Mark Gungor: Missing the Mark on Sex Abuse in the Church
In early April 2021, well-known “Christian” comedian Mark Gungor posted a series on his Facebook page about situations that he believed qualify a marriage for separation. When Gungor indicated his opinion that wives not giving enough sex was a valid reason for husbands to leave, Sheila Gregoire posted a professionally-worded, non-inflammatory comment on Gungor's page about data showing that many complex factors can contribute to sexless marriages.
For context, Sheila is the bestselling author of The Great Sex Rescue, which published research data from more than 20,000 Christian women on sex, pain, frequency, and more. Meaning, Sheila literally wrote the book (scientifically speaking, not figuratively) on all the reasons why Christian marriages may not be having great sex.
And after surveying 20,000 women? The Great Sex Rescue doesn’t just have data. It’s got… DATA.
Gungor responded via Facebook firestorm, blocked Sheila and [edited>] hundreds of commenters who raised similar points, then hopped over to Twitter to keep stoking the flames. In the process, he called Sheila some pretty ugly names, demeaned and degraded her as a person, an author, and a female, and generally lamented her existence on the planet.
All in a pastoral day’s work, or a Christian comedian’s, I suppose…
While Gungor was busy swatting dissenters like flies, a sexual assault survivor named Lexi was watching online. In 2016 Lexi and a friend, both minors at the time, were molested by a member of Gungor’s church, while actively attending and volunteering there. (Read Lexi’s story here, and her brother Gavin’s story here.)
Lexi observed Gungor’s extended and repetitive acts of verbal abuse online toward Sheila Gregoire, including insults laced with sexual innuendo. While Lexi no longer attends Celebration Church, she decided to call Gungor directly and ask for answers about the way he handled her disclosure of sexual assault as a minor in his church back in 2016.
If you’ve tried doing something like this, you may already know it’s likely to end badly. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of survivor support is hearing story after story of seeking help from a spiritual leader, then being dismissed, disregarded, demeaned, and sometimes outright ridiculed.
Lexi's experience calling Mark Gungor, unfortunately, was no different. As she courageously sought support as a sexual assault survivor, she was met with isolation, deflection, manipulation, intimidation, entitlement, and control.
(FYI: both parties were in Wisconsin, which is a one-party consent state for recording conversations, in case you're wondering whether this was legal. It was.)
As an abuse recovery coach, one of the crucial aspects of healing is learning how to spot patterns of abusive behavior and abusive relational elements.
Without a rubric to identify patterns, it would be entirely understandable for those listening to Lexi’s phone call, or reading Gungor’s social media comments — to downgrade the disagreement to some minor interpersonal spat.
It’s literally he-said, she-said, right. Nobody needs to get in the middle of the mess. Shouldn't they should all just forgive and move on?
Wrong. This goes far deeper than just a petty disagreement that ended in Gungor’s temper flaring. (Sheila and Lexi both maintained astounding levels of poise throughout the process.)
Fortunately, you don't have to figure it out without some guidance. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite teaching aids — the Four Tools developed by Psalm 82 Initiative.
Every abuser, in every context, regardless of environment or role or gender — will use these four tools: Isolation, Deflection, Manipulation, Intimidation — to achieve an imbalance of power in order to control others.
In addition, there are Four Relational Elements that support the Four Tools. These elements — Entitlement, Control, Coercion, and Compliance — characterize every abusive relationship, whether it is spousal, parental, social, workplace, or religious.
Let's look at the transcription of parts of Gungor's conversation with Lexi, and assess it through the lens of these abusive Tools and Elements.
Remember, the incident being discussed is the sexual assault of Lexi and another girl by an adult male, which occurred while they were both underage. This means that legally, neither of the girls could give consent.
Transcription of Gungor's Phone Conversation with Sexual Assault Survivor
MG: Mark Gungor L: Lexi
MG: If he was truly a rapist, he would have been arrested [DEFLECTION]. The fact that the police did nothing—police don’t care about me. I don’t uh-have control over to the police. You know, they dismissed everything. They did nothing. So… to say that you were sexually as-sault-ed and that I covered for the guy is not true. We confronted the guy. We disciplined him the best we could. The police did noth—we turn-we turned him over to the police, the police did nothing, cuz they said it wasn’t a case. I mean, if you’re gonna attack me, attack the police as well and say that they didn’t do their jobs. [ISOLATION]
Breakdown: >This isolates the victim by telling her that she's alone in believing she was assaulted. It further isolates her by perpetuating the erroneous assumption that no guilty person would be walking free, so since he is not in prison, he must not be guilty.
