Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hottest Places in Hell

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.”

This quote is usually attributed to the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. It’s a loose translation from Dante’s Inferno.

That was one of those things they made me read in school, and I wound up loving it. It’s just an allegorical tale, but it’s very visual. And since I grew up in a hellfire & brimstone sort of church, Dante’s visual metaphors were the sort that I could easily latch onto.

In Dante’s Inferno, people at various levels of hell are afflicted by their own chief sin. They’re people who tried to justify and rationalize their sins, and who are unrepentant.

Dante lived in the 14th century, but if he could have looked into the future, I can’t help but wonder whether he might have placed Southern Baptist officials inside that metaphorical “hottest place.”

After all, Southern Baptist officials have done a pretty darn good job of ducking moral responsibility on clergy sex abuse, haven’t they?

Even with all the massive resources that they could bring to bear on the crisis, they choose instead to stand on the sidelines.

“Congregational autonomy,” is their mantra. It’s code for “not our problem.”

And by doing nothing, they assure their OWN protection. To hell with protecting kids.

These are cowards of the worst kind.

Metaphorically, these are the faces we glimpse in windows -- the faces that watch while children are carted off for molestation by Baptist clergy. Oh . . . they don’t actually see the rapes and molestations, but they know where those children are being led. They know what is happening.

And what do they do?

They pull the curtains.

With their indifferent, blind-eyed, do-nothingness, they tell clergy abuse victims “go to hell.”

But perhaps Dante would say that the hottest places are actually reserved for them.

For those of you who are getting ready to fire off an email to me, let me reiterate: It's a metaphor.

The photo: Auguste Rodin’s sculpture "The Thinker" was originally created as a small part of a larger whole called “The Gates of Hell.” It contains over 180 figures, most of them writhing and distorted, but directly above the doors sits an apparently serene man, lost in thought. This figure was said to represent the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, contemplating his vision of hell in "The Inferno." Eventually, Rodin presented "The Thinker" as a much larger independent work.


Jeri said...

Shared it on my facebook page!

Anonymous said...

Once again I enjoyed reading another blog of yours. I am not SBC but couldn't help but wonder something after I read this. If the SBC can organize themselves enough to have an international missions board and make all their missionaries around the world abide by a statement of faith, why can't they organize enough to keep track of all their clergy predators right here in this nation?

Christa Brown said...

Cathy's Corner: Good question. It's one that we asked in one of our very first letters to Southern Baptist officials.

Southern Baptists cooperate on all manner of endeavors -- everything from international mission efforts to providing retirement services for ministers. They even keep an extensive archive of Baptist historical records. It's all done with money that they call "Cooperative Program" dollars -- money sent to national headquarters by the 43,000 SBC churches for cooperative endeavors. So... if they can use the pooled resource of Cooperative Program dollars to keep an archive of their proud Baptist history and heritage, why can't they use the Cooperative Program dollars to keep an archive (i.e., database) of records on ministers who have been credibly accused of preying on kids while carrying the "Baptist" brand?

It's interesting that someone such as yourself, who wasn't raised SBC, can see the obvious answer to how they could address this if they wanted to. Work cooperatively on this just as they do for mission work! Almost seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Yet, it seems that most people who ARE Southern Baptist can't yet see this. They've bought into too much of their leaders' song and dance of excuses and rationalizations.

Phyllis Gregory said...

That's a very interesting thought -- "they protect the guy who beat up the Samaritan." I've never looked at it that way, but that is so true. In some ways that makes them worse than the perp. They choose to close their eyes, turn their heads, pretend it isn't true, and come up with a plan to prove that the victim is nothing but a little slut who seduced the preacher/deacon/daddy into having sex with her. Yeah, I think hell is a really good place for these people -- right there with the perps.

Texan said...

I checked the Biblical list of people who will not be in Heaven and Southern Baptists was not among them; however, backbiters, adulterers, and fornicators were. Perhaps some of the thinking on this blog is a bit deluded.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Dear Texan,

What I would like to say to you could not be printed on this blog. I hope you get the drift. I will say you are one pathetic, delusional, narrow minded, person. You have either molested or been molested to react the way you did.

gmommy said...

"the biblical list of who will NOT be in heaven"??????
....wouldn't Satan be the one with that particular list?????
God has the Lamb's book of Life....with the names that really matter.
I'd be hesitant to claim you know who will NOT be in heaven...and that you are from Texas. I'd be fearful that would be a double insult to God.
You show yourself to be the evil person you are by your own words.
You ARE laughable.

Junkster said...

