Tag Archives: credibility

The Pastor and Priest Fallacy; or, Why Ministries Must Earn Credibility and Trust

I like this guy’s doctrinal beliefs; therefore, he is trustworthy.

Imagine all American Christians understanding why that is a silly way of thinking.

Christian Publishing would collapse, and some ministers would have to do real work for the first time in their lives.

It’s like there’s an assumption running through some preachers’ ministries: “I believe the Bible, and the Bible affirms what I say, so get involved in my ministries, be accountable to my ministries, and give my money to my ministries.”

Because: Jesus.

It’s the magic word that gives narcissists and sociopaths instant power over vulnerable spiritual seekers.

Always, always wait until a supposed leader has earned trust and respect. He must earn it. She must earn it. Do not give any credibility or authority to a person until you’ve seen that person deserve it.

You will lose absolutely nothing by waiting to make a decision to commit yourself to a ministry. God’s got all the time there ever will be.

And He can make more.

I’m not asking for impossible tests for pastors, priests, or other ministers. Clergy can be observably human and humble. They can avoid controlling behaviors and controlling rhetoric. Just be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open. Commit yourself incrementally.

Most importantly, don’t believe a ministry’s hype. Pay attention to its substance — or, more likely, it’s lack of substance.

The story of America is a story of religious entrepreneurship. While I radically support religious liberty and freedom of speech, I know religious entrepreneurship has institutionalized as many dangerous ideas as nonsensical ideas or good ideas.

Read Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-worth your time, and you’ll discover some similarities and parallels between some of the Latter Day Saints described in the book and many of America’s unaffiliated, entrepreneurial Protestants.

Look, the megachurches could last well into the future, or they could fizzle, but either way, I don’t need yet another preacher yapping at me from a spectacular stage, especially when I can suffer through the same guy’s sermon on YouTube.

The megachurch sales-and-marketing approach is completely obvious these days. I was in the same relatively small room with the senior pastor of a large church when he said he’s good at convincing people to come to church but not good at maintaining those relationships once they’re coming to church.

It really struck me as a bait-and-switch. You seem like a nice guy! I’ll try out your church! Then, later, I can never seem to have a conversation with that nice guy. Maybe I’ll find a smaller church or just watch Chuck Todd each Sunday morning. 

How bait-and-switch evangelism is a spiritual or even a human way to be, I have no idea.

But it’s also typical. I would generalize that mode like this:

Build the organization. Individuals are simply pawns in building my organization. People are second. I’ll say God is first — my God being my organization. I’ll say I serve the people by building my organization.

With any luck, in time, I’ll build the organization so big, I won’t have to spend any time with any real people. I’ll have secretaries and schedules and an office buried so deep inside an office suite, the mongrel hordes will never find me — and then I’ll escape to my home in a gated community.

You, entrepreneurial preacher, are probably a fraud. You’ll preach about the Holy Spirit without evidence of a single Fruit of the Spirit. You know, those Fruits of the Spirit, the alleged outcome of your alleged faith.

This isn’t important to you, because you’ll push the right emotional buttons next Sunday and keep the climb to fame and fortune alive.

You spiritual and moral fraud.

I wish there was some way other than just academic degrees and resumés and well-marketed books to affirm a person’s reliability and character. Pastor Mark Driscoll is just one example of a widespread problem.

(Driscoll, by the way, once boasted that he could walk from his office to the stage without having to see anyone—an explicit, specific example similar to my above generalized example).

Driscoll is not the only one.

Genuinely. Seriously.

If I really thought the Driscoll-Mars Hill Church disaster was an aberration, I would not have written so many blog posts about it.

I wanted people to learn a methodology from that situation, a way of seeing.

I wanted people to learn a kind of awareness.

I have no real platform to make that happen. I just wanted it to happen, wanted it badly to happen.

I want people to gain a healthy distrust. Don’t trust me, either. Be skeptical. Research and reasoning can prove me a prophet or a clown or something else. This is about you.

Let’s say I’m proven a clown. Throw a party about it. Take a few hours to tell Colin jokes.

Then, afterward, ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used.

Ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used by someone who is demanding your attention, your submission, your time, and your money because he talks about Jesus and your kids like the youth group. This is just a blog post. You can close it at any time. The social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of churches are a bit more tricky. Do you have the confidence and willpower to walk away from your church membership at any time? You need to develop that.

Jesus won’t magically develop it for you.

You’re too weak to navigate unaffiliated, entrepreneurial religion in America.

Most humans are, which is why the predators grow fat.

You don’t necessarily need to burn personal bridges, but you need to have a strong enough sense of who you are and what is right to walk away from a nonsense organization — or an unhealthy organization.

I’m not only focusing on professional clergy. The reality is the Pastor and Priest Fallacy can analyze any politician or community leader. I may really like what someone else says, but that doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy or credible.

People need to learn this, need to “get” it.

Astonishingly ignorant and manipulative people are running American Christianity and American politics.

What makes Chrnalogar’s book significant, and why is it relevant for today?

Recently, I used the book Twisted Scriptures to assess Mars Hill Church and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s leadership as reported on other blogs.

Before I used the book, I should have established its credibility.

Of course, nothing and no one carries full credibility across all spectra.

For that we can thank the successful infiltration of ideological mentalities and propagandistic modes of thinking.

In other words, a man could utter a perfectly true and practically applicable statement, and the first thing many of us would want to know is his affiliation and identity and worldview.

Even so, here is my attempt to identify the credible nature of the book:

The first edition of Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free from Churches That Abuse was released by Zondervan in 1997. Revised editions appeared in 1998 and 2000.

