Monday, July 21, 2008

Joker card

On her blog today, Danni Moss talks about documents which show the Catholic Church’s long awareness of clergy sex abuse and its imposition of secrecy. Here’s what she said:

“As I read this information I was filled with very mixed feelings. Yes, this seems deplorable. At the same time, isn’t it worse to have a system which just blows around platitudes and does the “aw-shucks” shuffle, while playing the we-can’t-do-anything-about-it card? This is just as disingenuous and offensive as some feel about the Pope’s recent apologies to abuse victims. At least he’s apologizing! That’s more than we’re getting over here.”

Danni’s right. What Southern Baptist leaders are doing is just as offensive, if not more so, than what Catholic bishops did in failing to protect kids against clergy sex abuse.

Catholic clergy abuse victims reported their priest-perpetrators to bishops, and the bishops kept things secret and often assigned priests to new locations.

Baptist clergy abuse victims reported their pastor-perpetrators to denominational leaders, and denominational leaders kept things secret and allowed the pastors to stay in their pulpits or move to new locations.

Whether the clergyman is “assigned” to a new location or “allowed” to move to a new location, the kids who are molested, raped and sodomized are just as horribly hurt.

As Danni’s comments make apparent, the only real difference is that Southern Baptist leaders have an extra card in their deck. It’s the “we-can’t-do-anything-about-it” card.

They play it as a joker.

Bishops don’t have that card in their deck. Everyone knows they have power and so they bear blame – and rightfully so.

But Southern Baptist leaders should also bear blame. Their joker card is exactly that. It’s a joke.

Southern Baptist leaders have power. They simply don’t choose to exercise that power for the protection of kids against clergy-predators. Instead, they throw down their joker of “we-can’t-do-anything-about-it.”

And they walk away smiling. Just like a joker.

But that card is an evil pretense.

They cloak their cowardly joker in words of religion. They toss down the “we-can’t-do-anything-about it” card, and then they say the Bible dealt it to them.

They claim the Bible tells them that all churches are autonomous and that this trumps their obligation to protect kids.

Worst of all, they don’t even have the gumption to call their card what it really is: “a joker.” Instead they pull a “Word of God” label from their sleeve and try to fool everyone.

Southern Baptist leaders distort the Word of God to propagate their own small-minded pile of chips, and they do it at the expense of kids.

But peel back their stealthily-slapped-on label and you’ll see what’s really on the table.

It’s a joker.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Now that is the type of communication I love to see when so much is at stake. It is a joke and they [we] know it. As a retired SBC pastor, I know the SBC deals with whatever social or moral issue they choose to deal with. They will get all angry and claim those who do not agree are mean spirited or do not understand the SBC way. The truth is "they" can and will do whatever "they" want to do. It just so happens that right now, for whatever godless reason, they just do not want to lead out and at least try to put an end to this shame and disgrace on the Baptist faith. Yes, each church is a free standing church. But, the SBC is not free to stand above the Word of God when it comes to children and to the protection of those who cannot protect themselves. More can and must be done now. Enough with the excuses! Instead of telling us what cannot be done, show us your compassion and concern by standing up and doing something. Anything is better than the current position of, "it's not my job man!"

gmommy said...

I hope you don't mind my asking this...but have you continued to attend an SBC church since your retirement???

Anonymous said...


When I retired we did attend SBC churches for a while. We no longer do nor do we ever intend to do so again. There are several reasons, which I will be glad to share with you directly, for this decision. To sum it up, there are too many experiences and too much information for me to continue.
The failure of the SBC to show compassion and leadership in the area of abuse is certainly one of the main reasons.
My faith is unshakable but my support has gone.


Anonymous said...

Face it, the SBC formation was based on ignoring abuse of those in authority and an overt unbalanced contentment towards submission which led to those in political realms ingiting the civil war. Their failure to not understand the basis of the underground railroad and the northern baptists cry of slavery abuses in the south. If the leadership continues to fail to understand this issue you all are dealing with then many SHOULD leave it all together.

Danni said...

Well played. ;-)

You took that analogy to a whole new level and it was excellent! I wish the ones to need to hear it would listen.


-- Danni

Danni said...


You put your finger on something I've been thinking -- this is an old root, showing it's ugly head. The SBC is rooted in prejudice against blacks and women. Prejudice on one side of the coin has abuse on the other face. This is nothing new. So if today that coin shows the faces of women and children, how can we be surprised?

-- Danni

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to the many good people who are SBC members it should be pointed out that the Constitution was a racist document in its original form when it came to women and blacks. Years of stuggle have brought about change.
Some of us as pastors fought hard and paid various prices to do away with the wrong attitudes of the original SBC. Yes, much still needs to be done, but, to cast it in its original light is to do a lot of people a grave injustice.
The fight continues and the victory will eventually be won.

Danni said...

john harrison,

and in all fairness, I have to agree you are absolutely right. I know I'm very sensitive about the issue -- and it isn't just an SBC problem. Not growing up in the South, things like Jim Crow laws still boggle my mind. Having a tradition of segregated churches is unfathomable to me. It is unthinkable to me that a "Christian" institution could justify this and seems part and parcel with the present attitudes toward abuse in the church - of the same root.

But, it's not an SBC problem. The SBC is just the largest Protestant denomination, and the most able to cohesively address the issue, and the most glaringly negligent in doing nothing when they could do something.

But it's not like clergy sex abuse only, or mostly, happens in SBC churches.

-- Danni

Christa Brown said...

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia, in 1845, when other Baptists wouldn't fund missionaries who were slaveholders. For many, many years, Southern Baptist leaders continued to scripturally justify the separation of the races. Not until 1995 did they finally pass a resolution "on racial reconciliation" in which they formally acknowledged their role in defending slavery and in opposing civil rights. By 1995 of course, it was WAY overdue. I hope Southern Baptist leaders will not wait so long to pursue responsible action and reconciliation on clergy sex abuse.

As Danni pointed out in her original post, it's a bit frustrating to see the Pope's recent public apologies to clergy abuse victims in the U.S. and Australia. However hollow and staged the Pope's words may have been, it's still way more than what Southern Baptist survivors have gotten. Instead, we got former Southern Baptist president Frank Page publicly saying we were "nothing more than opportunistic persons" and former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson calling us "evil-doers."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, you are right on as usual.

Christa Brown said...

I think it's all those years I spent in Girls Auxiliary. ;-)
I was raised a Southern Baptist. It's a part of me - no getting around it.