Tag Archive: Sexual Assault

Black Collar Crime: Mennonite Missionary James Arbaugh Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

james arbaugh

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In December 2017, I wrote about James Arbaugh, a Mennonite missionary in Haiti, who had been charged with “grooming and/or having sexual contact with approximately 21 males under the age of 18.” Arbaugh attended Mountain View Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst, Virginia.

At the time, The Mennonite reported:

James Daniel Arbaugh, a Mennonite missionary, has been arrested and charged with molesting children while serving in Haiti. On Nov. 21, The Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg, Virginia, reported that Arbaugh was arrested on Nov. 15 by a U.S. Homeland Security special agent. Court records show that Arbaugh, 40, was charged with felony coercion or enticement of a minor. Arbaugh attended Mountain View Mennonite Church in Lyndhurst, Virginia, a former Mennonite Church USA congregation, and was a board member for Walking Together for Christ Haiti.

The criminal complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, states that “Arbaugh reported grooming and/or having sexual contact with approximately 21 males under the age of 18.” Arbaugh disclosed the abuse to a counselor during a Sept. 11 session. In Virginia, health-care providers are mandated to report child abuse to social services. According to the Daily News-Record, social services contacted the Harrisonburg Police Department, who then contacted federal agents.

Arbaugh traveled to Haiti from 2009 to 2015. According to a website where he documented his mission work, Arbaugh was a self-supporting “tentmaker” partnering with Walking Together for Christ in Haiti and involved in “media ministry.” The last post on the site is from July 2.

According to the complaint, on Sept. 15, Arbaugh allowed police to look at his laptop and showed police a picture of a 5-year-old boy, the son of a pastor at a church in Haiti, on the computer. The complaint states that Arbaugh confessed to molesting the boy.

The complaint states, “Arbaugh indicated he used his missionary work in Haiti to build friendships with the minors. Arbaugh acknowledged that he groomed the minors in Haiti by engaging in minor sexual activities with them so that one day they would be open to more.”

….

According to Lynn Suter, VMMissions Director of Operations and International Ministries, VMMissions has not partnered with Walking Together since its incorporation in 2015. Prior to that time, Suter says, VMMissions was engaged in intermittent work in Haiti and sent six short-term missions teams from 2003-2010. VMMissions is reviewing its records to determine the extent of its connections to Arbaugh. VMMissions has not found record of James Arbaugh having been employed as a missionary by VMMissions. VMMissions is calling on individuals with information about Arbaugh’s connections to the organization to contact Suter (lynn.suter@vmmissions.org). According to Suter, VMMissions and the Walking Together board will work to contact individuals in Haiti that Arbaugh may have been connected to.

Suter says that VMMissions first learned in September that Arbaugh had returned to the United States to receive professional counseling for unnamed “sexual sins.” VMMissions was told that Arbaugh was aware that if he divulged anything about his behavior that was illegal, the counselor would be legally required to report it to the authorities. VMMissions did not learn more about Arbaugh’s behavior until the Daily News-Record article was published on Nov. 21. VMMissions does not have information regarding the time frame when Arbaugh’s misconduct occurred.

“VMMissions strongly condemns the abuse Mr. Arbaugh has confessed and is alleged to have committed. We are heartsick for the victims and for the grievous misrepresentation of Christ and his church by someone who should have been trustworthy,” wrote Suter in a Nov. 30 email.

Suter says that VMMissions has procedures both to assess the fitness and conduct of individuals who apply for service with VMMissions, including criminal background checks.

“The revelation of Mr. Arbaugh’s conduct compels us to more closely examine the character and conduct of persons who are not appointed or employed with us but with whom we associate on the field and their own systems of accountability,” she wrote.

….

Arbaugh later pleaded guilty and in July was sentenced to twenty-three years in federal prison.

Fox News reported:

Brian Benczkowski, who leads the Justice Department’s criminal division, described Arbaugh as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“He posed as a selfless missionary when in reality he was exploiting his position to prey on and sexually abuse vulnerable children in one of the most impoverished areas of the world,” Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general, said in a news release.

Arbaugh was arrested last year after telling a Virginia counselor that he had sexual contact with minors in Haiti. A federal affidavit filed by a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations said he told investigators that he groomed or had sexual contact with at least 21 Haitian boys.

The sentencing of Arbaugh comes months after Daniel Pye of Arkansas, a missionary who operated a well-known orphanage in the scenic coastal town of Jacmel, received a 40-year sentence in the U.S. for sexually abusing vulnerable Haitian youngsters in his care.

Haitian child advocate Gertrude Sejour said foreign church groups who fund the work of missionaries in Haiti need to do a far better job ensuring that they’re not working with sexual predators or shipping them overseas.

“There’s far too many children being abused,” said Sejour, of the Haitian advocacy group Maurice Sixto Foundation.

Brian Concannon, executive director of the Boston-based advocacy group Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said Arbaugh’s sentence sends a strong message but would be more powerful if more people were getting prosecuted.

“I think it’s clear that there’s a lot more abuse happening that isn’t being prosecuted,” Concannon said in a phone interview.

Arbaugh worked as a missionary with a group called Walking Together for Christ Haiti and described himself on a personal blog as an evangelist and religious film producer. Attempts to reach his lawyer were unsuccessful.

Black Collar Crime: So Much Crime, So Little Time Issue

black collar crime

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

matthew and lauren phelps

Matthew Phelps Pleads Guilty to Murdering His Wife

I previously wrote about Matthew Phelps in posts titled Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor-in-Training Matthew Phelps Accused of Murdering His Wife and Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Preacher Matthew Phelps Stabs His Wife Repeatedly, Blames Cough Medicine.

Last week, Phelps pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the September 2017 death of his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps. Baptist News reports:

Defense attorney Joe Cheshire said his client suffered from untreated depression, anxiety and low self-esteem his entire life. Born to a 17-year-old unwed mother, he was raised by “deeply conservative Christian” grandparents who were farmers and unable to give him the attention he needed.

In high school he was introduced to Goth music, Satanism and eventually kicked out when he got caught abusing cold medicine. He transferred to a Christian school, where he turned around to become one of the best students and “a wonderful preacher.”

“As crazy as this may sound, he was a real Christian,” Cheshire said.

Phelps continued to preach and do well in college and “met what he thought was the love of his life.”

“Now there is some dispute as to how that marriage broke up or why, but we do know that she went on a mission trip alone after three years of their marriage and came back and told him that she fell in love with another man on her mission trip, and shortly thereafter left Matt and married this man,” the lawyer said.

After moving to North Carolina, Cheshire said, Phelps worked at various jobs where he met people “who took him to a bad place” that caused him to squander the family’s savings into video gaming. He was obsessed with American Psycho, a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale about an investment banker with a double life as a psychopathic killer, and reportedly told others he wondered what it would feel like to kill someone.

When his double life was discovered and his second wife was about to leave him, Cheshire said, Phelps “snapped, and what happened happened.”

