Gouging out the Eye: What James Knight, and Scripture, Teach Me

Making it’s way through the news is a story about James Knight, a dentist who fired his dental hygienist, Melissa Nelson, because she became for him an “irresistible attraction.”   My initial introduction to this story came through a blog by author Dan Brennan where he offers “some Christian thoughts” about the firing.

It’s a good article, and one that had me convinced he was right.

At least for a moment.

But upon further reflection I am struggling to see what exactly is  “Christian” about the article, or more precisely, about the reaction of many within the Church who appear just as shocked, outraged and befuddled by the actions of James Knight as the secular media.

Brennan, in his post, offers a stirring invitation to Christians to embrace an “ethic of delight” towards our neighbor, one that “would give both men and women grace and deep meaning to the sexual energy and beauty men experience in the presence of another woman as not something inherently lustful.”

Brennan appears to be advocating, without knowing the desires of Knight’s heart (or anyone else’s), that he (and all of us) should take delight in the “sexual energy” that exists between he and another beautiful woman with whom he spends a great amount of time with.

The problem with this is that it goes against everything Scripture would have to say on the matter.

Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman with even the intent of lust, he has committed adultery (Matt. 5:28).   How seriously should a person take this?  Well, far from “delighting in the sexual energy” that exists between the sexes, Jesus says,

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Matt. 5:29).

In other words, do not play with fire.  Jesus is radical when it comes to dealing with sin in the lives of his would-be-followers.    Lust is not something to toy with.   And yet, what passes for much of “Christian thinking” these days would have us believe that our fallen condition isn’t really that bad, that there really isn’t any spiritual battle for our souls being waged, that sin isn’t something God hates or that holiness is no longer mandated.

As such, “Christian thinking” is no longer scriptural thinking, as even a few examples reveals…

  • Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41)
  • Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18)
  • Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)
  • For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3)
  • “You shall be holy, for I am holy”  (1 Peter. 1:16)
  • Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

And if the conquest narratives of the Old Testament teach us anything, at the very least it must be the seriousness with which God takes sin and the extreme measures necessary to extricate it from our lives.

Instead of being crucified by fellow Christians for taking the stand he did, James Knight ought to be applauded for choosing to glorify God in his body, heart and mind – for that is the first commandment.    The second, to love one’s neighbor  – the one we tend to focus on while neglecting the first – is meaningless in God’s eyes if we are not first honoring him.    These should not be mutually exclusive.   Knight ought to honor his duty before God (and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the measures he has taken were necessary to resist what was for him a dangerous temptation) and honor his duty to his neighbor, Mrs. Nelson, by being sure she is well taken care of through this transition.

Mr. Brennan tries to paint Christians like James Knight as the bad guys.  They are sending a message to the world that says sexual temptation cannot be resisted.     As a former sex-addict, I know this to be false.   It can be resisted.   But for some of us it requires radical measures.  Even Jesus thought so (gouge out your eye).

I wonder if this same “ethic of delight” would be applied to those who struggle with other idols?     Would Mr. Brennan advise the alcoholic to develop a healthy “ethic of delight” with alcohol?     Do recovering alcoholics who keep all forms of alcohol out of their homes, who never enter a bar and who navigate new routes to work to avoid familiar hang-outs send a message to the world that attraction to alcohol cannot be resisted?

Or do we applaud such people, even revere them, for their integrity and resoluteness to starve out their devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour?

Perhaps it is easier to ridicule James Knight and his striving for holiness and marital fidelity than to face the hard truth that we care more about pleasing our neighbors than God.    When our Christian thinking leads us to the same conclusions as the secular world or when our standards of holiness are simply reflections of political correctness than it is safe to say we have lost our moorings along with all sight of a holy God who hated sin enough to die that we might not.

It is understandable that the secular, unbelieving world finds the actions of James Knight peculiar, even outrageous.    Going to such drastic measures for the sake of honoring God and a marriage vow will naturally get the attention of the world.     There is something wrong, however, when the same story is equally peculiar and outrageous among Christians of today.   Watchman Nee was correct to observe,

By the time the average Christian gets his temperature up to normal, everybody thinks he has a fever.

James Knight, your fever is showing.  Thank you for reminding me of Jesus’ command to be vigilant, to always be on guard, to stay awake (Mark 13:35-37).

What about you?   Is your fever for God obvious to others?  A redeeming quality of this news story could be that God, in his mercy, is calling you – calling us – to something deeper.     Scripture exhorts us to give no foothold to the enemy, to be radical when it comes to dealing with temptations that seek to steal our hearts away from God.     Christians spend a lot of time talking about picking up their cross or dying to self or taking the narrow road.   James Knight, it appears, is walking the talk.

What “eyes” do you need to cut out from your life today so that you can bring glory to God tomorrow?


