Sunday, December 19, 2010

Baptist predators
Venom-spitters and bile-spewers
“I happen to be a family member of one of the higher ups in this church.”

That’s how the comment began, and it deteriorated from there.

The church this “family member of one of the higher ups” is talking about is Eden Westside Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama. It’s a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

What set-off this “family member of one of the higher ups” was this prior post I did about one of Eden Westside’s ministers who pled guilty to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old.

I’m always a bit amazed when people think they can come onto my own blog, call me ugly names, and flat-out libel me.

On my own blog.

And frequently, they spit their venom anonymously, as this “family member of one of the higher ups” did. Such courage!

So, since I can’t tell whether this person is male or female, I’ll just call him or her “Billie.”

Here’s the thing, “Billie.” You can’t use my own blog as a forum for libeling me and calling me names. If you want to do that sort of thing, you can surely find some Baptist blog on which to do it, and with your style of trash-talk, you’ll fit right in on some of them. But you can’t expect to call me names and say untrue things about me right here on my own blog. Got it?

Some of you other bile-spewers should take a lesson on this as well. I won’t let you use my blog as a spittoon for your venom. Besides, you really need to be more civilized.

I’ve been getting a lot of this ugly stuff lately, and some of it far worse than “Billie’s.” Mostly, I just delete it. But it really makes me wonder about a lot of Southern Baptists. Rather than letting their faith inspire them toward their best selves, some Southern Baptists seem to use their faith as an excuse for bringing forth their worst selves.

And those “worst selves” sure aren’t very pretty.

The bit of substance in “Billie’s” rant was his statement that the church deserves no blame because “the man had no record and no one could have known he was a creep.”

This is where I almost feel compassion for “Billie.” People like “Billie” have been so misled by Southern Baptist leaders that they actually believe that, if a guy doesn’t have a criminal record, then he’s automatically safe to be in a position of high trust as a minister.

It’s ignorance for sure, but it’s the sort of ignorance that Southern Baptist leaders have actively promoted. Forget about the fact that many experts say only about 3 percent of child molesters have any record (and almost all experts say it’s less than 10 percent). Forget about the fact that other major faith groups now have denominational review boards to assess clergy abuse allegations that can’t be criminally prosecuted. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists are years behind on the bare-bones basics as compared to how other major faith groups are more pro-actively implementing safeguards to protect against clergy abuse. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists don’t even bother with denominational record-keeping on credibly-accused clergy. Forget about the fact that Southern Baptists’ system of denominational do-nothingness allows many clergy predators to church-hop with ease, with no one at the new church even being warned.

That’s the sort of ignorance that Southern Baptist leaders have promoted. That’s the sort of ignorance that, as a practical matter, allows Baptist pastors to remain in pulpits so long as they’re not sitting in prison. That’s the sort of ignorance that leaves countless kids and congregants at risk.

Like “Billie,” most Southern Baptists seem to find it easier, and more psychologically comfortable, to imagine that each and every story (and there are now hundreds of them) is nothing more than the story of an isolated “creep.” That way, they can distance themselves from the “creep” and they don’t have to take a hard look at themselves. That way, they don’t have to bother with considering how their own institutionalized denominational do-nothingness contributes to the problem.

But as Rev. Timothy Bonney said: “Anytime an SBC minister commits abuse, the denomination carries some level of blame for not creating a system to deal with abuse.”

Baptists can’t just wipe that responsibility away by saying “the man had no record.”

And one last message for bile-spewing “Billie”: Ministers like the one that was at Eden Westside aren’t merely “creeps” – they’re criminals.

No comments: