Quick to Listen/Episode 148 |54min

The Struggle to Say ‘I’m Sorry’ in Public

Why we have a hard time saying we were unequivocally wrong.
The Struggle to Say ‘I’m Sorry’ in Public
Image: Deagreez / Getty

Note: Quick to Listen now has transcripts! Scroll to the bottom of the episode description to read through our conversation with David Bailey.

Last week, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-Newspublished a three-part investigation into the scope of sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Among one of the seeming fruits of their report was an announcement from the head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Al Mohler wanted to apologize for the role that he played in protecting his friend CJ Mahaney after Mahaney was accused of covering up a sex abuse scandal at his church. In an 850-word statement, Mohler acknowledged his role in supporting Mahaney, even as questions arose about his involvement. He then expressed regret for his former actions and spoke specifically about where he believed he had fallen short.

“I can only speak for myself, but I wish to do so clearly, acknowledging these errors, grieving at the harm that was done, and committing to do everything I can to lead well and to serve Christ faithfully.”

Like many public apologies today, Mohler’s drew a mixed reaction. Some were frustrated about the length of time it took for him to acknowledge his mistakes. Others were encouraged by the change of heart from a man who it had seemed might never change his mind.

“With our leaders, any kind of leadership, people want to know, if something’s wrong, do you see it and are you going to do something about it? Are you going to do the right thing?” said David Bailey, the executive director of Arrabon, a ministry that helps Christian leaders engage in in reconciliation. “Leadership, a lot of times, is moving on the currency of trust. I think a demand for an apology is ‘Hey, can I trust you? Are you going to do the right thing?’”

Bailey joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss why it’s hard to offer a good public apology, why it’s significant that we “demand an apology,” and how long is long enough before the start of a “comeback” story.

Today’s episode of Quick to Listen is brought to you by Kinship United, a non-profit organization rescuing orphans from trafficking, slavery, and death and restoring their childhoods in Christ for the past 19 years. To learn more about how you can help an orphan, please visit kinshipunited.org today.

This episode of Quick to Listen is also brought to you by Libromania, a podcast for book-lovers from the Close Reads Podcast Network. For more information go to c losereadspods.com or subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you dial up your favorite podcasts.

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Quick to Listen is produced by Morgan Lee, Richard Clark, and Cray Allred

Show Transcript

Mark Galli: Our guest is David Bailey. He is the executive director of Arrabon, which describes itself, on the website they say, Arrabon means "a foretaste of what is to come." The organization believes the church should be a foretaste of a reconciled heaven to our divided world and they equip communities to engage effectively in reconciliation. He's also executive producer of Urban Doxology, which is a worship project to exalt Jesus, justice, and reconciliation.

So you can tell what David's life is about and why he's such a good person to have on our show.

Morgan Lee: Hey David.

David Bailey: Hey, how y'all doing? Glad to be here.

Morgan Lee: Are you indeed the perfect person to be on our show?

David Bailey: I don't know. I don't know about that. But you know, we'll see what happens.

Mark Galli: Well, we have a bias at Christianity Today for people who are into reconciliation. We think that's a pretty crucial work to be involved in these days. Not just racially, but in all sorts of ways.

David Bailey: Yeah, you know, one of my things is that a lot of people say that we do racial reconciliation, and we actually really refrain from one, using that term for a few reasons, but one is that as Christians, you know, we're just called to be in the ministry of reconciliation and we acknowledge that the world is broken, and that we need to be part of the solution of partnering with Jesus to bring some healing and some mending to that brokenness.

And so our approach as Christians should always be towards reconciliation, both of God and with one another.

Morgan Lee: I'm really excited about having you on here because I can definitely think of some things that you know, just times when you're like does that message actually apply to this situation, you know?

David Bailey: Yeah.

Morgan Lee: So I hope we can go there a little bit in our discussion today.

David Bailey: Definitely.

