And Their Point Was…?

March 18, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Once upon a time, there was a group of guys who all went to church together.   And they didn’t attend just ANY church.  No.  They were members of the Dearest Place On Earth, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church.

In fact, these guys had grown up in Sovereign Grace together.  Part of the group had even attended a Sovereign Grace church-sponsored school.  Such tight bonds were formed that they remained close throughout their college years, and when it was time for them to be good SGM boys and begin their kissless courtships, they earnestly worked together to find themselves appropriate wives.

So they shared a lot, but the most important thing they shared was a loyalty and commitment to SGM.  At least one of the guys was even an employee of the organization, so the group enjoyed a level of up-close-and-personal elbow-rubbing with SGM’s leaders.

Life was good.

But then, one day, someone in the group discovered this blog, and for some reason, these guys just could not wrap their minds around the notion that SGM was NOT the “Dearest Place On Earth” to everyone who had ever been a member.  Rather than confront the idea that perhaps their church organization had serious problems that needed to be solved, these guys immediately went into a defensive mode, their minds racing for ways to poke holes in the criticisms that SGM’s “survivors” were leveling at SGM on this blog.

Our guys seemed to fixate on the idea that the stories shared here could be fake.  That seemed to be the main criticism they could level at the blog.  Never mind that it was highly unlikely that there’d be hundreds of people from all over the country who would have enough of a vendetta against what is, after all, a relatively minor and small “family of churches” that they’d take the time to cast Sovereign Grace Ministries in a bad light by fabricating intricate tales of abuse – the young men in our story today were hung up on pointing out that we hadn’t investigated every comment left on the blog and couldn’t establish that every single abusive situation had happened precisely the way the commenter said.

I always thought that if these guys were going to take the time to read this blog, their energies could have been put to far better use if they had been directed at taking the ideas discussed here and using them to effect change within Sovereign Grace Ministries.   Rather than being so automatically skeptical, in such a knee-jerk kind of way, wouldn’t it be smarter to take a good hard look around the Dearest Place On Earth and ask themselves the following questions about SGM?

Does SGM, as an organization, have a system of church governance in place that is too heavy on the notion of “authority,” with no recourse for the common member should a disagreement arise?  Has SGM, as an organization, caused their pastors to view themselves as the final arbiters of God’s truth, even for non-essential matters?  Has SGM, as an organization, taught their pastors to turn every confrontation back around onto the questioner, so that the questioner is then left defending himself and his own sinfulness that caused him to have a difference of opinion in the first place?  Has SGM, as an organization, fostered a culture of secrecy, where decisions are made from the top down and then imposed upon the people in the pews, often with little clear explanation to these people about the changes imposed upon them?  Has SGM, as an organization, come to view themselves as better than all other organizations?  Does SGM, as an organization, hold themselves and the counseling their pastors offer as superior to any sort of professional mental health or law enforcement intervention?  

Finally, has Sovereign Grace Ministries EVER minimized a case of sexual abuse by – say – having the admitted abuser merely place a phone call to apologize to his victim, and then permitting the abuser to remain a member in good standing?

But no.  Our boys in this good fairy story couldn’t seem to entertain the idea of taking a hard look at the Dearest Place on Earth and asking themselves (and maybe even their leaders) the tough questions.

Instead, they decided they’d rather cast doubt on the veracity of the stories shared on our site.

Their first efforts were fairly straightforward.  In various ways, and from various places – including Sovereign Grace Ministries’ own office computers, once – these guys posted comments in which they harped on how we verify the stories told here.  But as I stated back when they first began this campaign,

The real truth is that directing attention toward the identities and the truthfulness of the people who post here is a red herring.

For one thing, it’s silly to think that all of us have nothing better to do than sit around and make up stories about how a Christian ministry practices heavy-handed leadership and teaches people to focus on their own unworthy sinfulness to the neglect of victorious living…stories about how they’ve abused people…stories about how we came to see the truth…

But it’s a red herring – something used to distract people from the real issues – because it simply doesn’t make a bit of difference if people’s stories here have been properly “vetted.”

The real issue, the one that SGM ought to be dealing with openly, is that – whether they’ve abused people or not, whether half these stories are false or whether each and every one is true – it is still a FACT that Sovereign Grace Ministries’ system of governance is all about submission to the leaders above one on the leadership pyramid…till you get to the top and there’s NOBODY left to hold leaders accountable.  This system directly contradicts what they claim to believe about man’s innate sinfulness and hopeless condition (even after conversion).  If they actually believed that all humans are prone to fall into sin, then they would have a system of appeals and accountability in place.

