As Baptists gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, for their annual meeting — which this year will include a resolution proposing the ‘disfellowship’ of churches that fail to respond properly to complaints of sexual abuse — the New York Times goosed the denomination with a prominent story of egregious abuse and cover-up.
Christi Bragg listened in disbelief. It was a Sunday in February, and her popular evangelical pastor, Matt Chandler, was preaching on the evil of leaders who sexually abuse those they are called to protect. But at the Village Church, he assured his listeners, victims of assault would be heard, and healed: “We see you.”
Ms. Bragg nearly vomited. She stood up and walked out.
Exactly one year before that day, on Feb. 17, 2018, Ms. Bragg and her husband, Matt, reported to the Village that their daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children.
The resolution before the annual meeting proposes that churches which fail to act to protect victims be ‘disfellowshipped’ — in essence, kicked-out of the convention. It will probably be approved — and will probably be valueless.
Ask any reporter, lawyer, police officer, social worker — anybody with first-hand professional experience of abuse in the church environment — and every single one of them will tell you the exact same thing: When congregations learn that Pastor Bubba is raping the children’s choir, the all-but-invariable reaction is to rally to the pastor and drive-off the victim. That is a fact, and it is a fact about the people in the pews. ‘Sheeple’ fits.
The people who are drawn to Christianity’s degradation, and who find a compensating welcome in that club, are not people who are suddenly going to grow a backbone; there will be a new rule, but the same old culture of craven submission. That is part of the ontology of Christianity — what it is.