—videos relating to our issue that we’re talking about today—especially the ones that are posted from the Restore Conference that we had earlier this month that dealt with some of these issues. And especially, I mentioned before, Wade Mullens’ talk on spiritual abuse. If you’re hearing that for the first time, don’t know what spiritual abuse is, I really, really strongly encourage you to listen to that. But Boz we were talking last segment about what the church board does that wants to investigate an allegation of sexual abuse. It comes to them, usually they’re—if the sexual abuse allegation is concerning their pastor or leader in the church, they usually have so much relationship, they can’t really be objective themselves and investigate it. They can go to G.R.A.C.E. They can hire a lawyer, but as you were saying, there’s lots of issues with hiring a lawyer. Because, often, the lawyers represent their clients and you become—the church becomes their client then. And they often see that as, you know, trying to protect. And then this is what’s so sick about the whole thing. It’s like trying to protect the brand of the church, which is often tied in with the pastor. And so the whole organization is a afraid of this information coming out. And really all of the pressure is to minimize what happened instead of really trying to get to the truth and just be open and honest about it. So again, what do they do? If the lawyer isn’t a good option, where do they go?

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  I think first and foremost, I said this earlier but I want to re-emphasize this, and that is it should be reported to the authorities. You know, there should never be a situation where a leadership is sitting around talking about, well, either hiring G.R.A.C.E or hiring somebody else, without saying, wait a minute, has this matter been reported to law enforcement? And even if it involves an adult, there are a growing number of states where it is a crime for a member of the clergy to engage in sexual contact with somebody in their congregation that they have oversight and authority over. So I think that’s really, really important because I think I don’t ever want to minimize the fact that this has to be reported to the authorities. If the person, who comes forward, is an adult, like I said earlier, the church should work with that person in making sure that the matter is reported to the authorities. Now, once it’s reported the authorities, then the church has to figure out—okay, what do we do as a church? For example, G.R.A.C.E. will come in—we’ll not only investigate the underlying allegations, but one of the other key points of  investigation that we will look into, is what did the church know? When did it know it? And how did it respond? You know, that’s something that law enforcement and prosecutors are not going to investigate. They’re investigating the underlying crime between the perpetrator and the victim. Law enforcement is not investigating, well, what did the church know? And what did they do in response to it? That’s where a third party comes in to help the church understand and get to the truth of those specific issues. So, you know, hiring a third party is, in my opinion, is really, really critical. But the third party has to be objective and it has to be trained and qualified and experienced. So, like I said earlier, a law firm is not your best bet because of the fiduciary duty, and especially a law firm that primarily represents management or employers. I tell victims who are thinking about interviewing. You know, they’ve been called to do an interview with an investigator that is really a law firm that represents employers. And I’m saying do you realize that you’re sitting down with the lawyer of the church and telling them all this information? And that means that they can use that against you at any other time should you go forward in any other manner. So be careful of that. So to answer your question, in a short form, I would say, yeah, contact an organization like G.R.A.C.E. And if we can’t help you, we will do our best to connect you with somebody who can. It’s what we did a few months ago with a particular denomination. We couldn’t assist but we were able to work with our contacts in getting a qualified, objective and experienced investigator to handle the matter.

JULIE ROYS:  And don’t some denominations—like I know Presbyterian Church actually had some sort of council, that’s above the local church level, that’s able to investigate or at least rule on these matters. But a lot of . . .

BOZ TCHIVIDIJIAN:  Yeah, that’s usually a disaster.

JULIE ROYS:  Is it really? (Laughter). It sounds good.

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Yeah. Well, it all sounds good. It’s great on paper, but it’s a presbytery. All these presbytery, members of the presbytery, usually pastors in that local area, and they all know each other. And they’re not equipped to investigate. They’re pastors. They’ve never been educated and trained to equip sexual abuse investigation. So even presbyteries need to reach outside of themselves and get an independent body, who knows what they’re doing and how to investigate, to get to the bottom of these things.

JULIE ROYS:  So bottom line—boards have some humility. Recognize your limitations. Go and get a third party to come in like G.R.A.C.E. or somebody that G.R.A.C.E. recommends. And, you know, I hate to say like you’re the only game in town. But there just aren’t an awful lot out there that I would recommend.

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Hopefully that will change in time. And I think in what you said a second ago is really important to know. And one of the things that I have encountered in leadership of churches and organizations that, to me, is incredibly dangerous. And it’s the combination of ignorance and arrogance. When you have a board that is both ignorant and arrogant, usually they’re arrogant they don’t realize they’re ignorant. Bad things happen. And it’s a board that’s unteachable. And that is, those are the boards where these types of situations end up imploding. And if you experience that type of board, or leadership in your church, leave. I just say get out. Because they’re not going to change and they’re only going to do more damage. And so, you have to put yourself in a safe space and that safe space may mean that, tragically, you’re going to have to step outside of that community and find a new one.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. And that there’s, I hate to say this, but it’s just so typical the way that they respond. And if there’s an abusive pastor or leader, a spiritually abusive pastor or leader, he has already manipulated that board and has abused them. And they don’t even realize they’re being abused. Because that’s why they’re in the vortex to begin with. 

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  They’ve been groomed.  

JULIE ROYS:  Exactly. And they don’t know how to—they can’t possibly help the person who’s been abused because they’re being abused, and they don’t see it themselves. So how will they see it in somebody else? And so it, you know, again, and again, it’s happened so much now.  And I said in the break to you—I’m like, you know, people come to me when the whole process has broken down. And they’re like, will you please report? And my impulse, you know, I want to go back to the board and say, “Please take care of this, so I don’t have to.” And time and time again, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just like, you know, why do I even bother? Because every time I do it, it just seems like they never do what they need to do. And instead, they turn it. Then I become the enemy and it turns on me. And it’s just so hard.

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  I say this often and this is because I’ve experienced it for so many years. And that is—church leaders, we communicate the Gospel with our lips, which is all about a God who expends Himself and sacrifices Himself in order to redeem and protect and save an individual. But we actually live out the polar opposite. We will actually sacrifice the individual in order to protect and save ourselves. So churches and Christian communities, especially leadership, have to begin living out the very Gospel that they claim to embrace and love, especially in these types of situations.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, amen to that. Well, in our last about five minutes so we have here for the program, I do want to talk about just creating an environment of protection in our churches. Because I think there’s a way in which we can be proactive to not allow our churches to become places where predators can actually prey on the sheep. Where they get the message really clearly, early on, that’s not going to happen here. And that’s not welcome here. How can we do that?

BOZ TCHIVIDJIAN:  Yeah, that’s a great question. Because I do think we want to end on a positive note. And that is, you know, church communities and organizational communities can be transformed. They can be transformed into communities that are the safest places for vulnerable people and the most welcoming for those who’ve been hurt, and the least welcoming for those who hurt. But it takes work. It takes, in my opinion, a cultural transformation. You have to almost change the very DNA of that organization or community. And I think that one of the things we developed a few years ago is our Child Safeguarding Certification Initiative—which is something that we put together over a period of a couple of years with experts. Because we said, well, how do we make that transformation? How do we help churches make that transformation? And we looked at what was out there, and we said, that’s not happening. What’s out there right now is you watch a few videos, take a few quizzes and now you feel like you’re a safe church. Well, the culture hasn’t been changed at all. So we go in. We assign each church a safeguarding specialist to walk that church organization through a process. And he takes anywhere from three to six months—involves at least at least one, usually two, on-site visits. And in that process, we will train and equip every demographic within that community—from leadership all the way down to kids. And we will help them put together a safeguarding team who will either audit existing policies or develop new policies using the policy, the safeguarding policy guide, that you mentioned at the beginning of the of the show, and work with them so they’re not doing it all alone. But the reality is, they have to take ownership. It’s easy to just hire a third party like G.R.A.C.E.—and say, hey, just do our policies and train us. And no, we will help you all do those things. But the end of the day, you as a church have to take ownership of this issue. And we’ll be there to walk with you every step of the way. But you got to do that. And I have found that, with the work we do, it only works when top leadership from all the way, from top leadership down embraces that. And that means you have to understand, as leaders, that you don’t have the answers. And that you have to lean on the expertise of those outside your particular community and be teachable. And to tell your church, this is not an option. If we’re going to be a church that claims to embrace Jesus, and Jesus was the greatest child advocate that ever lived on the face of the earth, then that is who we are going to be as a church. So get on board or get out. And, you know, we’re seeing some really exciting and positive changes in the lives of churches through this process. We’re always tweaking it and there’s still always improvement. But what we’re finding is that when we go back to a church six months or nine months later, that what we helped them with was just the beginning. And that they’ve continued to move in that direction of transformation. Versus before we did this, I would go in and do a training in a church, come back six months from now, and they probably wouldn’t barely remember me, except I had a long last name, and I talked about sexual abuse in the church. They really didn’t do much in the way of transforming that church community. And so, yeah, the safe—and I am plugging this because I think it’s a great initiative—the G.R.A.C.E. Safeguarding Certification Initiative, to me, is a great starting place for churches, schools and other Christian organizations to move forward in beginning that transformation. The only other thing, I’ll say really quickly, is assessments. We do organizational assessments. Where an organization will come and say we think we have these issues. We don’t have a specific situation we want you to investigate. But we think we may have a cultural issue of how we view women, how we treat women, how we view kids and but we are probably not the best ones to assess that. Could you all come in and do that? And we’ll do that. And we’ll provide them with an organizational assessment report with recommendations to help them begin moving in that direction.

JULIE ROYS:  Boz, thank you. Thank you. We’re coming to the end of our time. I hate that we are but we are. But I just think of Psalm 82:3. It says, “Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed friends.” I can’t think of a more vulnerable and oppressed group than those who have been sexually abused. So I hope you take these words to heart that Boz has given us today. Some of these steps—churches, employ them. Do them. And Boz, thank you so much, not just for coming on today’s program but for your work spanning decades. And blessings to you as you embark on your new venture. Just a reminder, if you missed any part of this show, or just want to listen again, just go to julieroys.com. We have the entire podcast posted very soon. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.

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How New DNA Science Is Challenging Evolution https://julieroys.com/podcast/how-new-dna-science-is-challenging-evolution/ Sat, 07 Dec 2019 20:02:19 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6420 How New DNA Science Is Challenging Evolution Read More »

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Does evolution really explain the development of life? Or is it a theory in crisis?    This week on The Roys Report, Dr. Michael Behe, the so-called father of Intelligent Design, joins me to discuss why he believes evolution is fundamentally flawed. According to Behe, evolution breaks things; it doesn’t make things. And new research has made this abundantly clear. 

This Weeks Guests
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Michael J. Behe

Michael J. Behe is a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. He is the author of three books — Darwin’s Black Box (1996), The Edge of Evolution (2007), and most recently Darwin Devolves (2019) — all of which argue that the biochemical foundation of life required purposeful, intelligent design. His new book shows that the case for design has just gotten much stronger.

Show Transcript

This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Does evolution really explain the wide diversity of life that we see today or does it merely explain minor adaptations within species? And is it a theory in crisis? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m extremely excited to be interviewing Dr. Michael Behe, a top critic of Darwinian evolution, and a top proponent of Intelligent Design. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with Intelligent Design, it’s the theory that life could not reasonably have arisen by chance, but instead was designed and created by an unseen intelligent agent. After all, when you look at DNA, for example, does it really make sense that such incredible complexity came into being by purposeless non-intelligent processes? Well, there are other problems with evolution besides the complexity, which my guest today has brilliantly exposed over the past couple decades. One is something called “irreducible complexity.” This is the idea that some complex living systems, like we see today, could not possibly have evolved one piece at a time as evolutionists assert. That’s because every single piece of these systems is necessary for the system to work at all. So in a simpler form, the symptoms would be completely dysfunctional, and the belief that a dysfunctional system could somehow gradually evolve into a functional one simply doesn’t make sense. Another huge problem with evolution, that Dr. Behe has exposed, is the discovery that evolution breaks things. It doesn’t make things. Most mutations, for example, are destructive. They may help an organism to survive in a hostile environment, but long-term mutations are unhelpful. So, it simply doesn’t make sense that this largely destructive mechanism of mutations could account for a gradual, constructive evolution of biological life. Well, Dr. Behe first forwarded the second idea of evolution breaking things in his groundbreaking book, The Edge of Evolution. And just this year, he published a follow up to that book called Darwin Devolves—The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution. And I’m very eager to dive into some of this new science with Dr. Behe. So Dr. Behe, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me.

DR. MICHAEL BEHE:  Thanks very much. It’s great to be on the program. Looking forward to the conversation.

JULIE ROYS:  Now, me too. And I gave a short description. I hope I got my descriptions right. I know I sometimes I say these things and my husband who is much more scientific than I am usually corrects me, but I did go over some of this.

DR. MICHAEL BEHE:  You can correct him on his history and politics and so on. 

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I’m not sure he’s pretty good on that, too. But let’s get into some of these ideas. I’d love for you to elaborate. I gave a short description of how evolution breaks things. But could you elaborate on that concept, perhaps drawing on some of this new science that you include in your book?

DR .MICHAEL BEHE:  Yeah, let’s see. Well, here’s an example of an improvement, say from our big everyday world, instead of molecular world of biochemistry. Suppose there were a city and it was inhabited and there was an army that wanted to invade it. But they were across a river and there was only one bridge to the city. What could the city inhabitants do to save themselves? Well, of course, one thing to do is to blow up the bridge. Because if they blew up the bridge, then the invading army couldn’t get over, of course. Then the bridge isn’t there anymore and maybe they used it on occasion. But it’s better to blow up the bridge than to die. And it turns out that that example is exactly what happens in some cases of resistance—human resistance to malaria. In malaria, everybody knows is this deadly disease—can kill a million people a year. And it’s caused by this little bug, a single celled organism, the malaria parasite. And when it gets into human bloodstream, it goes to red blood cells and attaches to them, through a particular protein, and uses that protein as a bridge to kind of penetrate into the cell. Then there are some population of people, in Western Africa, who are immune to the most severe form of malaria. Because their genes—they have broken the gene that makes that protein that serves as the docking site for the malaria parasite. They literally blew up the bridge that the invading army uses to get in. So here we have a loss of a gene. Breaking a gene is helpful to these people. And it’s helpful and it’s Darwinian evolution in action. But that and processes like it don’t explain where sophisticated molecular machinery came from in the first place.

JULIE ROYS:  And doesn’t that mutation in populations—that leads to sickle cell anemia, right? So it’s actually . . .

DR. MICHAEL BEHE:  Yeah, that’s right. That’s actually a different mutation. Turns out there’s a handful of human mutations that help against malaria. But the most famous one is the sickle cell mutation. And that, as you say, it can lead to sickle cell disease, if a person gets two copies of the mutant 

gene—one from their mom and one from their dad. But if they just have one of them, and one copy of a normal gene from one of their parents, then they only have sickle cell trait. And they’re okay. And they have a measure of resistance to malaria. But at the cost of one quarter of their children likely inheriting two copies of the sickle mutation and dying. So, it’s not very much of a solution to that problem.

JULIE ROYS:  So, inside an environment, like in Africa, where Malaria is prevalent, having sickle cell might be an advantage because it would make you more resistant. But if you come outside of an environment where there’s malaria, it’s actually a weakness. It’s something, again to your point, something that breaks things, so to speak, but doesn’t help us evolve upward. Correct?

DR. MICHAEL BEHE:  That’s exactly right. Yeah random mutation, which just kind of breaks things randomly, as its name implies. And the surprising thing is sometimes that helps. And it turns out that it’s easy to break things. And because it’s easy, that means it’s usually fast. A solution to some problem, like malaria, will come up as a result of breaking a gene much faster than it would making some constructive change to a gene. And because it comes up faster, it has the first opportunity to kind of spread in the population. The kids of the people with the broken gene, if it helps, well, they’ll have more children and their children will have more children. And over time, you actually wouldn’t need any more constructive or complex solution because everybody already has the broken gene that helps them adapt.

JULIE ROYS:  And just for folks who might be, like me, where we’ve been out of school a long time—where we learned about natural selection and how it worked and the mechanism. This is primarily the way that Darwinian evolutionists will say that things evolve, right? It is using this mechanism that you’re saying really doesn’t make sense because it’s not moving things forward.

DR. MICHAEL BEHE:  Yeah, that’s right. Well, and people have to understand that back when Darwin proposed his idea, back in 1859, when he published on The Origin of Species, nobody knew what the cell really was. They could see it in kind of their crude microscopes and it looked like a little blob of jelly. They called it protoplasm. And, you know, what’s the big deal about protoplasm? You know, you can—a bit of jelly looks so simple, it could maybe just bubble up from the sea floor or something. And so, they didn’t think the origin of life was very hard and, of course, they could imagine pieces of jelly kind of shaping themselves and into various things. So he had Darwin and his contemporaries worked under this problem that they didn’t know anything. They didn’t know what DNA was. They didn’t know if molecules were real or not. And so, they were laboring under, you know, a cloud of ignorance. But modern science has discovered the basis of life. And turns out that the cell, we now know, is the basis of life. All organisms are made up of cells and the cell itself is actually run by machines.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, let’s pause there. And when we talk about machines, and how complex they are, we’ll pick that up on the other side of the break. And I know you have a lot to say about that. Again, with me today, Dr. Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box—The Edge of Evolution and his latest, Darwin Devolves. We’ll be right back.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Evolution is thought to be proven fact, right? Well, not quite. New discoveries are actually undermining the entire theory and may lead to its eventual demise. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And my guest today is Dr. Michael Behe, the so-called father of intelligent design, and a leading critic of evolution. Dr. Behe’s groundbreaking books have blown sizable holes in the foundation of Darwinist evolution. His new book, Darwin Devolves, does the same, showing how evolution is incapable of building complex structures. In fact, evolution actually degrades these structures. And if you’d like to enter to win a copy of Darwin Devolves you can do that by going to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. But you need to do that by noon on Monday because that’s when the giveaway ends. Also, if you’d like to join our conversation today, I encourage you to do that on social media. To get to us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter our handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Well, Mike, before the break, you were describing how initially, when Darwin proposed his theory, he had a very different view of life than we have today. We used to talk about simple life forms. It seems like now, there aren’t really a lot of simple life forms, right? I mean, they’re incredibly complex.

