This is a follow up to my earlier post on recent tragedies.
"The interest is up and the stock market's down," as the country song puts it. We are living in hard times that could get much harder. We are facing a series of crises and the end does not appear to be in sight. These crises are symptoms of a deeper underlying spiritual issue that afflicts us.This spiritual disease is not just "out there" in the world, but also "in here" in the church. The church needs to lead the way in repentance. Just as judgment begins with the household of God, reformation and renewal must begin with the household of God as well. But the church cannot be the harbinger of reformation when she is mired in her own sins and scandals.
In this post, I want to briefly follow up on a very distressing crisis in the church, namely the SBC sex abuse scandal. This scandal is at the nexus of numerous political and cultural issues so it is a good test case. I have had a chance to look at the report a little more now and several things stand out to me:
- Many of the cases of "abuse" that the report gives are really more allegations than proven cases since they did not go to court. It is also not clear what definition of abuse is at work. The term gets thrown around but it is not clear what it means. Yes, there is a lot of sexual sin reported but some of it is not obviously abuse per se. One thing we need moving forward is a better definition of abuse. For example, adultery is sinful (and perhaps even ought to be criminal) but it is not abusive in the way we typically think of the term. Lack of consent is usually thought to be the key to sexual abuse, but there are plenty of cases that show that sometimes consent is very murky when two adults are involved. Naming the sin properly is important.
- As is often the case in these discussions, the fact that sometimes women make false accusations against men seems to not even be considered as a possibility. Are we sure that Potiphar's wife was an utterly unique case? Would we really want to convict Joseph of sex abuse/rape? Where are the rights of the accused?
- The report was put out by Guideposts, which has now been exposed as a pro-LGBTQ+ organization. Why would would the SBC hire a group that hates biblical sexuality to do this investigation? Can it be fully trusted when those who did the investigation likely have an axe to grind with conservatives?
- Like Aaron Renn, I was disturbed by the recommendations. Baptists will have to decide if the recommendations are consistent with their polity (I cannot see how), but I think there are a number of other serious problems. Why does the report have so little reference to getting law enforcement involved when criminal acts (e.g., child molestation) have been alleged? The state is the God-ordained ministry of justice to deal with these cases. Sure, church discipline also needs to kick in for church members, but bad things happen when other insitutions try to do the state's job for it.
- The report suggests creating a Title IX style board to adjudicate cases. This will be an unmitigated disaster, just as it was on university campuses. The board's makeup would be controlled by identity politics, e.g., a certain number of women would be required to be on the board. (Is this the equivalent to women sitting on a church session since they would be essentially handling church discipline cases? What about 1 Timothy 2:9ff?) The board would kill due process, just as happened on university campuses. The privately run sex offender registry (OIS) means all it would take is a mere accusation to ruin someone's life. While the criminal and civil justice system in America is far from perfect, at least it has well established rules for handling evidence and other due process measures that have developed (largely out of reflection on biblical teaching) over the centuries. The kind of bureaucracy the report recommends creating has none of that legal, judicial, and evidentiary expertise.
- The Heard/Depp civil case is an instructive lesson. Heard obviously thought she could get away with false accusations against Depp because, as a man, he was unlikely to be believed in a court. If Depp did not have recordings, who knows how the trial would have turned out? Hopefully that trial will spell the end of "believe all women" and "me too" and lead to a more just process in such cases. The Heard/Depp case proves women can be abusers too. The Heard/Depp trial proves sometimes women lie and falsely accuse men.