33 thoughts on “Gouging out the Eye: What James Knight, and Scripture, Teach Me”

  1. Well said, Chad. The part of the verse in Corinthians “you are bought with a price,” does indeed come with a price on our part as well – we belong to Jesus and we do not belong to our own selves to do as we please! Also, taking a firm stand on what we know to be true takes courage in the face of ridicule, but personally, I’d rather hear the Lord say to me, “well done good and faithful servant” than to hear the momentary and fickle praise of man, which is soon forgotten anyway.

  2. I also quietly applauded Mr. Knight when I heard this news story. Having recently studied and personally experienced the necessity of gouging out one’s own eye to avoid sin, I agree with his decision. Unfortunately the world has no understanding of this and most of the church doesn’t either. I fear that most “Christians” are really not true Christians at all. Most churches and their individual members seem to have no distinction from the world. Jesus said the path was narrow and FEW find it, but that the path to destruction was wide and many follow it. Whatever the case, bravo to Mr. Knight for having some backbone and standing in the face of ridicule and scorn to do what was right even though it reveals an embarrassing personal situation for him.

    1. BTW: Thanks for the reminder to always be cautious of what we take in and to be serious about ridding our lives of things that can make us fall. It is very easy to become complacent.

  3. Chad
    From the accounts that I have read I really don’t think that Dr Knight was the stand up guy that you are making him out to be:
    1) He only owned up to his problem after his wife saw the texts that he sent to Mrs. Nelson. His texts were sexual in nature, her texts were about their families.
    2) He and his wife consulted a Senior Pastor who agreed that she should be fired. Attending the meeting to fire her were Dr Knight, his wife and the Pastor. Nothing like a little intimidation. Seems to be he got all of the support and she got nothing.
    3) After 10 years of service Mrs. Nelson received 1 month of severance. That is hardly “honoring his duty to his neighbor”. He could have talked to some of his dentist friends and tried to get her a position with one of them. Instead he treated her like she was the problem. Reminder: Knight was the one sending her sexually suggestive texts. He was the one making remarks about her. He was also a good deal older than her and could have been her father.
    4) Unlike you, Knight did not go in for treatment. He continues in his practice while Nelson wound up working as a waitress. Seems to me that she took the punishment for his sin.

    Knight did not take full responsibility for his actions. He let his dental assistant out to dry. There is an article in the Guardian that has more detail than most of the US outlets. It might be worth a read for you.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for taking time to read and for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate you providing some more background to the story.
      Based on the facts you cite, I agree with you: Knight is not the stand up guy I made him out to be. You put your finger, I think, the reason I have been somewhat uncomfortable with this post since publishing it.
      My intent here was to highlight the casualness with which most of us Christians today handle sin and how radical actions to resist temptation (like Knight’s) are often met with scorn and contempt (both within and without the Church) rather than amens. For me, Knight’s story reminds me to be vigilant and ruthless with sin as opposed to the so-called Christian advice to have an “ethic of delight” in the sexual energy that exists between the sexes (as Brennan advocates). Perhaps my writing was not good enough to convey that very well.

      It would be refreshing to me if what I saw was a universal “amen” to Knight’s desire to honor the 1st commandment, along with his vow to his wife, along with a universal response from the Church to help Knight wisely and honorably care for his neighbor in the fall-out. I wasn’t there, so I’m not sure of the haste with which this was done, and perhaps in hindsight he (Knight) and his pastor are reconsidering how they could better care for Mrs. Nelson (I pray that is the case, at least). Knight indeed seems peculiar to the world for firing an attractive worker in order to honor God (and I still commend him for that). He should look equally peculiar, I think, in how he goes about caring for his fired employee.

      1. Hi Chad
        I understand your fear in the casualness that we, as Christians, can handle sin. One thing that is that we must become responsible for what we do. Something, which unfortunately most Christians don’t do very well.

        What would have been really peculiar (as you put it) is if he admitted to his problem and got her a new job at the same time. Wouldn’t the discussion with the Pastor and wife gone a lot easier?

        The problem that Knight has wasn’t an issue between him and her. The texts that he sent her (he admitted to) bordered on obscene. He asked about her sex life, commented in a sexual manner on her dress. This is not normal lust. What I am trying to say is that the problem is a good deal deeper than Mrs. Nelson. Getting rid of her is the rough equivalent to putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Looks nice, doesn’t fix the problem. I suspect that the firing was a cover for the wife. “There, dear, problem solved. That temptress is gone. All is fine.” Yes, I’m being rough on Knight. It’s not because I don’t sympathize with him on some level. It’s that he dumped all of his problems onto a woman who really didn’t deserve it.

  4. Chad .. Thanks for writing here.

    I, for one, believe if Knight and his wife and pastor were really looking hard at the passage of Scripture you have pointed to, then castration would have been his choice. This seems to me to be the “offending part” … Certainly, Nelson was not the offensive part.

    I also believe that his dentist and his wife should be in serious counseling (not some pastor who has had a psych class in their undergrad years!) with someone with sexual and jealousy issue experience.

