Over the past year, The Roys Report grew exponentially following in-depth investigations on several fronts—from the cultic church Mark Driscoll is running in Arizona, to pressure exerted on Naghmeh Panahi to salvage the #SaveSaeed movement, to inside reports from RZIM and John MacArthur’s ministries.
In this special ‘Best of 2021’ edition of The Roys Report, you’ll hear excerpts from our most popular podcasts of the year.
These include firsthand accounts of Mark Driscoll’s abuse and control from the former head of security at Driscoll’s The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. You’ll also hear how Franklin Graham pressured Naghmeh Panahi to reconcile with her abusive husband, Pastor Saeed, despite Saeed’s threats to harm Naghmeh and take her children.
In another TRR exclusive, a former insider at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries explains what really happened behind-the-scenes at RZIM and why apologies from current RZIM leaders ring hollow.
And in one of our most-shared interviews, a woman who grew up in Bill Gothard’s homeschool community exposes the patriarchal system behind the Josh Duggar scandal. On a related theme, author Rebecca Davis shares what the Bible really says about patriarchy.
Finally, a former vice president at The Master’s Seminary shares why he believes John MacArthur has never actually written a book. He also exposes the culture of fear, intimidation, and spiritual abuse prevalent at MacArthur’s school and ministries.
Tune in for these and other highlights from a crucial year of reporting the truth and restoring the church!
Podcasts featured in our Best of 2021 episode:
JULIE ROYS, DENNIS SWANSON, CARSON WEITNAUER, EMILY E ANDERSON, REBECCA DAVIS, BENJAMIN ENEAS, CHAD FREESE, NAGHMEH PANAHI
JULIE ROYS 00:03
The Roys Report podcast grew exponentially in 2021, as we exposed the cult Mark Driscoll is running in Arizona. And we offered exclusive, new information about how Franklin Graham betrayed abused wife, Naghmeh Panahi, to try and salvage the Save Saeed movement. Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And this is a special, best of 2021 podcast. In this episode, you’ll hear excerpts from our most popular podcasts of the year. These include podcasts about the cult-like church Mark Driscoll is running in Arizona. You’ll also hear how Franklin Graham pressured Naghmeh Panahi to reconcile with her abusive husband, Pastor Saeed. And how Graham flew Pastor Saeed, and an entire entourage, to Naghmeh’s home in Idaho for a surprise visit. This was at a time when Saeed was reportedly threatening Naghmeh and scheming to steal her children. You’ll also hear from a former insider at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He’ll explain what really happened behind the scenes—and why the current apologies from RZIM leaders ring hollow. You’ll hear about the abusive, patriarchal system behind the Josh Duggar scandal. And we’ll explore what the Bible really says about patriarchy with author Rebecca Davis. Finally, we’ll hear from a former vice president at The Master’s Seminary about the truth behind John MacArthur and his ministries. This was an incredibly revealing podcast. And it’s no wonder it was among our top podcasts of 2021. We’ll get to these highlights in a minute. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast—Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of character. To check them out, just go to BuyACar123.com. Well, it’s been seven years since Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church amid allegations of bullying, plagiarizing, and misuse of funds. But the insanity hasn’t stopped. He’s rebooted in Arizona. And two of my most popular podcasts this year, receiving more than 20-thousand listens each, dealt with Driscoll’s new cult-like church in Scottdale, The Trinity Church. My guests on both podcasts were Chad Freeze, the former head of security at Trinity, and his colleague on the security team, Benjamin Eneas. In this clip, Chad describes his first meeting with Driscoll and his staff behind closed doors. And it’s clear, Driscoll hasn’t changed his abusive ways. If anything, he’s gotten worse.
CHAD FREESE 02:51
And he asked me he said, okay, Chad, this meeting is yours as the head of security, kick it off and run with it. So, I pass out the handouts to everyone in the room, and I started speaking, and not even 30 seconds, in Mark says, he goes to Chad, let me interrupt you. Sorry, I, you know, I, I told you I asked you to run the meeting, just let me set the stage so you understand where I come from, and my background, which I already knew most his background, but he starts off by, again, just all about numbers. And he said, Chad, just you know, you know, I’m, I’m the largest pastor in the western United States, one of the biggest ministry presence in southwest United States. I’ve got millions and millions of people viewing my content online. They say my episode on my pray.com was downloaded 10 million times in December. He goes on and on with statements like that. It’s all I, I, I, me, me, me. And that’s the very first couple minutes of my meeting with him and my eyes were truly opened to where he preaches on stage, it’s all about Jesus. But in reality, the actions behind the scenes are it’s all about Driscoll. And I didn’t know that that phrase was coined or used during the Mars Hill’s days. And so, I started Googling it. But that’s what I started to see right here in this meeting. He’s telling me all about him; how great he is, how wonderful he is, how big his presence online is, and how wonderful his ministry is, and how that needs to be protected above everything else. And not once did he say, you know, I’m so thankful that millions of people view my content, because I have a great production team. I have a great social media team. I have this, all these people that support it. I brought that up. I mentioned that to him, like, yes, you do have a great presence because of all these volunteers and a few paid staff that are helping you get to that point. But again, it was all about him and all about numbers from the very beginning. Then he shifts it and he said okay, so from a security perspective, now that you need know, like, how big I am and how great I am, and my ministry is and what we need to protect. Let me give you a little behind the scenes of what I’ve had to go through at Mars Hill. And he says, you know, my family suffers from PTSD. Chad, there were times that helicopters were hovering over my house, countless hours of the night which I’ve since verified that. Yeah, there were helicopters over his house, but not because of him. It’s because there was a hospital across the freeway from him. They had a trauma center with multiple helipads. You start listening to what he says, and you can start picking out the lies and how he twists it. You know, he’s telling me stories about his former head of security, who I recently have made contact with, tried to kill him. Tried to have his family murdered. Tried to have his kids kidnapped in the streets right in front of their house. Yeah, his kids are playing in the yard or in the woods. And people try to attack them and stone them and throw stones at them. And he’s telling all this stuff to me and my former head to security put my address online. I had to move five times. He tried to have people come to our house and break in and hurt my family.