Morgan Lee: Last week the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News published a three-part investigation into the scope of sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. Several days later the head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had an announcement. Al Mohler wanted to apologize for the role that he played in protecting his friend, former Pastor C.J. Mahaney, after he was accused of covering up a sex abuse scandal at his church. In an 850-word statement Mohler acknowledged his role in supporting Mahaney, even as questions arose about Mahaney's involvement in this particular situation.

Mohler then expressed regret for his actions and spoke specifically about where he believed he had fallen short. Like many public apologies today, Mohler's drew a mixed reaction. There were some people who were frustrated about the length of time it took for him to acknowledge his mistakes. There were others who were encouraged by the change of heart from a man whom it seemed might never change his mind on this issue.

Each week, it seems that there's a new public figure whom we're demanding a public apology. So we've seen this with the #MeToo movement obviously, and in David's home state of Virginia, we've seen multiple top white state politicians ask for forgiveness in recent weeks after it was revealed that they had worn black face .

Today on Quick To Listen, we'd like to talk about public apologies and public repentance. In a pluralistic world, what can the church offer our country about how to apologize and tone well. I'm really excited to get into all of this today because I have been thinking about this so much off the show and so it's great to bring these conversations onto the show where I can kind of process more of my feelings about all of this.

And so Mark I did want to just get your sense. I think you read Mohler's apology. I know we're not going to spend that much time talking about this particular circumstance of The Sovereign Grace Ministries abuse scandal, but I do want to know what you thought when you read what he had to say last week.

Mark Galli: I was positively impressed because Al Mohler doesn't impress one as a person who you can either consider stubborn, or a man of conviction who will not easily budge after he's made a decision. And for him to budge on this issue suggests that he is a person who really is open to the evidence and wants to do the right thing as a Christian man. The fact that some people feel it came late. To be honest that doesn't concern me as much as the fact that he did it. I just think some of us are just stupid. I mean, I know I've taken some months or maybe even years to apologize to my wife for some things. Our hardness of heart knows no bounds. So the fact it was too late, I'm sorry that it was, but the change of heart and the willingness to own up, I can only admire that.

Morgan Lee: You know, it's weird right? Because this public apology is kind of to us and not to us. This is kind of something I want to get into. We are talking about this on the show, like it's weird to be “Mark, what's your reaction to an apology?" that's maybe not to you.

Mark Galli: Yeah, it wasn't to me. No, it's as it apology to the victims.

Morgan Lee: But still it can have an emotional impact even though it's like not necessarily to you and me, right? Which is something interesting right? So when we're judging someone's public apology to be like, "this is how it resonated," but that's because it is a sign and a form of leadership. Or it can be depending on how they actually land.

Mark Galli: And is it as Christian you see other people in dispute and for me it warms my heart when one side or the other initiates a reconciling conversation by saying "I'm sorry."

Morgan Lee: Yeah, so for me, I mean I felt a positive effect towards it as someone who is obviously not being apologize to in this. There's this one graph that I just wanted to read that I thought was a little bit more on the powerful end for me, where he says, "I wish I had spoken more forcefully. I should have been very clear about insisting on an independent, credible third party investigation right from the start these allegations rose. I should have said nothing until I heard from the survivors who are making those allegations. I should have sought advice and counsel of agencies and authorities and experts, who are even then on the front lines of dealing with these kinds of allegations." To me, that is like specific ways in which he's acknowledging that he fell short.

Mark Galli: Yeah, the fact that he was so specific instead of generic made it ever more stronger for me.

Morgan Lee: Which to me, I think the specificity of saying, here's how I know that I am aware that I let you down, is part of where apologies can end up being like feeling really powerful. Though I will say again as someone who is not being apologize to in this thing, everyone's going to have different reactions about like, oh this was apologized and noted, or this was not included in what that was. But for us who are kind of outsiders as opposed, you know, we follow the case obviously, but I don't know. David, would you like to kind of give us your sense of what you made of this apology too as someone who is not, you know, directly being apologized to in it?

David Bailey: I would even step back a little further and maybe talk a little bit about just the context that we live in now. You know, I think we live in an age of social media where you can be crucified at any moment for any sin, and very few situations that kind of hit the social media hysteria allows people the ability to confess and repent of wrongdoing. And we just live in a very 'low margin for error' time. I think the church could be a gift in this time, and in many ways, because to be Christian means that we acknowledge that there's only one Jesus and everybody else is imperfect, you know. And so I think the practice of confession actually admits that.

But I think there's a challenge that we have in Christian community. And that is that in Christian community, you can kind of confess almost every kind of sin except two major sins. And that's one, sexual sin, and the other one is racism. Like that, you can kind of say in general like I struggle with lust, but you can't really say specifically "here are my sins." And I think we got to create environments in the Christian community where people can confess their struggles and their sins and get help. And even when we as leaders make mistakes that we aren't people that continue to project the sense of perfection. But we as Christian leaders are the ones who are first to confess and repent, and that's something that I really tried to practice as a leader. And in our Church community, as Christian leaders we really, really tried to engage in that. And so I think the more that we in Christian community can practice a culture of confession, and not have to project a culture of perfection, then this could not be an anomaly but be something that like, yeah, it's ok not to be perfect all the time and to make mistakes and to try to repent make a change from that.

Morgan Lee: I want to talk about like the actual structure of public apologies. You know, what would you say makes it really hard besides social media, but I'm talking about the actual like words that people are saying, what makes it really hard to do a good public apology?

David Bailey: I mean, this is old school, but I love it man. I think Peacemaker's has a really great way. It's the Seven A's of Apologies, and that's: Address everyone involved, you know, all the who's been affected by this. Avoid if, but, and maybe statements. So, you know, try not to excuse your wrongdoings. Admit specifically both an attitude and actions. Acknowledge the hurt. So that means express sorrow for hurting people that you actually hurt. Accept the consequences such as, you know, trying to make restitution or not expecting that people forgive you. Alter your behavior, so you actually like change your attitude and your actions. And ask for forgiveness.

You know, when I have to make apologies, I try to just like literally pull out those Seven A's and I try to put those things into practice. I think in just such a highly public profile kind of space, you know, there's always going to be somebody that's going to critique what you do. You didn't do enough of this or you or you said that or you know, whatever the case may be. But I think we just don't practice great apologies in general. And so then when you have to do it in public, it's almost like you got to hit a three-point shot when you're not used to making jumpers.

Mark Galli: I think the point about the way I frame it is, can I make the apology and say no excuses, because I notice how hard it is to do that. It's just so hard to say, I'm sorry. But I'm so tempted to say but you need to understand what I was going through, or you need to understand the circumstances. And yeah, people probably do need to understand the full picture, but an apology means, "Despite all that, I should have done what I did." So that's really irrelevant at this point.

David Bailey: Yeah, and it's also kind of like, particularly in this particular situation because you know, when you start to do the speaker circuit and you know, you publish things or produce things that people know this, and you're making these friends at conferences and you make these friends that sometimes you go in and out of each other's house. And when your friends end up being in the paper for something that's wrong and in the media for something that is messed up, you know, there's two versions, there's like three versions of them. It's the Public Persona, it's the Behind the Scenes person that you know, and it could be the thing that you know, the Dark Secret or whatever the case may be, and you don't know that part about them. You know the person that you're engaging with.

And so it's challenging because a lot of times we put pressure on leaders to make a statement about something, and to say something. And sometimes you should say stuff, sometimes you shouldn't, and it's just really hard of knowing what to say, when to say it, what's true, what's not true. And so I could see, you know, Mohler in his space, make an excuse for--well, not making an excuses--but I just can see the challenge of, the complexities of that. But the reality of it is that there's a lot of hurting people, you know, and I think when we can kind of appeal to the humanity of one another and just try to put ourselves in all of the different seats, maybe that can kind of help us.

