This week, I’m doing a little experiment to try to get myself into the habit of writing (and posting) more long form content. (I have so many drafts. So many.) So instead of tweeting, I’ll be writing up a daily blog post. This will be quite raw and much less structured than my usual. I guess we’ll see how it goes.
The Ravi Zacharias saga continues
The main story blowing up in church/parachurch abuse right now is regarding the late Ravi Zacharias. A number of people have come forward to attest that he engaged in lewd conduct at spas that he owned. There’s been quite a bit of good reporting on the allegations so far; here’s a good starting point. The Bible Broadcasting Network has dropped his show.
Now both RZIM (his eponymous non-profit) and The Christian and Missionary Aliiance (denomination that “licensed” him so to speak) have announced “investigations”. RZIM prefaced its by saying it believes the allegations are false; great start, there. Both have declined to say who is doing their investigations; but both seem to be law firms.
It’s not that law firms can’t investigation sexual abuse well. In fact, in my neck of the woods, a school just had a law firm do an investigation about historical child sexual abuse there and it seems to have been fairly thorough.
But that is not typical. When a law firm is retained by an organization, it has a fiduciary duty to act in the organization’s interest. That means that investigating the culpability of the organization itself—did past or current employees look the other way when abuse allegations or suspicions first surfaced?—tends to fall out of scope. We will see what happens with these investigations.
I’m glad the truth of the matter at hand has been reported. I’m relieved where the women have been believed. I hold very little hope for a truly independent and transparent investigation. So I will have to let this hope go. I’m too tired to hope that hard.
And it is true. It really is. It is painful to hope and wait and wait and hope, only to have those hopes dashed. The reality is that organizations almost never investigate the way victims and victim advocates would want them to. The L’Arche case might be an exception (they published a summary report), but it’s unwise to expect the exceptional to happen every day.
That’s something worth pondering a little more. Why are true independent investigations so rare? I think each of us who has experienced something like this knows—the people on these Boards are generally nice people; while of course it’s possible that some are hiding their own skeletons, I think most are not. Why do they look at the same situation and come to such an opposite conclusion?
I wonder how much of this is rooted in spiritual bypassing—instead of facing the pain of a situation head on, people trot out pat phrases like “give it to God” and bypass the problem. It’s so normalized in Christian circles. When people with this worldview are confronted with historical abuse allegations, from their perspective, what is the point in digging? What is the point in finding out who knew what, and when, and what was done and not done, and why or why not? All that is water under the bridge now. If they believe their current approach is already good, then the facts of what happened in the past don’t matter—that’s the past, things are better now, end of story.
One of the frustrating things about petitioning a church/organization to handle abuse is the way their associates behave. When the leader was in good standing, everyone was happy to partner together, extend guest speaking slots, write endorsements—but when the allegations pile up, crickets. Even asking a co-leader to drop a private email encouraging the organization to insist on a truly independent investigation (rather than the usual self-protective internal kind) is too much to ask.
As the allegations become more and more clearly true, churches who had earlier defended the leader against the first wave of allegations now quietly scrub their websites of any indication they ever had an association with the fallen leader… and that’s that. Rarely does anyone bother to retract their prior endorsements/defense or correct the record for their congregation.
Why are people still recommending Tedd Tripp?
The Gospel Coalition posted an article supporting corporal punishment of children. It recommends Ted Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” which has some serious deficiencies. He advocates spanking babies as young as 8 months old.
Ah yes, Tedd Tripp. Before I had my first kid, I started reading a variety of parenting books (I’m a researcher and I like to see what’s out there). One that was recommended to me was Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. At that time, I thought it was strange that so much of it involved talking to the child while insisting on a base of spanking; now I see it as far more damaging than that. Can you say, “trauma bonding”?
Anyway, it was not really a surprise when it came out that Tripp covered for a sexual abuser who was using “spanking” as a pretext to abuse kids. From Brent Detwiler:
A score of top leaders in the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) learned about Tom Chantry’s beating of children in 2000. He was also molesting children. Instead of reporting him to law enforcement, they covered up his crimes and forsook the victims and their families. I’ve documented this evidence in hundreds of pages. It is indisputable. For over 2½ years, I’ve been sending this evidence to the ARBCA pastors. For the most part, they have condemned me as a false witness for violating the Ninth Commandment and labeled my documentary evidence as “slander” and “gossip.”
That has changed now. Some men in ARBCA are investigating what happened in December 2000 when an Informal Council from ARBCA comprised of Tedd Tripp, Rich Jensen, and Marcus “Mike” McKnight did an internal investigation and then covered up their findings. The cover-up continued for the next 18 years.
If you’re looking for good books about parenting, I don’t recommend Tripp’s except, perhaps, as a cautionary example and to understand where many conservative Christian parents are coming from. Here are some that I think are helpful:
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
- No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury
- Baby Knows Best by Deborah Solomon
In case it wasn’t clear, there is never a good reason to spank a baby. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Questions? Comments? Drop me a line on Twitter.