Monday, February 19, 2024

The Lawyer, The King, And The Would-Be President

The Lawyer 

Turns out, the two "heroes" of the Southern Baptist 'Conservative Resurgence' were: 
  1. a tone-deaf autocrat who specialized in using DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim & Offender) to bully sexual assault victims and protect his friends & proteges
  2. a deeply cynical lawyer who used his position of power to actively groom and sexually assault young men over decades 
It's become clear that not only was Paul Pressler (the lawyer) passed over for a presidential ethics commission due to "undisclosed issues" but that the law firm and lawyer who handled all of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention business for years knew that discovery in a civil suit would reveal sordid details about Pressler and his abuse of young men. The lawsuit was settled late last year... because it became obvious that all of this would spill out into open court.

I have spent the last month sick at my stomach - my heart and mind churning at how I defended the institution of the SBC for years, believing that by fighting from the inside for Christ-like behavior and fidelity to our stated mission to share the love of Jesus Christ that it would make a difference. 

I know that there are many people of goodwill and great faith in SBC congregations... I've been privileged to lead and be led by them. I am deeply thankful for the education I received at Baptist institutions (Baylor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and the mentoring I had from faithful Baptist leaders. And I am convinced that the majority of my faithful mentors would be horrified and angered by this wholesale betrayal of the Christian faith by the leadership of the denomination.

But, frankly, I'm exhausted by the drumbeat of scandals, coverups, and insipid excuses. (The recent stupidity of SBC entities filing amicus briefs against an abuse victim in Kentucky is both a public relations disaster and a clear indicator that protection of the institutions is more important than truth or justice.)

The King

I am deeply wearied by arguments like "God uses broken vessels" and "look at King David". In fact, let's look at King David and the havoc his sexual assault of Bathsheba wrought in his life and hers.
  • summoned Bathsheba to rape her
  • was responsible for her pregnancy
  • got her husband drunk in an attempt to cover up the pregnancy
  • ordered Joab to abandon her husband on the battlefield so he would die, thus freeing David to marry his widow
  • ignored the rape of his daughter by his son (her half-brother)
  • banished the son (Absalom) who murdered the rapist son two years later
  • was manipulated multiple times by Joab based on the fallout from the initial decision to take Bathsheba
  • brought back Absalom but shunned him for two years
  • Absalom undermined David's leadership & led a revolt
  • David was forced to flee for his life
  • David is betrayed by multiple key leaders
  • Joab murders Absalom to end the rebellion
  • And then more rebellions happen...
Actions matter. There are consequences. Sinful behavior has a ripple effect in your life and in the lives of those around you. The greater your position of influence, the greater the ripple effect.

So, when the two "heroes" of the Southern Baptist 'Conservative Resurgence' turn out to be unrepentant abusers and enablers, it has a powerful and heart-rending effect on those who are trying to follow Christ.

The Would-Be President

When we move into the current political arena, sinful behavior still has a ripple effect in your life and the lives of those around you. The greater your position of influence, the more profound the effect of your choices and consequences.

The Southern Baptist Convention in 1998 stated this clearly in their Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials:
"Governing authorities are not themselves exempt from the rule of law and must submit to the nation’s statutes, rather than mocking them (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:14; Proverbs 19:28-29; 2 Samuel 12:7; Mark 6:17-18)...

"Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment (1 Kings 16:30; Isaiah 5:18-25)...

"We implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character...

"We urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character."
Instead, evangelicals seem hellbent (pun intended) on pushing forward a candidate for the president who currently is facing 91 felony counts in four different trials as well as three civil trials, two of which so far have saddled him and his companies with nearly 90 million dollars in judgements for being judged liable for doing what he clearly explained to Billy Bush in 2005 that he could do whenever he wanted:
"I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the p*ssy. You can do anything." 
In 2022, the former president doubled down on this during a deposition for one of his civil trials:
KAPLAN: And you say – and again this has become very famous – in this video, ‘“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p*ssy. You can do anything.” That’s what you said. Correct?

TRUMP: Well, historically, that’s true with stars.

KAPLAN: It’s true with stars that they can grab women by the p*ssy?

TRUMP: Well, that’s what, if you look over the last million years I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.

KAPLAN: And you consider yourself to be a star?

TRUMP: I think you can say that. Yeah.

The unbelieving world is watching. We evangelicals don't have sacrifice abuse survivors or Biblical truth on the altars of political power and institutional stability. But it certainly looks like we're going to do it again.

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

Brennan Manning

We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches. 

Russell Moore