Analyst Exposes Deceptive Tactics Used by Cedarville President

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Denial, bolstering, and transcendence. These are just some of the tactics used by embattled Cedarville President Thomas White in a well-known apology video, according to Dr. Julia Dahl, an image repair analyst. 

In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie interviews Dr. Dahl, who explains in depth how leaders and organizations spin the truth to fit their self-serving narrative. Dr. Dahl also analyzes a videotaped apology by Dr. Thomas White, showing how Dr. White uses common image-repair tactics to win over his audience.

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Transcript


SPEAKERS
JULIE ROYS, DR THOMAS WHITE, DR JULIA DAHL M.D.

JULIE ROYS 00:04
She works as a medical school professor is her day job but on the side Dr. Julia Dahl is an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and her work as an image repair analyst is opening many people’s eyes to the lies that they’re being told by those who want to cover up abuse in the church. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m privileged to have Dr. Julia Dahl join me. About 18 months ago I first became aware of Dr. Dahl’s work. She reached out to me when I was in the middle of my investigation of Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald and as I recall, Harvest had just released a statement saying that the church was dropping its lawsuit against me and the authors of The Elephant’s Debt. Now if you follow this story, you know that the real reason is that the church had lost its motion to suppress information that I’d obtained with a subpoena. This was very damaging information and I had already published some of it and it was becoming quite clear that if Harvest and James MacDonald continued its suit that it was going to hurt them dearly. But instead of admitting that the church had dirty secrets that it wanted to hide, Harvest said it was dropping the suits because it didn’t want to, “knowingly subject innocent people to the subpoena process.” The church added that it would receive the court’s ruling as, “God’s direction,” and now the church could focus its energies on, “continued growth, and mitigating the damage such attacks bring to our church, family and friends.” So maybe you hear a little bit of image repair in those comments, and I can tell you that Dr. Dahl heard image repair in those comments, and that’s when she reached out to me and offered to do an analysis of Harvest’s statement. And that’s when I realized how brilliant her work is. And what’s brilliant about it is that it gives labels and names to manipulative tactics that most of us can sense like, we can just feel it but we can’t put our finger on it. And that’s why I’m excited to talk to Dr. Dahl. Today I believe that after listening to this podcast, you’re going to be equipped to discern truth from error. And you’re not going to fall prey to the slick PR or manipulative leaders who are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. So I’m super excited to talk to Julia Dahl. But before we begin our discussion, I just want to take a minute to thank the sponsors of this podcast. Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a car, I encourage you to visit my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. You can visit them in person near the intersection of Barrington and Dundee roads in Barrington, Illinois, or you can shop their entire showroom online just go to BuyACar123.com. Also, I want to let you know that Judson University is planning to resume in person classes this fall for traditional transfer and adult students. And it’s still not too late to apply. You can choose from more than 60 majors and learn in a Christian environment known for its spiritual values, leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Judson is located just 36 miles outside Chicago on a beautiful 90 acre campus. For more information, just go to JudsonU.edu. Well again, joining me today is Dr. Julia Dahl. Dr.Dahl is an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Michigan medical school. She’s also the Associate Director of Michigan Medicine Laboratories. And as I’ve noted, she’s a skilled image repair analyst and advocate for abuse survivors. So Julia, welcome. I’m just really looking forward to our discussion today.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 03:40
Hi, Julie, thank you so much for having me on. I want to just take a moment here to thank the people who have helped my education in image repair theory and image repair analysis. Most of the work that I do really relies on information that was published in Melody Fisher’s dissertation where she looked at a number of pastors in crisis and how they responded to their crisis. And another person who is incredibly informative is Dr. Wade Mullen. And he also wrote a dissertation about image repair and manipulative language being used within the churches. So those are the people who have influenced how I’ve learned about this and the way that I approach this work.

JULIE ROYS 04:29
Well, and Dr. Wade Mullen is a name that is familiar to a lot of people I know who follow me because he was at our Restore Chicago conference, and he was probably one of the videos that we’ve posted online that’s gotten, I don’t even know how many thousand views but that that thing is very, very popular because he does exactly what you do, which is again, put language to some of this abusive, manipulative behavior that it gets given to us in a way that makes it almost sound Christian, and I think that’s why it’s so insidious. So really looking forward to digging into this. But I think one of the first questions I have is how does somebody who’s a pathologist and a professor at a medical school, how did you get into this branch of work for really sticking up for abuse survivors and then analyzing these statements?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 05:20
Well, firstly, pathology is actually a field of pattern recognition. And my brain is actually hardwired to pick up patterns. And even though I do visual pattern recognition, I also have auditory pattern recognition and I have very adept recognition of words on a page so I can read and see the same patterns over and over. So my work brain has kind of fine-tuned the ability to see some of these things over and over. But how I really got involved in this was when HighPoint Memphis, which is a church that in 2018 had a massive crisis—I actually was a early member of HighPoint in 2004. And a neighbor of mine swung by to see if I would sign a petition for Andy Savage to be reinstated. So I found out about Jules Woodson and Andy Savage’s sexual abuse of Jules Woodson, and started watching HighPoint online. And much to my dismay, I was I just was sick to my stomach over and over and over and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was just some pretty significant toxic messaging. So I did what I generally do in my professional life, I went did a bunch of research around what I was hearing and looking at abusive, manipulative terminology and pastors in crisis. That’s where I found Melody Fisher’s work, and it started this whole ball rolling, and I get a lot of requests to do image repair analysis on Twitter, so if you followed my Twitter handle @JDahlMD, you might have seen some of the diagrams that I do.

