1. Alan says:

    Great piece. I agree almost completely. The only caveat I have is that while we are supposed to want God to avenge wrongs and do justice, I believe we ought to be praying for folks, all folks, to be saved. We are supposed to not want any to go to hell, or take pleasure in their suffering when they do face justice.

    One thing I like is how you emphasized that forgiveness doesn’t mean lack of consequences. Discipline and punishment from God, from civil authorities, exposure, etc., all should happen. As a Christian, we ought to want this to happen, so long as we don’t take pleasure in the suffering of the party who has sinned and is rightly punished, and so long as we want God to save them according to His will.

    I’m not saying you are advocating for wanting folks to go to hell, just that I wanted to add this caveat.

    • I whole-heartedly support your caveat. It helps that Scripture shows both sides of God: he is not willing that any should perish, and yet will mete out (eternal) justice to uphold his own righteous nature. (Good Christians can disagree on exactly how these two attributes are “set” in God.) However, just because God does it, doesn’t mean we should. Our job is to love and intercede. In many cases, a Christian who has proved willing to forgive an evildoer has prayed for this enemy to repent and be reconciled to God, and been part of God’s plan to bring that person to redemption.

  2. I agree in part with this piece. I agree that these things should be made public and that these men should step down from their positions and that victims should be protected (and then some).

    But I was one of the ones who heartily disagreed with this view of forgiveness. Although forgiveness for abuse takes time because we are only human. (I have personally suffered lengthy abuse as a child, although not sexual, and took many years to forgive so I do understand that process). However, biblical forgiveness is not conditional. It is also NOT synonymous with trust and reconciliation. That’s where our interpretation of the scripture differs. Below, I will refer to forgiveness APART from trust and reconciliation. I refer to it only as letting go of a record of wrong–releasing a debt unpaid. That is all.

    I think it is possible to forgive someone while they are still in sin and are not repentant. Why? It is NOT CHEAP grace. I agree with Stephen when he says we should not “forgive and forget.” Forgetting implies trust which is unwise when someone has been abusive. They should not have trust! Their sin should be remembered so someone can hold them accountable for change and no more victims are made.

    But let us preach the gospel of grace when we forgive–and when we are sinned against. We are called to love as Christ has loved us. Romans 5:8 says that “while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” This means that he loved us while we still hated him. He died for us before we were saved. He forgave us before we were reconciled. Christ’s blood covered our sin and this is the biblical basis for our forgiving of others. We forgive because we have been forgiven. Our ability to forgive is not dependent on another person. The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This implies that someone is still in debt to us and we release that debt unpaid. Because, “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (This doesn’t mean that you can lose your salvation, but rather that you never had it if you cannot live out the gospel through the forgiveness of other–although, like I said, this may take time for such grotesque sin. But it should still happen and growth should be made. You may think I’m being harsh, but how else can a victim, myself included in another situation, hold to the gospel as a lifeline if they are not aware of all of it?)

    In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18), the servant is forgiven a huge debt and then refuses for forgive another a small one. You may say, “But this is no small debt! They are sexual predators!” Although it’s a myth that all sins are equal, we still think very highly of ourselves in comparisons to people with uglier, dirtier, more public sins than our own. God have mercy. We have been forgiven so much more than this. But in this text, the act forgiveness is based only on the fact that the servant has already been forgiven and nothing else. It is not dependent on the debt being paid. It is not dependent on the heart or actions of another person.

    • I agree with you, Marian. I understand that those who view forgiveness as including reconciliation will not think forgiveness is possible until a sinner repents, but I think of Christ first, who, while we were still helpless, at the right time, died for the ungodly, about God demonstrating His one love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, died for us. Then I think of Godly examples like Elizabeth Elli who forgave the men who killed her husband and went to their tribe in order to share the gospel. Or Betsy ten Boom who forgave the Nazi concentration camp guards who made her life a living hell. She expressed compassion and prayed for them, knowing that the next day they likely would continue their cruel treatment. In other words, these believers, and others we could name throughout history, demonstrate the forgiveness of Christ, in many cases without any hope of “reconciliation.”

      I don’t think, however, the wording is critical. If someone understands forgiveness as you and I do, then it needs to be offered as soon as possible. If someone understands it as Stephen does, then laying down a desire for vengeance and turning to God in trust that He will make all things right, needs to happen as soon as possible. And I think those two approaches aren’t necessarily distinct from each other. There’s a lot of overlap.


