What Hath Levi’s To Do With Blackshear?

In his Facebook post, Mike Stone seemed to be throwing his power around in much the same way that a CEO of a certain blue jean manufacturer might. He seemed to be making threats just like a secularist politician who feels that their power and authority might have been questioned by some peon who works as a volunteer in their campaign headquarters.

Introduction

On February 14th, Jennifer Sey announced that she had left her job as the Brand President at Levi’s, and after turning down a $1 million severance package that included her signing a NDA, she told her story.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Sey publicly brought into question whether or not the schools should be shut down, and the woke mob that ran Levi’s didn’t take too kindly to that.

Things changed when Covid hit. Early on in the pandemic, I publicly questioned whether schools had to be shut down. This didn’t seem at all controversial to me. I felt—and still do—that the draconian policies would cause the most harm to those least at risk, and the burden would fall heaviest on disadvantaged kids in public schools, who need the safety and routine of school the most.

I wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows, attended meetings with the mayor’s office, organized rallies and pleaded on social media to get the schools open. I was condemned for speaking out. This time, I was called a racist—a strange accusation given that I have two black sons—a eugenicist, and a QAnon conspiracy theorist.

In the summer of 2020, I finally got the call. “You know when you speak, you speak on behalf of the company,” our head of corporate communications told me, urging me to pipe down.

Jennifer Sey

Pipe down she did not. The Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Levi’s requested that she do an “apology tour.” She was told that she “was not a friend of the Black community at Levi’s.” She was told to say that she was “an imperfect ally.” Naturally, she refused.

Later Sey was promised that she was in line to be the next CEO of Levi’s. All she had to do was shut her trap and fall in line, (and again, she did not.) Eventually things came to a head when she was told that by her CEO that it was “untenable” for her to stay employed with the company. So, she left, and she made it clear to public as to why she left.

Now, after reading all of this you might ask yourself…

What Hath Levi’s to do with Blackshear?

Mike Stone, the sorest loser of the 2021 SBC Presidential election, has taken to Facebook to share his opinions on the latest appointment to the Supreme Court.

It might be helpful for me to state first that I am also not thrilled about the idea that our newest supreme court justice believes that you have to be a straight up biologist to know what a woman is. I’m in agreement with Mike Stone that this is nothing to celebrate, and I’m in agreement with Douglas Wilson when he says of our newest Supreme Court Justice:

Jackson either does not know what a woman is, and is unsuitable for this high judicial office for the same reason that the homeless guy who lives in a cardboard box down by the river under a bridge is unsuitable, or she knows quite well what a woman is, and won’t say because she is too cowardly or too ambitious to offend the college of cardinals who have a choke hold on the Church of Flattening Everything. In other words, she is either demented herself, or is being held in thrall by those who are demented.

Douglas Wilson, So I’m No Biologist Either…

Now that I’ve made clear where I stand (as if my regulars don’t already know), I would like to point some things that bother me about what Mike Stone said in his post.

Hang On, We’re Getting There…

The last part of Stone’s post says:

…if one of our church’s employees found some reason to celebrate and appreciate this confirmation, I’d fire them on the spot. If for no other reason, for insulting me and our church family by thinking such an asanine position would be tolerated at our church.

Mike Stone

What Does This Say About Stone’s Desire (or Lack Thereof) to Pastor the People Who Serve Under Him?

In the same way that the CEO of Levi’s sought to get rid of an employee who didn’t conform to the hivemind, Mike Stone also seeks to rid the staff of his church of anyone who has a differing opinion.

I can already two responses being tapped out on the keyboards of armchair pastors and theologians everywhere so let me address those before moving on:

“Logan, don’t you realize that there are right and wrong opinions?”

Yes, I do, and I understand the need to be in unity on whether we can define what a woman is. I also understand the disjointedness that can occur within a local body if two of the pastors are in disagreement about issues such as this, but why jump straight to firing? If you’re a Senior Pastor and you feel that a staff pastor serving underneath has an unbiblical opinion that is harmful to the integrity of the church, why not treat them like a brother in Christ and try the Matthew 18 approach?

