That Poor Cafeteria Lady

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I step away from my computer for a minute, and what happens?

So a gent named Hohn Cho at Pyromaniacs has taken me to task for missing the point on sexual abuse. You can read all of what he has to say here. I will be responding to just some of what he had to say.

“The author, Doug Wilson, is certainly no stranger to either controversy or verbal pugilism (ha!), and yet despite that fact I cannot recall even a single time over the past decade-plus that he’s ever actually issued a material apology or owned up to a significant mistake in thinking, so perhaps the blind spot lies somewhere therein.”

Since the subject of blind spots has been raised, I would encourage anyone interested to go here and check out the entries under point #7. In addition to that, there is a category on my blog called Retractions. Just type Retractions into the search bar on the home page, and take a gander at some of my variegated follies and screw-ups of yore.

That first point, and this following one, are not an example of Mr. Cho answering my arguments, but rather an example of someone peeing in the pool right before I have to jump into it. And I do have to remark on the fact that I am insufficiently appreciative. But here goes.

“Perhaps more likely, however, is the reality that Wilson’s perspective on sexual abuse is so astonishingly wrong-headed that it has led to tragic results in at least two cases which have been documented thoroughly in the public record. If the records are a bit too dry for you, Rod Dreher went into the Sitler case in some detail a few years ago. Given Scripture’s clear admonition to us in Matthew 7:3-5, one might think that perhaps Wilson is not the most appropriate or helpful messenger on the topic of either apologies or sexual abuse”

Given the fact that one of my central concerns has had to do with one-sided story-telling, and how easy it is to fall into that trap while adjudicating complicated stories on the Internet, let me ask some very simple questions. First, in the comments at Pyromaniacs, my daughter-in-law Heather posted some of our relevant responses to such charges. My first question has to do with whether Mr. Cho knew of the existence of those responses of ours before he posted. And had he read them? If he had not, then should he be a trusted purveyor of information on those controversies? And if he had read them, if he did know of them, why did he not provide links so that the reader could get both perspectives before deciding? Perhaps the answer is that both perspectives sometimes get in the way of an agenda.

Here is a portion of what my daughter-in-law posted:

First link in each is from the Church’s elder minutes.

On the Sitler case,
The Sitler Timeline
An Open Letter from Christ Church on Steven Sitler
The Only Kind of Gospel There Is

On the Greenfield case,
The Greenfield Timeline

Back to me . . .

After all, John Macarthur was recently accused, in the public record, of lying about his connections in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Phil Johnson responded to those accusations. What conclusions might be drawn if I had referenced the charges but not the fact of the reply?

Mr. Cho talks about how Rod Dreher “went into” the Sitler case, and how other people can access documents in the public record. Following the example of Dreher, they can do all this without ever once talking to any of the principal witnesses for the defense, and they can then take the show on the road. But in a real court, civil or ecclesiastical, it you are a witness, you have skin in the game. You are under oath, and there are consequences for lies, for sloppiness, for malice, and for the rest of it. But in this strange new world of ours, nobody ever gets cross-examined. Now what happens, in a world like ours, when people are free to accuse without consequences? I try to imagine, and I don’t have to try very hard.

The way Mr. Cho began his piece indicated that he thought I was singularly disqualified to talk about the Sovereign Grace case because of Sitler and Wight cases. I would flip this around. Time and again I have seen, with my own eyes I have seen, how easy it is for someone to blow through some documents, leave some essential ones out, conduct their drive-by blog post, and continue merrily on their way. I am by no means an expert on the abuse cases that underlie the Sovereign Grace controversy. I don’t pretend to be. But I am very much an expert on the current tactics I see being used on CJ Mahaney. I know all about those. And all I can say is that more people ought to be ashamed of themselves than are acting ashamed of themselves.

“There’s another important point to consider here, however, and that is the fact that an elder must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church, as clearly stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. One need not discard either the presumption of innocence or the requirement in 1 Timothy 5:19 for a charge against an elder to have two or three witnesses in order to note that there exist differing levels of proof, and that the Bible nowhere requires conviction of a crime—which requires ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ under our criminal justice system—in order to establish that an elder is not qualified for the office, as Wilson seems to imply.”

And here it is. Here is the problem I have been protesting against, stated quite nakedly. First, I don’t require a conviction in the criminal justice system in order to establish that an elder is not qualified. But I do require actual justice. Those principles of justice that are now established in our criminal justice system were principles that were bequeathed to them by the church. There was a time when we once taught the nations. The vestiges of that teaching remain in our criminal justice system, while we in the church are in the process of abandoning our own heritage, which would be those biblical principles of justice.

Parse carefully what Mr. Cho is saying here. Someone could now say that John Macarthur is no longer qualified to be an elder because he has been accused of lying in the public record even though we are still according him the presumption of innocence (if it ever came to criminal court) and we still think two or three witnesses are required to convict somehow, but one witness is sufficient to smear. If this doesn’t make sense to you, you shouldn’t fret about it because I don’t think it is you. Mr. Cho is obliquely saying that the threshold for conviction is higher than the threshold for a smear, and that a smear is sufficient to disqualify a man from office in the church. Okay. How big does the smear have to be?

“As a trained attorney, Denhollander has done an admirable job of highlighting precisely why this is, and her devastatingly detailed March 1, 2018 summary not only provides a credible charge with witnesses that has existed for years, for those who took the time to investigate, in my view it basically establishes a prima facie case that demands a substantive response.”

Great. So I have some questions. Who is going to hear the case? Who needs to find Denhollander’s arguments persuasive? Will it be, “People of the Internet, what do you think?” Who will issue the verdict? Will everybody accept that verdict? While applauding the fact that Denhollander is a trained attorney, will there be a trained attorney allowed for the other side? Will all the witnesses be cross-examined? Who will hear this case? Mr. Cho already sneered at Ministry Safe, and I will tell you in a moment what I think of Boz and GRACE. And besides, do we really think that having businesses adjudicate these things is a smart move?

“Her ‘lane’ is precisely sexual abuse and the law, and despite Wilson’s patronizing comment about not being trained to identify ambulance chasers, the legal code of ethics which Denhollander presents and teaches on actually requires lawyers to identify and avoid ambulance chasers.”

So if the legal code of ethics that Denhollander teaches on requires lawyers to identify and avoid ambulance chasers, my follow-up question is simple. Why has she not done so? Why is she not following her own avowed best practices? When we were dealing with just one iteration of our controversies, Boz took to Twitter to take up sides in it, knowing next to nothing about what had happened out here. Far from being an impartial jurist in a black robe behind a mahogany bench, he became an eager and active partisan in a junior high cafeteria food fight. And, I must say, he throws a mean dinner roll. And like many participants in such affairs, he was not at all interested in nuance, or in a quiet, thorough investigation. Instead he clocked the cafeteria lady.

His public behavior was egregious. And he was behaving outrageously in a controversy that had nothing to do with him. Actually it did have something to do with him if you include the important activity of drumming up business. But because of the business he pretends to be in, his behavior was way out there. It was so bad that we wrote the board of GRACE to see if they could do something about it. In reply we got a stiffly-worded threat of a lawsuit—a lawsuit full of starch— because when you start throwing out biblical principles of justice, it will just be a matter of time before you get to throw out 1 Cor. 6 also.

You might even get to throw 1 Cor. 6 at the cafeteria lady.