Tag Archive: Sexual Abuse

Life: It All Depends on Where You Are Standing

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

As you know, I spend a lot of time writing about my past: people, places, and events that are very much a part of the fabric of my life. I try to be as truthful and accurate as possible when I recount the past, but I am ever aware of the fact that I am giving an account of things as I remember them. Having read a good bit about the brain and memories, I know my retelling of my past may or may not be accurate. As best I can remember, I try to give an honest accounting of my life.

I have a younger brother and sister, and it is amazing how differently we each view events that happened in our childhood. Who is right? I’ve come to understand, we all are. The story we tell depends on where we were standing at the time.  As a 15 year old boy and the oldest son, my view of our parent’s divorce , is much different from that of my 11-year-old sister. The same can be said about many of our shared seminal experiences.

I live with a lot of guilt. I am prone to depression and I can be quite pessimistic. I have faced long, deep bouts of depression, times where I have felt that death would be too good for me. With my words, theology, and religious practice, I hurt people. Or so I think. I’ve come to have these feelings because I am looking back at my past with the eyes of a 58-year-old man. How could I have been Bruce Gerencser, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher? Who is that man, I ask myself. Thanks be to Zeus he no longer exists, having been slain by reason and maturity, but I still live with the memories of the past.

I am Facebook friends with several of the kids who were members of Somerset Baptist Church, a congregation I pastored from 1983-1994. I was their pastor through the formative years of their life. Not only did they sit under my preaching 3 times a week, they also attended Somerset Baptist Academy, a private Christian school I started in 1989. I often feel I hurt them and let them down. I think back to how narrow I was over things like certain kinds of clothing, music, physical contact between the sexes, movies,  and TV. If these children hated me, I wouldn’t blame them. Thankfully, they don’t.

When I talk to these former students, I hear their perspective on our shared experiences. All of them are in their 30s now and many of them are married and have children. Several of them are gay. Their religious persuasions run from atheism to liberal Christianity. None of them retained the fundamentalist Christianity of their youth. From their vantage point they recall things quite differently from the way I do. Several of them recall my wife teaching them to read. One man mentioned going back to the old church grounds and playing another game of kickball for old times sake. Again, what we remember depends on where we were standing at the time.

I recently re-read several posts I wrote about fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Don Hardman and his wife Laura. (please see Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review and The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review)  As I read these posts I felt twinges of guilt and sadness. When I was a pastor, I had no closer friends than Don and Laura Hardman. I loved them like they were family. When they came to our church it was the highlight of the year. For 15 days we would focus on God and his Word. Every day Don and I would go out evangelizing and street preaching. The church loved the Hardmans and graciously gave of their money and food to help them.

From my vantage point as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I have nothing but good memories and feelings when I think of Don and Laura Hardman. I never saw them fight and I never had a cross word with them. Even when we parted company for a few years over my Calvinistic beliefs, we remained friends. In the early 2000s, the Hardmans came to Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, a church I was pastoring at the time, and conducted a week long meeting. We had a great time, but I knew that I could not have them back. While they remained right where I met them in 1987, I had changed. My view of God, the Bible, politics, culture, and other Christian sects was evolving. Yet, we remained friends until 2008, when my deconversion permanently fractured the relationship.

Here I stand in 2015, no longer a Christian, now an atheist. My view of the past is clouded with the tincture of time. While I still have fond memories of evangelist Don Hardman’s protracted revival meetings, I have come to see that the preaching and the theology behind it was psychologically controlling and damaging. This is how I view much of my preaching as well, especially the first 15 years or so. Over time I matured. I began preaching expositionally and I turned from a Bible-quoting, hellfire-and-brimstone-preacher to more of a teacher of the Bible. Oh, I was still quite passionate about God, the Bible, and how we ought to apply it to our lives, but I was much more careful about using the Bible in context and letting the text speak for itself. While the Hardmans remained steadfast and unmovable throughout our friendship, my understanding of them changed. Again, my vantage point changed, resulting in me viewing the Hardmans differently.

Polly, my wife, and I have known each other for almost 40 years. Last July we will celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. A year ago, I uploaded a bunch of old pictures to Facebook: family pictures; pictures from the Somerset Baptist Church, and pictures from Our Father’s House. As I uploaded these photos I began to weep. The memories of years gone by flooded my mind; memories of the people I pastored and the children I taught at Somerset Baptist Academy; memories of my wonderful wife and our little babies. Good memories. Wonderful memories.

Now, having a different perspective, I view the events recorded in these pictures differently. Is this maturity? I don’t know. Time changes how we view the past.  What were once wonderful memories are now clouded by what I now know about the emotional and mental manipulation I perpetrated on those who called me Pastor. As I have shared before, I am in a unique position. I am both a victim and a victimizer. I followed in the footsteps of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who emotionally and mentally scarred my life. Victimized by their manipulation, I in turn victimized those who were members of the IFB churches I pastored. It’s an ugly cycle of abuse that I was fortunately able to put an end to during my latter years in the ministry and subsequent post-Jesus life.

So it is with Polly. While she and I walked side by side through the years we spent in the ministry, Polly’s viewpoint is very different from mine. I was the leader of the church and the center of attention. People, for the most part, respected me, loved me, and supported my work as a pastor. For Polly it was different. Like many pastor’s wives she was my gofer. She did what others didn’t or wouldn’t do.  No one in the nursery? Polly filled in. Entertain people every Sunday for 20 years? Polly did it without a complaint, even when her pastor husband forgot to tell her so and so was coming over for dinner. She quietly submitted to  a life as the helpmeet of a poorly paid, Type A, constantly-working, never-home, Baptist preacher.

Polly did without.  Our entire family did without, but Polly more so than me the children and I. She never said a word. She quietly lived in ramshackled houses and drove cars that were better suited for a demolition derby.  She made do with what she had. This much I know, I do WISH there was a heaven, because Polly deserves a huge mansion right next door to Dottie Rambo’s Log Cabin.

Video Link

However, since there is no heaven, all I can do is make sure that Polly has the best life possible for the rest of this life. She deserves it!

It should come as no surprise then that Polly remembers the past much differently from what I recall. One time I said, wouldn’t you like to go back to __________church? Immediately she replied, No I wouldn’t. I was surprised by her quick and negative response. I asked, why not? I then quickly learned, from where Polly was standing, that her view of this church was very different from mine. Who is right? We both are.

