Cal Thomas: Child abuse reckoning in Southern Baptist churches

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up, Cal Thomas on the heartbreaking revelations about abuse in Southern Baptist churches.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: When I first heard that hundreds of leaders in Southern Baptist churches had sexually abused as many as 700 children, my first reaction was “how could they?” It was the same reaction I had to the scandal of predatory priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

I have belonged to Southern Baptist churches in the past, so I know something about their proud “independent” status. Some critics say the lack of a central authority in these churches contributed to failed oversight. But the Catholic Church has plenty of central authority and oversight. Structure does not appear to be the culprit, since abuse happens with extensive oversight and without it.

So what does explain such inexcusable behavior?

One contributing factor—it’s not the only one—involves the prevalent use of pornography, even by pastors.

An online study of nearly 3,000 adults, teenagers, and pastors conducted by the Barna Group found most pastors have struggled with porn.

Southern Baptist leaders need to address that issue. They also need to reach out to victims, something Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear acknowledged last week. He tweeted, quote—“We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them.”

There are at least two other considerations the denomination must address. It is likely that many abuse victims will not only leave their churches, as many Catholics have done, but possibly abandon their faith altogether. If this is what God allows, they might say, I want nothing to do with Him.

The other thought is a warning. Many people probably think their pastors and church leaders are above such sin. But consider the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who notes the potential for evil resides at some level in all of us: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Southern Baptist pastors may wish to ponder and deliver a series of sermons on the meaning of these additional words from Jeremiah: “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for, says the Lord.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.

(Photo/Getty Images/Loren Elliott/AFP) A report on abuse in Southern Baptist churches in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle.

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