PODCAST: Do-It-Yourself Tests to See if a Marriage Book is Harmful

by | Sep 23, 2021 | Podcasts | 12 comments

How to Tell if a Christian Book is Harmful

We had FUN doing this podcast!

And it’s a hands-on podcast, too. We’re going to walk you through how to tell if the marriage/parenting/sex books on your bookshelf are healthy or not.

So grab a couple of books and a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s get started!

Oh, and for those of you watching on YouTube, I meant to mention my shirt, but I never did. We had these shirts made for a woman who was attending the American Association of Christian Counselors. It has our book cover on the front, and “ask me about a study of 20,000 Christian women” on the back. We’ll make them more widely available soon if anyone else wants one!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:30 How to figure out if you can trust a book
4:30 There should be basic standards
7:00 Footnotes 101
18:00 Anecdotes should MATCH the teaching and caveats
23:45 The Steps to Check if a Book is Healthy
46:00 Interview with Neil Schori on how to approach your pastor

Main Segment: A Litmus Test for whether or not Christian resources are healthy

We’re drawing on yesterday’s post on my two tests for how to tell if a book/teacher is healthy or not.

We look at:

  • Do they use peer-reviewed research?
  • What counts as good research?
  • Do they understand basic statistics?
  • Do their anecdotes line up with their explicit teaching? (If not, the anecdote reveals what they really think)
  • Do they change their advice when research changes?
  • Do they go back and correct old stuff?
  • Do they platform people that we know are harmful?

It may sound intimidating–but I promise it’s not! And we show you how to look at these things in the books that you likely have on your bookshelves.

And don’t forget to download our rubric for healthy sexuality teaching! Apply it to the marriage and sex books on your shelf!

Interview with Neil Schori: How do you approach your pastor about a problematic book/speaker?

Neil Schori is an amazing pastor with a heart for domestic violence and abuse victims. He was unwittingly thrust into the nation’s spotlight when a woman he was counseling–Stacy Peterson–was murdered by her husband Drew. That started he and his wife on a big journey of learning more about abuse dynamics. 

He answers a reader question today about how to approach a pastor who is using a book you know is harmful for a book study, or recommending it from the pulpit, or inviting a problematic speaker in to speak. 

Neil Schori is the lead pastor of The Edge Church in Aurora, IL. Neil Schori’s passion for assisting victims of domestic violence was fueled by the tragic disappearance of Stacy Peterson in 2007. Over the past 10 years, Neil has served full-time in several pastoral roles ranging from family care and counseling to community groups and assimilation. As the lead pastor of The Edge, with a Master’s degree in counseling from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Neil has actively promoted the church’s role of assisting victims of intimate partner violence for the past several years.

In 2008 Neil Schori and Susan Murphy-Milano devised a tool that would give victims of domestic violence a voice. At that meeting, the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit© was born. Murphy-Milano subsequently wrote the book, Time’s Up: A Guide on How to Safely Leave an Abusive Relationship with explicit instructions and blank forms for victims and advocates of domestic violence to use. These forms provide individualized safety plans, which document the abuse in the form of witnessed, notarized and video-taped testimony should she/he go missing or become incapacitated.

Neil and his wife, Brandi, reside in the Chicago suburbs with their beautiful daughters Hannah, Mia, and Ava.

Be sure to watch Neil Schori on Dateline coming up in the next few months!

Neil Schori

Lead Pastor at the Edge Church, Spiritual Director and Domestic Violence Prevention Coach

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Things Mentioned in This Podcast:


How to Tell if a Christian Book is Harmful: Podcast
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. A2bbethany

    This got me thinking! 1st about my sister and how her 1st church imploded. It was a Mennonite church and one of the young couples had an issue with porn. But then the mom discovered he was molesting his daughter. She immediately separated, but the church refused to allow a divorce, Even for this. As a result half of the young families branched off and started their own church. The rest of the remaining church has since tightened down on their dress codes. The men now wear 1920s hats and the women have to part their hair.
    Interestingly, before this, they seemed to have plenty of stories about creepy stalkers, following the women.

    Also I have a brother who aspires to be a pastor someday. i should probably buy your books for him! He had to learn and except mental health as real because of his own wife’s depression. And he’s enjoyed getting himself diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s. But he’s got alot of learning to do!
    (i barely have a relationship though, as a consequence of poorly handled past issues.)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I’ve seen those sorts of splits happen too. And the ones who are left do get increasingly conservative and legalistic often. They lose the life and growth out of the church and they stagnate.

    • Jo R

      So a guy does something not only un-Christian in using porn but also breaks the law and is grossly immoral by molesting his daughter, and the church thinks the best solution is…enforcing unbiblical dress codes.

      Um, OK…

      • A2bbethany

        Since I didn’t know her well, im not sure how it went down. I got the sense she has full custody, so therefore she must’ve gone to the authorities as she should’ve. She’s a single mom to 2 kids and has a wonderful community in an out of church helping. And his mother appearantly knew of his issues in some way, before they got married. But she thought marriage would “fix it”.

  2. Jo R

    Part of the problem with books that use anecdotes and stories is that no matter how many caveats, warnings, and flat-out instruction as to right and wrong are given, people will remember the stories. It doesn’t matter if an author says in thirteen caveats that “A is bad, so don’t do it,” if the subsequent story or example scenario is filled with A, people will only remember A.

    So maybe if an author is going to use a story to illustrate the caveats, there needs to be immediately after it a story that shows the caveats in action. So when the caveats say “don’t do A,” if a story showing A follows, there needs to be another story showing not-A. Then readers will at least have a chance of remembering the not-A story.

