As someone with a public platform I’ve been called upon numerous times to speak out on any number of specific issues or controversies. I don’t mind at all the friendly inquires “What do you think?” or the private requests “I really think you should weigh in.” I recognize that some people are crying out for their voice to be heard. I sympathize with people who feel isolated, alone, hurt, or confused. I understand that emotions behind a “Say something right now, or else!” appeal. What’s frustrating is when the “or else” really means “or we’ll know you don’t care,” “or we’ll know you disagree with us,” “or we’ll know you agree with them,” “or we’ll know you are indifferent to some horrible thing.”

I see it often in politics and in the blogosphere: Person A calls on Person B (or Persons C, D, and E) to make a public comment about issue X, and if they refuse to say something right now, Person A will assume that Person B (and likely Persons C, D, and E as well) don’t care about X and believe something as heinous at Y and Z. You follow me?

Obviously, there are times when we must speak out on an issue publicly. We may have particular expertise on a matter, or it may affect people we are responsible for, or our conscience may be provoked in a powerful way. I’m not suggesting public response is wrong. Not at all. Silence is not always golden. But the “say something, or else!” form of public shaming is frequently manipulative and the cries are sometimes best ignored.

There are many reasons why Person B may not make the public statement you want him (or them) to make.

1. He (or they) may not know what you are talking about. Before you get upset with someone for not commenting on the latest blog blowup, consider the possibility that the person you want to speak out may not follow your favorite blog or track with every controversy. Just because someone is a public person and uses social media doesn’t mean he has a responsibility to keep up on all the latest dish.

2. He may not be knowledgeable on the subject you want to be addressed. You may be convinced it’s cowardice or indifference that keeps someone silent, but maybe it’s wisdom. What if someone writes a post about, say, Martin Luther’s anti-semitism. It doesn’t matter for this example whether the post is saying Luther wasn’t that bad or that he was worse than we think. The point is people are in an uproar about this post and the online pressure is to say something lest you show yourself to be a hater of Luther or a hater of the Jews or whatever. You may weigh in, especially if you have some expertise in Luther. But maybe you are smart enough to know you aren’t smart enough to figure out this historical controversy in your spare time. Maybe it is academic humility that keeps you on the sidelines, not indifference or cowardice.

3. The person or persons you want to speak up may be doing their part behind the scenes. Or they may know more about a situation than is presented in public reports. Or maybe they figure there isn’t anything new, edifying, or clarifying that can be said. I’m a blogger, a preacher, a writer, and someone with lots of opinions, convictions, and ideas. I don’t find it hard to jump in with a thought on most issues. But I’ve learned over the years my first instinct to say something is not always best. And I’ve learned that making assumptions about those who stay on the sidelines is not good either. There are too many things I don’t know to speak on everything, and too many things I don’t know to assume the worst about those who don’t chime in on everything that’s important to me. Let’s be careful not to shame people for not saying what we want them to say precisely when we want them to say it.

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42 thoughts on “Say Something Right Now, or Else!”

  1. This is so helpful, Kevin. Thanks (and I will try to keep it in mind myself!)

  2. griefofwisdom says:

    The moderation you discuss is important. But I think also that in cautioning for moderation we can be too quick to speak words of support for the accused in a situation, while not offering protection for an accuser. Often in these situations the one who is accused is the one with authority, while the accuser is lacking in influence, truly a victim. When the situation is reversed, when the accused is lacking in power or influence, there is not much public outcry for help for the accuser, they are capable of mustering their own assistance due to the position.

  3. Melody says:

    “Or Else” is not only manipulative but it is abusive in the worst way. It is bullying done from someone without patience or grace for anyone but their own opinion. They have decided what you should say and want to know if they should call you an enemy for not agreeing with their position.
    Anyone that demands an opinion should be cut off at the very least put at a distance.

    Personally, fully aware that no one actually cares, I consider someone that caves to that kind of pressure to have less wisdom because they have let themselves be pushed to have an opinion. It’s usually a pattern in their lives.

  4. Bill says:

    Proverbs 18:17 comes to mind right now, The one who states his case first seems right,until the other comes and examines him.