>This deflects blame onto law enforcement for not "doing their job" instead of taking responsibility for what the church could and should have done, to create a safe environment for vulnerable minors. *****
MG: So annoying. As for this other thing, all I said on my post was that when couples get married, they’re supposed to be having sex with each other. And then a crazy woman comes along and starts accusing me of rape… and that I should be, that I’m condoning forcing women and raping them and all this kind of stuff. [MANIPULATION] I did no such thing! And they got so poisoned I started deleting them, I mean, on my Facebook. [AD HOMINEM ATTACK/ISOLATION/MANIPULATION]
L: I know. I’ve been blocked from your Facebook for, I don’t know, criticizing what you had to say. I know.
MG: So you know, I mean, that’s all and from that, I should be cancelled… I shouldn’t have a church anymore…[MANIPULATION] Ah, everyone should call other places where I go and make these churches cancel me, so I don’t have a living anymore — oh my god, over… over that? [MINIMIZING]
And then this lady says — and someone made a comment to this lady on my Facebook page — about uh, because sh-she… and I mean, it’s not me, she’s criticizing every single marriage speaker in the world, *coughs* [ISOLATION]
L: Stop. Stop. *whispers This is, this is what he does…
Breakdown: >Gungor admits that he blocks people who disagree with him - isolation. >He deflects attention from his own actions by exaggerating the response of others, playing the martyr "I should be cancelled". > He launches an ad hominem attack on the "crazy woman" (Sheila Gregoire, from The Bare Marriage Podcast) for daring to suggest that data presents deeper reasons for sexless marriages than merely stubborn wives not wanting to give it up. >He isolates Lexi and Sheila by making it sound like they are up against every marriage speaker everywhere. *****
MG: this one lady. This one lady had a whole post about how she attacked her and blamed her and attacked her daughter… you know, that’s just who this lady is, she’s a little nuts. [ISOLATION+INTIMIDATION]
And then someone posts, you know I think she’s—something about, “no one will touch her with a ten-foot pole and that’s, you know that’s uncalled for”; I said “no, it’s called for because that’s what she’s doing.” [INTIMIDATION]
Well then, the lady takes the post, you know, she’s been screen-shotting all that—on Twitter predictably because they’re all crazy—supposedly saying that I was criticizing her sex life, and that her husband didn’t wanna have sex with her… *snickering* because, because, well I said, [MANIPULATION] I come on and say, “are you crazy? I never said that!”
I said “because you’re so critical of others, nobody wants to touch you with a ten-foot pole. You take from that and say that I was… that’s a sexual content?” So they’re all saying I’m sexually assaulting this lady and criticizing her sex life? [DEFLECTION]
I mean… dear girl, this is insane! The whole thing is insane. [ISOLATION]
L: Mark, um… I called you to tell you to finally tell you in person how, what you have said to me and what you have done to me has hurt me, and you went on a, like, ten-minute rampage about how upset you are with the current state of like social media, *chuckling um…
MG: Well, back to your story, I mean…
L: Yeah, back to me.
Breakdown: >Gungor admits using isolation to curate his following and blocks people who disagree with him. >He condones and encourages degrading innuendo, intimidating Sheila for daring to hold a data-based opinion. >He deflects responsibility for his own statements, and isolates Lexi by labeling anyone who has a problem with his actions as "insane". He adds intimidation to this, by patronizing Lexi with the term "dear girl". *****
MG: Well, this is in the context of that. That’s where it all came from…
MG: So, I’m sorry that you felt hurt.
MG: I didn’t intend to hurt you.
L: *more sputtering
MG: That was not my goal. I’m sorry that’s how you felt—I’m sorry that I hurt you.
L: Thank you.
MG: But all I said was…[MINIMIZING/DEFLECTION]
L: No. There you go. There you… *chuckles, Sir—
MG: No, what I’m saying is, I-I… my intention as a, you know—forget you; [DEFLECTION/INTIMIDATION] if it happened to anyone else; say you have a daughter, and sh-you find, you know, you tell her, and this is how you felt and stuff like that, and she tells you the same story and was like “well, I was out with them and I had my top off and stuff like that”, you don’t think you’d tell them and say, “Wuh-what; sweetheart what were you thinking?”[ISOLATION/VICTIM-BLAMING]You wouldn’t say that?
L: I don’t think I would. Now, like, going through what I’ve gone through, and understanding sexual assault and sexual abuse, um, I would have a little bit more empathy for a victim, than that?
MG: But seriously, you wouldn’t question her behavior up to that point? [DEFLECTION/VICTIM-BLAMING]
L: Her behavior at 17 years old? No. What’s wrong with being…? No. At 17 I don’t think it’s abnormal for you to be like, making out. That’s like a predator… also he’s like over the age of 18, that’s like predatory behavior. Why are we not looking at his behavior over my daughter’s?
MG: No, we did. We did, we did attack his behavior and we turned him over to the police. There was so much—there was so little there, the police did nothing! That’s not right. [DEFLECTION]
L: I’m not talking, yeah, I’m not talking about the police, Mark. When we went in…
MG: I’m sorry?
