Ironically or not, Doug Wilson has been recently promoting a “documentary” about free speech, heavily featuring interviews with himself, if the trailer is representative. Specifically, about how your right to free speech is being threatened by people who don’t like you saying things that make them feel all persecuted.
I hope Doug was looking in a mirror when he described this scenario.
Because never in my life have I seen any group of people so quick to jump on those who say the “wrong” thing as Doug’s supporters in the CREC. Or post the “wrong” article. I’ve read emails — not all of them directed at me — from any number of people stating that nobody (except Doug, obviously!) should be talking about the way the CREC handles abuse. One woman I know shared a letter written by someone who was vaguely threatening to get her fired because she’d posted Natalie’s blogs on Facebook. People who are no longer even attending Christ Church and Trinity are being called the enemy (or “Orcs”) because they’re posting Natalie’s blogs on Facebook. This isn’t the first time this has happened in the CREC — Emeth Hesed writes about how her pastor showed up at her house at 11:30 pm and stayed for three hours lecturing her because she’d written a blog post he didn’t like.
If you attend Christ Church or Trinity, and you don’t believe me, try it. Try supportively re-posting Natalie’s most recent post and see what happens. See how fast your pastors/elders/deacons (or their wives) come out of the woodwork and strongly recommend that you take down the post and/or issue a public apology, on (insinuated, probably never explicitly stated) pain of losing your “member in good standing” status.
Now, let’s take a step back — I get the rationale behind not posting things publicly. Within church government, the theory goes, you’re supposed to take your concerns to the person in question first. If he doesn’t listen, you take another person to confront him. If that doesn’t work, you bring it up before the assembly. That way, it doesn’t get all messy and public.
The problem with this line of thinking: we’ve gone through all these stages and then some. Many, many people tried speaking with the pastors and elders about the way abuse was handled in the church before they realized that wasn’t going anywhere. Then they tried speaking more broadly within the church, tried speaking before the assembly. But that doesn’t exactly work if you’re being forced out of the assembly and labeled a malcontent, a troublemaker, for speaking up.
How in the world do you pull a “go to your brother and confront him” when your mouth is taped shut? When you’re told “you don’t know the whole story” and sent on your way?
Also: why would anyone be required to keep controversy out of the public eye when Doug Wilson’s whole persona is built around flinging controversy into the public eye? Including in this specific case?
Natalie’s latest post, by the way, is not about spreading gossip. On the contrary. It’s about correcting false gossip — the false gossip Doug Wilson spread when he told a packed-out meeting that Gary Greenfield, Natalie’s father, was abusive to his family to the point that it prevented the church from doing more to help Natalie (that’s Doug’s logic and he’s sticking to it — never mind that if in actuality, Natalie was straight-up surrounded by abusive people, all the more reason for the church to get involved and provide her with support). Nancy Wilson (Doug’s wife) had already stated this publicly on her blog back on October 20, informing commenters that part of the story Natalie wasn’t telling had to do with why Gary had been “suspended from the Supper.” Shortly thereafter, after a multitude of deleted comments made by people trying to set the record straight, she expounds on this by stating “we have gone through our minutes and records and this is what happened: Gary was suspended from the Supper (one step before excommunication) for his abusive mistreatment of his family.” Then she closed the comments.
Who is accusing Gary Greenfield of being abusive? Doug specifically stated that “the way Gary treated his family was every bit as bad as the way Jamin treated [his ex-wife].” This is just plain absurd. Gary’s entire family — you know, the family Doug claimed was being so terribly abused — has gone on record defending him and stating this is major hyperbole, to put it mildly. And you know, I can easily imagine that during the scenario ten years ago, in the middle of a divorce and a family finding out that their daughter had been abused under their roof, things got a little heated. I have no doubt Gary yelled and acted out of character. He’s admitted as much. But that’s pretty normal behavior when human relationships get that messy. And the fact that Doug would cling to this in the face of Gary’s family correcting the record is strange, to put it mildly. The fact that Doug would use this to downplay Jamin Wight’s “sexual behavior” (Doug’s words) with Natalie is even more strange.
Doug Wilson may be a good counselor in some scenarios. I’m sure he is, in fact — I believe the people who tell me he’s helped them. But I also know that he is not remotely qualified to pass judgement on the legal ins and outs of abusive situations. He makes it more obvious every day. He also has proven that at least in these cases, he does not understand human behavior, human emotion or the way humans heal from abuse. And that is particularly risky in a congregation that implicitly forbids widespread discussion about how abuse needs to be handled.