systemic?

The dictionary defines systemic as:

“of, relating to, or common to a system”

“systemic” in Frederick C. Mish, ed., Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

The discussion on the fundamentalist blogosphere lately has been very heated over stories of scandal and sexual abuse in or connected with ministries widely viewed as fundamentalist. (I phrase it that way because some may dispute the fundie credentials of some of these ministries.)

I really don’t want to get into a “fact-finding-fault-finding” scream-a-thon here. But Bob Bixby brings the word ‘systemic’ to the discussion and others have said similar things. By systemic, Bob says he means

I think it is right to say that she was wrongly treated because of a systemic abuse of victims in fundamentalist circles. I insist on the word “systemic” because I do not think that IFB people consciously scheme about how to make people suffer.

I do agree that abuse is systemic in the culture of IFB. It is systemic because of the general IFB understanding of church, discipline, sin, authority, and the Bible.

So… systemic… “of, relating to, or common to a system”

(Now, before we go on, let’s note that Bob is broadening the topic from sexual abuse to ‘abuse of victims’ and that this issue is ‘systemic’ because of the IFB “understanding of church, discipline, sin, authority, and the Bible.” Bob is painting with a very broad brush and using the current scandal to attack his favorite whipping boy, independent Baptist Fundamentalism.)

But is ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘child abuse’ systemic to Christian fundamentalism?

A friend of mine sent me a few links tonight about another very very tragic and disgusting story about another independent Baptist and another scandal. I’m not going to include any links, its just a completely disgusting story. In this case, it appears there is a serious sin issue, this time on the part of a pastor. That’s all the details I’ll give.

But the story gave me pause. Not another one! And then again, this question came to mind: is ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘child abuse’ systemic to Christian fundamentalism?

Because if it is, every right thinking fundamentalist needs to GET OUT, fast.

How to test this out? I decided to do a few searches on Google. The first was for ‘evangelical underage inappropriate’; ‘fundamentalist underage inappropriate’; and ‘school teacher underage inappropriate’.

The results:

  1. EUA = About 415,000 results (0.09 seconds)
  2. FUA = About 319,000 results (0.26 seconds)
  3. STUA = About 1,830,000 results (0.15 seconds)

Please note that the terms ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘evangelical’ are loosely used in the press, so for instance my search on ‘fundamentalist …’ picked up hits on Mormon Fundamentalism right at the top of the page.

Also, while these search terms are perhaps a little generic, if you look at the searches, you will be able to see that they pick up stories and articles of the sort we are talking about. So I think the terms are ‘good enough’. I didn’t want to get too specific for fear of picking up sites that are themselves inappropriate. It is possible that some of them are still included in the lists these searches give, so use with caution.

I certainly don’t have time to sift through 2.5 million Google hits, but I did look at one article that led me to another. The first article is entitled Sexual abuse within fundamentalist and other evangelical churches. The site is sort of religious, but not Christian. It starts off citing the Catholic scandals that came to light since 2000, mostly in North America and Europe. They make this significant statement in the second paragraph:

Sexual abuse is found throughout society. Approximately 1% of girls are so abused by their fathers before puberty, and about 1% by their step-fathers. Abuse of boys is at a lower level. There is really no reliable data which demonstrates whether religion plays a role in this phenomenon. We have never located any trustworthy evidence that sexual abuse of pre-pubertal children is higher or lower in fundamentalist/other evangelical churchees (sic) when compared to the Roman Catholic Church, other faith groups, or in society as a whole.

They go on to cite someone’s report of a Focus on the Family program and note that the vast majority of sexual scandal in evangelical churches involves inappropriate relationships of staff with adult parishioners.

Now… a caveat: I am not sure how reliable the statements on this site are. They are reasonably stated, but I have no way of verifying them.

This site also links to several lists of cases in various denominations that appear on another cite. Here are the lists:

I think all the cases cited here are accurate, but I haven’t attempted to go through all the stories and read up on the supporting documents. I have no idea if these lists are exhaustive or if they are limited by only a certain time period.

I cite them to note that the ‘religious’ site linking to them under the heading ‘Sexual abuse within fundamentalist and other evangelical churches’ is pointing to precious few, if any, actual fundamentalist churches. Go ahead and sift through the list (if you can stomach it). I think you will see that my observation is correct.

What is the point of all this?

I think that we can say that child sexual abuse is not systemic to fundamentalism or evangelicalism or even to Catholicism.

Please note especially the number of hits I got with my searches, comparing evangelicals, fundamentalists, and school teachers. We could say, simply based on the number of hits, that such behaviour is much more systemic of the educational system, could we not?

But really, I don’t even want to say something like that. I will say that child sexual abuse seems to be systemic to the human condition. I don’t know if it is more prevalent in Europe and North America than elsewhere, who can tell? I suspect that it is on the rise because of the widespread over-sexed culture we live in. Men (and women) are immersed in sexuality, have established deep habit patterns in their souls and are twisted and perverted in their thinking.

It is no surprise that such sins show up at church.

And we make no excuses for covering such sins, or allowing perpetrators to ‘get away with it’. As pastors, we must be vigilant in so many ways: vigilant over ourselves, vigilant over our church leaders, over all volunteers, over every program of the church involving children.

But can we make a plea to drop the ‘systemic’ claptrap? It is completely unhelpful to the problem in general and does nothing to provide aid for any current specific case. It is just a cheap shot at fundamentalism by several who are exploiting a tragedy currently in the news for the purpose of furthering their own animus towards fundamentalism.

don_sig2

UPDATE: In the comments I mention a Canadian columnist, a Catholic, defending his church against the charges of abuse. He makes some significant points that relate to the ‘systemic’ charge. Before you leap to condemn fundamentalism on this point, you should consider what he says:

The vast majority of sexual abuse occurs in the family, generally by step-brothers and boyfriends of mothers.

The next highest amount comes from teachers. These two institutions and people account for more than 75% of all charges, compared to less than 2% for the church.

Next are sports coaches, with some horribly infamous cases in hockey.

Other sports are equally bad, with one swimming coach in the United States being moved from team to team even after he was revealed as a pedophile.

