The Usual Pedo Grifters

A growing swath of MAGA and QAnon conspiracy theory- infected evangelicals embrace pedophilia as their new pejorative against the “Other”. It’s become more than calling someone a pervert. It’s used against any group opposed to their agenda. “Disney stop grooming our children.” “Democrats are the party of ‘grooming and transitioning children’”. “Biden is the groomer-in-chief:” The usual pedo grifters.

Joe Rogan recently went off on public school teachers. “No! No, there should be no groomers! How about that! This is what they wrote, they said, “Not all teachers are groomers, but a lot of groomers are teachers.” And that’s real! That’s a real fucking problem. I mean, constantly, teachers are getting arrested. For exposing themselves to children, for masturbating in front of children, for sending nude pictures in front of children. Every couple days there’s a new one that pops up in the news. And how many of those people haven’t been caught yet? And how many of those people are out there?”

He just as easily could have said, “not all evangelicals are groomers, but a lot of groomers are evangelicals”.  “And how many of those people are out there?”  The Zacharias, the Gothards, the Duggars – the list of prominent evangelicals is long. These people exist everywhere, especially in churches – (see thewartburgwatch.com ). Just a quick headline perusal shows:

  • Former Illinois pastor arrested for grooming minor (Baptist Press)
  • Pastor charged with child sex crimes (Baptist Press)
  • N.C. pastor charged with child sex crimes (Baptist Press)
  • Former Baptist minister charged with child sex crime (Baptist Press)
  • Former Baptist leader charged with sexual assault (Baptist Press)
  • Former Southern Baptist president accused of sexual assault in an explosive, third-party investigation. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Church youth group leader, former coach, arrested on sex abuse charges for second time. (WSET News).

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” My personal heartache with this involved my eldest brother, who in 1960 was sodomized as a pre-teen at a Schroon Lake summer camp. It drove him away from the church better than any avowed atheist ever could.

According to Fox News, some 20 years ago a certain pastor raped a 16 year old girl on his office floor. According to reports, he became aware that she was now prepared to expose him. To get ahead of the story, he announced to his congregation that he was guilty of adultery. “To my wife and family, who I deeply hurt, I have confessed my sin, and they have graciously forgiven me and expressed their love to me,” the outed pastor said. Seduction, enticement, molestation, statutory rape, sexual misconduct – these are not just personal sins; they’re crimes on every state’s books. Felonies that involve prison sentences and placement in the national sex offender database.

It seems natural for all types of sexual predation to exist where evangelical pastors love to preach on sex. A recent Southern Baptist report exposed widespread sexual abuse within the denomination, which were purposefully hushed up. In every community I’ve lived in, there has been some sexual scandal involving church leaders. Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist – it doesn’t matter. Satan also attends every church service; in numerous cases, in the pulpit itself.

In most cases, the tragedy continues after the crime(s), where the victim is slut-shamed, but the perpetrator is administratively “cleansed” and restored. The sexual predator is allowed to leave the damage behind, and continue on serving the Lord in another locale. Sexual predators have been quietly recirculating just like this in many denominations. The objective is to control the narrative, and deflect or counter-attack the victim to minimize any institutional damage. Who’s gonna be convinced our loving, family-oriented pastor is in reality a sexual creep? It’s not easy within a cult-like culture where church members are taught to never question authority. Everyone is willing to let it go, except the victim who doesn’t have that luxury. That too is violence – spiritual violence.

I’m not an expert on sexual predation. But I have a few suggestions for churches to minimize its effects:

  • Take the beam out of your own eye before pointing the finger at “Others”.
  • Implement a public truth inquiry – not a witch hunt – which gives voice to the sexually exploited who have been rendered voiceless.
  • Repent collectively and individually for any act or failure to act that facilitated or contributed.
  • Restitution – restoring that which was unjustly taken – is not possible. But every effort must be made to remove the effects of the wrong. Repairing the broken relationship may never be achieved, but restoring trust may well mean sitting with victims for outside counseling.
  • Because an overseer managing God’s household must be blameless, procedures should be in place to dismiss anyone not qualified to serve in leadership or ministry through sexual misconduct.
  • Do deep diligence and pre-hire vetting of all applicants
  • Publish and abide by a policy that defines and describes prohibited sexual behavior in the church, including on how a complaint is filed and resolved.
  • Invoke safeguarding adult and children classes that are mandatory for all church leaders (including criminal background checks). The Episcopal Church does excellent training on this.

I doubt few churches practice all – or even any – of these safeguarding policies. We all know problems exist. WE ourselves have been among the Usual Pedo Grifters. With God’s help, let’s repair the damage so far, and take precautions as we move on. The Holy Spirit expects nothing less.

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