  3. Excellent article! In point 1, you said “With the greatest possible respect: these folks must shut up.” I’ve been saying this for years! You know the rules. We’re BFFs now.
    But agreed on all points. The world is a fallen place, and our fractured humanity so often just below the surface… just because we are in a fellowship of other believers, it does not mean that we are in complete safety. With the amount of other ministers I’ve known and trusted having fallen or rejected their faith, little surprises me any more. Expect winners to sin, and while we are now saved by grace, we are not fully sanctified, and so we ought to all be prepared: for either a retreat for personal safety (or a fight if necessary) or for the uncomfortable, positional calling to bring a brother/sister back to grace.

  4. notleia says:

    Good job, this is a lots better response than many coming out of the Christian sphere (see: Brett Kavanaugh, Paige Patterson, etc).

    But yeah, it’s more about entitlement and power abuse than sex. That type of dude thinks they’re entitled to indulge or gratify themselves no matter that it’s at someone else’s expense (ie, women’s). This is what feminists refer to when we talk about rape culture, that it’s an established pattern that men A) have these expectations, and B) that they can do this and effectively get away with it (until very recently).

    • NotLeia, I feel we’ve slipped into a parallel dimension when even President Trump has responded to the accusation in a better way than some reflexive Christians and/or conservatives!

    • Travis Perry says:

      To say “it’s about entitlement and power” raises my inner contrarian. First, there’s lots of ways to show power that have nothing to do with sex. And of course, loads of forms of entitlement that are non-sexual as well.

      But to be less contrary than I’m tempted to be, sure, entitlement and power are a factor. But sex is a factor, too. Think a Venn diagram, where a circle for power/entitlement links up with a circle for sexual desire. That common area is the sexual abuse zone.

      Though in fairness, Notleia, you said it was MORE about power. It was E. Stephen himself who made the false observation “If it were about sex, he can get that just by going to the internet and watching porn.” Er, no, Stephen, Venn diagram. There are lots of uses of power that aren’t sexual…and a desire for power is not the only source of human evil. (Don’t make me slap you with a stack of verses that show sex is an evil that does not directly stem from power, Stephen. 🙂 )

      It is beyond ludicrous from my point of view to imagine there is no sexual component to sexual abuse. C’mon now.

      • When I say that abuse of sex stems from an abuse of power, I’m talking specifically about man’s idolatrous, prideful attempt to wrest power from God. It’s a vertical crime first, not a horizontal crime.

      • Kerry Nietz says:

        I tend to agree with that sentiment, Travis. Since two of the emotional / mental takeaways for men in sex (beyond the physical) are “I’m important” and “I’ve loved” it isn’t hard to see how the desires for those emotional confirmations might find false fulfillment in these sorts of situations. The abuser wouldn’t think of it as a power or entitlement thing at all. They’d think of it as getting what they hunger for, and may even fool themselves into believing it is consensual.

      • notleia says:

        Well, yes and no. Yes, because duh, sex. No, because it’s related to the pattern where men also feel entitled to women’s attention and emotional labor. I imagine it as a spectrum starting with emotional on one end and sexual on the other, but the common theme is that there are a LOT of men who get super angry when women don’t cater to their fee-fees, whether of the weiner variety or otherwise.

      • Somewhat had the same reaction to the power part of it.

        That whole issue sort of reminds me of a common, nasty thread in human nature: if people want something, or feel like they need something, they will persist until they get it. Often, that also means hurting other people while obtaining that thing, or doing mental gymnastics to try and rationalize why they need/deserve that thing.

        That can manifest in a lot of areas, such as drug addiction, money, or in this case, sex and power. People persisting in sexual harassment seem to want to commit that behavior so bad that their mind does the necessary mental gymnastics needed for them to think they actually deserve the sex, or they know it’s wrong and simply don’t care.

    • For once, I pretty much agree with you, Notleia. Men that do this sort of thing tend to have delusions of grandeur. They think very highly of themselves and very lowly of others. Hence the desire to USE people. Unbelievable…

  5. A fair and balanced piece that can’t have been easy to write. Thank you. As it says in 1 Peter 4:17, judgment starts with the house of God.