    I’ll give authors, teachers, and pastors the benefit of the doubt that they don’t intend to do harm. But when thousands of people tell them about the harmful, painful experiences they suffered because of these bad teachings, it’s simply not enough to say “I didn’t mean to.” If you don’t at the very least retract your bad teaching, even if you offer nothing positive in the vacuum now left, your lack of intent has now crossed the line over to indifference at best. If you continue the bad teaching in spite of experience and research, well, your “good intentions” can no longer be granted the benefit of the doubt. We’ll give you a pass the first X number of times you “don’t mean to do it,” but at some point, you have to STOP DOING THE BAD THING. And if you don’t stop, and if you don’t even make an effort, then your “I didn’t mean to” is, frankly, a lie.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well said! And when we score books on our rubric, we score the anecdotes over the teaching, because people remember the anecdotes better. So if the anecdotes and teaching give two different messages? The anecdote takes precedence.

      • Angela

        Yes, excellent catch.

  3. Angela

    Typo in your podcast title!

  4. CMT

    Hi all! Enjoyed the discussion in part 1. As someone with a strong interest in science and who works in healthcare, I have to say I appreciate the emphasis you all place on research and evidence.

    Speaking of anecdotes, I thought there was something… off? in the interview in part 2. I don’t know Pastor Schori from Adam, so I’m not trying to pick on him, but I think the way the story of the Petersons was handled had a gaping hole. Obviously Stacy Peterson’s murder was horrible, and it’s completely understandable if Pastor Schori does not want to dwell on it, or share all the details of how he responded to Stacy ‘s revelation. Maybe he did try to take some action on her behalf but chose not to discuss it here because it wasn’t the main focus of the interview, I don’t know.

    But please, please, if you are going to tell a story like that, talk at least for a moment about what should have happened when this woman confided her husband’s history to a professional! I know you all know how important it is to be domestic violence aware. People need to hear that if they share a partner’s violent history with a professional counselor, that professional should be doing all they can to ascertain whether their client is safe, and to help them protect themselves. Where I am, professionals can’t break confidentiality unless they believe someone is at imminent risk. Still, if you tell any sort of mental health or counseling professional, or pastor or whatever, something like this and they don’t respond, RUN don’t walk out of there and find someone who will help you. That person is NOT SAFE for you!

    Sorry if I’m getting heated. Obviously it’s good that Pastor Schori recognized the gaps in his training and is now working on behalf of DV victims. I’m not trying to say he should have saved Stacy Peterson or anything like that, because her death was her evil husband’s fault. And maybe he did try to assess if she was safe but just didn’t talk about it here. Just-please-this is not a story to just throw out there. Anecdotes matter!!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I understand what you’re saying. I actually hadn’t known about Neil’s history with the Petersons until we started the interview. I only knew about him from his work with domestic violence advocacy.

      I will say, though, that one of my big values here on the blog, and something that we’re calling people to in The Great Sex Rescue, is that people can grow and learn. When someone admits they didn’t know enough previously, and they go out of their way to apologize and learn, I think that should be commended. If we say that because someone made a mistake they are never safe–well, that’s going to make people less likely to ever improve. If people will refuse to listen to them because of something they said in the past that was wrong, why would anyone ever admit they were wrong?

      I think growth is amazing. And Neil has gone out of his way to say that he wasn’t qualified then, and he corrected that, and now he’s training others (and he’s even developing tools to help domestic violence victims document the abuse).

      I want the authors and speakers that I critique to know that if they ever change their opinion, I will be the first to champion them and commend them for it. I think that’s really important. And in the last podcast, I told people how to find a safe licensed counselor if you are a victim of abuse, so I do believe that I’m quite consistent on the importance of recognizing who is safe. I think the fact that Neil admits that he was not in this story helps people understand that pastors aren’t always qualified–which is also something that I’ve been trying to say for ages.

      But I also believe that some pastors ARE qualified, and that’s why I asked Neil to come on. I hope that makes sense.

      • CMT

        Yes, it absolutely makes sense and I appreciate your response. Just to be clear, I did not mean Pastor Schori is not safe/qualified now. I don’t know a thing about him other than what was said on the episode, but it sounds like he has done a complete 180 and is doing good work for DV victims now. I 100% agree that we need to make space for people to grow and change and admit mistakes.

        I did come off pretty aggressive and not very clear, and I apologize for that. I was trying to say I thought the story about Stacy Peterson was told in a way that might reinforce the perception of an abuse victim that going to a professional will do them no good. Explicitly stating how a professional SHOULD respond to such a disclosure would show that there is a standard of care they can expect. Maybe this is not a realistic concern, but the discussion didn’t sit right with me.

        Completely agree, btw, that it’s really important people know that just because someone is doing faith based counseling doesn’t mean they know anything about DV or abuse. I was shocked when Pastor Schori said he had a seminary degree in counseling but no training about DV. I learned the basics of how to recognize this stuff and my job is only tangentially related to mental health! Not disparaging him, but it’s so sad that the church has had its head in the sand. Everybody working to fix that (Neil Schori, you and your team, etc) is doing needed work.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.

  5. Andrea

    This discussion again reminds me of the video I referenced in a comment on last week’s podcast, where Gary tells the story of a women whose husband was neglecting her and the children and she got him to spend more time with them by asking him is there’s anything she can do better for him. And he even chuckles and says he knows women will hate him for that anecdote, that Piper-like-abused-for-a-night chuckle.

    The thing about speaking at the same conference as a harmful teacher is not as bad as the organizer platforming them, if good teachers refused to SHARE a platform with harmful teachers, the conference organizers would have to stop inviting them.


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