Gossiping Buttinski Pastors

Gossiping Buttinski Pastors March 13, 2020

Doug Wilson has a particularly foolish series ongoing right now called “Fifty Ways” on his site Blog and Mablog. This is a short piece devoid of reams of Doug’s usual nonsensical word salading, but it aptly illustrates one of the biggest failures of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in church thinking. What? Gossip and pastors butting in where they are not called for. AND Doug manages to blame the wife at the very end when her only crime/virtue is having healthy boundaries.

It starts with a hasty accidental eavesdropping:

“one of the elders’ wives was looking for a dropped baby bottle in the back of their van, and was down on the floor boards out of sight. And as the Johnston car was parked right next door, it was impossible not to hear the fact that Cherise was haranguing her husband Ken over his intermittent porn use. The phrase thundering hypocrite was used.”

It’s not explained what that elders wife did next, but it’s pretty clear that it was run right to the pastor, and spill all of what she heard in a hurried gossipy tittle-tattle session. I’m sure she thought she was helping, but truly she is not.

The kindest most Christian thing you can do when accidentally overhearing something like this is to say nothing and forget it. If you must speak of it you should go to the persons involved, like the wife, and ask if there is anything you can do for her. Maybe she needs a listening ear, a friend, or other roles you could fill. Just not that of the spy for the pastor.

“The pastor naturally made an appointment with Ken the following Tuesday, and it was one of the most spiritually effective meetings he had ever had with a parishioner. Ken confessed everything completely, got that right with God, and volunteered a handful of other things he needed to restore, including several instances of significant dishonesty at work. The transformation in Ken was remarkable, and the pastor said he had never seen anything quite so striking or complete. He began meeting with the pastor weekly for instruction and accountability.”

Ah yes, the fictional fruit of eavesdropping as being good spying for the pastor. In reality unless Ken or his wife approached the pastor to talk about this he needs to just butt out, not insert himself purposely into the struggles of others unless invited. Give people the space to work out their own problems without being God’s spanking policeman. I am sure that this conversation with the pastor likely involved hints of being exposed if he didn’t repent.

“The surprise came about six months later when Cherise filed for a separation, and started attending another church. She was angry with the church, and with her husband, and also with the world.”

I don’t find that surprising at all. Imagine going to church where the pastor knows something super awful about your spouse. Imagine how it slips out in prayer-gossip. Imagine the snide remarks, the judgmentalism, and the likely blaming for the sin that Cherise got. The whispers that if she had just been giving her husband the right kind of sex he would not have strayed to porn. It would have been hell, a hell fomented by her pastor.

Good for Cherise for having great boundaries, protecting her boundaries, knowing her needs and leaving this place of spiritual abuse that pretends it’s a church instead of a self righteous gossip snake pit.

I may not know much, but I have watched this scenario play out any number of times at my old church, a church so similar to Doug’s and many other Evangelical churches.  It took me exactly once telling the pastor some worrying situation about one of my friends to stop me from ever doing it again. It went sideways, worse than Doug’s scenario. I will always regret I took that step. Don’t you do it because the guilt afterward is a heavy burden.

The woman is always blamed in these situations.


Did you see Mr. Atheist’s take on the Lori Alexander and Christmas story?

Back to attempting to ignore Lori Alexander, which is hard because yesterday she said some racist things about the Chinese and COVID19.

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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 33 years. You can read more about the author here.

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