  6. Travis Perry says:

    Good overall. The title of point 3 is pretty controversial, but on reading it through, the thoughts are not so much so. I am wondering what the other 8 points will be, though. I guess I get to wait to find out…

  7. Thanks for this excellent article, Stephen. I especially appreciated your comments about forgiveness.

    It’s certainly true (as Marian and Rebecca have pointed out) that Christ loved us while we were yet sinners and laid down His life for us — but that doesn’t mean that all sinners are therefore forgiven regardless of whether they repent or not. Even God’s forgiveness still requires that we come to Him, confessing the severity of our sin and that we fully deserve His judgment, and ask Him to save us. Only then can we receive the benefit of the salvation He has provided out of love for us.

    So sure, I can (and should) be willing and ready to forgive someone who’s sinned against me, and may even make all the necessary preparations to do so should the opportunity arise. I can pledge in my own heart and before God not to take hateful revenge on the person who’s wronged me but rather to pray for them and actively seek their good*. But I can’t extend forgiveness to them in actual in practice until they ask for it.

    *Which in some cases may include reporting them to the necessary judicial authorities and/or bringing their sin before the church for discipline — because experiencing the painful consequences of sin and the loss of fellowship that comes with it is often exactly what a sinner needs most to bring him or her to repentance.

  8. C. Koepp says:

    Well done. I appreciate the very sincere look at this difficult topic.

    I was smacked upside the head with a Bible over the matter of forgiveness hard enough to have a spiritual and emotional concussion for years. In my family’s opinion, forgiveness was to pretend the event never occurred and involved restoring the relationship happily. The abuser was never accountable for his actions.

    In a recent Bible study at church, the pastor explained forgiveness differently:

    Forgiveness is not pretending it never happened. Forgiveness is giving the matter over to God so you can deal with the results and move forward without being consumed by anger and bitterness. Forgiveness you can do regardless of the other person. Forgiveness is required.

    Reconciliation is the process of restoring the relationship to where it was before the offense occurred. This is not required because unless the offender is really, truly repentant, reconciliation can be imprudent or even dangerous.

    I’m curious to see what your other 8 points are.

  9. Kristen says:

    A thoughtful and compassionate article, Stephen. Well done.

  10. Tim Akers says:

    I was going to be PC and be like Travis and Kerry, those guys are much better men than I am. To be honest, E, I think your theology is horrible and misguided and you said a whole lot that was misguided. You did get in a few good points on how to talk to victims, but your assumptions were showing. That’s not saying I’m not open to learning and correction, but let’s talk about my biggest obstacle. This point: “Reconsider whether victims must forgive the accused.”

    You said, “When Christian A accuses Christian B…” and then you sighted the “cheap grace” and “the cheap condemnation.” Seriously? The first thing I always ask? “Is it true?” Accused people don’t require forgiveness, they need careful justice and investigation. Guilty people are the ones that need forgiveness. So maybe you can forgive me for thinking my very first premise as I read this, “E. thinks all men are immediately guilty if a woman accuses them, or If Christian A accuses Christian B, Christian B must be guilty.” That syllogism is just wrong.

    I’m reminded of Clarence Thomas and his nomination to the Supreme Court many years ago, and the problem Brett Kavanaugh is facing now. The accusations against both were horrible and equally unprovable one way or the other. I would also say, an accusation hardly constitutes fact. 1 Tim 5:19 speaks to accusations of elders. Don’t entertain them if there aren’t two or three, but the implication is, you better be sure they are true. Then reprove them publicly. Lots of churches have gotten sued for doing 1 Tim 5:19 all wrong. Before you denounce an elder publicly, make sure they’re truly guilty of breaking well-communicated dogma and well-defined codes of conduct This brings me to your next point: “Maybe she started it.”

    if you don’t think there aren’t women in the world that trophy hunt, son, you live a pretty sheltered life. I’m not calling anyone named in the original article you referred to a liar. I’m just saying that your phrase “She started it” made me shake my head. After 57 years, and close to 30 of them in ministry, there were times when “she did start it.” If you want to chat sometime at length feel free to IM me. You also stated that one person is more accountable than another and that makes me ask, “accountable to whom and for what?” Everyone is accountable to God. We all have pretty much the same Biblical mandates though expressions of those mandates vary. We also have the same Word of God and are held to the same standards as each other in its regard. If you wish to hold a leader to a higher code of conduct, cool, that’s biblical. But holding one believer to a higher standard of accountability is unscriptural. So we skin the agent for abuse of power while the plagering author wannabe gets a candy bar? We’re all accountable to God and each other. All have sinned, all were dead. God doesn’t gradiate sin, it all leads to death.