Mark Galli: I think what what you're describing I've read about elsewhere. Loyalty is not considered as high a virtue of these days is it has in previous ages. And one of the things a person, when Mohler wants to come to the aid of C.J. Mahaney, one of the virtues he's struggling with is loyalty. He wants to be loyal to his friend. And you're weighing that loyalty to a friend against new information that's coming in. Like you just described it makes it very difficult to know what to say, when to say it, how to say it.

David Bailey: Yeah.

Morgan Lee: Yeah, I mean if anyone wants to chime in more on that, cause I would agree that that is a competing priority. Between trying to understand how to support your friend, especially if your friend is vehemently denying these particular things, while also being sensitive to what these accusers, you know, whatever they're accusing this particular person of doing, are saying as well. And trying to be actually open minded and into those investigations. As someone who has not necessarily been put in that situation, I feel like it's always easier on the outside.

David Bailey: There's two things that I often say to my team and kind of my community, I'm saying like, hey, I don't I don't have to be Jesus and I'll have to be Michael Jordan, you know? And like, Michael Jordan was not the Michael Jordan of everything, you know. But the challenge a lot of times to Christian leadership in our culture is that as a pastor or a theologian and a public speaker, there's this is pressure to always have to be the Michael Jordan expert of everything. And I got a few things that I have some level of expertise in and not a lot, and even my level of expertise isn't super deep. You know, I just know my little tools and tricks and things that I spend time in and I'll try to speak with some level of authority in that area. But outside of that, I don't have to own all the things. And so what something kind of like steps out, you know, I mean one of the reasons why I could have this conversation is because when you're practicing the work of reconciliation, you gotta know how to be a person that knows how to make apologies. You got to be a person that says "Hey, stuff is messed up both not just out there but also inside here. And I mess up and I do things and I apologize." So there's a certain level of making apologies where I feel a little bit expertise in because of the work that I do. But a lot of times as a Christian leader--you just asked about stuff like #MeToo and race and policy and education and Healthcare--it's just all types of things that you have to have an opinion about everything. And I think if it's okay to say like hey, I just don't know, you know? Or this thing came out about my friend and I just don't know the person in that particular way, but it could be true. It might not be true. And there's some experts that can kind of figure that out. Right now, I'm going to just try to be as Christian in the situation as I know how to be. I just feel like we could kind of create more of a culture where that could be okay.

Mark Galli: Yeah, a culture in which we can admit we're inadequate. That would be nice.

Morgan Lee: So we don't have to get too much into Virginia state politics David, but as someone who has watched some of your own public officials in recent weeks have to deliver public apologies, we were talking about what makes them so hard. When you're watching these leaders publicly apologize do you think they're public apologies are falling short maybe because they've haven't had practice apologizing, or because they do feel a strong sense of pride or defensiveness with regards to this, or there's just blind spots? What is going through your head when you're hearing someone's apology fall short as to why it is falling too short?

David Bailey: We've had a lot going on here in Virginia. And it's the four hundred year anniversary of the first enslaved African to come to the colonial states, which eventually became United States of America, right here in Jamestown, Virginia. And so over the last year, I've been working with the former Governor Bob McDonnell to begin to do some more education about race, slavery, segregation, and how we can engage in reconciliation. And Governor Northam, like two weeks prior to all the stuff hit the news, we all did a press conference together where he proclaimed this year 2019 as the year of reconciliation and civility. And he made a commitment to do the Slave Trail walk and we're getting the state legislature to read The Color of Law together, and doing stuff with the business sector, the education sector, and in the faith community.

And so, that press conference was two weeks prior to the whole yearbook scandal coming out. And you know, there's an old church deacon that told me, "David, bad news travels faster than good news." And so when I think about Governor Northam, he legitimately was all ears and all board and doing whatever he could do as his role as Governor to kind of work with reconciliation efforts. So I think part of what's hard for him is one that you know, he was really trying to work on some reconciliation and that he's being kind of cast as either racist or ignorant or just whatever. This blackface situation just really overshadows a lot of his, not just only good intentions, but actually actions that he's been putting towards. So, you know, from a human perspective I can see and get that.

