Christians Gone Wild!

July 21, 2010

Have you heard the audio tapes?

It’s likely that I don’t even have to mention the name of the particular movie star who I’m talking about.  Every media outlet has been all over those tapes like a tabloid on a photo of Britney or Lindsey’s lady bits.  And of course, our voyeuristic tendencies take over, and we eat up every second of scandal.

So now Christians are taking up the task of asking themselves the question, “What to do with Mel Gibson now that he is bonified insane?”  Just a few years ago, he was the champion of our cause with the horrifyingly accurate violence of The Passion of the Christ.  But now that it’s clear he has a real life violent temper, it’s kind of hard to embrace him as a brother in Christ.

However, as we all know, Mel is hardly the first to stain the name of Jesus by being a sinner.  From priests to televangelists to Henry VIII, Christians just can’t seem to clean up their act for long.  Yet, every time it happens, we always act surprised.  There’s so many scandals that have long since been forgotten.  Maybe before we decide how to react, we can put Mel’s situation in perspective with a little history of bad behavior among famous Christians.  

Ten Other Badly Behaving Christians

Tony Alamo

You likely have had some piece of trash placed on your windshield from Tony Alamo, self described “World Pastor” in the last several years.  It’s hard to tell with guys like Alamo if he’s sincere or not, because every word he publishes smells like a scam artist (not to mention the absolutely enormous ego it must take to call yourself “World Pastor.”)  Well, old Tony got what was coming to him when charges of child abuse came up.  He’s currently serving the maximum penalty of 175 years, or until Jesus returns.

Coy Privette

A Baptist preacher, politician, and conservative activist in North Carolina can be a pretty impressive resume and enough to keep a man busy.  But apparently, Coy needed some sugar on the side.  He was convicted of “aiding and abetting prostitution.”  Sounds like he was a pimp to me.

Gilbert Deya

This guy is a Kenyan pastor who claims to have supernatural powers to make infertile women pregnant.  Now I know what you’re thinking he might have done, but it’s worse.  The illusion of his powers was completed by stealing babies and giving them to the infertile women.  I guess Kenyan sex ed doesn’t cover where babies come from, because these women seemed to miss the key fact that babies don’t actually show up on your doorstep, delivered by a pastor.

Paul Barnes

This guy was doing almost the exact same things as Ted Haggard, at the same time, and in the same state.  Lucky for him, Haggard is way more famous, so no one knows the name Paul Barnes.  Sometimes, obscurity is a good thing.

Robert Tilton

Like a spoiled kid who dumps the money out of a birthday card without reading it, this guy never read the prayer requests that were mailed in.  He just collected the 80 million bucks included with the prayer requests.  What a tool.

Mike Warnke

James Frey, you should’ve known better when you decided to spice up A Million Little Pieces with a little fictionMike Warnke just wanted to add some flair to his conversion story, you know, so he could sell more books.  Problem was, he never actually was a Satanic high priest or a drug dealer as he claimed.  But while he made these embellishments, he also glossed over his multiple affairs and tax fraud.  Tsk tsk.

Aimee Semple McPherson

One of the most famous evangelists of the 1920s was…a woman?  Well, she wasted this extremely progressive opportunity by having an affair and then faking her own death to cover it up.  Seems a wee bit melodramatic.  When she was discovered alive, she claimed she had been kidnapped. (She was not kidnapped.)  Wow.  We don’t get scandals that creative or interesting anymore.  Can anyone remember the last time anyone faked his own death? 

Salem Witches

A homeless woman, an adulteress, and a slave woman were the first to be accused by two preteen girls of being witches.  That’s what you get for sleeping with your butler, not owning a home, or being the property of someone else, I guess.  Think about that the next time you see a gaggle of giggly teenage girls furiously texting in the movie theater.  They are not to be trusted.


He had the totally un-Christian idea that the Earth went around the sun.  What a jerk.  The church called him “vehemently suspect of heresy.”  So he was kicked out.  Four-hundred years later, Pope John Paul II officially exonerated Galileo of any wrong-doing.  That’s the gears of justice turning, people.  By the standards of the Catholic church, that’s a pretty quick turnaround.


You don’t even want to know.  I’m just glad there aren’t tapes.

Mel Gibson doesn’t need my forgiveness.  He hasn’t sinned against me.  It strikes me as self-righteous to talk as if we should forgive Mel for what he’s done.  He’s not mine to forgive.  We don’t own him because he made The Passion.  It’s kind of feeble to worry about my reputation as a Christian being in any way affected by Mel’s behavior.  Any of my non-Christian friends who would assume I endorse his behavior because he and I are Christians are absurd and don’t know me very well.  That’s like assuming that all Christians hate gays because Fred Phelps hates gays, or assuming that all Muslims are terrorists.  Anyone who thinks that way is too narrow minded to hear the gospel, or really much of anything.

