Sit down and shut up, Challies

I’m glad this happened on my lunch break so I can say something right now while I’m angry.

Yes, angry. 

I was going to do day 3 of FemFest and do a link-up, but I think you’ll forgive me for skipping it because “someone is wrong on the internet!” Seriously, though. This is important. 

Dear Tim Challies, 

You’re using your blog platform today to

1) defend and protect abusers

2) twist the meaning of “loving one another” in a “biblical” way to silence those who have been abused by the church

3) use the SGM lawsuit to boost your traffic.

All of these things are in poor form and you should be ashamed of yourself. You can do better than this, and you know it. 

First off. You say this:

The Bible is clear that a distinguishing characteristic of Christians is to be our love for one another. John 13:35 says it plainly: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love for other Christians is the great test of our commitment to Christ and our likeness to him. This love is put to the test in a unique way in the midst of trouble and disagreement.

This situation is unfolding before a watching world that loves nothing more than to see Christians in disunity, accusing one another, fighting one another, making a mockery of the gospel that brings peace. You and I are responsible to do well here, to be above reproach in our thoughts, words and actions. We are responsible to be marked by love whether evaluating a difficult situation or taking appropriate action. We can make the gospel look great or we can make it look insignificant.

If we’re to know Christian by our love, wouldn’t that mean rushing to protect the helpless, the abused, the hurting, the crippled sheep lagging behind? You’re bringing in a watching world, so I will too: This is why the world dislikes the American church. We’re either playing the Great White Saviors for international social justice issues, or we’re playing the Upright Snob Who Needs Proof of Hurt before you’ll get off your plushy office chair and get your hands and heart engaged in helping the messy people in your church, in your neighborhood, in your homes. You are a foolish man if you think that Jesus is going to applaud you for giving CJ the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to ask questions and help those who have been damaged. Of course you refuse to learn more about this situation–you don’t want to be involved because it’s messy. You and Piper and Mohler and all the other big name reformed Christian leaders. Whitewashed tombs! I can’t see your love and neither can the watching world. How is this “above reproach”? Even the Gentiles love as you do.

Why that matters: because this is the exact same thinking that questions a rape victim and asks her if she “imagined it” (read that article. the similarities in how abuse is handled are appalling). This is the  same sort of thinking that tells a girl if she was wearing a miniskirt, she was asking for rape. The man who raped her is a model, leading citizen! We should assume the best, right? By participating in this logic you are helping the church be a refuge for abusers.

Secondly. By saying this:

Because I am not a part of SGM I am not forced to take a side and, therefore, will not.

You are picking sides when you say you won’t pick sides and then suggest we assume the best about CJ and SGM. By saying this, you are putting moral pressure on the victims to second-guess their pain and experiences, which is spiritually abusive behavior on your part. By saying you don’t have to get involved because CJ isn’t your pastor and you’re not in SGM, you are saying that when you’re spiritually abused by your pastor, we don’t have to care about you because you’re not in my church.

This contradicts your earlier statements about loving each other and giving a unified front to a watching world. You have to pick sides because abuse happened and SGM looked the other way and now this is on major news outlets and the watching world is talking about this and looking to Christians and thinking, “well, they protect abusers and make uneducated court appeals to get off the hook easily. I don’t want a part in that.” How is that love? How is that intellectually honest? I know you’re smarter than this.

And then, closing with this?

If it is true that I am called to love other Christians, that I am called to believe and hope all things, that I am far outside this situation, then I think I do well to learn less rather than more.

Then why the hell are you blogging about it? If you’re deliberately choosing to be ignorant about it and don’t want to take sides, then sit down and shut up. If this isn’t your story or your fight, stay out of it. Posting about this if you really believe those things is a shallow grab for traffic on your site and that’s just reprehensible.

You are showing yourself for who you are here, and I’m going to take you at your word.


