Friday, July 3, 2009

"Christa Brown's saga resonates more... now that I'm a mother"

In the Austin American-Statesman, longtime religion writer Eileen Flynn published an article about my book, This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. Check it out. Flynn packs an emotional punch. It’s the punch that comes with the primal immediacy and transformational power of motherhood.

Here are some excerpts:

Christa Brown’s story will likely make you mad. As a naïve 16-year-old growing up in a North Texas Baptist church… she was pressured into having a sexual relationship with her youth minister. The married pastor told Brown it was God’s will and justified his marital infidelity by citing Bible verses about concubines -- then excoriated her as a satanic temptress when his wife found out.

When Brown reported the abuse to another church leader, the minister… was transferred to another congregation. No police investigation. No announcement to the congregation.

It was difficult hearing Brown’s account last year when
I wrote in the American-Statesman about the soft-spoken Austin lawyer and her efforts to improve Baptist churches’ inadequate system of handling sexually abusive ministers. But I didn’t really identify with Brown. Nothing like that had ever happened to me.

My world shifted dramatically when I became a mother in January, and when I picked up Brown’s recently published book “This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang” a few weeks ago, I saw Brown’s story with new eyes. What if someone tried to do this to my daughter?


Molesters don’t just ruin childhood, they set their victims up for an adulthood fraught with anxiety and anger, failed relationships and self-loathing -- nothing any mother would wish for her child.

I always felt sorry for abuse victims. But as I held my baby and imagined all the wonder and joy that awaited her, I began to understand more clearly what Brown and so many others had stolen from them.


“This Little Light” should stir Baptist leaders to action. And it should help all of us understand just exactly what’s at stake.

At the end of Eileen Flynn’s article is a place for comments. I hope some of you will send a few words her way… and congratulate her on new motherhood. You can also post a comment on Eileen’s blog, where she talks about why she liked the fact that her column about my book ran on Independence Day.


Richard said...

Christa, is this page of the SBC website entitled "Resources for Sex Abuse Prevention" something new?

And my comment was #1 on the Austin American-Statesman article - from a FATHER. It is the very least I could do to help further your cause.

May your book make the NYTimes Best Seller list.

Christa Brown said...

Richard: I saw your comment under the Eileen Flynn column and thought it was GREAT, but I didn't know it was you. Now I do. Thanks for writing it.

One of the things I never understand... and maybe never will... is how so many Baptist leaders, who are fathers themselves, can still bring themselves to turn a blind-eye to this. Why haven't they had the sort of shift in consciousness that Eileen Flynn writes about? I don't get it. I think I never will.

The "resource" page you mention on the SBC site has been there for a while... I think a little more than a year... and they keep adding new stuff to it. Suffice it to say that I don't think much of it. The short version of my thinking is this: Most clergy predators have multiple victims. The best way for Baptists to prevent more clergy sex abuse in the future is to carefully and compassionately listen to those who are trying to tell about clergy sex abuse in the past. So far, Baptists are not providing any safe place where that can reasonably be expected to happen. Until Baptists are willing to provide a place where reports of abuse in the past will be conscientiously assessed, all their glossy brochures will amount to little more than nice little curtains in gale-force storms.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Christa, I did my best to leave a comment about Eileen's article. It would not work -- I registered and logged in but it still would not work. So, I will tell you what I was going to say to her.

The article was wonderful and I agreed with every word she said -- especially "because I know what it means to want to protect someone so fiercely. I know what innocence is and the importance of preserving it as long as possible. Molesters don't just ruin childhood, they set their victims up for an adulthood fraught with anxiety and anger, failed relationships and self-loathing — nothing any mother would wish for her child."

When my daughter was growing up I still did not remember much of what happened to me as a child. I just knew I had to protect Carre with a vengence from all the evil that I perceived could hurt her. I didn't even know why I felt that way.

But now I am about to be a grandmother for the first time and we just found out that our son and his wife are expecting a girl. As I said to my son -- I just think seeing a perfect, untouched, precious baby girl will heal my heart. Because I know this little girl will be so loved and so protected and so treasured and her innocence will be so valued by her own parents -- instead of being taken from her by those she loves the most.

I could go on and on how I agree with what Eileen said concerning how the abuse effects you your entire life -- not just as a child which is bad enough but as a teenager and way into your adult years. Because it is soul murder, you never recover completely.

Christa, I hope many, many people read that article and will then read your book. There will probably be a whole new group of victims who will want and need to become survivors -- a whole new group of people who are going to need what your website and blog offer -- the feedom to be honest and transparent concerning one's past.

Take care,

Christa Brown said...

Thanks for trying to leave a comment on Eileen Flynn's column.

Many, many, many congratulations on your soon-to-arrive grandchild. I'm so happy for you!

Christa Brown said...

Richard: One of the "resources" on the SBC site is the link to "Protecting the Innocent", which was produced by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I wrote about it here.

That's just one small example of why I don't think much of that list. As usual... it's the dramatic contrast between what they say and what they actually do.

brc said...

