Sunday, February 16, 2014

Doug Phillips's Sexual Abuse - A Follow Up Post

This post is a follow up to my previous post on the Doug Phillips/Vision Forum implosion. I recommend reading that post first, if you have not already.


In that previous post, I used my lawyerly bullshit detector to speculate as to the real facts in this case. I felt that Phillips’ “confession” was definitely not repentance but damage control.

Now that some additional facts have come out, it appears I was correct on several counts.

I also should note that another leader within the Christian Patriarchy movement now has his own sex abuse scandal. I’ll touch on Bill Gothard’s apparent predatory behavior regarding young women briefly throughout this post.

My research assistant (aka, my wife) has been monitoring new developments, and has sent me helpful links.

The best one is Jen’s Gems, a blog by a former member of Phillips’ cult church. While I cannot verify all of the facts - only Phillips himself and the woman can confirm or deny what happened in private - what can be verified checks out. (Follow her links to facebook posts by former associates of Phillips, for example.) 

Also, these are fairly detailed facts, and appear to be confirmed by others who were in this church. There are also a number of other sites easy to locate from others who corroborate many of the details. (See the comments in the links for more.) The information available is unanimous as to the identity of the woman and the basic details of the relationship. If this was mere speculation, one would expect to see alternative explanations.

Unless and until either some governmental authority investigates the case, there is a lawsuit that goes to (public) trial, or until media with investigative resources decides to tackle this case, I doubt there will be better evidence than this.

One of the problems in cases like this involving powerful, wealthy men in religious leadership is that it takes a well funded, long term effort to uncover the facts. In cases where there is a good settlement for a lawyer, this may happen, but it happens too rarely. Usually it takes media interest to incite governmental authorities to act and hope of financial reward for an attorney to risk a long, drawn out case against a well funded opponent.

I am not and have never been affiliated in any way with Phillips or Vision Forum, although both I and my wife have been involved in other similar groups within the Patriarchy movement. (For me, Bill Gothard; for my wife, Jonathan Lindvall.) I can give first hand information about the teachings, but not about the actual facts of this particular scandal. For that, I am relying on information publicly available on the internet.

Thus, the best I can say is this:

1. There is fairly detailed information that has been made available by a number of people who claim to be close to the situation.
2. Multiple sources agree as to the identity of the other woman, and I was unable to find anyone who makes a contrary claim.
3. The information available does not appear to contradict the public statements made by Phillips and others on the board of Vision Forum such as Scott Brown.

I would also note that Phillips himself has one way to set the record straight: tell the truth and make a full, real confession. I will also note that according to Phillips’ own standard of proof, found in the Old Testament, two witnesses should suffice.

Here is my “Reader’s Digest” version of the facts alleged as I understand them:

My understanding of the information available as of this time:

The woman in question is/was an employee. She is the daughter of parents who attended Phillips’ church. They were a poor family, but Phillips did not pay her. (I think this is important.) She started work at age 15, and was living full time in the Phillips household by age 17. (Also important.)

While it isn’t clear exactly when the relationship turned sexual, it seems pretty likely that it did while the woman was a minor - although possibly above the age of consent in Texas.

Also: the relationship started at least 12 years ago. 12 years.

From that time on, the woman travelled regularly with Phillips, often without his wife present.

From what I can tell, there were suspicions among the inner circle at Vision Forum and the church for years. However, things were largely kept hidden until 2012, when Phillips got cocky enough to essentially parade her as his mistress (at least in front of insiders) at the conferences. Some time in 2013, he was caught with his pants down (literally) on at least two occasions.

It is worth reading the entire post on this and following the link to Peter Bradrick’s statement as well.

So it is pretty clear that this “long term relationship” started when the woman was in her teens, and has continued for at least a decade.

I would also note that there is a picture (see the link above) of the woman in question wearing what sure looks like an engagement ring.