I also think, too, there is a lot of sacrifice and there's a lot of hard work that's been put in to be in a place of a governor like that, and he just really literally kind of just got started, and so to have to leave over something stupid he did 35 years ago, it's challenging. And so I what I kind of saw him doing was like hey, how could I kind of maintain the power that I have in the midst of this situation. And it's really tough complicated stuff. I get it on his side, I also get it that there's a lot of people who are trying to find atonement and trying to get racial justice in him resigning because it's like "oh, I'm not as racist as he is, so let me do that." And there's other people that are just exhausted by the poison of systemic racism, and it just like "man, we got to have a zero tolerance." So just in that environment, it's a very, very hard environment to say I messed up. It's a hard environment to know even how to move forward in a really healthy way. So it's been really complex here in Virginia. And the Nation.

Morgan Lee: We have a term in English called "demanding an apology," right? I think it's an interesting expression to use. It's kind of, I don't know, aggressive, assertive to say "demand an apology." And so often times when we do see some sort of public personality mess up, you'll read something in a news report or a headline about whatever community or another demanding an apology. But I'm curious David, in your experience is that really what we want from people that we feel betrayed by or let down by? Or do we have some other type of visceral emotion that were feeling as well?

David Bailey: With their leaders, in any kind of leadership, I think people want to know, if something's wrong, do you see it? And are you going to do something about it? Are you going to do the right thing? Leadership is oftentimes moving on the rate of the currency of trust. And I think a demand for an apology is kind of a thing of like hey, can I trust you again? Are you going to do the right thing? Are you going to be in that space?

I think that language is a very interesting thing because if someone could demand something, and I just do it because you're demanding it, doesn't necessarily mean that I believe it. But I think kind of the thing behind the thing is it's like hey, I want to trust in you, I want you to right some wrongs, I want you to do something about this. And that's what leadership is about. The only way I could see true leadership moving forward is to fall in line with Jesus who always kind of went low in order to empower other people, was willing to die, and willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. And so, you know, hopefully we're the kind of leaders as Christian leaders that don't even require people to demand apologies. But when people find out about it or even before they find out about it, we're like the first to kind of confess and say, hey I messed up and here's the specifics, you know, the Seven A's and I'm going to try to correct this wrong.

Morgan Lee: Yeah, it seems sometimes that even though we do say though that we want an apology, what we actually want is for that person to hurt too, or to be in pain, or to somehow suffer, or to be punished, right? I mean, I don't know, I don't get the sense that people are just satiated by someone who acknowledges even if they did what's wrong. Now, I will say we don't often really get you know these apologies that might fit these Seven A's that you talked about, but it does seem that people want some sort of punishment at the end, in addition to that.

David Bailey: Yeah, and I think part of the reason is because there's a lot of people who have been hurt and victims. I mean, we live in a brutal world, you know, we live in a world that has a lot of suffering, you know, the Psalmist talks about this on the regulars. He's like, the wicked get away with it. And I think part of the deal of what's really great about Jesus is that there will be an ultimate Judgment Day, but in between that we know that Jesus has come and suffered with us. And Jesus has said hey Christians, that's what you're called to do is to kind of mourn with those who mourn. You know those "Promises of God" books that they sell at Christian bookstores, one of the promises that you never see is that you will suffer. You know, that's a promise that's there. But what's great about this promise is that God will be with you and that God is a God of comfort. And so I just feel like that's a piece that I think folks are looking for, and that we have to model. Particularly in this area.

I think there's a long reckoning that we have with women, with the sexual abuse stuff, and just the patriarchy and stuff that's kind of come out of that that's been really unhealthy. You know, in areas of race and class, there's been a lot of abuse in a long period of time, and we're in a point of history where women are just as educated and/or more educated than men, and people of color just as/or more educated than white people, and now we having to be like, oh, we're really are equals. Like what the Bible has said for many years like we could actually see this in our face. And so I think there's an adjustment that we're having to make that's kind of bumpy right now.

