How Sex Offenders Return to the Pulpit

I grew up in a large evangelical megachurch. I only ever heard of one sex scandal, and that involved a junior pastor having an affair with a secretary. The junior pastor left both his family and the church, the secretary stayed with her husband (I am not sure whether she kept her job at the church), and that was the end of that. So for a long time, I have been unable to understand stories like this one, reported as follows by blogger Incongruous Circumspection:

Many of my readers may be familiar with the series about Dr. Ken Copley sexually molesting his adopted daughter, Ruth Copley Burger. If not, it is a nine part series, written from the pen of Ruth herself, telling the gruesome details. The first part is titled, Adoption Into A Family.

Just before publishing this series, we discovered that Dr. Ken Copley was employed at Brownsburg Baptist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana as the Counseling Pastor. In a whirlwind of confusing events where many phone calls were placed to the church and a letter was even sent to the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, Incongruous Circumspection was informed that Dr. Ken Copley was no longer employed at the church and the website was scrubbed of all his information.

The trail went cold – until now.

Dr. Ken Copley is now employed at The Cross in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You can view his name on the right of the home page. And yes, he is the Associate Pastor.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. Dr. Ken Copley has never once admitted to his crimes. He hasn’t even addressed the allegations in a public forum. He has also never provided information to rebut the allegations. More importantly, having never confessed to his crimes, Dr. Ken Copley has never admitted to himself that he has a problem and needs to be rehabilitated for his sexual deviance.

In short, Dr. Ken Copley is in a position of authority, in a religious institution, which brings through its doors, many trusting individuals – especially women and young girls – never being given the opportunity to completely vet their associate pastor for his alleged sexual crimes. They have the right to know. The parents who attend that church has the right to know the danger that exists right under their noses.

In short, Ken Copley sexually molested his daughter, and has not even sought help for his problem, and yet he is nevertheless serving as a pastor. Many in his congregation likely do not even know about his past. (By the way, you should take some time and look around the blog Incongruous Circumspection, it covers these sorts of issues regularly). Perhaps some of Copley’s parishioners know about the accusations against him and simply don’t believe them.

And then I am only more surprised when I read stories like this from WWJTD:

I saw this image this morning and rolled by eyes. There’s plenty wrong with the behavior of hardcore believers that we don’t need to be stretching with obvious bullshit like this.

[Text: A church in Jacksonville, Florida is coming under fire for its controversial decision to ban children from its church services. Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church has banned children from attending Sunday services because their new pastor, Darrell Gilyard, is a registered sex offender and cannot have contact with children.]

Then I decided to fact-check it so I could stop the flow of misinformation.

Holy shit, it’s true.

A convicted sex offender can keep on preaching, but children are barred from attending his sermons.

The Florida Times Union reports that lawyers for Darrell Gilyard withdrew a motion to allow minors at sermons conducted by the former Jacksonville, Fla., megachurch pastor.

Though children are not allowed, attendance at the Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church has spiked since Gilyard began preaching in January, less than two months after he was released from prison, according to the Times Union.

Molest teens? You can still preach away. Love someone of the same sex? It’s a one way ticket to hell for that lot. If this is what the moral high ground is like, I’ll pass.

In this case, the parishioners know that their pastor is a convicted child molester. And yet they’re still flocking to hser services. My mind is boggled. But then, as I think about it, I start to understand. No Longer Quivering has frequently posted about pastors sexually abusing children, and Chicago Magazine recently posted a long article on the subject, which included this excerpt:

“If a man did stumble – having an affair, say, or visiting prostitutes or abusing children – the question wasn’t how he could have but rather what the woman or child, did to drive him to such sin,’ some former church members say. ‘They have a system where abusers and pedophiles can flourish, because, you can’t challenge men,’ opines one. ‘You have to submit 100 percent of the time and whenever anything goes wrong in a marriage, it’s because the women didn’t do enough.”

And here we return to familiar ground.

