The Stones You Cast, The Tables You Built
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who never left the path be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and no longer wander.”
It’s a tale as old as time.
A Christian leader falls from grace. For the first time ever, people feel free to talk openly about disagreements they had all along but were too afraid to voice. But the freedom is short-lived. The Eighth Chapter of the Gospel of John is dropped like a noose around their necks. That one verse about casting stones, that verse of grace and freedom, it is twisted into the heaviest gag order by the very Pharisees it was meant to condemn.
We saw this last week when Doug Phillips resigned due to an affair. It took but a few hours before John 8 started dropping like the bass in a dubstep song. “We’re all sinners!” “You’re not better than him!” “Forgive and forget!”
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone!”
It’s funny — how quickly invitations to grace become commands to obey. How platitudes pretend to say one thing but really mean something else. That what these phrases are meant to imply is not reflection and forgiveness but that, for some reason, “all have fallen short” means “STFU already.”
It’s funny, too, that this verse — of all verses — has become an order to shut up. This, a verse where a bunch of men were literally about to throw stones at a woman’s face until it broke like a pumpkin and her brains splattered on the ground. The verse whereby Jesus condemns the religious power structures and the hypocritical religious leaders. The moment where he stands up for a powerless individual about to be brutally bludgeoned to death by the insular self-righteousness of the People Who Knew It All and Had Everything Together.
I do not think we fully appreciate the situation.
I do not think we appreciate that this woman was probably all too aware of her own-shortcomings, was terrified and shaking because this group of men, this group of People Who Know the Right Way, was more than happy — giddy, even — to condemn her. They were probably shaking their heads to make a public scene, saying “If only she didn’t leave her father’s umbrella of protection…” Yet deep down, they could not wait to dig a hole in the ground, bury her in it up to her neck, and throw sharp rocks at her head until her blood soaked into the sand.
But that day Jesus stood against Privilege. That day he stood for the woman, for the one who broke the Almighty Law, for the one who needed a safe place.
Yet you, you who spit John 8 in our faces, you demand silence.
You demand a quick and sudden forgiveness. You want to put Doug Phillips in the place of the woman. Doug Phillips, the one who was standing there all along calling the woman a Feminist and a Liberal and a Female Blogger, the one who built an industry and an empire around Casting the First Stone. And you want us to imagine the woman was the Pharisee. That the woman, nursing her wounds from being dragged to Jesus by her hair, has no right to speak. That, unless she remains silent, you will drag her right back before Jesus and repeat the Pharisees’ lines.
Perhaps you don’t get the irony here, but if there is a metaphor here, it is that we who are calling Phillips out are the ones who have spent our lives being dragged by our hair before Jesus. Being dragged by you. We don’t have stones to throw because you’ve held them our entire life.
We never said we were without sin because, oh don’t you worry, you made sure we knew that.
We aren’t perfect. Oh god we aren’t perfect. We know that because you beat it into our skin and you burned it in our ears and you raped it into our souls.
Our imperfections surround us like scattered pieces of a Tinkertoy set. They stretch on for miles and they are all we learned to see.
But today we realize we are more than what we are not. We realize that when you say, “Don’t cast the first stone,” you mean, “Get back in line.” Sorry, but you can go find new soldiers. We will not cast stones — we will learn to forgive — but we will do it on our own time and we will make our own paths.
And sure, we are angry. We are angry because legalism and hypocrisy hurts. Our anger is ok. If we do not feel, we can never truly forgive.
We have a right to be angry.
We have a right to weep and to cry and to mourn because of pain.
We have a right to rejoice when oppressors fall.
And we have a right to call your bullshit. We will never grow and we will never learn to love better unless we learn to say, “That is wrong and that hurts and please, please stop.”
If you think speaking truth to power is casting stones, you need go back to the drawing board.
So don’t tell us we have stones in our hands when you carry sacks of stones on your back, when you trained us to lift them for you and carry them into the future and throw them into the faces of the people you taught us were the enemies. You drew the lines in the sand. You trained us to see threats instead of people, to see sinners instead of brothers, to see lust instead of sisters.
