There is a brand of religious fanaticism that refuses to acknowledge wrong within its ranks. Rather, it hides it, often by punishing the innocent. For years, the Catholic church has been revealed as one such denomination, but certainly, those among our circles should not be so naive to suppose it does not happen among us.
It was not quite a year since there was national news regarding the rape of a church girl by a fundamentalist baptist deacon. The pastor(s?) told her mother to send her away to another state while she was pregnant, and then she had to give up her child. While she was away, staying with a prominent figure, she had to write an apology letter to the wife of the deacon for seducing him. The deacon was not removed from the church (I’m not sure if he was even removed from being deacon.), yet prior to being forced to leave the state, this young lady had to stand in front of the congregation and “confess.”
I am a fundamentalist, and yet I have seen these things happen repeatedly in fundamentalist churches. When my wife and I found our current church, we talked to our pastor at length, and one thing he mentioned was that people around here are repulsed by fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are not the only ones who try to hide and ignore sin, I am certain, but I have seen it by far too many pastors.
For whatever reason, pastors refuse to listen when they are asked for help, or when it is revealed to them what sin is taking place within their flock. Perhaps it is because they are too proud. They have known these members of their church for years, and the charges against them can’t possibly be true or they have been fooled for years. Or perhaps the pastor didn’t want to think he would have listened to this deacon for so long who could do such a thing. Perhaps it is laziness. It is just not worth the effort to investigate, and to counsel, and to admonish. As long as things appear fine on the outside, then things must be fine at home. Perhaps it is fear of men. Maybe this is fear of giving, or fear of a church split. I do not know why these overseers of God’s flock refuse to purge out the bad, but it is driving people from Christ.
Kids that have suffered from physical, emotional, and psychological abuse are not willing to seek help. After much persuasion, they are finally willing to seek help from someone who they look up to, the pastor of the church. In response they are told: “Pray about it” (Not to discount prayer, but this is not the time to say “be warmed and filled” and go back to that abuse.) “You are rebellious.” “You are running from God.” “You are dishonoring your parents and displeasing to the Lord.” “You are on your way to Hell.”
The kids grow up and leave, and question within themselves whether God is good. They have not seen a picture of the God of the Bible. No, they have seen an unjust, and whimsical god in their parents and a merciless god of law in their pastor. They let go of any standard they had been told for they want nothing to do with the religion of their parents, nor their parents’ church.
People write articles and debate the reasons for fundamentalism dying. They argue about why the young people of my generation are leaving the movement, and why there are only old cranky people left. Is there really any wonder why?
It seems that mostly, this is always the weaker (in status, money, class, etc.) that is the victim. Too often this is children. At some point, pastors and churches have come to have a sincere distrust of children. This distrust extends to thinking of them as liars, and their parents as truthful. It is forgotten that the heart is deceitful above all things, not kids/poor/other being deceitful above all things. (Distrust of kids probably tends to stem from a lack of proper parenting, but this is a post for another day) Certainly, kids lie. But the seriousness of the issue should shock away any complacency towards these parents.
The Bible speaks of wisdom as discernment. A wise man of God will be able to prevent the false accusations towards the innocent and will work Biblically for discipline in the church to restore to fellowship with God those truly in sin, while protecting the innocent as much as possible.
If you are not outraged by this sin within our churches, what will it take?