Mel Gibson doesn’t need my forgiveness, he needs my prayers.  I react to him the same way I react to other Christians who appaul me.  I throw up in my mouth a little bit, and then I feel pity for them.   

How do you react when a Christian goes nuts or does something really embarassing?  Are you concerned that we need to tell everyone that, “he’s not one of us?” or is it enough to ignore it and pray for him?

30 responses to Christians Gone Wild!

  1. “How do you react when a Christian goes nuts or does something really embarassing? Are you concerned that we need to tell everyone that, “he’s not one of us?” or is it enough to ignore it and pray for him?”

    He needs grace and prayers. I don’t want my sins splashed all over the media. It is enough that God, a trusted friend, and I know my sins and they are who I confess them them too. I am no better or worse because my sins are different. We are all addicted to our sin, and only through Jesus can we find forgiveness and the strength to resist it.

    I think a trusted Christian friend or priest or pastor maybe should confront him and talk to him, but it is not the rest of the world’s place to judge him. Any one of us could be in his position.

  2. I’m with both you and Katie on this one. Mel and the others need God’s grace and our prayers(and OUR grace, too).

    Why are we so shocked when things like this happen? Are our churches not places where we are honest and acknowledge we are all sinners? Or are they places where we live with an air-brushed version of ourselves that pretends we have “victory” over sin, while in reality we all have our day-to-day struggles? Or are someone else’s sins so much worse than mine?

    Yes, I know that Christian witness to our culture is harmed by these revelations, but doesn’t the whole church bear some responsibility through our readiness to buy into a Christianized version of the Hollywood celebrity culture? And where do people like Mel go to get some accountability, support and mentoring within the Christian community?

    One of my favourite stories I once heard is of the British Catholic author G.K. Chesterton. Someone criticised him for some action of his, saying, “How could you, as a Christian, do such a thing?” He replied, “You have no idea what I would be like without the grace of God.”

    However, when we do extend grace, we also need to make sure it is not cheap grace, such as has been recently seen by the rush by some to get Todd Bentley back into public ministry. this seems to be setting them up again for another fall, and is the opposite of how grace should work, since it regards sin as simply a trivial inconvenience – which it is not.

  3. First, thanks for including Aimee. We women don’t get nearly enough press for our own crazy. Another thing men have stolen from us.

    Sadly, I think that sometimes I feel the need to explain that X famous Christian doesn’t represent me, except that they kinda’ DO. At the very least, they represent the same God that I serve. So I’ll want to clarify that we’re not a monolithic group and that some of us read the Scripture differently or don’t think that God REALLY acts that way or any number of excuses that are more about me than they are about God.

    Yes, praying. That would probably be better use of my words.

  4. Matt, you can add me to the list. I’ve probably done it all. Lying, cheating, stealing, drinking, druging, trouble with the cops… I am certain that there are folks that knew me then who will focus on my past sin. I hope that you and others will be able to forgive me. If I become a famous preacher, it will be sure to come out.

    The problem is that the only difference between us and the unsaved is saving grace received by faith. I think we forget that. It is easy to point to things that public figures do wrong. It happens every single day. In a shallow culture that worships Hollywood stars, is polarized over political figures, and Christian that would rather preach about a Christian book they read than a living God – what else did we expect?

    I’d like to add two to your list. Rick Warren and Smilin’ Joel. I call them the Larry King Preachers. Both have compromised the message of Christ on National TV.

    Even Billy Graham was taped talking to Nixon and it wasn’t pretty.

    Every Christian is a hypocrite at some point – we’re not perfect. Personally Mike Warnke inspired me before all this stuff came out. He fabricated testimony got me out there excited to do great things for Jesus. After his disappointing fall, I had to rely on Jesus – and I still do.

    Do we honestly think that the woman taken in adultery never sinned again, ever?

    What we do and say in private is the real us. If we get some sort of fame, it only increases the chances that those things will be heard.

    Jim Bakker of PTL scandal fame wrote a great book entitled, “I Was Wrong.” In it, he admits he finally read the Bible while he was in prison. Ted Haggard has a touching interview video (try YouTube) with some heart felt admissions regarding his sinful behavior.

    A blog like this certainly brings to light the need for famous Christians to live quiet lives. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

    As one who has fallen, I know the humbling hand of God. What I want to know is Christians will be there to minister to one like me? There, I think you’ll find true Christianity.

  5. I have felt sick for him ever since the tapes came out – not because I can relate to his specific sin – but because I can relate to sin, and like you, I’m glad no one has tapes of my sins. Clearly Mel Gibson has some serious problems he has never addressed, and my prayer is that now he will find the strength to face them, and find the healing that only God can bring.