DR MICHAEL BEHE: That’s right. There’s no such thing as a simple life. Rather the smallest bacterium is intricate beyond imagination. And as I was saying on the other side of the break, that modern science has found that rather than being a little piece of jelly, the cell is actually kind of like a miniature factory or a miniature automated city filled with all sorts of stupendous machinery. And we are having fits about how to make a self-driving car. But the cell actually has little mechanical trucks and buses. They ferry supplies and passengers from one side of the cell to the other, to different compartments of the cell. And there are little molecular signposts that tell the trucks and buses where to turn or where to get off. And little machines that open the doors of the trucks and let the supplies go into the correct compartments. And if any of those things go wrong, if the signals aren’t correct, and the supplies get sent to the wrong compartment, well, you’re in a heap of trouble. And there’s a number of genetic diseases which result from things like that. So, yeah, the basic thing is that with life, its complexity all the way down. Back in Darwin’s day, he could hope that things got simpler as people would discover more and more about life. But it turns out that just like on taking off the cover of a computer, as you probe deeper and deeper, things get more complex, not simpler.

JULIE ROYS: And so this idea of Darwinism that a life form might, to get to this complex system, it might slowly gradually over time, add one piece, and then another piece and then another piece, and eventually you end up with this very elegant, complex system, you posit with your idea of irreducible complexity, that it can’t really work that way, right? Because it’s broken. It doesn’t work at all, if any one of the pieces is missing, correct?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Yeah, that’s right. And my favorite example to illustrate this idea of irreducible complexity is a mechanical mouse trap. I talked about that in my first book, Darwin’s Black Box. You just think about your plain old mechanical mousetrap that you might get at a hardware store. It’s got a number of pieces. It’s got a wooden platform, usually and a spring and a metal part that the spring pushes on to squash the mouse and another—something called a holding bar—to keep the piece open and stabilized until the mouse comes along. And it turns out [the mousetrap] needs all those pieces to work. If you’re missing the spring, or if you’re missing the holding bar or any of any of the pieces of the mousetrap, it simply doesn’t work. It’s not like it’s going to work half as well as it used to it. It’s broken. So, if you wanted to evolve something like a mouse trap by something like a step by step, slow, gradual Darwinian process, how would you do that? It would be very difficult because the function of the mousetrap—being able to trap mice—only appears when the whole thing has been put together. Natural Selection has nothing to select on its way because the trap isn’t working. And Natural Selection needs to select improvements or function as it’s going along. So that’s a big problem. And it turns out that this machinery in the cell that I talked about, if you think about it, a mousetrap is a very simple machine. And most machinery is more complicated. And turns out that machinery in the cell is very sophisticated. And if you can’t even get a mousetrap by this slow Darwinian process, you’re not going to get the machinery of the cell.

JULIE ROYS: Hmm. Let’s go back to this idea that that Darwinism or evolution devolves. That it breaks things. It doesn’t make things and some of the new science that’s been developed. You have a fascinating example of this about polar bears. Talk about that.

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Yeah, well, it turns out that this problem for Darwin has only become available or become known in the past 10 or 20 years. Because that’s when science has acquired the ability to sequence DNA at the molecular level in sufficient detail in order to see what beneficial mutations are doing—what they are. In the past people could see that this organism, “Well hey, it’s lighter in color and it survives in a snowy environment and Hey, isn’t evolution wonderful that it can do this!” But they didn’t know what the gene was that was being changed. You have to remember that mutations, which are the kind of fodder for Darwinian evolution, are changes in molecules, or changes in DNA. And if you can’t see what the DNA is doing or what changes there are, then you really don’t know how Darwinian evolution is working. But turns out that most people know that the human genome was sequenced about 20 years or so ago—around 2000. And since then, the ability to sequence—it’s been like improvements in Computers—it’s gotten cheaper and faster and really much, much better in the intervening time. And it turns out that the entire genome of the polar bear has been sequenced. And also, the genome of the brown bear, the grizzly bear—and the polar bear is thought to be descended from the brown bear—so scientists were interested in comparing the two genomes—that is, the list of all of the genes of the two bears—and seeing what the differences were. And it turns out that of the 17 most favorable—most beneficial—changes in the brown bear’s DNA to make it into a polar bear, about three quarters of them were damaging or broke genes that were already there in the brown bear. So, you break one gene that helps to make the brown pigment of the brown bear’s coat, and you get white fur in the polar bear. And polar bears eat a lot of fat in the blubber of seals compared to grizzly bears, which eat berries and small animals and so on. And it turns out that breaking a gene involved in fat metabolism allows the polar bear to tolerate much higher levels of cholesterol in its blood than the grizzly bear could. And so, it turns out that the polar bear has not evolved from the brown bear. It has devolved from the brown bear and it has thrown away things that were already there. And that helped it. And you have to realize that . . .

JULIE ROYS: It helped it in the cold environment, in the North Pole, for example, but not if it were back in the brown bear’s environment, in the forest.

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Right, exactly right.

JULIE ROYS: We need to go to break. But when we come back, we’ll discuss this more again, I’m speaking with Dr. Michael Behe. Author of Darwin Devolves. And when we come back, I’ll talk about two things you might not think are comparable. Economics and evolution. It’s fascinating. Stay tuned.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: More of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well, does evolution really explain the diversity of life that we see today? Or do recent discoveries show that Darwinism actually works by a process of devolution—damaging cells to create something new at the lowest biological levels? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m having an eye-opening discussion with Dr. Michael Behe, the author of numerous groundbreaking books critiquing evolution. These include Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and his latest, Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution. And by the way, I’m giving away five copies of Darwin devolves today, so if you’d like to enter to win Darwin Devolves, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you’re just joining us and want to listen to the first part of our discussion, you can do that and find that at JulieRoys.com as well. I’ll be posting the complete audio as a podcast. So again, just go to JulieRoys.com, and then click on the podcast tab. So, Michael, we were talking about polar bears as an example of something that devolves. In this process of devolution, that Darwinism or evolution breaks things, it doesn’t make things. There’s also some claims I think, that evolutionists make. And it’s interesting to me that when you come out with these incredibly powerful arguments and these incredibly powerful books, that we don’t see a lot of evolutionary biologists converting to intelligent design. There seems to be just an ideological adherence to evolution and an unwillingness to see it. But also, it seems like the explanatory power that they’re ascribing to evolution sometimes is a little bit larger or a little bit greater than it warrants. And you start out your book—I thought this a fascinating—comparing evolution and the economy or economics and physics. Talk about that.

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Well, yeah. Most people have heard some scientist or magazine article confidently state that scientists know that Darwinian evolution is responsible for all of the intricate life forms that we see around us. But if you think about it for a little while, you realize that’s grossly overstated. They can’t. It’s impossible to know that for sure. Because most people, when they think of science or technology, they think about you know, things like Physics where you can send a rocket to the Moon or a rocket to Mars and do really great feats of engineering. But a lot of sciences are less like Physics and more like long term weather forecasting. Weather forecasters base all their results on physics, too, but it turns out that simply because they’re dealing with a more complex system, things that are hard to measure, then they can’t really accurately forecast the weather much beyond a few days. And they’re lucky oftentimes when they get that. It’s simply that the weather depends kind of sensitively on a large number of variables. And you just can’t calculate accurately what systems like that are going to do very far from the place that you start. This has a name. It’s called chaos theory. And it’s been known for a long time that the sensitive systems can’t be calculated. And it turns out that evolution, of course, would involve very, very many variables that are very difficult to measure. And even in theory, nobody can be sure what caused organisms to change in the distant past. So, when you hear things like that, you’re just kind of being subject to some bluster. People are just making claims that they can’t back up. And if you think about it further, and think about the idea of economics. There are professional economists who like professional evolutionary biologists use a lot of computer models in their work and they try to judge what the conditions are right now and how things will change and so on. And economists are not famous for getting their forecasts accurate. So, biologists have the same problem. But the problem for biologists is even worse, because economists don’t try to explain the goods whose trading, they study: Crude oil or TV sets or cars or coffee beans. They try to forecast the markets for them and now we’ll sell and stuff, but they don’t know where coffee beans came from. They didn’t invent television sets and so on. But, biologists, if you think about it, evolutionary biologists are not only claiming that they can explain what gave rise to want, but how all of these complex biochemical machinery and systems, how that developed step by step. So they have kind of an impossible squared task in front of them. Their task is much more difficult than the task of an economist to forecast the economy of a country 50 years or 100 years out. So, the, the point of introducing my book, Darwin Devolves, with that example was to show readers that, in fact, the claims for Darwinian evolution, our knowledge of that has been grossly exaggerated. And the only reason why scientists say things like that is because they can’t think of any other way that they’re allowed to entertain how such complex organisms, as we have seen, might have gotten into nature. So, it’s kind of bluster upon bluster. And so I try to shake people up at the beginning of the book so that they are able to kind of think a-fresh and see what the problems in particular are for Darwinian evolution and why I think that the better, much better explanation is purposeful design.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah. And yet, again, despite these incredible arguments that you’re making, and showing really what the limits of evolutionary theory are, despite that, you’re not saying a bunch of evolutionary biologists convert because I think there is just a predisposition that we cannot entertain. It must be explained by science because if it’s not explainable by science, well then what do we have left? We have to accept a Creator God. And I think that is the one thing that so many people are just not willing to entertain. Again, I’m speaking with Dr. Michael Behe. We will be right back after a break. And when we come back, I’m going to do some pushback with Dr. Behe with what some critics are saying about his book and allow him to respond. We’ll be right back.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well, is evolution the best explanation for the diversity of life that we see today? Or is life so complex that it had to be created by some form of intelligence? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Dr. Michael Behe. He a leading proponent of intelligent design and the author of numerous groundbreaking books critiquing evolution. These include Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and his latest, Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution. And Dr. Behe, I said this before the break, but I want to get to some criticisms of intelligent design and we’ll probably get to some specifically of your book Darwin Devolves. There’s never a lack of that is there?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Yeah, it’s happened before.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, I’m sure. You just get inundated with people because you’re challenging what is called a scientific theory but in many cases is a religious belief because it’s held by people who must believe it because the alternatives are just not acceptable to them. And actually, I had a debate recently with someone I believe who was in that camp. It was with an atheist. His name is Tom Jump. And during this debate, I made an argument for intelligent design and it’s actually based on the movie contact. Have you seen the movie contact Michael?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: I haven’t, but I’ve read about it. Yeah, you know important parts.

JULIE ROYS: Well, you should see it. It’s my one of my husband’s favorite movies because it shows intelligent design. Because if you’ve seen the movie, it’s about this scientist played by Jodie Foster. And she’s part of the SETI program, which is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. And SETI has these huge satellite dishes that are aimed at space just waiting to capture some intelligence out there who might be communicating with us. So, in this movie, Jodie Foster and these other scientists are listening to outer space hoping to receive some signal some sign of intelligence out there. And all of a sudden, they start receiving these sounds. And at first, they’re thinking, “these are just random sounds, they don’t seem to make much sense.” But then they realize that the sounds are coming in what appears to be prime numbers. And sure enough, they’re prime numbers every single time. And the scientists deduce, “oh my goodness, that can’t be by accident. That has to be some intelligence out there who’s communicating with us.” And then eventually, they actually get blueprints to build a spaceship. Now, this sounds very fanciful, but I’m getting to the point. The point is, they look at that and they say, and anybody who’s watching that movie, it’s not like you’re going, “Oh, that you know what, that’s just random, whatever coming from out of space.” Immediately, you recognize that if we got prime numbers from outer space, if we got blueprints to build a spaceship, of course, that’s intelligence out there. And so, the point I made to this atheist Tom Jump was if we train those satellites, so to speak, on the cells of our own body, and look at DNA, which is incredibly complex, probably more complex than that spaceship, how can we look at that and say that happened, just by purposeless processes? And yet admit that if a spaceship blueprints came to us that that must show intelligence. I’m going to play just a short clip of his response. And then Dr. Behe, I’d love for you to respond.

TOM JUMP: I definitely understand what you’re saying from but from my perspective, when I look at the science, like we can see RNA, the building blocks of DNA being made on clay. We’ve done the experiments to show that this can happen, how it can form spontaneously on just natural processes. I don’t think it’s hard to say that was unlikely. And it seems since we know of a natural process that can occur that can do it, it seems more likely to believe that it did happen just by natural processes than by a being beyond our knowledge that it created it.

JULIE ROYS: Okay, so Michael, help me out. I might be debating this guy again. So, help me out. How do I respond to that?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Well, you should tell him that he’s looked at the science. But tell him to look at the science a little more closely. Because it turns out that it’s not getting the pieces of RNA to come together, called nucleotides, but rather, it’s the order in which they come together. Think of those blueprints. Suppose we write them out as instructions. Like take this piece and then add it to that. What Mr. Jump was saying is that well, if I had some Scrabble letters, and I put them on clay, they the clay could, you know make this Scrabble letters stick to each other. Well, that’s great. But that doesn’t explain, say, where the instructions came from. The instructions are the precise ordering of those letters in order to get a message to get information out. You can pull Scrabble letters out of a bag and string together a bunch of letters, but you’re never going to get instructions to build a spaceship. What’s more, the experiment that he is referring to is kind of grossly exaggerated. It’s kind of like saying, “Well, you know, in order to make those letters in the instructions, we need some ink. Well, I found a deposit of carbon over here in the ground and here’s a little bit of liquid. And maybe if some meteor hit it, it would splash and make something resembling, say an S. And oh, okay, there’s a letter. Maybe I can use that as part of the instructions.” But the amount of “Ss” and the amount of letters you’re going to get is very small. They’re scattered. And to make a long story short, nobody thinks—no professional person involved in the origin of life research—thins that the problem is anywhere near solved. And another difficulty is that some experiments that professionals know to be either very simple or very limited in what they show are used by people arguing for evolution to trot them out and kind of bluff their way through an argument. They say, “well, RNA and clay and this lines up and so on.” And they hope to reduce the skeptical people to silence. But professionals know those to be incorrect or extremely inadequate. So, you were correct. And you know, he was bluffing. But the problem with this is that one really has to know some of the scientific details to see where the bluff is being posed.

JULIE ROYS: Well, and that’s what I appreciate about your writing and your books is it equips us to have these conversations. But I think at the same time, I don’t think we have to feel like we have all the answers because I think we can come back and say, “you know, that’s a really good question. I’ve never heard that before. Let me go check that out and come back to you.” Not that great in a debate format, necessarily, that’s being recorded. But, I mean, do you find that that sometimes we’re paralyzed to even go there with people because we won’t have the answers?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Oh, yeah, many, many people are. It’s kind of, you know, fear of science. And, “On no, I’m gonna look dumb.” And, “boy, this person, he’s talking about things I never heard about, so he must know what he’s talking about.” But as I try to show in my books, I go through the very best research that has been put out for many aspects of evolution. And show that it’s utterly inadequate to explain even the simplest. Well, you know all but the simplest types of evolutionary change. So, I hopefully if people want to discuss it knowledgeably and publicly, I’d urge them to do a bit of homework first. And once you do you can be very effective that kind of exposing the, the lack of knowledge and bluster that that you routinely encounter.

JULIE ROYS: Well, let me I also want to just mention a critique that came from I guess this was in Science Magazine, article entitled, “A biochemist crusade to overturn evolution misrepresents theory and ignores evidence.” They’re talking about you. So, I’m going to give you a chance to respond to this. But he writes, there’s actually three authors who write, “he doubles down on his claim that the evolution of chloroquine resistance and malaria by random mutations is exceedingly unlikely because at least two mutations are required, neither of which is beneficial without the other.” Again, if you’re hearing that for the first time, we talked about this in the first segment about how Malaria is one of those examples of evolution devolving. In other words, it breaks things it doesn’t really help an organism per se. He writes, “Behe’s calculations have already been refuted. And it has long been known that neutral and even deleterious mutations can provide steppingstones to future adaptations. Indeed, a 2014 study, unmentioned by Behe, reported discovery of genetic pass through which malaria has evolved Chloroquine resistance through multiple steps.” Tell me about that, that study and does it doesn’t refute?

