The dangers of keeping things in the church



I’m currently in The Hague, the international seat of justice for war crimes in former Yugoslavia — which were not held in former Yugoslavia in part due to the fact that “concepts of law and justice are very confusing for people living under the influences of propaganda.” Years ago, some were pushing for the pope to answer in The Hague for the widespread cover-up of sexual abuse in the church. Why would a pope answer for crimes of this nature in a secular court instead of a church court? Because anytime one high-ranking person dictates how a private court operates, and can more or less control the flow of information to a court or tribunal, as well as decide the punishments meted out, that court or tribunal is bound to be skewed. This should be obvious.

Peace The Hague

That’s why we have secular courts of law in the first place, with established rules and established laws. That’s why, in the United States, if a prosecutor for one district or county is on trial, it’s rescinded to another district in the interest of court neutrality. If you’re being fair, you don’t want a man being “prosecuted” by his cronies.

I’ve been hearing a whole lot about why people should not discuss sex abuse cases and domestic abuse cases within the CREC. I’ve heard things like — in defense of Steven Sitler being sexually stimulated by his infant son — “every man can be sexually stimulated by a kid sitting on his lap or being in the same room, so what’s the big deal?” though this obviously does not speak well for the men this CREC woman knows. I’ve heard things like “Natalie just needs to accept that God wanted her to be sexually abused and figure out the lesson she needs to learn from this,” which makes God out to be a psychopath — no loving father says, “hey, daughter of mine, I’ve scheduled for you to be raped by an upstanding young man; I want you to think hard about the lessons I’m teaching you in doing this.”

I’ve heard things like “if you’re not a CREC member, or a member of a similar church in good standing, then what you say doesn’t matter anyway,” because, clearly, the definition of reality = if the person talking about it is a CREC member. At this point, I know the stories of close to a hundred people who have left the CREC because they experienced abuse within the church, or saw abuse within the church and were rebuked repeatedly for trying to speak up about it. Most of them are not willing to talk about their experiences yet, especially after witnessing how Natalie has been treated for talking. But that is beginning to change.

Once these people leave, they start paying attention to why they didn’t catch on sooner. The gender theology of the CREC is very telling in these circumstances. If, without the correct application of Christian contrition, as Doug Wilson claims, men tend to be violent rapists at heart (or gay, which is obviously worse), and women tend to be seducers of men (or gay, which is obviously worse), then why be surprised if there are a variety of abuse cases in the church? Why be surprised if women are battered a little bit by their husbands? Why bother treating that any differently than a disagreement about who washes the dishes?

The problem with this gender theology: non-Christian men (or all the ones I know) are kind, generous, and protective of women and children. I grew up thinking that the non-Christian world was a pretty dangerous place, but once I got into it, started traveling the world on my own, started talking to people on my own, I realized I was wrong. Without Christ, men are not just rapist pedophiles out to beat women up — so the answer to being a rapist pedophile or a wife beater is probably not “more Bible verses as told by your pastor.” There’s a lot more to it than that. Without Christianity, men can be, and are, amazing human beings. And, of course, many men within the CREC are as well. I know some — I know some really, really wonderful men and women who attend CREC churches.

But the nice people don’t change the fact that I know not-so-nice people who attend or attended CREC churches. I’ll be honest: all of the most pushy guys I’ve known personally — the kind who wouldn’t take “no” seriously, the kind who wouldn’t take repeated rebuffs seriously — attended CREC churches at some point or another. I’ve said this before, but the theology of the CREC enables men to be secure in a certain measure of asshole-ness — just look at the way their Presiding Minister talks about non-Christian women, about how men “dream of being rapists” and how women dream of being raped. Add to this that the theology of the CREC enables men to put part of the blame of their actions on other people — those unsubmissive wives, those seductive women, their negligent parents (see, for example, all of Doug Wilson’s responses about the nature of Jamin Wight’s crimes). Lastly, the theology of the CREC allows these men, in many, many, many cases that I guarantee most of CREC has never even heard of, to keep their crimes in-house, behind closed doors. Often, in spite of all of the Bible verses quoted to them, these men reoffend — particularly where they’re sent home with the wives they’re physically abusing.

Several years ago, my ex-husband admitted, on a recording, that he had abused the internal church process to his benefit and my detriment. He is a lawyer normally prone to litigious behavior, and he went to the churches — churches neither of us even attended with any regularity — instead of the courts because he knew that within the churches, he could get away with more. Here is the transcript, where K is me, and S is my ex-husband (off-topic: when you start transcribing conversations, you really notice how few complete sentences people speak):

K: OK… well, like, would you admit… that you, that you knowingly and deliberately manipulated the process of, like, church discipline?

S: Well, here’s what I would admit: when I say I manipulated it, in terms of, I sinned in the process, I used the process sinfully, but I wasn’t — during the process, like I would confess it, I would get angry…

K: But, here’s thing: you were doing research [to give to the pastors by hacking email and so on]. You were looking for anything and everything; you were setting everything up.

S: Well, yeah, yeah, yeah… I want to discuss how I abused the church process.

K: But the thing is, I don’t know how that can be prevented, because you were so good at it — that even though I was commenting on that [the unfairness of what was going on] to them [the pastors of the various churches involved], they totally disregarded it.

S: … Here’s an example. Had there been somebody … who — you didn’t have a well-placed advocate in the church system.

K: Yeah, I know. If I did, the people that I did have, you tried to take down, you tried to separate me from the people who would be on my side.

S: Right. That’s the whole point of having, that’s what happens in the criminal world; the reason that there’s a victim’s advocate is because there are very clever people that, that engineer witness testimony. All the time.

K: The process, like the church discipline process, is not nearly that structured. Like… it doesn’t have due process —

S: Here’s the thing, ‘cause this is, this is how I did it… I was only able to be effective because what I did, one of the first things I did is to make sure that the process was, I had Evan [Wilson] meet with Doug [Wilson]. Evan’s more intellectual process, he’s there but he’s slower, he’s much more — so then he met with Doug, Doug’s fast, systematic, procedural, judicial part of it, so when they partnered, they were, collectively — and then Jim [Wilson] got involved; it had the unity of all of them…

K: If somebody like you can do that, can manipulate —

S: I tell you the truth, to do what I did, I would imagine, is strikingly rare. To, uh, from the inside.

K: Yeah. Do you know how horrible that makes me feel? That I’m the one in a million person that got totally screwed over by the system?

S: But you knew.

K: And nobody believed me.

S: You knew I was positioned to do that, that I was capable —

K: No, I didn’t. I didn’t know you were that much of a jerk. I didn’t know you would use God to, to stomp on me.

Now, let it be known, if the church discipline process could get its act together and actually stop abuse (as in, immediately encourage battered or frightened women to leave their husbands, even if from a distance the elders think the abuse is “not that bad” and “they’ve seen worse”; immediately demand that any physical discipline of children err on the side of grace and caution; and immediately demand that sexual abusers be taken to jail after a secular trial in which “repentant” perps plead guilty to all of their crimes), that would be great. I’ve contributed to trying to get the harsh spanking present in various CREC churches addressed within the church internally.

Let’s see how it works out. Because I know that at this point, I am not the “one in a million” person who got screwed — even harassed — by a nebulous CREC church discipline process weighted in favor of those in higher positions of authority — men, seminarians, deacons, elders, and those related to them. I’m one of dozens if not hundreds worldwide. And if the church process doesn’t change, there will be hundreds more.

It is not persecution to demand that the smallest and weakest be given an equal voice, be sheltered from abusive men and abusive processes. It is persecution, and worse, to silence the least of these. Jesus saved his harshest words for church leaders who abused their authority; Jesus spoke kindly to women the rest of society despised. Not the other way around, as Doug Wilson and some of his followers appear to believe.

Whose side are you on in this matter: Jesus or Doug Wilson? Whose side are you on, the epileptic girl being strangled by her pastor father, or her father, because he recites pieties on Sunday? Whose side are you on, the wife being hurt by her husband, or the husband, because he smiles at you and shakes your hand in front of the congregation? If you choose no side, you chose by default, and these atrocities will continue to go on.

If you see a man punching a kid in a park, do you say “well, we don’t know the whole story here, and maybe the kid deserved it”? I sincerely hope not. And I sincerely hope that you see how not doing anything in this situation is, in fact, doing something and sending a very strong message to the kid being punched.

Obvious Lies and Gratuitous Spins


As more and more has come out about the sex abuse scandals in Christ Church, some have suggested taking complaints through the “proper channels” instead of airing everything over the internet. With this guest post, Doug Wilson has efficiently proven why this would be impossible. He writes in concerned tone, citing truth, and meanwhile telling several lies in the process. He is not concerned with truth. He is concerned with protecting the (nonexistent) integrity of the decisions he made ten years ago.

