Southern Baptists and a Culture that Breeds a Generation of Abusers

This week the 288-page report about abuse in the Southern Baptist Church (SBC) came out. To some, it was utterly shocking.

To others it was, “It’s about time.”

I guess it depends on which side of the road you were standing on. What you had seen, heard, experienced. Who you had talked to. Who you had listened to. Who you had revered and who you had dismissed.

So I join my voice with others: It’s about time.

Long, long, long before I got involved, other stalwart voices were crying out, “These are not isolated incidents. This is a systemic problem!”

Well, what do you know. They were right after all. Russell Moore, who to his credit had already left the SBC, called the systematic covering of abuse a “Criminal Conspiracy.”

I wrote the piece below almost exactly four years ago, knowing so much more than I could actually write about.  The systemic problem was staring me in the face.

I pray that there will be enough people in the ranks of the Southern Baptists who have the fear of the Lord and will fall on their faces before Him for refusing to see the evil in their midst, for refusing to listen to these voices crying in the wilderness, for dismissing and ignoring and blaming and shaming those who cried out for help and hope.

The real Jesus is not like that.

*****

When a church elder said to a friend of mine, regarding her husband’s 25-year-long pornography problem, “It’s just a little porn,” I knew the problem went deeper than the husband’s porn. That church elder had a problem too.

When Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches protected child abusers and accuses the victims, the problem is obviously way beyond child abusers. There is every indication of serious rot at the core of SGM/SGC.

When Beth Moore described the condescension, stereotyping, objectification, and downright misogyny she had to deal with in the Southern Baptist Church, there is every indication of a much deeper problem at work at the core of the hearts of the men she’s interacting with on a regular basis than simply ignorance and arrogance. [Note: I have since learned that Beth Moore could act in a very inappropriately exalted way in her own arena.]

When Paige Patterson promoted Darrell Gilyard, a pastor who raped many women—not just ignored his heinous sin, but actually promoted him—and almost none of Paige Patterson’s peers thought this was a problem, this indicates a problem in their own hearts and perhaps with their very own bodies. If a man does not see rape as a problem, then something is going on.

When Paige Patterson and other evangelical leaders stereotype older women as difficult gossipy biddies and younger women as sex objects, and the young men they’re speaking to just laugh and enjoy it, there is a problem in the hearts of those young men, and very possibly with their eyes and their very bodies.

And these are the young men who are heading out all over the country to start churches in the mold of the “conservative resurgence” that Paige Patterson himself directed, the leaders of which are getting stained-glass windows in their honor.

So here I am, learning about things such things as (for example, and I could give so many examples) a young man in ministry berating his fiancée to read “complementarian” material so she would submit to him to allow him to do sexual things to her and force her to do sexual things to him. The leaders of conservative evangelicalism might cry out that this is never what they intended, but they are breeding these men.

Another woman told me that her extremely abusive husband, one whom she had to flee from for her life, had been a seminary student under Paige Patterson’s teachings and loved how he taught submission.

When Paige Patterson spoke the atrocious words eighteen years ago showing not only a complete ignorance of abuse, but an apparent delight in it (he was “happy” when the woman in his story showed up at church with two black eyes), he demonstrated a problem in his own heart far beyond ignorance.

When recently instead of recanting these words, he defended them, and then his conservative evangelical friends considered him “under attack,” for the public outcry and held a prayer meeting to pray imprecatory psalms against his “attackers,” they show that they have a problem in their own hearts. They demonstrate that they themselves are the very people that Beth Moore describes. They demonstrate that something far deeper and darker is going on here than simply ignorance or even willful ignorance, which is bad enough. They demonstrate that they want to continue to breed a generation of abusers.

There are those of us who are in the trenches dealing with the fallout of horrendous teachings such as that which Patterson recently defended. But with a very few isolated exceptions, Patterson’s fellow SBC and conservative evangelical leaders will not decry his teachings, apparently because there is something going on in their own hearts.

Apparently continuing to breed a generation of abusers is more important to them than showing the love of God to those in need. God help us.

*****

The breeding of the generation abusers, according to the Guidepost Solutions report, has been going on for many generations. Almost as if it were in the warp and woof. As if it were systemic.

It looks like, from reports like these, that there may be true repentance. I pray that there will in fact even be a revival, among those who claim to be the people of God. Oh my friends, it is not too late.

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Lisa Vanderveen
Lisa Vanderveen
6 months ago

Powerful, Prophetic, painful words of truth.