JULIE ROYS 05:01
When you talk to the former head of security from Mars Hill, I’m suspecting here, did he verify these stories?
CHAD FREESE 05:18
No, they’re not true. It’s all fabricated or twisted based off of another story that may have had some truth to it. So, no one was out to kill him and have him and his family murdered. But what was something that was funny was, while he’s telling me this story, I noticed Ashley kept looking at me. And she and Landon were both sitting there kind of squirming in their chairs. They didn’t seem very comfortable at all. And Mark’s looking at Grace, he looks at Ashley after he gets done telling me all these stories, and Ashley looks at me and she goes, Chad. It’s like this. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, you know, until they are, and you just don’t know what it’s like to be a celebrity, and to live this celebrity lifestyle. And once you’re a celebrity, everyone’s just out to get you and lie about you online and make all these stories up. And I guess that’s just the life of a celebrity. And in my mind, I’m thinking well, when you’re not a celebrity, most people Ben and I, Ben can attest to this, we interviewed countless people who join the security team. And hardly anyone even knew who Mark was. Most people there don’t know his history. And they’ve worked very hard to conceal it. So, Mark sitting there. So back to the story. I just thought that was funny. Like, okay, we’re such celebrities. And this is how big and important we are. That was really the driving factor of the conversation was Let’s protect our status and understand what my family’s been through. We’ve been through such traumatic experiences. And then Mark shifted, and he was very soft spoken the first I don’t know, 20-30 minutes, then he got really angry. And he’s like, he said, Chad, I do not trust a single man on my staff. I don’t trust them. Not a single one of them. And sprinkling a few curse words in there. So, he’s going on and on. Chad, I don’t effing trust any of them. Who knows what could happen next? He’s one thing after another he turns around looks at Brandon. Now mind you, pastor Brandon Anderson sitting on the couch behind him not even at the table with us. He’s behind them. So, Mark turns around, and he points in Brandon face, and he yells at him. He’s like, you know, this is your effing problem, and you better effing fix it. And just cursing him and yell and Brandon’s face turns blood red. And he turns over, looks at me and looks back at Mark. And he says Yes, sir. You know, I’ve got it. We’ll fix it. Yes, sir. We’ll fix it. He said that goes for all the men on my staff. Like you all need to get your (expletive) in order. And all the men in the room are, Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir. Absolutely. And that’s the type of behavior and I can see that culture in that environment. Again, this is my first meeting, but Wow! Everyone’s a yes, man. They’re literally bowing down doing whatever this guy says.
JULIE ROYS 06:12
As he’s abusing them. I mean, he’s using foul language. He’s saying he doesn’t trust any of them. I mean, did he even degrade their manhood somewhat?
CHAD FREESE 06:21
He did. Again, putting them down. He doesn’t trust them, just basically challenging their manhood, which is what he does on Wednesdays at Real Men, you know, and the rest of that meeting was just getting into the details of security planning and his concerns about, we’re out to get him and his family. I mean, that was a running theme throughout the next two hours of conversation.
JULIE ROYS 06:40
So, this is what’s so sad about pastors like Mark Driscoll resigning their churches only to plant new ones. The abuse continues—and so do the number of victims. But it’s not just the abusive and bullying behavior that’s so bad. So are the levels of control. On my second podcast with Chad Freese and Ben Eneas, they describe the cult-like level of control Driscoll exerts at The Trinity Church. This is epitomized by something called, “The Spectrum of Trust.”
