A week and a half ago, I wrote on the unfolding sexual harassment scandal in the upper echelons of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In the days that have followed, more has come to light. Paige Patterson’s cushy fallback position was revoked after more details were revealed. Gone are the titles, the salary, the housing. On their second try, the trustees finally made the right call. It turns out that this is a pattern for Patterson, who utilized similar tactics to cover up a report of rape and silence a survivor in 2015 as the head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — not to be confused with Southeastern, the site of the 2003 cover-up. As part of the 2003 cover-up, Patterson stole the survivor’s files when he left Southeastern.
And yet the rest of the SBC leadership maintains their cowardly silence.
Writing at the Religion News Service, Jacob Lupfer lauds Albert Mohler’s “strong statement that soberly grasps the implications of what is happening,” declaring Mohler as the SBC heir-apparent. But let’s consider again Albert Mohler’s act of contrition. Nowhere in the document does he specifically mention Paige Patterson. Or his pal CJ Mahaney. He has not returned to the topic in the week and a half since. As another allegation of rape and cover-up were leveled against a major SBC institution, the president of the flagship seminary has remained silent. He hasn’t publicly called for Patterson to step down from preaching at the national convention. He hasn’t announced a policy to proactively examine policies at his own school.
This isn’t to say that Mohler has been silent. If you don’t know this already, the man talks a lot. He hosts a daily podcast called “The Briefing,” which he uses to pontificate on cultural matters for twenty-five minutes at a time. What’s he been busy talking about? Samantha Bee, Roseanne Barr, and Ireland.
A constant refrain among Southern Baptists is to call sin “sin.” The modern SBC is founded on this compulsion to label. Patterson and Mohler both rose through the ranks by excommunicating people for supporting feminism and modern biblical criticism. Prominent Southern Baptists, Mohler and Patterson included, signed a statement anathematizing Christians who disagree with them on matters of same-sex marriage. Offering an explanation of the article, Mohler’s acolyte Denny Burke writes:
Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.
And yet Mohler, Burk, and the whole lot of them are too afraid to specifically and vocally condemn Patterson by name. What are they saying about “God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue”? Might we conclude from their silence that they don’t believe rape to be a sin, and that they are therefore “rejecting Christianity altogether”?
Following their own logic, yes.
Of course, that’s merely polemic. Only the most arrogant of people would willfully misunderstand someone that way, though in my anger I certainly understand why Mohler himself frequently falls into that exact fallacy.
My point is this: Mohler made his career on attacking those he perceives as holding “unbiblical views” on sexual issues. Now that the matter is close to home, though, he is silent. He is a coward.
If Mohler really is the de facto leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, then they have a long way to go before they’re willing to fully confront the horror of sexual violence. With Mohler at the helm, the SBC will continue to oppress women and turn a blind eye to domestic abuse and sexual violence. If Albert Mohler is a sign of things to come for the Southern Baptist Convention, then the SBC is doomed to an existence of sinful and shameful silence. Under Mohler, the Southern Baptist Convention will continue to sacrifice women and children to protect the egos of old men.