Secular youth groups such as Scouts also experience abuse, as do synagogues, mosques and Protestant churches, foster homes, youth clubs and pretty much anywhere else.

In fact, a Catholic Church today is arguably the safest place for a young person to be. But the church is held to a higher standard and that is entirely appropriate.

Comments

  1. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Thanks Don, your last paragraph nails this whole issue that is out there concerning some. I have been in churches (two different ones) where abuse has occured and in both cases as soon as the abuse was known by the powers that be, it was dealt with Biblically, both in the church setting and with the local authorities, where it was necessary. I have heard of other churches in similar situations do the same. This is just my limited observations.
    These who are using this to “whip” Fundamentalism ought to read and study a bit James 4:11. Hiebert’s comments on the first sentence (Speak not evil one of another, brethren) were quite startlingly similar to the current tirade against IFB churches.
    So sad to see people seek personal profit and gain from others abuses.

  2. d4v34x says:

    Last I looked, Bixby Jr. was independent, Baptist, and fundamentalistic. Not sure how he can be his own whipping boy.

    I understand your larger point Don, but on the other hand, if there are aspects of our “system” that facilitate these incidents and improper handling, isn’t it good to discuss those aspects and potential corrections?

    • Interesting word choice, Dave. ‘Fundamentalistic’ isn’t the same as ‘Fundamentalist’ is it? By Bob’s own declarations he is on the outside of fundamentalism and by his associations and general direction one would have to agree that his declarations are honest, at least. He clearly has a great deal of animus towards fundamentalism and issues like this are used to simply spew the hatred.

      No, there are no aspects of our ‘system’ as fundamentalists that facilitate these incidents and improper handling. I am quite confident to make that assertion.

      Is there something about how people in churches gather that facilitates such incidents? If we are not wise and careful, there can be. Is there something about how church officials handle such things that leads to improper handling? Certainly ignorance and pride can lead to improper handling.

      So as such, there should be wise instruction at the college/seminary level for young ministers. There should be seminars and materials for current pastors to absorb and implement. Internet gossip forums are hardly the likely place for these things to happen.

      I first learned about these issues some years ago when my brother picked a book for a reading group we are in: When Child Abuse Comes to Church by Bill Anderson. An excellent book, by the way. Following that, our insurance company here insisted that we have a written child abuse policy and that we teach it to our Sunday school teachers. They continue to send educational material to us on a regular basis. While I find the subject distasteful, it is absolutely essential that we know what we are about with respect to preventing abuse as much as possible and with respect to handling the aftermath, if, God forbid, we ever have an aftermath to handle.

      That is how Christian ministers and workers should educate themselves about this.

      That is not what is going on with Bixby, Zichterman, and most of the commenters on Sharper Iron. They are exploiting a young woman who was abused to further their war against fundamentalism.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. I liked Bob Hayton’s take on it. He calls out some specific unique characteristics of IFB that can exacerbate such situations, including a “persecution mindset and remnant mentality”.

    “While all IFB churches aren’t abusing and covering up abuse, they do nevertheless share a propensity for it. The preacher as “man of God” teaching, the emphasis on authority and control, the lack of openness by church leaders, often no accountability for senior pastors, no denominational checks and balances, a persecution mindset and remnant mentality, a tendency toward externals and legalism, emphasis on corporeal punishment — all this can combine to make IFB churches in general susceptible to such abuse. IFB churches need to admit this and work to safeguard their churches from the horrific evils of physical and sexual abuse. I know many of them do, but more can be done to take a stand against this widespread problem. Sadly, the case in New Hampshire is but the tip of the iceberg.”

    In general, I doubt that IFB have more systemic risk than other organizations. However, it seems obvious that different organizations will have different and unique systemic characteristics. IOW, the system at IFB is different than the system at a public school summer arts camp, and thus the plan to prevent abuse should be tailored differently.

    • With all due respect, bro. Allen, Bob Hayton’s “take” is exactly the kind of rubbish I am arguing against.

      This is just Bob’s carping against Fundamentalism, trying to get back at people he doesn’t like for their behaviour towards him. These are not the things that make churches susceptible to such abuse, it is just rubbish to suggest that it is. While the caricature he describes does exist to some extent in churches (both fundamentalist and evangelical), it is not what leads to any susceptibility to sex abuse scandals.

      You need to do some reading on this subject by serious people. I’d suggest you start with the Bill Anderson book I mentioned above. Hayton is not a reliable source. He is just running his mouth.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. d4v34x says:

    Why is Hayton not a reliable source? Simply because he takes issue with fundamentalsists at various points. Bob doesn’t strike me as a cheap opportunist. Neither to Doran and Bauder for that matter.

    And as for my use of fundamentalistic, I used it because I assumed you would agree that doctrine, values, and practice are more important that being accepted in the group.

    • Re Hayton: what are his credentials to talk authoritatively about what conditions make churches susceptible to abuse? (The answer to that would be none.)

      Re: Cheap Opportunists: good term. Shoe fits.

      Re: fundamentalistic: Bob clearly doesn’t hold to fundamentalist values or practice. Fundamentalism isn’t just doctrine. And Fundamentalism isn’t about being ‘in the group’, although clearly Bob isn’t in the group.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. d4v34x says:

    I guess I don’t see why we can’t take this criticism and examine ourselves without anger at the criticizer. No matter how they mean it, God means it for good.

    • I think we should always examine ourselves whenever criticism comes, even false criticism. I look at the rise of the ABWE story, the Concord story, and the recent story out of Arizona (see SI filings). I am dismayed at various points in these stories and each of us should look to our own ministries and re-examine our own policies. I’ve reviewed ours again. We have a very small church, and I think we have a reasonably comprehensive policy suited for a ministry of our size. We came up with it in consultation with our insurers and other churches. In reviewing it again, I think there might be some areas to adjust, but overall I think we are reasonably pro-active.

      But I also think when lies and misinformation is spread, outrage is an appropriate response.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. d4v34x says:

    And who does have credentials to decide whether our system has possibility for facilitating abuse? You seem confident making that determination, please let us know what the criteria for that ability is.

