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
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
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.