Breaking news! It isn’t just the Catholics.
It’s not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.
They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.
About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.
The revelations about Catholic priests spawned a number of articles blaming the priests’ sexual misconduct on celibacy–after all, human sexuality is a primal urge. Asking men to forego sex in the service of Godliness…well, that’s asking for trouble.
But Baptists don’t have to be celibate. What’s their excuse?
I’ve always been bemused by the emphasis so many Christian denominations place on morality “below the belt.” When I was growing up, my impression of Christianity was that its practitioners were obsessed with sexual “purity”–and not particularly focused upon other issues of morality/immorality, like cheating, lying, stealing, bullying…..I could never understand the belief, evidently held by many Christians, that concerns about “morality” applied primarily if not exclusively to the genitals.
The impression I got–at least from clergy representing more fundamentalist denominations–was that Christians could engage in all manner of questionable and self-serving behaviors, and God will still love them–so long as they don’t have sex outside of marriage. Have you been stealing from widows and orphans? Cheating on your taxes? Forwarding racist emails? Those behaviors might elicit a “tut tut,” but they would be likely to elicit far less pastoral opprobrium than sexual misconduct.
Interestingly, that judgmental approach to sexual behavior was absent when it came to their own clergy. Much like the Catholic Church, the Baptists protected their own.
At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.
The new revelations about Baptists’ sexual misconduct are particularly ironic in view of the denomination’s thundering disapproval of LGBTQ folks. Labelling gay men as pedophiles looks more and more like projection. In fact, when it comes to Protestants, it seems to be clergy from the most theologically-rigid denominations, the most “fire and brimstone” pastors, who are most likely to prey while they pray.
I haven’t seen any accusations of misconduct against, say, Episcopalians or Unitarians.
I’m not a psychologist, so I am ill-equipped to analyze the appeal of clerical careers to sexual deviants. It may be that working for the church attracts weak men who want to dominate others–or perhaps it’s an easy way to meet potential victims, men and women who come to the church at times when they are most vulnerable.
It really is amazing what you can get away with when you are cloaked in faux piety.
I wonder what denomination is next…..