.. a savvy political strategist who ruled through a combination of fear, folksy humor and a laserlike focus on protecting the idea of an inerrant Bible.
.. he was fired from his job as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for allegedly lying about and mishandling complaints of student rape.
.. Until a few weeks ago, he had been an icon in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, credited with keeping the movement from sliding into liberalism, in part by codifying traditional gender roles for men and women that included a ban on women in the pulpit.
.. The consolidation of conservative power between the late 1970s and early ’90s, known by its Southern Baptist supporters as “the Conservative Resurgence” and its critics as the “Conservative Takeover,
.. Son of a major Convention power broker in Texas, long the most powerful state in the movement
.. Patterson was a prolific preacher before he was 20.
.. He was the equivalent of a “Baptist crown prince,”
.. The takeover, which lasted over a decade, was no-holds-barred, with Patterson keeping files on ideological opponents and cultivating spies in seminaries
.. Patterson had been “likened to the Rev. Jim Jones and Joe McCarthy” by his critics
.. “He’s been reviled as a power-mad fundamentalist on a witch hunt for heretics.”
.. the effort was focused on protecting inerrancy
.. But it was also informed deeply by the rising American feminist movement and increased debate about abortion.
.. Until the 1980s, Southern Baptist women were still being ordained
.. Polls into the 1970s also showed the vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors supported some access to abortion.
.. Patterson and his wife, Dorothy, were like the king and queen of what the movement came to call “biblical manhood and womanhood.” Dorothy Patterson, who was highly educated, wrote books about femininity and the proper Christian woman.
.. “He loves and delights my soul, He protects and possesses my body, He teaches and edifies my spirit, He praises and challenges my mind. . . . He is friend and counselor, husband and lover, pastor and teacher, inspiration and ideal,” she wrote of her husband in the 1976 book “The Sensuous Woman Reborn.”
.. By the mid-1990s the seminaries and state conventions were largely purged of moderates and liberals.
Many women who were studying to be pastors or who taught classes that included male students were forced out or left.
.. he had a quality whose power Americans in 2018 can recognize: He was an elite who was able to come across like a common man. His supporters describe him as a “teddy bear” and a practical jokester.
.. “That resonated with those small church pastors and evangelists who felt the academics were looking down on them,” Finn said “He was very sensitive to the charge that conservatives were dummies.”
.. recorded comments surfaced of Patterson saying he counseled abused women to remain with their husbands and making remarks seen as objectifying a teenage girl and criticizing the physical appearance of female seminary students.
.. Trustee Board Chairman Kevin Ueckert, in a June 1 statement, alleged that a Southwestern female student reported to Patterson that she had been raped, and police were called.
.. Patterson emailed campus security — Ueckert said trustees saw that email — and “discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could ‘break her down.’ ”
.. In the weeks since these cases surfaced, many other women have described less dramatic experiences
.. Patterson told her he would treat it as a “he said-she said” until he spoke to the professor — who denied everything. That was the end of the process
.. Younger Southern Baptist leaders saw him as an embarrassment with his cowboy gear, big-game trophies and what they perceived as anachronistic comments.
.. They winced at his 2008 testimony in the case of a female theology professor he fired (for being female), in which he said the Bible indicates societies ruled by women are “wicked.” Or the way he brought the 1950s to the 2000s in his seminaries with female employees being told not to wear pants.
.. Unlike Patterson’s generation, younger leaders don’t hesitate to speak out strongly against abuse and overt sexism. But what does that mean for their views of the place of women in society and in the church?
.. said Patterson’s fall is clearly orchestrated by progressives in the denomination who want to challenge the conservative status quo. The timing just before the annual meeting is suspicious, he said.
.. “To me it’s quite obvious,” he said. “This is about the Bible being inerrant. Then if you can argue that the Bible has errors, then it opens doors up for all sorts of things that have been nontraditional.”
He lied about his treatment of an alleged rape victim in 2003, and in 2015 he tried to isolate another woman who had reported a sexual assault from the seminary’s chief of security so he could “break her down
.. Many Southern Baptists considered that decision too lenient because it allowed Patterson to remain on staff as “president emeritus” with compensation and the ability to retire on campus.
.. in 2003 when Patterson was president there had come to Patterson alleging she had been been raped by her then-boyfriend and was encouraged by him not to go to police and to forgive the man she said had assaulted her.
.. Megan Lively identified herself on Twitter as the person in the Post article.
.. Patterson is revered in the Southern Baptist Convention for his role in steering the denomination in a conservative direction
.. “People have always been afraid of him. Not anymore,” Lively said on Friday night.
