Monday, December 22, 2008

Southern Babtoys Corporation

Imagine a company called Southern Babtoys Corporation. They market a game-toy that has a pervasive problem. At least 3 out of every 100 will blow up in a kid’s hands, hurling tiny fragments far and wide.

Typically, it injures the kid quite seriously, though the pieces are so tiny that the kid often doesn’t realize his injury at the time. He may see only a scratch on his forehead and doesn’t know that some of the tiny pieces have actually penetrated his skull.

To make matters worse, the tiny pieces contain a radioactive compound that releases slowly and ripples destruction outward. So, over time, the damage in the kid’s brain grows worse. But though the damage is very real, it manifests slowly. So people don’t usually trace it back to the toy.

It’s the sort of toy that kids play with in groups. So a single toy will often hurt many kids.

Southern Babtoys knows this is happening. But they don’t do anything about it.

They don’t institute any sort of quality control measures to prevent it.

When reports about the problem crop up, they issue public statements that minimize it. And they never acknowledge the seriousness of their quality control problem or how widespread it really is.

Instead, they talk about a few “isolated cases” and chalk them up to all sorts of other things. The kid didn’t follow instructions. The parents didn’t supervise. The toy had been altered. The kid is a whiner. They’re just opportunists who are trying to get money.

Southern Babtoys has a whole list of these kinds of statements, and their public-relations people rotate through them when they talk with the press.

The flawed toys are actually made by a whole slew of small companies spread all over the country. But to better market them, the companies stick a Southern Babtoys label on the toys. Then Southern Babtoys takes a percentage of the revenue from the sale of the toys.

It’s a sweet deal. The local company sells more toys because people trust the Southern Babtoys name. And Southern Babtoys takes in multi-millions with its percentage. Its executives get super-high salaries, and the company gets the prestige of promoting itself as the largest toy-maker in the country.

But what about the kids who get hurt? It’s not such a sweet deal for them. Or for their families. Or even for their future families. They wind up dealing with the brain damage for a very long time.

The few who try to call the monolithic Southern Babtoys Corporation to account get met with a stone wall. If they persist, they get run into the ground by the mega-monied media arm of the SBC. Because its resources are so enormous, Southern Babtoys can spin things however it wants, and to a large degree, the public sees only what the SBC wants.

If push comes to shove, Southern Babtoys pulls forth its most golden “not our problem” excuse of all.

“The toys aren’t even made by us,” it says. “It’s all those small local companies who make the toys, not us. And the fact that the Southern Babtoys brand is on them is irrelevant. Those local companies are all autonomous, and we don’t have any control over them.”

Most people in America wouldn’t accept such a ridiculous story-line from a secular for-profit corporation. So why do they accept it from a religious organization?

Most people in America would expect the brand-holder, Southern Babtoys Corporation, to bear some accountability for those who make use of the brand.

Why do people let religious organizations off the hook at a LESSER standard of accountability than secular organizations?


Jeri said...

Are you estimating a minimum 3 percent? Or has somebody finally figured out an algorithm to set a datapoint on how much abuse is going on? When I see how little effort is made by clergy in any Baptist denomination to call pedophiles and child molesters in the pulpit to account, I often wodner if the number could be much higher.

Christa Brown said...

Jeri: I too believe the number is actually much higher than 3 percent. I got the 3 percent number from Penn State professor Philip Jenkins' 1997 book "Pedophiles and Priests." He observed that this 3 percent pedophile figure for Protestant clergy was "a rate equal or higher than that suggested for Catholic priests." Jenkins' own research at that time showed a rate of just 1.7 percent of priests as pedophiles. Subsequent research has revealed a rate higher than 1.7 percent for priests. (I don't have the 2004 John Jay study in front of me right now, but as I recall, that study came up with 4 percent.) Jenkins was obviously on the low side for Catholic priests, and there is good reason to think that he was also on the low side with his 3 percent conclusion for Protestant clergy. But of course, the largest Protestant denomination in the land has taken the ostrich-in-the-sand approach of refusing to even keep records on abuse reports, and so the data is limited. (That is perhaps the part of this that galls me the most -- Baptist leadership doesn't even care enough to keep records much less to actually do anything about it.) However, based on insurance data gathered by the Associated Press about 18 months ago, there is good reason to believe that the incidence of sexual abuse by Baptist clergy is no less than the incidence of abuse by Catholic priests.

But even if it's just 3 percent, that's plenty awful enough. Southern Baptists have 101,000 ministers in this country, and so that means 3,030 of them are pedopiles. Most people who sexually abuse kids have multiple victims, often dozens. Without any oversight system, or reporting system, for those 101,000 clergy, this means that the largest Protestant denomination in the land is choosing to leave a whole of kids at risk.

Jeri said...