It’s probably Mike Stone doesn’t know how to treat brothers in Christ as such. That was evident after he lost the 2021 SBC presidential election and took his frustrations out on Russell Moore by filing a lawsuit against Moore by claiming that Moore had defamed his character thus costing him the election. Roughly two months later the lawsuit was withdrawn. According to The Tennesean,

Stone commented on the decision in statement that his attorney sent in an email.

“My attorneys have, at my request, moved to voluntarily withdraw the lawsuit I had filed against Russell Moore,” Stone said. “I believe that based on current circumstances the better path for my family, my church, and our convention at this time is to leave the matter in the hands of our Lord.”

Southern Baptist pastor Mike Stone drops lawsuit against Russell Moore

It’s not clear as to the exact reason that Stone dropped the lawsuit, but it probably didn’t help that the Religion News Service found a sermon preached by Mike Stone where he said,

Let’s say somebody defames your character with unfounded gossip. The legal thing to do and I’m not just talking about a lawsuit, I mean the understandable natural thing to do might be to defend your name. The godly thing might be let it go.

Mike Stone, Stop Airing Your Dirty Laundry, Part 1

The second objection I might hear is, “Logan, a large Baptist church and a corporation like Levi’s is not the same. This is apples and oranges.”

My point exactly. In his Facebook post, Mike Stone seemed to be throwing his power around in much the same way that a CEO of a certain blue jean manufacturer might. He seemed to be making threats just like a secularist politician who feels that their power and authority might have been questioned by some peon who works as a volunteer in their campaign headquarters.

What Does This Say About Stone’s View of Grace?

I asked about Matthew 18 earlier, and I think that’s a legitimate question. Church discipline is meant to restore a fallen sinner to fellowship within the local body of Christ. Paul laid out the process of discipline in 1 Corinthians 5 when he addresses the issue of a man sleep with his stepmother.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! … In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 5:1, 4-5, NKJV

Later in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul will instruct that man should be restored and forgiven showing that the church discipline had its intended affect.

But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

2 Corinthians 2:5-8, NKJV

If Mike Stone is not willing to pastorally walk with someone who has a damaging opinion, then that means one of two things:

Having a damaging opinion is an unforgivable sin so heinous that it cannot even be repented of through church discipline.

OR

Mike Stone can’t be bothered with extending the grace of pastoral care and discipline to those who serve under him.

Both of those are terrible conclusions, but one of them has to be true if Stone feels that the best thing to do is fire someone on the spot for celebrating the apppointment of the new Supreme Court justice.

In Conclusion

If Mike Stone had left the pulpit in exchange for the world of politics like Mike Huckabee did so many moons ago, then I may have scoffed and moved on, but the fact that Mike Stone serves as a senior pastor of a significantly sized church, and has a notable voice in the world of American Christendom means that I’m not going to quietly stay in my lane. I’m going to say something because the world is watching and people need to understand that Mike Stone does not accurately represent a Christian worldview.

The Guillotines of Fundamentalism // #100DaysToOffload

The guillotines of fundamentalism tend to make life hard for preachers too…

“A Hasidic proverb says, “We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.” We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are. Knowing, teaching, and learning under the grace of great things will come from teachers who own such a coat and wear it to class every day…


I happened to come to the seminary to teach during some rough years of denominational struggles. Some fundamentalist conservatives were making it hard for every professor to find out how to wear the coats with two pockets. Everything taught had to be scrutinized very closely, and it had to match the thinking of the powers in charge. Any number of professors were fired for being liberal, and within our school it was often the case that a student from a conservative church would smuggle a tape recorder into class to try and catch a professor saying something that might be interpreted as heresy. Then the student might take the heretical tape to a conservative trustee and it was either “ouch” or “off with his head.” The guillotines of fundamentalism always make teaching a nightmare.”

