I don’t know what kinds of questions Perry Noble is having to answer in his world, but if you survey the comments on this blog you’ll find a number of challenges to my position. While we await Noble’s explanation, I’ll offer this personal defense.
You deserve it.
It has been quite chilling to see this response in the comments, though it’s not surprising that some NS members interpret Noble’s statements and actions as endorsing this view. The comments tend to take the same shape as NewSpring’s statements–they do acknowedge that Maxwell went too far, but they’re not sorry that it happened to me.
This is the attitude that sustained Maxwell’s campaign and why so many NewSpring insiders didn’t see enough wrong with what he was doing to throw a flag on it. Sure, Maxwell may be bad, but Duncan is worse. He deserves what he gets.
NewSpring’s lack of curiosity about how badly I might have been harmed suggests that I deserved whatever I got. On October 30, I had emailed Jason Wilson, NewSpring’s executive pastor, to ask for a meeting with Noble to to tell them what had happened, and suggested that Noble’s reassurance to his congregation that they not worry about Maxwell’s actions told me that they really didn’t know what he had done. On October 31, Wilson sent this response:
If you feel that there are other situations that may cause us to “worry” that have not been addressed, please let me know via email.
Note the quotes around worry. His message was that they still weren’t worried. Would you send an email detailing the serious and profoundly personal complaints that I had to someone like this? Me, neither.
You started it.
This is an argument more suited to an elementary school playground, but, because it still appeals to some, I suppose I need to answer it. Here’s an example of that sentiment from the a comment from “Bob.”
By your own admission this whole series of events began two years when ”˜you’ initiated your opinions and criticisms against NS. You took issue with a billboard sign and some of the youth activities at this church which offended your personal sensibilities. In response, you submitted an article to a local newspaper and started a blog campaign about this church. It was your prerogative to do so. From there it’s apparent that things snowballed, escalated, and got very ugly on both sides.
Has the thought ever occurred to you that if you had simply said nothing and not concerned yourselves with NS and its activities, then none of this would have happened to you, your family, or them?
If you really want to go back to the beginning of the beginning, it was when I and many other Andersonians were subjected to NewSpring’s very public and disheartening attack on parenthood on the main roads in our city. I attempted to talk to Noble about that by emailing a friend in the church, then, when there was no response, by communicating with him in the same public forum that he was using (he on the highways, me in the newspaper).
(An aside on meetings. If you happen to scan through some of the discussions on this blog, you’ll see that a common attempt to cut off debate is to lecture us on the need to communicate with Noble face to face. If you can’t say this to Perry’s face, the lecture goes, you shouldn’t say this in public, to which I respond that I have attempted to meet Perry to say these things to his face. May we forever put to rest the idea that Perry Noble will ever meet with a critic? If he won’t take a meeting with someone who is complaining of criminal harassment from his church’s staff, or won’t meet after he has found that claim to be correct, he will never meet anyone at any time for anything. As it is, the whole meeting thing works against me whatever way I present it. If I say there’s a wall around Noble that I can’t breach, I’m accused of not even trying and told to shut up. If I say I’ve taken a run at the wall and dashed myself against it, I’m accused of being a celebrity stalker who just wants Noble to pay attention to me, so I should go away and shut up.)
The key issue here is forum, not chronology. As much as Noble wants to characterize bloggers as jackasses, he’s a pretty big one (blogger, that is) himself. He uses his blog to daily lecture pastors around the world on how they can build a church like his and have a ministry like his. Noble is more often to be found talking to other leaders on his blog than his own flock, though he realizes they are reading too. This is a man who is using the Internet to redefine the church in a way that goes much beyond his own particular church.
An important part of Noble’s redefinition–he calls it reformation–effort is tearing down the traditional church. You don’t have to look far on his blog or listen long on a Sunday to see him besmirching the honor, motives or practices of other churches in the community. Pastors are commonly described as prostitutes, and churches as elitist country clubs that give the middle finger to their community. Church goers (not his own, of course) are characterized as religious bigots who don’t know Jesus.