    What do you have that Kent Brandenburg (granted his complaint is somewhat different), Bob Bixby Jr., Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Paleo-Ben (who I’m not sure has taken a strong stance on this issue) don’t?

    • Well, granted, on the credentials score. I would be little more qualified than any of these I am criticizing, so I’ll concede that point.

      However, the charge is that abuse is ‘systemic’ to fundamentalism. I’m going to update my article with a link to a Canadian columnist on the subject. He is a Catholic and is defending the Catholic church against the rash of charges they are facing. The fact is that sexual abuse reports come from two primary sources, and churches (of all kinds) are way down the list. That doesn’t seem very systemic to me. So as such, those criticizing fundamentalism can pontificate all they want, sound very pompous and wise, and be just dead wrong.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Keith says:

    “Fundamentalism isn’t just doctrine. And Fundamentalism isn’t about being ‘in the group’,”

    It also doesn’t have any systemic characteristics (it’s just like every other grouping of humans it has all the exact same issues as every other group — Christian or non-Christian).

    So, what is it?

    When “they” do things it is because of “their group’s” mindset. But when “we” do it, hey, it’s just human nature.

    And, even though it isn’t about being in the group, “clearly Bob isn’t in the group.” Hmmm. . .

    “Issues like this are used to simply spew the hatred.”

    Wow. Disagreement equals hatred?

    “Hayton is not a reliable source. He is just running his mouth.”

    May be true. But, if you think your google analysis is a reliable way to determine systemic flaws in various subcultures, I’m not sure you are a very reliable source either.

    Don, I think you probably have a point about some of the heated rhetoric being hurled at fundamentalism by some (I don’t think Bob is one, but we can agree to disagree) as a result of current scandals. However, I also think that you jump to defend fundamentalism in response to any level of critique. If it’s a valid critique — well then it’s “we’re all independent”. If it’s an invalid critique — it’s, “Well, this is just common to man.”

    How on earth could the movement, network, fellowship, subculture — whatever “fundamentalism” is to you ever be improved or corrected systemically?

    And, if the answer is — there is no way.

    Well, then, the same holds for evangelicalism. So leave those guys alone.

    Keith

    • As usual, Keith, you are trying to distort the argument.

      So let’s simplify it. What do you say to the following propositions?

      There is something systemic in fundamentalism that tends to produce sexual abuse and the covering up of sexual abuse.
      There is something systemic in evangelicalism that tends to produce sexual abuse and the covering up of sexual abuse.
      There is something systemic in Roman Catholicism that tends to produce sexual abuse and the covering up of sexual abuse.
      There is something systemic in the public school system that tends to produce sexual abuse and the covering up of sexual abuse.

      Which, if any, of those propositions are true? If any are true, what, specifically is the systemic characteristic that produces the phenomenon?

      My proposition is that there is nothing systemic in any of these institutions/groupings that makes any of them more prone to sexual abuse than any other social group in our society.

      Thus, my subsequent proposition is that blaming fundamentalism as such for being the environment that promotes, encourages, fosters, etc. any such scandals is utter nonsense and likely is malicious slander.

      Certainly there are things that are systemic to fundamentalism. This just isn’t one of them.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Keith says:

    Are there any things that are systemic that are negative?

    Are there any that are de facto as opposed to de jure?

    Are there any systemic things that have resulted in unintended consequences?

    Are there any that are particular not abstract?

    Let’s say you met two kids who don’t speak (or don’t speak much). Let’s say one has parents who are detached, fearful, and rarely speak to one another or to him. Let’s say the other has parents who are overbearing, cocky, and never let anyone else get a word in edge wise. Could we say that both “systems” have contributed to the development of an incomunicative kid?

    If so, is it possible that we could identify things in each of the systems you mention that might contribute to a certain way of handling abuse?

    Disagreement or agreement with caveats is not synonymous with distortion.

    Keith

    • 1. Certainly there can be negative systemics in any system.

      2. I assume you mean that are any such negative systemics ‘things that happen in the system’ as opposed to ‘things that are mandated by the system’. I would think that would be the definition of not being systemic, but maybe I am misunderstanding your meaning.

      3. Doubtless.

      4. Don’t know what you mean by the fourth question.

      5. Re the two kids illustration: Possibly, but no family is a closed system. It could simply be that the kids have quiet personalities by nature, or there could be other reasons.

      And on the last question, I don’t know if it is really possible to identify things in the system that apply to these scandals. All of the groups I mentioned in my previous post have many examples of sexual abuse occurring in them (and, BTW, you haven’t answered any of my questions in that post). All of them have examples of cover-ups. All of them have examples of what would seem to be wise and appropriate dealings with them. Consequently, I don’t think we can identify anything in the systems, per se, that contribute to any particular way of handling abuse. “Handling abuse” is not a part of the systems themselves.

      The reasons abuse is poorly handled is usually due to ignorance or some sort of self-interest that individuals within the system have. These are all too human traits and are found in many widely divergent systems. So to try to attribute poor handling of abuse to any one of these systems is probably over-reaching.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. d4v34x says:

    Hi Don,

    I think your original definition–“of, relating to, or common to a system”–includes what you object to in number 2 there. If a system tends to allow something fairly unhindered even though not promoting it, it could be described as systemic.

    Would you say that a system that offers no accountability between “nodes”, offers little accountability for authority figures, and holds in common a over-realized patriarchal thinking be a system in which abuse could conceivably flourish more easily than in one which had accountability and was less patriarchally structured?

    (btw, not asserting those characteristics are actually true of fundamentalism, just an example.)

    • I think that the burden of proof would lie on those making the charge to prove that such a system systematically creates an environment where such abuse is allowed to flourish.

      When evidence is presented showing that such abuse flourishes as much or even more in systems that are far more tightly integrated with direct levels of accountability (i.e., the public school system, the Catholic church), the proposition in question fails. The problem can’t be a systemic one, at least not systemic to two varying systems that both have incidences of the same problem.

      I do maintain that the problem of abuse and subsequent cover-ups is systemic to fallen humanity, but that is about all one can say.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. d4v34x says:

    Don, you have presented no such evidence. Your numbers lack context of relative sample sizes, etc.

