Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Pastoral care"

I grew up watching Billy Graham on TV and always felt the power of his words. Some teenagers long to go to rock concerts, but what I longed for was to hear Billy Graham in person. So I was thrilled when I got to go to one of his crusades.

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.


WatchingHISstory said...

Bellevue Baptist should be a safe-haven for our children, a city of refuge. Rather, for seventeen years a pedophile ordained minister was walking the halls in charge of prayer and counseling and at the flagship church of the SBC!

He survived under an invisible umbrella of protection, a good ole boy network that failed him when events shifted his security.

He should be in prison along with those who assisted his escape.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

you know, it is not just clergy, but also church volunteers. i think a lot of very sick individuals hide behind religion in order to do evil.

Anonymous said...

removed by the blog to bad if any truth ever got out, wouldn't it. You have a forum where you say all kinds of things, many of them horrible, about people you do not know. You use the written word to destroy anyone who does not agree with you. Guess are not the ultimate authority on anything other than your attitude, which is bitter and rotten. I still say you are a sad, sad, person and you can't blame anyone else for it. Circumstances, however horrific, must at some point be overcome. You just enjoy dwelling in the basement too much.

Christa Brown said... least I don't hide behind a wall of anonymity. The reason I allow for anonymous comments on this blog is so that abuse survivors may feel safer in commenting. It's not for allowing anonymous cowards to attack me.

I expect that you don't know most of the clergy who have been accused of these crimes either. These are indeed horrible things, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. And certainly, just because they're horrible doesn't mean that everyone should turn a blind eye. However horrible they may be, there ought to be someone within the denomination who takes a good hard look at them.

I could be wrong of course - there are plenty of people like you in the world - but I'm guessing you're the same guy who was so upset about the Southmont scandal. I think it would have been more compassionate of Larry Reynolds toward the congregation if he had allowed every tiny bit of evidence and documentation to be shown to all the people who so loved and trusted him for so many years.

I'll readily concede that I'm not the ultimate authority on anything. That's why I keep asking the denomination to create an independent, objective review board for clergy abuse reports.

As for my attitude...I believe I serve God in doing everything within my power to protect kids against this horrific crime.

Rick Reynolds said...
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Rick Reynolds said...

First, I am a pastor and I have been involved with the Southern Baptist Church since I was young. I have definitely seen difficulties but had no idea the wide spread denial that has evolved within Baptist sects until seeing Ms. Brown’s website.
While I may not agree with everything that Ms. Brown says on her blog, she should not have to be degraded and villanized by your comments. I realize that you may disagree with her; however, do you believe that your negative, non-Christ like behavior is going to help? My suggestion to you is if you do not appreciate what she has to say you can address it in two ways, if you are a Christ follower. First, you can love her and realize through her brave testimony that she has been hurt and could use your compassion and not your ridicule. This does not mean that you cannot disagree with her but you should keep it non-personal and to the issue. Secondly, you can stop reading her articles and ignore what you disagree with. Lastly, what are you doing in your life to honor Christ and love others?
It is easy to relinquish your name and post mean spirited words while calling someone else exactly what you embody. The Bible is clear to remove the outlandish object in your eye before you try the delicate process of helping someone else, if that is what you call it. Please in the future look to encourage people rather than trying to break them down. My mother always told me that people who ridicule others are only doing that because they are miserable inside. This is a woman who is trying to help people and encourage those who need love, compassion, and acceptance to come forward. While I may not agree with all of her commentary, I have never been in her shoes and from the sound of your post, neither have you (just guessing). Anyway, I encourage you to browse her website and read the many articles and maybe you can see why she is so passionate and feels the way she does. Ms. Brown thank you for helping so many people!

In Christ,

Christa Brown said...

Rick - Welcome to my blog! And thanks for your comment.