As I think about it, I see three reasons this goes on: first, the idea that men are helpless to control their sexual urges; second, the idea that sexual abuse is just one more sin from which a pastor can easily repent and be forgiven; and third, the authority and respect that goes along with the position of minister in a congregation where obedience is emphasized as a virtue.

1. Those Horrible Seductive Women and Children

First comes the idea that women and children are seducers and men are helpless dupes who can’t control their sexual urges. This idea is alluded to in the above quote from Chicago Magazine: this idea that some woman or child must have driven a sexually transgressing pastor to sin. I discussed these same ideas in my post on modesty and rape culture a few days ago:

If you’re already decrying women for “causing” men to lust after them by dressing immodestly, how much of a stretch is it to assign some responsibility to women who are raped? Is it really so hugely different when someone says that a woman shouldn’t have made out with a guy if she didn’t want to have vaginal intercourse because how could she expect him to be able to stop, or that a rape victim’s behavior or clothing proved too “tempting” for her rapist to resist? Is it really that different when someone argues that a woman who attends a party with alcohol is “asking for it,” since how could she really wear a miniskirt and expect the men there to control themselves?

I’ve heard this idea used to defend Catholic priests as well:

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, who hosts a weekly show on the Catholic television network EWTN, originally made the comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register. He also referred to convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky as a “poor guy.”

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer,” Groeschel was quoted as saying in the interview, which is no longer available on the paper’s website.

These ideas allow sexual abuse to blamed on the victim, rather than the perpetrator. In fact, they pain the perpetrator as the victim, even in the case of the sexual molestation of minors.

2. A Sin Is a Sin, Judge Not, and All That

My second point – that pastors can easily repent and be forgiven of even something as serious as sexually abusing children – is made clear in the response to a post I wrote last year about Voice of the Martyrs’ president, Tom White, who committed suicide amidst an investigation regarding the sexual abuse of a ten year old girl. I used some combination of key words that magically made my post one of the top hits when searching “Tom White” or “Voice of the Martyrs,” and my post was inundated with defenses. I wrote an entire follow-up discussing this.

There are many ways conservative Christians both trivialize and excuse things like sexual molestation of children. The first is inherent in the way they set up their sexual ethics, as one reader pointed out:

I actually think that Christian sexual ethics – which are based on purity rather than consent, are really to blame. When I read lists of ‘sexual sin’ that include say, ‘masturbation, homosexuality and rape’ I get really bothered since most sensible people would know that it’s really inaccurate and insensitive to put those together on a list as if they were equivalent – I mean, the first two being moral issues is a joke, the third is one of the most terrible things you can do. Most people are horrified at sexual abuse and rape and power and oppression – the whole ‘purity thing’ doesn’t seem to single out sexual abuse and assault as special categories worthy of special disdain. The whole ‘sexual sin is sexual sin’ trivializes real wrong sexual behaviors.

I actually wrote a post on Christian sexual ethics called “A Tale of Two Boxes” after reading this readers thoughts and thinking further about the problems of Christian sexual ethics. Conservative Christians emphasize over and over again that a sin is a sin is a sin. A favorite verse stated that “he who has committed one sin is guilty of them all.” This sort of rhetoric trivializes the most egregious sins, because it literally suggests that raping a child is the same level of sinfulness as having premarital sex, hitting someone in anger, or stealing gum.

There are others excuses made too, including statements like “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” “judge not lest you be judged,” “we are all capable of doing what he did,” “we must pray for our fallen brother,” “Satan loves to try to discredit God’s ministers,” and “God has gorgiven him his past indiscretions.” Here are a few of the comments on that post I wrote about Tom White:

I am trully saddened in my heart to read about the death of Tom White, especially the way it happened. But those of you who have no sin, throw the first stone! How sick that people so quickly jump to conclusions, WHO SAYS THAT THIS IS TRUE??????? It might just as well be a big lie and Tom might have had already so much on his shoulders that he couldn’t face this false accusation. For those of you who have written negative things about him, how would you have felt “beign innocent”, if you were accused falsely of something like this. Be careful those who judge, as the same measure you judge, you will be judged.

