A lot of irons in the fire, here. I’m currently in the middle of two series’ with respect to the Wartburg Watch (www.wartburgwatch.com)–one concerning the relatively recent E-Church sermon by Cal Thomas (it’s horrifying…the sermon), and this one concerning the decline of Dee and Deb’s site from a formidable and encouraging discernment blog to a fairly innocuous entity interested in what I would describe as “light” criticism of abuse in the church. A categorical bulwark for Reformed doctrine, the Wartburg Watch is currently incapable of unveiling and challenging the roots of the ideas that drive the violence and the hypocrisy. This is in large part thanks to their resolute determination to affirm Wade Burleson categorically (for some reason), which means he is off the table as far as criticizing ideas is concerns. And if Wade is off the table, then so must be his doctrine. For like I said, Dee and Deb cannot or will not make distinctions between bad men and bad ideas. Wade is very likely a good man with bad ideas. The problem, of course, is that eventually, bad ideas manifest into action, and that is when bad men DO bad things. It is only a matter of time, as history has witnessed. Thus, to me, the logical rout for a discernment blog to take is to defer talk of personality traits to other places and times, at least for the most part, and in the interest of actually discerning and destroying abuse, its evil spawn (other abusers), and the ideas which premeditate it, instead focus on the the bad ideas themselves, even if they happen to come from Wade Burleson.
And this is precisely where I intend to go next. Wade’s comment under the thread of his E-Church service this past Sunday or Wartburg Watch (10/13/2013) wherein he describes–theoretically (he says “maybe?”, at the very end of the comment, though I suspect that to him, there isn’t much “maybe” about it…but I could be wrong)–the direct cause and effect relationship between the laity’s lack of an “interest in prayer” and “excessive pastoral authority” I would categorize as an abusive statement. At the very least, the implications are psychologically detrimental because they offer a cause which cannot be in any sense objectively verified, and thus, provide no way for the laity to reasonably validate the level of the efficacy of prayer, should they take steps to foment an “interest”. To me, this is clearly psychologically abusive. But that’s me.
Believe me, there is much to be said about Wade’s comment, and I have written much about it. It is a smorgasbord of telling doctrinal information with respect to the heavy Reformed roots of Wade’s philosophy. For a critic like me, it is the gift of manna in its most pure form. It is the proverbial gift which keeps on giving, and I intend to give back.
Now, I will limit my criticisms to Wade’s ideas only, and not to his person. I do not like to make the connection between ideas and the definition of the human being who proffers them because that gets into sticky legal territory…not to mention that since I cannot read Wade’s mind I cannot judge his intentions, and thus it would be uncharitable of me to somehow claim that Wade is, himself, a sinister, evil jerk. I cannot say that and I won’t. Certainly, I have yet to speak to anyone or read a comment by anyone who knows Wade who even comes close to describing him as anything but a kind sort; humble and long suffering. And with me, he has been, I must admit, gracious and kind in his speech. He is also NOT a demagogue from what I can tell…and there is simply no way I can truthfully declare HIM an abuser. That is something I cannot possibly argue…I want to make that clear. And thus, understand that, regardless of what you might conclude from my posts, I reject any claim that this is, in fact, what I am declaring. I am not. I am discussing the doctrinal roots and broad philosophical and theological implications of his ideas, and how they might hypothetically manifest themselves in practical application by both pastors and laity.
In other words, though I cannot judge Wade, because I don’t really know him, I can judge his words and what I think they belie and how I suspect they might affect the teaching, behavior, and leadership style of the ecclesiastical authority. I will offer an expose on what I believe his word choices symbolize with respect to Wade’s Calvinist roots, and why his teaching should be avoided at all costs, because, like I said before, Wade may be nice and kind, but his doctrine, I submit, is fundamentally evil. And my primary point in all of this is this: Wade’s ideas, I submit, are pure Reformation interpretive premises with respect to epistemology and metaphysics. But I also submit that Wade, in service to a humble and kind heart, may function himself at some level of contradiction to his ideas, and may either not know it or not concede it…or something else. Who knows? Like I said, I am not going to pretend to know the man’s mind or intentions. Just his doctrine.
But back to Dee and Deb and Wartburg Watch in general.
My premise is that ideas drive behavior…and this I submit is axiomatic. There is always a reason which serves as the catalyst for the actions of man (man is conceptual being). Behavior may be consistent or inconsistent with a given philosophical school of thought (e.g. Systematized Calvinism/Lutheranism: neo-Reformed theology), but this does not change the fact that the school of thought is, in fact, codified and organized to completion. If one accepts such a philosophy as orthodox, then they are on the hook for it, particularly when they defend all of their actions and behavior, ultimately, by appealing to it. If they reject it on some level, then they must explain which parts they reject and why; and then explain how this does not contradict their concession of its “absolute orthodoxy” entirely. Then and only then are they no longer on the hook for the destructive manifestations of the ideas they declare as absolute truth. Whether indirectly or directly responsible for abuse in the church will depend…however, it is ultimately irrelevant how nice or inconsistent-to-abusive-outcomes some men are as a function of how they apply what they declare as TRUTH systematized and divine. If there is fallout and abuse from the ideas, and the leadership does not reject outright those aspects of orthodoxy which can be seen as responsible for the abuse, and then explain their capricious and inconsistent understanding of the pure doctrine, then as far as I am concerned, they are culpable for the outcomes of what they confess as TRUTH. Perhaps not legally culpable or directly culpable, but culpable as those who disseminate ideas which must logically conclude, when implemented in accordance with the cohesion of their epistemological roots, in humanity’s suffering, exploitation, and destruction.