DR MICHAEL BEHE: Well, short answer is no. And the slightly longer is that it takes a number of details to adequately do it justice. But the good point is that I’ve written tons about exactly that. And it’s posted at the website of the Discovery Institute. So, listeners should go there if they want to know all the details and look up my responses. And the short answer is that I know all of the things that the reviewers talked about, on Chloroquine and resistance. I consider them in my book, it was the major example of the Edge of Evolution. And I showed explicitly that none of what they say affects my calculations and conclusions at all. And the most interesting part, I think, for listeners to know is that the reviewers–this is the review of my latest book, Darwin Devolves in Science Magazine, which was one of the two most prominent science journals professional science journals in the world. Apparently, those reviewers didn’t even read my responses to those two earlier criticisms and they just kinda like the, the fellow, Mr. Jump, who you debated may just throw these things out and rely on people who support Darwinian evolution to just kind of smile and say, somebody who’s taken care of those, you know, annoying ID people. And they don’t actually deal with the arguments. They just throw things up. And I have to admit I have read, you know, read that review closely as you might imagine, and it’s a terrible review. It doesn’t deal with the argument of the current book. It brings up old, old objections that I’ve dealt with decades ago to earlier arguments, for example, about irreducible complexity and many other things

JULIE ROYS: Oh well, Dr. Behe here again. That’s Dr. Michael Behe. I so appreciate what you have and what you bring to the table. I appreciate your arguments today again, his book is Darwin devolves, you can get that now in bookstores everywhere. But this discussion reminds me of Romans 1:20. It says, “For since the creation world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse.” The world is full of the complexity, the beauty, the order that our God has put there, and so I think it does, it is reasonable to believe in him. Thanks, so much for joining me again. You’ve been listening to the Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless

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Is Change Possible For Gays & Trans? (Updated) https://julieroys.com/podcast/is-change-possible-for-gays-trans-updated/ Sat, 30 Nov 2019 18:00:19 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6384 Is Change Possible For Gays & Trans? (Updated) Read More »

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Some Christian leaders claim that gay people can’t change.  But a growing group of ex-gay Christians claim otherwise. This Saturday on The Roys Report, several former gay and transgender persons will join me to tell their remarkable stories of transformation. Don’t miss The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life!

This Weeks Guests
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Jeffrey McCall

Jeffrey McCall lived in homosexuality and later those feelings led him into a transgender life. From age 17 to 29 he was involved in crystal meth, heavy alcohol use, psychedelic drugs, and prescription drugs. Jeffrey was an advocate for pushing transgender rights and even did local ABC interview news to push LGBTQ agenda. After years of searching for love in any man that would show him attention, he finally found Christ love. After surrendering to Jesus Christ he now uses his ministry, For Such A Time Ministry, to tell the truth of Jesus Christ love and saving grace. Jeffrey now walks in life with the peace and joy of Christ living as God made him, as Jeffrey!

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Anne Paulk

Anne brings more than two decades as an author, speaker, spokesperson and advocate for men and women struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions to her role as executive director of Restored Hope Network. Her mission in leading the organization is to, quite literally, restore hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin, especially those impacted by homosexuality. She has appeared on Focus on the Family Radio, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalkIn the Market with Janet ParshallEquipped with Chris Brooks (Moody Radio), among others. She is the author of Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Harvest House Publishers), and she also has written for Spirit Led WomanCharisma and The Gospel Coalition. Anne lives in Colorado and her greatest joy is being mom to her three sons.     

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MJ Nixon

MJ’s story of struggle, of hidden pain, and sin started at a very young age. Attractions she didn’t understand and a God she believed was far away. A story of perseverance and redemption from the grips of same gender attraction. A life of laying down the desires of her flesh and letting The Holy Spirit lead! Jesus laid it all down for her and now she lives to glorify His name in all she does! She currently lives in Canton, GA and is part of a deliverance ministry called Refuge Ranch Atlanta! God Uprooted her Heart from the weeds of deception and planted her new to flourish in His eternal garden of truth! She has written a book titled, The Journey Back Home a compilation of poems of her journey from death to life!

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1

JULIE ROYS: Well, welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And I am so excited for today’s program exploring a topic that almost nobody will touch with a 10-foot pole. It’s one of those topics that’s not politically correct. And if you talk to most people, they’ll say the question I’m about to ask isn’t even a question. It’s a slam-dunk, settled issue. So here it is. 

Is change possible for gay and transgender people? 

Of course, our culture says, “no.” LGBT activists say, “no.” Policy-makers say, “no.” But they apparently forgot to inform my guests today. Because joining me today are people who say they’ve experienced real and lasting change in their sexuality.  

See, even though our culture says that being gay or transgender is an immutable quality. And if you have unwanted sexual desires, that’s too bad—there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  My guests today say that that’s not so.

Over the course of the next hour, we’re going to hear from several people who once lived as LGBT persons but do so no longer. 

I’d also love to hear from you. You also can join the discussion on Facebook by going to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or you can comment on Twitter by using my handle @ReachJulieRoys.

Well, the first person to join me today is Jeffrey McCall. Jeffrey once lived and identified as Scarlett—a gay, transgender woman. But today, he identifies as a child of God, washed and cleansed from his former sinful lifestyle. He’s also the founder of The Freedom March, an incredible ministry that gathers people who have left the LGBTQ lifestyle to share their stories in public city platforms. He’s also the founder of For Such a Time Ministry—this is his personal ministry where he travels and shares his testimony of deliverance. So, Jeffrey, welcome to The Roys Report! It is such a privilege to have you join us!

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes, I’m so honored to be here. Thank you for having me.

JULIE ROYS: So, Jeffrey, let’s just start with what your former life was like. What was that like to live as a gay person who is also a transgender woman? 



JEFFREY McCALL: Yes, for years my identity was being part of the homosexual community. Later on in life I always thought of myself possibly being transgender. But later I did start seeing doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I was eventually diagnosed with gender dysphoria. And, you know, the further I went into living as Scarlett, trying to become something I’m not, the further the depression came, suicidal thoughts, the heaviness and oppression. So, my life was quite different back then.

JULIE ROYS: And I know this is like a million-dollar question, and it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on everything, but do you look to anything, either nature or nurture, and say, ok, this is kind of what led me down this path?

JEFFREY McCALL: Yeah, I think there were multiple aspects to that question. When I was very young, I saw things from an older male that I shouldn’t have seen. I also at a very young age heard my mother talking about my parents’ divorce. And she talked about how my dad had cheated on her. And I remember even as a young boy thinking, “I don’t want to do that to women. I don’t want to hurt women.” And it just had this confusion on the dynamics of what a marriage was supposed to be.

JULIE ROYS: Now, as I understand it, even though you were living as a transgender woman, even at times when you needed money, going to prostitution and prostituting yourself. You were in a pretty dark place. Yet, you were listening to a pastor online, is that right?

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes. So, the times that I was living as Scarlett, those years, I was secretly listening to a pastor names Joseph Franklin. I’d been to his church once and really felt something there. And so, I wouldn’t go to church, but I did hear him on, you know, YouTube videos or on television. And so, this time I was living as Scarlett, the Lord was using him as one of the factors to just pull and tug on my heart, and to convict me of my life, that there would be so much more for me if I just chose to follow Jesus.

JULIE ROYS: Hmm. But did you feel most of the time like you had a choice? Or did you feel like, “man, I’m stuck, there’s nothing I can do about it?”

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes, most of the time I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I felt like that’s who I was, and what I was going to be. And it actually came down to an encounter with God. And I was at my apartment alone, and I was crying. I had thoughts racing and all these things. And I literally cried out to God. And I said, “God, I know people live for you. And it’s not just about going to church on Sunday.” And I said, “Something happened in these people’s lives I’ve met. They have love and joy and peace no matter what.” And I said, “but God, will I ever live for you?”  And here I am living as Scarlett, transgender, thinking God’s way out there and I’m here. And I didn’t even really know why I was crying out to this God that I thought may be real, but I wasn’t for sure. But it was just my heart. My heart was broken and contrite. And I just remember calling out to him in that brokenness. And, I’ll never forget, all my thoughts went silent. There was just a peace and a stillness in the room. And I heard very crystal-clear God say, “Yes, you will live for me.” And I remember it was like a seed of hope planted in me. And that was the beginning process of my life changing.

JULIE ROYS: And didn’t you at some point, I don’t know if this was immediate, but at some point you took your clothes, your heels, your skirts, whatever it was that was part of that life as Scarlett, and you threw ‘em in a dumpster. Tell me about that.

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes, I did. It was much later. And the Lord just kept working on me, pulling me and drawing me to him, and there came a time when I just felt the grace to throw my life away. And I’ll never forget, I went to a dumpster and I threw away all my clothes, my hair, my makeup, my jewelry, shoes, I mean everything that, that’s who I was. I performed in clubs and things like that at the beginning, but my identity in being transgender went way beyond that.  I left all that and was going to graduate school as Scarlett, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, I was seeing psychiatrists and psychologists. So, when I throw away my life as Scarlett, it was huge for me because this is what I thought I was going to be and become. And to start having surgery and all these things and my whole identity and all of a sudden, just like God gave me this grace to just end it. And so, I did. I threw it all in a dumpster one day.

JULIE ROYS: Well tell me about your journey then, from there. I mean, obviously overnight, your sexual desires don’t change, your desire, maybe to be transgender, did change pretty instantly, but how do you walk out of that into a new life?  

JEFFREY McCALL: Oh my gosh. It’s only by God’s grace. If you try to do this out of your own flesh, which is by striving to do it, you’ll fail 150 percent of the time. It is the grace of God. He just gives me this grace every day to do it. And I don’t wake up every day striving not to be those things. It’s just I have this natural feeling of, “I love God.” And I want to follow Him. And I want to obey Him. I want to set myself apart for him. He’s the most important Person in my life. And just thinking of God sometimes as a Person, people don’t think of Him, but it says in the Bible, we are created in His image. We have thoughts, we have feelings. He created us like Him. We can think of him as a real Person. Not a human being, but God, the Creator, that has a Spirit, that has characteristics, and feelings. This makes it just so much better to follow Him. It makes it easier, just asking him as a Person, as God, to fill us with grace, so we can deny any ungodliness that he doesn’t want us to be a part of.

JULIE ROYS: And, you’re still living as a single person, a celibate person, correct? 

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes. 

JULIE ROYS: Do you ever see yourself getting married to a woman? Or do you feel like you’re called to singleness?

JEFFREY McCALL: I don’t know. You know, I’m open to God on that. I really feel like I’m going to get married one day and have children. But even if I didn’t, at this point, it doesn’t matter to me. I just live my life for the Lord. I need a lot of time now, right now, with the Lord going through some healing and just growing in my relationship with Him. It’s not necessarily on my radar. But if the Lord brought a woman, a woman of God who wanted to be a part of my life, to start a family, I’m not opposed to that at all.

JULIE ROYS: And real quick, we only have about a minute before we go to break, but you started this thing called The Freedom March. What is that about?

JEFFREY McCALL: Yes, so the Freedom March is a place where I wanted to give others a platform to share their testimony. And this idea came to me while I was sharing my testimony in another city, to have an event in Washington D.C. where people gather and share their testimony of leaving the gay and transgender lifestyle to follow Jesus Christ. And I just put it together quickly. Others came along beside me to help me. And not only did I want testimonies shared, I wanted to publicly march in the streets afterwards. So, we get behind the banner and we march in the streets wherever we go with The Freedom March. So, it’s just really awesome. The Lord was really just using that scripture in Colossians where it says Jesus made a public spectacle of the enemy. And it was like the Lord was saying, “Get out of the building, get out of the convention center, get out of those things and like be in the streets, be with the people, march in the streets, give testimonies in venues outside in the streets. It’s like, show this city what the Lord has done in your life.

JULIE ROYS: Well Jeffrey McCall, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. I know you have something you have to run to, but I appreciate you taking the time, being a part of the program and sharing your story. We need to go to break, but when we come back, you’ll hear from someone who walked away from her life as a lesbian and has never looked back. We’ll be right back.

Segment 2

ANNOUNCER:  Now, more of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well is change possible for gay and trans people? The world says, “no.” But my guests today say, “yes.” Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. So, if you’d like to hear more stories like the one you just heard in our last segment, I encourage you to enter our DVD giveaway today. Just for The Roys Report listeners, I have 3 copies of “Here’s My Heart: A Documentary of Surrendering to Freedom.” This documentary features Jeffrey McCall, the former transgender woman that you just heard from in that first segment. But it also has the stories of 11 other LGBT, or I should say former LGBT men and women who met Christ and experienced deliverance from their unwanted same-sex and transgender desires. So, to enter to win that DVD, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. And I have another guest that I’m going to be introducing you to in just a minute. But I want to go to our phone lines. I have Derrick on the line. And Derrick, as I understand, you used to be bisexual. Is that right?

DERRICK:  . . . college age, that was my lifestyle. And I was pretty dang proud of it at the time.

JULIE ROYS: Wow. So, I mean, what led you into that lifestyle?

DERRICK:  Well I was in theater, not to be a living cliché, ballet, jazz, modern, I did theater.  So, it was kind of expected of me. And I dated a lot of girls too. You know, I don’t want to make it sound like it was just one, you know, that was definitely there. And that was a huge part of my life.

JULIE ROYS: So, you felt kind of a pressure to move there, but obviously, you moved out it, and that’s something, that there’s lot of pressure, I would guess, in that community saying you can’t do that. What was your journey like?

DERRICK:  Oh, well, it’s funny, I got saved. And then, I was in church. I’d started moving away from the bi-sexual lifestyle. I was just sleeping with women at that time. Outside of marriage, which, you know, also sin. Big problem. So, when I got convicted of that, that’s when everything changed for me. And it was hard because the people that I really relied on when I was about lifestyle, didn’t just like say, “okay, fine.”  They adamantly cut me off, said that, “we don’t want anything to do with you. You can’t do this. You’re hurting the entire world” was one of the quotes.

JULIE ROYS: And that’s so funny because you hear so much from the LGBT lobby that they’re inclusive, they’re affirming, they accept everyone. But it really is not OK, really.

DERRICK:  No. Well, they’re inclusive and affirming unless you disagree with them, which is one of the issues that comes up, you know? We need to reach out to them in love. But we also need to understand that, you know, they don’t want to just have that equality. They really want to push an agenda. So, I think that’s part of it too.

JULIE ROYS: So, real quick, because I do want to get to our next guest, but I know, I saw, you’re somebody who I’ve seen interact on Facebook before. And I saw you interacting on my Facebook page, which again is facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. We’ve been having discussion on this kind of all week because I posted some articles and things. And there’s some pushback—people saying, “you know what? That’s great for you, but most people can’t change, so stop talking about it.” Speak to that person right now.

DERRICK:  Well I would just say, you know, with anything as a Christian, and I want to deal with this from a church perspective, you know, we have to be able to call sin “sin.” And sin feels good. And if you’re in that lifestyle, that feels good at the time. But the cold hard fact of that matter is homosexuality like anything, any kind of sexual sin, starts with the mind. And that moves on to physical, basically outbursts, I would call them. So, we need to deal with that piece.  Call sin “sin.”  Have true repentance. You know, seek God, get that. And then you can really start to have that dialogue of hopefully love you, care about you, let’s come around you and help you. Which also allows us to step into the role of that community that the LGBTQ people had before us.

JULIE ROYS: And that’s a big piece. I appreciate that Derrick. Thanks so much for you know sharing your story and some of your advice there. But I think you hit on something about the love and the community. And I’ve heard this from so many people who have, were a part of that lifestyle and have moved out from that lifestyle. And they’ve said, “I love the affirmation. I love the community.” And I think we need to remember that. The church better be a community. We better love people. Or there’s no way that they’re going to leave their sin and come into the body of Christ. Or really forsake that. So, thanks again, Derrick.

But I do want to go to my next guest. Joining me now is Anne Paulk, she’s the executive director of Restored Hope Network, a ministry offering hope and healing to those broken by sexual and relational sin. And actually, I know this ministry. I got to speak at one of their conferences it’s a fantastic ministry, so I give it like two thumbs up. She’s also the proud mother of three boys. I know because I follow her on Facebook. But years ago, Anne had embraced gay identity and lived as a lesbian woman for several years. So, she knows about our topic first-hand. So, Anne welcome! So great to have you join me. 

ANNE PAULK: Thank you, Julie what a delight to be with you.

JULIE ROYS: Well I feel the same way and you have been on my radio program, my former radio program a couple of times.

ANNE PAULK: That’s right.

JULIE ROYS: Glad to have you join me here. I do want to talk about this push—not just outside the church—but inside the church to embrace gay identity but I would like to just start with, and I don’t think I have ever had to tell this on my show, which is your journey. How did you end up living a lesbian life style?

ANNE PAULK: Well I was in my teens and younger even actually it started younger. I had an attraction that I felt (coughing) pardon me I have a cough unfortunately I have to warn you about that right now.

JULIE ROYS: No worries.

ANNE PAULK: You heard it. You know I was probably junior high, right around then. I was very attracted to several other girls not all girls but several other girls. And I didn’t know what had created those desires, I didn’t want them and that’s a very common story actually.  Even people who embrace homosexuality are often go through a period of time where they say you, I wish I hadn’t had those feelings. I didn’t want them. I didn’t ask for them. And then eventually in my college years, after having some exposure to Christianity through kind of a liberal Presbyterian church, I ended up throwing God out and saying, “okay my feelings are more real. I don’t know if God really exists and I am going to go for them.” So, first year in college I decided I am going to deal with these feelings that I have had for a really long time. And embrace them. And I found lots of support for myself. And that was back in the early 1980s. So, it was still known as being sin but there was a lot of support for me then.

JULIE ROYS: Still known as sin.

ANNE PAULK: But it was still known as sin at that time.

JULIE ROYS: (Laughs)

ANNE PAULK: It isn’t anymore, almost.

JULIE ROYS: I agree. So how did you move from that, you know, where you’re accepted, where you’re enjoying that lifestyle to saying, “I am not okay with this?”