    Another problem I’m having is that your main thesis is really about the abuse of power and how to respond as Christians. You didn’t start with a clear definition of “abuse of power.” You seem to lump a bunch of things together and assume we all share the same concept of said abuse, and even the same view of what scripture says about that abuse. I don’t believe for a moment that anyone is more accountable than any other, and no one is less culpable than anyone else. I can also assure you, depending on the era you grew up in and the economic strata you inhabited, how you define the abuse of power can be as different and varied as snowflakes.

    In terms of a clear definition, allow me an example. If the editor in power says, “Sleep with me and I’ll publish you,” or something similar. I would call that an abuse of power. I would also take a strategy from Carla Hoch’s book and punch that person in the throat then run away. The said editor may have violated a ton of ethics, but not necessarily broken any of the laws of men, unless the potential victim was truly coerced with harm (but I’m no lawyer). By the way, If anyone is dumb enough to take said editor’s offer, get everything in writing first. From here the social percepton of power gets convoluted quickly. Take flirtations.

    Flirtations also happen between human beings. Sometimes they get out of hand and people get caught up in the moment, and no one says “stop” until the morning after. I’m not sure that hardly constitutes the abuse of power. I realize people often get caught up in those kinds of situations, and when passions have cooled, they announce “I wanted to say no, but….” I can see that might be an abuse of power, but most of the time its nothing more than buyers remorse. Was it a sin, yes, but not illegal. My comment is a general comment, and not aimed at anyone in the article referenced by E. The lack of a solid definition of the abuse of power and the idea that being accused equates with guilty, makes it hard for me to take the article seriously.

    Unlike my dear brother in Christ, Travis, whom I love and admire, I’m not a contrarian. I’m a college composition teacher, which is far worse. Though I applaud the scope of what was attempted, It gets a C-minus because as much as I love that you want us to treat victims lovingly and kindly, we have to do the same to the accussed. As far as the guilty go, well, that’s a very different topic.

    • Tim, not that I don’t appreciate a healthy critique, but you’re approaching this with some of your own incorrect assumptions.

      First, I’m already talking only about reputable accusations against people. This means the kind that we saw in the Publishers Weekly article. This also means the kind that have already been verified by two or three witnesses. So the topic of false accusations, such as by a single individual, is a valid topic to explore, but it’s outside of my scope here.

      Second, and related, we are not talking about “flirtation.” That is a rabbit trail that does not at all apply to the kinds of serial harassment and groping, etc., that was described in the PW article, and in many other reputably reported situations in which elders have been accused. Moreover, when the parties involved are separately married, “flirtation” is inexcusable for anyone claiming to be a Christian, much less serving in some function of spiritual leadership. To claim otherwise is anti-biblical thinking.

      Third, my definition of “abuse of power” was not belabored, but founded on the original human “abuse of power” going back to Genesis 3. If you read into this some humans-only definition, such as the nonsensical “some types of people always have all the power, and other types of people never have it, so we should always support the latter type,” this is your misreading.

      Fourth and finally for now, I understand if you have heard about public examples of false accusation (such as, potentially, those, national-level ones you described), or have suffered the same, or have had friends who suffered the same. This is a very real problem and Christians need to talk about it.

      However, I strongly object to basing all of our action in these situations on the axiom of “most people are making false accusations against godly leaders.” You might as well base your view of the police on the news reports of “bad apple cops.” Meanwhile, stepping up the frankness, I strongly encourage you to get off your high horse and try showing more empathy for actual victims. In these cases of reputable report, when many more than the biblically required “two or three witnesses” are coming forward to share concerns not just over “flirting” or one-off incidents, it’s startlingly naive to stick only with the presumed-false-accusation narrative.

      • Travis Perry says:

        Stephen, I don’t wish to intervene in the bulk of what you and Tim are saying to one another. In each case, I would say you seem to be having a bit of a hard time maintaining full objectivity. Which happens–I get it. It happens to me, too. Very sincerely hope you guys work it out.