L: I’m not talking about the police.
MG: Yeah, but I’m just saying it was, you keep saying it was sexual assault, it was...
L: You keep saying, but you’re not listening.
MG: But if it was like rape or something, he’d be in jail. [ISOLATION/DEFLECTION/MANIPULATION/INTIMIDATION]
Breakdown: >Gungor consistently minimizes, deflects, manipulates, and intimidates in his statements to Lexi. >Gungor ignores the fact that Lexi and the other victim were minors at the time of assault. Minors cannot consent. Sexual involvement between an adult and a minor is a crime. >Also, while law enforcement is required to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt for a criminal evidentiary standard, the church is held to a much lower standard of civil evidence... is it more likely than not? >What's more, the church is also held to a much higher standard of moral defensibility than secular civil or criminal court. In the sheepfold, a shepherd who allows predators to continue bunking down with the sheep is called a hireling and a false shepherd. *****
L: Mark, when I was `17 years old, I told the police that I gave them consent, and I didn’t. I was underage. I—it was a badly handled case and I’m not holding you accountable for the police not doing their job.
MG: Oh, so that’s what you, but, see, you never told me that. [DEFLECTION]
L: I literally told you that at the beginning of the call. I’ve been upset with you—
MG: I was trying to tell, uh, we tried to have it prosecuted—[DEFLECTION]
L: No, yeah, yeah—
MG: it never, it never went anywhere, so, why would I have it prosecuted? Why would I turn him over to the police if I thought it was all your fault? [DEFLECTION/INTIMIDATION]
L: But I’m saying you told me you—asking somebody for like, fault and being like “What were you thinking?” was victim-blaming. Whether you think it or not, what I’m saying is; please don’t do that in the future because it was extremely harmful for me and my friend to hear and also you told me you were going to do a bunch of things; you told me you were gonna like, run a series, you were gonna like expose him for being—which maybe you did, but I don’t know—he still like, goes to church, so I don’t think you really did that.
MG: No, I mean, he gets to go to church. You don’t just cancel peoples lives out, Lexi. Lexi, he totally screwed up.—[INTIMIDATION]
L: Yeah, but he’s been touching kids since he was like, 12 years old.
L: Why do you care more about, like, him going to your church than me feeling safe at your church?
MG: I don’t! I don’t! But you-you *sighs [DEFLECTION] Let’s say, I mean, what I would’ve, let’s say, we have people who get divorced and the guy’s an abuser right, and the wife feels uncomfortable with him coming to church—
L: I know, because I’ve talked to so many women that you’ve like harassed into not, or trying to tell them to not divorce their husbands, which is truthfully, like, none of your business. When I started sharing my story, do you know how many people reached out to me and been like, “Mark did this, Mark did this, Mark did this”— it’s not just me.
MG: Well, I’m sure if you’re a public person you’re gonna get all kinds of people. Look, I get that a whole lotta people that hate my guts; I get that. But if someone gets divorced, and we have this problem in the church, and the one comes and the other one still comes, wh— what can you do? I can’t say to the one, “you can’t come here anymore”, you know?[DEFLECTION] Just like this guy, I can’t say he can’t come. What we normally say is, look; he comes at the 10:30 service, why don’t you come at the 9? So we don’t have to see each other. And they usually say, “okay.” [INTIMIDATION] And actually, *chuckles my post was—if you read it—about how women should...
MG: be separating and divorcing form their husbands. So I don’t know who’s telling you I say that they can’t divorce from their husbands. Oh my gosh! [DEFLECTION/MANIPULATION]
Breakdown: >Gungor repeatedly deflects, and intimidates Lexi here. He clearly blames the underage victims rather than the adult man who was reported for sexually assaulting them. >He also indicates that the church took no action to ensure that Celebration Church was a safe place for vulnerable minors. >According to Gungor, the right of the alleged perpetrator to attend church is more important than the protection of minor victims of sexual assault.
***** L: No, I know that you threatened somebody by offering to pay if they got separated and leaving them in the dust if they got divorced.
MG: Offered to pay them?
L: Yeah. Offered to pay all of their payments if they got separated instead of getting divorced.
MG: Oh yeah! No, I was in favor of that. Just… because I believe people should be confronted. It’s like, if you were married to this jackass whoever his name, I can’t remember his name— [DEFLECTION]
L: His name is Isaac Hensley, and he still attends your church.
MG: Yeah. So if you were married to him, and he was in Southern Ba— I would say, “You need to divorce him.”
L: No, you’d tell me I needed to get separated. *laughs Like, what?