Everything he says is intended to distract his audience from the only legal question of any importance in the Jamin Wight case: whether Jamin was a sexual predator when he abused 14-year-old Natalie Greenfield, and whether he should have been taken to trial for justice instead of plea bargaining out based on Doug’s faulty legal understanding and subsequent meddling in the court case.

Doug’s reasoning for encouraging the Greenfields not to take this case to trial and his current refusal to apologize for these actions, according to Doug:

1. By saying Jamin wasn’t a sexual predator, Doug just meant Jamin wasn’t abusing two-year-olds like Steven Sitler was.

Why this is a lie: Doug’s letter to the investigating officer says nothing to this effect whatsoever; this is the spin put on the thing in light of the Sitler case, ten years later. The reason Doug actually gave the court in writing the letter: implied consent based on a “foolish relationship” encouraged by Natalie’s parents.

2. The “foolish relationship encouraged by Natalie’s parents” legitimately shifted part of the blame away from Jamin.

Why this is a lie: Natalie herself has spoken at length about her “infatuation” and about Jamin’s expressed interest in her (a classic abuse scenario, by the way) and has stressed that her parents allowed no such relationship. In fact, when her Dad noticed Jamin taking unhealthy interest in her, he kicked Jamin out. Natalie writes more about these allegations here and here — pointing out that Doug was witness to nothing that went on in her house, but is claiming to be an expert anyway — far more of an expert than Natalie, in fact. Again, this is ironic, given how much Doug loves to complain about the so-called “clairvoyance” of third parties commenting on this situation.

3. Natalie was significantly bigger than Jamin (implied in this statement: the fact that she should have been able to resist him).

Why this is a lie: Doug claims that Natalie was 8″ taller than Jamin. Natalie, full grown, is 6’1″ and even if she had been that height at age 14, Jamin is approximately 5’9″ … Not 5’5.” Either way, height has no bearing on someone’s ability to resist the emotional manipulation of a serial abuser. However, rounding up a few inches difference to eight inches difference should tell people just how concerned Doug Wilson is with the accuracy of his account. Which is ironic, given his insistence that people don’t know everything and aren’t fact-checking.

4. That any of this, even if it were all completely true, makes one iota of difference legally or morally.

Why this is a lie: Natalie could have been sneaking into Jamin’s room and Jamin would still legally be the one convicted of sexual abuse due to their massive experience and age difference. In fact, as was clearly shown in this particular case, consent was not even a possible defense in this situation. But the abuse goes way beyond age difference. Jamin has proved over and over that he is abusive in every sense of the word. He was highly abusive in the situation with the Greenfields. He was highly abusive in the situation with his ex-wife. He has proven his colors beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Again, why the need to minimize Jamin’s crimes by bringing up things that are a. untrue and b. legally inadmissible due to the fact that Natalie was a minor at the time? Doug recently contacted Natalie and in a show of concern, proceeded to counsel her using kindly-worded blackmail, claiming that he had access to a journal she’d written during her abuse and insinuating that he would not hesitate to use it in order to make her look bad. I say “kindly-worded blackmail” after specifically consulting with a lawyer on what Doug wrote to Natalie. I say this because, whatever Doug Wilson is claiming about Natalie, Natalie is taking the high road and not mentioning the emails Doug has been sending her. But on my part, I’ve examined the evidence, I’ve looked at their correspondence, I’ve talked to legal counsel, and I can say that based on everything I have seen, Natalie’s character exceeds Doug’s by a mile. But this is textbook Doug Wilson: slandering a woman’s character because she dares to speak up (if you doubt this, take a stroll through his blog where he has anything to say about women who disagree with him). Also textbook Doug Wilson: asserting that because at one point a woman was infatuated with her abuser, she deserved the abuse she got.

I was, as I mentioned, consulting on this case with a lawyer in London, someone with extensive experience dealing with corruption at the highest level. And he pointed out that anytime someone is this enraptured with defending the wicked at the expense of the innocent, there is a reason. And the reason is usually more corruption, more control. This lawyer is also Catholic, and he pointed out that the Catholic church’s pedophilia cover up was routinely denied in the church as “propaganda” and “persecution” until the cold, hard light of outside investigation made the thing impossible to deny. Doug is the Presiding Minister, a role criticized as being similar to the pope of the CREC, for those unfamiliar with the term “Presiding Minister.” Thus far, all the proper channels have been too busy defending him to look into the truth or legal validity of his statements, or cautioning all and sundry “we don’t have the full story.” Now we do. The full story: Doug is making false and legally invalid claims in order to avoid taking a good, hard look at the way he and his church deal with sexual abuse. He’s going on record with statements like “Jamin’s crime was that of engaging in sexual behavior with an underage girl,” which shows a staggering ability to downplay and re-word the abusive behavior Jamin has continued to exhibit. If I attended the CREC I would be running for the hills. Remember, parents: next time you invite one of Doug’s cronies into your home, according to Doug, it’s your fault if your children are abused. But make sure you take things through the proper channels when Doug’s cronies abuse you or your children… Doug doesn’t take kindly to people who go to the police first instead of initially consulting with his infallible legal and moral wisdom. If you cross him, he might just try to tell everyone it’s all your fault.

Update: The above closing lines were based on what someone told me regarding Doug Wilson not wanting the Greenfields to take the case to trial, and being upset they took it to police in the first place. A totally different person has since informed me that he had a conversation with Doug about this in 2006 (“by the mouths of two or three witnesses”):

“In a personal meeting with me in 2006, [Doug Wilson] brought up Jamin and strongly implied that he did not think [the Greenfields] should have gone to the police or courts at all. He wanted it handled all ‘in house.’ He was angry with [Gary Greenfield] for coming into the initial meeting and announcing what he was going to do, which was go to the police.

DW said (from my memory): ‘Gary should not have already made up his mind on going to the police. The purpose of my initial meeting with him was to figure out what OUGHT to be done, not to be told what he was going to ALREADY do. Even though he is within his right to go to the law, it would have been better to handle this outside of court due to the parental negligence involved.’

In short, it was made very, very clear to me that DW did not want Jamin to go to jail AT ALL. This totally contradicts what he is saying now.”

Doug Wilson, localized into American English



So my day job consists of managing a magazine about translation and cultural differences, including editing a host of articles written by people whose first language is not English. In these instances, it is very helpful to know how language works — the way French deals with certain idiomatic expressions that would not make sense translated literally, for example.

Over my years of editing, I also got pretty good at reading between the lines of a certain kind of person who was allergic to being wrong or to admitting to wrongdoing in writing — namely, lawyers. I edited my ex-husband’s legal briefs and memos, and I also dealt with the way he argued with me. His claim was, typically, that nothing existed unless it was written down. Because of this, he would insinuate things in writing but not state them explicitly — because that would get him in trouble.

My ex-husband received his education in debate from Doug Wilson, personally. And I’m strongly reminded of his style of discourse when I look over the things Doug has been writing. Although, credit where credit is due — my ex-husband, unlike Doug, would occasionally break down and admit he was wrong about something.

Doug’s letters to Natalie’s dad and to an investigating officer in the case of Natalie’s sexual abuse by Jamin Wight do just that: insinuate the opposite of what they’re explicitly stating. For example, in his letter to the investigating officer, he notes that Jamin has committed a crime, but he also claims that Jamin “is not a sexual predator” and, moreover, the only wrongdoing Doug mentions explicitly (aside from Jamin not living up to his duties as seminary student) is what Doug claims the parents did. In his letter to Natalie’s dad, he frames “protection” as the “protection” of not taking the case to trial — without ever explicitly saying so. And if you ask any number of the people who have interacted with Doug over matters of church concern, and subsequently left, the letters Doug wrote them were similar: unspecific, vaguely threatening and full of double-speak. There is a cloud of witnesses on this issue, and Doug’s still insisting they’ve all got it wrong, that they’re persecuting him with a pack of lies.

The thing is, I bet even his staunchest supporters would agree with me if they could shift their assumptions even a little bit. I encourage you who are, go back and re-read Doug’s communications imagining that Doug is someone else, from somewhere else other than your own culture — a Catholic priest or a Muslim cleric, for example.

