Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alma Mater, Alma No Longer

Yesterday's discussion was to help clarify the discussion to follow.  As concluded yesterday, the one true glaring issue that perpetuates this controversy is Mr. Phelps' apparent inability or refusal to admit or apologize for any wrongdoing.

On Monday, Bob Jones University posted a statement online regarding their decision to keep him on the board despite an ever growing backlash among alumni and the community.

You know, if you didn't do your research, and especially if you approach it from a specific mindset, you might be fooled by this.  I understand that.  That was me in the past. But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's just analyze the document.

Part 1: Setting the Stage

The first two paragraphs indicate the University heard the criticism and wants to humbly address the concerns.  It also says they want to do it in a spirit of forgiveness. 
"We try to listen and determine if there is something we need to change—and if there is—we change it. If we humbly listen to our critics, analyze the situation and don’t find cause for change, we then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, determine whether or not to answer the criticism."
You know, this sounds great.  And if this school didn't have the history it did of stubbornly ignoring valid criticism to their detriment, I might even believe it.  But I'll try and give them a chance.  Let's see what else they have to say.

So how we handle disputes—with forbearance and forgiveness—has everything to do with bearing the identity of Jesus Christ.
Just who is the forgiveness and forbearance for here?  Pay close attention to this as we continue this analysis.  This is important.

We must speak the truth and speak the truth in love.
If they would listen to the people standing up and speaking the truth, I would be ecstatic. 

In 1997 a tragic incident took place in Concord, N.H. involving members of a church then pastored by Dr. Phelps. A 15-year-old girl in the congregation was raped by an older man who also attended the church.
This is refreshingly strong language.   Bravo.  But that part about the 15 year old girl then being put up in front of the congregation and being given some of the responsibility for being raped "in a compromising situation"?  Yeah, you forgot that minor detail.  Boo.

It was only this past summer—2011—that this man was charged and convicted for his crime.
 What a tragedy it took so long.  Whysoever did that occur?

We are grieved by the sin committed against this lady who was a young teenager at the time. And we are grieved that she will live with the horrible effects of this sin against her throughout her lifetime. Sin is real and so is its damage that only God’s grace can heal and restore.
This is good as well, insofar as the statement takes it.  Clearly we're only talking about the rape here, not the aftermath. The aftermath is the reason people are concerned with Mr. Phelps being on the board, yes?  Do you see how we deftly ignored the real problem by pinning it on something both sides agree on?  Ernie Willis' actions are not the reason Mr. Phelps is under scrutiny.  Mr. Phelps' actions are the reason Mr. Phelps is under scrutiny.

I'm glad to hear they are so grieved.  I'm interested to see if their actions correlate appropriately. Because if I were grieved for Tina in their place, I'd take some pretty specific actions.
Part 2 : Setting the Spin

Six paragraphs in, we finally get down to business. 
Bloggers have posted a wealth of information about this incident and how Dr. Phelps handled it. Dr. Phelps has been accused of not reporting the crime to officials, sending the girl out of state to hide the situation, harboring a criminal and protecting a sexual predator.
Ah, those pesky bloggers.  If only a national investigative news organization had looked into this, or the local news in Concord had covered and had a running twitter feed at the trial; or if even the police had (finally) gotten involved.  If only those people had known, then it wouldn't be poor BJU vs. The Bloggers. 

We believe that the biblical way to approach this information is to get all the facts before judging Dr. Phelps or his actions, including going directly to him for answers to questions.
Boom!  There it is.  You almost had me, BJU.   Do you see the sleight-of-hand?  Anyone? They said "get all the facts before judging".  Who did they go to?  They went to Mr. Phelps.  Is he the source of "all the facts" here?  Really?  Who was the main person Mr. Phelps offended?  IT WAS TINA ANDERSON.  DIDJA TALK TO TINA?  HUH?  DIDJA?

While the University maintained regular contact with Dr. Phelps since the matter came to light, we have recently spent time on Dr. Phelps’ website—drchuckphelps.com—and reading what the bloggers are saying. To verify facts and get our questions answered we called him and he answered our questions.
Any former or current students want to comment on how much their own testimony was valued when *they* were hauled in front of the Administration for an "investigation"?