On the back of my 2000 edition, author Mary Alice Chrnalogar is identified as a 19-year veteran of rescuing victims of cults and abusive church groups. She has conducted rescues and interventions in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Israel, and Spain, according to the back of the book.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Chrnalogar says she consulted Timothy Brouns, a Baptist minister and graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Stephen D. Martin, a pastor, graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary and former staff member of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, a “restorative place for victims of controlling groups,” located in Athens, Ohio.

The back of the book cites Edward J. Green, Ph.D., the Guerry professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Green wrote, “This is controversial… many sheep will be told not to read it. Anyone told this should read it immediately. This is an important book — not only to help victims break out of bondage, but every pastor should be required to read it.”

The credentials of Chrnalogar and the above-mentioned men should suggest some credibility.

 

Following Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, it’s time to ask serious questions about Tyndale House’s credibility

Tyndale House‘s defense of Mark Driscoll — following what can only be called plagiarism — suggests the publishing house is unprofessional at best and untrustworthy at worst.

I say this after 11 years of experience as a newspaper reporter and editor, and after 11 semesters of teaching college students about the necessity of citing sources and the serious offense of plagiarism.

But my credentials are minor compared to anyone’s common sense, as well as the facts of the situation and U.S. Copyright Law.

First, if you’re not familiar with revelations of Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, read Jonathan Merritt here and here before you continue. Another update — and news of bizarre twists in this story — is available at Christianity Today‘s Gleanings blog.

I’m not the first to say “plagiarism” with conviction. Driscoll’s plagiarism cannot be doubted. Professor Collin Garbarino writes, “Some of the other evidence…is more damning. In a book on First and Second Peter published by Mars Hill Church, Driscoll lifts whole paragraphs almost word-for-word from the entry on First Peter in the New Bible Commentary, published by IVP in 1994. These passages are at the end of the previous link, and [Janet] Mefferd provides additional passages here. I’m a university professor. I have no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism. So, it’s my duty, as a member of my professing profession, to give Driscoll an ‘F.’”

Unfortunately, Mefferd’s website no longer holds the evidence that she had collected. She eventually apologized for her “behavior” (the link goes to a Christianity Today blog) when she challenged Driscoll about plagiarism on her radio show.

But Garbarino posted his comments before Mefferd took down the evidence. He saw the evidence, and he testified to it on the First Things blog.

And, fortunately for the truth, Jonathan Merritt captured some of Mefferd’s evidence on his blog, and apparently, Merritt is not influenced by the forces who caused Mefferd to take down what she had collected in the course of basic journalistic reporting.

[Update: A blog called Another Slice salvaged PDF versions of Mefferd’s evidence. They’re on Google Drive, so you’ll have to sign in to your Google account for viewing. Click here to find the links at StandUpForTheTruth.com.] 

However, Tyndale House’s defense of Driscoll’s book is staggering. And baffling. And unacceptable. The defense, as noted on the Gleanings blog, reads:

“It has come to our attention that a radio talk show host has suggested that author Mark Driscoll has committed plagiarism in his recent Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence. Tyndale House takes any accusation of plagiarism seriously and has therefore conducted a thorough in-house review of the original material and sources provided by the author. After this review we feel confident that the content in question has been properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards.”

“Market standards” are irrelevant. The phrase “market standards” means nothing when plagiarism and U.S. copyright laws are involved.

“Properly cited” is inaccurate considering Mefferd’s collected evidence and Garbarino’s assessment of it.

The law is relevant — and it should be relevant to Tyndale House.

(“In-house review”? That reminds me of how much I love the fine print on a product that tells me the producing company found its own product to be effective.)

Tyndale House did not take the charge of plagiarism seriously enough.

On this page, Plagiarism.org has a heading that reads, “BUT CAN WORDS AND IDEAS REALLY BE STOLEN?” Then the site provides an answer: “According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).”

Based on Garbarino’s testimony, Driscoll and Tyndale House clearly violated U.S. copyright laws as described in the following excerpt of Copyright Basics:

“Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

“• reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

“• prepare derivative works based upon the work”

Of course, direct copying is a huge problem, but are the execs at Tyndale House ignorant of the meaning of the word “derivative”? Or are they pretending not to know in a ridiculous attempt to protect their cash cow?

If Tyndale House and Driscoll had met the standards of copyright law, then why did Brad Greenberg, Intellectual Property Fellow at Columbia Law School, tell Jonathan Merritt the following?

“The passages that Mefferd has identified appear to be copied almost verbatim from the Carson New Bible Commentary. Merely changing a few words, such as ‘unschooled’ to ‘uneducated’, is likely not enough to skirt liability for copyright infringement,” Greenberg said. “The only relevant defense that I could see Driscoll having is independent creation–that is, he wrote this passage completely independent of the Carson text, and the striking similarity is mere coincidence. That, of course, is exceptionally unlikely because the Carson text was far from obscure and, in fact, was later cited by Driscoll.” (See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/11/27/mark-driscoll-silent-amid-mounting-allegations-of-plagiarism/#sthash.4RVWbexx.dpuf .)

Notice that the “later cited by Driscoll” does not place Driscoll within the law, at least not according to Greenberg’s interpretation of it.

A professional publisher ought to be aware of the basic ethical and editorial standards available at Plagiarism.org and the U.S. Copyright Law website. The explanations and definitions on that website are so basic, I can get my English 101 students, freshmen, to read them each semester. Yet Tyndale House defends itself and Driscoll with “market standards.” Whatever that means, it’s not relevant — and it certainly sets a low bar for ethics.

At least, as Merritt reports, Ingrid Schlueter puts integrity above profits and reputation.

Also see:

Who’s Talking about the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy?