Vice, Victims, and Vision Forum

I can see from the comments on this thread that more needs to be said on the Vision Forum fiasco. In the nature of the case, I will have to address various subjects, and so it may look like I am meandering. Bear with me.

First, by way of background, let me refer you to this piece on “not being a victim” that my daughter Bekah wrote yesterday. In the aftermath of this kind of thing, one of the first thoughts that every parent should have is how to equip and prepare their own daughters to deal with this kind of man. The equipping has to occur beforehand.

Second, having now mentioned the word victim, I need to spend some time on why it is not appropriate to use that word in this circumstance. To speak of Doug Phillips and his “victim” is prejudging the case. We are not prejudging the case if we take what both parties in the dispute acknowledge, and reason from that. If she maintained that he started this when she was fifteen, and he denied it, then we would have to wait and see what the facts were. But if she says it started when she was a adult, and he says that too, then it is not prejudging the case to assume that they were both adults — and to expect them both to have acted accordingly.

Given that, either his sexual attentions were entirely unwelcome, or they were not. If they were not unwelcome, then the affair appears to have been one of complicated and unconsummated adultery, with two participants. She was an adult, and so if his attentions were not entirely unwelcome, she was a player in the vice, not a victim. The victim in this would have been Beall, with two people victimizing her.

But if his attentions were entirely unwelcome to her, and she was freaked out by the creepster, then we have to ask why she wasn’t down the road at the first opportunity — that night or the next morning — with Doug Phillips receiving notification of her opinion of what transpired via the sound of sirens. That’s not what happened, on anyone’s account, and so I don’t think we should identify her as a victim.

We can’t have it both ways. We cannot accuse Vision Forum of treating all women like little girls, and then turn around and treat all women as little girls who can’t be expected to say no to a cad at Vision Forum. Everyone who automatically assumes that Torres-Manteufel was necessarily the victim is ironically buying into a view of the world that assumes that grown women are not responsible for what they say or do.

At the same time, of course, we should make allowances for those situations where an abused girl was never given the opportunity to become a responsible adult. If a trusted spiritual leader starts abusing a girl when she is 14, it is not as though, after 7 years of abuse, a magic moment happens when she turns 21, making it easy for her to now walk away. In a situation like that, the word victim is appropriate. But we ought to reserve the word for situations like it, and not use it in circumstances like this one.

Another question concerns the matter of disputes between Christians in civil courts run by unbelievers. For the sake of brevity, I will simply summarize my views of what 1 Cor. 6 requires, and then apply those views to this situation. Perhaps (if necessary) I can argue in detail for those views another time. But here is the summary.

I believe Paul is commanding believers to settle civil disputes among themselves, and not to take their disputes before unbelievers. He is clearly referring to situations where you have the decision-making authority to decide whether to pursue it or not. I do not believe that the prohibition applies to criminal cases, but rather to civil disputes. In addition, I do not believe that Paul prohibits taking disputes into civil courts, but rather taking disputes before unbelieving civil courts. If our nation were a Christian nation, then civil court is precisely where a case like this should be settled.

On a related note, I agree we don’t always have a choice in such matters. But to the extent that we do have a choice, we should be seen as laboring to keep the dispute from going before unbelievers. If a Christian is sued by another Christian, it may be necessary, at the end of the day, to show up in court as the accused — but it should only be after serious good-faith attempts to settle out of court, to offer to arrange Christian mediation or arbitration, and to demonstrate a spirit of preferring to be defrauded than to argue for justice in front of unbelievers against a fellow Christian. Such good-faith efforts would not include threats of counter-suits.

And in a case like this one, where the avalanche was started by Doug Phillips deciding to break all his vows, I would argue “how much more” should these standards be honored and followed.

Those Christians who dismiss the Pauline requirement as “unrealistic” should not be allowed to get around it by simply alleging that the group in question is a cult or a tightly-knit group where justice is impossible. Nobody said that the case should be settled in the back rooms of Vision Forum. There are Christian groups that specialize in mediation and arbitration that should have the respect of all parties, and it would not be that difficult to move this dispute to a respected forum that would be able to snatch a good testimony out of the flames of this humiliation.

Scott Clark, in one of his forays into metaphor, once compared the work here in Moscow to Jonestown. When someone just fires off with something like that, we don’t want to just throw the Pauline standard out the window because Paul couldn’t have been referring to something like Jonestown (which he wasn’t). But we then wind up appealing to an unbelieving court system that has devoured millions more victims than Jonestown ever did. “Peacemakers would be inadequate for our purposes. I appeal to Molech!”

