Recently, a former pastor was convicted of a crime. There is nothing shocking about that. Pastors are people in positions of trust, and they are tempted to do wrong like everyone else. It’s a sad reality when a pastor fails morally, but it happens. Did this pastor have financial improprieties? Maybe he was caught having an adulterous affair? Maybe he was a rabid homophobe that got caught with his secret boyfriend? Nope, we’ve seen those scandals a dozen times before. This time it was former pastor David Lynn Richard Jr convicted of raping his adopted teenage daughter. A Knox County jury found Richards guilty on nine felony counts, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure.
Amanda Richards described sexual abuse that started at age 14 and continued until she reported the crimes to police at age 16. Amanda Richards told police where they could find DNA evidence. When the police arrived at Richard’s house, her bed had been stripped clean, and David Richard’s phone had been reset to factory settings. Despite this, seminal fluid, matching David Richards, was found on Amanda’s bed frame.
The District Attorney asked for the maximum sentence of 72 years. However, the judge chose to sentence Richards to 12 years. What was the reason given for such a light sentence? David Richards was a “Good Christian.”
Judge Steven Sword praised Richards long-time ministry, praised the Bible study he started while incarcerated, and the support of his church congregation as mitigating factors for a light sentence.
Richards claims that he is innocent and that Amanda is lying because she is rebellious and he was trying to impose strict rules on her.
So, if you are a good Christian, you get a lighter sentence? Does a good Christian commit rape? Does a good Christian rape a minor? Does a good Christian rape a minor they have adopted into their family and promised to protect? Does a good Christian deny their wrongdoing when they have been caught? Does a good Christian blame the victim?
Let’s face the real reason this person got a light sentence. He was a member of the white patriarchy. This sentence is a wink and nudge between members of the good old boys club. In essence, by his light sentence, the judge sent the message that it was Ok since she wasn’t his actual flesh and blood, it was Ok since she was a woman and Richards owns her, it was Ok since boys will be boys.
Just last Sunday, I preached a sermon on James 3:1-12. The first verse is relevant here. “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers; because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” As I pointed out, teachers have a certain authority and hold a position of trust. Richards used his authority as a pastor and as a father to abuse someone in his care. He violated the position of trust. If we want to be biblical, he should have been given a harsher sentence and not a lighter one.
If this had been a black pastor or if instead of a female rape victim, it had been a male victim, I’m sure the maximum sentence would have been passed. Instead, the white patriarchy simply found a reason to hand down a light sentence. After all, this pedophile rapist is a “good Christian.” Is it any wonder so many people are done with the Church?
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