Saturday, March 15, 2008

Richard Land talks on Spitzer but quiet on clergy

Richard Land went to the trouble of writing a column about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes. Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Since Land is supposedly the SBC’s top-dog on ethics-related issues, you might have thought he would have leaped into the fray to urge Southern Baptist leaders onward in addressing the clergy sex abuse problem and in ministering to the victims. But so far, he’s been remarkably quiet.

He didn’t waste any time, however, in talking about the victims of Eliot Spitzer.

Land talks about how the prostitution business “systematically and ruthlessly exploits” the women. Now, mind you, I’m not taking issue with Land on the exploitation of prostitutes. But what I can’t understand is why he’s not at least equally concerned about how so many Southern Baptist clergy “systematically and ruthlessly exploit” kids and vulnerable congregants in their churches.

And make no mistake about it. Despite some of the Baptist brochures I’ve seen, clergy abuse isn’t something that happens inadvertently when ministers “fall into sexual sin.” It happens because they “systematically and ruthlessly” exploit someone who trusts them completely, and it’s often a child.

For far too many of us, the rapist was a trusted Baptist minister, the house of horror was a Baptist church, and the instrument of torture was the “inerrant word of God.” We were degraded into nothing but sex-toys to serve perverse biblical con-men. But you don’t hear Land talking about that, do you?

Instead, Land tells us about how prostitutes often get started in order to support a drug habit. Why doesn’t he talk instead about how it gets started for kids who are abused by clergy? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s even uglier than drug addiction.

For kids abused in Southern Baptist churches, it gets started because they make the terrible mistake of trusting a minister and submitting to his view of biblical authority and divine revelation. Of course, it’s really not fair to call it a “mistake,” when in reality, trusting their ministers is the only thing they’ve ever known. Trusting their ministers is so much a part of their world-view that it would simply never occur to them to do otherwise. It would be like choosing whether or not to breathe. You don’t choose. You simply breathe.

Land takes time to talk about the “devastating psychological and physical harm” inflicted on prostitutes. But you don’t hear him talking about the devastating harm inflicted on clergy abuse victims, do you? You don’t hear him talking about their post-traumatic stress disorders, their shattered faith, or their inability to trust. You don’t hear him talking about how many clergy victims never set foot in a church again or never pray again because the dark shame of the abuse is neurologically networked with their faith. All of this seems to simply bypass Land’s attention.

Instead, he wants to talk about prostitution’s “sad and tragic parade” of additional victims – the spouse and children of Spitzer. Do you think he’s ever pondered the parade of additional victims that clergy abuse leaves in its wake?

Parents wonder why their child becomes estranged, but it’s common in the clergy abuse context. Relationships are torn asunder as victims, feeling inexplicably betrayed by all, pull away from everything connected to the past. Years later, the fall-out continues as spouses wind up on the front-line of trying to deal with their mate’s psychological and sexual trauma and of trying to save them from suicide. The next generation suffers also as children often wind up with an emotionally numb parent or one too depressed to be there for them.

But Land doesn’t talk about these victims, does he? These sorts of victims get shoved in the shadows. Why? Because the perpetrators are so-called men of God who carry the same “Southern Baptist” brand as Land.

So rather than hit too close to home, Land stays on a safe subject and talks about Eliot Spitzer.

But here’s the thing about the Spitzer case that caught my own attention. Look how quickly Spitzer was pushed to resign when his use of prostitutes came to light. Why aren’t Southern Baptist clergy forced to resign when child molestation comes to light?

Spitzer hasn’t been convicted of anything, but he’s already resigned. Typically, Southern Baptist clergy aren’t even suspended pending investigation. But of course, typically, there isn’t any investigation. No one seems to care. Allegations are ignored and victims are silenced.

So many times we’ve seen Southern Baptist men who continue as ministers even after they’ve admitted to abuse, even after there is “substantial evidence” of abuse, and even after criminal convictions.

Why isn’t Land using the Baptist Press to publish those mens’ deeds? Why isn’t he writing columns saying “get those men out of the pulpit and do it now!”?

Why isn’t Land using his top-dog ethics position to call to task all the other Southern Baptist leaders who have allowed the clergy abuse scourge to persist by turning a blind-eye?

Perhaps it’s because Land himself is right there among them. With Southern Baptists and clergy sex abuse, it’s the blind leading the blind.


Anonymous said...

For Richard Land, a "top dog" in the SBC, to be talking about the devastating psychological and physical harm to prostitutes is hypocritical just as Spitzer's campaign to shut down prostitution rings or his talk about domestic violence against women. Why? Because Land has not dealt with the clergy sexual abuse in his own house (the SBC). Maybe Land doesn't speak out about clergy abuse because he would have to talk about too many fellow ministers and then Land would no longer be allowed to be "top dog" within the organization.

