Today, Even I Was (A Little) Surprised

Some days, I think I’m so jaded and cynical that absolutely nothing will surprise me.

Today was not that day.  

This morning, my NPR news feed informed me that Paige Patterson had been replaced as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, due to allegations of gross mishandling of situations of domestic violence and rape.

After my thirty-five years in organized religion, in which I have been both a witness and a victim of various and assorted varieties of abuse, the been-there-done-that far outweighed the shock and awe, and that makes me sad, and even sadder when I realize that I’m probably more the rule than the exception.

Here are the things that don’t surprise me about the Paige Patterson replacement:

*It was handled quietly and without fanfare.  I get it. How the mighty have fallen. There should be a sense of embarrassment and shame on the part of the Southern Baptists.  I don’t blame them for wanting to stay under the radar. I hope they are ashamed — they should be. They’ve honored wickedness.

*He was replaced because he’s advised women to stay with abusive men as a matter of course. He encouraged “forgiveness” — instead of criminal charges — for a rapist and shamed the victim.  This should shock me. This should shock everyone.  (It will shock my husband, bless his gentle and faithful heart.)

*He valued the church attendance of the abuser over the safety and well-being of the victim.  If you’ve never lived in a culture where physical presence in a specific building is the standard by which your faith and faithfulness is measured, you will not be able to comprehend that a pastor would be “happy” to stand before a woman sporting two black eyes because the man who beat her up came to church that morning.

It is easy for me to understand. I wish to God that it wasn’t.

*His “apology” wasn’t one.

*The seminary board of trustees issued a statement affirming that while, okay, for the sake of public comfort they’re going to ask him to step down, he really and truly hasn’t done anything wrong-wrong, at least not legally wrong.  They said it, therefore it must be true. As expected.

*He wasn’t replaced until women spoke up.  Some 2,000 of them, according to the article.  Here’s why I’m not surprised: Women — even soft-spoken, submissive, Southern Baptist women — have had enough.

*He wasn’t replaced until women spoke up.

That’s right.  The question begs to be asked:  Would the men in leadership, without the prompting of thousands of women, have arrived at the conclusion that perhaps having a seminary president who aids and abets abuse was sub-optimal?  Should the men in leadership have had the integrity and decency to take this action without women having to petition?

There are some things that do surprise me, even me, even now:

*NPR and other media outlets understand the significance of this.  This is a good surprise. It means that the days of the church as a safe haven for abusers is coming, will come, to an end.

*The Southern Baptist Seminary board decided it was a good idea to reward him with a position of honor and financial compensation.  I wonder how that conversation went?  I wonder how much they paid him?

I’m thinking maybe thirty pieces of silver.