Anonymous Tip: Booking the Church Next Saturday

Anonymous Tip: Booking the Church Next Saturday July 22, 2016

A Review Series of Anonymous Tip, by Michael Farris

Pp. 332-335

Farris starts this section by talking about the upcoming appeal in Seattle. Gail is appealing Judge Stokes’ decision that Peter can sue child protective services for the search of Gwen’s home. Peter is appealing Judge Stokes’ decision that Peter can’t sue over perjury and tampering. Both have to file opening briefs. I though this bit was interesting given what we’ve discussed so far:

Willet had much more experience in appellate litigation than Peter. All the rules concerning brief formats came easily to her. Peter spent three hours one afternoon doing nothing other than trying to master the rules which governed the size of paper, style and type to be used, spacing, format of case citations—all the technicalities that trial lawyers rarely have to deal with.

We’ve talked before about the problems with Peter’s decision to argue this case, given his lack of expertise in this area of law, and here we see the problems once again. Based on what’s in the text, Peter does not appear to have even considered passing the case on to someone more qualified to argue it. I’m not sure why. It could be that Peter wants to maintain his closeness with Gwen, but I’m not sure we can assume that given the lack of any mention of the idea that Peter should or could pass the case on in the text.

Peter flies to Seattle and spends a day listening in on cases being heard by various panels of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Farris tells us there were over twenty judges and Peter would have no idea of knowing who they would get, or who would be good for them to get. It’s unclear what Peter gained by spending the day in Seattle.

Farris says Peter spent hours every evening on Gwen’s case, and that “His unfamiliarity with appellate work made him put twice as much effort into the case than might otherwise have been needed.” See my point above.

Finally, in mid-September, Farris meets with Pastor Lind (does he have a first name) about whether it would be biblical for him to marry Gwen. I’m confused as to why he put this off so long, given that he first asked Gwen to wait for him in July. Pastor Lind is the pastor of his church there in Spokane, the one Gwen now attends, and was at his Labor Day cookout. Pastor Lind is meeting with someone else when Peter arrives for his appointment, so he has to wait.

A few minutes after four, a couple Peter did not know walked out of the Pastor’s study. The wife had been crying. She was now clinging tightly to her husband’s arm. Peter made eye contact with the husband, and both men nodded a quick “Hi.”

Given what I know about how counseling works at churches like this, this creeps me out to the extreme. Was this marital counseling? Has the wife been told to submit to her husband, to be a good wife and obey him, and that’s why she’s crying? Why does Peter interact only with the husband, when the wife is right there too? I mean sure, on a second read-through it’s possible the couple is there because they lost a child, or their home burned down, or some such, but I will never not be creeped out by the things that go on in these counseling sessions. And I should know. My parents made an appointment for me with our pastor once, so that he could set me back on the straight and narrow. To say that it was unpleasant would be a major understatement.

Anyway, once Peter makes it into Pastor Lind’s office, the two engage in small talk and then Peter says he’s here to talk about Gwen Landis.

“Ah, yes. Gwen. She seems like a very nice lady. Lynn Roberts tells me she is really growing spiritually.”

I think I’m just going to have to resign myself to finding everything about this meeting creepy.

Peter explains that Gwen is divorced, because of her ex’s financial irresponsibility, and mentions the alcoholism (though not the creepy stalker tendencies). He explains that he has “never even kissed her, much less anything more,” but that he is “in love with her and would marry her in a heartbeat if I could get past this issue of divorce.” So first of all, have we forgotten the prolonged hand-holding incident? And why the hangup on the physical? He may not have touched her (much) but he did lead her on and he has caused her emotional pain and turmoil, which is inexcusable given that he knew when he met her that his religious beliefs precluded him marrying her.

Anyway, Peter says he sees three options—either the Bible is clear that he can’t marry her, or the Bible is clear that he can marry her—in which case “I probably am going to ask you if the church is free for next Saturday afternoon”—or the Bible is unclear, in which case he needs to abide by what the Holy Spirit tells him. Pastor Lind says it sounds like Peter has it all figured out, but Peter says the problem is he doesn’t know which of the above options is the correct one.