We all have logs in our eyes. But we don’t build industries around our logs like you do.
If we threaten your bottom line, if we call your idols into question, if we melt your golden calves and dance like David in their shimmering puddles while we reclaim our lost youth, it’s on you whether you will listen or pick up stones. And if all you want to do is put your fingers in your eyes and scream “Lalala! Don’t cast stones! I can’t hear you!” so be it.
But don’t play stupid.
You cast the stones. You cast so many stones they formed a fortress from which you made an empire. You took those stones and constructed tables and placed those tables in your homeschooling temples.
And we will keep overturning those tables.
We will keep overturning the tables made from the stones you cast.
I could weep after reading this, but I feel too peaceful, too validated and affirmed and defended. Beautifully, beautifully written.
That means a lot, ramblingtart. Thank you.
Thanks for this. 🙂
“Amen!” says this atheist.
Great post. Thank you for calling out the inherent hypocrasy in the idea that it’s OK to throw stones at people not in your group, but if a Christian stumbles everyone needs to form a circle around him to deflect any criticism or honest evaluations.
This is beautiful, Ryan. Thank you.
Pingback: The Stones You Cast, The Tables You Built | R.L. Stollar
Thank you. We have posted this on our “A Cry For Justice” Facebook page. Excellent and beautiful.
I appreciate the kind words, MeganC, and thanks for sharing the piece!
What an angry rant! As if homeschooling and Doug Phillips are the blame for your sour grapes….sad. Anger is like a cancer, eating away at the soul. It is apparent that this site feeds that anger, like sugar feeds cancer. You should lay that anger and the cause of it at the Savior’s feet instead of nursing it.
Thanks for the comment, ttpog. Yes, this is certainly an impassioned piece. Anger is a normal human emotion. Even Jesus got angry. See Matthew 23, Mark 1, Mark 3, Mark 8, Mark 10, Mark 11, John 2, for a few examples. Ephesians 4:26 even says, “BE angry,” though it also says “and do not sin.” Anger is distinct from hate. And for the record, I hate neither homeschooling nor Doug Phillips. I personally love the idea of homeschooling and think it has the power to do much good. That is the very reason why I helped to create this site. That is also why I wrote this piece.
Yes, I am well aware of the distinction between anger and not sinning in that anger. However, it appears that that line between anger and intolerance of those with opposing views is blurred on this blog. There is much energy expended on here for….what? Who is this edifying, or, better yet, IS this edifying? This type of venting only allows anger to fester. Or, maybe I am under the false assumption that this is a Christian blog. It just seems that an awful lot of time is put forth to dwell on the hurts of the past. If those hurts have been properly dealt with then there is no reason to constantly regurgitate them. There comes a time when you need to move on….’It seems to me, that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you spit it out.’
The “for what” is listed on our About page, which you can view here: https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/about/ Our mission is “to make homeschooling better for future generations through awareness, community building, and healing.”
Actually, this blog welcomes many opposing viewpoints. We have welcomed pro-homeschool-regulation voices and we have welcome anti-homeschool-regulation voices. We have welcomed pro-Quiverfull voices and anti-Quiverfull voices. We have allowed debate on whether homeschooling is a human right or not. We have featured Christians — including Catholics and Protestants and Christian Universalists. We have included Messianic Jews and atheists and agnostics. We have even run an entire week of stories specifically on the positive side of homeschooling. We have nearly 500 posts on this site. There are many, many different viewpoints on here.
This site has existed for less than a year. For many of our contributors, this is the first time in their entire lives that they ARE dwelling on their pain. You can read the testimonies yourself. Perhaps you should give them room and exert more grace and patience yourself.
The passage actually states, “And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” “Wander” is a false interpretation.
There are many making claims of ‘abuse’ as a result of Phillips, et al., and as a result of home education. What abuse? Were you physically assaulted by these men? Did they hold guns to your head? Or the heads of your parents? Did they threaten you or your parents? Did they force you or your parents to listen to them? Did Phillips extort you or your parents? If so, did you or your parents report these criminal acts to the proper authorities? On the other hand, if the answer is no, you have no one to blame but yourselves, or perhaps your parents, for your supposed ‘abuse’…..not Phillips, et al., or home education. That some people have been captivated by these men does not imply that they were compelled by these men or by home education. To say otherwise is irresponsible.