        But I am concerned with one particular thing you did say. I’m going to quote you:

        “First, I’m already talking only about reputable accusations against people. This means the kind that we saw in the Publishers Weekly article. This also means the kind that have already been verified by two or three witnesses.”

        The problem I’ve had with this specific situation is that a story being published of this sort does NOT mean journalists have done investigative reporting to find out if the story is true. Now, maybe they have–but journalists reporting that certain people have had accusations made against them and that these men are no longer welcome at conventions as a result only have to verify that these men really were barred from presenting at conventions and that someone really did make an accusation. Journalistic due diligence does not require them to actually ascertain whether or not the accusations were true.

        Now, perhaps Publisher’s Weekly really did do more investigation than the minimum–but I have not heard any evidence that they did more. So their reporting this incident is not proof of anything other than allegations have been made and conferences have reacted. It is not proof that the allegations were true.

        Now, as for the allegations made, I know two of the supposed perpetrators personally (Jeff and Ben). Both have been accused, as I understand it, by the same person. Which qualifies as one witness. Another person I know has stated in public and to me in private messages information that Ben behaved inappropriately on multiple occasions that I find credible beyond all shadow of a doubt–though inappropriate behavior may not in fact be sexual abuse. The same person claims to have heard reliable information from other first-hand witnesses and possible victims that applies to both men. However, that’s something courts call “hearsay evidence.” It’s not considered valid evidence.

        From my point of view, I see two witnesses with the possibility of others speaking about one man and one with the possibility of others in regard to the other man. This does not add up for me to being the same as being really certain about what happened. Yes, clearly, SOMETHING happened–the men themselves have admitted as much. But what for certain, I don’t know.

        Perhaps I should note that it’s not my job to be really certain about what happened. But if I want to maintain my public posture that I really care about truth and not anybody’s party line (which also happens to be what I really believe about myself), then I am obliged to say about this particular case that I am not really sure what happened.

        Though, whatever happened, it’s clear to me Jeff and Ben at least merit being removed from positions of leadership, the benefit of the doubt going in the direction of those who have been hurt or may have been hurt.

        With Brett Kavanaugh, at first glance, I find Dr. Christine Blasely Ford credible. However, I do know that memory decades after that fact can and does make mistakes. It is entirely possible that the “look-alike theory,” that someone who looked like Brett did the action Dr. Ford remembers (note this theory was mocked in the article I read about it), represents a truth. It is possible that after so many years, Dr. Ford does not correctly remember what happened. I think an investigation to attempt to verify facts in this case is warranted. Though probably, no one will be able to verify what did or did not happen.

        So what should we do in cases in which we are not certain? Perhaps that would be something worth addressing in future posts.

        • Personally, I think when it comes to cases where people can’t be certain or prove anything, the two disputing parties need to be kept separate if possible. No matter who is guilty, or who is lying, one of those people is trying to hurt the other, and in the absence of proof, the only recourse is to remove opportunities for that kind of harm to continue.

          A workplace example, for instance, could be to give the disputing employees two different shifts, and each employee is only allowed at the workplace during his/her own shift.

        • notleia says:

          Hard evidence is for when they’re on trial to go to jail. Not getting to be on the Supreme Court is not really a punishment, unless you think Garland did something worth punishing.

          Kavanaugh is an privileged frat bro who isn’t even that standout a legal scholar, except the Republicans think he’ll carry water for them by overturning Roe v. Wade also help them sweep dirt under the rug on Trump’s behalf if necessary.

          There are plenty of other people that the R’s could nominate who are not creepy frat bros (RIGHT? There ARE people Republicans could nominate who are not creeps or enablers?)

          • Travis Perry says:

            Notleia, I’ve never been part of a fraternity. Totally not my style. And while I might find the very idea of fraternities a bit creepy, isn’t wrong for me to judge someone by something which is in fact so relatively trivial? How can I (or perhaps you) claim to be fair-minded and impartial if we condemn people for such things (as joining a fraternity)?

            “Hard evidence is for when they’re on trial to go to jail”–so it’s perfectly fine to hold someone up for social disapproval or ridicule based on poor evidence? (since we’re not talking jail time?)

            So you’re saying no one is obliged to actually evaluate if something is true before acting as if it’s true? I find it hard to believe that’s your actual position!