At the end of the hearing, Phelps apologized for what he called “a senseless, mindless act.”

“I feel like a monster, one of the wretched, a part of the darkness we don’t speak of,” he said. “That darkness consumed me until I was blind to the path I had taken and deaf to my own cries for help. That darkness caused me to do the unimaginable, to take a life that was not mine to take.”

“No length of time will ease my inner sorrow or relieve me of the memory of such a godless act as my hands — which I thought incapable of doing — have committed, and I will have to live with the rest of my life with these hands as a constant reminder,” Phelps said.

“I hope my life will be an example of the consequences of those who think that drinking, drugs and carelessness will only affect themselves and no one else,” he said. “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatosoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”

Satan, booze, drugs, untreated depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and whatever the hell “carelessness” is, are blamed for Phelps’ murderous behavior.

brian batke

Another Cloverdale Church Leader Accused of Sex Crimes

In October 2017, I wrote a post about the alleged sexual assault allegations levied against Samuel Emerson, pastor of Cloverdale Church in Surrey, British Columbia, and his wife Madelaine. The Emersons have since pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Last week, Brian Batke, a former church elder, was accused of sexual assaulting a minor. News Vancouver reports:

… allegations against Batke date all the way back to 2005. The elder ended his association with the church that same year, according to police.

Surrey RCMP said the allegations against Batke, which were not reported to them until 2017, involve a victim who was underage at the time.

CTV News does not identify victims of sexual assault, and the case is subject to a publication ban that otherwise prevents identifying information from appearing in the media.

Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church did not return calls for comment from CTV News on Thursday, and 72-year-old Batke was not interested in speaking about the case outside court.

“No comment,” Batke said.

Apart from Batke’s association with the church, authorities revealed he has been a driver for the Coast Mountain Bus Company for about 13 years.

“We are releasing details on his community associations and employment because our investigators feel there may be other victims who have yet to come forward,” Cpl. Elenore Sturko said. “They’re looking to talk to these people, if they’re willing.”

TransLink, which runs Coast Mountain Bus Company, told CTV News that Batke has been placed on administrative leave and won’t be returning to work pending the outcome of the case.

mitchell fields

Evangelical Pastor Mitchell Fields Accused of Rape

Mitchell Richards, pastor of True Grace Fellowship Community Church in Montgomery, Alabama, stands accused of raping a teenager. The Montgomery Advertiser reports:

A Montgomery pastor was charged with rape this month after a grand jury indicted him in connection to an investigation that began in 2017, according to police.

Mitchell Ray Fields, pastor of True Grace Fellowship Community Church, was arrested and released on a $75,000 bond Tuesday, according to court records.

Montgomery police Capt. Regina Duckett said Thursday morning that a sexual assault investigation began against Fields on Jan. 15, 2017. A grand jury returned an indictment against Mitchell on the charge late last month.

The victim, whom Fields is related to, was a teenager at the time of the alleged assault, Duckett said.

In 2014, AL.com featured a story about Fields’ “miraculous” conversion and his desire to reach gang-bangers, drug addicts, and prostitutes with the transformative gospel of Christ. Fields told the reporter, “I tell them if God can deliver me then he can deliver you.”

meally freeman

Evangelical Pastor Meally Freeman Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Woman During “Deliverance” Session

Monday, Meally Freeman, pastor of Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was convicted of two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Earlier this year, WCCO reported:

According to the complaint, a 28-year-old woman reported she was sexually assaulted by her pastor, Freeman, at the Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Center. The victim told police that she knew Freeman for several years and considered him her spiritual father.

She said she was seeking spiritual guidance on September 20, 2017 and Freeman told her she needed a one-on-one session before bible study.

The complaint says that the practice of the church is to anoint parishioners with oil. At the session, Freeman allegedly gave the victim oil to drink and they began to pray. The victim said she then “fell out” or became unconscious as part of the religious ritual. When she woke up, she had oil on her chest and her clothing was wet. Freeman allegedly told the victim that he anointed all places, but that he didn’t see all places.

According to the complaint, Freeman told the victim she needed a second session later that evening after bible study. They were alone again. The victim again “fell out” or became unconscious. When she woke up, she found her pants and underwear – that were ripped — were around her ankles. Her shirt and bra were also pulled up over her chest.

Freeman allegedly was spraying the victim with a water bottle filled with oil and then proceeded to sexually assault the victim. After the session was over, Freeman told the victim to pick her daughter up from the babysitter because he did not want people to know how late she was at the church.

After leaving the church, the victim spoke with a friend who advised her she had not received “deliverance” but was sexually assaulted.

The victim confronted Freeman while secretly recording him and he did not deny touching the victim’s genitals. In the recording, Freeman admitted to anointing the victim’s chest and said “we insert things into people”, according to the complaint.

Freeman allegedly also said that his wife knows he sees women naked and that some things happen during the “deliverance” event and that “you don’t ask what happens, you don’t go into details and that deliverance can be very tempting.”

The victim said both Freeman and his wife tried to convince her not to report the incident to police.

jonathan jenkins

Baptist Youth Pastor Jonathan Jenkins Accused of Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl

Jonathan Jenkins, youth pastor at Starlight Baptist Church in Santa Ana, California stands accused of violently sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old girl in the church’s restroom. KTLA-5 reports:

He [Jenkins] first targeted the victim, who was 12 years old at the time, in January, prosecutors said. He allegely touched the girl’s buttocks while she was at church.

“Sometime in March 2018, the victim was attending service when she went to what she believed to be an empty restroom,” Santa Ana police officials said in a statement. “Jenkins was inside the restroom waiting for the victim. The victim attempted to escape, but Jenkins held her against her will. Jenkins threatened the victim with physical violence before (choking) and sexually assaulting the victim.”

Jenkins then attempted to commit lewd acts on the girl in April, and committed another molestation in July, district attorney’s officials said.

The victim did not report what had happened and continued attending the church, police said.

“On August 5, 2018, Jenkins contacted the victim at church and mocked her about the sexual assault,” the police statement said. “Jenkins told the victim if she reported this to the police, he would say she allowed the sexual assault to occur.”

The girl ultimately came forward, officials said. Santa Ana police launched an investigation and arrested Jenkins Tuesday.

He has prior felony conviction for robbery in Los Angeles County in 1983 and burglary in Orange County in 1986, prosecutors added.

joshua clemons

Evangelical Youth Pastor Joshua Clemons Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison for Having Sex with Church Teens

Joshua Clemons, youth pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Parker, Colorado was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for having sexual relations with at least three female church teenagers.

9-News reports:

Joshua Mark Clemons, 35, was sentenced last week to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, followed by 10 years of sex offender intensive supervised probation in the Parker case. Clemons’ plea agreement calls for three years in a related Denver case.

Clemons lived in Denver when he was employed by the Crossroads Church on Twenty Mile Road in Parker between 2008 and 2015.

