I’d like to thank everyone for the great conversations we’ve had on the #Comptradictions series–here, on Twitter, and at the Ezer Rising.
In discussing Gary Thomas’s work, a theme keeps coming up, over and over again: all the good that Gary Thomas had done, either in the writing of Sacred Marriage, as a pastor, or even as someone who championed women in the ministry.
Thomas himself said, in a comment to my best friend: “More than I’m zealous for me, I’m zealous for the way God has used Sacred Marriage in so many positive ways. I hear stories almost daily, still, fifteen years after the book came out.”
A friend and fellow blogger wrote to me personally, and said that a conversation with Thomas had been the final lynchpin in helping her get out of an abusive marriage.
You know what? That is wonderful.
I’m thankful that this amazing woman escaped to freedom with her children. I’m thankful that God used Gary Thomas to give her the strength and validation she needed to do leave. I’m thankful that Gary Thomas has produced good fruit!
You know who else helped a lot of people? My old neighbor.
She worked for years on disease prevention programs in our rural county. She personally intervened in the lives of many women who were either impoverished, hooked on drugs, or in abusive situations. She probably saved the lives of a lot of babies and children–and that alone is a miracle and a blessing.
She also beat her husband and her youngest daughter. .
Once, her middle daughter came home from college for a weekend visit, and found her father lying on the bed, eating soggy cereal, because his jaw was broken, and he couldn’t eat anything else.
He didn’t want to go to a hospital, because he’d have to tell them the truth–his wife hit him.
The fact that my neighbor helped a lot of people, did a lot of good in her community, was known as an upstanding citizen, and was even once described as “shining for Jesus like a torch”, did not make her any less of an abuser.
She later attempted suicide. Her middle daughter then found out that she had a mental illness that kept her from perceiving reality correctly–but my neighbor never got treated for it
People can be complicated, messy, biased, mentally ill, and sinful.
The fact that Gary Thomas’s ministry, books, or personal influence helped people is wonderful. However, it doesn’t mean that he’s not enabling abuse in other contexts. . It doesn’t mean that Sacred Marriage, Sacred Influence, and other books of his, shouldn’t be drastically revised or pulled from the shelves altogether.
It means that he’s human, and like all of us, he’s done both good things and bad things–all of which can be used for good by the One who redeems us all.
One of the worst tools in the abuser’s playbook is, “What about all the good things that I’ve done?” (Sometimes it’s for the spouse, other times for the family, or for God.) This one little sentence can keep someone trapped in a dangerous relationship, or even just a crappy job or church, thinking the good outweighs the bad.
For Thomas to use that tool in defending his own work is not only shameful, it shows his profound ignorance in dealing with abuse and “difficult marriages.”
He’s not a counselor.
He’s a writer and a pastor.
He should not give advice on something that he knows so little about.