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Should Coulda Equal Didda? January 16, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
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I’d like to address one of the comments that appeared in response to my article, phrased as a question, posed by someone named Kristi Stebleton Hunt.  As part of her failing effort to prop up the charges against Hephzibah House, she asked the question,

“You don’t believe a man of God could be capable of abuse?”
 
Well, the obvious answer to this question is “Yes.”  Anyone “could” be capable of abuse.  Kristi Stebleton Hunt herself could be capable of abuse.  We all have sin natures, whether Christian nor not, that can be susceptible to temptation and which, given the wrong circumstances and the wrong heart and mindset, could be acted upon to lead us into the vilest of sins.  That’s why there is (or at least should be) such emphasis in Christianity against worldliness and self-indulgence and for keeping our hearts with all diligence. 
 
However, the question as it was posed by Mrs. Hunt, in context, is nevertheless a deceptive one, perhaps unintentionally, as it is based on false premises and the same sort of ungodly way of thinking that has largely driven the accusations against HH to date.
 
As the questions seems to have been framed, the obvious responses that are intended to be elicited are either “Why no, a man of God could NEVER be capable of abuse” or “Why yes, he (in this case, Ron Williams) can be,” with the unspoken assumption being “…and therefore WAS guilty of abuse.”  The first response would obviously be ridiculous, as many pastors and others in Christian schools, etc. have been guilty of abusive sins (as have, let’s not forget, public school teachers, secular coaches, public school bus drivers, workers in secular child care institutions, and so forth).  The second response, however, is the really deceptive one, because it relies on the sliding assumption that because someone “could” possibly, potentially, conceivably be guilty, that they therefore ARE.  Which is obviously not a wise assumption to make. 
 
The third option is that while somebody “could” be guilty of something, that they are not so.  If you want to actually be able to say that they ARE, then you have to provide actual evidence, instead of just opining that they COULD BE.  Given the lack of evidence for the actual claims of the “Hephzibah Haters,” this is the only rational choice that can be made about the accusations against Hephzibah House and Ron Williams, given what we know at present.
 
However, the sliding assumption is the one that the HH accusers have been making so far, and have been encouraging their sycophants to make as well, which (again) makes their credibility questionable.  Whenever someone, such as myself, proposes the “third way,” they are demonised and, for lack of a better term, screeched at.  These are not, however, suitable replacements for logic and reason.   Again – it’s a matter of having to prove guilt before the assumption of innocence can be dispensed with.   Our legal system rests on “innocent until proven guilty” (even though, unfortunately, this principle sometimes falls by the wayside when abuse claims come before it).  I mean, murder is a much more serious crime than even child abuse, and our legal system rigourously tries to prevent innocent people from being falsely convicted of murder.  Why should it be different for lesser crimes?
 
Simply put, the general fact that somebody “could” be guilty of something does not make them guilty of it.  The conceivable and the concrete are not coincident.  To assume otherwise is to be acting contrary to God’s standards of guilt-determination and righteousness.

Not-Reasons Why Hephzibah House Is Guilty of Abuse January 12, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
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There are a lot of really bad arguments out there on the various internet forums and blogs where the “Hephzibah Haters” and their lackeys regularly go.  Let’s just take a moment to quickly correct some of the more egregiously flawed ones.

Hephzibah House is not guilty of the abuse that it is accused of just because:

  • You personally don’t like Independent, Fundamental Baptists or the fundamentalist movement in general,
  • You think Michael Pearl has some wacky ideas about raising children (for the record, I tend to agree in many ways),
  • Some family somewhere “spanked” their child to death in a 7-hour beating ordeal, or because some woman smothered her child to death because of some wacky “child discipline” idea,
  • The accusers sounded so pitiful and sincere in their forum postings,
  • Some child psychologist or social worker once told you that when people who are accused of child abuse deny it, it automatically means they’re guilty of it.

That should cover some of the major themes bandied about by the Hephzibah Haters and their pals.

The Curious Case of the “Red Barren” January 12, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
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In the course of the comments buildup on my article, I had a guy who goes by the name of “Red Barren” on Facebook drop by.  Superficially, Mr. “Barren” (a corruption of “Red Baron, i.e. German WWI ace pilot Mannfred von Richthofen – Mr “Barren” even uses his picture for his profile) appears to be supportive of efforts to defend HH from the baseless accusations made against it.  He made a number of seemingly supportive comments on the article, also scattering a few throughout the rest of the recent activity on my own Facebook page, as well as subscribing to me for future updates.  Of course, being the…thorough…individual that I am, I investigated him online, and pretty quickly deduced that he’s a spoof. 

