My dad in the 1960s: integrity vs “virtue signaling”

A few days ago, my husband, Tim, introduced me to a term I had missed somehow: “virtue signaling,” that is, letting others know via social media that you are more virtuous in your beliefs than they are regarding a certain social problem, without actually doing anything to address the problem.

Then Tim began to talk about his dad, who never did any purposeful “virtue signaling,” but was noticed simply because of his virtue in his interactions with others. In a turbulent time, he lived the kindness he taught, and it caused an uproar. Continue reading “My dad in the 1960s: integrity vs “virtue signaling””

The “slippery slope” of victimization

 

Growing up Independent Baptist, I got to hear a lot about slippery slopes.

Mainly I heard about them regarding music. “If you young people start listening to that Christian rock, before you know it you’ll start dancing around a devil fire.” Or something like that.

If you start listening to Christian music “with a beat,” you’ll proceed bit by incremental bit downhill into flagrant sin and degradation. Here’s a sermon about that. (link.)

(For anyone reading this without a background as a fundamentalist, that’s what’s meant by the slippery slope argument.)

Same thing with associations and lifestyle. Lot was the example here. He started out in the valley, but ended up in the vile and wicked city of Sodom that was destroyed. What happened? He went down the slippery slope of compromise. Here’s a sermon about that (link).

The same claim is made about doctrines. Some have said that acceptance of various perhaps-seemingly-benign doctrines is the beginning of the slippery slope to abandoning the truth of the Bible. Here’s an article about that. (link)

When I was trying to come out of fundamentalism, one by one everything that wasn’t super clear in the Bible I put on the table for re-examination. One of them was the concept of the “slippery slope.” Is it real? I asked. Or is it made up, like so many of the fear-mongering teachings I experienced?

It stayed on the table for some time, years maybe.

I began to see how the “slippery slope” applied in some ways the fundamentalist teachers of my past had never mentioned. For example, a Christian wants to earn a lot of money so he’ll have a lot to give to the work of the Lord. But then when he DOES begin to earn a lot of money, bit by bit his heart is pulled away to the material things and the power and influence money can buy. His heart slides down the slippery slope from amassing money into loving money. Sin.

Or a pastor or teacher who started well and loved the Lord and walked in the Spirit becomes more and more popular and bit by bit it affects him in ways that can hardly be adequately explained. He becomes full of himself. His heart slides down the slippery slope from being well-loved to self-exaltation. Sin.

Then in recent years I became aware of another one, a very troubling one. It cemented in my mind that the slippery slope argument, at least in one case, is definitely true.

It is in a certain form of the submission teaching.

Obey your husband in everything, they say, except when he’s asking you to sin. If he’s the only one that’s sinning, then you still obey, and God will deal with him.

What if my husband speaks in a degrading way to me?

Well he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he drags me by my hair down the hall to the bedroom?


Well, he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he ties all four of my limbs to the four bedposts?

Well, he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he brings a woman into the bedroom and wants to have a “threesome”?

Oh, whoa, wait a minute, that’s wrong. That’s sin. The marriage bed is for just you and your husband, so you need to say “no” to that.

Oh whoa wait a minute yourself.

How can you tell a woman she should obey her husband in everything except when he tells her to sin, if all the previous obediences have been silencing her, stripping her of any dignity, and ultimately leading up to that sin?

An abuser’s demands to sin almost never spring up out of the blue, in isolation from everything else. By the time it comes to demanding “sin” of her, the sin on the abuser’s part has often already been so egregious that her voice has been completely taken away from her.

If the slippery slope argument ever applies anywhere, it applies here.

Instead of telling a wife to wait until her husband tries to get her to sin, the church of Jesus Christ can be telling wives that they can stand up against their husband’s sin.

Don’t let women go down the slippery slope of losing their voices in one sinful situation after another, until ultimately they’re being forced to do things that they would never have chosen to do, would never have dreamed of doing.