JULIE ROYS 07:06
Yeah. And they’re phenomenal. And I want to get into a little bit of that. But you brought up what happened with Andy Savage and HighPoint. I know this story. My guess is a lot of people listening know the story or they’ve heard of it a little bit. But Andy Savage when he was 22, right, he has a student, Jules Woodson in his youth group, she’s 17. He takes her out to a remote place, sexually abuses her. And then she comes and confesses it to her pastor. My understanding, the pastor said, “Oh, so it was consensual then.” That was her first indication that she was not going to be taken seriously. Andy then goes from this church that was in Texas, to a church in Memphis, in your backyard, and then goes and plants HighPoint. And all of this is it’s basically buried right? I mean, he was a pastor at HighPoint for I don’t know how many years but you had no idea that he had this background. Am I right?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 08:07
That’s true. Andy joined the pastoral team at HighPoint Memphis in 2005. And Chris Conlee, who was the former lead pastor was apparently the only person who was aware of Andy Savage’s history of sexually assaulting Jules Woodson when he was a youth pastor in Texas. Pastor Conlee elected to suppress that information. And Chris Conlee and Andy Savage had quite the megachurch growth plan going and Jules Woodson saw that this was going on and put a dose of reality into HighPoint Memphis’ mega church growth plan by providing the truth of this long buried abuse of power. And that abuse of power is the thing that primarily I tend to write about, because as a physician, I understand the power differentials and the obligations for ethical conduct between a person in an elevated position of power and a person who has no power. There was absolutely no way that Jules Woodson could have consented to sexual activity with Andy Savage, but we see over and over again, in these church settings, many SBC settings—I’m now learning about some Presbyterian settings—where these are considered consensual relationships. These are considered instances where there’s mutual sin and the entire idea of abuse of authority and abuse of power is swept under the rug. And that’s a very difficult pill for me to swallow, because these are men who portray themselves to be trustworthy with power, to be trustworthy with authority. And yet they’re covering up for one another’s misdeeds.

JULIE ROYS 10:10
Well, and if I recall correctly, Andy Savage, when this first came out—this sort of buried sin that he had in his past when that was first published—and he went in front of the church, and somehow he was able to frame it in such a way that the church clap for him.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 10:28
They rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation, because the Bible—much like these image repair pieces that are put out by Mark DeMoss and his group, now retired—unfortunately, these fellows who are capable of spinning the English language are also capable of spinning the Bible. They were able to reverse victimize Andy Savage and to use the Bible to say, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone and really turned the entire conversation to be about Jules being bitter for having been sexually assaulted, rather than Andy being disqualified given the abuse of power. And Andy was just a sinner. And so they did that sin-leveling approach that’s been successful in many churches. And Andy got a standing ovation. It was incredibly well crafted, and it needs to be something that is no longer tolerated in our churches. It is a sign that person in a pastoral role is not actually, they are not doing what the Lord would have them do. And for the sake of their own repentance, it needs to be stated as the truth of abuse of power, it needs to be called out and those people need to be disqualified, so that they can enter into their own repentance.

JULIE ROYS 11:54
And so often, it isn’t the abuse that so damaging it is the way that the church handles it afterwards and how it’s not just the person who sinned, then it becomes almost a conspiracy of the entire elder board or all the leaders around them. And it’s just so damaging. And that is another reason again, I appreciate your work so much. And I’d like to just sort of jump into this image repair theory that you’ve learned and now you’re applying when you analyze some of these statements that come out. You have a document that you sent me, and I’m actually going to put it up on my website. So if you’re listening, if you want to just get this document, just go to JulieRoys.com and go to this podcast and you’ll be able to find this document that you sent me Julia. But you have a hexagon that you have diagrammed, and it has just kind of some key areas where you put labels to what’s happening. So can you describe this image repair theory and this hexagon that kind of explains what it does?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 12:55
Sure. In image repair theory, there are features of how we communicate and how we respond to crises that every single one of us uses. Every single one of these definitions if you go and you look at the hexagon and you look at the definitions along them, you’re gonna recognize yourself in these definitions.

JULIE ROYS 13:17
So we all do this.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 13:18
It is part of human nature.