Also, in further news confirming my prediction, the business end of Vision Forum will be going bankrupt despite a fairly good balance sheet. We lawyers would suspect that Phillips, knowing this was coming (at least a year’s notice), looted the corporation, intending to funnel as much money to himself as possible while intending to stiff his creditors. (I don’t have evidence of this, merely instinct and knowledge of past clergy scandals. The pattern is pretty clear.)

I have several points to make about this.

I. This is not an “affair.” This is sexual abuse by someone in power.

An affair, as most of us commonly understand it, occurs when two persons (at least one married) of relatively equal age and power have a sexual relationship.

This was definitely NOT the case here. There was a significant inequality of power, knowledge, and resources. And that is even before one factors in the teaching that women were to obey and serve men.

Let’s look at the differences.

- When she was around 15, he was 45 or 46. Three times as old. (There may be a more exact set of dates somewhere. I’ll correct it with good info if necessary.)
- She came from a poor family. Doug is by all accounts filthy rich. (see my previous post)
- He was a pastor. And a pastor of a seriously authoritarian church. He was essentially the only authority in the church and accountable to no one. She was, well, a 15 year old girl.
- He employed her and could terminate her at will. She was dependent on him.

I am going to add one more, from my own (and my wife’s) knowledge of teachings in this system.

- I am reasonably certain that there was a vast difference in sexual knowledge.

Let me explain. In general, sex education is not a priority in fundamentalist groups, except to say “no sex until you are married.” Patriarchy groups are even worse, in our experience. There is a school of thought that both my wife and I heard (although our families and others didn’t agree) that the best (and most “godly”) way for sex education to occur for girls was that they learn about sex from their husbands on the honeymoon.

Combine this with the courtship/betrothal model, of course. No falling in love before the wedding, kids! Yes, this is a teaching of Jonathan Lindvall.

[Additional side note: I could see this approach as being slightly less than a disaster if the husband learned his technique from Tim and Beverly LaHaye’s book, The Act of Marriage, which at least would teach a man how to be gentle and loving in the bedroom. I pity the poor brides whose husbands learned from Douglas “Conquer, Plant, and Colonize” Wilson instead.]

When I was a fairly young child (11ish?), my mother read us Christy by Catherine Marshall. Because my siblings were younger, she skipped a certain chapter, but let me read it on my own.

That chapter profoundly influenced my view of sexual relationships with a power differential.

Anyone who has read the book knows exactly what I am talking about. Miss Alice, the quaker woman who runs the mission, tells Christy of her own experience as a 15 year old girl.

A visiting minister slowly grooms the ignorant and trusting Alice to have sex with him. Eventually after this rape (because that is all it can really be described as under the circumstances), Alice becomes pregnant.

I encourage anyone who has not read this book to do so, and consider the Phillips relationship in this light. It seems to stretch the imagination to believe that Phillips didn’t “groom” this young woman to eventually yield to his advances.

I also will add, as Jen did, that what Phillips did appears to qualify as criminal behavior under the Texas Penal Code.

Sec. 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser;
(f) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree, except that an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree if the victim was a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.

This isn’t just an affair, this is abusive (and criminal) behavior by a powerful narcissistic sociopath. This is also what is commonly understood to be sexually predatory behavior.

This is why I find it APPALLING that Doug Wilson (another luminary in the Patriarchy movement) went on record calling the young woman a “Delilah” who seduced a “man of god.” Seriously. 

Read his statement, and think “15 year old girl with 45 year old man.”

“Delilah” my ass!

In fact, let’s just drop the “clergy” part of this. This was sexual abuse, plain and simple.

Although I have my doubts that the State of Texas will do the right thing and investigate and prosecute Phillips, if they find sufficient evidence, I sincerely hope they do.

Let me also note again that Phillips still has never apologised to his victim.

2. This case is following the pattern set forth in The Art Of The Public Grovel.

I mentioned this book by Susan Wise Bauer in my previous post.

As predicted, this is following that trajectory. The offender issues an “apology” that doesn’t give incriminating details, and then lies low.

Then, the friends and associates of the perpetrator come out of the woodwork and attempt to destroy the character of the woman. Throw the woman under the bus and wait until things blow over.

