It can often seem unsavoury to think of supposedly good, pious men and women of God, being responsible for various serious crimes. We are led to believe by various religious commentators that vicars and priests and pastors are of the strongest possible moral fibre, as after all, their sense of morality is drawn from an unquestionable, objective source (please see here for why the idea of the God of the Bible as a source of morality is dubious at best).
This is why authorities do not seem to be quick to act where religion is concerned. My friend, Bruce Gerencser, has written extensively on Black Collar Crime, and he laments the sad reality that it can take years, even decades, to bring abusive pastors to justice for their crimes. People do not want to believe that the friendly-faced pastor can be a sexual predator, or a spousal abuser, so they will ignore evidence, or explain it away, or go as far as to imply the victim is lying. Indeed, victim-shaming is a popular trick among abusers, whilst society at large is often quick to dismiss victims (especially women, but men too) of sexual crime, with the implication that the victim is an attention seeker, or confused, etc.
Some fundamentalists believe Bruce’s Black Collar Crime Series is unfair. After all, Bruce is not writing about the crimes and abuse of atheists, agnostics, or the crimes of followers of other religions. What such fundamentalists forget (or deliberately choose to ignore) is that Bruce’s site is geared towards critiquing the behaviour of Evangelicals. The pastors within the fundamentalist Christian institutions Bruce examines are in positions of trust and authority in society, deeply respected, and granted deep, personal access to people’s lives. The not-infrequent betrayal of that trust, often with devastating outcomes, should be discussed, criticised, and brought to the public domain. The public has every right to be aware of what’s going on. Yes, there should be the presumption of innocence, but as Bruce recently pointed out, the vast majority of allegations against fundamentalist preachers prove to be true.
Some fundamentalists lash out against what they argue are dishonest and misleading victims, and suggest that the legal system is not equipped to judge these supposedly good men and women of God. As Bruce mentions, God has not chosen to directly intervene, and neither has Jesus, what process should we be using to address the allegations? Should we be constantly belittling the victims, and casting doubt upon their memories and honesty? Do the victims not also deserve the benefit of the doubt, or is that a privilege, reserved only for men and women of God?
What these fundamentalists also forget is that whilst victims can sometimes lies, so to can offenders. Many offenders are charismatic, and will manipulate victims into silence, by convincing the victims they will never be believed. Others will threaten and bully victims into silence. The fundamentalists also forget, as mentioned earlier, that the vast majority of cases against pastors end with a conviction, so it is usually the offender that is lying, not the victim.
Sometimes I wonder if reality will ever influence fundamentalists, or if they will forever remain blissfully unaware of the pain and anguish caused by the very people who preach the Word.