THE FUZZY-WUZZY WORLD OF CHARISMATIC MORALITY
Christian leaders who flippantly divorce without adequate explanation
are confusing young believers and mocking biblical standards.
In an era when evangelical ministers are endorsing pro-abortion candidates and an Episcopal bishop is marrying his
gay lover, I guess it is no surprise that our own charismatic church leaders are sending out confusing signals about morality
these days. It seems that in 2008, up is down, right is wrong and biblical absolutes are up for grabs.
This is especially true when it comes to marriage, an institution that once was considered sacred by all Christians.
Nowadays, many preachers and even famous evangelical authors have created a new trend: Throwaway wedding vows. Christian divorce
today is cheap, easy and not that much more expensive than a facelift. And some of our superstar preachers have figured out
a way to use Bible verses to support their moral failures.
Take Paula White, for example. The high-powered preacher announced last August that her marriage to Randy White was
over, with no clear explanation why, and she continued on her whirlwind ministry circuit without skipping a beat. The Whites
said adultery was not the reason for their breakup, although Randy said the whole mess was his fault. We were all left scratching
“Those of us who still believe the Bible is the rule
book for marriage, sexuality, moral character and church discipline must confront this craziness.”
Paula teaches people all over the nation how to live “a life by design,” which is also the official name
of her trademark success seminars. But I am left questioning what kind of design she’s promoting—especially when
she joined the staff of San Antonio pastor Rick Hawkins, who divorced his wife last year. By partnering with him
in ministry, Paula is legitimizing his questionable choices.
When a local news reporter in Tampa, Fla.,
asked Paula about how she reconciles her faith with her decision to divorce, she quoted a verse from Ecclesiastes and implied
that, just as there is “a time for everything under heaven,” her divorce was just an unfortunate moment in her
spiritual journey. She also glibly suggested that one day she and Randy might get back together since they are good friends.
Huh? What kind of talk is this, and what garbled message does it send to immature believers who don’t know yet
how to discern God’s will for themselves? Many of them will take Paula’s confusing words as license to do whatever
they feel like doing. If there is a time for divorce, then there might as well be a time for binge drinking, a time for a
porn movie or a time to steal from an employer. Morality gets morphed into an ooey-gooey concept that you shape for yourself.
I wish that Paula had said this: “Divorce is not God’s will. It destroys families. If anyone out there
is thinking about divorce, please don’t choose that path until you have tried every avenue for restoration.” But
she didn’t sound a clear trumpet. She gave us mishmash.
Then we have Bishop Thomas Weeks III, the estranged husband of celebrity
preacher Juanita Bynum. Their marriage crashed and burned last August when she accused him of beating her in an Atlanta hotel parking lot. Weeks and Bynum have continued preaching
since they announced plans to divorce, and Weeks told Gospel Today magazine last month that he’s looking forward to finding wife No. 3 while
he continues to oversee several churches. When asked what he needed to change, the bow-tied preacher replied: “I have
to take vacations.”
What is missing in both the Weeks-Bynum fiasco and the White’s breakup is a clear admission that biblical principles
have been violated. For the Whites, we are left feeling that if you drift apart from your spouse because of the demands of
ministry, you just move on and keep preaching. (After all, as Paula says, “Your best days are ahead.”) For Bynum
and Weeks, the message is also muddled: If your marriage doesn’t work out, it’s probably because your partner
didn’t realize how powerful God’s calling is on your life. (In other words, it’s all about you.)
This sad scenario seems almost normal today because our standards have been totally compromised. In many independent
charismatic churches we refuse to draw boundaries. We don’t enforce biblical standards of leadership. We don’t
tell those who have failed morally to get out of the ministry long enough to find true healing.
Leaders must be godly examples. God does not require them to have perfect marriages, but He does raise the bar for
all those called into the ministry by requiring marital faithfulness. We don’t have the right to lower that bar just
because we live in a permissive culture.
We must make biblical standards clear: (1) Marriage is indeed sacred, and divorce should never be viewed as a flippant
choice; (2) Ministers of the gospel should have exemplary marriages; and (3) Leaders who fail at marriage can be instantly
forgiven, but they have no business leading a church until they have walked though a healing process that includes full repentance
and a heavy dose of accountability.
It is time for some backbone. Those of us who still believe the Bible is the rule book for marriage, sexuality, moral
character and church discipline must confront this craziness. We must lovingly but firmly redraw the lines before they are
blurred beyond distinction.