Now is not the time for silence

One of the issues which has arisen as we try to address abuse within the CREC is that some feel that we are “painting everyone with the same brush.” I do not believe this is true (many have held out hope for Peter Leithart, believing him to be a humble and godly man, and there was great rejoicing when he published his public apology for his participation in the Wight debacle), but I can see why it might appear this way.

The problem is that we’re not just trying to address certain abusive individuals. Yes, many stories begin with an abusive individual (frequently either allowed to proceed unhindered or sometimes even abetted by church leadership) or with the bullying or spiritual abuse of an actual church leader. We find a good example of this in Doug’s letter to Gary Greenfield. The issue is not just that Doug threatened to bar Gary from the table.  It’s that Doug wrote a letter insinuating that if Gary didn’t follow his advice, Gary would be a failure as a father. Given that Gary was already deeply hurting over what Wight did to his daughter, this was an especially cruel way to control Gary.

While all this is very concerning, we also have to address the culture of silence which we experienced. This is key to the abuses which go on. It is considered unChristian and bitter to try to speak to others about abuses, and when we speak to elders and church leadership about them, we either go around in circles or get shut down entirely.

Some of my friends are being asked to privately discuss their difficulties rather than put them out in the open as they have chosen to do at this time. The problem is, trying to handle things behind closed doors is part of what has brought us here. There are no appeals, no way to verify information given by/to different parties, and no real pressure to resolve issues and get them right.

Amber’s story is a good example of the kind of silencing that goes on. In the name of not gossiping, she was not permitted to share the pain and hurt she experienced, not able to benefit from what others knew about her fiance, and he was allowed to save face and remain in an influential position in the church. This is a frequent issue. Really strange stuff goes down behind the scenes and then the hurt party must pretend it was just a falling out among friends. Others may even see them as unforgiving because they are not aware of the extent of the damage that was done.

I think there are other elements to CREC culture which contribute to these issues, and I hope I can begin to address them in an edifying way in the days and weeks to follow. But I would like for some to begin to ponder on this issue.

One final note is that the degree of silencing and how intentional it is varies from person to person and church to church. I think for the most part this culture is perpetuated by people with really good intentions. All the more reason to bring this all into the open and allow everyone to see what has been happening.

Comment on First Things Blog

Edit: My comment was too long by about 200 words for First Things. Below is the full text, but I will edit my comment to make it fit.

A writer at First Things weighed in on the Duggar scandal. Finding her approach unhelpful, I offered a response in a comment. The comment was subsequently removed. I have inquired with First Things as to why they chose to remove it. That comment is pasted below.

“Ms. Yost,

I appreciate some of the perspectives you are attempting to offer in this piece. You are correct that there are number of unhelpful or imbalanced responses surfacing at this time, and I understand why you might feel the need to respond. I think we both agree that all involved ought to be treated with compassion, love, respect, and understanding.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe your response is characterized by a fair attempt to understand and interact critically with those with whom you disagree. For instance, your characterization of some of these writers as “roaring blogresses” is both unnecessarily disparaging and, frankly, sexist (you invented a word to carry on your unflattering portrait and unnecessarily and irrelevantly identify their gender). While I do believe that there are correct uses of polemics, your dismissive attitude here reads less like a well-reasoned criticism and more like a lazy dismissal of your opponents. You are an academic; I know you are capable of better.

Furthermore, the way in which you attribute motives to your opponents is both unChristian and unprofessional. The supposition that “some of us seem to want the ghastly percentages to go as high as possible,” and that rape culture is “a handy thing for feminists to talk about,” is not an assertion you support; instead you assume it. Certainly, you can trust many of your readers to agree because of the fear which we conservative Christians often have towards feminism and its supposed assault on the traditional family. You are in this way neglecting your duty to your readers: rather than challenging them to think more deeply and critically, you capitalize on their fears to make your point. While I know how these beliefs about feminism arise, and I believe that some of them are at least partially grounded in reality, I think largely many of these criticisms are caused by misunderstanding and miscommunication as well as attribution of motives on both sides.

Finally, I implore you to reconsider your flippant attitude regarding the Duggars “version” of Patriarchy. I don’t know your personal history, but many women raised in patriarchal environments (whether they are as strict as Bill Gothard’s organization, of which Jim Bob and Michelle are still very much a part, or more lenient in the style of John Piper) do not have the option to pursue higher education like you are doing. This is rarely because they are outright forbidden to do so, but their choices are so constrained that they believe they prefer the “better” choice of homemaking and eschew other areas of personal growth and fulfillment. I experienced this myself. Despite having supportive family and friends, it was still extremely difficult for me to choose to pursue graduate level Biblical Studies, but I’m so glad now that I did. As a woman in academics, I think you should be able to understand how potentially damaging patriarchy can be to women who have more gifts and abilities than homemaking. I realize this may appear tangential, but your casual attitude about the effects and problems of patriarchy in your article suggests that you do not perhaps understand well the dynamics of a patriarchal home like the Duggars’.

As a Christian, as a woman, as an academic, and as a former enthusiastic advocate of Patriarchy, I ask you to reconsider your approach.”

The Law of Love

A few qualifications before I begin. I want to get married at some point. I want to have children. I think those things are blessings, and it’s my fond hope that I will enjoy those blessings some day. Binding myself to a friend and companion to go through the joys and sorrows of life together sounds like on excellent thing.

On the other hand, I think we can be too obsessed with family. Continue reading

Is there a victim here?

I guess a lot of people take issue with viewing Lourdes Torres as a victim (check out this piece by Doug Wilson to see what I’m talking about), and I guess I see the confusion.

She was an adult when all of this happened, after all.

Well, legally, yeah. Duh. But to assume that abuse can only happen to legal minors is ridiculous. There is no magical difference between 17 and 18. It’s a convenient definition that makes a useful distinction. But people can be taken advantage of no matter what their age is. Master manipulators (and, let’s be honest, Doug Phillips looks like he’s one of these) can even take your intelligence, your willpower, and your good intentions and use them all against you until you are a pathetic shell of the person you once were.

So just because someone is an adult and should be able to take care of themselves is not a reason to take them to task when they fail to protect themselves. (and of note here is that both men and women can be taken advantage of in this way; this is not a women are weak issue; it’s more of a some people are evil and way, way too powerful issue)

Doug Wilson’s comment here tragically misses the point: “We can’t have it both ways. We cannot accuse Vision Forum of treating all women like little girls, and then turn around and treat all women as little girls who can’t be expected to say no to a cad at Vision Forum. Everyone who automatically assumes that Torres-Manteufel was the victim is ironically buying into a view of the world that assumes that grown women are not responsible for what they say or do.”

I think the reason we assume Ms. Torres was a victim is because we think we have an insight into how she probably ended up where she did.

She was most likely taught her whole life to submit to men. You might say, “No, what a girl is taught is to submit to one man, either her father or her husband,” but the thing is, you’re taught to do that because they are male. It causes some confusion.

“Eve was deceived,” girls are told. And so they learn not to trust themselves. When a man Lourdes had been especially taught to trust and revere wanted her to do something against her better judgment, she likely didn’t feel confident enough in herself to stand up to him. She’d been told her whole life that women need men to protect them because their own judgment isn’t trustworthy.

She was set up. She didn’t stand a chance.

And, more directly in response to Pastor Wilson’s comment, a woman who has been trained not to act like an adult, to let others make her decisions, to look for direction from males, may not be equipped to act like an adult. That isn’t proof that women are incapable of taking care of themselves. That’s evidence that Vision Forum is bad for you.