On Thursday, an interview was published between Tullian Tchividjian and Jonathan Merritt on the Religious News Service. The interview is entitled, “Billy Graham’s grandson on his near suicide and whether he’s planning a comeback.”
To begin, I want to be clear that I am glad TT did not die by suicide. Human life is a precious, precious gift from God. All human life is. This is because all are made in God’s Image. No matter how wicked a human has become, this person is still made in God’s image.
That said, I want to point out talking about suicide is a common tactic of cheaters to deflect attention from their sinful actions. The threat of suicide needs to be taken seriously, of course (i.e. call 911 and get this person medical help). However, a wise person ought to note how such a threat or talk engenders pity for the perpetrator of wickedness and can easily serve as a distraction.
In fact, you can see how well this tactic works by reading the interview:
By invoking this historical threat of suicide, TT garners sympathy, and he never names what he did to blow up his life specifically–e.g. abused his pastoral position in having sex with a married member of his church, hid that adulterous affair after another was discovered first, etc.
These sort of specific matters are simply summarized at the top of the article as opposed to actually confessed by TT explicitly in the published interview. The focus is upon the suicide ideation story (and TT’s possible return to ministry). Also, note that the summary at the top failed to make it clear that TT did not simply have affairs but actually engaged in ministerial sexual misconduct. IMO, this is a major omission. And I believe it is an omission easily missed because how big the suicide ideation conversation looms in the headline and interview.
Now, I want to engage in some commentary on what TT said regarding his detractors. In a question regarding how church leaders and congregants responded to him, TT replies:
The hardest thing has been those who I’ve never met and who don’t me at all or those who I haven’t had any interaction with over the last seven months to a year questioning whether or not I’m repentant. God and God alone knows the heart and whether I am truly repentant.
DM: True. God alone can see the heart. However, we can see and assess actions and words. It is actually our duty to do so as it comes to Christian leaders, especially (see I Timothy 3).
Also, this sort of statement belies a lack of self-awareness on TT’s part about how his actions play a role in people’s distrust of him. When you lie as he admits to doing, people are likely to mistrust you as it wise to do with a known and proven liar.
So, instead of talking about how he really blew it and can understand why people question his repentance after what he did, he chooses to play the victim here. Sad.
Next, TT does a mind-trick to minimize what he did. It is akin to the tired line often employed by cheaters when caught red-handed: “We are all sinners after all.“
That being said, I’ve also had to admit that my sin hurt a lot of people. I lied to people, betrayed people, deceived people. My actions were devastatingly hurtful, and hurt people say and do hurtful things. Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for those who spent all their time highlighting the sins of others while never confessing their own. I spent too much time identifying the sins of others than I did my own sin, and it lead to slavery. My critics are no better than me and I am no better than them.
DM: He starts well by almost taking responsibility for his sins. Notice that he does not call what he did abuse nor adultery. Then he negates all that confession by equating what he did as no worse than people–i.e. critics–holding him accountable for doing such sinful things.
The little piece of truth in that part of his statement is that we are all sinners in the eyes of God needing God’s grace. In that sense, it is true that we are no better than each other. However, not all of us are serial cheaters who abused their pastoral position in praying on congregant(s).
Furthermore, I am disturbed by how he lumps all critics into the group of hurt people hurting him. He is playing the victim card, again. He does not see that alone the truth of the situation that he created by his sins makes him look bad without any commentary necessary. Is telling the truth about what actually happened “hurt people say[ing] and do[ing] hurtful things?”
It is too bad Merritt did not press TT to talk about steps TT has taken to repair the damage done to his church family, and the family he harmed through preying on the married congregant. Instead, we get a “sad sausage” story–to borrow from Chump Lady parlance–where we are encouraged to feel bad for poor TT enduring the “ugly responses” of his critics. Well, that is one way to approach a known cheater. Personally, I do not consider it a particularly productive or godly way, though.
Finally, I just want to point out that Tullian Tchividjian freely re-entered the public eye with this interview and his article. Plus, he entered upon the Christian stage using his grandfather’s name–i.e Billy Graham. He is seeking attention by stepping out publicly like this. So, it ought not to be a shock that he gets said attention from supporters and critics. He is asking for it.
His standing on a national and public Christian platform by doing this interview plus posting his article is the main reason why I bother writing about his situation, again. His words and actions are sending a message as to how evangelicals will or will not hold pastors accountable for ministerial sexual misconduct and adultery. This blog is about those very subjects.
Cheaters and pastor predators do not get free passes here!