- In an excellent article, Josh Abbotoy captures a lot of the issues with the report recommendations. For example: "Inclusion within the OIS/'Ministry Watch' list would, presumably, make an SBC pastor unemployable. As such, the low evidentiary and due process standards associated with it are inappropriate and represent a significant departure from the evidentiary standards set forth in scripture (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 19:15) which inspired the common law tradition’s presumption of innocence and evidentiary requirements. To be blunt, the originally proposed construct is a version of 'believe all women' for the Church. Even as amended in the SATF’s formal proposal for Anaheim, it is directly analogous to the Dear Colleague Letter promulgated by Obama’s Department of Education in 2011, which lowered the standard of proof for college sexual assault proceedings, ruined the lives of numerous innocent college students and resulted in an unexpected tactical convergence between feminist professors at Harvard Law School and Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s Secretary of Education who worked to roll back the Dear Colleague Letter’s pernicious effects."
- Again, Abbotoy, on the institutional risks involved: "In order to have reasoned deliberation about what should be done, the SBC needs consider the likely consequences of the SATF’s recommended actions. If the SBC undertakes to investigate, issue conclusions about, and provide compensation for abuse allegations in local churches, the SBC will, in a technical legal sense, be undertaking a duty of care that will form a basis for civil liability against the SBC if the SBC makes a mistake. This risk runs in both directions. The SBC could be liable both for failing to act with sufficient clarity on an allegation (i.e., could be liable for failing to flag an abuser on its OIS) but it also could be liable for defamation (i.e., for including individuals on its abuse list due to unsubstantiated allegations). The creation of a Survivor Compensation Fund (and the sale of SBC assets to fund it) creates another fact that will be used to establish liability, and essentially represents the SBC setting up a flashing light to attract plaintiff’s lawyers. What happens when, inevitably, the bill for such legal liabilities starts to increase? If we game it out, it seems certain that member churches would head to the exit door as they see increasing portions of their CP giving being allocated to liabilities because of actions taken by sister churches over whom they have no control. Small local churches want to give to the CP to fund missionary efforts and seminaries and so their pastors can have access to health benefits and retirement products. They do not give to provide compensation for the misdeeds of other churches. As churches leave, the relative proportion of the budget taken up by liability funding will increase. Insurance policies will be imperiled. Credit ratings may decline, resulting in bond defaults. Younger pastors and SBC entity employees may depart over credible questions about whether health insurance and retirement products will remain a viable choice. This dynamic creates a potential financial death spiral for the SBC."
- If the SBC actually adopts anything like the Guidepost recommendations, my advice to every man in the SBC would be to flee. There is no reason to place yourself under an unjust system, which is what the recommendations would create. The answer to injustice is never more injustice. Any system that essentially turns an accusation into a conviction should be rejected. Innocent until proven guilty is a biblical judicial principle.
- None of these criticisms of the report recommendations in any way lessen the heinousness of the real sexual sin and real abuse that has taken place in the SBC. Those who committed abuse and those who covered it up should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Those who engaged in sexual sin should be disciplined by the church. While I would oppose the recommendations if I was in the SBC, it is also clear that something must be done to deal with the issue. I just think there is a better, more just way forward than what the report recommends. The bottom line is that if the SBC previously sacrificed the rights of the abused to protect itself, it is now in danger of sacrificing the rights of the accused to save its public image.
- As I predicted in my earlier post, the report is being used to blame complementarianism/patriarchy (and anyone who holds to traditional sex roles) for the abuse that has taken place in the SBC. Russell Moore, Beth Moore, and others are already playing it this way. the abuse report will be used as a political wedge against those in the SBC who want to hold to the Bible's teaching on men and women. I am certain that if the recommendations are adopted, the SBC will hurtle into progressivism at a breakneck pace.
- The historic patriarchal structure actually protected women and suppressed/channeled the male sexual drive into monogamy. The whole point of the patriarchy was to build a household and it took both capable women and well adjusted kids to do that, so the patriarchy had to provide for the needs of women and children or it would fail. The enemies of the patriarchy have always been cuckoldry and promiscuity, since patriarchs only wanted to invest in raising children that were actually theirs. Christopher Dawson has done some good work on what Christian patriarchy meant in the Greco-Roman world and how the church transformed the ancient patriarchal order. Jordan Peterson has shown that in the pre-modern world, men did not have it easy while women were oppressed - rather, for most of history, men and women both suffered and struggled together against the elements just to survive. The idea of men universally oppressing women is non-sense when men and women utterly and obviously depended on each other just to survive. The current feminists/egalitarians are wrong about both the Bible and history.