After speaking with him and weighing the criticisms against the facts...
Facts according to whom?

...we have concluded that some of what is posted on the internet about this incident is true, but the majority is a little bit of truth mixed with a lot of opinion and speculation.
Yes, there is a lot of opinion and speculation. I agree.  Yet if these opinionated speculative people hadn't have been paying such close attention to this, the average person would not have the wealth of facts they have available now - and Mr. Willis would still be scot-free.  These people watched Mr. Phelps change his answers on his website.  They documented him stumbling on the witness stand and giving mind-bogglingly bad answers to straightforward questions.  There's plenty of incontrovertible evidence if you open your eyes.

Did Dr. Phelps do everything perfectly? No—nor would anyone make perfect judgments in similar circumstances.
How many times do I have to say this?  Nobody expected him to do everything perfectly.  What people are shocked and grieved at is the blatantly poor treatment of an abuse victim and a perpetuation of injustice with NO ATTEMPT AT AN APOLOGY.   Beyond that, it's not just a few minor things he "didn't do perfectly".  There were great big WRONGS.  What people expect is an admission of the wrong and an attempt at restoration.  And did you notice that BJU almost admitted he did something wrong here?  Careful gents.  You admit something went wrong and then you have to apologize and make it right.  Can't have that, now can we.

He has openly admitted this on his website.
Really?  Where?  Admitted what? I saw no apology.  Did you?  All I saw was some weak statements of "regret" and that he might do things differently now.  "Regret" is not repentence.  "Regret" is what you feel about eating lasagna when you have morning sickness and then unfortunately have to see it again.

The biblical principle is to go to the person directly and get facts before reaching a judgment.
Red herring!  This was a public matter.  Tina's "correction" or whatever you want to call it was shamefully public.  The trial was public.  I remember being taught in Fundamentalism that the scope of the offense helps determine the scope of the rebuke. But you go right ahead and keep breaking your own rules by repeating that old saw, gentlemen.  Because you do that too many times and people start to wake up.

What answers do you think Mr. Phelps would have given those who contacted him personally?  The same unsatisfying and vaguely disturbing answers he has on his website?

Dr. Phelps has offered to talk to several of his critics and even shared his phone number, but not one has called to talk with him directly.
Love it.  100% guilt trip.  Can't you see your Italian grandmother saying that?  You never call, you never write...

Part 3: The Shame of Social Media

...how it can be used to tear down a person’s reputation with little verification of fact.
Feel like a broken record here.  The stuff everyone agrees happened is horrific enough.  Let's deal with that appropriately first and not excuse it because the "really bad stuff" is just speculation, shall we?

Part 4: The Shame on You

In conclusion, we cannot overlook the human side in all of this.
  • A teenage girl was raped—this is a tragedy.
  • A rapist is in jail—this is justice.
  • A faithful pastor is being pummeled in social media and his family maligned—this is unjust.
  • Our God is being grieved.

Every time you criticize Chuck Phelps, God kills a kitten is grieved.  See how the erroneous assumption is put on par with the two correct conclusions?  Clever.

The one-sentence distillation of this entire document?  "Please forgive Chuck Phelps and move on, because we're not taking him off the Board."


To forgive someone, there has to be a wrong to forgive.  Neither Mr. Phelps nor BJU have admitted any wrongdoing.  So, for what are we to forgive him?  If there is nothing to forgive, why are we being asked to do so? And if there is something to forgive, then why has he not apologized?  

*sigh*  I'm just so confused.


  1. "How many times do I have to say this? Nobody expected him to do everything perfectly. What people are shocked and grieved at is the blatantly poor treatment of an abuse victim and a perpetuation of injustice with NO ATTEMPT AT AN APOLOGY."
    This states perfectly exactly what my concern is about this situation.

  2. :) Love all the points presented here. They are pathetic.

