Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Six, Recommended Resources

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

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In this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Kalyn’s SecretPart Three, Kalyn’s Secret (Continued) | Part Four, Not Open | Part Five, Unmask the Predators | Part Six, Recommended Resources | Part Seven, Conclusion

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Part Six, Recommended Resources

Today I am going to examine the “Recommended Reading” and “Helpful Ministries and Websites” contained both at the end of Kalyn’s Secret and online at Frontline Family Ministries’s website. A few things to note: (1) Both sets of resources have been identical up until several months ago; the resources listed at the end of Kalyn’s Secret were the exact same resources on the website. (2) These resources, ministries, and websites are specifically intended for sexual abuse prevention. Kalyn’s Secret, of course, is about sexual abuse prevention. And on FFM’s website, these resources — as you can see in the images below — are listed under the “sexual abuse” tab:

Before getting into my analysis, I should also mention that — in Part One of this series — I said I had “poured over the Cherry family’s ministry website, including all of its manifestations from the last few years via the Wayback Machine.”  In fact, I had been using the Wayback Machine up until the release of Part One (this last Monday).

Curiously, as of yesterday, FFM is now blocking the Wayback Machine from archiving their website:

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Fortunately, I made archived copies of everything. So I can commence with today’s analysis despite the removal of all the source material. Without further ado, here are Lisa Cherry and Frontline Family Ministries’s “recommended resources” and “helpful ministries and websites” (and why they are troubling):

1. Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles

Despite the fact that Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles have been (1) covering up sexual abuse since the 1980’s, (2) accused by over 30 women in the last few years (since 2012) of continuing to cover-up sexual harassment and abuse, and (3) promoting horribly abusive teachings regarding counseling survivors of abuse, Lisa and FFM encouraged abuse victims, survivors, and their families to consult Gothard and IBLP. And note that this was not just encouragement; it was encouragement in the context of sexual abuse prevention.

Lisa and FFM’s recommendations of Gothard and IBLP date back to at least 2009 when Kalyn’s Secret was published. And then continued — and this important — all the way into this year, 2014. Yes, FFM was recommending Gothard and IBLP as recently as this year. This is one of the pieces of information no longer accessible via the Wayback Machine since FFM blocked Wayback’s archiving robots. However, you can view a February 2014 screenshot of FFM’s “recommended reading” that I saved here as well as a February 2014 screenshot of FFM’s “helpful resources and websites” that I saved here. Note in the former they recommend Bill Gothard’s book The Secret Power of Crying Out and IBLP’s How to Win the Heart of a Rebel by S.M. Davis. And in the latter they recommend IBLP itself.

If you’re up on your homeschool news, you will know that it was in February that news about IBLP putting Bill Gothard on administrative leave went national. So it makes perfect sense that Lisa and FFM would finally distance themselves. To do otherwise would be a PR disaster. In fact, Lisa even wrote an article for WorldNetDaily in April denouncing Gothard for exhibiting the warning signs of abusive grooming tactics. However, she never mentions in that article that she was promoting him a mere 2 months prior. Nor has she ever publicly denounced his teachings. Rather, she “grant[s] his request for forgiveness” (even though it’s not hers to give) and bemoans not his abusive teachings but rather that his actions conflicted with his teachings.

It’s good that she came out against his alleged actions; however, his teachings are just as abusive. And Lisa was directing abuse victims, survivors, and their families towards his and his ministry’s teachings just a few months ago.

Those are the teachings that enabled the abuse in the first place.

2. Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries

Unlike Bill Gothard and IBLP, Nancy Alcorn and her organization Mercy Ministries continue to be recommend by FFM to this day. On the current “Recommended Reading” list, you will find numerous books by Alcorn, including Violated: Mercy for Sexual Abuse. And on the “Helpful Ministries and Websites” list, you will find Mercy Ministries.

So let’s talk about Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries.

Founded in 1983 by Nancy Alcorn, the FFM-recommended Mercy Ministries is a fundamentalist, charismatic Christian organization that offers 6-month residential programs to young women dealing with abuse and mental health issues. Their programs in Australia were closed several years ago after reports that they prevented residents, “many of whom had serious psychiatric conditions,” from “gaining access to psychiatric care,” and instead used “exorcisms to ‘expel demons’ from the young women.” The ministry also engaged in welfare fraud. Those programs were sponsored and led by Hillsong Church, the very same church organization that Boz Tchividjian wrote about last week due to their failure to report child sexual abuse.

Women that enrolled in Mercy’s Australia program said they “left the Mercy centre suicidal, after being told they were possessed by demons.” A woman that attended a U.S. program called it a “cult” and said, “When I first got out I was very depressed and thought about suicide which I hadn’t done in 9 months prior to the program.” These are common complaints by attendees, who have formed websites to expose alleged abuses, including Mercy Survivors and Mercy Ministries Exposed.