Actually, ttpog, I studied both Classical and New Testament Greek for years, and “wander” is a perfectly legitimate translative option. The word used in the Greek is “αμαρτανε.” This would be a form of the Greek verb “αμαρτανω.” A quick perusal of any Greek lexicon reveals that “αμαρτανω” means a variety of things, the most common denominator being a falling short. The most common meaning is “to miss, miss the mark.” It also means “to miss the road,” or “wander” or “wander from the road.” It can also mean to fail, to go wrong, to do wrong, to err, to sin, and so forth. In this particular context, Jesus would be referring to wandering from, missing the mark of, or failing or sinning in relation to Old Testament Law.
Concerning your questions:
(1) If you are interested in peoples’ perspectives on Phillips and how he influenced the environments they grew up in, you can view all those perspectives here.
(2) If you are interested in abuse within home education contexts, there are many, many stories of those on HA. I’d recommend going to our navigation bar at the top, hovering over “Stories,” then go to “Issues,” then go to “Abuse.” There are a number of different abuse categories there that you can peruse. Our most recent and significant series on abuse was “To Break Down a Child,” on physical abuse and the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. You can view that series here.
The most common meaning is to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin. Which was my point.
No, I am not interested in reading the stories of angry adults who place the blame for their miserable childhoods on innocent people or movements. Like I already stated, your parents are where the blame lies for your childhood pains, not Doug Phillips, Mike Farris, etc. Where were your parents when you were in that tent with a young man that was five years your senior? You can’t blame Phillips or home education for that. You were a young boy that needed parental protection, but instead you were placed in harms way not by Phillips, but by your own parents.
Abuse happens….always has, always will….fallen world and all. Some are abused while in public schools at the hands of teachers, principals, etc. The proper response is not to go through life blaming the public school system, but rather the adults who perpetrated the abuse. And if you grind it on back, that would be the parents who are the perpetrators since they delegated the responsibility of their own children to others in the first place. You can shout in the wind all you please that the Phillips of the world and home education are to blame, but to no avail. Your barely 1000+ followers prove that.
I was molested as a child. I went to public school all my life. My parents were suppose to be Christians. I say ‘suppose’ because it was my preacher-father who molested me. My mother was beyond naive. My story somewhat mirrors yours, in an opposite sort of way. If I took your path, today I would be beating the drum that public schools ruined my life, that the ‘tough love’ proponents were to blame, and that Christianity was a hoax……but God…….He had a different path for me. He gave me the sense to know that public schools, ‘tough love’ leadership, and He were not to blame for my painful childhood. My sinful earthly father and tuned out, naive mother were. God mercifully healed my broken spirit, gave me the ability to forgive my father (and mother), and gave me the courage to face my hurts instead of blaming public schools, my parents religion, and my parents favorite ‘cult’ (tough love). God heals pain, so I have no need or desire to ‘dwell’ on it, or the pains of others. It is not a matter of a lack of ‘grace and patience’, but rather a lack of desiring to wallow in self-pity, loathing, anger and blame. Life is too short for that.
So, today my life is not a mirror of yours despite our somewhat similar childhoods. God has saved me. I am His. I am happily married, we have many children that we home educate, and my relationship with my parents is a good one. I honor my dad and my mother, as do our children. However, given my dads past, my young children have never (and never will) be out of our sight around my father. He fully understands this and is fine with it. My children know nothing about the abuse, and they aren’t even aware that we keep such a close eye on him. I could have easily chosen a homosexual lifestyle given the abuse I suffered, but…..again…..God! I, thankfully, never traveled that path. I did rebel in my teen years, was promiscuous, and played around with some drugs. Again, God was merciful and rescued me from that as well. His Word says: ‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.’ I am one of the ‘…such WERE some of you….’, but I have been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I have no reason to angrily place blame on those in my childhood who failed me. You are wasting your life on this earth by living every moment in the painful memories of your childhood and by desperately looking for something/one to pin the blame on. And, as a result, you will forfeit your eternity if you persist.
