Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Across religions, continents, and centuries, religious organizations have bullied and denied justice to victims of abuse, all in the name of protecting the church’s reputation, not harming ministry, and saving souls.
If you think this sounds overgeneralized, just consider recent examples such as with Willow Creek Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the former president of the LDS Missionary Training Center, the Church of Scientology hiding and threatening those who reported rape and abuse, to Cedarville University who hired and promoted a former youth pastor known to have committed abuses. In each of these cases, information regarding abuse had been reported numerous times to those in leadership positions. In each case, the victims were silenced, and the abuse was covered up. The majority of abusers stayed in leadership positions, sometimes being shuffled to new locations.
If the god you believe in, or the belief system to which you adhere is true, why would feeble humans need to protect them?
Most Christians are familiar with the attributes of god as described in the Bible such as Omnipotent, Omniscient, Self-existent, Self-sufficient, Transcendent, Impartial, and TRUTH. Yet, we see Christian pastors and organizations constantly covering up abuse and using scripture to justify their actions. Ironically, non-Christian faiths such as Scientologists behave in the exact same manner. If your god or belief needs you to be deceitful and engage in criminal activity to preserve his existence or reputation, then you might want to reconsider worshiping that entity. And if you really believe those attributes of god, then why not live and make decisions in accordance with those beliefs, rather than fear the consequences?
It seems to me, that covering up abuse has absolutely nothing to do with faith and is just another case of religion being manipulated for individuals' gain.
I think the impetus to cover up abuse in religious institutions is all about two things:
1) Power: Individuals who reach leadership positions enjoy a wide array of privileges and control that many would never attain outside of their manipulation of faith…to convince those beneath them that they must obey to be in good standing with the religious institution or with god himself. To disagree with the leader publicly threatens their power base and the whole structure. Most of these structures in a country like the US are run by white men. If one man is perceived as vulnerable to lose his position or credibility due to abuse accusations, the other leaders will encircle him to deny abuse, silence victims, and maintain the structure from which they personally benefit.
2) Money: This is a no brainer. Look no farther than TV evangelists, leaders in Scientology or leaders of the LDS Church. Once people become accustomed to a lifestyle, they will do almost anything to keep it…even if that means lying and hiding crimes. Whether it’s a mission agency like New Tribes Mission, in which I was raised, who suffered a downturn in donations as reports of child abuse emerged and they continue to this day to minimize and hide information about it, to the LDS Church that does not allow an individual into temples where all major religious functions such as marriage and baptism occur, unless they have a temple recommend (a pass received from one’s Bishop affirming you are in good standing with the church and have paid your 10% tithe), to a regular church in the Southern Baptist Convention that doesn’t want to lose weekly donations…ALL are more concerned with the loss of money than with the well-being of the victims who have experienced abuse within the agency. It demonstrates that the agency/church believes its existence is more important than protection, justice, and healing of people. The irony of this is maddening, particularly amongst Christian institutions who supposedly exist to serve and bring individuals to salvation by being Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
Next time you hear of abuse allegations within a religious institution, I urge you to listen carefully to the public response. Often the responses are vague, convoluted, and excuse filled. If you see that, run the other way. Don’t support or donate to that group until they have disclosed the abuse and made reparations. If a religious institution doesn’t do these things, then they don’t live by their faith claims…and that should make anyone question the validity of those claims.