Destroying The Innocent

Many posts on this site are intended to be humorous and light-hearted. This is not one of those. I will freely admit that I’m am writing this post while angry — not something I typically do. But at this moment there is a white-hot righteous indignation that has kindled in my bones and I either have to write this down or spontaneously combust. You have been warned.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a fundamentalist pastor who has just learned that a 15 year old girl in your congregation has been raped and is pregnant by a 39 year old member of your church. Now try to imagine what kind of thought process might lead you to decide that the proper way to proceed is to bring that teenager before the entire church to apologize for her part in being so thoughtless as to get raped and end up pregnant. Then imagine forcing her to write a letter to the wife of the rapist apologizing for your part in his crime.  Of course you then send her away to another state and make sure that the baby is adopted off to another fundamentalist family.

What kind of person would do this? Surely this must be some pastor from the darkest fringes of fundamentalism, someone so far outside the “mainstream” that they are almost unrecognizable as an Independent Baptist. Or perhaps not.

For the pastor in question is none other than Chuck Phelps, who left the scene of this outrage at Trinity Baptist Church  to become President of Maranatha Baptist Bible College. To be fair to MBBC, they quickly realized that they were dealing with someone a little too far out for their taste and gave him the boot in the nicest way possible. He also is the chairman of the board of Central African Baptist College and sits as vice-chairman of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship. Last but not least, as of 2008 he was listed as an adjunct professor at Bob Jones University’s school of religion and a member of their cooperating board(PDF).

Oh, but the story and connections don’t end there. For this paragon of fundy virtue now pastors on a church staff with none other than Bob Taylor, former pastor of the Campus Church at Pensacola Christian College. The ‘crazy fringe’ of fundyland is never as far from the center as it would seem.

Now let’s play another game of let’s pretend. Let’s imagine that you’re the current pastor of a church where all this happened.  Let’s further imagine that like your predecessor you’re also a favored son of Bob Jones University and that you were actually there at the church while this travesty was being executed on this victim. What do you do now? Apologize? Issue a statement condemning what was done to the 15 year old girl? Or do you do damage control and cover for your old pastor even going so far as to send e-mail to your church members instructing them not to speak to anybody about the situation?

And then lastly imagine you’re a fundamentalist type who is observing this situation from the outside? Does your heart break over the injustice and your anger rise to think of the victim in the case? Or do you flee to your favorite fundamentalist message board and question whether the 15 year old girl may have seduced the 39 year old man and is to blame for the whole situation?

I can only assume that these people involved in the humiliation and condemnation of this girl cannot really believe in a righteous God Who’s justice is terrible toward those who hurt the innocent.  If I had a scrap of mercy to spare for these miserably failed hirelings, I would be very, very afraid on their behalf. But I don’t. All I have is a small voice to expose their evil to as many as have ears to hear.

Destroyer of Innocents thy name is Fundamentalism.

(updated 29 May at 4:07 pm.)

169 thoughts on “Destroying The Innocent”

  1. Larry,

    I keep trying to think of an analogy for you. Try this one:

    A guy who says he doesn’t like dogs nevertheless keeps one in his back yard.

    When the neighbor tells him that the dog has a weird lump on his back, he refuses to examine the dog, but sits on his front porch and discusses the merits of pet ownership, cancer treatments, vitamins, and euthanasia.

    For hours.

  2. Interesting, Mercedes.

    I am not sure I follow the analogy though. I wonder if you might help me here, before I respond. I want to make sure I understand what, in your mind, is the dog I am keeping in my back yard?


  3. This story is sounding way too familiar. Through my years of growing up in fundamentalism this “type” of situation seemed to be repeated over and over again. In fact this sounds very similar to the situation at North Valley Baptist in Santa Clara where the youth pastor (senior pastor’s brother in law) had sex with two girls in the youth group. The youth pastor was hastily sent away to Colorado and the word was put out that these two teenagers (I remember that at least one did get pregnant) had caused a man of God to fall. From my understanding, promises were made that if no charges were pressed by the families then the youth pastor would never return. Of course it was only a matter of time, around seven years if I remember correctly, and the youth pastor was back (not as youth pastor any more) just a regular member now, singing in the choir and driving a bus route for Jesus.
    To be fair, these situations do happen at other types of churches as well, but it seems that fundamental churches specialize in covering up sin and sweeping things under the rug (Example: Trinity Baptist in Jacksonville). It seems that the response of leadership is to ask, “What is the easiest way for us to push this aside and move on?” Of course when young lives are ruined the only question that deserves to be answered is “What is the truth?”
    I’ve been a long time reader (nothing gets me laughing like stufffundieslikes) but never posted before. This story angers me as a parent, a pastor, and a true follower of Jesus.

