Barton Gingerich is an IRD Fellow. He graduated in 2011 from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in History. He now attends Reformed Episcopal Seminary and serves as a Fellow at St. Mark's Reformed Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania.
The conservative Christian community was shocked when World magazine broke a story about The King’s College president and cultural commentator Dinesh D’Souza. According to the exposé, he was at a September 28th apologetics event where he introduced a Denise Odie Joseph II as his fiancee. This surprised attendees since D’Souza had been married to his wife, Dixie, for nearly 20 years. World alleged that he shared a hotel with his girlfriend, but defended himself to concerned conference organizers since “nothing happened.” California court records showed that he filed for divorce on October 4th, nearly a week after the confrontation. State law declares that there must be a six-month waiting period for divorce.
D’souza fired back with his own comments in a Fox News editorial. Not only did he deny the charge that he shared a hotel room with his fiancee, but he also accused World editor and former King’s College provost Marvin Olasky of having a vendetta against D’Souza’s position as school president. D’Souza complained Olasky “vehemently opposed my candidacy” and resigned from the provost’s office in protest.
In a Christianity Today feature, D’Souza tried to explain himself more explicitly to the evangelical world. “I did not have any idea that it is seen as wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced even though separated,” he confessed. The quotes also revealed quite a bit of self-rationalization: “My purpose was to put our relationship on a legitimate and honorable foundation. I’m a college president at King’s and a public figure as a Christian apologist, and I thought it very important that any woman I appear with have a legitimate relationship with me.” He also struggled to defend his reputation, declaring, “It’s absolutely not the case that [pause]…Look, the issue here is that World is attributing to me an admission that I never made—is attributing to me a quotation that I never said. That to me is the problem…They are just claiming based upon my non-assertion that I did something that I didn’t do.” Thanks to mainstream media attention, the entire situation entered soap-operatic levels of drama. A particularly vicious report indicates that Denise Joseph was formerly married herself.
Thus continues a sad situation that injures many. D’Souza’s decisions have hurt himself, his wife Dixie, his fiancee, his ministry, and everyone tied to the King’s College (this includes a current IRD staffer and a former IRD intern). How strange to Christian ears to hear that D’Souza didn’t know it was “wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced even though separated.” He says this to people involved with the FAMILY Research Council and Focus on the FAMILY. Mr. Olasky may have some vendetta against Mr. D’Sousa, but the improprieties and immoralities are pretty astounding.
In this situation, there seems to be a disconnect between public persona and personal piety, where one has to struggle against temptation and sin. There is always a great risk when one becomes a culture warrior first and foremost. For this breed, Christianity is a thing to be used–a thing that does not speak, invade, or intrude into one’s life. Instead, it functions. In short, Christianity becomes an idol. This squarely clashes with The King’s College’s mission. D’Souza has since resigned his post.
The example of D’Souza highlights two important features of the church and the Christian life. First, there is a radical call to holiness, a standard to which the corporate Body of Christ keeps its members accountable. We see in the Epistle of St. James that teachers are held to a higher standard of accountability (often because of messes just like this). Read Mark 9:42-50. Our Savior gave fire-and-brimstone warnings about the destructiveness of sin—it were a better thing to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye than to sin.
And what D’Souza has done qualifies as sin, even in a liberal translation of biblical marriage. More traditional Christians believe that divorce is only an option in cases of adultery or abuse. However, IRD Fellow Alan Wisdom offered his very helpful commentary on the subject:
Even if one grants that divorce may be necessary in limited circumstances–very limited, if one takes Matthew 19/Mark 10 seriously–the priority up until the minute the divorce is final should be on seeking reconciliation with the spouse from whom one is separated. That’s why it is ALWAYS wrong to foreclose reconciliation by starting a new relationship while still married to another. Besides, relationships “on the rebound” are usually ill-fated, because they are typically a way to avoid dealing with the failings that caused the previous relationship to break up, leaving those unaddressed failings free to rear their ugly head again at a later time. The divorce rate for marriages that begin as adulterous affairs is 75 percent. Ultimately, our guide in all these matters is the love of Christ for his church, which is to be the model for our marriages. Christ always seeks reconciliation, until the very end. He never casts us aside for someone he likes better. We may separate ourselves from him, but he is always ready to take us back.
We must hope and pray for better things from Dinesh (whom I used to know years ago). And we should pray also for the young woman who is involved with him. She may have a low view of herself, thinking the best she can do is another woman’s husband. God has better plans for her too, we must believe.
For the second element to be mindful of, let’s return to Alan’s statement: “Christ always seeks reconciliation, until the very end. He never casts us aside for someone he likes better. We may separate ourselves from him, but he is always ready to take us back.” This is good counsel for us in the Christian community, too. Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. We have been forgiven our debts; we must forgive our debtors. Our King has issued his servants a drastic call to mercy.
We need to seek proper reconciliation with D’Souza—I hope there can be repentance and correction from harmful error on his part and that the Church will continue to reach out to him and try to minister to him. This cannot happen if he clings to all-besetting, death-bringing sin or if Christians hurt by his actions do not extend the hand of forgiveness and peace. Thankfully, grace has a tendency to invade the lives of the offended and the offender, whether the two human parties want it to or not. I pray D’Souza turns away and could find full fellowship once again. It’s the Church’s job to embody Christ in our call to faithful holiness and in our extension of mercy.Google+