An Open Letter to Employees at Focus on the Family and Boundless

Focus on the Family has yet to apologize for, or express affirmation for, the misleading headline at its Boundless blog:

“Christianity Today Relishes Sexual Perversion”

If you’re tired of reading about this — and I wouldn’t blame you, I’m certainly sick of thinking about it — please move on.

But something’s been nagging at me. And I have questions for anyone who works at Focus on the Family. Does anybody at Focus, or their magazine Plugged In, or Boundless, read this blog? Let me know.

Blogger Ted Slater‘s headline alleging that the organization known as Christianity Today “relishes sexual perversion” still stands on Focus on the Family’s website called Boundless, despite efforts that have exhaustively demonstrated the falsity of that headline.

To my knowledge, not one of Slater’s colleagues at Boundless, or at Focus on the Family, has bothered to offer a public apology for that public headline.

Nor have any of them, to my knowledge, stepped up since its publication to say they agree with that headline. (Slater’s post has, however, inspired a host of Boundless readers to applaud him, apparently embracing his easily disproven claim, and unleashing a tidal wave of sneering, mocking condemnations of their own, barbed with all manner of scripture verses).

I did, however, receive one apology in an email from a Focus employee, who was embarrassed by the headline. I am grateful to that individual. (And I’ve kept the writer’s name offline.)

Yes, you can still read Ted Slater’s blog and learn (despite vast evidence to the contrary) that “Christianity Today Relishes Sexual Perversion.”

For those just joining us: Slater’s piece appeared after the publication of a CT reviewer’s examination of some of the virtues of the film Sex and the City, right alongside her own clear warnings, cautions, and particular dismay at its gratuitous and unnecessarily graphic sex scenes. It also followed CT editor Mark Moring’s affirmation (echoing C.S. Lewis, even as he reminded me of the sentiments of Frederick Buechner and John Milton) that it can occasionally be rewarding for a Christian to consider what life looks like through the eyes of other sinners. Such a practice, Moring, Lewis, and Buechner all affirm, can help us better obey Christ, love our neighbors, and understand the world in which we are to be “salt and light.”

Nobody is arguing that Courtney’s review was perfect. How does one measure such a thing? Each CT Movies reviewer has their own distinct voice and style. Sure, she might have gone more in-depth on the issues raised in the film, as others have. She might have spent more time criticizing its flaws, as others have. Instead, she wrote from her own experience, talking about why the show has appealed to women, and the good questions it has addressed. Courtney’s job was to review the film, not launch from discussion of the movie into a contemplation of the Christian life. That’s what she does all the time in her other writing, like her work at Today’s Christian Woman, where she is the managing editor.

The editor at CT Movies, other freelance critics at CT Movies, and others agree that Courtney did not say she “enjoys” “soft-porn,” as Focus on the Family’s Ted Slater has claimed. And we have affirmed the obvious: That she included clear warnings in her review about the movie’s explicit content, and expressed her disapproval of that content.

Mark Moring’s responses, my response, and the testimonies of others (especially in Gene Edward Veith’s two posts here and here) directly contradict any claim that Christianity Today relishes sin. Rather, they demonstrate that CT writers observe the sinful world —as Christ, the Apostle Paul, and so many other saints taught us to do — and strive to offer insightful commentary about that, rejecting was is sinful, affirming what is “worthy of praise.”

For our efforts, Ted Slater tells the world that we “relish sexual perversion.” And Focus’s readers go on declaring preposterous claims, describing our work as a desperate attempt to be liked by “the world,” and accusing us of “endorsing” “pornography.”

And yet, Focus on the Family’s administrators show no concern, make no apology. That headline still stands at Boundless, where Focus on the Family’s readers continue to take it at face value and add their own unfounded condemnations.

I’ve responded to this in detail already. And I’ve spent far too much time trying to have a discussion with Slater, which you can see here and here. (I certainly have nothing to hide.) But it’s time to ask some new questions.

  • If one writer makes a claim, is it fair to attribute that writer’s opinion to the entire organization, as Slater did with Courtney’s review?
  • In that case, shall we assume then that Focus on the Family and its employees approve of Slater’s headline and his tactics as a journalist? Is that a fair assumption? Is Slater’s post an example of the kind of journalism that Focus on the Family condones?
  • Does Focus on the Family “relish” publishing stories and headlines that publicly spread misleading condemnations of other Christian organizations? (Slater described his own headline as “effectively shocking.” It certainly was that. To start off an article by accusing fellow believers of enjoying sexual perversion is shocking… especially if that accusation is untrue.)