  4. To answer Ken Pulliam’s question why Tina Anderson resigned from IBC, I think it had to do with International Baptist College scheduling Chuck Phelps to do a one week module in January 2011. I guess it is more important to keep one’s (Sproul’s) standing within the FBF than to protect one of your sheep (Tina Anderson) from a wolf like Phelps.

  5. Let me close my participation here out with this, simply to tie up the loose end of this analogy deal.

    I have waited a while, hoping that “Mercedes” would explain the analogy because I want to understand what was meant. Perhaps Camille and Jeri know her, and therefore understand the analogy. But for me, it’s not clear how the analogy works. In keeping with my practice of responding to people who interact with me, let me quickly say why the analogy is suspect at best.

    First she says, “… an analogy for you.” Does that mean an analogy about me or an analogy about someone else to help me understand? We use it either way. Here, it is simply unclear writing because it creates confusion, not clarity. I suspect she meant “about me,” but that makes even less sense because there seems to be nothing in the story even remotely analogous to me.

    Second, what is the backyard, the dog, and the “bump”? In order for an analogy to work these things must be clear. I don’t know what she meant, but I can’t think of any meaning that helps.

    If the analogy is about me, and the back yard is fundamentalism and Phelps is the dog and the bump is Phelps’ conduct in this situation, then the analogy doesn’t work because I have plainly said that Phelps is not in my backyard; he is not my dog. In fact, he may be in my neighborhood, but if so he is way down the street and he doesn’t come down this way. I have nothing to do with him, and many in fundamentalism are just like me. You saying he is in my backyard doesn’t put him in my backyard. He is in someone’s backyard to be sure, and they should deal with him, but he is not in mine. Like it or not, I can’t do anything about someone else’s dog in someone else’s backyard.

    If the back yard is religion/evangelicalism, and the dog is fundamentalism, and Phelps is the bump on the dog, then the analogy doesn’t work because I have plainly stated that Phelps is not on my dog. I am not that type of fundamentalist and I have no real connections with that type of fundamentalism. Remember, fundamentalism includes everyone from Al Mohler to John MacArthur to Kevin Bauder to Mark Minnick to Chuck Phelps to Jack Schaap. There is no legitimate way to pile that all on to one dog. I think there are too many people who fail to think carefully about the spectrum of fundamentalism. I expect conflation of fundamentalism from people outside, which is why I don’t use the term fundamentalist with them. But for people who have been “inside” fundamentalism, you know it’s a fact that fundamentalism is very diverse.

    So it should be easy to see why the analogy doesn’t help. It’s unclear, and therefore fails to do what an analogy should do, which is explain and clarify (that’s what the dictionary says). And unfortunately, like so many of these conversations, there is no real exchange to clarify or help another understand. There is little attempt to understand what someone else means by what they say, to see it from their perspective, and to interact with grace. Too often, there is simply demagoguery, something that seems all too typical of ex-fundamentalists in my experience. They may have left fundamentalism, but they didn’t leave the “know it all” attitude and the accompanying arrogance behind. I am not sure why the bad guy is the one who doesn’t understand what someone else says and asks about it, or disagrees with what someone else says. Why does someone have to toe the company line? Wasn’t that what people hate about fundamentalism? It’s a sore spot with me that fundamentalists can’t disagree about things.

    Now, there’s no dispute there is a problem here. But many people want to talk about the problem, in spite of the fact that many of them do not know much about it. Since I don’t know much about it, I have tried not to comment on the specific situation.

