In a recent blog post, Doug Wilson mentioned something that has already been whispered authoritatively in certain segments of his congregation: as a pastor, he’s counseled child molesters. Plural. Now, Doug has gone to great pains to explain that Jamin Wight was not a child molester, so what other child molester(s) besides Steven Sitler has he counseled as a pastor? And why did said counseling not result in these molesters doing jail time? If, in fact, the molesters already did jail time before they encountered Doug as their pastor, then why has Christ Church not informed the congregation about who else (besides Steven Sitler) should be kept away from the children of the congregation?
I believe more on this will come out in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, let’s set the record straight on something.
What people are outraged over is not that child molesters in Doug Wilson’s congregation get counseling, even that they get forgiven and can partake in communion. It is beautiful for men and women to move beyond the ingrained, destructive patterns of their lives, if in fact they can. I feel compassion for people of all shades and stripes, as do many who are calling for change in the CREC. What people are outraged over is that counseling is all these molesters appear to be receiving from Doug Wilson and company — and not exactly expert counseling, either. This is not good for current victims or future victims, and it is not good for the abusers, either. Meanwhile, the abused are (at least in many cases) not being offered support — instead, they’re offered condemnation.
But none of this really matters to Doug, because according to Doug Wilson, being a child molester isn’t as bad as having received an abortion. According to Doug, a man who’s molested 16 children is less bad than a woman who aborts a fetus she’s convinced (rightly or wrongly) is not a developed human being because, say, at 8 weeks gestation, it cannot feel pain and in size, shape and neurological development, resembles a tadpole. You don’t have to agree that abortion is Ok to understand that some women do not view early abortion as evil, based on biology and the belief that the soul enters a child along with consciousness, or at a certain stage of development. At the very worst, following Doug’s expressed logic on murder, the sin of an abortive woman who believed abortion was OK would be the manslaughter (not murder, since that requires intent) of a human being that is not yet aware of its own existence. And yet, Doug states that this is a more serious sin than repeated child molestation. Here’s the screenshot:
Doug is being pretty cavalier about sex abuse here, whatever he claims to the contrary. Pointing fingers outwards to other people’s sins is bad, he says, and yet this is exactly what he is doing — Doug has never procured an abortion, and never will. But he has helped to keep multiple sex abusers shielded from legal action of any significance, confident in his own abilities as a counselor to ascertain and facilitate repentance in abusers — even though he has a verifiably poor track record in this area.
Last week I visited Bethlehem Baptist Church, well-known as being John Piper’s home church and the location of his seminary. I made a discovery that moved me in light of all the recent hubbub around abusers in the church: taped inside the doors of the women’s bathroom stalls was a flier advertising an abuse hotline number. Other women would answer, the flier noted, noting also that abuse was satanic, and not part of God’s plan for marriage.
Encouraged, I started doing a little more research. I found church statements such as “We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst.” I found that even firmly patriarchal institutions such as Chalcedon are trying to address the widespread mishandling of abuse in the church. There is a very detailed post from Bethlehem here about what abuse looks like, and how churches should and should not respond to abuse situations. “Telling the woman to submit better—and making her feel like she is to blame in some way—is the worse [sic] thing someone could say in that situation,” notes pastor Jason Meyer. “Do not say insensitive, misguided things like, ‘If it doesn’t leave a physical mark, then it is not abuse.’”
These misguided things are precisely the kinds of statements that abused women receive during CREC counseling sessions, along with directions on how they need to forgive as soon as the abuser says he/she is sorry. Even if this happens a dozen or a hundred times in a row. If a woman is married to an abusive man, in all of the cases I’ve heard of coming out of the CREC, she is sent home with her abuser unless there is life-threatening physical violence. And even “life-threatening” is up for interpretation. A man threatening to deploy a shotgun into his brainstem in the presence of his wife is not considered “life-threatening” to her, because he’s not actually pointing the gun at her. It is (or at least was, as of a few years ago) not considered to be something needing professional therapy or physical separation.
Doug Wilson has proven over and over that he is not equipped to counsel men and women in these situations. And I truly believe that his hubris will show over the coming weeks and months — that more mishandled abuse cases will come to light, and for all of them, Doug will say the same thing: he did fine, he handled everything fine, and anyone who says otherwise is persecuting him because she’s a feminist who hates truth and also babies.
Abuse is serious. Sex abuse of children is very, very, very serious. Even the hint of it can change a person “on a cellular level,” as one man said — a claim that actually holds true on an epigenetic level. As a boy, there was a pedophile who watched him, who would call him and whisper things. One day, the pedophile called and said: I know you’re home alone, and I’m coming to get you. The boy, the only child of a working single mother who’d had him at age 17, the only child of a mother who had been sexually abused herself, phoned his uncle and cowered in the corner. The fear he knew then, a child alone in a trailer with a predator lurking nearby, would be with him for the rest of this life. But his uncle came, his uncle rescued him. Later, his uncle tracked the pedophile down, he and the father of girl the pedophile had abused. They dragged him off into the woods, because in that time, in that place, the lawmen were almost nonexistent, and muscle was the law.
Sex abuse and abortion are related. If you want to stop abortion, take measures that will prevent women you actually know from getting pregnant by men who should not be anywhere near their offspring — take a hard and fast line to stop sex abuse and domestic abuse in your churches. Stop giving men power to get away with a “sorry” while the women bear the shame, or the children. And stop looking where Doug Wilson is pointing, which is away from himself, towards The Greatest Evil, a sin that he is physically incapable of committing.