ANNE PAULK: Well it wasn’t that, I was nervous, I was excited and nervous, and that’s common amongst those that are coming out, a little anxiety attached to embracing homosexuality. So that tells you that it is not necessarily the healthiest thing, um psychologically speaking. But anyhow, as I embraced this and I began surrounding my life with it, in the middle of that, I had this incredible thought approach me in the middle of the meeting with a whole bunch of people who were gay affirming. And it said, “you’re not going to find the love that you are seeking for here.” And I was devastated, knowing it was true. (Laughs) Where did this piercing thought come from? It was obviously is was directly from heaven. And I had just said that God didn’t exist so I could do my thing. So, what? It caught me off guard. And I began having dreams about Jesus and asking my friends questions about Him and who does He say that He is. And I began asking Him the right question. Right? Here I am in the midst of my pursuit and I began seeking who God says He is and who He says He is. No one could answer those questions. I was at a University of California College and I was surrounded by people who claimed they were Christians, but they couldn’t, they didn’t know the basics in order to answer my questions. So, I ended up at an evangelism training class from a Baptist student ministry which is really funny as a non-Christian.

JULIE ROYS: Yah, really.

ANNE PAULK: And In the middle of that they began answering the basic question, “who does Jesus say that He is?” And they left it open for discussion. “What are your thoughts about this?” It was brilliant and beautiful. And not coercive and at the end of that session of that 8-weeks we were all bowing our heads to pray.

JULIE ROYS: We have to pause. I hate to do this, but we need to go to break, pause on that, when we come back, I’m going to let you finish that story. Again, Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, I’m Julie Roys, you are listening to The Roys Report and we will be right back.

 

Segment 3 

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well, welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University.  I’m Julie Roys.  And today, we’re discussing a topic that’s really taboo in many circles. In fact, if you brought this topic up at work or a school setting, you’d likely be ridiculed or shot down. But here’s the question: Can gays and transgender people change?

You see, even though the culture says they can’t, there are people who not only say they can change, but they say they’ve experienced that transformation themselves! We’ve heard from two people already who said that they’ve been delivered from the gay lifestyle. We’re going to hear from a third in this segment. And I’d also love to hear from you. You could join the live online discussion by going to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Also, if you’d like to hear more stories like the ones that you’re hearing now, I encourage you to enter our giveaway today for “Here’s My Heart: A Documentary of Surrendering to Freedom.” This is a film that features 12 stories of LGBT men and women who met Christ and experienced deliverance from their unwanted same-sex and transgender desires. To enter to win that DVD, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway.  And actually, my next guest that I’ll be introducing in just a minute, is actually the executive producer of that DVD. An amazing story herself, and obviously she’s gotten a bunch of other amazing stories for that DVD. I’ve seen it. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic documentary. But I have Anne Paulk on the line. Anne is the executive director of Restored Hope Network, helping an awful lot of people come out of these kinds of sexual brokenness and LGBT lifestyle and finding hope and freedom in Christ. And Anne, you were telling us a bit about your story. And, really funny, here you are in college, you’re not a believer, and yet you’re in an evangelism class. And that’s when you hear about the gospel. Maybe the true gospel, even though you’ve been exposed to Christianity, but the true gospel for the first time. So, how did that impact you?

ANNE PAULK:  Well, it was pretty wild, actually. So, the final day I was praying, or pretending to pray, actually. I was just bowing my head, folding my hands, thinking that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Everybody else is praying and God shows up. God is there. And makes Himself—He was probably always there—but He made Himself obvious to me. I sensed that there was a Person in the room Whom I couldn’t see. But it was as real as a cloud. Or real, this real Person was weaving in and out amongst the prayers of the saints. And this Person was full of Truth and full of kindness, full of authority, was exactly how it felt. Like, had all power under His belt, and yet full of kindness. And I thought, “holy smoke, who is this and how do I get this person in my life?” And so exactly what I went to talk to the pastor about afterwards. Told him I’m a lesbian, I want to pursue that. And here I encountered this Person. What is going on here? And I need this, I would really, I would trade anything to have Him in my life, to see that difference. And that’s what happened later that night. The pastor shared with me about the sinner’s prayer and asking Jesus into my life. And that to cling to my sin is not okay. But rather, to surrender all because I’m asking for forgiveness from sin and allow Him to become my righteousness.  And I need to give up all of my heavy loads, these burdens I’d been carrying. Up until then I’d felt like a bit of a spiritual ragdoll, pulled between darkness and light. And then when I gave up all of my so-called rights to live my life my way, and to accept this Person, this amazing Person into my life, this actual real God who existed, and for Him to forgive me my sins, and to come and cleanse me and fill me with His Spirit, I came alive! I came alive! The burdens rolled off my shoulders and I began to live for the first time. And it felt like a, literally, I’ve said it multiple times in different places, that it felt like, if you could using an example or analogy of an appliance on a kitchen countertop, it’s just sitting there like a doorstop until you plug it into the wall, right? Well that’s what I felt like. God had gripped that plug and put me into the circuitry I was always designed to be part of, which is the body of Christ. To belong to the God of creation who made everything. So, that was the beginning of life.  Immediately it took away homosexual feelings for about six months. So, I was absolutely in love with this Person who was now in my life. Absolutely sold out. And then eventually I had to begin to grow. (laughs) I eventually had to experience the rest of life as well. And to become a more mature believer. And that’s when some struggles returned. And I needed help. The help that I had was not in contrast with God’s word but actually alongside of it. And I began to grapple with things like I’d been molested when I was four, by someone I should have been able to trust, a teenager in the neighborhood. And that was repeated. And my assumptions about myself as a girl, and about men, and about safety and security, and how treasured and safe and valuable I was, were compromised as a result of those experiences.

JULIE ROYS:  Anne.

ANNE PAULK:  I came to different assumptions about life. So, anyway, yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  You know, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I want to bring MJ into this discussion. Because I know MJ is probably going, “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about right now.” And I’d love for her to be a part of it as well. So MJ Nixon is the executive producer of “Here’s My Heart,” the DVD I’m giving away today. But she’s also the founder of Uprooted Heart, a ministry telling the testimonies of men and women who have found freedom from sexual bondage and brokenness. And MJ, I’m so glad you could take time to be with us, But I’m guessing, and am I right, that you’re saying, “wow, can I relate to what Anne has said.”

MJ NIXON:  Hi, yes, I can. Thanks for having me. Hey Anne.

ANNE PAULK:  Hello MJ.

JULIE ROYS:  So, I mean MJ, is your story similar when she says, you know, things in her background that pushed her in that direction, or for you was it more of an attraction that developed, you don’t really know why?

MJ NIXON:  Yeah, so growing up, from a very young age, I can remember struggling with same sex attraction. I grew up in a conservative Christian household. So I knew about God, but I like He was afar off, I was a sinner, and I didn’t really have an outlet to speak about the attractions that I had. So, I just pushed them down. I just hid them. No one in my life knew what I was struggling through throughout my adolescence and my teenage years. I really turned to other things to really try to help me with this inner battle between what I knew God wanted for me and who I believed that I was, that I was born this way. This is who I am, this is who I’ve since a very young age. So, I battled back and forth for many-many years with my identity.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, we need to go to break. I hate doing this. But when we come back, we’ve got a longer segment, so I’m going to really enjoy that. But when we come back, I’m going to talk to both MJ and Anne. MJ, I want to hear your conversion, and how you really met God in a personal way that changed your life. But then this process of change. And I want to speak to some of the things that are happening in the church, where the church is saying, “people can’t change. You’re stuck in your sin. If it happens to be this sin, there’s nothing you can do about it.” We’re going to address that when we come back. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And we will be right back after a short break.

Segment 4

ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to The Roys Report with your host Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well can gays and transgender people change? The world says they can’t. But my guests today say they can. Welcome back to the Roys Report I am Julie Roys and in a minute, we’re going to continue our discussion with Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network and MJ Nixon of Uprooted Heart, two ministries that believe in the total transforming work of Jesus Christ. But first, I want to let you know that next week we’ll be discussing evolution. Does Darwin’s theory really explain the origin of life? Or, is it a theory in crisis? Joining me will be Dr. Michael Behe. He is the so-called father of intelligent design. And according to Behe, evolution is fundamentally flawed because evolution breaks things. It doesn’t make things. So it can’t possibly explain the origin of life. Dr. Behe first presented this idea in his groundbreaking book Darwin’s Black Box. But now, he has a new book out called Darwin Devolves, which presents new research showing this fundamental issue with evolution. It’s going to be a fascinating and insightful show. So, I hope that you can join me for my show next week with Dr. Behe. Also, I want to let you know that if you miss any part of today’s broadcast or you just want to listen again and share it with friends, we will be putting up the entire audio of today’s program, posted by 1:00 o’clock central time today at my website JulieRoys.com.

Well returning to our discussion today, again joining me is Anne Paulk and MJ Nixon, two women who used to be in the lesbian lifestyle but aren’t so any longer. And MJ, I had to cut you off in the middle of your story, tell me how you came to Christ and you found freedom from your sexual desires.

MJ NIXON:  Yeah, so I just wanted to be with one woman and that ended up happening when I left to go to college and we were together for over five years. But in the midst of that relationship, as I was saying before, there was always an inner battle between what God wanted for me and what was best for my life and what I wanted for my life. And in the midst of that relationship Jesus met me and said, “MJ I have something greater for you if you just surrender.” And at that point I was so emotionally and physically tied to this woman that I just couldn’t surrender. It was like I would give him certain areas, but I didn’t want him to speak into my sexuality because I knew that meant that I was going to have to surrender the relationship I was in. But a couple years later, again I just kept being met with a gentleness of a still voice that said, “MJ, just lay it down.” And I made that decision, um and my ex-partner as well and stepped away from that relationship. And fully for the first time in my life walked into a relationship of full surrender to what God had for me. And what a beautiful exchange, my ashes for his beauty. You know what I believed the strong holds in my mind, the deception of the lifestyle that I had battled with for so long was finally at ease, was finally at peace. My mind, my heart, my spirit, I was finally living in a place of peace.

JULIE ROYS: I am going to ask you a personal question and if you don’t want to answer it you don’t have to, but I mean at this point do you feel like you can have, you know, you’re living as a single person, do you feel like it’s possible that you’ll have sexual feelings for a man at some point and might get married?

MJ NIXON: Yes, I want God’s will for my life. I want his desires. And as I become more like Christ all of the things that I believed about men, the lies, God has healed those wounds in me. Even the very masculine woman that I was, the strong, independent, “I don’t need a man,” God has healed that in me, to be the helpmate that he wants me to be. So, I get excited about that. I know as I continue to serve Jesus and I look to him that if He has that for my life, that it will come to pass. 

JULIE ROYS: And Anne, you’re a few years ahead of where MJ is, I mean you walked away from the lesbian lifestyle how many years ago?

ANNE PAULK: Of my goodness. Probably as long as she’s been alive.

JULIE ROYS: We’ve lost track.

ANNE PAULK: Three, four, five, I don’t know. It’s been a long time.

JULIE ROYS: But you’ve been married, you’ve had this experience. I mean, the process of, and I know that this doesn’t necessarily happen for everyone. For some people they forsake that and never feel attracted to the opposite sex, for some they do. But for you that happened to you. How long does that transformation take? It’s a process with most people, right?

ANNE PAULK: Right, well I think, you know it matters what’s underlying the struggle and then what condition of surrender a person is in. MJ and I have both surrendered to the Lord and so has the wonderful Jeffrey McCall and so many others. So, know, there’s just so many great stories of God’s intervention and his incredible love making a difference in our lives. What happens as a result after that all depends on the work of God undoing some beliefs and lies. And that took me, it was a matter of when is God going to bring the lightbulb moments of understanding and fruitfulness and the fact that I enjoy being a woman as a result of having walked through sexual abuse in early childhood. And all that began to happen when I was in my 20s. I felt like at about 28, I had come to the Lord at 20? 19 or 20 years old and at about 28 after doing focused discipleship on the topic and really beginning to lean in, yet there were times when God would just give me a lightbulb moment on a personal quiet time or with interaction with other women and I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, and trust Him to be my protector. And all sorts of other things began to happen until I finally recognized that not all men are like that person who took advantage of me. In fact, there are some men that are really amazing. And then recognizing that God created men as well, you know. And there are all these little lightbulb moments that led me to the potential for me to have attraction develop. But God had to work on those things in order to produce the potential for me to even be interested or have that heart ignition in a relationship with a man.

JULIE ROYS: I love both of your stories. I love all the stories we’ve been talking about today.  But I know that there are others in the church that are going to push back and in fact there was a conference earlier this summer called Revoice. I think it was the second conference that they’ve done and the leaders of Revoice are gay, celibate Christians, so in other words they are people that embrace this gay identity but say, “I’m going to be celibate in the Lord.” And one of them, I believe it’s the pastor Greg Johnson who pastors the church where Revoice is held spoke recently to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America because that’s the denomination that he is in. I think people need to understand that this is not the PCUSA, which is the liberal branch of the Presbyterian church. This is PCA.  And this is the very conservative branch of the Presbyterian church. But he says that because of, you know they were talking about this thing called the Nashville statement, which is a conservative statement about sexuality, there’s an article seven in that statement that says that homosexual and transgender self-conception, that that is not consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. And he said this is very hurtful to us that he’s is saying that. So, I want to play just a brief clip of his speech before the general assembly. And then I’d love to hear both of you respond to it.

Clip of Greg Johnson: I am 46 years old and still same sex attracted, my orientation has not changed and for those that are exclusively same sex attracted who are men we don’t know for certain, I have talked to every head of every ministry and can’t find a single instance of same sex attraction going away.  And so where that leaves me at age 46 is, I am a 46 year old virgin who has never so much held hands, I have never had a romantic embrace, I have never hugged romantically, I have had a history of struggle with pornography from which I am now 15 years sober. I am mortifying my flesh every single day, and yet that has a cost. Jesus has washed me and yet I am in a fight for my life every single day. And I don’t regret that one bit. But the cost is this. The cost is that there are no family photographs on my mantle because I have no family. The cost is I know what it’s like to sit alone at home in my apartment on Christmas Day because I have no family. The cost is that someday I will have to be buried, not cremated, because there will be no one to receive my ashes, because me line ends with me. 

JULIE ROYS: Well again, that’s Greg Johnson, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA and also, I believe one of the founders of this Revoice Conference. And he’s saying, I mean, “he can’t change.” I wish Jeffrey McCall was still on because he said specifically for men that these homosexual desires don’t go away. So, let me throw it to you, Anne first and then MJ I’ll give you a chance to respond as well.

ANNE PAULK: Well I know so many people who actually have had a change of feelings in Restored Hope and even in our previous organization, Exodus back in the day, before it was closed, before the headquarters closed, there were so many men that were not at all attracted to women who found themselves attracted to an individual of the opposite gender later on after having worked through many things, and surrendering to the Holy Spirit and honestly, they began to be able to marry and have attraction to their spouse, and be in a romantic relationship. And so, it’s not uncommon, it’s pretty common actually. Most of our leaders are married.  And a lot of them are men who are from the gay life. So, I don’t know who he’s talked to. Maybe he’s been very selective as who he’s talked to, if it’s even possible. But I know an awful lot of people, it’s happened to men and women, that they’ve had a change of feelings, a change of future, and the potential of getting married and having children. Now not everybody does. The reality is that not everbody is going to get married, even in the heterosexual world. So regardless of that, that doesn’t mean that your life is over and that there is no future or hope for you. In fact, God values very highly, singleness and a solid devotion to Himself. And he provides family in different ways, including our natural family. MJ what is your thought?

JULIE ROYS: MJ I want to hear from you too.

MJ NIXON:  Yeah my heart goes out to this man because even being single and celibate there is so much community in the body of Christ that he does not have to be alone. But yeah, I agree with Anne. When I heard him say that he’s in the fight of his life I can’t really say for my life that I’ve gone through that. Yes, there is temptation. Yes, there are the things of the flesh. But I don’t wake up each day struggling with lust for women or attraction to women. So, just hearing that, my heart just really went out to him. And you know, the gospel is the good news. What did Jesus die for if we can’t change? 

JULIE ROYS: That to me is the bottom line, though. It really is. Scripture says 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old is gone and the new is come,” right? Is the new creation gay? You know, I don’t see that the new creation is gay. The flesh may be gay. But the new creation isn’t. And the flesh something that we what? Something that Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” Man, I wish we had more time. Thank you so much, MJ, thank you Anne. That’s all for today but you’re listening to The Roys Report. I hope you have a great weekend. Catch you next week.

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Should Women Be Preachers? https://julieroys.com/podcast/should-women-be-preachers/ Sat, 23 Nov 2019 18:00:05 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6301 Should Women Be Preachers? Read More »

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Should women be preachers? This week on The Roys Report, we’ll explore this question, which recently grabbed headlines, following comments by well-known pastor, John MacArthur.  When asked to give a pithy response about the preaching of Beth Moore, MacArthur responded, “Go Home,” This sparked major controversy. But what should Christians think about women preaching? And what does the Bible say? Join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life, and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!

This Weeks Guests

Dr. John Dickson

John started out as a professional singer— songwriter but now works as a writer, speaker, historian and media presenter. He is the author of more than 15 books, and the presenter of three TV documentaries on the history of Christianity. He was Founding Director of Australia’s Centre for Public Christianity from 2007—2017. He teaches a course on the origins of Christianity at the University of Sydney and is the Distinguished Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Public Christianity at Ridley College, Melbourne. He is a Visiting Academic in the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University (2017- 2020), researching memory techniques in ancient education.