MG: So, so they’re divorced, and it’s like, “I—I, well, I can’t survive,” and I say “Well, we’ll pay for it. I’ll cover it. I’ll pay for your expenses.” How is that, you know, making someone a victim? [MANIPULATION/CONTROL]
MG: I mean, that’s—I’m literally willing to pay to cover their expenses so they’re not being taken advantage of by some man. [CONTROL]
L: because that—the situation that I just explained to you—uh, this woman wanted to get divorced. She didn’t want to get separated from her abusive husband. And you offered to pay for it only if she got separated, but not if she got divorced. If she got divorced, you would give her nothing. [COERCION]
MG: Well I—I don’t know. It’s—it’s like your story; [DEFLECTION]
MG: you're saying that I attacked the uh, victim. I didn’t attack the victim, but that’s your side of their story. [DEFLECTION] I don’t know who you’re talking about and I would have to remember so I could have a, uh, so I could respond. I uh, *exhales you know, someone said “Eight years ago you punched him in the face”. Eight years ago, well, what do you say? How do you respond to that? [INTIMIDATION]
L: It’s a lot like when you confront someone about sexually assaulting you and you say, “No, I didn’t”.
MG: Why, what?
L: *laughs I just, am really disappointed in the way you have decided to treat like, women at your church, especially like, how you’ve treated criticism about your post. Like, you understand that you can be wrong sometimes, right?
MG: Oh, and I don’t have a problem. [DEFLECTION/ENTITLEMENT]You’ll find posts on there that said wrong, uh, people call me out wrong, and I let it stand. But what I don’t stand is when people come and say, “You’re full of shit you shouldn’t be doing…” I delete you. [ENTITLEMENT/COERCION] Or, “You’re claiming to be a pastor, but you’re not spiri—you don’t even understand the Bible”. You know… I delete you! [ENTITLEMENT/COERCION] If you come on and say, “Pastor Mark said, uh, you know, he thought that I was victim sh— uh, blamed for stuff, I wouldn’t delete you! I wouldn’t block you. I would let you share your side of the story.
L: I did, no, I did, but you victim-blamed me and blocked me. You didn’t try to defend yourself. *laughs
MG: Oh, when was this? [DEFLECTION]
L: The other day.
MG: Oh, well, I must admit and I will confess freely to you, that I was being inundated by people who were attacking me and when they were attacking me, [MANIPULATION/ENTITLEMENT] and when they, you know, I probably inadvertently deleted some people who weren’t attacking me at all. They were just wanting—so, I probably have dele— you know, I have almost 300,000 people who follow me.
L: That was a weird flex.
MG: and sometimes it just gets overwhelming. So if sometimes I inadvertently delete someone, if so I apologize. But, uh, eh, what exactly did you say? [ENTITLEMENT/]
L: Uh, I only have a screenshot of one of my posts, um let me go find it. I think I have it somewhere. Umm…. whoa. Okay, um, on your post specifically about abuse I said “this is rich coming from you lmao” and “I approached you as a minor about my abuse, you said, “what were you thinking?” You gave me a book about marriage and allowed my abuser, along with other pedophiles to attend your church. So do you stand with victims, or abusers?”
MG: Honestly, I don’t—as God is my witness, [DEFLECTION] I know I… you—I have to stand before God someday, I don’t remember that at all. I just felt that I was blanket-deleting a whole bunch of people who were saying I was a horrible person. [CONTROL] In a way that’s kinda saying uh, you’re basically saying to the world, “Gungor, you protect abusers.”
L: Well, is that true, or not true?
MG: It’s not true! I don’t protect abusers! I do not! If you put it in that context, I didn’t—I mean, yeah, I’ll delete that. [DEFLECTION/MANIPULATION/INTIMIDATION]
L: *snorts Because it’s not true? Why is it not true?
MG: Because I don’t protect abusers.
L: Do they go to your church?
MG: I don’t know… if they… how is that protecting abusers, letting them come to my church? Do you think I can legally just hold people and keep them out of my doors? We took, we took Mr. Holly, we had nothing to do with him, he lost his job with us, uh… we called him out, we called the police, what more do you want us to do? And then we turn on some…
L: Well, why do you keep—even in like 2019 you had an intern that got busted for having a bunch of child porn on his laptop…
MG: I know, and he’s in jail!
L: Yeah, and he’s in jail, but you said in your statement that he was never around kids, which I don’t think is true. I think you were just trying to cover your butt.
MG: No, well see, that’s why people come on my comments they get deleted. [DODGES THE QUESTION] I don’t have time to explain to everyone… [ENTITLEMENT] I would spend all day, Lexus-Alexia—
L: My name is Lexi, not Alexia. MG: Lexi, and don’t say “geez, you don’t even know my name” I’ve got 4,000 people in my church, and you know, we haven’t talked for I don’t know how many years? [ENTITLEMENT]
So anyway, he wasn’t in charge of any children and he was never allowed to be alone with any children.
