He’s on the cover of this week’s TIME magazine. The article is about his “pastoral care” for the presidents.
I paused over the “pastoral care” phrase. To my ears, it seemed like an oxymoron.
“Pastoral” and “care” are contradictory words that just don’t go together based on what I’ve seen of how Southern Baptist pastors deal with clergy abuse survivors.
Pastoral bullying. Pastoral abuse. Pastoral intimidation. Pastoral shaming. Pastoral self-righteousness. Pastoral cover-ups. Pastoral con-men. Pastoral blind-eyedness. Pastoral oblivion. Pastoral falsity. Pastoral perpetrators.
I can think of lots of words I would place with “pastoral” but “care” isn’t one of them.
That’s a sad statement, I know.
That’s why I cried over the Billy Graham article. It reminds me of the person I used to be and of all that I once believed in. It reminds me of the person I was before a Southern Baptist pastor started using Bible verses as weapons for sexual abuse. It reminds me of all that was stolen from me, not only by the pastoral-perpetrator, but by all the other Southern Baptist pastors who turned a blind-eye….over and over again….then and now. It reminds me of the person I was even a few years ago, before I heard so many other abuse survivors’ stories and realized what a hurtful and hateful pattern was being perpetrated by Southern Baptist pastors all across the land. I would have so much rather believed that my story was a rarity….but it’s not.
From the many survivors I’ve heard from over the course of the past year, I believe that most Southern Baptist pastors would prefer to drag us out to the desert and stone us than to show us any genuine care. These men are NOT good shepherds, and they will not bind the wounds of sheep who have been savaged in the ways that we have.
Are there some exceptions? Of course. But so far, the exceptions have been so few in number that they cannot displace the great weight of hurtfulness that I’ve seen among Southern Baptist pastors toward clergy abuse survivors.
Perhaps another reason I cry when I read about Billy Graham is because that relentless optimist in me wants so desperately to believe that there are indeed a few good pastors whose actions conform with the words they preach. I’ve seen so much to the contrary that I cling to that belief with only a thread… and for reasons I scarcely comprehend. Why cling at all?
But I believe at least this much about Billy Graham. Even with all his greatness, I think he always knew better than to try to play God. A lot of other Southern Baptist pastors could learn from that.