Dave Ramsey

Opinion: Dave Ramsey, the Good Ole Boy Network & the Evangelical Industrial Complex

By Julie Roys

Dave Ramsey is a good ole boy. And if you’re going to work for him, he wants you to be one too. Specifically, he wants you to have his “six.”

In military language, your “six”—short for 6 o’clock—refers to your back; 12—short for 12 o’clock—refers to your front.  So, when someone says, they’ve got your six, it means they’ve got your back.

And as Ramsey explains in leaked audio of a May 2019 staff meeting, having someone’s six is a supreme virtue of “hillbilly culture” (i.e. the good ole boy network).

“By my upbringing, we stand with our friends. We got your six,” Ramsey stated. “We stand with our family. We got your six. We stand with our church, and don’t run them down. I got your six, pastor. I got your six.”

Certainly, loyalty, when directed toward someone who deserves it, is a virtue. Yet as even Ramsey admits, it can be a vice.

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“We are so prone to this level of loyalty, we carry it to a toxic extreme—all the way over into stupid,” Ramsey said. “Like when the family is wrong and completely misbehaving, we still stand with them because we’re just stupid.

“You shouldn’t do that at that point. But this is seared into me and into this place from our upbringing. See, we don’t—in my brain—we don’t do Switzerland. There is no neutral.”

“We are so prone to this level of loyalty, we carry it to a toxic extreme . . . Like when the family is wrong and completely misbehaving, we still stand with them because we’re just stupid.”

Ramsey’s right: showing unquestioning loyalty is stupid. But it’s more than stupid: it’s integral to every abusive church, ministry, or Christian organization on which I’ve reported.

This notion that one should be loyal first, and ask questions second, if at all, was integral to Harvest Bible Chapel under its former pastor James MacDonald.

Just days after I published my initial exposé revealing MacDonald’s rampant bullying, deception, and financial misconduct, this toxic loyalty compelled Harvest’s sycophant elders to publicly pledge “unconditional support” for their ungodly leader.

Similarly, Christianity Today, where MacDonald had good friends, published an article disputing my investigation, which included Harvest’s complete deceptive press release.

Sadly, the good ole boy network doesn’t just exist among “hillbillies”; it’s rife in evangelicalism. And this is perhaps what’s most stunning about Ramsey’s full-throated defense of having someone’s “six.” He proudly explains how he applies it, not just within Ramsey Solutions, but within what I’ve often referred to as the evangelical industrial complex or celebrity machine.

This is the symbiotic network of Christian celebrities, publishers, ministries, radio networks, etc . . . that rely on each other for profit and protection. And in the machine, friends protect friends whether they’re deserving of it or not – and whistleblowers get crushed.

For example, Ramsey talks about his support for Perry Noble after Noble was “drop kicked to the curb and fired” from his multi-site megachurch in South Carolina.

Later Ramsey admits that Noble told him he had a drinking problem and was “belligerent as crud as a leader.”

Yet, Ramsey said that when he first heard of Noble’s firing, “The first thing I did was contact him (and) say, ‘Dude, I got your back—your six. Until I have information that is different than given to me by a purple egg on Twitter, I got your back.’”

I agree it’s virtuous to be loyal to our friends when they deserve it. But to say to a powerful man, who’s accused of hurting the sheep he’s supposed to protect, “I’ve got your back,” is irresponsible and wrong.

In these moments, powerful friends need to think about potential victims. Who are the powerful people supporting them? Usually, none.

Plus, the biblical ethic is not loyalty to man, but loyalty to God and to His mission. This means when our friends sin, we call them to account. We don’t “got” their “six.”

The biblical ethic is not loyalty to man, but loyalty to God and to His mission. This means when our friends sin, we call them to account.

This is why the apostle Paul, when he saw Peter refusing to eat with the Gentiles, called him out publicly. He didn’t have Peter’s six; he had the church’s six.

It’s also why 1 Timothy 5:20 says that when, on the testimony of two or more witnesses, an elder is found to be sinning, that elder is to be called out publicly.

I would hope Ramsey, a powerful man in the Christian community, would not just communicate love and concern to a Christian brother accused of sin. I would hope Ramsey would also inform the brother that Ramsey’s first commitment is to the truth. And I would hope Ramsey would urge the brother to repent if he’s guilty of sin.

