Follow up on the tragic case of Rev. Brent Dugan

by David Blakeslee

In November, 2006, Presbyterian minister Brent Dugan was about to be outed and took his own life in a Mercer, PA hotel room. I wrote about that tragic event here and was prompted to look into aftermath of the situation by a recent comment left on that post from a person who knew Rev. Dugan.

On July 1, 2010 I called the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania and spoke with their executive director, Rev. Dr. Donald B. Green about the FCC complaint which was asserted by others to be filed against KDKA for its sensationalistic and provocative reporting on Pastor Dugan’s personal behavior.

Reverend Green was very generous to answer questions by phone from a person he did not know.  According to Reverend Green CASP is an association of pastors and bishops which need to reach consensus in legal matters before filing formal complaints to government bodies like the FCC.  Reverend Green stated that unfortunately, such a consensus could not be reached among participants in this association.  Instead they reached a consensus about facilitating a formal meeting with KDKA on the ethical issues involved in reporting Pastor Dugan’s private behavior in such a sensationalistic way.  The results of that meeting can be found here.

We also discussed the reporter involved in the Dugan journalistic “investigation.”  Marty Griffin apparently had a sensationalistic “journalistic” style prior to his targeting of Pastor Dugan.  This style cost his previous employer 2.2 million to settle the defamation suit that followed:

In 1997, Griffin’s then-employer, Dallas station KXAS-TV Channel 5, paid a reported $2.2 million to settle a defamation suit arising from a story Griffin aired about Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin. In that story, a topless dancer accused Irvin of participating in a rape with two other men — accusations she later recanted, and which resulted in perjury charges against her. Griffin also conducted a hidden-camera investigation of Irvin’s purported drug-buying activities, a story for which KXAS paid an informant $6,000. The station admitted no wrongdoing in the 1997 settlement, which Griffin opposed. In fact, Griffin’s online bio on the KDKA Web site boasts of winning awards for his reporting on Irvin, and adds, “That’s right — Michael Irvin doesn’t like Marty Griffin very much.”

Reverend Green reports that Mr. Griffin currently has a talk radio show which takes advantage of his sensationalistic and emotional style.

I would encourage readers to review the article above which thoughtfully addresses the chronology of events, the important considerations that journalists should consider when judging religious leaders who are in violation of their vows and the brand of journalists who may be ratings driven, rather than ethically driven in their pursuits.


What Happened Yesterday?

(What it Might Have Been Like for Victims)

by David Blakeslee

I got up. I got dressed. I hugged my children. I called a friend. I went to work. I packed my bag for a prolonged business trip. I went to lunch. I then went to the doctor’s office for a final check on my health and then, to get my teeth cleaned.

I was traveling for my work to a place where it might be hard to get medical attention. I sat down in the waiting room. I found a magazine, Sports Illustrated, to read. I flipped the pages and I looked around the room. I saw some friends from other parts of the company, smiling and talking to each other. Every few minutes a person left the room and every few minutes a new person came in the room. It was a strange feeling, not knowing all of them, but being bound by similar work and a similar mission.

I glanced down at my magazine, the Raiders continue to lose and look terrible. The Phillies are behind in the World Series, I know better, they already lost.. Pop…Pop Pop…Pop…Pop. Scream, crash. Pop…Pop…Pop, Pop, Pop. I know the sound. I am on the ground. I look in the direction of the Pop sound, a man with two guns commands the attention of the room. He is dressed like me. He looks like me. I look to others dressed like me, some are groaning, some wailing, some are whimpering, curled up in the corner as he approaches. Pop…Pop…Pop. I am panicked now. While his attention is turned I jump and run farther from him and push a small table down as a barrier. I realize that most of my co-workers have huddled in the far corner with me. Some are escaping through another door and down a hallway. Pop…Pop…Pop…Scream. Whimper. Moan. I know I am alone. I know this uniform he is wearing says I should trust him…I lunge…Pop. Pop Pop Pop.

This is what it may have been like for many of the victims yesterday at Ft. Hood.

