Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why support the Do Right Movement at Bob Jones University?

For a bit of context, please read this summary of the relationship between Tina Anderson and Pastor Chuck Phelps. During and after the trial, Chuck Phelps made himself out to be a bigger victim than Tina Anderson, then took credit for being responsible for getting her rapist convicted. A few days ago, Phelps stepped down from a position on the Cooperating Board of Bob Jones University because of a student protest online and one planned on campus on December 12, 2011. Sadly, the original problem of dismissing rape victims and covering up scandals to protect good ole boy religious network and the problematic attitudes at the root of the problem of how women are perceived within the IFB (things to be used by men) still remain. This is one woman's response to this yet unresolved problem.

A post by guest contributor
who has graciously allowed her work to be published here.

(Appeared on Ashley's blog called “Socially Inappropriate” as her post entitled The perspective of an abuse victim and on the Do Right BJU Facebook Page.)

irst of all, I’m not just believing the “Christian hating media”. For me, Chuck Phelps’ own words are more condemning than anything else. On his own website, he called the rape a “consensual dating relationship”. That really should say enough about how he thinks right there but I realize it’s not for most people. I realize most people won’t be satisfied until the official court transcripts come out and that really is fine. Personally, I believe what was written in the court notes. There were about two dozens supporters there. I highly doubt all 24 of them collaborated together in a huge lie. But more than anything, I don’t think Tina would let them lie because she really has been very gentle and honest in this situation.

In the meantime until the court transcripts come out, there are some things that can be discussed now because they are agreed upon by all three parties.

Ernie Willis, Tina Anderson and Chuck Phelps all agree that Tina was raped. They all agree that she got pregnant. They all agree that there was a service in which she was brought before the church. They all agree that the rape was portrayed as two separate events. They all agree that they never portrayed the situation as rape to the congregation. They all agree that Ernie was allowed to stay in the church. They all agree that parents were never even made aware of the risk of Ernie. They all agree that Tina was sent away.

That in and of itself really should be enough to go off of, so based off of those agreed upon facts alone, I’ll explain how I feel about the most popular defenses I hear. If you have anything else to say in his defense, I'd be more than happy to discuss it in the comments.

He did the best he could” - This really is a ridiculous argument. Calling the police and letting the matter be dismissed (whether you argue that the police didn’t return his call or not) was not his best. Letting Tina go without justice was not his best. Letting Ernie Willis stay in the church was not his best. Failing to inform church goers what Ernie had done was not his best. Misleading the congregation to believe that Tina’s situation and Ernie’s situation were two different scenarios was not his best. It really doesn’t matter if you think the police are the ones that dropped the ball. That doesn’t excuse him from letting their (supposed) mistake stop justice from occurring and it certainly doesn’t excuse letting Ernie be in the church for years and years.

He’s really really sorry now” - Expressing regret that his name has been dragged through the mud and being remorseful about how his character has been portrayed in the media is not repentance. Actually, he’s maintained that he has nothing to apologize to Tina for. His attitude has consistently been angry and defensive. Would it really be that hard to just pick up a pen and write her a letter saying “I’m so sorry that you didn’t get the justice you deserved” or even “I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through and any way that I’ve failed you, I’d like to hear what you have to say”. When students are expelled from BJU, they have to write a letter apologizing and explaining why their conduct will be different if they’re allowed to come back on campus. It should be no different for a member of the board.

No one is perfect, you need to show grace” - No one asked him to be perfect, but he certainly isn’t above reproach like the Bible says a pastor should be. It’s scary when there is more grace and mercy extended towards a grown man in a position of leadership who should have been Tina’s protector and helped her heal than what’s being shown to a teenage girl who was scared and confused.

You have no right to judge/let he who is without sin cast the first stone” - The students at BJU have every right to expect moral decency and accountability from the members of the board. It’s an institution, not a church. The students are paying customers who have made an investment. They also realize that if they graduate from Bob Jones, people may associate them with the viewpoints BJU holds. The Bible says it would be better for a person to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the ocean than to hurt a child. The verse about casting the first stone is no excuse to get out of consequences for your actions. Try that one the next time you get caught breaking a rule at BJU or when an officer pulls you over for speeding. The way it sounds in the context it's been used in Phelps' defense almost feels like "I am rubber, you are glue....."

We need to forgive and forget/Jesus forgave you” - It is genuinely terrifying that people throw the “and forget” on the end there. How are we going to learn from this if we forget? God doesn’t extend forgiveness to the entire world automatically without them even having to ask. I’m not saying Chuck Phelps shouldn’t be forgiven, but he really should repent of the things he’s done wrong and again, forgiveness doesn’t mean you go without consequences. If you use the "God forgave you" argument, then you really can't stop with Phelps. You need to extend it to every murderer, terrorist, rapist, and thief on the planet. It's not an excuse to get out of being held accountable for your actions. God forgives us but we still pay the consequences for sin.
If Phelps would just apologize to Tina and stop worrying so much about defending his own name at the expense of hers, I really think the majority of people would be thrilled and drop this.