For those interested to learn more about this, check out these sites for good coverage:

The Tolling Bell
SGM Survivors
The Wartburg Watch

27 thoughts on “Sit down and shut up, Challies

  1. YES. Just reading Challes’ post triggered some traumatic flashbacks surrounding my own spiritual abuse at the hands of a large evangelical organization. And of course, as soon as I shared it to Facebook, my pastor commented to say that I shouldn’t be reproaching Challies like that.

    Thank you for calling his post out for the insidious thing it is.

  2. Good article, Hannah. I just tweeted with Bill Kinnon – notice how Challies has the “thinking biblically” in his title? That is code word for: my way or the high way – no other response is better than the biblical response. High-controlling pastors use this pattern and leave a path of destruction in their churches – “do not question authority”. Blech. (BTW, I have quite a few SGM articles on my blog , too 🙂 Check my categories sidebar).

  3. the worst of it is his couching the whole thing in terms of “thinking biblically.” also, benefit of the doubt for powerful leaders who’ve abused, covered up abuse, and protected abusers necessarily translates into doubt for hurting victims–which is really just re-victimization. there are oppressive power dynamics at play here, and it is ugly and wrong.

  4. Reading this now I’ve my lunch break…thanks for using yours and writing this! You are right on and this is such a big thing.

  5. THANK you.
    this is why the world dislikes the american church. yes.
    his “this isn’t my (little c) church, so not my problem” argument won’t fly with starving children. but abused ones? meh.
    Thank God you’re here – and writing – and writing things like this. We need it.

  6. “Then why the hell are you blogging about it? If you’re deliberately choosing to be ignorant about it and don’t want to take sides, then sit down and shut up. If this isn’t your story or your fight, stay out of it. Posting about this if you really believe those things is a shallow grab for traffic on your site and that’s just reprehensible.”


    1. Just like no one else seems wiling to weigh in on SGM and the decades long scandal, very few weighed in on Elephant Room and James Macdonald’s unethical behavior, (and still haven’t, and made his leaving The Gospel Coalition look like an ‘amicable’ parting), and Mark Driscoll’s abusive leadership, and yet somehow, they are willing to be brave and throw rocks at the ‘discernment blogger’ boogeyman. … er woman… as the case may be.

  7. Thank you for this post. Having known abuse at the hands of “Great Men of God”, sitting on their miniature papal thrones, untouchable, unaccountable and protected by a phalanx of enablers and sycophants, I can tell you that Challies needs to shut his mouth. His Reformed dirty men’s club covers for each other and denies victims any justice. The corruption within evangelical and Reformed Christian ministries rivals anything the Vatican and Rome has ever had. He’s part of the problem.

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  9. You’ve linked The Wartburg Watch. I’ve just linked this there. The idea that Challies is using this to drive traffic to his blog is an intriguing one (and one most would not have thought of. Kudos!

    Tim opines that since he’s outside of SGM, he doesn’t have to have an opinion, nor should anyone else outside the situation. Funny, last I looked he was also outside the Catholic Church, but he has no qualms about forming an opinion about them! Many, many opinions!

  10. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    I have followed the SGM saga almost from the beginning– I know the
    issues. I understand your anger, and get that you and everyone else
    intimately involved have plenty good reason to be. I see the need for
    speaking truth to power, and have done so in the past. I think you know
    of my fracas with my open letter to TeamPyro, so you know I am not
    afraid of fomenting a little rebellion. Standing tall for what one
    believes is a very high value for me.And I learned so much from that
    little tempest I stirred up in a teapot, about respectfully engaging in
    controversy. I hope to share some of it with you.

    So I will not minimize just how much pain you feel, or the need to speak out. I am a
    repentant mom of the sort who hurt you, and feel it is sort of my duty
    to just listen to all Your stories. If that can help you in any way. I
    will definitely be listening next week. I know it helps my daughter when
    I just listen to her and let her foam at the mouth a little bit, and
    not interrupt.But. Sometimes I feel that just because I love her
    so much it is not really in her best interests or her continued growth
    as a follower of Jesus for her to be so unfair in her caricatures of
    those who have just hurt her so bad. I try to gently point her to the
    truth, and remind her of the killing power of phrases like, “you always”, or “you never.”

