Spotify is (almost) Saving Humanity

I’m listening to classical music. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to be exact. It’s beautiful, engaging music. Rising, cresting, falling; painting pictures in my mind as I work. Somewhere between the swirling of the fall leaves and the start of the winter snow, I’m interrupted.

“Rock on with AC/DC, Def Leppard and other rock classics!” A guitar starts a mad rift of chords, electric and bass. The voice over guy yells, “Relive your past or experience something new on Spotify!”

I’m listening to classical music. Classical! Hit me with a Beethoven commercial or a Bach soundbite. What are the chances that I’m going to actually grab my mouse, switch genres, and start jamming to some, Let There be Rock?

The chances aren’t good, and that’s why Spotify announced last year that they were going to start targeting advertising in late 2014. After all, targeted ads are proven to increase revenue and click-throughs. But it hasn’t happened just yet, and with all the commotion about Taylor Swift pulling her music, and artists complaining they’re not getting paid what they’re worth, I’m glad. Spotify is doing something right, even if it’s just temporary mistake.

Take a look at your Facebook page. It’s the ultimate targeted experience. You’ve surrounded yourself with people who have the same views, same likes, same dislikes and same beliefs as yourself. Few of you actually have friends who have different views, and even if you do, they don’t show up in your news feed that often. Look at the ads that are displayed in your feed as well. They’re tailored to what you like, and it increases the likelihood that you’ll click one of those ads and ch-ching! Someone, somewhere, made some money. Unless it’s one of those Christian singles ads, that nobody clicks- Just because you’re a Christian and single, doesn’t mean you’re looking for “Hot Christian Singles in Your Area!”

Even I recognize my Facebook page as a narrow section of my world view. I have few friends with diverse viewpoints, and the people that are volatile are hidden from my feed because they cause too many fights. I can’t keep up with their nonsense during the busy day. I’m in a few groups that post things that are contrary to my worldview, but I’ve hidden most of the members on those groups as well, just to give myself a little bit of peace when I scroll through my feed. Even though I support most members of these groups, it’s hard to see dozens of posts a day that I can’t agree with. I’m wrong by hiding these posts- hiding these people- but Facebook allows me to do it, and they profit from the way that most people want to function in their social life.

See, real life doesn’t work this way. I can’t just go outside of my house, go to a meeting, work or the store without experiencing people with different views. I can’t just hide and ignore those people, even if it would make my life more convenient.

On a micro level, targeted advertising still exists apart from the Internet. For example, I’m more likely to see salsa next to chips, and a food billboard next to an exit, but there isn’t a practical way to “hide homeless man” or “remove People Magazine from your checkout lane.” As we become more reliant on digital technology, we will start seeing more targeted advertising affecting us outside of the net, and this is a bad thing for you and me, because it closes us off from the reality that we’re not the most important people in the world.

Even this article, which you found through Google or through Facebook or through Twitter, is brought to you by targeted preference, and that’s just a little bit scary, because it’s part of the way that your lifestyle has already been picked for you.

I don’t get the luxury of missing the screaming electrics of AC/DC because I don’t like it. I don’t get to skip the Bach commercial either. I’m subject to whatever the advertiser puts out there, and because of that, I’m more likely, even if it’s just a small chance, to broaden my horizons. I’m more likely to try something new. The Internet shrinks with targeted advertising, and removes what people call the spice of life: diversity. Spotify may not be the best company, but right now, I don’t think it’s too far of a shot to say that they’re saving humanity by preserving diversity.

10 Reasons to Move to Ireland Again

I’ve never written an article expecting a huge amount of traffic to hit my blog. It always comes as a surprise to me when I meet up with someone who reads what I’ve written online. I start telling a story, and they laugh and state, “Oh, I read about that on your website!” When an article does catch on, you’re subject to thousands of opinions and thousands of eyes. That’s what happened with an article that I wrote six years ago at 18.

10 Reasons to Move to Ireland has been one of the most read articles on my website and even today, I’ll receive comments like the one below:

“The very first reason is something to be worried about: the strong Catholic influence that exist in Éire. […] In my opinion it’s a country that should put religion aside to ponder about pro-choice abortion, voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage.”

Comments like these are the reason why I feel the need to revisit the post, and explain my malformed, 18-year-old logic.

9). The Irish are friendly. If Ireland is known for one thing it’s the fact that everyone is considered a neighbor. Fitting in wouldn’t be any problem at all.

I got this wrong. So did the all the travel sites that I researched about Ireland while writing this article. Maybe the Irish are are friendly, or maybe I got my friendliness from my dad’s side of the family- Lithuania! Maybe the Irish are just sensitive and touchy when people disagree with them. Either way, over the last six years, I’ve received so many volatile comments from Irish names, that I’ve not approved most of them.