oh. .BUT WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE????!!! JUDGE NOT, SO YE BE JUDGE. ONE CAN REASON WITH MEN’S SINFUL HEART. BUT IS IS GOD THE ULTIMATE JUDGE. ONE MUST PRAY SO NOT TO FALL INTO THE SAME SIN AND GO TO HELL TO BE WITH THE DEVIL AND HIS DEMONS.. LET THE ALMIGHTY HAVE MERCY ON EVERY JUDGING PERSON OUT THERE AND NOT BE CAST OUT INTO HELL. WE ALL NEED GRACE TO LIVE THIS LIFE NO MATTER WHO WE ARE.. TITLE OR NO TITLE!! JESUS IS THE ONLY WHO KNOWS THE HEARTS, AND WEAKNESSES. HE IS THE ULTIMATE JUDGE, NOT MERE HUMANS LIKE US.. WHO ARE ALSO WEAK WITHOUT HIM.

Judge not or you will be judged was not written for no reason. Maybe it could read, “Don’t judge or you will be given something to be judged for.”

I am shocked. Both by Tom’s death and by this terribly uninformed post. If your post is true, then we can also assume that everything Jesus was ACCUSED of was true, and make conclusions based on the accusations and act upon them. All those accusations were a staged circus! Are you part of that crowd?

“Whoever has not sinned, cast the first stone.” Why do we always rip on people who fall into sin and call it hypocrisy? Do we not live in a broken world. I think post like this are full of arrogance. Calling someone a hypocrite is not right and you need to look in the mirror. If you cannot admit that we are all capable of ANYTHING, then something is wrong with you and I would be extremely careful in your life. Because some day you might be humbled. We can’t always think, well that would never happen to me or I would never do that. I am sure that Tom White thought that too. I am a minister and watch ministers fall all the time but it gets publicized so much because these are ministers. I see sin and darkness like this everyday, from people in the church and out. We are BROKEN. Instead of calling people hypocritess, why don’t you go out and love on broken people.

Who am I to judge, there but for the grace of God, go I. … I’m not suggesting in the least that this gets anyone off the hook. What I mean to say is that apart from God’s restraining grace, ANY human being is capable of ANY evil. The only reason you or I are not pedophiles or murderers has NOTHING to do with our sense of morality, but with God’s grace. Now you may not see it that way, but that does not in any way make it untrue. Case in point … Apart from God’s restraining grace, humankind executed the greatest evil to EVER have been done – the crucifixion of the Son of God. So much for man’s inherrant moral goodness.

3. Pastors as Authority Figures

The third point I want to make shouldn’t be hard to see: pastors are authority figures. They are revered as especially close to God and especially spiritual. And in fundamentalist churches especially, the congregations are taught to believe and do what the pastor says. In fact, many fundamentalist and evangelical churches don’t even have denominational oversight. They often end up being a sort of personality cult that coalesces around a particularly charismatic pastor. It’s not an atmosphere that allows for much questioning or criticism.

Given the pastor’s role as trusted authority figure, should we be surprised when a congregation is more likely to listen to the pastor’s version of events, and to trust his interpretation, than to admit that their pastor has a problem and needs to be barred from ministry? And the same thing happens with Catholic priests. More than this, the pastor’s role as an authority figure impedes impedes their exposure as sexual abusers. The abused individual knows that he or she may well not be believed, largely because of the amount of respect and trust the congregation has for their pastor or priest, and is thus more likely to remain silent.

Conclusion

In the end, I don’t actually find the stories I started with, stories about churches that either knowingly or unknowingly hire child abusers as their pastors, all that hard to believe. A collusion of ideas about sex and purity, theological ideas about judging, sin, and forgiveness, and the place of authority a pastor occupies come together in to create a situation ripe for this sort of thing to happen. Am I saying that this happens everywhere, or even that every fundamentalist church is guilty of this? No, of course not. I am, however, saying that while we should be horrified and outraged when this happens, we shouldn’t be all that surprised.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

    As long as fundamentalist and conservative Christians see women as “stumbling” blocks to their purity, this will continue. Women are not objects to stumble over!