However, Doug has been getting sloppy lately with his discourse and is actually going on record with things that are easily provable as false. What Doug has asserted in writing recently: that “it [the Jamin Wight/Natalie case] was a foolish parent-approved relationship, which led to statutory rape, as was shown in court.” Doug Wilson tweet

This is actually a lie, and here’s the proof, in writing. The court case did not show this; in fact, the court records stated that it was legally impossible to argue “consent” (by the victims or her parents) in this case given the age of the victim, and the “consent” of the parents never came into the court case either way — other than in what Doug himself wrote, and this notation by the court. So I find it ironic that Doug started this particular twitter conversation with a quote about truth. Here’s a link to the actual court documents, and if you are more up on courtspeak than Wilson appears to be, you’ll notice that the case ends in a plea deal where Wight pleads guilty — the case never even went to trial, so “the court,” by definition, never “showed” anything. Which Doug should know, since he sat in an adjacent room during the moderation.Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 6.43.38 PM

Moreover, just because parents approve a courtship, that doesn’t mean courtship “leads” to statutory rape. Or is Doug actually arguing that it does? Is Doug actually arguing that two parents allowing one of his seminary students to be interested in someone — hold her hand, smile at her — “leads” to the kinds of grotesque things that Natalie describes on her blog, the kinds of things so vile that I don’t even want to think about them? If so, Doug should burn all the stuff on courtship he’s ever written. Because he can’t have it both ways. He can’t encourage parents to board his seminary students and college students, and encourage early marriage in his congregation, and encourage chaste getting to know one another under the eye of the parents, and then claim the parents were negligent because they followed his advice.

And for all of Doug’s recent private assertions to Natalie that she was so tall and mature and pretty at age 14 (you know, the really important things when looking at a sex abuse case), Natalie herself has said that her sex education consisted of her reading the dictionary at age 13. The rest of it, she said, she found out six months later when Jamin started abusing her. And this lack of sex education for females is entirely consistent with what the CREC teaches.

I’m not sure what tenuous “proof” Doug is holding on to in order to claim that there was a “secret courtship.” I don’t think he actually has any, other than his own faulty memory of something Natalie’s parents told him ten years ago, and which Jamin Wight spun to his own advantage. But I do know that when I shared his letter to the officer with Natalie (who had never seen it before), she was genuinely confused and horrified, as no such courtship had existed. Her reaction was not the reaction of someone who’d been holding back knowledge of some “secret courtship,” and as she pointed out, she would be the one to know, not Doug Wilson. Her family would be the ones to know, not Doug Wilson. You know, the family that nearly all left Christ Church after Natalie was treated so badly by the church in the wake of her abuse.

Doug has been using the “proof” he claimed he had as a threat to shut Natalie up, and actually wrote her a letter in which he the first thing he asks is “Did your mom hurt you or wrong you in some way that makes you want to get back at her like this? Is there something we don’t know? Are you aware that my central reason for not talking publicly about all this has been to protect your mom from accusations of parental negligence?” Translation: if you don’t stop talking about this, I’m going to have to try to vilify your mother publicly, even though, legally speaking, she had nothing to do with the case. So stop talking!

It’s important to note that, up until this point in time, Doug has been fighting tooth and nail to explain away why he felt the need to severely minimize Jamin’s crimes. And it’s relevant that Jamin, like Natalie has been telling anyone who would listen for the past ten years, was a violent, manipulative person, who, according to public court records, went on to throttle his now-ex-wife while she was holding their child.

But to Doug, everything Natalie is saying about Jamin is still untrue, because Natalie was tall at age 14, and because Doug has convinced himself that Natalie’s parents let Jamin show her affection. Doug wrote to Natalie a few days ago and told her, “what [Jamin] had done was very different from subsequent reconstructions that [you have] been periodically posting.” No hint of what, exactly, Natalie was supposedly lying about, except the “consent” thing — and Doug has claimed to Natalie repeatedly, that at least in a certain sense, she had consented to the “relationship” with Jamin.

Another thing Doug shared with Natalie a few days ago: “Though Jamin has been in possession of this entire set of facts through various Internet dust-ups (demonstrable facts which enabled him to show that his crimes did not include pedophilia), he has shown more respect for the feelings of others than have all the so-called ‘victim advocates’ in all our comment threads put together.” Translation: Jamin might have been a rapist and a wife-abuser, but at least he kept his mouth shut when I told him to, and that’s what really matters.

Now, Doug has recently indicated privately to Natalie that he was sorry about one thing — not finding a way around Natalie’s Dad to meet with her during the aftermath of her abuse (translation: it’s your Dad’s fault that you didn’t get the care from the church that you needed). But, in fact, he did meet with her then against her father’s wishes, and it was not an experience that resulted in anything but her feeling shamed and blamed for the abuse. Additionally, she was prodded for information about her father, as were other members of her family. Someone else recorded the conversation he had with Doug about this very thing:

Me: . . . did you meet with this girl alone in a room?

Wilson: Yes, for 15 minutes.

Me: So [Natalie’s father] gave you permission to meet with his little girl?

Wilson: Well, ah, no.

Me: Oh, I see.

Wilson: He did give me permission to counsel his family.

Me: Did he give you permission to interrogate his little girl?

Wilson: I did not interrogate; I met with her only to offer her encouragement during this hard time.

Me: Did you ask her if her father had made reference to Christ Church [Wilson’s congregation] as a “cult”?

Wilson: Yes, I did.

So there you have it — in Wilson’s accounts he gives of his actions versus what history actually shows, you have more posing, more wrangling, and no actual acknowledgement of cause and effect.

So what would the “internet mob,” as Doug is so charitably calling the people who want to see reform in the way the CREC handles abuse, like Doug to do in this instance?

First: we’d like to see him publicly retract his false statements that e.g. “it [the Jamin Wight/Natalie case] was a foolish parent-approved relationship, which led to statutory rape, as was shown in court.” And we mean actually retract — not pretend like those words mean something other than what they so clearly mean. Or that we all just misunderstand him.

Second, we’d like to see him demand that abusers pay restitution to their victims — all their victims, not just the ones they plea-bargain out for — in the form of, at the bare minimum, an acknowledgement that they abused the victims and that this will have lasting psychological consequences that will probably need professional psychological help. The more public the abuse, the more publicly it got hastened away into the shadows, the more public the restitution should be. In this case, Wilson himself is one of the abusers, since he used his power to silence the victim and insinuate, both privately and publicly, that she was lying, that her parents were to blame for her abuse, and that publicly calling for change within his denomination was an act of treason or war. Because Wilson said all this publicly, he should make his restitution public. He should make his retractions public.

But I would probably have a heart attack if Doug Wilson did either of these things. What we will likely see, instead, is what we’ve seen all along: more of the carefully-worded “my bad behavior was someone else’s fault,” more revising of clear historical statements in the vein of “see, when I said that Jamin was not a sexual predator, I actually meant that he was sexual predator — and it’s your fault if you couldn’t tell what I really meant,” or “I sneezed in Natalie’s direction once, and she didn’t take this as a sincere apology, so what are you going to do?”

50 Shades Darker in the CREC



Doug Wilson’s semi-obsession with dissing 50 Shades of Grey ties in directly to the abuse cases I’ve seen coming out of the CREC.

A caveat, in case this isn’t obvious enough: I am aware that the CREC is not some homogeneous bedsore on the body of an otherwise-perfect world. Each church is different, and each individual within each church is different. But still, within the CREC, something bad is happening over and over, and that something involves dismissing cases of abuse (of various types) because they’re “outliers” or because they’re “exaggerated.” Or because the abuse is assumed to be theologically on-point and not abuse at all, just another “bitter” person spreading gossip. But it’s happening often enough that you’d be blind to deny the existence of the pattern and to fail to examine the rationale behind it. Calling the church’s wounded “malcontents” and “screeching harpies” doesn’t actually make the church’s wounded disappear.

Another caveat: what follows may be triggering to those who have been wounded in this way.

I know a woman, a friend of mine, whose abuse at the hands of a CREC pastor sounds like something straight out of 50 Shades — all through childhood, and up until the age of 15, she was stripped naked from the waist down and beaten by him.

This was completely in line with his theology and the theology of the CREC as a whole, because he was her father — and this was called “Biblical correction.” Her mother, she said, was even worse. She was struck with a rod almost daily through her younger years, and then, after puberty, less frequently — anywhere from 10 to 100 strikes at a time. “Bloodied bruises from one spanking would sometimes break open from spankings the next day. The scabs would soften and come off in the bath. And I would wait for them to reform in my underwear. If I bled, I was told it would not kill me, but save me. ‘Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13-14.’”

In her church, this was normal — she used to compare her stripes with those of the other children at the church and brag about how she hadn’t cried. “My parents taught ‘biblical’ parenting classes, complete with how to spank children and all the Bible verses to back it up. My mother included tips about how to dress children after a particularly bad spanking so stripes wouldn’t show and people wouldn’t call the police. They liked to say how bruises hurt for a short while but hell was forever.”

They are not evil people, she said, “but what they believe has made them so cold, hard, twisted, and blind to the plight of women and children.” Her PTSD over these events lingers well into adulthood; she told me that when she watched 12 Years A Slave, the scenes of corporal punishment gave her flashbacks, and she sobbed uncontrollably in the theater. Such was her agony as a child over the way she was physically abused in the name of God, she tried to kill herself as young as five years old.

