Disturbing Roots of Fundamentalist Christianity

I found a blog post that expresses well some of my own concerns about fundamentalist Christianity.  Since the post is lengthy, I am only pulling out a little of it.  You can see the whole post at White to Harvest. With permission, I have reproduced the article in its entirety in my Articles section. Here are a couple tidbits:

Most Christians in America have been affected one way or the other by fundamentalist Christianity. Many of us would still claim to be fundamentalists, and others of us are rejecting any association with fundamentalist Christianity, for various reasons. What I want to do in this post is talk about the impact that Fundamentalism has had, negatively, on the American Christian psyche…

…the primary problem I see with this, and have felt in my own Christianity, is that fundamentalism as a movement has been shaped by reaction and hyper active response to questions dictated to them by the world. In other words when we take a look at our systematic theologies, the autonomy of the local church, our fortress Bible colleges, our self serving political engagement, etc., etc., it becomes quickly apparent that all of these things are shaped by negative factors…

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Former SBC Missionary Speaks Out for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse

My thanks to ethicsdaily.com for this article.

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By Bob Allen
10-16-06
In 1995 Dee Ann Miller wrote a column for “Baptists Today” offering 16 concrete suggestions about how Baptists could better cope with problems of sexual abuse and misconduct by ministers.

Eleven years later, she says, except for minor editorial changes, the same article could be written today.

“I believe the problems are much bigger and broader than most people can even fathom,” Miller said in an e-mail interview with EthicsDaily.com.

Miller, trained as a psychiatric nurse, has been doing advocacy work on behalf of survivors of clergy sex abuse since 1993. It’s a calling she would never have chosen. It rather chose her.

Miller and her husband, Ron, were missionaries in Africa employed by the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board. In 1988, she says, she was the victim of third-degree sexual assault stemming from unwanted advances by a missionary colleague.

After reporting the offense, she says, she was in essence put on trial. The FMB (later renamed the International Mission Board, as it is known today) was so afraid of her allegations of cover-up and collusion they placed her and her husband on probation, telling them they could return to the field only if they kept quiet.

Two other alleged victims of her perpetrator were minors. He was on leave of absence, with no guarantee he wouldn’t be sent somewhere else. At the time, pursuing the charges seemed the only ethical course of action. Eventually, however, they wore down. Convinced the cause was hopeless, the Millers resigned from a career they had loved.

Her assailant, meanwhile, managed to return to a pastorate and teaching position only months after resigning as a missionary. Today he parades around the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a “retired” missionary, unmonitored and apparently of little concern to the denomination. After all, Miller says she and her husband were led to believe in numerous conversations, he was just one of many.

She told her story in a 1993 book, How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct. Within a year, she says, with very little marketing and before Internet access was widely available, the book had taken on a life of its own. She spent hours every week answering mail and phone calls from all denominations–95 percent of them from victims. The walls of one room of their parsonage were papered with thank-you notes from survivors.

She started advocacy writing in SBC circles, expecting angry responses from high places. To her surprise, what she got was mostly silence.

Miller, who also now has a Web site, supports current efforts of Christa Brown, a sex-abuse survivor who with other representatives of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is calling on the SBC to develop a comprehensive national strategy to battle sex abuse by clergy. But she isn’t optimistic.

“You would be amazed at the people who are even highly respected in CBF circles who have colluded,” she told EthicsDaily.com. “I’m not out to trash or destroy reputations, though–I just believe that people in Good Old Boy systems often do not recognize their own prejudices, just as all of us Caucasians are prone to deny our racial prejudices.”

For example, one respected former agency head told Miller in the mid-1990s he had dealt with at least 50 cases of clergy sexual misconduct, and he considered that victims are always partly responsible, no matter what the circumstances. A woman she considered to be an expert in women’s issues in the Southern Baptist Convention held similar views, telling Miller she believed even small children do something to somehow invite the abuse.

Miller says the Southern Baptist Convention has its “collusion act” together, perhaps more than any denomination. That is because of a structure that allows leaders to be irresponsible, powerful attorneys and laws that protect denominations with congregational polity.

During media coverage of the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, one SBC leader played a trump card when he told CNN there had not been a case involving the abuse of a minor in the Southern Baptist Convention since the mid-1980s, and then there was only one.