We live in a litigious society, and this is one of our central idols. The ease with which many Christians resort to unbelieving courts is revelatory of what sort of petite idols we have stored in our justice closet.

At the same time, if someone is slandering a fellow Christian, we don’t want to set aside the restriction Paul gives, provided he ramps up the slander. We don’t want the Pauline standard to be “worked” as a sweet method of extortion by frivolous accusers, who file suit for a hundred million dollars against every ministry that sincerely intends to obey what Paul said. Any groups targeted in that way should be able to defend themselves, but they should labor to defend themselves in a way that is obviously and self-evidently Christian, with repeated attempts to adjudicate it within the community of Christians. If despite their best efforts they wind up in civil court, the whole world should know how much they don’t want to be there, and how they worked to prevent it. As Paul put it in another context, as far as it is possible with you remain at peace with all men.

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Observer
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Observer

These posts fail to acknowledge the cultist environment in which these events occurred. The problem is not just that Lourdes was abused or Beall was betrayed. The problem is the cultist environment patriarchy creates which enables such betrayal and abuse to continue. These posts assume that there was sin among two people in an otherwise healthy environment, and therefore, the sin just needed to be dealt with by otherwise healthy people. The problem is that the entire environment patriarchy creates paralyzes and prohibits women from speaking! There is no “safe” person in authority to which any woman can appeal. (Remember,… Read more »

Thomas Lemke
Guest

Doug, do we know for sure that a Christian mediation and reconciliation ministry wasn’t tried? I don’t have any evidence that there was, but unless we know for sure that it wasn’t, isn’t this another type of “prejudging”? On a related note, I don’t know much about these reconciliation ministries, but I doubt they have the power to force an issue in a situation where both parties do not want to come to the table and hash things out, and I have reason to suspect that Phillips would have balked (but again, I’ve no evidence). At least the secular courts… Read more »

Steven Vaughan
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Steven Vaughan

Thank you for your well thought out, well written, Biblically based comments on this tragic story. Both this post and the previous one is excellent. It is good to have a strong voice for the truth. Keep writing.

Jon Swerens
Member

Observer: I’m sorry, but it seems you did not even read Wilson’s post.

BPG
Guest
BPG

I’ll second your comment Jon Swerens. Observer has displayed by the above comment (and the comments on the previous post on the subject) that he or she has no idea what biblical patriarchy actually is. 

Liza
Guest
Liza

Hello, I don’t know the people involved in the Vision Forum situation and don’t know whether or not sexual abuse occurred. I do know quite a bit about being sexually abused by someone in a position similar to Doug Phillips’ position. It isn’t as simple as you say for someone being abused to tell about it. The shame you feel goes very deep. Not telling isn’t a legitimate reason to not believe the accuser. It’s extremely complicated and unless you have been repeatedly sexually abused you can’t understand it. I can understand not believing the accuser, but please research sexual… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Observer expresses a legitimate worry.
Could an environment be so toxic that most of the girls get poisoned into stupor? Could most, or all, be victims?
If so, then Doug’s determination the term “victim” doesn’t apply here would beg the question.

Nonetheless, Observer begs the question that intraChurch arbitration is necessarily unavailable to such victims.

Robert
Guest
Robert

It feels like Observer was abused and she is trying to address her issues here. If I am right, I hope she gets some good help. 

BPG
Guest
BPG

I might be more willing to take Observer’s comments more seriously if he or she did not spend the majority of those commented words on portraying biblical patriarchy like the cult of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. Women, like myself, who live under the authority of true biblical patriarchs are not doormats in prairie bonnets. If a person is going to argue against an ideology, they ought to be able to articulate it accurately.

John Cromartie
Guest
John Cromartie

BPG: isn’t this just a “no true Scotsman”?

John Cromartie
Guest
John Cromartie

BPG: are you saying that Vision Forum operates as an example of a “real” Biblical patriarchy?

Karen
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Karen

I think Observer is saying that Patriarchy as practiced in the Vision Forum community and the church there in TX is toxic and lead to the abuse of a young woman who couldn’t get herself out of it. I think. I don’t think he is saying that Patriarchy as practiced Biblically necessarily leads to abuse. At least that’s what I hope he’s saying. It’s pretty obvious that things are wacky in Texas.

Patrice
Guest
Patrice

BPG, when one adult gets to make the decisions for another adult, then yes, the latter adult will be, at least sometimes, a doormat. Especially when the decision-making paradigm is based on nothing more than a variance of hormone ratios and reproductive organs.