I’ve mentioned before that people who were spanked as children have statistically higher instances of fascination with BDSM — in fact, the majority of people who are spanked a lot in childhood are aroused by masochistic sex. And this makes sense. They’re taught from the cradle that pain equals love, they’re taught from the cradle that they’re supposed to submit to whatever those in authority dish out to teach them better manners, no matter how much it hurts them. When they’re additionally bent over and spanked for 14 years straight in the (almost) nude, into pre- and full-blown adolescence, you can imagine the psychological tweaking that takes place in their developing brains. My friend says, “When I told my father a few years ago the effect that spankings had on me, that they would force me into arousal, and how that made my sex life a nightmare for the first few years [of marriage], he told me that I was lying because God commanded children to be spanked in the Bible and therefore it was not possible for them to be aroused by it.”

My friend is by no means alone. Over and over, I’ve heard the same kinds of confessions, the same kinds of stories coming out of the CREC and Christian organizations like it, all immersed in guilt — and, yet, ironically, as another person told me, “if you’re being ‘forced,’ then it’s not wrong, so the guilt isn’t as bad.”

So maybe 50 Shades isn’t popular because submission is an “erotic necessity,” as Doug Wilson claims. Maybe it’s popular because a lot of women have been trained to internalize submission as pain, and both with their proper place in life. The actual BDSM community hates 50 Shades because it reinforces the patriarchal myth that women should be manipulated and forced into things they are uncomfortable with — and that they like this manipulation. The actual BDSM community sees making the choice to bring spanking or submission into an adult relationship as potentially therapeutic, in large part because for once, you, the submissive one, the smaller one, can actually say yes or no and be heard, be heeded. You can say: I want this. I don’t want this. I want to feel this. I don’t want to feel this. I’m aroused by this. I’m working through figuring out this arousal with my eyes wide open.

Consent is the key word here. Full consent. No assumptions, no pressure. No manhandling because the other person is supposed to submit to you, is supposed to give you what you want. Being able to say yes or no is an incredibly powerful thing.

Doug Wilson does not seem to understand consent, and this is why he doesn’t understand people’s issues with how he deals with abuse and abuse victims. I’ve written about this before; we’ve seen it before in how Josh Duggar responded to the abuse of his sisters, for example.

Girls (and boys) who are underage cannot legally consent to sexual relationships because they are easy to manipulate and manhandle by those in authority over them — or merely by those more experienced than them. And Doug Wilson either doesn’t get this, or doesn’t agree with it. Which, honestly, would be consistent — if you don’t want to believe that submission can land you in abusive situations, the easiest thing to do is to pretend that the fault of the abuse lies not with the abuser and in the principle of submission against your better judgment, but in the abuser and the person being abused — or the parents of the person being abused.

Consent, again, comes into the idea of against your better judgment. If you “submit” to someone only when you agree, it’s not actually submission at all — it’s agreement. If you “submit” when you disagree because you’re a rational, reasonable person and you understand compromise, that’s not submission either. If that’s submission, egalitarian couples “submit” to each other all the time. So, truly, the concept of “submission” only comes into play when one party really doesn’t want to do something.

So imagine that you’re trained to think that your job, particularly as a woman, is to do things because the people in charge tell you that you should, even when everything within you rebels. How impervious do you think you will be to the abuses of those who are bigger than you, stronger than you, older than you, more male than you? If you’re taught to ignore your intuition, ignore your own feelings, and do things because you’re supposed to, then you’re robbed of 90% of your tools against abusers. Abusers operate well within the confines of “rules,” manipulating systems because systems are easy to manipulate. Intuition and rebellion aren’t easy to manipulate — but they’re easy to squash, if you get the girls (and boys) young enough.

Add to all this the bizarrely lackadaisical attitude Doug Wilson appears to have when measuring the “repentance” of abusive people. Even in the case of the sexual abuse of the incredibly young, Doug Wilson gave Steven Sitler extra-Biblical leniency — why else would he consider him “repentant” when all Steven did was plea-bargain out one count of abuse, when everyone, including Doug, knew there had been many, many more victims? An actually repentant person is willing to admit his crimes — all his crimes — at a bare minimum, and recognize and apologize to his victims — all his victims.

And for this, if nothing else, Doug Wilson should be taken to task by his church. And for this, if nothing else, the church as a whole should re-evaluate its theology of abuse.

50 Shades More Redundant



Doug Wilson’s recent post reminds me of something he wrote back in 2013. So much so, that I pulled up a draft of what I was writing in response back then, and it basically matched word for word. I figure that if Doug can recycle his arguments ad nauseum, at least it gives me a chance to make good on stuff I didn’t publish two years ago.

His current post is about how non-Christian women really are mostly on the spectrum of whores and dykes, so it’s totally legit to “generalize” them as such because — wait for it — 50 Shades of Grey sold a lot of copies. The assumption here (quick lesson, in case Doug’s fans aren’t up on logic, but assumptions aren’t real proof) is that a. all these copies were sold to non-Christians; b. all the readers were women; and c. all the readers approved of the book. And when I say “all” I mean “all” in the way that Wilson appears to use it, which is “generally speaking, because I’m not going to bother being clear about this, since it’s more fun pretending I was clear in the first place and then mocking everyone who called me out on my BS.”

The post a few years ago similarly challenged us to consider the sexual double standard set forth by liberals, and was similarly used to sidestep the issue of his tendency to blame the victim in abuse scenarios. It appears from reading this post that Wilson sincerely believes feminists are staunch fans of 50 Shades of Grey and Lil’ Wayne, which is apparently hypocritical of them because they don’t like it when men tell women what to do.

So I’m wondering, based on these and many other posts like it: Does Wilson know any real feminists or real non-Christians, or is he still arguing based on some two-dimensional scarecrow he’s made up in his head? He seems very keen on letting us know how much people misunderstand his arguments, but he doesn’t waste his precious time actually trying to figure out the arguments of anyone who thinks he’s wrong.

In the post from two years ago, Doug urges us to compare 100 women who like him and follow his teachings and 100 women who don’t, in what he seems to believe is a good limitus test of happiness and safety: whether the women have been physically abused, been called “bitch” by a boyfriend or husband, or have read 50 Shades of Grey. He obviously believes the 100 women who follow his teachings would get better grades on this test.

So, Ok, I’m accepting the challenge. I know a fair amount of women who do like Wilson and a fair amount who don’t. Probably over 100 of each. I also know a fair amount who have abandoned his teachings (and teachings like them) precisely because they were abused in some way under those teachings. I’m not sure which category I’m supposed to put them in. Presumably, they’d go in the “don’t like Wilson” camp, although that’s obviously unfair; they don’t like Wilson because his theology enabled their abusers.

But still, for the sake of argument, let’s leave them out of it. I think we can safely say that the women who follow Wilson’s teachings won’t be reading 50 Shades of Grey, because according to Wilson, that’s a sign there’s something seriously wrong with you. To hear Wilson tell it, reading that book means you’re basically apostate. So, yes, Wilson, if they agree with you, they clearly won’t be reading that book. I believe this logical fallacy is called “circular reasoning,” if you care to keep track. Although, come to think of it, most of the Facebook posts I’ve seen mentioning 50 Shades over the years were made by people in Wilson’s camp — in the negative, obviously. I’m sure they read it twice just to make sure they disapproved.

However, of all the feminists I’ve discussed 50 Shades of Grey with, not a single one of them, male or female, was a fan. They’d read it, or at least started to, because they were curious what all the fuss was about. Because they don’t believe buying a book makes you apostate or anything. They said the book was degrading and insulting to women, that the female character was an idiot, that it was absurd, poorly written, and not erotic. I confess: I read it. I was in a hostel in London and it had been left behind by someone, and I had an evening to kill that I didn’t want to spend trying to get the best of the horrendous internet connection. I was not impressed. The book was mildly amusing, in the same way that horrible things that have somehow become popular are — Doug Wilson has jump-started his notoriety on this exact principle. I’m guessing the book became popular in part because it’s so easy to make fun of; everyone loves to hate it. And that’s kind of our cultural ethos right now. Not that Doug would know anything about that.

So on to the second part of the test: being called a “bitch” by your boyfriend or husband. Here I draw a blank, because this is not something I’ve ever asked anyone else or that anyone else (again, outside of the abused women formerly from Wilson’s circle) has ever volunteered. I have insider knowledge of myself and that’s it. However, if I consider my ex-husband, who was going to counseling with Wilson at the time of our divorce, compared to every other boyfriend I’ve ever had (none of whom were big Wilson fans) then sorry, Doug, you lose this one. Your camp is the only one that ever called me a bitch. Your camp is the only one who’s ever called me a lot of things, come to think of it.