    Also, you’re saying we cannot imagine system features that might make certain abuses easier to pursue?

    • As to the first, I’ll leave that up to readers to judge.

      I would suggest that the question is not a matter of imagining features, but demonstrating how real features of a real system really make it easier for abuses to be perpetuated.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. d4v34x says:

    I think we owe the young ladies in our congregations (my little girl is 9) and their Lord better than, oh yeah, prove it.

    We have the black eye already. Fighting it seems pointless–the only ones we’ll likely convince is ourselves.

    I just hope everybody does the self-examination in their church as you have done in yours.

  12. Keith says:

    To answer your questions:

    “Which, if any, of those propositions are true?”

    I don’t know. However, it does not seem the least bit unreasonable to find it plausible that they are all true. There could be overlap of certain subcultural norms. There could be different subcultural norms that produced the same outcome for different reasons.

    Of course they could all be false. However, systemic considerations are not eliminated just because a diverse set of systems produce a certain outcome. Protestants pray and Muslims pray — both for systemic reasons.

    “There is nothing systemic in any of these institutions/groupings that makes any of them more prone to sexual abuse than any other social group in our society.”

    I think I agree with you about the “more prone” bit. However, there can be things within each system that contribute to when and why abuse occurs and how it is handled or mishandled by a particular group.

    “The reasons abuse is poorly handled is usually due to ignorance or some sort of self-interest that individuals within the system have. These are all too human traits and are found in many widely divergent systems.”

    Yes. But what kind of ignorance does each group have? What leads to that type of ignorance? What is “self interest” within a system? What leads someone in a particular system to “cover up” the way they do?

    When my children misbehave in a certain way — for that matter when I misbehave — I can truly say, “Well, such is common to man.” Of course, if I am wise, I will also try to figure out what our family might be doing to contribute toward this particular misbehavior. Something can be common and systemic. And, the systemic part doesn’t have to be established formally a priori.

    • Keith, thanks for taking the time to answer those questions. A few comments:

      “Which, if any, of those propositions are true?”

      I don’t know. However, it does not seem the least bit unreasonable to find it plausible that they are all true. There could be overlap of certain subcultural norms. There could be different subcultural norms that produced the same outcome for different reasons.

      If they are all true, then the flaw in each social grouping, it seems to me, is systemic to something other than that which defines the group as ‘fundamentalist’, ‘evangelical’, ‘Catholic’, or ‘public school system’. You are calling that ‘overlap of subcultural norms’. Whatever. I’d call it something common to the culture of all. As to your last sentence, I will concede that as a possibility, though, I think unlikely.

      Yes. But what kind of ignorance does each group have? What leads to that type of ignorance? What is “self interest” within a system? What leads someone in a particular system to “cover up” the way they do?

      As far as ignorance, I think that no more than ten years ago, a good many people were totally ignorant of setting an abuse policy. I would guess that it hadn’t occurred to a lot of church people certainly. In our area, I discovered that the minor sports associations were ahead of us in implementing police checks. I managed my daughter’s softball team a number of years ago and had to get a police check. I was surprised! Hadn’t occurred to me, but of course made sense and I was happy to comply. I suspect that a lot of people are still quite ignorant. It was only about 4 or 5 years ago that our insurance company began to require us to have a written policy. Oops, no, it was six years ago. Just checked the dates on my computer.

      So as far as ignorance goes, this whole thing is relatively new to a lot of us. As far as it goes, one of the only benefits of this current uproar is to prompt others to get up to speed on it – and that is a point I am conceding to Dave, if I didn’t do that further up the thread.

      As to self-interest, I think our sin nature deceives us into thinking that everything will blow over if we just keep it quiet. So we try to preserve our reputation, our good name, etc., by handling things quietly. I can’t really think of any situation where that is a good idea. I can think of requirements to keep quiet prior to a trial, but we should nevertheless be as open as possible with the public and probably much more open with our own church people.

      Something can be common and systemic.

      Yes, but systemic to what? In this case, I think it is either systemic to humanity or systemic to North American highly-sexualized culture. I don’t think you can show that it is systemic to any particular social grouping within our culture.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Keith says:

    I wish you’d been around when I was having a hard time parenting.

    No worries, it’s just human nature.

    • Keith, really? You had a hard time parenting?

      But you know that’s not the argument I’m making, right? I’m NOT saying “no worries”.

      What I am saying is that those who are trying to make hay with this against fundamentalism are just full of baloney.

      They would have a case if the problems of abuse and cover-up were exclusively religious or more marked the more strict and rigorous your religious system was. But that is not the case. The problems of abuse and cover-up are everywhere, in every social group. It can’t be laid at the feet of fundamentlism per se.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  14. Watchman says:

    I think a distinction needs to be drawn between the abuse and the response to it. Abuse in fundamental churches (I would argue) does not occur primarily because of their fundamentalism, but because of the sinful nature of their members and leaders–the same reason it happens in Catholic churches and public schools and across a wide range of ages and occupations as revealed on Dateline. So in that sense, your “systemic” argument is probably at least mostly correct.

    The problem I see is that the “systemic” response in various groups across the spectrum of fundamentalism tends focus on two things: 1) protecting the minister/ministry and 2) blaming the victim. Keep things quiet, don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat. And then comes page after page of forum posts and blog comments trying to determine how many angels of responsibility dance on the head of a minor child who was the victim of abuse.

    “Well it’s the crazy wing of fundamentalism, not us,” the rejoinder comes. But it’s not just “them.” It’s not just the HAC orbit. It’s ABWE. (Yes, I’m aware not everyone regards them as fundamentalist, but they were at least once thought so.) It’s an FBF/BJU national leader. It’s Marquette Manor and Northland and a host of other respected and respectable institutions.

    I’m not lobbing stones from outside the camp. I don’t want to see fundamentalism destroyed. I’m a fundy born and raised. I was baptized by John R. Rice. I attend an Independent, Fundamental, Baptist Church. (All caps. On all three.) But I’m heartbroken that if we don’t have a Nehemiah to rise up in anger and pluck out the beards of those within the camp who persist in sin we can’t at least find an Ezra to pluck out his own in grief. The tragic failure of so many leaders, and the tragic failure to properly response to those sins should lead to repentance, not denial.