Anonymous said...

If the SBC wants to lead the way and set an example for the world in how to deal with sin, they sure are dragging their feet in dealing with clergy sexual abuse. Spitzer's resignation came quickly and was a breath of fresh air as compared to the SBC allowing ministers to continue for years, doing harm to other victims.

If prostitution is a victimless crime (and we can tell by looking at Spitzer's wife and children that it is not), clergy abuse is not a victimless crime and yet the SBC does nothing to stop it.

gmommy said...

Land isn't blind to the truth. If he can discuss the devestation done by prostitution....he has enough intelligence to comprehend what Baptist clergy abuse is doing to the many victims.

Another example of the cold hearted dishonesty ...the hallmark of the corrupt SBC theology...or politics....or whatever it is.

They keep playing their self righteous religious game....all the while stepping in the waste left by that big ugly elephant being ignored.
What's coming from those who refuse to help the wounded is stinking more everyday.

Anonymous said...

Maybe another reason Land may have spoke out about the Spitzer case is because the wife, Silda, was raised Southern Baptist. It looked good or it was expected for him to say something.

Unknown said...

I felt that too as when I was watching him give his resignation on Fox News: Look at that, a governer had to resign because he visited prostitutes, whereas pastors who victimize children and vulnerable women are allowed to go on preaching.

A church should hold itself to a higher standard than secular government, not lower.

Christa Brown said...

gmommy: It's terrible to imagine that SBC leaders such as Land do indeed comprehend the devastation inflicted on clergy abuse victims... and yet STILL choose to do nothing. As you say, it's almost unimaginably cold-hearted. It's like imagining that these men are capable of seeing a person with a severed limb at the edge of the road, pleading for help, and instead of helping the person, SBC leaders stop their breezy Cadillac, get out, and yell at the person to crawl back into the woods so that passers-by won't have to see such unpleasantness... and then they give a kick or two just to make the point all the more clear. It's almost impossible to imagine that ANYONE could be so cold-hearted, much less religious leaders, and yet I think it's an apt analogy for how SBC leaders are treating clergy abuse victims.

Anonymous said...

The website of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is if anyone is interested. A really nice, long, bio of Richard Land is posted there. He must have written it himself. He sounds very proud of who he is and what he has accomplished. Pardon me while I barf! Typical SBC bull shit.

I have never understood the BAPTIST way of putting preachers right up there with God. Land and Paige Patterson and the executive committee and all the top dogs in Nashville and all the minsters who have molested children think they can do no wrong. And, because they can do no wrong, they are not held accountable and they are able to get away with the most serious of crimes -- ruining the lives of women, children, teenagers -- by using their god-like authority to control these innocent ones and to cause these victims to doubt themselves and their own reality.

They all should be ashamed!


Unknown said...

Wade Burleson has a nice piece on his blog today about women in ministry and as I was reading it, I remembered something that I had, really, blocked out of my mind. In the church where I was victimized, the only reason why I went to the pastor to talk to him in the first place was I had no one else that I felt I could talk to and get answers to the questions I had about God and about my own salvation. There were no women in any kind of leadership positions in that church at all. No women Bible Study leaders of adults. No women were really looked to as having much Bible knowledge at all.

If I would have had a woman I could talk to I would have gone to her in a heartbeat. I was actually uncomfortable going to the pastor for counseling in the first place.

Christa Brown said...

Good point Elisabeth. How much of a difference it might make for lots and lots of women and teen girls if there were women in leadership with whom they could talk instead of only men.

Along the same lines, I remember how the senior pastor of my church actually laughed at me when I told him that I thought God might be calling me to be a minister. (This was a year or two before another minister abused me.) It wasn't even something worth talking about or taking seriously.

Anonymous said...

This is the heart of the problem - the patriarchy and imperialism built into the system that disempowers anyone that isn't a rich, white, man. The problems are not going to go away unless and until there are people in positions of power that don't wear that power as a badge of honor and that truly believe that EVERYONE is equally beautiful, useful and important. These men do not see the divine in every woman and child, nor even in most other men. They only see their own power. Unless and until the balance of power shifts and becomes more equal, there will be no relief.

Anonymous said...

As John Newton wrote the fabulous Amazing Grace, he did not forget the abuse of slavery and urged Wilberforce to wipe out the slave trade industry in England. Grace did not overlook the matter of this abuse nor will it in your cause.