C.P. Traveler here sitting in for a very busy Chuckles.
In my two previous posts, I’ve spoken broadly about the true grace and love I believe our relationship with God through Christ was intended to bring. The model here is 1 Corinthians 13 where we learn that love is never rude or ill-mannered. Love is never vindictive or boastful. It is patient – infinitely so, in fact. Love, as is the very nature of God, is unfailing – it will never let us down.
Thinking of this, let’s turn our attention to the parties involved in the trial that starts this coming Monday. I’ll speak in general terms as I do not know these folks personally. I only know them by the “fruit” they have shown in their interviews, writings, and formal documentation filed with the courts (via various media outlets). As I’ve noted before, I was never “in” quite this deeply and had no knowledge of the situation until I connected with others who are far closer than I.
First, we have Ms. Anderson (and her husband). She didn’t want all this publicity in the first place. She was a confused teenager when it all happened over a decade ago, subjected to a form of discipline that seems bizarre to anyone who has never set foot inside the fundamentalist camp. Sadly, as many can attest, what she experienced is all too common. Her trust had been violated and she went to people who were supposed to protect her. By her account, her mother and her pastor acted in ways that not only shielded the truth from emerging, but presented her with an image of isolation and abandonment. By extension, the lesson would be that God abandons those who “cross the line” and it is up to the individual to make things right.
Friends, that is not the love we see in Corinthians. In fact, as a testament to the exact opposite happening, you can read the open letter by her husband posted in this forum. I’ve read it, and it reflects what true Grace and Love can do – they can heal. She is a brave woman to take the stand, but she can do so without fear because, as the Apostle John wrote, “Perfect love drives out fear.” Without regard to the judgment of men and courts, I stand assured that Tina knows her status with the only Judge that matters and is happy to be serving Him in Truth and in Love.
Next, we have the primary person on the “other side” of this case. Mr. Willis, by his own admission this past week, says he did have sexual relations with Tina that resulted in a child. What a brave man to openly admit to what DNA proved long ago! It takes little conscience and internal fortitude to admit what doesn’t need any more proof anyway. And this is where the truly strange part comes into play. Regardless of the fact that he was one of those adults on whom a certain trust was bestowed (I’m a deacon myself – I know of what I speak), he failed to “serve and protect” over a decade ago. In my way of thinking, that alone invalidates any claim to “consensual” relationship. A teenager has neither the legal nor emotional capacity to “consent” to such acts. Our society is littered with evidence of the same – some of it playing out in television reality shows, no less. To claim consent in this case, is absurd beyond belief!
At least two others have direct implication, one of which we’ve not heard much from. In fact, I’d be willing to give Tina’s mother at least some benefit of the doubt because of the restrictive nature found in the fundamentalist belief system. But there is no free pass for a pastor who is definitely called to “serve and protect” a young, confused, scared teenager. Enter Mr. Phelps. In what I can only see as actions directly opposite the kind of love espoused in Corinthians, there is weak or non-existent legal reporting, what amounts to a “kangaroo court” (testified to by multiple witnesses), and a shunning that transports a young, scared, confused, and pregnant teenager half a continent away to a life of isolation (by Tina’s account and other records).
And when the time has come to tell the truth, act in love and integrity, and beg for forgiveness, the only one acting out with the love we see in 1 Corinthians 13 is Tina Anderson. Those who claim to be closest to God, are behaving in deceitful, secretive, and down-right ugly fashion. Instead of throwing himself on the mercy of the court, Willis is getting ready to roll in the mud using the theme of “consent” as his primary venue. Phelps is backing him up publicly and, in no uncertain terms, calling Tina a liar.
I’ll say it again, friends, this is most assuredly not love!
The past cannot be undone. The trial will proceed and a judge and jury will have the final say (unless Mr. Willis is convicted and then mounts an appeal). The fundamentalist crowd will either gloat or grieve, shouting out praises or bemoaning injustice. Some will say God’s reputation is harmed through all of this and, in a way, they are correct. But, on that front, I’ll let Him protect His own name as He is far more capable of doing so. His love will not fail and people like the Andersons will continue to feel strong and supported while wrapped in it. No word or action of man can have a permanent effect when your trust is in God.
Godspeed, Tina, as you bravely take the stand. Chuck and crowd, may God break your heart to the point where you truly see how far from His mercy and love you really stand. And to the rest of us, surviving and moving ahead, may His Peace rest on us today.
In true love and grace,