Let Down by Your Faith Leaders?

I got a news alert this morning that a lead pastor of one of the Hillsong campuses was busted in a sex scandal. Not the first of this kind of crisis to rock the megachurch monolith.

The late world-renowned evangelist and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias went to his eternal rest under a cloud of suspicion regarding sexual misconduct. Allegations have not only multiplied since he passed but have been corroborated. Turns out, while he brought the message of Christ to the masses, he existed in a very different world than we thought.

The evangelical Christian church. Praising God, filling mega-churches, supporting missions around the world. Trump worshippers, anti-maskers, and vaxxers, extending love to everyone as long as they fit a very specific profile.

What do you do when your faith leaders turn out to be anything but faithful people? What happens to your faith when the people you’ve looked up to as leaders, mentors, and examples show you just how very human they are?

The answer for many is to leave the entire thing. Rid oneself of the toxicity and hypocrisy of it all. Flee from the piety of the dishonest and never look back. It makes sense.

When people of faith who profess to live a life of Godliness live secret lives of anything but, a lot of folks are going to get hurt. Departing from the mess that is sometimes organized religion is logical to anyone who has suffered a crisis of faith as a result of the incredible letdown that occurs when things like this happen. I get it.

But here’s something to remember. The church is made of people. People are the church. And people screw up. Christ is not the church. He is above all of it. He does not screw up. When those whose very humanity—riddled with all their faults and shortcomings—reveal how very lost they truly are, it’s not Christ that is the problem.

My very bold statement: Christ and the church are not one and the same. So, when the church and its human leaders let you down, the fault lies not on Christ. If anything, He is the only good that will ever be found in all of it. Human beings are flawed. Christ is not.

The blunder of many believers, of people of faith, lies in exalting humans to being on par with Christ. Unconsciously or not, that is always a grave error. I have heard of pastors referred to as men and women of God, which is to sometimes elevate flawed humans to quasi-deities. So very wrong and blasphemous. Men and women work for God; they are not, in any way, working in the same realm as Him.

So, what does all this mean? The pastors and spiritual leaders who have lied, cheated, and abused while hidden behind a pulpit are as culpable and subject to accountability as any person. And they must be held up to their wrongdoing. It is Christ’s mercy and forgiveness that any redemption can be found.

But they don’t hold the keys to transformative faith, to a walk with Christ. That is entirely between an individual and Jesus Christ himself. The flaws and failures of the clergy, teachers, and the entire movement itself are on the people. Christ is the one that can be trusted, always, in any situation.

Persons hurt by the pain inflicted within church walls are often right to leave it to find the safety, integrity, and dignity they deserve. But departing from Christ entirely isn’t where it’s at. If anything, He’s the one completely capable of healing you.

Your walk through life doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor, even if your faith background has let you down. Humans are flawed little specks in the big scheme of things. Bet the ranch on Someone much, much bigger … and completely trustworthy.

Content Creation and Responsibility

Years ago, the concept of making a video or writing a blog, or recording a podcast wasn’t considered the best practice in terms of effective persuasion and marketing. How things have changed.

I fully fess up to trying new products based on the product reviews of someone on YouTube or reading about it on a blog. When I’m considering a purchase of basically anything from the mundane to the important, the first place I’ll start at Google and dive down the rabbit hole to content creators sharing their thoughts on whatever it is I’m considering buying at the time. I’ll try a product at a special deal when it pops up on my Instagram feed, I will save memes that inspire me and make me think—often sharing them with someone who would appreciate it.

I devote a block of time at the end of my workday to watch Tik Tok because I’ve found it to highly educational in addition to entertaining. Indeed, important ideas about politics, social justice, activism, and education have found a place to influence others on an app that first spawned a million dance interpretations. For me, as much as I appreciate entertainment value in digital content, their ability to provide new perspectives and food for thought is what has fascinated me, especially in the last couple of years.

But while finding new recipes, other people who share similar viewpoints, and innocent videos that do nothing more than provide laughter seem innocent, we are well aware of how easily the tide can turn.