  15. Sorry, I thought Hayton was a fundamentalist.

    In any case, it seems obvious that, in any organization, a persecution mentality and emphasis on authority will reduce the speed with which abuse by authorities will be brought to light.

    Take the ABWE scandal, for example, where all of the missionaries were told that it would be a grave sin for them to tell anyone about DK’s abuse. Does anyone honestly think that the abuse would have stayed secret for 20+ years if the organization had instead encouraged people to openly discuss the sins of the leaders and openly challenge decisions they felt were un-Christian?

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re simply saying that it’s not a systemic or cultural issue, but instead is an issue with people’s hearts? In other words, you might say that the ABWE missionaries failed to stand up to their corrupt leaders, not because there was a systemic problem, but because the ABWE missionaries had something wrong with their hearts and should’ve been more courageous?

    • Bro Allen and Watchman, since your posts are similar, I’ll reply to both together.

      I think that there is example after example in all kinds of organizations where abuse has been covered up using precisely the same kinds of “good of the organization” types of arguments that you both cite. There are some notorious cases up here in Canada in Major Junior Hockey. There was a coach who abused many of his young players (he is now doing jail time – unless he’s out on parole… can’t remember). In any case, there were suspicions about the guy for many years. It was all hushed up for the good of the organization. Finally one of his grads, at the time a pro, came forward with accusations. Pretty courageous guy. The guy finally went to jail. But as the story unfolded, others came to light, including a guy who had been a longtime junior coach and even a pro coach for awhile. There were lots of suspicions about this guy also, but nothing was ever said. By the time anything came to light, he was dead.

      So my point is, on both counts, there have been failures in all kinds of organizations and it isn’t just fundamentalism that has tended to cover things up. The temptation to look the other way, or to handle it quietly has been all over our society.

      I am not justifying any cover-up. I am simply saying that it is unfair to blame fundamentalism as fundamentalism for the cover-up. You can blame the individuals who went along with any cover-ups for various reasons. I have already suggested ignorance and various kinds of self-interest. There are probably other reasons. None of them are good.

      But the fact remains, in the present situation there are many enemies of fundamentalism who are using current scandals to triumph against fundamentalism. That kind of thing is just wrong.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  16. Right, I never bought into the idea that it was fundamentalism that was to blame. I guess I didn’t see Hayton or Bauder as attacking fundamentalism, so much as suggesting things that fundamentalist leaders could do differently to better inoculate their organizations from such abuses of authority in the future.

    The leaders of the church are responsible for setting the culture and tone of the organization, and are in a position to make adjustments to the system. In your case, instituting mandatory training at your church was a systemic adjustment that helps protect against abuse. You would probably advise other fundamentalist churches to do the same, so it’s not as if you’re opposed to systemic improvements.

    Maybe the distinction needs to be made between A) those who want to improve the system, B) those who want to throw out the system and replace it, and C) those who think the current system is just fine. I think we’ve seen plenty of examples of all 3 positions recently.

    • Now we are getting somewhere…

      When you say:

      In your case, instituting mandatory training at your church was a systemic adjustment that helps protect against abuse.

      I agree that our change is a systemic change insofar as a group that meets together and has interactions of adults with children. It is not a systemic change with respect to our fundamentalism. Nothing changed in terms of our fundamentalism, but something changed in terms of our organization and operation as a charity in Canada.

      Do you see the distinction?

      The definition of ‘systemic’ is ‘of, relating to, or common to a system’. What part of our belief system or practices in and as fundamentalists changed when we changed our child abuse policy? Nothing. But as a charity functioning in Canada, our practices and procedures changed.

      I would advocate these kinds of policies for every charitable organization in Canada regardless of religious or secular nature.

      As far as Bauder and Hayton, the bit you quoted of Hayton seemed to be of the same sort as Bixby, hence my reaction to his comments. Bauder’s article was fine as far as it went, but as Aaron Blumer noted, it was one-sided. However, Bauder is certainly not who I mean as an enemy of fundamentalism, even though we have major disagreements at many points.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  17. d4v34x says:

    “What part of our belief system or practices in and as fundamentalists changed when we changed our child abuse policy?”

    Easy. You placed yourself and others in your church under greater accountability. That is a change in practice and system.

  18. Keith says:

    “there were suspicions about the guy for many years. It was all hushed up for the good of the organization. Finally one of his grads, at the time a pro, came forward with accusations. Pretty courageous guy. The guy finally went to jail. But as the story unfolded, others came to light, including a guy who had been a longtime junior coach and even a pro coach for awhile. There were lots of suspicions about this guy also, but nothing was ever said. By the time anything came to light, he was dead.”

    One might say that this was a systemic problem in Junior Hockey, no?

    “I agree that our change is a systemic change insofar as a group that meets together and has interactions of adults with children. It is not a systemic change with respect to our fundamentalism. Nothing changed in terms of our fundamentalism,”

    But your de facto funamentalist practice changed systemically.

    By your definition of “systemic” the only ones who could be accused of systemic abuse would be an organization formed for the association of pedophiliacs.

    And, yes, I have had and do have periodic difficulty parenting – it is common to man, even though the admission of such is not as common. Admitting familial, parental, and children’s patterns and systemic interactions can help one deal with these problems. The problems aren’t “systemic” to the abstraction “family”. Families aren’t designed to cause these problems. Nevertheless, particular families operate in ways (very different from family to family) which contribute to the problems.

    Keith

  19. Watchman says:

    But shouldn’t fundamentalism be held to a higher standard than Canadian youth hockey?

    • Sigh.

      Does anyone get the feeling we are straining at gnats?

      First, Dave: what about my fundamentalist philosophy, belief system, values, etc. changed with the change in procedures in our church? Nothing.

      Second, Keith: same question to you, plus this – do your struggles with parenting (and mine) stem from or are fostered by the institution of parenting itself? Is the institution fundamentally flawed such that it produces these struggles and failures? Or do we look to another source? I don’t think you would say the institution of the family/parenting is systemically flawed as such. The flaws come when flawed human beings enter the system. They don’t come from the system itself.