Mark Galli: Let me pursue one line of thinking here, in terms of Jesus forgiveness of our sins. There do seem to be two models. I'm certainly oversimplifying this, and the Biblical scholars are going to nail me for this. But let's just say this is my impression.

Morgan Lee: The Mark Galli Interpretation.

Mark Galli: So we have the model of Jesus in the New Testament, in which the very act of apology is an act of repentance and it confers forgiveness on us. No amends beyond that necessary. Nobody believes. We should ask Jesus for forgiveness and then go do ten years of penance working in the salt mines or anything. It's a done deal after we repent. But in the Old Testament have lots of examples where there is a repentance and then there's making amends, or doing some heroic act to show that you're really sorry. We also see in much of the church's history. So when we are expecting an apology from a pastor or a public figure about some malfeasance, is it right for us to expect amends? Is that a different arena that makes amends necessary in order for people to trust us again? Or should we be willing to forgive with just the act of apology? What's your take on that? That's a very complex question, I know, and you only have you know, five minutes to answer it.

David Bailey: Well, I mean, I think there's two things. I think one, understand just for people who are victims, forgiveness is a gift for the victim. I heard somebody say the other day like this, that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping that the person, your perpetrator dies, you know. And when we practice unforgiveness, it kills us. So the actual act of forgiveness is a gift to the victim. If you're the person who is the perpetrator, the apology, the atonement, the repentance, all of that is a gift to you. And that aspect of it, is this aspect of making repair for the sins that you commit it. Like think about Zacchaeus, when he finally came to revelation about the extortion that he was doing. When we think about Zacchaeus when he actually came to revelation on the extortion that he was doing, he was willing to make repair reparations for his sins that he was committing over a period of time, and it was pretty radical. So if you're the victim there is this aspect of justice that is very reasonable, and it's very human and very reasonable to do. And I think from a Christian perspective like God has promised that God sees all and that God is the judge of all and there will eventually be equity. And whether we get it on this side of Heaven on the other side of Heaven, we could have confidence in that.

But the gift is going to be forgiveness from the victim standpoint. If you're the perpetrator, it's the job as a perpetrator to ask for forgiveness, to apologize, engage for repair, and know that if somebody forgives you that's a gift of grace that is extended to you.

Mark Galli: The sincerity of that is probably signaled by your willingness to go, now what can I do to make amends? Not to make the forgiveness happen, but to kind of cement it in some sense or to deal with the real consequence. I think most of us would agree that the ideal situation if someone were to come and murder my wife, that I would be called upon to forgive that person, but I still would be called upon to press charges to make sure that he understands the consequences of his actions and that he needs to go to jail. I'll be the first to admit, I don't think I could forgive a person for doing that. I would have to be a special grace of God to come into my heart, but I'd be really good at pressing charges.

David Bailey: Right, right, right. And particularly in the type of things that we're talking about right now. I think that's really, really important to understand what the spiritual significance of forgiveness is, and kind of working out that on your own with a counselor and therapist and trusted friends and God, and all that kind of activity. And then there's this whole other aspect of just, we need to work in justice. I mean, like there's an aspect of justice that's really important. Like you can't let perpetrators continue to keep on going unrepentant. And that's its own set of challenges of itself. And so I mean, we're messy people. This is really, really complicated stuff. And I think this kind of gets to the root of what makes the public apologies really tough, it's because in written statements and public apologies to specific people, but then everybody in the public square, the nuances and complexities of human relationships makes it really hard to kind of check all the boxes of what ought to be.