One post that just hits wrong, and the wave of popularity and trustworthiness attached to leading influencers can evaporate in heartbeat. But the issues are about so much more than branding gone awry. Content creators have power. And with power comes great responsibility.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately—while I’m far from being a creator that is on anyone’s radar, someone in my small following surely gets something from what I put out. So, it’s entirely up to me to influence what it is that person is getting. I can depress someone. I can make someone laugh. I can encourage someone. I can give someone something to think about. I can build someone up, or I could potentially tear them down.

What I have appreciated most about blogging is that this little corner of the world is my place for sharing my thoughts. And for anyone who knows me well enough, they know I don’t mince words. When I’m feeling righteous indignation about a topic, I’ll spout off. I know what is in my heart, but perhaps others don’t. Do I come off like someone who really cares or am I just ranting? There’s a thin line between the two.

It is important to remember that when creating content to be shared with the public, it is important to be true to yourself, to be authentic. People smell fakes a mile away, so putting on pretenses is a foolish errand to go on. But remember and remind yourself of this audience—whatever the size—and acknowledge the power you have to do good or make things worse.

Knowledge is power. Content creators wield immense power in the knowledge they are supplying. Be wise. Be empathetic. Share well.

Photos by S O C I A L . C U T and dusan jovic on Unsplash

Justice Served?

I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”*

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd last year, by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes was found guilty of all three charges brought against him today. And a lot of people around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.

For all the progress that has been made in civil rights over the last 50 years, it is evident that so much more work lies ahead of us. Daunté Wright’s murder just days ago is a testament to that fact. The last four years under a Donald Trump presidency have, if anything, exemplified to great effect the ugliness of systemic racism and ignorance that continues to poison the United States of America to this day.

But many well-meaning folks were just not sure a jury would convict a white police officer of killing a black man—even now in 2021. They are not off base in thinking that.

The verdict today has given relief to the family of George Floyd, renewed hope that perhaps the trajectory of justice will now arc forward in the history of this country and race relations. But as Minnesota AG Ellison said, “justice implies true restoration” and if we all know one thing: we are not there yet.

But accountability is supremely important and as Ellison added, is the first step toward justice. We got that today. Accountability. Truth. Evidence. The defense could not find a leg to stand on in the face of the most damning witness there could have been: Darnella Frazier’s video. Had that courageous young woman not had the gumption to record this crime, which was witnessed by many, Derek Chauvin might have walked free and easy today.

Had that happened, God help us. Tonight would have been a night where the collective anguish and righteous indignation of Americans who are not blinded by racism would have exploded in a way no one needs right now. We breathe sighs of relief tonight that that anger has been quelled, however temporary. And we breathe a sigh of relief because the law was carried out and it was necessary.

But there was another life that was wasted today. Derek Chauvin’s actions have robbed him of his freedom and the life he will never regain. No one knows the true motive of the man’s heart the day he took the God-given breath of life from another human being. But he had a choice—as we always do—to be better. To do better. To offer mercy. In taking the life of another who was of no threat to him, Chauvin said no. And that’s on him.

George Floyd was not a perfect man. But whatever he was in the eyes of the people who knew him best, the public who both mourned him and questioned him, or the racists that will always cry, “they should have complied,” he didn’t deserve to die.

Nothing will bring Floyd back to the people who loved him. And now Derek Chauvin will live out his days under the very same denial of liberty and possibility as those he sought to fight when he was on the outside. On top. As a man in blue.

Lives can change when facing their days of reckoning. And maybe it will be so for Chauvin. We can only hope.

For hope is what we were given today, and it’s just the shot of energy we need to stay in the fight.

Black Lives Matter


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

How Mr. Bert Got Triggered by Third Graders

In third grade, we had a homeroom/math teacher in our small, multigrade-classroom parochial school. His name was Howard Bert* and he was a career teacher in the public school system. Perhaps as a last hurrah before fully retiring, Mr. Bert decided to offer his services to a tiny Christian school attached to the church he and his family had recently joined.