I was Anonymous on my first post under "Kids and Congregants at Risk." (40 years....that's me.)
But I will assume a screen name now that I return, to avoid confusion and allow the use of Anonymous to others.
I returned after reading Greta Christina's blog on AlterNet today on "Deliver Us From Evil." I just wanted to shout and say, "Look! Look! Somebody's getting IT!" And it's almost mainstream media.
And then I read Ms. Flynn's article.
I cried, actually. I did.
They're starting to get it.
And then I went to Kathy Shaw's blog. (Which is how I found this blog.) And I see even more articles by people who are stepping up. Intellectual, learned people of position whose words carry weight in the public eye.
I cried again.
I hope people can understand why some cannot speak. The emotional devastation caused by such acts, for some, can never be healed. I cannot risk discovery. I cannot endure that again. I don't know if I could survive this time. And I must survive. Or evil wins out. That MUST not be.
I won't even risk registering for comments. Isn't that silly? Every day is an effort to maintain balance and control, especially now, drug and alcohol free. Some days it's a struggle.
Not today.
Thanks to you and Ms. Shaw and Ms. Flynn and Ms. Christina.
Please extend my appreciation and congratulations to Ms. Flynn. I have recommended your blogs to Greta Christina at AlterNet. I did it privately. I hope you don't mind.
Thank you


Phyllis Gregory said...

Dear brc,
Thank you for writing on this blog. I am so sorry for the hurt,pain, and devastation you have suffered at the hands of others. Thank you for sharing what you can as you can. My heart goes out to you -- don't give up -- please keep writing.


gmommy said...

With all the planning and details of my daughter's wedding...I have 1 memory of the wedding. As I watched her walk down the isle, my tears started flowing. Not b/c she was beautiful tho she was. Not b/c I REALLY didn't want to "pass the baton" so to speak to my SIL.
All I could do was thank God that she was free from the baggage I live with...that she had not been wounded and damaged by abuse and was going into her marriage "clean".
As if God were standing next to me I said..."we did it!" (no sermons on how God doesn't need my help please)

Ramesh said...

The Grand Scheme [Eileen Flynn] > Christa Brown column: Seeing clergy sex abuse through new eyes.
The Christa Brown column (full text version below) ran in Saturday’s faith section in the Austin American-Statesman. Though I didn’t say it outright in the column, I like the idea of this story being told on Independence Day because Brown’s book “This Little Light” celebrates hard-won independence in a way. Maybe I’m stretching this a bit, but I see it as a liberation from the tyranny of shame.

Christa Brown said...

Brc: I'm so glad you're here. You've now written twice onto this blog. This is not a small thing. You should be proud. You have already taken steps of courage that many, and perhaps most, are never able to take.

"I hope people can understand why some cannot speak."

Yes. Most of us here DO understand that. Doing what is right for yourself on your OWN path of survival is what matters most.

"Isn't that silly?"

No. It isn't. To the contrary, for people who have experienced the surreality of being sexually abused by religious leaders, your feelings are probably normal. It is often very, very difficult to have any sense of knowing who to trust, when to trust, what to trust, how to trust. There is nothing silly about it. We work at keeping ourselves safe, and for good reason, because we know in our bones that the seemingly safest of the safe can sometimes be monsters in disguise.

Anonymous said...

"One of the things I never understand... and maybe never will... is how so many Baptist leaders, who are fathers themselves, can still bring themselves to turn a blind-eye to this. "

Because of their positions, they know their kids are quite unlikely to be touched. And if they were, the guy would be ruined and gone in a heartbeat and few would know. The fact is, they just do not care about other people's children. If they did, they would not be protecting perverts and those that protect perverts. They simply do not care.

But then we have a minister at BBC who molested his own child.

Christa Brown said...

For me, motherhood was transformational. Not only did I become a mother to my own daughter, but my "mother-bear" instincts kicked in for all children. I was a caring person before I became a mother, but motherhood still managed to take a lot of things out of the realm of the abstract and placed them in the realm of the real.

I think parenthood does that for a lot of people, as it obviously did for Eileen Flynn. It's a normal part of the human process. And because I see it as being such a normal thing, it remains incomprehensible to me that so many Baptist leaders, who are fathers, can nevertheless manage to detach themselves from their feelings so completely as to avoid any compassion for those wounded as kids by clergy and to avoid any sense of urgency about protecting other kids when they're informed of clergy who have molested in the past. And then... perhaps most amazing of all... they justify that detachment and that void of compassion and care on the grounds of "the Bible tells me so." As though the Bible somehow instructed them that it was more important to preserve the precise parameters of their man-made radicalized notion of church autonomy than to protect the young or help the wounded. The coldness of it, the dark-heartedness of it, the ludicrous pseudo-biblical justification of it, the basic inhumanity of it... all of it is something that I simply cannot understand.

Anonymous said...


I do not want to be presumptious or meddling but where were your parents when you were being molested? If I'm out of line, just let me know and that's fine.

Ramesh said...

I ordered Christa's book yesterday. I should be getting it by next week.

I am sure Christa might have mentioned about her home background there. Also, I read in one of the reviews that Christa's parents were having difficulties ...

Christian School Confidential > This Little Light by Christa Brown.
She opens herself up by telling the story of how Eddie Dunagan, a youth minister, capitalized on Christa's abusive situation at home. She called the police after witnessing an act of family violence.