Three years ago now, author and blogger Jarrid Wilson posted this blog post on his Facebook page, which I ordinarily wouldn’t have known about, but it became significant to me because it was reposted many times by supporters of Bob Jones University, basically telling me and others to shut up already.
In February of 2014, three years ago, Bob Jones University had fired the team that was investigating their handling of sexual abuse allegations, Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment (GRACE). Because I spoke out about the firing in various places on social media, including my own personal Facebook page, I gained quite a following (thirty people, maybe? It felt like a lot in those days).
Some conjectured that when BJU rehired GRACE three weeks later, it was because of the social media firestorm that erupted after news of the firing got out.
The abuses and coverups continue, the exposures continue, and the ramifications and aftermath continue, not just in the BJU world, but all across fundamentalism and evangelicalism. But from about 2010 to 2014 it seemed that many areas of fundamental/evangelical Christianity were exploding open at once.
Social media, finally giving the little person a platform, was helping to uncover a dark underbelly of abuses in various parts of the church.
In those days I was keeping this “devotional” blog separate from the controversy, so this conversation was published only on my Facebook page. But because there are many of us who continue to expose abuses in various arenas, it seems appropriate to repost this discussion here now.
Below is what Jarrid said as Point #1 in “3 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media.”
Publicly calling people out on their sins or mistakes.
But before I quote Jarrid, I want to say that I see a big difference between sins and mistakes. A person can make a legitimate mistake—such as failing to report child abuse because he didn’t know he was supposed to.
If a person shows evidence of legitimately trying to address a mistake and correct it, it’s important for us as the Christian community to be patient and gracious with him.
However, when the mistake is addressed and then after several entreaties the person refuses to make efforts to correct the mistake but instead stonewalls, makes excuses, shifts the blame, or continues to engage in coverups, it becomes a willful sin.
I continue with Jarrid’s words:
It’s not your place to call other people out on their sins or mistakes, especially in public. Christians already have a bad reputation in the land of judgment, and the last thing we need is someone rebuking people via Twitter or Facebook. If you’re doing this, please find the “deactivate” button and click it repeatedly.
Nobody wants to see your drama show up on their news feeds. I mean, I’m sure they’re just waiting to sit back and watch your social boxing match. Maturity plays a big role in using social media. So if you claim to be a Christian, then please keep your drama, arguments, and bickering to yourself. The last thing someone wants to see a Christian do is argue behind the safety of a computer screen. It’s not worth your time, nor does anyone else want to see it.
If you really think it’s that important, call them on the phone, or at least send them a private message. Do us all a favor and stop your social judgment. There is no need to publicly shame someone for something you’re probably doing yourself.
Because people were posting this blog on Facebook and sending it to me, I finally wrote a comment on his blog post. But for some reason he apparently didn’t allow it past moderation.
So I then put it up on my own personal Facebook page. Here it is.
I’m astonished that you would say it’s not the place of the people of God to call Christian leaders out on their sin. What do we see in the examples of the prophets, of Paul, of Jesus Himself? If Christians don’t call out leaders on their sins, to whom will they be accountable?
You urge us to call them on the phone, to write them privately. But that admonition assumes that we haven’t already done that. After we have done those things and have seen no repentance, not even a response, what then? Stand silent in the face of monstrous wrongdoing, of the covering of crimes?
Do you assume that those who call out Christian leaders publicly on particular sins are doing the same things themselves? How can you be so judgmental?
Regarding arguments on Facebook or Twitter: Just because you personally don’t want to see “drama” in people’s news feeds, do you assume that no one does? I know through personal experience that often there are silent watchers of arguments who are there for more than just a popcorn scenario. They are trying to understand the different perspectives of important issues, and any grace and truth that might be presenting itself will go a long way in convincing them of what they should really believe.
I have thanked God for social media. It provides a platform for the little people—my arena is that of advocate for those who have been sexually violated within the context of the church—to collectively raise their voices against the harm that some leaders have perpetrated against them.
I trust that judgmental posts like yours won’t be a deterrent to those who know they are doing the right thing in finally bringing these dark sins into the light of God’s truth. And I pray that there will be a huge revival of repentance among the leaders who are seeking to hide such crimes.
As I received some mild pushback to the above comment on my own Facebok page, referencing harsh language, I said the following.
I keep thinking about the tone that Jesus used when he called out the Pharisees publicly–vipers, whited sepulchres, etc. This was much, much harsher language than I have ever used, and I’m sure it made many people uncomfortable, even angry. But He is our example.