ttpog — Thank you for being willing to share your story here. I, too, was sexually abused as a young child. It wasn’t by one of my parents, though. When I was little, I had a horrible speech impediment. My parents didn’t know what to do, so they sent me to several public school speech therapists — several, because my speech impediment was so bad that, at first, I was determined to be a lost cause. One of those speech therapists abused me. It still haunts me to this day. But I am doing my best to heal and be healthy. Abuse is devastating. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was for you, since you were abused by own of your parents. My heart goes out to you. I am glad that you have found a spouse to love you and that you strive to give your children a better childhood than you had. I wish you the best.
Understand that many people of this community were directly harmed as a result of the cult that Doug Philips built. He constructed a system of unrealistic standards that even he was unable to meet.
The anger is coming from this hurt combined with a prolific hypocrisy in the Christian community. How many Christians argued that we shouldn’t throw stones at Bill Clinton, that Jesus said to forgive 70*7 times? Yet if a leader in a Christian community screws up, everyone in that community circles their wagons around the transgressor and tries to vend off attacks. It is a blatant, rampant hypocrisy.
Not only that, but by arguing against judging Philips, saying that we should forgive him because of generic religious reason X, you are effectually marginalizing the victim. Someone suffered as a result of Philips’ actions, yet in the rush to bat down criticisms of him, that person is pushed to side and shoved down. There is no concern for that person’s feelings, no concern for that person’s experience. There is only a rush to protect and cover for the sinner because of his position. This is simply a calling out of the Christian communities tendancy to give leaders a free pass when it comes to moral transgressions.
Harmed? How so? Were they physically harmed? Were they forced to endure said harm? Did someone hold a gun to their heads while being forced in the ‘cult that Doug Phillips built’?
Those would be criminal acts that should have been reported to the authorities. Did all these people file such a report? However, if you mean that people CHOSE to listen to Phillips, well…their supposed ‘harm’ is a harm of their own making. The blame rests on the shoulders of these individuals, not Phillips, et al.
Understand that I am not defending the sinful act Phillips has confessed to committing. He deserves the fallout of his sin just as we all do when we sin. I have not seen the ‘circling of wagons’ that you refer to either. However, we are commanded to forgive. That is not an option for a follower of Christ.
I have also not seen the other ‘person pushed to the side and shoved down.’ Nor have I seen unconcern for her feelings or experience. To the contrary, I have seen and heard many more people say that she and her family need prayers as well.
[HA note: comment modified due to a Violation of Comment Policies #3 and #4]
When you are a leader, be it religious or political or anything else, you have a greater responsibility for your words and teachings. I don’t deny that my parents have ultimate responsibility for their actions towards me, the same as the parents of other people here. However our parents looked to these religious leaders for advice, and the advice they received in some cases was physically abusive. Now my parents did not think so, they don’t believe they physically abused me. By any standard today, they did. Think of it this way; if you ask an investment banker for investment advice and he provides you a stock to invest in, who is liable if you buy the stock and lose money? If you signed a contract that excluded the banker from any negative outcomes, then of course it is your problem. If no such contract exists, you take the banker’s advice on good faith that he knows what he is talking about; it is very likely you could file suit against the banker for your losses. It is the same when our parents read a text that says by following magic formula “XYZ” they will have godly children. Ultimate accountability still rests with the parents who inflicted the pain, but that does not excuse the party whose teachings our parents followed from secondary accountability.
I quite understand you are not condoning the actions of Phillips. I would think that almost every Christian who heard about this condemns his actions. However, your emphasis on forgiveness diminishes the seriousness of his actions. Morality demands that his transgressions be punished; that is why we have a court system with laws and penalties. When Bill Clinton had his lapse in judgment, how many Christians were lined up saying “We should forgive him! There is no need to impeach him; god will judge his actions when he dies. Forgive him and move on”. The difference between Clinton and Phillips is that Phillips was a leader in some religious areas while Clinton was despised by most religious people. It’s a perfect example of the despicable hypocrisy embraced by far too many Christians today. The cries for Clinton’s blood were loud and clamorous from the religious right. However they are now silent, replaced by cries for forgiveness and prayers for this man and his family, a tacit desire for this entire incident to be swept under a rug and forgotten. You do not see the wagons circled around him because are in the circle, facing those of us who seek continuity. Too often men in Phillips’ position are forgiven, and years later resume their previous position of leadership.
