The Southern Baptist Convention has a crisis on their hands. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News have been investigating sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. The newspapers’ series revealed how more than 380 pastors, employees, and volunteers had been credibly accused, sued or convicted of criminal offenses during the past two decades. To make matters worse, Southern Baptist churches and organizations help empower these sexual predators by punishing those who report them and rehiring predators despite the fact they are registered sex offenders.
Leslie Mason, the former pastor of Olney Southern Baptist Church in Olney, Ill., was charged with ten counts of child molestation. He struck a deal and pled guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault involving a teen girl in exchange for the prosecutor’s dismissal of eight additional counts involving another girl at the church where he pastored. The Southern Baptist church tried to sweep the issue under the rug quietly but Michael Leathers, the editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, published an article about Mason. Instead of praising Leathers for exposing a predator and shining the light of truth on a problem, Mason was reprimanded by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention for publishing the article.
Glen Akins, the interim executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, sent a memo to Leathers saying, “To have singled Les out in such a sensationalistic manner ignores many others who have done the same thing, You could have asked nearly any staff member and gotten the names of several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.” Let that sink in, Akins chastised Lathers because he singled out Mason for a crime everyone else was doing. How mean is that to point out one pastor for being a child molester when there were so many to pick from.
Leathers would eventually lose his job as an editor for publishing the article. Mason would serve seven years and register as a sex offender. He would also be hired by another Southern Baptist church! Leather loses his job for reporting a child molester, and the registered sex offender continues his job as pastor. How is this possible?
The church culture that created this situation is based on the bad Fundagelical theology of male patriarchy. Fundagelicals believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God. The words printed on the pages of that little leatherette bound book are God’s actual words dictated to the ancient authors. Further, since the Bible is the ultimate authority if you disagree with what it says, you are arguing against God himself. Throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God’s dealing with humankind is recorded. The ancient cultures the biblical writers recorded were patriarchal cultures. Men dominated society. Women and children were seen as property belonging to the man. Here’s where Fundagelicals go wrong. Instead of understanding the Bible as a record of how God dealt with people in an ancient patriarchal society, they believe the description of that patriarchal society is what God commanded all society and culture for all time to be. Their thinking runs like this, the Bible reveals God’s truth, truth is eternal, so, men must be the authority, and women and children are to submit.
For Southern Baptist churches, there is no such thing as marital rape; women are to submit to their husbands. Since women and children are subservient and essentially the property of men, using them sexually isn’t that big of a deal. It’s perceived on the same level of a property crime. Boys will be boys, and acting out sexually is what boys do.
It’s this kind of bad theology that fires a whistleblower and re-hires a child molester. It is this kind of bad theology that leads the Southern Baptist Convention to disfellowship churches that hire women pastors or advocate for gay rights and yet hide the sex crimes of the men who lead churches.
Until Fundagelicals realize that the Bronze Age patriarchy described in the Bible is the context of God’s inspired word, and not the command of God word, the abuse of women and children will continue. Until Fundgelicals recognize the equality of all human beings, male-dominated churches will continue to have one sex scandal after another.
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You go RF. Keep after ’em .