Despite my loathing for the way so many conservative Christian churches deal with abuse issues — if they deal with the at all — I’m pleased the Southern Baptist Convention is tackling its history of turning a blind eye to abuse. As abuse survivor and attorney Rachel Denhollander says, the third-party investigation into abuse is way more than the Catholic Church has ever done. But as she says in another article, the SBC “is 10 years behind everyone else in its understanding of abuse.”
In the long run how we judge them on this depends how things play out. The SBC is in a position to change, but institutional inertia (as Denhollander notes) is a powerful thing — as the saying goes, changing a large organization is like teaching an elephant to dance. Plenty of pastors and church leaders dismissed dealing with the issue as a distraction from preaching the gospel. We have men such as Franklin Graham who (allegedly, not that I doubt the allegations) told an abuse victim that as her husband wasn’t beating her every single night she should go back to him. He also lied about Christine Blasey Ford during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, claiming Ford’s statement proves Kavanaugh stopped when she said no (he didn’t).
Even if SBC do a good job on this, it doesn’t excuse them being viciously anti gay rights or opposed to churches that ordain women. And it may be years before things play out enough to see if they’ve really changed. I think Fred Clark’s discussion of evangelicals and slavery gets close to what I’m thinking about.
First, it’s not whether I approve of the SBC that matters. It’s that if they change, that means justice and better support for future victims, and steps to reduce the number of future victims. That’s a good thing, even if the church remains otherwise horrendous.
Second, change may also require deconstructing the church’s view of women. How did their theology (which as I’ve said before is the fruit of a poisonous tree) shape their view of women who reported abuse and assault? Did their belief in purity culture and their enthusiasm for Trump shape their theology? If they identify where they went wrong, will they have the courage to reassess and change? I will be glad if they do but they have a long way to go first.
In other women-related news:
Karen Attiah wonders if America could accept a muscular She-Hulk.
Federal legislation would make it possible to sue partners who remove condoms before penetration.
Bill Cosby’s civil trial for assault has to start jury deliberations over.
Even if Republicans don’t ban contraceptives, many American women live in contraceptive deserts.
Republican states adding Medicaid benefits for new mothers does not balance out for banning abortion but it is a good thing.
Is cheerleading a sport? And why it’s significant legally if it isn’t.
Monica Hesse points out that transgender bans in sports assume all that matters is winning.
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