Many words will be written about the events of yesterday and the overwhelming majority will be about the middle-aged man who knew where to find a group of trusting colleagues and then systematically betrayed them and murdered them. Many “explanations” or hypotheses will be written. Here is one: a narcissist, narcissistically wounded, acts out his wound in the most terrifying and humiliating way on people completely unprepared to defend themselves and trained to trust him. And he enjoys it. For a brief few minutes his subjective feelings of being small and a “victim” are extinguished in a gratifying hail of bullets and moans and death. It goes just the way he planned and he enjoys it.

Narcissism is rampant in this culture.

It is time to make it’s victims real, three dimensional. To narrate their motivations, their lives, to interview their friends and family and to hear what obstacles they overcame and how much they loved their country. They are small, unimportant people in this culture of celebrity. But they are deeply loved, deeply loved. And right now, everyone they loved is feeling destroyed.

Utterly destroyed.

That is what narcissism can do.

(I spent the early years of my career at a small Air Force base as the base psychologist. It was humbling to see how hard everyone worked and how devoted to the mission they were. I learned there how many different kinds of people were better than me, stronger than me and kinder than me. For a medical officer to betray his troops is the worst kind of evil).

–David Blakeslee, Psy.D. is a psychologist in West Linn, Oregon.

Reflections on what we share in common

(This post from occasional contributor, clinical psychologist David Blakeslee, covers some similar territory as conservative gay blogger, GayPatriot on the Kevin Jennings controversy.) 

I have been a bit agitated lately, it is probably my own problem, but instead of being internally ruminative about such sensations I decided to find some object to focus these feelings on.  It didn’t take long, all I had to do was visit Warren’s blog .  There I could find a few outlandish assumptions, hypocritical comments and distortions of fact to justify ventilation.  Apparently that was not satisfactory enough, so I am writing this posting after a couple of years of absence (Warren, I don’t know how you do this day in and day out, your energy and integrity are deeply appreciated). 

Rationalization, minimization, and justification are not scientific arguments; they are psychological defenses to ward off anxiety.  Sometimes they are so effective that we feel quite calm when a grave injustice, which we should agonize about, has occurred.  Instead of tossing and turning at night, struggling with headaches and pacing the floor, we sleep quite soundly.  Sometimes they are so effective that the weak and the vulnerable are left without an outraged and strong protector; instead they get a philosopher, who through his mental games ends up functionally being a passive collaborator with a predator. 

Are gay teens vulnerable? Absolutely.

And just to whom are they vulnerable? Continue reading “Reflections on what we share in common”

Why Can’t Heterosexuals get it Right?

An article today in the Daily Mail, Betrayal of a Generation, outlines the difficulties experienced by children in the United Kingdom. The UK performed as follows:

Rates of teenage births were the worst in the developed world. British children were most likely to be drunk from the age of 11 onwards, most likely to have had sex by 15 and highly likely to smoke cannabis. Their diet was also poor.

The Netherlands ranked highest according to the UN study. The difficulties cited by the article suggest that pro-child social programs in the UK have not been effective at improving the plight of these children.

It leads me to the question which has long troubled me in the same-sex marriage debate: how can heterosexuals who have so neglected their obligations as parents dictate to gays and lesbians the limits of marriage and parenting rights?

It has been my opinion that if we indulge the selfishness and self-gratification of heterosexuals (sex without love, love without commitment, children as an afterthought) then we have no right to refuse gays and lesbians in their assertion that there should be exemptions from moral absolutes as well.

Kinsey, in his landmark studies on sexuality, from a population of participants sought to “describe” what America’s sexuality really was. To dispel myths and “get down to the facts.” We now know how agenda-driven his research was, and how flawed his population selection was. Kinsey is the left’s, Paul Cameron. Nevertheless, his work was championed and set the foundation for a sexual “revolution” which has had enormous negative consequences for multiple generations of children.

I may not agree with gay marriage based upon my religious beliefs and my interpretation of some social science data, but my larger concern, and the larger concern of our society’s future should be how heterosexuals are treating sex, love, commitment and parenting.