During that time, he engaged in sex abuse with at least three of his students and inappropriate behavior with others, a 39-page arrest affidavit says.

One girl, who was 17 at the time, told Parker Police that Clemons used his position as youth pastor to manipulate her and get close to her, the DA’s office said. The mother of another girl told police Clemons is “a master manipulator not only of students, but adults, as well.”

Clemons pleaded guilty July 23 in the Parker case to one count of sexual exploitation of a child, a Class 4 felony and one count of attempted sex assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a Class 5 felony. Other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Clemons will be sentenced in the Denver case next month. His 4-year sentence in the Parker case will run consecutively with the three-year sentence he faces in Denver.

I previously wrote about Clemons here and here.

Who is to Blame?

fault and blameGuest Post by Stephanie

There was a time in my life when I was far from a feminist. No surprise there, when I went to a church where women were not allowed to preach and were taught about submission in marriage. I distinctly remember being on a youth group trip and being told I couldn’t wear a tank top or two-piece bathing suit. I was chastised for talking to a boy without direct adult supervision. Sexual assault wasn’t even on my radar. That happened to other women, out there somewhere.

It seemed as though women had no voice. Wanted a leadership position? Nope, that’s for men; women are to be silent. Want to ask out a man? Nope, that’s not proper. Dare to show some skin? You got what was coming to you. Have to protect your virtue; your body belongs to your future husband! Abortion? Completely out of the question. Even birth control was sketchy — why would you reject God’s blessings? Every woman wants to be a mother! The message was clear, we know what’s best for you.

I started to actually listen to women. I learned that sexual assault is, tragically, not uncommon. I could fill this entire piece with stories of women I’ve known who have endured such abuse. The friend who was assaulted at a party and never reported. The woman who was raped at a music festival as a young girl and never reported. The woman who endured years of physical and sexual assault at the hands of her husband.

The story that sticks with me is one that is personal to me. I knew a rapist. He was a co-worker. I also knew the woman he assaulted. At the time I was working in an assisted living facility, mainly memory care with residents with advanced forms of dementia. I assisted them with dressing, eating, all the activities of daily living, trying in my own way to give them some quality of life, as were most of the other employees. There was one resident with advanced dementia, I’ll call her “Mary.” She had trouble communicating but was usually happy and compliant. One night the male co-worker was working alone on one particular unit where “Mary” lived. Shift goes on as usual, then suddenly everyone starts shifting around. I’m puzzled. I see the male co-worker sitting in a conference room by himself. He doesn’t say anything. His head is down. I think it’s strange but I don’t question it too much. Then the next day comes and the truth comes out.

A co-worker pulls up a news article. In the headline: “sexual assault,” his face prominently featured. I didn’t process what I was reading. When it sank in that the male co-worker sexually abused a resident, whom I later found out was “Mary,” I felt sick. It’s hard to describe a visceral reaction like that. I drove home while my mind raced and I cried. How could someone who didn’t even seem dangerous hurt a sweet, vulnerable old lady? How could I trust the men around me knowing one was a rapist and I couldn’t even see it? Knowing that women aren’t even safe in a long-term care facility, I was devastated. Old age doesn’t protect from sexual assault. He got sentenced after a year and a half. How much time? Fifteen months.

My heart breaks. They ask why don’t women report? Dr. Ford was not believed and threatened. The president laughs about sexual assault and call dozens of women “false accusers,” and calls this a “dangerous time for men.” There are people in this country who don’t even care if Kavanaugh were guilty, they still wanted him in the Supreme Court. If the co-worker wasn’t caught in the act I fear he would still be free. He chose a woman who didn’t have the cognitive ability to report her abuse. Women are told over and over and over that they brought it upon themselves. The church wants women to be silent, never assert an opinion. Your body doesn’t belong to you. Trust us, we know what’s best. When we’re living in a world where women can’t even go to a woman’s health appointment without being told by other people what they should or shouldn’t do with their own bodies. Oh, and if you’re a man who has experienced abuse, you run up against toxic ideas about masculinity. You should have been strong enough to stop it, don’t be like a woman.

With these attitudes, is it really any surprise that women are blamed? Women need to be anything but silent. Be angry. Be angry every time a sexual abuser is let off lightly or not held to account at all. Be angry every time those in power try to take away a woman’s right to control her own body. Be angry every time the church places blame on the abused and pardons an abuser. I’m past the point of feeling ashamed if I get called “uppity” “bitter” or a “feminazi.” If standing up against abuse and destructive social attitudes and promoting women’s right to live with dignity and respect makes me a “feminazi” then I’m damn proud of it!

Ask yourself once again: “who is to blame?”

Abuse and Alienation: In The Church, Away From Yourself

alienation

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

In a previous essay, I wrote about the conservative blue-collar community in which I was raised. Although it was in one of the world’s major cities, it very closely resembled, in many ways, a small town or village.

For one thing, everyone knew everyone else—or so it seemed. Also, nearly all of us were living at the same social and economic level, and our parents and grandparents had similar backgrounds. Most of them even came from the same places: the grandparents, and in some cases the parents, of just about every kid I knew, were immigrants. They came, not only from the same country, but from a group of towns and villages within a circle of 100 kilometers or so.

That meant we shared the same culture and, if we didn’t speak English at home, we spoke the same language—actually, the same dialect. In my earlier essay, I mentioned that nearly everyone had the same attitude about the Vietnam War, which claimed young men from my neighborhood. Well, there also wasn’t much diversity of opinion when it came to other issues of the day, as well as political figures and other famous people. Even someone like my uncle, who regarded Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero, believed—like most of my family and neighbors—that “Hanoi” Jane Fonda was a traitor or worse.

One more way in which my community resembled a small town in the South or Midwest (or even in the more rural areas of my Northeastern home state) is that on Sunday, nearly everyone went to the same church. While the churches in those far-flung villages and hamlets were, as often as not, Baptist or Presbyterian or of some other mainstream Protestant denomination, ours was Roman Catholic. But the effect it had on us was not unlike that of those small-town denominations on their congregants.

For one thing, going to the same church inculcated us with attitudes and values that some of us still hold to this day. (So, for that matter, did attending the Catholic school I attended along with many of my peers.) Perhaps even more important — at least for a child, especially the sort of child I was — it gave me a sense of belonging that I could find nowhere else. I made some of my first friends in the church, and being an altar boy was really the first experience I had of male camaraderie: not only did we practice and prepare together for the masses, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies in which we served, we also went on picnics and other outings, including ball games, together. It was, I just recently realized, my first attempt — however doomed it was to fail — to forge some kind of male identity.

You see, in the neighborhood in which I grew up, there weren’t many other ways to meet your peers while engaging in positive (or, at least, socially approved and legal) ways besides church. For that matter, it was difficult for people a bit older than myself to meet potential dates or get any sort of guidance about life without going to church, or someone connected with the church. And for adults, there weren’t many other things to do after a day or week of work, paid or unpaid, besides going to the church—or a bar.

That means, in such an environment, that if you are not part of the church, you are not part of the life of your community. It means that you will probably have few or no friends, and may find yourself alienated from family members. Ironically, not having the relationships most people take for granted — or, purely and simply, people to talk to — is just as detrimental to someone who is different and who is bound to leave one day as it is for someone who could, and wants to, be wholly integrated and raise his or her children in such a place.

I came to understand the way alienation — caused by sexual abuse from a priest — affected my own development as a transgender woman only recently, when by chance I found myself talking, for the first time, about my abuse with other survivors—and hearing their stories. One is a gay man from an insular community deep in the center of America. He told me that because he couldn’t talk about the attacks he endured from his parish priest, he essentially couldn’t talk — or learn — about his mind or body. He therefore couldn’t understand, until many years later, why his body reacted as it did even though, as he said, he didn’t feel any sexual attraction to the priest. And it took him even longer to know that there was no contradiction between feeling repulsed by that priest and being attracted to men. Why, even his first therapist told him that because he didn’t enjoy (or consciously elicit) what that priest did to him, he couldn’t possibly be gay.

It took him two more therapists and a failed marriage to understand, finally, that he is gay. Not coincidentally, he came to terms with it only after he was able to talk about his experience with that priest with someone who understood.

As you can imagine, I cried while listening to him. I finally started to clarify, for myself, my own gender identity and take steps to live by it after I told someone about my abuse. Until then, I couldn’t make any sense of how my body responded, involuntarily, to his, and how it — or his actions — had nothing to do with whether I was a girl or boy, or gay or straight, or anything else. Until then, I’d gone through my life trying to live as a gay man — something unsatisfying to me — or asserting a kind of masculinity some would call toxic but which, deep down, wasn’t any more mine than a same-sex attraction to men.

Of course, in the place and time in which I grew up — and in the world in which I’ve lived until recently — sex and gender identity issues weren’t discussed as openly, much less understood as broadly, as they are now. But even by the standards of my schools, communities, workplaces and other environments, I did not talk freely (actually, at all) about my own identity or inclinations. Because the priest who abused me swore me to silence — and because I knew that even if I could talk about it, I wouldn’t, because I would probably be disbelieved or blamed — I learned that talking about such things was not merely taboo: it could end my life. Or so it seemed.

So I kept quiet and, probably as a result, had a roof over my head, food in my mouth and the opportunity and means to an education. But I lived in isolation from all of those people who could talk with their friends, families and others about the issues that, as it turns out, almost everyone faces at some time or another. They learned what it was like to meet people, to form bonds and to support, and be supported, emotionally. Or, through interacting with other people, they realized how and why they were different and figured out what they needed to do before embarking on courses of study, careers, marriages and other relationships — including relationships with themselves — that were bound to fail.

In brief, when your church is the center of your community’s social life — whether in a rural village or an urban enclave — being alienated from it (even when you’re still participating in it) makes it much more difficult to define yourself, whether by or against or outside of it. For people like me and the gay man I’ve mentioned — and, I’m sure, many others who grew up in church-centered communities — that is what is so damaging about being abused by priests or other authority figures — or, more precisely, being sworn to silence and secrecy about it.

Quote of the Day: White Evangelicals Sacrificing Sexual Assault Victims on Altar of Political Expediency

pastor jeff cook

The marginalized, the abused, those culture perceives as weak — are often those whom Jesus served and defended first. In his most important sermon he called down blessing on “the meek,” “the mourning,” and those “starving for justice.” In fact, he died at the hands of those who mocked “truth” and used the legal system for self-serving ends. But his is a legacy of honor and it is a gift many of us embrace today.

With this in mind, let me list some truths I find alarming. National stats show that one out of every five women will be raped and one in six men will be sexually abused or assaulted. Such stats also unveil that less than 1 percent of rapists will be convicted of their crime, and the vast majority of sexual assaults are never reported. Research also shows that false accusations are incredibly rare (one local researcher claimed the number was .005 percent of all reported rapes are lies). So as we hear stories of sexual assault in the news and the lasting damage they have done not only to those on TV but to a large percent of our neighbors with similar stories, we need to acknowledge the abuse and marginalization of many among us. And Christians in particular need to be reminded that these kinds of people were those Jesus turned to serve and bless first.

When a sexual assault victim comes forward and tells her story at great cost to herself. When she says she remembers their laughter. She remembers fearing being suffocated more than being raped. She remembers bouncing from the bed when the second man jumped on it. She remembers locking herself in the bathroom, but cannot remember what day it happened or who else was in the house — these stories matter and they are the identical accounts of many not on TV. They have the ping of truth for sexually abused teens will not know what to do after they have been violated. They will often hide their shame and try to put that memory as far away from themselves as possible — just so they can function.

The Kavanaugh nomination process for the Supreme Court this week shows how hopelessly broken the American government is right now, and as such how broken American society is. I am a white evangelical male, and I have been shocked that it is my Evangelical brothers and sisters — who for decades have been the most outspoken about high moral standards regarding sex — who have been among the most vocal in silencing the testimonies of sexual assault victims this month. In fact, according to a recent Marist poll, 48 percent of white evangelicals think a proven history of sexual assault should not disqualify someone from the Supreme Court, and 16 percent of white evangelicals would not answer the question at all.

When white evangelicals choose to support those accused of sex crimes without considering evidence, those who have been assaulted are listening! For those of us who were sexually abused when we were young, the words of Senators and the President and Christians around the country about the woman on TV aren’t about her. They are about us. You are speaking about our past which we haven’t told anyone. You are accusing us of having bad intentions and calling us liars. You are choosing not to advocate for the abused and marginalized, but to hold our hearts out, place them in an ashtray and smother them because you need to fill a government job.

How unlike Jesus. How truly pathetic. White evangelicals, stewards of Christ’s words and power, are sacrificing relationships and trust with the very kinds of people Jesus served and blessed first — and it needs to end now.

— Jeff Cook, pastor of Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado, The Tribune, October 7, 2018

The Far Reaches of Sexual Abuse

i believe you

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Awareness of sexual abuse seems to be at an all-time high. Whether the stories are from the entertainment industry, religion, politics, or your neighbor next door, it seems that more and more people are telling their stories. For some people, this is the first time they have felt safe to tell their stories. It is not uncommon for people to have tried to bury their stories deep within themselves for years, decades even. Now some people are ready to open up, and it seems that sexual abuse has lain just below the surface for decades, centuries, millennia perhaps, and now it is erupting to the surface. So many of my friends are coming out with their stories, and even if they are not ready to tell the whole story, they are saying “something happened and it traumatized me.” “Hear me.” “Believe me.”

This is not my story, but it is my mom’s story, and I believe that I owe it to her to tell it.

