Dear Reader: How You Can Become the Good News in Troubled Times

Posted on Jul 18, 2019   Topic : Men's Christian Living, Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Mary DeMuth

Dear reader,

On my birthday, a joint investigative piece by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News highlighted sexual abuse within the largest protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)[1]. 

The article highlights the ease of sexual predators to prey on many people, freely moving from congregation to new church without hindrance. Couple this with shocking evidence that the Catholic Church in Germany destroyed records of sexual abuse allegations or simply did not bother to record abuse, and you see how deep and wide this scourge is—following the common narrative of disclose, demean the victim, cover up the crime, and allow the predator space to reoffend.

I grieve the pervasiveness of cover up, though I will not let its cancer silence me. My grief has morphed into holy urgency.

Why? Simply this. I believe God is cleansing his house, the church. I picture Jesus, hands clenched around a whip of cords, expelling those who have acted as bad shepherds.

He epitomizes the good shepherd in John 10, and what does that shepherd do? “The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (11). Yet so many leaders who name the name of Christ have, instead, acted this way: “A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep” (John 10:11-13, emphasis mine).

Sexual predators are wolves. But so often we have seen wolves protected, sheep slaughtered, and money within the structure of churches preserved. This should not be.

In the opening chapter of We Too, I write about the Good Shepherd and the Good Samaritan, exegeting the wisdom of both metaphors as it relates to our current crisis. But there is one thing I recently recognized in the latter story. Not only did the priest and Levite walk by the attacked victim, they also never alerted authorities. They couldn’t be inconvenienced to act justly, even if that meant doing relatively nothing, except to simply tell someone else[2].

This is the crisis we face—a crisis of lackadaisical inertia. My heart in writing this book is not to merely highlight our current plight, but to inspire truth telling, boots-on-the-ground advocacy, and a conspiracy of active empathy.

We can do better. We must do better.

I am not without hope, though. In the aftermath of these scandals, my church, an SBC mega church, sent the following email:

Many of you have read recent news releases about sexual predators who over the last few decades have attempted to use churches as a place to act out their evil crimes. Please know that our church remains committed to being a safe and secure place for all our children.

In addition to using video surveillance and requiring background checks for those who work with our children, we will continue to enforce strict policies about the care of children, including immediately notifying authorities of any and all reports of abuse. We also will support and contribute to any collaborative communication effort to keep offenders from moving from church to church undetected, exposing future victims to risk.

We are also deeply committed to provide a healing community of faith that expresses the gentle love of Jesus for the thousands of men and women of all ages who have been victims of sexual abuse at any time in their lives.[3]

The letter concludes by directing people to counseling services.

While the world casts stones at places of worship for the mishandling of abuse cases, there are congregations around the world quietly providing solace and help to victims, reporting perpetrators to the proper authorities, welcoming independent investigations, and communicating honestly with their members about failures in leadership.

This brings me hope.

There are good shepherds among us who beautifully represent Jesus, the Good Shepherd. There are good Samaritans within our gatherings who dare to see the hurting, bandage their wounds, provide resources, and love well.

It is my sincere hope that We Too will play a small role in ushering in a new era of transparency, kindness, redemption, and the undecorated rightness of doing good.

Your story matters,

Mary DeMuth

[1] The three part series continues to evolve, but the first article is entitled “Abuse of Faith: 20 Years, 700 Victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms” by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2019.

[2] I’m indebted to Doug Lay’s Facebook post that read: “Jeopardy: The priest and the Levite did not tell anyone about the man bleeding on the side of the road. What is a church cover-up?”

[3] Letter from Lake Pointe Church, “Continuing to Provide a Safe Place for our Children,” dated February 15, 2019 at 5:21 PM. Used by permission.

Read more in We Too by Mary E. DeMuth

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