Dr. Lina AbuJamra

Lina AbuJamra is a Pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries. Her vision is to bring hope to the world by connecting biblical answers to everyday life. A popular Bible teacher, blogger, and conference speaker, Lina has authored several books including: ThriveStripped, and Resolved. You can listen to Lina’s podcast on iTunes or Podbean and find her boosting your faith all over social media. Lina is the host of Today’s Single Christian on Moody Radio and of Morning Minutes, a daily audio devotional available on her website.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Women can do just about anything a man can do in our society. Yet, within many churches and denominations, women are barred from preaching. Is this biblical as some Christian leaders argue or is it misogynist, as some others say? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And if you follow Christian media at all, you know there’s been quite a controversy, raging right now, concerning women preachers in the Evangelical Church. It all started about five months ago on Mother’s Day. That’s when popular women’s Bible teacher Beth Moore preached in a Southern Baptist Church. Now the official position of the Southern Baptist Church is that women cannot hold the office of a pastor. However, what Moore did was kind of step into this gray area of women preaching who are not pastors. And wow, did it create a stir. Christian leaders, for and against women preachers, began going at it on Facebook and Twitter. Several prominent pastors and bloggers wrote articles. And just as things were beginning to die down, John MacArthur, a popular author, pastor and host of the radio program Grace To You, ignited it again at an event at his church in mid-October. MacArthur said something many believed was disrespectful and demeaning of Moore. It happened while MacArthur was participating in a discussion on stage with Phil Johnson. Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace To You and moderating that discussion was Todd Friel. He’s the host of Wretched, a conservative Christian radio and TV ministry. Here’s a recording of that interaction.

TODD FRIEL:  I will say a word. And then the three of you need to give a one or pithy response to the word. Are you ready?

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR:  I feel like I’m being set up.

PHIL JOHNSON:  That isn’t always the case with Todd. Watch out for him. He will try to embarrass you.

TODD FRIEL:  We’re going to start out. This is just kind of touching your toes, easy, easy setup for you. Let’s begin with an easy one. The word is Beth Moore.

AUDIENCE: (Laughter)

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR:  That’s two words.

AUDIENCE:  (Laughter)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON:  Literalist.

TODD FRIEL:  All right. Dr. MacArthur, Beth Moore?

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR: How many words do I get?

TODD FRIEL: You know, actually, and before you answer this, please think carefully this time. Because last time, you did a one-word association, the guy wrote a book about it.

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR: I got in a lot of trouble.

TODD FRIEL: And we don’t want that.

AUDIENCE: (Laughter)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I was thinking of the same word.

TODD FRIEL:  OK?

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR:  Go home.

AUDIENCE: (Vigorous and extended laughter.)

TODD FRIEL:  Oh, ho ho ho!

JULIE ROYS:  Well, you can see why some might have found MacArthur’s comments offensive. Whether you agree or disagree with women preachers, many argued that that response was condescending. So about two weeks ago, MacArthur preached a sermon clarifying his position. And here’s the short clip where he begins by reading a portion of 1 Timothy 2. And then he says . . .

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR:  So, women are called to modesty, discretion, good works, godliness. And what does that look like? It means that quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. Entire submissiveness. “But I do not allow women to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet.” That is so absolute. It’s unbending. No preaching, no teaching, no leading position in the church. You say, “Well that’s again, this is quirky Paul.” Is this just Paul? No. Look at verse 13. This was designed by God. “For it was Adam who was first created and then Eve.” This is the Divine order. It was Adam who was first created. And then Eve. God created Adam. He was alone. He took a rib out of Adam He made a woman and the woman was to be Adam’s helper. But not only was this God’s creative design, it was basically affirmed in the fall. Verse 14, “It was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression.” This is a very severe warning—very severe warning. A woman out from under the protection of her head is vulnerable. Because of typical women’s sensibilities—passions and compassion. Because of their tendencies toward kindness, mercy and care, they become more vulnerable when unprotected. That is, that is a reality today that is in no short supply of being exhibited by the fast number of women running around single, who have neither a father, nor a husband, to protect them from deception.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. So what do you think of that? Do women’s tendencies towards kindness, compassion and care make them more vulnerable to deception? Is that why women shouldn’t preach or teach? And is the restriction Paul places on women as absolute as John MacArthur says? Well, joining me to discuss the issue is John Dixon. John is a Christian apologist and minister. He’s also the author of Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons. And John is on the phone right now from his home in Australia. So John, welcome.

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  Lovely to talk with you, Julie.

JULIE ROYS: Also, I want to mention that in the second segment, Lina AbuJamra will be joining me. Lina is an author, speaker and founder of Living with Power ministries. But pertinent to our discussion today, she’s also a woman who has preached in churches before. So, she’ll be joining us in just a bit. But, John, let me start with—I would love to just get your reaction to John MacArthur’s statements. What do you think of those?

DR JOHN DICKSON:  Well, as someone who has, in the past, looked up to John MacArthur and, you know, admired his boldness and commitment to Biblical truth, I found it really quite disturbing. The expression, “go home,” followed by sort of rapturous applause and hoots from the audience is disturbing to me. And maybe it’s a, it’s a thing that makes more sense in America than it does in Australia. But if you tell a woman, “go home,” as the one thing you say to them, this is demeaning. This is dehumanizing. And then for the cheers to follow, it just was a double whammy. And I felt ashamed. You know, I come from that strong, evangelical, Bible-focus tradition. And the thought that it can lead to this, you know, was worrying to me. You know, even leaving aside this scandal about John MacArthur, I thought, “Man, is this same attitude in me somewhere?”

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. Well, that’s a good place to be introspective on these things for sure. And I know there’s a big discussion right now because the Southern Baptist Church has been embroiled in a sex abuse scandal and cover up. And you know, some Paige Patterson, had an issue with him—and misogyny and misogynistic type statements. And people saying, “Well, is this just part of being complementarian?” And for those of you who are listening, there’s basically two camps. There’s egalitarian, which believe that women are, and men, are equal in worth but really the same in function. Complementarian would say that you’re equal and worth but complementary or different in function. And what I think’s interesting today is that John, you are a complementarian. So you believe that there are different roles. But when it comes specifically to preaching, you feel, unlike John MacArthur (and I think there is a whole bit to unpack with just attitudes and some of those things) but putting those aside. If we go just to the Scripture that he quoted, which was from 1 Timothy 2:12 & 13, you feel that what he is saying is an absolute prohibition isn’t an absolute prohibition. And we have, you know, just a couple of minutes to start unpacking that. We can unpack more of it on the other side of the break. But start to get into that. Why do you believe that 1 Timothy 2 isn’t necessarily an absolute prohibition against women doing any preaching in the church?

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  Well, the first thing to say is that I don’t think we should fall into our tribes on this. I think when Godly, God-believing evangelicals come to different conclusions on something, you know, after a humble, diligent study. That should be a sign to us all to cut each other slack. You know, not to be down on the hard egalitarian, not to be down on the hard complementarian, but to cut each other slack. But in terms of the substantial issue, it’s correct that 1 Timothy 2:12 says, Paul said that he does not permit a woman to teach and have authority. Now most scholars think that that’s the same thing—to have teaching authority. That’s what the Greek probably means. Now, I don’t think there’s any way around that. The question is—what is teaching? And everyone knows that there are many words in Scripture for what we might call “a sermon”—for publicly speaking to the congregation. And they are admonishing, preaching, teaching, evangelizing, exalting, prophesying, and I could go on and on. And the interesting thing is, these are different words in English and Greek. And Paul explicitly calls them different. In say, Romans 12, Paul says that exhorting, prophesying and teaching are different. He actually uses the word “different.” And so I want to say— Okay, Paul said he does not permit a woman to teach. Does that rule out prophesying, exhorting, preaching, evangelizing and all the other activities that you can do from a pulpit?

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, hold that thought. We have to go to break but when we come back, we’re going to pick up with that. Again, speaking with me is John Dixon, author of Hearing Her Voice: The Case for Women Giving Sermons. Also joining me in the next segment, will be Lina AbuJamra. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report and we will be right back.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER:  We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  Should women be preachers? Welcome back to The Roys Report? I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re wrestling with this hotly debated issue in the church that’s recently grabbed headlines. As we discussed in the first segment, prominent author and pastor, John MacArthur, told popular women’s Bible teacher, Beth Moore to “go home.” And that touched off a firestorm of controversy, which is still raging. And I think there’s more to that issue than just theology because MacArthur said things that some would say go beyond what the Scripture says. And we’ll talk about that later in the show. 

But biblically, one of the main passages is 1Timothy 2:11-13. And in that passage, the Apostle Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived. It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” MacArthur interpreted that passage to be an absolute prohibition on women preaching in church ever. But my guest today, John Dickson, challenges that view. John explains in his book, Hearing Her Voice: The Case for Women Giving Sermons, his entire position.  And I’m going to be giving away five copies of that book today. To enter that giveaway, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. So, John is joining me on the phone from Australia. But also joining me now, in studio, is Lina AbuJamra. Lina is an author, speaker and founder of Living with Power ministry. She’s also someone who’s preached in the church. So, Lina, welcome.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Hey, good to be here.

JULIE ROYS:  So, I want to get your perspective on what John is describing right now. But you are kind of in the middle John. So, I want to give you an opportunity to finish your explanation of what you think “teaching” really means in that 1 Timothy passage.

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  Yeah, well, it’s the 1 Timothy 2:12 that said I do not permit a woman to prophesy in church. We’d all be really zeroing in on that word and saying—okay, what does “prophesying” mean? And that’s the activity women are not allowed to do. But there are so many other kinds of speaking in church that clearly wouldn’t be a prohibition on other kinds of speaking. But the fact that it uses the word “teaching,” suddenly we generalize and say—oh, that refers to everything from the pulpit. And I want to say, hang on, who said that? And we know that women can prophesy in church.  1 Corinthians 11 says so. Paul says nothing about women exhorting the church. And that word “to give an exhortation” in the New Testament is much closer to what we call a “sermon” today. And Paul doesn’t forbid women to do that. He does seem to forbid “teaching.” It doesn’t say preaching, it says teaching. And so, then you’ve got to ask the question—what does teaching, “didasko,” the Greek word, mean in the pastoral epistles? That is 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. And it’s been long known, in New Testament scholarship, that this word “didasko” to teach, does not mean everything we would mean by the English term, “communicating some idea to another.” It really is focused on preserving and passing on the oral traditions of the apostles. It doesn’t refer to expounding a scriptural text. It refers to handing over the apostolic doctrines, which in the period 1 Timothy was written, were not written down yet. There were no gospels written down. Most of the letters of the New Testament hadn’t been written down and certainly circulated. And so, the way the traditions of the apostles ended up being taught to congregations, was through this practice of oral tradition—where people were entrusted with the words of the apostles. And they were to repeat them and make sure that the congregations learned them. But that was a separate activity, from the exhortations that anyone might do, including women, in the church meeting. And so, this is what I think Paul is forbidding. And it’s sort of drawing on nerdy New Testament scholarship, where this is widely accepted—that this is the meaning of “teaching.” It’s just that I try to bring that meaning a teaching to bear on the question of what exactly does Paul forbid? And I don’t think it’s what we call, “the sermon.”

JULIE ROYS:  Hmm. And I, I’ve always wondered this, like, when we when we argue this. I mean, in the first century church, were they having sermons, you know, like we have on Sunday morning? And this is somewhat culturally determined, isn’t it?

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  It is. They were almost certainly having exhortations. This expression, “word of exhortation” does seem to refer to a speech that is given in the congregation. And Jews used this expression, but so did Paul and other New Testament passages refer to this, “word of exhortation.” But it’s not called teaching. And so, the synagogue had a kind of what we might call sermon, or maybe they had several of them, but they at least had one. But that doesn’t say that they didn’t have other kinds of speaking, as well. And Paul indicates this in 1 Corinthians 11, where he has women prophesying and praying in church. No problem. Absolutely no problem. So, I think we need to do the harder work of working out what is “prophesying?” And is prophesying closer to what we call a sermon? And what is teaching? And how does that have a role in the church today?

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. But you’re saying teaching, from your understanding, at least used there, is more this “authoritative teaching,” which will be passing on the apostle’s tradition, which is pre-the-written New Testament, correct? Am I understanding that right?

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay. So, Lina, you have preached in church, but you’re not egalitarian.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Correct. Yeah, I mean, my background is extremely conservative, in every way. And I grew up cutting my teeth, learning how to teach, listening to John MacArthur sermons. I mean, that was really the I would prepare Bible studies reading his sermons on and literally like, he’s got a sermon for verse. I mean, thousands of hours probably spent reading his materials. So really admire him and really look up to him in many ways. And honestly, I wasn’t probably as offended by that clip as most people were at the beginning because probably because my tradition growing up in sort of a, you know, hyper conservative, you know, complementarian background. And being Lebanese and sort of having a bit of a ER mentality, I’m used to people speaking their minds, especially if they believe something. But the more you listen to it, the more it’s offensive. But honestly, like I sort of gave him credit of okay, well, at least he stands for what he, you know, for what he believes. I’ve always respected that about him. Even in other conversations, like the tongues and, you know, there are many, many people I admire who are continuationists. And, you know, and so I think there’s a layer to this just because John MacArthur says it doesn’t mean it’s the Holy Grail. And I think there is a sense where conservatives can get so attached to a teacher or speaker that it’s like, that’s part of it. He said it, now I believe it, that settles it. Then I think that’s, you know, sort of part of this whole conversation—is this awakening to, “Hey, just because he said it doesn’t mean we all have to believe it, right?” Or vice-versa. Whoever your favorite teacher is. And I think what I appreciate about John here, to walking us through this, is it sort of gets you to sort of think that there are some very educated people who are studying these things and coming to different conclusions. And we’re still brothers and sisters in Christ. And I think that probably the perspective about the MacArthur—and by the way, I found more offensive his sermon after than I did his comments about Beth Moore. Because his opinions weren’t just, you know, so much that he didn’t like one person. And was sort of, you know, you could say, well, maybe they had a feud. You can, you know, he maybe stepped out of his, you know, usual diplomacy. He doesn’t know we’re living in 2019 where everything is heard everywhere and etc., etc., or maybe he did. But the sermon was really a reflection of what he believes about womanhood. And as ironically, again, and I think you sort of step back and listen and try to give a person a benefit of the doubt. But there was so many layers to it where I really realized, like, I listened to that sermon wanting to find even more reason to believe what he teaches. And again, my bias is complementarianism and conservatism. And honestly, I walked away from it thinking, I think John MacArthur would think I am Satan. I mean, literally, because I’m a doctor, I’m independent, I’m single, I’m speaking on Sunday mornings at the invitation of churches. And so, I can’t base my theology and my life and my conviction on what John MacArthur says. I have to base it on what God says to me through His Word. So, John, I appreciate your perspective, because it’s sort of founded on the Word of God and you’re thinking through this. And there are many who have commented on, even the cultural setting of when Corinthians was written and Timothy was written and how the woman would speak. They weren’t educated so they didn’t know things. And say what, there was this “loudness” in the environment at the church. And so, Paul’s way of saying be quiet and let your husbands teach you at home because you can’t focus in the setting. Of whereas now, we all have our phones, we can Google things. You don’t need a person to teach us because we’re all educated, etc., etc. So, there’s so many cultural layers to this that I think are important to understand that I think were ignored in that sermon and in the comments.

JULIE ROYS:  Although, I would guess, an egalitarian would more say, “Well, this could just be culturally determined.” Complementarian—they’re going to really hone in on the part of that verse that says what happened with Adam and Eve, you know, saying, “Well, they’re going back to creation. So, this means this is for all time. This is not a culturally determined thing.” Am I right with that, John?

DR. JOHN DICKSON:  Well, they do. But the more I studied this passage, the clearer it is to me that Paul is just using that Old Testament story from Genesis 2 and 3, as a kind of illustration of what he’s saying. Because his point is that he wants the male teaching elder to be the backstop for the apostolic doctrine in the congregation. Whoever does the preaching, I mean, you know, lots of people can engage in preaching. But the backstop, the person who has teaching authority, who protects the word of the apostles, in the congregation, is the male elder. And then he says, now let’s think of Genesis 2 and 3.

JULIE ROYS:  Okay, hold there. We need to go to break but when we come back, we’re going to continue this conversation—fascinating conversation with John Dickson, also Lina AbuJamra. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We will be right back.

