Monday, March 16, 2009

"Nothing more... "

The immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Frank Page, was recently appointed to serve on the White House “faith-based” advisory council. Given Page’s abysmal failure in addressing clergy sex abuse and cover-ups among Southern Baptists, let’s hope he displays better judgment in his role on the President’s advisory council.

An open letter:

Dear Dr. Page,

I haven’t forgotten how you publicly castigated the clergy abuse survivors’ support groups by saying we were “nothing more than opportunistic persons.”

Those were hateful words coming from the highest leader of the largest Protestant denomination in the land.

They’re words that have stuck with me, as I’m sure they did for many other abuse survivors.

But I wonder whether your words held meaning for you? Or did you simply toss them out as though they were a matter of no consequence?

Did you realize the hurtfulness of your words when you spoke them? Did you realize how such words, coming from a high-level leader, would help to legitimize a Baptist climate of dismissiveness toward clergy abuse survivors?

I have long pondered how any decent person could say such a thing, much less a person who purports to be a religious leader. To this day, it remains a mystery to me.

At first, when I heard your statement, my mind honed in on your accusation that we were “opportunistic.” It was so ludicrous and mean-spirited that I couldn’t see past it. Where was the “opportunity,” I wondered, in being molested and raped by a Baptist minister?

But as time went by, I realized that the real sting of your words was in the “nothing more.”

I try to imagine a religious leader saying that clergy abuse survivors are “nothing more” than swine.

Or “nothing more” than “Polacks.” Or “nothing more” than “potato-eaters.”

Or maybe in Jesus’ day, it would have been “nothing more” than Canaanites.

Pick your pejorative. That’s the effect of your words. You slung a slur and then said we were “nothing more.”

And you did it publicly.

“Nothing more.” Think about what those words mean.

Now, think about what they mean when said by the highest leader of a 16.2 million member faith community.

It’s an age-old hate-mongering propaganda tactic to sling a slur at a disfavored group and then say they’re “nothing more.” Sadly, it's a tactic that can be very effective when used by influential religious and political leaders.

It’s a tactic that is dehumanizing.

Frank Page, you were wrong.

We are more. We are much more. We are infinitely more.

Clergy sex abuse survivors are children of God, just as you and everyone else. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. We are friends, spouses, and partners. We are business people, techies, writers, artists, singers, electricians, designers, city administrators, teachers, athletes, nurses, chefs, students, pastors, lawyers, waiters, inventors, volunteers, and on and on and on. We are atheists and agnostics, Baptists and Buddhists, Christians and Catholics, and on and on and on. We are cancer survivors, heart attack survivors, suicide survivors, and on and on and on.

To list all the ways that we are more than your “nothing more” would be endless.

To list all the ways that your “nothing more” was hateful and hurtful would be endless.

So while you’re considering all the “nothingness” of clergy abuse survivors, Frank Page, you should also consider something about yourself. You’re someone who is apparently incapable of hearing the hatefulness of your own words… and of rendering an appropriate apology.

Of course, I know you’re more than that. But however much more you may be, it doesn’t change the fact that you still owe a serious apology.

Sincerely,
Christa Brown
______________________

Update: “Turning an opportunistic Page,” Baptist Planet, 3/17/09.

14 comments:

Thy Peace said...

Off Topic:

Interesting developments from Fbc Jax Watchdog blog:

(Also, Tiffany Croft blog is also the issue here.

Pastor Wade's posts that includes Tiffany Croft in his posts are here.)
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Tiffany Thigpen Croft said...
One other point I forgot to mention earlier. Most of you may not know that not only did FBC and Mac Brunson subpeona the records of watchdog's site, but specifically listed mine as well. Our two blog's really do not have any relevance to each other. I have not been involved in the watchdog's blog about FBC, my issue is in alerting people to the repeated crimes of a sexual offender named Pastor Darrell Gilyard within his churches.