So long as Noble never offers specifics about who he’s talking about in these moments (and he never does), these anti-church and anti-Christian rants stand against every other church and most believers.
This is why I’ve always imagined that Pajama Pages is playing defense. I am trying to argue for the beauty and integrity of the local church in general. If you search through these pages, you’ll see that I never identify my own church; I’m arguing for all churches, not just my own. I love denominations for their mission of preserving important truths and modes of worship, even though I don’t agree with them all. I love the different styles of worship and preaching that you’ll find in churches all over town, even though I wouldn’t personally enjoy or endorse all of them myself.
This is a bad witness.
The idea behind this objection is that people will be less likely to come to salvation if they see disputes in the church. We should keep our disagreements hidden. (For NSers who embrace this position, you’ll need to ask Noble why he wanted this on the front page of the paper.)
Disputes aren’t ideal, though they’re nothing we need to be ashamed of or try to hide. The New Testament epistles are full of public disputes including instances where Paul calls Peter out as a hypocrite, condemns a particular group of teachers, and reports on persecution at the hand of a specific person. Unless we’re prepared to hide the Bible from the world, we need to acknowledge that personal and theological disputes and debates have always been a part of the church and were so important and profitable that they’re part of Scripture.
But they don’t help us with evangelism, you say. It sounds like a good theory, but I’m more concerned with what God says about that. If you will, read through 2 Timothy 3 with me. In verse 11, Paul reminds Timothy of the persecutions and sufferings he has endured, often at the hands of other believers whom he refers to as evil impostors. (Shush, Paul, we’re not supposed to talk of such things.)
In the next sentence, Paul instructs Timothy on the value of Scripture.
From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation though faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:15-16)
All Scripture includes the bits about nasty disagreements, which, according to God, can bring people to salvation. Paul doesn’t say, “All Scripture, except for the stuff that will make the unsaved folk wonder why we can’t get along, is God-breathed and useful.”
NewSpringers, if there’s a rule against disagreeing, what will you do when a flaming heretic comes into town and draws a crowd of 30,000 people? Will you say anything? If so, when would you start? If not, why wouldn’t you care? And, no, I’m not saying that Noble is a heretic, just that there are times when it’s important to speak up. You and I might have different triggers, but I hope that you do at least have a trigger.
There are some controversies that aren’t worth engaging, though the example of the church fathers shows us that there are times when public disputes are necessary and profitable.
You and your blog are full of hate.
Again, this is a complaint that is modeled by NewSpring’s leaders. Look at that Duffey-Maxwell conversation again, and you’ll see it. Duffey’s response to Perry Noble’s assistant, who wants to make me a “_____ dog on a chain,” is:
I can be ignored and insulted because I hate. It’s also after this comment that Maxwell goes searching for his gangland beating posse.
Noble uses the idea that his critics are hateful to justify ignoring what they say.
If you are willing to ignore those who hate you then you can truly focus on THE ONE who loves you, called you and knows you!
The idea that I was a hater, clearly communicated by the church’s leadership, was likely what motivated Maxwell and friends to start their hateful campaign in the first place.
Not that hate is justification for any of this, but I am curious exactly how Noble and his supporters find hate in these pages. Surely the fact that I disagree with him is not hateful, for that would make him even more hateful than me (he publishes more “hateful” words that disagree with me to more people).
For those who find PP and me hateful, I invite you to scour these pages for examples of hate. Comments by others don’t count, and you can’t just say “all of it,” because it’s not all about Noble or NewSpring. The whole blog is fair game, but I’m especially interested in examples from before May 21, when Duffey was so sure I hated everyone.
The comments are open for you to show us what you find. Go for it.
UPDATE: After seven days and 70 comments, there is not one instance of someone pointing out anything hateful on this blog. For all the times I’ve been accused of hate and all the words that I’ve published on this blog, I would have thought someone would have come up with something.
The silent response is somewhat reminiscent of this other challenge I gave to Perry Noble’s fans.