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.
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 That’s why, in the United States, if a prosecutor for one district or county is on trial, it’s rescinded to another district in the interest of court neutrality.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.