L: Because you knew he was a pedophile?
MG: I’m sorry? [DEFLECTION]
L: Why would you, like, know that? Why would he not be allowed to be alone with any kids, unless you knew he was a pedophile?
MG: What? Because… No, no one’s allowed to be alone with any kids. Nobody! [DEFLECTION] That’s the standard procedure! He was not allowed, no one—and I think, and I said at the time—no one is allowed. But that’s why we do background checks and all that, but if they haven’t been discovered at the time, nobody knows; but that’s why we don’t allow anyone, Lexi, to be alone with the— if volunteer with our children, you couldn’t be alone with any…
L: I did volunteer with your children and I know there have been times when myself, or somebody I know, has been alone with kids. It’s just going to happen.
MG: I mean, it’s just, you know, you’re not supposed to steal, well I know sometimes people steal. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we allow stealing! The policy is, you’re not to ever to be alone with these children. That’s the policy and we follow it. [DEFLECTION FROM TOPIC/RETRACTS PRIOR ASSERTION]
Say "well, I got around it.” You know, Parker’s his name, he could have gotten around those children, I have no idea. But our policy is, we don’t allow people to be alone with children. So I mean, and there’s a—there’s a great example! So, there’s this guy comes to our church, he turns out to be into child porn; how are we supposed to know that? We have no idea! And all of the sudden it comes out, and he’s been volunteering in different places—how are we supposed to know that? We don’t know that! [DEFLECTION/MANIPULATION/ISOLATION]
And people say, well did he rape my kid? Well no, he’s not allowed to be around them—no one is allowed to be around children by themselves. There’s always the system—and my guess is if he was around somebody, he wasn’t around them for long. I mean, you know, we check them in and out, we got numbers—but then to say, gee, we support pedophiles, it’s a farce! We do not protect pedophiles! We don’t condone pedophiles. [DEFLECTION]
MG: And again, if I came on and you said, Mark, you support protecting abusers! Well yeah, I’ll block you, as with all the hundreds of people attacking me, it gets deleted. [ENTITLEMENT/CONTROL/INTIMIDATION]
L: Is it attacking, or is it like, a criticism?
MG: Well, I don’t know, when people are calling you “evil”, and insulting, and saying… yeah. Those are called attacks. [DEFLECTION] Disagreements, you know, “I don’t agree with you, I think such and such…” Oh, fine. You can go right now on my Facebook and find all kinds of comments that are disagreeing? How come they aren’t deleted? How come they aren’t blocked? Because they don’t do that. [MANIPULATION] If someone comes in, “You claim to be a man of God and you’re a horrible person, you’re abusing women” *huffs That, my dear, is not disagreement. That’s an attack! That’s—and why would they say that? Well, because you think the woman should have sex with her husband…
L: What? I think it’s holding you accountable for the things that you’ve been saying and the actions that you’ve made in the past to victims of abuse.
MG: No, that’s not holding account—that’s attacking. Holding you accountable is saying this is what I think and you think otherwise. But to—[DEFLECTION]
L: What? *gaffaws What? Wait, can you explain what you think holding people accountable is, one more time?
MG: Calling them out, challenging them. But not insulting them! [MANIPULATION]
L: I did; I called you out.
L: I did; I called you out.
MG: That’s not—no, you basically accused me of protecting abusers. [DEFLECTION]
L: Calling you out.
MG: That’s not calling—that’s accusation. That’s insulting! [INTIMIDATION]
MG: If you think that’s calling out, you don’t understand what calling out is. Here’s what calling out is; you go to the right channels. You go to my elders, you go to the pastors over me, you, uh... [ENTITLEMENT]
L: There are no pastors over you. You’re the lead pastor in your church, and you’re the president of the board.
MG: But that—I do have that, pastors over me. [DEFLECTION]
L: Where’s—drop their info. *laughs
MG: I-I do have pastors over me. I’m part of a—a diocese, with the bishop, other—and I’ve told people for years, the people that I respond to, uh, are ah, pastors, one who is a, is a bishop in Africa, one who is Tim Kimmel, who’s ah, a pastor in, uh, Scottsdale, AZ, uh, Jimmy Branchard I don’t know if you know who he is, he’s a minister—
L: I do. Did they all see what you post on social media?
MG: I’m sorry?
L: Do they see what you post on social media?
MG: Oh, yeah!
L: Because it’s incredibly unprofessional and embarrassing.
MG: Well to you. [ISOLATION/DEFLECTION]
MG: I was on the phone with, you know who Shaunti Feldman is? (her name is actually Feldhan, not Feldman)
L: Are you tryna like, impress me, or are you trying to give me context?