JULIE ROYS 13:19
Yeah.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 13:20
We all do this. We, this is human nature, that we all do this. People don’t generally like to be wrong, they don’t like to have harmed someone. People can be very defensive. When it becomes toxic is when it’s intentionally done to manipulate someone who has been harmed. Image repair theory comes out of like advertising principles, it comes out of image management. And so these have been well studied, maneuvers that communicators, marketers use to be able to portray a particular image. In portraying an image you have a choice during a crisis of whether you’re going to do things to preserve your own image, or whether you’re really going to act like Christ, and be very concerned about the victim. So within this diagram and within the hexagon, there is mortification, which is very Christ-like admitting responsibility and making amends. So reconciliation, that’s kind of the light blue and the purple. Those things are ways of responding to a crisis that allows the person who’s been harmed to be the focus of what happens next, to be the focus of the communication. So I bring that up first, because imagine, John 10, you have a shepherd, and he’s caring for the flock. And the people should be able to know the shepherd’s voice and to follow that shepherd. So what we would expect to come out of Jesus’s mouth is concern for a victim and not concern for whether or not his sandals were actually torn or needed fixing, but he’s going to be concerned for the person who is harmed. That’s going to be his first and foremost thought all the way through. So when we see pastors who are shepherds, what we should see is real mortification, admitting of responsibility, motions towards making restitution, a lot of concern about victims and people who are harmed, not so much concern about themselves. So then there are those other blocks in that hexagon. And it seems to be those are the blocks that we see in most of the communications that are coming out of our churches today. So first and foremost, there’s denial, and you can just flat out deny something. Or you can deny by shifting the blame to somebody else. There are linguistic tools and ways of communicating where you can evade responsibility. You can kind of deflect from the responsibility by saying it was good intentions or it was an accident or this thing called defeasibility.

JULIE ROYS 16:07
What’s that, defeasibility?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 16:09
So defeasibility is when a person or an organization steps away from the responsibility for something by saying that they had no control over the attack, or they had no control over the situation, or they had no control of knowing that it was immoral. So what it does is it says, “I didn’t know that hiring a sexual predator was immoral.” It says, “Oh, I’m now going to go and take some courses to learn about abuse advocacy. So I was naive to this. So you can’t really hold me responsible because I didn’t know.” So that’s defeasibility. Other things that you can do is you can reduce the offensiveness of these actions and some of ways that you reduce how offensive an action is, is by casting shame on the person who was hurt so that you don’t care about the victim as much. That’s called attacking the accusers. And what we saw with Andy Savage and Jules Woodson was, “Oh my goodness, Jules Woodson was a horrible human being for seducing a youth pastor.” Didn’t actually happen that way. And that’s so so so commonly used. A lot of the time to reduce the offensiveness in church communications, we use a thing called transcendence, which means, “Pay attention to the God language. Pay attention to the christianese, I’m going to pull you into your faith space, so that you’re not looking at the ugliness that is a pastor that forced a young girl to give him oral sex.” Because as Christians, it’s very easy to say, “I want to put my eyes on Jesus, I want to put my eyes on the Lord.” Pastors who are in crisis that ask you to look towards Jesus and look towards christianese language before really looking at the meat grinder that they put someone’s life into, that’s really transcendence. Some of the other things that you’ll see are bolstering. If, in a communication, a organization talks about how great they are and how many people they’ve served and how many baptisms, that’s to keep you from feeling terribly offended. Because now you’re aligning with the church, and you’re aligning with that organization to say, “But this organization does so much good.” It’s kind of like the sunk cost of Christianity that you dare not look behind the curtain. dare not open the closet that’s full of skeletons because you really just keep in mind all that’s good. And all that’s good could come crashing down if people knew the truth.

JULIE ROYS 19:11
Specific investigations are coming into my mind specific statements that have been made. And I know they are for you, too. It’s just uncanny how frequent this stuff is used. And what’s really insidious to me is that there’s actual PR firms, and this is what they specialize in, that Christians would purposefully engage in this kind of what I see as just evil behavior, because it’s not about telling the truth. We know about how, what God says he feels about lying lips. And yet this is precisely what so many of these Christian organizations are participating in. They’re purposefully trying to deflect and deny and do all these things that you’ve said instead of owning, which, you know, isn’t this the gospel, that we say, “I have sinned.” And we name the sin and we ask for forgiveness. And then if our sin was grievous enough that it disqualifies us from leadership, we step down, and we allow somebody else to protect the sheep because obviously we’re not able to do that. What I want to do now is to apply some of these concepts to actual real-life situations. So I have some clips that I’ve pulled. The first one—and you referred to a little bit because you said something about hiring a sexual predator—this was something that happened at Cedarville University, a Christian University in Cedarville, Ohio, Dr. Thomas White, who’s the president of Cedarville hired Dr. Anthony Moore, who was to him a known sexual predator. He had been fired by The Village Church in Fort Worth, Texas because he had videotaped—he had admitted to all this—videotaping with his camera, a youth pastor who was showering in his home multiple times. Dr. White said that at the time he hired him, he thought it was only maybe two times and wasn’t sure it was over months of time. So that was his excuse. But again, hired this sexual predator, did not—now we know that there’s been an investigation—did not reveal it to his board. At least not everyone on his board. Didn’t reveal it to the staff, the faculty, the students, the parents of the students didn’t know that this man who was a sexual predator was serving as a professor, was serving as an assistant basketball coach, was serving as a Special Advisor to the President. Unbelievable what happened. And when I began reporting it, a blogger named Todd Wilhelm began reporting it and this all started to come out. There really wasn’t much of an excuse other than to admit, kind of, and apologize. I want to play the apology that Dr. Thomas White recorded and then put out to the students and their families and alumni, the Cedarville community when this was first reported. Take a listen and then I’ll have Julia come back and analyze Dr. White’s apology.