  • Twist

    I see this as a problem with religion in general. In the real world, you do something horrific, then you’ve done something horrific and people will rightly judge you for it for the remainder of your life by, for example, never letting you near children or vulnerable adults again. In the religious world, you can do something horrific, ask for forgiveness from god, he’ll forgive you, and then as he’s forgiven you, nobody else in your community has the right to second guess god, right? Then you can do it again. And ask for forgiveness again, and promise not to do it again and *really really mean it* this time, and he’ll forgive you. And then you can do it again.

    And somehow, the fact that religious people can do whatever the hell they want, then all they need to do is pray, ask for forgiveness and be *really really sowwie* in order to go to the place with the clouds and angels, makes them more moral than everyone else.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      The great emphasis on forgiveness, for better or worse, is something specifically Christian not something about “religion in general.” Of course other authoritarian religious communities have issues with the corruption and abuse of absolute authority (I personally don’t think it’s possible for absolute authority to not breed corruption and abuse, whether or not it’s religious in nature) that lead may lead to the same kinds of problems, with the perps getting a free pass. But the philosophical framework for justification looks very different. This may seem unimportant, but I get tired of people assuming that all religions are like Christianity. If you want to understand how things go wrong in various religious communities, you need to seek to actually understand those communities and their beliefs and norms.

      Also, “the place with the clouds and angels” is a Christian concept too. People, we live in a pluralistic society. Time to learn something about non-mainstream religions and cultures.

    • Steve

      It’s especially bad in Protestant sects, which the “salvation through faith alone” crap. At least on paper the Catholic church still demands some good deeds along the way. It gets even worse in American fundamentalism with it’s ridiculous emphasis on “saving” people and being “born again”.

    • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

      It’s definitely a problem with all forms of fundamentalism. Look up the name Nechemya Weberman of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This poison also thrives in the fundamentalist Jewish world.

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca Composer99

    One of my hobbies is reading about the Second World War and the attendant human suffering in the “killing spaces” occupied by the Axis Powers before and during the war (Eastern Europe, China & Korea).

    So I’m sympathetic to the statement that

    we are all capable of doing what he did

    If the war, the genocides, the mass rape perpetrated by the Red Army in 1945, and the forced relocations teach us anything, it’s that perfectly ordinary, decent people can be made into monsters (look up “holocaust police battalion 101″ on Google for a case in point).

    But – and it’s a pretty big but – it took years of radicalization efforts by authoritarian régimes (or, in the case of Japan, by the military), economic volatility & crisis, a background of centuries of racial/societal antipathy or hatred (by Germans against Jews and Slavs, or by Japanese against Chinese and Koreans) and, of course the war itself, to make it happen.

    And of course, there’s also the little tiny, almost insignificant detail that the potential to be complicit in the worst sorts of violence inherent in most, if not all, humans in no way excuses actual violence & sexual predation.

    • Rovin’ Rockhound

      There’s also a difference between the behavior of people who do horrible things while acting as a group, and people doing the same horrible things alone, without the herd mentality. It’s not an excuse, though.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Agreed.
        There have been anecdotal stories out of Germany and the old Soviet Republic in particular, that the SS / KGB were so strong, you had no choice but to attend parades / join the hitler youth / etc, even if you didn’t believe.
        (Must have some basis in fact, since a confirmed former Hitler Youth member is now Pope)
        But these kind of people? There is totally something wrong with them on an individual level. They are more the kind of people who would be LEADING the pack rapes, forced marches etc back in the end of WW2.

      • Steve

        The Pope can be criticized for a lot, but the Hitler Youth thing is pretty silly. People act like he joined for fun. Membership in the HY was made mandatory by law in 1936 and from 1939 people were forced to join even against their parents’ wishes. Refusal could have severe social and professional consequences for a family. Ratzinger was also conscripted into the military later.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Fair enough, but he should still be aware that that’s something in his past that’s going to make certain people kinda nervous and, well, welcoming Holocaust-denying bishops back into the fold is, let’s say, not a good way to display that awareness…

      • OurSally

        Ratzo and the HY: my Bavarian father-in-law was in the same situation (same age, same area) as Joe. But he wanted to continue being an altar boy and the HY threw him out for this. I postulate therefore that Joe the Rat is lying.

