Steve Chalke has recent published a new book and among other things in it, he has quoted theologian John Howard Yoder as an example of good theology regarding pacifism. It’s created some controversy as Yoder has been accused of sexually assaulting over 100 women. Chalke has faced criticism of ignoring these allegations and putting a man who sexually assaulted women on a pedestal, and his response has been that there was a “clear gap” between “who Yoder is revealed to be and what he espoused” but added “There’s always a huge gap between our aspirations and behaviour.” The “we all make mistakes” defense.
Appreciating someone for their talents despite everything they have done is something that I can relate to and indeed have done myself.
That is me posing with and shaking hands with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Tyson was certainly one of the best boxers of his time and arguably one of the best of all time. His boxing achievements are numerous, matched only by his ferocity in the ring.
He’s also a convicted rapist and I knew this before I paid to have the photo taken.
The fact he was booked/invited to attend the show this picture was taken at did cause some controversy, and since then he has been refused entry to the UK, but whilst I was aware of their objections and understood them, I went ahead because I wanted to meet him because of this achievements in the boxing ring. Plus as far as I was concerned, he had served his punishment so that was the end of the matter (as a side note, this is why comparisons to Ched Evans fail because he is out on license, he hasn’t served his punishment). Since all this controversy with Steve Chalke has kicked off, there have been many blogs written in response but this one from God Loves Women has really stopped me and forced me to asked certain questions; Was I right to have the photo? Am I ignoring the woman he raped by doing so? Am I perpetuating the cycle (to quote God Loves Women) of “over and over again women’s freedom, liberty and rights are discarded in favour of “the greater good”? At the time, these weren’t questions that I remotely entertained, they didn’t enter my mind – I didn’t see the problem.
Now they have come into my mind and looking around at myself, this picture is not the only instance where I am guilty of the charge of ignoring peoples crimes against women. I love darts; I love playing it, I love watching it. Phil Taylor is 16 times world champion, he’s won every honor in the sport including the PDC roll of honor, and will go down as the best player ever…but he was also found guilty of indecent assault in 1999 and had his MBE nomination annulled. Now, I didn’t make Phil Taylor 16 time world champion or put him in the hall of fame, but I help make him a star by the way I’ve supported him, been inspired by him, knowing full well of his conviction. My rationale was the same as with Tyson; I appreciate his talents in the sport.
There are many famous people who have carried out a variety of crimes and been allowed to continue in their jobs without public uproar. This though does raise a very good question; what does someone actually have to do to lose their status? Since writing this, it’s been announced that Mark Driscoll has been booked to speak at the Hillsong conference. Driscoll is a very controversial figure with his very woman-demeaning theology and had ‘resigned’ from Mars Hill. Now he’s back, pretty much picking up where he left off. Charisma News seems to think that is absolutely fine as he’s served his time and repented but one tweet in particular articulates a problem with this stance; forgiveness does not mean a restoration to celebrity and power.
So what about me? I can’t change the past in terms of how I thought then, but I can do something about what I do going forward. That involves starting to answer those questions about that photo with Mike Tyson:
Was I right to have the photo?
Am I ignoring the woman he raped by doing so?
Am I perpetuating the cycle of “discarding womens freedom, liberty and rights in favour of ‘the greater good’?
My answers to all three are ‘I don’t know’, and whilst it’s a step on from where I was, I can’t deny that part of me just doesn’t want to admit that the answers are ‘No’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’. I’m not going to pretend that I can understand how it must feel for their victims to see me hold their abusers in such high regard; this is actually the first time I’ve given it any thought. This in itself makes me part of the system that marginalizes and silences victims, part of the problem. People such as God Loves Women have spelled it out so clearly that it seems so easy; just don’t do things that dismiss abuse victims and put their abusers on a pedestal. But me, being me, isn’t finding it that simple because even more questions come to mind. Does someones crimes invalidate everything good they’ve done? What crimes should result in everything being wiped out? Do their crimes define how they should be regarded? Do people with celebrity status get away with more than if they were just a member of the public?
I have absolutely no idea. This is a massive topic with a lot of grey areas, but once again I find myself stuck in the middle and very much not the good guy in all this.