Imagine a company called Southern Babtoys Corporation. They market a game-toy that has a pervasive problem. At least 3* out of every 100 will blow up in a kid’s hands, hurling tiny fragments far and wide.
Typically, it injures the kid quite seriously, though the pieces are so tiny that the kid often doesn’t realize his injury at the time. He may see only a scratch on his forehead and doesn’t know that some of the tiny pieces have actually penetrated his skull.
To make matters worse, the tiny pieces contain a radioactive compound that releases slowly and ripples destruction outward. So, over time, the damage in the kid’s brain grows worse. But though the damage is very real, it manifests slowly. So people don’t usually trace it back to the toy.
It’s the sort of toy that kids play with in groups. So a single toy will often hurt many kids.
Southern Babtoys knows this is happening. But they don’t do anything about it.
They don’t institute any sort of quality control measures to prevent it.
When reports about the problem crop up, they issue public statements that minimize it. And they never acknowledge the seriousness of their quality control problem or how widespread it really is.
Instead, they talk about a few “isolated cases” and chalk them up to all sorts of other things. The kid didn’t follow instructions. The parents didn’t supervise. The toy had been altered. The kid is a whiner. They’re just opportunists who are trying to get money.
Southern Babtoys has a whole list of these kinds of statements, and their public-relations people rotate through them when they talk with the press.
The flawed toys are actually made by a whole slew of small companies spread all over the country. But to better market them, the companies stick a Southern Babtoys label on the toys. Then Southern Babtoys takes a percentage of the revenue from the sale of the toys.
It’s a sweet deal. The local company sells more toys because people trust the Southern Babtoys name. And Southern Babtoys takes in multi-millions with its percentage. Its executives get super-high salaries, and the company gets the prestige of promoting itself as the largest toy-maker in the country.
But what about the kids who get hurt? It’s not such a sweet deal for them. Or for their families. Or even for their future families. They wind up dealing with the brain damage for a very long time.
The few who try to call the monolithic Southern Babtoys Corporation to account get met with a stone wall. If they persist, they get run into the ground by the mega-monied media arm of the SBC. Because its resources are so enormous, Southern Babtoys can spin things however it wants, and to a large degree, the public sees only what the SBC wants.
If push comes to shove, Southern Babtoys pulls forth its most golden “not our problem” excuse of all.
“The toys aren’t even made by us,” it says. “It’s all those small local companies who make the toys, not us. And the fact that the Southern Babtoys brand is on them is irrelevant. Those local companies are all autonomous, and we don’t have any control over them.”
Most people in America wouldn’t accept such a ridiculous story-line from a secular for-profit corporation. So why do they accept it from a religious organization?
Most people in America would expect the brand-holder, Southern Babtoys Corporation, to bear some accountability for those who make use of the brand.
Why do people let religious organizations off the hook at a LESSER standard of accountability than secular organizations?
* Later comments by Christa: [I got] the 3 percent number from Penn State professor Philip Jenkins’ 1997 book “Pedophiles and Priests.” He observed that this 3 percent pedophile figure for Protestant clergy was “a rate equal or higher than that suggested for Catholic priests.” Jenkins’ own research at that time showed a rate of just 1.7 percent of priests as pedophiles. Subsequent research has revealed a rate higher than 1.7 percent for priests. (I don’t have the 2004 John Jay study in front of me right now, but as I recall, that study came up with 4 percent.) Jenkins was obviously on the low side for Catholic priests, and there is good reason to think that he was also on the low side with his 3 percent conclusion for Protestant clergy…
But even if it’s just 3 percent, that’s plenty awful enough. Southern Baptists have 101,000 ministers in this country, and so that means 3,030 of them are pedopiles. Most people who sexually abuse kids have multiple victims, often dozens. Without any oversight system, or reporting system, for those 101,000 clergy, this means that the largest Protestant denomination in the land is choosing to leave a whole of kids at risk.