Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sad...EVIL!...Unsurprising - UPDATED AND BUMPED
One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.In other words about 3 percent - a very significant number. Mark Daniels called it "appalling." -- Holy Coast has a hard time buying the numbers. And that is all the reaction to the report that came up on my radar - which to my mind is also problematic.
First of all, if the number is only one percent it is appalling. Secondly, I think that Rick's perspective as an insurance salesman is a bit skewed. I know of too many of these cases that have never resulted in a claim. The women are way too hurt and embarrassed to pursue formal proceedings, and the churches often work very hard to keep the circumstances low key, often relying on the same "good of the church" arguments that the pastor used in his "approach."
Time for a mini-rant. I think, if anything, these numbers are a tad low. For the same reasons that many of these cases never result in liability claims, the events would be under-reported even in a survey. My personal anecdotal experience is a much higher percentage of the churches I have been in and around.
Secondly, more that "appalling" is the lack of reaction I see in the Godblogging world! Come on people! We pride ourselves on our church correctives in this space. We spent countless hours looking for people and thoughts we disagree with and then we pile on like jackals at a carcass. We argue egalitarianism versus complimentarianism until we are blue in the face. But let actual harm come to actual people - IN THE NAME OF GOD - and we all let the news blithely pass by, probably thinking to ourselves "not in my house."
When people make idiots of themselves telling people to brings guns to church or declaring Obama the anti-Christ, we are quick to call them fools and laugh at their folly. But when a real minister, operating in a real church, does real damage not just to an individual, but by using his clerical office for cover the entire Body of Christ, we cry "abberation," or worse, "Well, we're all sinners" - give a nudge, a wink, a hand slap and we move on.
This is not an illicit affair between consenting adults. This is a person, charged and ordained with operating in God's name, using that same charge and ordination as cover, and in some cases as coercive reason, to obtain, or attempt to obtain sex, from a woman in his flock. This is no different than the homosexual scandals that have plagued the Roman Catholic church except it is heterosexual.
Finally, it is time to excoriate the church at large over this. As the WaPo piece points out
The study, by Baylor University researchers, found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.Taken as a whole American Christianity has become
- Too lax about who we allow to operate in God's name
- Too focused on the message of grace and not the reality of spiritual transformation (we do not demand transformation of our leaders, let alone the flock)
- Too afraid of institutional consequences, when Christ calls us to personal accountability
- Too focused on Christian "identity," not genuine discipleship.
This is nothing short of scandalous. We wonder why it has been reported just today that religion in in decline in the nation.
Joe Wilson has been both extolled and hated for the last 24 hours because of a simple cry of "You lie" to the POTUS when he was in fact being less that completely truthful. Yet, many are pointing to these statistics and pointing at the church and screaming "YOU LIE," and sadly, they are right.
We must be intolerant of things like this - it is not mutually exclusive with loving the actor(s). We do all sin, but a higher standard must apply to those we allow to lead us - after all they are in fact supposed to be leading us somewhere.
Today I weep for the church.
UPDATE: This piece originally went up on 9/11 and I am updating and putting on top again, because of the appearance yesterday of this post at MMI.
In front of a packed and stunned congregation, the senior pastor of Capital Christian Center apologized to anyone who had been hurt by the church, acknowledging pain that church leaders may have caused individuals and the community.Look, both were slights and undoubtedly caused pain to the people involved - I wish neither to minimize their pain, or trivialize the offense, but in the grand scheme of things, this smells more of media spin than genuine repentance.
The pastor then mentioned two people "whose stories attracted national media attention and caused a lot of pain."
One was Christina Silvas. In 2001, church officials asked Silvas to withdraw her daughter from the church-run school because Silvas was working as a stripper. On Sunday, Silvas sat with her daughters during the worship service.
Ben Sharpe, who had been banned from his eighth-grade graduation in 1995 after getting a buzz cut, sat with his mother and family friends during the service. School officials had prohibited Sharpe, an African American and a star student, from participating in the ceremony because his haircut violated school policy.
When we are confronted with statistics like the one that started this post - when we have sex abuse scandal rampant in the Roman Catholic Church - when stories of pastors stealing from the plate are virtually a daily occurrence - why are these two individual singled out? I cannot help but think about that key phrase, "whose stories attracted national media attention...."
The church, just like us, should be all about repentance. But for repentance to really matter it just cannot be for what we get caught doing, but for the very sin that lies deep in our souls.
My extensive weight loss is known here. I've lost too much too publicly for it not to be an obvious thing. It is easy for me to sit in a confessional situation and talk about the consumption of too many calories yesterday. It's safe - it is not truly revelatory. But genuine repentance is anything but safe. I need to confess things that I fear to confess - those things that might actually make me look bad.