.. Ueckert said Scott Colter’s wife, Sharayah Colter, published a blog post contesting Lively’s account of the event in 2003 and attached documents without the permission of the students referenced in the documents or from leaders of either seminary. “I believe this was inappropriate and unethical,” Ueckert said.
.. In the blog post published Thursday, Colter said Patterson “is not guilty of all of which he has been accused in recent days.” She posted letters, appearing to show correspondence between Lively and Patterson, that do not state that the two of them met in person as Lively has maintained. However, none of the documents appear to directly contradict Lively’s story. Lively said that
In the blog post published Thursday, Colter said Patterson “is not guilty of all of which he has been accused in recent days.” She posted letters, appearing to show correspondence between Lively and Patterson, that do not state that the two of them met in person as Lively has maintained. However, none of the documents appear to directly contradict Lively’s story. Lively said that the documents Colter published had been altered and that the original ones had referenced three meetings with Patterson.
.. Ueckert said Patterson wrote an email to the chief of campus security at the time in which he “discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could ‘break her down’ and that he preferred no officials be present.
.. “For 15 years of my life, I thought I did something wrong,” Lively said. “It wasn’t until Dr. Akin told me I didn’t that I firmly believed it.
.. the publication of statements he made starting in 2000 about the Bible’s view of women and his beliefs about spousal abuse and why it does not serve as grounds for divorce.
“As I’ve said before, he shamed the crap out of me,” Lively said after seeing the statement. “He tried to ‘break her down.’ My story is almost identical to this girl’s story.”
.. Akin said he believes files that would help an investigation of the incident were taken from Southeastern when Patterson left. Ueckert said in a statement that Southwestern has located those documents and is working on returning them to Southeastern.
.. Ahead of the board’s May 22 decision to demote Patterson, two Southern Baptists on President Trump’s evangelical advisory board, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas and Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, commented in support of Patterson in conservative media.
Such a God might, for instance, offer political success as a temptation rather than a reward — or use an unexpected presidency not to save Americans but to chastise them.
.. so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the “world-historical calamity” sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.
.. That exposure came first for the Republican Party’s establishment, who were revealed as something uncomfortably close to liberal caricature in their mix of weakness, cynicism and power worship. It came next for the technocrats and the data nerds of the Democratic Party, who were revealed as ineffectual, clueless and self-regarding ..
.. And then it came for a range of celebrated media men, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer ..
.. It has come as well for figures whose style anticipated him (Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, that whole ménage) and for figures who have deliberately attached themselves to his populist revolt. The sins of Roy Moore were more exposed by the Trump era, and now likewise the racist paranoia of Roseanne Barr.
.. a similar moral exposure has come to precisely the sector of American Christianity where support for Donald Trump ran strongest — the denominational heart of conservative evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist Convention.
.. The main case is Paige Patterson, the now-erstwhile president of a major Baptist seminary in Fort Worth, who was eased into retirement over revelations that he’d counseled abused women to return to their husbands and allegedly shamed and silenced at least one rape victim.
.. Patterson is a beginning, not an end.
.. Late last year I wrote an essay speculating about the possibility of an “evangelical crisis” in this era, driven by the gap between the older and strongly pro-Trump constituency in evangelical churches and those evangelicals, often younger, who either voted for the president reluctantly or rejected his brand of politics outright.
.. “the big story behind the story of Patterson’s fall is a high-stakes showdown between two generations of Southern Baptist leaders.” Both generations are theologically conservative, but the figures raising their voices against Patterson have been — generally — associated with a vision of their church that’s more countercultural, less wedded to the institutional Republican Party, more likely to see racial reconciliation as essential to the Baptist future and intent on proving that a traditional theology of sex need not lead to sexism.
.. Whereas Patterson’s defenders represent — again, to generalize — the more pro-Trump old guard in the Baptist world, with a strong inclination toward various forms of chauvinism and Christian nationalism.
.. It is not a coincidence that Russell Moore, perhaps the most prominent anti-Trump Baptist, provided early support to Patterson’s critics — while Robert Jeffress, whose Dallas church sets “Make America Great Again” to music, labeled the calls for Patterson’s resignation a “witch hunt.”
.. it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed. A discredited “old guard” doesn’t automatically lose power; a chauvinism revealed doesn’t just evaporate. And the temptation to dismiss discomfiting revelations as fake news, to retreat back into ignorance and self-justification, is at least as powerful as the impulse to really reckon with the truth.
.. So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?