CHAD FREESE 07:06
I got pulled into another meeting. So as pastor Brandon Anderson, and Caleb Glenny, so the three of us were in Brandon’s office. And he says, So Chad, just you know, Caleb, and I just sat through a couple hour session with Pastor Mark and the rest of the staff, where we talked about trust levels and relationships. And Mark briefed the staff on what is called the spectrum of trust, from zero to 10. The higher you are on the spectrum, the more access you get an asset have access to what he said all the access to the drill skulls, that just goes our level 10. So the higher you get on that spectrum, the more trust and more access to the Driscoll that you get. And he says, So Chad. Security team is like a level nine as a security team, because security is very important. And you’re in these private meetings, and you’re having these conversations, but you’re not attend because you’re not in Jessica’s personal life. You’re not like doing security at his house, for example. So you’re not fully trusted on level 10. But your team is like a nine. Then he says, So Chad, you’re like, an eight. And I’m like, wait a minute, how am I an eight? I’m the Director of Security Team security team as a nine How am I lower than that? That’s mentally what I’m processing? Like, what is he saying here? And he’s like, you know, your wife, maybe like a six. Ben is even lower than you Chad because he can’t get his wife under control. He’s not leaving his family. Well, he’s not leaving his house, which is totally false. By the way, Ben is one of the best husbands and fathers and leaders I’ve ever become friends with or met. I just want to make that clear on the record.
JULIE ROYS 08:44
Well, and not handling your family well means he’s not controlling his wife, and controlling Zach from speaking the truth, or associating with people that the church has deemed she can associate with, correct?
CHAD FREESE 08:59
Absolutely. And that’s what you continue to say about a few other people. So he says, Brandon said, Well, Ben is a level below us. He’s probably like a seven. His wife is, you know, his wife is probably like a level three. Because Ben’s not leading them well, and his wife has relationships with people that the church has deemed as unsafe. These people are toxic, they’re demonic, and she should be associating with them. Many goes on to say goes chatted like this, you know, as, as men, we’re pretty logical. You know, we approach things from a logical way. But women, women are way too emotional. And women just cannot cut these relationships. They can’t separate, you know, business from, from personal relationships. And if the men can’t get their wives under control, then we have to reassess where they fall on the spectrum of trust. What I’m hearing is, the church is going to tell us who we can and can’t be friends with. He goes, No, no, no, no, I’m not. We can’t say that because we can’t tell you who you can and can’t be friends with. All we’re saying is that if you choose to be friends with these people that are unsafe, then we can no longer fellowship with you. Or maybe you can’t serve in a leadership position, or serve on security. So you got to pick one or the other.
JULIE ROYS 10:15
This is so toxic. And there’s major issues of boundaries. There’s personal boundaries about who you can associate and what the church can tell you and not tell you to do. And this is where it does cross the line over into, I think cult like behavior. I mean, this is kind of definition of cult and may not have bad doctrine. But that seems to always follow eventually, because you have to find a doctrine to support what you’re doing. But the control is, is really the scary level. And Ben, you are on the receiving end of this. You kind of learned through the grapevine that you weren’t to be trusted anymore. Right?
BENJAMIN ENEAS 10:52
Yeah, Chad comes downstairs and lets me know about this allegation that I’m not leading my family well, or controlling my wife, which is comical, because why would I want to do that?
JULIE ROYS 11:01
Thank you. All of us, wives. Thank you for that statement. And honestly, this is misogyny. I just want to say that it is out right, and to say that women are too emotional, and to not bless the strength that women have, because they do form such deep relationships. But yes, when you’re trying to form an abusive system and run it, those loving relationships that are committed to each other become an impediment so I can see why he would want to degrade that. But again, that that’s just my editorial comment, because that really does make me angry, but go ahead, Ben.
BENJAMIN ENEAS 11:31
It hits a nerve and it should because it’s disgusting, and it shouldn’t exist. But here we are. It seems to be kind of prevalent within the entire Christian community right now as we look through SBC and all that going on there. I mean, it’s just sad.
JULIE ROYS 11:45
It is sad, and I truly hope podcasts like these continue to expose the completely inappropriate ways abusive pastors operate. If you’re in a church, anything remotely like to our schools, I encourage you to get out and warn others to get out. People like Driscoll will be shut down only after enough people refuse to follow them. Well, one of the next most popular podcasts this year was with Naghmeh, the former wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini. As you may remember, Pastor Saeed was imprisoned in an Iranian jail from 2012 through most of 2015. And nod may became one of his most visible advocates and partnered with Franklin Graham and Jay Sekulow. In what became a worldwide safe side movement. This movement catapulted not just nod made a worldwide prominence, but also Franklin Graham and Jay Sekulow. But there was a dark history of abuse behind it all, as nog may shared in stunning detail on part one of my podcast with her. In this clip, she tells about the time side beat her brutally beginning in 2005. She also explains why she kept the abuse secret, and how purity culture played a part.
