If you read through the complaint filed against Doug Phillips and Vision Forum by Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, it is plain that the tangled mess there — a mess that is entirely the responsibility of Doug Phillips — is a tangled mess.
I make a point of saying (again) that this whole catastrophe is the responsibility of Doug Phillips because it is, and also because — as should be apparent in the comment threads of my previous posts on this — there is a certain kind of mind that does not understand careful adjudication of claims and counter-claims. While they don’t understand how justice is supposed to work, they do understand taking up sides based on a partisan agenda. Thus it is that any expressed desire for caution in practice is taken as a full-throated defense of abusive behavior in principle. If it seems like someone doesn’t want to hang Doug Phillips right this minute, the accusation is thrown at them — “how would you feel if this had been your daughter?” I think I would feel about the same way as I would feel if false accusations of sexual abuse were thrown at my son.
I continue to believe that this whole thing should be sorted through by Christians, with a view to our testimony before a watching world. Based on the undisputed facts that have come out thus far, I have no doubt that if this were adjudicated properly, we would all see at the conclusion that Doug Phillips acted the part of a manipulative scoundrel. I met him once, in 2010, and he took the opportunity then to blow sunshine up my skirt. So nothing about this is a defense of the indefensible.
In the meantime, there is the civil suit, and Phillips is not responding to it in a godly way at all. In a recent radio interview, Doug Phillips’ attorney Jason Jakob said that Torres “is just after a paycheck.” Given everything that everyone acknowledges about this travesty, that hardly seems credible to me. But suppose for a minute it is true. Suppose she is just after a big payday — why wouldn’t Phillips just give it to her? By arguing the finer points of justice in this setting, he is just dragging the name of Christ through the slime bog of his grotesque pattern of his earlier injustices. Phillips plunged headlong into this sin because he was abhorred by the Lord (Prov. 22:14), and so his behavior needs approximate that of a penitent. He has been brought low because of his disobedience to the Lord. If he continues to disobey, does he really think the Lord can’t bring him lower?
At the same time, outside observers can and should see that she was not simply a mannikin. Just taking her complaint at face value, it is plain that she is not taking the right kind of responsibility for her poor responses to Doug Phillips’ immoral advances. The complaint acknowledges, “She did not at all times refuse Defendant’s sexual advances, but submitted to them based on the fraudulent statements Defendant had made to her.” Those fraudulent statements would include promises of marriage in the future and so forth. While she objected numerous times to his sexual behavior (according to the complaint), the complaint also uses phrases like she “came to see her situation as abusive,” he “persuaded her,” she continued to work for him for several years “not wanting to disappoint,” and so on. On her terms, she was seduced into a compromised position and conflicted state of mind. But despite her continued presence and availability, the complaint alleges that during the entire time she was “incapable of giving consent.” It says this because it is clear that there were instances where she did give consent, and her attorney wants to say that she was in effect in the position of a minor when she did so.
Her incapacity is allegedly the result of the whole patriarchal world that she was enveloped in. But you can’t have it both ways. The behavior that she did not run from after the first incident was behavior on Phillips’ part that was high hypocrisy according to that same patriarchal world. She was an adult, and she should have identified the hypocrisy for what it was upon the first manifestation of it, and she should have recoiled from it. Recoiling from it is not the same thing as putting up with it for years.
The things that are alleged about the “tight little world” of Vision Forum do give a plausible explanation as to why she wouldn’t bring charges against Phillips within their system of church courts. But they don’t explain why she didn’t tell her parents about what had happened immediately, and it doesn’t explain why their whole family wasn’t gassing up the car the next morning to head down the road to find a place where the spiritual leader wasn’t a toad. According to her complaint, when her family did discover what had been happening, they stood up to Phillips despite all the patriarchal teaching. When her family discovered what had happened, they believed her, not him. The reason they didn’t stand up to him years earlier is that, according to her complaint, she did not give them the opportunity to do so.
Scripture never finds fault with a woman who is a victim of some man’s sexual predations (Deut. 22:26). But if she has an avenue to get help, she is responsible to use it. In this case, at a bare minimum, she had a responsibility to get out of range. And if holding her to this standard comes across as a defense of Phillips, then I would urge you to return to my third paragraph for a season of meditation.