Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pornographic pictures

Not long ago, a freelance reporter asked me this: "Why should we keep writing people’s stories about clergy sex abuse? It’s just one after another after another, and after awhile, doesn’t it all just seem sort of.....pornographic?"

I looked at him. He was young. He was probably doing his best.

But I hated the question. I hated the word. I didn’t know what to say.

Finally, I mumbled something about how I believed that EVERY individual’s story was important and that, as with so many things, individual stories carry the power to bring about change because they make the problem real. It was a safe and light-weight answer.

What I wish I had said is something more like this.

None of us like having this reel running in our heads. We try every way possible to put some distance between ourselves and those images. But there comes a point when we can’t.

Do you imagine that any of us enjoy being a child-star in such a seedy, ugly movie? A movie with a church setting and Bible verses for a soundtrack? We weren’t given any choice about it.

But however ugly these reels in our heads may be, WE were NOT the pornographic part. We were kids.

THIS is what is truly pornographic: That so many Southern Baptist leaders receive information about ministers who do this to kids, and they turn a blind eye. That many deacons allow their churches to develop a culture of impunity by refusing to do anything about ministers who turn a blind eye to clergy child molestation. That rather than stopping the clergy-perpetrators, Baptist leaders often sermonize the victims on forgiveness. That a paid SBC spokesperson publicly elevated the protection of autonomy over the protection of kids. That the Baptist General Convention of Texas keeps a file of ministers for whom they determined there was "substantial evidence" of sexually abusing a kid, and it doesn’t bother to warn parents where the ministers currently work. That the Baptist General Convention of Texas retains a long-time attorney whose first response to a clergy abuse report is to threaten suit against the molestation victim despite another minister’s substantiation of the report. That Southern Baptist churches across the country still silence clergy sex abuse victims by getting their signatures on secrecy agreements, while leaving reported child molesters in their pulpits. That the SBC president publicly labels a support network for child rape victims as "opportunists."

The men who commit these deeds wear suits and ties. But no amount of clothing can cover up the perverse reality of what they do.

They choose to protect themselves rather than protect kids. They choose to savage the wounded rather than help them. And they do it all with a soundtrack of sickening false righteousness.

With one story after another after another, these so-called religious leaders choose the path of doing nothing when confronted with the evil of clergy child molestation. And yes... the pornographic picture of their chosen path should indeed be shown.


Anonymous said...


What you said, None of us like having this reel running in our heads. We try every way possible to put some distance between ourselves and those images. But there comes a point when we can’t -- this is so true.

Sometimes I wonder will it ever end. No amount of therapy or talking or anything makes it better. Sometimes it is so overwhelming.

Plus, I would just love to be able to go to a church and worship without feelings and memories and smells and attitudes effect my ability to worship -- which usually means that I do not worship at all. None of it has to do with the present but so many things bring up the past.

My love for the Lord has not changed. I still know that He is the answer to everything, and He is the one who takes care of my every need. Unfortunately, I just do not trust "HIS" people anymore. It is all very confusing.

Christa, I really and truly don't think a person can understand if he or she has not been there. I just think there are a whole lot more people who have been there, but cannot face it for whatever reason, who also fall into the forgive and forget, and turn the other cheek crap.

It all makes me very sad.


Anonymous said...


About the time I think I am beginning to get a faint grasp of the pain and suffering all victims go through you write yet one more revealing article. How deep the pain must run!!

Yes, every story is important less anyone try to take away from the scope and breath odf this curse. I for one am disturbed everytime I read a new story. But I am also more deeply concerned that whatever it takes to stop this must be done and done soon. Please keep encouraging others to share so we will not go to sleep on this watch.

Christa Brown said...

Like you, I know that there are many, many more who have experienced this, but can't face it. They try to numb themselves and distance themselves from it with all manner of means. So many have been lost to alcoholism, drugs and suicide.

I get a fair number of emails from people who tell me what a bitter and unforgiving person I am. They really don't get it. Far from feeling bitter...I feel fortunate. I believe I'm one of the lucky ones. I am grateful to be alive and whole because I know full well that a lot of abuse victims aren't.

"Forgive and forget"....I'm convinced the people who spout that line the most don't really have a clue about forgiveness theology and they sure as heck don't have any genuine reality-based concern for protecting others, because no amount of forgiveness will accomplish that. And forgetting? Most victims wish they could. That's why so many try to self-lobotomize with alcohol and drugs. Victims CANNOT forget, even when they want to, and the larger faith community SHOULD NOT forget. To the contrary, they need a great many more reminders.