And yep, here comes Doug Wilson (and others) to do just that.

As I stated earlier, Doug Phillips is NOT repentant. He is irritated he got caught, obviously, but he is focusing on damage control and is content to let others destroy his victim for him. Cowardly.

3. This was a Decade-long relationship - nearly the entire time Vision Forum existed

I want to emphasize again that this wasn’t a momentary lapse. A little fling. A temporary stumble.

During nearly the entire time Phillips was building his empire and spreading his ideas, he was having sex with a girl less than half his age.  

This requires an extraordinary level of sociopathy!

I’m not even sure what to say about this. I do not believe “Narcissistic Sociopath” is a stretch, and it may not be strong enough.

[Side note on Gothard: he too apparently had a string of relationships - over 30 women have come forward - and these have occurred throughout the decades he led his organization.]

4. This requires a lot of people to ignore the obvious for a very long time

I cannot imagine that Doug’s wife didn’t know about this, but it is possible that she was in deep denial for many years. I have seen that happen, and can believe it, particularly in light of the teachings that women are easily deceived and thus cannot come to their own conclusions or make their own decisions.

What is harder to believe is that there were not a number of people who had every reason to believe this relationship was sexual, and yet stood by and let it happen.

I know this is human nature. (The history of the Nazis certainly confirms that most people do prefer to ignore what they do not want to admit.) Still, this is disappointing. It is particularly sad that Phillips was able to excommunicate many from his church, while carrying on with a mistress, and still nobody went public.

I would also go so far as to say that there had to have been people not just ignoring the facts, but actively covering for Phillips. 

4. Phillips did NOT commit adultery. At least by Old Testament Theonomy standards.

I promised that I would make this bold claim in response to a comment on my previous post.

So let me say it again: By the standards of Old Testament Theonomy, this was not adultery.

You may have seen this picture. It is true in one respect: Phillips has in fact taught that adulterers should be stoned. In fact, Reconstructionists in general have a long list of offenses that they believe should be punished by stoning. See Invitation to a Stoning. 

But the thing is, according to Old Testament law, Doug isn’t an adulterer.

Let me explain:

An unmarried (and unbetrothed) woman cannot commit adultery.

And likewise, when a man (regardless of his marital status) has sex with a single woman, he is not committing adultery. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a tour of the Old Testament.

Crucial to understanding the sexual regulations in the Old Testament is to realize that in that culture, women were property. (Not just Hebrew culture - the entire culture. Read Hammurabi’s code, which predated the Old Testament by at least 500 years.) I wrote a post about this previously. 

I will start with the rape laws in Deuteronomy chapter 22. Notice that nothing is ever said about the marital status of the man. Only the woman. If she is married or betrothed, it is adultery and they both are executed. Notice that the reason he is executed is that he has violated another man’s wife. Defiled another man’s property.

And then, note what happens if the woman is single. It isn’t adultery. He just has to marry her if her father will allow it. (And the father gets paid in either case. You broke her, you bought her…)

Also take a look at the Ten Commandments. The tenth one in particular. (Exodus 20:17)

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

That seems pretty clear. Don’t be lusting after your neighbor’s property - and that includes his slaves, his animals...and his wife.

Adultery - just like theft - was understood in that time as being a property violation. Committing adultery meant stealing the property of another man.

Another good way to see how this was understood in the time is to look at actual stories told in the Old Testament.

Jacob was a man of poor judgment when it came to sex, but one thing he is never condemned for is adultery. He had two wives, and then took two slaves as his concubines. (The wives themselves never protested - they encouraged it. The slaves had no choice, of course. They were “given” by the wives.)

(The one Mosaic law that appears to address Jacob is Leviticus 18:18: Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living. (NIV))

Samuel’s father had two wives, and while this was a source of rivalry and contention, it was never condemned as adultery.

Perhaps the best illustration is this one:

King David, the “man after God’s own heart”, had multiple wives. He started with Michel, Saul’s daughter. He went on to Ahinoam, the widow Abigail, Maachah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah.

