Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Listing to heartless and overrun with rats

"Remember it's hard to turn a ship as big as the SBC.”

That was “Michael’s” lame excuse for why Southern Baptist leaders don’t institute changes to better protect against clergy predators. Then “Michael” proceeded to lambast abuse survivors for “criticizing every Southern Baptist that ever lived because some idiot pastor somewhere abused someone.” (You can read the entirety of “Michael’s” remarks in
comments under the prior posting.)

“Michael” sounded like an SBC leader, and it’s a tactic we’ve seen before. They often try to dismiss and discredit those who speak out about abuse by characterizing them as people who are against Southern Baptists or who want to hurt the faith.

But in response, “OC” painted such a powerful picture that I’m reprinting it below. Read OC’s words for yourself. I see no broad-brush venom toward Southern Baptists there. What I see is heartbreak and loss, combined with the courage to see a terrible truth.


"You know what? I think he's on to something there. It would be hard to turn the SBC ship around. Maybe too hard. Maybe not even worth it.

After all, it seems the ship is infested with rats anyway and is taking on water. It's become a massive, rudderless hulk with many a gaping hole and rotting timbers in its hull. Many have abandoned the SBC ship because of disrepair due to the rats which have overrun it and now captain it.

And the rats have been informed of dire straits, yet still choose to ignore the danger of sinking.Turn the ship around? I don't know. I'm thinking that those who have abandoned the SBC ship are right to do so. And smart.

Many saw it listing to "heartless" years ago and got off the barnacle encrusted schooner then.

Some of us are still clinging on to pieces of what was once a mighty and beautiful ship. And now it is a shame and an embarrassment to be a crew member on a ship in this sad and sorry condition with little promise of ever seeing land.

A storm is brewing.

I'm tired of the decrepit condition of this mammoth ship. I'm weary with sea-sickness of denial, and dying from the plague of cover-up. I think I may be better off rowing like a slave in the midst of dangerous high seas aboard the dingy of honesty and right intent.

Abandon ship? I never wanted to. But I don't know how else to sound an alarm to those who will not hear. Maybe they will see when there is no one left on board.

So I believe I'm next overboard.
I'm walking the plank voluntarily."


john harrison said...

Come on in OC. I think you will find it refreshing!

Michael said...


While I do feel greatly honored that you would make me the focus of this post I would appreciate it if you would quote me correctly and fully. I said "Remember its hard to turn a ship as big as the SBC (and that task is made even more difficult when you have egotistical maniacs at the helm)." In essence that means that it doesn't happen overnight and is even further complicated by the fact that you have egotistical maniacs running the SBC. Kind of different than the slant you put on here.

I don't think that everyone who posts on here is a abuse survivor but I think its unfair and unjust to constantly rip Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist pastors in general when the abusers are a very very small minority. There are many Godly men who are SBC pastors who would not put up with sexual abuse for an instant. The problem you seem to have is that they choose to respond in ways that may be different than yours or something you disagree with. Ripping into Southern Baptists every chance you get is going to greatly diminish your chances of ever implementing change.

Thanks again though for making me the center of your attention on this post. I feel greatly honored.

Christa Brown said...

"The problem you seem to have is that they choose to respond in ways that may be different than yours..."

Actually, the problem I have is that SBC leaders typically don't respond at all to reports of clergy sex abuse. Or they respond in ways that are so minimal and dismissive as to amount to nothing (such as by saying that "all churches are autonomous"). Alternatively, SBC leaders respond in ways that are deeply hurtful to the victims (such as by sermonizing them on forgiveness while doing nothing about the reported perpetrators). Dozens upon dozens of Baptist clergy abuse survivors have attempted to report their clergy perpetrators to Southern Baptist leaders in state conventions and in Nashville, and no one does diddly-squat.

Abusers may be a "small minority" percentage-wise, but in real numbers of people hurt, the damage done is astronomical. And given that no one in Southern Baptist circles seems to be keeping records on credibly accused clergy, how can we even know exactly how small - or how big - that percentage may be? And how can we know who the good guys are - and who they aren't?