            As for Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, perhaps he should be excluded based on the testimony of Dr. Ford. Or perhaps not. Let’s hear that testimony first and evaluate it and then decide, okay?

            I in fact do find myself making knee-jerk reactions to situations at times and assuming something is true without really thinking about it. But I regret it when I do that. Let’s apply a commitment to finding out the truth and being careful to quickly judge to life in general, including when it seems people have behaved shamefully (but we don’t really know). Okay?

            • notleia says:

              There’s also the reason to not nominate Brett Kavanaugh because there are a crap ton of documents that have not been released and reviewed yet but the R’s are trying to push him through anyway.

              Also, there is a connotative difference between “dude in a fraternity” and “frat bro.” When I say “frat bro,” I mean “frat bro” with a tone implied.

        • Ann Byle says:

          I did the reporting for PW and was hamstrung by women who didn’t want to use their names (PW has a new policy against anonymous sources) to avoid retribution and embarassment, and PW’s lawyers, wanting to make sure nothing got them in legal trouble. Trust me when I say that there were many stories I heard from women that would horrify you, and cause you to recognize that the preponderance of evidence points to these men being predators. No, it can’t proven in a court of law. But yes, many bad things happened. In fact, I wouldn’t include a man unless there were at least two stories. I didn’t include one man because I had only one story and he is definitely a predator. And one woman targeted by two men doesn’t equal only one story. She was hurt by two men, period.

          • Travis Perry says:

            Anny Byle, note I’ve already said this elsewhere, but I would like this statement to be attached to your original comment–I urged caution when people stated that the PW article must be true on the basis that what you reported did not require anything other than verifying that conferences had reacted to reports about specific men.

            I did also say that perhaps more detailed investigation had been done, but I didn’t know about it.

            It’s good to know that more was done. I hereby retract the caution I advised that people should not trust the PW article too much. I don’t regret that caution, mind you, but now I see that I was wrong.

            Thank you for explaining the actual situation better.

    • notleia says:

      And then people say “why didn’t she come forwards years ago.” Because sh*t like this, right here. Dr Ford is a mensch and a patriot for coming forward even tho she is guaranteed sh*t like this and also death threats.

      People don’t act like this about any other crime. If a woman was mugged, they don’t wonder aloud about whether she was lying or mistaken or led the mugger on somehow. Why are women magically not trustworthy about sex?

      Maybe part of it is the lingering idea that sex has to be bargained and manipulated and tricked out of women (because of course they don’t like it). Or the other myth about how men are were-rapists who aren’t really in control of their bodies so women have to do the work for them. Any other misogynist myths I’m missing?

      Imma get out my soapbox for one announcement: ENTHUSIASTIC, INFORMED CONSENT. Once again for the people in the back: ENTHUSIASTIC, INFORMED CONSENT.

      • Travis Perry says:

        If someone gets mugged it’s crass to say so right away, but loads of people do in fact perform actions to that make themselves easier targets–so I wonder if someone contributes to bad things that happened to them, other than sexual abuse. To the mugging victim, “Were you in a high crime area by yourself?” Likewise, it is not misogyny to suggest women take some reasonable precautions (like, when at a dance club, don’t leave your beverage unattended). It does NOT excuse abusers to wonder if the abused could have done something to avoid what happened.

        Nor can it be assumed 100% of the time that everyone is telling the truth about accusations. Even if 98% tell the truth, it’s reasonable to ask questions to verify stories. That’s being objective and rational–no misogyny is implied in wanting to be certain of the facts.

        • notleia says:

          You know the “missing stair” theory of social interaction? Where someone is a difficult a-hole but it’s hard work to actually deal with it so everyone just avoids setting them off? And when someone new in the group finds it hard to cater to this a-hole, THAT person is blamed for “ruining” everything when actually it’s the a-hole.

          This is like that, except women have to navigate an entire apartment complex full of missing stairs and also there are bees. Links!





          • Travis Perry says:

            Notleia–you’ve shared the Captain Awkward stuff before. I seem to recall taking your sharing at that time as a personal shot at me, to which I responded (rather ungracefully) that you might be the “difficult a-hole” and not me. (Sorry I did that, by the way.)