      Third, Watchman: Yes, of course, but that isn’t my point. My point is that it isn’t fundamentalism per se that produces or fosters a ‘climate’ of abuse. Such a thing could be proven if fundamentalism had a significantly higher incidence of abuse and cover-up than other forms of Christianity or than society at large. I don’t think the evidence will show that. In my cursory searches on the internet, I don’t think the evidence backs that idea up at all. If it did, I would bail on fundamentalism in a heartbeat.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  20. d4v34x says:

    System includes implementation of those. Yes, implementation can be driven by a whole host of things (including philosophy), but we cannot say that our fundamentalist system is limited to philosophy, value, and beliefs.

    This may be where we are missing each other. I say our system includes our implementation, and our implementation may reveal to us some aspects of our philosophy that have been effectively latent.

    I am not positing that Biblical fundamentalism in the abstract fosters an environment of abuse.

    • I am not positing that Biblical fundamentalism in the abstract fosters an environment of abuse.

      Buy the enemies of fundamentalism are. That’s my point.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  21. d4v34x says:

    For what it’s worth. I think you’re misreading them.

    If I were to put Hayton and Bixby (both of which I have interacted with less than I have with you, btw) in my own words it would be something like:

    The culture that has sprung up in and around independent fundamentalism, but not necessarily arising from the ideals or historical doctrines of fundamentalists (and Baptists) fosters an environment where abuse can safely hide, even flourish.

    • To which I say, prove it.

      I just don’t believe the facts line up with that proposition. Show me the facts and I’ll agree.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  22. d4v34x says:

    But then we’re immediately off point, you said your point is that the haters claimed that fundamentalism the ideal fosters a culture friendly to abuse.

    I need not prove their thesis to differentiate it from what you say their thesis is.

    Their thesis is this. This is their thesis. The word thesis fostors a consanance that is friendly to tongue-twisting. :)

    • To be clear, if their thesis is:

      The culture that has sprung up in and around independent fundamentalism, but not necessarily arising from the ideals or historical doctrines of fundamentalists (and Baptists) fosters an environment where abuse can safely hide, even flourish.

      Then they need to prove it.

      And, quite frankly, I don’t think your restatement is that much different from what I have been arguing against. Even if there is a difference, the evidence I have seen doesn’t substantiate either thesis, however different they might be.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  23. Keith says:

    d4 says: “This may be where we are missing each other. I say our system includes our implementation, and our implementation may reveal to us some aspects of our philosophy that have been effectively latent. I am not positing that Biblical fundamentalism in the abstract fosters an environment of abuse.”

    That’s what I am trying to say too.

    Don says: “do your struggles with parenting (and mine) stem from or are fostered by the institution of parenting itself? Is the institution fundamentally flawed such that it produces these struggles and failures?”

    No, and I said as much before (The problems aren’t “systemic” to the abstraction “family”. Families aren’t designed to cause these problems.)

    You wonder if we’re straining at gnats. Maybe. But we are certainly talking past each other.

    You want to use system to mean something like “By-laws” or “Constitution”, and that is fine. However others want to use it to mean the way in which a group actually functions, and that is fine too. The semantic range allows both.

    This is the differnce between De jure vs. de facto. You are arguing de jure, but Bixby and others are discussing de facto.

    As far as “proving it” to you — how could that be done? That’s part of the “system” that Bixby and others are referring to. You want de jure proof for de facto claims. There is admittedly and clearly nothing about the de jure system of fundamentalism under discussion. There is only the numerous “common law” examples of certain styles of behavior — which you reject as not part of “your” fundamentalism.

    It’s the greatest deal — fundamentalist good stuff is credit for you all. Fundamentalist bad stuff, well that’s independent anomolies. Evangelical good stuff, well that’s an anomoly. Evangelical bad stuff is credit to the system.

    Keith

    • No, Keith, that’s not what I am arguing at all. I am saying that fundamentalism as it is in theory and practice does not foster the abuse or coverup in question. These symptoms are common to all social groups dealing with children, so inasmuch as they are fostered by anything, they are fostered by some other factor than fundamentalism.

      Let’s take the most authoritarian fundamentalist stereotype. Let’s say that is the most typical way fundamentalists express themselves (which I would contend is not true, but we are doing this for the sake of argument).

      The argument that is being made is that this authoritarian fundamentalist culture produces sex abuse and coverups. Really? Are there no evangelicals using the same authoritarian approach? Are the incidents of abuse that are being reported only showing up in ‘authoritarian’ modeled churches? Are there more in this set of churches than any others?

      So I am not arguing simply de jure, I am arguing de whole enchilada (to use another latin term!!).

      As for your last paragraph, that is just rubbish. There are many great things that evangelicals (of certain stripes) are doing. I don’t think they are wholly evil, or their system is set up to promote or foster evil (even inadvertantly). I think they are wrong in their approach to error, but that doesn’t make evangelical good stuff an anomaly. They are brothers who err in certain ways, but they aren’t evil. For the most part.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  24. Keith says:

    “They are brothers who err in certain ways, but they aren’t evil.”

    Awesome.

    “For the most part.”

    Ah, couldn’t stop.

    Anyway, I don’t think you undestand what I am arguing, and you don’t think that I understand what you are arguing. So, we might as well stop at this point.

    Enjoy a cold one (I mean day — aren’t they all “cold ones” up there?)

    Keith

    • “They are brothers who err in certain ways, but they aren’t evil.”

      Awesome.

      “For the most part.”

      Ah, couldn’t stop.

      No, that is the truth. Are you arguing that no evangelicals are evil? The term is very broad, you know.

      I may not understand what you are arguing. The onus would be on you, however, to make your argument more clear if I am not getting it. Perhaps if you used less esoteric terms you would be clearer! Or maybe if you typed slower!!

      And no, the days are actually warming up here. After the coldest April in 74 years, we think spring has arrived and we are pushing 60 every day. Shirtsleeeve weather.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  25. Don:

    Just a note to say I appreciate your raising this needed discussion over how some men are using the recent revelations of inexcusable behavior on the part of certain persons, as you noted, “for the purpose of furthering their own animus towards fundamentalism.

