There Are Lots of Good Fish in the Sea – Red Herrings

Image copyright of Sarah Campbell (©SarahCampbellLtd2014). Used with permission.

With the recent posting of an article in Jezebel that highlights the Natalie Greenfield case, Doug Wilson has brought out the big guns. His broadsides are firing everything he is apparently legally allowed to do in order to damage Natalie’s credibility and witness. I’m not going to touch what he said about Gary Greenfield. Natalie has done that, perhaps in anticipation of something like this happening, in the most thorough manner possible via the witness of those closest to the case.

First off, simple housekeeping:

Turner says that all NSA students and Greyfriars live with families. I don’t know who made that up, but somebody did. It is not true at all. And there are many other things I could say about the article, but we don’t have all night.

It’s possible I missed this in my reading and re-reading of the article, and in my searching for key phrases, but I can’t find where Turner writes this at all. Here’s what I found:

Like many students at New St. Andrews and Greyfriar Hall—which is to say, like Jamin Wight—Sitler boarded with a local family.

Yet at no time has he made changes to the policies at his schools that placed young boarders in local family homes, nor did he take responsibility for the fact that asking community members to trust him about the fitness of these young men has backfired. As far as I can tell, in Moscow, students and families alike are encouraged to live with each other in order to foster community and avoid the kind of social stratification that often occurs in college towns.

That is a far cry from stating that all NSA and Greyfriar students live with families. What is stated, or even implied, is no more than what is stated on the official New St. Andrew’s Website:

Students are responsible for their own housing arrangements. Costs for boarding with local Christian families vary considerably, depending on the living and meal arrangements.

Students are encouraged to live and to work as responsible members of the local community. As a result, the College offers no on-campus housing or food services. Many students board with Christian families in the community or live in apartments in or close to downtown.

New St. Andrew’s explicitly encourages, as part of being a responsible member of the community, that students board with Christian families in the community, yet somehow stating that many students do board with Christian families, or that the school advocates this is lying. That is the sort of man we’re dealing with in this issue. Someone who will baldly and obviously lie about what an article critical of him states to score a cheap point before moving in for the kill.

Wilson is very keen on giving dates in this post, but there’s one missing that catches my attention. Wilson writes this:

 In 2005, I received a phone call from a woman in the Tri-Cities whose daughter was engaged to Jamin. She told me that Natalie had called her daughter, Jamin’s fiance, and told her about what Jamin had previously done to her. That’s how I found out about this.

The Tri-Cities in this case probably refers to the cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, three cities in Eastern Washington with a community of various Reformed Churches.

The Greenfield family filed a complaint against Jamin and I reported what had happened to our board of elders (8/18/05).

Here’s where the dates start, but the first quote has none. Did Doug Wilson notify the board of elders what he had learned at that time, the Heads of Households? It’s possible that the phone call took place on 8/17/2015 or some other close date and the notification of the board of elders took place soon afterwards, but the omission of the date seems unusual to me. This is a post where Wilson is offering the strongest possible defense of his actions, and offers many dates to show how quickly he responded, but we don’t know one of the most important ones: how quickly he learned of what had transpired and had informed the elders and his congregation.

 

Wilson also brings up a few letters that Natalie wrote about trusting him and his judgment in this case, but as she wrote recently, “In 2006 I professed health & happiness but in truth I was dying internally” Hasn’t everyone been there? Putting on a smile and feigning faith in the establishment in a desperate attempt to prevent more conflict, to bring everything back to the way it used to be? I have not suffered one tenth of one percent as much as Natalie has, but it reminds me of my own behavior. As time progresses we gain understanding, not just of the world around us but of our own selves. Does anyone like the selves the way they were 10 years ago? I know I don’t, I hate that guy. To dismiss what Natalie says now because of what she wrote then is dismissing what she’s learned through her healing process, both the trials and the triumphs. It trivializes her growing understanding of herself and her situation in favor of whatever benefits Wilson best.

Finally, and this is how you know that Wilson is writing for the True Believers, he brings up videos that Natalie’s husband has made that he considers distasteful. He says:

this is not retaliation, and it is not provocative. It is not gasoline on the fire. This is the kind of thing I have been laboring to prevent, not for my own sake but for the sake of others. I told Natalie in an email a while ago that it was not possible to dig up half a corpse. But if you insist, if you demand, if you keep it up, if you finally get your story on Jezebel, the rest of the corpse comes too. So this is where we now are. You wanted the whole story, and we are almost there. Unfortunately, for all you angry Internet personnel out there, this is just one more instance of you swinging at one person like me and hitting Natalie instead.