I don’t mean to be implying that Jarrid Wilson is in that category, but I would say that someone like Jack Schaap, the 54-year-old pastor who preached long skirts while seducing a teenage girl, would fall in that category. It just might be proper to call out someone like him in terms that strong.
And this, after a word about how exposing the hypocrisy of leaders will hurt people in the church, and the inevitable observation that we don’t know men’s hearts as Jesus did:
When followers find out about a leader’s extreme hypocrisy (like the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, for example), that can be devastating to these followers.
But a big problem we’re seeing here in this situation is that many people have already seen the hypocrisy. They have already been devastated. But other leaders are acting as if nothing is wrong move along people that’s just the haters nothing to see here.
This appears to be–and I say appears because I don’t know men’s hearts as Jesus does–because leaders are trying to build certain kingdoms, and they may think it’s God’s kingdom, by protecting the wrongdoers. They may believe that they’re protecting the ministry by protecting men who need to repent of grievous sins.
And in the meantime, as years roll by, more and more are affected by the grievous sins that were never dealt with, and more and more lives are devastated.
At what point do we decide that the fallout of covering is worse than the fallout of exposure? But really that was a trick question–that’s not our place to decide. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
If a man in ministry is assaulting women and children, for example, at no time should the leaders ever decide that the “ministry” is so important that his crime needs to be covered. When they do, they are complicit.
The women and children–those who were assaulted–as well as many, many others are observing and being devastated by this hypocrisy. Exposing the sin is not the problem. The problem is the sin itself.
Since that time—and I didn’t see this coming at all in February of 2014—I’ve collaborated on two books exposing sexual abuse and domestic abuse in evangelicalism and fundamentalism, I’ve written another one about spiritual abuse in the same arenas, and I’m currently working on the second in that series.
I want to emphasize the importance of gentleness and graciousness for those who show a desire to change and address their sins (or mistakes!).
But my continued prayer is that I and others will stand in grace and truth on this statement regarding those who are still engaging in acts of darkness:
It seems as if this post was meant for me to read at this moment of time. I walked through the BJU/GRACE investigation. When the investigation began, I was a victim in just about every sense of the word. I believed the horrific accusations of my worthlessness and deservedness of abuse, etc.
I slowly learned that there was seemingly a pocket of Christianity that did NOT believe that way. I wanted to understand what God’s view was. During this time period, the memories of abuse flooded me.
I was vulnerable to further abuse as I had grown up victimized and had learned well the religious language that bound the guilt and shame into every part of me. It was an arduous process to have the tentacles of wrong theology pulled off. Sometimes I wondered if it was worth it. While I was beginning to learn that the shame of abuse from the past was something that belonged to me, it resulted in current abuse growing exponentially in ways that I was sure I deserved. The abuse came at me from a completely different direction and I was completely unprepared to know what to do with it. I suppose I traded one system of being an abuse victim for another, all the while, thinking I was finding freedom.
It was NOT freedom and I am only now finally discovering just how insidious abuse can hide and replicate like a malignant cancer, all in the presence of people who truly have a desire to stand against abuse.
It seems that those who join in the “fight” against abuse, are sort of considered above suspicion, but that isn’t reality. I am finding it harder to confront abuse in religious settings that consider themselves to be “victim” friendly. It seems that there is a serious attempt on the part of many to truly understand and make wise decisions, however, it doesn’t seem to any of these people to consult with us – the victims, about what they could change. Thus, the things put in place were merely empty tokens of good wishes. If one of their own was accused of anything, the walls of protection went up quickly and the victim again became the enemy.
After having worked so hard to fight against abuse, to discover that it was happening right in the middle of the “safe” part of my world was shocking. When I finally got enough courage to speak to the one pastor who I was sure would help, I was shocked to find that his support had run [out] and that I would not be even heard, even though there were a few years worth of allegations made against the person I was referencing.
It has been a difficult battle and will likely continue to be a difficult battle, however, the hardest part seems to come when the allegations get too close to home and all the courage you have fought so hard for, you find has actually betrayed you and you are left alone, isolated, and in contempt. You become a castaway.
Thank you for bringing attention to these things in this blog. Rebecca, thank you for living out a picture of Jesus even while it seemed that many turned away, perhaps repulsed by those who reached out to. I am one of those who you reached out to and instead of mocking, I found encouragement and hope. Thank you!