Last but not least.

This is stupid. It’s a waste of time. You’re hurting the cause of Christ. What will unbelievers think if they see this. What good can come of this.


Do you want to know what hurts the cause of Christ? Sweeping scandal after scandal like this under the rug. A lack of compassion and outreach to victims. Silencing the victim. Blaming the victim. Supporting a man on the board who majorly botched a rape case and never did repent of it. How much of a chance at reaching out to rape victims do you think BJU has after the way they’ve handled this situation? I’m not saying it’s a lost cause but the majority of them aren’t going to feel very comfortable. Shame on all of you who make this argument.

This really is the heart of the matter here for me.

The Do Right BJU page has been the first hopeful thing I've seen about Christianity for years. I know there are a LOT of immature and unnecessary/irrelevant posts on there but that does not take away from the other people in the group or the idea behind it. I'm sure some people *are* bitter, (and really, I don't know how you get off entirely dismissing every word they say or them as a person just because they're bitter) but that doesn't change the idea behind the group or the truth that's spoken there. Frankly, if there are 5 or 6 good people in that group who love God and refuse to let this issue be swept under the rug, then that's more hope than I've seen in a long time and that's all the more shame on all of you who condemn the group. If you think it's done wrong, then start your own page/in person meetings/movement to do something about this because it really is an issue. You have no right to criticize this movement if you won't put effort into making a change yourself.

I'm going to be very honest here so if you want to judge me for it, go right ahead. I've been struggling with Christianity for years upon years now and the main reason is because of situations exactly like this. How can you just ignore such a huge thing in someone's life? When you keep expressing your feelings and looking for help and you're repeatedly judged and rejected, you start to get a little discouraged. Especially when the people doing the judging and rejecting are Christians. Because they represent Christ, right? I mean, they make a huge deal of saying they do and after person after person is quicker to judge you than show compassion and concern, you start to feel like maybe it IS a reflection of how God feels about you. And the ironic part is, the same people who are so quick to dismiss your feelings and your concerns are the same ones who are so quick to judge you for the problems that develop in your life as a result of the abuse. I'm not claiming that abuse excuses me from responsibility. Most of you have plenty of information you can judge me with and the funny part is, you don't know the half of all the issues I have. Big things. Not just little things. Let me be the first to announce that I am more screwed up then any of you realize so judge away if that's what you're here to do. But if you can't deal with the root of the problem then how do you ever heal? How well would it go for you if you went to a doctor very sick and he wouldn't acknowledge your symptoms?

I've been asking questions and looking for help for years now and what I've found only discourages me more. Why don't more churches speak up for victims? Why don't they have classes on the ways an abused person tends to think and the hang ups they get? Why not show some compassion and get some facts about how they typically react instead of just judging? Why not have a class about the manipulation tactics abusers use and how they effect a victim? If your church has something like this, by all means, please let me know. But I will admit upfront that I'm very jaded and somewhat skeptical. Every church has someone equivalent to a counselor. That doesn't make them good and it doesn't make them informed. I've heard reason after reason why they can't help me. Everything from "We can't move forward unless we at least agree that God is loving and not angry and cruel" to "You have to be a member" (like I'm going to join a church before I'm confident I'll actually receive the help I need) to "You can't have this problem or that problem" to "You have to attend religiously". I could go on with that list.

Some of it may sound very reasonable to you, but to someone from my prospective it's very daunting. I am far from stable right now. Attending anything regularly seems impossible. If I was stable, I guess maybe I wouldn't need help so desperately. It seems a common tactic for a pastor/counselor to get really excited that you're coming to them, but within two sessions they want to just tear you down for everything you aren't doing right instead of answering my questions about God and other things that have happened. I understand that my issues need to be dealt with, believe me, but that's not where you start. You have to build a foundation first. Besides, as I said before, I am well aware of all the problems in my life. Those problems are why I seek out help. I realize better than anyone that I'm not okay. And it's the same pattern everywhere. Phrases like "You're just bitter" or "Let's deal with your sin first" or "You need to stop living in the past and focus on God". Those phrases are all very dismissive. Maybe they need to be said eventually but it's just not where you start. And bitterness does not equal anger or lack of trust.

