Paige Patterson wants us to keep silent. This is why we shouldn’t.

Paige Patterson wants us to keep silent. This is why we shouldn’t. May 9, 2018

A friend of mine likes to tell the story about when she was young, perhaps 4 years old. She hated going to bed early while her parents watched television. So, she devised a plan. Each night she grabbed her trusty blanket, wrapped it around herself, and made her way downstairs. After arriving at the living room, she made sure to cover every part of her body. She was now ready to creep her way between her parents’ recliners.

Once in place, she peeked up from underneath the blanket, always aware that she mustn’t expose any part of her foot or hand. Otherwise, her parents certainly would see her. “This is brilliant!” she thought. “They can’t see me. Why doesn’t every kid do this?!”

As long as the blanket covered her, her presence remained a secret to her mom and dad… or so she thought. Once tired, she would ease her way back upstairs, arm and leg remaining under her blanket. My friend kept up this habit for a while because her amused parents thought it was just too cute to stop.

Patterson stirred his own trouble

This true story also serves as a parable for the church’s response not only to various current events but also to countless scandals in the past.

Consider, for example, Paige Patterson’s controversial comments, which have swept across the web because they are both unwise and grossly inappropriate. A Western missionary friend of mine shared about an exchange she had when attempting to raise the topic among some of her peers.

My friend told a group of women that she felt like it was important for them to consider how Patterson’s comments might relate to workers in the mission field. Afterward, a lady in the group criticized her. She accused my friend of trying to cause problems, claiming Patterson is a nice man and people should not be stirring trouble.

Patterson issued a statement objecting to people’s “deliberate misrepresentation” of him. He too would like us to be quiet so all the hubbub would go away. According to reports, Patterson even revoked a Ph.D. student’s job and tuition money after the student made a tweeting a comment critical of Patterson.

I don’t know Paige Patterson. He might be a “nice guy” who simply lacks judgment. Regardless, that does not mean the church should turn bury the problem under a blanket as though no one will notice. Such a perspective is not only naïve but irresponsible.

Silence perpetuates problems

The women in my friend’s small group perfectly illustrate why problems like objectifying women or abuse linger and become systemic. Silence perpetuates shame, prejudice, abuses in power, among numerous other issues.

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I can anticipate people’s responses. “We need to be gracious.” “We need to forgive.” “We need to love.” We are not talking about a mere slip of the tongue or a poorly worded sentence that one regrets afterward. For instance, Patterson not only objectifies a young girl but also rebukes the mom for correcting her son’s inappropriate remark. Then he tells the entire story in a sermon with amusement. We must address patterns of behavior.

When we silence or cover scandalous actions and speech “under the blanket,” we only fool ourselves. In reality, we do not show love. It is not loving to permit or tacitly approve when men objectify women or misuse their power. Such patterns of behaviors infect groups and subcultures. In time, the consequences grow increasingly serious.

Fortunately, some women are speaking out, calling for his resignation. Ed Stetzer has rightly called for Patterson not to speak at the SBC Convention.

What is Paul’s advice?

This is precisely why Paul tells the Ephesians, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them” (Eph 5:11).

And this is why he exhorts Timothy, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:19–20).

I urge everyone not to give in when peers, pastors, or supervisors pressure you to remain silent when, in fact, important conversations need to be had.

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