MG: No, no. I’m giving you—these, these are the guys who are some of the major speakers in the world. Kevin Leman, you heard of him? [MANIPULATION/DEFLECTION/ENTITLEMENT]
MG: So, I’m talking to these guys, yesterday. We’re in a— we all, you know—I was talking to some of the major speakers yesterday. They all saw this thing. They are talking about coming out with a public letter to condemn the statement. [ISOLATION/INTIMIDATION]
L: Oh, so it’s a bunch of men ganging up on a woman.
MG: Shaunti Feldman is a woman.
L: Oh, that’s right, Shaunti. Never mind.
MG: Yeah. And she, I actually posted her letter, outing uh, this lady. Did you read that letter?
L: I read some of it.
MG: Well, there, there you go. She’s a woman who’s been talking about how this woman has been attacking her and insulting her and I can’t remember, her daughter or something like that, it’s a woman responding to another woman. [INTIMIDATION/ISOLATION] So these are the people. You asked, “do these people see?” Yes! And we’ve been talking! And we’re all shocked by this lady.
But then you’ve got this bunch of people who are very mean-spirited. They don’t… what you call, “calling out”, they attack. They say, “you’re for rape-raping women”! I mean, that’s not calling someone out! That’s insulting! I mean, “you think men can beat women”. No! You get deleted! “You’re for protecting abuse” No! I pft ah… That’s not calling out, dear, that’s insulting people! And if you’re going to insult, yeah, you’re gonna get deleted! I don’t have time for that right now. [DEFLECTION/ENTITLEMENT/INTIMIDATION]
L: But you say, you say yourself that, um, getting offended is like, so lame; but here you are, getting offended.
MG: I’m not getting offended. I’m not walking around crying… [DEFLECTION/MANIPULATION]
L: So you can’t—No, no, no, so you can’t preach that offending people is like, all the rage, and that’s all you’re here to do, and then get mad when you get offended. I mean, it just seems like, uh,
MG: I didn’t get offended. *laughs [DEFLECTION]
L: You did. You say I’ve attacked you, you’ve been attacked, “I’ve been attacked” people are like, coming for you…
MG: Yes, but I’m not offended! I don’t—when I talk about offend, I’m talking about people who get their feelings hurt, and... [DEFLECTION]
L: No, because you said that was like, “insulting”.
MG: I’m sorry?
L: Is being insulted not the same as like, being upset?
MG: yeah, I guess, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Well, you said, offended... [DEFLECTION]
L: No? Cuz you just said, like, these comments have been insulting you, so what is it?
MG: I have been. I’m trying to explain to you, dear, the context— [MANIPULATION/ISOLATION/INTIMIDATION]
L: *mocking dear—
MG: *sighs You’re just being so mean, again! [DEFLECTION]
MG: I mean, I— what do you want me to do? [ENTITLEMENT/WHINING] You’re talking to me, you’re laughing at me, every time I try to make a comment you just mock me… if-if you were doing this on social media I would block you. I-I-I-I don’t know what you think I should do? You think I should just—[INTIMIDATION]
L: I think you should apologize—
MG: let you just yell at me and mock me and stuff? Set a better example. [ENTITLEMENT]
L: and I think you should take some accountability for your actions.
MG: Well, what does that mean? I should be put in jail?
L: You should be transparent about um, your forthcomings [shortcomings] as a pastor. I think you should be—
MG: Forthcomings, what does that mean? [DEFLECTION]
L: No, I—
MG: What does that mean? What should I do? What should I do? [MANIPULATION]
L: I think you should post, publicly, about how you have reflected on what people have said, and I encourage you to think critically about why people are upset about what you have been saying. And just like, getting defensive is only gonna make you look worse. The things you were posting on Twitter were embarrassing, Mark. As a leader of a church, to see somebody posting that, that’s extremely unprofessional.
MG: Uh huh. But see… Okay, fine. It’s unprofessional, and you think it’s insulting. [DEFLECTION] You know, it’s who I am. [ENTITLEMENT] This is the way I talk to people. I’m not one of these ooey, gooey guys who just sits there and holds everybody’s hands. I don’t. If you say insulting things to me, I’m gonna push back. [INTIMIDATION/COERCION] And if you think I, as a, I mean I-I…
L: Well, didn’t Jesus say, “turn the other cheek”?
MG: You know, uh, *clears throat I don’t think my life should be cancelled, Lexi. [ENTITLEMENT] I don’t think I should stop pastoring my church, because you don’t like the way I respond to people. I don’t think that’s what these people, that’s what they want me to do.
L: Honestly, yeah, that is what I want.
MG: I don’t think they’re saying “You shouldn’t go speak anymore. You shouldn’t go publicly speak anymore."
L: I don’t think so. I think some of the things that you have to say are really harmful, and I think you really need to think about how they’re harmful to people, and reflect on that.