With the limited data we have - data obtained no thanks to the SBC - we have absolutely zero reason to believe that the percentage of Southern Baptist pastors who sexually abuse kids is any less than the percentage of Catholic priests who do so - or any less than the number of abusers among Boy Scout leaders. See my prior posting from almost exactly one year ago on this subject. At least the Catholics and the Boy Scouts keep records on abuse allegations. That's way more than the Baptists do.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is due to the fact that too often David in his misuse of power is used to dismiss such a situation but in this context as well there is good evidence that shows that David was a good friend to Bathsheba's family as her dad and husband were of David's inner circle. David did misuse his authority but there may have been an interest by Bathsheba in David's early career but would not desire to be the wife among many. Consider this as to why would Solomon write "to not forget the law of your mother" in the Proverbs.

oc said...

Michael said:
"I think its unfair and unjust to constantly rip Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist pastors in general when the abusers are a very very small minority."

My brother. Please listen. You have a lot of nerve to talk about "unfair" and "unjust". If it was done to your wife or daughter, would you still deem those calling for accountability "unfair and unjust" when nothing is ever being done about it?

What if your family was the only one ripped by it?
I guess the rest of us could call your cry "unfair and unjust".
Because it's only you. The few.
The question is: How many does it take before you think it's a problem?

How many does it take?
Twenty? One Thousand?
I bet if it was someone in your family, the problematic number would be the number "one".

And Michael, did you even read Christa's last post? 44 victims by one perp masquerading as a pastor.
And he is still "ministering". Makes me want to puke. And even more, the 44 are only the ones who reported. I would think there may be others who don't report because of the sense of shame of it all.

But aside all that. Back to home. Isn't even one victim enough for you? It's seems not. But I bet it would be enough if it was your mother, your sister, your wife, or your daughter. Your "very very small minority" would become quite large for you, wouldn't it?
And I suppose you would want something done about it. You wouldn't want to be ignored, would you? You would want someone to speak up, not shut up. And that's what's going on here.

Now, if you can't fathom the enormity of even one life destroyed, a faith in God fractured and shaken, perpetrated by those who were trusted and who called themselves ministers of God; the devastating betrayal of it all; the abominable damage done between the victim and God by a pretender to Sonship, then you have no right to even come here and post. These victims of the wolf are sometimes hanging in the balance between life and death. Some are depending on the life support given by brothers and sisters in Christ. You seem to not be one of those who have the heart to give your life for your brother.
John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
But it seems you would rather see those in pain just shut up and go away. Would you rather smother them in name of a Convention, or give them CPR in the name of the Lord?
Going through the motions and protecting a system of religion is no new thing. But it's loyalty displaced.
So if that is your position, to protect a system that's ok' because it only rips and shreds the soul of a few, then take your heartless religion somewhere else, and just go away. Because you have missed the Gospel.

Michael said...

While some of you are so busy trying to find ways to attack me or determine my thoughts and motives, let me just tell you upfront and without any shame--I was sexually abused as a teenager by the leader in our youth group--so quit telling me how I feel or don't feel. While I am not sitting around whining and feeling sorry for myself I do want you all to know that I believe:

1. That I abhor sexual abuse.
2. That I don't diminish the effects on any one person.
3. That any person who commits abuse should be put in prison.

With that said, I do also believe the following:

1. The SBC is run by idiots and will be hard to change.
2. Not all pastors abuse people sexually and I would imagine the number of abusing pastors is very very small. There are a lot of wonderful Godly men serving as pastors in America.
3. The way to effect change is not to scream at pastors and leaders in a blog but file lawsuits and get elected to the Board of Trustees and Executive Board that actually make the decisions.
4. Quit attacking and maligning anyone who disagrees with you in any manner. Making changes is a hard and long process and you need to learn to negotiate instead of attack all the time.