  3. He probably has legal advice to not apologize under any circumstances. I understand BJU once apologized in writing and was promptly sued since there was tangible proof they had admitted guilt. Apparently their current MO is to NEVER under any circumstances apologize for ANY THING. This same mindset could be coloring this situation. But good grief already. We have enough facts to know that Chuck Phelps did not do things well. He should apologize. That would be the Christian thing to do. But in a way I hope he doesn't ever apologize. Then this situation just continues and BJU digs their heels in like a stubborn mule, and the face of fundamentalism is frozen in time for all the world to see. I want that to happen since I believe that it is a true reflection of the insincere religiosity of the institution and of fundamentalism in general. An apology, however sincere sounding, would not reflect true feelings or be well intentioned or sincere. It's just too late now.

  4. True, he may have legal advice not to apologize. But his actions are beyond the statute of limitations or he'd be in the courtroom already. And BJU doesn't have to apologize for him. They could have just said when this came out, "We feel this issue is too divisive and we don't want to be part of it, therefore we will remove him from the Board until the matter has been resolved."

    If BJU would apologize first rather than stubbornly deny a problem for decades and then offer an apology that isn't really an apology (http://www.bju.edu/welcome/who-we-are/race-statement.php), they would probably be sued less. And if you don't want to be sued, then stop doing so many litigation-worthy things.

  5. I met with 4 deacons at Colonial Hills Baptist Church about this. They all received their information from Chuck Phelps and his website. None of them contacted Tina Dooley Anderson. Not surprising that they are diggin their heals in and standing by their man.

  6. Nicely done. It's a lot of hard work to divide truth from well-constructed lies.

  7. Well spoken and fantastic that you are stepping ahead of the past! (I call it detox - which I've been doing for the last 10 years or so.) You're fantastic, strong people and as horrible as it can be to hear - victims keep coming out from my own childhood days which is actually good and they are feeling so much better knowing there is someone who understands and they now realize theirs is NOT an isolated incident and they are not alone! BIG HUGS to you and Tina - you guys are awesome!!!

  8. But his actions are beyond the statute of limitations or he'd be in the courtroom already.

    Since Phelps called the police 3 times and called DYCFS why would he "be in the courtroom?"

    When Phelps found out about the pregnancy, Tina was 16 and according to her own testimony she still sought out the company of Ernie Willis. She continued her driving lessons with him. She went to dinner at the Bedford Inn with him to celebrate her birthday.

    Phelps acted according to the knowledge he had at the time, which is the all anyone could do.

  9. First paragraph - why do you think the only thing people are concerned about is whether or not Phelps called the police?

    Second paragraph - it doesn't matter how old the person is when they tell someone. It matters how old they were when they were raped. As far as Tina continuing to seek out the company of her rapist, that is common behavior among victims. If you don't understand about the dynamics of abused and abusees, you have no business commenting until you do. Go educate yourself. RAINN.org is a good start.

    Phelps acted in a terrible manner towards a victim of sexual abuse and rape. If you can't see that, I'm flabbergasted. See http://desertpetrichor.blogspot.com/2011/06/good-vision.html

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  11. Phelps did NOT act according to the information he had. The information he had was that Willis raped Tina. What he presented to the church was two separate cases in which each was separately blamed as being responsible participants in adultery/fornication. He hid the full facts from the church: Willis had raped 15 year old Tina. Even if you set aside the forcible rape (and you shouldn't since Willis acknowledged to Phelps that he had been "the aggressor"), an adult man in the church having sex with a 15 year old is way different from what Phelps told the church. Phelps deliberately resorted to deception to protect Willis from the moral outrage of his peers. There's no getting around that.

  12. And now that I've had a night's sleep, I want to say that I didn't mean you had no business commenting *here*. This is a learning opportunity. What I meant was if you don't understand the truth about sexual abuse/assault perpetrators and victims, you can't judge this situation adequately. I'm sorry.

