Why Do I Believe Tina?
If you’ve recently spoken up in Tina Anderson’s defense or said that Chuck Phelps needs to apologize and repent, I guarantee that someone has replied to you by linking to Phelps’ excuse-making website. Usually the link is accompanied by a comment like,”Have you read this? It seems pretty clear to me that you are just reading the things Phelps’ critics are saying.”
Sometimes I want to laugh that this helpful link-er thinks that I haven’t read Phelps’ own words, and that I will thank them for their mad Google skills and will convert to being a Phelps supporter.
Other days I want to shriek at the dewy-eyed 19 year old, “Wake up! These men are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They rouse you to fight their battles for them. Don’t let them use you like this!”
Anyway. For the record, I am a Christian, I have read Phelps’ site many times, and I believe Tina Anderson’s version of events.
Why? How can I disbelieve Chuck Phelps’ version of events in favor of Tina Anderson’s?
Let’s stroll through the items that helped me reach this conclusion:
1. Anderson did not initiate the reinvestigation. While it was completely within her right to, and I whole-heartedly support any victim who chooses to pursue justice at any time, it does bolster the case to believe Anderson’s version of events that she was approached by police. It removes the ability of people to accuse her of being “bitter” or “out for revenge.” Again, both of these things would be understandable feelings for a victim, but they cannot be reasonably leveled at Tina Anderson.
2. Anderson’s behavior as a teen is entirely consistent with what would be expected from a child who had been abused and from a teen who had trusted and liked her rapist. All of the “gotchas” that Phelps’ supporters like to harp on are completely expected by professionals familiar with such cases.
3. All of the things that Anderson claims were said and done to her by Phelps are consistent with the attitudes I’ve personally witnessed and have been experienced by friends of mine within Fundamentalist churches. Not only that, but these fundamentalist attitudes can be readily proven by reading half a dozen threads on Sharper Iron about this case. There are precedents and corroborating stories that show that fundamentalist pastors from fundamentalist institutions like BJU and Northland do cover up these crimes and ask these victims to repent of their sins connected with their victimization.
4. Phelps lied by omission to his congregation. He did not tell them that Tina’s pregnancy and Ernie’s “infidelity” were linked.
5. Phelps believed that consensual sex is possible between a 15yo and a 39yo. He said in numerous places that he believed it to be a consensual dating relationship. As horrid as that is, that is the BEST POSSIBLE way that Phelps’ actions can be interpreted. Otherwise one must reach the conclusion that he kept a forcible-rapist-of-a-teen-girl in his congregation without warning anyone of the danger.
6. Phelps allowed Ernie Willis to remain in his congregation without anyone knowing that he (at a MINIMUM) was guilty of statutory rape. Why would he allow this? Out of pity for Willis’ family? Perhaps partly. But concentrating on their pain/shame increased the pain/shame of their father’s victim. It seems obvious that Phelps either thought that Willis was not a danger to other young teens (because Phelps thought that Tina was a willing participant) OR Phelps was willing to risk Willis raping more girls.
7. Phelps statements on the witness stand at Willis’ trial were self-centered and self-protecting. He was also a witness for the defense.* Yes, that’s right. Willis’ lawyer was convinced that this pastor’s testimony would be in his client’s favor. Phelps’ statements were consistent with the impression I’d been developing prior to the trial that protecting his image (by justifying his actions) was a much bigger concern than justice for Tina.
[* This is incorrect. Phelps was a hostile witness for the prosecution. I'm leaving it as originally stated with this clarification in an effort to acknowledge my wrong-doing. ]
8. Phelps has never apologized to Tina, despite obliquely admitting some (at least small) wrong-doing by stating that he would not handle such a situation the same way today.
9. Phelps’ defense has been primarily through people who claim that he spoke with them personally, and he told them XYZ. These claims have NEVER been proven or even publically stated by Phelps. Such tactics (using rumors and hearsay to create doubt) should never be employed by a Christian. If Phelps had proof of the claims his supporters are spreading, he would have revealed it long ago. A couple of the rumors I’ve heard that Phelps told someone: Tina bragged that she was going to seduce a married man. (Where are the girls she supposedly bragged to? Why haven’t they come forward before now?) That 20/20 sent him a letter of apology for misleading statements made in their expose. (This one would surely have been posted on Phelps’ website!)
10. Lastly, human nature itself leads me to believe that Phelps is doing everything in his power to cover up and minimize his wrong-doing and sin. First, fundamentalism itself breeds crippling perfectionism. While grace is preached, everyone knows that the important people don’t really need it because they are almost fully sanctified. The only acceptable sin to admit is pride, and you can cancel out pride by tearfully, humbly confessing it.
Human nature hides failings, minimizes hurts, justifies actions, fears discovery. If I didn’t know that based on my interactions with the woman in the mirror or by observing the actions of my children, I could learn if by reading scripture.
Those are some of the reasons why I do not support Chuck Phelps and why I believe Tina Anderson.
Either Phelps believes he did nothing wrong, OR he’s refusing to repent and apologize. Neither of those is an acceptable state for a pastor. Neither option is okay, and by not coming out and saying, “I did nothing wrong,” and accepting the outcry from reasonable people everywhere, we must assume that he is covering his wrong doing and lying to do so.
That is why I don’t give a flying flip what Phelps’ website says. He is a scared man whom I pity as I pity anyone who doesn’t understand the beautiful freedom found in embracing Christ’s covering for our worst deeds. Chuck Phelps, there is yet grace for you. I cannot speak for Tina or for other “critics,” but I know that with your sincere repentance and apology I will happily extend to you the love and forgiveness that Christ has given to me.