The third test, that of physical abuse, is of course the most serious. I’m not sure what Wilson considers physical abuse, but I do know a few things that he thinks aren’t physical abuse, or at least weren’t abusive enough to merit much in the way of church correction. So I don’t think I know anyone who Wilson considers to have been actually physically abused, in his camp or out of it (as far as I know, he’s never stated publicly that anyone was). I do know that every single woman I know who I would say has been abused, however, was abused at the hands of a so-called Christian man who believed in traditional gender roles. More, the more dependent my friends have been on their boyfriends or husbands, and the more patriarchal their boyfriends, husbands, and broader community were, the more likely it was that they stayed in a bad situation.

That’s what feminists are trying to prevent, actually: the entrapment of the weak by the strong. In pop culture, feminists write parodies of Robin Thicke, beg Miley Cyrus to get a clue. In real life, they live, and they want other women to have the same opportunities. Because as much as feminists like community and supporting one another, in the end, they know those things can get pulled out from under you. So you’d better know how to survive on your own if you need to.

When I think of feminists, I think of my group of female friends in Sandpoint — all of them beautiful, in the way that the summer forests and the mountains of that region are beautiful — warm, in full bloom, adorned by the natural slant of the sunlight, strong, tireless, shaped by laughter and the glory of capability. We are designers, scientists, mothers, triathaletes, homeowners. We run businesses and clear trash from cliffs; we go rock climbing and skiing together; we trade clothes regularly because we are frugal and because we see where someone else would wear a thing with better grace. We are all close with our families, but we can all take care of ourselves solo. We are afraid of neither the future or the past. We do not suffer fools. We love deeply and selectively, because we, too, want happily ever after. We believe in sacrifice, but we also believe in standing up for ourselves. We believe we are human beings before we are women. We have differing opinions, strengths, and talents. We vote. We get paid at work. We love our work. Our work makes the world a better place. And this, Doug Wilson, is how you actually praise a group of people. You don’t praise a group of people by saying “they’re better than some really hideous people I could mention.” You also don’t claim that you’re being nice because you’re only nice to the people in your camp. Even the gentiles do as much.

Feminists want the world to be a safe and fair place for everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, gender, level of attractiveness, or marital status. They don’t like patriarchy because it demands that women put themselves in a vulnerable position, suspending their own needs and safety in the hope that the man they’re under can provide for everything. And, of course, sometimes he can, and sometimes he’s wonderful. But certainly not always. Mind you, feminists are not adverse to being stay-at-home moms. They just don’t want to be required to be stay-at-home moms in order to be considered “real” women.

They just don’t want a woman to be required to submit against her better judgement. Because there lies the road to the kind of madness that Doug ends up defending.

Why men who submit to authority are prettier



Doug Wilson’s distracting us from the recent sex abuse hubbub by dishing up his usual insults about the kinds of females who displease him. Specifically, he gives us the supposed full picture of non-Christian females by stating “Unbelieving women either compete for the attention of men through outlandish messages that communicate some variation of ‘easy lay,’ or in the grip of resentment they give up the endeavor entirely, which is how we get lumberjack dykes. The former is an avid reader of Cosmopolitan and thinks she knows 15K ways to please a man in bed. The latter is just plain surly about the fact that there even are any men.”

Now, I’m pretty sure that, regardless of my actual beliefs, Doug wouldn’t count me as a Christian, since my doctrine is about as far from his as one could get. So which one am I — the shameless, Cosmo-obsessed hussy falling out of her clothing because she’s obsessed with getting men to look at her, or the resentful, man-hating, maybe-even “lumberjack dyke”?

Katie BotkinHere’s a helpful photo in case Doug’s having a hard time deciding which of these categories I belong in. In it, I’m wearing a dress my grandmother designed in the 1940s. Hussy, dyke; hussy, dyke. You know, I can’t really decide. Am I inviting the male gaze too much or too little? Because for the non-Christian/non-CREC woman, those are clearly the only options.

Doug’s pulled this distraction before, numerous times, commenting on e.g. “clueless women … who are themselves pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes.” This works as a distraction because he then makes a big show of correcting the people who inevitably draw the conclusion that he’s being pretty insulting to women. Because, you see, he’s not insulting all women. He’s just insulting some women. He pats himself on the back for thus schooling the masses in logic.

Ahem. Ever heard of the straw man fallacy, Doug? Where you disingenuously act like your intellectual opponents are arguing something that’s easy to refute, then blow them aside like so much chaff? See, it’s not necessary to claim that you’re insulting all women in order to say you’re insulting women. Or are you linguistically disingenuous as well? “You’re insulting women” is ambiguous precisely because it doesn’t specify how many women you’re hurting. “You’re insulting all of womankind” would be something else.

Let’s put this another way. Let’s claim that men who spend all their time deflecting accurate criticisms by trolling the internet hordes with shots about “small-breasted biddies” are themselves bulbous, unattractive effetes whose physical masculinity is obviously so tenuous that they need to assert themselves by regularly throwing verbal tantrums like two-year-olds obsessed with the idea that not enough people think they’re in charge. Actually masculine men don’t need to spend all their time convincing people that they’re masculine. Actually witty men don’t need to spend all their time convincing people they’re witty. Men who actually show honor to women — all women, not just the perfectly-dressed, perfectly-submissive ones — don’t need to spend time protesting that they’re nice to all the women who deserve it.

I’ve said all this, but note that I’m not necessarily insulting Doug Wilson with those statements. In fact, I’ll specifically say I’m not. See how Doug’s logic works?

Now, as it happens, I actually believe that kind men — men who are kind to their own bodies and to the people around them — are far more attractive, both physically and emotionally, than men who insult [some] women for a living. And this, to cop a phrase, is “an erotic necessity.” It’s sexy when a man is confident enough that he lifts up everyone instead of maligning some. It’s sexy when men take care of themselves physically, and usually this translates to an ability to take care of women physically (wink, wink, Doug. What am I implying with this statement? Rest assured, it’s the opposite of whatever you assume it is).

Also sexy: consistency, and humility. And that goes double for any man who talks day and night about submission, patriarchy and trusting the judgment of the elders.

So for those of you who are not aware, let me take you down memory lane, back to the birth of Christ Church. Trust me, it’s relevant.

Christ Church, Moscow, was originally planted as a mission church of the Evangelical Free Church of Pullman in 1975. By the early 1990s, the church, then called Community Evangelical Fellowship (CEF), had grown to about 80 families. It was led by four elders: Bob Callihan, Fred Kohl, Terry Morin, and Doug Wilson. As this archived website states, “although the origin of CEF was in the Evangelical Free Church, the doctrinal character of Doug Wilson’s pulpit and teaching ministry began to take on a Reformed orientation, first embracing a postmillennial eschatology in the late 1980s, and moving toward a Calvinistic soteriology in 1990 or thereabout.” This was a matter of doctrinal concern to the other elders, and they, all PhDs and professors at UI, served Wilson notice that the church constitution required them to remove him from the office of elder. In a responsive letter to these other elders, Doug wrote “If you require me to cease teaching, I will submit to that. If you want me to step down as an elder, I will submit to that. In no way will I fight, or maneuver to resist you. If anyone else in the church were distressed over what I was being asked to do, I would use whatever influence I had to keep it from being a problem.”

The elders responded in turn by asking Doug to resign from the eldership, unless he could confirm that he was in line with the church’s statement of faith. They also informed the congregation of their decision.

So did Doug step down? No, he didn’t. Instead, he drafted a letter to revise the events that had taken place, listing the elders’ names at the bottom. The elders refused to sign it. Doug did not leave the church, which forced two of the elders to resign instead.

Of note here: Doug’s financial shenanigans had been an issue in this church as well — he’d borrowed money from the church to pay his tax debts, something the elders were not happy about. In an elders’ meeting, they instructed him on how to pay the debt back, and to stop self-allocating church money. Doug complicated the issue by drafting a set of fake minutes from this elder’s meeting in an attempt to show a different story, which was subsequently posted on the Christ Church website years later when all this came to light. When the authenticity of this document was pointed out as false (along with the letter that the elders refused to sign, which had also been posted as “proof” that Doug had done the right thing), Christ Church issued a non-apology apology that included the assertion that the church should have just paid Doug’s taxes because they hadn’t taken out enough from his paycheck every month (weird, I don’t expect someone else, least of all a nonprofit run on donations, to pay my taxes if I owe tax money at the end of the year — it’s called being financially responsible) and gave a bunch of excuses as to why Doug hadn’t resigned like he said he would do back in 1993.

Are we seeing a pattern here yet? Doug talks straight but plays crooked, and he’s always blaming someone else for this, even in matters of obvious personal responsibility such as paying his taxes.

Crooked men are rarely beautiful at his age, since a lifetime of self-justification and making enemies of countless former friends tends to cook you from the inside out.

I’m not saying this, of course. I’m just saying this.

The CREC’s Cult of Silence


I don’t know everything about these cases in the CREC, that’s what people say. I don’t know what the elders know, and I’m just stirring the pot needlessly. So I should just stop talking about it.