DR THOMAS WHITE 22:12
Dear Cedarville family, I was motivated out of a love for others, the desire to radically live out the gospel in my own life and a prayer to see James 5:19 happen. I’m sorry that I brought Anthony Moore to Cedarville University. I did not know all of the information at first. And when we learned the new information, we took the action needed. Dr. Moore violated our agreement. There are no other plans for restoration like this on campus. And even though no incidents were reported by students, I’m recommending to the Board of Trustees that we hire an outside independent agency to confirm that nothing inappropriate happened on our campus, with that report to go directly back to the Board of Trustees. Cedarville University will strengthen our resolve to continue to be a safe place for current students, and future students. We will learn our lessons. This summer I and other key leaders will go through victim prevention, awareness and advocacy training. Would you for me as the Lord works on my heart to mold me into the man of God that he wants me to be? And would you pray for Cedarville University as we walk through this difficult time? Thank you.

JULIE ROYS 23:54
All right, Julia. I heard several things that you just described. But let me throw it to you. What did you just hear in that apology from Dr. Thomas White?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 24:06
So the overarching thru line, which might not be readily apparent until you take this line by line by line, there’s one line of apology within this statement. And everything is focused on Dr. White and Cedarville University. There is not a single utterance about breach of trust to the students, breach of trust to the parents, breach of trust to the board members who he withheld information from. So there’s this apparently heartfelt—and I’m going to say, parenthetically, dramatic—apology and statement from Dr. White. And It is line after line after line of image repair with a single instance of mortification, a single instance of corrective action, but the way that they’re stated, it also includes some other image repair methods.

JULIE ROYS 25:16
So let’s go through some of this line by line and point out what you’re hearing. Starts out with. “I was motivated by the love of others.”

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 25:27
Okay, yellow hexagon. We have an evasion of responsibility via good intentions. This means that he meant well, “I was motivated by the love of others. I meant well, I was motivated by the love of others.” And what he’s asking you to do is focus on his motivation, not on what he actually did. So let’s be clear. He hired a known sexual predator that had been recently terminated by another church and disqualified from the pastorate. He had sufficient knowledge about this instance, to put Anthony Moore on a restoration plan. He’s saying that he’s motivated by the love of others. Who does he actually love in doing this? Does he love Anthony Moore? To put him on a restoration plan when he’s obviously disqualified? Is he expressing love for the students, the faculty, the parents, the board? So he can say, “I was motivated for the love of others look at my good intentions.” But the actions are inconsistent with his words.

JULIE ROYS 26:41
Next line, “desire to radically live out the gospel in my life.” That was another motivation. What’s that?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 26:50
Okay, so that is a combination of—this is part of where I get the sense that this is all about him—this is very focused on himself and Cedarville. “Desire to radically live out the gospel in my own life.” This is a combination of transcendence, which is where you ask the reader to focus on things more important than the offense itself. So, “radically living out the gospel,” is that more important than, “there was a sexual predator on our campus who may or may not have harmed someone.” Radical living of the gospel reaches into the heart of the Christian, and the Christian wants to radically live the gospel. It’s also a form of bolstering because Dr. White is saying, “I want to radically live the gospel in my life. I am a man of God.’

JULIE ROYS 27:44
Then he does have this one sentence that honestly maybe just should have said this sentence and left it at that. “I’m sorry that I brought Anthony Moore to Cedarville University.” There we have the real apology. Yet you say, “not necessarily a clear apology.” Why is that?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 28:02
So it is a clear apology. “I am sorry that I brought Anthony more to Cedarville University.” And it can actually be a sincere apology. He could be very sorry for himself that he got himself into this pickle, so he can very effectively connect to the emotion that says, “I’m sorry I brought him here.” But here’s some really important things to notice about actual sincere apologies. Sincere apologies are very victim focused. They’re very the-person-harmed focus. They are very specific to the harms that were done. Because if you are apologizing for something in general, then you’re leaving it to the hearer or the reader to Intuit what you’re actually apologizing for. When you have clarity in an apology, you step into the shoes of the other person, you try to imagine what their hurts are. You convey that in the form of an apology and you ask, “What did I miss?” “What did I fail to recognize in the way that I’ve harmed you that I can apologize for?” So note about Dr. White’s apology that it’s a very general apology, and it does not indicate a single specific thing that occurred as a result of his decisions. He doesn’t mention that he’s sorry for any strain that this has caused for a parent, a student or a faculty member. He doesn’t apologize for suppressing information to the Elders. He doesn’t apologize directly for the harm that could have been caused to any student. He doesn’t apologize for any of the damage to someone’s faith in seeing such a tragic series of events occur. And he doesn’t apologize for the breach of trust. He just says, “I’m sorry that I brought him here.”