And so on this level, the level of ideas–the level of doctrine–I submit that Dee and Deb’s apparent categorical support of Wade Burleson must then be considered a categorical support of his Reformed theology. For there is no distinction made or indeed, allowed, on the Wartburg watch as far as I can tell. Doctrine has been deemed by them as inadmissible in the discussion of why abuse happens in the church. This is nothing more than a declaration that all doctrine then must be morally pure, and thus is beyond reproach. That if we just got the right kind of men involved in forcing people into right behavior on God’s behalf, all the time and trouble abuse causes would vanish in a sea of altruistic, vapid notions of “love” and “tolerance”. Aaaaaaand….we all know that life just doesn’t work this way. We all know that in the end, absolute ideas (the notion of the Primacy of Consciousness) will not suffer humanity to limit them. And very quickly the right kind of men become the wrong kind of men right before our eyes. I have seen it, and it is a disgusting and terrifying thing to watch.
This has always been the loophole for tyranny: the notion that men, not their ideas, do bad things. Ideas are good. Men are bad. Hello, Platonism. We missed you; though we understand you were never really gone.
The Wartburg Watch then is the quintessential “new boss” which is, as Roger Daltry so famously sang, “the same as the old boss”. Truly, they are exhibit A. And this leaves me in an uncomfortable position, and one I need to tread carefully. On the one hand, I do not believe nor am I saying that either Dee, or Deb, or Wade are directly responsible for abuse. They are not abusers nor are they abusive people. But I am forced to believe and opine that they are indirectly responsible for abuse because they all seem to me to categorically confirm what I argue are abusive ideas…that is, ideas, when afflicted practically upon people in their individual lives, must demand abusive outcomes in service to the root assumptions. You see, Reformed doctrine demeans and diminishes the moral and physical worth of human beings, and further I unreservedly declare and argue that this should be obvious. I declare either a rank liar, or a self-deceived shill, or a pure-bred ignoramus anyone who attempts to deny this; for how can one assume God’s absolute sovereign control and not apprehend how this must diminish man to the level of utter irrelevance (without appealing to “mystery” or “paradox”…which is not a rational argument, it is the lack of one…it is NO argument)? How can God be in complete control of one who, as a person, claims to be independently valuable (have truth and morality in and of themselves) and is thus existentially equal? It is impossible. For man who is “less than God” in value and existence can never be in a position to claim their own individual relevance in light of an absolute (infinite) God. Next to God, man is a worthless non-issue. This is a fundamental presumption of not only neo-Calvinism, but of practically every Protestant and Catholic denominational school of thought in the world. And thus this: that the doctrine the Church concedes must demand man’s removal from the existence equation if TRUTH can be absolutely true should hardly be earth-shattering news to Christians.
And Dee and Deb, having made it clear to me on their blog that doctrine is not what they consider to be the driving force of abusive behavior in the Church have severed the link between religious ideas and religious abuse; that man does not in fact act according to his assumptions–in stark contradiction to a panoply of historical (and logical) examples to the contrary–means that ideas presented on the Wartburg Watch are, again, above reproach in any deep, philosophical, theological sense of the word.
In their rush to condemn my “mean-spirited” attacks on Wade Burleson, Dee is never shy to proclaim loudly that they do not believe that all Reformed pastors are abusers…and the implication, as I take it, is that I do. Of course, this is yet another typically superficial knee-jerk reaction common to a person who is not interested in any real discussion of the matter, but is simply an appeal to the notion of “my blog…you aren’t allowed to say that here”. Fair enough. I’m a Libertarian capitalist. But let’s just cut the bullshit. Dee simply refuses to be truthful about what I believe because I submit that she thinks the ends justify the means. As long as she is acting “in love” (which, to her, is utterly devoid of any rational, observable standard from what I can gather), she is completely sanguine in doling out abuse in service to her “absolute truth” of “love” without the fetters of any pesky rational definition. Because she loves Wade, her abuse is just fine. And she would never qualify it as abuse in the first place. Remember, ideas are not abusive, people are. Intentions then, are either pure or not pure…the doctrines behind the intentions and thus the behavior are irrelevant. Her intentions are good, so she will act in any damn way she pleases towards people like me; people who don’t agree with her divinely-bestowed “truth” and attack Wade’s doctrine.