Thanks for the data info. I am glad to receive it. With reports of clergy abuse cases coming in so frequently my guess is that it would top out closer to 10,000 rather than 3,000. And, of course, it will only continue to climb. Baptist churches are such perfect havens for sociopaths who want to rule their own private empires!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Jerri that the real numbers are higher than 3 - 4%. Having been around pastors for the most of my life I found them to be a very insecure group and fear the light being turned on their personal life. I am not saying that they all are but too many fit that bill. The thing that bothers me is that the leadership of the SBC knows there is a problem with a lot of the pastors but continue to focus on the down-and-out sinful people in the pews. I enjoyed the freedom I experienced while pastoring but I was also aware of the problems it could create.
For years now the SBC has pusehed the idea of its lay-people placing themselves in a group to encourage accountability. I only met a few pastors willing to do the same thing themselves. You see, to admit a weakness might hurt your chances of "moving up to a better situation" [usually defined as "more money]. They simply keep their mouths shut and look the other way when a fellow pastor fails.
What we are dealing with here is the very life of innocent people. usually children. I just continue to be amazed at the outright sinful behavior of leadership to attempt to protect their flocks.
I still believe it is just a matter of something happening to one of the "elect's" family to bring them to the place where all of a sudden action is a must.
It is important to keep the information flowing so when that moment comes there will be pleanty of good advice available.
Thanks to all of you for your undying efforts to protect others from your experience.

George Frink said...

Exploding Babtoys aren't being stuffed in stockings all over North Carolina. Your use of blistering satire to present and illuminate the ideas does, however, have a growing market. Your modest proposal works here.

Christa Brown said...

gwfrink3 tells more about these "exploding Babtoys."

"If you're a Southern Baptist, you may already have one. Or several. All of whom you trust."

This is exactly what people in the pews need to realize. You may indeed have an "exploding Babtoy" of a pastor in your pulpit. How would you know one way or the other since Southern Baptists don't even keep systematic records?

Anonymous said...

I saw where Pope Benedict called for an end to the exploitation of children in his Christmas Eve address. Quite a paradox coming from the head of the greatest perp of them all--the Catholic church.

Jeri said...

Maybe he should do like the Baptists and pretend it's not happening at all

Anonymous said...

Or better still he should defrock the multitudes of Catholic priests that are or have sexually abused children. They sure know who they are...

It would also help if the Catholic church would release their records to the local police departments so these priests could be prosecuted but that isn't happening. Probably because the bishops were once child molesters themselves.

Christa Brown said...

At least the Catholic church is required by canon law to keep records on priests... and that's a large part of what's gotten them in trouble... when the records have come to light, they've been incriminating. And even their fear of having their records exposed in court-case discovery battles has provided negotiating power for forcing small changes.

But Southern Baptist officials don't even bother with any systematic record-keeping at all. I can't see how that makes Southern Baptist leadership any better. I think it makes them worse.

At least the Catholic church has removed over 700 priests from active ministry (even if it hasn't defrocked most of them). That's way more than Baptist officials have done. And at least the determinations of Catholic review boards have provided an independent record-keeper, BishopAccountability, something that they can post (even when bishops don't post the info themselves, which a few dioceses have actually begun to do). Again... that's way more than Southern Baptists have done.

Jeri's got it right. Baptist officials are still about 15 years behind where Catholic officials are. Baptist officials are still mostly stuck in their ostrich-in-the-sand approach.

Christa Brown said...

Merry Christmas to all!
And to survivors, wishing for all of you that you may find places of peace in your hearts.

Anonymous said...

Since the court system is based on neutrality for justice to occur it is difficult to try cases that happened many years ago. The victim's pain does not diminish with time however it is difficult to try a case on just the real pain of the victim.

Christa, it seems that you are just accepting as a given that the victims will always wait for many years to come forward. Time washes the memories and attitudes of third party people and this is to a degree excusable so as to move on with life. Naturally the victim does not really move on.

What kind of help do you offer a victim who will probaly not see prosecution of the perpetrator nor sympathetic support from others at the level they would like to see?

What can we as a church do to encourage victims to come forward sooner and not wait?

What can we do to assist clergy who have dysfunctions that lead to sexual abuse?

Christa Brown said...

1. The court system is not based on neutrality with respect to childhood victims of sexual abuse. If you want to educate yourself on this, read the recent book of Princeton law professor Marci Hamilton, "Justice Denied: What America must do to protect its children."

2. It's well-established that victims of sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence do not typically speak of it for many years. So, yes, I accept this psychological reality. Cases that come to light sooner are typically cases in which, essentially, the victim discloses accidentally -- e.g. cases in which the victim says or does something that causes a parent to become suspicious.

3. SNAP offers self-help support groups, conferences and other resources for clergy abuse survivors.

4. The denomination needs to provide clergy abuse survivors with a safe and welcoming place where they can report abuse with a reasonable expectation of being objectively heard. Such a place cannot be the church of the perpetrator. That's what Southern Baptists expect of their system now. It will never work.

5. Anon, you and many others need to educate yourselves on this. Childhood molestation victims don't consciously "wait." The reason they don't report abuse sooner is because of the psychological trauma. It is the very nature of the psychological damage inflicted on them that it usually silences them. Then, even years later when they reach the point where they may be capable of speaking about it, there is typically no one among Baptists who will listen with compassion if they were unlucky enough to have been victimized by a Baptist minister. See # 4 above.