    Hannah, I feel very connected to you. I see a lot of my younger self in you. I did literature for a while at theUniversity of California, until the prospect of deconstructing my favorite poems drove me out into the world for some fresher air. And
    yes, I have been happier changing diapers for twenty five years now than
    doing some Derrida to poor John Donne. All this to say that I don’t
    particularly want to say what I have to say next, but I think perhaps God has prepared me as a unique candidate, perhaps the leading one who can really say this to you. I get the issues. I get you. And perhaps then you will know that it is only because I care for you that I say I think you have been grossly unfair to Tim Challies.

    You misrepresented him. It is ludicrous to say that Challies is trying to drive traffic to his site by posting what he did about outsiders not judging Mahaney before
    the time — why would a blogger with 17,000 hits a month need to get
    more traffic? His site crashed recently because of the weight of
    traffic, and at the time, he expressed some mixed feelings about the
    place he occupies in Blogworld. He feels a tremendous responsibility for
    the traffic he drives to the various sites in his a la carte selections.

    I know he isn’t perfect in his judgements. One of the reasons why I wrote my post about the Ann Voskamp controversy was myirritation at his selection of a mean-spirited swipe at her that unfairly libeled her, saying she was having sex with God. This person
    did not understand metaphor very well, and Challies directed traffic to her post. I e-mailed him about it, but never saw a retraction, and wrotemy Sloppy Wet Kiss post to vent my spleen about all the unfairness. I was relieved to see him be more fair to her in a later post. I never judged his motives, and I have tried not to do that with you and this post here as well.

    I think you would do well to go tohis site, and look at the post he wrote about these issues.
    Perhaps he lacks conviction. But his heart is bigger than you have drawn it, and it is always, always eventually orienting itself towards expressing the truth of God’s kingdom in love. He errs in truth. You err in love here, and I believe you need to fix that.

    And especially as you are editing next week’s posts — there are worse ways
    to filter how you engage in controversy than the principles he lays out.
    As one who has made many mistakes in my passionate intensity in the
    cause of truth, I urge you to learn from my example. I have been so
    humbled. I have a category of retractions and apologies in my archives.
    And sadly, I am sure that the list of posts will only grow. I wish better things for you.

    You may delete this post if you like, it was meant to be only a gentle admonishment for you only . And I am sorry about its length, but I wanted to reassure you that I understand your anger, and the need you feel to speak out. I will be listening next
    week, expecting and praying great things for you.

  11. I’m seriously disgusted. I see this happen over and over again with all these guys who network together and speak at each others’ conferences. They can’t, just CANNOT, bring themselves to call each other out for public error. “Gently” pulling people aside privately doesn’t benefit those who have imbibed their error. Unless you are sure that person is going to go out and correct the record publicly, public correction is not warranted. And even if they will correct the record publicly, public correction is still called for.

    I was even more disgusted to see R C Sproul Jr’s promotion of Tim’s post. Sproul Jr is a clearer thinker than that. Why promote a post that said, essentially NOTHING and essentially dropped a big pile of ammo in the middle of no man’s land, in an effort to STOP the fighting? How ludicrous. But again, none of these guys can say word one against each other because they are all using each other for self promotion. Lobbing grenades at ‘discernment bloggers’ is easy, doesn’t cost them anything, and makes them look like they’re actually doing the hard work of discernment, impartially. It’s a sham. I have seen very few of them get up and correct (substantially) anyone with standing.

    The last I heard was Ken Ham taking a stand against Peter Enns. And whether or not you agree with either of those men, you have to give it to Ham for doing it forthrightly and taking a hit for it.

    We have people calling for more Martin Luthers standing up against error but in fact, they don’t really want that, because when someone does it, they shoot them down just like the popes and cardinals did.

  12. I have to say, Hannah, that what you wrote here is among the best succinct take-downs of overt, hypocritical BS (not to mention the covert abuse enabling) I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. I don’t wish to come across as condescending in the slightest. Please take this comment as sincere admiration and respect.

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