He was not condemned for adultery in ANY of these cases.

That came later, with Bathsheba. (For those unfamiliar with the story, Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittite, David saw her during a ritual cleansing, and took her (almost certainly without her consent - what were her options?) to bed with him, and she got pregnant. After an unsuccessful attempt to get Uriah to sleep with her and thus legitimize the pregnancy, he had Uriah whacked.)

After David’s fling with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, then a prophet finally came to confront him. Because that was his first time to commit adultery within the meaning understood in that culture. The other women were unattached and could be simply added to the harem.

Now look at the story the prophet uses to illustrate things to David.

II Samuel 12:1-9

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.  Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.”

Notice that there is no mention of David’s other wives as being betrayed by the affair. Who was betrayed? Uriah! His wife was stolen and he was killed. (Yeah, that’s pretty atrocious, I agree. But what about those other wives?)

Also note that the prophet notes that David could have had even more. More wives, had he desired them.

One could go through even more examples, but I think this is reasonably clear. A single woman cannot commit adultery, and a man, married or not, cannot commit adultery with a single woman.


4. I Was Right that Polygamy is the Natural, Inevitable result of Old Testament Theonomy

If you are really trying to pattern a society after the Old Testament, polygamy (polygyny, technically) would be the natural and inevitable result of the view of women as property.

If women are property, those who can afford to will try to “collect them all.” If you are trying to re-create Bronze Age patriarchy, you get all that comes with it, including polygamy. If you want the laws and institutions of that society, you get, well, the laws and institutions of that society.

In this respect, fundamentalist Christians have been grossly unfair to the Mormons. Far from being something truly “out there,” the decision to embrace polygamy was actually the result of taking the Old Testament perfectly literally.

Look at this case again. Phillips takes a much younger woman as a rival sexual partner. He probably promises her marriage. She isn’t married or betrothed.

So what is the problem?

Well, society and even most of his followers have a radically different understanding of marriage and sex than society had in the days of the Old Testament.

Marriage isn’t viewed as a property transaction these days, but as the exchange of vows between equals. And adultery isn’t viewed as a property offense against another man, but a breach of those marital vows. We believe the spouse was the wronged party.

Under a modern view of adultery, Phillips has clearly committed adultery.

So I go back to what I stated in my earlier post: Phillips has taken a rival wife/concubine - and under his own theonomical views, owes her marriage or at least support for the rest of her life. (Oh, and a substantial bride price to her father.)

His failure to acknowledge his wrong against her (in our modern understanding) or his obligation to her (in the Old Testament understanding) is rank cowardice.

[Just a note: I do not support polygamy in any form. I also do not agree with Old Testament Theonomy, Christian Reconstructionism, or really the theonomical approach to the Bible at all. I hope to write a post on this some day.]

As others - fellow blogger That Mom in particular - have noted, this is WHY it is so important that we analyze the teachings of Doug Phillips themselves, as they shed light on his behavior. He personally is redeemable, but his teachings are not.

That said, I believe there is a reason why certain personality types are attracted to this philosophy. The narcissistic sociopath will always be attracted to a philosophy which grants him dictatorial control over others, whether it is his church members, women, children, or slaves.

5. I still believe there is more that will be revealed

This is not based on any solid knowledge of facts, but on my bullshit detector. Although the facts of this case appear to be pretty bad, I still am surprised Phillips would resign and terminate the profit-making business end of Vision Forum over a supposedly non-intercourse “affair.” I could see him pulling a Jim Bakker (minus the jail time) or a Bill Clinton. Take the temporary hit, admit some small bit of fault, throw the woman under the bus, and come back in a year or two nearly as strong as ever.

The fact that this blew up the way it did makes me suspect there is still something more that we do not know.