Encourage them to speak and stand for what’s right. Encourage them to live lives of dignity and respect.

Encourage them to refuse to ignore the sin in their homes, even if it is “only”  the sin of their abuser.

 

The SBC sexual offender database that isn’t: my inside peek

The Southern Baptist Convention meets this week in Dallas, after a  tumultuous spring with a whole lot of bad publicity having to do with domestic and sexual abuse.

Once again they’re looking at a resolution to develop a sexual offender database that will keep a public record of offenders who are not on the national database (who, for example, have confessed to their crimes but never been taken to court).

In the fall of 2014 I had the opportunity to correspond with a member of the SBC Executive Committee about this very subject. This is that story.

That fall I was working on the book Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches with Dale Ingraham. As part of my research, I read Christa Brown’s book This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang (in one sitting, I might add). Here is my review of her book that I posted on Amazon:

Only about 20% of this book focused on the Baptist Preacher Predator–the youth director who molested and raped Christa and the difficulties that abuse produced in her life. The other 80% focused on the Gang–the author’s attempt to find some sort of compassion and concern, first with the local church, then the wider body, and finally the national convention of the Southern Baptists. I was amazed at Christa’s perseverance and appalled at the stone-cold stonewalling she received from the church and the denomination, again and again and again.

 I’m ignorant and naïve, but still can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to do all they can to protect the vulnerable from abuse and show compassion to those who have been abused. I cannot understand it.

I received this book at lunchtime and had finished reading it by a late suppertime. I could not put it down. It was gripping, compelling, and nauseating.


So, since her book was published in 2009 and I was reading it and working on my book in 2014, I wanted to find out what progress had been made in a matter that seemed so clear-cut. Someone on the Executive Committee was recommended to me, so I wrote to him.

After introductions, I asked: Has the SBC made any progress in the past five years on this matter? Specifically, have they established a database? Because I’m going to put a footnote in this new book, and I want it to be accurate.

Part of my letter said this:

I can see how experiencing the treatment that Christa described at the hands of leaders of the SBC . . . would have propelled more than one person to a complete loss of faith. Though my own experience and advocacy work is primarily in the area of independent Baptist churches and Bob Jones University, I was sickened to see that the Southern Baptists appeared to be just as bad.

 So my hope is that all that terrible stonewalling and lack of care was the past, and in the past five years some massive strides have been made to love and care for abuse victims and to keep the evil abuse offenders from being able to hurt the people in the Southern Baptist churches.

The Committee member did reply, in fact, almost immediately, with some links to articles that didn’t answer my question. We link to the US sex offender database, he said, and we passed the Resolution of 2013 that included such information as how church officials should call law enforcement when there’s abuse in the church.

A resolution is good. Just like pinwheels on the lawn in April are nice.

When he told me they couldn’t have a database because the SBC never interferes in the autonomous local church. I replied,

I wouldn’t think of a database of admitted offenders that are not in backgroundcheck.com as being any sort of operation of authority. I would see it as simply helpful information that a local church could use or not use as they see fit, sort of like the Sunday school or VBS material or the LifeWay connection to backgroundcheck.com that you currently provide.

So why did he then ask to talk on the phone? I wasn’t sure, but when we did I took very careful notes, because I know how it can be with phone calls . . . unless they’re recorded, one can deny having said the things one said.

As I made my non-brilliant points, he said more than once, “I’ve never thought about it that way.” I confess I was just a bit in eye-roll mode there because I knew these were only things Christa herself had discussed.

For example, I told him the database can be for offenders who for one reason or another won’t be going through the criminal justice system (statute of limitations or some other reason) but (1) have open-and-shut evidence against them (which might necessitate an investigation) or (2) have admitted their offense.

 “It’s not that unusual for offenders to admit to their crimes if they think they can get a quick forgiveness and restoration,” I observed. “And one way the SBC can show they really care about this issue beyond just making a ‘resolution’ is to say that you’re willing to name admitted offenders who have fallen through the cracks.”