But I have no idea why you dislike prairie bonnets. I am egalitarian and love them.

antexw
Member

Observer and Eric Stampher, The Lord teaches that a person is not to be regarded as purely a victim, i.e., without the guilt of sexual immorality, if the approached does not “cry out,” (Dt 22:24), even under the severe psychological pressure of the harsh/toxic environment of the scene of forced sexual activity, and even as a weaker vessel (1 Pe 3:7). Also, there is an ‘Either Or’ fallacy to watch out for in labeling someone Either a victim (e.g., non-adulteress) Or criminal (e.g., adulteress), because when a criminal lays a stumbling block of sin, the stumbling victim may change their… Read more »

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

Brian,

I think you’d need to prove the case that a toxic environment does not equal being out in the weeds.

muzjik
Guest
muzjik

I think it might be best if you stop trying to clarify your remarks because it seems that each time you just make it worse. I’ll start in the middle when you condemn the civil lawsuit and say this should have been handled in the Christian community. Guess what…YOU are part of the Christian community and here you have failed. 1) You deny that she can be called a victim even though she was (according to the suit) groomed and manipulated by a man who was her pastor, her spiritual authority, her employer, and a father figure, saying the label… Read more »

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Thank you, Pastor Wilson! You nailed it! I’ve tried to say the same thing and was accused of not having sympathy for the “victim,” which no one can prove she was at this point. However, I absolutely DO have sympathy for the fact that she was used by a man in power – a man she had respected and revered. She was seduced into a sinful relationship by a “religious” man who represented godliness to her. I agree there is no excuse. She said she was told that he would marry her. She said she was told that his wife… Read more »

Valerie Jacobsen
Member

The two things that keep women quiet when we should speak are fear that we will not be believed and fear that we will be publicly shamed as enticing, consenting, or otherwise complicit. These fears can be extremely magnified when the report is expected to be national news, when the offender is very powerful, and when the woman herself is not powerful and expects to have no influential people in her corner. If these allegations are true, it is hard to imagine a case wherein a woman in her early 20’s would feel much more intimidated. When you imply that… Read more »

Ed Chapman
Guest
Ed Chapman

Let’s see how this is carefully worded: 1 Cor 5 (Remember…this is JUST a letter) A report only. verse 1: It is actually REPORTED that there is sexual immorality among you Paul passes judgment…without any evidence whatsoever. verse 3: I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. Doug Phillips CLAIMS to be a Brother, ADMITTING inappropriate (MINIMIZE) PHYSICAL CONTACT verse 11: you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral verse 12: What business is it of mine to… Read more »

Ronette
Guest
Ronette

Pastor Wilson,

I’m curious as to your views if there was an actual crime committed (if the allegations are true). Should a civil suit still not be filed in that case?

My understanding (and I am not an attorney) is that this behavior of a pastor and a congregant is against the law in TX. Same as a dr, counselor, therapist, etc.

If there was a crime committed, wouldn’t victim be the correct term?

Interested in your perspective.

Ed Chapman
Guest
Ed Chapman

I always love it when my moderated comments disappear. Badge of honor. Let’s see how this is carefully worded: 1 Cor 5 (Remember…this is JUST a letter) A report only. verse 1: It is actually REPORTED that there is sexual immorality among you Paul passes judgment…without any evidence whatsoever. verse 3: I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. Doug Phillips CLAIMS to be a Brother, ADMITTING inappropriate (MINIMIZE) PHYSICAL CONTACT verse 11: you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but… Read more »

carole
Guest
carole

Patrice, then we are all doormats, since no adult in this country is able to make all the decisions concerning his life all the time.

And why is it especially when it is women? Why aren’t men who have decisions made for them by other men (and that would be everybody) not also doormats?

Roy
Guest
Roy

Again, many are on point. Why was she even in that neighborhood? And at that time of night?

bethyada
Member

Brian, Eric has a point. Deuteronomy would not apply to a woman born mute. So while your principle is in general correct, it assumes a usual response. It seems that someone could be sexually abused for a long time from a young age could perhaps make the principle from Deut not relevant (I make no claims as to whether it applies here).

Marliss Bombardier
Guest
Marliss Bombardier

Stacey, your comment is right on.

As far as patriarchy is concerned, it can be a good thing, protecting and nourishing women and girls. But the enemy can take a good thing and twist it. We end up with tragedies like this one, and like the one with Bill Gothard. That may end up worse than this one because of the age of the young women at the time of his offense.