I have written a good bit about the abuse that went on, and continues to go on, in Baptist group homes. (please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin and The Dogma that Followed Me Home)  The stories that some people share from their time in these facilities break my heart. I want to personally find these abusive miscreants  and beat the shit out them.  They deserve to have punishment heaped upon them. They hurt  people that I love and respect, and the fact that these dear friends of mine still suffer from the abuse received from men like Mack Ford angers me to this day. Every once in a while, someone will come along and leave a glowing testimony from their time in the same facilities. They loved their time there. They were helped and their life is the better for it. How can this be? Surely, someone is lying, right? Not at all. While it is possible that someone is lying or they are living in denial, more often than not, the difference is simply a matter of where the person was standing in relation to the person, place, or event.

Time shapes how we view the past. For me, I am finding that the further a person, place, or event is in the past, the fonder my memories are. I suspect that’s how we as humans cope with life. The tincture of time often brings healing, and it also allows us to gain enough distance from the negative things in our past that they no longer feel harmful or threatening. While time rarely heals all wounds, it does allow us the space and distance necessary to be at peace with those things that cut us to the quick. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.

[signoff]

Overheard in the Break Room: How Some Local Evangelicals View the Josh Duggar Story

josh duggar

Josh, I Barely Touched My Sisters Genitals, Duggar

Overheard at work by Polly, two God fearing Christians discussing Nineteen and Counting and the Josh Duggar scandal:

  1. Josh Duggar was set up
  2. Someone is out to destroy this w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l Christian family
  3. The cops leaked the story
  4. He was ONLY fourteen

Yep, pretty well sums things up. *sigh*

Pastor William ‘Pete” McCullers Arrested in Dothan, Alabama

william pete mccullers

Pastor William ‘Pete’ McCullers with his wife Linda

William ‘Pete’ McCullers, associate pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida, was arrested today in Dothan, Alabama. McCullers is expected to be charged “with at least 10 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on four children under 12 years old.” The church has no website and their Facebook page has been disabled.

McCullers, age 64, graduated from high school in 1968. Think about that for a moment.  This guy is an old man. What makes a man who is grandfather age molest young children? Those of us who have spent years reporting on and working with sexual abuse victims know that it is unlikely that these children are McCullers first victims.  Now that McCullers has been arrested, it will be interesting to see if other victims come forward.

tabernacle of praise church chipley

Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida

Google Maps Street View

Evangelicals Use ‘We Are All Sinners’ Argument to Justify Sexual Abuse

josh duggar

One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that a fifteen-year-old teen boy touching the genitals of five little girls is criminal. One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that we should do all we can to protect children from those who will use them for sexual gratification. One would think that decent, thoughtful people would agree that covering up and not prosecuting sexual abuse is not in the best interest of the victims or society.

One would think…and you’d be wrong. I have been astounded by Evangelical excuses, justifications, explanations, and dismissals of Josh Duggar’s criminal sexual assault of five girls. Consider for a moment the universal condemnation of Congressman Dennis Hastert over his decades- old sexual abuse of a student of his. According to Hastert’s indictment, he paid a male student $1.7 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” him. Hastert used money to cover up his criminal behavior just as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar used their influence to cover up their son’s crimes. Why is one universally condemned and the other explained away as a teenager playing doctor, a “youthful mistake,” or “that’s what boys do”?

Let me illustrates this with three Facebook comments made by Fundamentalist Christian, Quiverfull defender, Duggar and Bill Gothard loving Rick Boyer:

rick boyer 1

rick boyer 2

rick boyer 3

Let me cut through all Boyer’s super spiritual, holier-than-thou, braggadocious, religious bullshit. He is using the “we are all sinners” argument to defend, excuse, justify, and explain a 15-year-old boy putting his hands on little girls vaginas and a grown man who manipulated and sexually molested girls and young women.

It seems that any time a darling of Evangelicalism finds himself in a compromising or criminal position, the first excuse trotted out by his defenders is “we are all sinners.”  While I don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin, for the sake of this post, I am going to accept as valid the notion of sin. I will then, in the rest of this post, gut the “we are all sinners” argument.

First, we may all be sinners but most of us don’t sexually molest children or groom and assault girls and young women. Such behaviors are deviant and vile and deserve punishment. We the people, through our elected officials, have enacted laws that protect children and vulnerable adults from predators like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard. Thanks to the statute of limitations and a big help from law enforcement, neither of them will be prosecuted. The fact that they are not being prosecuted doesn’t mean that they are not guilty. Both admitted their behavior, though their admissions leave a lot to be desired. One would think that this would be enough for people like Rick Boyer, but it isn’t.

Imagine if Richard Dawkins, who was abused as a child, was accused of molesting five little girls. Why the Evangelical outrage would be swift and earsplitting. Evangelicals would demand his prosecution and would write voluminous blog articles about Dawkins’s crimes against children being proof that there is no morality without God. And here’s the thing: atheists such as myself  would demand Dawkins be prosecuted. Because the issue is CHILD ABUSE and not obtuse, never-ending arguments about sin, God, and morality.  We have laws, and we expect people to obey them. Both Duggar and Gothard broke the law. They got by with their crimes because people covered up their behavior. It wasn’t until a victim made her story public or an investigative reporter sussed out the facts, that the public  learned about their crimes. And, as a person who thinks the rule of law is important, and that protecting children is a key part of a just society, I expect people like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard to be prosecuted for their criminal behavior.

Second, Rick Boyer blames all the outrage on pagans and gullible Christians. This is blame-shifting extraordinaire, a game played by those who want to deflect criticism or judgment. Anyone who has raised children has seen this game played. Johnny gets caught throwing food at Sally and when his Mom confronts him he says, but Rudy, Johnny’s little brother, was throwing food too. Mom rightly replies, but I am talking to you, Johnny, about what you did, not what Rudy did. The wise parent does not let her children blame- shift. Those who do end up having children like Rick Boyer.

I thought Evangelicals were the personal-responsibility wing of Christianity. Since their politics are overwhelmingly right-wing, they have demanded Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton accept responsibility for what was done on their watch. BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI, is the nightly cry of Faux News, and uncounted Evangelicals want President Obama impeached and Hillary Clinton criminally prosecuted. Yet, when it comes to Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, many Evangelicals are strangely quiet about “personal responsibility.” Why is this? Why has this been the case my entire life? Big name Evangelical gets in trouble and his defenders flock to internet and protect their boy. No matter the crime, they are quick to justify and forgive. I wonder if they would be so understanding or forgiving if it were their daughter or granddaughter who was sexually molested by Josh Duggar or Bill Gothard? Something tells me that they would be calling for the perpetrator’s head to be cut off as swiftly as Geoffrey cut off Ned Stark’s head in Game of Thrones.

