Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing
Just call my name ’cause I’ll hear you scream
Master, master! (Metallica)
During summer of 2019, we were on a relaxing vacation in the Poconos. I remember sitting out on the screened-in porch early one morning as the rain fell outside with its lazy pit pit pit. It was such a peaceful place, perfect for sitting in a nice chair with a notebook, praying and meditating and drifting lazily in the deep pool of quiet introspection.
As a church whistleblower, I had been driving myself crazy with myriad questions:
- What should I have done?
- What would I have done differently?
- What was the right thing to do: Morally? Biblically? Ethically? Personally?
These were complicated questions, with just as many resulting questions as there were concrete answers.
- What did those people on the other side of the dialogue on abuse want me to do? What did they want from me?
This last question, at least, had a very simple answer:
They wanted me to be silent.
They wanted me to not ask questions. They wanted me to “forgive and forget”, with an emphasis on forget. They wanted me to pretend like everything was “all right” and just keep attending, keep giving money, keep laughing merrily at all the clowns dancing around and around and around in the Southern Baptist circus.
Taking that simple answer above, I could then run it through the previous questions – it at least gave some order to the chaos inside my soul.
- Should I have been silent?
- Was being silent the right thing to do?
- Was being silent the moral thing to do?
- Was being silent the Biblical thing to do?
- Was being silent the ethical thing to do?
- Was being silent the best thing for me and my family?
The answer, overwhelmingly, was NO. Being silent was the absolute wrong answer. Being silent did not and could not fix all the issues within our Baptist church, or any other of the hundreds of Baptist Churches in the news every single day whose church leaders have been hiding the presence of convicted child molesters from the parents within their congregation.
And the very first question snapped into place: What should I have done?
I should have spoken out earlier. I should not have accepted how our church was acting as “normal” – the path of grooming had gradually shifted the entire congregation for twelve years. I should not have allowed all the lying and manipulating from church leaders to continue. I should have spoken out sooner. I should not have let “other people deal with it”, I should have spoken out sooner.
What took me so long? It’s clear now that when we spoke out, we lost just about all of the congregation’s love and fellowship and support. Those things I had been holding onto were ultimately just a fanciful cloud that dissipated into nothing once we questioned things.
The reasons I’ve heard for continued silence are ridiculous.
- We have a reporting structure in place for when kids get abused!
- We need to tell children about Christ!
- This is making the world skeptical of Christianity!
- We need to forgive and forget! (there’s that word again… forget…)
And the excuses from the leaders covering up for abusers are even more ridiculous:
- These pesky Gen-X-ers think they need to know everything about everyone!
- We all have sin – don’t you have sin? Do you want your sins announced or paraded around?
- The blah blah blah theology of Saint Paul to the blah blah blah was grace-filled and blah blah blah!
- I never wanted to be a preacher anyway, I only did it because God wanted me here.
- That was twenty years ago, I did my time in prison for that crime.
- God forgave me, and my family forgave me, and you have no right to bring this back up now.
All of these excuses – every single one of them – ignore the reality that hiding a sex offender’s presence from parents within your congregation creates a string of other issues:
- the lying.
- the manipulating of the truth – sharing half-truths while ignoring relevant facts.
- the abuse of power.
- the attacking of others who do not agree.
- the sick twisting of scripture to rape the minds of the faithful.
- the continuous grooming and sexual exploitation of congregants by the offender. They do not ever stop! The many many statistics prove that they do not stop, they only get stealthier as they gleefully dance along the line separating legal from illegal, gaslighting all the while.
So here is my message to the church leaders who are hiding sexual abusers in our churches:
Quit lying to people. Come clean. Get help.
Each time you lie to others, to your family, to churches, to yourself… you harm people.
For those many many people who your behavior has affected, this will take a lifetime to fix.
Just stop it.
To the many abusers who still feel “called to preach” in our churches:
- You aren’t needed in the pulpit any more. It’s time to have a normal quiet life now, and just freaking stop.
- You did what you did to benefit yourself… and perhaps a hand full of your close friends and confidants.
- You are so sick in the head, you don’t know what “normal” is – you have been warped by sin, and what you think is normal acceptable behavior is not.
- You – and those like you – have injured and harmed thousands. I’ve heard their cries, I’ve listened to their stories, I’ve dried some of those tears.
As a result of your actions, I now see them and hear their voices.
I’m a part of their collective voice – the voice of the oppressed.
God is on our side, you are deluding yourself to believe He is on yours. His wrath over your sin has long been simmering and is now boiling over.
We are the revival you’ve been asking God for.
We are forcing change to the establishment, and the establishment doesn’t want to change.
We will never be silenced by abusers again.
You can try and try to manipulate us into having no voice… but it’s too late.
We will never be controlled by abusers again.