FIRST-PERSON: A few thoughts on World & Dinesh D'Souza

Baptist Press
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Posted: Oct 19, 2012 4:22 PM
FIRST-PERSON: A few thoughts on World & Dinesh D'Souza
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- What do you do when people you respect become embroiled in a contentious controversy? Unless one of the parties is clearly and blatantly wrong, you will likely want to refrain from taking sides. However, what if everyone involved has made missteps -- how should you then respond?

When people you admire are at odds with one another, the only course of action is to be honest about their assertions, positions and behavior.

Over the past couple of days I have found myself in the aforementioned position which I will describe as uncomfortable.

World Magazine's Warren Cole Smith and Marvin Olasky recently ran a report on the publication's website which strongly implied noted conservative scholar and college president Dinesh D'Souza was being unfaithful to his wife of 20 years.

The World report resulted in D'Souza's resignation as president of The King's College, a small Christian school located in New York City.

I have had the privilege of meeting Smith and admire his work. I have read many of Olasky's books and appreciate all he does for the cause of Christ. Additionally, the news journal that I edit utilizes World Magazine's news service and I consider it a great resource.

I have all but a couple of the books written by D'Souza. I think he has been a poignant voice not only for conservatism in general but for Christianity in specific. Needless to say, World Magazine's implication that D'Souza was committing adultery took me by surprise.

The report, written by Smith, indicated that while D'Souza was speaking at a conference in South Carolina he was accompanied by a young woman who he introduced "to at least three people as his fiancée."

The problem with the situation is that D'Souza currently is legally married and has been for 20 years. Additionally, the report indicated that D'Souza and his woman friend had shared a hotel room during the conference.

Smith wrote that D'Souza told conference organizer Alex McFarland "he had shared a room with his fiancée but said 'nothing happened.'"

When Smith spoke to D'Souza by way of telephone, D'Souza told the reporter that he was engaged to the young woman in question. When asked about a divorce filing, D'Souza indicated it had occurred "recently." Smith checked and reported, "D'Souza filed for divorce only on Oct. 4, the day I spoke with him."

D'Souza responded to the World report via a column that appeared on FoxNews.com. He said he told Smith during their phone conversation that he and his wife had been separated for two years, a fact Smith verified with the King's College board chairman.

Concerning the filing of the divorce papers on the same day that Smith had contacted him, D'Souza indicated he had been working with a law firm for a couple of weeks, implying the situation was a mere coincidence.

Additionally, D'Souza indicated he had sought legal advice about whether a person could be engaged while a divorce was pending. He said he was told it was legal. D'Souza said he did not realize that in Christian circles it is considered wrong to be engaged prior to a divorce being finalized.

D'Souza also flatly denied that he ever told the reporter or anyone else that he had shared a room with his fiancée. He said the quotation was a fabrication and "pure libel."

Another point made by D'Souza involved pointing out that in recent years his life has intersected with both Smith and Olasky. The interactions were not ideal and thus, in D'Souza's mind, could be motivation for why his story was reported.

Shortly after D'Souza was named president of King's College, Olasky resigned from his position as provost of the college. D'Souza maintained that Olasky had opposed his hiring.

Christianity Today reported in November 2010 that Olasky had sent the magazine an e-mail after his resignation that read, "It will come as no surprise to you that Dinesh D'Souza and I have different ideas about some things. I'd like to leave it at that and not do an interview."

Additionally, D'Souza pointed out that Smith had worked as a consultant for King's College prior to his becoming president. D'Souza said that after taking the reins of the college he chose not to renew Smith's contract.

In considering all the information made available by World Magazine and D'Souza, I want to share the missteps I observe by these men whom I respect, admire and appreciate.

D'Souza would have been advised to follow the instruction of Jesus who said that his followers should "be wise as serpents and gentle as doves." The wisdom indicated by Christ's teaching entails thoughtfulness, discretion and caution. From my perspective, D'Souza failed on all three counts.

It would take a very brazen individual to flaunt an affair publicly and without shame. Thus, I believe D'Souza that he was not committing adultery. He did not even attempt to hide the relationship with the young lady, even introducing her as his fiancée.

The evidence concerning D'Souza sharing a hotel with the young lady is, at best, circumstantial. D'Souza claims he never said the pair shared a hotel room. Again, flaunting an affair by sharing a hotel room without even attempting to hide it would be very brazen.

Of course, I could be wrong. D'Souza's situation could be a case of lust walking in and logic walking out. However, I just don't think there are enough facts in the World Magazine report to draw that conclusion.

The circumstance in South Carolina certainly did not look good. Again, D'Souza would have been wise to follow the Bible's instruction that believers are to eschew even the appearance of evil.

The facts seem to confirm that D'Souza and his wife had separated. I would have advised him to do all that he could to save his marriage, which would include not becoming involved with another woman.

In my estimation he should not have dated anyone until his divorce was finalized, much less become engaged. His marriage was legally binding, even if he and his wife did not believe it was binding in their hearts.

I am not justifying anything in D'Souza's situation. All I am saying is that I believe he was in many respects naïve and could have saved himself some difficulty had he followed biblical principles.

Smith and Olasky could have done a couple of things better as well. The report should have carried an editor's note indicated the pairs' history with D'Souza.

Was the past intersection of D'Souza and two of World Magazine's leaders a motive in writing the report? I don't really think so. However, by stating it up front it would have shown that World was, at the very least, seeking to be transparent.

Also, there is one person Smith never indicated that he tried to contact, and that was D'Souza's wife. One call to her would have at least added some context. Again, D'Souza made many missteps, but if his wife had indicated the couple had been separated for two years and that the marriage appeared doomed, it would have given greater context to the situation.

I have great respect for Warren Cole Smith, Marvin Olasky and Dinesh D'Souza. I am saddened over the recent unfolding of events and a little disappointed in each man. However, I am not prepared to take sides, but I will be honest about what I believe were missteps, and pray for each as they seek to move forward.

Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, www.baptistmessage.com , newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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