Except that is exactly what doing that is. He is trying to use something her husband made to dismiss her testimony, her voice, her experience. You can be a Reformed, conservative Christian like myself and understand that the video has no relevance to Natalie and her story. It is craven pandering to his legion of followers to show what a messed up person Natalie and her family is and you better believe we don’t tolerate that sort of thing. He fails to understand that you can not like what her husband created (Like myself) yet see that it is being used as nothing but a red herring to distract from the actual issues that Wilson helped create. To hearken back to my very first post, The Gospel for Shepherds, people like Wilson need to understand how they can bear the responsibility for a fallout like this through their own mishandling of a case of such a dire nature. If Natalie was of such sound mind in 2006 like he says, if she was properly under his shepherding and healing, how did she fall in such a way that he now feels the need to dig up this “corpse” to display to his followers? No matter which perspective you look at it from, he blew it.

Wilson’s defenestration of the Greenfields will be persuasive to his followers. It will be persuasive to people who are just now learning about what is happening, read his post, say “ick” and thus trust Wilson’s handling of the whole fiasco entirely. As Christians, we must acknowledge that sin, in all of its forms, does not excuse other sin. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted, to mute Natalie and her testimony because you think what Wilson posted is gross. It is a red herring to distract you from his own misdeeds, to get you to focus on something you know you don’t like instead of figuring out the conflicting testimonies between the first hand parties and his own. Don’t be focused on the Turn, don’t fall for the trick.

 

UPDATE

@stansminion brought to my attention that Jezebel may have updated/modified their article on Doug Wilson on the topic of all students of NSA/Greyfriars boarding in family homes before I reviewed it and Wilson’s Jezehellsbells article. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to review this (It’s the holidays people), Jezebel’s internet cache was already updated with the version of the article I had used. But still, I have no reason to doubt the screen capture that @stansminion has provided.

So it looks like I was wrong about claiming that Wilson lied about the article claiming that all students board at family homes, but I would also like to bring up something about this, and that is that this is a nitpick. I’ll try and make this quick. When Rod Dreher of the American Conservative brought in his critique of Wilson’s Christian Empire, Wilson had this to say:

A few years ago, New St. Andrews was profiled in a piece that was published by The New York Times. Molly Worthen wrote the article, and afterward someone from the Times called us to fact check every detail. The American Conservative does this hit piece, and clicks publish within a few hours of even hearing about the slander. No fact checking, no inquiries to find out if there were more to the story, no reasonable caution at all.

Alright, let’s look at the New York Times article and see what was stated there:

In the student directory, a note on the first page explains the absence of street addresses of the homes where students board (the college opposes dorms on principle). “It seems there are people in the community who make a hobby of causing trouble for local Christian families who extend hospitality to N.S.A. students,” reads the disclaimer.

There is no mention of students living in apartments or rented houses, just living in family homes as NSA “opposes dorms on principle”. So how did this lie, this lie that baffles Wilson as to who conjured it up, make its way into the New York Times which was apparently fact checked for every detail?

Moreover, when USA Today wrote on New Saint Andrews it stated:

New Saint Andrews takes a vehement stance against a residential campus, choosing to have students live with families in the Moscow, Idaho, area. Dorms, the college argues, “breed immaturity, immorality and irresponsibility,” and were originally intended to foster socialism.

I doublechecked Doug Wilson’s blog and couldn’t find anything calling USA Today or the author, Libby Nelson, on lying about this. The conclusion is obvious. Though Wilson was not lying about the claim, it was another red herring meant to distract the reader in the middle. He will nitpick the tiniest minutiae if it will serve his cause but when it comes to mainstream press that serves him he’ll let the same errors pass with no comment. Isn’t this also a kind of lie?

 

 

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35 thoughts on “There Are Lots of Good Fish in the Sea – Red Herrings

    1. Good on him. I had heard that there was another engagement prior to his marriage to Bryony but didn’t know or care of the details too much. If Doug was attempting to protect the identity of the family that called him about it then stating that they were from the Tri-Cities is a poor way to do it.