My mom died from metastatic breast cancer in November, 2014, at the age of 71. A couple of years before she died, she told my brother, my sister-in-law and me that she had been sexually abused when she was 5 years old. She said she had told only one other person – my stepfather, who had also been sexually abused as a child. That means she waited over 30 years to tell someone (my stepdad) and over 60 years to tell anyone else. We were stunned, but a lot of things about my mom and how she raised me made a lot more sense after this revelation. (I asked my mom why she waited until after her uncle’s death to tell us, and she said she was afraid I would call the uncle and rip him a new orifice; she was not wrong in her assessment).

My mom’s abuser was her 14-year-old uncle. While my mom said he never penetrated her, he forced her to touch him and he touched her. She didn’t go into detail about the experience – I suppose that even 60 plus years later she didn’t wish to relive it. He threatened her that if she ever told anyone, everyone would think she was a bad, dirty, filthy girl. He told her that people would think she was a liar. He also warned her that if she told her parents that her daddy would kill him and that it would be my mom’s fault if her daddy went to jail. As a 5-year-old, those were scary reasons that sealed her silence. She told us that she didn’t understand what was happening but instinctively she knew that it was bad.

Growing up, my mom buried herself in books, in schoolwork, and in learning. Books were her escape from reality. I remember my mom habitually reading 2 books of fiction and one book of nonfiction at any given time, and I was amazed that she could keep them all straight. As a voracious reader myself, I can only handle either one book of fiction and one of nonfiction, or two works of nonfiction. As a high school student, my mom excelled and was one of the few female students put into advanced science and math classes. In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a push to pursue excellence in mathematics and sciences in order to compete with the Soviet Union’s advances in those fields, particularly in regard to the space program. My mom tied with another student for salutatorian in her graduating class of about 300 students, so the school gave both students a test to determine the salutatorian. As my mom was painfully shy and terrified to give a speech at commencement, she purposely answered questions wrong so she would not become salutatorian. I asked her why she didn’t tell her guidance counselor that she did not want to give a speech instead of going through the testing, and she said she never thought of that as she always tried to do what was expected of her. My mom’s parents had not graduated from high school, though her dad had completed refrigeration training courses through the G.I. Bill and her mom got her GED just because she wanted to. My mom’s guidance counselor suggested that my mom should go to college, so as a good girl, my mom did what she was told and enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University. She completed 5 semesters before dropping out and getting married.

Everyone always remarked about my mom’s intelligence but how quiet and sweet she was. As a teenager, my mom developed ulcers. She was terrified of going out in public, especially in any situations in which she might be alone. She told me that it was torture for her to walk past the college dining hall because she had to walk past all the windows where people looking out might see her. As she grew older and needed to work, she became better at managing her extreme shyness and fear of people, of being seen, but she never outgrew it completely. When I was planning my wedding, I told my mom that I did not believe in having someone “give me away” as I was capable of making my own decisions and did not want to promote an archaic system whereby women had to be “given away” in marriage. She thought I should not buck tradition and suggested that I should ask my uncle to walk me down the aisle. Knowing her shyness, I told her that if anyone should walk me down the aisle, it should be her. She didn’t bring up my walk down the aisle again, and I happily strolled alone as a symbol of my autonomy as a human being.

Unlike the parents of most of my friends at the time, my mom taught me about sex at a very early age. For as long as I can remember, she told me to fight, run away, and tell a trusted adult if anyone ever tried to touch me in my “private” areas. We even had an identification code for which adults she trusted and which ones she didn’t; if she referred to someone as Mr. Will or Ms. Betty, those were trusted adults, but if she referred to them as Mr. or Mrs. Smith, then they were not on the approved list. My mom explained sex to me with all the appropriate body part names and where they were located when I was 6 or 7 years old. She told me that I should not tell the other kids because their parents should tell them. I was repulsed by what she was telling me, but I knew that it must be true because I had witnessed dogs copulating. After my mom told us about her sexual abuse, suddenly it made sense why she had taught me about sex with the correct terms for body parts when I was as young as I was. I don’t know if she had similar conversations with my brother, but she may have.

Other things about my mom made more sense as well, like how she seemed to be afraid of so many things. She was easily startled by sudden or loud noises. She was terrified to walk anywhere alone. Her doctor prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, both of which helped take the edge off her irritability. My mom was in poor health most of her life, suffering from arthritis since she was in her mid-twenties in addition to a plethora of other ailments as she aged. My mom would not allow me to play sports or go too many places with friends, though there were 3 families at church with girls my age whom she trusted. She had two failed marriages, the first that lasted only a year and the second to my father, lasting only 4 years due to his emotional and psychological abuse. (In his next relationship he fathered 6 more children, and his abuse escalated from verbal to physical and sexual. None of his children has contact with him today). When my mom married my step-dad, she became the bully who verbally abused my step-father for the 25 years they were married until he passed away. My mom used books, food, religion, interest in politics, and craft and jewelry making as ways to derive enjoyment (and probably escape) during her life.

The only time my mom talked with me about the abuse was when she told us. She said that she had forgiven her uncle (I have not, but as he has passed away, I suppose the issue is moot). He was a retired chief master sergeant in the US Air Force, and he and his wife lived in Destin, Florida, near Eglin Air Force Base which was his last posting. The uncle and aunt used to visit his mother, my great-grandmother who lived with us, while she was still alive. I did not like this uncle, and I don’t know if I had picked up on cues from my mom or if I just did not like him generally. I asked my mom why she allowed this uncle around me when I was a child, and she said she knew that she was always watching and she observed that I did not like him and would not get too close to him. That is true — as a child I thought he was a jerk.

My mom coped the best she could. Who am I — someone who has never suffered from sexual abuse — to determine whether she handled things the right way or not? Each person handles it with whatever coping mechanisms he or she has. Would my mom’s life have been different had she not been sexually abused? I have no doubt that it could have been quite different.

Forgiveness is Not Enough, When it Comes to Healing for Sexual Abuse Victims

interceding virgin mary

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Much has been made of the smaller-than-expected audience and sometimes-hostile reception Pope Francis encountered during his visit to Ireland. While commentators noted the contrast with the more enthusiastic greeting that awaited Pope John Paul II when he arrived in 1979, they did not make the connection between something Francis said and young Irish people’s drift away from, or even outright rejection, of the church.

At the Marian Shrine of Knock, he begged for forgiveness of the sins of members of the Church of Ireland who committed abuse of whatever kind and asked the blessed mother to intercede for the healing of survivors and to never again permit these situations to occur.

One can say that, although he did mention young people who were robbed of their innocence and children taken from their mothers, his appeal was still too vague. And, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, I feel that he placed too much emphasis on “forgiving” the “sins” of the perpetrator and not enough on the healing for the victims.

Then again, it may be that neither he nor the Church can do otherwise. For one thing, addressing the plight of survivors in a more specific way would open up the Church to even more scorn and more lawsuits than it already faces. But more to the point — at least from the point of view of survivors and the general public — clergy members, from parish priests all the way up to the College of Cardinals, simply are not equipped to help survivors move on from the abuse we have suffered.