Yet, that’s not the pattern Ramsey describes.

About disgraced Pastor Mark Driscoll, Ramsey says: “Mark had a mouth on him, rough and tumble in your face, said stuff he shouldn’t say, did things you shouldn’t do. But didn’t really do anything wrong, except just melt a whole bunch of little liberal snowflakes right there in Seattle, they couldn’t take it.”

This statement is unconscionable. Mark Driscoll left Mars Hill Church in Seattle because he was an abusive bully, who had also allegedly plagiarized and used church funds to promote his book. Then, when confronted by his elders and offered a plan of restoration, Driscoll resigned, moved several states away, and planted another church.

I’ve talked to Driscoll’s former executive elders . They say that to this day, Driscoll has never gone to the dozens of former staff and elders he abused and owned his sin.

But once again, Ramsey defends his good ole boy.

Ramsey says that on the night Driscoll resigned, Ramsey called Driscoll to offer support.

“I called him at four o’clock in the afternoon,” Ramsey recounts. “I got him on the phone I said, ‘Hey dude. I’m sorry man.’”

Ramsey proceeds to paint Driscoll as a victim of the liberal media and then reiterates the phrase, “I got your six.”

This characterization is breathtaking, given the severity and consequences of Driscoll’s sin.

Ramsey then describes yet another abusive pastor he’s supported—Bill Hybels.

As he did with Driscoll, Ramsey gets the facts wrong and minimizes Hybels’ sin. For example, he says Hybels invited a woman to his hotel room, but “nothing physical happened.”

Something physical did happen. As Vonda Dyer describes on her blog, Hybels “put his hands on my waist, moved one hand to caress my stomach and kissed me on the lips.” Dyer stopped Hybels and abruptly left his hotel room.

Similarly, other women say that Hybels pulled them into extended hugs. And Hybels’ former assistant told the New York Times that Hybels repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted her in the 1980s, including fondling her breasts and obtaining oral sex.

But Ramsey tells none of this. He admits that eventually it was discovered that Hybels participated in a “bunch of misbehavior, no actual full sexual affairs,” which is a very euphemistic way of putting it.

But shockingly, Ramsey goes on to disparage Hybels’ victims and their allies who went to the press after Willow Creek’s pathetic, initial investigation exonerated Hybels.

“(H)is former pastor, co-pastor, (John) Ortberg’s wife, and a couple of others were on the warpath to get Bill Hybels,” Ramsey says. “And they went to the elders at Willow. Willow did an investigation. The quality of the investigation did not suit the people outside the organization.”

Then sarcastically, Ramsey adds, “And so they did what all good Christians do: they turn their files over to the Chicago Tribune. And so, all hell breaks loose in Bill’s life.”

Had the victims not gone to the press, Hybels never would have been held to account. And Ramsey describing these women, who courageously stood up to power and corruption, as on a “warpath” is beyond the pale.

Had the victims not gone to the press, Hybels never would have been held to account. And Ramsey describing these women, who courageously stood up to power and corruption, as on a “warpath” is beyond the pale.

But apparently, even now, after all these abuses have come to light, Ramsey still has the six of Bill Hybels, a repeat sexual predator. While it’s true, Ramsey eventually cancelled Hybels from speaking at EntreLeadership, Ramsey’s perverse retelling of makes me suspect the cancelation was more about expediency than righteousness.

At one point in the recording, Ramsey asserts that “toxic loyalty is not called for. That’s a cult trait.”

Yet clearly, Ramsey applies loyalty in a very toxic way.

At the end of the recording, Ramsey even wades into a messy divorce involving one of his star employees, Chris Hogan. And not surprisingly, Ramsey defends his money man, Chris Hogan, against the man’s wife, Melissa.

Yet at least Ramsey is honest about his motivations.

“We expect reciprocation,” he says. “It’s mandatory.”

To me, Ramsey sounds a lot more like a mob boss than a Christian business leader. And according to Bob Smietana’s investigative report last week, that’s how Ramsey feels to a lot of his employees, as well.

That’s because loyalty is righteous only when it serves our God. It is wholly unrighteous when it protects sinning leaders.

It’s about time Christian leaders reject having each other’s “six,” and instead get in each other’s “twelve,” and start practicing some accountability.

Clip of Ramsey discussing Noble, Driscoll, and Hybels:

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