It seems like every day some celebrity or journalist is accused of sexual misconduct and loses his job. It’s too bad the same can’t be said for outed pervy politicians. The whole thing seems like a witch hunt, but the witches are real, and they’re libido-driven predators.
And they must be stopped. Stopping predators starts with convincing them to respect others and exercise self control. Like this:
Dude. Stop thinking with your pal downstairs. He’s a selfish little jerk who only wants what he wants when he wants it. And he wants it all the time. Don’t let it be a case of he says, you do.
Stop listening to him, and start listening to your heart. This is the organ that contains anything that’s morally good about you. Your brain checks (or should check) with it before you do or say something you shouldn’t.
Dumb and dirty
Things you shouldn’t say or do?
1. Copping a feel during a photo op
2. Muttering dirty suggestions to a female co-worker 3. Answering the door to a fake business meeting in a robe
You know, senseless, foolish things you somehow think will be as much of a turn-on for your victims as for you in your endorphin-drenched and hormone-addled mindlessness.
Do you think that Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein still think their actions were a good idea? Trust me—they’re thinking what in the world was I thinking? Wrong thinking is what got them in trouble. They didn’t think rightly because they couldn’t think clearly. Which begs the question:
How does one think and act morally when to do so requires a strength of character that is either nonexistent or overcome by hormone-powered and misplaced desire?
Doing the right thing—not cheating on your spouse or harassing a subordinate into submission (or worse), requires a no-compromise, zero-tolerance standard of opposite-sex interaction. You know, like the kind Vice President Pence lives by and for which he was pilloried by arrogant journalists, Hollywood types and others.
This foolishness prompted an interesting observation from a writer friend of mine. He noticed that nowadays the test for sexual misconduct has everything to do with consent and nothing to do with morality.
Yet many talk of accusations, outings and firings as part of a “sea change,” a heralding of a national course correction. As if these sad, silly, sordid—and often criminal sexual incidents are cautionary tales that can somehow alter our fallen nature or prevent other potentially horrible men from making the same “mistakes.”
Sexual predation has been happening for centuries and will continue to happen because that’s how men (and women) are bent.
Some act this way because they are this way. And I’m not just talking to and about men. Trust me, women can be predators, too. I know because a few have preyed on me. I relate the experiences below not to illicit sympathy, but to offer a mere sliver of semi-qualified empathy.
So here are some of my #MeToo moments:
As a 16-year-old busboy at a four-star restaurant, some randy twenty-something female bartenders and cocktail waitresses repeatedly groped me. They also told me things they wanted to do to me and would do, if I wasn’t “jailbait.” And on occasion they tried—two of them drunkenly invited me into the bar storeroom, and while they fumbled around to remove my belt and corduroys, the kitchen manager walked in.
While waiting tables during college, I asked some guests what they’d like for dessert. An especially wine-soaked, middle-aged woman slurred, “You!” She then tried to pull me onto her lap to the delight of the others.
While working as an aerial photographer, I was subjected to sexually suggestive comments from a female boss and a gift of seven green M&Ms. I told a friend, and she urged me to talk to her about it. Reluctantly, I did. She freaked, and her bosses found out.
The next thing I know corporate flies to our Dallas branch from Phoenix, and I’m invited to a sit-down, tape-recorded meeting. I tell them that I’m quitting soon to go to grad school, and they offer me a healthy severance package in exchange for my signature on a legal release.
In a world filled with Weinsteins, Lauers and Roses, I can’t pretend that I know how women feel, but I’ve experienced feeling like a piece of meat, of being wanted in a fleshly, predatory way. It’s a cheapening sensation and can be disgusting.
Women aren’t guiltless, but making others feel cheap is primarily perpetrated by arrogant, selfish men.
The good news is that the national focus on this issue du jour presents a wonderful opportunity. We men can act like men and let our consciences (our hearts) be our guides instead of taking orders from our members.
Matt Lauer seems to be listening to his conscience. Finally. Here are his words for which he has no words:
There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry ….
This is a good start. If only others would own their misbehavior like Lauer. It’s refreshing to read a fairly genuine apology rather than the typical non-apologetic apologies offered by others. If I have offended anyone, I am sorry and apologize. (If I haven’t, I do not.)