Leads me to wonder what possible crime I committed to get an order to breach my privacy and subpeona my blog record. Am I next on their radar? The funny part is that I am listed very publicly, never have I hidden my identity. My face has been on the news and I blog using my own name. I even list my married and maiden name. Dr. Brunson knows my parents (members of his church) they love and support their Pastor wholeheartedly. Dr. Brunson knows of my history with Gilyard and the reasons I felt the need to be public. There is no reason to search out information that is right in front of us all....hmmmm.

What is next? And here we are worried about the government taking away our rights to free speech and squashing our right to make our own choices...what is going on here? I guess we have a much larger problem on our hands than we first realized.

Dr. Brunson, I would be happy to meet with you to answer any questions you may have, all you need to do is ask. I am really transparent, and I actually welcome criticism or challenge as it keeps me in check and gives me accountability. Maybe if you had simply answered his questions and addressed his (and many others') concerns, it would not be such an out of control problem.

No need to create rumors against me as you all have with "Watchdog", I am no threat to you.

Dr. Brunson, this is so sad that we are here. I truly hope that you decide to reconcile all of this in the appropriate way. And then apologize to your congregation for misleading them and destroying this man's family. It would be the Godly thing to do, so much could be learned from so many by simple transparency. You have all of these Pastor's looking to you for guidance (thank's to our former Pastor's setting up the annual Pastor conference. We have already heard testimony from an attendee. that was ..appalled by the continual talk of "this blogger" and the undercurrent of anger he felt during this years conference. Imagine what next year's talk will be - let's hope it will be the way you turned this sinking (or stinking) ship around and did the right thing.

I do respect your authority as a Pastor and do not wish to seem disrespectful here. I truly wish to see this turned around properly.

MARCH 18, 2009 4:52 PM
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FBC Jax Watchdog said...
Tiffany - perhaps the investigator who subpoened your records from Google and from Comcast as he did mine was interested in some of the anonymous comments on your blog. Who knows. You make a good point as to why they would subpoena informatoin from Google concerning your blog since you use your own identity.

There really are two people who might know the answer:

John Blount, Church Administator who called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on the 9/29, the day after Chest of Joash to report possible criminal Internet activity

and

Detective Robert Hinson of the JSO who took Blount's report, and was the officer who sent subpoena's to the state attorney office to get Google and Comcast to release the identity of the Watchdog.

And of course Detective Robert Hinson is also a member of FBC Jax.

Gee, how interesting.

MARCH 18, 2009 5:02 PM

-----------------------------------

Now, let us see, did they also subpoena Christa Brown, New BBC Open Forum, Pastor Wade's blog sites too?

Are they trolling for Anonymous Commenters and their IP addresses? Here Tiffany Croft is not Anonymous. But still they went after her blog site.

Interesting.

Lydia said...

Send the letter to Obama. Let's see what HE does with it.

Zilch, I imagine.

Lydia said...

Thy peace, thanks for posting that. That is scary. These people are so depraved. They will do this to anyone who questions them, yet have no problem with Steve Gaines keeping a pedophile minister.

What is wrong with this picture?

Anonymous said...

I became a Christian when I was 12 years old. It was at a revival service at an SBC church. I began teaching Sunday School at age 15 and wanted to be a missionary because I was so in love with Jesus that I wanted to serve Him wholeheartedly. I was told if I had not been called, I could not be a missionary. I became a nurse and considered my work my mission field. The Lord was able to use me everywhere I went and I served Him faithfully in church for over 50 years, serving through choir, teaching, evangelism, directing VBS, training other teachers, etc.

I did not choose to be part of clergy sexual abuse. I did not even recognize what was happening in the beginning. I did know that I was uncomfortable and questioned why the ministers involved were saying and doing as they did. Speaking privately about it to those involved only caused me ridicule, embarrassment, and hostility from those in ministerial leadership. Speaking publicly about it has caused me to be ostracized and denied the opportunity to serve in the church.

