I had an eerie sense of déjà vu as I watched the Dinesh D’Souza scandal unfold last week.  I’ve seen a number of men be accused of sexual immorality – politicians, businessmen, pastors – and almost always their first reaction is not only to deny the accusations, but to attack the accusers as jealous, small-minded, and part of a wider conspiracy or vendetta against them (e.g. Bill Clinton, Dominique Strauss, etc).

Obviously we have to resist the temptation to assume the worst of people, especially of powerful men. False accusers do exist. However, it does raise the question if this is the way those who really are victims of false accusation would or should react?

Or to make it more personal, what if I was wrongly accused of sexual immorality? What would I do? How would I hope I’d react?

First of all, I go to fairly extreme lengths to ensure that I am never in a situation where such an allegation could arise, or if it did it could easily be disproved due to the presence of other witnesses, etc.

Second, I would humble myself before God, as I would view such an accusation as divine chastening. I would prayerfully look for why God saw fit to allow such painful allegations to arise in my life. Even if not guilty, there is a humiliating shame involved. I would pray for much grace for my wife and family as such accusations would impact them as much as me.

Third, I hope I’d try to reach out to the accuser(s) in love and mercy seeking to understand why she/he is making such an allegation. I hope I would not denigrate her/him or seek to destroy her/his character. She/he is a precious soul with a great need for salvation, and so are those who may be supporting her/him.

Fourth, I’d ask my pastor/elders/employer to initiate a full and open investigation of the accusations. I’d want them to treat it seriously rather than dismiss it with “We know you’d never do that.” I would not want to be treated with any special favor or shortcuts.

Fifth, I’d seriously consider stepping aside from public Gospel duties while the investigation is completed. I imagine it would feel very strange and inappropriate to be proclaiming God’s truth while under such a dark cloud.

Sixth, I’d seek solace in the sufferings of Christ, trying to enter into the fellowship of his sufferings, who was falsely accused throughout his life.

Seventh, I’d pray for vindication, asking God to clear my name through due process. I hope I would not resort to threats, manipulation, or other political machinations to secure my reputation or innocence.

Eighth, I hope I’d be willing to submit to God’s providence even if it was not possible to clear my name, even if it meant the end of my ministry. That’s easy to say when it’s not happening, but I hope I would be thankful for the years God did grant me to proclaim His Word, and accept that now it’s over and God will advance His work and His kingdom without me.

Lastly, even if false accusations ended my ministry, Joseph’s and King David’s stories encourage me to hope that in time God would yet vindicate me and return me to even greater future usefulness in His Kingdom.

It reminds us all to pray more earnestly than ever before, “Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.”

  • Alastair Manderson

    Point three seems the hardest with an accusation so serious, but it also seems one of the most important.

    I have never made it a point to pray for men/women who are in this situation! I think I may do so.

    But could I ask you to go a little further in point five? Talk me through the “serious consideration”. Since, you are open (it seems) to the continuation of Gospel duties as well as the ending of them. (8 points worth considering on that subject would also be a worthwhile read Dr Murray!)

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Eight points! Wish I had the time, Alastair. Suffice to say that it would involve prayerfully considering the impact of the accusations on my family, my congregation, the wider Christian community. I don’t think someone should just step aside whenever an allegation is made. There has to be some initial weighing of the accusers and the accusations. Otherwise we’re inviting malcontents and others to do their worst.

  • Adam Thompson

    Good thoughts.

    It sounds to me like D’Souza has by his own admission, at the very least been behaving in what is a very unwise and inappropriate manner, but the evidence falls short of proving that he was actually engaging in sexually immoral behavior.

    What baffles me is that he seems totally surprised by what has happened. He says that he had “no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced”. It baffles me how he could not have at least guessed that would be frowned upon. Not to mention travelling with his fiancee and staying at a hotel. Did he think no-one would notice, or did he honestly not realize that such behavior is widely considered unwise (at best)?

    At any rate, it seems to me that World handled the issue improperly, not in line with Biblical commands regarding restoring brothers in a spirit of gentleness, etc. A magazine article is not the appropriate way to handle what should have been handled in private and/or via D’Souzas church and college board. What are your thoughts in that regard?

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      I hadn’t given much thought to how it was handled, Adam. Obviously one would hope that there was much more “behind-the-scenes” attempts to deal with this before going public. Often such attempts are stonewalled, however.

  • http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com Wesley

    A deeply thought-provoking post sir. Like you, i work to keep myself from situations where such allegations could even be considered, but i am also too aware that even an idle rumour can be the death of a vibrant ministry, all b/c of what Bryan Chapell call the ‘Ethos’ part of a pastor’s ministry viz. his perceived character.
    Much of what you say seems very wise, especially the part about having the elders do an open and thorough investigation. I think more than threats and maneuvering, this shows the character of a godly, and also innocent, person: willing to have everything laid out in the open for the truth to be laid bare even if that means he gets dragged through the mud in the meantime.
    God keep all of us from such a day, and sustain us should He see fit for it to come.