  6. My immediate reaction is – but he IS one of us! Are any of us so different? I have paid as little attention to Mel’s situation as possible so I haven’t listened to the tapes and I don’t even know how they were made public. I assume the ex-lover released them, which makes me very disappointed in her.

    But anyway…how many times have I thought things along the same lines as Mel’s tirades? How many times have I actually said nasty things to someone I love? Fortunately, no one has recorded my outbursts or my thoughts and then broadcast them to the world.

    I am disappointed in Mel and saddened by the whole situation.

  7. I think those stories usually remind me that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” Hopefully that’s what I relay to any non-believers who reference them. That and that my sin separates me from God no less than theirs does them (this is true regardless of the spiritual state of the person – something I have to remind myself of often when confronted by “bad” sins – you know, homosexuality, Hitler, and cursing).

  8. Okay, I typically just don’t even listen to celebrity gossip. I don’t see how it’s any less wrong simply because the people happen to be public figures. I’m not saying I’m perfect about this, because some of it is dang interesting, but I think it’s way too easy to start wagging our finger with a tree sticking out of our face.

    That being said, it’s a touchy thing with “public” Christians. It’s almost akin to the false teacher thing; you really want to make sure (to the best of your ability) that the teacher is the real deal. It’s easy to get taken in, and the Word of God is a weighty thing. But, how far does that go when you’re talking about an actor who said he was a Christian and then does terrible things? It’s not like he was a teacher/preacher, even if he did once feel inspiration to make a movie about Christ. I think, like others have said, we need to show grace and be ready when people fire off comments about it. We always point back to Christ, not to men screwing up.

    I mean, we do a pretty good job about loving the heck out of King David. Remember the voyeurism? Remember the abuse of power? Remember the adultery (possibly rape)? Remember the deceitful attempt at a cover-up? Remember the murder? Yeah, yeah, but he was a man after God’s own heart!

    Maybe Mel is, too, and this is his demon. Grace.

  9. I was thinking about Christians who drive me insane this morning. I grew up in the Tulsa area (Oral Roberts clan hangs there). These televangelists drive me up the wall with all of their emotions and affairs and divorce (not that I am immune to this), not to mention their prosperity gospel (I am immune to this).

    I really don’t know if who I mentioned is one of me. We look nothing alike. It really doesn’t matter if we look the same.

    Our goal is to look like Jesus. The problem is we are reading the same Bible and seeing two different Jesus’.

    About Mel Gibson. What did he do other than trend on Twitter? I live in Germany and don’t hear any of the juicy Hollywood gossip.

    • Sorry, I sometimes forget about our overseas readers. There’s a bunch of audio tapes (which his wife presumably recorded) of him being vulgar, threatening, and verbally abusive toward her and their eight month old. This is his follow up performance after a couple of years ago when he was recorded going on a drunken anti-semitic tirade.

      • Thanks for the update. I was in the states for the anti-semitic thing.

        Why would she record this? I am going to guess money.

        I am glad that my wife doesn’t record every immature thing I have said. God knows nobody would buy the tapes. :-)

  10. The church i’d attended since i was in college had a priest with issues a few years back. Much was done to *increase* the drama about that, in my opinion. Yes, he sinned in that he crossed some lines. He was not unfaithful to his wife. He owned up to the sin. He did not “betray” 99.99% of the congregation.

    But much was said about how women with past histories of abuse & betrayal would be effected by this & a huge amount was said about “our forgiveness.”

    As you said “Mel Gibson doesn’t need my forgiveness. He hasn’t sinned against me. It strikes me as self-righteous to talk as if we should forgive Mel for what he’s done. He’s not mine to forgive.” That is how i felt about the priest in the church i loved. I loved that priest, who officiated at my wedding. I was sad.

    I think part of the problem is that there is the idea that becoming a Christian confers “perfection” on the person. We then totally understand all scripture & share our understanding on the “unwashed.” I think at times believers & unbelievers alike make this mistake. When we inevitably make errors, are inconsistent, or sin, those watching point out this by claiming that “Christians are hypocrites” & stating that Christianity doesn’t work.

    Paul talks about these things extensively. But then Christians tend to go with pat phrases “I’m not perfect, i’m just forgiven.” Which may be true, but it tends to gloss over the depths of the issue & sound trite.

    I don’t have an answer for this. There but for the grace of God . . .

  11. Yes, we need to pray for one another, and especially for those in the spotlight. And of course we need to offer grace and forgiveness to one another–we need it so much ourselves!

    However, those in positions of authority must also be “above reproach,” with “a good reputation with outsiders” (1 Tim. 3). There is a vast difference between Mel Gibson, who is famous but not a church leader, and Ted Haggard, who had much authority in the church. We need to offer Ted love and grace, but is he qualified to resume a leadership position?