What they, and the Pope, don’t seem to understand is this: those of us who have been sexually abused as children were traumatized. This is not the same as simply having one’s feelings hurt by a thoughtless word or some quotidian misdeed. It means that we have been changed, irrevocably, in fundamental ways. We lost our ability to trust, not only priests and the Church, but other people, even those with whom we have (or should have) our most intimate relationships. That is because, as modern research has shown, the stress caused by trauma affects our brains: It sensitizes the “reptilian” parts, which is more impulsive, and restricts the “limbic” area, which helps us record our memories and form our judgments from them. And, of course, that stress affects the body, manifesting itself in a number of health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

So, while “forgiveness” of “sins” might give the perpetrator a clean slate, it does nothing to alleviate trauma and its effects in victims. If anything, asking (or, more precisely, guilt-tripping) a victim to “forgive” a perpetrator only re-traumatizes that victim. I know: whenever I’ve been asked to “forgive” someone who has caused me real harm — whether that priest in my childhood or an abusive ex-spouse or partner — it’s like another blow to my body, not to mention to my mind and heart.

As I’ve said, the Pope and most priests, as well-intentioned as they might be, simply don’t understand the difference between being sinned-against and being traumatized — and that the latter happens to children who are sexually molested by priests or taken away from their mothers. I think most of them can’t, in part because they don’t have the training that would allow them to do so. But even those who have such training, I believe, still operate under the belief that, when the victim forgives, he or she heals along with the victimizer. Too often, it just doesn’t work that way.

Really, all one can do after abuse is to prevent it from happening again. That doesn’t happen through “forgiveness” or “redemption.”  Only taking away the opportunities for abuse, for inducing trauma, can do that: priests (or any other adults) who abuse children must not be allowed access to them. And the abuse from my ex-partner stopped, not through “forgiving” him (as he begged me to do), but after an order of protection and the loss of his career.

Still, trauma remains. I work through mine every day. No amount of “forgiveness” can change that. I am sure other survivors could say the same — and feel exasperated or enraged, or both, by the Pope’s plea, even if he could not have acted in any other way.

Sexual Abuse Victims Have the Right To Be Heard — Whenever They Are Ready

catholic church sexual abuse problem

Cartoon by David Reddick

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

When I heard about the Pennsylvania grand jury report on children sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, my reaction was, “Only 1,000 kids? Only 300 priests? — over 70 years?”

I am not a lawyer or any sort of expert on laws regarding child sexual abuse (or on any other kind of law, for that matter). But I do know that in most states, it’s all but impossible for anyone over the age of 30 to bring charges against a priest or church for abuse suffered at age ten, fifteen or even twenty. Depending on the state, a victim can only file a suit up to a certain age or, perhaps worse, a certain number of years (usually five to ten) after the abuse.

This all but prevents most victims from bringing their perpetrators — or the churches or other institutions that harbored them — to account. I know; I am one.

More than three decades passed from the times I was sexually molested by a priest in the parish where I was an altar boy until the time I finally told someone: my partner at the time, as we were breaking up. Until then, I had experienced a failed marriage, a bunch of other failed relationships, difficulties with supervisors and other authority figures, substance abuse, suicide attempts, financial ruin and general confusion about my sexual orientation and gender identity — the latter of which I began to resolve only after telling my now-ex-partner about my abuse.

The abuse I suffered — or, I should say, the experiences of abuse I can recall most vividly and terrifyingly — occurred when I was nine years old. I had received my first holy communion about a year and a half before that, and I was confirmed only a few months after the last of those incidents. The reason I recall those incidents most clearly and terrifyingly, I believe, has to do with the priest who committed them and the time in my life in which he victimized me. I will not get into either of them here; instead, I will try to answer the question of why it took so long for me to talk about them — and why the statutes of limitations regarding such abuse needs to be lengthened.

A Culture of Authority

That priest took advantage of my vulnerabilities — I was in a new school and didn’t have a very supportive home life — half a century ago, in the late 1960’s. That time is often associated with the Sexual Revolution and other changes in society, but those things could have just as well happened in a different world from the one in which I grew up. It was a milieu (a word nobody in that environment would have used) in which authority was to be, if not entirely trusted, then unquestioningly obeyed. Young men did not protest being drafted to fight in Vietnam; some even volunteered to go. Anyone who dared to question, let alone resist, fighting in the war was branded as a coward or traitor — or with the most damning epithet of all: Communist.

(My uncle, who was even more progressive than I am now on issues of race relations, gender roles and sexuality, nonetheless refused to watch any film, television program or other show in which “Hanoi” Jane Fonda appeared. He kept up this embargo until the day he died.)

Most of the men in my world — my own father, uncles and grandfathers, as well as those of nearly every kid with whom I grew up — were blue-collar workers.  Many had fought in Korea or World War II; nearly all had military experience of some sort. And just about all of us were children or grandchildren of immigrants who believed that their gratitude for what America offered them could be expressed only as unquestioning obedience, which they conflated with loyalty. I did, too, for a long time.

Most of them were also Roman Catholics, and their attitudes toward secular authority made them all-but-perfect candidates to follow the flock of their Good Shepherd — or, more precisely, his representatives on Earth. If you are of my generation and raised Catholic (I went to Catholic schools), you were taught that your parish priests, and even more so the bishop of your diocese, were just that: your connection to God, as it were. That, in a church, where the Pope is considered infallible.

You may not have known about that last doctrine (officially defended under Pius IX, but asserted long before that) as a kid, but you probably knew — or, more importantly, felt — the weight of the trust and authority granted to your priests and bishops. It was even greater than any power your parents, teachers or other elders held over you. When you are living under such an imbalance of power, you realize early on that if you speak up against someone who is held in as high esteem as your principal, let alone your priests or bishop, your credibility cannot hold a candle to theirs.

That is, if you can even explain what happened to you.

Human anatomy, let alone sex education, wasn’t part of the fourth-grade curriculum in my Catholic school — or most others, I imagine — in 1967. Or, for that matter, most kids’ homes, including mine. Even today, many parents avoid talking with their kids about the body’s processes, let alone sex, for as long as possible. In many families, even today, that discussion never takes place. I know it never did in mine.

So, when our parish priest molested me, I didn’t even know the names of the parts of my body he was touching. It almost goes without saying that I had no vocabulary, or any other way, to describe the ways in which my body reacted: I had not experienced anything like it before. I also did not have words, let alone expression, for the unease I felt: I knew that what he was doing wasn’t right, but I didn’t know why, and I never could have defended myself against those who would have blamed me for it. (Remember, this was at a time when the usual responses to rape were: What was she wearing? What was she doing there, at that time of day/night?) I am sure others abused by priests when they were children could say something similar.