7). The death rate in Ireland is the lowest in the whole UK and it is positive to note that no tourists have ever been killed there.

Teenage ignorance and poor phrasing doesn’t help when you’re writing an article that goes viral. Northern Ireland is part of the British Isles, while the rest of Ireland is not. That isn’t to say that the people living in the Republic of Ireland are British. That would be a huge mistake. They are Irish and you’d better not forget it.

2). The Irish aren’t afraid of demanding freedom. Look at the old IRA fighting for Ireland against the English. Even though they were considered terrorists they still stood up for what was right.

My 1/8th Irish doesn’t allow me much of a right to speak much about the IRA. There were horrible things that took place between the Protestants, Catholics, British and Irish. Brits kicked in doors, shooting families and even pets. IRA fighters seemed to try to avoid civilian loss by calling ahead, before blowing up buildings. Even so, hundreds of innocent civilians were killed. On both sides of the fence, Northern Ireland and Southern, there is deep hurt and a lot of bitterness.

1). Ireland is one of the only countries in the world that has kept abortion illegal.

This was the most contested points in the original article,”Isn’t this a reason not to move to Ireland?” I understand that this is because many of my commenters are pro-choice, a view much different than mine. Just the numbers astonish me, though they do little to show the evil that abortion is. Since 1973, the United States has preformed over 54 Million abortions. It would take you four and a half years to count to 54 million. In that time, another four million abortions would happen. Yet in Ireland, only four thousand abortions would happen in that time. If you are pro-choice, please take the time to read a site like Abort73. It’s important.

When I thought about writing this article, I assumed that getting it on paper would reveal huge changes to me. That wasn’t exactly true. Even though I expounded on the points that I made, I still find most of them to be accurate to who I am. That’s comforting, even if it means that I don’t know that much about Ireland. Someday, I’ll visit the land of the green, and then I’ll be an expert!

HSLDA & Heidi St. John Refuse to Support Victims of Abuse

In response to the allegations brought against them, HSLDA issued a public statement and Heidi St. John’s assistant posted another statement her personal Facebook. I’ll let you read the statements below, but they miss one vital detail – a detail that removes all sincerity and exposes a truth that organizations and leaders are prone to forget: homeschoolers are not just your audience, they are individuals who will continue to be hurt, broken, and trampled upon if you continue to turn your back.

HSLDA’s  Statement:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. HSLDA does not condone covering up sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is a crime and should always be reported to the police.

In addition, HSLDA does not get involved in conflicts between families or individuals. P
rofessionals trained in mediation and arbitration are better suited than us to resolve civil disputes. Our mission is to protect the homeschooling rights of our member families, not to be the police force of the homeschooling movement.

From HSLDA, on their Facebook page, no text modified.

Heidi St. John’s statement:

For more than six months now, a variety of accusations have been swirling within a fringe segment of the homeschool community suggesting that I, along with other respected homeschool leaders, have been involved in a “scandal.”

In a series of increasingly wild allegations, I have been accused of all sorts of terrible things, including causing a homeschool vendor to be disinvited from a homeschool convention.

I did not request anyone be disinvited from a convention. I did not cover up a child abuse scandal. Both of these accusations are completely false.

While the Internet provides a wonderful platform for encouragement and information, I am now learning first-hand that it can also be used to spread false information. It is a place where people of character can have their reputation attacked with little recourse.

Even my blog post has been used against me; proof that words written from a good heart with good intentions can be twisted by a clever wordsmith with evil intentions.

God’s Word is clear:
A tree is known by its fruit.

From Heidi St. John’s assistant’s Facebook page, no text modified.

The Truth

Notice how both of these statements avoid addressing the victims of the abuse? HSLDA states that abuse should be reported to the police, and Heidi St. John doesn’t address the concerns of the victims at all. Furthermore, she flat out denies any wrong doing on her part, even though there is email documentation of her refusal to support victims of sexual abuse, and her subsequent actions, banning a an employee from a homeschool convention.

There is nothing written in either response that would suggest that HSLDA or Heidi St. John are sincerely concerned about the people their actions (or lack thereof) affect, but only about the platform those people create for them. Sexual abuse is more than just a “scandal,” it’s the destruction of an individual’s life.

Why Do HSLDA  and Heidi St. John Choose to Remain Silent?

