The Next, Next Christian Sex Abuse Scandal

This is a thing. A creepy thing.
Image source.

Author’s Note: This post discusses church sex abuse. It’s not for the faint of heart.

When I heard that The Houston Chronicle did a three-part story on sex offenders in Southern Baptist churches, something sounded familiar. I could have sworn that I heard someone predicting this several years ago. Then I remembered it was Billy Graham’s grandson, “Boz” Tchividjian who talked about it. He was talking about the danger as far back as the organization he founded to combat sex abuse in churches. That was fifteen years ago.

What The Chronicle found.
Since 2008, roughly 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches were charged with sex crimes. Since 1998, about 380 Southern Baptist workers and volunteers have faced charges or lawsuits relating to sexual misconduct. Some of these people are still working in churches. During this entire time, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has refused to track sexual predators to warn member churches and prevent access to children. The Houston Chronicle had to compile its own database from public records.

According to the SBC, it was not able to do anything to prevent such abuses because it couldn’t force congregations to comply. However, the SBC has – in the past 10 years – removed at least four churches from its fellowship “for affirming or endorsing homosexual behavior.” So, there’s at least some precedent for the SBC to come down hard on churches that don’t sing from the same proverbial songbook.

The most concerning thing in the article is that their database might only be a small glimpse as to what’s going on in Southern Baptist churches across the United States. It is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Allegations of abuse are typically smaller than the number of instances of abuse. The Chronicle found at least a few cases of SBC local leaders who were angrier at the reporting of sexual abuse than the abuse itself. This indicates a culture of indifference to victims and protection for perpetrators.

It’s easy to see that Boz Tchividjian was right.
It’s also sad to see that The Chronicle found people within the Southern Baptist faith who also saw the scandal approaching. How bad does something have to be that people from across the country can independently come to the same conclusion? My fear is that the newspaper is right; there are far more than 700 victims.

Certainly the least the SBC could have done was ask congregations to report sex abuse allegations. It could have compiled its own database with public information. While it wouldn’t have been perfect, it at least could stop convicted sex offenders from getting access to children under their protection.

And really, what’s the point of association here anyways?
The alleged reason for being in a collection of congregations is combined strength. That strength gets undermined when the collective can’t act for whatever reason. With regards to preventing sexual abuse of children, the SBC might as well not exist. Its only accomplishment that I can think of is to promote religious teachings. Safety is not part of that at all.

Also, consider these revelations along with prior allegations against the Catholic Church. This is now the second systemic problem revealed in churches that have a long history of abuse. We’re not even talking about pulling the curtain all the way back and locating everyone who has been abused in a church setting either in a SBC or Catholic church. Instead, we’re just talking about people convicted or found liable for sexual relations with minors and other sexual assaults. What about the next largest denominations?

Perhaps it is time people ask more questions regarding their churches. I get that people have a colloquial view of churches as being safe places, but this and other reporting indicates such views aren’t completely justified. If anything, people need to look into what a church does to actually protect children.

Image found on Wikipedia.

28 thoughts on “The Next, Next Christian Sex Abuse Scandal

    • If you take a look at the later articles, the reporting goes into more depth on that point. One victim alleged she knew five or six others who didn’t come forward. Part of that included harassment by members of the congregation.

      This article raised so many questions regarding what we don’t know about sexual abuse in church settings. And this was just child sexual abuse. The article didn’t go into other clergy abuses of power, like pastors preying on adult congregants.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Years ago, before email, advertising companies had a measure for consumer involvement in a subject. For every letter they recieved concerning said subject (be it positive or negative) they counted as 7, which is to say for every person who could be bothered to pen a letter and actually post it there were 6 other people who shared that sentiment. Regarding abuse, especially inside small evangelical communities, I’d say there could be as many as 20 to every 1 report. It could even be higher.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There is a distinct possibility your overall estimates could be low. I know that the baseline across the country is 230 reports per 1000 instances of sexual assault. A salient characteristic of this scandal and the Catholic one is that a system was in place which prevented reports from happening in the first place. So, if reporting is suppressed at a rate of seven times in church communities, then you’re looking at a 21:1 ratio.

        I’m mentioning this for any other readers who might balk at the estimations getting thrown around. And, lest anyone forget, we don’t have the numbers in Catholic and SBC cases because they just refused to look into it and keep records.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. It would be hard to speak out, and for many that did, the perpetrators wouldn’t have faced justice, so many simply don’t. It’s hard enough on its own for a sexual abuse victim to have their voice heard, let alone in a church situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. SB, I read a blog called “Spiritual Sounding Board”. She’s a lovely Christian lady who offers support to those who’ve been abused, as she was – spiritually – and got out of a toxic environment years ago. (She was sued by her pastor for publishing an unflattering review of a church … he lost). Anyway, I’ve been reading – for years – the stories of women (some of them find out their husbands have been abusing their children) who’ve been led to believe they mustn’t say anything negative about any man in their churches. Indeed, they’ve had years of brainwashing to convince them that it’s not ‘godly’ to ever say anything about said abuse. Many of them talk about silencing techniques that have been very effective at forcing them to squelch any negative thought/query that comes to mind.
    It’s insidious, I’m telling you. Just heartbreaking to read their stories and realize that they honestly believe their marital role is one of subservience. Feminism is a dirty word and it’s painful to read their stories as they strive for autonomy.
    Boz Tchividjian is to be commended for his advocacy efforts. I wish there were more . . .

