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The Russell Ford problem

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 24, 2013

Russell Ford produced some outstanding work—fine essays on apologetics and evangelization—while he was a long-term prisoner in an Alabama jail. Now finally released after 25 years behind bars, he has redoubled his efforts to promote evangelization. For all this we should be grateful.

Unfortunately there are some troubling questions about Ford’s past, his claims to have been convicted unjustly, and his explanations of his current legal status. On the Aleteia site, Mark Gordon has done a thorough job of asking those questions, and unfortunately the answers are not reassuring.

Why ask these difficult questions? Why make trouble for someone who is trying to spread the faith? Aleteia editor Harold Fickett addresses those questions in a message to readers about the investigation of Russell Ford. Those who bear witness to the truth should always be prepared to tell the truth—including the truth about themselves—he says. If someone who claims to preach the Truth is unmasked as a fraud, the damage done by that revelation can easily outweigh all the value of his preaching.

Several recent painful experiences should have taught us all this lesson. Someone can be a very effective speaker, preacher, activist, or leader, and still have serious personal problems that eventually burst into public view, threatening all the good he has accomplished. We should applaud outstanding evangelists. But we should not idolize them; we should not be blind to the evidence of human frailty.

We hope that Russell Ford can provide convincing evidence of his innocence. But until he can, we caution our readers to treat his work with caution.

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  • Posted by: meegan2136289 - May. 24, 2013 9:16 PM ET USA

    Thanks for this. When I heard that Ford had a prison ministry, I was really looking forward to seeing him on The Journey Home. I shut the show off, however, about 10 minutes in, when Ford started telling Marcus Grodi that the ghost of a dead Catholic family friend appeared in his (Ford's) bedroom one night and led him to a Catholic church. As soon as he said that, I just thought, this guy is full of baloney. imo a *bit* of skepticism towards our priests and lay "leaders" isn't a bad thing.

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