Just weeks ago, HSLDA wrote a large article titled, “A Line in the Sand.” You can read that article on the HSLDA site, but one thing that stands out to me, is the fact that HSLDA is responding to the downfall of two homeschool leaders: Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard. In the article Michael Farris, HSLDA chairman writes,

Although some people want HSLDA to be the police force of the homeschooling movement—removing those who miss the mark in some manner—that is not our role. Even though I have been uncomfortable with the teaching coming from each of these men for several years, it is not my place to try to remove viewpoints from the homeschooling community just because the HSLDA board or I hold a different view. Our role is to defend the freedom of everyone to homeschool. […] But with these recent scandals in view, we think it is now time to speak out—not about these men’s individual sins, but about their teachings.

Unfortunately in regards to Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, they were already excommunicated from the homeschool community. They were already on their way out. HSLDA had nothing to lose, except members with controversial teachings, when they chose to “draw their line in the sand.”

What’s more unfortunate, however, is the fact that HSLDA believes that defending the freedom of the homeschool movement is best done by legally protecting our rights as a whole, while failing to acknowledge the role individuals play in the health and safety of the community that makes up that whole.

Leaders who choose to support individuals and national companies who cover up or perpetrate sexual abuse are ruining the credibility of the whole movement.

The best way to protect our freedom is to protect our children by holding those in leadership accountable especially when there has been a public outcry that has been as thoroughly documented as this one.

What Can HSLDA, Heidi St. John and Homeschool Leaders Do?

  • They can launch an internal investigation and respond with compassion to the people who have been hurt by sexual abuse.
  • They can stop supporting the leaders and companies who coverup sexual abuse and engage them in a one-on-one conversation, encouraging them to publicly apologize and show they are willing to be accountable to the homeschool community for past failures to report sexual abuse and bullying the victims into silence.
  • Keep them accountable for future actions.
  • If they fail to meet these requirements, they should require the leaders in question to step down.

Where Homeschoolers Will Fail

The homeschool movement doesn’t need its leaders to turn their backs when so many witnesses have come forward and brought to light the issues surrounding a pattern of  sexual abuse coverup. We need honesty, truth, and justice for those who have been abused, and future protection for parents and children who find themselves under the authority of the leaders in question.

There are those who believe that holding the leaders in question accountable will result in the legislation of homeschooling or even possibly the end of homeschooling altogether. The truth is, homeschooling will only self-destruct if we fail to keep our children safe and hold individuals who represent the movement accountable when their actions are brought into question. We will only fail if we fail our children.

An Open Letter to Heidi St. John

It’s difficult to write about sexual abuse, especially when the response to accusations have been met with complete silence. If you haven’t read about TOS, Heidi St. John and HSLDA, take a moment to go over this post detailing the actual events.

Dear Heidi St. John,

I’ve known your family for a long time. I’ve always thought of you as good people, and I’ve always thought your ministry was an important part of the homeschooling community. During the time that I spent with your family, I never thought there would come a day when you would choose to place your ministry and the entire homeschool community in jeopardy by remaining silent and supporting the very people who are covering up the sexual abuse of children in our midst and threatening those who are trying to expose it.

Heidi, you’ve written on your personal blog before about abuse in the homeschool community. I understand that it may cost you something to speak up at this time. It might cost you customers, it might cost you your reputation with a specific group of people, but it won’t cost you your credibility. The only thing that reduces your credibility is ignoring the pain of sexually and physically abused children.

On your blog you have said:

“What’s more troubling to me is the lack of concern that the homeschool community seems to have for the victims of Gothard’s and Phillips teachings. There seems to be more concern for protecting these men and their “ministries” because it may have a negative impact on homeschooling than for the lives of the people who have been hurt and abused. What in the world are we thinking?

These things are written on the internet. They don’t go away. The Google search results, the fake twitter accounts, they’ll turn up the stories of abuse, even if you refuse to respond to them. Even if you delete the comments and blacklist the users (like you’ve done on Facebook), the stories will still be there and people will find them and they’ll wonder, “Why didn’t these leaders stand up to the bullies and protect the children?”

This isn’t about you. This isn’t about a feud between sisters. This isn’t about me taking sides or drawing a line in the sand. This is about the children and their future, and the future of homeschooling in this country – something I am concerned about as my own child grows up.

There is a warning in Isaiah 1 to all who cover up the sin of others and repress the truth:  “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.

Please don’t let your ministry become meaningless. Don’t let the daily sacrifices you make be in vain.

Seek justice, Heidi.

I’d like to quote your own words as an appeal:

“Don’t turn away. Like a virus, sin festers and grows when it is ignored. Where forgiveness is needed, I pray we will forgive. Where repentance is required, I pray there is repentance.”