Third, it seems that no matter what an Evangelical superstar does, the God of forgiveness and the blood of Jesus provide a get-out-of-jail-free card. While Evangelicals will feign concern for the victims, their real concern is for the perpetrator. He’s a star and is so important to God and his work here on earth that anything and everything he does must be forgiven. No matter the crime, the sin slate must be wiped clean. After all, King David, a man who committed adultery, was a polygamist, and had a man murdered so he could have his wife, is called in the Bible, a man after God’s own heart. If King David can have his slate wiped clean and be best buds with God again, surely the same can happen for Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard.

Sadly, Evangelical beliefs about sin, atonement, and forgiveness turn Evangelicals into lobotomized lemmings unable to see things as they are. What we have with Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard are clear cases of sexual abuse and abuse of power. Every non-lobotomized person knows this. The facts aren’t in dispute, yet many Evangelicals blithely preach up the love, grace, and forgiveness of God as an excuse for heinous behavior that is rightly condemned by Christian and atheist alike. It’s only Evangelicals who are defending these men. Why is this?

Most Evangelicals believe that the forgiveness of ANY sin is but a prayer away. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let me use an extreme example to explain Evangelical thinking about sin and forgiveness. There are eight people in the Roberts family. The Roberts’ are a Christian family, noted for their love and devotion to Jesus. Well, except for Becky. Becky is sixteen and she has a boyfriend who is not a Christian. Her parents demand that she break up with Clint and never see him again. They remind her that the Bible says that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers and God says premarital sex is a sin. Becky continues to see Clint, often sneaking out of the house late at night, meeting Clint at their “special” place. Over time, Becky  becomes so angry at her parents and their constant Bible- quoting and judgmental attacks on Clint that she decides  to kill her family, all seven of them. Her boyfriend, enthralled with Becky and the sex they shared, says he would be willing to help her kill her mother, father, and six siblings. And one night, that is exactly what they did.

According to people like Bill Boyer and other grace and forgiveness Evangelicals, forgiveness for Becky is only a prayer away. She was a love struck teenager, kinda like Josh Duggar, and even though she did horrible things, one simple, heartfelt prayer will wipe away the blood of her dead family. Isn’t God awesome?

Oh Bruce, such a fantastical story, one that would never happen in real life. Really?  Then you have never heard of 16-year-old Evangelical teenager Erin Caffey who is serving two life sentences plus twenty-five years for the slaughter of her mother and two brothers and the attempted murder of her father in 2008. You can read about the case here. Let me ask readers, would you or could forgive your daughter for slaughtering your entire family? Yet, according to Evangelical belief, forgiveness is not only just a whispered prayer away, it is demanded by God regardless of the circumstance.

Erin Caffey’s father Terry, being the good Christian that he is, forgave his daughter and the boyfriend and two friends that murdered his two children and wife. Here’s what Caffey had to say:

“I planned my own suicide. I decided that when I got well enough to travel, I was going back to my property, and I was going to end it. So when that day came, I went back there and stood on the ashes and began to cry to God. I said, ‘God, I don’t understand why you took my family. Why did you do this? I just don’t understand.’

“No sooner than I said that, I looked down and saw this scrap piece of paper from a book. It was burned around the edges. I picked it up, and it read, ‘I couldn’t understand why you would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. I may never totally understand that part of it, but I do know that you are sovereign. You are in control.’ When I read those words, I was like, ‘Wow.’ It brought me to my knees.”

“People ask me, ‘How could you forgive your daughter and how could you forgive those who murdered your family?’ I am not trying to justify anything. This is my daughter.”

Sadly, because of Evangelical indoctrination, Terry Caffey has lost the ability to  feel anger and hate. As a father, I understand the love a father has for his children, but every child can cross a line where no love and forgiveness remains for  him or her. Evangelicals have had drilled into their heads the idea that they must love unconditionally and forgive any and all who transgress against them. Besides, some day, in the sweet by and by, Terry will be reunited with his murdered children and wife. And Erin will be there too, maybe with her fellow murderers who found Jesus while in prison. One big happy murdered family reunion. Until their reunion in God’s Big House, Terry Caffey travels America telling his story. Caffey has a ministry called A Cross America Ministries: Enabling Today’s Youth to be Tomorrow’s Christian Leaders. He has written a book, been the subject of a People Magazine feature, been on the Dr. Phil Show, and has a new wife and kids.

I wonder, if there were no heaven, would Terry Coffey be so forgiving? Would Evangelicals be so willing to forgive and forget the crimes of Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, and uncounted other Evangelical superstar abusers and perverts, if there were no divine payoff in heaven? Evangelicals are taught that forgiveness is mandatory. As God has forgiven them, so are they to forgive others. Now, in real life, the forgive- everyone requirement is often ignored. As those of us who were in the Evangelical church for many years know, some of the most mean, nasty, vile, unforgiving people can be found at First Baptist Church on Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. And some of them are standing at the pulpit.

Fourth, man this post is getting way too long, but let me take some time to point out the hypocrisy of Evangelicals like Rick Boyer. If two consenting adult men have sex, Evangelicals are outraged. If two consenting adult lesbians get married, Evangelicals are outraged. From gay sex to non-married hetero-sex to teenage blow jobs, Evangelicals are outraged. Quoting a plethora of Bible verses that many of them ignore in secret, and calling on God to judge America, but just don’t judge them, they demand Biblical justice be meted out to these unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines. What happened to grace and forgiveness? Well Bruce, Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard confessed their sins, God forgives them, and they promised to never, ever, one time, I mean never, never ONE time, touch a little girl or young woman again. Those queers, adulterers, and fornicators refuse to stop their sin, so there is NO forgiveness for them!

Way too many Evangelicals naïvely believe that people like Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, Jack Schaap, Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar, David Hyles, Jimmy Swaggart, John Paulk, Jack Hyles, Paul Crouch, Douglas Goodman, Ted Haggard, Earl Paulk, Paul Barnes, Lonny Latham, Michael Reid, Todd Bentley, Tony Alamo, Eddie Long, Gilbert Deya, Coy Privette, Joe Barron, George Rekers, David Loveless, Isaac Hunter, Sam Hinn, Paula White and uncounted other Evangelical superstars, have stopped doing what got them in trouble.  Why should they stop screwing church members, abusing children, and acting in ways most respectable people would consider decadent? Just pray, be contrite, promise never to do it again, wink, wink, and all is well.

