Friday, June 10, 2016


The Christian Science Monitor (source of picture above) recently published a rather remarkable story about recent U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, Joshua Waugh, and the lifetime of neglect/abuse he faced before entering the AFA. When I read the account of Waugh's biography I was slugged in the chest, for starters, regarding his response to the irresponsibility and exploitation of and by his guardians as he grew up. Here is just one quote from the article which you should read, After a lifetime of neglect, Air Force Academy graduate finds his wings:
Born to two “very drug-addicted parents,” he says, w​hen he was in elementary school he and his diapered baby brother were locked outside in the snow by foster parents who decided they didn’t want the boys anymore. In his pre-teen years, he learned to live on the Ramen noodles and potatoes he bought working construction sites for a few bucks a day. He quietly survived sexual assault at the hands of another foster family member.
Of course, what struck me further and more relevant to the kinds of things I combat at this blog was the contrast of Waugh's narrative to the proposition of perpetual victim status/identity which I have observed being fostered at blogs such as The Wartburg Watch and Spiritual Sounding Board in the Evangelical community (as well as the same perpetual victim status/identity doctrine employed outside of Christianity with your typical therapy-inductive resources). You may disagree with my personal assessment but before you register a protest I suggest you read, extensively, how the comments section of these blogs are permitted to flow.

As I have observed, both categories or groups (those in and outside of the church) have as the most substantial part of their victim doctrine, the creed of perpetual or life-long emotional/psychological disability being a matter of default certainty for any and all who encounter any similar kind of abuse in life, especially in childhood.

Now let me be clear, abuse does result in suffering and injury but that suffering and injury cannot have and should never have a presumed default status. What these groups do, in my opinion, are dramatically juxtaposed to what AFA graduate, Joshua Waugh did and is now doing. As I see it, the former offer eternal lament, suffering, complaint, bitterness and the absence of conclusive recovery while the latter, Waugh, offers a model with regard to how one overcomes abuse and injury. 

What Joshua Waugh says, as the article relates, is simple but enlightening with respect to how he views life: 
Waugh says his philosophy is simple. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough to do something,” he says. “Just do it. Put in the work. If you want something bad enough, that work is just a bridge – and you can cross it.”
What I believe (and this may not be the meal you're interested in eating at the moment but I decline to feed you poison) is that many people refuse to respond to abuse and injury in such a manner as Waugh because suffering and victimization can also become a weapon of blame and finger pointing which is often, very often these days, used to point a finger at someone else in an exaggerated attempt to relieve ourselves of personal responsibility for the rest of our lives. One's failures in life can conveniently be chalked up to his or her past and of course, with a chorus of perpetual victimization supporters who form its industry, who needs to think otherwise?

By all accounts, Waugh should have ended up mentally and emotionally too scarred and incapacitated thus, unable, to achieve in life in any significant way let alone, experience genuine happiness and satisfaction. Yet, here he is, doing both and more!

My guess is he realized, at some point, that he is not responsible nor defined by the actions of others against him. He was not going to remain in their power once released. Whatever his instincts, they were right. 

I will admit that this is a thing which takes some measure of effort because it requires personal responsibility for your life beyond a normative experience. In a society where we are taught to blame our problems on others, Waugh is an example for how we should respond to neglect and abuse. Learn and move forward and build bridges to tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this will garner the reply You don't understand, bless your heart ... !!


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

No doubt his being an Alpha Male and references to white male privilege will also arise.

Anonymous said...

I think the ‘establishment’ leadership ought to take a long look at why there are so many bitter people complaining endlessly on so-called survivor blogs.

Take commenter ‘Velour’ at TWW as an example. She has repeatedly (as in very many times) explained her bad church experience, and I have been in churches long enough to be willing to believe her, with the proviso we don’t know the other side of the story. Yet continuing to recite the problem litany doesn’t seem to be leading to moving on from it, though again to be charitable this can take a fairly long time.

Your criticism is that such survivor blogs don’t actually try to remedy the situation, they allow people to remain in it.

Further, they actually permit and possibly even foster a sinful reaction to what has been done to them. The word bitter inevitably comes to mind.