Please take this seriously, Heidi. The homeschool community, the Christian community and the world is watching. Most importantly, God is watching, and He has taken up the cause of the abused.

-Eric Novak

This letter was sent to Heidi St. John on 10/10/14, and no response was received. Comment on the TOS, HSLDA and Busy Mom (Heidi St. John) pages, and let them know that they can’t continue to hide sexual abuse.

Why I Care about the Homeschool & Christian Community

I’ve never recorded a video before, let alone one on such an important topic, but here goes everything. Read more about the massive TOS, Paul and Gena Suarez cover-up here:

Three easy steps to take now

1). Post on the TOS and HSLDA Facebook pages and hash tag all your posts #HoldThemAccountable



2). Share this article and the Homeschoolers Anonymous article and again, hash tag it: #HoldThemAccountable

3). Educate people. Study abuse in the homeschool and Christian community and fight against it! Read my article, How Christian Legalism Creates a Culture of Sexual Abuse.



I Love Mars Hill, and I left the Church

My wife and I are in the process of changing churches and it’s not because they’ve been involved with a sexual abuse scandal, or even because their theology is off- It’s because Mars Hill, inadvertently promotes an institutional culture of silence over their failures, and over the failures of their pastors. Yet I still love Mars Hill and the people there.

It took a while for thing to pile up enough for us to leave Mars Hill, but Mars Hill hasn’t been the easiest church to be a part of. We’ve always been in the news to some extent.

Whether rocks were thrown to break our windows by LGBTQ hate groups, or Mark Driscoll being accused of any number of things, it was always easy to find something negative about our church online, often before church leadership had time to address it.

Yet so many of the accusations and rambling about Mars Hill were off the wall, that I couldn’t take them seriously.

“Those Crazy Bloggers”

I always had the slightly uncomfortable position of being one of the people who had worked at Mars Hill, so when bloggers would throw accusations at the church, they were easy to deflect, due to my insider information. Pastor Mark spent $200,000.00 dollars on a book deal? Not a big deal- I worked in publishing since I was a kid and $200k isn’t all that much for publicity. Plus to book was great, even though fundies had a cow over the fact that the word, “sex” was used so many times in a book about Marriage.

Pastor Mark tweeted that someone confiscated his books? I personally know three of the people who tweet from his account- Driscoll wasn’t being dishonest on Twitter, just to cause trouble.

Mark Driscoll plagiarized a book? The church addressed it two weeks later (apologies and revisions were issued), even though only secondary parties ever complained, and not the original author that was supposed to have been copied. Non-compete clauses, nondisclosure policies14-year-old forum posts– For every accusation, there were two sides and there were logical explanations, or changes for each issue that came up.

We didn’t leave the church because of any accusations made against it. We left the church because of a lack of communication, and in turn, a failure to love the people of Mars Hill.

Mars Hill is One

The firing of Pastor Phil is what pushed us over the edge. Mars Hill has always been run as local, self-governing, churches. Yet with the advent of more advanced technology, a central preacher and a central website, Mars Hill began to be recognized as one church. Even though each church had their own staff pastors, made their own staffing choices and worked independently of the other churches, congregants began to see themselves as one church, with different branches.

Churches packed into such a small, close-knit community like Seattle are bound to overlap in many ways, yet Mars Hill never made the transition in the functionality of the churches, and so when Pastor Phil Schmidt was fired from Ballard Mars Hill, there was amazing recoil from U-District Mars Hill. People at Ballard and U-District loved Pastor Phil as did I, sitting under his teachings at many Mars Hill events. Because the churches (in theory) were supposed to function separately, a small announcement was sent to Ballard leadership, giving the reason why Pastor Phil was fired. None of the other churches were notified. None of the congregants were notified. There was no explanation, no notice and no meeting. There was, however, an explosion of blog posts, all guessing why Pastor Phil was fired. The issue was never formally addressed by Mars Hill.

Communication is Key

What most people don’t understand about Mars Hill, is that running an organization of 15,000 members is a little tricky. Things take time to process, meetings need to be held, announcements need to be prepped, and next thing you know, it’s two weeks later and people are leaving the church because you’ve not addressed the accusations that are being written. More than an entire month after Pastor Phil was fired, Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll finally released a video indirectly addressing the conflict happening in the church.

A29 Calls for Driscoll to Step Down

A classic example of the miscommunication with Mars Hill happened yesterday, when Acts 29 removed Mars Hill from it’s extended network and called for Pastor Mark to step down and seek help. Simply being associated with Mars Hill, has a stigma and so A29 cut it’s ties,

“It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network.” – Acts 29

In an age of instant technology, churches and organizations don’t have the luxury of passive publicity. At least post on your Facebook page that you’re saddened by A29’s letter, and you’re working on a response, rather than posting pictures of the Easter baptisms, as if nothing happened at all. At the moment, however, Pastor Mark isn’t running his own Mark Driscoll Facebook page, because he stepped down from social media earlier this year.