There are way too many butt-covering, damage-control responses like these, but Kevin Spacey’s is the ultimate mis-apology. In response to allegations that he sexually abused a 14-year-old actor, he tweeted:
“I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”
I honestly don’t remember … but if I did what he says I did, well …
Either Spacey sexually abused so many children that his crimes blur together and/or he was so drunk that he really doesn’t honestly remember. There’s no denying the charges from Spacey, just a hiding behind a supposed lack of memory and an admission of alcohol abuse. And then he tried a diversionary tactic: coming out. And no one was surprised—or congratulatory.
Okay, guys—now what?
We have a sexual behavior problem that’s really a power and ego problem. Everyone has a libido. Some think they can satisfy it at the expense of others. They need to know that they can’t. We should not and cannot allow lecherous men or women to selfishly abuse others.
But let’s be sure not to try and fry the accused without compelling evidence. Let’s not turn a lech hunt into a witch hunt. We need to teach boys and men to treat everyone with dignity and respect and correct those who cross the line.
I say boys and men first because we’re the ones who need help the most. Girls and women will be fine, if we, the primary perpetrators, learn to think and act like gentlemen instead of arrogant and selfish predators.
But I know you won’t because you’re an opportunistic operator who never rests. Though you sure look like you could use some R&R.
Boy, you had one heck of a run. Liberals spat your name as if it sickened them to say it. They talked of you like you were the devil, like your former boss. You wanted it that way, didn’t you? You’re an instigator and political pugilist.
But you aren’t as smart as you led us to think you are.
You conned us into thinking you were some sort of voracious reading evil genius. We thought you made Trump. Maybe you did. You once compared your influence with the White House to Thomas Cromwell’s with the Tudor court.
Pretty lofty for a mere staffer. Is that what we’re supposed to believe about your role on Team Trump? Between your boasts and Trump’s lies, I don’t know what to believe.
Were you his most trusted adviser? Or his puppet master?
One thing’s for sure, Steve Bannon, you were one intriguing son of a gun. But now it’s all over. Your free fall is complete. Or is it?
Washed out of the White House, booted from Breitbart—what’s your next move? A presidential run? Better clean yourself up, buddy.
Good thing you scored those Seinfeld royalties. Don’t drink them away. We need you sober and solvent enough to stir it up in 2020. Because that’s what you’re good at. And that’s what we love about you, Bannon.
John Pavlovitz, the blogger/pastor behind “Stuff That Needs To Be Said” first came to my attention when a Facebook friend shared his January 2017 “Let the Record Show…” post in response to Trump’s election. I read it out of interest and respect for my friend. Plus, at first blush, it looked entertainingly over the top.
Some days I wish I hadn’t. John Pavlovitz’s post is a thoroughly overwrought partisan political piece of poo poo for which I can only attribute my friend’s sharing it to severe post-election angst.
Curious, I visited Pavlovitz’s Facebook page. After a few months of reading his posts and interacting with him and his followers, I’ve come to these conclusions:
1) He doesn’t genuinely engage those who challenge him, but instead replies reactively with childish taunts of trolling and shutdowns rather than defending his positions.
2) He’s so angry over the Trump presidency and with those who support him that he’ll stoop to the silliest comparisons and tactics to oppose them (Trump is a terrorist; GOP wants to deprive poor people of health care; Christians hate LGBTQ folks).
3) He’s drunk with his own social media popularity and views it as a validation for the liberal, emergent church-based theology that got him fired from a pastor gig.
Whatever. I care nothing for his political postings on his self-promoting social media pages and sites. But I care very deeply that he mangles scriptural truth and misrepresents Jesus in order to weaponize him.
Pavlovitz attempts to lend credibility to his overwhelmingly political (and spiritual) attacks on Trump, Republicans, “Evangelical” Christianity and 2,000 plus years of accepted theology and scriptural authority by citing years of pastoral experience.
In his roles as a pastor in “the resistance” and “social justice warrior,” he resists an illegitimate and odious president and the evil evangelicals who support(ed) him. And while he’s at it, he champions the marginalized (as defined by his Democratic party).