  5. Peter says:

    I think another reason that some people pressure others into trying to comment on issues stem from their own laziness. Which means that sometimes it’s good for you NOT to enable that behavior, thus giving you a number 4 for your list.

    For instance, *I* could take the time to write out why Episodes I – III of Star Wars are hideous examples of film making, but that would require me to *watch* those movies and I’d rather not do that. Therefore, I’d prefer it if you would just condemn them for me on my behalf.

    Granted, my example is actually an important one, so I’m expecting you to say something about it. Still, my point stands on other non-important issues.

    Seriously, though, you should totally condemn Episodes I – III.

  6. Bobby says:

    Refusing to comment about CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace is one thing. Appearing at SGM conferences when there is such a black cloud hanging over them right now is another.

    It’s just frustrating that there isn’t even an acknowledgement in the YRR crowd that this is going on right now. It’s all thinly-veiled posts like this one.

  7. Rachael Starke says:

    The way a number of men I respect, thank God for and have been blessed by, are all suddenly compelled to write/tweet about the virtues of silence and waiting and not being the right man at the right time to speak out, is disappointing, to say the least.

    Generally withholding/waiting on comment on the Internet theological dustup of the day may be the path of wisdom.

    But, when a Christian organization has spoken repeatedly and loudly about an issue as it has played out in a secular organization, and as it has played out in other religious organizations, and then refuses to speak out when the very same issue seems to be occurring inside its own ranks? That, dear brother, looks a lot like sinful wagon circling, no matter what good motives there may exist, and what the truth actually is.

  8. Tyler says:

    Can we at least appreciate the difficult situations that people like Kevin are likely facing? Also, I don’t want to assume that this blog post is connected to any particular issue – though it may very well be. Tim Challies recently wrote some wise words that we would do well to consider (I admit that I have often been guilty when it comes to this):

    “…If it is true that I am called to love other Christians, that I am called to believe and hope all things, that I am far outside this situation, then I think I do well to learn less rather than more. I need to know only enough to understand that I don’t need to know anything more! For example, when the leaders of a church call a members’ meeting knowing that there may be someone there transcribing the meeting with a view to making it public, and when that church’s pastor specifically asks outsiders not to read the meeting’s proceedings, I, as an outside observer, do well to honor that request as a show of love and respect to a brother in Christ. When thousands of pages of documentation appear on web sites, I do not benefit from reading and studying every word.

    For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much. I have had to question my motives, especially since I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of scathing criticism for not using my platform to speak out … I have chosen to read the news stories, to understand the basic facts, but conscience compels me to stop there. To do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management, and it may not be loving toward those who are involved.”

  9. Wynand says:

    Hi Kevin

    There is, of course an easy out for the victim.

    The person under “attack” may answer-

    I am sorry, but I do not understand your question. Or: I do not know enough about the subject to have an opinion. Or: I will have to read up on that. Or: Contact me in private, so we can discuss it and I can give you an idea why I cannot go on public record about this.

    A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

    So even if a person feels he is being manipulated, or attacked, or forced into a place he does not want to be, he could respond with grace, humility and in truth.

  10. Bobby says:

    @Tyler: “Can we at least appreciate the difficult situations that people like Kevin are likely facing?”

    Nope. I have zero appreciation for the “difficult situation” of being buddies with someone who has enabled and covered up the Protestant church’s version of Penn St.

    I have a much greater appreciation for the “difficult situation” of a three-year-old girl crawling under a chair to hide from the perverted child molester that her church was forcing her to meet with and forgive.

    Even if you want to let it all play out in court before condemning anyone, it is completely insensitive and inappropriate to publicly appear at SGM conferences as Kevin is planning to do. And on that same note, it’s completely inappropriate to continue to invite CJ Mahaney to speak at conferences as TGC is doing this April.

    The conference circuit buddies all have this nasty habit of manipulating the Bible to fit the trendy sin of their disgraced colleague of the moment. I’m broken for the victims of SGM’s depraved, manipulative, Titus 1-defying, spiritually abusive vision of the church. But I’m furious at those who would silently watch it happen in the name of friendship.