Blatant Unrepentant Sin

The problem is that poor communication isn’t a sin. Bad theology is sinful, bad pastoring might be sinful, failing to love your congregation can be sinful, but poor communication isn’t something that requires a pastor stepping down from leadership, or a someone being put through church discipline. In the case of Pastor Mark, there isn’t blatant unrepentant sin. While poor communication has been hurting Mars Hill’s congregants, it is something that Mars Hill has recently stated that they’re working on, releasing weekly updates (starting 7.21.14) that are supposed to be more transparent. Mark Driscoll also apologized for the lack of communication in the weekly update post and stated that there would be change.

However, I can’t just dismiss the issues are Mars Hill. Even with public apologies and changes in the works, many people that I respect and trust, are leaving Mars Hill, and so I’ve made the decision to pray for change from outside the church. We’re leaving Mars Hill because we can’t be part of a church that isn’t able to communicate with it’s members and leaves us hanging in the air, while hundreds of false accusations are being thrown around.

Two Types of People

There are two types of people who will leave Mars Hill, and I hope I’m in the second category, because I honestly love Mars Hill, and wish the best for them. I hope there is a middle ground between condemnation and ignoring the problem. I hope there is a place where people can trust Jesus, and extend grace to Mars Hill.

1. Those Who Leave and Burn – for people who idolized Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll, the fact that there are issues with the church is particularly hard. For those who were overly invested in the church, rather than in Christ, transitioning from the church will bring about a lot of questioning of their core beliefs, and in turn, attacks against Mars Hill. These people have been hurt by the church, and it’s ending their world. They attack Mars Hill by changing their Biblical views and claiming that,

-Mars Hill is Theologically Off.

-Mars Hill is a cult.

Both of the statements are untrue, as Mars Hill holds to very Biblically orthodox and sound Biblical tradition. Though I’ve left Mars Hill, I still have the same Biblical views that I had when I attended the church. That doesn’t mean I hate homosexuals, but it does mean I support traditional marriage. It doesn’t mean I hate women, but it does mean I support biblical gender roles.

The fact that people are leaving Mars Hill and talking freely talking about their issues with the church, is a large indicator that the church is not a cult. Cults by definition have very few followers leaving, or talking about the cult at all, because they’re amazingly traumatized. It takes victims years to finally speak out against a cult, after the cult has been disbanded.

2. Those Who Leave and Learn – Leaving Mars Hill doesn’t change anything for these people, except for the fact that they’re leaving their community and a church that has solid Biblical teaching. There is sorrow in leaving your friends and fellowship. People who leave Mars Hill and learn from it, need to be praying for Mars Hill, extending grace to the church and continuing to support people who decide to stay at Mars Hill.

Why I Still Love Mars Hill

I’ve told this story before, and some of you may have read it before on my blog or in comments somewhere. I’ll tell it again, because when your identity is wrapped up in yourself, it’s amazing to be able to tell people about Jesus. Three years ago, I was a young, addicted, 20-something, who was full of himself and wanted to find out more about ministry. I interned at Mars Hill, and they required me to go through Redemption Groups- a couple weeks of Gospel training for people who need Jesus. Ironically, I didn’t think I really needed to be in the group, but during my time there, Jesus grabbed hold of me, and working through the people at Mars Hill, began to transform my life.

I don’t tell this story as any testament to my life, or even to the credit of Mars Hill, but Jesus changed me there, and I’m so grateful to the people who love Him at the church. There are many more stories of people who have been changed and impacted by people serving Jesus at Mars Hill. Today I’m married, my wife and I just had our first daughter, and I’m not addicted to porn anymore. I’m also just a little bit older, and a hopefully more full of Jesus than myself.

I don’t see unrepentant sin at Mars Hill, I just seem some areas that need serious work. I would continue to encourage Pastor Mark and Mars Hill to pursue transparency and good communication with Mars Hill members. If everything is about Jesus then live boldly, admit when you’re wrong, and love your congregation.

