The sin of silence

The epidemic of denial about sexual abuse in the evangelical church

Rachael Denhollander’s college-aged abuser began grooming her when she was 7. Each week, as Denhollander left Sunday school at Westwood Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, Mich., he was there to walk her to her parents’ Bible-study classroom on the other side of the building. He brought Denhollander gifts and asked her parents for her clothing size so he could buy her dresses. He was always a little too eager with a hug. The Denhollanders led one of the church’s ministries out of their home, which meant the man would visit their house regularly, often encouraging Rachael to sit on his lap, they recalled.

The man’s behavior caught the attention of a fellow congregant, who informed Sandy Burdick, a licensed counselor who led the church’s sexual-abuse support group. Burdick says she warned Denhollander’s parents that the man was showing classic signs of grooming behavior.

.. And so when Larry Nassar used his prestige as a doctor for the USA Gymnastics program to sexually assault Denhollander, she held to her vow. She wouldn’t put her family through something like that again. Her church had made it clear: No one believes victims.

.. Tchividjian says sexual abuse in evangelicalism rivals the Catholic Church scandal of the early 2000s.

.. The sex advice columnist and LGBT rights advocate Dan Savage, tired of what he called the hypocrisy of conservatives who believe that gays molest children, compiled his own list that documents more than 100 instances of youth pastors around the country who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting.

.. Over 2016 and 2017, Mullen found 192 instances of a leader from an influential church or evangelical institution being publicly charged with sexual crimes involving a minor, including rape, molestation, battery and child pornography. (This data did not include sexual crimes against an adult or crimes committed by someone other than a leader.)

.. a 2014 GRACE report on Bob Jones University ..

56 percent of the 381 respondents who reported having knowledge of the school’s handling of abuse (a group that included current and former students, as well as employees) believed that BJU conveyed a “blaming and disparaging” attitude toward victims.

.. half said school officials had actively discouraged them from going to the police. According to one anonymous respondent, after he finally told the police about years of sexual abuse by his grandfather, a BJU official admonished him that “[you] tore your family apart, and that’s your fault,” and “you love yourself more than you love God.”

.. she was told that her husband “was not attracted to his 11-year-old daughter but rather to the ‘woman’ she ‘was becoming.’ ”

.. Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said President Trump’s “grab them by the p—y” comments and other crude language didn’t matter because “all of us are sinners.” 

.. 39 percent of evangelicals were more likely to vote for Moore after multiple accusations that he’d initiated sexual contact with teenagers when he was in his 30s. “It comes down to a question [of] who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University, said at the time. “. . . And I believe [Moore] is telling the truth.”

.. It was the same message 7-year-old Denhollander heard: Stay silent, because the church won’t believe you.

.. Why are so many evangelicals (who also devote resources to fighting sex trafficking or funding shelters for battered women) so dismissive of the women in their own pews?

.. many worshipers he encountered felt persecuted by the secular culture around them — and disinclined to reach out to their persecutors for help in solving problems. This is the same dynamic that drove a cover-up culture among ultra-Orthodox communities in New York, where rabbis insisted on dealing with child abusers internally

.. 41 percent of Americans believe that the end times will occur before 2050.

.. In some evangelical teachings, a severe moral decay among unbelievers precedes the rapture of the faithful. Because of this, many evangelicals see the outside world as both a place in need of God’s love and a corrupt, fallen place at odds with the church.

.. “His interest was in protecting the church and its reputation more than protecting his daughter.”

.. forced to reconcile a cognitive dissonance: How can the church — often called “the hope of the world” in evangelical circles — also be an incubator for such evil?

.. SGC president C.J. Mahaney’s return to ministry. Mahaney had been asked to step down from his role in 2011 because of “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy.” In 2012, a class-action lawsuit held that eight SGC pastors, including Mahaney, had covered up sexual abuse in the church. Mahaney and the SGC claimed vindication when a judge dismissed the lawsuit for eclipsing the statute of limitations.

.. Denhollander says she told her church’s leaders this was inappropriate, as Mahaney had never acknowledged a failure to properly handle allegations of sexual abuse under his leadership.

.. when Denhollander went public with accusations against Larry Nassar in the Indianapolis Star, a pastor accused her of projecting her story onto Mahaney’s. When she persisted, he told her she should consider finding a new church.

..  in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 4 women (women make upapproximately 55 percent of evangelicals) and 1 in 9 men have been sexually abused.

.. Denhollander was there; she spoke at length in the courtroom, reminding Nassar that the Christian concept of forgiveness comes from “repentance, which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase” it.

Roy Moore vows to ‘take off the gloves’ in the final weeks of Senate campaign

Casting his campaign as a “spiritual battleagainst “the immorality of our time,” Alabama Republican Roy Moore vowed Monday to “take off the gloves” in the final weeks of his Senate race so he can establish a clear contrast with his Democratic opponent.

.. Moore cast the allegations in biblical terms, saying they demonstrated the end-of-time deceptions of ancient prophecy. “In the last days, perilous times shall come,” Moore said, quoting from the book of Timothy. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection . . . trucebreakers, false accusers.”

.. Moore returned repeatedly to the record of his opponent, Doug Jones, reading to the crowd a long passage from a recent interview to argue that the Democrat is out of step with the people of Alabama on

  • judges,
  • abortion,
  • immigration,
  • Obamacare
  • and other issues.

.. “I oppose transgender rights,” Moore said. “I don’t believe Christians hate anybody. I don’t hate anybody. But I do hate sin.”

Global Warming, God and the “End Times”

For a significant number of Americans, the reality, causes and meaning of global warming are seen through the lens of their religious beliefs. Some reject the evidence that humans are causing global warming because they believe God controls the climate. Others believe that global warming is evidence that the world will be ending soon, and that we don’t need to worry about global warming in light of the approaching apocalypse.

.. One in seven Americans think it is definitely (7%) or probably (9%) true that “God controls the climate, therefore people can’t be causing global warming.”1