If there’s one thing that strikes fear in the hearts of Southern Baptist celebrity pastors it’s how we appear in the eyes of the world.
We’re Christians but we’re not those kind of Christians! We’re Christians but don’t you call us the f-word (fundamentalist)!
Outside of abortion, gay marriage, and the actual act of gay sex (everything else is cool as long they’re celibate, amirite), there’s not an issue we won’t capitulate on or a person we won’t throw under the bus in order to avoid being seen as unsophisticated. Well, we’d never throw Russell Moore under the bus. The fate of the entire SBC rests upon his prophetic leadership. But everyone else is fair game.
In a widely-RT’d blog post, Al Mohler declared the wrath of God is being poured out on the SBC. With the Paige Patterson scandal, “The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.”
Now, Patterson was already a hot mess who shouldn’t have been the President of SWBTS long before #MeToo came calling but, from the evidence we have available to us, the trustees made the right call in firing Patterson. I have no beef with Mohler making a big deal over the Patterson fiasco and the “avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks.” But something in particular jumped out at me as I read his post.
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.
This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.
[Emphasis mine, of course]
I’m gonna break new ground for us here at CRM by uttering these words: I agree with Brian McLaren (kinda, a tiny bit). McLaren is upset that Mohler didn’t go full on social [in]justice warrior, of course, but he has a point about Mohler’s preoccupation with public opinion.
Unfortunately, the bulk of Mohler’s agony and call for mercy focused not on the pain suffered by women and girls at the hands of church leadership, but on the “humiliation” of his tribe, the SBC, which is led exclusively by men.
Yup. Nothing in recent history has occurred within the SBC which deserves the wrath of God (stop laughing!). Well, nothing that put us “in the headlines day after day,” that is.
For far too long, we’ve been wrong. We were wrong about slavery. We were wrong about Civil Rights. Now many of us are wrong about the #MeToo movement. The Southern Baptist Convention has been wrong about horrifying sins. Obvious sins. Massive sins affecting generations. Right now, we’re a dumpster fire, and we keep fueling it with shovels of manure. We’re full of it, and the world is watching. That’s not hyperbole.
Again with the “world is watching” bit.
Sam says God is purging us. He’s tearing us in order to heal us. No more “break her down.” We need God to break us down. Al says the SBC has been revealed to be morally compromised.
So why all the uncivilized snark from yours truly? Because while Mohler, Rainer, and many other leaders are actually making some excellent points, the fact that it took a hashtag campaign on Twitter together with a national media spotlight to shock people like Al Mohler into realizing that anything like this was happening prior to 2018 is scandalous in and of itself. “We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem.” And yet…
Two of the alleged victims from Prestonwood said church officials conducted an internal investigation to determine the extent of the abuse. “What Prestonwood did, from my knowledge, is find victims in the church on their own and begin to speak with them,” Smith said. “That is the job of law enforcement.”
The State Family Code on the books at the time required professionals — including clergy — to report suspected child abuse to authorities. Smith says not only weren’t police notified, but Langworthy then headed to Clinton, Mississippi, where he led youth choirs at a church and a public school.
In case you don’t know, Prestonwood is kinda a thing in the SBC. It’s not exactly an unheard of, backwoods church.
“Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors,” the magazine noted.
“The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and pedophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse.”
A long-time victims’ advocate responded to a Wednesday story in EthicsDaily.com saying she wasn’t going to hold her breath.
“I have yet to see evidence of a single congregation or SBC institution that responded appropriately and truly encouraged people to act in courage to stop this common problem,” said Dee Ann Miller, a former Southern Baptist missionary who has written two books about collusion resulting from efforts for redress after she says she was sexually assaulted by a superior while on the mission field.
Miller has been ministering to sex-abuse survivors for 15 years. In all she has heard from about 2,500 victims of abuse by clergy, and at least 300 were abused by Southern Baptist clergy. Between a third and a half, she says, were abused as minors.
I could go on. You can go to StopBaptistPredators.org and Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests to learn more about charges of abuse against SBC pastors and deacons and alleged collusion in cover-ups from SBC leaders (which is more pertinent to the current scandal involving Patterson). Advocates have been calling for increased scrutiny and accountability for decades. How a SBC seminary president and host of a daily news podcast could have thought this was just a filthy Catholic clergy problem up until this very moment, I don’t know.
Aside from my complaint of “why just now?” which applies to all involved, Rainer’s piece is solid. The part the about the problem of hero-worship (my words, not his) is admirable. I won’t hold my breath on this front, however. When the fanboys read the part about caring about character as much as we do about doctrine and the problem with elevating charisma over humility, I’m afraid they’ll just nod their heads comforted by the fact that their favorite charismatic leader is a humble man (or woman!) of character while doling out $64.06 for the privilege of hearing them pontificate about the Gospel and the future of the church. I’m sure it’ll be money well-spent.