    This woman has been the subject of much derision since this hit the news. It seems to me that her only crime was being attractive and believing that this man was respectable.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ron. I’m not sure castration is the answer. Knight’s problem (as with all of us) is one of the heart. Scripture is full of exhortations to flee temptation. The OT alone is far more ruthless than Knight was. With Jesus we have an injunction to be sure to honor God first and foremost – and for some one in Knight’s circumstances, removing the object of his lust was his only recourse – and also also to honor our neighbor. As I’ve said now on a few occasions, Knight should be as peculiar in his over-whelming care for Nelson and her family in her transition has he has been in his decision to fire her.

      I’m not sure I understand the derision aimed at Nelson. I hope I have not had a tone that suggests anything of fault on her part. If I have, than that is certainly not intended. On my FB page I left this comment to a friend who raised similar concerns:

      Perhaps you’ve never had a struggle with personal sin that nearly ruined your family and can’t really relate to what I imagine the Knight family was having to deal with. I know all too well the kind of pain lust can bring into a marriage and experienced a number of ultimatums – justly made. Perhaps this is why this story intrigues me so much, and my sadness over the response of many Christians over it. It’s obvious we do not take sin very seriously, and among those who do, we don’t know how to navigate well the difficult wakes our sin creates. And those who comment on such tragic stories rarely have more to offer than judgment.

      It sounds like that “judgment” is coming from all corners – aimed at both Knight and Nelson. I’m not sure any of it is warranted.

  5. I understand what you’re saying, and sense and honest and genuine desire to express what you see as the best “right” thing that could have been done in a bad situation. But as a woman, (as a human being, even) I cringe at this reasoning:

    “Do recovering alcoholics who keep all forms of alcohol out of their homes, who never enter a bar and who navigate new routes to work to avoid familiar hang-outs send a message to the world that attraction to alcohol cannot be resisted?”

    And here’s why: A bottle of vodka is an object, an inanimate object that can’t think or feel or suffer. Comparing a human being to an object has a word.

    It’s called objectification.

    So Ms. Nelsons body is like a bottle of vodka, and when he looks at her, that’s what he sees. Not only that, he has an alcohol problem. Naturally, with that reasoning, the best thing we can do to help Dr. Knight, who can’t control himself around alcohol, is to dump the vodka down the drain, and throw the bottle away.

    The problem, of course, is that we’re not talking about an object, we’re talking about a person that can think, feel, and suffer. It’s a pretty huge burden to be treated as the object presenting a problem, in which your very existence is an issue. That’s a lot to carry, it’s pretty darned oppressive.

    At the very least, we have to see it for what it is on the part of Dr Knight – a pretty good show of cowardice, (and an extreme lack of servant leadership) in the face of what are essentially his own issues. Ms. Nelson became the scapegoat, her job essentially “sacrificed” for his sins – and the church tied her on the alter of unemployment. So perhaps he truly did what he thought he had to in order for the “right” outcome, but I’m not sure he took the high road, he just took the easiest one.

    It doesn’t look like he’s dealing with sin at all to me – it looks like he’s scapegoating it, (with the church’s blessing). And scapegoating can never lead to real change. It just doesn’t work that way. As a woman, I’d trust that man about as far as I could throw him until he owned up.

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment.

      You say,

      It’s a pretty huge burden to be treated as the object presenting a problem, in which your very existence is an issue. That’s a lot to carry, it’s pretty darned oppressive.

      I realize there are some who are trying to paint the story this way (I sense Brennan doing this in his post) but it’s not how I see it at all. Melissa Nelson is not the problem, nor her existence, nor her attractiveness. Any “story” that tries to spin it as such is oppressive – and wrong.

      The problem is Knight’s heart. As a former sex addict myself, I am sure I played the blame game. And I know all too well the number of lives (real human’s) hurt because of my selfish actions (a divorce in my first marriage to name just one of many in the line of pain the sin of lust causes). Our heart’s are deceitfully wicked – who can know them? Pretending we are all OK, and can just “delight in the sexual energy” between the sexes (as Brennan proposes) greatly underestimates our fleshly desires, which left unchecked will bring us (and those around us) death.

      Knight’s story shines a spotlight on the tragedy of sin – lust in particular. While Nelson is rightly pitied, and does come out as a victim of Knight’s sin (something that could be alleviated a good deal if Knight did as I suggest and go overboard in his care of her after firing her) what about the other woman, Knight’s wife? I can imagine her pain as well, knowing her husband was attracted to his employee and being wrecked with worry. I can imagine her giving him an ultimatum after finding text messages of a sexual nature from her husband, demanding that he either fire Nelson or find himself divorced.

      What would you have advised Knight to do?

  6. You know, I had a response, but something happened to it, and I’m not sure I’m going to get it all out there again. I feel so ambivalent in these conversations anymore, because they go round in circles, and I never feel heard nor understood.

    But – just to respond to one thing. We can say Melissa isn’t the problem all we want. We can even mean it with all of our hearts, with all of our intentions. But, for all practical purposes, Melissa, (and many, many women before and after her) was treated as if her existence was the problem. That’s the practical, lived-out, bottom line. We owe her, (and the others in the same boat) enough respect to admit that despite intentions, yes, they were treated as if they were the problem in the situation.