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      1. Yes, I can’t imagine why the geographical area was important. I think it’s just another way we’ve “forced” him to hurt victims.

        I don’t have any interest in exposing that person to any pain/shame/embarassment, and I’m pretty sure nobody in Natalie’s court wants that.

        Mentioning the place serves no (good) purpose.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Absolutely correct. I never called her. My father called them to set up a meeting. He then drove 3 hours to their home and explained what had happened. I had zero contact with the family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for this clarification. What a meaningless thing to lie about. I’m trying to figure out what kind of point that could serve. A subtle reinforcement that all you’re interested in is causing trouble? Doesn’t make sense if you were “doing much better spiritually” back then.

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  1. In his justice primer book, Wilson talks about the logical fallacy, Bulverism. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but I wasn’t. Here’s wiki with a definition: Bulverism is a fallacy of irrelevance. One accuses an argument of being wrong on the basis of the arguer’s identity or motive, but these are strictly speaking irrelevant to the argument’s validity or truth.

    This, in my opinion, is exactly what Wilson is doing with Natalie.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great assessment, thank you for that. That was my thought as well, that the below the belt move at the end is really just to ensure people at his own congregation stay loyal to him.

    Also, one thing that keeps bugging me is that he is constantly claiming it was an authorized secret relationship. He offers no proof for this, but always throws it in when he offers tons of proof for other things. So it keeps getting overlooked that he has not offered any proof for this bold statement that completely contradicts what Natalie and her father have claimed. Yet another way in which he is trying to throw their credibility under the bus.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! So the red herrings and smears of character are pretty much what he (Doug) is after to win his side of the argument. He is bringing it up to negate and downplay the *type* of sexual sin it was. Doug seems to believe that Jamin was therefore NOT “predatory”, because it was just the more “normal” type of sin outside of marriage. Which then, in Doug’s mind, justifies doing what he did to interfere with the court proceedings- because it wasn’t really *criminal*, just immoral because you know…sex outside of marriage.

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    1. I’m glad you benefited from it and that I wasn’t alone in my conclusion. In my view, the idea of an authorized secret relationship is one of the lynch pins to his narrative. He has to establish that Natalie’s father behaved foolishly and kept the situation free from accountability of the Church body in order to redirect blame onto him. He may have convinced himself that that is in fact what happened, what must have happened.

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  3. Jezebel quietly corrected their story in response to what Wilson wrote. Rather shady on their part. I guess you just read the corrected version.

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  4. This is really a thoughtful piece, but I have a couple areas of disagreement.

    First, you are right that Wesley’s art is not black mark against Natalie. But I have to point out, Wesley’s art is not a black mark against Wesley, either. I happened to see the piece when he created it (they proudly shared it with friends) and I found it unsettling, but memorable. Today, in light of this awful turn of events, I think it is very very powerful and meaningful. It doesn’t have to be to your taste, but it is certainly nothing to apologize for.

    Second, I disagree that any newcomer would find Wilson’s flailing and name-calling convincing. We all know too much to think that victim tarring is a proper response to the serious allegations involved in this case. I believe his audience is shrinking to his faithful. And frankly, I am concerned at how far the faithful are willing to be led, away from reason, charity, compassion, integrity. How far will they go with him? Scary to contemplate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your disagreements were not what I expected at all. Thank you for speaking your mind on this.

      I’ll admit I am a bit of a stick in the mud. I have a problem with being too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. One area where I myself am very conservative is in my taste in art. As an example, I am very thankful to my college Art 110 professor who let me choose an alternative topic for a research piece than the assigned subject on Robert Mapplethorpe. The main point I was trying to make was that whether or not you found the piece distasteful, it doesn’t hold a candle to the gross injustice that they are attempting to cover with it. Whether we appreciate a piece like that or find it gross, it is irrelevant.

      I also suppose when I say “any newcomer” what I really mean is someone who comes from a background like myself, someone who is or came from a conservative, traditional upbringing who is more inclined to take a pastor’s word on something like this, especially when something they consider gross is put up on display. I have friends who attended Christ Church and other DW functions for a significant period of time and are just now learning about what transpired. I don’t want people like them to get distracted.

      I do hope his audience is shrinking, it’s hard for me to tell. You are right to be fearful of the faithful though, my conversations with them have shown that most cannot consider that Wilson made a mistake and trot out Wilson’s talking points one after the other.