Gail
Guest
Gail

I have a hard time believing that you Mr. Wilson cannot connect the dots on how D.P. teaching & doctrine would impact a young woman. How is it that you do not understand or comprehend the position young women are in when raised in a patriarchal culture. Women are not given a voice, they are non-persons who have to submit to male authority, be it their fathers, husbands, & their spiritual leaders/pastors. I wish you could put yourself (for one minute) in her shoes, and understand how terrified a women who has been immersed in D.P. type of teaching is.… Read more »

muzjik
Guest
muzjik

Ahh..it appears only comments that are in agreement with Mr. Wilson are approved by the moderator.

bethyada
Member

A couple of thoughts on victims. It seems perhaps useful to assess comments based on how much those who defend “victims” as victims otherwise oppose sin. That is, do they condemn sin in general or do they tend to minimise it by blaming externals? Are behaviours perhaps understandable responses to externals that should be excused, or sin against our creator that needs to be forgiven? Is evil seen from a Marxist perspective and due to societal evils, or a biblical perspective and due to sin. This is not meant to say that all victims should be told that they are… Read more »

Liz
Guest
Liz

Thank you Doug for writing this. I’ve not seen any other blog posts, articles, writings (aside from one fb thread) etc by others that have encouraged BOTH parties to repent. Your courage and faithfulness on this topic is much appreciated! If I’ve missed other writings by others on this topic that agree with the above posting, I’d be interested in the link. Blessings!

Greg
Guest
Greg

Observer, can you tell me if Leftist and feminist culture is responsible for Woody Allen’s abuse? I can’t wait to find out.
 
What’s that, no?

Patrice
Guest
Patrice

Carole, insofar as we have a non-functioning democratic republic, yes, we are increasingly becoming doormats. I expect most adults agree that this is not a good situation.

But just because we are not able to make ALL the decisions on everything in this life, doesn’t mean that we are just like half the adults inside patriarchal systems who don’t get to make any decisions unless they happened to agree with the half that has the decision-privileging hormone ratios, organs.

You ask, “why it is especially when it is women?” Yes indeed, that is the question.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Great piece by Bekah–I’ll point my wife to it re our kids. “The equipping must occur beforehand,” and if it doesn’t, surely there can be some degree of victimhood, a range between yes and no? When I was about 7, and my family was traveling and visiting another family, a teenager asked me if he could touch my privates. I hadn’t been ‘equipped.’ I didn’t want to, but I consented. (Nothing much happened). I didn’t tell my parents about it for more than 10 years. Was the teenager guilty? Yes. Did I to some extent know better? Yes. Was I… Read more »

Andrew Lohr
Member

“A” is me–sorry for the accidental anonymity.

Julie
Guest
Julie

Dear Mr. Wilson, I’m curious as to what you believe would have been the correct response of a culturally isolated (i.e. no steady diet of Lady Gaga, The Hangover 2, episodes of “family” TV, or crass porn-innuendo “money shot” references) 21-year old virgin and sexual innocent upon having a father/pastor/Patriarch figure masturbate and ejaculate on her face and thigh (as cited in legal filing)? What should she have done, Mr. Wilson? Wrapped the top sheet around her and fled for the front door and “hit the road”? You type so many words, Mr. Wilson, and, yet, say nothing in acknowledging… Read more »

carole
Guest
carole

Patrice,
You wrote that the party who is not the most responsible for the decision making is like a doormat especially when the paradigm is based on sexual identity. I am asking you to explain that claim. Why when women believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God and follow what it commands are they then doormats? Men also submit to authority. Are they too doormats, or do you reserve that description for women?

Thomas Lemke
Guest

Brian, Just to point out: the passage from Deuteronomy you cite is speaking of a betrothed virgin woman. Lourdes was not betrothed in this case, so your argument is invalid. On the other hand, we do have instructions for what to do in the case of an unbetrothed virgin in Exodus 22:16,17 … “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” So… Read more »

Patrice
Guest
Patrice

Carole, adult = grown human. Generally speaking, adults are capable of making decisions about their lives but when they give up that exercise, the capability slowly withers and they will become, *at least sometimes*, doormats to others. This will happen because of the sinful aspect of humanity. When one adult is given complete authority over another, the temptation to sin is too great. We are power-hungry creatures. We pray that God lead us not into temptation. We support that prayer by setting up structures to help us resist temptation, not invite us towards it. The recent fiascos across the patriarchal… Read more »

antexw
Member

Eric, you should’ve seen in the text how the “weeds”/field (Dt 22:27) is an environment such that, due to physical isolation, there are no other persons who can interrupt/restrain the sexual coercion after the coerced has physically “cried out” in desperation for help. It’s not an environment where only some subset of the people that can be accessed are speculatively believed to not be likely to effectually cause such restraint or an interruption. The environmental sinful “toxins” you refer to have psychological/volitional impact, but they are not physically rendering someone (inescapably made with limited sovereignty/volition as being reflectively made in… Read more »