Given the repressive conditions I’ve described — one in which authority is not questioned, church leaders have absolute authority and children do not learn about their own bodies, let alone how they can be used against them — is it any wonder that most victims don’t recount their abuse by priests to anyone but themselves — if, indeed, they ever do — until they are well into adulthood? Or that some never speak up about it? One reason, I’m sure, that the Pennsylvania report didn’t name more victims is that some have taken their stories to their graves. Needless to say, some are in those graves by their own doing. And, I’m sure, many priests parted this vale of tears before their victims could confront them. Mine did, about two decades before I told anyone, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Whenever they are ready.

Thus, as long as there are implicit as well as explicit rules and forces that enforce obedience and silence, particularly among children, victims need the freedom and the space to discuss their molestation whenever they are ready — whether at 20 or 40 or 80. Whenever it is, we can only hope that it’s before marriages fail, jobs are lost, families are broken up, substances are abused and lives are ended prematurely. Victims deserve the right to repair or reclaim their lives; there should not be a time limit on that.

Want to Share Your Thoughts on Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, or #metoo?

your story matters

Are you angry over how Donald Trump treats women and how he denigrates them publicly? Do you have passionate opinions about the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump or Brett Kavanaugh? Do you support the #metoo movement? Do you have a personal story to share about being sexually abused, raped, or sexually harassed? Are you appalled by Evangelical support for President Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the idea that what happened in high school — even sexual assault — shouldn’t disqualify a man from public office? Are you sickened by how Evangelicals abandoned any sense of moral authority, choosing instead to be shills for the Republican Party? If so, I want to hear from you.

If you are a woman and have something you want or need to say on these matters, I want to extend to you an invitation to write a guest post (or multiple posts) for this site. I think it is important for readers to hear from women on these issues. Guest posts can be any length, and can either be written anonymously or under your own name. If you are interested in writing a post but fear your writing/English skills are lacking, please don’t let that hinder your participation.  I have a first-rate editor who will edit your post, making sure the grammar and structure is correct. Your point of view will not be changed in any way. My editor is a progressive woman, so you can rest assure that she will do all she can to help you.  You may have noticed frequent guest posts by ObstacleChick.  OC is also a woman. Her recent letter to Evangelical women was posted as written with only a few minor grammatical corrections. She will tell you that I don’t alter content. It’s your story, and I want to provide a forum for you to tell it. You don’t have to be an atheist or agree with me to write a guest post.

Interested? Please email me expressing your interest via the Contact Form. I will then provide you with my private email address to which you can send me your post. All correspondence between us will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Thank you!

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A Letter to My Evangelical Christian Sisters

women for trump

Guest Post by ObstacleChick

Dear Evangelical Christian Sisters,

You were my classmates, my friends at church, my relatives. We came of age in the 1980s when MTV, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Magnum PI, and Shaker sweaters were all the rage. We permed our hair and used a TON of hairspray. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign against drugs was targeted at us, and we were terrified of HIV and AIDS. Boy George and David Bowie showed us a gender bender look, and within a decade our gay friends started coming out of the closet.

I left Evangelicalism, but you stayed. As Southern Baptist churches ramped up their complementarian teachings and the Moral Majority increased its efforts, you became more conservative in your political beliefs. You rallied behind the anti-abortion movement. You denounced feminism as destructive to the family. You were vocal in excoriating President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky (technically a sexual harassment situation as President Clinton was in a position of authority over Ms. Lewinsky). Many of you attended Christian colleges, got married, had kids. Some of you sent your kids to Christian schools not unlike the one we attended, teaching Fundamentalist Christian doctrine and creationism instead of science. Others of you chose to homeschool your children.

Most of you I have not seen in person since I moved a thousand miles away to start a new life in 1994. As social media took off and expanded, we have connected in a virtual way. Where I probably would never have heard about most of you or seen what you were doing, now I can see what your lives are like, what you do for fun, what you think is important enough to post on social media. Darn, you all look old. I guess I do too.

When you posted about marriage being between one man and one woman, I saw it. Every time you posted about the evils and horrors of abortion, I saw it. I saw when you voiced your support for Donald Trump and when you made fun of the Women’s March. Those of you who remained silent through the era of the 2016 election – I saw you too. I like to think that you were conflicted, but I do not know for sure. When news reports showed children being separated from their parents in detention centers, I saw your posts talking about border control and following the law. Every time you post some pithy meme about putting “God” or mandatory prayers or Ten Commandments posters or plaques saying “In God We Trust” in a school, prison, town hall, or any other public property, I saw that too and wondered how we sat through the same history and civics classes yet you completely misunderstood the Establishment Clause (but then, history was my favorite subject and I was the history state champion for Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, and yes, I admit to being a jerk).

Now I see you, sisters, posting your support for Brett Kavanaugh, a man who has been accused of sexual abuse. You say you stand with Brett Kavanaugh. You post articles saying it’s a con job by the Democratic party to support the “communist/Satanic/progressive sacred cow” of abortion. You call his accusers unreliable, you say they are unreliable, you ask where their witnesses are. I was especially sad to see you, my friend, posting in support of Kavanaugh, my friend who cried in anguish to us in high school when you revealed that your grandfather had raped you throughout your childhood – does sexual abuse only count if penetration occurs? Is that the line? Everything else is just . . . boys being boys? My heart breaks for you, and I can’t understand why you, of all people, don’t stand in solidarity with other women who were sexually abused as teenagers or young women. None of you waited until you heard Dr. Ford’s testimony to call her a liar, a pawn of the Democrats, someone intent on “taking down” a conservative candidate just because of politics. You automatically assumed Kavanaugh was not guilty rather than listening to evidence and letting the whole situation play out.

Is the issue of abortion so important to you ladies that you are willing to turn your back on women who may have been sexually abused? Do you want forced prayers and Christian religious symbols so badly in the public forum that you denigrate women who come forward saying that Mr. Kavanaugh sexually abused them? Some of your posts blame “the left” for telling us which women to believe – the Democrats and Democrats only. I’m not sure where you came up with that information. I can’t help but see the irony – the inconsistency – in your condemnation of President Bill Clinton two decades ago and your support of Brett Kavanaugh today.

Let me assure you, I do not care what your party affiliation is or whether you have one. If you tell me that some man shoved his “junk” in your face without your consent, I will support you. If you tell me someone pushed you down on a bed, covered your mouth, and tried to tear off your clothes, I will support you. If you tell me that a stranger grabbed your posterior in the subway, I will support you. If you tell me someone raped you, I will support you. You do not need to show me your voting record. You do not need to show me your social media posts supporting candidates or issues one way or another. I will support you. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Because I value your right to ownership of your own body. Because I value your right to consent. Because I believe you should be heard, your story, all of it, regardless of who else was involved.

Do I believe you would do the same for me? I do not know. Maybe it depends on the situation and who was involved. And that makes me sad. It reaffirms my disgust with the religion that I walked away from so long ago.

