Thursday, March 10, 2011

Réforme writes about Baptists’ “wall of denial”

In its March 10, 2011 issue, Réforme magazine published a profile story about my book, This Little Light, and about clergy sex abuse among Southern Baptists. I’m told that Réforme is the largest Protestant publication in France. So, a whole lot of French-speaking people are now reading about the horror of the Baptist do-nothing response to clergy sex abuse. Kudos to Alexis Buisson, the journalist who wrote this article!

I’m guessing that most of you don’t speak French. So allow me to give you a translated version of a few passages. I’m not totally fluent, and so this is a mediocre translation that doesn’t begin to do justice to the beauty of Buisson’s writing, but hopefully, it will give you the gist.

The article begins by relating a few excerpts from my own story and by telling about my book, which Buisson describes as having “mettre des mots sur l’indicible” -- as giving words to the unspeakable.

Then he discusses the unacknowledged plague – “fléau méconnu” – of pedophilia among Protestants, and in particular, among Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant group in the United States.

He quotes me as saying: “Certaines personnes ont dit que l’écriture du livre etait un acte cathartique. . . . Pour moi, c’était plutot un fait de resistance au nom des voix de toutes les victims que ce groupe religieux tres puissant a tues.”

Translation: “Some people have said that my writing of the book was an act of catharsis. But I think, instead, that it was an act of resistance – resistance in the name of all the voices of all the victims that this powerful religious group has silenced.”

Buisson writes about “l’absence de registres” -- the lack of record-keeping -- among Baptists, which impedes the ability to trace presumed pedophiles. And he does an amazing job of succinctly explaining the position of Southern Baptist officials: “They say that each church is administered in an autonomous manner and that a list of sexual predators would be contrary to that principle. But Christa affirms that this amounts to a maneuver for burying the problem. ‘That sort of autonomy doesn’t really exist in actual practice,' she says. 'All through their history, you can find examples showing that there has been cooperation for all manner of purposes among the churches and the regional and national authorities.’”

Buisson explains how “la puissante SBC” – the powerful Southern Baptist Convention – doesn’t even have procedures for looking into clergy sex abuse accusations and how it contends that its decentralized structure justifies its “immobilisme” – i.e., its do-nothingness. He describes this as the “mur de déni” – the wall of denial. The very fact that Buisson's writing is so clear makes the story all the more chilling.

"L’abus est difficile à vivre, mais l’attitude des autorités de l’Union des baptistes du Sud est encore plus difficile à accepter, raconte-t-elle."

"Such abuse is difficult to accept in life, but what is even more difficult to accept is the attitude of Southern Baptist officials," she says.

Then, Buisson quotes Marci Hamilton, professor of law and religion at Yeshiva Univesity in New York: "Tant que les baptistes du Sud n’auront pas pris leur responsabilité et qu’ils n’auront pas engagé des réformes internes profondes, ils n’en auront pas fait assez. Ils doivent écouter les victimes . . . . ".

Translation: "Until Southern Baptists take on their responsibility and undertake profound internal reforms, they will not have done enough about this problem. They must listen to the victims…. "

Christa Brown says : "Leur stratégie a marché pendant très longtemps mais elle ne va pas durer. Ils pensaient qu’ils pouvaient se retrancher derrière leurs murs mais les murs sont en train de tomber. Cette dénomination est en déclin."

Translation: "Their tactics have worked for a very long time, but they won’t endure. They thought they could hide behind their walls but those walls are tumbling down. This is a denomination in decline."

"J’ai une bonne vie et j’en suis reconnaissante. Mais je pense qu’il est impossible de guérir complètement d’un abus sexuel, poursuit-elle. Nous vivons dans la lumière et l’ombre. Je suis capable d’en parler mais beaucoup d’autres sont encore paralysés."

Translation: "I have a good life for which I am very grateful. But I think it is impossible to completely heal from this sort of sexual abuse. We live in the light and the darkness. I am capable of talking about it, but many others are still paralyzed by it."

Réforme magazine's website is at If you scroll down to the "Portrait" section, you'll see my picture and a link to the beginning of the article. I converted the whole of the article into this pdf:


Ramesh said...

Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. > Lessons from the Animal Kingdom

Southern Baptists have watched women in the SBC be denied opportunities to teach Hebrew and Church History and serve as an IMB vice president, because of this periodic and intermittingly bent toward “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Female seminary graduates are denied positions as chaplains endorsed by our convention because of our pettiness and unscriptural views toward women. God forgive us. Male pastors and staff members who have violated and abused women and girls in our churches will not even be given the dignity and respect of having convicted persons’ names registered in SBC life because of the SBC’s long bent toward chauvinism. Women like Christa Brown and others who express valid and legitimate concerns about sexual abuse at the hands of clergyman in SBC life are often disrespected, disregarded and once again violated by males because they simply point out the truth and make an effort to protect females in our pews by identifying documented abusers. The SBC deny women all kinds of ministry opportunities and affirmation that is not restricted by the Scripture—yet they allow women to be abused and violated even further by not exposing abusers. I agree with the late African American Southern Baptist pastor, Dr. George McCalep, who said, “The SBC views and practices regarding women are driven by testosterone more so than by biblical doctrine.” Once again, our treatment toward women in our quest for doctrinal purity is simply “straining out a gnat, while swallowing a camel.”

Phyllis Gregory said...

Christa, would it be possible to get an English translation of the complete article? I would love to post it on Face Book. Thanks.

Take care.

Christa Brown said...

To McKissic's comment, I would add a bit: "Male pastors... who have violated and abused women and girls [and boys] in our churches will not even be given the dignity and respect of having convicted persons’ names registered in SBC life . . . . Women [and men] ... who express valid and legitimate concerns about sexual abuse at the hands of clergyman in SBC life are often disrespected, disregarded and once again violated by males because they simply point out the truth and make an effort to protect females [and males] in our pews by identifying documented abusers."

And furthermore, they are "disrespected and disregarded" by even the highest officials of SBC life, including SBC Executive Committee president Frank Page. But while the occasional Baptist pastor may speak in generalities, you don't see hardly any who will actually speak in specifics and criticize their own leaders -- Frank Page and others -- for callous, cold, cruel, victim-blaming rhetoric. To a very large degree, these are morally compromised men who will protect their careers, their colleagues, and their cronies sooner than they will do anything to actually protect kids. When it comes to dealing with clergy sex abuse, I remain heartbroken and disgusted by most of what I have seen from from Southern Baptist pastors and leaders.

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: I'm gonna try to do an English translation. I think I can handle it.