The Bible says that “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler.
. .” (Proverbs 20:1), and among those who can testify to the truth
of the saying that 'strong drink is a brawler' are women who have
the misfortune to be married to a drunk, and have the bruises and
broken bones to prove it. Leaving aside all inventive mythology about
'patriarchy,' the disinhibition consequent to alcohol use, leaving
an angry man to lash out like an animal, is the real culprit in many
of these cases. Ironically, the church's testimony against
this barbarism was stronger and more consistent in the nineteenth
century than it is today, when many churches encourage social
drinking, with the inevitable consequences that go along with it, as
night follows day, of drunkenness and alcoholism. Will you then
encourage these women to stay married to the drunk and get beat up
every night, insisting the Bible so teaches? But the Bible does no more
encourages drunkenness than it does violence. The church of the
nineteenth century had a positive, affirmative program to reduce
domestic violence, and that program was temperance. William Jennings
Bryan realized that the saloon brought 'violence' into the home, and
he was against it: "No man can claim that his right to drink
intoxicating liquor requires the licensing of a saloon which
pollutes the locality in which it is situated and brings want and
misery and violence into the homes around it." (William Jennings
Bryan, Prohibition, p. 6).
The feminists make the unverified claim that it is the
Christian church which is responsible for domestic violence. But set
the adjustment on your time machine back to a hundred years ago, and
insert yourself amongst the Baptists and Methodists of the day. Will
you find them saying that wife abuse is the normal order of things,
the way of the world, and that women should accustom themselves to
it? Nothing of the sort. You will find them instead,— not 100%, but
the great majority, — agitating on behalf of Prohibition, with
the promise that eliminating the sale of intoxicating liquor will at
the same time eliminate domestic violence. The experiment was tried
and, alas, even the first part was found not to be attainable. Given
enough time and enough ignorance, the feminists imagine they can
erase this entire era from American church history and substitute
some alternative set of facts from the 'Handmaid's Tale' or other
fiction. There is no temperance literature which starts from the
assumption that violence against women and children is normal. These
writers begin, instead, with the view that the barroom is to blame.
The difference between this view and the fantasies of the feminists,
is that actual criminological data can be advanced in its favor.
It can be dangerous to follow the Lord's commands in the Sermon
on the Mount. Not resisting violence does not always de-escalate the
situation, it can give the aggressor the jubilant assurance that he
will not be punished and can do as he pleases, as in the case of this
Red Chinese prison interrogator:
"The officer demanded that Enguang answer questions about the Bible while beating him.
"He slapped me four times in a row and said, 'The Book of Matthew, the New Testament, the 6th chapter, verses 38-42.'
"He then said, 'I see anger in your eyes. Christ taught you to love me. You shouldn't anger me with your anger. You should move me with your love.' He slapped once more."
('Christ Taught You to Love Me': Chinese Officer Mocks Christian as He Beats Him During Interrogation,'
Post, May 28, 2018, Stoyan Zaimov).
Presumably this brutal Red Chinese police interrogator meant Matthew chapter 5, which does instruct the believer to turn the other cheek.
It can seem like a practical impossibility to live up to these
difficult commands, and yet this Chinese Christian did not strike back.
Is it conceivable this is what Paige Patterson was recommending to
the battered woman in his congregation? Not according to him. In fact,
Christians of the present day are notoriously slow to recommend
non-violence to anyone, even though the Lord plainly enjoined it. The assumption that violence works wonders, that it is the
ultimate practical answer to the difficulties of life, is fraught
with its own defeated hopes:
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
(Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, pp. 62–63 (1967).
The feminists protest that all the forgiveness falls upon the
women, whereby the liberty to keep on offending is discovered by the men.
But this is not intended to be the case. A realistic look at domestic violence shows that the temperance preachers were not mistaken in finding a nexus between
this scourge and alcohol and drug use:
"Alcohol and drug use. Victims and family members
reported that 92 percent of assailants used drugs or alcohol
during the day of the assault." (Drugs, Alcohol, and
Domestic Violence in Memphis Summary of a Presentation by Daniel Brookoff, M.D., Ph.D., October 1997,
National Institute of Justice).