I previously noted that I was willing to put even money that there is more than one mistress. I still stand by that. It would be unusual for someone this sociopathic to limit himself to just one. [Gothard had 30+ and counting…]

In my experience as a divorce attorney, I have seen three basic kinds of adultery. In the first, a spouse has a one time fling, usually during times of excessive stress, immediately regrets it, confesses his or her fault, and attempts to reconcile with his or her spouse. In the second, the marriage has been bad for a while, and one spouse finally has an affair. Usually this one ends with the cheating spouse leaving the first spouse for good to be with the mistress. (This is the most common scenario in Christian divorces - something I hope to discuss in a future post.) The third kind is where one spouse has a double life - essentially using more than one woman at a time. This kind always involves multiple affairs over a long period. We would call such a person a philanderer - think Don Juan or Bill Clinton. It would be completely out of character for someone content to live a double life to limit himself to one dalliance.

I also fully expect more financial stuff to come out. In fact, if I were to bet, I would say that it is far more likely Phillips does time for tax evasion than for any of his sexual offenses. (Ala Al Capone…)

5. The fall of Phillips is by no means the end of this issue

I noted before that Patriarchy and Old Testament Theonomy have become the dominant force in religious homeschooling in the last couple of decades. Furthermore, their ideas have become powerful within the greater Conservative Christian community.

In case you were wondering who was going to replace Phillips on the lecture circuit, here are some answers: Michael Pearl and Matthew Chapman. I talked briefly about Chapman in connection with “Betrothal” here.

Since that time, a few people raised in the Patriarchy movement did some investigation and turned up the fact that Matthew first became interested in Maranatha when she was thirteen. And he was in his twenties. That they married when she was merely fifteen. And that their daughter recently married a man in his twenties at age sixteen.

Again, note the power differential. I urge you to read the quotations in the article from Matthew. Again, there is the obsession with “submission.” And what better way to find a submissive wife than to find a child still under the control of her parents and marry her before she has a chance to experience anything outside of that lifestyle? Before she is really able to know what she really wants to do with her life?

To be fair - and also further make my point - I will note that Brigham Young also had a thing for marrying young teen girls, although he spread the love around. The whole Patriarchy/Polygamy philosophy seems to lead to a desire for young, controllable, usable girls.

Oh yes, and I should also mention that the abusive behavior of Bill Gothard is finally coming out after all these years. It appears that he too has a thing for young girls. Predatory behavior. I can’t dismiss these allegations because one of my friends from my days in Gothard’s organization personally witnessed the fact that Gothard was alone early and late with one of the young women, and another is friends with several of the victims and considers them trustworthy. It also appears that there are well north of 30 young women who he harassed and/or abused who have come forward, and that this pattern of behavior has existed for decades. One allegation might be made up, but this number of victims indicates a pattern of behavior. (Unlike Phillips, Gothard has yet to resign, by the way. Like Phillips, Gothard had a lot of people protecting him.)

(If you haven’t spent time in the Patriarchy movement, you might not appreciate the level of hypocrisy. We were “encouraged” to make commitments - aka vows - to NEVER, EVER, EVER be seen alone with a woman not our wife. This meant one should never ride in a vehicle with a woman not a spouse or blood relative, under any circumstances. But, as usual, the ubermensch need not follow the rules.)

Fortunately, after Chapman’s history went viral on the internet, it was announced that he would no longer be speaking at the Ohio homeschool conference. But plenty others teaching this philosophy remain. Jonathan Lindvall, for one, who hailed the Chapmans as the true “biblical” model for marriage. Or Kevin Swanson, about whom I could write several posts on his crazy ideas - including the same teaching that women should never attend college, and his Reconstructionist view of the goodness of slavery. But you might just note that he has supported young women (but not boys, notably…) marrying in their early to mid teens.

Until the Church rejects the underlying poisonous ideas, people will continue to be damaged.

Note: To be fair, it isn’t just religious leaders that prey on young girls. It is a rather predictable pattern for powerful men. Clinton had sex with a young intern, and that incident was pretty mild compared with what politicians have done in centuries past. Today, we also see the pattern with entertainers such as R. Kelly and recently, the late Paul Walker.

6. My Response to a few Comments

I did want to respond to some comments made on my previous post.

a. “Don’t attack leaders, etc. ad nauseum.”