JULIE ROYS 29:58
And you know, what bothers me the most is that as the information came out—that information that he didn’t tell the trustee—he said at first I did—I think the earliest interview with him—and he was telling me that they had told he was very aboveboard, told the trustees all about it. Then it came out I got a letter from the trustees it was clear he hadn’t told them. So there wasn’t an apology for being dishonest because he wasn’t admitting at that point that he was dishonest. In fact, he still hasn’t come out and apologized for being dishonest even though it’s become so clear and even the own investigation showed that so I mean, again, we’re still seeing this plan. And what’s disheartening to me is he remains in his position despite all this. “I did not know all the information at first.” What is that? Okay, that is a denial in the plain form, so he denies knowing the information. “At first,” these qualifiers are really important to look for If someone says, “I did not know all of the information from day one, on day seven,” or “ever.” That is a very specific denial that is detailed. “I did not know all the information at first,” is sufficiently vague that you have to wonder, “Well, what does ‘at first’ mean? Like when Anthony Moore first picked up the phone and called me? Or when Matt Chandler reached out?” So, that vagueness allows Dr. White the ability to make that sentence and it be true. But it also has such latitude for interpretation that those sentences for me are always highly suspect. He doesn’t tell you when he learned the information. And the reason that he’s actually saying, “I did not know all the information at first,” is not just to deny it, but he’s also trying to avoid responsibility or evade responsibility for it. He’s saying, “I didn’t have, I had no idea how more immoral this was because I wasn’t given all the information up front.” And this is how some religious leaders start to paint themselves as the victim. Well, someone else didn’t give me enough information for me to make a godly decision. Wow. This is so insightful. I love how you just illuminate so much. So we talked about the new information. He says, “When we learned the new information, we took the action needed. Dr. Moore violated our agreement.”

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 32:43
So line by line, there’s so much image repair in this one I will just frame for folks who start to use these methodologies. In any communication that comes out. You really want to see a lot of white on your page. You shouldn’t line-by-line be able to turn it one of these hexagon colors. If you are turning it these hexagon colors, you want to have “corrective action” and “mortification” be the primary way of image repair because it’s not really image repair; it is real work towards reconciliation when you have mortification and corrective action. The dangerous part of doing these evaluations is when you see this “reducing offensiveness,” “evade responsibility,” “denial” and “conversion” over and over. So when we “learn the new information,” notice he says “the new information,” again, he’s actually reinstating that denial that he just said, He’s stating that it’s . . . new information and that not all information was done. Then he also “bolsters.” The reader gets this image that as soon as I got this new information, I took action, and so then he’s using that phraseology to show himself as a man of action. But keep in mind, he is a man of action. He knowingly hired a man disqualified from ministry because he is a sexual predator. That was the action that he’s trying to distract you from, by portraying himself as a victim who did not receive all the information. But once he did, by goodness, he’s going to take the right action and put a halt to this.

JULIE ROYS 34:27
And then he said, there are no other plans for restoration like this on campus. Thank God, but yeah,

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 34:33
Well I’m gonna jump in.

JULIE ROYS 34:35
Yeah.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 34:35
So one of the things that I would love for our church communities to consider is, “Why is it so important to restore these men to pastoral ministry?” When we speak about reconciliation in the Bible, it really is reconciliation to the membership of the body, the kind of pressure that it places on a person who has fallen into sin or someone who sought the ministry because of the allure of the ministry, of being in front of people and getting that adoration. That kind of pressure is really unhealthy for a person who needs to be in the throes of repentance, experiencing that godly sorrow. When a person who has abused authority in a pastoral role, then goes on to seek another pastoral role, that really conflicts with repentance. A repentant person would be very willing to let go of a position of authority or a seat at the head of the table. Let the Lord work that out in them. And so when people like Dr. White or Paige Patterson or Chris Conlee are trying to repair this person into a pastoral role, that is doing them a huge disservice. There are plenty of other vocations in life that a person can have, that they can be fruitful, that God can still use them. Returning a man like this to ministry is dangerous not only for the people around him, but for himself as well. And so if Dr. White actually felt love for Anthony Moore, he could have stopped. So I have to wonder, “What did Dr. White want from Anthony Moore?”

JULIE ROYS 36:25
There’s so much in such a small, I mean, this is a short statement. And yet we’re we’re not, I mean, we’re maybe halfway through it and all these things have come up. There’s another instance of something a little different here, where he says, “I’m recommending to the Board of Trustees that we hire an outside independent agency.” What’s going on there?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 36:46
So with regards to Thomas White making these recommendations, this is again asserting his power. This is a form of bolstering where he is showing himself to be the white knight, the champion or Cedarville University, and that by his action, he’s still the leader of this organization. So it bolsters him via action.

JULIE ROYS 37:11
Then he says, towards the end, “Cedarville University will strengthen our resolve to continue to be a safe place for our students and our future students.” What do you see?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 37:22
That sounds like a really great sentence, doesn’t it?

JULIE ROYS 37:24
It does. Yeah.

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 37:26
“We’re all on the same side, we’ll get through this together. We’ll strengthen our resolve.” Okay, that’s called bolstering. So it’s really intentional to get people to that same side. And what’s buried in there is actually a denial. When he says, “Continue to be a safe place.” Is that a true statement? To continue to be a safe place, you actually have to start out as a safe place.