    The aligning issue with this, is that despite all the words we can come up with to the contrary, as long as we “treat” this kind of “problem” by eliminating the object of attraction, we reinforce that it is the woman’s body, her existence, her attractiveness – that is the problem. Round in circles, we go.

    It’s essentially the church-in-action, before and after, that told Dr Knight that it was ok to think, “if you see a bulge in my pants, your shirt is too tight”. That’s a big problem.

  7. Chad,

    I very much appreciate your call for vigilance in the midst of temptation. I would understand that someone like yourself, who acknowledges they are a former sex sex addict would be sensitive to this and understand the internal demands of not objectifying your neighbor. I sincerely applaud you for resisting sexual temptation and for taking the steps you have (I know some of your story).

    Still, I respectfully think underestimate the enormous problem of “irresistible attraction” within the evangelical sub-culture. I’m not the only one who has observed this problem in the evangelical culture. Read chapter 6 in *Singled Out* by Christine Colón and Bonnie Field. I could point you to a number of evangelical authored books where this is a problem. Listen to women. Not just women you agree with.

    Second, we truly differ in what we think patriarchy is about. Women’s agency is assumed to be under the man’s and in this scenario, Knight just assumed Nelson would have sex with him if he started to act out. This is just flat out injustice and sexist.

    Third, I don’t think adequately address another core issue of patriarchal paradigm of blaming the woman for the man’s lust. Jesus never did that. Jesus never says the woman is the problem in Matt 5. or Mark 7. We strongly differ on those 3 points.

    1. Hi Dan, I’m glad you came by and commented. Thanks!

      To be clear, I never said the woman was the problem, nor do I advocate blaming anyone (women, our past, an unhappy marriage, etc) for our sins. Nor will I lay the blame at some perceived monolithic “evangelical sub-culture” as if all these “problems” came about with Billy Graham in the 1960’s. You can trace the blame game all the way back to Genesis 3 and the issue you call “irresistible attraction” to at least Proverbs 5&7. The issue is one of the heart. It always is.

      Here are the facts as I see them being played out. If you know for a fact any of this is false, please teach me. But this is how I see this unfolding. I want to ask how you would respond in the end…

      1. Over the course of 10 years, Nelson became an idol in James Knight’s heart.
      2. Knight began to fantasize about a sexual relationship with his employee.
      3. Knight sent out text messages to test the waters.
      4. Knowing he was wrong in this, he rationalized his sin in his mind by blaming Nelson (how she dresses, etc).
      5. Knight’s wife discovers the texts, confirming her worst fears over the years of watching her husband and Nelson’s relationship.
      6. For Knight’s wife, this is the last straw. She has been putting up with things that only she and Knight knows about for years (I don’t believe for a moment that this is an isolated incident, or the very first time Knight has succumbed to sexual sin. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that he has an addiction to pornography, one of which his wife is aware, nor would it surprise me to learn of infidelities in other ways). Knight’s wife demands that either Nelson goes or their marriage is over.
      7. Knight confesses that Nelson is indeed an idol to him. He has allowed himself to become obsessed with Nelson and wishing to save his marriage, agrees to fire Nelson.

      Dan, I’d like to hear how you would respond when this couple comes to you as their pastor for counsel. How do you 1) practically guide them to an “ethic of delight in the sexual energy that exists” between Knight and Nelson and 2) effectively, and justly, weigh the concerns of a hurting, desperate wife fighting to save her marriage (and who is not backing down from her ultimatum) over the momentary financial hardship and inconvenience of Nelson? (The irony of course is that you, a man, are being asked to decide who’s needs – the wife’s or Nelson’s – are more important, both of whom are women. Is that patriarchy?)

      I’m truly interested to learn how you would handle this messy situation.

  8. Shoot, I see I missed “you” in two sentences. “I respectfully think you underestimate”….and then “I don’t you adequately address another core issue…” Sorry. But we do very much differ on Knight’s responsibility and the pastors who supported his unjust firing.

    1. Chad,

      We’re coming at it from two very different paradigms. In points 1-6, your total focus is on the marriage and how I would respond to two poorly differentiated individuals. My post was a much bigger focus on evangelical sub-culture and the pastors who sexualize relationships between men and women in which this scenario occurred and who advocate ongoing sexism quoting a handful of Bible verses.

      This didn’t happen in a relational or cultural vacuum. It’s a curious thing to me that you are primarily only looking at this through the lens of couple rather than deeply hurt wife and mother who lost her job over sexism/sexualization within their community is interesting. Respectfully, the fact that you are unwilling to see the sexualized culture within Knight’s Christian community puts us in two different paradigms. And, you’re free to embrace something different than me. But the pastors supporting the firing of Nelson is not a story of justice, righteousness, and shalom happening in this community. It’s a continuation of evangelical sexism.