    However, as a pastor, I have actually had to deal with this kind of stuff. So yes, I have talked about it and thought about it for hours, and weeks, and months, and years, long before this came up. It’s been an issue for years in my mind. This is not some theoretical situation; nor is it something that happened somewhere else. I have actually had to answer the questions about church notification, discipline, etc. (When it got to me, it had already been reported, so I didn’t have to do that end of it.) I have registered offenders on my street and in my church who have done time. At one point we had a girl in the church who went out expressly in search of losing her virginity and as a result, a young man in our community is RSO for 25 years for statutory rape. (Do not read any statement about this current situation into that.) So I have a little more than a passing interest. So if you wonder about why I ask a lot of questions about the requirements of biblical repentance, it’s because I deal with people who need to repent for more than their self-righteousness. They need to repent of things like sex offenses, drug dealing, B&E, assault and battery, etc. I have had people in the church who have done time for homicide, for drugs, for public drunkenness, for B&E, for assault. To those who don’t know that, it may appear my questions are pedantic. They are not. It’s real life, not the cyberworld. It’s not fundamentalism vs. evangelicalism. These people have no idea what either of those, and it is so refreshing to me. They wouldn’t know the FBF or BJU if their lives depended on it. For them it’s belief vs. unbelief. It’s life vs. death. It’s not stupid stuff.

    So I ask questions to get information and input about how others would handle things because, apparently unlike some, I freely admit I don’t know it all. Sometimes, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants. It’s a bit hard for us to say that publicly, but let’s face it, for many who commented, it is obvious that you don’t know it all, and pretending like you do won’t change that.

    So I will end with that, and simply implore people to think a bit more about things and realize that it’s a big world out there. There are a lot of people who hate this type of stuff as much or more than you do. And we don’t sit around and exchange pats on the back on a blog about it. We have to deal with it.

    Thanks to all … Interesting thoughts here.

  6. Larry,

    You are still, from a certain angle, involved with fundamentalism. I’ve been in that middle ground before, and I would have sworn at that point that I was out, but I wasn’t, quite.

    You post on Sharper Iron. Your blog is linked to from there. You have the SI seal of approval, then. Are you still a moderator there?

    I’m not sure why you feel that the fact you haven’t read about the case makes your point stronger. You posted at SI on that thread, you came here and posted about it, and it seems strange to me. Engaging with the actual case would surely have benefits for the cases you encounter, wouldn’t it?

    In the analogy, fundamentalism is the dog you say you’re not involved with. The bump is the current case.

  7. Thanks, Mercedes for your kind response and clarification. I said I was done because I didn’t expect a direct response, but please allow me a quick response that is hopefully as gracious as yours was.

    First, I suppose I am involved with fundamentalism to some degree, but with a certain type of fundamentalism. I have written about it on my own blog (such as here:, written just over a year ago, and by clicking on the category of fundamentalism you can see more of what I have written. I am fine if people disagree with me; it doesn’t bother me in the least. But at least I ask that people disagree with what I actually believe and don’t paint me as something I am not.

    I don’t think fundamentalism is monolithic. In other words, I reject the idea that there is only one dog. Depending on who you ask, everyone from Mark Driscoll to Jack Schaap is a fundamentalist and I say that’s either a really big and weird-looking dog, or it’s different dogs. The latter makes more sense to me. I am not really trying to be “out” of fundamentalism, per se. I don’t really even care that much. In my context of ministry, it is so totally irrelevant, and I love that. I am not trying to make fundamentalists. My desire is to make disciples of Jesus.

    I am a moderator at Sharper Iron, and I post from time to time (not nearly as much as I used to when it was getting going). My blog is linked there. Interestingly, you probably have read the numerous complaints from people that SI is not fundamentalistic enough, that we allow too many people who are not fundamentalists to post. The blogroll is pretty broad, another topic that has drawn some fire. There are people on the blogroll who are quite far separated from what you think of as fundamentalism–even farther than I am. So I don’t take SI as anything about fundamentalism, per se. It’s a discussion board made up of a broad spectrum of people, many of whom have no influence in fundamentalism.

    With respect to the case at hand, I haven’t posted directly on it because I don’t know enough to. I certainly have some opinions about what I have heard happened. I am distressed by what I have heard. I have thought about it, and played through in my mind what I would do. But I wasn’t there; I simply don’t know, and I don’t want to later be embarrassed because I came out dogmatically and said some things that were wrong. I have done that before and I don’t want to do it again. In my view, I agree with Kevin that we should withhold judgment on this particular case until we know more. (Of course others agree with Kevin that we should have already passed judgment. That’s the good part of taking two sides … everyone agrees.) That’s not a defense of it; for me, it will be hard to explain some things in a satisfactory way. But I don’t have a problem saying wait and see what comes out.