JULIE ROYS 37:52
Well, and certainly we’ve heard I mean, in other podcasts I did with a gal who was a rape victim there at Cedarville, who because of the way she had been treated previous to her rape, she didn’t even feel like she could report it. I mean, we’re hearing from more and more professors, one who was shamed in front of the whole entire faculty, that a lot of people saying, “No, it wasn’t a safe place.” You’re right. He’s assuming something that the facts aren’t really showing to be true.”

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 38:19
So it’s a form of denial by claiming something that is true. And they’re claiming, “We will continue to be a safe place.” It isn’t a safe place. And it creates a cognitive dissonance. But another word for that is gaslighting. But when people who are at Cedarville know that it’s not a safe place, that he says continue to be a safe place, they’ll hear the denial. But if you haven’t experienced directly it not being a safe place, that’s a very reassuring statement.

JULIE ROYS 38:53
Lastly, he says, “Would you pray for me as the Lord works on my heart to mold me into the man He wants me to be? Would you pray for Cedarville University as we walk through this difficult time?” Again, a lot of people hearing that and I heard a lot of the feedback after this saying, “Wow, that’s great. We’re going to pray for for Dr. White, we’re going to pray for Cedarville. Let’s start a Facebook page Pray for Cedarville.” You know, I mean, that’s kind of the sort of feeling you get from this, but it’s a little, it’s kind of insidious, isn’t it?

DR JULIA DAHL M.D. 39:26
It really is. It’s very important for people to feel that they can do something and to know that prayer matters. And I will just affirm, I believe strongly that prayer matters. But look at who the focus of who he’s asking for prayers are. His first thing is to bolster himself and ask prayers for him as if he is a victim in this whole situation. So, “Pray for Cedarville University as we walk through this difficult time,” he offers that broadly with out saying, “Pray for anyone who has felt victimized, for anyone who has felt unsafe.” He’s not asking you to reflect on the people who are harmed or pray for the people who are harmed. He’s focusing on the things and the places of power that are relevant to him.

JULIE ROYS 40:18
Well, Julia, thank you. This has been incredibly helpful. And what I’d like to do is continue our discussion on a second podcast. And rather than a scripted apology, like Dr. White’s, I’d like to have you analyze a videotaped interview. This interview is with Bryan Loritts. And if you follow the controversy concerning Bryan Loritts, you may have seen this interview. The interview comes after I began reporting from several witnesses who said that Bryan Loritts had covered up sex crimes at his previous church and oddly enough, Loritts admits in this videotaped interview that he behaved in an unconscionable manner. Yet somehow in that interview, he must have convinced a lot of people that not reporting a sexual predator and then allowing him to prey on even more people is an excusable offense. As you may know, Bryan Loritts remains an executive pastor at J.D. Greear’s church, and J.D. Greer is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. So how is it that a pastor can engage in such reprehensible behavior and yet keep his position? Well, I think when you hear this video and Dr. Julia Dahl’s analysis, you’ll be stunned. It’s absolutely fascinating. So I can’t wait for you to hear part two of this podcast. Well, 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. Also, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. Then if you would, please share the podcast on social media so more people can find out about this informative content. I truly believe that reform in the church will happen when a majority of Christians become equipped to discern truth from error. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.

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17 thoughts on “Analyst Exposes Deceptive Tactics Used by Cedarville President”

  1. So much logic! All I can think about right now is how women are supposed to be the illogical gender. Of course I have never believed that. But maybe we sometimes seem illogical because of the tactics, gaslighting, denial, bolstering, cognitive dissonance and general treatment by men to victims and the applauding and approval by the church when they do.

  2. Thanks so much… these are self-serving leaders instead of servant leaders, who are doubling as “molester protectors.” And the pattern is the same, even to the highest levels of the church with Greear supporting his own pastor on his staff. What do these pedophile’s offer, that makes their service so needed that leaders compromise the safety of those in the churches, on their colleges, as they also sacrifice their own integrity? With prayers as the judgment of God begins with those who claim to know Him and work for Him.

  3. Justice Collective

    Thanks for another excellent podcast, Julie. And thank you as well, Dr. Julia Dahl. This interview exemplifies not only superb close reading skills but also exceptional analytical skills in approaching a text like White’s address. Yes, all the manipulative tactics (i.e., “image repair” methods) are there, indeed: evading responsibility by claiming good intentions, bolstering, gaslighting, attacking an accuser, and using transcendence (The argument can be made that the God language is blasphemous.) As former and present professors as well as alumni and present students, we can attest to how often White has used these tactics. Everything you say is spot-on. You have nailed it.

    Thank you, too for supplying this information for those who are ignorant of these sinister ploys. So many unsuspecting believers are being manipulated and abused and don’t even know it, something that saddens all of us tremendously. They are puddy in the hands of any false teacher and so vulnerable to further abusers, those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, like White is.

