by John Ellis
Throughout most of Sunday, my article about how the St. Louis Naked Bike Ride subjected my children to sexual abuse was the most popular article on PJ Media. While not as popular as I’d hoped (it wasn’t shared by as many aggregate sites as I’d counted on), the article has over 600 comments. While not a lot, that’s also not a little. Not to mention the minor kerfuffle the article has caused on my wife’s Facebook page.
I haven’t had time to read all the comments, many of which agree with me, but the criticisms pretty much run along the three tracks that I was anticipating – 1. My misuse of the word “molestation;” 2. It was a planned and permitted event; and, 3. My shameful politicization of the whole thing.
Below, I am going to respond to each criticism. After responding to the three main criticisms of my article, I’m going to conclude with a personal observation/reflection. If you only have the time to read a little bit, please skip to the end and read that. My concluding thoughts are the most important paragraphs in this post.
I Misused the Word “Molestation”
There are two rhetorical aspects wrapped up in my choice to label what happened as molestation and assault; please bear with me as I unpack them.
First off, I used the words because I believe molestation and (sexual) assault are apt descriptions of what happened to my children. Secondly, I used the words because I wanted to borrow the language of the #MeToo movement in order to help lay out a rhetorical game-plan for my fellow conservative Christians and to hoist supporters and defenders of the #MeToo movement on their own petard.
Regarding the first reason (and the second), think of it this way: While at work, if my wife were to enter a lawyer’s office and that lawyer were to unzip his pants and expose himself to her, she would then have legal recourse that falls under the umbrella definition of those loaded words. What’s more, if she were to write about the assault on Facebook and label it #MeToo, many of the critics of my article would applaud her.
If a man exposes himself to an unwilling individual, then he should suffer consequences. If it happens at work, he should be fired. Regardless of where it happens, he should suffer legal consequences, too. There are several prominent stories within the #MeToo movement of powerful men being taken to task (rightfully so) for exposing themselves to unwilling women. The words “assault” and “molest” are frequently connected to those #MeToo anecdotes.
Now, let’s add the specter of children.
If a man were to remove his clothes and walk onto a playground filled with children, he would be arrested, charged, and tried. In most states, if convicted, he would be required to register as a sex offender because society would recognize him as a sexual predator.
On Saturday evening, adults willfully exposed their genitalia to my children. Under the law, they should be arrested, tried, and, if convicted, required to register as a sex offender.
One of the interesting yet sad and not unexpected responses from those who support the #MeToo movement is their unwillingness to allow the victims in this case (my family and me) to define what happened to us. One of the tenants of the #MeToo movement is that others do not get to dictate the level of trauma felt by the victims nor the definition of the trauma used by the victims. The harshest criticisms of me have been in the vein of accusing me of cheapening actual victims of sexual assault.
I expected that criticism because I realize that allowing me to define my family’s experience as assault in relation to an event like the St. Louis Naked Bike Ride chips away at the depraved freedom that the sexual revolution has won for our society. Many of my critics are unwilling to submit to God and they realize that supporting my children in this instance pushes back on the sexual revolution they worship.
If my wife had been exposed to genitalia in this way at work, many of my critics would be up in arms in support of my wife, no matter what terms she used. If my children had been exposed to genitalia in this way while playing on a playground, many of my critics would be up in arms in support of my children, no matter what terms I used.
What’s ironic is that in the final paragraph of my article, I wrote, “I’m willing to bet that the #MeToo movement doesn’t care that my wife and children were molested tonight by the St. Louis Bike Ride.” It’s too bad that I didn’t make any actual bets, because many of my critics would’ve won me some money.
Exposing the hypocrisy of the #MeToo movement and those who want to live in a world not controlled by a Biblical sexual ethic was one my objectives with the article.
It Was a Planned and Permitted Event
According to the law, my wife and I have a reasonable and legal expectation that our family will not be exposed to graphic displays of adult nudity when we are in public. Setting aside the discussion of morality for the sake of argument, if my wife and I were to choose to visit a strip club or a nude beach (two things we wouldn’t do, for the record), we would lose the right to cry “foul” at the nudity we’d be exposed to. On Saturday night, we were in a public place and were operating under the assumption that the authorities would be protecting us from vulgar, obscene, and violent (yes, violent) displays of sexuality. I mean, the authorities have laws in place that protect us every day of the year from that very thing except, apparently, one day.
To those critics that dismissed my concerns because, well, we’re liable to see nudity at sporting events or in other public places, that’s nonsense. While at a Washington Nationals’ game, if an adult were to streak in the stands or across the field, the authorities would corral and arrest the offender as quickly as possible. Yes, it is possible to be exposed to nudity in public places, but the expectation is that the authorities will do their best to ensure that it doesn’t happen. And, if it does happen, the authorities will act swiftly to protect private citizens, except, apparently, one day of the year.
And to those who scoffed at our prudishness, I’m curious if you scoff when the police arrest grown men who expose themselves to children on the playground, for example.