            Actually though on further reflection, the entire worldview of the Captain Awkward post doesn’t ring true to my personal experience. To change the metaphor back to the missing stair, I don’t avoid missing stairs and blame others if they bring it up–I say, “Hey, the stair is missing!” and I put up a sign and ask someone to fix it (unless I’m too busy at the moment). Though there are things other people might trip over that I don’t notice at all, I don’t play a game of covering for a difficult problem and would not expect anyone to cover for me if I were the problem.

            Though it’s also true the Captain Awkward assumes a group of people who do certain things as a group to maintain group cohesion. I actually do not have a group of friends like that–I don’t see me as in cohesion with any group in that way, though I do have individual friends. Actually the entire point of view of the Captain Awkward post is like reading about a foreign culture to me–I presume it is really true for someone else, but it isn’t natural or normal in my experience.

            Perhaps for that reason, I actually don’t know why this set of posts is supposed to apply to the situation women are in. Perhaps I’m just not getting it, but it as if everyone else is discussing ice cream flavors and you’re jumping in with “mayonnaise”…

            • notleia says:

              You’re just coming off as rather naive (to me) when you claim that doing basic precautions will keep you safe, when statistically speaking, hahahahahahahaha no they don’t.

              Maybe another analogy I know might work? Like when you’re a kid and you’re being driven around, everything seems hunky dory, but when you start driving yourself, you realize that some people just don’t effing know how to drive? Except instead of seeing crappy drivers, you seem to think that the cars move according to the pull of earth’s inertia and Brownian motion or something?

              I might have to give up on trying analogy on you at all, but maybe other people reading this are grokking me better.

              (Also linking back to an earlier conversation, if you were looking for a good example of what I’d call a “Pastor Bob,” this Tim here is a good one.)

              • Travis Perry says:

                I would not say basic precautions keep someone safe. I would say it helps. And while I have heard of statistics on clothing wear (that I think are a bit dubious), I haven’t heard any stats on the whole suite of things I would recommend.

                Though I don’t really know the best way to fix this kind of thing. Progressive countries which have laws that feminists applaud tend to have horrific problems with illicit sex trade and their citizens traveling the world, often looking for minors (male and female), in the seedy side of sexual tourism. Though the USA has sex trafficking AND customs feminists don’t like.

                Sometimes the modern world makes me want to retreat into a cave…

              • notleia says:

                I might let you make supervised visits to my gender-fluid hippie-socialist commune. 😛

              • Travis Perry says:

                I think the Amish are more my style…though I obviously wouldn’t fit in with them, either.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Tim, I don’t entirely agree with you (you, of course, are not surprised by that 🙂 ) and I think your tone is harder than it had to be, but in this context of everyone standing in lock-step agreement at least 90% on the comments above, disagreement took some courage. I’m afraid you will be villified for your stance by some people, but I don’t believe you deserve that. And I applaud your courage in speaking your mind.

  11. At this point, I’m starting to wish there were different words for multiple types of forgiveness, just as there are multiple words to describe types of love. Perhaps there are multiple words for forgiveness, in some language, and we just don’t know of them.

    Still somewhat deciding what I think the ‘right’ type of forgiveness is, but this is kind of how I handle it now:

    People don’t ‘have’ to forgive. They don’t have to do anything, in fact. However, they ‘should’, for both their sake and others'(and also because God forgave us). If they don’t forgive, that means that their abuser is going to have a psychological hold on them forever, and how is that a good thing?

    That said, it’s not that simple. Forgiveness can be just as hollow as apologies if the person doesn’t mean them. Someone can say ‘I forgive you’ because they feel forgiveness is expected of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ve worked through their resentment. Saying ‘I forgive’ doesn’t magically make it true.

    At an innate level, it does bother me to see people that absolutely refuse to forgive, because it tends to come from people that see themselves as incapable of ever doing anything bad. (Yeah, they might not ever abuse anyone, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause vast amounts of harm they themselves will need forgiveness for.)

    Obviously, forgiveness isn’t easy, so acknowledging that it may be impossible to completely forgive someone may be coming from a place of honesty. But making the effort to forgive on a consistent basis, or at least acknowledging that forgiveness might be healthier, would probably help victims achieve more peace. Demanding this from them, though, especially when the demands come from the abuser’s side, are a problem.

    As a side note, one thing that seems to be important for abuse victims(of any type of abuse, not just sexual) is to document everything, gather evidence, and maybe even file reports, whether or not the victim chooses to press charges right away.

