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Intercourse, belonging and the Southern Baptists

(RNS) — “I’m leaving Christianity. I’m performed.”

I’ve heard this from associates, family, readers of my books, members of my congregation and from stunning numbers of clergy. After I ask them why they’re leaving, their causes range, however this motive ranks close to the highest: “I can’t take the institutionalism.”

By “institutionalism,” they imply {that a} sure type of non secular skilled has pushed them away. I name them non secular firm males: these extra loyal to the establishment and officers within the hierarchy above them than they’re to their neighbors, together with their parishioners.

The 13 million-member Southern Baptist Conference has a powerful community of those loyal firm males, and so they did a cannonball into the headlines.


RELATED: Southern Baptists’ abuse report is no call for reform. It’s a repudiation of the past 40 years.


A 3rd-party investigation into Southern Baptist sexual abuse launched a report on Could 22 that discovered that church executives “carefully guarded details about abuse allegations and lawsuits … and had been singularly centered on avoiding legal responsibility.” Consequently, “survivors and others who reported abuse had been ignored.”

Briefly, too many Southern Baptist executives behaved precisely as too many Roman Catholic bishops did in current many years. When Catholics informed the hierarchy that their clergy had been committing sexual abuse, the leaders had been extra involved about injury to “the model” than they had been injury to the victims.

Religion communities are by nature networks of minds working underneath a shared affect. For good or sick they function in league with our bias towards belonging. We regularly entrust the leaders of our in-group with the passcodes to very delicate areas of our brains.

Intercourse is a robust method to achieve and wield management over somebody who has a have to belong. It’s a weapon to disgrace, intimidate, scapegoat and vilify others. Each faith and intercourse, it seems, are about belief … who we belief with our brains and our bodies, who we belief with our souls.

A lady holds indicators about abuse throughout a rally exterior the annual assembly of the Southern Baptist Conference on the Birmingham-Jefferson Conference Complicated on June 11, 2019, in Birmingham, Alabama. RNS picture by Butch Dill

It’s vital to tell apart between important religious leaders who, to the most effective of the power, use their entry just for the frequent good, and dependable Christian firm males, whose loyalties are inherently divided and whose pursuits are persistently conflicted.

To the latter class belong a Catholic bishop or cardinal who makes choices out of loyalty to his fellow clergy on the expense of youngsters in his church who’re being sexually abused by a few of these clergy. A pastor who doesn’t communicate out on behalf of Black, Indigenous or different folks of colour for worry of main donors who think about any speak of racism and injustice to be “left-wing.” Board members of a Christian group who don’t correctly examine allegations of sexual misconduct for worry that dangerous press will end in a drop in donations.


RELATED: The Southern Baptist and Catholic sexual abuse crises, compared


This week, many within the Southern Baptist group are sorting via who, if anybody, might be trusted, and easy methods to inform the reliable from the corporate males.

If you’re a part of a spiritual system that derives its invisible energy from unidirectional loyalty to these above you, you also needs to be asking these questions for your self. It’s possible you’ll get up someday to find that you’ve got been betrayed by a spiritual firm man (or lady) — or have change into one your self.

Author and speaker Brian McLaren. Photo by Hannah Davis at Wild Artistry Photography

Brian McLaren. Picture by Hannah Davis at Wild Artistry Pictures

We have to coin a brand new Latin phrase for our non secular lives: Caveat fideles, “Let the believer beware.” 

(Brian McLaren is a bestselling writer and activist, trainer on the Center for Action and Contemplation and an Auburn Senior Fellow. His newest e-book is “Do I Stay Christian?” The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)

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