I pray for Pavlovitz. And for some reason I feel a kinship—maybe because of our similar ethnic backgrounds/former Catholicism. Or maybe something about his idealism and passion makes me feel for him because he’s chasing his tail by mistaking political activism for spiritual mission.
Speaking of the spiritual, Pavlovitz doesn’t seem to understand Jesus at all. To him, he’s all love, all the time. Of course, Jesus is love. How can he not be—he allowed himself to be tortured and crucified in order to take the sins of the world literally on his back. Because he loves, he died for us. But he’s so much more than merely love: He’s the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah.
Lion and lamb
As C.S. Lewis’ Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia asks and learns of Aslan (Jesus):
“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Pastor Pavlovitz doesn’t write about Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. He writes of him as his standard for social justice. To justify his attacks, he assumes a self-appointed role as temple table over-turner in which he compares his angry written rants to Jesus’ outrage over merchants’ peddling their wares in the temple of his “Father’s house.”
In Pavlovitz’s view, Jesus is only dangerous to John’s perceived political enemies. Instead of seeing him as Savior, he seems to see him merely as his model for his social activism. Pavlovitz appears to have repudiated Jesus’ loving sacrifice and willing atonement because both do not fit his desired perception of God.
Messy is the new sin
Pavlovitz seems to prefer a loving Jesus who doesn’t hold us to any standards other than that we “fight” for “the marginalized.” Instead of acknowledging sin and our fallen nature, he has bought into the emergent church’s version of sin as a mere “messiness.” What does that mean? Okay, we’re messy, but why? What causes us to live messy lives? What drives us to murder, steal, kill, cheat and commit a world of other messy offenses sins against each other?
Pavlovitz fails to acknowledge the source of evil and rejects sin by turning it into an amorphous and innocent messiness. Instead of following Jesus by taking him at his word, instead of acknowledging a universal, self-evident truth that we are broken because of our propensity to sin, instead of helping others embrace a loving, sinless and holy Savior, he rejects the very reason Jesus became a man, lived a sinless life, and died so that we might live.
To Pavlovitz, Jesus is less a savior and more a slingshot to slay his giants. And though he writes about mercy, he only expresses it toward those he and his party consider marginalized. He doesn’t seem to understand mercy’s ultimate expression nor does he accept our need for it in response to a holy God.
Consider Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant who owed his master 10,000 talents, the equivalent of 160,000 years of wages (as one talent was worth 16 years of wages). This would be like a $60k per year employee owing his employer $9,600,000,000. Obviously, neither debt could ever be paid.
By law, the servant could be given life in debtor’s prison. But because of his tears and please for mercy, his master’s heart was touched and he forgave the servant all he owed. The staggering debt was wiped out with mercy.
God’s mercy wipes clean ledgers and settles accounts. It dissolves debt and saves those whose hearts are open, tender, and penitent. His mercy is powered by love. And it’s the essence of grace. Mercy is something Pavlovitz says he feels and shows to others who are politically marginalized, but how can he when he doesn’t accept it from God?
It’s easy to write about loving others, but I don’t see any hope in Pavlovitz’s posts about death. Nor do I see any love in his obsessive attacks on Trump. Nor in his incessant attacks on other believers. We’re all sinners, but if Pavlovitz doesn’t believe in sin, how can he see himself as one? And if he believes that truth is something one feels is right for him or her—even when one’s truth is diametrically opposed to another’s truth, how can truth be true?
Stuff that truly needs to be said
Here’s an unavoidable truth: We simply cannot do enough or be good enough to atone for our sins and sinfulness. If we could, Jesus died for nothing. HE is the only one good enough to atone for our sins, and He did so out of love and mercy.
Some people are like the unmerciful servant (sinner) who failed to show mercy to his fellow servant (and fellow sinner), but instead had him thrown into debtor’s prison because he owed him next to nothing (a single day’s wages)—and this AFTER having been forgiven of his staggering debt. It shows that he didn’t have the slightest concept of mercy, but instead was a grasping, greedy, graceless person.