    But my issues with Phelps are different than this case. This doesn’t change my opinion of Phelps that much because from the first time I heard him speak (contrary to my previous statement, I remembered a second time I listened to him from an FBF meeting because I heard about it and wanted to hear it for myself), but from the first time I heard him speak, I said, “This is a guy that is not where I am at.”

    My comments here were directed only at what I perceived was a misguided attempt to implicate all kinds of people in this situation. Darrell said that wasn’t his point, and I will accept that. Some here seem to suggest that we should separate from all these institutions because of Phelps. That is classic secondary separation (Phelps is a bad guy and we should separate from and denounce all those who associate with him), which is one the tenets that most ex-fundamentalists and young fundamentalists strongly reject. And I think the idea of secondary separation has some problems. So that was my only point here: I thought the argument that I understood was a bad argument. Darrell says I misunderstood his argument, and if so, then I apologize. In retrospect, I wish I had never commented because I think my point has been misunderstood (even if it was an incorrect point) and I have been painted as something which I am not.

    So thanks again, Mercedes for the clarification. Blessings to you.

  8. BTW, with respect to SI, I disagree with a lot of what is said there. But that’s the nature of a discussion board. Participation does not imply approval or endorsement.

  9. Larry, bro, with all the time you’ve spent composing statements about all the facts that you don’t know, you could’ve gone and done 20 minutes worth of Google searching (or better yet, follow the links that have been posted around here) and become versed on the facts.

  10. What I’m hearing from Darrell and most of these poster is that Chuck Phelps isn’t on the fringes of mainstream Christian fundamentalism. He’s square in the middle of the stream as shown by his many and diverse connections.

    He didn’t get this idea that a raped girl is partially responsible for her rape from a vacuum. So, where did he learn it? Where did he get the idea that the public perception of his ministry was more important than a sheep he was supposed to shepherd? Where did he learn that it was okay to keep an accused rapist in his church, enjoying the benefits of full membership? He didn’t learn it from the Word of God. But he learned it from somewhere, and it might be that one of those places where he is affililated. Not in so many words, not by direct command, but through the attitudes expressed by his professors, administrators, and his peers in the ministry.

    If there is any separating to be done, it should be those ministries separating themselves from Phelps (just as MBBC did). That way, they can’t be stained when someone paints the issues in this case with a broad, tarred brush.

  11. If there is any separating to be done, it should be those ministries separating themselves from Phelps (just as MBBC did). That way, they can’t be stained when someone paints the issues in this case with a broad, tarred brush.

    That is the crux of the entire matter…. the whole mindset is to “Protect the Ministry” (so called). I say “so called” because ministry is not what takes place between the pulpit and the pew… Ephesians 4 is not a list of offices in the body of Christ is it the gifts that are there to prepare every believer for ministry! The entire problem is the “Paid Professional so-called minister!” Follow the $$$$…. numbers and $$$$ that how modern “ministries” are defined, numbers and $$$. Grrrrrrrr!!! Numbers and $$$ = power! Even the meanest paid, few in number, country church “pastor” will not find another “ministry” to merge with and strengthen the body of Christ…. why??? Power! No man will willingly give up that power over his group of people, no mattter how small. And they will justify their obstinance by claiming that they are the only ones that have the truth.
    A Pox on the lot of them!

  12. Religion – its all the same. This is no different than the Catholic Church empowering its pedophiles.

  13. Rand Hummel preaching about how he told a girl who was molested to repent for her sin of anger at being molested.

    Rand Hummel preached this message at the opening services of Bob Jones University in 2009.

    “This year’s opening services speaker will be Dr. Rand Hummel, director of the Wilds of New England and former program and assistant director for the Wilds Christian Camp in Brevard, N.C. Dr. Hummel graduated from BJU in 1978 with a degree in Bible and received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2002.”

  14. I mentioned above to hold on to your knickers because there was much more to come out about this situation.

    Well, here is a little more….

    Here’s two details that have just been released:

    1. Ernie Willis PAID for the plane ticket to send Tina to Colorado! So the RAPIST paid for her to be moved out of state at Chuck Phelps’ request.

    2. Tina was kicked out of the Christian school for being raped. And when she returned to Concord, NH her Senior year, she was not allowed to attend the school again.

    A rapist pays for a plane ticket out of state. What was Chuck Phillips expected to do? Poor Chuck Phelps, he is so misunderstood! No one covered up anything.


    There is still MUCH more to this case yet to be revealed.

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