    • shadowspring

      “And of course, there’s also the little tiny, almost insignificant detail that the potential to be complicit in the worst sorts of violence inherent in most, if not all, humans in no way excuses actual violence & sexual predation.”

      Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!

      We all have an amygdala; we are all capable of animal violence. But we also all have a frontal cortex;we are all capable of rational thought. Therefore it is all the more imperative that society punish violence and sexual predation, so that people will put forth the effort to use their logical thoughts to overcome their animal instincts.

      • Christine

        Heck, the fact that we all have this potential potentially makes actual violence even more inexcusable. “You’re not special. You just didn’t bother to behave logically like the rest of us do.”

      • Sarah-Sophia

        I think that when someone is told from birth that they can’t help being emotional (girls) or violent (boys), the less likely they are going to attempt self-control, so that part of the frontal cortex does not fully develope. It’s especially bad for boys because not only are they told they are violent but also sex-crazed. Add that to “Men are hunters who must hunt for meat/sex” and it’s a disaster.

  • smrnda

    Thanks for always returning to this topic. I’ve often thought that many Christian ideas such as grace, forgiveness, and not judging or turning the other cheek sound great, but in the end, these teachings serve the interests of bad people more than good people. Grace is just a way that, by repeating a few formulas , the child molester turns into the good guy and the people who aren’t eager to forgive a man who violated them turn into the villains of the story. Christianity teaches people to feel *entitled* to forgiveness, rather than teaching them to actually feel sorry. “Don’t judge” is a teaching that is conveniently busted out when a Christian, often in a position of leadership, gets caught doing something bad.

    Perhaps the other danger is the belief that the church has a mission higher than human welfare – the whole ‘we need to protect the testimony of the church’ even after it’s starting to damage people. Human beings are trivial pawns in the game of boosting god’s ego, and the person hurt by the church and its authority figures is supposed to put their own welfare last.

    • http://thewordsonwhat.wordpress.com/ Rob F

      The Authoritarians book discusses the work of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who coined the term “cheap grace”. Basically, fundamentalist types are more likely to pray when they do something wrong, and as a result feel a lot less guilty. (Compare this to other sorts, who are as likely to do other things, and usually still feel guilty). The prayer for fundamentalists serves as a sort of “instant guilt-be-gone”, and therefore makes them more likely to do something wrong again. Perhaps this is a partial explanation of why fundamentalism/conservative religion so rampantly leads to sexual abuse.

    • Lucrezaborgia

      My BIL cheated on his wife and when their marriage was on the rocks because of it, he told my husband: Jesus forgives me so she needs to forgive me too. My husband told him that it doesn’t work like that. The BIL and their pastor ganged up on the wife and made her go to marriage counseling for her issues. *gag*

      They are divorcing now. I’m sure he will replace his wife with a younger model and pop out some more kids for Jesus.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Good on your husband for stading up for BILs wife.

      • Steve

        They use the very same phrase against the victims of sexual abuse if they persist with accusations.

        Also, Baptist churches have a way to cover up this stuff that’s about as bad as what the Catholic Church does, but coming from the exact opposite end. They don’t have a hierarchy, but each church is nominally independent. So the top Baptist organizations just say “It’s not our fault. We don’t have any authority over the local churches. Go complain to them”.

    • shadowspring

      My husband is a missionary/pastor’s kid, and this whole “if I say I’m sorry you have to forgive me” bullshit has really affected his development as a genuine human person capable of personal growth. For most of his life, when confronted with any wrong-doing, instead of thoughtfully considering what the person had to say, weighing this input with what he knew about himself and his actions, searching for causation so as to effect positive change in himself (in short, the healthy mature response), he would lower his head in shame and say “I’m sorry; I won’t do it again.”