Next week a leader in the church will share her testimony that she looked for love in all the wrong places. She says she never shared this before because she was protecting her children (who now know about it). I told her there is freedom in honesty and that she needed to not be afraid or hide who she was because what she had done in the past was a part of who she had been. She admitted that she had not been giving God all the glory for how He had changed her when she became a Christian.

How ironic that after publicly stating what happened to me, I am not allowed to serve in a leadership role in the church. This teacher can share her testimony of what she did willingly but I am expected to keep secret what was forced on me, all because SBC ministers were involved?

Frank Page obviously does not understand clergy sexual abuse if he thinks this is about opportunity. All opportunities were taken away from me.

Kaye Maher

gmommy said...

Wow,Kaye,thank you for being so open with us. You are right....Frank Page chooses to be clueless. If these people acknowledge the truth about clergy sexual abuse then they have to make changes and they have to care for people like you. They don't care.
They only care about themselves and their corrupt organization that has made them rich.

But we care about you and what you have been thru. In a strange way...this is a safe place.
I appreciate you and your courage.

Christa Brown said...

I too am very appreciative of Kaye and her courage. And I grieve for all that I know she's been through. Despite her great love of God, and her many, many years of service, once she began speaking about clergy abuse, she was treated as a leper - or worse.

Kaye's abuse occurred in the same prominent Florida mega-church where my own perpetrator worked after he had moved on from several other churches - FBC Oviedo. Birds of a feather...

Anonymous said...

Kaye, Thanks for commenting here. My heart just grieves over this treatment. There is no excuse for it and I do believe we have seen God's judgment already as these churches are not of Christ because HE is not there. They are business organizations.

Christ is not in them, friends. You can tell me how wrong I am, how I cannot judge an entire church or even judge hearts. But if you do, you have not studied scripture with the Holy Spirit as your teacher. We tend to ignore what God told the corrupt priests in the OT and what He tells the Pharisees in the NT. He is talking to the 'religious' leaders of our day, too.

The Pharisees did not recognize themselves, either.

Lydia

Junkster said...

Frank Page's statement that clergy abuse survivors’ support groups are “nothing more than opportunistic persons” is "nothing more" than wrong.

Or ... maybe it is more than wrong. Disingenous, inaccurate, condescending, slanderous, a lie ... it's those things, too.

Michelle said...

Very, very nice.

john said...

Kaye,

Thank you for sharing yoyur experience. It will be respected here and all on this effort want only the best for you. now it had to take a lot of courage to open up. However, this seems to be the only way right now is for people like yourself sharing your pain, reliving your nightmare, and bearing your soul. God bless you, we love you here!

Christa Brown said...

Michelle,
Welcome here. I saw on your profile that Anna Karenina is one of your favorite books. Me too. But usually, when I try to tell someone about what a great book it is, they look at me like I must be crazy.

Michelle said...

Tolstoy makes me shiver inside. There's this one story I read over and over when I was going through tough times. Family Happiness. It made so much sense, the way it ended. His take on misogyny and relationships is exceptional, especially from a stoic, conservative man such as himself.

I've read your blog for quite some time, commenting on and off, mostly anonymously as I've been in a lawsuit and they subpoenaed all my internet activities. It's over now, and I'm here in the real-life, so to speak. My shivering, Tolstoy-reading, ink-stained real-life.

Looking at the comments above, I see the reasons for my previous anonymity aren't as individualistic as I thought. ***sigh***

Lin said...

"Tolstoy makes me shiver inside."

Me too. My favorite is War and Peace. I try to read it about every 2-3 years. His insight into people through his characters is astonishing.

Anonymous said...

What is going on that VICTIMS are being treated like CRIMINALS and the CRIMINALS are being covered for by the Southern Baptist Church?
I PRAY that GOD will bring justice to the victims of sexual abuse and victims of abuse of all other kinds in the Southern Baptist Community. And the independent Baptist Community. Maybe the problem is the Baptist Denomination.

Cindy Treadway