What these modern-day Elmer Gantrys have learned is that Evangelicals are gullible, always ready to love, forgive, and forget. Perhaps some of them have learned their lesson and stayed on the straight and narrow, but my gut and six decades of exposure to Evangelicalism tells me that what has really has happened is that they have learned to be more careful. I am of the opinion that all the God, praying, and forgiving in the world won’t fix a child molester. Pedophilia, hebephilia, and ephebophilia aren’t curable. Those who desire and molest children will continue to do so until they are stopped. Anyone who thinks Josh Duggar’s or Bill Gothard’s behaviors are one- time events, never to be repeated, is either ignorant or fell on his head when  he was a kid. This is why I support  the incarceration of child molesters. Children will never be safe as long as we treat child molesters as sinners that can be fixed by God, prayer, and forgiveness.

Is Josh Duggar a pedophile? I don’t know. I do know he molested five girls and this is enough for me to say that he should never be allowed near children. Mark my word, in a few years Josh Duggar will write a book and start a ministry that will extol the wondrous grace of God; how that God forgave and delivered Duggar from his sins. And many Evangelicals will embrace him as the father did the prodigal son. All will be forgiven and no one will consider whether Josh Duggar might be a pedophile who should never, ever be allowed to be near children again.

Notes

Three excellent articles on this subject: Homeschooling Activist Defends Josh Duggar Against ‘Pagans’ Attacking Him  (link no longer active) and HEAV’S Rick Boyer Defends Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, Claims “Abuse is the New Racism” and Listen-Up Ovaried Americans: Quiverfull Boss Biblesplains How This Whole Morality Thing Works

121615

UPDATED: Rudolph Walls, The Friendly Pastor Who is a Registered Sex Offender

friendly chapel dillon

Friendly Chapel, Dillon, South Carolina. Rudolph Walls, Pastor

The story that follows is a perfect example of why people should, by default, be skeptical when a pastor comes to town to start a new church. If a man is going to an established church, the church can request a criminal background check. However, when the same man starts a new church, no background check is needed. It’s his church, his business, and people just have to trust that he is what he claims to be. In the case of Rudolph Walls, pastor of Friendly Chapel in Dillon, South Carolina, trusting the pastor means having a registered sex offender and a convicted child molester as your pastor. Released from prison in the 1990’s, Walls eventually became a pastor, ending up at Friendly Chapel in Dillion. Proving that a leopard can’t change his spots, Walls was arrested again for criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

WMBF News reports:

A pastor and registered sex offender was arrested Thursday morning in Dillon County for criminal sexual conduct involving two victims under the age of 16, according to officials.

Rudolph Walls, 64, is facing two counts of criminal sexual conduct, third degree, after several people came forward to file complaints…

….Walls is being held at the Dillon County Detention Center, and he may appear in municipal court Friday morning for a bond hearing. Officials at the detention center confirmed Walls is a chaplain, but could not specify where he is employed.

A resident in the area confirmed that Walls is a pastor at the Friendly Chapel on Main Street in the city of Dillon.

Rudolph Walls is listed as a registered sex offender in the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. He was convicted of indecent liberty with a minor in 1989, and was released in 1997.

pastor rudolph walls

Pastor Rudolph Walls

Not only was Walls convicted in North Carolina in 1989 for indecent liberty with a minor, he is also currently a chaplain for the Dillon police department. The good pastor had the complete trust of the church and the police.

In a 2014 news release for an upcoming women’s conference, Walls is listed as BISHOP Rudolph Walls, Sr.  Friendly Chapel is an unaffiliated store front church, so exactly what was Walls bishop of?

Walls is currently charged with “criminal sexual conduct involving two victims under the age of 16.” The victims, both boys, were members of Friendly Chapel. A relative of one of the boys stated that the boy trusted Walls, and Walls was considered a role model for the boy.

This story is a poignant reminder of why I tell parents they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight while at church. According to news reports, the sexual assaults took place at the church. Call me a cynic, but I simply no longer trust people who say they are working for God. Unless they have been vetted and thoroughly investigated, I would NEVER allow them to have private, personal access to children or teenagers. Sadly, in Walls’ case, since he started the church, there was no way to find out if he was who and what he claimed to be.

Perhaps it is time for pastors to be required to submit to annual state and federal background checks.The same should be required of anyone in the church who has contact with children or teenagers. A database could be compiled that would allow prospective church members and law enforcement to search for any  previous criminal arrests and/or convictions. This should be a nationwide database so someone like Walls can’t  move from one state to the next to avoid detection.

It should be clear to all that we can no longer trust churches or the clergy with our children. Every day I read another new report of a pastor, priest, elder, or deacon sexually molesting or preying on church children. Day after day, the reports pile up in my email inbox. From the Catholic church sex scandal to Rudolph Walls to Jack Schaap, predators who call themselves men of God prey on church children. While Christians will likely say that these predators are outliers, the proverbial bad apple, I am convinced that apple barrel has far more bad apples than Christians are willing to admit. The Bible says that judgment must begin at the house of God. It’s time for sects, churches, and individual church members to clean up their own backyard. Instead of raging against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, premarital sex, and adultery, how about making a serious effort to address sexual abuse in the church.

Notes

Friendly Chapel is located in Dillon, South Carolina. Walls is a registered sex offender in Chadbourn, North Carolina. These two communities are 40 miles apart.

dillon sc to chadbourn nc

rudolph walls registered sex offender

rudolph walls registered sex offender 2

Walls’ address in the North Carolina Registered Sex Offender Database is listed as 226 Old Stake Rd in Chadbourn, North Carolina. Based on Google Earth, this is the address for the parking lot of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Chadbourn. Jerry Ganus is the pastor of the church. I found no website for Mt. Zion. I did find numerous funeral notices that listed Ganus as the officiant. I have no idea if there is any connection between Mt. Zion Baptist Church/Jerry Ganus and Rudolph Walls. My gut tells me there is. In the comment section, a commenter stated that Walls’ mother is a member of Mt. Zion.

According to another commenter, there is a road that runs through the church parking lot and Walls lived (lives) in a house on this road.

226 old stake road

UPDATE, December 3, 2015:

Raw Story reports:

…Police charged 64-year-old pastor Rudolph Walls in May with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree against two children under the age of 16.

Walls had previously insisted he was not guilty of any crime — but this week he pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct with a minor and failure to register as a sex offender.

Judge Markley Dennis sentenced him to 15 years behind bars. The sentence is the maximum allowed under the law.

“Obviously, we agree with and are appreciative of the court’s imposing the maximum sentence,” prosecutor Shipp Daniel said. “This is a terrible case perpetrated by a man whose position as a pastor makes it that much more heinous. Unfortunately, 15 years is all he could get.”…

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 3

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

In my last post on this subject I wrote:

In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject.  It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people: wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people…

Let me digress for a moment and lay some groundwork for what I will say next. Evangelicals believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various  arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If they don’t they are not Evangelical.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, when we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.