  11. Perpetua says:

    Bobby nailed it. Completely. Thank you. Cowardice spun any other way is still cowardice. The Reformed Club is as bad as anything the Vatican and the College of Cardinals ever produced. Your network of back-scratchers and enablers who back each other up, stay strategically silent even when rampant sin is going on disgusts me and my family. This mindset of covering sin, refusing to be a voice for victims to cover someone’s Big Name is a blot on the face of Christ. Either publicly rebuke those who cover up sin or you’re just braying into the night like every other corrupt religious leader. Jesus needs to clean house.

  12. Melody says:

    The funniest part of this is that people on here think the blog is about one thing and the people on twitter thing it is about a completely different thing. And all the people that Think they know have an angry opinion about it.

    It’s so funny that its not.

  13. @Peter I wholeheartedly agree with you about Episodes I-III and I am surprised more bloggers don’t take a public stand on it (There is no way in the galaxy that Natalie Portman’s Padme could be the mother of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia.)

    And like Rachael mentioned, I do think that what we choose to address and what we choose to be silent about does create a perception whether we like it or not. As much as I abhor the “or else” posturing of those who drive controversy, we have to be savvy enough to recognize that silence does speak. The only problem is that we can’t always control what it says.

  14. Diane says:

    Kevin DeYoung wrote:

    “You may be convinced it’s cowardice or indifference that keeps someone silent, but maybe it’s wisdom.”

    Or maybe it’s friendship. Very good friendships.

    Also:

    “Let’s be careful not to shame people for not saying what we want them to say precisely when we want them to say it.”

    I will be happy to acquiesce and be careful not to shame, and may I make a request of Kevin DeYoung? Would you endeavor to not shame the average person’s intelligence by writing things like the quote below regarding SGM? To state your “very good” friendship with Mahaney did not color your review, as far as you knew in your heart, is troubling (what with our hearts being wicked, depraved and full of sinful motives). How could you possibly know that? Also, how you can say the conclusions you came to were not owing to any previous connection with anyone at SGM? Isn’t a very good friendship with Mahaney a previous connection?

    Surely the pressure to protect one’s “very good” friend would be overwhelming. It does not take a great amount of intelligence to see that conflict. That conflict of interest would have been a reason to not have participated in the panel position, as it didn’t have the appearance of being impartial, in my opinion.

    Qoute:

    “Joshua Harris is a very good friend. So is C.J. Mahaney. We have had Curtis Allen speak and rap at our church. I have also met with men like Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, Dave Harvey, Grant Layman, and some of the pastors at Covenant Life when I preached there at Joshua Harris’ invitation in the fall of 2010. Honestly, I have experienced nothing but warm, gospel-centered relationships with everyone I have met from Sovereign Grace. Even those I have talked to at conferences have seemed like exemplary Christians—the kind of brothers and sisters I would love to have in my church. All that to say, as much as an outsider can, I know and love Sovereign Grace. In serving on this panel I have tried to be as objective as possible, knowing that some of my friends may see things differently. My conclusions are mine, and, as far as I know my heart, are not owing to any previous connection with anyone in Sovereign Grace. I agreed to serve on this panel in hopes that our small contribution might help provide insight and direction to a family of churches that I care for deeply.”

    End quote.

    “Findings from our preliminary panel”
    August 2, 2011 by Dave Harvey
    Sovereign Grace Ministries Plant and Build Blog

  15. Some1 says:

    Did I miss where C.J. Mahaney was A) the subject of this post, and B) convicted of a crime somewhere?

  16. Steven says:

    Well-said @Some1.

  17. Diane says:

    @ Some1,

    A general fyi-the subject of my comment is not SGM, it is DeYoung.

    Mahaney is not the subject of DeYoung’s post, so you did not miss it. But if the shoe fits, one can put it on.

  18. Melody says:

    Yeah even if the shoe is a size 11 and the guys foot might be a 10 1/2. But accusers will make things fit regardless. It’s very dishonest and implies the ability to mind read.

  19. Samuel James says:

    I have something to say.

    I am in deep sympathy with those who now harbor suspicion and even dislike towards Mahaney and Sovereign Grace. I have been disappointed by the SGM response to the allegations. I understand the anger and frustration.

