Readers, here is another post on the Chris Peterman, Bob Jones University, Chuck Phelps story. The old FBC Jax Watchdog - who has been through a few dog fights himself - has a few things to say to Chris, and about how social media has helped expose the tactics of the fundamentalist bullies - and about how it has leveled the playing field.
- I know this entire episode has to be incredibly painful, Chris. Not only did you not get your degree, not only do you have to figure out now where to go that you have been kicked out of your college, but you likely now are coming to grips now with how ugly religious fundamentalism actually is. I don't know your circumstances, Chris, but perhaps you were a religious fundamentalist and now are coming to grips that you WERE part of that system that through your recent circumstances you are beginning to understand how ugly and anti-Christian it actually is. A person who incurs the wrath and the lies and the scorn from powerful religious leaders that he/she once trusted - simply because they stood for what they believed was right and wouldn't shut up - causes a myriad of conflicting emotions that takes years to process. I know. The good news is there is incredible freedom at the end of the process.
- But do get ready, Chris, for the lies. I'm sure you've experienced it already since this story broke 5 months ago. You know, the whispers. The accusations that powerful religious men will make about you and your family and friends, comments that their underlings will take and repeat to others about you. People who you thought were your friends who won't call you, or who avoid making eye contact at the store. You might even have religious relatives in your own family that will tell you that you were wrong and should have shut up. Some will accuse you of hurting the cause of Christ and hampering BJU's ability to do God's work. Nope. You are helping the cause of Christ, you are doing the will of God, and you are actually doing BJU a huge favor but those in power right now can't see that. But know that you did the right thing, the Christian thing, and hold your head up high.
- People will say you got what you deserved. I've heard that for years. This is part of the zaniness of religious fundamentalism: the pronouncements by the pious holy men that the lowly abused somehow get what they had coming to them - you know, that God is sovereign so just take your lumps like a good soldier. In fact, how ironic is it that people on my blog and elsewhere are saying that you deserved this abuse from BJU, when part of your protest over Chuck Phelps being put on the BJU board was how as pastor he made Tina Anderson feel that she was somehow to blame for being raped. This is how the twisted minds of religious zealots operate: Tina was made to feel that she was to blame for her abuse, and now you are made to feel that you are to blame for the abuse perpetrated by BJU. This is religious fundamentalism at its worse: damn the individual who is abused if it means protection for the religious leaders and the religious institution.
- You are the enemy now, Chris, of the powerful religious zealots at BJU and those that love BJU, so there is probably more dirt and mud coming your way. You have helped to expose what has been there all along at BJU, and you have and will continue to incur their wrath. There likely will be no true reconciliation in the matter, as religious zealots can't compromise with the devil, and you, in their eyes, are forever the devil. And the zealots must defeat the devil.
- But the good news for you, Chris: your struggle has done much good for Christianity and will continue to do so. Stick with it, Chris. Keep shining the light. Sometimes just enduring the scorn of religious zealots, and then daring to turn the tables on the zealots by using social media to expose their abuses and lies in REAL TIME is the best response to stop the abuses in the future.
- Chris, I hope you have sought out legal advice, and that if you believe you have been wronged, or that your rights have been violated by these zealots, that you will fully consider your legal options and see it through. Oh, they won't like it, and BJU supporters will say you are "lawyering up" and claim you are out to make money. But make no mistake, the pious and religious men you're dealing with understand two things: money and power. BJU did what they did because they believed you were the little guy, someone with no power at all. And you were only the next in line of a long list of people who they have successfully bullied. They thought they could bring you harm with little or no ramifications, because they've done it before. You were a pest they thought they could just brush aside, a coward that if a little pressure were applied to, would cave in to their demands. But the beauty of our legal system is that the little guy like yourself, with little money and almost no power at all in their eyes, can stand toe-to-toe with the powerful and hold the powerful accountable if you have a lawyer standing with you who believes in you.
Lastly: how sweet is the irony that they viewed you, Chris, as someone they could bully, someone with no power or voice - yet it is precisely their own actions that has helped give you the voice that you now have on these issues. This is one of the amazing aspects of social media. For so long the bullies just squished whoever they wanted. Consider what started this entire fiasco fifteen years ago. When Chuck Phelps at Trinity Baptist made Tina Anderson confess to her "sin" of being raped and then shipped her out of state, while the perpetrator was protected - the zealots got what they wanted: the pastor and the religious institution was spared the embarrassment of scandal and police involvement.
But fifteen years had to pass until the technology would be available to set things in motion for justice to be served.
You see, when Tina was made to stand and apologize for being raped, there was no Twitter, there was no YouTube or "blogs" or Facebook. What prompted Tina to come forward more than a decade later to seek justice was information shared in an online discussion group! Then, when Tina's story came to light, blogs like this one and Christa Brown picked up on it, and people knew about it, and you found out about it and decided to stand against Chuck Phelps being placed on the board at your college.
Social media helped bring about justice in Tina Anderson's case, and it is social media helping to expose the actions BJU has taken to harm you for you standing against the pastor involved in Tina Anderson's case.
So Chris, I hope you continue to use social media to tell your story, whatever the next chapters might be. When you do it, you will be doing God's will in taking a stand against the abusive religious leaders of your day....just as Jesus did.