    Thank you as well for noting that “[s]incere apologies are very victim focused. They’re very the-person-harmed focus[ed]. They are very specific to the harms that were done.” Neither White’s blog (which employs all these same “image repair” tactics) nor his video address focuses on any victims–not Moore’s victim in Texas; not the staff, faculty, students, or members of the surrounding community who were potential victims; and not the parents, students, employees, church members, and others who were victims of White’s lies and cover-ups.

    And not Megan Lively, who is STILL waiting for Dr. White to come clean about his cover-up of her rape at SEBTS in 2003, as Paige Patterson’s proud protege, right-hand man, and student life director. There’s been nothing but silence from Joy White as well regarding that situation. They hope that by ignoring it, it’ll just go away. Let’s prove them wrong.

    One thing you missed is how White even blame-shifts when he says Moore has broken CU’s policies yet never specifies how he did so. To this day, no one knows how this can be true, especially since the trustees say the Husch Blackwell investigation revealed no one was hurt by Moore. Whether the HB investigation was thorough/deep enough to reveal that supposed fact with any certainty is a worthy conversation to have, too–and it’s highly doubtful, since we know it was White’s bff (best female friend) Mindy May who emailed students about that investigation and gave them only 5 days over Memorial Day weekend, no less, to contact HB investigations with such information. In short, that investigation was a joke. But the point here is that the trustees and White now talk with equivocation, i.e, out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that Moore simultaneously violated CU policies AND didn’t violate any policies because he didn’t groom, stalk, or prey upon anyone like he did to the youth pastor at TVC in Texas. Well, which is it, exactly? (No wonder rumors in Cedarville abound about how Moore is now suing White and CU for wrongful termination.)

    White knew everything about Moore all along, so yes, as you say, Julie Roys, the most distressful thing of all is that White’s apology never addresses his lies and cover-ups. And now the Trustees are complicit in that deception because they, too, refuse to address the lies. In fact, they, too, use the same “image repair” tactics with faculty and staff. Chairman of the Board, Chip Bernhard, and Trustee Emeritus Lorne Scharnberg met with department chairs and deans over a week ago, forbidding them to use the word “deception” when referring to White’s behavior and instructing them to use the word “mistake” instead. In addition, they said the trustee vote to reinstate White was 30-1, numbers that don’t add up. Twenty-six trustees were on the board at the time. We know Akin and Vroegrop resigned in protest (so now there are 24: https://www.cedarville.edu/offices/president/board-of-trustees). Apparently, they claim Vroegop voted “yes” and then resigned afterwards. But how in good conscience can they say there was only one “no” vote? Likewise, unless they violated their own bylaws and allowed some Trustee Emeriti to vote (like Scharnberg himself, who actually seems to run the show), the more accurate number of the vote is 24-2. It’s still lopsided in White’s favor, so why the deception? These same trustees met with the Bible Department that week, too, and played the same games. According to several Bible professors, the meeting went very poorly, as the trustees refused to address these core problems and would not apologize for not clearing their names. (White lied in his blog about the Bible Department’s knowledge of Moore’s background and likewise lied about men’s basketball coach Pat Estep’s knowledge.)

    In short, the CU Trustees are as dishonest and untrustworthy as White is. They do not represent Christ, as they pretend to. They represent self-interest. The truth is, because CU isn’t struggling financially, they want to keep White as president. He’s good at business. That’s their bottom line. They never addressed Megan Lively’s case because they do not care. Trustees have now told some folks they never read a single article or blog, so they didn’t even know about Lively’s revelation. They were satisfied with information Bernhard filtered for them and with Scharnberg’s being the point person for the HB investigations. In short, the trustees took “uninformed” to a new, really low level.

    And all the victim education and Title IX training? It’s a joke. Faculty/staff sessions will run at CU on Friday and Monday. The person leading the Title IX training is none other than Jon Wood, whom The Roys Report exposed as being callous toward students like Kiara who are suicidal and victims of sexual assault. Is he really that quick of a learner?

    Image repair: That’s what CU cares about. It is a travesty of the Gospel.

    1. If the Trustees are telling the faculty that they cannot call what Dr. White did “deception”, that shows that they don’t think that what Dr. White did was wrong. Call it what it is, DECEPTION!! He intentionally MISLED the Cedarville Board, Faculty, students and community. The investigation found that he deceived CU, although they tried to use evasive language like Dr. White “clouded” the issue.

      The Trustees may say that they didn’t read a blog, but I know that I sent information to Chip Bernhard regarding some of the breaking stories. But maybe he ignored my emails. You wouldn’t want to listen to a CU parent’s concerns as head of the Board, would you?

      I would like to know Jon Wood’s qualifications to train on victim advocacy. Oh wait, he’s one of Dr. White’s inner circle and he’s a man. That’s how he’s qualified.

      This all is disgusting and not a witness to Christ. Jesus help us.

  4. ‘For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ’…well, not so much.
    Our community has also been harmed by White and the board of trustees. If only they would listen and act.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. Very glad the presentation was helpful for you. The PDF provided may be a useful tool for anyone who wants to review how they and others communicate. As with many things, it takes a bit of investment to learn the terminology. Best to you.

