Christian leaders have a terrible problem on their hands, and it’s only getting worse every day: what to do with the mounting numbers of increasingly-visible abusers and predators cropping up in their broken system. Today we’ll examine why this problem exists, how they’re trying to deal with it, and why those efforts are failing so dramatically.
Who’s Surprised Here, Really?
If someone were to set out to become a predator of some kind, that person could not possibly find a more fertile field in which to hunt than among the pews of a toxic Christian church. The leaders of the religion have left absolutely nothing to chance here. There’s no way this situation could turn out any other way than how it is.
Let me explain why.
There used to be a time when hardline Catholics* were the main dysfunctional family in Christianity. That time is long past, with fundagelicals having crawled into hardline Catholic leaders’ grime-slicked bed some years ago because of their fury over desegregation laws, at which point they got bitten by the Catholic forced-birther bug and became just as rabidly anti-abortion as Catholics have been for years. As happens when two really messed-up people collide and enmesh, the encouragement and validation these groups found in each other’s arms has only made both of them worse.
Decades later, the two groups’ social dynamics and cultures are far more similar than they are different. This truth might not have been so a generation ago, but at this point I defy anybody to hear or read the statements of any hardline Catholic and any ultra-gung-ho fundagelical Protestant and tell the difference without doctrinal-specific cues. They sound exactly alike, and there’s a reason for that: they both seek the same control over society and use the same tactics to try to gain it, hate and seek to punish anybody who refuses to comply with their demands, and are angry and fearful at the realization that their dominance is fading. As extremely-liberal and extremely-conservative anti-vaxxers have discovered to their mutual surprise, extremist Christians in Catholicism and Protestantism have found that they have far more in common with each other than they do with the members of their own respective branches of Christianity.
So of course both ends of the religion are suffering from the exact same scandals and problems, which we’re finally noticing.
A Recipe for Abuse.
At this point, only the willingly-ignorant would deny that fundagelical Christianity has a major, major, major, major problem with sex abuse.
Both religious traditions (fundagelicalism and hardline Catholicism) strip women’s voices from them, keeping their female members far away from any kind of real power. They then hand this power over to men, who are trusted completely to protect and nurture the women under their control. Similarly, children are regarded as property by both flavors of Christianity; adherents are expected to have children–as many as
“the Lord” biology, zealotry, and/or ignorance allow–in order to demonstrate their faithfulness to their indoctrination and to further their respective religions’ goals.
Both children and women have rights only insofar as their owners allow them to have any, and those rights may be altered at any time–or revoked entirely. When that inevitably happens, the groups affected are expected to accept their lessened status with a big toothy Jesus smile and an expression of gratefulness to the people doing all the heavy lifting of ruling over them.
Making matters considerably worse, despite their enforced powerlessness and inferiority, women and children alike are considered responsible for the behaviors, thoughts, impulses, and emotions of their owners and caretakers. And despite their own recognized power and superiority, those owners and caretakers are so weak that they can be provoked by those under their control into committing the gravest of crimes and misdeeds.
When (not if) abuse happens, the system’s members and masters will blame not the people who “lost control” and committed the abuse, but those who “provoked” it. And why shouldn’t they blame the powerless? By blaming the victims of these abuses and crimes, they can preserve their hierarchy. The masters of the system are obviously not the problem here because every single time, it is one of the powerless subordinates who is causing trouble by provoking one of those masters. The people in control of the system need never change–and indeed will not unless they absolutely must.
Even worse, if the people in control of the broken system start getting seen as unworthy of their power, their power structure may topple. In Christianity, leaders are seen as appointed–if not anointed directly–by their deity, so an abusive leader throws the whole system into confusion. Did their god allow or demand that this abuser get put into power over innocent victims? Why didn’t their god stop this abuser from hurting those victims? Does he care more about abusers’ “freedom of will” than he does about keeping voiceless, powerless victims safe? If this system doesn’t keep its powerless members safe, then why be part of it–or give its leaders any power at all over anybody? Why not adopt a system that works better in that regard, or change the system to incorporate elements of systems that do work?
One question in particular is one that Christian leaders do not want to hear asked:
Is it possible that these leaders aren’t actually approved/anointed/demanded by any gods, and so maybe don’t deserve unlimited, unchecked, unbalanced, unsupervised, unimpeachable, unilateral power granted by their overly-trusting flocks?