But instead of dealing with the structural issues and errors in thinking/teaching and admitting that abuses could occur (and probably HAVE occurred), they want people to instead get all hung up on who is talking and if they’re posting under their real names and whether or not proper procedure has been followed to insure that SGM has received fair treatment.

So the guys’ more obvious attempts at discrediting this site didn’t do a thing to stop folks from reading here…or finding the stories believable…or continuing to post new stories.  Like Noel’s story.  Which, incidentally, was shared so precisely with us that even when Noel and her husband met just recently with the pastors involved (at the pastors’ request), NOBODY could point to a single fact that Noel had not reported correctly.

That’s when our group of gentlemen, to use the term loosely, hatched a new plan.

This plan was more devious, more underhanded.  No doubt it held special appeal for one of the guys, the one who fancies himself a writer, as it would involve creative fiction.

Our born-‘n’-raised Sovereign Grace boys decided that it would be a stellar move to invent a character who would post an ongoing story of SGM abuse.  They’d be patient about it, too, seeming to allow their fictional character’s story to unfold over the course of several months.  Concurrently, they would establish their own blog, wherein they’d attempt to lampoon sites like “SGM Survivors” and “SGM Refuge” by – and this part of our fairy tale never quite made sense to me – rambling incoherently about how funny they were and how the “anti-SGM” sites were nothing but sinful and bitter. 

Sad to say, our heroes’ severely substandard communication abilities did not make their “satirical” website a raving success.  But they nonetheless persevered, because they were eagerly awaiting the day when they could go in for the kill and reveal their Big Scheme involving their deceptive postings.  Then they’d be able to tell the world how all of us over here at SGM Survivors had been fooled into extending their fictional character prayer, care, and support as he faced poor treatment from his SGM church.

But unfortunately for the guys in our little story here, they lacked a basic understanding of what the supposedly “anti”-SGM sites are really all about.

You see, we are actually NOT all about believing the worst about Sovereign Grace Ministries.

And when our boys’ fictional character shared some details which did not ring true – because the details deviated from the norm of SGM’s typical bad behavior and would have indicated that SGM had sunk to new and outrageous lows – I asked that the commenter (their fictional character) email me with some supporting information.

When I did not receive the supporting information, I did some additional investigation.  And that’s when IP addresses revealed the full scope of the boys’ deception.

At the moment, that is how our fairy story ends.  Our Sovereign Grace boys – well past their chronological youth, of course, but obviously still fixated on immature shenanigans – have had the rug of their little prank pulled out from beneath them.  Sad to say, their “satirical” blog won’t be packing quite the same punch now (if, indeed, it would ever have managed to pack any punch at all, given the limitations of its contributors’ writing abilities).

But – let’s just imagine, for a moment, that our SGM frat boys hadn’t been caught.  Let’s say that they’d been fully successful at pulling off their deception.

What, precisely, would that have proved?

That the people here are caring, concerned individuals who are eager to offer up support and prayer when folks come along and ask for it?  That our commenters are essentially trusting, good-hearted people who have an automatic tendency to believe the best of people and take their words at face value?  That our commenters, having gone through their own extremely painful SGM situations, now have a special heart for those who have similar experiences?

Since when are those bad things?

Of course, I’m sure our custodians authors would say that they have “proven” that the other anonymous stories here could not be true.  But – as you might expect – I would say that they have proven no such thing.

First of all, after having been at this blogging thing for well over a year, I have a veritable treasure trove of stories that have been shared with me via email by verifiable people who have used their verifiable real names, verifiable real places, and verifiable real churches.  There are several folks, too, who have posted under their real identities on the site.  And at least two of the stories have been so grave and grievous (and potentially litigious) as to warrant face-to-face meetings with some of the biggest names in the SGM organization. 

So it’s not like SGM can deny every single story that has ever been posted here.

And what’s interesting about the stories that our fairy tale boys were so obsessed with disproving is that even those stories authenticate themselves because of how they followed certain patterns…patterns that helped me sniff out what felt false about the fabricated story, even back in the earliest days of the fictional character’s first comments.

No, I don’t think our fairy tale frat boys proved much at all, beyond the fact that Sovereign Grace’s culture can produce immature men with too much time on their hands, men who cannot express themselves clearly via the written word, men who have made such an idol out of protecting their church organization that their analytical thinking skills have become compromised, and – worst of all – men who do not hesitate to stoop to telling lies and perpetrating deception to make what they think is their point.

We’ve learned, now, that we no longer need to keep praying for their fictional character.  But I think it’s obvious that we need to keep praying for these other men of SGM.

© 2009, Kris. All rights reserved.