      1. Deeply Disappointed

        Dr. Dahl, that clip of Tom White’s apology was much easier to listen to than it was to watch. The apology video was one of the creepiest, “cring-iest”, most pathetic things I’ve ever watched. Do you believe that the look and feel of the video was intentionally created by the image-repair consultant like the actual wording of the “apology”? And if so, can you explain how making something so cringe-worthy helps with image-repair in this case? Just curious. Thanks!

        1. For people who have not experienced an event that shatters the lens through which this type of person/pastor/leader is viewed, the clip may not be cringe-worthy.

          Features of the clip that are noticeable to me:
          1) He’s speaking from an empty auditorium, alone. Not in his office, not outside on the campus. This can convey that he’s in solitude, alone – which may provoke feelings of wanting to come alongside him.
          2) He;s wearing a suit jacket, open button at top, pin on lapel and no tie. His attire is chosen to display formality/authority.
          3 The camera is directly across from him – not below and not above him. This gives the impression of 1:1 – “we are on the same level” you can trust me.
          4) This is carefully scripted, including his hand and head motions. Craig Groeschel speaks about the choreography of every one of his speaking engagements for maximal results (i.e. maximal impact/manipulation).
          5) In the 46 seconds, he blinks 18 – 19 times, but at very irregular intervals, usually at the end of sentences. This can be seen when someone is being very measured or rehearsed in their words. While he’s speaking, he does not blink. This can give the impression that his eyes are really focused on the person he’s speaking to. What effect does that have on people?

          For people who have not been the focus of or observed abusive behavior, this video may not seem irregular. He may appear as a measured, “in control” and even humbled leader. For people who have had their lens shattered about people like Dr. White, the methods are fairly apparent and as you say, cringe-worthy.

          Once you are one of the people who does not “fall” for the routine any longer, people with manipulation on their mind may not view you as someone whose opinion of their conduct they value. Having broken through the facade, seeing this kind of behavior – you can become “the enemy” to their carefully constructed facade.

  5. I would submit that this sort of sexual behavior and taking light of it has been going on for centuries both inside and outside the church. It is so deeply ingrained in the thought processes (or maybe it should be “non-thought” processes) of many men in leadership that it doesn’t even enter their minds that this is a wrong that should be confessed openly and rebuked. That is, not until the “MeToo” movement. Now, they are scrambling to try to understand why things can’t be handled the way it’s always been done, and saying all kinds of things like “I’ve apologized, what more do they want?”; “That was so long ago.”; etc., and the action patterns of centuries are hard to erase.

    Thank you, Julie and Julia, for educating us all so that we understand more why things just didn’t “seem right.”

  6. What I’ve observed inside many churches with crises where a pastor engages in sexual contact or makes sexual remarks/overtures to one or more congregants or staff members is that it is nearly immediately called “a sin of lust issue”, “an inappropriate relationship” and often, BOTH people are considered to have sinned.

    Men in leadership, people in leadership, have a position of authority. This authority comes with a responsibility to provide safety for the people that are under their leadership (or care, in the instance of doctors and patients).

    The sin that appears to NOT be being cited is the sin of abusing the authority of their position to pursue sexual contact with people who the leader is charged with caring for.

    Were this a physician seducing a patient – people might more clearly see that this is a tremendous breach of trust from the person in authority (the doctor). It is not just an issue of lust – it is an abuse of the authority/power.

    Not only did that leader/pastor commit a sexual sin (a violation of his own body), he also committed a sin against the role of being a pastor. That is why I speak out so strongly about this type of conduct being disqualifying for pastors.

    If a pastor falls into sin and commits adultery with someone who is NOT a member of the flock, who is NOT an employee of the church – that is altogether different than someone who USES their position of authority to gain access to people to sexually abuse. The violations of trust in the office, the pattern of deception that leads up to the assault – all of those things are very weighty.

    To state that these are issues of lust or sex addiction and fail to recognize that these are deep character issues about POWER, and that power in their hands is not good for this person or the people they abuse – it’s what we’re seeing with the excusing of so much of this behavior.

    There ARE people who pursue the pastoral role out of self-interest. The stage, the attention, the adulation, and yes – the power of being “ordained”. Those people do not belong in those positions. Christians have been warned of this is the Bible. I pray we take heed.

  7. Thank you for continuing to provide us with information that is helpful in thinking biblically about the situation at Cedarville. It is disheartening to see the responses of the trustees, especially since one used his church’s Wednesday night prayer time as an opportunity to show support of Tom White. While Jeff Willetts did not reference the crisis at Cedarville, his decision to have White as his special guest and the words he did say spoke volumes. In previous weeks, Willetts had his wife as his guest, last night it was White. It can be found on the church Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/calvarybellefontaine

  8. Thank you for this clear presentation. I would love to hear more about the abuse of power that is included with a call to listeners to do what God requires (forgive and forget in their opinion). In Christian circles the abusers create doubt and guilt in their followers by referencing scripture (often out of context).

  9. Great work Dr. Dahl and Ms. Roys in using your considerable skills, along with tenacious determination, to help root out pathologic behavior, motives, and attitudes for the benefit of the spiritual and physical health of the Church. The detailed categories involved in bogus image repair are very helpful and will hopefully aid many others.

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