The first story involves TLC reality star Josh Duggar's admission to sexually molesting numerous little girls a number of years ago. When the molestation came to light, his father kept it a secret for at least a year--he then told the church elders who buried the story for a number of months prior to alerting the authorities. Josh was sent to what was first called a "training center" but it turns out it was only a family friend who simply put him to work. There is no evidence that he received professional counseling and certainly nothing seems to have been done to provide therapy and support for his victims. The police detective who took the complaint is a family friend and it turns out is now serving a 56 year sentence on child pornography charges. No charges were filed against Josh.
And then there is the story of Karen (Root) Hinkley, a former missionary to Asia with her ex-husband. While overseas, it was discovered that he was using child pornography for his sexual gratification. The sending agency brought them home and he found shelter in his very conservative church. The church indicated in an email that Jordan Root knew that he could be arrested at any minute but assured its congregation that they were taking good care of him because he was "repentant."
Karen courageously filed for an annulment of their marriage and it was granted. The judge granted an annulment rather than a divorce because she alleged that the marriage was based on fraud--that she had been deceived from the beginning. I wish I had thought of that strategy! When the church discovered that the Root's marriage had been annulled, they placed Karen in church discipline for taking such an action without their permission! Meanwhile, the real villain, the real danger to children, the man who has admitted to criminal behavior and to pedophilia is in the safe harbor of his delusional church.
Both stories illustrate what is so very wrong in conservative evangelicalism:
- Male privilege & double standards: It is still a man's world in far too many corners of the globe and especially so in fundamental religions. When men misbehave, it is chalked up to "boys being boys." However, when a woman is even perceived to have misbehaved, the hard hammer of judgment falls on her. Churches who insist on the submission of women within marriage or in the church create an atmosphere where men can do no wrong and women can do no right.
- Cheap grace & pseudo-repentance: All that the skillful and manipulative perpetrator must do is admit that he has "sinned" and seek restoration. Little thought seems to be given to verifying his version of the "sinful" events or of acknowledging the real seriousness of these crimes and the very real threat these perpetrators pose to innocent children. He says he is sorry, that he is all better now and church leadership takes him at his word. Our children pay the price for this stupidity.
- Women & children are expendable: Because women and children are not valued as highly as the men in the community, their pain is not validated as significant as that of the males. Their wounds are not properly tended to; indeed they are often not even recognized. The unstated understanding is that women exist for a man's pleasure--not too far from the women as property mentality!
- Religion is used to control the narrative rather than to seek justice: Jesus defined true religion as one that cares for the poor, the widow and the orphans. Partners of pedophiles may not be widows in the truest sense, but they have been abandoned in a profound and catastrophic way. And violated children whose parents and/or church fail to protect them vigorously and seek justice for them are orphans. Instead of protecting the vulnerable and abandoned, the church seeks to control the story, contain the damage and sweep it all under the rug, unless of course, the perpetrator is a woman.