NAGHMEH PANAHI 12:49
Saeed was trained by Hezbollah, which is a terrorist group. So, before he became a ‘Christian’, so he knew how to kill with his hands. And I’m a pretty weak person. I was born as a twin; I was always the weaker twin. Doctors Always thought she is not going to survive. She’s really weak. I was always the scrawny, sickly twin. So, I was not a very strong person. So next thing I know Saeed is beating me up, I’m having bruises all over. I have bumps like the cartoons. I remember looking at myself and thinking, I would laugh at Tom and Jerry, where Tom would get hit, and there would be a bump. And as I think Tom is the cat, but I remember looking in the mirror and thinking there’s bumps coming out of my head. I remember I was getting kicked so many times in my tummy, including in my tummy where the baby was. And all over my body punched in the face, in the head kicked in the face and the head. I just remember crawling to the bathroom and locking the door. I’m thinking I’m gonna die. And no one’s listening to my screaming and yelling. This is the Middle East. This is normal. I’m sorry to say it, but this is normal for a woman to be screaming and yelling, no police nothing. And that’s the first really bad incident. Before that incident, which was November of 2015, and Saeed and I had gotten married 2014. And I’ve met him 2012. So, the three years that I’ve been with him there was pushing and shoving and spitting at me and things like that. But somehow, again, I dismissed those. This beating was the first full on beating that was a near death experience.
JULIE ROYS 13:58
And yet at that point, you didn’t leave him. I don’t know if it was because of again, the cultural, the conditioning that he had already given you to think kind of low of yourself. You justified this somehow. You rationalize it. How did you do that?
NAGHMEH PANAHI 14:13
That I talked back, I shouldn’t have said so what, he’s tired, he’s under a lot of stress. I’ve already been degraded to a point where I just didn’t think so high of myself that I didn’t say this is not the way to be treated. And I was attached. There’s trauma bonding that happens with the abusers. I’d never dated. He was the first man I’d ever kissed or been with, you know, sexually or anything. I was bonded. I didn’t know how to break free. And I had two choices. I was pregnant with my daughter. I could walk away and be a single mom, which I was definitely afraid of and again, in my culture, and in the church culture, divorce is taboo. And being a single mom was a big fear of mine. So, I had a choice to draw the boundary and say no, this is it. You just beat me up pretty bad. This is it. Or downplay it, minimize it, justify it to keep the marriage and to keep our family together, which I thought was godly. All the woman’s retreats that I went to all the teachings of Proverbs 31 as being a quiet spirit and not you know, being loud and just submitting. And so, I thought I’m going to do my part and God’s gonna bless that.
JULIE ROYS 15:24
The two of you then ended up settling in Boise, Idaho, but two years later, so in 2007, the same thing happens except this time, you’re actually on a Skype call with his family members, right?
NAGHMEH PANAHI 15:37
Yeah, he was on a Skype call with his parents and his sister, and he was saying things and I said That’s not true. He was putting me down. And again, I said something like, That’s not true. And he left the computer, he came after me grabbed me by my collar around my neck and shoved me against the wall start rebuking demons out of me. And I saw the same thing in his eyes as I’d seen in Dubai. And I want to say, between 2005 where he beat me pretty bad in Dubai, until 2007, he accomplished his goal, which was I was willing to do anything not to get to that point of anger. I wouldn’t talk back. My pastor had told me seeing Saeed angry a few times and seeing my life in danger, had told me just cook and clean and don’t try to tell him anything. Because I tell my pastor, but he’s watching pornography, but I think he’s, you know, he goes out to clubs, and people have seen him with women and my pastor had seen him being very aggressive with me. But you know, my pastor’s advice to me was just submit and be quiet. And so, between 2005 and 2007, I was the shell of a person, I would submit to anything he would say. I would not talk back, because I knew that he could kill me, I knew now. And he grabbed me, and he shoved me against the wall, and I thought, I’m gonna die. And my infant 10-month-old daughter is watching this happen, I didn’t know what to do. And I just cried out to God, in my mind, I said, God, please deliver me. And all of a sudden, he left me. And he grabbed his computer and went to the office and closed the door, because he realized he needed to finish this conversation with his parents before he came back and did what he needed to do to punish me. I was afraid his phone call with his parents was going to be over soon. And he was going to come after me. And I just didn’t know what was gonna happen to my daughter, what he was going to do in front of her, so I called the police, and they took him.
JULIE ROYS 17:28
Despite that arrest in 2007, and later conviction for domestic abuse, Pastor Saeed continued to minister both at home in the states—and in his native Iran. And when he was arrested and imprisoned in Iran in 2012, Naghmeh stood by his side. And to the world, Pastor Saeed became a hero. But Naghmeh says the abuse continued, even from prison, as Saeed continued to berate, pressure, and even threaten Naghmeh. And then came an “Aha!” moment when Naghmeh finally realized that Saeed was abusing her—and her silence was helping no one. So she sent an email to her supporters, telling them about the abuse and asking them for prayer. That email was leaked to the press just weeks before Saeed was released. And as Naghmeh told me, this made Saeed even more angry—and the threats increased. Naghmeh told all this to Franklin Graham. But when Saeed returned to the states, Franklin pressured Naghmeh to leave her home in Idaho and come with her kids and be reunited with Saeed. When she refused, Franklin secretly put Saeed on a private jet with an entire entourage and flew them to Naghmeh’s home. As Naghmeh explains in our second podcast, this was terrifying to her. Not only did she fear for her own safety, she feared Saeed would take her kids.