How Christian Legalism Creates a Culture of Sexual Abuse

“Jesus doesn’t need your reputation! Keeping things in the dark and allowing souls to be destroyed by abuse, that shames the Gospel. Jesus is all about transparency.” – Boz Tchividjian

When I started writing this article, I thought I would be writing about sexual abuse, but the more I thought about it the more it went in another direction. In the past few years, and increasingly in the last few months, there have been many instances of sexual abuse cover-up- Gothard, Jones, Harris, and Phillips, just to name a few. The American Prospect has an amazing longform article detailing much more sexual abuse within the church, and how organizations like GRACE are educating Christians before it’s too late. However, my article isn’t as much about sexual abuse, as it is the culture in which that sexual abuse can be propagated. A culture that is engrossed in legalism.

What is legalism exactly? Wikipedia has an unusually accurate description:

“Legalism is usually a term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigor, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law at the expense of the spirit.”

Legalism says that convictions are mass standards, and that appearance is more important than truth. Legalism removes Holy Spirit conviction, by stating that its standards are more important than God’s personal work in an individual’s life. Legalism assumes that a single individual can state what God’s will is on another person’s life, and hold them to that standard. Legalism creates a spiritual hierarchy, bypassing the fact that all are equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Instead of people being led by the Holy Spirit, they must be led by spiritual authority, because their level of knowledge of scripture, or relationship with Christ is undeveloped. While all these things are spiritually detrimental, the effects they have on victims of sexual abuse are even more painful.

Legalism Empowers Abusers

Legalism hands the keys to sexual offenders, giving them every tool they need to silence the people they abuse. Because legalism also places leadership in a position where they are left with no choice but to cover abuse, legalism effectively silences victims as well. This is especially true if the leaders that the sexual abuse is reported to have had a history of sexual abuse as unreported victims or offenders. In the name of Christianity, an organization may silence a victim, by saying they’re trying to lead a perpetrator to repentance and offer forgiveness to them. This disregards the fact that they’re harming a victim, creating a cycle of shame within that person’s life. The lasting effects of this abuse are devastating to a person, and the failure to report sex crimes is not only illegal, but also dangerous as it allows the offender to continue to repeat sexual abuse.

Legalism Harms Children

When sexual abuse isn’t addressed, especially in the formative years of childhood, it is internalized. It rots in a victim’s soul, spilling gangrenous lies throughout their entire lives. This shapes the very core of who a person is, and can change body image, sexuality, lifestyle, and even will to live. 17%* of rape victims attempt suicide, while 33% of those victim have suicidal thoughts. Those statistics are only for people over the age of 12, however, so that doesn’t account for many victims of child sexual abuse.

Legalism is also responsible for discrediting victims. Because legalism is so stringently based around image and performance, people embracing a legalistic lifestyle find it easier to accuse a victim of lying or sexual promiscuity (even in children), than to expose sexual abuse as what it is. Most often people who have been abused don’t want a legal settlement, they want a their dignity and cleanliness returned to them. They want to be restored and whole again.

Lies often stated to victims in these scenarios are:

“You need to pray to God to forgive you from your sinful behavior.” -Shaming

“That wasn’t really sexual abuse, because there wasn’t intercourse. You don’t want to destroy the perpetrator’s life, do you?” -Denial and Shaming

“You’re wrong, you were arousing the perpetrator. You aren’t really a victim here!” -Blame shifting

“You’re a liar! There isn’t any way the offender did this to you!” -Blame shifting

The Gospel Enables Transparency

Legalism is a clean well with a dead cat in it. It’s not the opposite of the gospel, it’s a polluted gospel. When we look at legalism, we see obedience without relationship. We see grimy fisted grabbing of white gloves that we attempt to put on our own dirty hands. We then hold those stained gloves up in front of others and state proudly, “Look at how clean I am!”

Performance based Christianity misses the entire point of gospel-driven Christianity, “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8. Until this point is grasped at a heart level, churches, leaders, and individuals will continue to press legalism onto their followers, friends, and family, in an attempt for them to conform to their own vision of perfection. When that vision of perfection is marred, they will quickly disown, discredit, and deride the people who ruined their false reality.

Boz Tchividjian states that less legalism within Christianity would help churches deal with their sins more easily,

“It would mean a church is OK with being transparent, and acknowledging failure,” Tchividjian says. “As a Christian, I tell institutions, your value and your reputation aren’t based on your accomplishments. If you’re [communicating] to the world through the gospel, your reputation has been secured for you by Christ. That should liberate you to be transparent, to acknowledge failure.”

Take that from the church level, and bring it to the personal level: As a Christian, your value isn’t based on your accomplishments or your failures, but on the living work of Jesus Christ. You’re free to be transparent, because your sin doesn’t own you anymore.