Also, yes I am saying that it is immoral and wrong to simply forgive the man’s actions without any justice or consequence to him. If your religion says that is what should happen, then your religion is immoral and wrong no matter what you claim as the source.
Finally, I do not mean to imply that the Christian community is ignoring the victim. My only criticism is how Phillips has handled the situation in his official statements. His last requested prayers for himself, his family, and his staff, completely ignoring how bad this must be for the victim in all of this. A truly repentant man who recognize the extent of the harm of his actions.
Also, regarding your statement that “there comes a time when you need to move”, Ryan pointed out that a goal of homeschoolers anonymous is to make homeschooling better for future generations. Part of that requires bringing to light the problems that exist in the current methods of homeschooling. A wise man once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” A major problem with the current prominent voices in the homeschooling circle is that they are not interested in learning the lessons of the past. They cling to their vision and deny any and all evidence that shows the flaws in their methods.
I believe that as long as these leaders continue to embrace ignorance, plugging their ears and shutting their eyes, we will continue to bring up the lessons of the past.
You lose a lot of the power in your words when you use words like bullshit. You can do better than that.
Thanks for the comment, Bill. I simply disagree with you that a word like bullshit reduces communicative power. A word like bullshit can be a vitally important part of communication and making the world a better place. Others have expressed this idea more eloquently than I can, so I will point you to three writers who I believe hit the nail on the head:
Dani Kelley, guest post at Defeating the Dragons: “Learning the Words: Even the Ugly Ones”
Grace Biskie, “I’m a Christian and I Swear… Occasionally”
Bethany Suckrow, “Explicit Realities, Explicit Language”
i value the ugly words, and i’m finding that they are nowhere near as ugly as the ones twisted and tainted by those who were supposed to know a loving g-d.
What a great post. It resonated with me, even though I am male. I grew up in the homeschooling movement and was subjected to this same stuff until I got out, and I’m still healing from the PTSD it gave me. Men can be abused and victimized in patriarchy too, when they are not among the leadership who controls everything, though this is rarer. Anyway, I rejoice at the brave women who have gotten out and raised this issue to the attention of the Church. We must do better to defend the weak and vulnerable, regardless of what their gender is.
Pingback: Raising Aria Rose: Christopher L. Stollar’s Thoughts | H . A
One of the best exchanges I’ve read so far. Great, vigorous debate. I’m learning a lot from you all. Analytical thinking combined with ethics and compassion…it’s making our species better. And after all, we human beings are the only ones who can do that, whether we give our alleged gods the credit or not.
Very powerful, i’m one of the homeschool moms that was sucked in temporarily….now I do my best to de-program my kids and so far they are adjusting well. I hurt for the ones who didn’t fare as well… and yes their parents were sometimes victims as well. Mistakes are one thing..willfull ignorance and denial are another. Thank you for reminding us and continuing to make us uncomfortable enough to change.
i have read and reread all the words in the post, and the comments. i am left feeling tired, a little purged, a little more validated.
angry? i am learning to be angry.
hopeful? i am learning to be hopeful.
i believe it is very much the fault of a system that has caused an environment to be created that allows, perpetuates, and hides abuse. there is value in both the voice crying out for better, and the voice that leaves.
i cry out for better for homeschooling, even though i wasn’t homeschooled. i was still part of this system that removed my very humanity from me. it removed my hope of being good. it almost took my life.
asking how someone was harmed when it’s been clearly stated is another method of silencing. here, we all try to speak for ourselves and for those who cannot speak.
i value this place, i value its writings.
this post has haunted me over and over. i can be angry.
the image of carrying stones resonates so deeply. we were given stones, they called it love. then they asked us to kill ourselves and others in the name of love.
Pingback: How We Marginalize Abuse Survivors: The Spirit of Ham « HARO