Grace
Guest
Grace

Well I was raised in a conservative Mennonite community which was very male-dominated. 98% of all conservative Mennonites raise their daughters to “be silent” in church, prayer meetings, etc. Females are taught from an early age to not falsely accuse a male. There is great pressure to “not tempt a man.” Women are held accountable for men’s failings and are not provided a voice. There is much incest, rape, sexual abuse that goes on behind closed doors that females are not allowed to talk about. If for some reason a girl of any age living at her parents home talks… Read more »

carole
Guest
carole

Patrice, I have asked you twice to explain why you wrote, “…the latter adult will be, at least sometimes, a doormat. Especially when the decision-making paradigm is based on nothing more than a variance of hormone ratios and reproductive organs.” Again why does that paradigm especially make the “adult” a doormat? The Bible is very specific, actually, in this area. What am I reading into Ephesians 5:22 that apparently you are not? Man will always give into sin, without Jesus Christ changing his heart, with this I agree. Some men will fall to some temptations and some to others. All… Read more »

antexw
Member

Bethyada, Being born mute or happening to have a really bad sore throat so as to cause temporarily loss of voice are indeed physical conditions that would usually make it more difficult to “cry out” or cause enough effective noise in some other manner to indicate such distress according to Dt 22:24,27 at least in real time of the incident. But, it wouldn’t excuse allowing the behavior to go on for years, even if someone was just merely mute, rather, it could have been reported immediately after — just the same as if someone was exploited while physically incapable to… Read more »

antexw
Member

Bethyada,

Meant to write “… for the girl found in the city in Dt 22:24.”

Mark W.
Guest
Mark W.

Bravo, Pastor Wilson! Bravo!

Jill Smith
Member

I want to be really clear again that my comments are general, not specific to the Phillips case about which I know nothing. I too have difficult in general with the idea of any girl as automatic victim because it promotes the infantilization of women. This doesn’t tend to work out well for us! Being cherished as a lady is quite different from being treated as a ten year old, and I think we have to be clear about that. Typically, as long as both people are of age, I don’t give an automatic pass to the young intern versus… Read more »

antexw
Member

Thomas Lemke, Biblical case laws are examples from which general principles can be applied to many other circumstantial permutations/variants that are not specifically written about, and could not be in the sense of Jn 21:25. Therefore, the case law of Dt 22:23,24,25,26,27 as a less generalized type of the case law of the situation involving those who are in the context of marriage given more concisely in Dt 22:22 remains relevantly instructive for Phillips’/Torres’ situation even if not every auxiliary circumstance exactly matches the specific circumstances of the text, as further explained below. Yes, as you say Torres’ was not… Read more »

Cal
Guest
Cal

Civil matters aside, it is entirely appropriate to bring criminal behavior to “unbelieving” courts. God ordained government to keep lawful order. It is for His people.

Cheryl
Guest
Cheryl

I don’t see a statute of limitations in Scripture for “crying out”. Especially so in situations where women have been raised and culturally conditioned to accept male authority as mediatorial. Women in these situations do not automatically acquire mature and sound judgement on reaching the age of authority. Secondly, in this particular case pressure to not tell was also applied by the female authority of an “older woman”. To go against all the teachings you have been raised in requires extraordinary courage, especially when the perpetrator is a nationally known and acclaimed leader and the fact that regardless of what… Read more »

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Without saying that any of her claims are untrue (because we can’t know), we should also consider the danger of empowering the perpetual victims out there by communicating that we should always and without question accept every claim of victimhood or abuse. Some “victims” are not victims at all. We had one of these people in our church. God has put in place biblical due process. To do things “our way” can lead to vigilante-style justice that would be unbiblical and dangerous to everyone. I have seen very abusive people claim to be victims for their advantage, and if the… Read more »

Carmon Friedrich
Guest
Carmon Friedrich

Kelly, to publicly impugn Lourdes’s character and imply that her being “confident and assertive,” has any bearing on this, is condemning her, when this post allegedly condemns jumping to conclusions and making rash judgements. “Don’t ask me how I know” gives the impression that you have special information and you are to be trusted in your criticisms of her. If you haven’t done so, I strongly encourage you to read what Valerie, Ed Chapman, and Liza wrote in these comments about the position of a person who has been abused, even adult women. *IF* that is what happened here, it… Read more »