      You are focusing on the pastoral care (and someone has to) on this marital couple. My sights are much bigger–justice, righteousness, and shalom for women-wives and mothers–and their families. Both Knights show symptoms of being two poorly differentiated individuals. He for sexualizing his assistant; she for insecurity and projection of childish jealousy–and both wrongly and unjustly focused on a woman external to their own we-centered marriage–not a good, mature “we” for the sake of others in the community but a narcissistic we centered marriage which cost another wife and mother her job which she loved.

      If the pastors were not that well trained to give the Knights some intense serious counsel that was not only good for the couple but good and just for the community, they should have recommended they seek out a competent, professional therapist who could have helped them.


      1. Dan …

        Your response is very much in keeping with what I feel are the real issues here. Focusing on the real issues is the only way for either the Knights, or Mrs. Nelson or the pastors they consulted to every get beyond the superficial blaming as the Evangelical subculture is so adept at doing with gusto and flourish.

        Had the pastors involved been able to get beyond the “sexual” temptation of the man in the picture, they might have been able to actually see there are serious weaknesses in this man’s relationship with his wife and his current skills at meeting her needs. They also might have been able to see that his wife is exhibiting junior highish jealousy and demanding “her” way or the highway which is really more selfish than anything else.

        Had this been managed in a wholesome fashion, they two Knights would have been advised to get professional counseling to figure out where their weaknesses are born, and how to strengthen their marriage against the next exposure that WILL HAPPEN instead of a hasty ax job on the nearest “pretty woman” of the moment.

        Mr. Knight has already tested the waters with Mrs. Nelson; and she summarily rejected his advances. She could have gone to the law and filed suit against him for sexual harassment and a toxic work environment; and since we have heard nothing at all about this is a live option in her mind, it speaks well of her own resistance to temptation.

        At some point, if the Knights do seek counsel and improve their relationship substantially, I’d like to see them approach Mrs. Nelson with an apology and restitution … at least financially. This should be approached cautiously; however or it could be more harmful than beneficial … like the counsel they’ve already gotten.

        Imagine the testimony that could be!

      2. Dan,
        I agree with you that we are coming at this from two different paradigms. However, I’m failing to see how your paradigm is at all useful. I’m sure that is not what you wish to convey, so let me point out what I am hearing in your comment. Please feel free to correct anything I have misunderstood.

        1. You blame all of this on some monolithic “evangelical sub-culture” which perpetuates sexism, using the Bible as a means to do so. I don’t see sexism being the aim of the people you are complaining about (nor patriarchy) but a desire to live right before God and root out sin in their lives. It is not lost on me that your “christian thoughts” lack even a single scripture reference, including your comments defending it. Why is that?

        2. Your “ethic of delight” appears useless when a broken couple who needs help approaches you for counsel. I asked you to offer some practical ways you would put that to work in a real situation and you instead talk about paradigms. You are right – we are operating from two different ones. One is practical, one theoretical. I’m trying to focus on real people with sin issues, and believe Scripture has what we need for “life and godliness” while you want to talk about ideas and sub-cultures, reference no scripture, and the best your theories can do is refer broken people to “professional therapy.” I find that unsatisfactory on a number of levels.

        3. You diminish the pain and broken heart of a hurting wife while focusing entirely on the present (and most likely momentary) financial trial of the pretty woman in the story. You even reduce the wife’s fears to “childish jealousy” and yet, ironically, have the gall to cry sexism and patriarchy! I’m not sure you see how easy it would be for a good writer (like yourself), who cares only about theories and ideas and does not need to bother with Scripture could take your comment and spin a tale of male sexism within the progressive “Christian culture” which cares only about the younger “pretty woman” of the story while the older, not-as-attractive wife gets told to quit being so childishly jealous and go get some therapy.

        Dan, I hope you have something more to offer hurting people than what you have thus far displayed. I’d love to hear what it is if you wish to share. Thanks for the dialog, in any event.

  9. I too come from a background of sexual sin and being a sex addict. I only heard of this news story through another person so I too know very little of what happened and I am sure that the media has more than twisted anything that was true anyhow. The only people who really know the truth are the dentist, the hygienist and God. The rest of us are just looking through murky water trying to make judgments. That being said, the real root of the issue here is the wicked sinful heart of man.

    When I first studied on how to rid my life of all temptation to be pure, I immediately cut up my credit card, installed accountability software on my work laptop, home desktop and even my smartphone. I sought help from pastors (five in fact), and started a study course on sexual sin. The one thing I couldn’t rid myself of was the public in general. I stayed home whenever I could and stopped watching TV altogether. I knew that if I even went to a mall or anywhere in public, I would be constantly on my guard to not be tempted and it was exhausting. Even going to church was problematic as the women at church even dress inappropriately. They wear skin tight outfits showing every curve of their form and low cut V-neck shirts revealing half of their cleavage, just walking through the mall with my four year old son is a lesson in how to distract. Victoria’s Secret store windows are not what I want my kid seeing and the local mall has their play area right in front of the VS store. They used to at least keep it inside the store, not they just plaster it on the outside in big banners for all to see…even little children. What is this teaching our children? To the girls it says “look sexy and you will be desired” and to our boys it says “treat me like a piece of meat for your own pleasure”. Are we surprised then when this is how people act if this is the message we are sending?

    Now I know the flip side of the coin to this argument because my wife was a strong feminist when I met her. Her senior thesis in college was a 25 page paper on The Ladies Home Journal and how sexist it was. Her argument is that if men did not treat women like sex objects, then women would not feel the need to act like sex objects to get what they desire from men which is to be needed, respected and loved. Now here is the real circular argument if you want one…and now satan has us on the merry-go-round arguing who is to blame when the real cause is the heart of man. The cause shouldn’t even be the focus, the solution should. The only solution is Christ Jesus as only He has the power to change a heart which in turn changes how a person acts. Whatever keeps us from looking to Christ makes satan happy and achieves his goal of bringing us eternal death.

    1. Hi Chad,

      Would you say Chad, that pornography and the sexualization of our culture contributed to your in your own sexual addiction issues in the past? You were responsible at all times for your sins and lusts but access, encouragement, to pornographic images greatly contributed to your sexual addiction even though you were trying to please God.

      No, Chad, I’m not blaming this all on some monolithic evangelical sub-culture. Living with no discernment in this culture gave James and his wife to blame Melissa the excuse to make immature and unjust decisions and gave them an easy way to oppress the victim and use her as a scapegoat—with pastoral authority behind them.

      I’ve got plenty of scripture references. Thou shalt not bear false witness (blaming Melissa). Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. In the ethic of delight, how about James obeying Romans 12: 9-10 in regard to his neighbor in his dental office: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Or 1 Pe 1:22: Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.” The Scripture is full of exhortations pointing all of us to an ethic of delight. We learn to delight in Christ even though he was a “Man of sorrows.”

      In regard to your point 2: I did point to the way out and so did Ron. You just didn’t like it and agree with it. Can’t help you there.

      On point 3: Both the Knights need the tender, compassionate care that corresponds to the relational brokenness between their marriage. They need someone who will weep with them in their pain and confusion. This would happen with good, mature pastoral counseling (not all evangelical pastors would have the knee-jerk response that their pastors did) or as Ron says with professional therapy.

      They would need guidance in learning how to nurture the ethic of delight in terms of forgiveness and build trust and mutual delight toward one another (as Ron pointed out). But they would also not be given an easy escape route (by their own pastors) to make selfish, narcissistic demands upon the neighbor (Melissa). Both of them would have to learn how not to objectify and dehumanize their neighbor but to look upon her with eyes of love. I can quote his zillions of scripture references.

      1. Dan,
        What does “weep with them on their pain and confusion” look like? When you are all done crying, what is your counsel?
        Bottom line, which seems to be continually overlooked or ignored is you have a wife who has had enough of Knight’s sin and is demanding a radical act of allegiance on her husbands part: either fire the object of his lust or she is gone.

        The power is in her hands, not the sexist male evangelical culture you try to demonize here.

        All I have heard you say leads me to conclude that you would rather see the couple divorce than see Nelson fired. Is that true?

  10. This is another things I see. “They” who wear this or that, and “they” who are tempting or “they” who do this or that. There are lots of “they’s” who are trying to lead us astray in the evangelical subculture, but In this case, its women. And along with that language comes a thread of contempt for whomever the “they” is. I’ve seen it many times, felt it. It’s frightening to me, I’ll be honest.

    I’m a modesty freak, likely because of the culture I grew up in, (Nazarene, actually, extremely conservative evangelical) and I always felt lucky because I didn’t have the curves my friends did, I felt I dodged a genetic bullet there. I wasn’t as likely a target of the doctrine of “irresistible attraction” or the contempt towards “they” that comes along with it. I could hide myself pretty well.

    And with that, back into hiding. As the sole woman (I believe) in the conversation up to this point, I’m out. It feels a little hostile.

    Peace out bros, and may we all find safe people in which to continue to navigate this trickiness.

    1. Chad, respectfully, we’re not going to see eye-to-eye. Respectfully, there are alternatives than the ones your are presenting. But yes, I am deeply critical of your position. Peace bro. .

      1. I agree. Forgive me for allowing this to go on more than it should. Rarely are such things fruitful but only manifestations of pride. Please accept my apology.
        Perhaps you are right and patriarchy still very much grips us. Here we are, two men, arguing over which woman’s needs are worth validating. Ironic huh?

        Happy New Year.

  11. Isn’t a (every) woman made in Gods image, as are all of us. Isn’t every man and woman made to be a temple of the Holy spirit? Isn’t that one of the problems with pornography and sex-outside-of-a-marriage? It degrades the Divine image in 2 people. Both are equally important here. A woman is never just ‘temptation’ as a bottle of vodka can be, a woman is a being made to reflect Gods glory. (And this is where Augustine is not the best example to follow, he actually believed women were lower than men) If we are to love our neigbor as ourselves, this includes men and women. Acknowledging that (whatever happens) they are indeed our neigbor, and a person made in Gods image, before everything else, seems very basic to me.