I am not a part of the SBC culture and did not experience the abuse you’re describing, but I see similar dynamics in the church I grew up in in a much milder form….

What a horrific “testimony” these men have given and what ungrateful, black hearts.

This is not how Christ loves His bride and I am thankful the truth of the systemic problem is finally out.

My Life in Our Father's World

Deeply rooted sin in the church is heartbreaking.

It’s made even worse when it’s kept hidden for so long.

So much hurt.
So much anguish.
So much sorrow.
So much hidden evil.
So much healing needed

Sally Wickland
Sally Wickland
6 months ago

“The breeding of the generation abusers, according to the Guidepost Solutions report, has been going on for many generations. Almost as if it were in the warp and woof. As if it were systemic.”
 
 
I totally agree. The breeding of abusers, certainly HAS been going on for many generations. It IS systemic. And, it DOES stem from a heart-problem, which you mentioned several times in your article, Rebecca. It’s the hardheartedness of men toward women that Jesus referred to more than once in the Gospels, Matt 19:8, Mark 10:5, 16:14. It’s inherited from Adam, Gen 3:12, who blamed God and the woman for “his” sin, failing to take any responsibility. He was the first rebel.
 
But a “Christian” man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is supposed to be renewed in Christ, and taught to overcome and put off his bad attitudes and sinful desire to exercise lordship over women (and others). He is to stop using his earthly strength, power, and position to oppress and suppress them, Luke 22:25, and rather, use those things to elevate women to their rightful place on this earth as co-rulers with Christ, 1 Pet 3:7 – heirs together in this life and the life to come, Rev 1:6; 5:10, etc.
 
A church that has been taken over by carnal, spiritually immature males, (if they’re even truly saved), and wolves…. has no chance of ever correcting the problem. They are so deep in rebellion to God and His Word (yes, I know you are well acquainted with that Scripture-twisting, Rebecca), I do not believe this supposed course correction of the SBC will amount to a hill of beans.
 
It’s simply “damage control”, in my opinion. They can create all the “recommendations” they want – policies, programs, media campaigns, funding, etc.,” but these are only band-aids. Although I didn’t read every word of the linked article, they appear to only address the damage, and plans for future preventive measures………not the CAUSE of the damage.
 
Nothing will change until, unless, men repent of their rebellion against the Truth of the Word of God, and that means their rebellion against Jesus Christ, Himself. They can sweep the SBC clean, but unless they truly align themselves with Jesus and the TRUTH of His Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew their hearts, it will be an exercise in futility.
 
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” – Luke 11:24-26
 
I’m not as optimistic as you appear to be, Rebecca. Seriously, I think the apostate church has become so bloated, permeated with leaven, Luke 13:21, that the only solution is the return of Christ (Rapture), for the “true” church.
 
Maranatha, Our Lord Cometh.
 

Lila
Lila
6 months ago

I think of Matthew 23, with “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees…” When Jesus condemns the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy.

“many shall come from the east and from the west, to eat at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out.”

I truly believe that we are, in a way, living in the times of Jesus. The “Temple” so to speak is crumbling, just as the 2nd Temple was destroyed at in 70 AD. Many of the denominations that have held our faith together for us, the “forms of religion” that we have so long depended upon in Western Civilization are collapsing. Cultural Christianity is dying, if not already dead.

In Jesus day, it was the end of the Old Covenant, but it also opened a door for God to do a new thing, and bring people into the kingdom who otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Tax collectors and Gentiles, and so many other untouchables, found a way in.

Lila
Lila
6 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca Davis

Yes, that’s true. Maybe that’s a better comparison. It’s a “Clean out the house” kind of season. A churning up of the soil, and a weeding out of the weeds from the wheat.

Noemi Kalath
Noemi Kalath
6 months ago

“The leaders of conservative evangelicalism might cry out that this is never what they intended, but they are breeding these men.“

This is spot on!

I love how you brought out that this is a heart problem. In fact, they are being exposed for having an evil heart rather than being born again from God. A new heart transformed by the Holy Spirit would have never tolerated abuse in the church. We’re reaping the consequences of counterfeit conversions.

Ann-Marie Ferry
Ann-Marie Ferry
4 months ago

I would love to know what happened with the man that came forward after giving his wife the double black eyes. In my heart I want to believe that he repented and believed and him and his wife now have a healthy marriage in which he treats her with the utmost of respect and love. However what I have learned over the years about abusers leads me to guess that his change was temporary inorder to get him out of having the police called on him.

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