OPC elders propose replacing Mt. 18 with public hectoring

There is a blog in which one Aimee Byrd successfully summons a posse of OPC cavalry to round up and arrest some boys that allegedly said some mean things about her on a private Facebook chat group. Apparently there was a spy that took a bunch of screenshots of the mean things and broadcast them. Now Miss Aimee is on the warpath and wants people to lose their jobs and/or be ecclesiastically disciplined. My interest is piqued especially because I have written on the inner genius and beauty of what we call “Matthew 18” and observe here this principle yet again being honored in the breach. It is important because of the many men that have deputized themselves to be part of the posse, including a number of names that are well-known in the OPC.

Having scanned a number of the screen-shots from the offending chat room, I can say, on the one hand, that a few things were said that would not have been heard at Robert E. Lee’s mess table. There, according to Dabney, no word was ever heard that would make a lady blush or a parson furrow his brow. On the other hand, we are living in an age that is decidedly rejecting the mores of that age, symbolized by the monuments to that great man being torn down all around us, with active complicity of our rulers, and passive complicity of not a few even in the orthodox church. In particular, the passing of the last remnants of that age is exemplified ironically enough by an Amazonian warriorette leading the charge and being at the center of the fray. There can be no masculine space, even a secret one. She seems to be saying, “how dare they ask if I can cook a good roast beef? I have written five books. Five, I tell you! The latest is being published by Zondervan! How dare they!” But if you want the age of gentility, you have to take it all, not just the parts you like.

This taut-lipped quiet fury is typical of a dying Puritan culture that has lost its humor and is about to lose its faith. Florence King lamented the phenomenon even in the secular realm. Let a Southerner patiently explain to the New England transplant the difference between white trash and “common,” and there was sure to be a letter to the editor earnestly exhorting that “we need to be careful to” and so on. The new canard of the ecclesiastical Soft Left is some point about “denial of the image of God.” As if telling some knee-slapper about a nigger passing the watermelon patch or a honky at the hoe-down has aught to do with some long-faced theological locus.

Let’s start by analyzing what should have happened if the “victim” of the cracks were a man. I can only think of three possible responses.

  1. He could say, “it’s just a private chat room. If they had courage, they would take their criticisms public. Let the dead bury the dead.” Or better yet, cover it in love, and humor.
  2. Or, he could follow Matt. 18, admonishing them to be more temperate, urging them to withdraw their comments and correct their ways, keeping the matter private until all means were exhausted. The “one or two” others brought in if necessary would also exhort with rigorous privacy being honored.
  3. Or, he could challenge them to a duel.

(1) would surely be the thing. Little was said that was out of bounds in a private setting. Most if not all was an expression of true concern about heresy in the church, mixed with some rough and tumble cracks that men must be permitted to indulge from time to time. Indeed, I daresay the majority of the comments would have been permitted even at Robert E. Lee’s table. If you can’t take the heat, get back in the kitchen. And remember that the screenshots were lice-picked to exhibit the most offensive things. (2) is of course our duty, if the matter just can’t be let go of. Dabney says that (3) is contrary to the law of God, but Alexander Hamilton Stevens argued that the duel was the way that a physically weaker man could equalize the playing field. I think Dr. Johnson would have sided with Stevens. It must be conceded that there was doubtless a great deal more courtesy and temperate language in a culture where the duel loomed as an ever-present possibility. Dabney worried that the practice gave license to bullies to do murder, but I think it also tended to prevent tempests in a teapot from boiling over. The bluff would be called. Naturally, we can’t expect Miss Aimee to challenge to a duel — female empowerment has its limits, I think all will concede — , but what about her husband, Mr. Aimee? Where is he in all this? Andrew Jackson challenged to dozens of duals to protect his ladies’ honor, and we carved his face on Mount Rushmore!

In any case, the one thing that would not be permitted would be to “dox” the whole group, to betray their confidentiality, to stab them in the back, to plant poison, hoping, passively, that the whole lot of them would be “dealt with” by ecclesiastical authorities, or — for those not holding church office — to be fired by their employers.

All of the quoting of Westminster Catechism and Webster and Bible verses do not change the fact that that is what it is.

The doxing of innocent bystanders along with the offenders has already been pointed out in the comments, and even that odious practice is defended by Miss Aimee. However, it has not been sufficiently emphasized that the doxing even of the “offenders” is evil. The leaking of the information by the secret informant — the biblical term is talebearer — and its publication is the one act in all of this that is truly villainous. Such an act shows neither loyalty nor a desire for reform. Well do the Proverbs speak to this.

