We post a lot of stories on this site featuring religious leaders who get caught doing immoral, illegal things — and we often get pushback for that. We’re told they’re one-offs. Just anecdotes of bad eggs that prove nothing. I disagree completely. I think those stories show how God is not synonymous with good. Religious people are still fully capable of doing awful things.
Gabe Kapler just realized that. He was a professional baseball player for twelve years, including a stint as an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox in 2004 when they won the World Series. In an essay for Fox Sports, Kapler — a secular Jew — writes about one of his former teammates, a guy he once had a lot of respect for:
Though Chad [Curtis] and I seemed to check many of the same boxes on the personal ethics list, as I got to know him I realized that was where our similarities ended.
I was a Southern California boy raised on rap music and cussed like a sailor. Culturally Jewish, I was — and am — proud of my heritage, but don’t practice religion.
Chad was an outspoken Evangelical Christian who loathed hip-hop and swearing. He even made national headlines by cutting off the music of teammates in the clubhouse because he had determined it to be unsavory for the environment.
Okay, okay, so evangelical Christians in baseball is nothing new. [See: Josh Hamilton.] So Kapler made friends with someone who had very different beliefs and they connected despite their differences, right?
It turns out Chad Curtis, the proselytizing Christian, was sentenced to prison last year for criminal sexual conduct, inappropriately touching underage girls he had been coaching.
Kapler can’t believe he missed the warning signs — though, in his defense, so did plenty of other people — but he does understand one of the reasons he was fooled:
I’m floored that I misjudged the character of a man so horribly. Perhaps I was blinded with the mantle of righteous moral authority he always tried to wear and never looked deeper.
Chad Curtis wasn’t the first major leaguer to commit a heinous crime. I’m confident in my assessment, however, that he’ll represent the last time that I allow the veil of religion and perceived moral high ground to impede my better judgment of another human being’s fiber.
Curtis’ Christianity gave him a veneer of goodness. People just assumed he was on the straight and narrow no matter what he did.
That’s why we shouldn’t shy away from pointing out when religious leaders (or outspoken religious people) commit crimes. Obviously, not all religious people are like that. But not all of them are good either. The word “Pastor” in front of someone’s name doesn’t make that person any more reliable or honest.
(Meanwhile, our society says atheists are untrustworthy and unelectable because we don’t believe in God. Yet we haven’t earned that sort of characterization. If anything, we’re equally if not more moral than everyone else.)
Kapler was fooled by Curtis’ faith, but at least he won’t make that mistake again.