    I do not know anything about sex addiction programs, but I’d be surprised if learning to see that people who believe that Jesus can and does change people will not as a part of the restoration teach learn to see all woman with Jesus’ eyes, as not as sex-objects but always as full human beings made in the Divine image.I do not believe that ‘self-control’ perfected (the last of the fruits of the Spirit) here would be to push away women because you can’t handle them, but to learn to look at them as Jesus does. Jesus was friends with prostitutes, and the only full restoration of broken sexuality is to positively see every human being as human being,male and female and ‘delight in it’ as Dan Brennan would call it. Every thought of reducing the other to a sex object (niether enjoying that dehumanisation or seeing it as a dangerous temptation, both are 2 sides of the same coin) has no place here anymore…

    (I’m obviously speaking about a situation in which the woman is not actively seducing, that would be something else; In that case you may indeed have to get away from her as soon as possible.)

    1. Bram, good to see you. I agree with everything you say here. What I think is important to remember, however, is that what you are describing is not the default position of the human heart nor the instantaneous spiritual reality of the person who gives their life to Jesus. Self-control, a fruit of the Spirit, takes time to grow on the tree. For some men who struggle with lust the only way they are going to find victory is to go through a season of “detox” in the same way a drug addict might.

      Knight, along with his wife and pastor, obviously felt that the best course for their marriage and Knight’s soul was to go the route they have gone. I hate that they did not think more about the way they could care for Nelson in the wake of all of this, but I still stand by my initial thoughts on this and understand their decision.

  12. Ron,
    My last comment to Dan sums up well the same thing I would say in response to your recent comment. You both seem content to ignore the actual facts of this story – that it was knight’s wife who demanded the firing – while conflating it to a problem of some monolithic evangelical sub-culture which may or may not exist. You both diminish the needs and concerns of a hurting wife whom for all you know may have been dealing with her husband’s lust for years all while wishing to convey to others that you care more about women than the pastor who counseled them to actually do what the wife demanded.

    1. Actually, Chad, I have spent the last 50 years advocating for “hurting wives” as you describe her … and most of that time, I have been in direct opposition to the mindless chatter of those around me who tell their subjects that if “you will just pray more, and submit more, you will find your husband to be a perfect angel”.

      I have attempted to represent the seminal needs of Mrs. Knight that YOU ignore here. The counsel that she got totally ignored the REAL issue and attempted to install a colorful band aid on the wound that did not exist because they blamed the woman involved when (at least from what we know so far) she was only guilty of being pretty … which you indirectly impugn in your comments here.

      Mr. Knight created a hostile atmosphere for Mrs. Nelson at work and then when his advances were spurned, he lamented to his wife about his frustrations with his employee … The fact that the text messages between them indicate that hers contained exchanges about their families indicates that she prized his family and his commitment/obligations to them while he was willing to send salacious texts disregarding the fact that both had made life-long commitments to another.

      The whole subculture that supports these “blame the woman first” ideas have blamed women for all the problems of society for so long that you don’t even realize that is what you are doing.

      And just to make sure you understand that it is Scripture that drives my thinking: In John 8:1-11, Jesus is confronted with the “woman caught in adultery”. There, he makes it clear that the whole direction of blaming the woman for their OWN SINS is wrong. He calls these self-righteous MEN who brought this woman “caught in adultery” for stoning – and they looked to Jesus for His approval. That is NOT what they got.

      What they got was the all knowing Jesus’ recognition that they were guilty of their own sins; and therefore should not be so eager to rush to the judgement of the woman (whom HE never indicated was not in sin). Has it ever crossed the minds of the patriarchalist that in order to “catch the woman in the act of adultery” that they had to “catch” a man too … but Oh! Somehow, he must have gotten away because these self-righteous members of the male society didn’t bring him to be stoned – – only the woman was blamed.

      THIS is precisely the picture that I see happening here and the precisely the picture that I have observed throughout history and in my 50 years of listening to men blame the women in their lives for their wandering appendages.

      Jesus spoke of this and HE never blamed the woman for the sin involved in the Matthew 5 passage, but rather only that the MAN who was wrongfully using Scripture to excuse himself. This was so underscored by Jesus that HE went to the extreme position that if MEN were excusing their sin and allowing their eyes to wander in order that they might misuse the women around them in their imaginations, that Jesus told them to cut out their eye so they might enter into heaven maimed rather than to be cast into utter darkness.

      JESUS laid this at the feet of the owner of the eye … HE DID NOT blame the woman. He did NOT judge the woman. He did NOT excuse the creative men in their inventiveness surrounding sin. JESUS refused to be bamboozled by this creative excusing.