But let me tell you what I am wondering. Peter says he is in love with Gwen and would marry her that Saturday if there wasn’t the whole previous divorce Bible issue at play here. But let me ask you this: When have Peter and Gwen ever had a conversation about something other than this case, Gordon, or Casey? When have they just hung out, as two people able to be at ease around each other? The answer is never. Peter came to dinner at Gwen’s house once, and it is possible that they talked about other things there, but Gwen’s parents were there too. Peter and Gwen ran into each other once at Aaron and Lynn’s, but they basically just crossed paths on the way in and out. Gwen went to Peter’s Labor Day cookout, but even if they talked about other things, it was amidst lots of people. Gwen has been going to Peter’s church, but it sounds like she’s been staying close to Lynn and it is unlikely that she and Peter have much time (if any) for private conversation.

Peter has what amounts to a schoolboy crush. He has built up an image of Gwen as this beautiful, godly, motherly, feminine woman who is sweet and needs protecting, but he does not actually know Gwen. I mean on top of everything above, the tension between them over this question of Gwen’s divorce prevents them from having any normal interaction to speak of. I’ve often told my younger sisters and younger girl friends, when they ask me for relationship advice, that they won’t truly get to know their partner until they get past the initial heat of the relationship to the point where they can relax together and let down their defenses. Peter and Gwen are still in that first stage, where there’s a certain amount of posturing. It would be extremely unwise for them to just hop into marriage.

Anyway, Pastor Lind says he believes that except for cases where “a person has been divorced for the reason of the other person’s adultery,” remarriage after a divorce is not biblical. But he says he knows other men, “pastors who are generally conservatives,” who hold that if “the divorce was before they were Christian” and “the divorced person was the innocent spouse” it is acceptable for a previously divorced and now Christian person to remarry. He concludes that the third option Peter laid out is the correct one—that the Bible is unclear, and that personal conviction must decide the issue for any given individual.

(First, I am curious whether Pastor Lind would apply this same standard to the creation narrative of Genesis, making young earth creationism or theistic evolution a matter of personal conviction. Second, I’m curious about how Pastor Lind would talk to a woman approaching him with a similar question—would he suggest she should listen to her male authority for guidance? I’m struck by how much leeway Peter is being given here when, as a young female Christian, I rarely received any such leeway from either my parents or my family’s conservative evangelical church.)

Peter is not happy, of course, because his personal conviction has long been that remarriage after a divorce is inappropriate unless there was infidelity. Pastor Lind suggests that God has already told Peter what to do, and Peter says he was hoping the problem was just that he was taught his view incorrectly in the first place, and thus Pastor Lind could correct his thinking and show that the Bible is clear and remarriage in Gwen’s case would be permissible. But alas. Peter acknowledges that he only wants to change his position on this issue because of Gwen, and that is clearly not appropriate.

Peter says its the hardest spiritual struggle he has ever experienced.

“I want to be married to Gwen more than I have ever wanted anything. But I have to be willing to lay it on the alter like Abraham did with Isaac.”

Wait, wait, wait. I’m a bit concerned by this comparison. First, in that story, God ultimately stops Abraham from killing Isaac. In other words, Abraham does not actually have to give up that which is most dear. He only has to show himself willing to do so. But second—and I didn’t know this until a few years ago—there are Jewish interpretations that hold that Abraham made the wrong choice and failed the test. The story isn’t as black and white as evangelicals tend to think it.

Anyway, Pastor Lind gives Peter some books by pastors who hold the other view, telling him to listen to God while reading them. Peter says that if the books convince him to adopt the other position, he’ll pass it by Pastor Lind first, “so you can help me do a heart check to know if I am deceiving myself.” Pastor Lind praises Peter for how well he is handling this struggle. The curtain closes.

It’s funny, I though the central drama of this book was going to be the conflict with child protective services, not our hero’s struggle between his religious convictions and what he has in his pants.

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