For example, take ‘Velour’ adding to an existing (nasty) comment criticising John Piper:

Maybe John Piper is all of the above:
*twisted, tormented soul
*needs psychiatric therapy (and psychotherapy)
*needs meds
*and I still say the guy sounds like he’s done lots of drugs – pot, LSD, etc.
I don’t think he could pass a drug test.
*I’ll watch youtube and figure out how to make him a tinfoil hat, my *free gift* to him for his insufferable chatter and inability to be a decent human being on every topic under the sun (domestic violence victims, sexual abuse victims, spiritual abuse victims, victims of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill, Comp doctrine and on and on).

How on earth is this helping? Anyone reading this post first, and her MacArthur-style church complaints second, would dismiss the claims of ecclesiastical malfeasance in the latter as coming from someone who is themselves simply messed up. Someone who would fall out with the most ‘mature, genuinely godly and caring leadership’ you could ever wish to find!

I noticed this tendency to remain stuck in the problem during my commenting days at TWW, and didn’t have to look far to find an example of an evangelical Christian who had an appalling childhood of poverty and neglect, and who never ever as I recall complained about it, namely my own mother. There might be a generational thing here though; she was brought up in the 1920’s before the psychobabblers had taught us all to ‘build our self-esteem/love ourselves’, where the problem is the focus on the word self.

More importantly, she became a new creation in Christ, and under good Anglican evangelical teachers just after WW2 would not have been allowed to remain bogged down in her past. (The mind boggles at the potential for survivor blogs if the internet had been around then, and the whole population of the UK had decided to share their experiences of WW2!)

I have no problem with survivor blogs allowing people to get what happened to them off their chest, but surely this needs to be balanced with positive input and testimony on how to gradually get free from this from those who have.


Anonymous said...

As a small addendum, complementarianism has long been the target of the commenters at survivor blogs, TWW in particular, where I have had long and actually reasonably good-natured discussions. Until it went sour that is!

I have a question that I hope is not too off topic.

I get it that complementarianism can be misused to make women second-class citizens of the kingdom, and that some who supposedly espouse this view never get beyond wifely submission and fail to complement it with the husbandly loving sacrifice and cherishing etc.

The level of complaint about this ‘Comp’ teaching is consistent and loud and unending – that the way this is practiced in evangelical churches in the USA is, with little exception, abusive. Is this really the case, or would I be right in suspecting that generally something else is going on here? Women who are choosing to be disobedient to apostolic teaching on the home and church?

The soft under-belly of egalitarianism is and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor which I have argued shows a propensity or vulnerability for women to be deceived in certain areas of Christian life which Paul wants to protect the church from. Indeed, the responses to argumentation in favour of a moderate, traditional view of this subject illustrate the very thing Paul wanted to prevent. An irrational, emotive rejection of the teaching for reasons hardly connected to what the text itself says. A refusal to engage with the argument or a kind of spiritual blindness. It's quite extraordinary sometimes.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...


I do agree that when there is a concert of bitter or angry people, it requires an examination. However, there are times when bad ideas also form mobs of bitter and angry people because they buy into one or more ideas that are prejudiced which exacerbates what could be otherwise resolved.

Take race, for example. There are angry mobs of black lives matter people. It needs examined but having examined it I find they are unjustified in their bitterness because of false narratives. They are their worst problem, not the system.

In the case of the angry survivors, while some are justified in their anger and I sympathize with their desire to deal with the person who brought abuse or get it off their chest, there are also Biblical mandates which require people to resolve, with God's Spirit and enlightenment, their injury and move on to live a life before God in love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes we simply have to be confident that the Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ where believers are judged, is a real thing and all things not remedied here will be remedied there.

I have a friend who works for a Christian boss. My friend is truly underpaid and the owner of the business takes advantage of him. He was frustrated one day because he knows this and I told him, do you know that at the judgment seat of Christ, every unjust thing that is not corrected on earth between Christians will be corrected by Christ? Any wages your boss may have genuinely owed you but withheld will be taken from him and given to you, if that is truly the case and if you do receive anything as compensation it will be eternal in payment.

This does not mean he quit being aware of what he believed to be unjust but it did change his thinking and his confidence and joy that he is to serve his earthly master whether with just or unjust wages and await the adjudication of Christ. He said it really affected him in the right way in understanding that you cannot spend a life chasing and trying to exact justice at every turn and and living in frustration rather, in being confident that Jesus will keep his promise to judge believers.

Mobs don't do that.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Does the system need remedied? Of course. But what is the likelihood of that? These survivor people spend most of their time salivating over the next opportunity to mourn and complain. I promise you that there will be little reward from Jesus for that. I get that some things can and should be brought up but things like the exaggerated quote about Piper will be judged by Jesus and burned up like the wood, hay and stubble it is.

