Monday, May 11, 2009

40 in 15

Exactly two years ago, Southern Baptist spokesperson Will Hall publicly suggested that there had been only 40 "incidents" of Baptist clergy sex abuse in the past 15 years.

It was such a grotesque understatement that it took my breath away. I wondered exactly which kids were so unimportant that Will Hall didn’t think their molestations and rapes mattered enough to even be counted. It was obviously a whole heckuva lot of them because there had obviously been a whole heckuva lot more Baptist clergy sex abuse incidents than 40.

Southern Baptist leaders must have known there were a lot more, and if they didn’t, they certainly should have. Heck… one Southern Baptist pastor alone confessed to molesting 40 boys, and no telling how many “incidents” there were. That was just one perp.

And even if you considered only published reports of Baptist clergy sex abuse -- the bare tip of the iceberg -- any fool could see that the scale of the problem was much, much bigger than “40 incidents in 15 years.”

EthicsDaily called on Hall to issue a correction, but of course, that never happened.

When I heard Will Hall’s “40 in 15” remark, I vowed then and there that I would keep posting published Baptist clergy abuse stories on the StopBaptistPredators website for as long as I could bear it… if for no other reason than so that Southern Baptist leaders could never again get away with such an immoral minimization of the problem.

After all, Will Hall wasn’t just some ordinary Joe, talking off the top of his head. Will Hall is a professional media person. He gets paid to know what he’s talking about and to say it well. Some might call him a spin-doctor. And what he “spins” is news about the Southern Baptist Convention.

So… this paid professional spokesperson (paid with offering plate dollars, mind you) decided to spin the Baptist clergy sex abuse problem into something small.

Only “40 incidents in the past 15 years.”

Then Hall decided to spin his own spin and turned it into a Southern Baptist brag.

He said the low number showed that “the way Baptists deal with the problem is working.”

That’s what he said: “working.” It shows you just how arrogant Southern Baptist leaders were.

“Working for whom?” I wondered. The Southern Baptist system sure as heck wasn’t “working” for the hundreds of kids molested and raped by Southern Baptist clergy. And it sure as heck wasn’t “working” for the hundreds of wounded adults who were further betrayed by the blind-eyed do-nothingness of Baptist leaders.

Yet, as recently as two years ago, Southern Baptist leaders thought they could get away with bragging about only “40 incidents in 15 years”… and that people would automatically believe them.

Never again.

Sometimes I wonder whether any of this work will ever make any difference. But then I think about Will Hall and the outrageous hubris of his “40 in 15” remark, and I realize that it already has.

Never again.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right Christa. Job one for the PR folks at most religious organizations: deny and minimize and rationalize clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

Your dedication is indeed making a difference! Keep it up!

David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915

Phyllis Gregory said...


Have you just been doing this two years -- it seems like it should be longer than that. I don't see how you have done it. I, for one, appreciate all your work. You have probably helped more people than you will ever know. I am sure there are people out there who still have never been able to voice the pain they have experienced at the hands of a preacher/youth minister/deacon pervert, but they at least now know they are not alone. Your website and blog is like having one big support group. That is such an important part of the healing process.

Thanks for all you have done.


gmommy said...

I hate the Baptist word for clergy sexual abuse....incident.
Every single time that word was read from the "investigation report" concerning BBC's own staff sexual predator, my body reacted. I had no idea at the time that was the official Baptist word for this crime. I just thought it was a terrible way to minimize the reality of this horrible sin.
They know exactly what they are doing with their spin. It's's wrong...and it's evil.

Christa Brown said...

For those who don't know... gmommy is referring to Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis where pastor Steve Gaines knew about an admitted child molester on his ministerial staff for at least 6 months... and kept it quiet while the man continued in ministry. When it finally came to light (no thanks to BBC leadership), the church still did a whitewash job. And Steve Gaines is still the pastor.

Anonymous said...

I've never made a comment before, but I read your blog all the time. I have for more than a year. You've made a big difference for me. Thank you.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 12:09 - Welcome here! Thanks for your comment. I hope you'll feel free to jump in and share your thoughts more often.

john said...

yes, you have already made a difference.

Anonymous said...

Disgusting and common. An "I do not see it, so it is not there" attitude. Bury the memories, try to forget, don't damage the body of Christ, NEVER tell, etc.....

I suspect the number of victims is more in the thousands. I personally know dozens. I am one of them.

The thing is the long term effects are devastating.

A raping of the mind, soul, and body. Faith for some is a fairy tale myth that was shattered.

It affects every religion, both christian and non. Knew a woman from The Bahá'í Faith. Her serious weight gain became her armor, she felt safer if no one looked at her.

Glad to see so many different faiths decrying this evil, dark betrayal of innocence. Instead of pointing fingers as a smoke screen at other denominations who may make better headlines.

It has become so common now, no one even blinks. I can almost hear them yawning,and waiting for, "Next"....

Phyllis Gregory said...

"The thing is the long term effects are devastating.
A raping of the mind, soul, and body. Faith for some is a fairy tale myth that was shattered."

So very true. Awful. No matter what our stories are we all have these things in common -- devastating effects and memories we can never erase. I will always hate them for that the most -- what they did to my soul as well as my body.

Anonymous said...

I link your blog and website to anyone that even hints this is not a big problem in the SBC.

I also linked it to my entire SS class because one brilliant woman made a passing comment that we should not treat a confessed pedophile as a second class citizen in church.

I told her I expected her to allow him to babysit her 7 year old, too, since she does not think he should be in jail.

Seriously, the average person in the pew has no clue what is going on unless we make it a point to tell them.

They are more concerned for forgiveness for the criminal pervert than they are for protecting victims.