Apparently, Mr. “Barren” devotes the bulk of his activities, both on Facebook and elsewhere, to pretending to defend an organisation called New Tribes Missions, a mission board which I think I had vaguely heard of before, but knew nothing about.   Apparently, some past staffers with New Tribes Missions (NTM) have been accused of abuse (including sexual) by several former missionary children, abuse which reportedly took place in a number of the board’s overseas schools for the children of missionaries. 

Now, why do I say that Red Barren is pretending to support NTM?  Well, I’ve been around the internet enough to be able to recognise the sort of “fake supporter whose purpose is to discredit” gag before.  In other words, you’ll have somebody who puts across that they support some political position, group, or whatnot, but does such a poor job, or otherwise is so over the top stupid, etc., that they’re supposed to end up actually undermining the position, group, etc. by making it look stupid and ridiculous. 

Looking through Red Barren’s posts hither and yon, the thing that immediately leaps out at a person is his EXTREMELY poor spelling and grammar.  Now, one of the many things I do “on the side” is editing and proofreading for contract customers.  I’ve seen a lot of poor spelling and grammar in my day.  Mr. Barren’s (the name itself actually follows this trope) spelling and grammar, while bad, do not, however, follow the typical ways in which people with poor spelling and grammar usually exhibit these.  In other words, while he’s trying to act like a supporter of NTM and present as if supporters are dunderheads, he isn’t doing it in a natural or heuristic way.  His spelling and grammatical errors are not those that people who really do have trouble in these areas actually tend to make.  They seem like somebody is faking it.

Couple this with the fact that many of his spelling errors just so happen to systematically end up being “accidental” cuss words, this guy is either the world’s most unlucky misspeller, or else he’s purposely faking it.  Guess which I think is more likely.

As such, I reasoned that Mr. Barren is a spoofer, whose purpose is to go around and try to make those who defend NTM from the accusations it is facing look like idiots by the presumed association with him.  Apparently, he got wind of my article defending Hephzibah House, and figured he’d come over and try to do the same thing in this case, as well.

Of course, this effort is based on a logical error – one that I call “Guilt by Extension.”

Guilt by extension is somewhat related to “guilt by association,” which people are more familiar with.  In “guilt by association,” the following general syllogism can be built:

  • A is guilty of X.
  • B is associated with A in some way.
  • Therefore, B is also guilt of X.

The error stems from a misapprehension of the fact that just because A is guilty of X, this in no way speaks to whether B is guilty as well, merely because there is some, oftentimes non-related, association between the two entities.

“Guilt by extension” is similar to this.  It is the error that says that because two categorically related entities are in similar situations (in this case, facing accusations), then if the resolution of the situation for one turns out a certain way, then the resolution for the other must be the same.  To build the syllogism using the case at hand:

  • New Tribes Mission and Hephzibah House are both Christian organisations.
  • They have both been accused of some type(s) of abuse.
  • New Tribes Mission is guilty of the abuse for which it was accused (please note – I am only saying this for the purpose of building the syllogical example).
  • Therefore, Hephzibah House must be guilty of the abuse for which it is accused, as well.

The logical flaw comes from the fact that the guilt or innocence of Hephzibah House is completely non-contingent upon the guilt or innocence of New Tribes Mission.  There is no logical reason to think that what happens with one has any bearing whatsoever on what happens with the other.

Now, I have no idea if the abuse which NTM staffers have been accused of happened or not.  Up until a few days, I hadn’t even seen the accusations, and most of what I have seen comes from hostile sources.  I have no way of knowing if there is any exculpatory evidence that would work in the NTM staffers’ favour, or if the accusers have brought forth evidence to support their claims.  As such, I won’t even make a statement one way or the other.

However, Red Barren obviously seems to think they are guilty, which is why he’s been trying to spoof them.  He apparently also seems to think that Hephzibah House is too, by trying to crossover his spoofing act from discussions about NTM to HH.  Hence, his argument, as well as any support given him by people “in the know” who think his act is funny and try to encourage him to advance his implicit “argument” by using it, are also falling to this logical error.

Not surprising.  One thing that is pretty consistent with regard to the accusers of HH and their supporters is that they use a lot of logical errors in their arguments.  These will, from time to time as opportunity arises, be touched on here on this blog.

Love and Lies January 11, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
2 comments

One of the more systematic refrains that appeared in the comments made about my article was that I’m “unloving” for publishing it.  How cruel I must be to doubt the stories that the Hephzibah Haters has splattered all across the internet!  How un-Christlike of me to ask for evidence instead of credulously believing everything I read on some random internet forum!  The thrust of the “argument” made by many in the comments section was simply that love demands that I would not challenge the HH accusers, but instead would automatically believe and support them in their attacks upon that ministry.

No. 