Here’s the truth: I’ve known far more about these sexual abuse cases than what I’ve published or commented on, and with Natalie deciding today that she was comfortable sharing a letter Doug Wilson wrote back in August of 2005, I can now discuss it publicly. Natalie’s story behind the letter Doug wrote is laid out here. In this letter to an officer who was involved in collecting evidence for the court case, Doug notes that “I do not believe this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator,” claiming that he was privy to “confessions” from the family that proves Jamin Wight is not a sexual predator — namely, that the family knew there was a romantic relationship between 24-year-old Jamin and 14-year-old Natalie. Knowing how much pain the family has already gone through I’m not getting all that far into the details, but it is relevant to point out that this particular vein of victim-blaming set the family at odds with one another (such things plant the seed of doubt and paranoia — maybe someone else made the confession and now is denying it?) and helped to drive them apart. Suffice it to say that as far as I have been able to figure, no such confession was ever made. Certainly what Doug claims to the court is true is not in fact true — and if it was true, legally speaking, it should have made zero difference. 14-year-olds can’t legally consent to sexual relationships with 24-year-olds, even if, for the sake of argument, the 14-year-old’s family is shoving the two together aggressively. But regardless of the fact that this assertion should have made zero legal difference, it seems to have had an impact on Jamin Wight’s sentencing.

So why would Doug assert such a thing, under privilege of his role as a confessor — that a big chunk of the blame of this statutory rape case lay with the family? Did Jamin convince him this was true? Does Doug want the parents and the victim to be at fault rather than (only) the perpetrator? Did Doug have some other reason to assert all this to the court? Again, I don’t know, but I can say: follow the money trail of the break up of this particular family and observe how Doug ties in.

In any case, I’m happy that these things are finally being brought into the light of day.

I first encountered Doug Wilson 15 years ago, as a 19-year-old several months out of homeschooling. I was attending an event with my new housemates, whom I’d picked to live with because they were all good Christian girls like me. I spotted him across the room, surrounded by a crowd of starry-eyed students who obviously had dreams of some kind of Christian Oxford and who laughed at all his jokes. I hung back and watched. By all accounts I wanted to attend a Christian Oxford myself, having longed for the real thing since I was six years old. By all accounts, I should have been right there with them, starry-eyed. But I wasn’t. They were laughing too hard, and he wasn’t all that funny, and it was setting off quiet alarm bells in my head. Why, I wondered vaguely, did he feel the need to surround himself with such a rapt, inexperienced audience?

Over the last 15 years I’ve attended CREC Bible studies, made CREC friends, lived with them, worked with them. I had to pay attention because I reported on the Southern Slavery As it Was controversy, and I wanted to be accurate. I married someone who was part of the NSA zoning complaint, and things got weirder from there. Afterwards, even more than usual, people felt comfortable talking about the things they’d dealt with growing up in the CREC, or marrying into it — and not just the stories everyone knew. They had very few people to talk about this stuff with: their friends currently in the CREC didn’t want to hear it, interpreted their pain as “sin.” The people who had never been abused in the name of religion were puzzled by it. Their eyes would glaze over. Why do you still care about this stuff, they’d ask. Why can’t you just move on?

Why can’t they move on? I think for some, it’s a grieving process. Their parents, their spouses, their loved ones hurt them repeatedly and called it goodness — spanked them bloody because “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Raped them bloody because “render to the husband due benevolence.” This is more traumatic than dealing with death, in some ways. It requires re-evaluating your belief system, your belief in your parents, your loved ones. Your belief in your pastors or your elders. Your belief in the sacredness of your texts.

If the gospel is a cudgel used to beat down the least of these, the gospel should be overthrown. If the gospel lifts up the least of these, before and above the strongest of these, the gospel should be embraced.

Where Christ Church, or any church, uses the gospel as a cudgel, it should be called out. In the past, elders who disagreed with Christ Church on how to treat the poor and the hurting were shuffled off into oblivion. And now Christ Church is attempting to do the same thing with its congregants.

The elders of Christ Church far overstep the bounds of sane intervention in many, many cases I’ve seen or heard of them getting involved in, and they do not want anyone talking about their failures in the process — to the point that many do not want to publicly speak out against them. Doug Wilson writes ominously on his blog about how people “’like’ articles and posts they shouldn’t, and don’t seem to be aware that what they are doing is quite visible and consequential” — and, in fact, a number of people in his congregation or on the fringes of it have liked things calling the pastors out, only to get reprimanded for this. When your elders and pastors monitor your social media for likes or dislikes of their regime and decision-making, this should be raising alarm bells like crazy.

The expectation that people stay silent on these issues doesn’t stop with monitoring social media. One anonymous person detailed that her now-ex somehow recorded her phone conversations (likely for reasons related to the break up of their relationship) and gave them to the Christ Church elders who were counseling her — something I independently verified. By her own admission, she hadn’t acted well all the time, but let me just say, the temptation to act out against people who are spying on you in the name of “keeping you from gossip and slander” can be pretty strong even in the best of times. And frankly, it doesn’t matter what this person was saying about the Christ Church elders or anything else: it doesn’t give them the right, legally or ethically, to listen in to private conversations she had.

My friend says, “I spent years running from Jesus, and they were sucky years. But a church here in Moscow Idaho loved me and took me as their own. They didn’t care if I went to church high or dressed like a bum — they genuinely cared. For some reason, I kept hearing through someone who went to Christ Church that I needed to apologize to one of the elders if I truly had been saved. Long story short, my pastor encouraged me to write an email and put this chapter behind me.”

This is what she wrote: Hi there [name redacted],

I’m sure you’ve heard through the grapevine that I was saved some months ago — I’m doing really well and faithfully attending [specific church], as well as meeting with my pastor on a regular basis and I’m very thankful for their support through the last five or six months! It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and different things getting “cleaned up” as you can imagine. I did want to fix things with you, and to be honest I know it will sound like I’m trying to avoid apologizing specifically but I’m not. I have forgotten a lot of things that I probably should apologize for, it’s just been a long time and I’ve been through ten thousand more things since then. I do know you spent a lot of time with [redacted person’s name] and I, and I know it was probably miserable in most ways due to my behavior. I was not a believer, I didn’t trust anyone but myself and my own desires and I know I slandered you, the church, your help — I lied, I was a drunken mess and I would like to ask your forgiveness for these things. As well as anything I’ve done that I can’t remember! :) I’m very excited to move on with my life with a clean slate and be a part of [church’s name] ministry — I hope you and your family are well!

The elder’s response: Wow. That’s great news! I’d love to talk with you. How about Monday at 1:30?

Her response: Hi there

Well what is the reason to meet? I just want to put this chapter behind me and move on and to be honest a meeting with you scares me so I’m not inclined to do that.

The elder’s response: Hi [redacted name],

A couple of things spring to mind: First, I suppose I thought the reason you wrote was to repair our relationship. The Bible tells me that if a person comes to me and says they repent from the sin they have committed against me, I’m supposed to forgive them (Lk. 17:3-4). I’m happy to do that with you. However, I don’t consider an email full of vague generalizations, “coming to me and asking for forgiveness.” It looks a lot like just the same old lying, sinning, controlling, and conniving [redacted name], doing what she’s always done.  

Second, I was looking forward to hearing how you “got saved.” I think that would be a wonderful thing. I was all for it and very encouraged to hear that things have changed for you. Your response to my invitation rocked me a bit. “What is the reason to meet?” Well, to let me rejoice with your new life, to repair the ruins of our relationship, to encourage me that God is gracious and works in the lives of people who don’t deserve it.

This little exchange has done one thing for me. It inspires me to write something on what it means to “get saved.” What you got was not saved if I scare you. There was nothing scary about me when you were meeting with me before. Now that you’re supposedly on my side, you’re afraid of me? Give me a break. Coming to Christ means dying to yourself (Mk. 10:21). This means that nothing in your life matters more than receiving the blessing of God in repairing the relationships you’ve destroyed by sinning against folks. You’ve not done this, therefore, you are not saved!

Just so you know, I’d love to have this chapter of your life behind me as well. But this is not how it happens.

So, this Christ Church elder is claiming that in order to be a Christian, you have to meet with him and apologize for a list of specific sins, even if you find him potentially terrifying thanks to all those conversations he was listening in on. In fact, if you’re scared of him, you’re “not saved.” If you don’t want to meet with him, you’re “not saved.” That sounds totally like the gospel. Just kidding! It sounds like threatening someone with hellfire if they resist your control-freak behavior.

Fortunately, this person’s current pastor stepped in and wrote this elder that “there is no need to restore the relationship with you specifically in order for her to repent, forgive, and restore her to good standing within the congregation, which is the goal of all this.”

He goes on to say “fear does not call someone’s salvation into question. That is simply silly. Whether or not you see that you are intimidating to her is of no consequence. Nor is whether or not you meant to be. The truth is, she is scared of you. And I will testify first hand that this is not an attempt to run from responsibility. She has owned as much as she knows how to own. But you scare her. I would not be a good pastor to let her run into what she and I both deem as ‘harm’s way.’”