OC

IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Explains How He Excuses Sex Crimes and Adultery

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Bob Gray, Sr. is the retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. Gray has spent his clerical career defending and standing behind men accused of all sorts crimes, malfeasance, and inappropriate conduct. One need only look at Gray’s resolute support of adulterer Jack Hyles (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles and The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters.) and his sexual predator son David Hyles (UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored and Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?) Gray, a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, believes, as did his god Jack Hyles, that if you didn’t see something, it didn’t happen. (Please read If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) In his mind, unless there are two or more witnesses to Pastor Johnny fucking his secretary at the Motel 6 or Youth Pastor Billy Joe having sex with a church teen in his office, then they are innocent of all charges.

Today, Gray took to his blog to defend Catholic Brett Kavanaugh of all charges. I find it hilarious that Gray — who hates Roman Catholicism as only a Baptist can — is defending Kavanaugh. Much like the “liberal” Evangelicals he condemns, Gray has sold his soul for a mess of political pottage. All that matters to Gray is that Republicans continue to control the government and that right-wingers dominate the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? Abortion. It’s always about abortion. That, and those damn queers who dared to come out of the closet and demand equal justice and protection under the law. Gray, as a man, has been reduced to being a shill for the Republican party, a man willing to defend all sorts of vile behavior if, in doing so, the desired political objective is gained.

According to Gray, all these women hurling accusations against Kavanaugh, President Trump, and countless other men, are a sign of the coming end of the world. Gray writes:

In recent days we have seen those who oppose Christian values use a very potent weapon against those who stand for what is right. It is a weapon that has been used since the beginning of time. It is a weapon Satan mastered and taught throughout the ages. It was first used in the garden of Eden against God. It has continued to be used throughout history. The Bible tells us that a sign of the times is the increase of the use of this weapon. What is the weapon you ask? It is a powerful weapon of accusation.

In our political arenas we have watched as the liberals have used accusation over and over again in an attempt to discredit an individual with whom they disagree. In recent days we have seen it used against politicians, Supreme Court nominees, and others who stand for conservative principles. Unfortunately we have also seen it used among preachers and Christians. Many an individual has been damaged permanently by an accusation that has been made against them. Political contests have been determined by accusation which were made. Nominees for positions in the president’s cabinet have been altered because of accusation. Accusation can literally alter the course of history.

In the Garden of Eden Satan began his attack on God by accusing him of not telling the complete truth. Joseph was placed into prison and stripped of his position because of an accusation. Our Saviour was hung on the cross to be crucified because of those who accused Him.

Gray goes on to list nine things Christians should do when hearing of accusations against someone:

1. Accusation must never stand alone.

Please follow that statement carefully. Accusation must always be accompanied by several things.

It must be accompanied with the proper presentation. The Bible clearly tells us that we are not to bring an accusation against an elder. The presentation of accusation should not be in the public forum. Accusation should be presented in the proper fashion.

It must be given to the proper person. When we accuse someone publicly we are not looking for justice as much as we are looking to influence opinion. A public accusation does not fix a problem. A public accusation creates a problem because it changes public opinion without justice being carried out. We must only accuse to the proper authority or person who is responsible for finding truth behind the accusation.

2. Accusation should not be assumed as true.

There was a day when we all believed that a person was innocent until proven guilty. We are now living in a society where guilt is assumed until innocence is proven. A person’s reputation is destroyed because we assume them to be guilty based upon what seems to be a credible accusation. In some cases we assume it to be true even if the evidence is by an unreliable witness. We seem to like assuming guilt. It is wrong to accept accusation as truth.

3. The accuser should be on trial as much as the accused.

This is critical. People who have been accused are often times judged while the person who accuse them is allowed to freely make the accusation without scrutiny. When an accusation is made the first person that should be scrutinized is not the one accused. It should be the one who made the accusation. What was their motive for making this accusation? What was their agenda in making this accusation? Did they make the accusation to the proper person in the proper manner? These are questions we should be asking when someone accuses.

4. Public accusation should never be considered reliable.

A person who makes a public accusation almost always has an ulterior motive. It is foolish to believe that someone who would use accusation to destroy a person’s reputation should be trusted.

….

5. We should not allow a person’s reputation to be changed by accusation.

Someone who has done much good is accused and suddenly we think bad of them. We don’t know the facts. We don’t know the reason they were accused. We know nothing other than what we have heard. To change our opinion of the one being accused merely because there is an accusation made is foolhardy.

….

6. Do not be the judge or the jury when you hear of an accusation made.

In fact, don’t be the private investigator either. May I just simply put it this way? Mind your own business. If it’s not your business to carry out justice then keep your nose out of it. You are doing no one a favor by deciding that you are going to be the one who investigates the person who has been accused. Do not make a judgment unless it is your area of judgment.

7. Defend the accused.

This is not popular, but it is the right thing to do. A person who has been accused should be defended until they have been proven guilty. Tragically we are cowards when it comes to this. Someone with whom we have had a friendship with for years is accused and we get as far away from them as we can to protect ourselves. What a cowardly way to behave. Stand by your friends when they are accused. I would rather be wrong in defending an accused friend, than to be right in having attack them before knowing the truth.

8. Apply Philippians 4:8 to all accusation.

It commands us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Most accusation would not stand up to that criteria so therefore we should not even entertain it in our thoughts. One reason to avoid receiving accusation is the danger of allowing your mind to think on the wrong things.

9. Never Never NEVER spread accusation.

If you spread accusation you are as guilty as Satan of accusing one of your brethren. Satan is the accuser…not just the false accuser. He is the accuser of the brethren.

….

10. Identify yourself with the accused.

This is one that I wish every Christian would follow. I would rather be identified with someone who has been accused than someone who is guilty of being an accuser. I run to the side of the accused. I identify myself with the accused. Christ was accused and I identify myself with him.

….

Well, there’s a load of bullshit. Is it any wonder, given Gray’s ten rules, that he repeatedly has defended adulterers, child molesters, pedophiles, and even murderers? Why, Jesus was falsely accused and so are good men who are having their lives ruined by accusations of sexual misconduct. I wonder what Gray thinks of pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump’s “alleged” rapes, sexual assaults, and adulteries. Just an innocent man falsely accused by women who want to destroy God’s chosen ruler?

Men such as Bob Gray, Sr. disgust me. His words reveal that he knows nothing about sexual assault and the sheer bravery required of women for them to go public with their accusations. And he sure as hell doesn’t know or doesn’t WANT to know, that very few of these allegations are later proven to be false. In other words, Bobby, you ought to be standing with these women. Instead, you defend and support their abusers and attackers. Shame on you for doing so.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Republicans Need Jesus Says Comedian Neal Brennan

neal brennan

Atheist comedian Neal Brennan was on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah last night. Here’s what Brennan had to say about the GOP — God’s Only Party — and their supposed support of Christian family values.