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: More of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: What does the Bible really say about women preachers? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re exploring this issue, which divides an awful lot of Christians. Some say, the Bible strictly prohibits women from doing any preaching at all, while others say that’s a misinterpretation of what the Bible says. What do you think on this issue? I’d love to hear what you have to say. And you can join the live online discussion through social media. To get to us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter, our handle is @ReachJulieRoys. And by the way, if you’re just joining us, and maybe you missed the first half of the program, or you just want to listen back to this, I will be posting full audio of the program later today at my website, JulieRoys.com. But joining me right now in studio is a woman who has preached in a church before Dr. Lina AbuJamra, Lena is a pediatric physician. She’s also an author and the founder of  Living With Power ministries. Also joining me is John Dickson, an apologist and author of Hearing Her Voice, The Case for Women Giving Sermons. And John, right before the break, you were saying, we were talking about 1 Timothy 2:11-13. And then it goes, it talks about Adam and Eve how it was the woman Eve, who was deceived first, not Adam. Many saying, “Well, that is establishing that this is not a culturally conditional kind of verse, that it’s actually for all time.” You’re saying, “Nya, I’m not so sure.” So, explain yourself

DR JOHN DICKSON: Well, I think he’s simply saying that just as the male teaching elder is to be the protector of the old traditions laid down by the apostles, so Adam was the first to receive. He’s going back to the beginning and saying, the first to receive God’s commandments, God’s oral tradition—”do not eat from that tree”—was Adam. And he was the one who heard. He was the one charged with protecting that word. And yet he didn’t step up to responsibly protect that word. And Eve was deceived. I think this has nothing to do with women being more, you know, susceptible to deception. It’s that Adam didn’t do his role of being the protector of that word given. Think that’s all Paul is saying. He’s just taking from the first example of a word given to someone to protect—the first example of that in the Bible—and saying, “Look, this is why I’m telling you now that a male teaching elder is to be the backstop for teaching, regardless of who gives sermons.”

JULIE ROYS: This is fascinating to me. I have to say I’ve studied this issue a ton. I’ve read an entire book on this one passage from the Kroger’s, who Catherine Kroger, Clark Kroger I think it is. And I remember she—this is probably a 20-25-year-old book—where she was arguing that this was a gnostic or pre-gnostic kind of understanding. I don’t know if I ever really bought that. But it seems like we’ve been arguing this passage for a really, really long time. And then yeah, the word authentien, you know, some people are saying, it’s usually translated now to assume authority. Some say it’s to exert, you know, usurp authority. Others say, “No, No, it’s just a good kind of authority.” And, again, disagreement on what that word means because I think it’s the only time that occurs in the New Testament. So, I’m curious, Lina, you stepped up. I have to admit, I’ve actually preached in the church once. But other than that, that was why only time. But you you’ve done it. You’ve preached in a church before and, you know, you must have thought long and hard, “Am I at liberty to do this or not?” I mean, how did you come down?

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Yeah, I felt called by God to teach the Bible back in 2001. And really felt like it was something that if God wants me to do, He’d open opportunity for me to do it. And I’ve sort of walked in obedience to the best of my knowledge to that calling. And it’s funny because even Beth Moore made a comment about that after the John MacArthur tape—”Go Home”—and he ridiculed her, many ridiculed her about talking about that. But really there is a specific sense of calling that happens when God calls somebody to vocational ministry, whether it’s to be a missionary, or even the calling to be a doctor. There was a specific calling on my life to teach the Bible. And then I let it go. And if I sat down with you and told you how often that calling looked like it was going to be destroyed and wasn’t, it is clear that it is a God thing, not a Lina thing. I couldn’t build it. I couldn’t think it. I couldn’t manage it. I can guarantee you that it is a God thing. So, as God opened opportunities for me to teach on Sundays, and by the way, I’ve taught on Sundays in my local church under the authority of my pastor—the current church I’m in—an as I’ve been invited, I’ve asked the discernment of the Spirit. And of course, I have a group of people that are in my life that I love and respect—including my pastor—and I felt a freedom to do so. And I think even thinking through what John, what you’re saying, I think there’s a sort of a realization that happens. We think, we get so caught up with these labels—complementarians and egalitarians—and it’s almost like we’re given two choices. It’s like you’re in a restaurant and you can order two things. And I think people forget that within the complementarian camp, there may be disagreement as to the extent of freedom. And even now, like I’ve watched—there’s a podcast that Jen Wilkin did with her church team talking about how they’ve changed their stance on what they used to believe to what they do now. And so, they still don’t hold a woman to allow her to speak on a Sunday morning church. Their definition of what a woman can do is much broader than what they would have had 10 years ago. So, I think that we forget that. And so, all of a sudden, it’s either you’re a bad guy who did this or a bad girl who preached on Sunday or you’re a good girl. You know, whatever camp you’re in, you sort of deciphered by that camp. And I think that it’s so important to hear even John’s perspective, who’s a conservative teacher to say, “Look, there may be disagreement, even in this ‘camp.’” My burden—and even just last Sunday, I spoke at a church, preached, or whatever you want to call it (I wasn’t there as a pastor, but I was there as a clear exhorter of Scripture—and I think my biggest burden in the United States right now and what grieves me and watching this discussion, take this tangent, is that there are more there is more darkness in the United States now than ever before—spiritual darkness. There are more people growing up in the church who have zero understanding and knowledge of Scripture and zero just plain knowledge. They don’t know the stories of Scripture. And so, the more we can equip and train people, to know the word of God, to trust the Lord, and then to go out and live it and teach it anywhere. I mean, that is a win for the kingdom of God. And so now to say, okay, 50% of the people who are in this church, please stop talking, to me, is a horrific thing. And by the way, coming from the Middle East, and now going to visit repeatedly and watching what women who come from a Muslim background are doing and teaching and advancing the kingdom of God . . .

JULIE ROYS: Oh, wow.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: . . . is mind boggling.

JULIE ROYS: In Iran, I know women are really the ones that are at the forefront of this explosive church growth movement. A lot of it just evangelism one-on-one. But yeah, it’s amazing, you’re right, exactly. John, I know you need to go after this break. And we only have like a minute or so left but speak to people like Lina—women who are listening who feel, “Man, I feel a passion to preach.”

DR JOHN DICKSON: Well, I think, study the Scripture. Do it humbly and prayerfully, just as a bloke should. And then find a pastor, you know, who’s open to this. And find the opportunity. Because I hate the way that women get very few opportunities. And so, when they get up to speak, it’s not as good as a man who’s had 50 opportunities. And then people use that as a reason why she shouldn’t give another sermon because that wasn’t as good as the bloke. I think that’s ridiculous. We need to jump in, practice, get the opportunities for . . . you know, at my own church, conservative churches in Sydney, we had two regular female pitches, as well as the male preachers. And they do it a lot. And they are brilliant. And the Church loves it.

JULIE ROYS: And they’re not deceived. I appreciate that. John. Thank you. And thank you for that word. I mean, it’s so true. I mean, women don’t get that much opportunity. When you do get an opportunity., you feel like, “Oh man, this is my one chance and I better not blow it.” It’s pretty tough. Again, John Dickson, thank you so much for joining us. Lina AbuJamra with me. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We’ll be right back after a short break.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well, should women be preachers? Or is preaching by women something that’s forbidden in the New Testament? Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And as we’ve been discussing, this issue of women preaching has become a national discussion because of a back and forth between popular Bible teacher Beth Moore and prominent pastor John MacArthur. And we’ve been discussing, you know, “What does the Bible really say about this issue?” But what I want to do in this last segment, and again, I know there’s some people listening and they’re probably like, “Wow, she didn’t have anybody on who disagreed with women preaching.” And I do that a lot. I will have people on and we’ll debate it. And I just felt like with this issue, that’s just not what I wanted to do. I think a lot of people are very familiar with the hardline complementarian position. If you want to read something on that, I’m going to post it to my Facebook page. So, if you go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys, Kevin DeYoung wrote an article actually pushing back on John Dickson’s position. And I think it’s important for us to engage with both sides, read both sides, engage with them, see what you think, and what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. And I don’t think it’s up to us to decide. I mean, I think there is one truth and we’re trying to discover it. But, you know, sometimes we do it in a broken way. But Lina, what I really connected with, with you, was the sense of calling you know, that you felt you felt called to preach. And a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I actually have preachers in my background who were women—men and women. But my grandmother on—my mother’s mother—actually was an evangelist in the poor areas of Appalachia. And she met my grandfather, because my grandfather’s sister, my Aunt Oneida—when she was 17—she came home, and she announced to her father that she had become a Christian. And my great grandfather, who was a drunk but also a physician, but he got furious and kicked her out of the house. And my grandpa—who was abused by my great grandpa—my grandpa, when he got old enough, went out with his sister and was led to the Lord by his Aunt Oneida. My Aunt Oneida became an evangelist in the poor areas of Appalachia as well, became a minister with the Wesleyan denomination—became actually a bishop in the church. My grandmother was a Dean of Women at Houghton College, which is Wesleyan tradition, they were allowed to do that. My mother schooled me in being egalitarian. Now I was egalitarian for a big part of my life until I got to the—you know, actually it was the LGBT issue that made me really press into this. And I began to say, “Well, wait a second. I’m seeing LGBT and they’re basically saying there’s absolutely no functional difference between men and women, and that we have these sex roles that are completely interchangeable.” And I had a problem with that. I said, then, you know, “That’s not quite right. We’re missing something there. Clearly in Scripture, God created male and female different.” And it started me on a journey that, you know, I document in my book Redeeming the Feminine Soul. And I come at it a little bit differently than even John does. Although I—when you look at just that 1 Timothy passage, I mean, that’s a good argument. I’m wrestling with it. But I think more just from that big picture, “Why did God create male and female? Why are we different? Why are we here?” But I remember feeling—very passionately—called to pastor. That’s what I wanted to do. Right? And when I was in my young 20s, I wanted so badly to, you know, lead people to the Lord. I mean, that’s all I wanted to do. You know, I’d come out of a real struggle with my own faith and had radically, just profoundly met the Lord. And to me, I didn’t want to do anything but church work. I didn’t want to do anything but reach people for Jesus. That’s all I wanted to do. And it’s like, “What do you do?” And I remember I had gotten into Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Northwestern University in journalism. And I talked to my mother who had gone to seminary and she said, “Julie, you’re going to go crazy in seminary. They’ll spend an entire class period, arguing about one Greek word. And you’ll be ready to just like, you know, lose yourself.” I mean, “You’ll go insane.” Because she knows my temperament. I’m an activist, you know, at heart. And that combined with I was like, “Nobody’s gonna ever hire me anyway—I’m a woman, what can I do?” And so, I ended up going into journalism as a plan B. I look now at how God has taken me. I mean, it was so funny to me, though, I mean, I was in ministry—youth ministry—for a long time. And I wasn’t allowed to preach in the church at all. But then I got on radio, and I’m on Moody Radio of all places, and now I’m speaking to, you know, thousands and thousands of people, which I’ve had opportunity to do through radio, and through writing, you know, influencing people. But again, it was like this thing on Sunday morning, “you couldn’t do that.” And I’ve wrestled with it. And I know you’ve wrestled with it to Lina. And it’s a very difficult thing. I have so much . . . I have a very good friend—she’s a pastor. And I have to say, at this point in my life, with my study, I don’t think women should be pastors. But am I going to tell her she’s not doing the work of the Lord? And she’s out there—I love her. And she’s so passionate for the Lord. She led all these people to the Lord. I just wrestle with it. I just really do.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Yeah, no question about it. And honestly, I mean, even going back to calling, though. I think for me it’s dangerous to say, or I think a difference between—in this discussion, between—even when you were talking about not having somebody who is egalitarian, in that I really felt called to preach—or to teach the Bible. I didn’t feel called to preach on Sundays. 

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, right. 

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Do you see? And so, I really believed that God was going to open doors somewhere, anywhere. I just don’t think God was going to be constrained. And my job was to get equipped. And I think that’s huge. Because—you go back to what John was saying—I see a lot of women who stopped before they got equipped, because they’re so caught up in the debate. I was oblivious to any debate when I started serving the Lord and teaching. And I taught in a small Sunday school class and then later in a bigger Sunday school class. And I was told by a Pastor—who was very respected at the time and one of the best communicators of all time—that you need at least 500 teachings or messages before you become good at something. And I took that to heart. And so, I said yes to anything, any invitation that anybody asked me. So that I feel like I was able to develop the giftedness that God had given me. And it was clear that I had been given that giftedness. And so, I think for me, I find a lot of freedom to speak and teach in any context. And then to hold—like you could get sort of laughing about even—”Well at what age is it okay? So, you could teach up until 18. And then after high school, like something happens at 18 and a day.” 

JULIE ROYS: That’s what happened with us and youth ministry.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Or, “You could teach on Wednesday nights, but on a Sunday . . .” Or you’re at a conference where like, I would watch these women who are very conservative and then they would be teaching on the radio to men and women, but it wasn’t Sunday morning. And even now—that argument—I just don’t think holds. Like if you’re going to teach men on the radio versus teaching them on Sunday morning, I don’t think there’s a big difference. The pastor role, the elder role, I believe—it’s hard for me to look at scripture and really come to a conclusion that there isn’t the pattern and a difference between the way that God created men and women. And I think I believe in headship in the home, not just in the church. And so, it is a complicated issue. It is why we’ve been arguing about it for decades. 

JULIE ROYS: Well, and this is where and I agree with you. I do. That’s where I came down. And I realized, for me, one of the big things when I looked at, “Why did God create male and female?” We are to image, one, the Godhead. And I’d never heard that before. But I remember reading that and going to actually professors at Trinity. You read in Genesis, you know, “God created them, male and female in His image, He created them male and female.” 

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Amen.

JULIE ROYS: So, there’s something about male and female. Then you go forward to Genesis 2:24. And you see that the two become one flesh. You know, and then that same one flesh union is referenced in Ephesians when God talks about, you know, this mystery of Christ and the church. And so, we have this, “marriage is meant to one show how the Godhead—how the Trinity—how these multiple persons become one. I’d never heard that before. But it’s good Trinitarian theology. And when you think of that—when you when you think of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when They exist together, you don’t get the sense—like when we’re talking about this—like when I heard John MacArthur—and again, a phenomenal teacher in so many ways—but I heard that. And as a woman, I don’t know how women don’t react to that. 

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Yeah. 

JULIE ROYS: It felt demeaning. It felt so diminishing of me as a person. 

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Right. 

JULIE ROYS: And so, I hear that, and I have a very difficult time. But you don’t sense in the Godhead—you see the Father, you know, honoring the Son, the Son glorifying the Father. You see this mutuality. And then in the in the New Testament we see that marriage, male and female, is supposed to reflect the Godhead.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Yeah 

JULIE ROYS: And not just the Godhead but Christ’s relationship with the Church.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Right.

JULIE ROYS: And you see Christ—what does He do? He gives Himself up for the Bride, right? And we receive Him. But there’s a difference. There is a difference. You know God, to me, is always masculine in relation to us—because He always initiates, we always receive. I don’t think Christ could be the Bride as much as he could be the Bridegroom . . .

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Right.

JULIE ROYSs: . . . because the bridegroom initiates. And we see that even in our bodies. That’s how we’re built. There’s a difference between male and female. So, I think that’s so important. And I love that you’re not undermining that. And I don’t undermine it. In fact, I think it’s so important. And today, that confusion, you know, it’s so sad.

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: Well and there’s a point where it can become such a focus for some women, where it’s like a deal breaker. Like, “If I don’t get to teach on Sunday, then I’m out.” And I think that’s always a good test. Like honestly, if somebody came to me said, “Hey, you can’t teach anymore.” Let’s just say the Lord really spoke to my heart, my ministry would not stop!” I’m not serving the Lord in order to teach on Sunday. Again, you go back to like, I’m happy holding a door for people to walk [in.] 

I don’t care what I do in the kingdom of God. I really don’t. And the older I get, the more convinced I am of that. And I think if we have men and women who ultimately, that is their ultimate thing, is, “God, I’m going to serve You no matter what You want. And I don’t care if it’s the head Pastor of a church or the head Usher, or the guy who cooks.” Stephen was called the clean house, you know, and to take care of the widows. And yet he was the first one to give his life for the gospel. So I think you see this willingness for men and women to do whatever it is that God has called them to do, no matter what public opinion that the way of the day. And then just trust God to open those opportunities. And do the best you can to honor the Lord and honor his word and honor the structure you’re in. Maybe you are in a conservative church right now, or maybe you’re not. And so sort of be willing—and I will use the word, “submissive”—to please God has you in. And if it’s a place where you can’t bear it anymore, find somewhere else. Do what you need to do to flourish in the kingdom. But my two cents worth as you know, we come to the end of this program is don’t let it ruin your faith. And I’ve watched so many women, now in their 20s and 30s, who want to teach God’s word, whose faith is being hit because of this argument. And if you could just take your eyes off of the debate and just focus on growing in your giftedness and your relationship with the Lord and hearing the voice of God in your life through His Word, I think how much more freedom you’d experience.

JULIE ROYS: Well, and it’s so important that we worship Christ and Him alone. And we recognize I mean, if anything, you know, the past several years have shown me, “Yeah, we’re broken.” And the church, we don’t reflect everything perfectly. And I appreciate that admonition. And I just, you know, we don’t have much time, but I know it’s—we’re coming back to this. I do think that what we’re reacting to, often in the church, isn’t so much the theology again. But there is I think, a latent misogyny. And some of what John MacArthur said about kindness and compassion, these being weaknesses, and something that might lead women to deception. 

I mean, was Jesus not? It’s kindness and compassion. I mean, are these not fruits of the Spirit? Is this not something that that Jesus exhibited? And I just fear—and I would just say to men listening—think about your theology. But also think about your biases. Or, “What’s happening in there?” Or, “Do you honor women?”

LINA ABUJAMRA MD: And the concept, like I feel more scared to show up to heaven—like say I had a gift to teach and I never did anything with it. I always felt compelled by the passage of scripture that says, “Take your talent and use it.”  Like, what am I going to do? Bury it? And that’s the person that, when the Lord goes through the parable of the talents, use what God has given you. And I think that was always something that I think was so important to me as I was developing in the gift of teaching. And I think still that there’s so much distraction happening in the Evangelical Church right now.  I mean, at the end of the day, if we believe in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, I mean, Beth Moore might be John MacArthur’s neighbor in heaven.