Our expectation that the authorities will protect us from adults exposing themselves to us against our wishes should not be considered unreasonable, even if the event was organized and planned a year ago or two years ago or a decade ago. Dismissing our response because the St. Louis Naked Bike Ride was planned and had a permit is, without question, victim shaming.
It is not our responsibility to scour all the calendars of all the possibly offensive organizations and plan our itinerary accordingly. Not to mention that we were tourists in a strange city, unaware of roads, not to mention the event went right by (on the road, sidewalk, and little front yard) of the house where we were staying. To escape it, we had to close all blinds and doors and turn the TV up. For over fifteen minutes we were held captive in the house because the City of St. Louis refused to enforce its existing laws.
What’s more, claiming that the presence of a city permit undermines our response is absurd. Excusing adults exposing their genitalia to children because the adults had a permit is a dangerous and immoral precedence. That excuse asserts that if a penis has a permit, it’s okay for adults to expose themselves to kids. The critics who throw “permit” in our face (like the St. Louis Police Department did) have erected a dangerous distinction. Even with a permit, adults standing up on their bikes and waving their penises in the direction of underage children (and unwilling adults) are no less morally culpable than adults who, while hiding behind a tree, expose themselves to passing children. At this point, the slimy entrance ramp of the sexual revolution is revealing that we may not be far away from something akin to a pedophilia permit.
My Shameful Politicization of the Event
Honestly, this one baffles me. Most of those who used this criticism appear to believe that I didn’t know what I was writing; I’m assuming that they thought my anger and frustration got the better of me. No. I deliberately and, with what I thought was an obvious political agenda, concluded my PJ Media article by calling people to vote against the Blue Wave this November.
As a conservative Christian, I am increasingly appalled at the outworking of the sexual revolution. In His sovereignty, God has placed my family and me in the United States of America. As a citizen, I will do what I am legally able to protect my children from the depraved effects of sin. To that end, I will apologize to no one for wanting to encourage my fellow conservative Christians to do what they can to help stop children from being assaulted by adults exposing their genitalia to them. And part of the “do what they can” is voting this November.
One political party promotes wholesale and without reservation the sexual revolution – the Democrat Party. So, yes, and “shamefully politicizing” this current post, I repeat my admonishment to get out this November and vote against the Democrats.
One thing that should be noted is that I did not say “vote Republican.” In the final paragraph of my PJ Media article, I wrote, “vote in a way that makes sure that the ‘Blue Wave’ doesn’t happen.”
I can’t in good conscience encourage a wholesale support of the Republican party. I don’t have the time nor the desire to research every GOP candidate that will be on ballots across this country this fall. I have no doubt that I would encourage people to vote against some Republicans. However, what I can do in good conscience is encourage people to wholesale vote against Democrats, in whatever ways in which readers are able to do so in good conscience and full faith before God.
It’s a fact that the Democrat Party supports and promotes the sexual revolution. The Democrat Party has a platform that is in direct rebellion against my King. As a conservative Christian, I can never support the Democrat Party as it is presently constructed, agenda wise.
While writing my PJ Media article, I found myself wondering if I would be writing if my kids hadn’t been in the car. Honestly, I think the answer is probably not. At best, I think that I would have been irritated. At worst, I probably would’ve laughed it off and used the experience in the future as a funny anecdote about that time Danita and I unwittingly found ourselves in the middle of the St. Louis Naked Bike Ride.
As I contemplated, I was reminded of Ezra 9. In the chapter, after being confronted with the sin of the people, Ezra reveals to the reader that he, “tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from head and beard and sat appalled (Ezra 9:3).”
As Ezra continues writing, we find out that he sat and fasted the rest of the day. At the end of the day, he got up and prayed for the iniquity of the people. Chapter 10 tells us that while praying, he did so, “weeping and casting himself down.”
Several weeks ago, while rereading about Ezra’s response to sin, I was struck by the contrast found in my own actions when I’m confronted by sin. With the understanding that there is not an exegetical one-to-one parallel between Ezra and his response and me and my response, I was forced to shamefully admit to myself that when confronted by society’s sin I often, well, do nothing.
If the sin is displayed and encouraged in a movie I’m enjoying, I frequently excuse it with things like, “Well, it’s not nudity.” When I hear about sin on the news, I am rarely saddened. When I see sin happening around me, I will often ignore it. And none of those responses are okay.
Sin is open rebellion against my Creator and King. And sin grieves and offends my Creator and King. As a follower of Jesus, sin should grieve me, too. While I don’t believe that I should tear my clothes, rip out my hair, and weep and thrash about as I pray, I do know that my response to sin around me should not steer towards apathy.
Yes, the presence of my children elevated the gravity of what took place Saturday evening. But even if my children hadn’t been there, I should have still been grieved enough to write an article about it.
Even if the vast majority of people that I know tell me that I’m making a mountain out of mole hill, by God’s grace, I will not stop calling out the sinful actions of those who participated in the St. Louis Naked Bike Ride and the various Naked Bike Rides that happened around the country on July 21. It was sinful, and professing Christians should want to see it ended.