6. Clergy who "have dysfunctions that lead to sexual abuse" shouldn't be in positions of trust in ministry. Period. Nevertheless, some state Baptist conventions have long provided counseling support and financial assistance for clergy who have "wandered" into sexual abuse. And they tend to characterize almost all clergy abusers as "wanderers" rather than "predators." I wish Baptists would provide even one-tenth the support for the victims of clergy sex abuse as they have already provided to the clergy who commit abuse.

Anonymous said...


Lin said...

Christa, I would add that those of us who teach young children need to make it clear that NO ONE, I do not care who it is, should never touch them inappropriately and we need to explain that to them. Of course, there will be lots of questions and as adults we should be prepared to answer them.

Sunday School teachers could make a huge difference with this problem.

As a policewoman detective told me a while back: Churches tend to be safe places for pedophiles and predators to operate because it provides great cover.

Anonymous said...

Yes, churches MUST train their people how to and how not to touch ALL children. When I pastored I required that anyone working with children go through a training class on what is acceptable. Then I would offer the same class to all parents. If the parent did not attend I woulsd send a copy of our rules home with each child. ALL parents knew they could attend 5the classes their children were in. If they wanted to they could just drop in unannounced.
One rule that would cost any teacher their position was that no child could be touched below the neck except babies and then only women were allowed to assist them.
This is not rocket science. More can and must be done in this area now. I found that all my parents really appreciated our efforts and instead of hurting our attendance it actually helped it.
This is a new day. Churches and denominatios must be super-pro-active in their efforts. If thewy do not have the time or interest, they need to get out of the business.
For those who had been assauled in any way we would seek a professional to conduct one-on-one sessions at their convienence. We would provid the counselor with a key so they did not have to inform anyone of their meetings.
If we love people like we claim then we must go out of our way and incovience ourselves to be a part of their healing.
Come on churches. Get with the real purpose for your existance!!

Rhia said...

then only women were allowed to assist them.

Remember that men are not the only ones who sexually abuse children. In a recent study where one in six men reported being sexually abused, 40% of the abusers were women.

The better policy is to try to make sure no children are ever left alone with an adult regardless of gender.

My site is about female offenders

Christa Brown said...

"Churches tend to be safe places for pedophiles and predators to operate because it provides great cover."

Yes, churches can easily be the perfect paradise for predators, particularly churches that lack even an attempt at an effective oversight system.

For clergy-predators, their most powerful weapon is the high level of trust they carry by virtue of being a minister. It's why it's so important that the weapon of trust be taken away from a minister when there are credible allegations against him... even if the case is too old to be criminally prosecuted (which is most of the time). But Southern Baptists have no system for doing that or for even warning people in the pews - typically they just allow the "exploding babtoys" to move on.

The high-level of trust serves not only as the clergy-predator's weapon for methodically grooming his victims but also as his shield for avoiding exposure. It's a double-whammy.

Anonymous said...

"It's why it's so important that the weapon of trust be taken away from a minister when there are credible allegations against him... even if the case is too old to be criminally prosecuted (which is most of the time)."

Christa, who do you suggest takes this weapon of trust away and how do you suggest they do it?

Christa Brown said...

From our recent letter to SBC president Johnny Hunt:
"This denomination needs to provide (1) a safe and welcoming place for victims to report clergy sex abuse, (2) an objective, professionally-trained panel for responsibly assessing victims' abuse reports, and (3) an efficient means of assuring that the assessment information reaches people in the pews -- i.e., a database."

Lin said...

Christa, who do you suggest takes this weapon of trust away and how do you suggest they do it?

December 28, 2008 7:05 PM

Church structure has lots to do with it. When folks look to the pastor as some specially anointed saint or as they sometimes call them 'men of God' they have created an idol. the pastor is simply ONE of the saints who is gifted to preach. All gifts are equal and all are important to the Body. The human priesthood was done away with on the Cross. Now we have a Holy Priesthood with Jesus Chrsit as our High Priest

We simply need to study scripture to have discernment and realize that in Christ there is NO hierarchy within the Body. There is NO elevation of mere men because of a title conferred by mortals. If you want to recognize a true elder, study Matthew 5.

Anything else is a fake.

If we practiced true Christanity then this would not be a problem. We would discern the wolf and take proper action to protect the least of these.

Instead, we have proof of wolves among us and many are even going to great lengths to protect them. They are not of Christ. And that is not a real church. It is that simple. Too bad more do not realize this.

Bonhoeffer wrote about this brand cheap grace which cheapens the costly Blood of our Savior. Think about how it sounds when speaking of Nazi atrocities. Just forgive and forget. You can't prove it, anyway on an individual basis. No consequences.

Matt 18

7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Christa Brown said...

"...Think about how it sounds when speaking of Nazi atrocities."

Interesting that you bring up this analogy because today is the last day of Hanukkah, and I've been thinking along these lines quite a lot myself.

Here's a link to a column I wrote on this subject a couple years ago during Hanukkah: Menorahs' Lights Bring Thoughts on Denial and Evil.

Anonymous said...

Explain what you mean by a "faulty forgiveness theology" by the Baptist you confront. Thanks