God has given them a man or a woman (most often a man) to teach and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people?

People want to believe that when they go to church they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.

This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for churches to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe the facts. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana (at one time the largest church in America),was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement was divided into two groups of people; those that stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.

The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church.  He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year prison sentence.

Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities.  He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty hours out of every twenty four hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.

In the Evangelical church, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question…well that’s never happened.

Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about evangelicals, but many of they take seriously the teachings of the Bible. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.

Church members are taught to NOT trust their own reasoning. They are taught to NOT trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading  books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters.. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.

Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.

Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people.  I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want  to help people and to teach people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.

Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total number of churches. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at the mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’  church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.

No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He  the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board.  The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss a pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.

As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.

I am sure you have heard the line absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many churches. Over time, the pastor becomes  a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?

The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors and political personalities, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.”  “What a powerful man of God you are!”

The pastor and the church are complicit in providing a fertile ground for abuse to occur.  While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account  for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it failed to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving the same way as church members and non-Christians.

Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible.  Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes it is bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes it really is good people doing bad things.

Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?

First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AM SOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”  Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher)

Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to the pastor about the troubles they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk.” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and mental/emotional stress.

This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalist?)

As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.

Most church members read the bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and they are encouraged to only send their kids to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.

Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.

When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.

Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blinds them from seeing themselves as they really are. As this point, the pastor lacks self-awareness and is extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.

Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and  responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.

Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Uncounted pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.

Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the person. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.

Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed provocatively.  Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats.  She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs she definitely had my attention.  It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.

In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.

A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But, we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an Independent Baptist church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, explains most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastor. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control–and I readily admit there are some kids that need help beyond what  parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home, such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (See Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)

Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he  gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do, The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students.  Rarely, does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the student and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the student is on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.

022216

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 2

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

In the first part of this post I dealt with Churches That Abuse: Why Bad people do Bad things. I wrote:

Churches attract all kinds of people with varying motivations for being a part of a particular religion. I spent fifty years in the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. When it comes to other religions, I only know what I read in the media. The experiences and observations I share in this post come from the fifty years I spent in those churches, first as a parishioner, and later as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years in the pastorate, pastoring churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

While I am no longer a Christian or a pastor, I do keep myself informed about the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. Just because I no longer believe doesn’t mean that my experiences and observations are now, suddenly, invalid or lack value. Some Christians try to marginalize or invalidate my writing by suggesting that since I am no longer a Christian, or may have never been a Christian (their view), my experiences and observations can safely be ignored or ridiculed. I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide whether what I write has value. I suspect, knowing my readers as I do, that what follows will resonate with many of them,

The Christian church attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption, most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence, and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.

There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace-filled lives as born again Christians.  They are to be commended for the change that has taken place in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christian church and its message of saving grace, I am quite ready to admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.

Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value, they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In among the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants, to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep to devour. This is true not only in the local church, but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools.

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceivers quickly embrace the church family, begin to regularly attend services, and even give money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the church. (monetary, physical, spiritual)

In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject.  It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people; wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people.

How does a good person — a  pastor, deacon, or Sunday school teacher — go from a life as a devoted follower of Jesus to engaging in acts of abuse and perversion?  It is easy to dismiss these people as people who secretly were always abusers, but what if they weren’t?  What caused them to turn from being a follower of Jesus to being an abuser?

I will not offer any iron-clad answers to this question. I do want to suggest that there are teachings and ideologies within many Christian groups, especially those of Evangelical or Fundamentalist persuasion, that are instrumental in turning good people into abusers. They become Good People who do Bad Things.

My focus is on the churches I am most familiar with: Independent, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, and Baptist churches. I could spend the next hour detailing the heinous acts of people I personally know; men and women considered to be devoted followers of Jesus who became abusers of the very people they were supposed to love and care for.

I do not want this post to come off as a justification for the behavior of abusers. When 9-11 happened our focus was rightly on the terrorists who murdered thousands of people. Over time, a few people tried to raise questions about WHY the terrorists did what they did. Some people have no interest in pondering or answering the WHY question. “Who in the hell cares WHY they did it. We know they did it and that is all that matters.” I understand this sentiment, but refusing to ask the WHY question leaves us open to a repeat of the 9-11 attack. Dealing with the terrorists motivations just might reduce the number of terrorist attacks.

Multitudes of people have gone through their own personal 9-11.  They have been attacked, abused, and often emotionally and spiritually destroyed by people they trusted. Their tales of abuse are heart-wrenching, and I have no problem understanding their hatred for those who abused them. What I want to gently do is try to understand WHY the abuse happens. I will understand if you say, “Let them all rot in hell. I don’t care what their reasons were, or why they did what they did.” I have not walked in your shoes so I have no right to tell you how you must respond to these issues. But, I do think answering the WHY question is very important when it comes to reducing emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual abuse.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. I believe I can give some answers to the WHY question. I want to look behind the abuse and see what led good people to become abusers. I am convinced there are things within the DNA of Christianity that lends itself to breeding and growing abusers, especially within the Evangelical  church.

What are the reasons a person joins a church?

  • They are born into the church. At a later date they make a public profession of faith and are baptized.
  • Their family has always attended a particular church, so they, keeping with family tradition, join the family church.
  • They get married and their spouse attends a particular church. They join the church their spouse attends. It is important for couples to be on the same page spiritually, or so they are told.
  • They move into a new community and find a church of like faith to join.
  • They are dissatisfied with the current church they are members of and they are looking to join a church that best meets their needs.
  • They think there is no church that meets their needs or standard of belief so they start their own church.
  • They are friends of someone who attends a particular church. They visit the church, like what they see, so they join their friend’s church.
  • They attend a church, hear the preaching, fall under conviction of their sins, and  are  saved. They are baptized and become members of the church. They are called “new converts.”

What I have listed above pretty well covers the reasons why a person becomes a member of a particular church. I recognize the reasons I mention lack nuance, but I think they will suffice for what I plan to write later.

There are uncounted people who are not a part of organized religion. They are part of fellowship groups, cell churches, home churches, study groups, etc. While these groups are detached from the organized church, they are just as capable of being abusive as any group mentioned above. I know of home churches that are just as fundamentalist, if not more so, than any independent, fundamentalist Baptist church.

Every church and denomination has its own orthodoxy and its own orthopraxy.  When trying to determine why good people do bad things, we must first look at what a particular church or denomination believes and practices. This is essential to understanding why people, in the name of God, people who are committed followers of Jesus, abuse other people, often doing despicable things to those they are supposed to love and protect.