These complaints are also fully understandable in light of Nancy Alcorn’s belief in demonology and soul ties, which I briefly mentioned in the last part of this series. The following image is from Alcorn’s book Violated: Mercy for Sexual Abuse, one of the books Lisa Cherry specifically recommends to abuse survivors:

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This is the exact same message Mercy residents hear. Residents are given “a binder called Restoring the Foundations (RTF), a scripture-based doctrine associated with charismatic Pentecostalism… According to RTF, a lapse in conduct, such as premarital sex, could invite in an evil spirit that might curse a bloodline for generations.” This is an extraordinarily dangerous and damaging message to send to abuse survivors.

As seen above, both Nancy Alcorn’s teachings as well as Mercy Ministries are well-documented to exacerbate abuse, mental illness, and victim-shaming. Yet they continue to be recommended by Lisa Cherry and FFM.

3. Eric and Leslie Ludy

Like Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries, the teachings of Eric and Leslie Ludy continue to be recommend by FFM in the context of sexual abuse prevention. I discussed one problem with this recommendation in my last post, but it is worth reviewing:

“In one of the final chapters of [Eric and Leslie Ludy’s book ‘When God Writes Your Love Story’], entitled ‘Too Late?’, Leslie Ludy discusses ‘sexual sin’ and ‘moral compromise’ — in other words, ‘lost virginity.’ …Leslie tells about a 12-year-old girl named Rebecca. Leslie says that Rebecca — again, a 12-year-old — was lured by a 16-year-old boy from a church youth group into his house one day. Leslie says that Rebecca ‘left as a used and defiled sex toy’ and was ‘forced from childhood into womanhood.’

“From Leslie’s description alone, Rebecca’s story reads as a straightforward account of a 12-year-old girl being raped. The words ‘used’ and ‘forced’ indicate a lack of consent. Yet Leslie puts Rebecca’s story in the same chapter as stories of willing sexual encounters of individuals who chose to have sex before marriage. All these stories are then discussed as ‘sexual sin’ and ‘moral compromise.’ At no point does Leslie identify Rebecca’s story as a story of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and/or rape — and at no point does Leslie then relate it to the importance of children and teenagers learning sexual consent and safety. The message to young women reading this would be and has been clear: you being ‘forced from childhood into womanhood’ is you sexually sinning, even if you were ‘forced.’”

This is the very last book you should recommend to abuse survivors. Yet this is the book Lisa recommends to young people to learn about purity in the context of sexual abuse prevention.

The Ludys’ equivocation between “sexual sin” and sexual abuse continues to this day. In the September/October 2013 edition of Leslie Ludy’s magazine Set Apart Girl, Leslie wrote an article entitled, “White As Snow: Experiencing God’s Restoration from Sexual Sin and Abuse”:

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Note that the very title of the article is this “sin and abuse” equivocation. Nowhere in the article does Leslie address sexual abuse as a criminal action for which the victim has no responsibility. Rather, the entire article just addresses how girls “could be set free” if only they were “willing to repent” from “sexual sin.” If you’re going to say your article addresses “sexual abuse” and then only talk about the necessity of repentance, you are communicating nothing but guilt and shame to the abused.

4. Ron Luce and Teen Mania

The Cherry family absolutely loves Ron Luce and Teen Mania. Their family “travels on Teen Mania Ministry’s Acquire the Fire tour,” they recommend both Luce and his organization in the context of sexual abuse prevention, and Lisa frequently cites from Luce’s books.

I already mentioned that Luce and Teen Mania teach the concept of soul ties. Beyond that there are many other deeply concerning elements of Luce and Teen Mania. They have been featured in an MSNBC documentary where their high control, cult-like tactics resulted in immense emotional, physical, and spiritual damage to attendees. Teen Mania alumni have banded together and created a website called “Recovering Alumni,” where they detail accusations including: labor violations, hazardous working conditions, pushing people with serious mental health problems to quit medication, using exorcisms to “cure” attendee problems, covering up sexual harassment, and knowingly employing sexual predators. Several of their programs have been disbanded recently due to attendees’ serious injuries and abuse and financial corruption.

That Lisa Cherry and FFM would continue to partner with and recommend this organization, not to mention recommend such an organization to abuse victims and survivors, is inexcusable.

5. Family Life

Family Life was founded through Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade in 1976. Their mission is “To effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world one home at a time.” They provide resources “that help people build stronger homes and communities.” FFM recommends Family Life to abuse survivors and their families.

Why is this troubling? Well, because Family Life does not take domestic violence seriously. In an article on their website entitled, “Does a Good God Want Me in a Bad Marriage?”, Family Life states that the only reasons justifying a woman leaving her husband are “unrepentant adultery, abandonment, or repeated physical abuse” (emphasis added). So apparently some physical abuse is tolerable in a marriage. In fact, Family Life says that suffering such things in marriage can be good:

“God also calls us to righteousness, and often that requires giving up our personal happiness for the greater good. This is referred to as sacrifice, and it’s never easy, fun, or ‘happy.’ The apostle Paul reminds us that part of the Christian life is suffering for the sake of the cross.”

Family Life later issued an editorial statement that reiterated repeated physical abuse justifies divorce. And by later, I mean much later. As in, the original piece was published in 2006 and their editorial statement was released in 2014. The problem, though, is that (1) this organization that is counseling individuals about marriage and family issues took nearly a decade to realize how damaging their advice could be and (2) they still are tolerating some physical abuse in a marriage by continuing to emphasize “repeated.”