It’s not loving to allow somebody to slander somebody else with potentially life-destroying accusations without calling them to account for their charges.   Love does not slur people around the internet, while refusing to put its accusations to the test.  Love does not assume that simply because an accusation is made, then it must be true, and the accused condemned – untried – accordingly. 

I fail to see what is “unloving” about asking that people actually provide evidence for their accusations before we condemn the ones they are accusing. 

Isn’t that sort of what the whole point to the “innocent until proven guilty” basis of our legal system is all about?  A person is not to be punished or destroyed unless the charges brought against them can be shown to be true?  Indeed it is.  That principle is a godly one, and ultimately stems from the Judeo-Christian basis upon which so much of our civilisation was founded.  Ultimately, it goes back to the verses I cited in my article: Deuteronomy 5:20, which demands that a witness be truthful, and Deuteronomy 19:18, which tasks the judge in a matter with determining the truthfulness of the testimony of witnesses, even if they technically met the “two or three witnesses” requirement.  Now, there were some spurious arguments presented against this in the comments, which will be dealt with in more detail in a future post.  Suffice it to say, the arguers presented a very poor case in their efforts at getting around these simple requirements from God’s Word.  Which is, of course, only to be expected, since the Bible is pretty clear about this issue – if an accusation is made, then its truth value needs to be independently verified to the best of the investigator’s ability. 

Not doing so is an affront to God.  Simply making accusations, and failing (or even refusing) to assent to them being put to the test, is actually contrary to God’s revealed will, both for mankind’s systems of justice, as well as God’s own nature, what He has told us about Himself, and is therefore contrary to love, which God is.

Yet, I find it interesting that the HH accusers positively refuse to actually substantiate their claims against Hephzibah House.  They refuse to let other people put their claims to the test.  They go to great lengths on internet forums to try to “gang up on” and shut up anybody who would question them.  I found one particular comment on my article by one of the accusers to be most enlightening, however.  You can see the screen shot of an early part of the exchange here, with the trouble spot circled in red.  A commenter named Shelly Merideth-Adams says, “And I don’t need proof either.”  Well yes, Shelly, you do.  She tries to claim some sort of moral high ground by arguing that “no one believed Jesus was who He said He was either” (which is actually not true, of course, since the apostles and other early Christians obviously did…)  Well, Jesus also had false accusers make charges against Him that they weren’t able to verify either (Mark 14:55-59).

I’m sorry people, but I do not consider it at all out of line to challenge the statements of the various HH accusers, especially seeing as how they have not brought forth any evidence to back themselves up with.  Are we to condemn HH, Ron Williams, and the rest on the basis of accusations alone?  Sorry, but that’s not acting like God.  In fact, it’s acting like satan, the accuser of the brethren.

I’m sure Paul Burritt, of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin could use a little less of the type of “love” that the HH accusers and their sycophants on the internet display.  Mr. Burritt, who is a driver for a handicapped transportation service, was arrested back in December after an 11-year old girl who was one of his riders accused him of driving her to his home and sexually molesting her.  Burritt was arrested immediately, without any initial investigation on the part of the police, his name being drug through the gutter by the media, probably being condemned and excoriated in a fashion not dissimilar to how HH is by its enemies.  Problem was, once the police finally got around to checking the GPS records from the van Burritt drives, they found out that the girl had been lying, as the GPS data fully supported his testimony that he had dropped her off at her house as usual – no trip to his house, no lost time, anything.  When confronted with this evidence, the girl admitted she was lying.

What’s sad is that the only thing that saved an innocent man from having his reputation entirely destroyed (it’s always going to be damaged, even though he was innocent) and facing a long jail sentence was technology that was able to objectively refute the girl’s “eyewitness” testimony.   If this case had happened before GPS was invented or widely used, he would have been on the losing end of a “he said – she said” argument, which she would have won, since we all know that no children would ever lie about being abused by an adult…

The story also reports that the girl has been “referred to juvenile authorities” for making the false report.  Unfortunately, she’ll probably just get a slap on the wrist, when what she should get is some time in juvenile hall that would then extend to her going to adult jail once she turns 18.  She was obviously old enough to make a false accusation, so she should be punished just as stiffly as anyone else would.  Though she probably won’t be.

If this is the kind of “love” that the Hephzibah Haters think ought to be displayed, then I want no part of it.

There was one commenter, a fellow by the name of Ken Hood (one of the ones I mentioned who initially tried to pretend to be a “neutral, impartial observer” when he obviously was not), who tried to lecture me about “the law of love” and about how my religion and his are clearly different.  I told him that they surely are, because I serve a God of justice, fairness, and truth, while Ken serves a god of lies, innuendo, and false accusations.  Ken’s “law of love” is not GOD’S law of love.  Ken, and the HH haters in general, show no grace – their “charity” is not of the kind that “thinketh no evil” (I Cor 13:5), the kind that does not automatically assume the worst about someone who is being accused of something, no matter how horrible.

