It appears that allegations are emerging regarding pedophiles within the Southern Baptist churches similar to the Roman Catholic scandal of recent years. Organizations such as Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and websites such as Stop Baptist Predators are organizing campaigns for Southern Baptist conventions to police their own.
Despite my obvious disgust if such allegations are true, I also wish to be cautious. I believe it’s possible that many of the Roman Catholic scandals might have been exaggerated. I’m not denying that these sorts of things happen, but widespread panic can create imaginary crimes where none were committed. Think of the satanic ritual abuse scare of a few decades ago. No evidence of any such cult activity was ever discovered, yet trials were held, and convictions were made. These types of mass delusion can quickly infect the social consciousness, and people start seeing things that were never there in the first place.
I certainly hope that if any such abuse has occurred within baptist churches, that those responsible are punished to the full extent of the law. I just don’t want it to turn into a witch-hunt, proceeding with little or no evidence.
Now, the Southern Baptist claims difficulties in policing its own due to a lack of centralized structure like the Roman Catholic Church. True, but the Salon article delivers a scathing conclusion which I will post in full here:
What’s striking is that in almost any other context, SNAP’s allegations would have the taint of paranoia run amok: All those nice men in those nice communities preying on children and more nice people knowing about it and doing nothing. Can you imagine a similar campaign about schoolteachers? Or doctors? Or social workers? It would look like insanity. Of course, no profession is immune to criminals who use their social standing to cover their abuse. But these professions all have things called background checks, independent professional boards, government oversight and perhaps less of a sense of innate moral righteousness. The Southern Baptist Church, like many of our religious organizations, has none of these things.
But since hundreds of cases revealing that the Catholic clergy was a haven for egomaniacal pedophiles, we’ve all become inured to a weird reality about the duplicitous niceness of our God-fearing nation. On the one hand, it’s well known that sex sells, violence is ubiquitous and porn funds most Internet portals. At the same time, we’re told that America is filled with God-fearing, upstanding “communities of faith.” But the facts are simple: Most churches have little independent oversight. In the end, when confronted by scandal they often seem more worried about institutional survival, appearances and reputation than the morality they preach. [emphasis added]