Saturday, May 23, 2015

Heartbroken and Angry

Two recent news accounts of childhood sexual molestation, child pornography ad the church's response have reignited anger and sadness in my heart.  I have felt for a long time that the evangelical church is facing a crisis much larger than what the Catholic Church faced when it comes to perpetrators operating within its walls.  Churches are probably the last safe hideout for perpetrating pedophiles and it seems that the more conservative the church, the greater likelihood that molesters are at work.

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.
I'm angry.  I'm disappointed in the institution I have been a part of for my entire lifetime.  And I'm sad--sad for the victims whose cries are ignored or stifled--sad that the Gospel is so perverted by those whose aim is control and power rather than justice and mercy.  Dear God, save us from ourselves!


  1. Thank you. I've been so angry at the stupid in the church and these events just take the cake. I believe there is a really twisted priority in the church right now where leadership training and men leading in the home is more important than true religion at home and abroad, by which I do not necessarily mean foreign missions. The church of God needs to wake up and start asking those teaching such things, "who do you think you are?!" Thank you for saying this. We all need humility and to grieve over this sin.

  2. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. Sometimes it takes an extreme example to mobilize for change. Let's pray that these events do just that.

  3. Shared on A Cry For Justice's facebook page, and twitter, and google+.

    Well done, Brenda! You put it in a nutshell.

  4. Your comments about how the church handled the Root situation are misleading. Did you read the entirety of the emails and texts and the updates? Jordan has been questioned by authorities. The church repeatedly acknowledges Karen is a victim. Its job is to help broken people–those who need help so they don't hurt others, as well as those who need help so they aren't hurt by others. Trying to do both is extremely complex and difficult. The church doesn't get a pass for its sins, but to pretend like it swept everything under a rug to protect a pedophile is nonsense and dangerous untruth.

    1. John, I did read all of the emails several times and you are right, it is a complex situation. However, it seems that while the church may "acknowledge" that Karen is a victim, they are not treating her like one. Or maybe they are--maybe they treat all victims with this same callous behavior.

      And I fear that their "support" of Jordan is naive at best, and a collusion at its worst. Pedophilia is not something that can be prayed away--it requires years of intensive therapy by highly trained and skilled therapists. And even then, it is very resistant to change.

      Church leadership who think they can control, contain or manage a pedophile intentionally place the children in the congregation at great risk. Pedophiles are so skilled at manipulating, deceiving and molesting in plain sight. This is not something to be taken lightly and it certainly is way beyond the training, skill set and discernment of pastors, elders and those in leadership within the church.

    2. I would agree with Brenda. Ultimately, Karen has been forced to leave her home church because they have welcomed back her paedophile ex-husband with open arms. We're seeing exactly what Brenda perceptively noted: double standards and treating women as expendable.

  5. Here we have situations where ones standing in the place of the religious leaders on the road to Jericho have not merely passed by ones who have been, as it were, robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead—they have gone chasing after the robbers in order to minister cheap grace and easy forgiveness. Worse, they have returned to heap responsibility, blame, abuse and magnified devastation on female targets and victims of entitled and predatory males.

    There appears to be a greater tendency to re-victimize women than men. Surely it has been so since Adam blamed Eve for his own transgression. Yet today the double standard has been formalized under the guise of complementarianism. The complementarians, including Ms. Hinkley’s former “pastor,” may protest that “man and woman are absolutely equal in essence, value and dignity” (, but this assertion is no more than a fancy dress adorning a pig named Misogyny.

    My suspicion is that what we have here is an outworking of an unrecognized dualistic worldview or mindset wherein men are assigned to the category of the spiritual and good, while women are assigned to the category of the material and evil. I would further posit that the driving force behind this mindset is the tendency of (historically empowered) men to project their own fleshly failings onto (historically un-empowered) women.

    It is easier to identify error than to prescribe solutions. Perhaps it would help if we, both women and men, would simply refuse to participate in any supposed Christian fellowship in which one party claims the right to define the terms of relationship on the basis of authority, as opposed to love. Mt. 20:25-28. This would apply to marriage as well as to, e.g., church membership.

    1. Gary, as usual your assessment is right on! Thanks for chiming in and for passionately caring about the rights of the marginalized. Oh that more men had your attitude.

  6. Thank you. Your article describes exactly why we exist. We shared it on our FB page. Bless you.

  7. sending up prayers this eve for survivors and victims everywhere