It is perplexing indeed to discover that The Patriarchy is beaming out instructions to all male inhabitants,
but the message is only getting through to the drunks, crack-heads and
methamphetamine users. Why is The Patriarchy's message only getting through
to such a narrowly selective slice of the audience?
Everyone who has been to
church, I'm sure, has heard testimonies told the old fashioned way: Dad was a surly
drunk who beat his wife and children, but then one of the children attended
a kid's crusade and heard the gospel, then Mom followed, and finally Dad, no
longer a burden to his family but a blessing, joined them at the altar. The
problem with these narratives isn't that they are untrue; any interested
person can verify the outlines of the story by interviewing the
participants. But you must not tell these stories any more, even though they
are true, and even though they give glory to God. Ask Paige Patterson; he
told such a story, although he did not give enough detail to know if alcohol
was involved, and what he got in return was public humiliation. Where did he
go wrong? He said that the husband repented and became a good husband. This
is taken as evidence on its face that he is "woefully under-informed" about
domestic abuse. How so? Because 'repentance' is part of the problem, not the
"Considering how common it is for victims to first disclose their abuse to their pastors, training clergy to recognize and respond to abuse should be a mandated part of the curriculum in any seminary. It is unconscionable that we still have pastors who would send a woman back into danger because a husband appears to have repented. Anyone even vaguely informed about the cycles of abuse knows that apologies are part of the cycle. A show of remorse means nothing except that the abuser has moved on to the next stage of the cycle. . .A tearful apology on the part of an abuser is part of the ploy to remain in control of the victim and prevent her (or his) escape, and it is extremely dangerous for anyone in a position of influence to accept an abuser’s apology (or participation in church) at face value."
('Paige Patterson, women’s voices and the gaping hole in education,'
Kyndall Rae Rothaus, May 24, 2018, Baptist News
Now, stop and think a minute. We only know about these people because Paige Patterson told us about them. For all we know,
they are fictional creations of his own. If so, they do and say what
he directs them to do and say; if he says the husband repented, then
so he did! An author is as it were a god to his creations; he sets them
in motion at his whim, and brings them back to their places. When Paige Patterson's protege Ergun Caner got into
trouble for making up outrageous fables about his past as a Jihadi
terrorist, some people pointed out that those in Paige Patterson's
circle do not necessarily think it wrong for a pastor, in offering a
sermon illustration, to present a made-up story as if it really
happened, or to retell a joke in the first person, as if it happened on
the way to church. And yet, they tell us, Paige Patterson is showing his ignorance and
incompetence by saying this man repented, because so they will have
it: abusive husbands never really repent. She leaves, or gets
murdered. Meanwhile back in the real world, I wouldn't be surprised when
Dr. Jekyll's repentance, though real, does not carry over to Mr.
Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is an apologetic sort of guy by nature, who would
never raise his hand in anger. The barrage of instruction they put
out on this topic passes Dr. Jekyll right by, because he does not
need it. Meanwhile Mr. Hyde is unreceptive to instruction.
After all, according to insiders, the woman is real. At the time neither she nor
Paige Patterson had reason to believe she was in imminent danger. He
still remembers a happy ending: "They lived happily together from that time on in commitment to Christ. There was no further abuse."
(Paige Patterson, Press Release from Paige Patterson, April 30,
2018). Largely because of this sermon illustration, from years ago, this
man was bounced out the exit door from his job as seminary president
just shy of his retirement. It is true that violence can escalate: "In the United States, one of the most dangerous places for a woman is her own home. Approximately 1,500 women are killed each year by husbands or boyfriends. About 2 million men per year beat their partners, according to the F.B.I."
(No Safe Place: Violence Against Women, PBS.org).
God forbid any of us should ever purchase the winning ticket in this
lottery, though if truth be told, it does not pay out at as high a
rate as is advertised. If millions of women are battered every year, and
up to 1,500 of these end up dead (some women are murdered without
prior history of abuse), we really need to get serious about all
those abuse victims who end up drowning in the bathtub, or falling
off step-ladders. And what about handling frayed and abraded
extension cords? It cannot be taken as a given that each and every
victim of wife-beating is in imminent danger of death, and certainly a
verbally abused woman who had not previously suffered physical abuse
cannot be assumed to be in that kind of danger.