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  2. All good, apparently. I made a long comment earlier but it didn’t post, for some reason. I’ll try to reproduce it. 🙂

    I’ve been subscribed to a blog called, “Spiritual Sounding Board” for years. In fact, it was the first blog I subscribed to but I didn’t comment for the first while. The blog is run by a lovely Christian woman who tries to help others who’ve been spiritually (or otherwise) abused. She was sued by a pastor because she left a negative review of his church. He lost. Since then, she’s encountered thousands of people who tell their stories on her site. Mostly women, and some reveal that their husbands have either been caught with porn or – in a few instances – they’ve found out their husbands have been sexually abusing their children. It’s quite heartbreaking to hear their stories, because they all have one thing in common: they truly believe their subservient life is ‘godly’. These women are usually completely dependent on their husbands, home-school their children (which keeps them housebound) and will never have pension plans. Again, they do these things willingly as they see themselves as virtuous and doing what (their) god -(and every man in their life) expects. Built into that mindset is another expectation — that they never complain or say anything negative about their situations. Certainly it follows that any negativity expressed about their roles – imposed and regulated by the men in their churches – is heavily discouraged. Indeed, to take on any kind of leadership activity is seen as expressing ‘feminism’ — a dirty word. Their stories are heartbreaking, I can tell you. But it’s amazing what happens when those same women are given a platform to express themselves and validation Boz Tchividjian has done so much to expose the toxic side of patriarchy in the church; he’s to be commended.

    In a society where children are an extension of women, one can understand why abuse of any variety is so rarely exposed to the light of day.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t have a trashed comment in my comments folder, so I think Internet gremlins might have gotten hold of it.

      With regards to women in these kinds of churches, I can’t help but note that it seems like it’s an untenable situation to be in. Women are supposed to protect and nurture their children, but they can’t do that if they’re not allowed to stand up to predators in the church hierarchy. It’s like giving someone a fire hose to put out a house fire and then telling them they can’t hook up to a water source.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been reading their stories for quite a few years now, SB, and I’m telling you it’s terribly sad. It just infuriates me that men in the church are able to brainwash women to that degree.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t think it’s just men doing this. I definitely know that women participate in social condemnation of others who don’t conform to group demands. A few weeks ago, my sister was subtly hinted at by a church friend and fellow church employee that she shouldn’t move in with her fiance a month before they are married because they won’t be married yet. Then I got to find out that women in that church were wanting one of the other teachers in the daycare fired because she was living with her boyfriend.

        The only silver lining is that my sister has been able to see the church hypocrisy with a clearer view.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sirius: “The alleged reason for being in a collection of congregations is combined strength. That strength gets undermined when the collective can’t act for whatever reason. With regards to preventing sexual abuse of children, the SBC might as well not exist. Its only accomplishment that I can think of is to promote religious teachings. Safety is not part of that at all.”

    Zoe: It’s the set-up right from the beginning. I know I’m preaching to the choir. I spent way too many years in toxic Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches here in Ontario. At the time, you could say we were the Canadian Southern Baptists.

    There isn’t any “strength” in the collective. One might think there should be, the thing is, it is not Jesus who is the shepherd in these churches. It’s the pastor and the elders (all male dominated.) They are the Jesus and place themselves on the same authoritative level as Jesus/Father God/Holy Spirit.

    If “safety” was their concern, the process of dealing with this abuse would have taken place long ago. Their problem is, if they focus on safety, they won’t have many pastors/elders left as a lot of them are up to their zippers and eyeballs as abusers. So leadership doesn’t want to look to closely at protecting anyone but themselves. In my experience and the experiences of others in spiritually abusive churches (and yes that covers sexually abusive churches) the leadership will lie, cheat, steal and cover-up until “the Lord” comes again. The “collective” will follow the toxic miasmic cesspool over the cliff because they can’t see straight.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The whole of it would probably make this comment longer than my post. A short answer is that churches create relationships where power is not shared equally. Those who have it are able to take steps to make sure their misdeeds do not see the light of day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would just like to add to this that these churches are closed systems and they use scripture to back up their stance. Everything is to be dealt with within the system, not outside of it. All manner of tools are used to keep the flock in the pen.

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  4. Any culture that sets up the menfolk to be in charge absolutely over the wimmenfolk and the kiddies, is a culture predisposed to these sort of abuses. It becomes a dominionist thing where the father figure can do what he damn well pleases, because he is the authority. It helps to have a system where that sort of behavior is supported by the hierarchy in place, well because they enjoy their power. Each man is a god in his own home. Praise Jeebus.

    The more devout the believer, the deeper the issue. I grew up right next door to just such a household.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just read the article. I definitely agree. The guy hit all the apology buzzwords, “regret,” “retrospect,” and some version of “take responsibility.” If people were playing the apology drinking game, they’d have to finish the bottle and get a new one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sirius: “I don’t think it’s just men doing this. I definitely know that women participate in social condemnation of others who don’t conform to group demands.”

    Zoe: I agree with you. In my own experience, the women were some of the worst attackers, especially the wives of pastors and elders/deacons. In retrospect I’m not surprised. Their own lives were probably a living hell.

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  6. Thank you – Very challenging post?

    Isn’t it so sad that no one rarely thinks of the way how their actions, attitudes, behaviour and conduct deeply offends Jesus! Probably a case of loving their religion rather than the person and Lordship of Jesus Christ!

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  7. It sickens me that this is such a prevalent worldwide problem. Why can’t we protect our children? Why would we allow pastors, preachers, deacons and the like to convince us, especially women, that we should be afraid to speak up. Jehovah God himself does not condone this behavior. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 tells us “But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do you not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked person from among yourselves.” I’ve read too many horror stories of women scared to come forward because they knew they’d be ostracized by the congregation. Religious leaders condoning this wrong behavior will have to answer for their sins. (Colossians 3:25)

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