Calvin Miller, Life is Mostly Edges: A Memoir

7 Reasons Evangelicals Struggle to Respond Properly to Allegations of Abuse and Rape

Editor’s Note: contains references to rape, sexual harassment, and abuse.

In light of the Paige Patterson situation (read Rod Dreher’s description of and comments on it here), I’ve been reflecting on why time and time again evangelicals fail to respond properly to allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, or rape.

It looks like pastors telling abuse victims to return home and submit. Urging rape victims not to report crimes to the police. Sharing objectifying comments about young girls met with laughter rather than rebuke. Assuming alleged victims are lying or exaggerating. Handling allegations internally rather than reporting to the authorities and bringing in experts. Being unwilling to examine the evidence. Dismissing those who do as gossips or slanderers.

On the one hand, it blows my mind that people can be so ignorant and/or evil. And on the other hand, I recall that it’s only been in the last few years that I myself have learned about such things. But now that I do know, I see it everywhere—including in the church!

But why is this? Why do people, and particularly conservative Christians, repeatedly fail in these ways? Why the aversion to truth? Why so slow in the ways of justice? Why the failure to love neighbor? Why the disbelief that such evil could be in our midst?

One reason Christians fail is because people fail, and Christians are people. Other reasons relate to beliefs and fears that are specific to evangelical culture. In this second category, I’ve come up with seven reasons why Christians may tend to fail to respond properly to allegations of abuse or rape (or why they cannot tolerate the idea of those they respect having responded poorly). At the end of this article, I’ve included some suggestions for how Christians can respond better—in a manner befitting our commitment to love for one’s neighbor and love for God—and some resources for further study.

  1. A distorted view of authority. God is the ultimate authority and has created earthly authorities. He has given authority to governments, church elders, parents, and others. Christians are right to believe in and properly submit to such authority. The problem comes, however, when an earthly authority is made ultimate and unaccountable, above all critique or criticism. (Behind this is perhaps of fear of anarchy, of the dissolution of rightful authority, as well as a fear of losing control of those under authority.)
  2. Viewing specific churches, denominations, or organizations as ultimate and necessary. Sometimes Christians place too high an importance on specific churches or organizations which can lead to obsession about reputation and appearance over truth and justice. One might call this an idolization of power. This relates to a conflation of the success of a church or denomination with the success of the church or the gospel. People worry that if their organization falls because of “scandal,” the gospel itself will fall.
  3. Ignorance about harassment, abuse, and rape. Some Christians don’t understand abuse dynamics, reasons for delayed reporting, or even the basic definitions of harassment, rape, and abuse. Thus they fail to respond appropriately. Part of this may be because many Christians cannot fathom what it would be like to perpetrate abuse or rape, and they impose their “goodness” on those around them, failing to take into account the depth of evil possible even by professing Christians.
  4. Failure to understand the seriousness of sex crimes. Sometimes Christians engage in “sin leveling” when it comes to sexual sins, failing to recognize that sexual assault is much more grievous than lustful thoughts; in such cases, the result tends to being minimizing of sex crimes. Similarly, some fail to understand that some things are “merely” sinful while other things are both sinful and criminal.
  5. Misplaced opposition to liberalism. In American culture at present, liberals–whether political, cultural, or theological–tend to talk more about rape, harassment, and abuse than conservatives (who talk more about chastity, pornography, and adultery). This has led some conservatives to wrongly conflate opposition to sex crimes with liberalism. Perhaps it is difficult to accept truth when it comes from “the other side.” In my opinion, liberals have much they could learn about sexuality from conservatives; however, a proper understanding of and response to abuse and rape are some of the issues in which conservatives could learn from liberals.
  6. Fear of heroes falling. Humans like to have people to look up to. We love our heroes. The mere suggestion that those whom we respect could be guilty of grossly mishandling allegations of sex crimes (or of the sex crimes themselves!) can be extremely disconcerting. We wonder what will happen to us, and what it says about us, if our heroes are deeply flawed. And so it is easier not to entertain such thoughts, rejecting such accusations as being from “the haters.”
  7. Faulty theology of repentance and reconciliation. At the heart of Christianity are repentance and reconciliation. God, through Christ, reconciles sinful humanity to himself when they repent and believe. This reconciliation is echoed in relationships between people. Reconciliation, however, can be misapplied when victims of abuse are urged to “forgive and forget” at the expense of truth, justice, or healing. Or when the perpetrator feeling bad for being caught is mistaken for genuine repentance. Or when even genuine repentance is seen as necessitating the alleviation of consequences.

In summary, Christians may respond poorly to allegations of abuse due to ignorance, idolatry, fear, or flawed theology. The call, then, is: to embrace truth even when it’s difficult; to trust that Christ will build his church (even if our local churches or denominations fail); and to believe that doing justly on behalf of victims of abuse or rape is right and is actually a better testimony to the watching world than excusing or covering it up.

What Should Christians and Churches Do?

  • Learn about power dynamics and abuse dynamics.
  • Learn to recognize tactics abusers use to cover up their crimes and the likely responses to exposure.
  • Evaluate doctrines of authority, repentance, the church, and reconciliation to see if they are in line with truth.
  • Listen to and support (emotionally and practically) people leaving abusive relationships.
  • Speak up when you witness harassment and objectification.
  • Teach respect, chastity, and consent in your families and communities.
  • Support legislation based on best practices for dealing with harassment, abuse, and rape.
  • Advocate for good policies in churches, organizations, and denominations.
  • Be humble–willing to learn.
  • Admit when you’ve acted or believed wrongly, and seek to make it right.

Sample Resources

This concludes my current ponderings on the way Christians deal with abuse. Thank you for reading—especially as this is a serious and grieving topic. But friends, it is so important!

What about you? How have you seen Christians respond to abuse? What are some other factors that could contribute to poor responses? And what resources do you recommend for those wanting to learn more?

Until next time,

~Hannah 🌸

Check out some of my previous articles:

Believing Jane: Reflections on a Rape and it’s Cover-Up at The Master’s College & Seminary

When Traditional Values Create Toxic Churches

Late Night Theology Podcast, Episode 8: General Ranting… and Sergeant Sarcasm

LNTPodcastOpener (3)

This episode was recorded on March 5th, 2017.

In this episode, Logan and Tom are joined by Philip Willis as we cover a variety of topics that include preaching, worship, racism, the SBC, and legalism. You don’t want to miss it.

Links

The SBC’s Decision to Investigate Dr. Russell Moore

Why the South Would’ve Killed Spurgeon

Albert Mohler – Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship 

Ben Wirthington – Sexuality and Scripture 

Mark Ongly – The Church and Homosexuality 

Ashley Easter – Why the Church Loves to Talk About Sex Trafficking, But Not Domestic Abuse 

Late Night Theology Audio Archive 

T. Austin-Sparks

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Exegesis and the Small Church Mentality

exegesis

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, NIV

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, KJV

It was exactly 4:30 PM on a Thursday night, laying on my bed, listening to Radio Free Geneva where he was talking about how politics not impacts exegesis, but determines exegesis in Southern Baptist congregations and when I heard these words come from Dr. James White’s mouth, and I instantly gave him an audible “Amen.” Actually, it was more like an “A-f***ing-men.”

White said that you shouldn’t underestimate the power that politics plays in determining exegesis of Scripture in the Southern Baptist Convention. I resonated so well with his comments because I saw this first hand, but not in the SBC. Let me stop here and explain. I spent 3 years in a reformed (lower case ‘r’) Southern Baptist Church where the politics wasn’t necessarily an issue, but they definitely had some horror stories to tell from the SBC church that they came from before planting their church. Where I mostly saw politics play a role in exegesis was these small, non-denominational, Pentecostal, and Free Will Baptist churches. So, that told me that this wasn’t a problem that was limited to any denomination or any particular theological movement. This is something that’s going on in smaller churches, and not all smaller churches either, but I’m willing to bet about 90% of all churches with an active membership of 50 people or less.