Is it true that repentance is a sham, just part of the cycle of
violence? It may be so in some cases. But there are thousands sitting in church today who say, no,
that's not the way it happened; the "gaping hole in education" is in the
ideologues' denial of experienced facts. Their testimony should not be silenced,
shamed or negated. The church should not sit silent while the power
of the gospel is denied, by those who pretend to be its ministers. The 'no repentance' way of thinking is
not evidence based, nor even reality based; it does not come out of
verifiable criminological research into this offense, but out of a
prolific political mythology.
This was not Paige Patterson's only offense; he also defended a teenage boy who
said of a teenage girl that she was 'built,' thus objectifying
women. As the controversy escalated, other incidents came to light. Allegedly also he encouraged a female victim of date rape to forgive her
assailant. The circumstances of this event (there are reportedly two
such cases, widely separated in time) are in dispute. I do not want to
wander into the tall weeds of whether the allegation of rape was
made contemporaneously with the event or years later, whether the woman
told conflicting stories, and whether the alleged perpetrator was afforded due
process, etc. Two approaches have risen to the surface, taken by the
accusers: the minimal facts case and the contextually sensitive
case. The minimal facts approach declares that it does not matter
what the circumstances are; in no case should an admitted victim of
domestic assault be counselled to do anything but immediately
divorce the perpetrator. The contextually sensitive approach
rejoins, but what if the repentance was real? What if the woman's
black eyes were the only ones she ever received during the marriage?
The problem with the minimal facts approach is that it is
incompatible with Christianity, because it assigns a negative value
to forgiveness and repentance, to which Christianity assigns a
positive value. The problem with the contextually sensitive approach
is that the facts are sketchy, uncertain, and in dispute. Shouldn't
someone be sitting down, trying to hammer out what the facts
actually are? Shouldn't someone have done that before ending Dr.
Patterson's career? If they thought him a fossil, why did they not let
him quietly retire?
What distresses me about the accusations concerning alleged rape
at two different institutions at widely separated intervals is the accusers' unbending assumption that
it is wicked for any Christian pastor to encourage a rape victim to forgive
her assailant, whether in conjunction with criminal prosecution or
in lieu of it. Certainly no one is suggesting forgiveness so effusive as
to constitute consent after the fact, but to say that women must never forgive wrongs done them is
as much as to say one half the human race can never become
Christian. Though I can't provide a source, this little story about John
Wesley has made the rounds:
"General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.”
To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.”
They say that Genghis Khan's motto was, "The greatest happiness
is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them
of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp
to your bosom their wives and daughters." Is that empowering,
or what? The way the world views power, so it is. But is it not excessive to demand that, going
forward, a suitably modified form of this perhaps apocryphal saying will be the motto for women, whereas men are allowed
to repeat, with the Lord's prayer, "And forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Incarceration can provide the social benefit of putting on ice, for a
time, a serial predator, and in other instances, reportedly, Paige Patterson
has so recommended. Has it been established that that is what we're
dealing with here?
If there is a judgment of God to fear, it is this:
"And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
While a plea for another to
forgive and forget may be ill-timed or inopportune, it cannot be
wicked. The critics say, ". . .their theology lays the groundwork for abuse."
(Dianna Anderson, June 4, 2018, 'SBC’S #MeToo Problem Isn’t a Rotten Apple, It’s A Rotten Theological Tree.'
Religion Dispatches). Forgiveness, and repentance, are, as it
happens, central concerns of the Christian gospel, and we are told,
". . .with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
(Matthew 7:2). Certainly it is up to the victims to decide whether
complying violates their feelings or sense of justice; you cannot command
someone to forgive any more than you can command them to fall in
love. From whence comes the demand that women must never forgive those who
injure them, and more than that, must maximize all
opportunities for prosecution and incarceration? Setting a land speed record for fleeing when no one pursues,
Southern Baptist Al Mohler warned, "Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance."
(Al Mohler: 'The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention
Evangelicals, we can no longer say sexual misconduct is just a Roman Catholic problem.'
May 23, 2018, Christianity
Today). The Roman Catholic clerical child abuse scandal was massive,
involving at its height, according to the John Jay report, a full
four percent of active Roman Catholic priests.
“These different methods both yielded the
same statistic: approximately 4% of Catholic priests and deacons
in active ministry between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of the
sexual abuse of a youth under the age of 18.”