      He cared for the stricken woman in the case of the accused adulterer. She was the one who was powerless to do anything about this. Society had singled her out as the target. Jesus targeted her for HIS COMPASSION.

      Society had targeted her as the band aid, Jesus refused to be diverted from the REAL ISSUE of institutional sin that had invaded the religious subculture and diluted HIS message of compassion.

      Oh! If only we believers were to make such an adjustment in our view of Jesus and HIS compassion, and HIS willingness to call a spade a spade rather than just going along with the easily identified target of our weaknesses, society would have a very different view of believers.


    2. Was God wrong to order Isreal to wipe out the Canaanites and remove all the high places for the sake of ensuring their purity?

      Or should God have counseled them to embrace an “ethic of delight” among the nations?

  13. Chad,

    I’ve been watching, and I told myself I had to step away lest I drive myself crazy, but I have to point this out. A couple of comments back, you said he fired the “object of his lust.” Please look at that statement for what it is, look what you just referred to a woman as – an object of lust. Ouch.

    I know Knights wife must have been torn apart, (for years likely, I agree this behavior was undoubtedly not isolated) due to her husbands actions. I understand the jealousy, wanting to fix it, and desperately wanting to point it towards something or someone OTHER than the person she married. Who knows, maybe even pointing to Nelson’s daily existence as the core issue is a way for each of them to avoid looking into their own marriage issues.That’s usually how triangulating works – it’s a great, “Hey! Look over there!” avoidance tactic.

    But here’s the deal: Knights wife could just as easily be an “object of lust” to another man, so could anyone’s wife, or daughter, or mother, or girlfriend, or sister. If this is the best way to handle lust, then by that reasoning, men should be firing women all over the place.

    Look, I’ve been there. It’s no fun to be the object of lust and not know what to do about it. It’s demoralizing, it’s heartbreaking, its power-taking. It also makes for really pissed off husbands. Can you imagine if another man was talking to your wife like, making her an object of lust like that? Melissa could have perhaps done something, but I tell you, as women, we’re so acculturated to shut up and deal, we’re so acculturated to think it might be our fault simply because we are women. We’re so acculturated to believe we are all, fundamentally, objects of lust. We’re so acculturated to feel responsible for the sexuality of the men around us. And stories like this, and decisions by male church members like that, and words like yours above confirm it. Again, ouch.

    I couldn’t be more dead serious.

    It’s not a matter of forgoing the needs of Nelson over the wife’s, it’s not an either/or, not in the least! It might seem like that on the surface, but God looks under the surface, we know that. The thing is, when you do the sexist, dehumanizing thing to solve the problem, (fire the object of lust) then you’re not actually meeting the needs of EITHER of the women. Not in the end. Melissa loses her job, and Knight finds another object of lust to fill her absence, and the cycle of hurt and wake of destruction continues. In the end it’s just digging a bigger hole for everyone. Firing women doesn’t actually fix the problem of lust unless the problem of lust is the existence of the women men might make into objects — and any woman can be made into an object of lust.

    The church needs to help all people own up, throw their crap into the light, stop mis-directing responsibility, freaking look at it and own up. It needs to stop enabling cycles of dysfunction and hurt, and in this case, stop giving license, in words or action, to ever refer to or view another human being made in the image of God as an object of lust. Ever.

    One more time: Ever.

  14. Amy,
    I’m not looking to change your mind on this, and I was happy to leave this alone, but your comment is misunderstanding something crucial, I believe. When I say Knight fired the “object of his lust” I am not suggesting, even remotely, that Melissa Nelson IS an “object of lust.” I am not saying that is who she is. I am stating a matter of fact from Knight’s point of view – a sinful one to be sure but it’s where he presently is and where, by God’s grace, we hope he won’t stay.

    Anything can become an idol – money, kids, a spouse, career, a car, and yes, a pretty woman you work with. To call that person an “idol” is the same as calling them an “object of lust” for “lust” is nothing more than an inordinate desire for that which is not God for selfish ends. So I could say Nelson is Knight’s “idol” or his “object of lust” – you see? It’s all the same thing. And none of is meant to say ANYTHING about the personhood of Nelson herself, only the way in which Knight presently sees her.

    Yes, it is sin. Yes, it is a heart issue. Yes, it must be dealt with. And yes, his wife will need to work through things, too. Together, as a couple, and with the counsel of their pastor, they felt the best way forward for them was to fire Nelson. I don’t think that was an easy decision. I don’t think they sleep easy with it or laugh about it. Nor do I suspect they think that is all that must be done and now they can go on happily ever after. That would be naive! But it is equally naive to think that Knight can rid himself of his “idol” without taking some drastic measure, and equally naive to think his wife should just shut up and deal with her husband working side-by-side with the “object of his lust.” She (his wife) has needs, too, and hopefully this traumatic event will be used by God to draw all parties involved closer to Himself.

  15. Chad – great article. I agree with what you are saying. Knight could not continue to work with Nelson, but also agree that he should have found her a position, paid her a huge severance, or whatever, not just fire her.

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