Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost


Have I ever mentioned that my rapist is a youth pastor now? I probably have, but only off-hand. I cannot even begin to express the amount of grief I have suffered since I discovered that. I reported him to the police, but there’s no other action I can take. The only thing my report can really do is help a future victim. When—possibly if, but most likely when—he rapes someone else, if she has the ability to report it there will be a history there. It will help any future investigation be successful.

It breaks my heart every single day that there’s a rapist walking around a church, and he’s a pastor of children. He is in a position to do to another girl exactly what he did to me, and I have I wept so bitterly for those children. I still do, every time I think about the power he wields and the trust those parents place in him. It infuriates me like nothing else does that he is beyond the reach of justice.

Which is why I haven’t been able to read the piece that the Leadership Journal published this week. I have tried, many times, over the past few days to make my way all the way through it, but I can’t. It … it sounds like him. My rapist. It is exactly what my rapist will say when he rapes one of the girls in his care, if he is successfully convicted as so very few rapists are.

He’s a youth pastor. His church probably subscribes to the Leadership Journal. And . . . I . . . oh, GOD!! I don’t want to picture him reading this because I know what that will do. He will read it, and everything that is inside of him, everything about him that would make the rest of us recoil in horror, will rise up in glee. Because here, here is a man who understands him. And he will feel justified, because he knows that a journal dedicated to Christian leadership wasn’t able to see the atrocities in his heart. And he will tell himself that the girl he is grooming wants it, wants him, and it’s only an affair. It’s not rape. It’s romantic.

My heart is wailing.

If I had sackcloth and ashes, I would be in the streets gnashing my teeth at the horror of this.

But, I can do something. You can do something.

Please e-mail the editors of the Leadership Journal and ask them to remove the post ( LJEditor@christianitytoday.com). Ask them to replace it with an article from the victim of a youth pastor, and then another from someone like Boz Tchividjian that offers church leadership an actual education in child sexual assault, clergy abuse, statutory rape, and how it is impossible for a pastor gain consent from a parishioner because of the power he or she has.

If you use twitter, tweet along with #TakeDownThatPost and at @CTmagazine and @Leadership_Jnl.

If you use facebook or other social media, please share one of the following articles.

An Open Letter to Christianity Today” by Elizabeth Esther
Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story” by Libby Anne
Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post” by Tamara Rice
On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement” by Dianna Anderson
Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse” by Suzannah Paul
Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?” By Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose

If you subscribe to the Leadership Journal, please cancel your subscription and tell them why.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

58 thoughts on “Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost

    • I will not link to it directly. They’ve already gotten enough traffic and I won’t contribute to it.

      In the links that I gave, most quote the original article extensively and go into great depth explaining why it is… beyond the pale. Some have DoNotLinks on their own website.

      • Okay. I want to make an informed decision on the article myself, especially because readers are being asked to take action, but I didn’t check out your other links. I’ve found it now, thanks.

  1. Thanks for the email address. Here’s the email I sent:

    Subject: My Easy Trip from Youth Minister to Felon

    “Why are you allowing a convicted rapist to call what he did “an extramarital affair”??? He RAPED a child. And yet you let him maintain his delusion that it was a consensual affair. Publishing this article is a travesty. If you have a teachable heart, ask Boz Tchividjian his opinion on this article. If you’re willing to learn, Mr. Tchividjian can educate you on all that is wrong with publishing this article from a delusional rapist claiming that his crime was something romantic.

    “I request that you remove this offensive article immediately.

    “Ellen Mandeville”

    I did manage to read the entire article early today. Call me naive, but I simply do not understand allowing a convicted rapist to “teach” on this subject using language that makes it sound like a consensual romantic relationship. I’m appalled by the Leadership Journal’s lack of wisdom and judgement.

          • It is only at 17. It took down my comment and I was (for once) not rude. Everything about this has made me lose all respect for CT. They gave him a platform and refuse to take the much-deserved heat from folks as diverse as feminists, Evangelicals, activists, and this one very-conservative Catholic.

            On another note, I never comment, but I’ve been reading your blog for some time, Ms. Field. Thank you so much for having the courage that you do. For whatever it’s worth, you have my upmost respect.

          • I am stunned at the silencing of reasonable and compelling comments. What is their motivation for giving this perpetrator who can’t recognize what he’s done a platform for “preaching”? I am dumbfounded and truly do not understand.

            • The problem is that manipulators are, by definition, better at giving people what they want than non-manipulators. So they can mix just enough drummed-up remorse with enough conservative Christians buzzwords and some people will eat it up. They also exploit the way fundies conflate all sexual misconduct under the umbrella of “adultery”. Victim will be more messed up and therefore unable to say all the right things thus undermining her own case.

              Also showing “grace” to an aggressor is a lot easier than showing it to a victim. The aggressor is in no position to ask for anything (since they are in the wrong), so forgiving them costs nothing. The victim may ask for something (like understanding or emotional support) that may be difficult to give.

  2. My youth pastor assaulted me for three years. And he’s still a youth pastor because of exactly this kind of culture in the church. I can absolutely imagine him reading this article in the same way. The comment I left earlier today has been removed. A friend is a CT Editor-At-Large and he emailed connecting me to the leadership, recommending I write a counter-piece from the victim’s perspective. Yeah…they haven’t been in touch.

      • Thank you. I’m sure I won’t hear from them, since they didn’t even want to run my comment on the article. :-/ I actually have something written – I’ll be in touch.

  3. Can’t wait to see the people defending CT and that post. This should be a no brainer even for those types, but I’m sure there will be plenty.

  4. Samantha, I admire your courage, and I am thankful that you brought this to our attention.

    Just sent the following email:

    Re: Please remove the post

    Dear Leadership Journal Editor,

    Please remove the post “My Easy Trip from Youth Minister to Felon.” The article is written as though the author simply had an extramarital affair, not as is the truth, that he raped a child. The author’s note “in response to readers’ concerns” at the end of the article acknowledging that he was not in a relationship, but instead preying on a child, is not even close to being enough to remedy the rest of the article.

    This post is incredibly painful to rape survivors to read, and it contributes to a culture in our society and in our churches that blames rape victims, seeing them as complicit, and as less than fully human.

    Please remove the post and replace it with the story of a survivor of sexual abuse by a person in ministry and an article by Boz Tchividjian, or someone else actively works against sexual abuse by clergy.


    Sara Mangan

  5. Thanks for your post today. I don’t read CT anymore, and was unaware of the article. It’s truly appalling. I have no sympathy for those who abuse others (especially our youth), and no respect at all for CT.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this Samantha. I am so sick of hearing the “we’re all sinners” reply when talking about sex abuse in the church. Premarital sex is not the same as child abuse!

  7. you know damn well that this poor girl is probably getting called a “slut” and people are probably talking about how she “seduced him” into sin and that fact makes me so angry i am just. i am SO ANGRY about this entire churchy culture that lets this man come back with this ~glow of grace~ when he clearly has learned nothing about how heinous his crime was.
    on top of this, the CT site has deleted a large number of negative comments i read yesterday, and there are more positive ones. i’m so mad and sad and scared for young ladies in the church. :(

  8. If it’s any tiny consolation, the “My Easy Trip…” article and the response has made me, and hopefully other people like me, far more aware of the problem of predatory abuse and how a predator thinks. I’ve never been sexually abused. I’ve never directly helped someone who has been abused. My first read through the article had me wondering why this convicted felon who wasn’t naming his crime was given a platform to “teach”. The comments, before they were removed, made me more fully aware of just how narcissistic and victim blaming the article is.

    That the article was run at all with its misleading tags is horrifying. Why can’t the editors see it for what it is? At the very least, why can’t they see that the writer isn’t even acknowledging his crime? I am stunned, shocked, horrified. The problem of sexual predation in our society and in our churches is real. The actions of non-Leadership Journal show that there are many in church leadership who abuse and many others that are clueless about the thinking and methods of the abusers. Another layer of rose-colored glasses that I didn’t know I wore has been removed.

    What resources are there to educate people on the methods of an abusers madness?

  9. Samantha – I can’t remember if I’ve posted here or not that I am a child sexual abuse and sexual assault prosecutor. I can’t count the number of supportive letters I’ve received from (almost always male) pastors/spiritual leaders at the sentencing of men who have committed extremely depraved crimes against children. I’m not going to go into detail, but I want to mention one in particular that I received a number of years ago from a the head pastor of a very large Baptist church. The defendant – who was going to be sentenced to upwards of decade for some very serious crimes against a girl who was between 9 and 12 at the time that he sexually abused her – was in his view an “upstanding” member of his congregation. The letter went into great detail about the suffering that was going to ensue when this defendant went to prison. He would suffer. His wife would suffer. His children (except for the child who was the step-parent of the girl he abused) would suffer. The church would suffer.

    It was as though it was the legal system that was inflicting this suffering upon this poor man. The crimes that he had committed had literally no part in the calculation of the consequences. It was as though his rape of a child was meaningless, and all that mattered were the collateral consequences that were to occur to the man and those who loved and respected him. The letter even said something along the lines of “Defendant is a good, fine, Christian man who has worked hard to support his family. You should stop persecuting him and go find some “real” criminals to go after.” If he hadn’t been a Christian, and a member of his congregation, if, perhaps, he had been black, or a meth addict, or poor, or an atheist, and all of the other acts had been exactly the same, they would have been demanding that this man be executed.

    Because he looked just like them, and because he was one of them, he had simply made a mistake and deserved forgiveness.

    Religion makes all “sin” equal. The sin of “impurity” is the same as the sin of “rape.” The sin of stealing a candy bar is quantitatively the same as the sin of murder. They are subject to the same godly forgiveness. Jesus died for the murderers just as much as he died for the fibbers. And when you have built your religion on this structure that makes no distinction for the seriousness of the sin, this is what you get. You get powerful people who expect that their serious sins are going to be forgiven at the same rate that the weak people have their minor sins forgiven (because the powerful have a bigger capacity to commit serious sins). You get an entitlement to sin without consequence, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. No matter who gets hurt. And when the victim tries to stand up and say, “wait, what about me?” all she (because it is usually a she. or a child) gets is shaming because she isn’t willing to forgive a “brother in Christ.”

    I grew up in a church. In large part because of my experiences as a prosecutor, I cannot bear organized Christianity, an aspect of my character that causes enormous problems within my close family (my parents and my husbands parents are very active in their churches and take great comfort in them). It is almost a universal characteristic that churches are apologists for rape, domestic violence, and child abuse. And they pretty much fill me with disgust.

    • Christine, I respect your viewpoint but I don’t think its the doctrine of forgiveness that enables this kind of sin and the ensuing cover-ups and excuses; I think it’s more helpful to look at it the other way around: that it is the power structure of many sectors of the modern American church that has abused the doctrines of the church to their own advantage, in order that they might hang on to their power and prestige while keeping their followers under their thumb. They’ve taken the doctrine of justification and turned it into the false doctrine of “no earthly consequences for your sin” even though David, who was forgiven of his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, still had to endure grievous consequences for his deeds! They’ve done the same to biblical principles concerning authority, sin, and all other kinds of doctrines, despite obvious Scriptural precedent to the contrary. I would suggest that the proper response to these abuses is not to throw away the doctrines that power-hungry men have perverted to their advantage, but to reclaim the proper understanding of these teachings. Kind of like what Jesus did.

      I do appreciate your work in the service of justice. The more our justice system focuses on the rampant sexual abuse that pervades so many institutions (churches as well as others), the better.