Of course I do not believe every Reformed pastor is an abuser. But this is purely subterfuge, anyway. Whether every Reformed pastor is an abuser or not is irrelevant to the larger and serious issue of abuse in the church as a reality. Reformed theology, followed as a consistent flow of ideas to action in direct service to its foundational metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions will lead to abuse in the church because the logic inexorably goes there. And this truth is born out by the regaling of tales and woes of abuse by literally dozens of people–who are suffering or have suffered in Reformed churches–on Dee’s own blog! So the problem, yet again, is that Dee and Deb have made the assumption, despite all of the evidence to the contrary dancing and twinkling right before their eyes on a blog that they own and operate, that a doctrine which demands the destruction of humanity in service to its absolute “truth” and “moral purity” will not actually lead pastors and teachers of such a doctrine (appointed by God to “stand in the stead”) to behave in ways that destroy/abuse humanity; and thus, to debate doctrine is useless, and even worse, unloving and “mean-spirited”. A Pastor or any other person then, by definition, is utterly removed from their ideas, is my point. So if there is abuse in the church by the leadership, it doesn’t actually have anything to do, incredibly, with what the leadership believes the “infallible Word of God” demands is their duty and calling in Christ to act as God’s proxy in doling out his divine and exclusive will without any respect to individual human application and context. And thus if there are poignant and unequivocal attacks targeting the abuse, according to Dee and Deb it cannot possibly be directed towards doctrine which they have somehow deemed a non-issue and thus functionally non-existent; but it must be, and can be none other than, a direct attack on the person. Thus, all my attacks on Wade’s doctrine are interpreted by Dee as a personal attack on Wade the man, and literally NOTHING else.
I submit then, that Dee and Deb operate in this endeavor of “discernment blogging” on purely an emotional level, and in the long run this unfortunately makes them ineffective in actually preventing abuse by spiritual tyrants. They only see behavior, not ideas. This may make for a great shoulder to cry on, and, to Reformed preachers like Wade Burleson, makes them wonderfully vigilant allies who will defend his peculiar doctrine to the bitter end, it appears. And in the short run, it makes them look good…keeping all the meanies like me away; but again, ultimately it does little or nothing to address the problem. This is a shame, and something I lament, because obviously Dee and Deb have a massively popular blog with a following to be envied by any blogger–exponentially more influential in this respect than mine–and yet the overall effect is nullified by the very same notions that allow abuse to happen in the first place. But this is just not what the Wartburg Watch is about, and I wanted it to be…so I lingered longer than I should. My pain is thus my fault in this. I was too obtuse to see what Dee has been shouting at me for months.
She doesn’t give a shit about what Wade believes. Duh. She literally could not have been clearer.
As long as Wade continues to be a nice and charming person, Dee and Deb will not allow people like me to speak freely about the doctrine that forms his approach to all matters in the church and in the world. They do not see church leadership through the prism of theological assumptions as I do. Simply put, they do not believe doctrine is all that important. Mean-spirited demagogues like me are stopped and frisked. But evil ideas flow to and fro with all the impunity of a diplomat. This is a mistake. For to not evaluate the little old lady next door through a prism of her metaphysical/epistemological assumptions is one thing; but to deny the importance of this approach when evaluating someone who declares themselves specially called by God to hold authority over other human begins is disastrous.
Hence the sad and heart-wrenching decline of the Warburg Watch. By taking doctrine off the table as a legitimate target of grievances, Dee and Deb have unwittingly thrown open the doors to new and greater trauma, I submit; and for an even greater degree of abusive thinking to take root in the church. If people cannot appeal to the inconsistencies of the doctrine and the evil to which it thus must inexorably perpetrate upon the Lord’s people, the I would ask them by what standard can they ever hold their leaders, called by God, accountable for the abuse? For abuse can only be qualified as abuse if it violates some standard of morality and truth which we can all, as human beings, apprehend and agree upon, otherwise, our religion is pure mysticism. And therefore the idea of what constitutes moral or immoral treatment of human beings must be rooted in standards of GOOD that can be observed by humanity as a natural function of their existence and their ability to observe and organize their surroundings. But since Reformed theology makes it clear that defining standards of GOOD/VALUE/TRUTH are the sole purview of the pastors, where exactly can a layperson turn to for an injunction? For relief? Since they, by Reformed definition, cannot be in a position to recognize TRUTH on their own, the unfortunate layperson cannot even categorize what they are going through as abuse. For that label, being a subsidiary of morality, is one that only the Pastor can use.
So, the poor abused layperson who has been told they are nothing and nobody and no good for years by their Reformed pastor might turn to Wartburg Watch, as so many have. For relief. A shoulder to cry on. But when they look up they will see that on the other shoulder is the very face of their torment…happy, healthy, and flourishing under Dee and Deb’s succor and their longing gazes of sublime adoration.