    But I am consistently appalled by the brazen presumption of guilt that has been held by Rachel Held Evans and her fans. There has been zero mediation of the zeal nor acknowledgment that this is a PENDING CIVIL SUIT, not a criminal conviction nor finished case. Held Evans, Diannae Anderson, and other feminist bloggers have consistently presumed the guilt and cover up of SGM even though the civil suit is still pending in courts. This constitutes nothing less than slander and a vile use of social media to rally people around a theologically hated organization. Held Evans and those who have imitated her need to repent NOW of their presumption of guilt and eagerness to condemn that which has not been established by due process.

  20. Melody says:

    Samuel
    Claiming that religious institutions should be allowed privacy in the defense claims is what added fuel to the fire. Can you imagine the screaming that would have ensued from the protestant community if the Catholic church tried to use that argument?

    There should always be transparency when it comes to the well being of children. ALWAYS. Jesus said better to have a millstone around your neck than to cause one of the little ones to stumble.

    He may be innocent but that part of it made me less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact that Challis used that same thought process when he blogged about it took him down a few pegs in the wisdom department for me too.

    Every person needs to think really hard about it and put themselves and their children/grandchildren into the scenario when deciding on how to respond. I’m not saying crucify him. I’m saying that everyone is coming across as someone that doesn’t think it could possibly happen to someone they love. That just isn’t true. Satan will use whatever he can to attack the body. Don’t let him work in darkness. Pull it out into the light.

    I’m still not saying that is what Kevin is referring to because I still think he was making a general statement that can be applied over and over.

  21. Jack Brooks says:

    The top person to whom brother DeYoung answers is God. Humanly, he answers to his elder-board/session/consistory. I will add there is also Mrs. DeYoung, who probably has even more sway than his elder board. The one person to whom he does not answer in any way, Hypothetical Angry Reading Person, is you or me.

    The Celebrity Preacher Network with all its fanboys and fangirls, regardless of denominational or theological connection, is a bizarre manifestation of the modern technological era. No preacher in his right mind should pay any attention to its raucous squawkings. Jesus spoke of it when he said, “You are like the children in the marketplace, who angrily cry out, “We piped, but you did not dance!”

    If Kevin DeYoung ever writes something like, “6 Dangers of Cultic Leadership”, or “8 Warnings Signs of an Abusive Church”, that would give everyone a clear idea what he thinks about situations X, Y, or Z. Francis Schaeffer used the same method — instead of publicly tearing into specific people of his time by name, he taught truths that had obvious applications

  22. Diane says:

    @ Melody

    “Yeah even if the shoe is a size 11 and the guys foot might be a 10 1/2. But accusers will make things fit regardless. It’s very dishonest and implies the ability to mind read.”

    ???

    Well, some may accuse, and it can be dishonest, but as far as it concerns me, I wrote IF the shoe fits….(if DeYoung’s post can be applied to SGM/Mahaney)…then one can put it on. I do not know what you are talking about regarding accusing and mind reading.

  23. Samantha Houston says:

    People we all know what he is referring to. At least Challies did not beat around the bush.

  24. Devin says:

    I sent a message to Kevin via facebook with the hopes that it may land in front of his eyes. I know the busyness of any Pastor much less someone with a large public platform like Kevin’s. I love Kevin’s writing and preaching. I really do.

    My question was simply for a rationale for The Gospel Coalition keeping CJ Mahaney on deck to speak at their conference. I never said an “or else” type of thing, however I do think that the silence of TGC on this issue when they wrote tons of posts on the Sandusky case is/will be very telling if Mahaney’s situation turns for the worse.

    A simple statement, a rationale for why he is still being allowed to speak despite his name being on a lawsuit for *allegedly* covering up sexual abuse is really not that much to ask for given the responsibility that TGC has to remain above reproach.

    My conviction in this is that we Christians should be the first to admit faults within our own ranks before the media and enemies of the faith get ahold of the story and use it to mar the name of Christ and His church. Unfortunately this has already happened and TGC has said nothing. Challies made his post which didn’t help one bit.