        • Throwing out religion will not solve the problem of sexual predators. Evil people will always exist, and will use whatever means available to exert power over others. If religion were to die, they would merely find another venue in which to abuse their power.

          • The evil people would still exist. But the apologists for them, and the victim-blamers, they wouldn’t be there to make the evil people feel that they are the ones who’ve been victimized. And they wouldn’t be able to claim that God is on their side.

            You have no idea what it’s like Jacob. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that in well over 50% of my cases, the victim is hung out to dry (even when the defendant has confessed) and all of the support is thrown behind the perpetrator. It is among the most disgusting, despicable and shocking aspects of being involved with victims. In intra-familial cases, it is almost always the male perpetrator who is protected at the expense of the female (or child, who can be either male or female) victim.

            I understand the argument that *this* is a perversion of the teachings of Christ. At some point, though, you have to wonder – if this so-called perversion is a widespread aspect of Christian churches, maybe that perversion isn’t a bug. Maybe it is a feature. And if the purpose of religion – through widely accepted interpretations of the Bible – is to subjugate women and children, and give cover to the men who abuse them, then I submit that religion is the problem. Not the solution.

            • I don’t think the victim-blamers would go away either. Misogyny, victim-blaming, and rape apologia aren’t just features of fundamentalism or conservatism – see Samantha’s post at Convergent Books about secular raunch culture being just as bad as Christian purity culture. These things might take different forms outside of the specific moral framework of religion, but they aren’t going to go away.

              I think that any time you have an organization where power is being exercised, there is the potential for abuse (sexual or otherwise) of that power – and for excuses to be make for that abuse by both leaders and followers in the organization who are caught up in the system. It doesn’t matter if its a government, a church, a company, or a Boy Scout troop for that matter. The church (and more appropriately for the subject, its various manifestations in the form of denominations and independent congregations) is a powerful institution that attracts evil people because they are drawn to power.

              It’s one thing if the very framework/founding principles of the organization itself are based in moral error; take IBLP for an example, that was founded on the teachings of one man (Bill Gothard) who turned out to be guilty sexually harassing multiple students. By all means, that and any organization like it should be shut down. But if the way the American church has dealt with sexual abuse (and I don’t even know what the state of affairs in other countries is) is indeed a perversion of Christian teaching – which I think it can be reasonably shown to be – then the question doesn’t become one of abolishing religion but of reformation – a very radical reformation.

              • I see what you mean, but the thing is that “all sins are equal” thing actually is one of core Christian teachings. And, as Christine pointed out, it is one doctrine of Christianity that really favors the powerful (most other doctrines do favor the powerless) because the powerful have the opportunity to sin more. Also if the aggressor “repents,” it immediately puts pressure on the victim to forgive them or end up looking worse than the aggressor.

                It is possible, I suppose, to reinterpret problematic doctrines so that it doesn’t really mean what it seems to mean.

                • The apostles response to this would seem to be that very serious sin would warrant the removal of a pastor/elder/bishop from power even as they would attempt to bring him to repentance. See qualifications for elders in Timothy and Titus.

                  I don’t think you will find “all sins are equal” in Scripture either, although much teaching does tend to come across that way; I think it’s more accurate to say that all sins are deserving of God’s wrath but not necessarily equal either in God’s sight or humankind’s; even historic church teaching reflects this; the idea of different “layers” of hell, for example (best depicted in Dante’s Inferno) depending on the degree of one’s sin in life. It’s true that Protestants believe that all sins are “equal” in the sense that all of them are covered by the blood of Christ, but I don’t think this doctrine needs to be reinterpreted; rather, the distinction needs to be made between God’s forgiveness and earthly consequences, i.e. – being forgiven for your sins doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with their consequences here on earth, whether it be removal from office or going to jail. I’m convinced this is one of the main reasons why we have Romans 13 in the Bible; Paul is saying, “no, you don’t get to be above the law just because you’re a follower of Christ.”