(John Jay Report, 2.2 Summary results: Prevalence
of Sexual Abuse of Youths Under 18 by Catholic Priests and
It is not clear what is the "avalanche" of sexual misconduct to which he
is referring, inasmuch as one alleged date rape between two
seminarians does not a crime wave make, and no one has suggested that four
percent of Baptist pastors are pedophiles. I suspect the true tsunami
to come, which Al Mohler fears and from which he hopes to distance himself,
is the revelation of similarly "dated" advice in the archives of
preaching websites. There probably is, I suspect, a lot of this out
there: exhortations to forgive and forget, advice not to divorce,
and the like, and now it has been discovered to be career-ending.
This presents a difficulty, because the Lord says, "For I hate
divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel." (Malachi 2:16). Feminists
see divorce as a panacea, an all-purpose cure-all for the ills of
the world. But it cannot be so for all involved. In the children's
eyes, divorce presents the risk almost of ontological dissolution.
Not to worry, say the feminists, we will prescribe them therapy. Not
that therapy works. Sometimes life presents us with a menu, not
listing a good and an evil, but two evils, of which we must choose
the lesser. War is an unmixed evil, but loss of liberty is also an
evil. Divorce is hateful to God, but so is murder hateful to God. One
cannot absolutize one requirement of the law over against all
others; to make it a crime to seek medical treatment on the sabbath
misses the point of the sabbath. So
while I would not say a Christian pastor can never counsel divorce,
no believing Christian can recommend divorce so gleefully and
prolifically as do the feminists. But now we have to follow their
rules, at risk of public shaming and loss of employment. These matters
must now be handed over to cops and counselors, with the church left in
embarrassed silence, ashamed that of ever having in the past ventured to express an
From time to time the world launches campaigns against various
types of misbehavior, of which the #MeToo movement is the most
recent. The church should appreciate the help, but must also draw a
line in the sand. Whatever bad conduct they are agitating against,
the secularists tend to demonize and dehumanize the perpetrators.
The world does not want to see their repentance and restoration, but
rather their destruction. The world's only concept of saintliness is
victimization, which places a halo on the heads of those unfortunate
enough to suffer ill-treatment. The perpetrators they cannot see as
some wayward mother's son, who has taken a wrong turn in life, but
as living dirt to be trampled upon. They don't "Weep o'er the erring
one, lift up the fallen" (Fanny J. Crosby). And this colors the stories they
tell. But the stories we tell do not end with
the bad guy being hauled off to jail, if indeed he ever is, but with
his return to the fold. To borrow a title from a heretic, the
heading for these stories might be, 'Love Wins.' If our stories
about wife-beating end with the miscreant a changed man, the world
has no right to complain or demand a different ending, even if they
think we made it up. Our stories are not their stories; the stories
we like best do not end with the bad guy doing a perp walk, but with
the whole clan rejoined and rejoicing in heaven. It does not always
turn out this way, but this is what we pray for.
The world can only understand,
and process, forgiveness as minimization: we forgive, because it
really wasn't all that important. Forgiveness, to the world, is 'never
mind.' Thus they believe forgiving devalues
women. Resolutely refusing to forgive and enacting the maximum vengeance
practically available empowers women, who now understand that they
have value, which for some unaccountable reason they did not
previously realize. But we forgive as we were forgiven, and did God forgive us
because it really wasn't a big deal? Then why did Jesus have to
suffer and die upon a cross? What is more empowering that becoming
like God? And how do we do that?: "But I say unto you, Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for
he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth
rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:44-45). Sooner or
later we must part company with those of this world, and hopefully
it will be before they reach their final destination. So
#CountMeOut. We will not be ashamed of counseling forgiveness and
celebrating repentance. Christian folk should restore in their minds the very
real relationship, shown in all reputable criminological studies,
between alcohol and domestic abuse, because politicized mythology leads into
a dead end. Where are their success stories? They have none, they don't want
any. Nor can we agree with them that repentance is a deceitful
illusion, although not all those who claim to have repented are telling the
truth. There are people sitting in the pews today who can tell
you when they took their last drink, and for that matter can tell
you when they stopped beating their wife.
