You didn’t respond the way we wanted

Just a further follow up on the Stephen Sizer case.  In my original article on this, I commented that:

First, there is a lot of upset and grievance generally within the conservative evangelical constituency.  The result is that at times it seemed that some prominent leaders could do no right.  Lots of niggles and complaints and allegations were thrown around and amplified without any checks on their veracity.    The result was, I believe, that things looked personal.

Well, since the CDM ruling, there have been further incidents of this kind of thing. These have not come from the Board of Deputies -the Jewish body that made the specific complaint re Sizer. Rather, they are coming from some individual Christians who have been campaigning together. 

John Stevens has responded here and I referenced Lee Gatiss’ response in my earlier article.  Now, I don’t agree with John on everything in his response but you will be able to see why by looking at my earlier articles.  However, I do agree with John and Lee that the way that they and other prominent Christian leaders are being treated is wrong. There is a real danger of people with genuine grievances and concerns, those who have been the victims of bullying and harassment drifting in to bullying and harassment themselves. 

I have witnessed this previously.  Someone who had, it seems been treated badly had picked up on the fact that I had a concern about bullying.  However, they began to look for support by asking me frequently to confirm stories about someone else, not directly connected to their case.  I explained to them that the stories they were discussing were gossip, were third hand, originated from people who were not eye witnesses to the specific historic issue and in fact, as an eye witness who was present, far from confirming those accounts I had to explain that they simply were not true.  The person wasn’t at all happy because I’d not responded in the way that they wanted.

On a side note, I learnt at the time how easy it is for people to get caught up in gossip and rumour. I saw one person acting in a dignified way, seeking to observe due process and maintain confidentiality. They did so because they had integrity and compassion. However, this use of basic manners and respect for the law enabled those who wanted to speculate and gossip to do so. Of course, if anyone had breached their confidentiality, they would have been the first to complain.

There is, I believe, a tendency these days not just to in effect tar people with guilt by association but to go one step further.  If I am not so sure of the claims you make, or if I disagree with some or all of them then this is seen to imply that I am not against the particular evil you are. More than that even if I am against the specific evil, but do not respond in exactly the specific way that you want me to, then this means that you must also have failed to recognise and stand against the serious evil.

However, this is to misunderstand how people work and how things work. It might be helpful to refer back to another example, relating to antisemitism.  Back a couple of years ago, when I raised with a friend the issues concerning a book that had been published that was littered with antisemitic material, I was in touch with people who had been passionate about the Stephen Sizer case. I fully expected them to jump on the matter. Yet, they seemed far more laid back. They assumed the best of the author.  The outcome incidentally is that whilst Sizer was forced to remove material, the book remains in publication and the publishers saw fit to make derogatory comments against those who had raised concerns.  Even still, I don’t see the same passion about that issue.

Now, does this mean that those who were not as exercised about the issue were not really opposed to antisemitism? No -the evidence is there from the other cases they took on.  Does it mean that they didn’t care about sin because they thought the best of the author?  No, it simply means that they wanted to keep loving a brother in Christ.  Does this mean they got their response right or wrong? Well, personally I think they got their response wrong. However, this does not mean that they are somehow because of this on the wrong side of the issue, have been part of a conspiracy of silence and are deeply compromised as is being suggested about other Christian leaders.

Just because someone responds in a different way to how I would want them to does not mean that they are wrong.  Even if we do conclude that their response is wrong -and as I said I don’t agree with all of the Evangelical responses to Sizer or the issue of antisemitism does not mean that they are on the wrong side or implicated in sin.

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