    I love CJ Mahaney, I’ve traveled far to hear him teach. I’ve bought his books, given away his books and recommended him to others. I pray that he is innocent in all of this and that we can put this behind us. However, while caution is being suggested to us who are concerned about TGC’s involvement with Mahaney in this season where he is in legal trouble, the first question that comes to mind is this:

    Where is the caution of TGC to protect their integrity by at least saying something about them knowing what is going on with Mahaney? It seems completely logical for a massive Christian organization filled with wise and brilliant Christian leaders to at least acknowledge the situation and say why they’re still having Mahaney speak at the conference.

    If something had been said by TGC, Rachel Held Evans couldn’t have blown this story to pieces and given a solid case for people to withhold support from TGC.

    I’m not a pastor or some figure in the church. I’m simply a very concerned brother who has no clue what is going on. It looks like reputation-protection. It looks like a cover up. I don’t want it to be either of these. I really don’t.

    So Kevin, I’m not asking you to say something. I’m asking for TGC to give a plain rationale for having Mahaney speak at their conference. I had asked this question on TGC’s facebook page to have my comments deleted immediately. Others (who I didn’t collaborate with) have had the same. This is not good and Christ calls us to a higher standard. I’ve sent e-mails to as many TGC folks that I could and have not received any answers that way either.

    So if you aren’t into being the voice, please let TGC that many people are watching and waiting with love and support for TGC and the hopes that they will do the right thing and say something.

    -Devin Murphy

  25. Chad Damewood says:

    It’s been clearly proven from this comment thread that CJ Mahaney is the devil. Crucify him.

    Penn State scandal? Really. That’s the apt comparison?

  26. Devin says:

    Chad, do you think that is a respectful and accurate summarization of the concern presented in this comment thread?

    How does the Penn State scandal parallel this?

    CJ was named on a lawsuit for covering up sexual abuse. Whether it’s true or not, we don’t know or say. Yet that was a pretty big issue for Penn State, wasn’t it? That people knew about Sandusky’s abuse but didn’t do/say anything to the law about it.

    I don’t see anywhere in this thread suggesting CJ is the devil or that we should crucify him. However I do see that something needs to be said by people still allowing him to be in large public ministry while he is named on this lawsuit.

  27. Diane says:

    “It’s been clearly proven from this comment thread that CJ Mahaney is the devil. Crucify him.”

    Are you serious? :-) I think you must be clearly joking.

    For example, my comment on March 22 @ 8:37 pm was about DeYoung, not Mahaney. It was concerning DeYoung’s very good friendship (his words) with Mahaney and how, imo, it would be very hard to not let that very good friendship influence his decision on the panel (which brings up another question as to whether or not DeYoung should have accepted the position on the three member panel in the first place to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest).

    I have not said one negative thing about Mahaney. As a matter of fact, Devin Murphy’s comment was very gracious towards Mahaney.

    If Deyoung thinks certain people/groups/blogs are shaming him/TGC into saying “something” about SGM’s civil suit, he is free to come to that conclusion. It does appear, imo, that he is putting the blame (you people are shaming me for not commenting on SGM so I am not going to comment) where it does not belong—on the brothers and sisters (who buy DeYoung’s books) who are asking questions.

  28. Some1 says:

    Some of you people here make me sick. There’s an organization which is named in a lawsuit. That lawsuit hasn’t even gone through court yet. It’s pending litigation. Yet you’re going to tear down a completely separate Christian organization (TGC) because they didn’t say anything about the first lawsuit.

    Seriously?!

    This would be like if I claimed Diane stole money from the offering plate, and then Chad was complaining because Devin hadn’t said anything on the issue.

    Grow up people. Christ deserves better than His followers to engage in gossip and innuendo.

  29. John Shelley says:

    I share in the concerns mentioned above by Devin. Christian leadership is held to a higher standard than just waiting to see where the cards fall. Having held a variety of leadership positions in my career I understand that not all details or even some of the smallest details can be released to the general public. However, silence is also an action and one that unfortunately leaves those who are not leadership positions at TGC to wonder why something is being said to acknowledge that this is troubling. Instead of the defensive post above about what can or cannot be said, a much shorter post acknowledging that this is disturbing. Why is CJ Mahaney still speaking at the conference? That questions will continue to float around on blogs and end up in emails until TGC stands up and makes some kind of statement. I’m looking for leadership, but instead there is silence and somewhat ambiguous posts such as this.