Most of the time (not always, but most of the time), if you see a small church there’s a reason why it’s small – hardly anybody wants to go to a church where the sermon is about “the evils of socialism” every freaking week. We, as Christians, believe (or should believe) in a fundamental separation of church and state. Now, to what extent you believe in that separation is up for debate. Personally, I believe in an absolute separation of church and state because I don’t think God needs the assistance of Christians in the government to rule and reign over the earth that He’s created, but that’s just me. I guess if you don’t think God is doing a good enough on His own, you can keep voting Republican. “Hey God, I saw that the world was to hell in a handbasket so I thought I would give you some help by voting for Trump. No need to thank me, I’m just doing my civic duty.”

Going back to the subject of exegesis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer hit the nail on the head when he said, “The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events.” Now, if this were true in Bonhoeffer’s day how much more true is it now? Now, like I said, it’s not just small churches that do this. Cornerstone Church in San Antonio is the worst. John Hagee preaches week after week that the government is going to start lobbing our heads off any minute now so we need to start keeping an eye on our dispensational timeline charts to see what chapter of the book of Revelation we’re in this week. Now, I haven’t heard a single Hagee sermon since the election, but I’m willing to bet that since Trump is the President Elect, Hagee is ready to convert to Post-Millennialism even as week speak. There seems to be a trend among dispensationalist to read into the text of Scripture what isn’t there. They do this by comparing Israel to America. They tend to take Old Testament passages of Scripture concerning Israel and saying that those passages apply to America when, in fact, they do not.

This is a common habit among pastors in smaller churches. They tend preach that the physical nation of Israel is still “God’s chosen people” so we should pray for Israel and honor Israel. Then they start preaching about how “evil” it is to not show political support for Israel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting Israel, but it is solely for political reasons. My reasons for supporting Israel have nothing to do with my faith or my interpretation of Scripture. But, these small church pastors are, for the most part, uneducated. They get their learning from watching guys like John Hagee and Perry Stone instead of actually cracking open a reasonable Bible commentary over the book of Revelation. (As far as commentaries go, I would rather a pastor use Wilhelm Brakel’s commentary over Revelation than for them to go by what John Hagee or Perry Stone is teaching, and that’s saying something because Brakel is Postmillennial and I hate Postmillennialism with a fiery burning passion. The only way Postmillennialism makes sense is you’re either a Universalist or if you’re in favor of a Christian version of Sharia Law.)

But I digress, the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “exegesis” as “The act of interpreting or explaining the meaning of verses or passages of Scripture.” So, if this is the true meaning of exegesis, then can we say that a lot of our smaller churches are really exegeting Scripture? I say with a resounding voice, “NO.” When you tell your congregation that America (and the Church) is Israel then you are completely ignoring Romans 9 and you are ignoring the promises of God to His elect people in Ephesians 1 and 2, and there’s no telling how many other passages you’re ignoring.

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got so many other exegetical problems in these smaller churches that it’s unreal. In a lot of churches that aren’t Southern Baptist, you’ve got pastors telling their congregation that they can lose their salvation at the drop of hat. They offer little to no comfort to those of us who struggle with assurance, and they completely ignore every promise of assurance that God gives to His people and say that it only applies to people who “live right.” They make no distinction between law and gospel in their preaching. RJ Grunewald says, “Christians, including preachers, routinely confuse the Law and Gospel, misapplying both. Confusion results: Some needlessly suffer under a burdened conscience as they live under the crushing weight of the Law, while others dismiss the Law (unrepentant sinners) and ignorantly bask in grace they find outside of Christ’s work on their behalf.”

When you step into the pulpit you carry a very weighty task of explaining a text in the context of the whole Bible, and distinguishing between law and grace.

“Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.” – CFW Walther

If you’ve been able to sit through this angry rant, let me know what you think and let’s talk about it.

Blessings, Logan.