  13. It is true that neither Chuck Phelps nor BJU can apologize for anything. To do so is a tacit admission of guilt which can be used in a court of law. How does one craft a public apology without admitting guilt? The legal tenor of our society effectively prevents a Biblical response. We live in a society which has a legal system and code increasingly hostile to Christianity and making a Biblical response far more difficult. Is Phelps guilty of crimes for which he can still be prosecuted--if not, (either because the statute of limitations has run out or because there was no crime committed) then he has successfully "beaten the system."--intentional or not.

    The key is to do find what is best under a lot of bad circumstances. If Chuck Phelps cares about the welfare of BJU in this situation, he should simply step down. He should bring the matter before his church and ask his flock to vote on his fitness to continue as pastor. If they feel he should leave, then he should. However, if they are willing to have him continue, then let it be the choice of the membership. Having an outside Christian organization come in to help draft appropriate preventive measures would also go a long way.

    The bottom line is is one stinking mess that has to be shoveled up and thrown into the manure pile to compost. None of the hurts can be undone; only more people will be hurt and the same people hurt more. It just has to stop.
    No one will probably get justice here. We will have to wait for the Judge of all the earth to work it all out. In the meantime, it is toxic and self-destructive to keep this argument going.

    BJU and Chuck Phelps have made it clear where they stand; we have made clear where we stand . . . really--what more can be done? They can do what they please, but they will do it without my aid or support.

  14. If apologizing is the right thing to do, then it is the right thing to do. Since when do consequences supercede the morality of doing the right thing?

    Joe Paterno's lawyers also advised him not to apologize. Since he is a man of character, he did so anyway, and admitted his tragic error.

    As long as there are people trapped in this dangerous ungodly system and victims continuing to be told their victimization is their fault, then this this argument MUST keep going.

  15. I would assume from Chuck Phelps actions, statements, etc thus far regarding this whole tragic ordeal that ruined lifes in the process ... that he could care less if the BJU or IFB or anyone else goes down with the ship with him.

    His constant changes to his website, and his contradictions - that were far from SMALL mistakes - show his reckless regard for the faith organization that seems to wish to back him at this point.

    Chuck could apologize if he was man enough. He isn't sadly. He has to many enablers patting his head telling him it will be okay. He is in so deep where is the incentive to be a true man of God? He might lose what strong support he has in his deception thus far.

    The foundation is crumbling with each lie or deception. If he is gullible enough to believe his own theory about what happened? It again shows his abilities don't qualify him for that position.

    I honestly don't think Chuck cares. He is going to ride this gravy train as long as he can. He sees it won't last. He will hold on as long as he can.

  16. I agree with Clara! I love that people think that because of legal consequences you cannot apologize. The law is a side note here and we as Christians are held to a much higher standard. Actions have consequences and that should not affect the response. I am reminded of what Zacheus did in the Gospel story when Christ changed his life--he went above and beyond what he HAD to do because his repentance was real. The right thing would be for Phelps to publicly apologize, repent of his deception, and to resign his church and also the BJU board.

    This won't happen because in his mind he owes nobody an apology. He would rather admit to "not doing everything perfectly" without getting specific. Nice--sounds like my 11 year old when he gets in trouble for something at home--doesn't fly in our house. Heals have been dug in and this will go on until the bitter end.

    I am glad our family has gotten out--I want nothing to do with this kind of Christianity anymore.

  17. Clara, the point remains that you made a false claim against Church Phelps. You stated as fact that he'd be in a courtroom except that the statute of limitations has expired.

    You're saying he committed a crime and he did not. He reported Tina's rape to the police in 3 different phone calls. He also contacted social services.

    It's wrong for you to say that Phelps committed some crime.

    Secondly, due to the fact that Tina sought out Willis company and was NEVER truthful to Phelps, he was working with incomplete information. I'm not saying why Tina kept trying to see Willis, you claim it's because what rape victims do. However having worked in law enforcement for a very long time, I can tell you that is NOT what rape victims do.

    And it doesn't really matter WHY she continued in his company. But you all want to excuse her actions or completely deny her actions. (Laurie Moody for example.)

    But those actions of seeking to be in the company of her rapist when she knew it was a dangerous and a morally compromising situation were what Chuck Phelps was dealing with.