What they should be doing is experiencing God's remedial work and formulating their own organizations with healthy leadership. Right now, the leaders are only exacerbating the issue, they have the same disease.

The truth is, it is difficult to bear the burden of pardoning people for their sins against you and moving on to give to others and building a life. It does not mean you do not hurt but it means moving on and simply informing people of such dangers but not being preoccupied with them but being occupied with your own life, before God.

Even if the angry mobs made all the so-called bad people apologize and reverse their errors, then what? People like this are never going to be satisfied. They will simply find a new boogeyman or there would be more demands. But what I just suggested will never happen and no one should expect this. These people foolishly believe they can shame their boogeymen into being beholden to their demands. It will never happen and they will discover they have invested much of their life in chasing something that God never intended for them to try and tackle.

So I echo your thoughts on the matter.

As far as marriage and the complementarianism with the Evangelical model, I find their expressions correct in some places and erring in others. And I agree with your Biblical assessment on the inherit weakness of the female.

I further concur that many of the approaches to objecting to complementarianism are emotive and sentimental. Obviously being the gender that was deceived can put a chip on a person's shoulder or they can humbly accept this weakness and make sure they see it when it arises. I say those who complain as they do have not humbly accepted God's declaration.

However, with respect to marriage and the authority of the husband, what many comps are clumsy with are their over-generalizations and poor explanation of the role of the husband and wife, properly. I do not want to comment with another blog post and am slowly composing a series on marriage I promised three years ago but I will say this.

The government of marriage is just that, a government. It is an administrative design by God with two officers, a husband as the CO and the wife as the XO. The people in the marriage are egalitarian in their person before God. Both are equally human, both, if they are Christians, are equally priests with equal privileges for spiritual blessings.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Nevertheless, among mankind or in this context, women generally possess an inherent weakness for deception. This does not mean, however, all possess the same level of weakness or that some cannot have spent a lifetime developing a proper divine viewpoint thus, demonstrating a remarkable similarity to a male who has done so.

Also true is that a man can acquiesce to weak thinking and when compared to an exceptional women, appear to contradict God's revelation that a women inherently is more susceptible to being deceived. What people ignore is that men can be deceived and that a women does not have to, by default, live as deceived, that isn't the point. It is simply that the woman, by nature, is more susceptible. This can be remedied with sound doctrine ruling her soul just as a man needs remedied with sound doctrine and the marriage structure is designed as a protective mechanism with respect to this but it requires a man to think properly as well as the woman.

The husband, as the CO, does not personally rule his wife, he only rules as the administrator of the marriage. There is a vast difference between the two and add to this, the wife, being the XO and the second officer in the marriage, also carries with her, authority, which the husband, the CO, must recognize.

The boundaries of the husband's authority is limited, as well.

All of these kinds of details are not well discussed which might, if done so, alleviate some concerns.

I do agree that the narrative of comps being generally abusive formula and practice is ludicrous. It is simply a narrative to serve their objection. God does present to us the truth that a woman, as part of her weakness, will seek to subdue the authority or rule of the man. Hence, the willingness to be irrational when dealing with the husband's authority in a marriage.

Anonymous said...

Alex – thanks for the long and as ever thoughtful reply. It helps to have some clarification. I’ve cut down even lurking at TWW, although it is still fascinating sometimes to see what is going on. For all it can get spiritually damaging, it can also get plain boring with the same arguments about the same people!

I wouldn’t regard Parsons as an enemy. She allowed me to post there for a long time, arguing for moderate complementarianism that I suspect she would now disavow. I do wish she would listen to criticism and moderate the comments. I’ve just about come out of a desire to hit back at my own experience there (just being honest). Parsons’ instant defence of her more sychophantic commenters is a bit hard to take considering the criticism heaped on the Big Names of evangelicalism. I could not but smile at a fairly recent comment by Dee to a new commenter to ‘tone down her comments’ so she would be given a more ready hearing. Amusing, but at the same time sad.

I think 'Daisy' there encapsulates the problem with survivor blogs – and I have to say I can personally identify with some of her experiences and complaints, and can’t help but like her, she’s open about what she thinks rather than hiding snark under a veneer of politeness.