Miller said that is only technically true and because of a loophole. The SBC is organized around autonomy of the local church. Pastors are ordained, hired and fired by local congregations. That makes it nearly impossible to prove liability by the denomination in lawsuits involving clergy abuse.

“We’ve probably had a dozen of these cases where a plaintiff has undertaken to show that SBC

controls a minister,” James Guenther, the SBC’s longtime general counsel, was quoted as saying in a 1992 article about a $10 million lawsuit filed against the convention for sexual assaults by a minister sentenced to 72 years in prison for molesting five boys. Guenther explained that no SBC agency beyond the local congregation has legal or disciplinary authority over pastors.

Miller finds it ironic that a convention “which is powerful enough to have been largely responsible for the election of several presidents of the United States sees itself as conveniently powerless” when it comes to confronting sexual abuse.

Miller said to her knowledge the single case alluded to by the SBC leader involved a situation of incest by a foreign missionary imprisoned 12 years for abusing his own children. Miller worked with the mother, who along with her children filed suit in 1988 seeking damages from the Foreign Mission Board for not informing her or requiring her husband to get counseling when superiors found out the children were being abused.

The woman won her case, but FMB lawyers managed to get the decision overturned in 1993, and the mother and children wound up getting nothing. After that, Miller said she lost contact with the mother, who was living in Alaska but stopped returning phone calls or answering letters. “I’m sure she was devastated,” Miller said.

When Miller wrote How Little We Knew, she didn’t identify the Southern Baptist Convention or country where they worked. That was in part because she wanted to protect the identities of the two minor girls also victimized, but also because she didn’t want the story to be only about Southern Baptists. It’s a problem that affects all religions, she says, but she is especially disturbed by her own denomination’s response.

“I believe that it’s the arrogance of Baptists that makes the collusion so much more offensive to me than what I see in other denominations,” she told EthicsDaily.com. “Collusion is there in all, and the structure is a challenge.”

“However, I know full well that Baptists can do what Baptists want to do, whenever it is in their best interest to do so,” she continued. “It’s quite obvious to me that it is not considered in their best interest–there are just too many guys who have covered up too much, even if they aren’t perpetrators themselves, and they are running around scared of being exposed.”

Efforts by Miller and other advocates haven’t been totally fruitless. The IMB installed a toll-free number in 2004 for people to call to report sexual abuse by missionaries. That was in response to demands by a number of people who reported sexual abuse as children on the mission field in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Miller called the number “an encouraging sign,” but warned that in some other agencies victims who called similar numbers were re-victimized. She advised victims to talk to an attorney specializing in professional sexual abuse before making any report to any institution.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

What God Says about Abusive Pastoral Authority

Jer. 23:14 ~~~ I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

First of all, just in case anyone might think this verse doesn’t apply to the modern-day church, we have to remember that God has not changed. This is an issue of His nature as a righteous God, especially dealing with those who are His representatives. This passage was directed specifically to the prophets in Jerusalem, but God’s attitude toward those who proport to speak for Him has never changed and never will change.

The prophets described in this verse look painfully like many clergy today.

  • They commit adultery. Sound familiar? Adultery includes (but is not limited to) a sexual liaison with another adult to whom one is not married. It also includes any sexual relationship or impropriety with a minor of either sex. It also includes use of pornography which is just as much of an epidemic problem among clergy as it is among those sitting in the pews.
  • They walk in lies. Hmmm. Denial of known abuse is lying. Even more broadly, walking in lies would also mean walking in untruth or deception. Lying includes more than speaking a deliberate, bare-faced untruth. It also includes deception in all its forms. Failing to speak truth in such a way that conceals falsehood or perpetrates falsehood, even without actually speaking a direct lie, is still lying. So, when clergy know of abuse but fail to report it to authorities, to their church body, and to other churches they are walking in deception – lies.
  • They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so evildoers do not return from their wickedness. Wow! Reinforcing evil behavior by refusing to enforce consequences, and in fact, shielding wrong-doers from consequences, is clearly strengthening the hands of evildoers. This behavior by church leaders communicates to abusers that their actions are not only beyond reproach but are protected. So evil grows and expands and more lives are destroyed.

So what is God’s perspective? …they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. That is a very strong analogy. God isn’t the slightest bit “grey” on the subject and there are no extenuating circumstances given for which He might waffle from His views.