- That being said, there are good patriarchies (e.g., what the church should be) and evil patriarchies (e.g., Ancient Rome, Islam). But there’s no getting around the patriarchal and hierarchical teaching of Scripture and creation. Every society in the history of the world that has done anything of note has been patriarchal in some form or fashion. Patriarchy is an inescapable reality. It’s inescapable because the roles men and women tend to play (man as protector/provider, woman as nurturer/homemaker) are rooted in nature, biology, etc.
- Anyone who wants to curb abuse of children should promote a pro-marriage culture. The data shows that real abuse of children (violence towards and/or sexual molestation of children) is tied to family breakdown more than any other single factor. The most vulnerable kids are those who do not have two married parents who love each other. This a "them before us" issue.
- Thus, if we really care about children, we must be in favor of biblical patriarchy. Why? Because ultimately, all attacks on patriarchy eventually devolve into attacks on marriage and attacks on marriage leave children vulnerable. When the patriarchy is considered oppressive, marriage is considered oppressive as well. Again, stable, healthy marriages are the best and safest places for children to be. Historically, when the patriarchy in the West has been strong, women and children have been safe. When the patriarchy breaks down, women and children are put in danger. The most dangerous places for women today are the least patriarchal places - such as universities and Hollywood. Progressives tell us there is a rape crisis on campus - and if so, it’s because there are no fathers/patriarchs there. Harvey Weinstein could spout off all the politically correct feminist and egalitarian drivel, even as he was acting as a predator. In a good patriarchal society, other men would have taken care of a guy like Weinstein (if you know what I mean). In the end, it’s patriarchs vs predators -- those are the only choices.
- When is someone going to shine a light on the widespread abuse of students (especially sexual abuse of boys by female teachers) in the public school system? Children are far more likely to be abused in the public school system than in the SBC.
How the SBC deals with the abuse issue will be a bellwether for the denomination. We must pray for our SBC brethren. The SBC has been a bastion for many good things over the years and if it falls to progressivism, it will be a loss for all of us. The SBC must find a way to care for abuse victims, protect the vulnerable, and purge unrepentant sexual sin, all while maintaining its commitment to biblical and historic sex roles.
The other tragedy I addressed in my earlier post was the Uvalde shooting. Samuel Sey has written an excellent article that develops my point about the role of fatherlessness in mass shootings. Brian Matson shows why the problem of gun control is so intractable:
Two observers of the same incident can draw wildly different conclusions. This is because interpretation of facts is done by persons, and persons have different ways of thinking, different moral priorities, different backgrounds, different worldviews.
One (very typical) person observes the atrocity in Uvalde, Texas, and concludes: “This is a tragedy. We must ban all firearms!”
Another person (say, me) observes the same event and concludes: “This is a tragedy. People and institutions must not wholly outsource their security and protection to law enforcement!”
Same event, very different conclusions. One person sees the most important presenting issue as the weapons. But for the weapons, they think, this wouldn’t have happened. That may well be true, but the sentiment involves an entire worldview about the realities of gun proliferation, the plausibility of eradicating the existence of guns (that is what is embedded in that “but for”), and so forth.
When I see and understand what transpired, I see that the murderer stood outside the school firing his weapon for twelve minutes, and no law enforcement showed up. He then walked straight into the building, unobstructed and unmolested, and began carrying out his unspeakable deeds. And then the police arrived, set up a perimeter, gathered around the door of the classroom and … did nothing for an interminably long time.