    Legally, until the guy is tried and convicted, Phelps can't get up before a church and call Willis a rapist. You all know that. But you work yourselves into a hysteria of what he should have done without acknowledging the facts of the situation.

  18. @Jeri: "Even if you set aside the forcible rape (and you shouldn't since Willis acknowledged to Phelps that he had been "the aggressor"),"

    The phrase in Chuck Phelps notes was Ernie "admitted being the aggressor in the relationship."

    Whether it was forcible or not is sort of neither here nor there to me. Even Tina admitted under oath that she doesn't remember. But he's been convicted of that, so that's where he is now.

    To my mind, since she was 15 years and 8 months old, it was rape any way you look at it. He was a grown man.

    I think he took advantage of her. And I also think people like Jocelyn Zictherman took advantage of her later.

    That's a shame.

  19. I'm not talking about whether or not he called the police. I'm talking about the public shaming, the possible conspiring to send her away, the failure to protect the rest of the flock from a rapist - these are all questions that that could be potentially dealt with in a court of law with a civil suit.

  20. Two of us spoke with him the same day as the notice. I don't know that removing Mr. Phelps will do anything except portray BJU as retreating, which they will, of course, never do. Whether he or they are using the situation and/or each other can't be known either. It would seem that we're haggling over a symbolic gesture: of GREAT symbolism to us, of course, but symbolic nonetheless. I believe that our efforts & electrons might be more productive in confronting specific errors, such as teaching that a raped woman's first response should be to confess her enjoyment of being violated. That was once taught at BJU; I don't know if it still is. But such teachings (and any documented sin) are concrete, distinct, objective, and irrefutable; confronting BJU on such topics will effect substantial change, one error at a time - if that's the point here. Otherwise, the membership of their board, which is little more than a collection of symbolic gestures, is unimportant. If we intend to reform BJU, let's do so in concrete terms. If we only want to badger them, by all means, let's fight a skirmish which we are certain to lose, one that will be considered by BJU as their victory.

  21. I find it interesting that several of you have focused on Tina continuing to spend time with Willis after her rape. First of all let's consider that most 16 yr olds want nothing as much as being able to drive and a part time job (baby sitting the Willis children). This is a huge issue in the social sturcture of their peer group.
    Secondly, as I remember the teachings of fundamentalism, we were repeatedly told that you must "forgive" those who mistreat you or sin against you to be right with God. This was almost always coupled with "forgetting those things which are past, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God." I never heard it taught that you forgive the individual but refrain from any contact with them until such time as the offender repents and asks to be restored to fellowship.

  22. D&J, for some reason part of me wants to disagree with you, and I don't know why. Because the more I read your post, the more I think I agree with you on a really fundamental (HA!) level. I mean, that's why my blog has been more about principles and theological errors of fundamentalism rather than naming names and situations (which has its place, mind you). This whole post was a look at the type of basic logical errors used by BJU to defend the indefensible. The last post did the same only with Mr. Phelps's website.

    As for reforming BJU - well, bless you D&J, you have a great deal more faith than I. The fact that the first response of apparently *all* of the leadership of that place is one of condoning Phelps' actions belies a deep-seated moral and spiritual corruption that goes beyond mere "specific teaching errors". Anyone with a modicum of human decency recoils in horror at what was done. A place that so consistently calls the crooked straight and "despises those who speak truth" (Amos 5:10) is beyond any human call for repentance. It is a place in the clutches of nearly four generations' worth of controlling, abusive leadership who refuses to seek the good when confronted. My conscience still goads me to speak out but I despair of any real change and only see ruin ahead. I pity the good people trapped in that unholy place. May God have mercy.

  23. I'm not talking about whether or not he called the police. I'm talking about the public shaming, the possible conspiring to send her away, the failure to protect the rest of the flock from a rapist - these are all questions that that could be potentially dealt with in a court of law with a civil suit.

    Originally you said "But his actions are beyond the statute of limitations or he'd be in the courtroom already."

    So just to clarify are you saying the statute of limitations has run out on a civil case?

  24. That's the assumption I am operating under, yes.