6. Neil Anderson

One of the resources FFM recommends on the “spiritual warfare” front of sexual abuse prevention is Neil Anderson and his book The Bondage Breaker. This book has long been a staple of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It is also fundamentally flawed and includes heretical teachings such as the idea that saved believers can be possessed by demonic forces. Midwest Christian Outreach, which has long been critical of the unbiblical teachings of Gothard and IBLP, has also harshly criticized Anderson. They declared that, “If the average pastor claimed to believe these things he would be looking for a job or given medication.” Ironically, Anderson’s work relies heavily on secular positivism and Freudian psychology.

One can see the influence of Anderson on Lisa Cherry when, in both Kalyn’s Secret and Unmask the Predators, Lisa describes her daughter — supposedly a model Christian — in demon-possessed terminology and suggests the “soul tie” with her abuser is responsible. As I have said before, this is the best way to terrorize an abuse survivor, not help a survivor.

7. Shannon Etheridge

Shannon Etheridge is a popular author and speaker on the subject of women’s purity. She is most known for her book Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World — one of the books Lisa and FFM recommend. This book promotes ideas that are harmful to people of all genders, including the idea that men are sex-driven robots and women are emotion-hungry machines. It also blames “homosexual desires and tendencies” on “dysfunctional family relationships” or because “maybe Dad wasn’t there for you” — which is not helpful language in the least.

Etheridge, like many of the other people on this list, also believes in soul ties, and has repeatedly told women that they must cut their soul ties or face drastic consequences. 2 examples include:

“Over and over I failed to sever the soul ties that connected me to every man that I had had sex with” (source).

“As I entered counseling several years into our marriage, my main goals were to get the scarlet letter off my sweater, cut the soul ties that had bound me for too long, and rid my mind of the relational ghosts that continued to haunt me” (source).

In her book The Sexually Confident Wife, Etheridge goes so far as to say soul ties “bind” you to the other person and “allow [your] bodies to be possessed”:

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8. James Dobson and Reb Bradley

FFM highly recommends child training as a part of sexual abuse prevention. And the resources they point abuse survivors and their families to for child training are Reb Bradley and James Dobson. Lisa Cherry encourages people to buy Dobson’s “helpful resources” (167), even though Dobson’s book on discipline, The Strong-Willed Child, compares child training with cruelly beating a dog. HA’s Nicholas Ducote recently reviewed Dobson’s book and was “shocked by the dehumanizing themes of control and projection of power as well as the animal-like dominance by fathers.” Ducote said,

“There was a disturbing amount of violence justified throughout the volume. Dobson seemed to model his training methods after a wolf-pack and a wolf-pack’s ‘Alpha Male.’ …Dobson made it clear that being strong-willed is not a good quality and must be driven out of children (and dogs). This is virtually identical to the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, except the Pearls use Amish horse training as a model.”

Lisa also specifically recommends using Reb Bradley’s book Child Training Tips, a book noted for its excessive emphasis on harsh corporal punishment and authoritarian parenting. According to Latebloomer, a homeschool alum and former attendee of Bradley’s church,

“Reb Bradley views spanking not as one of many parenting tools, but as the only tool…  If the child doesn’t appear broken, doesn’t want to be hugged right after being hit, cries in the wrong way, or doesn’t seem sorry enough in prayer to God, then ‘the chastisement obviously did not work, and should be repeated a second time,’ or perhaps even a third time… Reb Bradley also seems to believe that a parent can and should beat their child into demonstrating love through a hug, which is an absolutely disgusting attitude for a parent to have.”

Furthermore, considering the context of sexual abuse prevention that we’re discussing, it is even more troubling that Bradley’s methods actively discourage abuse prevention: “Reb Bradley also takes away the child’s only remaining defense against predators: parents who are open for communication.  ‘Unless it is an emergency,’ he says, ‘children should never be permitted to criticize those over them in authority’ (p. 124).” Fear- and authoritarian-based discipline systems like this a recipe for abuse, not abuse prevention.

9. Final Thoughts

There are many, many other individuals and organizations recommended by Lisa Cherry and FFM that are similarly troubling. These include: spiritual authoritarians like Watchman Nee and John Bevere, nouthetic counselors like Lou Priolo, and other harsh disciplinarians like Ted Tripp and IBLP’s S.M. Davis. However, if I detailed everyone, this post would go on far too long.

I understand that no one is perfect and sometimes people make the wrong recommendations because of ignorance or not doing sufficient research (or not having time to do sufficient research). However, the fact that the majority of the authors and ministries recommended by Lisa Cherry and Frontline Family Ministries are peddling inaccurate information about abuse and mental health sets off too many alarms. That fact tells me that they do not truly understand the dynamics and nature of abuse and mental health nor how to help those who suffer.

And the fact that many of their recommendations — such as IBLP, Mercy Ministries, and Teen Mania — have been documented as emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abusive is the biggest red flag of all.

In the next and final part of this series I will present some concluding remarks.

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