I don’t think Pavlovitz is like this. I use this parable as a way to illustrate God’s wonderfully loving and forgiving mercy and grace—a concept that I struggled with as a cradle Catholic for years (and still do so a little). I had the toughest time viewing God as a loving, forgiving, smiling, merciful Father-God who loves me no matter how much I disappoint Him. But my struggle makes me appreciate His loving mercy all the more.
God as child abuser
From Pavlovitz’s words, it seems that instead of embracing God’s love and mercy, he has embraced this lie: If God allowed or appointed his own Son to die and atone for our sins, he is guilty of “child abuse.” This is a humanization and rejection of God’s perfect nature. And it’s a favorite justification of emergent church leaders for their (only) loving (yet politically progressive) Jesus.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why a just, loving, perfect God is so repugnant to them. We want our judges to be just arbitrators of the law and issue just verdicts. We want parents to establish boundaries of behavior and hold their children accountable for their actions. I’m confident that Pavlovitz is a good father who has standards of behavior for his children. Here’s my question to him: Why wouldn’t a much better (perfect) Heavenly Father have standards for us?
God’s standards derive from his perfection and are for our good. His mercy flows from his love for us (like any good father for his children). And His grace, through his Son’s willing and loving sacrifice, covers our sins. What a beautiful love story. What an amazing grace.
Sadly, Pavlovitz, like the unmerciful servant, doesn’t seem to understand our need for God’s grace. Not because he’s grasping and greedy, but because he’s graceless. And he’s graceless not because he writes that way, but because he lives without God’s grace.
For Pavlovitz to accept God’s grace means that he must accept that He is holy. And to accept this means he must accept the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins in order to satisfy this holiness. And because he has humanized God, he no longer sees Him as holy. He has lowered God in his mind by rejecting his nature and replacing it with one that he can accept.
Pavlovitz has also replaced Jesus’ Great Commission (sharing God’s mercy and grace with others) with a Captain Ahabesque obsession and silly “resistance” to a foolish president. This is like trading a diamond field for a dunghill. And this is the difference between living life with forever in mind and settling for the vanity of the here and now.
What I mean by vanity is what Solomon (the man to whom God gave the gift of wisdom) meant by it: Anything we strive for in this life that—compared to God’s plan of redemption and eternity—is valueless and a waste of time. Vain pursuits distract us from truly loving others and from sharing God’s mercy and grace.
Picking the wrong fight
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for the marginalized. Faithful Christians (and non) hid Jews during the holocaust and defied an evil tyrant. But they also did so without losing sight of the ultimate plan. Can we agree that someone’s eternal soul is more important than a tax reform or an immigration ban?
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer defied Hitler not with snarky words about his hair or heart, but with a rock-solid adherence to truth and resistance borne of faith, not fantasy. Bonhoeffer was part of a real resistance to a genuine evil. He didn’t play politics; he played for keeps and died for embracing truth and resisting genocide.
Compare Pastor Bonhoeffer’s mission and sacrifice to Pavlovitz’s:
One was a pastor who died for his faith; the other is a poser who peddles politics to the faithless. One sacrificed everything to stand against true evil; the other plays political pastor in a wannabe resistance. One was imprisoned and executed for fighting genocidal fascism; the other suffers with ideological fear and anguish brought on by a presidential election defeat.
Pastor in a resistance? Pavlovitz wouldn’t know a real reason to resist unless it kicked him in the teeth.
Fighting the right fight
Instead of joining a worthy fight against a real enemy—the one who’s behind genuine evil—I’ll say it: the devil, Pavlovitz dismisses his existence while branding a buffoon of a president evil. He can’t have it both ways. If evil exists, and I think most agree that it does, from whom does it come? If Trump is evil, is he evil on his own? Can Trump be stupid, as Pavlovitz asserts, and also a diabolical genius who is the source of his own evil? How can a dumb schmuck like Donald pull his own strings?
Witness the glaring lack of logic in Pavlovitz’s positions: He’s sees bogeymen in the oval office and behind pulpits, not because he’s illogical, but because he’s blinded by a partisan political frenzy of anger and fear.