    Another side note… There should still be a due process for handling sexual harassment reports(or any other kind of accusation, really). Evidence should be given before meting out punishments. If, however, nothing can be proved, the two disputing parties should be kept separate if possible. Regardless of who is guilty or lying, one side is trying to hurt the other, and needs to be kept from causing further trouble. Keeping them separate seems to be one of the few things that can be sort of fairly done in a situation where nothing can be proved.

    • I agree with almost all of that. My only disagreement is in wishing there were words for different types of forgiveness. Based on Scripture, I think there is only one type: the macro-level, perfect, all-debts-cleared, relationship-restored kind of forgiveness that God offers. Anything less is not forgiveness, but methods we take while waiting on the chance to forgive (e.g. trying to heal, leaving the un-repented or unpunished wrong to God).

      People may sometimes say, “I’ll forgive him, but I never want to speak to him again.” Very carefully, I submit that this is not forgiveness. We should at least want to want to restore relationship with an offender (if not now, then after Jesus returns). After all, that’s what Jesus does with his people, those who have been his enemies and constantly offended him.

      Forgiveness is such a tall order. That’s why it requires so many conditions, including the prepared and gracious heart of the forgiver, and the broken, repentant heart of the offender. With Christ and us, Christ died for us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:8). Yet the Holy Spirit then supernaturally enables us (Christians) the ability to repent to receive this forgiveness. Without the Spirit’s enablement, we cannot do this and therefore cannot receive God’s forgiveness. That’s why we need to hope for forgiveness of other people, but also pray that the Spirit will grant them repentance as soon as possible so we can get on with it (although, per Brauns’s helpful definition, not all consequences are necessarily removed).

      • Travis Perry says:

        I think the use of the word “forgiveness” here is a bit semantic. Someone may use the word “restoration” for what you’re calling “forgiveness” and use “forgiveness” for “leaving the unrepentant to God” and in fact the practical difference between what you would actually do and what the other person would do are virtually nil. And if the actions in response to ideas are virtually the same, the terminology is not all that important in my view.

        That’s why I stated that the title of your point 3 was controversial, but on reading your comment, not so much so.

        By the way, there already are multiple Greek words that relate to the idea of forgiveness. Perhaps I should break them all down in full, but I don’t really have the time right now. In short though, Autumn’s wish for multiple words for this concept has already been fulfilled: aphesis (multiple meanings and most used, root idea is “sending away” but most common use is forgiving offenses, e.g. Romans 4:7), charizomai (root idea of clearing debts but also applied to sin, e.g. Colossians 2:13), apoluo (setting free, as if a slave under bondage, e.g. Luke 6:37). And there are two main Hebrew words for forgiveness, nasa (lifting up or off of, when applied to sin, lifting off a burden or debt, Micah 7:18 [Yes, I remembered this vocabulary word in Hebrew class by thinking of NASA]), and salah (always used for Divine forgiveness of sin and never human, e.g. Exodus 34:9).

        Though I already knew all these words, I actually did a google search to find a document that summarizes them before picking information from the document to add to this post. The link to the document I used is:


  12. Ann Byle says:

    Thank you, ESB, for a thoughtful and measured response to this issue. So much crap has been written in response to the PW article, and also so much good. Yours falls into the “good” camp. As author of the piece, I can tell you that the stories left unshared because of PW’s stance on anonymous sources were horrifying. Several of the men wrote preemptive apologies or denials before the piece ever ran (but after I contacted them for a comment). Some denied outright. Some played on my knowing them and their “good” reputations to tone down the piece or not include them. Others, who were not accused, asked me to pray about not including the men in the piece at all and just include what conferences are doing now to help stop such actions from happening again. I’m a Christian, raised in the Baptist church and who still attends one. But I’m not a theologian. I’m a reporter who reported.

  13. Mary DeMuth says:

    I’m grateful for your voice. Thank you for a measured, even-handed response to a chronic and devastating problem. Sadly, as a victim of heinous sexual assault at five (over a year), I had some sort of predatory beacon. I’ve worked through much of that, but I find myself overly afraid and cautious now at Christian publishing events. However, I am also very grateful for some of my close friends (male and female) who have dignified my story, protected me, and prayed for me.

  14. Sarah Grimm says:

    Thank you for writing this.

What do you think?