Image: Lamb of God by Francisco de Zurbarán
In Doug Wilson’s latest blog post, Gospel for Victims he makes a defense for calling the victims of abuse and violence to repentance for their part in the sin. That being a victim is often treated as a free pass towards sainthood, and that even a repenting victim cannot couch their repentance by framing their abuser for being at fault.
This is clearly, even if no parties are named and Wilson’s sycophants would like to claim otherwise, about the Jamin Wight fiasco. One of the most damning and stickiest accusations against Wilson at the present is that he was all too willing to defend Wight and accept him back into the Kirk fold, but in turn has treated Wight’s victim and her family in a manner that could most charitably be called poor. That he called them to repentance for their hand in the abuse, and threatened to withhold the sacraments over it.
This is a common thread in Wilson’s theology of abuse and counseling. When Doug Phillips experienced his sudden and ignoble fall, Wilson slyly painted whoever caused that fall (the details were not available yet) as Foxy Bubbles the stripper. When the details emerged, after that uninformed seed was placed in his reader’s minds, he pivoted, portraying Phillips’ victim, whom Phillips had known, employed and groomed from a young age, as complicit and equally culpable. It did not matter that this began when the young woman was a teenager, it mattered that she was an adult now and thus a co-conspirator with Phillips to commit heinous crimes against marriage.
Except, as it turns out, age does not matter one lick. Wight’s victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, and a minor when it ended. Wilson has had to change his argument for this case, saying that her height, her beauty, her intelligence meant that she was complicit in her abuse. When she grew older, after being on the wrong end of some truly poor ministry, she made mistakes she admits shouldn’t have. When sent to see Wilson about this, his focus was not on why she behaved this way, his focus was to lift up his boot and stomp. Repentance doesn’t come from people who have their teeth kicked in, repentance comes from people who receive love, understanding, healing. You simply and obviously cannot treat the disease without treating the cause. You cannot browbeat someone into submission and get genuine repentance that way. If she and her family had received genuine love, care, understanding, if they had a spiritual head who sought to grieve with them instead of blaming them, that conversation may well have never taken place.
The reasoning for this sort of blame shifting (Or blame sharing) is obvious. Just as Wilson needed to focus his follower’s attention on Foxy Bubbles to deflect attention from the overbearing, dictatorial patriarchy Phillips was the avatar of, so he needs to divert attention away from men like Wight, a Greyfriars pupil of his who represents the future leadership of the CREC. He needed to change the focus to the victim and their families because he cannot afford to have people questioning whether or not to host a Greyfriars student in their homes. The problem was not just that Wight was a snake, as long as you behave correctly nothing will go wrong. Make sure your daughter isn’t a tall, wanton temptress and everything will go swimmingly.
Wilson is correct that victims need to repent, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but they don’t need to repent of sins, physical, mental and sexual, committed against them. I pray that Douglas Wilson will repent for his disreputable and self-serving handling of this tragedy. I pray that he will seek forgiveness from those he has not served properly. I pray that he might see with new eyes the part he played in the sins he is calling for others to repent of. I pray that before the next time he calls a victim to repent, that he will consider Matthew 18:6 with fear and trembling.