Two years ago, I was addicted to porn, watching it daily and hating myself for it. I couldn’t tell anyone, because my personal legalism stated that I had to look perfect for my family and the church, and shame covered my entire existence. I tried repenting, but ultimately would fail, because my sin was such a massive issue, I thought I had to atone for it by performance before Christ would forgive me. What I missed was the fact that Jesus had already taken that sin on his torn, bloody back and carried it to the cross, where he hung and died for it. As that truth took hold of me, it began to transform my core being and change the way I addressed my sin- not through performance, but through the life-transforming fact that my sin didn’t own me.

Legalism promotes an institutional culture of silence over a church’s failures, and over the failures of their leaders, but Christianity based around the active grace of Jesus Christ combats this culture of silence.

How to Fight Sexual Abuse

1). Being sexually abused is horrifically traumatic. People who have been abused can take many years to finally confide in someone that they were assaulted, and children who have been sexually abused may not even know they were assaulted until a later date. Children, however, don’t usually make up stories about sexual assault. If someone you know has come to you, asking for help or telling you about a sexual assault, take them seriously, don’t shift the blame, and go straight to the authorities. The victim should always be given the benefit of the doubt, because sexual perpetrators are extremely likely to repeat sexual abuse.

2). Skip the chain of command and go straight to the authorities. If someone you know has been sexually abused, go right to the authorities instead of trying to go through church leadership. Covering up sexual abuse is a crime, and statements like, “We’ll handle this internally.” or “we’ll self report” are often excuses that can lead to illegal activity, and continued abuse of the victim(s).

3). Take preventative measures if you have children. Christians are very vulnerable to abuse, because we believe that Christ can change anyone, and though that is true, sexual perpetrators easily take advantage of Christian naivety. A convicted child molester once told clinical psychologist Anna Salter,

“I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”

Make sure that your children are under your supervision as much as possible, and that church volunteer staff, have undergone background checks and interviews.

4). Don’t imagine that you, your children, or children that you know are safe from sexual abuse. This article is really important for homeschool families, who often think that they don’t have any reason to be wary of sexual abuse.

5). Educate your church and community on sexual abuse, and continue to fight against it. Fight legalism in your own life, and look closely into what legalism looks like and where it leads.

5 Tips for Young Leaders & Why They Don’t Matter

I love business, and I love starting companies. When I was 16, I started a site called, Cross-Eyed Blog and Webzine. As time went on, that site merged into Latitude821, (based around Romans 8:21) and we made a strong run with a lot of great articles and even a small book, until eventually, I moved on to other projects like getting married and deciding to have a kid.

My journey through of all this is what I wanted to share, because if you’re young, you’re in the exact same position that I was in: you’ve got a platform and there are literally million of people who need to know Jesus.

1). Know heart knowledge, first. When I was writing and speaking, I knew a lot. I could debate a lot of people, and had my theology down pat. In fact, I knew a lot more than some adults that were actually in churches. This was great and head knowledge has served me well in my life, but I didn’t know there was something so much deeper: the word of God, active and moving, applied directly to my heart. As I began to live that deeper relationship with Jesus, I came to find that my head knowledge didn’t matter, if my heart was falling behind, and I could know theology without actually having apply to who I was and what I did. The attitude of head and heart disconnect, lead to my broken heart and addiction to pornography. God in His saving grace, transformed my heart, and changed me.

Do you know about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? If that doesn’t break you, bury you, and raise you with Christ, new and changed, then it doesn’t matter what you know about it, or if you can say substitutionary atonement- You must be changed before knowledge matters!

2). Don’t hide. You’re a leader. You’re an innovator. You’re a teacher. Romans: 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” That scares me, because there are so many areas that we fail as leaders, and if we aren’t constantly repenting and leading humbly, we will miss the grace that we’re supposed to be extending to others.

It’s amazingly easy to fall into hypocrisy. I was struggling with porn while I was working with my ministries and nobody knew about it. It wasn’t until later, that I was able to confess to my pastor and get help overcoming my weaknesses through a deeper understanding of the Gospel and accountability. I was then able to actually tell people I struggled with porn, and ask for their forgiveness in my weakness.

3). Lead by example and don’t be afraid to be weak. One of the best leaders I know has struggled with homosexuality, and been changed by the grace of God. He shares his story openly, because his identity is in the work of Jesus, not his past sin. Don’t be afraid to show how flawed you are, but walk by example, in the good works that Christ has appointed you to.

4). Remember that God has given you life. When younger, I worked in the pro-life movement. I think I saved lives, though I’ll never know for sure. I eventually left the movement, because I realize that people needed to be changed internally before they changed externally. I was really caught up in doing, doing, doing, without actually being, being, being. You’re doing good work, you’re making a difference, but remember that God has created the world for you to enjoy as well as influence.

