When Doug Wilson threatened to publish Natalie’s journal in a private email written September 28, he was doing something that he and many of his defenders have being doing for a decade and have since expanded on: attempted to shame her, attempted to vilify her, and attempted to insinuate that her current testimony is erroneous because she was, at one point, infatuated with the man who abused her. Or, alternately, because at one point, she believed the things Doug now believes about (many) abuse victims — namely, that they are to blame for their own abuse.
Shame is something church leaders have been using to invalidate the voices of those who criticize them since before Jesus called the Pharisees a den of vipers, whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, profiteers of religiosity, profaners of the temple who used God to make money from the pious.
The church leaders of the day knew well that “cursed is the man that hangs from the tree,” and they knew that the public nakedness and torture of the man who had opposed them would make him vulnerable, human, pitiful — nothing at all like a prophet or messiah was supposed to look. Nudity was particularly disgraceful in Jewish culture, and when he was hung up stripped for the world to see, the message was clear: here is your so-called holy man, humiliated. No holy man with the true words of God, with true power, would allow himself to be so ritualistically shamed. But, as it is written, he scorned this shame, because shame had no hold on him, no claim on him.
So remember, the attempt to publicly strip and humiliate says less about the testimony about the person being humiliated than it does about the person intent on this crucifixion.
And it is telling that Doug Wilson is attempting to crucify another in order to distance himself from questions about his own sins.
Doug has communicated in public, and also in private with Natalie, about things he has in his possession, specifically court records, claiming that she’s painting a one-sided picture that is “misleading and false.” Again, no specific mention of what is misleading and false; no attempt to detail what relevant legal material Natalie is leaving out of her public account. Even in private conversations to people he counseled and claims to be “protecting,” Doug can’t put his finger on what these legal details are.
And yet there are multiple people who say things like “I know things about this case that the general public doesn’t know,” insinuating that, in fact, Doug has told them things. Strange, given his inability to communicate these details to the actual relevant parties.
And I believe this is because Doug knows that, in actuality, there is no legally relevant material that Natalie is leaving out of her public account. Certainly there is none that he has shared with her.
The only legally relevant questions in reviewing the case is, 1. whether or not consent could be given by Natalie or her parents that would make what Jamin did not a crime (answer: no) and 2. whether Doug therefore had the authority to try to keep the case out of the courts and/or argue for leniency for Jamin (answer: no).
Doug’s repeated references to some top-secret thing that nobody knows that would change everyone’s minds is bizarre, to put it mildly. If Doug has information about the case that he kept from the courts, and, for example, Natalie’s parents are somehow legally to blame (he has said they are not, stating that what they did was not a crime) then he has a legal duty to tell the court. If, however, what he is talking about is not legally relevant, then why even mention it? Why insinuate that Natalie and her parents invited her rape, and pretend that this insinuation is all for the greater good, alluded to but not overtly said because Doug is such a great pastor and protector? In any case, the question Doug’s critics are asking isn’t “did everyone but Jamin do everything perfectly and would they do it just the same way given a second chance?” The question is “Did Doug Wilson overstep his pastoral authority by wrangling to keep this case from going to trial?” and “is he distracting us from this question by claiming or insinuating that the Greenfields created an environment where abuse could flourish?”
I agree, creating an environment where abuse can flourish is terrible. That’s why everyone is asking that Doug consider how his church handles abuse. That’s why there’s now a CREC inquiry into this very matter. That’s why other complementarians such as John Piper — or his lead pastor — have recently come out very strongly and very distinctly against abuse, stating clearly that putting the blame on the victim, or asking what sin they committed in the process, is the worst thing you can do in these situations.
So what did Doug detail in his September 28 letter to Natalie, if he couldn’t put his finger on anything she’d lied about? He wrote about embarrassing information that would humiliate her if it somehow leaked. Doug writes, “we have access to the love letters/journals that you wrote that the court reviewed and then sealed… it is not really possible to dig up just half the story. The rest of it is going to want to come up too. One of the official court documents says about some of the sealed evidence, that ‘those documents contain highly intimate and potentially embarrassing facts or statements, the publication of which would be highly objectionable to reasonable persons.’”