The trustees who showed Paige Patterson the door do not appear to have meet the desideratum expressed
in Pirke Aboth, "Be deliberate in judgment." (Pirke Aboth, Chapter
1:1). Rather they appear to have been stampeded by a Twitter-Storm.
Certainly appearances can be deceiving; but if it is true, as
alleged, that they did not allow him to speak in his own defense,
then that is troubling. We read that "women" are against Paige
Patterson. When I hear things like that, Dear Reader, I rush out to
my mail-box to find my ballot, which surely must have been delayed
in the mail; surely they would not say things like that, assigning a
particular view-point to one half the human race, without sending
out questionnaires to verify that all, or almost all, members of the
subject group actually do feel that way. But alas, the survey ballot
never arrives. When they say "women" say this and that, the
discerning reader must supply, 'scores of women on social media say this or
that.' Does anyone ever say, 'men say this or that,' based on such a
small sample size? Or do they wait to see if it catches on? To my
observation, Paige Patterson seems to be a poor judge of character;
throughout his career he has collected side-kicks like Darrell
Gilyard, Ergun Caner, and Judge Pressler, and he is the last to see
that these people are bad news, long after everyone else has figured
it out. It's possible there really is a systemic problem here, with
him discounting women's testimony; we all tend to identify with, and
believe, those who are like us, not those who are unlike us; and
incidentally that cuts both ways, the men are not always lying. They
should go back over this terrain, and this time, be deliberate in
"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
and they shall say unto the elders of his city, this our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
The law of Moses comes close to applying the death penalty to habitual drunkenness. Notice that the rebellious son is assumed to be
"a drunkard." This isn't the entire accusation against the
rebellious son, but it's a part of it.
For most of its history, the temperance movement maintained an
exemplary role of voluntary suasion. They succeeded in reducing
alcohol consumption by a significant amount in this country, by
doing nothing more radical or dangerous than patiently explaining the evils attendant thereto. They gave themselves a black
eye by embracing the massive governmental overreach known as
Prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the
accompanying Volstead Act criminalized, not the possession and
consumption of alcohol, but its sale. At first it succeeded in
reducing alcohol consumption by a meaningful amount:
"In fact, one can examine every uninflected statistic
that emerged from the 1920s — cirrhosis rates, alcohol-related
deaths, incidence of alcoholic psychosis — and it's
inescapably clear that Americans as a whole consumed less
alcohol during Prohibition than before. The outstanding work of
economists Jeffrey A. Miron and Jeffrey Zwiebel in the 1980s
and 19900s established that 'alcohol consumption fell sharply at
the beginning of Prohibition, to approximately 30 percent of
its pre-Prohibition level,' and by the time of Repeal had risen
'to about 60-70 percent of its pre-Prohibition level.'" (Daniel
Okrent, The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, p. 248).
It took decades for per capita alcohol consumption to rise back up to its pre-Prohibition levels.
But whatever gain was achieved was overshadowed by the immense
damage done by this social experiment. The 'culture wars' in
their modern form started then; it became normal for the urban
intelligentsia to portray evangelicals as rural
dolts. When I was a child, they made us read authors like
Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis. None of the young people
found these pedestrian writers of any interest; certainly no one
has ever found them inspiring; so why did we have to read them?
Because they were alcoholics! You think I jest, dear reader, but
that is what people of that day thought it meant to be a
literary genius. Our attention was drawn to the simple,
declarative form of the sentences they managed to punch out on
on the typewriter with stubby, sodden fingers, ejecting
a brief spurt of 'See Spot run' type of prose before lapsing
into unconsciousness. This was taken for brilliant artistry
because the intelligentsia of that day defined themselves in
opposition to the people who had voted for Prohibition. Their heroes
just had to be alcoholics, it was that important to them. It's
not likely you'll find an alcoholic who's an over-achiever;
locating even these mediocre hacks was a coup.
The people who controlled the nascent mass media hated the people
who liked Prohibition; their snarled threat to them was, 'You
may out-vote us, but we will make your children think it's
stylish to carry a hip flask.' Young people are very gullible,
and very prone to fall for a glamorized, larger-than-life image
on a theatre screen. But after all, it was the evangelicals who
fired the first shot: Prohibition was an assault on the personal
liberties of those who did not share its founding assumptions.