Most Evangelical churches teach:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If they don’t they are not Evangelicals.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

When we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God. They also believe that God has given them a man or a woman to teach them and guide them in the teachings of the Bible: namely, the pastor. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people? I will answer this question in part three of this series.

021816

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 1

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

Churches attract all kinds of people with varying motivations for being a part of a particular religion. I spent fifty years in the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. When it comes to other religions, I only know what I read in the media. The experiences and observations I share in this post come from the fifty years I spent in those churches, first as a parishioner, and later as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years in the pastorate, pastoring churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

While I am no longer a Christian or a pastor, I do keep myself informed about the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. Just because I no longer believe doesn’t mean that my experiences and observations are now, suddenly, invalid or lack value. Some Christians try to marginalize or invalidate my writing by suggesting that since I am no longer a Christian, or may have never been a Christian (their view), my experiences and observations can safely be ignored or ridiculed. I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide whether what I write has value. I suspect, knowing my readers as I do, that what follows will resonate with many of them,

The Christian church attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption, most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence, and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.

There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace-filled lives as born again Christians. They are to be commended for the change that has taken place in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christian church and its message of saving grace, I am quite ready to admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.

Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value, they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In among the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants, to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep to devour. This is true not only in the local church, but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools.

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceivers quickly embrace the church family, begin to regularly attend services, and even give money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the church (monetary, physical, spiritual).

Countless churches, after just a short time, readily appoint newcomers to positions of authority within the church. The reason for this is simple. Most churches need a steady supply of new workers. Sadly, many churches practice the four W’s: win them, wet them, work them, waste them. It is not uncommon for Baptist churches to turn over their membership every five or so years. It is just as common to find new church members quickly appointed as deacons, Sunday school teachers, junior church workers, youth workers, nursery workers, etc. Rarely is the past life of the new church member examined, either through an interview or background check. All that matters is that Jesus saved them.

What I have written above also applies to pastors. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I candidated at a number of churches. Not one church did a criminal background check. Several churches did check my references, but the references they checked were the references I gave them. Who would ever give a reference of a disgruntled church member or board member?  Every church I candidated at readily accepted the information on my résumé. I found every church to be trusting, and while this is a trait that should be commended, it is this same trait that often results in churches hiring men and women who are deceivers.

Bad people are those who become members of a church for ulterior reasons or those who are pastors with a secret past, who go from church to church preying on unsuspecting churches. Bad people do bad things to trusting children, teens, and adults. They physically and sexually abuse people. They scam people out of their money — sometimes their life savings. They wreak havoc wherever they go. After getting caught, they pack up their wares and go down the road to another church and set up shop. There is no shortage of supply of sincere, trusting, honorable church members.

There are some things that churches can (must) do to keep themselves from being easy marks:

  • Do not allow newcomers to become members of the church for at least one year. Do not allow them to hold any office of authority or responsibility. Time will likely expose them for what they really are.
  • Require federal and state criminal background checks on every person who will be in a place of authority or will have contact with children or teenagers. This must be a “no exceptions” policy. These background checks should be repeated annually.
  • Pastors should have an open-door policy.  Church members should be encouraged to share any concern they might have.
  • When someone reports abuse of any kind, an immediate investigation must be done. This investigation should be performed by someone outside of the church; someone who does not have a vested interest in the church.
  • ALL criminal activity should be reported to the police. ALL abuse should be immediately reported to the police or children services. In Ohio, people in places of authority are REQUIRED to report any abuse they are made aware of. They can be held criminally liable if they do not report it.
  • Churches should thoroughly investigate candidates for the pastorate. State and federal background checks should be done. References should be thoroughly checked. Phone calls should be made to the churches previously pastored. I would even go so far as to send people to the churches he previously pastored or is currently pastoring.
  • Candidates for a church’s open pastorate should be just as diligent,  Churches are notorious for hiding their dirty laundry. Why did the last pastor leave?  Churches, as a whole, can be just as abusive as a pastor or an individual church member.
  • Churches must be diligent in their investigation of new church members and prospective candidates for the pastorate. The unasked question is often the very thing that ends up biting the church in the ass. Personally, I would record all interviews, along with ANY meetings the church has. Recordings put an end to the he-said-she-said fights that are far too common in Christian churches.
  • Every church program or class should have a minimum of two workers who are not related. No person should be permitted to teach a class, work with the teenagers, or handle the nursery alone. If possible, every room should have a window in the door or hall wall. This allows people walking by to look in at any time.

Just because someone is a teenager or a pre-teen doesn’t mean he or she should be exempt from the things mentioned above. Many churches staff their nursery, junior church or vacation bible school with young people from the church (and sometimes from other churches). Churches assume that young people are safe. This assumption can prove to be deadly. Years ago, we had a teenager in our church who was a nice young man. Likeable. Easy going. Oh, and he spent two years in a juvenile detention center for sexual abuse.

The church attracts bad people who do bad things. Unless churches are diligent in protecting themselves, they will continue to be easy targets for abuse. The old adage is true: better safe than sorry. A genuine Christian will not be offended if the church is diligent in its protection of its children and teenagers.

021616

My One and Only Statement on Josh Duggar and the Duggar Family

josh duggar with ted cruz

Josh Duggar with Ted Cruz

A few readers are surprised I haven’t written anything of substance about Josh Duggar sexually molesting five girls when he was a teenager. One reason for not writing anything is because there are plenty of news stories and blog articles about the matter, so all I would be doing is repeating what others have said. Suzanne, my dear friend at No Longer Quivering, has posted numerous articles on Josh Duggar. I urge you to check them out:

Here’s what I think:

  1. The Duggar family have a closet full of secrets
  2. Josh Duggar committed felony sexual assault when he molested five little girls
  3. The Duggar family covered up Josh Duggar’s crimes
  4. Their church and elders covered up Josh Duggar’s crimes
  5. Advanced Training Institute covered up Josh Duggar’s crimes
  6. The police covered up Josh Duggar’s crimes
  7. TLC ignored rumors of Josh Duggar’s crimes

The Duggar family, all of them, have long been publicity whores, allowing the public unprecedented access to their life. They should have made sure there were no skeletons in their closet. They didn’t, and now they are paying the price. They will be remembered in the same light as June, Honey Boo Boo’s Mom. While I derive a small bit of perverse pleasure from seeing House Duggar brought to the ground, I remind myself of Josh Duggar’s victims and the Duggar children. They are the innocent ones and they will ultimately be affected the most. Their lives, from this day forward, will never be the same. Their parents didn’t ask their permission when they started pimping them out to TLC. They are collateral damage left in the wake of their older brother’s criminal acts and their parents willingness to use/misuse them for material gain.