Here’s a prime example of Pavlovitz’s arrogance and delusion. From a recent meme on his Facebook page titled, Cultivating the Activist Heart of Jesus:
“When professed Christians call me a ‘social justice warrior,’ as if I’m supposed to be insulted, I just ask them to read the gospels to see who I’m taking my cue from.”
The use of the word “professed” connotes hypocrisy. It implies that if a Christian disagrees with his take on Jesus as social justice warrior, he or she has not properly read the gospels.
Pavlovitz assumes that Christians who call him a social justice warrior mean it as an insult rather than as a misapplication of his gifts. Everything is a petty fight to him. His snarky social media style resembles an arrogant teenager rather than a mature adult … or a pastor.
He ignores the real enemy and instead makes enemies of Christians because he conflates their opposition to his mangling of truth with political opposition of conservatives and republicans to his progressive positions.
Dear John Pavlovitz,
Social justice is political, not spiritual. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, not a party pawn like you. His justice is over sin and death, it’s not consumed with presidents and politics.
Don’t try to lower Jesus Christ to the level of your ridiculous resistance and identity politics. And no, pastor—the gospels do not back you up, and the only cues you’re taking are yours.
I’m a Christian and have the read the gospels. Nowhere in any of them do I see a Jesus who acts or speaks like you. I see a Jesus whose words beautifully transcend ugly politics, supposed social justice and an us-versus-them war of words and stuff-than-needs-to-be-said ego trip.
I see a Jesus whose mission is essential and profound and not all like your silly social media rampages. Jesus is after hearts and souls; you’re chasing likes and shares. You aren’t taking any cues from Jesus; you’re taking them from your own deluded and deceived heart.
Let’s think this through:
If God is God, is he sweating a Trump presidency? If He’s God, does he applaud Pavlovitz’s obsessive vilification of another sinner? Does God think a political party’s platform involving social justice is more important than his plan of ultimate justice and universal atonement?
Do you think God approves of this aspect of Pavlovitz’s party’s platform—that killing unborn babies is okay? This is another issue, but it illustrates a colossal contradiction of his social warrior mantra of fighting for the least of these.
I’ve read too many of Pavlovitz’s political rants and attacks and can’t imagine any of them coming out of Jesus’ mouth or with his approval. I think Jesus would say what he said to one of the disciples when they wanted him to lead the resistance against Roman rule, and I paraphrase:
There will come a time when I’ll return to set all things right, but it isn’t now, and it’s not in the way you want or think. I’ve come to lay down my life, not take up a sword.
Pavlovitz is a former advertising art director. This is another similarity between us—we’ve both worked in advertising, which is why I know that he knows how to get clicks with his blog, Facebook and Twitter posts. I can also tell by the graphic quality of his memes. His wife is also an art director.
There’s nothing wrong with knowing how to get clicks. And there’s nothing wrong with applying one’s artistry to create quality messaging. Here’s where John goes wrong, in a nutshell:
Pavlovitz creates posts, comments and memes in order to “resist” Trump, Republicans and Evangelical Christians because he thinks they threaten all that is good, right and fair in the world. Are there Evangelical leaders who shouldn’t be? Of course. Rotten Republicans? You bet.
But there are also progressive pseudo-Christians and dirty Democrats—like Pavlovitz’s golden girl, Hillary. How about a bit of balance and reality, pastor? Better yet—how about joining the real resistance?
The truth is that Pavlovitz’s bogeymen threaten the goals and ideology of his political party and emerging church dogma. But they simply are not the monsters he portrays them to be.
Pavlovitz wages his holy war by blending hatred and passion with advertising and marketing methods to caricature his perceived enemies. He does so by creating false equivalencies, straw men, silly exaggerations and outright lies while pushing a political agenda and his career as a writer and pastor in “the resistance.”
Pavlovitz is not acting as a pastor; he’s acting as a political activist. He touts his ministry experience to lend weight to his work, but as he likes to write (and as Jesus said): We can know people’s hearts by their fruit.
So be it. John Pavlovitz’s fruit can seem fresh and needful, but it’s gratuitous and rotten because it issues from a heart poisoned with fear, hate and politics. It’s absurdly over the top and unworthy of thoughtful discussion.