Yet in trying to persuade me of the virtues of Cloud and Townsend and ‘Boundaries’, she indulges in the very thing I think modern popular psychology in the church produces: self-love. Daisy really only ever talks about herself, and in line with your article, doesn’t ever look as though she is going to get beyond this. She is single, yet comments and runs a blog exposing complementarianism. I really wish someone could lead her away from this, all the more as she toys with agnosticism, a far more serious issue than the structure of marriage for someone who isn’t married. (Let’s just say it has taken 40 years to get from Once saved always saved to Once saved always saved?)

The inability to deal with the text, and reproduce the argument I have made over its meaning really has dealt a blow to my previous experience of women actually being very discerning. I don’t think they are necessarily innately more prone to deception, it is particularly when they won’t recognise their husband as ‘head’ and when they are appointed to teaching eldership that they are vulnerable. In other words, when they sin. Those who do recognise these biblical structures and restrictions in my experience are then free to have a very positive and active role and contribution to the Body, without being susceptible to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (For this reason a woman should have a [symbol of] authority on her head, because of the angels).

I shall look forward to your articles on marriage!


Anonymous said...

This is, I think, and exemplary post on how to deal with church hassles up to and including abuse found on Eagle’s own blog from a wise contributor. Eagle is a character you have put under the spotlight in the past. The post strikes me as precisely what needs to be found at both Wartburg Watch and the Spiritual Sounding Board as an antidote to the toxicity, and a way of moving on from the problem to some kind of resolution. Sadly, I don’t think I have ever seen anything remotely like this at any blogs of this genre, and this is unlikely now that I don’t frequent such places very much! Ken

“Eagle, your Feb 25, 2015 post about detoxing from Mormonism (or any bad cult-like experience) that you cite here is a very powerful piece of writing. I’m commenting on it here because the comments for that post are closed.

These bits you wrote:

> I was angry that I was deceived.

> I was livid as to what I had vested my life into.

> I had wasted a good chunk of it

> I wanted an apology […] “Eagle we lied, we deceived you…”

> I felt like I had to warn people

> I consumed more […] material in trying to find answers.

are what I can relate to most regarding what happened to me at an EFCA church.

I’ve learned that (and these all relate closely to your writings I cited above):

1. I have to let go of the anger, as it does me & my family no good.
Still working on it.

2. I’ll never get an apology, and that’s their problem, not mine. They will answer to the Lord someday, and I need to trust Him to work it out. And work it out, He certainly will.

3. Stop lamenting the time wasted & move forward in the Lord. Good things await. (This happened rather quickly fortunately.)

4. I still want to warn people. All the time.
But those around me don’t want to hear it anymore.
It’s frustrating, but I need to respect those around me who don’t want to hear it.
Some of them will need to learn for themselves.
One can’t save the world.
I must lay it at the Lord’s feet.

5. No matter how much “spiritual abuse” material I read, I’ll never understand it or quite get on top of it, because it’s not understandable, or normal. This is the result of sin. And there are sinful people in & out of church. It’s just that one isn’t expecting that from church leaders, which is what makes it more painful & surprising.

6. One shouldn’t project past experiences onto new people & situations. Yes, one can be wary, and go in with one’s eyes wide open, and be more aware of the danger signs & red flags. But one cannot blame the next person for the sins of the previous regime.

I guess that’s where I’m at these days.
I’m a work in progress, still recovering, and to a certain extent — as you put it — detoxing. Because what happened was indeed… toxic.”

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I recognize the time it takes to process things. I have been there myself. It made me a much better boundary keeper for myself, in the end.

What I mostly fault are the Dees, Debs , Julies and Eagles and so forth who should now, know better than to foster and feed the rage and instead, lead people to resolution.

Thus, I can only conclude that they do not want resolution, it removes the power their victimization brings and the license for unceasing rage.

The things which you have listed that you have learned are precisely the principles that should be forefront in providing a format or forum for people to deal with some type of ecclesiastical injury. Clearly that is not the case for the people mentioned. No such things show up in their blogs or within their discussions.


Anonymous said...

Just for clarification, the positive comment I Ken referred to above was not from me but another commenter EJJ I happened to see at Eagle’s blog. Most of what he writes is of no interest to me except posts on atheism, but he does not have a toxic comment section - yet.

The only thing I could remotely be bothered to follow at Wartburg Watch over the last few months has been on complementarianism, and then relatively fleetingly, it’s very predictable. They have just published a selection of the best comments on this perennial theme under the modest claim Without a doubt, TWW has the smartest commenters on the planet! Couldn’t resist.

