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Bright Shiny Objects

September 3, 2015

I saw this article in the “Gleanings” section of the Christianity Today newsletter chronically the sad story of a Christian college administrator who “falls,” the Christian euphemism for having some sort of sexual activity deemed wrong.  In fact, the entire Gleaning section was depressing.  In the list of stories four of the first six have something to do with sex.

Of the two that don’t talk about sex, one is about a major financial crisis and layoff at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and was sort of depressing.  The other was on a group called Christian Fashion Week, which sort of mystified me as I was not sure I understood their purpose.  While it was clear that they weren’t some sort of “modesty police” I was not sure just what they were trying to accomplish.  I know a great many Christian, and non-Christian, women who are able to dress stylishly and modestly so I am not sure what problem they are trying to solve.

But back to fallen administrator.  To begin with, I have never heard of Jimmy Epting, or for that matter his school, North Greenville College, so I have no axe to grind with, or preconceived notions about, them.  It pretty much seems like a run-of-the-mill story of a good man getting caught in sexual misconduct.  While there are a lot of them across the entire human spectrum it is a sad truth that evangelicals are not immune.  Indeed, one of CT’s other six articles was about another fall.

It was disappointing, but not surprising, that the college tried to cover up the affair.  Epting’s son blew the whistle online but the college said he was retiring due to “health concerns.”  It is not uncommon for people, trying to protect their organization or reputation, to equivocate or lie.  But, as I said, there is nothing new here.  I want to say “neither do I condemn you” to this man and his family and pray that healing will come.  Not do I have a specific pre-conceived notion of what that healing needs to look like.

What puzzles me is the article itself.  The title is “A Christian College President Falls.”  That does give a pretty clear picture of what happened.  But then CT adds this subtitle:  “Video of apparent affair surfaces as Christian higher education leaders are debating sexual ethics standards.”  In the article, after giving details of the story at North Greenville College, says this:

The controversy over Epting’s alleged misconduct comes at a time when North Greenville and other Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) members are already dividing over issues of sexuality.

It goes on to talk about two Mennonite colleges that have decided to admit students who are in same-sex marriages.  I am not sure what these two subjects have to do with each other.  The transition from one subject to the other seems to be a complete non-sequitur.  It is almost as if CT realized they were about to publish five sex stories and decided that was too many so they jammed two stories into one.   Maybe they didn’t want to appear too obsessed with sex, although I do think that four out of six does a pretty good job portraying that also.

The only other conclusion I can think of would be that CT felt that they needed to remind us that same-sex marriage is the real problem.  Maybe the Mennonites and their decision is the bright shiny object that will keep us from asking why so many evangelicals stumble.  If we spent too much time on that question we may have to conclude that we ought to be too busy thinking about the logs in our own eyes to worry so much about two men down the block doing something we don’t like.

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