Sit, Jesus. Stand, Jesus. Good Jesus. Bad Jesus.

Every movement, whether political, religious, economic or social, hinges on the values of that group and how effective those values are at creating the desired transformation and keeping the movement alive through both good and bad times. Every group has a leader, at some point in time, who best articulates and embodies those values. Such a leader can either create a movement outright or accelerate a movement already begun. In later years that leader is revered and idolized for his accomplishments.

Christianity is such a movement. The difficulty and vision of Christianity are found in the person of Christ. The calling of Christ is to “…take up your cross and follow Me.”

The 20th Century has been noted for the acceleration of individual rights and individual freedoms. With that movement, whose leaders are you and me, comes a world tailored to the yearnings, wishes and demands of the individual. This movement has important repercussions in how we view faith and the values that faith demands.

As a psychologist in practice for 20 years, I have always viewed wryly my colleagues eagerness to talk about spirituality and their reluctance to talk about religion. Most psychologists view the former as healthy, adaptive and part of the process of becoming self-actualized. Most psychologists view the latter as regressive, reactionary, growth inhibiting and at best, quaint.

All this is to say that psychologists are quite willing to help people apply their spirituality in their own best interests. The happiness and meaning derived from one’s spirituality is the guage often used by clinicians to measure it’s effectiveness.

So how, then, would have psychologists evaluated poor Martin Luther. Tormented in adolescence, fearing the wrath of God in lightening, he converted to Catholicism and became a priest. But that did not alleviate his torment or his self-loathing. Hounded by guilt he drove himself deeper into his faith. He practiced penance with fervor in an attempt to alleviate his suffering. But to no avail. Ultimately, over years, he stumbled on “the rest of his faith,” that is, the glorious grace of God and his all sufficient supply in Christ. He wrote years later:

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new

heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager

sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

Luther’s work transformed Catholicism and Western Europe over the next 300 years. Most would argue that it was an overwhelmingly positive transformation. What if, upon seeing Luther’s suffering, a friend referred him to a psychologist who respected his spirituality, but did not respect his religion? Chances are, he would, with the best of intentions, undermine a pending revolution in the Christian faith, perhaps driving Luther into individualism, mysticism and irrelevancy.

Religious practice has recently been categorized along these lines:

Protean Religious Practice: involves picking beliefs and rituals from a broad variety of religious and spiritual practices.

Constrictive Religious Practice: involves picking a set of beliefs and rituals from a single authority.

Our hypothetical clinician would likely encourage Luther toward Protean Religious Practice in an attempt to free him from neurotic guilt associated with his constrictive religious practice. In that regard the clinician would be encouraging Luther to make religion “in his own image.” Luther would be commanding his religion to do his bidding, to escape his suffering. Sit Jesus, Stand Jesus. Good Jesus, Bad Jesus.

But that is not the example of Christ, and it is not the example of his disciples. Neither is it the example of the early church which suffered persecution to assert the dignity of female children being killed in Rome; or who confronted a murdering emperor (leading to the accountability of leaders to God); or institutionalized charitable giving, or contributed to the humanistic movement of the Rennaissance; or who contributed to the education of western Europe through the development of universities. All of this was based upon a constrictive religious practice. Jesus says I cannot choose whom I will love and whom I will not love (protean); the gospel is constrictive, demanding and calling us into the light of accountability: “If you cannot love your brother whom who have seen, how can you love God whom you haven’t seen?”

Similar challenges face clinicians and Christians as they attempt to understand same-sex attraction. Suffering is part of every Christian’s calling. All of us suffer as Christians for different specific reasons, but for the same single reason, we are sinners, born into a sinful world. We live for a better world to come and endure trials and tribulations for that future reward. Like Luther, I do not understand why I am suffering specifically (except that I am a sinner, in a sinful world) and I do not know yet what plans God has for my suffering (I doubt it will be as constructive and meaningful for the world as Luther’s suffering). I do know my sins are bold and require His amazing grace. And I am so thankful that nothing bars me from His unending mercy.