Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Open Letter to Other Fathers of Daughters on the Suicide of Tom White

The highlight of my week is my Wednesday morning meeting with a handful of other men, where we discuss what it means to be a Christian man and how we can conform ourselves to the image of Jesus. This letter is to the members of that group.

Dear Brothers,

The suicide of Tom White, the head of Voice of the Martyrs, after he came under investigation for sexual abuse of a ten-year-old girl, has raised two questions for me that I would like to pose to you. Perhaps the answer to the first will obviate the need to answer the second, but I'll pose them both anyway.

Before I do, let me state what I think are our shared presuppositions. First, we are all the fathers of daughters and would want anyone who abused them dealt with, either by ourselves or by someone else. Second, we are all Calvinists who believe in the validity to some extent of the Old Testament law, including the idea that suicide is murder, in capital punishment in some situations, and in predestination.

Let us also assume for the sake of this discussion that Mr. White did indeed have "inappropriate contact with a young girl" of a sort we would strongly object to. Let us further assume that the investigation was prompted by the girl or her family.

My first question is theological. I think the article makes a good case that Tom White was a serious Christian. Yet suicide is perhaps the ultimate statement that God's grace is not sufficient to get the Christian through whatever comes to us in life. Further, unrepentant murder (of which suicide is a form) and adultery are usually taken as prima facie evidence of an unregenerate heart.

So what's your take on this? Was God excreting from his church a covert unregenerate whom he had been using for his own purposes all these years, knowing that he would eventually show his true colors? Or was this a Christian brother "overtaken in a fault," who compounded his fault by committing suicide but will ultimately be forgiven? Or have I missed an alternative? (I realize that, as Aslan says, our stories belong to us alone, so Mr. White's story is his alone, but unless we are to make God a subject about which nothing mundane can be predicated, we need to be able to at least hazard a guess or two, methinks.)

My second is more practical and will require a bit of setup.

You all ascribe moral legitimacy to the state, which I do not. And here we have a reasonable example of the state doing what you say the state is supposed to do, deal with malefactors: Tom White will never molest another young girl, and the girl involved will never have to look at Tom White and relive the hell of sexual abuse. The only fault in the jewel, if I understand your position, would be that Mr. White killed himself instead of allowing a tax-salaried agent to—what, electrocute him? hang him? shoot him? inject him? tie him to a hill of fire ants or a hornet's nest? or put him in jail for years, where he would likely be killed—slowly and painfully, literally or worse—by his fellow inmates, child molesters being the bottom rung of a prison social ladder known for dealing harshly with those at the bottom? I fail to see how any of these courses of action comport with biblical law.

Now if we assume that Mr. White is a damned excretum, none of this matters: he's simply an enemy of the Lord who took a shortcut to hell, which will be that much hotter for him for his having done so, so God is good all the time and that's that.

The question is thornier, though, if he's a brother overtaken in a fault (which is what I certainly hope is the case and expect that you do also). Given the nature of the state, how could things have turned out better?

Let's begin with the most important participant in the tragedy: the girl. I have never heard or heard of any victim of sexual assault say that they were treated well by the government. Why should they be? Every rape complaint means more work for government agents.

Let me digress. Since you believe that a government's primary function is to protect its subjects from attack, I assume you consider soldiers exemplary government agents. When I asked a certain soldier on the day of his commissioning why his comrades wanted to go overseas to fight, he replied that the main prize they sought was the extra combat pay. This was the same soldier who told me, "I don't make the policies. My job is to carry them out." So it doesn't matter what the policy is, they take pay to carry it out. Hence I conclude that the government agents in charge of investigating sexual assault are less interested in the welfare of the victim than in doing their job, being paid, enforcing whatever law—in short, "whatever." The welfare of the victim is secondary at best.

Back on track, once the case comes to trial, as Chuck Colson says, "[victims feel like they are] simply used as the tool of the prosecutors for the state" (Justice that Restores, p. 138), since the prosecutor, another government agent, is not likely to be as concerned with the victim's welfare as with advancing the interests of the state or his own career. (Remember, he is not being paid directly by the girl's family; he isn't being paid to serve them. People are not by nature servants, at least not of others.) The defense attorney, of course, is paid to defend his client at all costs, including truth, so he has every incentive to use any tactic that won't hurt his case to try to break the victim. So it's just as well for her that no trial took place.

Also in this case, the victim knows that her going public has resulted in a man's death. If he forced himself on her, she may think that's just as well. But if not, is it not reasonable to think that to the degree she was OK with what he did (if, for example, this was a case of horseplay run amok) she will consider herself culpable in his death? Of what benefit to her is this? If, God forbid, she were victim of further low-level malfeasance, how willing would she be to confide in anyone who could possibly take the matter to the state?

Absent the state, this matter would have been taken care of by discussion between the girl's family and Mr. White, perhaps adjudicated by the Voice of the Martyrs executive board, the elders of the two family's churches, or three homeless men off the street. Certainly unless Mr. White were executed (by those whose testimony convicted him and the members of that community), I would never have known about the matter, and since it's none of my business, I'd have been no worse off.

How is this a worse situation than what actually happened (or would have had Mr. White taken his medicine like a man)? And, again, given the nature of the state, how could things have turned out differently?

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

Your brother,


No comments:

Post a Comment