JULIE ROYS: Love that. You know what, we’re all going to live together in heaven. So, we better learn to get along. Hey, men, bless the women. Women, bless the men. Let’s not have a battle between us. Let’s have love. Let’s have affirmation. Let’s show the world what the church is supposed to look like. Thanks again. Lina AbuJamra. I’m Julie Roys. You’ve been listening to The Roys Report. Have a great weekend and God bless.

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RESTORE Chicago Conference Highlights https://julieroys.com/podcast/restore-chicago-conference-highlights/ Sat, 16 Nov 2019 19:48:56 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6243 RESTORE Chicago Conference Highlights Read More »

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After experiencing hurt and disappointment with the church and church leaders, how do you move on? This week on The Roys Report, on a special program, we’ll hear highlights from the Restore Chicago conference. You’ll hear Nancy Beach and Wade Mullen describe not only how to survive but thrive after experiencing spiritual abuse. And I’ll tell why I believe we’re in the midst of a move of God to purify the church.   Join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life, and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

Segment 1: 

ANNOUNCER:  In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS:  After experiencing hurt and disappointment in the church, how can you move on? Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And two weeks ago, hundreds of people gathered at Judson University to wrestle with that question. They came for a unique event called Restore Chicago—a one day conference aimed at restoring faith in God in the church. And today you’re going to hear highlights from that conference by Nancy Beach, former teaching pastor Willow Creek, Wade Mullen, an expert in spiritual abuse, Lena AbuJamra, founder of Living with Power ministries and also myself. Together with Judson, I put together Restore Chicago because I’ve witnessed firsthand the pain and the devastation left by two major church scandals in the Chicago area. One involved Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, which remains one of the largest churches in America. The other involved James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, another very large multi-site megachurch. So thousands of people in the Chicago area have witnessed the men, who were their spiritual mentors, fall in pretty spectacular fashion. And they are profoundly hurt. And it’s not just in Chicago, people came to the conference from all over the country saying they’ve experienced similar abuses in the church. But so many left the conference encouraged and so that’s why I think you’ll find this next hour extremely helpful. First, we’re going hear from Nancy Beach. Nancy was a top executive at Willow Creek for more than 20 years. But she’s also one of the women who exposed abuse by Bill Hybels. Yet Nancy has not allowed this experience to destroy her faith. Instead, she said the experience has actually made her stronger. Here’s Nancy Beach speaking at Restore Chicago.

NANCY BEACH:  A study that goes back a few years now by George Barna, reveals that nearly 4 out of 10, unchurched people, avoid church life because of a bad past experience in church. And in the past two years, here in Chicagoland, two of our largest and most influential churches have been rocked by pastoral failure and division. 

Now, although church pain is sadly all too common, many of us find ourselves surprised when it happens. I mean, I believe that when we feel betrayed or wounded by church people, it’s worse than similar offenses in the marketplace because we expect so much more from those who follow Christ. But the very next question is, “How will we respond to church pain?” Now many of you are aware of at least some of my story. Julie made reference to it. When I added my voice to the voice of several other women calling out abuse from our pastor, my own experience was a very small one. It had taken place many years ago and I had not shared it because it had not happened again. And I naively thought I was the only one and this had never happened to any other women like it had happened to me. But when I heard stories of other women, I sensed a calling that I need to be an advocate for those who had much more serious stories to tell. And so, I chose to call out the patterns of abuse of power, and deceit, along with the grooming and harassment of women over several decades. 

This was devastating, first of all, for me to uncover and learn about, which happened about five years ago. And then to even believe. You see, I knew my pastor since I was 15 years old. He was my youth pastor and he had a profound influence on me and countless other people around the world. And when I became aware of allegations and stories of his sinful behavior, like most people, I didn’t want to believe it, let alone go public with it. I felt deeply wounded by how church leaders have responded to the information that they were given—both back then, all the way back in 2014 when we first went to the elders, even to today with a new group of elders. It’s been several years for me stewarding this information and trying to be an advocate for truth and repentance, while also forging my own path of healing. And I admit I have not done it perfectly. One of my lowest moments happened after the resignations of, first, the pastor, then the entire elder board and the executive pastor. And one Sunday morning, I went out in my bathrobe to get the Chicago Tribune at the end of my driveway, brought it up into the house, opened it up, and it was a front-page story. And I looked at it and thought, “How in the world did we get here? How did we get here?” I never would have wanted the church I helped to start be broken in this way. And I knew that I had played a part in bringing the truth to light. 

In the month after the story broke, I had not foreseen how difficult it would be to read certain comments on social media—to be labeled and mistrusted by people I know as well as many strangers—to have my motives and character called into

question—to be called a liar and a colluder. 

Now, each of us has massively important decisions to make when we experience church pain. I want to share with you things that have helped me to guard my heart and they occur not in a linear fashion but mostly simultaneously, back and forth. And they occur on some days better than others. But all along the way, especially when you first experienced church pain, it’s important to assess the damages. I had to identify the pain I was feeling and name it specifically. Sally Scammell, in her book Recovery From Church Hurt states this, “Some of the worst actions done in God’s name involves sexual, emotional, physical or spiritual abuse. If you have been on the receiving end of that abuse, I come to you on behalf of the church to say that what happened to you is wrong, very wrong. You did not deserve it. It was not God and it never will be. God never operates in abuse. Those actions are not the heartbeat of Jesus or of His true followers.” 

I don’t know what your story is today. Some of you have experienced the abuse of power. Others were affected by deceit in the church or greed and money mismanagement. Some of us have been sexually or physically abused. Or maybe your experience was one of being excluded or disinvited in some way. Whatever your experience was, don’t sugarcoat it, or deny it, or excuse what happened. Don’t minimize it. You need to name it and assess the damages. It may be helpful for you to write down your story so you can see it in words. Many of us have benefited from seeing a counselor—someone who can help us work through our pain and our hurt. You know, we’re all wired differently when it comes to how we handle our feelings. My big temptation is to try to move on too quickly because I don’t want to feel it all. Many of us seek escape, numbing out with television, sleeping or eating too much, or even substance or alcohol abuse or pornography.

But to guard my heart, I cannot stay stuck with just assessing the damages. I must name it. I must assess them. But then what I will describe next is exceedingly difficult. You and I need to own what we need to own. All along the way, we have to look at our part and ask, “What did I personally contribute to this situation?” Now here’s what rises up in me as soon as I asked that question. And may be rising up in you right now, in capital letters—defensiveness, and also self-righteousness and pride. Because, you know what, I think we’re afraid that if I own whatever I need to own, it will minimize what other people did. It will somehow gloss over their sin. I want to see this situation as the good guys and the bad guys. I have way too much sinful energy bolstering my perspective as the right one and the truthful one. And I want to nurse my resentment and imagine all kinds of horrific things happening to those who offended me. Am I alone in these sins? Am I the only one? Well, here’s what I know to be true. My heart cannot be healthy if it is filled with bitterness and poison and a desire for revenge. That path leads to a truly hardened heart. Let’s look at Hebrews 12 for just a moment—”Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” 

I want to be very clear that we are not letting go of advocacy, for transparency, for justice, for deep and full repentance. We must continue to call church leaders, especially elders and senior staff, to name, specifically, the wrongs that have been committed, to publicly apologize and to make things right with the victims. But I’m seeing that this is wisdom every day from the Holy Spirit—to discern when it is time to speak and when it’s time to be silent. When should we fight the battle for justice? When should we lay down our swords and let God be the judge? 

But perhaps my biggest caution to all of us, regarding the process of healing and guarding your heart, is to lean into community. What you’re doing today. Even if you came alone, you’re seeking community. We can’t attempt to fight these battles on our own. You know, when we’re hurt in a church, we are very tempted—I know I was—to isolate ourselves, to give up on community all together. In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, he says that it was the relationships in prison on Robben Island that got him through 30 years of suffering. While none of us have endured anything close to the pain of his experience, we can learn from his wisdom. Mandela wrote, “The authority’s greatest mistake was to keep us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other. Whatever we knew, whatever we learned, we shared. And by sharing, we multiplied whatever courage we had individually. The stronger ones raised up the weaker ones and both became stronger in the process.”

JULIE ROYS:  Well, what a powerful and redemptive message. Again, that was Nancy Beach, a former teaching pastor at Willow Creek, speaking at the Restore Chicago conference. I’m Julie Roys. And you’re listening to a special edition of The Roys Report featuring highlights from the Restore conference. Coming up next you’ll hear a powerful message from Wade Mullen. He’s an expert on spiritual abuse. He’ll not only explain what spiritual abuse is, but give important advice on how to recover from it. We’ll be right back.

Segment 2:

ANNOUNCER: Now we return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: There’s a lot of talk today about spiritual abuse, but what is it and how can you tell if you’re in a spiritually abusive system? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And you’re listening to a special edition of this program featuring highlights from the Restore Chicago conference. This was a one-day conference at Judson University on November 2, and it was aimed at restoring faith in God and the church after devastating church scandals here in Chicago. But as I mentioned, in the first segment, people came to the conference from across the country. In fact, I got an email recently from a group of people who came from Nashville and said they’d experienced spiritual abuse there. I met a woman from Ohio who said she had been ostracized from a mega church there for confronting sin in leadership. I also talked to someone from Oregon who said the conference was like nothing he’s ever experienced before. He said he’d recently come out of a wounding situation at a church where there had been wrongdoing at the top and he said he sat down lunch table midway through the conference and began sharing his experience with total strangers. And he said the wild thing is they immediately got it. Why? Because they’ve experienced the same thing, maybe with different players and different circumstances, but the dynamics and the effects were the same. And they’ve gathered around that brother, they laid hands on him and they prayed for him. And I wish I could transmit those prayer times over the radio waves. I can’t obviously, but they were powerful. And I hope if you’re listening and this broadcast, maybe triggers emotions or open wounds that need attention, I hope you’ll find a trusted brother or sister to pray for you. To me, that is where the healing can really go deep. And the Holy Spirit can minister to those broken and wounded areas. Well, in just a minute, we’re going to hear an eye-opening message from Dr. Wade Marlin. Wade is the head of the daemon program at Capital Seminary in graduate school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But he’s also an expert in spiritual abuse and he did his doctoral thesis on tactics Evangelical organizations use when they’re mired in scandal. And I’d encourage you, if you’re able, just grab something to take notes with because listening to Wade is like drinking from a firehose, there’s just so much valuable information. But before I air Wade’s message, I want to mention that the full video of each of the messages you’re hearing the excerpts of will be posted to my website, JulieRoys.com. Nancy Beach’s message, which you just heard in segment one, is posted to my website now. I’ll also be posting Wade’s full talk to my website early next week along with other messages that you’re going to hear today. So again, just go to JulieRoys.com. And if you sign up for updates, you’ll get an email in your inbox as soon as those videos are posted. But now, here’s Wade Mullen, someone who experienced spiritual abuse when he was on staff at a church and he had the unenviable job of confronting the entire elder board publicly. fortunately for him and the church, that led to repentance and restoration. But as you listen to what he has to say, please understand this message comes not just from a researcher and an academic, but from a brother who survived the very thing he describes. Here’s Wade.

WADE MULLEN: Over the past few years, I’ve looked at more than 500 cases of church leaders who have been publicly exposed for all various types of abuse, most commonly the sexual abuse of children. And I will say, I believe it continues to worsen. There’s a lot of good that is being done, but far from being mitigated. There is a problem in our churches. I also scoured the Bible for examples of these tactics and discovered their consistent use by evil itself. So, the pattern I observed among organizations covering up their wrongs were the same patterns I observed in the abusers in my own life. And I now believe that they are the same patterns you will find wherever evil manifests itself around the world and throughout history. So, my goal this morning is to help you to begin to see that pattern. An important step to recovery is acquiring an ability to make sense of what happened to you. It’s to begin to chart a course between the false reality constructed by the abuser and what is actually true. To be able to speak what has been unspeakable, to express what has been inexpressible, to move from confusion, to clarity, from captivity to freedom. And I believe the truth, truth has the power to help us do that. Some of what I share might be difficult for some of you to hear. As I described, the specific ways in which individuals and organizations control information, control people and may bring to mind some of what you’ve have experienced yourself or are currently experiencing. But what is spiritual abuse? I find an appropriate description in the words of God, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, in chapter five of his book. Listen to these words. “Wicked men live among my people. They watch like founders, like hunters, lying in wait. They set a trap to catch men, like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit. Therefore, they have grown powerful and rich, they have become fat and sleek. They have excelled and evil matters. They have not taken up cases, such as the case of the fatherless, so they might prosper. And they have not defended the rights of the needy.” 

Notice the emphasis on deception, on dishonesty, on dealing falsely, “houses full of deceit.” And we will witness how churches can be full of deceit of all places. And that deceit reveals itself in language. The late Russian poet and essays Joseph Brodsky, who was expelled from the Soviet Union said this, “You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.” Notice to in that passage from Jeremiah, you may have heard the image of a trap. Hunters lying in a wait. It’s a common description of abuse used throughout the Bible. It’s fitting to think of the spiritual abuser as a thief—someone looking to deceptively gain possession of something they do not have. And that’s what I believe sets most people apart from the person that I’m describing as an abuser, spiritual abuser. Not everyone is out to trap you. But this is what the spiritual abuser does. The thief is setting a trap. They’ve objectified and targeted people. Now how does this happen? If evil begins in the language, evil language usually begins with charm, with what is called ingratiation. Communication designed to increase your approval of the other person, so you will be more likely to comply with their demands. It’s the most frequently use tactic I’ve observed in abusive communities. And there are four charms I want to make you aware of flattery, gifts, helps, and alliances. 

Flattery is a tool of deception because it asks you to look at actual, fabricated, or exaggerated positive characteristics, while keeping you from seeing the true desires behind the person bringing attention to those favorable qualities. It wants you to see something pleasant about yourself, but not ultimately for your encouragement and your affirmation. But to make you feel better about the person who is improving your sense of self. For example, one of the common forms of flattery is to tell others how exemplary they are. This is called exemplification. And it’s meant to make you feel special, perhaps in ways that nobody else has, but comparing you with others in a way that declares you to be better than the rest. But for the person who’s deceiving you, they really don’t care about that. So, they might say, “God has anointed you.” Very powerful words when they’re misused. Or “There isn’t a group of people I’d rather be leading,” said by one pastor who was forced to resign for his mistreatment of those people. Now it can be hard to discern the difference between flattery and sincere encouragement. A major clue that a person is using flattery to coerce, is how they respond when that flattery isn’t accepted or returned. Because remember, they’re setting a trap. So, if you don’t walk into that trap, they might become upset. And abusive spiritual leader often expects praise in return, and when it is returned, and it usually is, a cycle of flattery is created. And as this wheel of praise spins faster and faster—and this is something that I’m observing in our celebrity Christian culture—as this wheel of worship spins faster and faster, flattery becomes embedded in the culture. And as a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to interject a sincere expression of truth. So, the shunning of anything other than praise, anything other than flattery creates blind spots for the community. As people are hesitant to speak criticism and flatters begin to see the criticism as negative, disruptive and disrespectful. So, the eve-breeding flattery crowds out dissension and dissension in any community on any team and any board is an important and necessary safeguard against abuse. Because without that, the abusive leader will renegotiate boundaries happens all the time. They use this charm, they use their words, to convince people to give them what they want. And one of the things that they want is to be able to do whatever it is they’d like. And so over time, they can even convince group of men around a table to renegotiate boundaries that had been previously established, all in the name of trust. All in the name of what is good for the organization. And what the that community, that board, needs to know is that the trust that matters isn’t the trust that they’re forming with that leader, but the trust that they are forming with the people that they are there to help protect. So flattery is very powerful.

JULIE ROYS: Well, again, that’s just an excerpt from a message by Dr. Wade Mullen at the Restore Chicago conference. I’ll be posting the video of Wade’s complete message to my website early next week. So just visit JulieRoys.com. But coming up next is what was hands-down the most emotionally gripping part of the conference. It’s a message by Lina AbuJamra founder of Living With Power ministries. You’re not gonna want to miss this next segment. Stay tuned. We’ll be right back. 

Segment 3:

ANNOUNCER: More of The Roys Report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: When you’ve been the victim of abuse in your church, how do you heal? And how do you forgive a spiritual leader you’ve loved and respected and served when that leader betrays your trust. Welcome back to Rhe Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And you’re listening to a special episode featuring highlights from the Restore Chicago conference two weeks ago. Restore was a unique conference gathering people who have been hurt and disappointed by the church but who wants to heal. And parts of the conference were just raw and vulnerable in the message you’re about to hear by Lena AbuJamra is gut wrenching. But this is a message I wish every Christian leader would hear because it’s a warning to those who serve. When you’re in leadership, you’ve been given an awesome responsibility to love and nurture those who lead. And if you fail to love well, or even worse, harm those who are following you, the effect can be absolutely devastating. And you’ll hear that in this message. And I think for some of you, you may relate to what Lina is talking about. For years, Lina served as the women’s director at Harvest Bible Chapel, but she left in 2013. That was after she recognized it or pastor James MacDonald was abusing his sheep. Here’s Lina AbuJamra, founder of Living With Power ministries.