NAGHMEH PANAHI 18:43
My lawyer said, if he ever comes, you need to file for a legal separation and a protection order, so he can’t take the kids and take him to Iran. That was my biggest worry. Then I get a call in the morning from Reuters saying how do you feel about Saeed coming to Boise? And I said, Oh, no, he’s not! They’re like, Oh, yes, he is. Like, I don’t think so. I’m like arguing with the Reuters reporter. They’re like, we confirmed it with the Samaritan’s Purse people. His private jet has just taken off. And I’m thinking, Oh, my goodness, I have probably less than four hours because I’d been on that private jet going back and forth. I thought I don’t have that much time. So I called my lawyer. And she said he cannot take the kids. She said with a private jet. It’s so easy. He just comes takes them. He’s their father, he can do whatever he wants. He can take him out of state if he wants to. And who does that when I’ve told Franklin, I’m afraid Saeed has threatened to take the kids? Who does a surprise with a bodyguard and Saeed and his parents and his sister and the marriage counselors? They show up unannounced on a private jet. Like that is traumatic.
JULIE ROYS 19:56
You can hear how Naghmeh’s story ends by listening to the rest of that podcast. All the links for the podcasts highlighted in this episode are listed at our website. Just go to JulieRoys.com/podcast—and then click on the Best of 2021 episode. Again, that’s Julie Roys dot com, slash podcast. Next, we turn to the Ravi Zacharias story, which actually broke in 2020. But the fallout continued in 2021, as numerous RZIM executives issued apologies. Many said they were simply duped by Ravi, and their worst sin was believing too much in Ravi’s good character. Yet one person, who was on the inside for years, said that’s not quite true. His name is Carson Wietnauer. And he served as the U.S. Director for RZIM. In a fascinating episode about What’s Really Happening at RZIM, Carson revealed how many of the top leaders at RZIM were culpable for what happened. This includes RZIM Vice President and lawyer, Abdu Murray, who earlier this year, appeared on a podcast with Sean McDowell. In McDowell’s podcast, which McDowell recently took down without comment, Abdu presented a very sympathetic view of himself. But Carson tells the rest of the story.
CARSON WEITNAUER 21:10
We all know that Ravi filed a RICO lawsuit against the Thompson’s and Abdu was there as a lawyer to back Ravi up and say, Yeah, that makes sense. And Abdu says in the interview with the McDowell’s, he thought, Okay, this RICO lawsuit makes Ravi look like an innocent man. So, if you don’t know about a RICO lawsuit, and Abdu saying, as a lawyer, this demonstrates that Ravi is innocent. He’s putting it all out there. That carries a lot of weight, right? But now, it’s clear that the RICO lawsuit was an egregious response to the Thompson’s. It was using a sledgehammer to kill an ant. And a RICO was picked precisely because it’s such an expensive and complex lawsuit. And that was going to create a lot of pressure on the Thompsons to defend themselves and put a lot of pressure on them to sign an NDA. And so actually, the RICO lawsuit was a red flag that Ravi was guilty. And, you know, a big problem here, because Abdu’s whole apologetic is that he’s a lawyer. He had a podcast at RZIM called The Defense Rests. And as an apologist Abdu likes the RZIM #noquestionofflimits. But when team members were asking questions about Ravi, we know that Abdu got hostile. So, when Ruth asked questions Abdu insulted her, and said she had gone from being skeptical to being cynical. And it wasn’t just what he said. He forced Ruth on a sabbatical, and he confiscated her computer and phone to make sure she had nothing incriminating about Ravi on her devices. And he wanted to fire her for her disloyalty. And that was humiliating and harsh and abusive treatment of Ruth. And this is happening at the same time that no one looks at Ravi’s phones. No one checks Ravi’s phone records. And the board doesn’t do anything to investigate Ravi. Those are just a few examples of where there’s a major gap between the wisdom of the words Abdu is quoting from and providing an accurate recollection of what he’s responsible for.
JULIE ROYS 23:14
I can understand why you and other staff members at RZIM were deceived. What the information you’ve just been given, makes a little bit incredulous to me is his claim that he had no clue, because he’s the one making these defenses and as you say, he’s saying the RICO suit made Ravi look innocent when, as a lawyer, he should have known it was the exact opposite. And so, I guess, you know, there’s a little bit of skepticism with me that he really believed 100% in Ravi’s innocence when he has so much. And this is the thing. Abdu had so much to lose. Ravi was his platform too. Ravi and he had just written a book together. That book got deep sixed because of this whole scandal. You know, I don’t know the man’s heart. But I will say what you’ve just told me raises a lot of questions.