      This response is totally worthless! Bullshit, you “won’t do it again”. You for sure will do it again if you don’t even investigate why you did it in the first place. And the shame he would express, as if feeling shame is the necessary prerequisite for change, was also useless. When it did not satisfy me, as I was not interested in shaming him, but in him showing interest in real shame, he immediately flared up with resentment.

      Now after three years of therapy and medication for depression, he is starting to detox from all that shame he felt obligated to accept as the passcode to forgiveness. It was just a ritual he internalized: get caught or called out, feel shame, say the right words, and it will all be swept away. It was hell on our relationship, because I didn’t know those rules and I wouldn’t abide by them. I was always wanting real introspection and lasting change, and he hated me for that for many years.

      I can totally see how the epic FAIL of this Christian way of handling offense keeps child molesters and rapists in positions of authority. The shame kept these guys from admitting they had a problem with socially unacceptable fantasies and seeking real psychological help BEFORE they acted on them, and the whole “confess and be forgiven, as if it had never happened” keeps them from ever dealing with the real issue. After all, they said sorry, so magic presto, problem solved.

      Ugh. I need to go find some cute baby animals on the internet to clear my head. What a depressing reality that the religion founded on the premise of following the guy who said, “when you’ve done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me” and “love your neighbor as yourself” has chosen justification rather than empathy as it’s main tenet.

      • Christine

        Whatever happened to the “repent” part of the message? Just like in the real world, you have to actually be sorry for what you did, and accept that what you did was wrong before you can expect forgiveness. There was an episode of M*A*S*H that illustrates this sort of stupidity quite well – a soldier is making confession to Fr. Mulcahy that he stole much-needed penicillin from the 4077, and just asks for absolution, and is shocked/annoyed when Fr. Mulcahy seems to expect him to actually regret what he did or try to make amends.

      • Rosie

        I think some people consider the internalized shame to be the “repenting”, but it’s not an effective way to actually change, that’s for sure.

    • Nebuladance

      What bothers me about the “judge not” mantra is the total lack of context those words came from. When christians say this, I like to remind them Jesus was not talking about a religious leader. In fact, he was harsh about those leaders who failed their people with their actions. No, he was talking about an ordinary woman who was caught sleeping with a man she wasn’t married to (and notice the man involved wasn’t arrested?). A pair of adults involved in consensual sexual activity DOES NOT compare to an adult involving a child in non-consensual sexual activity.

      It’s also helpful to ask, if one sin is as bad as another, and we’re all capable of anything, why do we put first degree murderers in prison? It’s not only about punishment, which by the way, assumes people can be taught to act differently, its about protecting the rest of the population from those who seem to have something fundamentally wrong with them.

  • pagansister

    Unbelievable! A church that bans children from services because the preacher is a convicted child molester. The article said that attendance had picked up since then? Maybe the folks that come to his services don’t like children and this way they can avoid listening to the possible noise that sometimes children make during a church service. Sorry, but I would so not be at any church that allowed/hired anyone that had been mistreating children—no way, no how. Forgive child molesters? Not in this lifetime! (or any lifetime for that matter).

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

      All too often in these cases, forgive is a synonym for forget!

  • ScottInOH

    Part of reason #2 (“it’s a sin like any other”) is the belief that the real sin is against God. In reality, it’s against the child, but the worldview you are describing doesn’t see it this way. (This is also why they can get so worked up about the “sin” of homosexuality; while progressives wonder who’s harmed (no one), conservative religionists think (or claim to) that God is harmed/offended.)

    You’re right that that is absolutely a recipe for repeat abuse.

    • shadowspring

      Yes! Another very good point!

      What a mucked up mess the church has made out of this supposed decision to emulate Jesus the Christ.

  • Katherine A.