5). You don’t matter. Finally, bouncing off that last point- you don’t matter at all. God will change hearts and lead people to Christ with or without you. Enjoy the fact that you get to be part of His massive story, which stretches from one side of history to the other. Be humbled by the fact that He has chosen you to walk in good works, and fight hard against sin and complacency.

I am constantly impressed with the innovation that young people show. I believe that teenagers have the ability to create great things and change lives. They just need to get out there, stay humble, trust God and do it.

Balancing Real Life and Digital Technology

It’s hard keeping up with the internet. I’ve not posted on this blog since January 3, because it’s hard to make time in my life to actually sit down and write something out, format it and get it online. I have a life away from the internet, a great accomplishment in the 21st century. I have writing that’s on paper and poems on lines with ink. I have letters to my fiancee and places that I take her that never end up in my news feed. I’m comfortable with that. I’m happy with that.

I constantly struggle with the balance between digital technology and physical life because I’m online a lot. I run multiples companies: Anchorfolk, Typeset, with their own social accounts, and they require a lot of work. There are things that are just more real than the internet, things that I can touch and feel and do and be.

Have you ever thought about just being away from the noise of the feed and the likes? Did you know you can sit still and listen to the sound of your breathing without browsing something, without constantly looking at something new?

You can stop for a moment and listen to the thoughts in your head: Let them hurt, let them bring the emotions they bring. Stop drowning them. Deal with them. Make peace with yourself.

Stop looking for the likes and the attention. Stop looking for constant affirmation for who you are and what you do. Become comfortable without the clamor of the outside. Invest in people, invest in relationships that matter. People that you can see and hear and touch, directly with your life. Stop looking at people as your platform or your audience. Be content with what is before you.

Reduce your online clutter, because it’s your choice whether you pick up a book or scan through Facebook again. It’s your choice whether you feed an imaginary world or cultivate real, tangible, relationships with people you love.

Five Lies Men Believe

You’ve probably heard a request for men to man up recently- on someone’s Facebook, maybe in person, possibly even thrown at you, and something inside you wants to respond. There is an area in your life that is affected by the request, possibly many. Yet, your heart cry, the solution, is not simply for you to man up- it’s not for you to become more of a moral person, it’s for you to turn to Jesus Christ.

Christianity isn’t about transforming you into a man, Christianity is about you bringing glory to God and the simple by-product of that transformation is that you would be conformed- grown closer and into and more like Jesus Christ, the ultimate picture of manhood.

Your primary opponent in this struggle of conformation is most skilled in deception, John the Evangelist writes that,

“He (Satan)… Does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” -John 8:44.

His goal: to steal your joy, peace, dreams and future. He wants you for himself. You will be whispered his lies on this earth, and until you learn to recognize them, you may even fall victim to them. Here are five that I’ve struggled with:

Five Lies

“I’ll be more responsible when I get older.”

Being a man has nothing to do with your age or being able to shave. If you haven’t been made new by Jesus, you can be a boy until you die. New character comes from a heart tuned towards the Father: Fall on your knees and repent- ask him for inner character, and change!

“If I just try harder, I’ll be able to beat my addiction.”

Managing your temptation is not manning up. His perfection, his power and his resurrection are more powerful and trustworthy than your trying harder, doing better and hanging on longer. Lay down all of your efforts and say, “I trust in Jesus!”

“If women would stop dressing a certain way, I wouldn’t struggle so much.”

Stop blaming the media, technology and the clothes women wear, for your struggles with sexual purity. If the issue is how women dress, then why do you go home and pull porn up on your computer screen or lay in bed with it on your phone at night? This is a heart issue. Die to yourself. Don’t try harder, lay your struggles at the feet of Jesus and ask him to change you!

“I need more ______ to be a real man.”

Your identity will never be found in empty pursuits. Good things simply turn to idols if your focus isn’t on Jesus. You won’t be more of a man when you’re with a woman. You won’t be more of a man when you’re making money- Everything you need, is found in the person of the resurrected Christ and only in him.

“I’m a real man. I don’t need to submit to anyone.”

If you can’t follow, you can’t lead. Real men humbly submit to authority. First Jesus, second government and third, the church. A leader must always first know how to lead others.

Jesus > Manhood

At some point, manning up doesn’t work anymore. At some point, our morality fails, our persistence runs out, and we are just flawed men. And Jesus meets us most faithfully there, giving us grace for the struggle, even if it lasts our whole life. Are you a Christian? You’re made new in Christ. Find your identity, hope, peace and joy in him! Combat the lies that are thrown against you with the truth of who you are in Jesus. Let him love you.