I had to delete several comments which clearly violated my directive at the beginning of that post that I would not entertain any of this.

First, leaders are held to a higher standard. I am sick of having the Matthew 18 procedure thrown in my face as the only way to proceed. [insert link] The correct procedure to rebuke a leader/teacher who is teaching bad doctrine or doing bad things is a public rebuke. (See Galatians 2:11 et seq. for how Saint Paul did this to Saint Peter.) If there is no repentance, Saint Paul had no problem writing to the entire church to reject the false teacher’s doctrine. There are numerous examples throughout his epistles.

Second, Phillips’ own pattern of authoritarian abuse of his church members for far lesser offenses or even disagreement (which are well documented) eliminates any claim he has for coddling.

Third, this isn’t just immoral behavior, this is (in my opinion) criminal and sociopathic behavior.

Fourth, as I noted before, these teachings have damaged many. The poisonous fruit of these teachings needs to be exposed for what it is.

Fifth, I also want to respond to the claim that it hurts the reputation of the Church when we have disputes. I am surprised that I even have to answer this one, but maybe we have been in a bubble so long that we have no clue what people outside of our own clique actually think. The reality is actually the opposite. We do far more damage to the cause of Christ and the reputation of the Church when we tolerate abusers. Trying to handle stuff like this as an "internal matter" leads to non-Christians justifiably concluding that we care more about protecting powerful abusers than we do about protecting and seeking justice for victims. (See the Catholic Church's response to their own sexual abuse problems...)

I also want to note that we seem to have no problem tearing down the “little people” when they fail, and doing our best to punish them - sometimes brutally - when they fail. A few examples, all from stuff I have seen in my Facebook feed from those listing “Christian” in their religious affiliation box. “We need to drug test welfare recipients.” And of course, cut off aid to the kids if the parents can't stay clean. “We need to close the borders, and deport the illegal aliens.” And fill in the blank with your own favorite statement about how awful women who get pregnant out of wedlock are. These are usually coupled with some desire that a public policy be enacted. And that policy would have the effect of punishing these (typically lower income) offenders more harshly. Because, obviously, it is fine to deprive people of their small income when they sucumb to addiction, but God forbid we call powerful abusers on the carpet for their long histories of damaging behavior.

b. On a related note, “We are all capable of this, so stop throwing stones.”


I’ll concede that all of us are probably capable of affairs. Given the right time and place and opportunity, I could see it. This is one reason I am thankful that I am not so attractive that I have women throwing themselves at me.

But an affair between equals is far different than sexual abuse of a teenage girl. It is far different from running an empire founded on the promise of a return to “godly” male/female relationships while nearly the whole time carrying on with a much younger girl.

I would strongly doubt that most of us have that degree of narcissistic sociopathy to do such a thing, and almost NONE of us have the lackeys to enable us. That requires a position of power and people willing to enable you.

And, for that matter, how many of us could stand up for decades in front of others while living a lie? Isn’t that indicative of some extraordinary degree of sociopathy?

And, let us not forget, it requires a following of everyday people willing to unquestioningly follow bad doctrine and send money in the hopes of a better way of life.

That’s why it is so necessary to expose this. So that the power structure is dismantled and can never be rebuilt.

And also so that others do not become deceived by these poisonous ideas.

c. The sorry state of the media.

It is, alas, all too predictable that the media (and the Christian world too) has spent tons of time and ink over the last months because a Southern redneck predictably made anti-gay and racist comments in an interview. This is the dog-bites-man story.

The man-bites-dog story is of arguably the foremost figure in the conservative homeschooling movement (which is pretty big) - one whose sales pitch is all about better family and marital relationships - having a long term relationship with a much younger girl, suddenly resigning after apparently looting his non-profit organization.

It would seem to me that this story should have been as attractive as the Ted Haggard story. Similar hypocrisy.

I’m not alleging conspiracy, but incompetence and the fact that investigation seems to been nearly unknown in media these days. It’s easier to find someone with a TV show and wait for them to say something ill advised. At least one person from Huffington Post noticed.

d. “I wish you had used more scripture to support your position.”

