There has been much discussion recently about Doug Wilson’s participation in the Steve Sitler’s wedding. Sitler is a convicted pedophile with a long history of sexual attraction to and abuse of very young children. In June 2011, Doug Wilson presided over the wedding of Steve and Katie Sitler. At one point during the wedding, a man prayed that the couple would be blessed with “the gift and heritage of children.”
Before they could get married, Sitler needed approval from a judge. At that status hearing, the concern was raised about the potential for children:
The discussion amongst Latah County Prosecutor , Bill Thompson; Judge Stegner; and Mr. Wallenwaber, focused, in part, on the legal consequence if/when Steven Sitler and Katie Travis have children. It may be the case that Mr. Sitler will not be allowed to share a home with his wife and child or children. This remedy may be utilized in Idaho when the father is a convicted pedophile. Judge Stegner ruled that the wedding could go forward and issues regarding the protection of children will be addressed if and children are a factor in the marriage.
Earlier this year, Sitler had his first child, and there are significant concerns being raised about his interactions with his son. The question being asked in many places is should a pedophile be encouraged to marry and have children. Given the nature of the sexual perversion and the risk to any children he might father, was it wise to marry Sitler and for someone to pray that he might be blessed with children?
I recently read Doug Wilson’s book, Fidelity, and I think it’s worthwhile to consider what Wilson writes in his book about lust and fleeing temptation.
First, let’s consider Wilson’s definition of lust. Even though he speaks of lust as imagining a “woman” in some sexual way, I think it’s reasonable to include “man” or “child” or “animal’ or anything else:
The answer is that lust is in a man who imagines or sees himself to be with a woman in some sexual way and who consequently has a physiological reaction, usually manifested by an erection. He is aroused and is physiologically interested in sexual intercourse of some description. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 132-134). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Having described what lust is and explained why it’s sinful, Wilson sets out various ways to fight against the problem of lust:
I want to outline a biblical response to the problem of lust which will apply equally to men who are single and men who have a wife. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Location 315). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
What is one of the ways men are to respond to lust? Run away:
The fifth thing men must do is run away—flee the occasions of sin. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Location 357). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
And he means it very literally. Men are to actively fight the temptation by doing something about it:
You cannot fight something with nothing. Those who want to fight the temptation to watch some topless women on HBO by sitting on the couch with the remote in hand are likely to be disappointed. Flee. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 361-362). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Not only should a man flee, he should be careful never to look at images that could be used for lust at a later time:
Third, a man should not ever look at images which could serve as lustful fuel at any time. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1275-1276). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Wilson repeats his exhortation to flee, making it even stronger. Get rid of the things that tempt you:
At the same time, one of the important means for mortifying our internal lusts is to flee the external occasions of lust. So, if you cannot resist the temptations created by the technology in your home, you must get rid of that technology. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1832-1834). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
What would temptations and external occasions of lust be for a convicted pedophile? From what I’ve read, repentant pedophiles are aware of their struggle and are the first to say that they are not safe to be around children. If children are the temptation, the previous quote would read:
“So, if you cannot resist the temptation created by [children] in your home, you must get rid of [children.]”
It is certainly a hard thing to tell someone that it isn’t wise for them to marry and have children. In the case of a pedophile, it might mean never marrying. However, it may be the wisest and most God honoring decision.
Wilson addresses the issue of a homosexual man who is not attracted or able to have a appropriate sexual relationship with a woman. He concludes that celibacy may be the wisest course of action:
God requires sexual purity, both in thought and deed, and such a man is like a man with heterosexual temptations with no immediate possibility of marriage. Lust is always prohibited. If it is true that such a man could not be interested sexually in a woman, then he needs to come to understand that God’s will for him is celibacy. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1186-1188). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Granted these examples from Wilson’s book are not specifically about how to manage the lust of a pedophile, but Wilson argues that we should use biblical principles to address those situations that are not specifically covered in the Bible. Surely the same principles apply here:
In many cases, it is necessary to reason biblically from the examples given in Scripture. This is because not every situation is covered, and we have to learn to think like Christians when it comes to situations that do not receive specific attention in the Bible. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 827-829). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Given Wilson’s teachings on the subject of lust, it seems odd to me that no one sat Silter down and counseled him against marrying and having children.
Interestingly, Wilson does specifically address the issue of sexual abuse of children in his book:
[W]hen we are dealing with young children who are abused by adults (pederasty, child porn, etc.) the penalty for those guilty of the crime should be death. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 961-962). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Obviously our laws do not give the death penalty for convicted pedophiles, but wouldn’t the Biblical principle here be to support pedophiles being punished to the full extent of the law? Sitler was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Wilson wrote to the judge asking that the punishment be “measured and limited“:
I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.
A few years later, Wilson presided over the marriage of Steve and Katie Sitler. I wish Wilson had followed his own advice and told Sitler to flee temptation. As Wilson noted, the marriage was certainly a legal one. There wasn’t a legal reason not to marry the couple. However, legal doesn’t always mean wise:
‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. – 1 Corinthians 6:12