        • I doubt that would help much.

          I’m an atheist, and I can tell you that atheist communities and religious communities have many of the same problems with misogyny.

  10. This is horrifying. It is almost impossible to believe that CT thought this was a legitimate voice to broadcast. I will email the Leadership Journal as you suggest.

  11. Added a small post with links to the many anti-CT posts on both my blog (reverendref.blogspot.com) and facebook.

  12. I just read the LJ article and saw that a moderator has closed the comments for the weekend. Why? How can they be so afraid of people’s mere opinions? I am beyond disappointed in Leadership Journal’s/Christianity Today’s treatment of this controversy.

    While reading the article, I was surprised to see that there were no details at all about the judicial process, making the story even more self-serving than I had gathered from the comments here. In the LJ article itself, it sounded to me like the author was saying “I should have known better…I didn’t delete her messages from my phone…so my wife saw the messages and BAM! I’m in jail!” No thought for the victim, no belief that he did anything really wrong…

    Finally, I’m glad that at least he was caught and is now a registered sex offender. I don’t know much about church hiring practices, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many religious organizations don’t even run background checks on their employees, so maybe they wouldn’t find out about his crimes…but still, we can hope that any future employer will learn of his criminal record and prevent him from working with children and teens. I hope that he isn’t able to go back to ministry at all. I’m surprised he’s even able to do ministry in the prison, as the article states–I’ve heard that child molesters are often on the lowest rung of the prison pecking order.

  13. Just as an update, Leadership Journal has published an apology entitled “From Youth Minister to Felon
    An article we never should have published.” I am glad they responded to the public outcry. Still, it is very disturbing that they didn’t “catch” the faulty (much too small a term) premise of the whole thing to begin with. Glad to see so many came out against this and hoping it’s caused many to think more clearly on the issues involved.

    • I’ve certainly learned a lot through this whole debacle. One of the primary things I’ve learned is how self-and-other deluding sexual predators are, and how easy it is for uneducated Christians to think, “Well, their sorry and said they won’t do it again. Problem solved.” Nope, problem isn’t solved.

      I want to be part of the solution educating others about this pernicious problem and how to combat it. Hopefully there are many more like me who learned much due to LJ’s wretched choices and actions. Finally, finally, they took it down. Why did it take them so long to do the right thing???

    • That’s truly a substantive, helpful comment right there. I’m in awe. Thank you. Without you, I would be lost. After all, I’ve never read the Bible before, or ever heard a sermon preached about forgiveness– and I’ve been a Christian all my life! Thanks to you, I now know that forgiveness means “never talk about anything bad that’s ever happened to you– EVER! Never use your negative life experiences to try to help other people– EVER! FORGIVENESS MEANS BEING SILENT ABOUT IT ALL OF THE TIME FOR THE REST OF FOREVER.”

      Wow, I’ve never heard that before!

      Also, how in the world could I have marred anyone’s reputation when I’ve never even mentioned his name?

      (for my readers: this commenter wrote a post dedicated to how the rapist in the article “turned away from his sin” so we should all shut up now, than spent some time telling his readers about how unforgiving I am, so yay.)

  14. I didn’t read it, either. Too close to home. My daughter and I were BOTH groomed, and my daughter, at age 12, was sexually assaulted. It’s been 20 years since, but is still fresh. I continue to grieve my own stupidity, ignoring my gut. He was so…polite.

  15. My heart is sick for the girl who was victimized. My oldest son was also victimized by a youth pastor, but it was a brutal thing that involved the drugging of my 10 year old son, followed by gagging and penetration. I detest and despise the man who hurt my son in this way, and it was something I didn’t learn about until a year ago.

    One thing that truly troubles me about all of this, is that there’s a belief that Christianity actually helps those who harbor dark desires. It does not. If we’re honest, the reality is that many people do horrible things, and there are also many people who are kind and caring. And Christianity has little to do with either. Studies have born this out.

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