  • http://www.wisereader.com David Daniels

    A fine post, but I wonder, are you inviting someone to falsely accuse you by publicly musing about how you would handle it if it came?

    In my view, some posts are better remaining unwritten until the need truly arises.

    • http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com Wesley

      I think Dr. Murray is simply encouraging all of us to think ahead on these things and plan now so as not to be trying to figure out the particulars of a biblical response in the midst of the battle. I doubt he, or anyone, would be ‘inviting’ any such attention.

      • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

        I did think about the danger of inviting accusation. However, Wesley’s right, my motive was about helping us to pan ahead as I’ve seen so many make a complete mess of this in the heat of the battle” as you say.

  • Michael Hutton

    It’s always a bit risky to hypothesise about things others are going through. I’ll make a couple of comments, if I may.

    Point 1. There is nothing you can do to protect yourself from false accusations. Allegations are often regarded as credible and suspects as “perps” despite what the law says. It’s easy for anyone to say such and such happened and very difficult to prove it didn’t. Be very careful, but realise being careful may not be enough.

    Point 3. If someone has just lied about you, be careful of reaching out. Make sure it’s not about you seeking an earthly vindication. Be aware that a liar (for whatever reason) is likely to use any “reaching out” against you and that in some circumstances reaching out would be construed by authorities as harrassment or worse. Also, if someone has convinced themselves you did something when you didn’t, what closure or consolation can you bring them? You can only stir it up again.

    This makes points 6, 7 and 8 all the more important.

    But a question.
    Is our thinking on this influenced by our worlds attitude to sexual misconduct and sex crimes? Where is the Biblical outworking of “do not entertain a charge against an elder unless it is supported bu 2 or 3 witnesses’? Take Dinesh, If the facts are as they were stated in his article then there was nothing wrong with his article. The accusations against him were scurrilous and malicious and lacked integrity and the authors have publicly sinned against him and ought to be called publicly on that sin.
    It all comes down to what actually happened. That will come out in time.

  • http://ceruleansanctum.com DLE

    I hate to be cynical, but in 35+ years of being an active witness to how churches run, I’ve never seen a truly falsely accused person go free. Every last one has been ruined to some extent.

    What is truly horrifying is that I have seen some people falsely accused, but with overwhelming evidence to their innocence, yet because the accuser was considered an important person in the church or was related to an important person in the church, that innocent person was made a sacrificial lamb to hide much deeper problems in the church.

    It’s sad to think that the innocent often meet the same end as the guilty, but if we were not so worried about appearances, more innocents would be declared not guilty rather than seeing their entire ministry go up in flames.

    And even then, even if someone is guilty as sin, where is the grace? I’m always hearing about “restoring sinners,” yet I’ve never seen this happen in reality. When was the last time a church leader did something stupid, repented, was counseled, and then was restored? I’ve never seen it happen. Yes, we talk about it, but it might as well be a fairy tale.

    Worst of all, when someone is made a sacrificial lamb, no one ever goes back and helps that person rebuild. Too often, the stance taken resembles Pilate’s washing of the hands. What a terrible witness.

    The American Church is far too concerned with how people perceive it, particularly individual churches. Until we get over ourselves, this issue will continue to grind up good people. Too often, even the whiff of scandal is enough to get someone booted locally (or worse, blackballed widely). And that’s a crime against that person and against the Lord.

  • Harold

    It is amazing how Jesus ministered to the woman at the well.
    He was all alone as far as we know with a woman of definite reputation of an adulterous life. Here is Jesus – Son of man a Jew even talking to a Samaritan woman.
    That would have fuelled much allegations in the community of that time. Yet the Father called Him to minister to a woman all on His own….. Let him who has no sin cast the first stone. The truth will always prevail. God sees the heart and motives of all.
    In the world you will have tribulation… But I have overcome the world says God.
    No matter if you have people around you and have a pure heart – you could find yourself talking plainly to a woman and still be accused of saying something that was mis-understood by the lady and be falsely accused – especially if that lady has an unknown mental condition. That has been my experience. Still praying and trusting God for vindication.

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  • Heather

    I have somewhat of a different perspective on this matter… I am an attractive woman. I am careful to dress modestly but I’ve still be accused of being immoral. I’ve worn a $5 baggy tshirt from Walmart to church and was still accused of trying to tempt men. I was not. I am married. And if that wasn’t enough, I fear God. This had happened to me in two churches (main church and sister church) and in both of them, I have caught the pastor point blank staring at me. The pastor stopped preaching once because he was staring at me so hard. It happened two more times and the people in the church began to look at me like i was…”someone bad” One time I was worshipping with my eyes closed and the holy spirit told me that the pastor was staring at me. I opened my eyes and sure enough, he was watching me like I was a movie. One day out of the blue, the pastor decided that I was a dangerous person and I was told to leave. I was told that I’d be escorted off the property if I showed my face there again. If leadership from the church see me in the street they warn their friends to not speak to me. I seriously believe that I was kicked out bc the pastor lusted after me and blamed me for it.