Marriage, Part 3: An Open Letter To Ed Iverson, With Application For His Pastor And Fellow Elders

(Editor’s note: Ed Iverson is a Christ Church elder and New St. Andrews College faculty librarian, as well as a “grandfather” to Katie Travis)

Mr. Iverson,

RE: Your encouragement of Katie Travis’ marriage to Steven Sitler

I write today as a Christian woman, saved by the same grace that has saved you, Steven Sitler, the elders with whom you share this, and all humankind who place their trust in Christ Jesus. You may, of course, question how anyone, and how a woman in particular, can be as critical as I am of you Christian men and still consider herself part of the Body of Christ. You are free to let that question guide your response, or lack of it, to what I say here. But let me assure you that I would have little interest in confronting you all if you weren’t representatives of the Lord Jesus and his Church, and even less if I weren’t myself. Indeed, I consider it necessary to do so, and I lament that precious few, if any, of Moscow’s other conservative Christians have felt the conviction to join me. And while your pastor, in his unbridled egotism, will suggest that this is simply an example of some bigoted vendetta he believes I have against him, please know that if it were simply my personal feelings for Doug Wilson that enlivened my writing, the tone would be far different. You would see the difference, and you would like it even less.

Given the gushing and public gratitude your role in Katie’s engagement to Steven has prompted, I believe that I have more than the Scriptural two witnesses required to charge you, and charge you publicly, with exercising gross disrespect for the Biblical institution of marriage, callous disregard for Steven Sitler’s well-being, profound disdain for Katie Travis, and an astonishing level of disinterest in the extraordinary likelihood of their eventual children’s molestation by their father, whose pedophilia is well documented.

You may refer to my previous post if you desire greater context, although the situation that you helped create is well known to you. In your evident belief that a hastily-arranged and unwise marriage is better in and of itself than no marriage at all, and in your encouragement of this poor young woman’s desperation to “have it happen to her” in her early 20s just like it did for all of the other young women she knows, you have cheapened a Godly institution intended by Scripture to mirror the intimacy and sacrifice of Christ toward his Church. Marriage is not analogous to the last dance, last call, or last chance for anyone. It is not the curative to Katie Travis’ desperation, and I’m sure that clearer heads than yours would counsel her that until and unless her Savior brings her a mate, and even after, Jesus Christ is the only man she needs. Indeed, worship of Christ as Lord requires trust that only he can complete us, fulfill us, and make us whole. It is not a role that any mortal ought to be expected to take on; it is certainly not a role easily filled by the nearest, most seemingly available and still unmarried man you can round up.

You have callously catered to Katie’s misguided hope that marriage will somehow complete her, that she is incomplete without a man. As her elder and grandfather-in-heart, your job was to gently restore her confidence in her worth, simply as Katie Travis and regardless of her singleness, her looks, or her academic challenges, in her Savior. Whether at 23, 33, 53 or never, Katie’s eventual marriage ought never have been, nor should ever be, her primary focus in life. You exploited her desperation under the guise of grandfatherly counsel and appreciation for the institution that you have fouled, trumpeting her hasty and reckless engagement to a man you know to be sick as a Godly solution to her woes and to his problem — the killing of two lost, desperate birds with one reckless, jagged stone. That stone you threw with glee, Mr. Iverson, and you are responsible for the disaster likely to ensue and accountable to God for your role in arranging it.

While your patronizing disdain for Katie Travis is truly lamentable, it’s your manipulation of a young man struggling with perverted and unwanted sexual desire toward children — desires he has confessed to having acted on multiple times, although he was prosecuted only for one instance — that is most wounding. You have not done Steven any favors by settling him into a putative cure for his pedophilia. Marriage is not a cure for anything; it is most certainly not a cure for the pedophile. Moreover, you apparently believe that you’ve fulfilled your role as a Christian elder by encouraging healthy heterosexual expression within marriage, which we all agree is, given the right circumstances, a good thing. You have not.

What you have failed to take into account, or what you have simply chosen to ignore, is the overwhelming evidence that male pedophiles do not have their sexual desire for children turned off by heterosexual, adult conduct, within or apart from marriage. The burden you have placed on a brother struggling mightily is shameful; the fulfillment you’ve explicitly promised Katie within marriage is virtually guaranteed to not come about as she herself realizes that her mate does not find her, as an adult, to be the sexual partner of his desire. Is there a word that adequately describes the grief she will feel, or an image to fully express the confusion and despair Steven will experience? I invite you, as you ponder what is most likely to be a marital, emotional, spiritual and communal train wreck, to examine your vocabulary as well for a word that adequately sums up the recklessness with which you’ve acted. Words fail me, so great is my astonishment and despair over this sinkhole you’ve led them into.

Because of your church’s emphasis on early and robust fertility within marriage, Katie and Steven will expect and be expected to begin a family soon after their marriage. It is beyond me that you seemingly have no concern whatsoever for the children born to an admitted pedophile and his desperate, and desperately immature, wife. You’ve demonstrated a recklessness toward marriage, toward Katie, and toward Steven that easily can be regarded as sinful and frankly looks less than sane to many of us. But your breezy nonchalance in considering the future of children born to a woman whose husband prefers children as sexual partners is — and I say this with profound grief — an evil I can only presume your patriarchal and patronizing view of Christian marriage blinds you to. Indeed, I have to believe that you don’t truly grasp the toxic nature of your prescriptive machinations in bringing Steven and Katie together; if I didn’t cling to that, I would lose all hope in regards to their futures.

Katie and Steven are adults; they can choose to honor your counsel and act unwisely, although I pray they don’t. Their children, however, will not have had the choice to decline entry into a household whose Christian head, in your perspective, is a man who prefers sex with little ones. These will be children whose mother is covenantally bound to a man whose marriage to her was posed as a cure-all to what ails them, sexual perversion in his case and desperate loneliness in hers, and they will grow up as temptations, however loved, to their father. I can’t guarantee that Steven will harm his children. You cannot, however, guarantee that he won’t, but you can be damned sure that the temptation, acted on or not, will grip him, as is the case with pedophiles, every time he’s around children, and you know that even now, he is not legally allowed to be around children without mature adult supervision, and would violate terms of his lifetime probation if he is. That, as you know, is a requirement set by the courts. It’s not “love” to invite him into that scenario, and you well know it.

So this is what you’ve offered a sad, lonely young woman who turned to you as a Christian elder and friend. You’ve driven Steven into a situation in which he ought not be allowed to be alone with his own children and, as their father, will fight, however successfully, the sick desire he has to have sexual contact with kids. Would a truly repentant Christian man ever put himself into this situation, particularly with his own children? And how will Katie, as a submissive Christian wife, be considered a “mature” supervisor of her husband? You’ve perverted and polluted the nature and intent of marriage, and you’ve sullied the witness of the Christian Church among those who are aware of their upcoming wedding and your part in encouraging it. I pray that your contempt for me would not blind you to the prompting and conviction of the Holy Spirit of Christ. Sneer at me all you want, but please don’t rebuff the stirring of the Spirit.

You could still do something to prevent this, Mr. Iverson.

Or, you could simply file this away as the rantings of a busybody who just has a grudge against you and your associates. That you know that isn’t the case is abundantly clear to me, and will, I’m confident, become clear to you if you soften your heart and seek the counsel and wisdom of our Lord and Savior to alleviate the damage you have done. You are free to contact me at, 509-336-4841, or at 676 W. Pullman Road #302, Moscow. I stand by what I write in humility and with tremendous grief that this letter ever needed to be written. May God give you the courage, and give your fellow elders and your pastor the courage, to do the right thing here.

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