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. (Prov. 26:20-22)

Note that the censure of talebearing is not that there is no tale to tell. It is not that the tale is false — that would be lying, or slander. The wickedness of the talebearer has to do with the inner disposition and intent. It is to destroy, not to heal. The craft and guile of the talebearer is to claim, perhaps even in the honesty of self-deception, just the opposite. But his claim is belied ex opere operatum by the nature of the bad method.

The fact that you can be fired for saying something unapproved is one of the hideous perversions of our current society. It is bad enough that corporations think this is any of their business. Worse, there is not even a hearing, or a chance to defend yourself. You probably won’t even be told why you were let go. It is the American capitalist version of the Soviet labor camp system — except that the Soviets had enough shame to at least give you the appearance of a hearing. It was a sham, but even they had enough residual memory of justice to want to give the appearance. 

The irksome situation we find ourselves in is that ever more people claiming to be Christians have accepted this “system,” and use it. It is far worse than a violation of the Apostle’s admonition,

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? (I Cor 6:7). 

It is worse because it is not even “going to law” one with another, but cynically leveraging a system that is utterly lawless, and not even bearing the semblance of lawfulness. Would that they would “go to law with one another.”

The behavior of Miss Aimee’s signatories is disgusting even apart from ratifying the doxing. Not a word is breathed about the talebearer. It is simply now a “public revelation” as if by magic. Actions are declared publicly to be sinful without any investigation or query, let alone a vote. But facts don’t speak for themselves: you couldn’t do this in justice if the screenshot were a picture of a bloody knife. In fact, it is hard to imagine any brute fact that would eo ipso be proof of sin or of a crime, obviating the need for cross-examination. Yet somehow, WLC requires them to belly-ache in public rather than even now conceal the matter.

It is an ungodly exhibitionism and virtue-signalling. They reassure their victims that the missile “does not constitute formal charges.” I guess that’s supposed to be a relief?

Which is worse, to have charges brought, or to be publicly pilloried without the slightest effort at fact-finding or cross-examination?

Would any of these men want to be on trial with a jury composed of their co-signatories?

What is upsetting is, not that Miss Aimee, while slyly pouring fuel on the fire, is saying, “y’all gonna hafta fight this one out — I’m just a girl” while twirling her blond locks. That is what it is. No, what is upsetting is that all of these men, some reputed to be pillars, are piling in to her lynch team in wholesale despite of our Lord’s teaching, and even of what we could deduce from natural law. For the principle beneath Matthew 18 can largely be recognized by natural reason.

Brief Intermission: Tribute to Greg Bahnsen

A brief side-bar is needed in this autobiographical sketch of life-changing books. Spanning the interval 1983-1993, no single book stands out, but that was the period of my association with my dear friend and mentor Greg Bahnsen. Though I am avoiding mentioning names in this bookish auto-biography, his needs to be mentioned as the greatest single personal influence on my life in adulthood.

In view of that, it will perhaps be thought odd that I do not count any of his books as life-changing. Indeed, I found many of his books pedantic, even annoying. We had opposite tendencies at the aesthetic level. It is hard for me to imagine anyone becoming a Theonomist through reading Theonomy or its sequels. Then again, he may have felt the same way. Theonomy was actually a comparatively small part of his life, less in fact (by way of negation) than for many of his vitriolic opponents.

One of his teachings that drove deeply into my soul was the ramified implications of Matt. 18. Beyond the obvious three-fold “method” taught there for correcting offenses, Greg taught that even if you have a legitimate grievance, if the way you got to this point was via gossip, slander, tale-bearing, or prevarication, then you had to first go back and fix those errors before “continuing.” The putative grievance had to be left on the table until those errors were dealt with properly. Often, it turned out that the grievance all but vanished by the time those steps were taken — or at least, could be covered in love. What this taught me was that Matt. 18 is not some bureaucratic “manual of discipline,” but something much deeper: an insight into what it means to be human, and to be a human with integrity. The requirements of privacy and caution are not just little nuisances, but go to the heart of the matter. I have continued to develop this theme and hope to write on it anon.

Twice I turned against him. Both times, God gave me the heart to seek reconciliation, and Greg was gracious in a way that was itself life-changing. When I came to him the second time, I was moved to the core by his statement that the whole purpose of his ministry for the previous ten years may well have been, in God’s providence, just to set the stage for that moment. And afterwards, my offenses were never mentioned or remembered.

I will not try to summarize all the many ways he changed my life. That has come out before and will continue to do so. In summary, I will simply say he was a man of a great heart. Indeed, in the divine comedy, the literal heart ailment that killed him well before the age of 50 can be taken as a metaphor for his life. Like our Lord, he can be said to have died of a broken heart.