LINA ABUJAMRA: It’s been six years. Six years since I first walked out of a church that I loved. Six years since I was finally able to admit that something was terribly wrong at that church. Six years since the pastor who—was my hero at the time—stopped being my hero and my world turned upside down. Six years since I last trusted a church leader. Six years since I’ve been able to tithe without wondering exactly how my hard-earned money would be spent. Six years since I felt safe among God’s people. Six years since I’ve wondered whether God loves them more than he loves me. When it comes to our culture, if there’s one crime that seems more horrifying than any other, it’s the hit and run. Most people would agree that there are few more horrifying things than the driver who hits an innocent pedestrian that just takes off. The very idea that any man or woman could run over someone then just drive away without an ounce of regret or shame or responsibility seems reprehensible even to the most godless in our society. Yet that is exactly what we are here to mourn today. It’s the shepherd who knowingly drove over a sheep, leaving that sheep wounded by the side of the road, trying to make sense of what just happened trying to pick up the pieces while that Shepherd drove away to the comfort of the rest of his life. Even more horrifying is the notion that that driver might be blaming the victim for not paying attention while crossing the road or of getting in the way of the moving vehicle, or of even over inflating the amount of pain that he or she is in, while all the while the driver complaining that he might be the one suffering in that laughable scenario. It seems ridiculous. It seems so soul-less. Yet it’s part of this messy story that brought us here today. 

I had an epiphany last week while I walk the beach trying to figure out a way of getting out of being here today. 

(Audience laughter) 

I realized that I’m still angry. I’m angry at a system that seems to continue to allow someone to get away with running over someone else. I’m angry at the driver who seems to have gotten away with it. I’m angry at the passengers in the driver’s car, who have quietly moved on in their lives, putting the past behind them without a shred of shame. I’m angry at God even for allowing it all to happen. And I’m angry at myself for being angry, for not being able to just move on once and for all. I’ve heard a lot said about unforgiveness that it’s like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. But mostly that the only way to freedom is through forgiveness. Although recently I thought I had forgiven. But like any person who has suffered a latent infection, the moment that flare up happens, the remedy must be taken again and again.

So today, the reason I’m here is for the remedy. Today I’m here to forgive again. They say in order for restitution to occur, there must be both repentance and forgiveness. While I cannot control the repentance part, I know that I want to forgive more fully and more completely, I want to be free. So today, I’m here to forgive again. 

To my former pastor, I want you to know wherever you are that I forgive you. 

I forgive you for taking off after running over the sheep without a thought to our wounds. 

I forgive you for caring more about your future comfort than our future health. 

I forgive you for still seeing yourself as a victim in the story. 

I forgive you for stealing our money and for living a lifestyle that you taught us would never satisfy. 

I forgive you for caring more about the size of your church than the hearts of your people. 

I forgive you for creating a culture that made us feel ashamed for speaking the truth. 

I forgive you for using God’s word to defend your positions instead of using it to speak the truth. 

I forgive you for creating a world where I no longer wants to go to church. 

I forgive you for making me resent anyone in Christian Leadership because of your example. 

I’m also here today to forgive those leaders who supported you and are now hiding God knows where. 

I forgive those who saw you hit and run and chose to transplant themselves to other sunny locations without missing a beat in their life. 

I forgive you for making us feel ashamed for speaking the truth. 

I forgive you for creating a culture of distrust and hate among God’s people, a culture that divides us versus them, instead of seeing the whole as one family ultimately living together under Christ rule in eternity. 

I’m also here today to forgive those who still question why we speak up. 

I’m here to forgive those who still want the shame us into quietly moving on when our hearts are still too wounded to go on. 

I’m here to forgive those of you who have remained in systems of abuse and refuse to see where change is needed. You still feel like this is about bashing a system that we left willfully. Yet you still make us feel uncomfortable every time we run into you at a restaurant or god forbid a gathering of believers. 

I forgive those of you who still think we have a hidden agenda. We do not. We just hurt. Like amputated limbs, we are still adjusting to life outside of your little body of believers. 

And as I forgive and experience the freedom that comes from forgiveness, it is not lost on me that I too, must repent. 

I repent of my anger against you, Pastor, and my desire to see you hurt. 

I repent for questioning God’s goodness and bringing justice in his time and in his way. 

I repent for wallowing in my pain and my self-pity. 

I repent for lumping the whole with the part for doubting all leaders when in fact only a few have done the hurting. 

I repent for holding brothers and sisters at arm’s length because of my past experiences. I repent for sometimes hating the church and sometimes hating believers. 

I repent for hiding. 

I repent for doubting God’s love. 

I repent for my shame—I have done nothing to be ashamed of, so I repent. 

I repent that we have spent so much time fighting with other Christians while the whole world around us is burning. 

I repent for allowing evil to steal my joy. 

I repent for making much of man, for loving material goods too much, for longing for the same so-called material riches and fame that I resented and despise in the broken leaders of our churches. 

I repent of my desire to find peace and escape instead of standing up for the truth and fighting to see wrong righted. 

I repent for much today, but I also rejoice. 

I rejoice that I am loved. Yes, I am loved, not because a man had said it to me as a mantra at the end of a church service. 

But because by God’s grace and despite all of this pain, the King of Kings, Jesus has spoken these words over us forever. 

I am loved. You are loved. We are loved.  And He has forgiven us. Indeed in this, we rejoice.

JULIE ROYS: Well, that’s Lina AbuJamra and the powerful message she delivered at the Restore Chicago conference. I’m Julie Roys. And you’re listening to The Roys Report. And I can tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye at the conference when Lina was done with that message. And by the way, if you want to listen to that, again, a video of that message is posted to my website, JulieRoys.com Well, coming up next, you’ll hear the message that I gave at restore. It’s entitled an Unmistakable Move of God. And that’s because I don’t think these recent church scandals coming to light is some accident. And I think when you hear the amazing account of how many of these stories came to light, you’ll agree. God is purifying his church. And in this there is great hope. We’ll be right back.

Segment 4:

ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.

JULIE ROYS: Well, the scandals that have rocked the church the past couple of years are heartbreaking. But in the midst of these scandals is hope. Because I don’t think these scandals are coming to light by accident, I truly believe God is moving to purify his church. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And you’re listening to a special edition of the Roys report featuring highlights from the Restore Chicago conference. And by the way, if you’d like to see video of the complete messages I’m featuring today, just go to my website, JulieRoys.com. Lina’s message, which you just heard, is already posted to my website. And my message, which we’re airing in this segment, will be posted early next week. So, you can either check back in my website in a few days. Or if you sign up for updates at my website, you’ll get an email into your inbox as soon as the video is posted. Again, just go to JulieRoys.com. Well, again, as I mentioned, I don’t think what’s being exposed in the church is accidental. I do believe God is purifying his church. And though what’s happening is definitely painful, if it leads us to repentance, it will be for our benefit. So, here’s a portion of the message I gave at Restore. It’s called “An Unmistakable Move of God.”

JULIE ROYS:  I will never forget Wednesday, December 12 2018, I was in the midst of a lawsuit with harvest Bible chapel. 

At about 8:30 at night, I went over to meet with a former member of Harvest. And he had called me and said that he may have some information for me, and would I come and talk to him and his wife and his mentor. So, I went over there around 8:30. We talked for about an hour. And at the end of the time, they asked if they could pray for me. And when you’re in the midst of a lawsuit, and your piece that you’ve been working on for eight months is about to publish, and if someone asks if you want prayer, you say, “Yeah, I would appreciate that. Thank you.” And so, they prayed with me. And then we got up and just were kind of talking and I was talking to him to see if he actually did have some information that might be helpful. And then he just happened to mention, “I have some audio that might be of interest to you.” [I responded with,] “Really?” And then he proceeded to tell me and how he had gotten this audio of James on a hot mic. And he said, “It’s pretty toxic, though,” like, almost like he was afraid to give it to me because it might hurt my feelings. I was like, “No, that’s okay. You don’t have to worry about that. I’d actually be really interested in hearing that.” And he kind of went back and forth, because he’s thinking, “Well, Julie just got sued. And if I give her this audio, I could just get sued. And I mean, what’s going to happen to me if I do this?” And he was going back and forth, and back and forth, and finally this was like, “Forget it. Fine. I’ll just give it to you.” And so, he said, “Follow me down to my car.” And so I did. I followed him down to his car, he opened it up, opened the glove compartment, pulled out this CD and gave it to me. And I got in my car and I put the CD in because my car was that old—it’s since died actually—and I’m driving home. And I’m hearing James MacDonald joke about putting child porn on the computer of Harold Smith, the CEO of Christianity Today. I’m hearing him joke about imaginary headlines about me and Mark Galli, the editor of CT having an affair. I’m hearing him mocking me “riding around on a tricycle with a midget on my back.” And I’m thinking, “Oh my word!” I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because I’d heard from probably over two dozen sources that this is who James MacDonald really was. But I knew convincing the larger world that this is who James MacDonald really was, was going to be a really tall order. And here I had his voice right on a recording saying these things. Now a lot of you know, this is the audio that man Mancow Muller ended up playing on his morning show. And I can’t tell you how it got from me to Mancow. I can tell you I didn’t give it to him. So, it played in the morning. That night, the Elders met. And James MacDonald—was the last straw—and he was fired. Whereas I think he would have resigned otherwise. And it would have been a different scenario. I remember talking to my buddy Matt Walberg. See Matt Walberg was a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute. He’s a believer. But he also, for about 20 years, was an investigative reporter at Chicago Tribune. And I called him, and I described what I just gotten. And Matt’s like, “Julie, stuff like that just doesn’t happen.” He’s like, “In 20 years, I’ve never had something like that happen to me.” And then he something I will never forget. He said, “Julie, I don’t normally say things like this, but he said, “Julie, when stuff like that happens, you’ve got to wonder if God isn’t fighting on your side.” 

About a month ago, I called the source that gave me that audio. I told him what Matt Wahlberg said. And his exact words to me were, “Julie. I just got chills. I just got chills.” He said, “But there’s something you need to know about how I recorded that audio and how it all happened.” He said, “A month before I recorded that audio I had been reading the Elephant’s Debt. And I’d become aware that this whole system was pretty corrupt and pretty toxic. And I was aware of the evil that James MacDonald was involved in.” And he said, “It was so frustrating though, because I felt so helpless, like I couldn’t do anything.” And he said, “I remember I was talking to God about this. And I was coming out. So I remember very vividly coming out of the bathroom at Harvest, and I said this prayer to God, ‘God, would You please help me to do something big, because I feel so helpless?’” And then he said, “A month later, I accidentally recorded that audio.” And he says, “I kid you not. It was accidental.” And he said to me, “Julie, it was something I never thought that I would be involved in.” 

And he said, “But God gave me one smooth stone to slay Goliath. And it still blows me away.”

And as I look back on the past 24 months, I realized God’s given me stone after stone after stone. And it’s been God. It’s been a move of God. But it wasn’t just that audio. Take the lawsuit. Now a lot of people have expressed a lot of sympathy for me, because I was sued by James MacDonald and harvest. The truth is, it was a little stressful at times. But for a reporter to be sued is kind of like Christmas come early.

(Audience laughter)

Like, if I were to write a letter to Santa at that time, it would have been something like this, “Santa, would you please bring me some sources to go on the record?” But even better, would you give me subpoena power?”

 And God gave me subpoena power. 

But there were some tense moments too. I mean, I thought I remember when I first got sued, it was like, “Wow, this is for real. How am I going to pay for this?” Like, I knew that the lawsuit was full of lies. But I was like, “How am I going to pay for this?” Because I’m gonna have to defend myself. I remember I was actually at the Tribune because I was working with Matt on a story. And I remember calling from those offices, and I call the guy in my small group, he was a lawyer. I had no idea what kind of law this guy practiced. None whatsoever. And I called him and I’m like, “Charlie, I just got sued by James MacDonald harvest Bible chapel.” He’s like, “What?” I’m like, “No, I’m For Real. I just got sued.” And he’s like, “Well, do you have the lawsuit?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Send it to me.” So, I emailed it to him. And it wasn’t more than five or 10 minutes after I’d emailed it to him; 

and he calls me back. And he’s like, “Julie, tell me that you want me to represent you.” 

(Audience Laughter)

And I’m thinking, I’m thinking dollars, right? I’m thinking, “How much does this cost? And what is this guy per hour? I don’t even know.” I’m like . . . you know, I’m hemming and hawing here. And he’s like, “Julie! I’ve got your back. You’re not going to pay a thing! Tell me you want me to represent you so I can talk to you.” I said, “Okay, Charlie, I want you to represent me.”

(Audience Laughter)

And then he tells me, “Julie, do you know what law he appealed to and harvest appeal to in this lawsuit?” I’m like, “No, I have no idea. What is it?” He said, “It’s the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act.” He’s like, “Nobody does a defamation suit under the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act. But you know, for the last year, I have been doing a major case in Illinois based on the Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This is my wheelhouse!” And let us not forget that he was up against a DUI lawyer of Mancow’s.

(Audience laughter.)

Now friends, I couldn’t have done that. I didn’t have the power to do that. Again, God was with me. I often say I didn’t volunteer for this assignment. I didn’t feel like I got drafted. But God drafted me. And I know that most of you in this room, maybe all of you in this room would say, “I didn’t volunteer for my assignment, either. I didn’t volunteer to be touched by a church scandal or to be a victim of abuse or to play a role and exposing corruption.” But in God’s sovereignty, you’re here now. And I know it’s really easy right now, to be sitting here and saying, “Why me? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? What did Lena do to deserve that? What did any of us, what did you do to deserve that?” But I want to ask you to instead of saying, “Why me?” to say, “Why did God choose me to be in this position right here right now? And how am I uniquely positioned to make a difference?” And, “What is my one smooth stone that God’s given me to make a difference? How can I be a part of fighting Goliath?” 

See, none of us are here by accident. None of this is accidental. None of what’s been happening in the evangelicalism church right now, for the past few years, none of it’s accidental. It is a move of God. It’s not just what happened at Harvest. It’s not just what happened at Willow Creek. Right now, God has been exposing rampant sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Church, Misogyny of leaders like Paige Patterson abuse at the Sankey orphanage. And the role the Tom Randall played in that. Incompetency and collusion by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Bullying and control and self-dealing by Jerry Falwell, Jr. I mean, I could just keep going and going. And there is so much more. 

We are at a critical juncture in the Evangelical Church. Much of the leadership at the top is corrupt. And those who aren’t corrupt are looking the other way. And I am convinced God’s bowl of wrath is full. 

And He is raising up an army of David’s to take on this Goliath. And you’re it. You’re it. 

I do some work in the pro-life community. I can tell you that probably 80 to 90% of those in the pro-life community have been impacted by abortion. They’re either post abortive themselves, or they know women who are post abortive, or their mother may have considered an abortion but didn’t. They’ve been touched by it. They know the evil the abortion industry because they’ve been close to it. And nobody, nobody knows what spiritual abuse is like, like you do. Nobody knows. The corruption, the manipulation, everything else like you guys do. You guys are able to expose it. But how do we take on this huge Goliath? How do we do it? Well, I think if we’re going to talk about slaying giants, it’s probably good to look at the story of David and Goliath.

JULIE ROYS: Well, again, that’s a portion of the message that I gave at the Restore Chicago conference on November 2 at Judson University. If you’d like to hear the rest of that message, I’ll be posting a video of my full talk to my website early next week. To view that just go to JulieRoys.com. That video will be posted either Monday or Tuesday of next week. 

Well, I know this is a difficult place to end. And I’d like to say that the condition of the Evangelical Church is better than it is. I’d like to say that we’re a city on a hill, the salt of the earth like the Scriptures say that we should be, and, “If we just continue on our present course that will be fine.” But as these scandals are showing us there is a problem, a big problem. And it’s not just one or two churches. It’s rife through what I call, and many others have called, “the Evangelical Industrial Complex.” But here’s where the hope is. In God’s word, it says “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

And that’s my prayer for the church. We need healing, not just individually, but corporately. We need repentance. But God is eager to forgive and to restore. As Nancy Beach said at the beginning of this broadcast, “The church remains God’s Plan A for reaching the world. And as broken as it is, I still believe in the church.” So yes, I think we should all be committed to exposing corruption if and when we encounter it. But I’m also committed to praying for the church, to giving to the church to loving the church. The church is our family. And even when family hurts us, even when family disappoints us, we don’t divorce our families. So that’s my encouragement to you. Don’t run away from community. Lean into community. Pray for this church, God’s body, God’s bride. I hope that you will, and I hope that you’ll join me next week on The Roys Report. Have a great weekend and God bless.

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What Disqualifies A Pastor From Ministry? https://julieroys.com/podcast/what-disqualifies-a-pastor-from-ministry/ Sat, 09 Nov 2019 17:59:57 +0000 Julie Roys https://julieroys.com/?post_type=podcast&p=6197 What Disqualifies A Pastor From Ministry? Read More »

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When she was 17 years old, Jules Woodson’s youth pastor drove her to a remote location and sexually assaulted her. That pastor–Andy Savage–resigned from the megachurch he pastored in Memphis, Tennessee, when news of his past assault surfaced. But last week, just 18 months after stepping down from ministry, Savage announced he’s planting a new church in Memphis. And Jules Woodson is sick about it.

What should we make of situations like this? Should pastors who commit serious sin be disqualified from ministry? 

This week on The Roys Report, I’ll explore this issue with Jules Woodson and Julia Dahl, a clergy sexual abuse survivor and advocate. Also joining me will be Mitch Little, an elder board chairman and lawyer who’s represented some of the women who accused Bill Hybels of abuse—and John Armstrong, author of a book addressing the issue of pastor disqualification.

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