Following along the lines of the lack of acknowledgment, I don't know how many times I've very openly asked a question about God or expressed a struggle just to have it ignored. I don't know if it makes people uncomfortable because they don't like to think about difficult things or what, but when you refuse to acknowledge the bleeding wound I have, you aren't going to get very far. Anyone who is angry about what I'm saying but won't tell me as much, just please do us both a favor and cut me out of your life. I'm not being dramatic...I'm just sick of games. I figured this was an easy painless way to do it. If everything I say disgusts you and makes you roll your eyes then just take me out of your life. I really just can't handle the silent judgment/two faced situation anymore. It's not healthy and I'll never get anywhere. For those of you who are angry or disagree, please at least have the courage to say as much. Otherwise, you fall into the first category of people. Just please don't let this be one more thing you ignore. Take a stand one way or another.

Don't just read this, judge me and mark me off as foolish. If it's that unimportant to you, you really don't need to be in my life. I'm not saying that angrily or sarcastically, I'm just taking a stand myself and I don't care for people who are lukewarm.

This is the first time I've ever publicly actively spoken about the fact that I've been abused and the way it's effected me, particularly in the context of how it's affected me mentally/emotionally/spiritually. I know for a fact from the private messages and chats some of you have sent me that you can't stand when I even hint at this type of thing. You think I shouldn't put it on facebook or I should just "let it go" or I'm bitter. I've listened to that out of pure shame for a really long time just hoping maybe I could win approval if I took measures not to step on toes but there's absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be able to talk about my struggles. That's the whole point of spreading awareness. I think half of the arguments that pop up about the Wills/Anderson trial come from ignorance. Some of you say it does no good but I've seen people begin to be able to understand things better after I've explained from my perspective and the more people understand the better things can be. It can work both ways. I can help people understand so they can have more compassion and understand how to minister better, and perhaps one of these days I'll find a solid group of people who are willing to work with me through ups and downs and help me work through the things I need to work through.

The reason for the timing behind my decision is really simply that I can't even believe people don't understand how this is an opportunity to reach out. I can't believe people think that taking a stand against Chuck Phelps would hurt the cause of Christ. I can't believe people think this should be swept under a rug and dismissed. They say forgive and forget and learn from it all in the same sentence. I know these kinds of things are ugly to talk about but if you really want to reach out as badly as you say you do, this is a wonderful opportunity. It's not often that a chance to use an experience to promote awareness and speak out against the common ways these situations are mishandled falls right into your lap. That being said, don't judge people who fall into homosexuality and alcoholism and drugs and prostitution and cutting and eating disorders and anything else bad you can think of if you aren't willing to reach out. If Christians won't look at the ugliness and love it anyways and support the process of healing, then people will find other methods of survival. Get mad at me all you want. I'm being honest about how this looks to someone who's been through these types of situations and trying to explain in the politest way possible why people associate the words "prideful, self righteous, judgmental and hypocritical" with Christianity so often. You can take it or leave it.

This is a really hard thing for me to post. It's awkward, it's embarrassing, I'm not relishing the idea of some of the questions I'll get and I'm dreading the negative reaction I know I'll receive. To be honest, I don't really even want to post this but everything else I've said has been dismissed so maybe I should be a little more direct. I also would like to be clearly understood as to why I am so obsessively commenting on things concerning the Tina Anderson case. I realize this is a very public thing, but this is easier than speaking to each person individually. There's also the chance that one of my friends that I don't know quite as well might see this and turn into a really good really helpful friend. You never know who can help you and who you'll be able to relate to if you don't speak up. Frankly, I also prefer the public so that the people I know who do support me will be able to defend me and I won't have to do this all alone because I really really can't and if you hadn't gotten that message earlier in this note, get it now. I'm sure most of you who have negative things to say will bypass that and send me a message anyways, though. For those of you who do know details of my circumstances, please refrain from discussing them here. Believe it or not, I really don't want this to be about the who, the what, the where the when. What's important is how it effects me now. That is something I'm not ready to discuss publicly and I'm not entirely sure I ever will be. It's not really relevant because this note isn't about them, it's about why I'm speaking out and why I have some of the hang ups I do.

Thanks to Ashley for her transparency and her courage.

I found this at the Chuckles Travels blog, and though it is humorous, I wept.  It breaks my heart when those in leadership in religion, pastors (those who pasture the sheep in their flocks, the analogy that Scripture gives us for pastors and ministers) fail to set good moral standards for society, and particularly, for those who look to them as role models.  I take no joy in seeing ministers fail in this task.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the school, Bob Jones University apparently displays a statement by the University's founder, Bob Jones, Sr.  It appears in many classrooms at the University on plaques above the blackboards and states "Do Right.  Do Right 'til the stars fall."

This satirical video addresses the hypocrisy about which Ashley writes.  I thought a little levity was appropriate.