Monday, March 21, 2011

Réforme writes about Baptists’ “wall of denial”

In its March 10, 2011 issue, Réforme magazine published a profile story about This Little Light, and about clergy sex abuse among Southern Baptists. I’m told that Réforme is the largest Protestant publication in France. So, a whole lot French-speaking people around the world are now reading about the horror of the Baptist do-nothing response to clergy sex abuse.

I’m guessing that most of you don’t speak French. So allow me to give you a translated version of a few passages. (You can read an entire English translation of it here.) I’m not totally fluent, and so this is a mediocre translation that doesn’t begin to do justice to the beauty of Alexis Buisson’s writing, but hopefully, it will give you the gist.

The article begins by relating a few excerpts from my own story and by telling about my book, which Buisson describes as having “mettre des mots sur l’indicible” -- as giving words to the unspeakable.

Then he discusses the unrecognized plague – “fléau méconnu” – of pedophilia among Protestants, and in particular, among Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant group in the United States.

He quotes me as saying: “Certaines personnes ont dit que l’écriture du livre etait un acte cathartique. . . . Pour moi, c’était plutot un fait de resistance au nom des voix de toutes les victims que ce groupe religieux tres puissant a tues.” Translation: “Some people have said that my writing of the book was an act of catharsis. But for me, it was instead an act of resistance – resistance in the name of the voices of all the victims that this powerful religious group has tried to destroy.”

Buisson writes about “l’absence de registres” – the lack of record-keeping – among Baptists, which impedes the ability to trace presumed pedophiles. And he does an amazing job of clearly explaining the position of Southern Baptist officials: “They say that each church is administered in an autonomous manner and that a list of sexual predators would be contrary to that principle. But Christa affirms that this amounts to a maneuver for burying the problem. ‘That sort of autonomy doesn’t really exist in actual practice. All through their history, you can find examples showing that there has been cooperation for all manner of purposes among the churches and the regional and national authorities.’”

Buisson explains how “la puissante SBC” – the powerful Southern Baptist Convention – doesn’t even have procedures for looking into clergy sex abuse accusations and how it contends that its decentralized structure justifies its “immobilisme” – i.e., its do-nothingness. He describes this as the “mur de déni” – the wall of denial.

"L’abus est difficile à vivre, mais l’attitude des autorités de l’Union des baptistes du Sud est encore plus difficile à accepter, raconte-t-elle." Translation: "Such abuse is difficult to accept in life, but what is even more difficult to accept is the attitude of Southern Baptist officiales," she says.

"Tant que les baptistes du Sud n’auront pas pris leur responsabilité et qu’ils n’auront pas engagé des réformes internes profondes, ils n’en auront pas fait assez. Ils doivent écouter les victimes . . . . ,' tonne Marci Hamilton, professeur de droit spécialiste des questions religieuses à la Yeshiva University de New York.

Translation: "'Until Southern Baptists take on their responsibility and undertake profound internal reforms, they will not have done enough about this problem. They must listen to the victims…. ' intones Marci Hamilton, professor on law and religion at Yeshiva University in New York."

Christa Brown says : "Leur stratégie a marché pendant très longtemps mais elle ne va pas durer. Ils pensaient qu’ils pouvaient se retrancher derrière leurs murs mais les murs sont en train de tomber. Cette dénomination est en déclin." Translation: "Their tactics have worked for a very long time, but they won’t endure. They think they can hide behind their walls but those walls are tumbling down. This denomination is in decline."

"J’ai une bonne vie et j’en suis reconnaissante. Mais je pense qu’il est impossible de guérir complètement d’un abus sexuel, poursuit-elle. Nous vivons dans la lumière et l’ombre. Je suis capable d’en parler mais beaucoup d’autres sont encore paralysés." Translation: "I have a good life and I am grateful for it. But I think it is impossible to completely heal from such sexual abuse. We live in the light and the darkness. I am capable of talking about it, but many others are still paralyzed by it."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Little Light reaches France

“L’Église baptiste, paradis des pédophiles”

That’s the headline that people in France saw when they opened the December/January edition of the Paris publication, Books magazine. In English, it says:

“The Baptist church: Paradise for Pedophiles”

The headline is for a review of my book, This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. It's a book that not only tells my personal story, but also documents the denomination’s do-nothing response to the problem of clergy child molesters.

The review, written by investigative journalist Patrick Lindsay Bowles, is “fantastique.” In the space of a page, he illuminates the irrational arrogance of many Baptist leaders and their "systematic persecution of victims." And amazingly, Bowles even manages a touch of humor, as when he talks about former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson, whose hobbies include “hunting dangerous game” and who is shown on his website “kneeling behind the much-dreaded zebra.”

Ooh-la-la. Think about what this means. There are now people in France who are reading about the ugly reality of America’s largest Protestant denomination. They are learning of how the “Convention Baptiste du Sud” offers no compassion or care for those wounded by clergy sex abuse, and no accountability or consequence for clergy who commit abuse.

It’s awful stuff, but it’s real. So I’m glad that at least some people are learning the truth.

After all, the Southern Baptist Convention is an evangelical faith group that is intent on going to “all nations” and “teaching them.” (Matthew 28:19-20) So it certainly behooves those in other nations to consider exactly who these “teachers” really are and to assess the sort of values that they actually manifest.

Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group that turns its back on protecting “the least of these”? Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group that allows clergy predators to church-hop without anyone imposing accountability? Why should people in other nations care about the teachings of a faith group whose own institutional integrity is so utterly tainted?

Bowles’ review was published earlier by the Times Literary Supplement of London (which is sort of like a British version of the New York Times Review of Books). Now it has been translated into French and republished in this Parisian magazine. Bravo to Patrick Lindsay Bowles!

Here is the original English version of Bowles' review from the Times Literary Supplement. And here is a pdf of the French version from Books magazine.