Morgan Lee: Mark, it's interesting that you talked about like, you chose a specific example that was a criminal offense. In our criminal justice system, you can get sent to jail, you'll probably get sent to jail, if you murder someone. It's weird because obviously jail is a human invention that we've created and in some ways it kind of does some of the hard work for us. Because now you don't have to see that person again, right? I mean some of the stuff is really messy when it comes to other public apologies because you will see that person again, right? But here we've created this thing where like you can put this person "away," and you don't have to think about them all the time, or ask yourself how you're going to show love to that person on an active basis, or sit in a place that's really uncomfortable with them. And part of what I've been encouraged by when I've seen more conversations about restorative justice, is that they recognize that there's something that's kind of missing when we don't actually have that continuing of the relationship that goes on. This idea of someone wronging us, and then them just having been cut out of our life forever, is actually not necessarily --I would say all that we can do as humans, we're capable of doing so much more with how we end up relating to people who have really harshly offended us, that we can't just put people in prison for now.

Mark Galli: That's a good point. I do admire the people who--there are some situations where something criminal has been done and because of the massive scale of it, there's nothing that can be done judicially. So that would have happened in Rwanda, there were just be too many people to throw in the jail. They didn't have enough jails. So people had to figure out how to continue to work together. And some of those stories are just utterly remarkable to me and I don't identify with them in the least, and I admire the gift of the Holy Spirit has given some people to work alongside people who have murdered their whole family. That's just so unfathomable.

David Bailey: That's unfathomable.

Mark Galli: That's unfathomable. The Lord would have to do a miracle in my heart to make that happen to me and I'm so grateful for their witness.

Morgan Lee: So David, as Christians and as people who want to hold our public figures/celebrity/politicians accountable, are we required to accept every apology?

David Bailey: As Christians, everybody doesn't have the same level of accountability in a way. So this is what I mean by this: There's one assumption because we live in a Democratic Society. If we were living in First Century Rome, in the early church, we're not holding Caesar or the emperor accountable. The first people that we hold accountable really should be the folks that were in covenant Christian community together. And I think as Christians, I think the more that we could do this, I think the brothers and sisters, that for Al Mohler, or Northam or whomever, I feel like those are the ones that those are the first ones to hold people accountable. And in my life it's the people that I'm in church with, it's the people that I'm experiencing family with. And so I think that should be the norm and Christian Community. I do think there are come times and places in a public square, because we're much is given much more is required, we live in a country that we do get a chance to speak into the political process, and we do get a chance to speak to people. And I think there's a difference in hold of Christians accountable, but it's also important that we don't try to hold non-Christians to the same accountability as being Christians. We can see that sometimes in the public square also, where Christians want to have non-Christians act like Christians.

I think we need to be wise and try to be as Biblical as we know how to be in this area and I feel like it goes from your spiritual family, your covenant Christian community that you're in church with first, and I think it kind of goes out to the family of faith. And then in a non-Christian space, I mean the question I'm going to ask when I deal with non-Christians, the question is what would be the best public way to bring witness to somebody who's not naming the name of Jesus.

Morgan Lee: Have you ever been in situations, David, where you felt like community leaders, or other people that you knew were urging you to forgive someone and you didn't necessarily feel ready for that moment? And that maybe that was appropriate thing that they were saying? Like, yeah, you should you know, as your brother and sister in Christ, I really think it is important that you forgive someone. And you have you ever been in a situation where you felt like it was maybe inappropriate or too soon for them to kind of urge that?

David Bailey: We don't like tension, you know, and so sometimes people are asking for forgiveness because they want to relieve a tension and it's really not about true reconciliation. It's about resolving tension. I think in situations like that, we shouldn't do it an apology. And I also think there are times when people have to work through their own processes and things of that nature. So I mean, I know I've learned this with my relationship with my wife. You know, there's some wounds that I've caused very deeply that she needs some time and space. And I've therefore also learned with my staff and the people in Urban Doxology where I've like man, you know what, I really messed up on this. I apologize. You might need some space and time to like truly give a sincere forgiveness or whatever, you know, whatever the case may be. And it's not going to be a genuine interaction if I force your hand to do this, so it needs to be some space. And so the onus is on me to live in the tension in the meanwhile.