But things don’t stop there. Shortly after I read through this exchange for the first time, a strangely familiar-sounding letter popped up on the CREC Center For Biblical Counseling’s webpage, embedded in a “fictional” story about a really bad sinner who needed to get forgiveness from this great guy he’d wronged.

Mike LawyerSo, let’s recap: the CREC’s tactics for “Biblical Counseling” include shady information-gathering to keep tabs on “gossip,” threatening your former counselees’ salvation if they don’t agree to meet with you, and publishing their letters with a few slight changes if they piss you off.

With that in mind, I don’t feel bad at all publishing these particular letters and asking people: is this how you want your counselors and elders acting? And at what point will you break your silence about these and other injustices, even where the people the pastors and elders are mistreating are “sinners”?

The CREC and sex


Sex figures prominently into many of the narratives where the CREC has spectacularly failed.

And I don’t think the CREC will fix this problem until it fixes its perceptions of sex. So the denomination as a whole and the individuals within it need to re-examine several crucial sexual issues, and go from there.

First, the CREC needs to publicly recognize that being sexually abused is not in any way, shape or form a sin. The responsibility of sexual abuse lies on one person, and on one person alone: the person doing the abusing. It doesn’t lie on the victim’s family, it doesn’t lie on the victims. So what if in theory, in some alternate universe, the victim or the victim’s family could have stopped the abuse before it happened? That doesn’t mean it’s their fault that they didn’t predict the future sufficiently to do so. Being naïve is not a sin. Being small enough to overpower, either emotionally or physically, is not a sin.

Second, the CREC needs to publicly recognize that the fix for sexual abuse is not marriage. That just pawns an abusive (or, at best, highly likely to be abusive) person off on someone else. Is it possible for someone to deal with their abusive nature sufficiently that they stop being abusive? Yes, it is possible. But it’s not that likely. As Eric Holmberg says, “it is a miracle akin to the raising of the dead.” And verbally “repenting” is about as indicative of real change as putting on a new church suit. We’ve seen this in the Wight case, and we’re in the process (if you’re following the court developments, which are sobering) of seeing this in the Sitler case as well.

Third, the CREC needs to recognize that there is no shame in having been a victim of sexual abuse. There is no shame in saying “I was abused.” Indeed, many who are standing up to say this now are joyful people who have become stronger for the adversity they faced, although they left the church because the church was no help to them. They say “I was abused” not to revel in self-pity, but to demand that cultures enabling abuse change. They do not want to see this happen to other people.

R.L. Stollar has a good post up where he refers to Madeleine L’Engle’s phenomenon of “naming” in the face of annihilation. And this is very pertinent to victims of abuse, who may begin questioning their identity, their power, their sanity, especially when they’re told over and over “no, your wound has already healed, and you bringing it up means that you’re bitter, that you’re sinning.” Trust me, if wounds have healed, the ones who have been wounded won’t be showing you a bleeding cut. An apology, like the one Peter Leithart so poignantly offered, goes a long, long way to “naming” the victims of abuse, goes a long way towards saving them from annihilation and the X-ing out of their essential selves, or at least where you and the church are concerned. It tells them: you were right. Within our church, your voice should have mattered more. The voice of your destroyer should not have been the one we listened to. That was wrong of us. You were hurt, but you still matter. You were plunged into a world of shame, but now I want to publicly call you what you are: blessed, whole, sane. You were correct that something terrible was done to you.Douglas Wilson twitter

Doug Wilson’s staunch refusal to understand this is puzzling, frankly. Especially when he couples it with mockery of anyone who tries to call him out on it — a recent blog post asserts “David gave occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme, but he also knew that the reason they wanted to blaspheme so much was because of his righteousness.” This is just bizarre, given that many of the people calling for Doug Wilson’s repentance are very clearly kind people who are not Doug’s enemies and would even agree with him on most points about “righteousness.” Not to mention, his enemies notwithstanding, David publicly repented. The Pslams are full of David’s repentance, not David yelling “Shuddup, you guys, it’s none of your beeswax that I used my political power to do bad things!” Or maybe I’m missing that passage where he says, “all night long I water my couch with contrite weeping because my righteousness makes my enemies attack me.”

This is all the more true when it is glaringly obvious that Doug Wilson made a host of mistakes in both the Sitler and the Wight situations. The most serious of which, at least from all the proof that I’ve seen, is that he actively encouraged the Greenfields not to take the abuse case to trial, and threatened to withhold communion if they did. I understand why Doug Wilson wouldn’t be keen to apologize for this, since Christian attorneys have called it potential obstruction of justice. But all the more reason for him to be humble and transparent, if he’s a leader worth his salt.

Douglas Wilson abuse

Fourth, the CREC needs a broader idea of gender roles. Now, there are many happy marriages within the CREC, but in my observation, these happen where both parties came into the marriage as more or less understanding, developed, compassionate people — meaning nobody is taking the CREC’s teachings on headship and submission all that far. But this is a serious potential issue where men are tempted to be domineering jerks, and women are tempted to be mousy individuals afraid to express their opinions about anything. And you know, I’m willing to accept that certain CREC pastors don’t even intend for their teachings to come across as black-and-white as they do. However, they need to realize how they are coming across, at least for some individuals, and that in fact these types of individuals will be attracted to churches and organizations that give them a free pass on domineering, control-freak behavior. One woman writes about being engaged to a man who went on to become a CREC deacon, and this man was so obsessed with headship that he was furious when she publicly suggested changing the kind of toilet paper they used.

As another friend of mine stated, “one of my great regrets in life is how I treated my wife when we were first married. Marriage is incredibly difficult, and we had several complicating issues that made it harder than usual, but I fell back on being an angry, controlling, dictatorial spouse.

“As a male, I reverted to the version of theology that gave me the illusion of control in a situation that made me feel powerless. It was comforting to think that there were elders that I could call on to fix my wife, and deal with the problems that I couldn’t.

“It took several years and lots of horrible things happening to us for me to understand how badly I’d behaved. We had a string of really awful Christian counselors who usually made things worse. It really wasn’t until I’d been run over roughshod by my own elders and by our Greyfriar pastor that I started to understand what I’d done to my wife.

“It isn’t the CREC’s fault that I was the way that I was, and it wasn’t the fault of the church that I attended, it was my fault. When I was struggling, though, the advice that I received came from a theology that, at its core, holds women as inferior to men in any arena that matters, and that validated any natural machoistic arrogance that I had.”

Fifth, the CREC needs a broader understanding of sexuality itself. Sexuality isn’t just about men-dominate, women-submit. There is a kernel of truth to this, and that is that sexuality between men and women is polar, that the ebb and flow of it is equal, but not equally expressed; men and women “fall asleep briefly in moments of quiet, tight-pressed together, and wake again, begin again, asymmetric equals in the slanting light of afternoon.” This polarity is about being “spirit, elemental, dissolving into the pull of another soul.” But within this polarity, feminine sexuality is as strong as, if not stronger than, masculine sexuality. Even near-lifetime-bachelor C.S. Lewis writes that “The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well as to the male, and it is no accident that the goddess of Love is older and stronger than the god.” And, frankly, this is far more expansive and broad than anything I’ve ever heard of coming out of the CREC leadership about sex. Now, it is true that there are people within the CREC who are into celebrating female sexuality instead of dictating it, but these are typically the kinds of people who are borderline rebels within the community; the kind who, despite official teachings to the contrary, wear nose rings and believe that depression is a real thing (not just a sin).

What should the upshot of all this be? One suggestion by my friend was, “I want the CREC and Moscow in particular to radically alter how they teach about gender relations, I want them to radically alter what they teach about authority and its administration, and I want Doug Wilson to step down — as a symbol that the era of serrated misogyny is over so that others will have a better chance of doing the right thing in their lives in the future.” Should Doug actually step down? It’s kind of a moot point, because we all know he never would.

A slice of my own story


Over the past decade, there has been a pattern of dealing with abusive people in the CREC and affiliated churches, and the pattern hasn’t been good. The pattern, in fact, has allowed abusive people to flourish and re-offend. I am not the first to have commented on this, and I will not be the last. And this is the thing: if it’s one instance, or two, or even three, and it gets resolved, then maybe you should drop it and let bygones be bygones. But if it happens over and over, and nobody admits there’s anything wrong with it, that’s serious. And you should not drop it. You should air it out until something changes.

Doug Wilson says that he does what he does to protect his congregation, but he’s shown very little public concern for the victims of many abusers in his care. And there have been cases where people within his congregation were being indirectly threatened, and he didn’t stop it or even alert the people that they were being threatened.