CARSON WEITNAUER 24:17
Yeah, one of my friends says that, again, we don’t know anyone’s hearts. But given the evidence we have, it’s either a question of character, or it’s a question of competence. And either way that question gets resolved, it’s still damaging to their credibility. You know, another angle on this is what Abdu told David French. And when David reported on Ruth’s letter. Abdu told David, it was not my experience that there was a concerted effort to make people feel marginalized or disloyal. And, you know, I have to respond to that. In October of 2020, I was talking with Abdu directly. And in that conversation, Abdu said this to me, he said, “Let’s say we released Lori Anne from the NDA or the Zacharias’ do. Or we say we’ll pay for whatever legal fees would be there. She can say anything she wants. She can lie about how many times they talked on the phone. She can lie about what they said on the phone. And we have no way whatsoever of saying that did or didn’t happen. And she entered into that NDA with lawyers. It wasn’t like she was sitting in a room somewhere by herself. Her and her husband cowering in the corner crying. I mean, I wasn’t there. But I do know they were represented by lawyers.
JULIE ROYS 25:36
That is an unbelievable statement, because this is after a lot of her story had come out. It’s shocking to me that he said that in October, after so much of this had come out. And what we’re talking about right now, Carson, we’re talking about trust. I mean, trust once broken in egregious ways that you’re discussing here. That cannot be restored with an apology. Yes, forgiveness can be restored. I mean, you can forgive someone overnight. But trust, regaining trust? That’s earned over time. And he’s, I mean, what you’re saying and what you’re presenting here is he has such a great deficit of trust right now, that to platform him or as he said, in the interview with the McDowell’s that he’s writing a book right now, sounds like he’s going to replatform. We’re not even close to that stage. Interestingly, Abdu Murray still posts his website online where he’s selling his book and touting endorsements. He’s also still listed on his website as the North American Director with RZIM. So, despite everything that’s happened, it appears RZIM does exist and perhaps is still employing executives like Abdu. Of course, just recently, Sarah Davis, the former CEO of RZIM, launched her own ministry, called the Lighten Group. When asked, Lighten refused to answer whether it had received any funds from RZIM. Well, now we turn to a podcast ripped from the headlines. As you may know, Josh Duggar—former star of the TV show “19 Kids and Counting”—was convicted just weeks ago of possessing child porn. This caps a string of bad behavior, including a pornography addiction, and a membership to Ashley Madison—an online dating service for married people. So why, after all Josh Duggar’s done, does his wife stay married to him? And what kind of culture produces a family like the Duggars? In a fascinating podcast, Emily Elizabeth Anderson answers that question. Emily was one of 19 women who brought a sexual abuse and harassment lawsuit against Bill Gothard, creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. This is the community in which Josh Duggar was raised. And according to Emily, it’s an abusive, patriarchal system that’s very difficult to leave.
EMILY E ANDERSON 27:40
I want people to understand that if Anna were to divorce, which we can get that into that a minute how divorces never ever, ever allowed. But if she were, she is not just walking away from her marriage. But she’s going to have to reckon with the idea of going against a belief system she’s been raised in her entire life. So that means getting a divorce, which is never allowed. That means getting out of authority of her husband, which means she is now open to attacks from Satan, which means she could be attacked, she could be killed, one of her children could be murdered, she could get in a car wreck. I mean, like every horrible disaster situation you can think of, she’s been told is now a possibility that God’s going to allow that as punishment for her being out of authority of her husband.
JULIE ROYS 28:31
And then they also put on top of this, that a wife can never refuse her husband. I remember, in 2015, when Josh Duggar’s affairs and the abuse all came out. The pastor of Josh Duggar got up in the midst of all this, and actually said, if a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner sexually happy, they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy, and that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you. So basically, blaming the woman if you’re if your husband does have an affair, like Josh did, it’s probably your fault, because you’re not fulfilling him.
EMILY E ANDERSON 29:06
Absolutely. Because women are taught that men have this insatiable out of control sex drive, and that he’s gonna want it all the time. And you’ve got to always give it to him, or else he’s gonna stray. A woman is taught that her body no longer belongs to her, which it does come from a verse, but it actually again is mutual. It means that the husband and wife are giving your body to one another. But that doesn’t mean that you lose all right to say No. It’s made one sided, that, hey, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to your husband. So, you need to always comply to whatever he wants. And women are constantly pumped with this fear that if they don’t give their husband sex, every time he wants it, he’s going to go off and have an affair or he’s going to look at porn, or whatever it is. She’s always blamed for any kind of infidelity. Because she’s told Well, she just didn’t give him enough sex.
JULIE ROYS 30:04
Again, fear, the woman’s constantly kept in fear. It doesn’t sound like there’s very much preaching on husbands loving your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I mean, the husband should be constantly thinking about how can he love his wife? How can he sacrifice for his wife? How can he as the head of the family be the first to initiate and do what Christ did, which wasn’t come and demand things of u, but come and serve us? I mean, there’s just so perverse there’s, there’s no gospel.