MG: Well, I have literally hundreds of thousands of people who would say the exact opposite.[ENTITLEMENT/ISOLATION]
L: And that’s what scares me. It scares me that you have influence over these people and that you’re brainwashing them into thinking that your way is correct.
MG: They, they aren’t brainwashing, they say, “You’ve saved my marriage. You’ve saved my life.” I have the number one program in the US military. They’ve been using my stuff for over ten years. [ENTITLEMENT/INTIMIDATION] Uh, these are not— these are people who keep having me back, because whenever you speak for the military, they survey everybody who was there… and I get the highest marks of any professional speaker in the world. [ENTITLEMENT/MANIPULATION]
L: I don’t know if that’s the flex you think it is because it is, like, the military.
MG: Well, but you can’t just slam all the military well, it’s because it’s the military, they don’t have—my point is, I have helped millions of peoples lives. Millions, Lexi. [ENTITLEMENT/MANIPULATION/ISOLATION]
L: Yeah *mockingly yeah.
MG: There's hundreds of thousands of ...
L: Yeah, but do you think about the people that you’ve hurt?
MG: *sigh Yeah, but I don’t get obsessed by it; I don’t focus on my failures so much. [ENTITLEMENT/DEFLECTION]
MG: So let-let- No, I just don’t! I-I have I made, sure, of course I made—have I said things I shouldn’t have said from a pulpit? Yeah. What’re you gonna do about it? I apologize and move on.[ENTITLEMENT/MANIPULATION]
L: Yeah, but how are you supposed to get better if you don’t like, think about your shortcomings and how you could potentially improve?
MG: Well I do think about my shumhumagum… I just don’t do it the way you think I should. I think you should do your life and I’ll do mine. Why are you mad about the way I do my life? You say because I’m damaging people, then those people should get away from me.
You just— you think everybody in Green Bay goes to my church? They do not. I have like, 3-4,000. But there’s lots of churches, and there’s lots of people who don’t go to my church. There are people from other churches who would never come to my church. They don’t like me. They think I’m horrible. Okay, sorry you feel that way, but you know, I don’t hate them. I’m not against them.
But then other people would say, “I came to Jesus because of you”. “I was an alcoholic and now I’m—I’m free of alcoholism because of you.” “M-my marriage was on the verge of divorce and I listened to you and you saved my marriage.” I’ve got hundreds of thousands of those stories. [ENTITLEMENT/INTIMIDATION]
The fact that I’d have… five hundred… who think I’ve destroyed their lives, you know. It’s a—you go to any professional pastor, man there’s—name one—and they all have people who’ve accused them of doing horrible things. That they, “I dunno why anyone listens to that pastor, because he’s just did this—you know, uh—Joel, “Joel Olsteen, he’s the antichrist.” Really? “You know, because he said this...” It’s Joel. It’s Joel Olsteen!
L: That doesn’t justify uh, what you’ve done to me, and what you’ve done to other women. Just because other pastors are, like, shitty, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try like, not to be shitty.
MG: Well I’m trying every day not to be shitty. So pray for me. Pray that I can do better, is all I can say.
L: No. After I left your church, I stopped believing in God.
MG: Okay, well then… Why?I don’t hate you. I’m not gonna chase you down. I’m not gonna chase you down and…
L: I don’t hate you, but I think you should be held accountable for things that you’ve done to people and I think you should be—you shouldn’t be in this like, mindset of, “its my way, or the highway”.
MG: *chuckles Well, what is it supposed to be?[ENTITLEMENT/INTIMIDATION] I mean I speak in front of hundreds of thousands of people.[ISOLATION] You can’t make them all happy. If I shut down because I did a conference—I do conferences all the time—I have a crowd of, a crowd of…
L: The amount of arrogance in this phone call is astounding.
MG: Well, I’m just saying, I’m trying to explain. I’m not trying to be ar—look at all the arrogant—why would I be talking to you? [ENTITLEMENT/ISOLATION/INTIMIDATION]
L: You’re, I think you’re arrogant and you’re talking to me because you want me to believe that you’re a good person.
MG: Okay, well, if you’ve already made up your mind, I guess, I’m sorry you feel that way. I guess that’s who you are. [MANIPULATION]
L: That’s not an apology.
MG: But I appreciate you calling and… [DEFLECTION/CONTROL]
MG: Let us embrace grace. Let us embrace forgiveness. Let us embrace kindness. Keep short accounts with people. Forgive people. Don’t get bitter and nasty. Stay connected with believers. That’s why, why you wanna come to church. [SETTING THE GROUND FOR HIS STORY]
[He comments for a minute or two about how many thousands of people attend his church.]
Watch your heart. Guard your heart. We’re about to take communion, and the first thing that Paul talks about in communion, check your heart.