Because clearly it is just fine to treat women like property if they did it in the Bible.

I think this helps demonstrate why I need to write about Theonomy and why I believe it is a wrong approach to Scripture - and why I believe it has caused immense damage to the cause of Christ.

Scripture can and has been used to justify all kinds of atrocious behavior throughout history. Slavery, of course. Bans on interracial marriage. (As recently as 1982...) Pograms against the Jews. Imprisonment and slaughter of those who disagree on doctrinal points. And, in our more modern times, the toleration of domestic violence. 

You can find a scripture to justify anything - including completely contradictory ideas. (As a really easy example, how IS one to answer a fool anyway? Two completely different answers in the same book of the Bible. This doesn’t mean either is wrong, but that you can easily pick and choose to support what you want to do.)

So sure, I can proof-text my position. And I can proof-text in favor of polygamy. (Actually, I just did!)

That’s why I don’t focus on making a theological argument. Someone else can just make one using other verses to refute me and justify dreadful actions.

I do not believe that one can simply find some verses that support one’s ideas, call it Biblical, and then go around hurting people.

To quote Shakespeare’s Richard III:

But then I sigh and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil;
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stolen out of Holy Writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.

We cannot check our brains and our conscience at the door when we decide what to believe and do.


  1. This is only a small point in your post, but I found it interesting when we started learning the Lutheran catechism that the Lutheran and Catholic reading of the Ten Commandments renumbers them completely from other Protestants. It lumps graven images into the First Commandment, but then it separates out coveting--the ninth commandment is "Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's wife," as a matter of relationships, and then the tenth commandment is all the rest of coveting, as a matter of possessions. It took some getting used to, but now I rather appreciate the distinction that takes a spouse out of the "possession" category.

    1. Interesting. I didn't know that, but it does make sense.

  2. You helped put the pieces together for me. A very helpful read, thank you.

  3. excellent! although I can't take it all in at one setting, having once been enamored with such scoundrels!

  4. I really appreciate you writing about this. Gotthard has had a profound impact on the church, yet I haven't heard a peep from the media. Same thing with Doug Phillips. Duck Dynasty really isn't the story, but it plays well.

  5. I want to thank you for your candor and your education on this man and his philosophies. My family has been on outer fringe of it all. By that I mean we love kids (have four and are expecting another), we homeschool (for many reasons), and we are generally conservative. I have heard of DP and heard a few sermons by him. I have bought a few toys from vision forum. I had thought he seemed a little too sure of himself, but I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went. I had no idea the darkness from which his ideas sprang.

    What troubles me the most is not that he failed so spectacularly, but that he failed so many. I did not know he did not think higher levels of education to be inappropriate for women. How utterly unfair and irresponsible to advocate. How many young women are now behind the ball because he was a jack wagon.

    1. Likewise, I homeschool, and have a pretty good collection of kids too. While the rabbit hole is a bit scary, I do recommend that you keep your eyes open, because the underlying philosophy goes far beyond Vision Forum. Reconstructionism has had a profound influence on conservative Christianity, to the point that I am noticing more and more churches making gender roles into a fundamental doctrine of the faith. With Bill Gothard merely the latest to self destruct, I hope that some of the ideas will be re-evaluated. One can only hope.

  6. I have so much I could share regarding everything you reference above.... from Lindvall when I was 12 to attending an ATI worshipping church 15-19 where I met my now-ex husband who has taken to YouTube to lie about the details of our marriage derail and has his new fiancĂ© posting defamatory remarks about me and exposing our two children to privacy and safety and mental health concerns .... to Vision Forum stories through the roof. My ex family has a member of the original tribe of Doug’s boy toys. Of course, this one spoke out in public and in private and in church etc. against speaking out against “other Christians.” Ever. That a woman who is molested/assaulted has always done something (action/dress/attitude/behavior) to warrant it. Long story short thank you for your most excellent and articulate demonstration of the issues.