This is a serious allegation, and I am aware that what I am writing here could potentially even land me in a libel suit. Which is why I’ve ensured that every word that I write here is concretely provable as true, using clean primary documents and data that I have immediate access to. Because truth is a defense in libel suits, but you need to be able to prove it’s true to definitely win the case.

Specifically, I’m talking about something that happened in the course of my divorce. After I filed, my ex-husband was going down to Moscow to meet with Doug Wilson, as well as other pastors in the area, ostensibly to get church counsel. In reality, he had his own agenda, but this story is not really about him, so I’m going to leave out the vast majority of the details where he is concerned.

Just as some background, however, my ex was not someone that Doug had previously been a big fan of. In fact, I remember attending a CREC Bible study on campus years prior, and listening in on students’ imprecatory prayers asking for his destruction. Doug’s dislike of him was well-known. Doug himself spoke derisively about him on his blog after the NSA zoning complaint was first filed, and privately accused him of “participating in a conspiracy to make the Sitler issue a public scandal,” among other things.

Before we were married, my ex had a change of heart about all this (coinciding with his interest in women in the Christ Church community) and asked for Doug’s forgiveness for “wrong motives” with the NSA zoning complaint. Doug wanted my ex to prove his repentance by publicly confessing he was wrong, via a letter to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (which Doug was assuming they would print). My ex actually started drafting such a letter, and was even sharing the drafts with members of the Christ Church community to see if what he was writing was sufficient to prove his repentance, but he moved on to other things before the thing was completed.

When my ex once again started meeting with Doug during our divorce, Doug asked the same thing of him: he wanted that letter sent to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Because that would prove he was repentant and acting in accordance with morality.

In the meantime, one thing my ex did was access a hacked email account (someone else did the actual, physical hacking; my ex was not a hacker) and get an email my sister had written to another woman. My sister goes to a CREC church and so did the recipient of the email. My ex complied an extensive Excel file and passed it around to the pastors for their perusal, and among the many documents and photos there was this email (helpfully highlighted and commentated on), which had very obviously been obtained without my sister’s permission.

Honestly, I can get why the pastors of these churches wouldn’t go out of their way to protect me, personally, in this circumstance. But these other women were innocent bystanders having their emails stolen. And they were in these pastors’ congregations.

So why didn’t the pastors do anything about it? At the very least, why didn’t they alert these women that their emails were being stolen? Was this not “need to know” enough? Do these pastors think that hacking is just not that big of a deal? Do they maybe even think it’s justified if they’re worried about “gossip”?

I want to stress, there was a lot more going on that this one email being taken. My sister was having more than that done to her, unbeknownst to her. I don’t know if the pastors knew about the rest of it, but if they had any wherewithal whatsoever, they should have been asking the kinds of questions that I eventually started asking. And they should have done more — anything, really — to protect the innocent.

I personally did not know most of this at the time. I knew something weird was going on, or lots of weird things were. But every time I tried to bring it up, they (the coterie of pastors, not Doug Wilson specifically) said I was being “bitter” and uncooperative. And, you know, I was being uncooperative, in that I was not about to admit to the sins my ex was accusing me of and then drop the subject. Additionally, and this is important: none of them were my pastors. I was not going to their churches. I had never been a member of any of their churches, didn’t even live in their town. I’d gone to Doug’s church a grand total of one time, years before.

But back to the hacking. Once I found out that my ex had involved my little sister, I was furious in ways that I was not when it was just my sanity on the line. She had just announced that she was pregnant, and I honestly thought that if my ex went after her like he was threatening to, she might get so stressed out that she would miscarry. So I found a way to stop him. Where the pastors did not curtail his behavior, I found a way.

Sometimes I look at my oldest niece, who is beautiful and smart and now going to Logos kindergarten, and I remember all of this. And I remember begging for answers from her pastors and getting nothing. Almost the worst part of it was, my ex was telling me that everything he was doing was under approval of the pastors as part of some sort of bizarre, church-approved Matthew 18 process. I wasn’t sure that this was true, but when I asked them about it, I got literally no response (in Doug and Toby’s cases) and a roll of the eyes and a wave of the hand (in the case of the other two pastors). And a re-doubling down on how that was totally not the issue, the issue was my sins.

This is part of the email I sent four people about it, including Doug Wilson and Toby Sumpter, on December 22, 2009:

“Forgive the awkwardness, and please see into what I am really asking of you: if this should be how women are treated in the course of being Matthew-18ned…

[redacted because the point here is not what my ex-husband did to me, or even what I did to him]

And you may say: I had nothing to do with any of this; any mistakes, any lies, any blackmail or criminal activity, was done by another man, by other men. Perhaps this is true. I do not know. I only know that Scott told me many times that ‘the pastors’ ‘approved’ this behavior. I have been told repeatedly that all of this is totally biblical and right and rubber-stamped.

And this is the question I have been trying to ask myself. This is also the question that has not been answered by anyone. Was this behavior approved as a routine Matthew 18 exercise? And if so, why? Can you point me to scripture that would support it?

It is my understanding that Matthew 18, the verb, should not give you nightmares. It shouldn’t wake you in a cold sweat weeks and months after, when the snow falls off the roof, when someone yells on the street, when the furnace comes on…”

After this email, I went to Moscow meet with one of the pastors and a CREC elder. I didn’t get any answers then either. I never have.

So, the question still remains: should hacking or other shady information-gathering be part of the Matthew 18 process in CREC churches, and what should CREC churches do if they discover their congregants’ emails are being hacked using Matthew 18 or “church discipline” or “prevention of gossip” as an excuse?

The Wittenburg door


11855393_10100693562552284_539379594_nDear members of Christ Church, Trinity and the CREC at large,

I know and love many of you. It’s important that you know that I don’t hate Doug Wilson, that I bear him no ill-will, and that, if I am proven wrong about him, I will issue a public apology or factual correction. From the many letters of communication I’ve seen between Wilson, his elders, and various people they have deemed to be under church discipline or potentially warranting it, the CREC is stringent in wanting specific confession of specific sins to the specific audience they deem to be in need of it. Because my blog is public, and because I’m making public statements about him, and because I hold myself to journalistic/factual integrity, I’m demanding something similar from myself. And this is pretty normal: the magazine that I run will print corrections and re-vamps digital copies if we inadvertently make a factual error; if we were to back the wrong candidate, so to speak (the magazine does not address politics, but you get my drift) we would make public note of this.

But I want Doug Wilson to hold himself to the same standard.

And this is where he has spectacularly, and very publicly, failed.

Even if you think that Wilson is in the right in the Sitler/Wight situations, despite more and more people within the church coming forward to voice their concerns to the contrary, do you think that Wilson has never made a pastoral error in the public sphere? That all the name-calling on his blog, all the factual statements he’s made, everything — it’s all above reproach? That Wilson has never done a single thing in the entire course of his ministry that should require him to have said “you know, I was wrong about this, and I’m sorry”?

I’ve scoured his blog, his books, personal letters from him and his elders, and I’ve never seen him apologize or admit fault for a single specific thing (other than some general “this was badly worded” or some other waffling non-apology). I’ve asked others to do the same. If, in fact, anyone can point me to a place where Wilson made public apology over something in the past, I’ll be happy to amend this post.

So, given all of this: is Wilson the kind of demigod who actually never does anything wrong, or is he the kind of demigod who deflects his wrongdoing, bad decisions and poor pastoral choices onto other people and other situations?

And what does Wilson call people who do this 100% of the time? He calls them unrepentant. If they continue to be unrepentant, he tells them they’re barred from taking communion. He tells them they’re “bitter.” That their anger and blame-shifting are preventing them from true repentance.

So, because Wilson has placed himself in a position of authority where you answer to no one because he is at the forefront and pinnacle of a denomination that he made up, and he kicks out or sidelines anyone who seriously questions him, Matt 18 has to come from those outside the denomination and from, at least in non-technical ways, below Wilson in hierarchy.

The difference is, I don’t pretend to know what Wilson’s specific sins are. I will say that to all appearances, Wilson is exhibiting pride and arrogance. That according to the laws of Idaho, he potentially committed witness tampering, if he in fact encouraged Gary Greenfield not to allow Natalie’s case to go to trail and held up suspension of the Lord’s Supper as one of his methods of persuasion. That in cases of sexual assault, he seems to have soundly violated the tenants of Isaiah 42:3, (“a bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice”); Malachi 2:7-8 (“For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek information from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi”); and Psalm 82 (“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked”).

But this is “to all appearances.” What exactly Wilson has done wrong is something he, at least in my opinion, should figure out for himself.

And rest assured that there are many in your midst (or just outside it) who are questioning Wilson. People have been contacting me to tell me that “the emperor has no clothes” and to say things like “there are still many good and godly people [in the CREC], including many of those who now blindly defend Doug and Toby and think they are taking a stand for the Bible and grace of God. May the Lord have mercy on them.”


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