This raises the question – how can we tolerate actions and attitudes in the church that are anything less than God’s own? How can we excuse what He is adamantly against? And how can we think there will not be serious consequences to the church for this violation of God’s righteous nature?

Pastoral Denial: Why it Matters and What it Says

In a situation like the one reported by the ABC News affiliate there are several serious ramifications and implications. First of all, while not all pastors are brazen enough to publically make a declaration supporting wickedness, this attitude is prevalent among church leadership toward the abuses of their peers.

Whose side are they on? If church leaders will stand up for and defend their peers who have been justly accused of criminal abuse, just whose side are they on? Think about it. If they will not stand up for righteousness and if they persist in standing up for guilty peers, they are literally STANDING FOR evil. Doesn’t that strike anyone else as having dangerous implications for the church?

I’ll go a step further. If they refuse to stand up for righteousness, when they know without a doubt unrighteousness has been committed, they are passively standing for evil. There is no fence to sit on here!

What are these pastors afraid of? If there was nothing for them to lose by standing up for righteousness, when supposedly their entire life is dedicated to truth and righteousness, they would not be taking the stance they are. Pastors, by the nature of their vocation, are communicators who speak for truth. Why is there such a stunning silence on the issue of unrighteousness within church leadership? It can only be motivated by fear that is stronger than their supposed fear of God (which, incidentally, is idolatry – and that’s a whole additional issue).

  • Are they afraid the reputation of the church will be damaged? Wake up call!! The reputation of the church is already in tatters. It can’t get much worse.
  • Are they afraid their own personal reputation will be damaged by association? Well, snuggling up close to known offenders is a sure way to soil your own clothes! The only possible way to prevent the tarnish of association is to disassociate.
  • Are they afraid their own personal indiscretions might be revealed if they dared to point the finger at someone else? Unfortunately, this is most likely true in at least a good number of cases. But, one thing is sure, if they refuse to separate from unrighteousness, their inaction certainly raises the question of whether they themselves have things to hide.
  • Another serious consequence of pastoral inaction in the face of abuse is that by taking the side of unrighteousness, they heap coals on the heads of victims. In so doing, they make nearly unbearable pain, profoundly more painful. Not only do they hurt victims tangibly, they also offend these victims – in the truest sense of Scripture.

    Mt 18:6 ~~~ But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

    Jesus used a child to illustrate His point when He said this, but the word “little” in the original language simply means “less” or “least” — it is not about age or size. It just means someone who is “less” — “less than the one in authority or one who is under that authority” would also be an accurate understanding of the meaning of the verse.

    Do you hear what Jesus is saying, applied directly to modern day pastors and church leaders? Would it be better if they were drowned? That doesn’t sound to me like Jesus would be even slightly tolerant of the state of today’s church on this issue.

Classic Example of Overlooked Clergy Abuse

Yet another news report of clergy sex abuse in Augusta, GA was recently published by an ABC News affiliate station. The truly appalling thing clearly revealed in this news report is the attitude of the senior pastor toward the youth pastor’s charges.

First, you have to understand, the youth pastor admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old in the church. In spite of this, the senior pastor of the church says he “isn’t concerned” about the issue because the charges are just allegations. Huh? If there were any doubt about the man’s guilt, perhaps there would be room for this pastor to stand by his employee. But in the face of admitted statutory rape the statement by this pastor is effectively calling evil good.

Church Employee Gene Young Accused of Sexual Assault

My thanks to keyetv.com for this story.

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Reporter: Seema Mathur

Police are looking for a man accused of sexually assaulting a young girl in an East Austin church.

The alleged assault took place at The Rock of Austin on East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

According to the police affidavit, Gene Young, 27, worked at the church, and knew the girl since she was 12.

Young is accused of starting a sexual relationship with her when she was 15, a relationship that went on for more than a year, ending last October.

The victim told police she had sex with young about 100 times in the recording studio of the church.

The victim, now 16 years old, recently told her pastor about the relationship.

“The pastor was shocked and disappointed because he had known this young man for a long time. His family was a member of the church, the suspect was a member of the church and he was definitely shocked and in disbelief that this would happen at his church,” Detective Gizette Gaslin with the APD Child Abuse Unit said.

Young was fired from the church. Police are looking for him and ask that he turn himself in.