Then I brought up the matter of how the SBC de-members churches who are “not in friendly cooperation.”  (In theory it could be a number of things, but in practice it was only about homosexuality and women preachers.)

“Couldn’t this also apply to an SBC church in which you become aware that a person in has sexually assaulted an underage person, even if that crime has never been reported?” I asked.

His reply kept on along the lines of, “You have some really great points. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’ll think about these things and get back with you.”

 But regarding that last one, I added,

 “This is not a hypothetical scenario. This is what happened in Christa Brown’s situation and in the cases of several other people she has written about either in her book or on her blog or her other blog, and Bob Allen has written about too (at www.baptistnews.com).”

Then I also asked him if he had ever read Christa’s book—after all, her story created quite a furor in the SBC in the mid-2000s and surely played a major part in the resolution they passed in 2013.

He said no. This Executive Committee member had never read the book that so clearly documented abuse in his own denomination.

“Will you read it?” I urged. “It’s a quick and easy read. I finished it in an afternoon.”

Yes, he would read it, he said. He’d read it in the next couple of weeks. And he’d get back with me.

To be honest with you, I rolled my eyes again. Was I too cynical? If so I’m sorry. But after the phone call I wrote to him immediately synopsizing all we had discussed, saying, “I’ll look forward to hearing from you as to whether you think this is an accurate synopsis.”

I never heard from him again.

What was I to conclude from that? That he could say conciliatory things to me on the phone when he never truly intended to follow up? That was certainly the impression I got.

I made the footnote in the book. I went on with working to expose the abuse in the Bob Jones University world.

And here we are. The database resolution is on the floor again. I pray that the Southern Baptist Convention will this time have ears to hear.

I am, I believe, less ignorant and naive than I was in 2014, but I still can’t understand why GOOD people wouldn’t want to do all they can to protect the  ulnerable from abuse and show compassion to those who have been abused. I cannot understand it.

The most important time to stop going to your church – a response to the Gospel Coalition

It was a few weeks ago now that TGC posted the article “The Most Important Time to Go to Church.” The most important time to go to church, according to the TGC author, is when you don’t want to, because “covenant commitments” are made for the hard times, not the good times.

Here is the article. On Facebook it was Liked or Loved almost 2000 times and was shared almost 1000 times. So it appears that the conservative evangelical world thought well of it. Continue reading “The most important time to stop going to your church – a response to the Gospel Coalition”

Making sense of the church world’s epidemic of abuse

I’m all about making sense of things. If a movie has a gaping plot hole, then no other redeeming qualities can redeem that movie for me. If a song can be interpreted a dozen different ways, then I don’t really want to listen to that song.

Needing to make sense of things is one of my best qualities. It’s also one of my worst qualities. Continue reading “Making sense of the church world’s epidemic of abuse”

What students thought about Paige Patterson’s forced early retirement

Today it was announced that Paige Patterson, President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, would be “demoted” from President to President Emeritus (though some would reasonably argue that this is simply an early retirement). This “demotion” came after immense public pressure that has been capably recorded in other places, such as Spiritual Sounding Board. I wrote about the problem behind the problem of Paige Patterson once, here.

The Washington Post article about Paige Patterson’s early retirement is here, and while others are commenting about various implications of this new turn of events, there’s a different part I want to focus on: how the students responded. Continue reading “What students thought about Paige Patterson’s forced early retirement”

5 reasons for church small groups to replace “transparency” with “integrity”

1.     There are no Biblical guidelines for “transparency,” but there are for integrity

Transparency is an extra-Biblical concept. In church small group it usually seems to mean “being willing to tell us about your sin,” and I think it’s based on James 5:16, which says, “Confess your faults one to another.” Apparently the word “confession” wasn’t a good enough word—“transparency” takes it a step further: the ideal is for us to see all your faults. Continue reading “5 reasons for church small groups to replace “transparency” with “integrity””