    Darrell Gilyard should still be in jail for what he did not preaching even if there are no children allowed. And it’s funny that Christians who make excuses like “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” and “judge not lest you be judged” for sex offending clergy members will slut-shame women all they want.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    I find this unsurprising. Christian patriarchy has several features that makes it a wonderful destination for predators. Besides the basic church hierarchy, is reinforcement of male privilege makes it easy not only to blame the victim, but to make sure the victim’s story is unheard or unbelieved. In this context, the religious obligation to forgive and be humble is just another weapon to use against the victim. Also, a situation where you are the trusted authority provides you potential victims aplenty to choose from. It’s nearly as good a set-up to farm victims as Jerry Sandusky’s charity for disadvantaged kids.

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    People choose church and political leaders much like they do their spouse to quote Frank Schaeffer. They find a need, and then follow them. The problem is, their need to have a spouse or a church leader is often greater than their senses, so they overlook what should be obvious.

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  • Christine

    And this would be one more reason why churches, ironically enough, are so reluctant to allow people with sex offender backgrounds to attend at all. Because some people don’t understand that not all pastors are the second incarnation, and therefore let them get away with worse than murder. Forgiving is one thing. Being stupid is another.

  • wanderer

    I had a friend who once told me her cousin had plotted and executed the murder of her own husband. At the time the cousin was “praying about what God wanted her to do, whether she should turn herself into the police”. Apparently she had such a good fabricated alibi the police believed she was innocent. So…. not only did she premeditatedly murder her husband, she lied to the police at the investigation, and truly felt God had forgiven her cause “she asked him to” so there was no need to come clean.
    THAT, in my opinion, is exactly what religion leaves the door open for people to do. Obviously she had NO problem with murder, and she was a “good christian lady”.

  • Sheena

    The doctrine of forgiveness is great — for the offender (i.e., the person being forgiven). All they have to do is say that they are REALLY REALLY sorry and that they feel that God has forgiven them (bonus points if they pray loudly at church). If God has forgiven them, everyone else is also obligated to do so. And any action to protect victims/potential victims/survivors is written off as “bitterness” or “resentment” — and that person’s “relationship with God” is questioned. Not the offender, the victim. The offender’s been forgiven and absolved, so they should be treated like Joe Businessman-Soccer Dad.

    I remember having debates in (Christian) college philosophy classes about whether or not salvation erased someone’s past sins, or whether they are still accountable for those sins. We spent the better part of a class one day talking about Ted Bundy, who had a (video-recorded, I think) prison conversion. Several of my classmates believed that he is now “in heaven”, because of the conversion (and all sins are equal), and a few (including myself) didn’t think the conversion experience negated his actions. We also discussed situations like abuse by Catholic priests (but ONLY those cases, not any in the Baptist or other denominations, probably due to the myth that Catholics aren’t Christian) and cult abuse situations, and basically any abusive Catholic priests or cult leaders were automatically bad and sinful. Otherwise, any news report was an isolated case, the victims were lying, the offender was being “persecuted” for his/her faith, and anyone who did not react by immediately forgiving, forgetting, and putting complete trust in a person who had been abusing them was acting in sin.
    I don’t get it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

      Bundy loved to manipulate people. He probably got a huge thrill about having those pastors and other religious people wrapped around his finger.

  • Seda

    All those comments about “judge not,” blah, blah, blah. So ironic. The same folks see me transition from male presentation and live as the woman I am, and fall over themselves to kick me out of their congregation, unfriend me, and condemn me to hell. Just for doing what I had to do to survive – without hurting anyone.

    • Insanitydividedbyzero

      I was going to point out something similar to this. They spout out the “judge not, lest ye be judged” nonsense when it has something to do with a sexual assault but when someone is living their life without harming anyone else, but they are gay or transgendered, suddenly you don’t hear the end of their judgement. I’m sorry for everything you had to go through, I’m an atheist but as a former christian I want to apologize for it all.

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  • sara maimon

    it seems to me that not all sins are equal actually- it’s not that child sexual abuse is not viewed as an equal sin to a consensual adult non-marital sexual relationship- the consensual adult relationship is viewed as worse!!! As you posted in your post, the junior pastor had to leave after having a consensual adult relationship. Yet child sexual abuse is somehow ok. I don’t get that.

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