One good thing to come from Josh Duggar’s crimes is that a bright light is now shining on the Quiverfull and home schooling movement. What was once done in secret is now known by all. This is a good thing. Duggar’s crimes also shines the light on Bill Gothard and Advanced Training Institute. Again, this is a good thing.  The only way to kill the fundamentalism of the Duggar family, Bill Gothard, and the Quiverfull movement, is to continue to expose their deceit, hypocrisy and, in some cases, crimes.

Let the defenders and supporters of the Duggar family whine, complain, fume, and object.  Their words fall on deaf ears. They are more interested in maintaining things as they are than they are defending those who are harmed by fundamentalist Christian beliefs and practices. Those of us who daily make known the foibles of fundamentalist Christians know that our greater objective is to help those harmed by the pernicious teachings of people like the Duggars, their church, and the religious circles they are a part of.

Dear Tony Kornheiser, You Don’t Know What You Are Talking About When it Comes to Josh Duggar

tony kornheiser

ESPN Pardon the Interruption Host Tony Kornheiser

I am a long time viewer of sports show Pardon the Interruption (PTI), hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Kornheiser also has a daily radio program. For some inexplicable reason, Kornheiser decided to address the Josh Duggar case. Here’s part of what he said:

“Wasn’t it addressed awhile back? And the only reason he’s quitting his job now is because it became public. […] You have the right to address it privately. […] He was a kid!”

Really? He was a kid? You have the right to address it privately? Why is Kornheiser making light of Duggar molesting five little girls? Does he really know anything about the Duggar family, Josh Duggar, and their fundamentalist religion? I doubt it. This is a clear case of Kornheiser opening his mouth without having any understanding of the matter.

If, at age 14 (almost 15), Josh had raped one of his sisters, would Kornheiser respond the same way? Hey, he was a kid, he didn’t understand the seriousness of what he was doing. Is this what Kornheiser would say? I doubt it. But, maybe he would. Maybe he thinks 14-year-old boys should get a pass for what is done in their youth. Perhaps his comments are a reflection of his age, hailing from a generation that routinely turned a blind eye to sexual abuse and rape. Well Tony, it’s 2015 not 1950.

And here’s what I do know. If Josh Duggar had molested Tony Kornheiser’s daughters, I guarantee you he wouldn’t be so understanding.

Finally, A Fundamentalist Who Hates the Duggar Family

duggar family

I don’t plan on writing specifically about the Josh Duggar affair. I assume anyone who reads this blog knows all they need to know about Josh Duggar’s molestations of young girls, including his sisters. What I do plan to post are a few quotes from the past week or so that I think readers might find interesting.

Zsuzsanna Anderson is the wife of Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. I wrote a full length post on Anderson and you can read it here. Here’s what Zsuzsanna Anderson had to say about the Duggars:

– The Duggars, it seems, have always been running in circles known to attract freaks and weirdos. Sadly, many Christians who grow sick of churches pushing birth control, Christian school, and nurseries find themselves attracted to the home church, repentance, patriarchal crowd. From what I have read, it seems the Duggars left a soulwinning, independent Baptist church to join a “home church,” and later got tied in with ATI and Vision Forum, the heads of which have both resigned amidst sex scandals involving much younger women. Guarding our kids against abuse in this day and age is vital.

– I have zero doubt whatsoever that for Joshua Duggar to do what he did (to his own sisters no less), he himself at some time before that, or even at that point in time, was the subject of abuse.

– Not all who are abused become abusers themselves, and it is never an excuse. I do believe that without the perpetrators being punished properly (which would be swift execution), it is virtually impossible for victims to overcome abuse, unless they have the Holy Spirit of God to help them through it.

– The Duggars promote a false gospel that calls for “repentance from sins,” rather than, what the Bible teaches, a turning from false religion or whatever else we are trusting to get us into heaven other than Jesus. While I have know many good Christians who truly were saved become mixed up in this doctrine of “there will be / has to be some change,” many of which later reversed course and realized that their definition of repentance was works salvation, the Duggars push this point more than most, and associate with obviously false prophets such as Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, promote the damnable “Hell’s best kept secret,” etc. Because of this, I have only ever given them a 50/50 chance of truly being saved. Unless I talked to them in person, it is impossible for me to give my opinion on it accurately just because as with everything else, they are so wishy-washy it’s hard to put a finger on it. I give their children even less of a chance of being saved, since it seems all they have ever known is this false gospel crowd.

– Being popular and loved by the world is another sign of a false prophet. Then again, while the Duggars enjoyed immense popularity, it was hardly for their Bible preaching/teaching, but rather for their unusual family size and lifestyle. Remember, the show does not promote virtually any doctrine, at all. Besides, they had vehement and vocal haters, too. So their rock star status may or may not be an indicator of being a false prophet.

– It is ridiculous of all these Christian blogs to go on and on about how we are all sinners, we all need grace and forgiveness, etc. Yes, that is all true – but we are not all pedophiles. That is an unnatural desire, only experienced by a reprobate. Even the world, which is happy to excuse most sins and licentious living, is still horrified by child abuse. No, forgiving a pedophile is not a great picture of what the gospel is all about. They have crossed a line where not even God is willing to forgive – why should we?

– Yet with all that being said, and I know I will draw immense hate for this from the trolls on this site, I am not convinced beyond any doubt that Josh Duggar himself had reached that point of being a reprobate pedophile when he did what he did.

One report stated the incident took place the month he turned 14 years old. I consider anyone that is pre-puberty to be a child. Our oldest, who will be 14 in September, is just now in the very beginning stages of puberty from all I can ascertain (thank you, growth hormone-free meat and dairy). Even for a child of course such behavior is vile, perverted, and sinful, and they should and often do know better. But they are not always acting on their own lusts and desires, but in foolishness they are acting out what they themselves have been exposed to. The unpardonable sin of sexual deviance is the fact that they burn with lust after the same gender, after animals, after (in this case) children. Is that what Josh Duggar felt at age 14, or was he, who I am sure was a victim of abuse himself since his family runs in circles replete with reprobates, just acting out the abuse carried out on him earlier, or even at that time? I have no way of knowing the answer to this question for sure. Neither do I need to know, since it is between him and God. He doesn’t go to my church or ever have access to my kids, so I need not waste my time trying to make this important distinction.

