Thursday, November 17, 2011

Put down the Bible, pick up the phone, call the cops

Looks like I erred last week when I wrote conerning child sex abuse, Pick up the Phone, Call the Cops.

This Associated Baptist Press story is an opinion piece by Baptist General Convention of Texas, "Theologian-In-Residence" Jim Denison. It conflates the Penn State sex abuse scandal and the Herman Cain sexual harrassment stories and offers what he says God feels and what scripture says about the scandals.

Read it and wonder if Dr. Theolog-in-Residence was out to lunch when he wrote the piece.

Not surprisingly, Christa Brown has noted some difficulties, some inconsistencies in attempting to handle clergy child sex abuse though any theology of Matthew 18.

She writes, angrily I would surmise:
Denison’s statement reveals a dangerous ignorance about the dynamics of child sex abuse.

It is the sort of ignorance that Baptist clergy abuse survivors have encountered in case after case, as church and denominational leaders have blinded themselves to abuse reports, seeing only the facts that suit them, minimizing the reality of clergy child molestations, and citing Matthew 18 as support for their own keep-it-quiet do-nothingness.

Take any of the sad scenarios that are recent and apply the Denison test.
Should the ten year old boy have gone back to his adult rapist and attempted some reconciliation? Such is absurd.

Should Brown herself, as a child, gone back to her abuser, waved her Bible and attempted to reconcile? Absurd.

Denison, and others, take this passage in Matthew 18 and seem to make it an absolute prerequisite. Yet, we live in a society of civil laws. When a law is broken, particularly one that involves children and abuse, the moral and legal obligation is, first, to report the crime.

Suppose the child went to his rapist who apologized, asked for personal forgiveness, and offered assurances of no further such behavior. Is that sufficient to satisfy God? The parties can now go merrily on their way and the way of the pedophile is almost invariably to merrily molest other children. After Matthew 18 is there no criminal penalty need be applied here? Absurd.

Some Southern Baptists have turned Matthew 18 into a formulaic protocol to absolve criminals of heinous crimes and deprive their victims of justice. Matthew 18 has been made into the magic wand that spiritual leaders must simply wave to make ugly situations go away and things to go back to the status quo ante, victims usually be damned (in a real but non-theological sense and pardon my language).

Among Christians, some offenses may indeed be resolved by adults having adult, Christian conversations. But we aren't in a theocracy. We live as Christians in a country of laws. While there are times we may have options in conflict resolution, sexual abuse of children by adults is not one of those.

It's tough to argue with Christa Brown when she describes this sort of response to sex abuse of children as "ignorance."

Surely in a reflective moment Denison would rethink this and do better.


Anonymous said...

In Texas, there is no doubt what a pastor is supposed to do (or someone who catches a pastor doing the abusing)--you are to pick up the phone and call the police--or you are going to be the one they are arresting. Maybe if they started prosecuting the ones who didn't report the crime as well as the ones who did it, we would see things change.

Anonymous said...

I thought you were kidding about your statement from the "theologian" from the BGCT. Here is a portion of the editorial he wrote:
First, God's word tells us what to do when we have been wronged: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you" (Matthew 18:15). It would have been best for the alleged abuse victims at Penn State and the NRA to go directly to those who wronged them. If they were refused resolution, they should then have informed others and finally made the matter public if necessary (vs. 16-17).

This has to be one of the dumbest statements regarding abuse by someone with power over the one being abused that I have ever read.

Bennett Willis
Lake Jackson, Texas

Anonymous said...

We have two cases in this are of judges who abused women in their office. These were adult-adult issues even though the judge was the employer. Matt 18:15 would have been inappropriate to try to apply in these cases two. To suggest that a 10 year old should go to the abuser indicates...

Well, I don't know what to say.

Bennett Willis

Anonymous said...

Should have been "area" (Brazoria County judge and a federal judge in Galveson) not "are" in the previous comment.

Anonymous said...

I was guilty of "typing while indignent." The "two" should have been "too."


Anonymous said...

And I can't spell either.

Anonymous said...

Also the harrasment charges on Cain have yet to be substantiated unlike Sandusky. This is actually a horrible comparison.