These are just some thoughts that you might actually want to consider.

Have a good day.

Christa Brown said...

Michael: Your words seem to be those of a person in pain. You might want to look back at your comments under the prior posting and consider how you began things here.

I am terribly saddened to learn that you were sexually abused by your youth group leader. I can’t help but wonder whether you ever told anyone, and if you did, were there people in your life who did something about it? Is the youth leader still a youth leader? Was he ever held accountable?

I often think that what hurts the victims most – often even more than the abuse itself – is the do-nothing silence of so many others in the faith community. The silence of the many inflicts even greater wounds than the sexual savagery of the few. With time, I think many of us could grow to accept that there are people in the world who use masks to commit evil deeds. But it is much more difficult to accept that SO many others turn a blind-eye to such evil. Seeing that reality rends the very fabric of existence. I hope your own case was one of the exceptional ones and that perhaps you didn’t have to see that.

Hearing of your abuse reminds me of one of the most extraordinary people I ever met. “James” studied for the priesthood and even studied at the Vatican. Brilliant guy. When he decided not to be a priest after all, he became an in-house lawyer for one of the largest Catholic dioceses in the country. For several years, it was his job to “deal with” people who reported clergy abuse and to send them away with as little as possible and as quietly as possible. (This was pre-2002.) He was good at his job, until one day, in the midst of listening to a woman’s story, he was literally struck dumb. For some unknown reason, he saw that woman’s pain – he didn’t see her as a “whiner.” And in seeing her pain, he suddenly saw all his own pain and was overwhelmed by it. He had long told himself that what a priest did to him was “no big deal.” And why should all these other people keep whining? But after that day, “James” saw things very differently. His own veil of denial had been lifted, and his entire life wound up being turned upside down. I know that “James” feels enormous guilt for the additional hurt he inflicted on other abuse survivors because of his role in the institutional self-image, self-preservation mechanism. But I myself don’t feel that he deserves the guilt. What he did was part of his own personal self-preservation denial mechanism. Since his “awakening,” “James” has done enormous good in reaching out to others and in pushing for accountability among Catholic clergy.

Michael, if the time ever comes when you want to speak out about your abuse or expose your perpetrator, please know that we will not think you are “whining” or “feeling sorry” for yourself.

Meanwhile… I gotta tell ya… I think it’s pretty hilarious that you accuse us of “maligning” people when you yourself are the one who says “the SBC is run by idiots” and “egotistical maniacs.”

oc said...

In re-reading my comment, I can see how it could have come across as an attack. That was not my intent. It was actually an attempt to bring understanding, either to you in regard to what I saw as a lack of urgency concerning the situation, or to me in getting a grip on your actual position in this matter.
It seemed to me that you were excusing the SBC for doing nothing by reason that there are "very,very few" sexual predators in the church. And while I may not agree with all of your conclusions, I do understand your position a little better. Thanks.

And I apologize for making you feel attacked.

And you have a good day too.

Michael said...

I guess I should have phrased it differently when I said they were "idiots" and "egotistical maniacs" but I know most of them personally and still think those are the best terms. If you think what they say in print is bad then you should hear what they say in person.

The guy who had sex with me when I was a teenager and he was our youth worker is a friend of mine today. We have talked about it very frankly and he is no longer working in churches. I guess I felt like our talking was enough.

I do enjoy reading this blog but sometimes I think you get way too shrill in your criticisms of the SBC and pastors in general. The only thing that the SBC leadership understands is power and they only respect power that comes from the Executive Committee.

I'll just start praying that Christa gets on the Executive Committee! I think it would be awesome.

gmommy said...

Just my personal opinion ...but I think Michael believes he is entertaining us.

Christa Brown said...

Yeah gmommy, that last line of Michael's is a real hoot.

And I can't help but notice that, on the one hand, he states his belief that "any person who commits abuse should be put in prison," but on the other hand, as to what he describes as his own abuse experience, he "felt like our talking was enough."

gmommy said...