EMILY E ANDERSON 30:30
Yes. There’s a well-known blogger who teaches everything that ATI does, I don’t know her exact connections, but she teaches us all the fundamentalist teaching. And she has flat out said, it doesn’t matter. Just talking to the woman. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pain, if you’re hurting. Grit your teeth and bear it, because this is how you serve your husband. You continue to have sex, even if it’s painful. And then for the few times she’s medically not allowed. So, for instance, during postpartum when she’s cleared by a physician, to have sex, she is told she needs that this is an incredibly difficult time for her husband. And it’s going to be very tempting for him to stray. And so, in order to help him, she needs to continue to give him release in other ways. So again, it’s like Never mind that this woman just went through childbirth, and her body is going through massive changes, and she’s trying to heal from such a physically traumatic event. No, it’s this is a hard time for the husband, and you’ve got to do everything you can to give him as much relief as possible, or else he’s gonna go somewhere else. And that will be your fault.
JULIE ROYS 31:42
This is just out and out misogyny. It’s just absolutely evil. Well, speaking of misogyny—another top podcast of 2021 dealt with what the Bible really says about patriarchy. Movements like the Gothard’s claim to be biblical. But according to Rebecca Davis, that’s not true. Rebecca is the author of a series of books on Untwisting Scriptures That Were Used to Tie You Up, Gag You, and Tangle Your Mind. And as she explains in a popular podcast with me, many of the Bible verses used to promote patriarchy are taken out of context. And then they’re used to silence woman and also abuse victims. One example of this is the patriarchal teaching on Colossians 4:6, a verse that says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt . . .” Some say this means you can’t say anything negative about anyone—ever! Rebecca disagrees.
REBECCA DAVIS 32:33
The cover of this book has a woman reading the Bible with duct tape over her mouth. That’s what’s happening with so many of the Scriptures and people will hear a scripture like that in counseling, or from their Christian leader in church, and they won’t know what to do. In fact, this particular chapter is the result of someone asking me that very question. Like I was told this in counseling, and now I feel like I can’t talk about my abuse. So I talk about what it means for our speech to be seasoned with salt, for speech to be gracious. And of course, we do want to have gracious speech, we do want to have speech seasoned with salt. So, what did these things mean? They don’t mean that we can’t ever say anything bad about anyone. Because we’ve got to be able to speak what’s true, in an appropriate context and in an appropriate way. We need to be able to do that. And the saying, the old saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. When abuse survivors are told that, when abuse victims are told that, well, you’re not being nice, all it does is serve to silence those who are being oppressed and empower the oppressors. And so, our speech should certainly be nuanced. We don’t want to be bombastic. And salt preserves. Salt is a preservative far more back in the biblical times when Jesus was or when Paul was writing this, and Jesus also did reference salt. Have salt in yourselves, he said. So that the salt in ourselves is a preserving force. And I think of your slogan, Restoring the Church. And I think that’s the restoring the church, that’s a work of salt. It is a purifying work because salt, salt preserves, and it purifies. It will kill pathogens, all of these things, the people of Jesus’ time, the people of Paul’s time, would have known these things immediately. So, when they hear salt, they would have had a whole set of things they would think about. So, for us, we need to think about the same things. It’s not just be nice. Don’t say anything that doesn’t sound nice, don’t say anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. But it’s having that preserving character in yourself, the restoring purifying character, and the character that speaks with nuance.
JULIE ROYS 35:10
The final, top podcast of 2021 was one I recorded with Dennis Swanson, a former vice president at The Master’s Seminary—John MacArthur’s school in Los Angeles, California. If you’ve followed The Roys Report, you know that I published numerous articles on John MacArthur in 2021. The most popular one dealt with MacArthur’s three homes, large multiple salaries, and funneling millions in ministry funds to his son-in-law. I also published about how MacArthur’s church reportedly concealed a COVID outbreak in December 2020. This was significant because Grace Community Church continued meeting and defying public health regulations throughout the outbreak—and several church members died. For months, the church refused to acknowledge the outbreak. And MacArthur later accused me in a statement submitted to a California court of spreading “falsehoods” and creating “a false impression.” But then in August of this year, MacArthur finally admitted there was an outbreak at the church the previous December. He also admitted he had COVID last December too. But there was no apology for any of the things MacArthur had said, or actions he had taken. For many, who viewed MacArthur as a paragon of integrity and truthfulness, the entire episode was very disillusioning. But not for Dennis Swanson. I’d like to play two clips from my podcast with Swanson. Both speak to MacArthur’s character. In the first, Swanson talks about the books John MacArthur has written—or at least, claimed to have written. You told me one time that John MacArthur has never actually written a book in his life. Is that right?
DENNIS SWANSON 36:43
That’s my opinion. Yeah, I know who the ghost writers are. And I know who wrote even the earliest books. He was a English professor. He was a reformed Episcopal minister, but he wrote the early books, and they were sermons.
JULIE ROYS 36:56
So they’re, they’re taking the sermons and sort of massaging them. You’re saying there’s no part of it that was John MacArthur?
DENNIS SWANSON 36:59
And putting them into in some readable order. And that’s kind of when Phil Johnson came in. He did, he had been an editor, I think, at Moody Press. And then he came in to do the gospel according to Jesus and one thing led to another and he ghostwrote several books after that, and there’s another person right after that, who’s Nathan Buseness, who is the ghost writer, he wrote books out of whole cloth. I’m wasn’t there was no certain underlying sermon series behind it. Other than maybe him looking at it and saying, Yeah, that looks good.
JULIE ROYS 37:28
You weren’t involved firsthand in those other books, but you were in the MacArthur Study Bible?
DENNIS SWANSON 37:33
We got different sections assigned to us, different books of the Bible, and we create notes and then Dick Mayhue would edit them and put them together.? And then, I mean, the process was supposed to be then John carefully looked at each one and, you know, changed the wording to and that was not what I saw. I saw him appear every other week or so for half hour, 45 minutes in this little room where Dick had taken a little conference room and created the whole, where the study bible is produced. The study Bible, in my view, was 80% Dick Mayhue taking the stuff that the Seminary had created, re-editing it and John doing something. But I mean, the idea that he looked at every single note and rechecked them all I rather doubt that happened.
JULIE ROYS 37:49
What did you see? Is it unusual though, in the publishing business?
DENNIS SWANSON 38:22
I guess, for big name authors and things like that, it might not be unusual. I question it ethically, at a certain level. If everyone thinks you did this, and you really didn’t, and you don’t really do anything to dissuade people of that fact.
JULIE ROYS 38:37
So did you write a portion of it?
DENNIS SWANSON 38:38
I redid a lot of the notes in Proverbs that had to be taken a look at and I over, I went through and checked the notes for I used to teach the archaeology class. So I checked the notes on archaeology and suggested a few here and there that that occurred. And you know, some of them are there.
JULIE ROYS 38:56
You did actually write a chapter though, as I understand in a counseling book.
DENNIS SWANSON 38:57
Yeah, there were three books in a series that I think Word ended up publishing them. One was the book on preaching. Another one was on pastoral ministry. And then there was a book on counseling. And a guy named Wayne Mack, who is the professor of counseling at the college at the time was kind of the the lead editor. It was one of those John MacArthur, Wayne Mack and the college faculty, just like the preaching book was the Seminary faculty. I did a lot of the editing, just, you know, proofreading and things like that. And then I did one chapter where I compiled it, it was a frequently asked question, chapter. I wrote some of the answers and a lot of the contributors answered, as well. And it came out and it was well done, it was well received. I think they still use it as a textbook. And then, oh about two years later, the book was being reissued. I think they tinkered with the title, I think they changed all of the titles of those slightly, and reissued them. And when the new one came out, and I’m working in the library. So I see a lot of the new books. And so all the new counseling book came out. And I saw, let me look at it, and I’m skimming through it. And I come to the chapter that I had done. And my name wasn’t there anymore. It was now John MacArthur.
JULIE ROYS 40:00
As concerning as what you just heard is, it’s not the most concerning thing Dennis Swanson told me. What’s even more concerning is the culture of fear, intimidation, and spiritual abuse that MacArthur reportedly fosters. This culture, and also blatant nepotism, caused the accrediting body over Master’s University and Seminary to put the school on probation in 2018. But according to Swanson, that didn’t humble MacArthur. Instead, it unleashed the same kind of virulent backlash that my articles this year did.
DENNIS SWANSON 40:31
It’s like a mafia. I don’t get any of it. There’s nothing Christian about the way they deal with people who don’t agree with them. When the school is put on probation, by WASC, MacArthur went to the spoke in chapel and he said, You know, this is a an organized satanic attack.
JULIE ROYS 40:52
DENNIS SWANSON 40:54
No it wasn’t! You need to get your house in order. It’s not just a difference of opinion. It’s a it’s an attack, or it’s a satanic attack, or it’s an organized, orchestrated attack on truth.
JULIE ROYS 41:06
The same thing happened to Austin Doucet, who was the Seminary student who spoke out about these COVID guidelines that TMUS who had themselves, that was their guidelines that they were flagrantly violating and how he was being balked by professors because he was wearing a mask these things. And he showed the conversation that was going on in this kind of a private social media that they had at the Seminary. And they were saying pray for Austin’s salvation.
DENNIS SWANSON 41:33
Yeah, if you don’t agree with them, you must be evil, or you’re just not saved. And all those things have been said about me. It’s really too bad because the schools had really good people, really knowledgeable people, broad thinking people who could really make the schools shine.
JULIE ROYS 41:54
Well, that concludes our best of 2021 podcasts. In some ways, these podcasts reveal the worst of what’s going on in our churches. But as a journalist, I’ve always believed that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And it’s my sincere hope that you’ll take what you’ve learned in these podcasts—and use it to hold ministries accountable. I pray, too, that you’ll support whistleblowers and victims of abuse. Too often, they become the targets of leaders with secrets to hide. But if we stand with them, I’m convinced we can make a difference. Again, thank you 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 online, just go to Julie Roys, spelled ROYS dot com. That’s Julie Roys dot com. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to the Roys Report on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a review. And then, please share these podcasts on social media to help spread the word. Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report. Hope you have a great day, and God bless.