      Thank you for reading and commenting here. I hope it has, despite disagreements, been edifying.

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      1. I should also clarify — I only saw one video, and I understand that Doug posted a number of them which were part of Wesley’s course work and not shared (even with Natalie)

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  5. Thank you for pointing out that Doug’s own account means a massive pastoral failure on his part and the part of Christ Church leadership.

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    1. Thank you! I think that’s really one of the bigger points here. He is trying to have it both ways by smearing Natalie and using what she said a decade ago as proof that he did a good job. It cannot stand.

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      1. Even taking every word Doug says as truth, Natalie didn’t get much care in her late teens except for defending her when she didn’t want to move from Moscow and CC. He thinks she is a lost and hurting adult, who is lashing out. And his response to that is to threaten her with her teenaged journals. How is that Christlike?

        Natalie’s own posts are measured, gracious, and clear. She hasn’t attacked anyone at all, she has just refused to be silent. DWs are full of threats, murky allusions, and claims that this is all about his enemies and Internet mobs. It’s bizarre.

        Part of my interest here comes from my experiences in volunteer service to victims of sexual and domestic abuse. I’d send someone to Natalie for understanding and compassion long before I’d send them to DW.

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  6. Anyone with half a memory over the years knows that DW disapproves of anonymous blog postings critical of himself or his positions. Yet, what do we find him approving–an anonymous blog of women victims of sexual abuse at the Kirk defending him. Apparently, that’s okay. The cognitive dissonance here is just astounding.

    “One last thing. If someone wants to read some accounts from other women in Moscow who have also been victims, but who processed it in a way much more conducive to healing, I would like to recommend this web site. There are no comments, and the women involved are not debating with anyone, or answering anyone. They are simply telling their stories. Because they are not attacking anyone, but simply giving their testimonies, their names are withheld.”

    https://dougwils.com/?s=anonymous+

    https://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/109921.html

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    1. Another issue with these anonymous stories (And I don’t begrudge anyone who has found healing and restoration following abuse, even if it came from Wilson) is that everyone now knows what happens if you aren’t thankful and accepting of Wilson’s counseling and discipline. If you voice any missteps you took, Wilson and his goons will drudge up whatever they think is embarrassing and spread it.

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  7. I used to live in Moscow. I’ve experienced Doug’s counseling and the guilt that hits me when he preaches.

    Want to know the reason why people won’t speak up and I can’t put my name to my post? Because as Doug has shown, any counseling that I received, any sins I committed that he knows about will be publicly and viciously brought out into the open to discredit. Even being at a different church, if I like a post on Facebook, I might get a call from an elder of Christ church demanding that I unlike it. If I share the wrong link on social media, my father or another family member will be called and I’ll be put under scrutiny by a denomination I’m no longer a part of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and I aren’t so different. I used to live in Moscow and was a fervent, Confederate flag waving, protester arguing, slavery apologist. Hearing about the Sitler and Wight situations after leaving Moscow shocked me out of my complacency. After that, on an old, non-anonymous blog of mine I wrote something critical of Wilson and members of my family still in the fold immediately turned on me. I’ve had to be quiet ever since to keep the peace. Peace be with you brother, I hope that in the near future they will hold absolutely no sway or hold over your life.

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    2. This is so jacked up!! This is the same thing recognized cults like Scientology do. Or the Boston Church of Christ.

      Fear as a weapon.

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  8. What is nonsensical (and I use that word intentionally) is that Doug Wilson keeps blogging about Natalie even while this CREC inquiry is taking place. What kind of church allows such renegade behavior? I’m sure DW would be the first to criticize a politician (especially a Democrat or Liberal) who publicly defended himself/herself while being investigated for illegal or unethical behavior. But I suppose Doug Wilson can do as he pleases and answers to no one – like a loose cannon. At least that’s how it seems.

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  9. The idea that dorm living fosters immaturity and was originally intended to promote socialism seems preposterous. That’s probably because I live in the small college town with the largest dormitory building in the world. It’s at the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy is not interested in producing socialistic, immature naval officers.

    I’d also point to the idea that dormitories at educational institutions predate the idea of socialism by centuries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are correct, they do! I’ve tried to find something, anything, linking the construction/continued use of dorms to socialism and came up empty. Just one more thing that Doug puts out there like it’s a fact and expects people to take his word for it.

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