In all of my "recovery" classes and groups over many years.....I've met "cutters", addicts, agoraphobics, people who have become obese to hide from being seen,strippers,ragers,pleasers,
control freaks to the extreme..... all manner of behaviors and phobias as a result of sexual abuse.
NEVER once have I met an abuse survivor who believed talking it out was enough and they just went on their merry way...sorry.

Michael said...

Since you two seem to be experts on the subject of sex abuse and think I'm "entertaining" you--I'll give you all the details.

I was 14 and he was 17 and it happened on a youth retreat. We were both willing participants so I guess that changes how you feel about it. We grew up in the same town and our families were friends and we hung out together a lot so maybe it wasn't sexual abuse after all.

Since you both seem to be experts on the subject, let me know if you think I'm overreacting and maybe I should have turned him into the police (or maybe even the Baptist police).

By the way, I still think a pastor who has sex with a person in their church should be put in jail so you don't think I'm into coddling criminals.

Christa Brown said...

Michael: What I think is simply that, based on your own comments here, you have expressed conflicting and/or mixed up views about sexual abuse. On the one hand, you made a point of telling us "I was sexually abused as a teenager by the leader in our youth group." Now you say, "He was 17...we were both maybe it wasn't sexual abuse after all."

What troubles me is that someone with such an obviously confused perspective might be someone of influence on this issue with the SBC Executive Committee. After all, you also told us that you "know most of them personally."

By the way, now that you've told us a bit more, I'm retracting what I said about your abuse story reminding me of "James." There's no comparison.

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to say thank you to Ms. Brown for using your talents to be a voice for the abused. It is obvious you have deep compassion for those who've been harmed.
"it seems the ship is infested with rats..."how true and how foolish I feel for not realizing sooner. I had been told years ago about P.P. and others and just couldn't bring myself to believe. It's still hard to imagine some of the absolute nonsense that goes on in the SBC. For another letdown google O.S. Hawkins and John Alexander Wood (the son of John Alvin Wood previous pastor of FBC of Waco) There is a Dallas news article from 2006 which you will find interesting.( and heartbreaking) IT'S TIME TO ABANDON SHIP!!!

Christa Brown said...

Thank you Anon. Here's the Dallas Morning News article about John Alexander "Alex" Wood, son of John Alvin Wood, prior pastor of FBC-Waco. You're right - it's heartbreaking.

Excerpts: "A well-connected man pleaded guilty to murder – for shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back... got 10 years of probation.... The killer proceeded to break the rules by, among other things, smoking crack cocaine... Judge Dean has let this man stay free and, last year, exempted him from most of the usual conditions of probation.... [The jury forewoman] said she attends Prestonwood Baptist Church and was swayed by prominent Baptist defense witnesses. They included Mr. Wood's father, John Alvin Wood, who was a former pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco; and the Rev. O.S. Hawkins, who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. 'You see O.S. Hawkins, a pillar in the community, stand up and put his own reputation on the line,' she said. 'It carried a lot of weight.'... 'Rules just don't apply to him.'"

Michael said...

There's nothing more dangerous than a bedside psychologist--perhaps that's the reason the leaders of the SBC think you are a joke.

Read my post again. He abused me when he was 17 and I was 14--he was also the youth minister at our church. We were a small church and as always, they put people in positions if they're willing to do the job.

Seems like you always run away when I suggest actually taking the proper steps to making changes in the SBC. Standing at the front steps and yelling at pastors sure isn't the right approach. Try getting put on the proper committees and maybe you will see the results you want to see.

Renae C said...

Okay - I have been reading this back and forth for a week now - and I've refrained from commenting - but I'm going to have to give it a shot.

Michael - Christa is OUTSIDE the system. Although you have managed to stay, as have I, MANY survivors of abuse cannot stay inside the system where abuse occurred and then was blatantly ignored and covered up. For their own survival, they must go. Asking anyone in that situation to use the system to change the system is just as futile as you believe standing on the steps screaming to be. BTW - I'm not an "airmchair" psychologist - I am in the process of becoming the REAL thing.