He was a balding man with a suburban New York accent who wrote math problems in neat, and precise penmanship. He was also prone to add an “r” sound at the end of words/names that ended in “ah.” My little friend Hannah was quite often called “Hanner.” For the most part, he was a pretty solid teacher. Of course, in the early 1980s, his generational sensibilities didn’t quite align with our fixation on the toys and TV that ruled the day. Our obsession with the popular culture icons of the times—Madonna, Mr. T, and Michael Jackson—didn’t help either.

Our little school had a great population of Korean-American students, many of them first-generation immigrants. Their families were members of the Korean-language congregation associated with our English-speaking one. As such, their families also supported the school.

Mr. Bert was a strict teacher and one who appeared to be on a short fuse. When we got “out-of-hand,” yelling would ensue. Yelling as in so-loud-other-classrooms-heard-him-and-sometimes-another-teacher-would-come-running, loud. But with that yelling also came tirades from a very different place in Mr. Bert’s soul.

I have not concrete evidence of this, but on reflection, I think the significant number of Korean kids in our class triggered something in Mr. Bert who was a veteran of the Korean War. The anger that erupted from him, the screaming, the sweating, and the spitting as he bellowed at the class wasn’t just normal irritation with a rambunctious crew of 7-9 year-olds. But I’ll never forget this one incident. On this occasion, and I can’t remember what tripped it off, but he launched into yelling that brought several of the girls to tears. In his rage, he singled out the Korean students and started screaming about how he fought for their people and saw many of them—children included—get their heads blown off. Inappropriate much?

We had no idea what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was back then. This was also the era where returned Vietnam Vets were just a few years from their wartime hell and their trauma was not well understood.

As a history nerd interested in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the topic of PTSD has been one I’ve delved into over the years. And now, almost 40 years past being in Mr. Bert’s class, I believe he may have been fighting PTSD, and teaching in a classroom filled with lots of Korean children was a massive trigger.

Mr. Bert retired after just a couple of years with the school. It was probably tough in that season of his life to deal with our silliness with the energy and patience required of it. Perhaps finding his anger triggered by innocent children of Korean heritage was not something he counted on happening as well. My family moved out of state not too long after he left and our families didn’t keep in touch, so I don’t know when he passed away, or if he might still be alive. But the experience stuck with me.

PTSD isn’t limited to wartime experience, however. Any source of trauma—abuse, accidents, loss of loved ones, even being in classrooms taught by teachers who shouldn’t work with children, leave scars. Thus, if there are things in your life that cause strong reactions, it’s worth talking to a mental health professional to better understand what is setting you off. Often the insight that you have indeed been traumatized and that you aren’t crazy for feeling as you do can make a world of difference in your ability to find a healing path forward.

I don’t know if Mr. Bert was in touch with the VA or if psychological help was something he sought out or cared to seek out. But I do not doubt that he certainly had things he needed to work through. Back then, mental health wasn’t something many people considered to be important to overall well-being. Mr. Bert also belonged to the generation that returned from war and either sucked it up and moved on or developed destructive ways of coping.

But today, we have no reason to not seek out help when there are memories and experiences from our lives that have left deep scars on our souls. The people we care about need us to be ok. We need to be ok. And with the right help, we can.

*Howard Bert is a pseudonym

Photo by ahmad gunnaivi on Unsplash


I don’t know what to say beyond what has been said. Beyond what has been said already.

If a person has a warrant out for their arrest, they don’t deserve to be murdered. If a person has a problem with drugs, they don’t deserve to be murdered. If a kid in a hoodie is off buying snacks they don’t deserve to be murdered. If a kid is playing with a toy gun they don’t deserve to be murdered.

I could go on.

I’m glad the cop is being charged. But will it result in a conviction? What will change?

There is only more work to be done.

What to say? Don’t stop putting the pressure on.

Black lives matter. Always have. Always will.

Photo by Mattia Faloretti on Unsplash