Is that you, Paige Patterson?


Anonymous said...

They say "everything is bigger in Texas" and the Texan just proved that that includes idiots and totally insinsitive people

Unknown said...

Did I just read what I thought I did from Texan? Un-freakin'-believable.

Yet, the pastor that abused me said something not too different from that. I smell something rotten in Texas. It's so rotten I can smell it in Arizona.

Anonymous said...

If blogging has done one thing for me it has proven to me how biblically ignorant and vapid many who call themselves Christians really are.

It makes you wonder if the person sitting in front of you in church that, let's face it, has on a 'church face' is someone like Texan. Our churches are full of such people. Which is why they are dead. They just have an outward appearance of not being dead. But the hearts are of stone.

These are the same folks who would take up arms because the pastor told them to.

Christa Brown said...

"Yet, the pastor that abused me said something not too different from that."

I hear similar things so frequently that I sometimes wonder if there's a Baptist seminary somewhere that actually teaches the sort of hateful biblically-twisted ignorance spewed by "Texan." Oh... wait... maybe there is. Look who's at the helm at Southwestern in Fort Worth. What do you imagine upcoming young pastors learn when they see the example set by PP in connection with all the abuse complaints against Darrell Gilyard? Actions speak louder than words. And back in the late 1990s, the chairman of Southwestern's board of trustees had to resign amid allegations that he sexually abused women who went to him for counseling. There has been some serious stink at Southwestern fora long time.

Bob Cleveland said...


During my stay in the insurance business, I learned that when you take steps to deal with a problem that exists, you just might be admitting that 1) it exists, and 2) you might be able to do something about it. Which also means A) you have HAD the problem, and B) you might have been able to do something about it, before.

I seriously doubt the SBC will ever do anything that forces them to admit that.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Junkster and Bob, I agree with every word you said. Seriously, I already had wondered if that Texan could possibly be PP. It sounded just slimey enough to be him. Yuck! And Christa, I would like to know more about the chairman of the board of trustees you were talking about -- we lived in Houston then and went to Tallowwood Bapt church.

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: News on prior chairman of the board of trustees at Southwestern Seminary:
Seminary chairman quits amid sex charges, Baptist Standard, Oct. 14, 1998.

Bob: Welcome to the blog!

gmommy said...

Bob is a one of the sincerely "good guys". I second Christa's welcome to you!

Jeri said...

Hey Texan. I checked the list of who **will** be in heaven, and you know what, Southern Baptists aren't on that list, either. However, the men who boast of their great works before God are condemned by Him and sent to Hell. Seems they neglect the least of His brethren, and boy, does that ever get Him mad....

Anonymous said...

Christa, the story you linked to says it all about the SBC. Note a few excerpts:

"Collins, 47, pastor of Harvest Church in the suburban Fort Worth community of Watauga, also has been suspended with pay from his church duties, pending the outcome of the situation, Fort Worth and Dallas newspapers reported last week."

Suspended WITH pay. Wonder how long that lasted?

"Collins was unavailable for comment last week. He reportedly was in Hawaii on a 60-day sabbatical leave."

A paid 60 day vacation in Hawaii for the pervert preacher.

"Richard Long, the church's associate pastor, declined to comment on the situation except to ask Texas Baptists, "Please pray for us, for the pastor and for everybody involved."

Note how they never say anything like, if this is found to be true then he is not qualified to be an elder/pastor. They never affirm truth in these matters.

"Long referred questions to the church's attorney, Ron Adams, who did not respond to a request for an interview."

Churches need an attorney? Where is that in the Word? What exactly are they protecting?

"Later in the week, seminary President Ken Hemphill expressed the seminary community's sorrow regarding the situation"

Sorrow for what, exactly? Well...

"We are grieved over the recent events concerning Ollin Collins," Hemphill said in a prepared statement. "We continue to pray for him, his family and for Harvest Baptist Church."

But not the women? Ever notice how compassionate they are over the spiritual abuser. That always makes me wonder...

"Collins was elected to the board in 1990. He was a key participant in the firing of Hemphill's predecessor, former President Russell Dilday, in 1994. Southwestern trustees elected him chairman last March."

Ah, now we understand why he gets compassion from all the big wigs. He is owed for helping to get rid of Dilday. And the way they did that was not very 'Christian' either.

Let's see, Patterson's brother in law, Russ Kaemmerling was also an SWBTS Trustee who was convicted of fraud and sent to jail. Of course, he tried to stay on as a trustee while he was being investigated.

Nice people. Real serious ethics in the SBC.