On September 16th an outstanding comment appeared below a post here at BDBO which I’m putting into this post for the benefit of a wider range of BDBO readers. The response from Prairie Bible Institute received by writer Angelyn Ray is included below.
An open letter to Mark Maxwell:
Some months ago I “googled” PBI to see how it is represented on the World Wide Web these days. To my shock and sadness, I learned that an abuse scandal is in progress.
Let me introduce myself. I attended four years at PBI, graduating in 1963. I was Angeln Brown (I have since added the “y” to my first name). While at Prairie I experienced a sexual assault by a staff member older than my father. That story is on pbisurvivors.com. I hasten to add that this is not my reason for contacting you. Although the incident and its aftermath changed my life, I am at peace, and seek no hearing or redress for that particular offense.
In addition, by way of introduction, I have spent over thirty years working with trauma and abuse survivors, first as a volunteer, then as a professional. I am a licensed clinical social worker, mostly retired at this point. Due to these years of experience, my concern is for the silent and hurting victims/survivors, for in all likelihood the abuses of which you have been made aware comprise a mere “tip of the iceberg.”
If I was shocked and saddened to learn about the scandal to begin with, I am equally shocked and saddened to read at the outset, in the Introduction to Prairie’s H&A Policy, your 11 particular selections of scriptures. You say: “This policy is built on biblical convictions as found in…” and the selections follow. Your carefully chosen scriptures outline a fundamental agenda that is diametrically opposed to the standards later outlined in the H&A Policy. I will explain.
Any PBI student firmly believes that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and is never to be questioned, but obeyed at pain of God’s wrath and eternal judgment. You, as PBI’s president, are in a position of authority over these students, as God’s spokesperson and representative, and the power you wield, by virtue of your choice of these particular scriptures, is of immeasurable proportions.
I will go through these scriptures as you have printed them in the H&A Policy manual, one by one in order, and cite the clear message that comes through, first to a victim, then to an offender. I wish to point out to you that the overwhelming, overall effect of this selection of scripture is not only inappropriate to the H&A context; the result is to effectively silence victims and to excuse offenders:
1. Matthew 5:21-22, “…anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Message to reporter (victim/survivor): If you feel angry about the alleged abuse you will be judged.
Message to abuser: You’re not angry so it’s your accuser who is liable.
2. Matthew 12:34-37, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks…people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): If you speak one wrong word you will be called to account for it in the day of judgment.
Message to abuser: Whatever s/he is saying about you, s/he will have to account for it in the day of judgment. You’re not talking so there’s no judgment for you.
3. Matthew 15:18-20, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these defile you…”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): The things you speak from your heart are the things that defile you.
Message to abuser: It’s not what s/he said you did that defiles you, but the words that are coming out of his/her mouth defile him/her.
4. I Corinthians 5:9-11, “…But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with any who claim to be fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters, or slanders…”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Your alleged abuser has involved you in his/her alleged sexual immorality. He/she denies it; you are the one who talks about it. Who then shall we ostracize?
Message to abuser: If there was any sexual immorality, we have to separate ourselves from that one. Your accuser is the only one who’s talking, so…
5. James 2:2-10, “…believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism…but if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by law.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): We are commanded not to show favoritism. Therefore, we have to listen equally to both sides of this story, and the one you’re accusing denies it, so…
Message to abuser: We can’t show favoritism, and you’re not the one causing trouble, so…
6. Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Quit saying these unwholesome things! We don’t need to hear it!
Message to abuser: Good for you! We haven’t heard any unwholesome talk from you, just edifying and beneficial words.
7. Ephesians 5:4, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Be thankful! What you’re saying is obscene. Be grateful instead!
Message to abuser: We really like you! We don’t hear any obscenities from you, only thanksgiving!
8. Colossians 3:8, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Okay, now you’ve told your story. Get rid of the feelings and quit talking about it.
Message to abuser: You don’t have anything to get rid of. We still have to deal with this accuser though.
9. I Peter 1:22, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply from the heart.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): If you’ve purified yourself and are going to obey the truth, get on with loving deeply from your heart – no exceptions.
Message to abuser: You are loving even to this accuser. It’s too bad that s/he doesn’t seem to love you back.
10. Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Just be at peace with your abuser.
Message to abuser: You’re a peaceful person. You can’t do any more than that.
11. Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Message to reporter (victim/survivor): Move on.
Message to abuser: Keep doing what you’re doing.
Mark, I hope that you’ve been able to read through this and see what this particular selection of scripture does in situations of abuse, harassment and assault, where there is a strong power differential between the offender and the offended. Of your selected scriptures, 5 focus on words people speak, which applies to those who have something to report, 3 on feelings people have, which applies to those wronged, and the rest are ambiguous in terms of differentiating between abused and abuser. Not one of these scriptures focuses on the unspeakable wrongness of the acts that were perpetrated or redress for the consequences of these acts for those abused.
To help out, here are a few scriptures (King James Version) that you might find more suitable to the context:
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32. Knowing the truth and thus finding freedom requires exploration and expression. When truth is denied or slighted by authority figures, not only are the “little ones” offended, but truth itself.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me… Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” Matthew 25:40-46. “…the least of these…” – least in cognitive and physical power, least in years and experience, least in authority and influence… these are the ones with whom Jesus identifies.
“Woe unto you…hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness…” Matthew 23:13-27.
“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” Luke 17:2.
“…in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established…” Matthew 18:15-17.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23.
“Be ye angry, and sin not.” Ephesians 4:26.
Still with hope for a consistent, humane, and truly just and compassionate outcome for the “little ones” offended…
If you wish to reply, please do so by return e-mail.
Very sincerely yours,
Response by Prairie Bible Institute President Mark Maxwell, September 18, 2012
Thank you very very much for your email.
Your points are well made and valid. I am right now re-writing the policy (which emanates from before my time) and will be incorporating your points, especially in terms of the verses that are used.
My fingerprints are primarily on the Q&A, which shows more of my approach. You will see that we have used principles in the Q&A and no scripture although a few people suggested it. The reason is, I feel scripture is often used inappropriately and can be turned to support almost any position when chosen selectively and taken out of context. I had not yet given a great deal of thought to the use of scripture in the policy. I don’t even want to admit that I was not sensitive to its offense until you made your points. And I agree with you, now that I read it with the benefit of your perspective. So, thank you very very much.
I am very sorry about your experience and for the many others who were hurt here as well. I am grateful that the scandal has come to light because it has allowed us to attempt to repent and to repair the bridges with those who have come to us. We are much the better for it and God seems to be turning his blessing on us in the midst of it.
Again, thank you for your email and your perspective. Any other advice you may have is very welcome. I would like to send you the draft re-write of the policies when it is ready for editing and would sure love to have your opinion on it if you would do us that favour.
I hope you have a great day,
Mark L. Maxwell
Prairie Bible Institute