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I wouldn’t claim to know the motives of the people of a widely respected Christian organization. I don’t even claim to know the motives of Ted Slater, or make any judgments about the quality of his faith. The Bible warns about clairvoyance, so far be it from me to make the kind of claims that Slater has made. But that’s just me. I’m just asking: Does Focus on the Family approve of such condemning public “gestures”? I’m honestly interested to know the answer.

If I were to guess that the answer is “No,” that would be presumptuous on my part. Whatever the case, they seem surprisingly willing to just go on, business as usual, with Slater’s accusation being a part of their public record.

Does Focus’s silence on this matter indicate approval or disapproval? Which seems more likely?

Meanwhile, Focus has offered no official comment either on the fact that thoughtful, respected Christian periodicals like WORLD Magazine and Image journal have run similar, non-condemning reviews of the very same film. In fact, Camerin Courtney’s review contained *more* warnings, and more specific disapproval of the film’s graphic elements, than EITHER of these reviews.

Fascinating.

Is it because nobody has asked Focus on the Family for a statement on these matters?

In that case, I’m asking:

Does Focus on the Family, as an organization,
affirm Ted Slater’s headline, and back it up as verifiable and true?

Is there anybody at Focus who disapproves of the headline
and would be willing to say so?

Anybody at Focus is invited to reply. Write me at joverstreet [at] gmail [dot] com.

I will probably post your response if you send one. But I promise to keep your reply anonymous if you request that.

I’ll only accept responses in email, not as comments here, because there are already plenty of blog posts full of comments for all to read. I only want to hear from Focus folks regarding these two questions, and nothing more.

Hopefully, the word “Boundless” can be used to describe your freedom to respond and express your opinion on this. Hopefully, “Boundless” does not describe a willingness to spread derision and lies in the name of Christ.

That’s all. Thanks.

Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.

Blogger Martin Stillion has just posted an interesting detail about Ted Slater. Slater “highly recommends” that you follow his example, and buy services from GoDaddy, a company that actively promotes “MATURE CONTENT.” So, he condemns Christianity Today as “relishing sexual perversion” when, in fact, Christianity Today critiqued a movie’s sexual content, while he goes ahead and “highly recommends” we support a business that provides pornographic material. Unlike Ted, I’m not going to jump to any conclusions… I’ll let you decide what it means.

Here’s a quote from Stillion’s post:

You see, in addition to working for Focus on the Family, Ted also is or has been a freelance Web developer, and at his own Web site he encourages his clients to purchase hosting services from GoDaddy.com. Here are his exact words:

I’m very familiar with the various features provided by GoDaddy, and heartily recommend we use them to purchase and configure your domain name.GoDaddy.com. That’s the company that, over the past four years, has spent millions on Super Bowl ads (this year’s ad alone cost $2.7 million) featuring scantily clad women shaking their money makers to sell domain hosting and registration services. That’s the company whose CEO hosts a video blog with entry after entry labeled “MATURE CONTENT.” (No, I didn’t watch any of the entries, and I won’t provide any links. Find it yourself. If you want to read about this stuff without running the risk of having to look at it, try Wikipedia.) Several of GoDaddy’s ads have been rejected because they were too sexually oriented for broadcast television. The last time that happened, GoDaddy simply ran a “teaser” ad during the Super Bowl ‚Äî directing viewers to its Web site, where they could watch the ad that was too salacious to show on TV.

Talk about trivializing sex. And where does GoDaddy get millions to spend on T&A? From the customers that people like Ted Slater send their way. I have registered a few domains myself, and made a point of not using GoDaddy because of their prurient ads. Ted? He puts his money where his mouth is. GoDaddy is the registrar and host for both tedslater.com and ijot.com, where Ted has posted some of his writing (including a graduate paper on the “ethics of lying”). Ted’s Focus on the Family e-mail address is listed as the administrative contact for one of those sites.

Friends and neighbors, I am certain that Ted didn’t mean to “heartily recommend” GoDaddy’s ads, only their services. But it becomes a bit difficult to extricate one from the other; the company deliberately makes this marketing approach part of its brand, because it knows that in this culture, sex sells. Even Sex and the City “cleaned up” its TV show for broadcast television, which is something GoDaddy wouldn’t do with its ad. And as Ted himself has observed in the course of this controversy, bad company corrupts good morals. Affiliating oneself with GoDaddy, and heartily recommending that others do likewise, hardly leaves one in a position to point fingers over the trivialization of sex. Furthermore, I should hardly think it appropriate for an employee of Focus on the Family, which champions a traditional Christian perspective on sexuality, to be endorsing GoDaddy on the side, either verbally or financially. If you give money to an organization, you are in some measure responsible for what that organization does with your money. At least that’s what Rev. Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, used to say when he’d do guest shots on James Dobson’s radio shows.

  • Facebook

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X