I have been writing about the mess within SGM for about 2 years. In the main, it was because it was symptomatic of what I saw as a larger problem within evangelicalism.
And I consistently get some variation on the question, “Why do you care about this?”
I simply cannot help but care about this. And silently I wonder, “Why don’t more people care about this?” Would that everyone heard from a victim and a parent of a victim.
Isn’t care for the” least of these” at the core of Christian ethics?
Jesus did not say, “Whatever you do unto the greatest of these, you do unto me.” He identified himself with the “least of these.” The greatest human to ever walk this earth, the one through whom all humans were made, identified with the least of them. The ones most likely to be ignored. The ones most likely to be ridiculed. The ones who labored under the thumb of the oppressor. The ones most likely to have no voice against the wealthy, influential and powerful. That is who he chose to identify with.
What we see in the SGM scandal is a naked attempt to hang onto influence and power. Money too?
What else could this be?
This is what we have to ignore: 11 plaintiffs going public with the most horrific accounts of sexual abuse you can imagine, leveled against a denomination, it’s former founder and leader, two churches, and a number of pastors and leaders within. We know for a fact SGM harbored abusers and has publicly stated accusations against them should be dealt with first by pastors. The one time founder and leader of this denomination never saw fit to subject himself to the discipline he enforced against all the pastors in his charge – when his own church saw fit to discipline him, he went to Mark Dever’s church, outside his denomination. We have highly detailed accounts of the unreported abuse and they will give you nightmares. Women and men willing to go on public record. We have a civil case that was not thrown out on the basis of the evidence but merely because the accusers find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having to file the lawsuit in a state with a statute of limitations for such crimes. And there is a criminal investigation also.
All of this has to be worth very little for the praise that breaks the silence to be seen as a wisdom.
A person would have to fall back on some esoteric principal of waiting for the court’s decision to think we should be quiet and continue on as usual with public support of CJ Mahaney.
But that is not all his colleague’s have done. They chose one angry comment to denounce what they call “discernment blogs.” Out of the thousands of comments they could have chosen from, they chose one by a woman who sounded as if she wished bodily harm on the defendants. That one woman was (allegedly!) a victim of rape at an SGM gathering at the age of 13. Once they were made aware of this, an apology should have been issued. But they did not apologize.
And then they said the case was thrown out because the evidence was paltry. No, the evidence was thrown out because of the statute of limitations. And they said no accusation has been leveled against Mahaney. This is also not true. He is accused of not only covering-up by not reporting the crimes (as required by law) but is accused of accepting lavish gifts by a wealthy member accused of abuse. To say he is accused of nothing is patently false and should garner an apology.
He pastored the flagship congregation where of the allegations took place. This was left out of the TGC statement and the now revised T4G statement.
But there has been no apology. Only repeated praise. No expressions of concern. In fact, the expressions of praise and admiration and support for Mahaney far outweigh expressions of concern for the victims.
At this point I know of no member of The Gospel Coalition (which overlaps with T4G) who has publicly expressed any concern over these allegations against SGM under the care of Mahaney or Mahaney himself. No one has asked him to step out of the spotlight.
Listen, I cannot speak for everyone, but I understand the need to support a friend accused of wrongdoing. But what we have happening with T4G and TGC is, “We will not believe your accusations against our friend till they have been proven in a court of law or he admits to them. And until then we will give no credence to the accusers and their accusations.”
I am not their theological enemy. I have attended T4G and written for TGC.
Jesus identified with the least of these. If we as followers of Jesus have trouble identifying who the least of these are in this story and then identifying with them by supporting them, what kind of discipleship have we bought into? One that is merely intellectual? One that is merely an agenda of ideas and rules?
If we side with those whose theology we agree with but have not love for the victims of abuse, we are nothing.
Question: If everything we know now was to be put in a film for us to watch, would we not at the very least, long for one of the religious leaders of our day to express some concern about how all of this is working out among the religious leaders of our day? Would we not look for a Nathan among our Davids?
No one reads a book, watches a movie or takes in a play to watch jet set influential leaders protect the reputations of other wealthy influential leaders. We long to see the wealthy influential leader empty himself on behalf of the least of these.
Empty themselves? The religious leaders of our day don’t even apologize for the factual errors of their statements.
Let me be clear, no one is suggesting it is irrational for Mahaney’s friends to support him. But it serves no one to change nothing, and then to elevate the praise heaped on him. It does not serve the present victims who allege abuse at the hands of men in his charge, and a cover-up of the crimes under his watch. It does not serve those who have yet to come forward about their abuse because they worry if they will be believed. It does not serve the guilty, who need to face their crimes or failures head on. It does not serve local pastors, who look to the the religious leaders of our day for leadership on everything. It does not serve the evangelical church, when the least of these are waved off with the same hand shaking the ones of the celebrity preachers.
And here’s the thing, every time we knowingly share their articles on social media and retweet them and quote them, we say, “Their silence and unwillingness to speak into this situation with the prophetic urgency they did with Paterno, Gosnell, and others is not meaningful. And I will give them a voice for everything else they will say besides.”
We would not accept such silence from the least of these. Indeed, one cannot escape the feeling the religious leaders of our day would prefer for the least of these – the accusers – to be silent.