Examine yourself before you take communion. Why? Because we need to take this stuff serious. We all struggle. Everybody struggles. I struggle. Everybody has a hard time. [SIN-LEVELING] And learn grace. Learn forgiveness.
My day started out yesterday, some lady calls me and she’s just chewing me out for something I said to her 8 years ago [Note: It was only 4 ½ years since Lexi reported assault as a minor]. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast. If I said something bad, then I’m sorry. But that’s not enough! [DEFLECTION/ENTITLEMENT]
Essentially: “I'm a bad human, but don't make it such a big deal.”
What do you want me to do? You need to stop pastoring! You need to quit speaking at churches about relationships! Because that’s that cancel culture. [DEFLECTION] Once you sin there is no forgiveness…
I’m convinced some of these people if they could literally kill you, they would. [INTIMIDATION/EXAGGERATION] But at least if they could just destroy your life so you don’t have a life, that’s what they go for...
This cancel culture has its roots in sin and unforgiveness and bitterness. [DEFLECTION/CONTROL]
If somebody called you a poopyhead, let it go. [MANIPULATION]
Jesus died on the cross and he said, “Father, forgive them.” Did any of them say they’re sorry? No! Now, should you say you’re sorry? Well, yeah. But that should be the end of it. [DEFLECTION/ENTITLEMENT]
Anyway, let’s take communion.
And let’s start out by doing what Paul said, which is to examine ourselves.
#GungorGate: Missing the Mark
The Greek word for sin is commonly translated "to miss the mark", "to wander from the path of upright and honor", "to violate God's law".
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:26-27
In his sermon, Gungor egregiously misrepresents the nature, intent, and content of his conversation with Lexi, making her out to be a bitter, unforgiving, shallow person just out to "cancel" his important ministry for no valid reason at all. This implies that Mark and his ministry are indispensable and above accountability.
Gungor misses the mark in a number of ways:
He ignores the fact that Lexi and another minor victim were reporting a crime.
He justifies and deflects responsibility related to a second case of a child molester having access to children at Celebration Church.
He refuses to acknowledge the church's role in protecting domestic violence/abuse victims by taking action to remove their abusers from public fellowship.
He appears to advocate for women separating from abusive spouses (to the point that he has offered to pay for their expenses) as long as they won't file for divorce.
He claims that his response of deleting and blocking thousands of people who disagreed with him was not the same as being "offended", and then goes on to preach about the importance of forgiving and forgetting.
He suggests in his communion sermon that people (implying himself) do not need to apologize for offending others, and if they do say "sorry" then everyone should just move on and say nothing more about it. This indicates a denial of expecting the fruit of repentance, and demanding automatic restoration and trust.
Interestingly, Gungor's incredible sense of entitlement appears to exempt him from being held to the same standards, on social media/in direct conversation with a sexual assault victim/and in his public preaching, as he promotes for everyone else.
What's more, Gungor exposes the existence of behind-closed-doors conniving between himself and other popular authors + marriage speakers (Eggerichs, Feldhan, Leman) whose materials have been exposed as incredibly harmful by the scientific data published in The Great Sex Rescue.
Clearly, rather than examine the data and humbly respond with a willingness to assess their material in the light of scientific research -- these authors would rather conspire in secret to maintain power and control over the Christian marriage market.
While Gungor's platform and celebrity status may intensify the elements of arrogance, entitlement, control, and coercion he employs -- his callous, entitled manner of interacting with dissenters and survivors is eerily identical to the patterns of behavior employed by clergy across all denominations and in churches from large to small.
Gungor's treatment of Lexi, as well his online interactions with Sheila Gregoire, are hauntingly similar to the experiences of countless women and survivors of abuse in the faith community. Those who have sought spiritual support after abuse, or who have expressed disagreement with the entitled opinions of those who hold power, are routinely treated with disdain, degradation, and dehumanizing response tactics which are called double abuse. Pastors... what you permit, you promote.
So we are left asking the question... will Gungor (as well as Eggerichs, Leman, and Feldhan) allow this disturbing public glimpse into their private behaviors to encourage them toward humility, teachability, and more biblical teaching?
Or will they take this as an opportunity to cover up, malign, and retaliate against those who have exposed their real character?
Has Mark Gungor actually just canceled himself?
Only time will tell.
***** If you are a survivor who has experienced similar response from clergy, you are not alone. WILD's online private groups provide peer and professional support. Choose which support group best fits your needs HERE. *****
Is your church as safe as you think it is?
If someone was abusing a child close to you, could you tell?
Don't victims often make up accusations to get attention?
God tells us to forgive and forget, but does that include letting a sex offender attend church with children present?
How can faith communities effectively protect our most vulnerable members?
Faith communities are soft targets for abuse of many kinds. Myths on forgiveness, repentance, and reporting allow predators and abusers to manipulate and deceive.