When Heroes Fall Down

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I was born and raised Southern Baptist. The SBC runs deep in my DNA. Virtually every certificate I have is labeled with that organizational seal. All of my educational ventures are stamped with those three letters, SBC (Southern Baptist Convention). I used to have no less than a dozen Baptist Faith and Message booklets scattered throughout my house. It came second to the Bible for what I believed and why.

Fast forward to today and I doubt I own any of those little paper pamphlets. The only reading on the SBC that I’ve done lately has been soul crushing. The investigative reporting that’s been done has shown a spotlight onto decades of squalor perpetrated by men that I revered as heroes. Some of them credited with the great SBC resurgence over the inerrancy of scripture that took place in the 80’s.

It seems that while some of them were fighting to “protect” the inerrancy of scripture, others had begun to believe that they had become larger than scripture in their personal conduct. As they climbed ever higher that hill on which to die, other things were also happening there. Things that have gone unspoken and unpunished. Things that have left a lasting legacy of abuse and sexual misconduct. That hill is tainted with things that have done anything but uphold scripture.

Those kinds of skeletons don’t stay hidden forever. Eventually they come out and what we do with that knowledge is just as heavy as the original actions themselves. I don’t believe everyone named in these allegations is guilty. Where there is a bandwagon there will always be some that are wrongfully swept up in the process and that too is not acceptable. But I also believe that there are a great many that slink through the cracks and continue living a life that’s toxic to the sheep unfortunate enough to wind up in their predatory pastures.

Around the same time that the Houston Chronicle broke the story of wide spread sexual misconduct within SBC churches, New York passed a law that would make it legal to abort babies up to the time of birth. I heard a lot more outrage over murdering babies than I did over the victims of sexual abuse within SBC factions. Are these two things related? On a fundamental level, yes, they absolutely are.

Southern Baptists are known for taking a pro-life stance as an organization. And they should! I’m as pro-life as they come. But as I’ve watched the events unfold from sexual scandal to the SBC Executive Committee virtually dismissing the victims as well as their own President’s call to action, I don’t see an organization that is holistically pro-life. Standing up for life is so much bigger than the right to be born. Being for life means preserving the dignity of all life. It’s caring for orphans and those whose lives have been shattered by the hands of someone else. It means being for life from conception to death and all the moments in between. Sanctity matters at every stage in life.

It seems to me that while the SBC is anti-abortion they have absolutely proven that they are not pro-life. They have lost the right to speak into cultural atrocities as they’ve refused to address their own on a broad spectrum.

We’ve read recently of the young 11-year-old boy known as “the drag kid” who danced in a bar while adult men threw dollar bills at him. Many people have been dumbfounded over how this could be allowed and hundreds contacted CPS. The response given by Child Protective Services was that not enough evidence of abuse exists to warrant any action against the boy’s parents. This sounds outrageous right? But it also sounds eerily familiar to the SBC Executive Committee’s response to J.D. Greear’s call to investigate claims against 10 specific churches. “The Convention, through its Executive Committee, should not disrupt the ministries of its churches by launching an inquiry until it has received credible information that the church has knowingly acted wrongfully,”

How can we as Christians speak against a culture that we are exactly like? We can’t pick the pieces we want to fight against while harboring pastors who have themselves committed/are committing crimes against humanity. These include men, women, children, boys and girls! We are standing by quietly hoping it blows over so that none of our SBC pulpits are inconvenienced or tainted. The truth is, they’re already tainted and just because an organization goes to great lengths to hide these atrocities doesn’t by default make them clean. Just because something is kept in darkness doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I haven’t encountered abuse directly, but I’ve had my share of indirect brushes with men who have absolutely no right being behind the pulpit or wielding a shepherd’s staff. Men who have openly admitted their misconduct with minors and are patted on the back and allowed to continue forward with little more than a slap on the wrist and a self-gratifying speech about grace. These men are protected while their victims are silenced and demeaned for speaking out.

I have had church leaders openly discuss with me their concern over the possibility that specific individuals on their staff team might not be safe, yet they’ve kept them on their staff teams sighting that an HR file “getting fat with complaints” would be their protective measure. If the file is fat enough and enough people get hurt, then they’ll take seriously the concerns that have already been validated by past behavior? Ludicrous!

This is not the kind of church practice Jesus talks about in the scriptures that the SBC so proudly pats themselves on the back for upholding as inerrant.

Inerrancy comes with a high price tag. It means it must be upheld as such in practice, not simply in confession.

Its standards must be upheld and those who no longer qualify should no longer be found in pulpits across the country.

In bewildering moments such as these when leadership at various levels refuses to stand up and address the decades of atrocities committed under the cover of a holy calling, what are we to do? I caution you, don’t give in. Don’t allow this to become your acceptance of a new normal. You are not powerless! I am not powerless. Be better!

When leaders fail to lead it’s incumbent on every Christ follower to stand up and live out what is found in scripture. Sometimes that means walking out of a dirty church and while it’s against everything we’ve ever wanted to believe, churches can be very dirty. Some of them need to close their doors. Some of them are churches in name only, not in practice. Be better!

When we find a lost world doing more to stand up for victims hurt by the church than we find the church doing themselves, there’s a problem. At the end of the day it’s as simple and as hard as these two words, “Be better!” It will cost you! Standing up for the weak and the broken always comes with a very high price tag. ALWAYS! That’s a promise. But it matters and it’s not optional. We are told to be holy for one reason, because God is. That should be enough for us. Brands aside, big names aside, high cost aside; be holy because that’s who God is. Be better!

Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and he will say, ‘Here I am’ Isaiah 58:6-9.

These words spoken in Isaiah shine a great light onto the character of God. His character doesn’t change. He doesn’t delight in religiosity for the sake of making much of ourselves. My entire life I have heard the cries of men who longed for revival, who fasted and wept and begged all the while horrific things were being committed in secret against those they should have been protecting. As these details emerge, how can we hide ourselves from our own flesh as brave individuals come forward in their nakedness? Be better! And when we make that choice we will hear the Lord answer, “Here I am!”

When your heroes fall down, and they will, don’t fall with them. Stand up and be better because that’s what an inherent scripture mandates that we do.


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