    LM

  26. Keith says:

    “Are you arguing that no evangelicals are evil?”

    Let me respond to your question with a question. Socrates did that regularly. So did Jesus.

    What do you think of my saying that fundamentalists are brothers who err in certain ways but they aren’t evil for the most part?

    “I may not understand what you are arguing. The onus would be on you, however, to make your argument more clear if I am not getting it.”

    Backatcha. That’s Latin for Back at You.

    Enjoy your shirtsleeves

    • Let me respond to your question with a question. Socrates did that regularly. So did Jesus.

      What do you think of my saying that fundamentalists are brothers who err in certain ways but they aren’t evil for the most part?

      Dear Socrates

      I’d say you were right.

      ~~

      And spring sprung a leak today. After I wrote this morning, it clouded over and we got rain. We don’t live on the Wet Coast for nothing. (No comments from dry Wenatchee, Brian!)

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  27. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Some have tried to note that the contributors are talking past one another. No, some have blinders on and are not willing to look objectively at what Don has stated. Many would do well to go back to the beginning and reread what was initially written, by Don and those he referenced…and this time take the blinders off.

  28. d4v34x says:

    Brian,

    Bixby makes it clear he is talking about IFB culture not fundamentalism in abstract (just read the quotes Don presents). Remember, Bixby has asserted he is more of a real fundamentalist than the FBFIers (which encompasses Don and me). So it’s clear he has no problem with the ideal and doctrines of fundamentalistic Baptisticals just the IFB implementation and culture.

    I really hope you won’t continue to make this a “if you don’t agree with Don it’s due to your own prejudices.” But just to accommodate that charge, please feel free to point out what points of Don you feel I’m ignoring.

    • Well, I think it is clear that Bob is trying to make hay against a culture he despises by using this incident as a supposed example of it. The culture as he describes it has a lot of issues, but fostering sexual abuse of children isn’t really part of it. That is the implication he is making in his attacks and what I have been objecting to all along. There is nothing in IFB culture that makes IFBs more prone to child sexual abuse than any other segment of our society.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  29. Keith says:

    “Some have tried to note that the contributors are talking past one another. No, some have blinders on”

    “I think it is clear that Bob is trying to make hay against a culture he despises”

    Well, whether Bob or anyone else are correct in the points they’ve been trying to make. These two brief quotes are systemic to fundamentalist culture. There’s no creed or confession or statement of faith or even “ideal” of fundamentalism that formally systemizes this kind of comment, but the culture regularly and repeadetly produces it.

    1) You don’t agree — it’s because you’re blind.
    2) You don’t agree — it’s because you despise and despising fundamentalism is wrong.

    There’s no chance that folks can be sincerely looking at things from different perspectives such that they — with eyes wide open — come to different conclusions.

    It can’t be said that a vocal critic “disagrees” or “finds harmful” or “would like to change”. Nope, you agree or you “despise”.

    I’m not trying to be nasty here. Just taking the opportunity to give some “proof” of systematic cultural practices that are not inherent in the formal ideals of the system.

    • Well, Keith, it isn’t just a matter of perspective. We aren’t relativists, everyone is right in their own eyes perspective…

      Bob has quite clearly distanced himself from fundamentalism and mocks it and attacks it at every turn. Read his post. He says he was an insider. He is no longer. And in this case, I am simply saying his attempt to use this terrible story to attack fundamentalism is wrong. Please do take the blinders off.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  30. Brian Ernsberger says:

    d4v34x,
    You aren’t seeing. I am not saying or implying, Don’s right everyone else just doesn’t get it. As Don just wrote again, Bixby and others are using these abuse cases and saying that they are endemic (or systemic, as Don has written) to IFB. No, it’s not! IFB churches are not a breeding ground for this type of behavior. They are not a refuge for these characters, yet that is what Bixby and others have sought to say without any empirical evidence. Why do they say this? Because they have reputiated the IFB and this is nothing more than another opportunity on their part to slam us. Again, this problem is a sin problem not a systemic IFB church problem.

    Don, agreed, no comments on the Wet Coast (do remember I have only spent 3 years here in the dry and 10 years in the wet, so I am sympathetic to your plight), we have had back to back wet (by our standards, not yours), cool springs.

  31. Keith says:

    “We aren’t relativists, everyone is right in their own eyes perspective…Please do take the blinders off.”

    Ah, now I can see. Fundamentalists are right from the right perspective. Got it. The panorama is expansive.

  32. Watchman says:

    Don said, “There is nothing in IFB culture that makes IFBs more prone to child sexual abuse than any other segment of our society.”

    Shouldn’t there be something in IFB culture that makes it LESS likely than in other segments of society? Shouldn’t the grace of God teach us to deny worldly lusts? Shouldn’t the sins that are an embarrasment even to the Gentiles be utterly foreign to us? Shouldn’t we be unspotted from the world?

    I think I understand why you’re defending what you’re defending. But your defense comes across (to me at least) as a rather smug statement that everything’s A-OK. Nothing to see here. Just move along. We’re no worse than the Catholics or the youth hockey league so there’s no problem.

    I just don’t accept that as good enough. I have no animus toward rational, historic fundamentalism. I am one. (Well, hopefully the rational part fits.) I don’t want to see the movement destroyed. But it’s well past time for judgment to begin at the house of God. There is a problem. It’s real. And even if the message comes from Shimei, perhaps we should listen to the warning.

  33. Roger Carlsn says:

    Don,

    I think there are some changes that Fundamentalism needs to make (and maybe some of us have already made).

    1. We need to get away from the idea of protecting the ministry at all cost. You may think that is not a reality. Because I have been vocal about these issues, I am getting contacted. More than one person has given me accedotal eveidence that the very thing happened in their churches and in their families. They told me it was a good thing b/c it protected the ministry.
    Conventional wisdom in the past was we should protect our ministries and handle this quietly. And if younger pastors seek counsel from other pastors who say keep it quiet follow that advice, then that is what happens. You and I don’t handle things this way, but it is clear that many did.

