[This was written in defense of Ronald E. Willams' Hephzibah House, a fundamentalist Christian boarding school for girls, many of whom claim to have been beaten and otherwise abused there.]
The Hephzibah House ministry seeks to salvage and rebuild these girls’ lives by giving them Christian instruction and a character-building lifestyle
An example of this that I’ve written about before, but which I think serves to perfectly illustrate this glaring flaw on the face of the American public square, is the story surrounding the ongoing saga of Hephzibah House, in Warsaw, Indiana. Briefly, Hephzibah House is a fundamental Christian ministry in which teenage girls from Christian homes are enrolled when they prove to be too much for their parents and home churches to handle – often these are girls who’ve gotten involved with drugs, alcoholism, even violence. The Hephzibah House ministry seeks to salvage and rebuild these girls’ lives by giving them Christian instruction and a character-building lifestyle in an environment separate from the bad influences that were often leading them down destructive paths. As you can imagine, this sort of ministry is not popular with the types of people who are already inclined to hate conservative Christianity anywise and who would relish the opportunity to corrupt the innocence of Christian young women, and therefore have an agenda diametrically opposed to that of Hephzibah House. Further, many of the girls who have been sent there over the past four decades resented their time there, as one might also imagine – after all, their enrollment is not usually voluntary.
For the past five years or so, Hephzibah House has been the target of an ongoing campaign of internet slander and public defamation perpetrated by a small circle of former residents and their vocal supporters. These opponents, whom I will refer to as the “Hephzibah Haters” or merely “Haters,” have repeatedly made a number of very serious and attention-grabbing accusations against the ministry involving allegations of abuse: supposedly girls at Hephzibah House have been starved, force-fed, beaten severely, forced to soil themselves and stay in it for long periods of time, have had “hormones” added to their milk to prevent menstruation, and on and on. As a result of these attacks, launched all over the internet on blogs, discussion forums, and so forth, Hephzibah House has been cast as a harrowing den of abuse that would be instantly shut down and punished in any decent society. In our analogy here, these accusations are a lot like the initial reporting of the Trayvon Martin killing – sensational, scandalous, lurid, and designed to provoke a particular sort of reaction from the otherwise unknowing reader who happens across them.
There’s just one problem with all of this – the accusations are not true, and have been refuted a number of times and in a number of ways, whenever the opportunity to put them to the test has been provided.
If you read some of the rather shrill and hyperventilating responses to my previous article in the comments section, you can see just how averse to actual facts these Haters are. For them, emotion and accusation ought to be enough to convict Hephzibah House. Indeed, one woman even came right out and said that she didn’t care about the facts, because she “knew” that Hephzibah House was guilty. Never mind all those things like “proof” and “logic” that just get in the way of a good, passionate outburst of emotionalism. Indeed, when dealing with the Hephzibah Haters, it quickly becomes apparent what tack the conversation will take:
Hater – “How can you support ABUSE?????”
TD – “I don’t.”
Hater – “Yes you do! Hephzibah House has been accused of abuse, and you’re DEFENDING them!!!”
TD – “An accusation does not constitute guilt. Before you can rightly claim that Hephzibah House abused any of these girls, you first have to provide some evidence to that claim.”
Hater – “No I don’t, I just KNOW they’re guilty!!!!”
TD – “Okay—so what about the eyewitness evidences against the accusers’ stories, and the other evidences that exonerate Hephzibah House?”
Hater – “Those don’t count, because they are on Hephzibah House’s side!!!”
TD – “So, let me get this straight – you can’t actually prove that the accusations you make against Hephzibah House are true, and you expect us to simply take them as true on the basis of emotion and ‘righteous indignation,’ but the evidences that work in Hephzibah House’s favor, we’re supposed to ignore, *because* they work in Hephzibah House’s favor?”
Hater – “How can you support ABUSE?????”
And so on.
With the Hephzibah Haters, you essentially have a group that wants to tenaciously hang onto their narrative’s version of events, despite the evidences against it. They also know that 90% of people will believe the first thing they read about a matter, so rather than simply admitting that maybe their story has problems and walking back the things they’ve previously said that were not true, they double down on their narrative, because their goal is to get as many people as they can to support them in their agenda, instead of simply letting the truth be known. In this, they’ve largely been successful. To their shame, even pastors and churches have believed the one-sided attacks against Hephzibah House that they initially read on these blogs and forums, and refuse to consider evidences and arguments that contradict the narrative – choosing purposefully to believe lies, just as many Americans continue to believe the lies about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, despite the debunking of the original story.
As in the case of the Martin shooting, the government itself has looked into the matter and found nothing to substantiate the arguments for guilt. The police and various pertinent regulatory agencies in Indiana have investigated accusations against Hephzibah House a number of times, and found them to be baseless. And as with the Martin case in which protestors accuse the police of not arresting Zimmerman because of institutionalized racism and so forth, so also the Hephzibah Haters excuse the fact that the police and State of Indiana haven’t found anything to back up the accusations as being due to some “influence” that Pastor Ron Williams (the founder of the ministry) and Hephzibah House supposedly have over Indiana’s regulatory bureaucracy. It’s almost as if Ron Williams has some sort of psychic mind-control power that he exerts to keep the authorities from looking too closely, if you were to listen to the ravings of some of the Haters.
The Haters have a very real interest in stoking hatred and suspicion against fundamental Christians
Another point of similarity with the Martin case is that the Hephzibah Haters act as they do because they have a very specific agenda that they want to push. As alluded above, and as noted in my previous article, the majority of the “drivers” in the anti-Hephzibah House protests and internet campaign are people who, to be frank, hate conservative, fundamental Christianity and have a vested interest in doing anything they can to defame, accuse, attack, and slander it. We’re talking about people who are pornographers, self-proclaimed witches, atheists, and lesbians. Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who have both practical and ideological interests in stoking racial hatred as a result of Martin’s death, the Haters have a very real interest in stoking hatred and suspicion against fundamental Christians – and use the Hephzibah House accusations as a vehicle for this. Indeed, it’s not unusual for those such as myself who defend Hephzibah House and who demand that actual evidence be brought forward before accusations are to be believed to be accused of “ignoring the abuse because they’re Fundamental Baptists.” In other words, the accusers are projecting the fact of their own religious bias into the discussion, assuming that those who disagree with them are biased as well. Quite the opposite is true, however. If Hephzibah House really and truly were proven by evidence to have engaged in the abuses of which they are accused, then I would agree that they should be shut down.