Those pesky stories with a mind of their own, banging against the outer walls of the manila folders Doug has kept for a decade.
Now, remember: Natalie is not Jamin’s only victim. A more recent victim made a public statement to the court during Jamin’s sentencing that you can listen to here regarding his felony strangulation of her. This most recent victim stated that she was not seeking vengeance for Jamin’s crimes, but wished that “the truth will be known about what he has done, that he will truly understand the damage he has caused, and that he will not be permitted to hurt anybody else.” She thanks friends for helping rescue her, the same families who left the church because of how her abuse case was handled. She speaks of emotional damage, the long-term psychological effects of her abuse and the help provided to her by those who told her that, contrary to what Jamin had told her, she was lovely, she was worth something, and the way he was treating her was not OK.
This is a full-grown woman. Her maturity did not prevent her from being a victim of Jamin’s abuse. Her maturity did not prevent her from believing the lies Jamin told her about herself. Her love for him did not prevent him from abusing her.
You would not — I pray you would not — look at this woman and say, “you are at least partially to blame for the fact that he strangled you, because you married him.” You would not say — I pray you would not — “you pushed his buttons, so you’re at least partially to blame here.” That would obviously be revolting.
This woman has suffered the effects of the choice in who she married and probably will on some level for the rest of her life — she doesn’t need to be dragged through the mud of public shame for speaking up and taking legal action against the man who abused her. We would never tap our chins and say, you know, we just don’t know the details of some letters she wrote to him once; we don’t have the elder minutes detailing detached men talking about her abuse. So we gotta hold off on passing judgment on this situation.
If Natalie’s case hadn’t been mangled so badly by pastoral meddling, Jamin would have potentially have been in jail longer or would have been disciplined more harshly within his own community, which would have made it harder for him to hurt another woman. Remember that, the next time you see someone demurring about Jamin’s crimes and pretending that the church handled Jamin Fiasco 1.0 so well that they’re guiltless of the fact that he snookered them a second time in Jamin Fiasco 2.0.
So why is Natalie being drug through the mud for this? Why — why the hell — are Doug’s supporters writing reams upon reams of comments on Doug’s blog speculating about Natalie seducing Jamin as a 14-year-old and bringing this and other kinds of abuse upon herself? Jamin has been a repeat offender and has been described by the court as having a “high risk to reoffend.” He’s committed perjury. So why disbelieve Natalie’s words about him, especially when she describes his behavior to her in much the same terms as his most recent victim did? Why all the emphasis on “well, we don’t know all the facts, so she was probably to blame as well”? This is, frankly, so disgusting I feel physically ill reading it, and should give anyone wanting to send his or her daughters into the halls of Doug’s churches or schools serious pause. If Doug’s supporters are saying this about such a clear-cut abuser, what do you think they’d say if it was your 14-year-old daughter being abused? Especially by a man who didn’t have a count of felony strangulation to his name? What do you imagine they would do? A crowd of men who describe a repeat abuser in this way is not safe.
And it does not matter how many people in Doug Wilson’s community are good, kind and compassionate if the people defining and setting the tone for the way abuse is handled in this community are saying these things — dwelling on details that have no legal relevance whatsoever, designed to shame Natalie and anyone else who speaks up about the mishandling of abuse in the church. Claiming that even saying abuse was mishandled is “slander.” Pretending that the people leaving the church over the way abuse is handled are malcontents or don’t even exist. Refusing to openly address how abuse is handled, and instead collapsing onto the virtual fainting couch of faux-persecution, gasping out “calumny!” and popping up again to crow “bring me my Laphroaig; someone disagrees with me!”
Chalk that up to one more thing Doug has ruined for me: my favorite Scotch. For shame, Doug. Is nothing sacred?