    • Good point and good question, Leslie!

    • I’d like to answer the Ted question that you’ve posed. There many Biblical leaders that we point to that didn’t have such a great record; even after knowing God. David, Moses, Judas, and Jonah come to mind.

      I am not saying that I think Ted should get his old job back because he’s been a good boy. What I think is that even leaders fail.

      I’d simply like to say it’s about hearts, not about positions, titles or even authority. Every beleiver has authority. If we worship Jesus, than anyone He choses could lead us into worship. If we worship men, even godly men, we are in for some disappointment at the very least.

      The church need to minister to the fallen, to help them regain intimacy with God. It is too easy to toss them to the curb. Even as a murderer God did not remove David from his position. Was his reign as glorious as it had been? No. Did he screw up his kids? Yes. Did he have trouble with his wife? Yup.

      In the midst, he penned the 51 Psalm.

      Would I go to Ted’s new church? No.

    • You do make a really good distinction here. Forgiveness & love are not the same as putting someone in a leadership position.

  12. So what’s the answer? What do you say to people that want to lump all Christians into one big pile of money hungry, hypocritical, self righteous sinners? For me, it’s pointing out the Christians that aren’t doing the evil. When a recent “elder Christian” came against me for having a Facebook page and saying it was proof that I was not saved , it was hurtful to my unsaved parents . There anger was then directed towards all Christians and the entire faith instead of at one particular person. It’s not fair but that’s how it goes.
    My point to my parents was not how this person was acting but how myself and my husband were. the screaming idiot always gets more attention than the quiet seekers.

    • That is an astonishing charge. I have friends who have been in situations where people have deemed them unsaved. I’ve never had that experience, so I can’t say with authority how to react. The only thing I can think of is that such people have much deeper problems than the fact that someone else isn’t living up to their arbitrary standards.

  13. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a less awkward conversation if we, the collective we, weren’t so quick to condemn non-believers on the basis of actions and had a little compassion without celebration when they fell.

    I think Mel needs help. Prayer, sure, but also people to hold him accountable way before he ends up being violent towards women, having affairs, fathering children out of wedlock, being profane and worse.

    If someone is not a believer, it is not their actions but the lack of relationship that will send them to hell. If someone is a believer, their relationship is between them and God. Our response should be the same in either case, not differ depending on whose side we think they’re on.

    • I appreciate your point of view. Thank you for sharing. I think it important we all keep this in mind. “If someone is not a believer, it is not their actions but the lack of relationship that will send them to hell. If someone is a believer, their relationship is between them and God.”

    • Perfect. Couldn’t say it any better, so I won’t try.

  14. You can add me to the list as well…

  15. Wow. This list was very revealing to me. I used to go to AWANA at Paul Barnes church. I left the state to go to university before all of this came out so I have only heard rumors.

    And, Aimee Semple McPherson founded the Four Square denomination, which I was raised in until I was about 11. I remember my mom telling me that she read a book about McPherson, and was none too pleased with what she read.

    Fortunately God forgives those who repent and believe because of Christ’s death on the cross. We all, and the sinners who have shaped the way we were raised, can turn to Christ for forgiveness.

  16. I agree with you on this, Matt. It happens to everybody and the celebrities have their faults blown up for the world to see. It doesn’t really amaze me because I know we sin and stumble. Being famous doesn’t make a difference except that the rest of the world gets to watch you stumble on repeat in slow mo.

    All Mel needs from me as a believer is prayers. He did nothing to me, so it is not my business to forgive but God’s alone. What’s in his relationship with God is between him and God but he does need a fellow believer to hold him accountable to what’s going on in his life and in his relationship with Christ.

    Beyond that, it’s none of my business. I got to the point where I was sick of hearing it about two or three days after the story dropped (the reason I now remember where ‘mute’ is on my remote). It was being discussed in my presence and I said “I don’t know both sides of the story and it’s none of my business to know or to pass judgment, even if I did. I have no reason to think about it except to pray for him. That’s all I really care about.” I’ve had to adopt that with a lot of this celeb gossip in the news lately.

    This celeb gossip can suck the life out of anything, especially your relationship with Christ. You have to be careful with it. The two Scripture passages that come to mind when discussing a situation like this (Proverbs 18:7-8, 21:23).

  17. OK, so I laughed when I read your descriptions, but I’m also saddened. Not in an oh-aren’t-they-terrible way, just in a we’re-such-sinful-humans-aren’t-we way. I’m so grateful that God put David in the Bible; as we always point out, he was said to have a heart after God, yet he committed both adultery and murder. I’m grateful for God’s forgiveness and, similarly to you, I just pray for these folks. I do not try to denounce them as not one of “us”. How could I know who is or isn’t? I leave that for God.

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