What you are saying has merit - putting people with integrity that care into the positions of power is a way to get things done. But it takes those people being willing, aware, and PATIENT. And not everybody is qualified for the job. In the good old boy SBC - Christa couldn't obtain the positions of power needed - even if she wanted to - because she is a woman. So - if you think that the way to change the system is from the inside - good for you - go for it. Get yourself on one of those committees - and use your intelligence and your energy to make a difference.

But large-scale social change requires many modalities. One of those is in-your-face advocacy. Good for those standing on the steps screaming - it's one way to make the world notice. I agree that sometimes it doesn't change the minds of the leaders on the inside - but it does draw attention to the problem.

My modality is to play behind the scenes - supporting survivors one on one - and planting seeds to change attitudes and hearts that are ready to hear.

If we all WORK TOGETHER instead of using our energy to fight with one another about the best way to create change - then maybe we will get somewhere. There is no right or wrong way to fight this battle - it takes all the different ways that we can think of. But there is A LOT of energy being wasted here battling with one another instead of using our various strengths to enact the change we want to see.

Michael - once again - if you don't like or respect the path Christa has chosen - that's your right. But trying to change her mind is just as futile as your view of her way of doing things. She's not on your blog - you are on hers - and it's her space to use as she chooses.

Lets use our energy to be the change we want to see in the world instead of fighting with one another!

oc said...

Well, it seems to me that Michael has the best chance of getting on a committee. He's the one who personally knows the big dogs of the SBC. (Hope they didn't read this blog and see what he's said about their intelligence and character).

I have an idea. Let's flood the SBC with emails. Michael, give us the names of those big dogs you know personally, so we can contact them and demand reform and get you on a committee. And I trust you will have no problem with giving us your name as a contact familiar to them. That will help us a lot, because as you know, it's all about who you know. I'm sure you won't have a problem doing this, because after all, (as you have told us before) you hate all that "anonymous" stuff.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

"don't think that everyone who posts on here is a abuse survivor but I think its unfair and unjust to constantly rip Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist pastors in general when the abusers are a very very small minority. There are many Godly men who are SBC pastors who would not put up with sexual abuse for an instant. "

Michael, What about those who coddle abusers? Like Patterson and Gaines? Where are the rebukes and outrage from your so called 'Godly men'?

Seems to me they are REAL good at putting up with it. Gaines is a SBC celebrity out speaking at seminaries, etc. It only made him more popular to ignore scripture. Patterson, too.


J. Davidson said...

We will have to repent...not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael this is one of my pet peeves about the SBC. What would happen if one the the SBC "autonomous" churches suddenly had a gay female pastor? What would happen if the SBC allowed them to stay a member? There would be people and "autonomous" churches leaving the SBC.

Well this needs to happen in regards to abuse. Everyone who is silent on the matter in their "autonomous" church has a small bit of guilt in all this. Sitting around waiting for someone else or something else to change it is wrong and allows that many more people to be hurt because people want to look the other way? People are not wanting to confront their church leaders on a local level?

I mean come on. Every single day that goes by and nothing changes is horrible and another victory for evil.

Anonymous said...

"There's nothing more dangerous than a bedside psychologist--perhaps that's the reason the leaders of the SBC think you are a joke."

Christa, that is a compliment! :o)

(Michael, I hate to tell you but your story does not ring true and unfortuantly, I have met way too many big shots at the SBC who lie for fun. Patterson even said he started rumors to see how far they would spread. His idea of fun, I guess. Not real godly but that is what SBC leadership is like. Take care, it does not rub off too much on you. They are getting their reward now.)


oc said...

John Harrison,

I guess I'm on my way. I think the plank is greased. I may in the drink faster than I think!

oc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This is why most American churches will go through the tribulation and those currently persecuted churches will be raptured...I don't really know that for sure but I do wonder sometimes...