  30. Diane says:

    I am disappointed that my comments were deleted.

    I am assuming it was an accident, since you left one of mine in place which refers to one of the deleted ones?

    Here it is again in case you did not mean to delete it:

    Kevin DeYoung wrote:

    “You may be convinced it’s cowardice or indifference that keeps someone silent, but maybe it’s wisdom.”

    Or maybe it’s friendship. Very good friendships.

    Also:

    “Let’s be careful not to shame people for not saying what we want them to say precisely when we want them to say it.”

    I will be happy to acquiesce and be careful not to shame, and may I make a request of Kevin DeYoung? Would you endeavor to not shame the average person’s intelligence by writing things like the quote below regarding SGM? To state your “very good” friendship with Mahaney did not color your review, as far as you knew in your heart, is troubling (what with our hearts being wicked, depraved and full of sinful motives). How could you possibly know that? Also, how you can say the conclusions you came to were not owing to any previous connection with anyone at SGM? Isn’t a very good friendship with Mahaney a previous connection?

    Surely the pressure to protect one’s “very good” friend would be overwhelming. It does not take a great amount of intelligence to see that conflict. That conflict of interest would have been a reason to not have participated in the panel position, as it didn’t have the appearance of being impartial, in my opinion.

    Qoute:

    “Joshua Harris is a very good friend. So is C.J. Mahaney. We have had Curtis Allen speak and rap at our church. I have also met with men like Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, Dave Harvey, Grant Layman, and some of the pastors at Covenant Life when I preached there at Joshua Harris’ invitation in the fall of 2010. Honestly, I have experienced nothing but warm, gospel-centered relationships with everyone I have met from Sovereign Grace. Even those I have talked to at conferences have seemed like exemplary Christians—the kind of brothers and sisters I would love to have in my church. All that to say, as much as an outsider can, I know and love Sovereign Grace. In serving on this panel I have tried to be as objective as possible, knowing that some of my friends may see things differently. My conclusions are mine, and, as far as I know my heart, are not owing to any previous connection with anyone in Sovereign Grace. I agreed to serve on this panel in hopes that our small contribution might help provide insight and direction to a family of churches that I care for deeply.”

    End quote.

    “Findings from our preliminary panel”
    August 2, 2011 by Dave Harvey
    Sovereign Grace Ministries Plant and Build Blog

  31. Diane says:

    Oh good. Now I see my original comment is in place. Thank you.

  32. Melody says:

    Diane

    It was a general statement not a personal attack. Sorry

  33. Melody says:

    If someone wasn’t there and they are not privy to all the details then it would arrogant to speak out on it.

    Demanding someone do that is telling them to sin.

    It’s gossip because none of you know everything or know for sure if what they know is even factual.

    Makes me think of that commercial, if it’s on the Internet then has to be true.

  34. Diane says:

    @ Melody

    Your last comment is confusing. You wrote:

    “If someone wasn’t there and they are not privy to all the details then it would arrogant to speak out on it.”

    If I go by your logic, that would make Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan arrogant because they “spoke out on it” a couple days after Mahaney stepped down and they were not privy to all the details. No one is privey to all the details except the specific ones involved in each case of alleged abuse. So, no one else can comment? Ever?

    “It’s gossip because none of you know everything or know for sure if what they know is even factual.”

    Yes they do know…there have been convictions. That would be facts.

  35. Melody says:

    What are the convictions Diane? I have seen no links. I have seen no facts. I follow Justin Holcomb and Grace Ministries. This is something that I care a great deal about.

    All I have seen on here are silly people trying to guess what Kevin DeYoung was referring to and then arguing about it. On twitter the guess was the book by Wilson and how Piper should be speaking to that because he hasn’t disowned him or something. There is always some big controversy according to the “Christian” blogs. So which is it?

    I did not see Mohler or who ever that other guy is, statement so I can’t say. But it is possible that they could have been arrogant, isn’t it? Because they are not perfect human beings nor are they the mold by which everyone has to aspire to either.

    The reality is that no one knows what DeYoung was referring to for sure. Everyone is acting like an abusive spouse. That is what I am talking about. Everyone can discuss it all they want but they need to lay off the bullying.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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