Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Religious rape and cult-like thinking

Warren Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted of rape-by-proxy for forcing a 14-year old follower to marry her 19-year old cousin.

Across America, many are probably wondering how someone like Jeffs could develop such a following. Why do people surrender themselves to such a cult-like sect? It’s now clear that Jeffs is a criminal, and his followers look like gullible oddballs.

But I have sympathy for his followers. I know first-hand what a powerful weapon religion can be. I learned that lesson among Southern Baptists.

When Southern Baptist ministers use scripture for their own perverse purposes to rape adolescents, is it so very different from what happened in the FLDS church? And how much different is it when countless other Southern Baptist leaders use their own twist on the autonomy doctrine as a religious excuse to do nothing about those ministers who rape the young? This also seems pretty cult-like to me.

Perhaps it’s a little different from the FLDS scenario, but not much.

Dozens of Southern Baptist abuse victims have told me about how their perpetrator insisted that what they were doing was sanctioned by God. Others were told that they were “already married in God’s eyes.” Still others were told that it was a “test of faith.” Many were told all of that….and more…by Southern Baptist ministers whom they were raised to believe were God’s mouthpieces.

I’ve heard similar stories so often that I sometimes wonder whether there’s a seminary course that teaches this sick stuff. I can just imagine the course title: “Biblical Rape 101: How to twist the scripture to get young flesh and silence them when you’re done.”

And what about all those other Southern Baptist ministers whose inaction makes them a sort of accomplice to the crime? In my own case, the music minister knew that Gilmore was abusing me. Gilmore himself had talked about it with the music minister! Yet, the music minister did nothing and, as a result, Gilmore grew more emboldened and the abuse became more severe and I wound up being far more traumatized. Why should that music minister not be considered an accomplice to rape?

With so much sexual abuse and so many cover-ups and so many religious excuses, why should Southern Baptists consider themselves any better than the FLDS people? Southern Baptists may seem more mainstream, but their religion is also being widely hijacked for perverse purposes.

Religious rape of the young has nothing to do with the intelligence or stupidity of the victims. And it sure as heck has nothing to do with immorality on the part of the victims -- as so many of them are so wrongly told. It has to do with faith and trust.

In Southern Baptist churches all across America, trusting faith-filled young people have been given over as sacrificial lambs to scripture-quoting clergy-predators. Meanwhile, the other shepherds look the other way and refuse to hear or see that anything is amiss. If the wounded lambs dare to bleat, the shepherds lash out at them with still more religious doctrine. Autonomy. Autonomy. Autonomy.

I don’t understand. I don’t think any rational person would. It takes cult-like thinking to elevate the protection of autonomy over the protection of kids.

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