Saturday, October 27, 2007

If only....

Baptist leaders in Texas cannot bring themselves to admit even to themselves the tragedy that they’re allowing to happen. The Baptist General Convention of Texas persists in the delusional belief that local churches might somehow be educated so that they will report clergy sex abuse.

But this delusion has been going on for well over a decade. If only the BGCT puts together a committee…if only the BGCT publishes a brochure…if only the BGCT puts information on its website…. If only this… if only that…but virtually nothing really changes.

There is no “if only….”

With every attempt the BGCT makes, it becomes even more painfully clear that the BGCT has nothing to offer on this subject except more of what has failed in the past and shows no sign of working in the future.

The BGCT fails at this because the most critical problem is denial…and denial is something normal. It’s a normal human response in the face of horror and a very common aspect of human psychology.

It is precisely because denial is such a normal human response that institutions must have systems of accountability that recognize the reality of human denial.

No matter how often the BGCT revises its website or how many brochures it publishes, most churches will not report their own ministers. Church people know that sexual abuse is wrong. But they simply don’t bring themselves to the point of realizing that their own ministers commit abuse. It’s called denial.

Or they tell themselves that maybe it wasn’t the way it seemed, or that it happened just once and so he’s not really a child molester, because after all, child molesters are bad people, and Brother Bill isn’t bad.

Or they tell themselves that, even though it looked bad, they don’t really KNOW exactly what happened (and they don’t really want to know), and so to make everyone more comfortable, they simply allow Brother Bill to move on without ever getting to the bottom of it.

This pattern of denial has been played out over and over again, and BGCT leaders know it. They know that “in the normal scenario” churches “just try to keep it secret.”

Did you get that? “Normal.” So why does the BGCT keep pretending that something outside the normal is going to happen. It almost never does.

“In the normal scenario,” churches do nothing, and because the BGCT provides victims with nowhere else to turn, clergy-perpetrators remain in their pulpits even after victims have tried desperately to report them.

No one would expect Grandma to have to decide whether beloved Uncle Joe molested little Suzy. Her instinct for denial would be too great. Congregations are similar. Typically, they love and trust their minister. They are incapable of objectively considering whether he may have done something so heinous as to molest a kid.

Those who have been victims of clergy sex abuse know and understand this. The BGCT still acts as though it doesn’t.

It’s one thing for churches to engage in denial. But it’s long past time when the BGCT should lift its own veil of denial and exercise leadership. The consequences of its failure are terrible. Perpetrators stay in their pulpits. Additional kids get molested. And adults who try to heal their wounds get re-wounded by churches that “just try to keep it secret.”

The BGCT must move past “if only” and start dealing with reality.

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