This is as ironclad a reality as you get: unless they just happen to be there, police are almost always a secondary or last line of defense, not a first. They are, by their very nature, reinforcements. You have to call them. They arrive on the scene. An already existing scene. If you are ever in a crisis situation like a home invasion or a mass shooting, there is always a “first responder,” and that first responder is you. Not the police. They are “second” responders. And, as I see it, people demanding the disarming of the whole population are really demanding that those most likely to find themselves true first responders, the people tasked with protecting the lives of grade schoolers—school staff, security guards, teachers, janitors, individual citizens—be unarmed and helpless in the face of a murderous, determined, 19-year-old psychopath.
One person thinks the presence of guns at a school is obscene and immoral, and that if you disagree you must be indifferent to the murder of children; and I think the exact opposite. Is it any wonder our public discourse is all heat, and no light?
Since we defend politicians with guns, why not schools. Again Matson:
It is beyond past time to stop presenting murderous maniacs with soft targets. They do not go to a bank or Federal building for their shooting sprees. They go to places that advertise, “This is a gun-free zone.” It is advertising that they will not meet with armed resistance. And worse, we place these signs outside of buildings filled with helpless, innocent children. That sign is the absolute worst example of virtue signaling imaginable. It is un-virtue signaling. It has to stop. Much better is my proposed sign: “Security in This Building is Staffed by Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Operators Ready and Willing to End Your Life.” I am dead serious.
No, a single “school resource” officer is not enough. A 9mm Glock is not enough. If a shooter is coming in with a rifle, he’d better meet one—or better, several—in return. It’s common these days to hear complaints that that would make our schools look like war zones and might be scary for the kids. Nonsense. A retired military guy whose sole job is to walk the halls, high-five the kids (heck, even pass out candy), meanwhile alertly scanning the environment and carrying his concealed pistol and having his short-barreled AR-15 stashed in his innocuous looking backpack (trust me, these things exist) is not going to scare anybody, and it certainly isn’t going to look like a war zone. Now it’s my turn. Do not tell me “it can’t be done.”
Next, the entire Federal protocol for active shooter incidents needs to be scrapped or revised. The current protocol mandates that teachers barricade themselves and their students into classrooms. This is the worst possible plan. There are a lot of experts with a lot to say about this, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, telling teachers and kids to huddle up and hide is setting them up for failure. Moreover, it should be against Federal regulations to have a school classroom anywhere in this country that does not have egress windows and, if on upper floors, fire escape routes down to the ground. If you can do it in an old high-rise apartment in the Bronx, you can do it anywhere. Students must be able to evacuate the building, not holing up as a shooting gallery. Active shooters are generally inside, and we need the potential victims outside. Period. Do not tell me “it can’t be done.”
Matson, like Sey and myself, points to the solution in the restoration of fatherhood and family structure (which will likely only happen through a gospel revival in our nation):
Show me the mass shooter, and I will show you someone with a dysfunctional or entirely broken family life.
The breakdown of the American family, the alienation and isolation experienced by so many, is made worse by a larger cultural breakdown of civil society. The impotence of the church, the lack of basic community, the erosion of values—moral chaos erupts when the structures no longer hold. The family by its very nature is the basic structure—the place for moral formation—and as that has fractured there are fewer and fewer cultural backstops. I cannot write here a further dissertation on the state of the American family, but if you’re looking for explanations and reasons for murderous gun violence, that is a place to start looking.
Many have pointed out that the worst mass killings in history have been perpetuated by governments aginst their own people. It is is true that guns may not be able to stop the might of a modern national military, but they are still a deterrent because they raise the cost of engagement so high for the government. Citizens with guns are a powerful check and balance on the rise of statism. Guns today, as they have always been, are viable weapon against tyranny. We can see this by looking at Ukraine. Why do so many of the same politicians who want the Ukrainian people armed also want to disarm the American populace?
It would be wonderful if we could find a way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while not infringing on the God-given rights of law abiding citizens to defend themselves. Historic American gun culture, on the whole, has been a culture of safety and responsibility. That must not be lost.