Yeah, I don’t see a lot of Christian leaders asking any of these questions, or welcoming any of the answers that people are making to them.
Because they do not want those questions asked or answered, fundagelicals are now sitting exactly where the Catholic Church was for centuries–perching like a wistful mermaid atop a burgeoning sex abuse scandal that dwarfs the imagination and only seems to get worse the longer and more intensely we investigate it.
The Nature of Power, Redux.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned as a species, it’s that handing all of a group’s power over to another group results only in the victimization of the powerless group. That is why it’s not just “nice” to “let” other groups have power in an organization’s hierarchy and a say in the rules that will govern their lives; it should be a goddamned requirement that groups insist on doing so they can avoid the abuses that result from disenfranchising whole demographics of people.
The only way to prevent an entire group from becoming prey animals for predators is to give that group a voice in its own representation, to stop denying that group its rights, and to quit considering that group (and treating its members like) a lesser, subordinate, inferior species to the leaders of the group. We’ve seen, over and over again, that the powerful members of such groups certainly won’t care enough about their “flocks” to do anything but grab for and possessively guard their power rather than protect the people who have absolutely no other protection other than what their Dear Leaders allow them.
But when this suggestion is made to Christians, their response is to blather on about the “natural order” and “God’s plan for marriage” and whatnot, and to rail against “the curse of women’s independence.” Their stated solution for solving the abuse crisis in their own churches is to clamp down harder on their cultural demands of oppressed groups–and to try harder to silence victims who talk about their experiences while working hard to reverse the very social advances that are not only exposing their crimes but also giving their victims justice for those crimes. They pine for the “good ole days” when oppressed groups kept quiet about the abuses they suffered, and when it was next to impossible for victims to get justice.
Very, very few of them are actually trying to do anything else besides blame, bully, and silence victims, ignore complaints, hush up scandals, or bring about any real changes to the system as it stands now. Meanwhile, abusers are held blameless–and will become leaders in their own right one day if they are not already,** at which point they will in turn protect the up-and-coming abusers they encounter.
The very fading of fundagelical power may well be responsible for how the world discovered the extent of abuse in that community. There was a time when abuse victims did not feel able to speak up about their experiences; either they feared their community would turn on them or they were afraid they’d be blamed for their victimization (or that they would simply be ignored or silenced), as frequently happens in Happy Christian Societies the world over. Now that the risks of speaking up are so much less than they once were (though, it must be noted, not non-existent–not yet), these victims can start talking. And I’m thankful that they are not falling quiet when their leaders try to silence them. The more fundagelicals lose power over our world, the better able their victims will be to speak; and the more victims who speak about their abuse, the more it will affect fundagelicals’ power.
The Shell Game.
One of the most outrageous aspects of the Catholic sex abuse scandal might be that Catholic leaders, far from taking seriously the child rape allegations constantly emerging against their priests, acted to protect their buddies in power instead of protecting the victims of their buddies. Remember what I was just saying up there? People who don’t deserve power only want to gain and maintain power. They don’t care about doing the stuff that truly good leaders do. All they want is the power and glory that comes with being at the top of the hierarchy. I’ve known countless fundagelical men who reveled in their dominance over women, and it’s not hard to find Christian parents who appear to similarly revel in the power they hold over their children (to the point of reacting with outrage, as that post’s writer and commenters alike do, to the idea of not assaulting those children–and fighting tooth and nail against laws aimed at ensuring that homeschooled children get a decent-quality education instead of the thinly-veiled hardcore “Jesus Camp” indoctrination that so many Christian homeschooling parents and organizations are providing now).
Catholicism was in much the same boat 15 years ago. When abuse victims came forward, the usual method of dealing with them was to silence them either through threats or bribes, and if the abuse was really egregious to re-station the abuser in another parish. Obviously, nobody reported these crimes to the police, either–why would anybody want to call attention to the fact that a divinely-appointed representative of “God” did something so heinous to a child? That’d be just awful–for the folks in charge of Catholic churches! So Catholic leaders threw in with the abusers rather than protecting the victims.
Bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and popes alike played a giant shell game with those priests, sending them to one parish after another without bothering to warn the new parishes that they were getting a pedophile sex attacker, much less taking a single precaution to ensure the safety of the innocent children at the next parish. Some of these priests served at many different parishes, finding new victims in each new hunting-ground that’d been so very thoughtfully provided to them while their superiors turned a blind eye to the atrocities being committed at each new post.
The Catholic Church even issued rules that were used to silence victims, such as the crimen sollicitationis, which threatened to excommunicate any abuse victim who spoke up. Pope
Palpatine Benedict may well have used this church law to silence victims and protect abusers during his time as pope, while sweet ole cuddly Pope Francis, when he was making sincere, heartfelt speeches declaring that his main priority was helping the victims of abuse and punishing the abusers themselves, was protecting at least one child-rapist in his group from the law, as I detailed in a post last year.
Finally, the truth began trickling out, and then it all flooded out past the gates Catholic leaders were trying so hard to hold shut by sheer force. Every detail was worse than the last, and child sex abuse and the covering-up of that abuse seemed to go right up the hierarchy of priests all the way to the top. And Catholic leaders’ tried-and-true tactics for dealing with abusive priests only got the public more and more angry, and lost them more and more money, power, and adherents.
It’s strange that fundagelicals aren’t noticing the same things I am. I know their leaders are often quite intelligent. But nobody would really consider adaptive learning to be a strong suit of theirs, especially when their hierarchy and status quo get threatened.
The Definition of Insanity.
Fundagelical churches haven’t gotten the memo that Catholic coping strategies don’t work, so they are still trying the same strategies that failed their pals.
Just as Catholic leaders tried blaming the child victims of their abusive priests and only got people more upset and infuriated, fundagelicals still think that blaming the victims of rapist pastors is an awesome idea–and yes, people are getting infuriated!
Just as Catholic leaders tried to bully victims of abuse into silence, which allowed rapist priests to operate without fear, Christian colleges threaten to expel students who try to bring rape accusations against staff and fellow students, while Christian churches ostracize and shun rape victims–which all effectively silences victims and allows abusers to continue operating.
And just as Catholic leaders shuffled rapist priests from parish to parish to hide the evidence of their dark deeds, fundagelical churches are doing the exact same thing with their own predators and for the same reason.
Have you ever noticed that a lot of these abusive and criminal pastors and ministers haven’t really been at their posts very long? Is it possible that we’re perhaps seeing a quiet, hidden shuffling of fundagelical ministers from one post to another when their crimes are exposed? Jacob Malone had only been at his job for a year or so when he got accused. When Sherman Smith got arrested for raping children at a previous post, he had been at his current position for only four years. Camerius Mills was only 29 when he got arrested for raping a teen girl in his congregation, so he probably hadn’t been at his church for long, and the same goes for Sean Patrick Aday when he was accused of similar crimes.
But we can’t make any definite speculations here beyond noting that why yes, it sure is odd that so many arrested and accused ministers haven’t been at their posts for very long, because fundagelical churches actively resist keeping any sort of serious records about such people, much less doing anything about them.
So where is the fundagelical rapist and sex abuser?
Nobody knows! He could be anywhere!
Is he lurking under the king, the queen, or the jack?
Make a guess, pick a card, turn it over!
This is one confidence game that Catholics are long familiar with, but if fundagelicals were being smart at all they’d pay a little more attention to how that game has turned out for their bedmates.
“Jesus” certainly doesn’t appear to be helping the victims of these predatory Christians, or “convicting” the religion’s leaders of the necessity of doing every single thing in their power to stop this abuse. Maybe this coy little godling of theirs is enjoying an extended potty break.
* Hardline Catholics are those super-duper-fervent Catholics who would simply love it if they could force women to go without contraception entirely–and then, when those women inevitably become pregnant with unwanted fetuses, force them to carry to term whether they like it or not. One heartbreaking and infuriating outgrowth of this desire to inflict misery on others as a way of expressing power and dominance is how Catholic bishops in South and Central America are freaking out over the idea of women using contraception to avoid a pregnancy that might result in a seriously damaged baby due to the Zika virus raging across that part of the world. Thankfully, it’s not up to them. The vast majority of Catholics are not hardline.
** If we had a nickel for every story involving abuse at a Christian leader’s hands that ended with “… and he’s still a minister at that church,” none of us would need to worry about money ever again.