The story of Mr. Burritt’s saga perhaps sheds some light on the question of WHY the HH accusers seem to be so adamantly against having their stories checked out, and why they don’t like people asking for evidence of the allegations.  Perhaps, just maybe, like the 11-year old girl who falsely accused Paul Burritt and against whom objective evidence stood, they also know that the narrative they’ve spent the last several years bringing to a boil would not stand the test of close investigation?

The Article That Started It All January 10, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Here’s the article that I published over at Renew America a few days ago, In Defense of Hephzibah House,

For the past four and a half years, Hephzibah House has faced one battle after another. For those who are unfamiliar with this ministry, Hephzibah House is a fundamental Baptist girls’ home and boarding school that focuses on helping teenage girls, largely from independent and fundamental Baptist homes and churches, by maintaining them in a biblically-oriented living and educational environment. Typically, these are girls who have become such disciplinary problems that their parents are unable to deal with them anymore — we’re talking about things like involvement with drugs and alcohol, girls who have threatened their parents and even pulled knives on them, and so forth. This ministry and its founder Dr. Ron Williams, however, have faced a lot of, shall we say, robust criticism in recent years from several former students and their supporters, many of whom have taken to unaccountable internet forums in an effort to spread the message about their dislike for Hephzibah House, and (as I mentioned incidentally in an earlier article) were recently given a soapbox by CNN.

One must admit, the accusations leveled against Hephzibah House by these folks are pretty grim. Tales are told of all kinds of physical and psychological abuse. Lurid details are poured out onto various forums, full of stories of beatings, degradation and humiliation of these girls, starvation, forced overfeeding, and so forth. Terms like “criminal” and “child abuse” are stock fare in most places where this facility is discussed. Many of Hephzibah House’s accusers sound as if they consider themselves lucky to have even escaped with their lives. There certainly is a lot of bitterness and resentment against the ministry from these former students.

However, I’d like to take a different approach to the discussion about Hephzibah House, one that deals with facts and reason, rather than emotion and innuendo. And let’s face it — there doesn’t seem to be much to actually substantiate the allegations being lodged against Hephzibah House.

Click the link to read the whole thing, as it’s rather long and detailed.

As the reader may judge from the comments section at the bottom, the article stirred up a little bit of a hornet’s nest, as news of the article started to get out onto the Facebook pages of some of the HH accusers, who promptly issues calls for all their friends to come to the comments section and vent their angry little spleens about how evil it is for somebody to disagree with them.

The comments have, and surely will continue, to provide a goldmine of insight into the mindset of the HH accusers and their supporters.  That, in fact, is going to probably make up the lion’s share of posts to this blog for a little while – I haven’t been able to dumpster dive through all of the comments that have been posted in all the nested subthreads yet, so I’m sure little gems of “wisdom” will keep turning up that will merit debunking with their own posts. 

In general, however, the comments that I have seen and even tried to dialogue with so far fall into a few distinct categories:

  • Profanity-laced rants by people who apparently believe that invective is an adequate substitute for intelligence,
  • People who fault me for being “unloving” for not being willing to automatically believe sensationalistic accusations that don’t have any substantiation backing them up,
  • People offended because I would have the nerve to “defend abuse” (which hasn’t been demonstrated to exist),
  • People trying to pretend to be neutral, outside observers who just so happened to discover the discussion (yet who somehow seem familiar with various aspects of the HH saga) and just so happened to arrive at the immediate conclusion that my arguments must be uniformly, inutterably wrong,
  • One who even tried the “God’s gonna get ya” argument.

So, I’m going to start addressing some of the more relevant issues regarding these “arguments” as they appear in the discussion about Hephzibah House. 

 

What’s This All About? January 9, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
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Greetings, and welcome to Hephzibah House Vindicated, a blog dedicated to refuting the false accusations and spurious arguments being made against Hephzibah House in Warsaw, Indiana.

For far too long, the “debate” surrounding HH has been driven by emotion and illogic, rather than reason, fact, and truth.

That needs to change. 

For the past four years or so, a small but vocal group of former HH students has been waging an internet jihad against the ministry, launching all kinds of accusations without proof, and they have harassed and attacked other former Hephzibah girls who have dared to challenge their narrative.

While I’m sure it will prove unpopular in certain quarters, I still believe in the legal and ethical principle of  “innocent until proven guilty.”   I do not believe that people, such as those involved in the ministry of Hephzibah House, should be found guilty in the court of public opinion on the basis of hearsay evidence that has, thus far, not been substantiated factually in any way, shape, or form. 

This blog seeks to show that the harassment of Hephzibah House and its staff members is unjust, unethical, immoral, and untruthful.