Morgan Lee: So we live in a country that is kind of obsessed with comeback stories. But as I'm sure you're aware, it can often seem like, you know, the comeback story is already set in motion before this person who has offended other people has actually made amends. Let's assume for the sake of this example, this person is not going to end up in prison or jail for what they did. What does making amends look like and how long should it take before this person returns to Ministry? You know, maybe if they're a pastor who's fallen in some way? Or in entertainment or politics? Or is that the kind of the wrong question to be asking for this?

David Bailey: Yeah. I mean I think timing, how long is enough, you know like is 35 years enough time? You know or is it like, one year? Really, to be honest, in order for me to do this kind of work, I really, really realize how not being judgmental is very helpful. If I'm if I'm in my position as an elder at my church, then those are the kind of questions that we ask with people that are in the restoration process. But if I'm not somebody's elder, somebody spiritual authority, or somebody's Barnabas brother/sister that's walking alongside them, then I don't know. I mean think about Paul, when he was Saul. I mean he had a re-enter. When you talk about re-entry with people he literally killed, and it took some time to probably build up that trust. I think those are the things have to be discerned by the community and things that to be discerned by the Spirit.

Morgan Lee: Yeah, that part about it being, how are how long should it take, I feel like part of the struggle that I have with that one is who gets to decide how long is too long? Right? I mean are we talking about how long did someone who betrayed the church get to come back to the church? Well, guess what? I guess there's gonna be a lot of different feelings and opinions about how long that should be. Right? But someone's making that decision, and then other people in the community are the ones that are those whose voices weren't solicited on that, right? I also don't necessarily think that we should wait until the last person forgives someone before they come back.

Mark Galli: When we're talking about this, all I do is think about the people, the pastors who had especially sexual malfeasance, who leave their church and within a month or two, they are pastoring another church somewhere else. I mean most of us look at that go, come on, get up get real. I mean, you've got issues to deal with buddy. There's no way you could handle them in a month.

Morgan Lee: Also, there are jobs!

Mark Galli: Yeah, it isn't like it's the only job you can do in the world.

Morgan Lee: That's the part that's like confusing to me the most. Like I don't want you to not have a job. But why is your the job that you're going to be doing going back into ministry?

Mark Galli: All right. Well, that's a whole topic. Obviously some resentment here.

Morgan Lee: Confusion. I don't know David, do you have something you want to convict me about?

David Bailey: No. No, I mean, I think I mean we live in a very like consumer Christianity culture. Consumerism is really the antithesis of the Gospel, and I got this from Paul Louis Metzger. He said that consumerism is the ability to get what you want, when you want it, at the least amount of cost to you. And he's like that's really the antithesis of what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus.

So, you know, because we're such in a heavy--the moment that the church doesn't supply our need we go to a different church, the moment that we're a Christian leader that the church isn't supplying our need for platform we can go create a new platform in a different space. So I think kind of what you're describing is a symptom of a much bigger problem. You know, if we can kind of be like hey, how can we be more formed into the image and likeness of Christ that is a good direction for us to try to go into.

Morgan Lee: All right, so I would really love if you could just share with our listeners a little bit about the work that you do on the projects that you're involved with. It'd be cool to see the kind of the practical applications of that.

David Bailey: It's really a great project that I've been involved with the last three years with my friend Andy Crouch, and a few others who we've been doing a pilgrimage over the last three years, really trying to see what is it like to pilgrim through understanding the reality of slavery and how what Bryan Stevenson says, slavery didn't end it just evolved. And so we've been doing this thing called The Repentance Project. And as we were journeying and going to these different sites of plantations, or doing slave trail walks, and going through museums, and prayerfully discerning and seeing like what the Lord might have us to do to bring some repair to our world, we created a devotional call The American Lent to go through our Lenten season. We've done this for the last two years together in a small group of about 30 20 to 30 folks. And then we have now releasing it, and kind of gone through editing process, cleaned it up. And this year, 2019, the 400-year commemoration of the first enslaved people to come to the United States, we're inviting people around the country to engage in The American Lent this year. So you can find out about that at repentanceproject.org and check that out.

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