    2. There is also a culture of digging your heals inand standing by your decisions. That can be a great thing. Yet, part of being apt to teach is being teachable. That means that when we are proven wrong, we are humble enough to admit our wrongs. For those in our calling as a whole, I don’t think we (as pastors) are always humble enough to do that. In fact, down here in the states, that is VERY true.

    Are these two issues ONLY in fundamentalism? No. Yet, they were in encouraged (see point 1) and are often looked over (see point to – “Brother so and so sticks by his guns no matter what.”) Whether these issues I have raised are systemic or not and whether these things I have raised are not only in Fundy land does not matter. They are sinful and it needs to change. Those of us who are not doing those (and I put you in that category) need to demand others raise the bar.

  34. d4v34x says:

    I guess my main question would be…What aspect of doctrine or principle would we be violating by saying the following? “A, B, and C, are our known errors (or propensity for them). We mourn them, we repent of them. We seek God’s grace for better obedience in these areas.

    “Further, we have been accused of X, Y, and Z. This accusation grieves us, and we take it seriously. We do not dismiss it out of hand although we are not entirely convinced it is true. But recognizing the depravity of every human heart and the other errors of our movement, we admit it could be true. We desire to know and repent of any way we have harmed other believers and hurt the cause of Jesus Christ and His church.

    In light of this we will be engaging in dialogue with the principal individuals who believe they have been wronged, and commit to make whatever changes–be it in doctrine, practice, or culture–that this prayerful examination before the Lord, his Word, and our brothers and sisters reveals to us we ought make.

    What would that hurt?

    • Well. quite a bit of comment while I was out. I’ll try to give some replies to each in one post.

      @Keith:

      What can I say? You insist on twisting my words. So I guess I’ll say nothing.

      @Watchman

      Yes, of course, I think there should be something in IFB culture that makes child sexual abuse less than society in general. However, those accusing IFB culture of fostering such abuse need to prove that it actually does so. AT WORST, from what I have read on-line, incidences in Fundamentalist/IFB churches are no more than society at large, but I actually think it is much less. That is an opinion, I realize. But the sites I have read devoted to the subject seem to indicate a much lower incidence amongst Fundamentalist/IFB churches.

      Now, that is no reason to take a “Don’t worry, be happy” approach, but it is to refute the charges being made by those who are antagonistic to fundamentalism to start with. Consider the source. Don’t be swayed by bigots.

      @Roger

      I agree that these two ideas are present in a large swath of fundamentalism. I agree that we need to get away from them.

      However, I stoutly maintain that the presence of this culture is NOT fostering child sexual abuse. The charges are false. The need to change these attitudes are changes that are necessary IN ADDITION to ongoing vigilance and wisdom with respect to preventing (as much as possible) the possibility of sexual abuse occurring in connection with our ministries.

      @Dave

      You know, I don’t buy the victim mentality of our culture. I am not about to apologize for anything I have no part of. I have plenty of faults that are on display from time to time and I hope I have the courage to confess and apologize for them when I fail. But I am not going to apologize for some nebulous attitude or what have you that may or may not be somewhat characteristic of some within fundamentalism.

      I may preach against those attitudes/actions and try to correct them where I can, but my loyalty to fundamentalism is to the concept far more than to the people. (At least, I hope that idealistic statement is true.)

      Individuals who have done wrong – covered up abuse, for example – need to be called to confess and repent. But there sin (if and when it exists) is their responsibility, not mine.

      And in any case, we are not talking about some specific incident in this thread, we are talking about the charges that there is something systemic in fundamentalism that fosters, encourages, allows sexual abuse to occur. That I continue to stoutly deny.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  35. d4v34x says:

    “I am not about to apologize for anything I have no part of.”

    Remind me again who the ranking (active) officer (after the CEO) of your fundamentalist fellowship is.

    By the way, I didn’t ask you to apologize for anything. I asked you what would be wrong with such an expression of repentance and self-examination as opposed to a Bixby’s-on-a-witch-hunt mantra.

    I’ll just note that you didn’t really answer me other than to explain that’s not really how you roll.

    And does it matter why Bixby is saying what he’s saying? Even if he means it for evil, God means it for good. Let’s pursue that good!

    But Kevin Bauder is saying similar. Doran has, in a limited way, expressed similar concerns. These latter are not the enemies of fundamentalism. At least, in the opinion of this nobody YF, they are not the enemies of a fundamentalism worth saving.

    • Dave, you are confusing issues. I don’t think Bauder and Doran have said anything like what Bixby said. I am reacting to Bob’s post and to the hysterics on Sharper Iron. I am saying that fundamentalism does not foster child sexual abuse. I am not saying that there aren’t some needs for change in fundamentalism in general, but the reasons that those things need to change are not because fundamentalism fosters child sexual abuse.

      Quite frankly, I am getting rather tired of going round and round about this. I think I have been perfectly clear about what I am saying. If nothing new is added, I think I am going to shut comments on this thread down. It is fruitless to constantly keep repeating the same thing, post after post, only to have those of you debating reply with the same obtuse objections post after post.

      So unless something new is added to the discussion, I think we are pretty close to the end.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  36. d4v34x says:

    “I think it is right to say that she was wrongly treated because of a systemic abuse of victims in fundamentalist circles.” ~Bob Bixby Jr.

    “Nor should we blame the victims for going outside the fundamentalist network to seek justice. The whole reason that they have been forced to this extreme is because they could not find justice within the structure of the churches and other institutions that were supposed to help them.” ~Dr. Kevin T. Bauder

    And I’ll desist.

    • “But the other extreme is just as real: that of embracing a witch hunt mentality in which accusers are automatically right, alleged victims cannot be doubted in any respect, where anyone who questions any of the premises of accusers is immediately lumped in with the presumed-guilty, and–in this case–where we ascribe spiritual authority to legal, psychological and sociological authorities.

      (Kevin does allude some to the reality of the witch-hunt danger, mentioning that some have probably been wrongly accused, for example. Because where I sit I see more of the witch-hunt extreme, I tend to focus on countering that one. But I have no desire to defend those truly guilty of the other.)

      Just want to point out that there are two sets of wrong responses to the issue and we truly need to be alert to both, and avoid both.”

      ~ Aaron Blumer, responding to Kevin Bauder

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

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