You really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If you want a laugh, there is a priceless complaint in the thread by Jamie Carter that Grudem didn’t bother to look up all 12,000 instances of Kephale to check the meaning himself personally.

If you find most of it no laughing matter, try The bible is a product of its time. A “non-comp” example would be how warfare is conducted. In the Old Testament it was perfectly acceptable to exterminate & enslave your enemies. Christians would no longer consider this an appropriate response to the treatment of enemies. So much for taking the cultural context into account, let alone the difference in testament! There is virtually no comment that is positive, and one or two containing the usual nasty, personal ad hominems with a tinge of bitterness.

I can’t see how anyone can claim this is good, and I have no desire to plough through the mass of verbiage the selection was garnered from. There is now no attempt to keep any balance there, no comment from conservative evangelicals.

I shall still look forward to your series on marriage as a good antidote (hint!), although I see you have been very busy lately!

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Ah, the series on marriage. Still plowing through it so it isn't dormant but some pressing issues have slowed it down considerably.

Well, if Eagle's comment section isn't toxic as of yet, maybe he's caught on to the embarrassingly self-destructive form at that other place. We'll see but here's to better for him.

Anonymous said...

Well, joking aside I shall look forward to your marriage piece once you have time. I still have an feeling that some on the complementarian side in the States are taking everything a bit far. But then that has been fed by that other place which may not be very objective!

Talking of which, on the theme of the other place is on a downward spiral to the point where some commenters are just plain sick. Can't stand it any more.

Such complementarianism as I was fed was in the 1970's before CBWM, and the bloke who discussed it got it in part from a book published in 1662 and in use ever since. I mean of course the Book of Common Prayer!

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Put more work in on the series today. Hoping that by February, will have it completed for all the winter shut-ins to read.

Anonymous said...

Without wishing to pre-order your article on marriage, I would be interested if it helped with the following question, which has arisen in the past during the course of posting at you-know-where.

Why is there such granite-like resistance to any idea of women submitting to husbands?

Obviously some women have experienced the abuse of this doctrine, though I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that claims to this mirror the 80/20 rule. Out of 100 eternal victim posters, 80% can be taken very largely with a pinch of salt, 20% are genuine.

I wonder, without re-inventing the old male ‘covering’ doctrine of the shepherding error, whether women are spiritually vulnerable to attack when they refuse to acknowledge their husband as ‘head’. The old covering doctrine (which I have never really believed in) did have grain of truth in it.

Just as the church in the hierarchy of creation does not have the authority to deal with the principalities and powers because mankind is lower than the angels, for example, so woman is not granted authority over man, either in the home or church. When this order is overturned, it will almost inevitably lead to deception and trouble.

This may appear to answer the question, but I hope I have not gone overboard on an etherial spiritual hierarchy, or made the instructions on marriage too spiritual and less down to earth and practical.

I was very struck on hearing a testimony (by a complementarian preacher) as to how a woman, who actively opposed his preaching on this, and who had an unsaved husband, only finally received the answer to a problem she had when she went to her husband with it, rather than anybody but her husband. You wouldn’t normally expect an unbelieving husband to have an answer to a spiritual problem, but God intended him to be her ‘head’ and therefore the means of receiving God’s blessing. She had to wait for her answer until she was prepared to have a submissive heart towards her husband.

Following this, she later confessed to the same preacher that her husband started attending church, became a believer and was now forging ahead spiritually – even ahead of her!

This indicates a kind of spiritual hierarchy (having had links with the Anglican Church, I’m not afraid of that word) that we rebel against at our peril, and which is attacked either by men taking it as licence to dominate, or women who reject it in favour of some supposed egalitarian ‘rights’.

It’s difficult to think of any other reason as to why this is such an unending source of discussion and even strife when it comes to marriage, or why so many women who reject man being ‘head’ show so little signs of the grace of God leading them out of the pain caused by church or marriage hassles, of being freed from this.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I am doing quite a bit of traveling this week and next week so I will not have much time for lengthy responses though I would like to. You have hit on some points that I intend on incorporating in the series and I may actually borrow exact quotes from your comment. You cited critical issues that will be addressed indirectly or directly. Yes there is a resistance and yes I agree with the estimate of the 80% 20% formula. I am not a covering Doctrine person but do agree it has its truthful properties and its errant properties.