My heart breaks for the victims, who will only be able to get over this by the power of God. I am sickened for the children in the family who likely have never been informed of this before, and whose entire lives have just been turned upside down. Imagine that’s your Dad that was just declared to the world to be a pedophile. The new spouses – were they told of issues their young wives are likely to carry with them for life? How to live with such a burden of shame, that has reached international proportions? What great harm has been done to the Bible and God’s way, by allowing a family to be lifted up to such popularity, when this was sure to come out sooner or later, and waved high and low as a banner for why the Bible is wrong and progressives are right. Who are the people that make a living of trying to dig up past evil on a 14-year old?

It was reckless and irresponsible of the Duggars to allow themselves to rise to stardom, knowing about such “skeletons” in the closet. Even if we set aside “Be sure your sin will find you out,” it was insane to think they could become celebrities, and this not come to light with as many people as were involved in it. Did they consider the repercussions on their son’s life, who would even under the best of circumstances have been reeling to recover from this (if that is even possible)? Did they think the world, who was looking for any way to attack them, was going to look the other way on this? Great shame has been brought upon the cause of Christ through their desire to be rich, popular, or both.

So, a sad story all around, on every level. One that brings shame, to some degree, on anyone who names the name of Christ. e have for years held and publicly stated that the Duggars are liberal and worldly, even as they are known for being ‘fundamentalists.’ Maybe their beliefs are, but what they are publicly willing to take a stand for is weak and anemic.

One comment. I love how Anderson chides the Duggar family for being publicity whores, ignoring the fact that she and her husband have been publicity seekers for years. Steven Anderson goes out of his way to get his name in the press. How is this any different from what the Duggar family is doing? Besides, all of us who are bloggers want, desire, or need the fame and publicity our writing brings. None of us write and hope no one reads it, so Zsuzsanna Anderson is being disingenuous on this point.

UPDATED: Why Eric Jackson Confessed to Raping His Sister

jackson brothers

Six Jackson Brothers Who Repeatedly Raped Their Little Sister

Scott Brown, one of the elders at Hope Baptist Church (link no longer active) in Wake Forest, North Carolina, church home to two of the six brothers accused of repeatedly raping their sister over an eight year period, recently shared the reason the Eric Jackson confessed. In a blog post titled Eric Jackson and the Power of the Gospel Brown wrote:

Now, you may have heard that Hope Baptist has two of her members in jail on sex offenses against their sister. The tragic family life of the Jacksons is almost overwhelming. It is a story we will never forget.

But how did this come to light? The reason this story is in the national news right now is because of the power of the gospel. Eric Jackson came to the church, responded to the preaching of the Word of God, recognized that he was a false convert, embraced the true gospel, and was born again. His new heart compelled him want to walk in the light. As a result, he confessed his sin.

He first went to my fellow Hope Baptist pastor, Dan Horn and confessed. We collaborated on the situation and the next day Dan called to report it to the authorities in Elizabeth City. Shortly thereafter Dan went with Eric to the authorities to turn himself in. In that meeting Eric exposed the patterns of evil in his home and his past participation in it. Finally, 18 months later when their investigation was complete, 8 of the 11 family members were indicted by a grand jury and jailed to await trial. The father and the mother, Jon and Nita Jackson are out of jail on bond.

If Jesus had not saved Eric, perhaps the devastating culture of this family could have continued, even to more generations. But the gospel transforms and shines light in dark places. Jesus was the source of light that caused things to be brought into the light, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:4-5

Paul speaks of the transforming power of the gospel to the Corinthian church. He mentions that some of them had a horrible past – adultery, homosexuality… He writes to them of the mercies of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

When the gospel has truly been embraced, it makes murderers former murderers. It makes idolaters former idolaters. It even makes child molesters former child molesters who walk in the light. Nothing else has that kind of power. Nothing else can break the patterns of sin that once enslaved those who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)…

Eric Jackson is now twenty-seven years old. This means, depending on which report you believe about when the rape stopped, Jackson was around fifteen when the rape started and twenty-three to twenty-five when the rape stopped. Ponder that for a moment. He was a teenager when he started violating his sister and a grown ass man who owned a business when he stopped.

One commenter, on my other post on this sordid story, suggested that the brothers were so corrupted by their parents that they didn’t know raping their sister, age four and a half when it started and  age twelve to fourteen when it stopped, was wrong. The only proof of this claim is a subjective comment the local sheriff made in an interview. There is no proof that the brothers were so under the influence of their parents that they were powerless to stop raping their sister or didn’t know that it was wrong.

Now we have Scott Brown saying that Eric, the oldest of the molesters, did not know that raping his sister was morally wrong. It wasn’t until Brown, using the mighty power of the Word of God, showed Eric that he was a false Christian, that Eric began to see that raping his sister was wrong. Until the moment that Eric gloriously embraced the gospel of John Calvin, he had no clue that sexually molesting a child was immoral. Until the Calvinistic Holy Spirit gave life to Eric’s dead, darkened, depraved heart, he did not know that what he and his brothers did was wrong.

Those of us who are familiar with fundamentalist Calvinism have heard similar stories. Many of the “new” converts in Calvinistic churches are actually people who were already professing Christians. They were just the “wrong” kind of Christian. Calvinistic pastors are noted for their ability to persuade Christians that their non-doctrines of grace salvation is false. What better way to understand Eric Jackson’s sin and confession than to paint it as a Saul on the Road to Damascus conversion story.

Brown, of course, is an opportunist, and he is using Eric Jackson’s story to promote fundamentalist Calvinism. He even goes so far to suggest “If Jesus had not saved Eric, perhaps the devastating culture of this family could have continued, even to more generations.” If it is the Calvinistic gospel that made the difference, and so far Eric is the only Christian brother to get really, really, really saved, aren’t the rest of the brothers still rapists dead in trespasses and sin? Besides, at least two of the brothers regularly attended Hope Baptist Church. Surely they heard preaching against raping your sister? Surely they heard preaching against sexual immorality? If they heard, are they not accountable?

Calvinists love to make much of Romans 1-2 and the law of God that is written on the heart of every human. Surely, that law would tell Eric Jackson and his brothers that raping their sister is wrong? If atheists know that the raping a child is morally wrong, shouldn’t people raised in church, raised under the teachings of the Bible, even if they are not a Christian, know that they shouldn’t sexually molest children?

Brown’s blog post is quite “Biblical”, typical Calvinistic drivel. People like Brown are convinced that anyone who is not like them, a regenerated sinner brought into the glorious light by the Calvinistic gospel, is dead in trespasses and sin. We are vile, wicked, enemies of God. It’s a wonder that all of us don’t rape our siblings and children. We are helpless, in bondage to sin and Satan. Or so the Scott Brown’s of the world would have us to believe.

This story continues to sicken me and Brown’s opportunism and explanation only makes it worse. While I am sure that there was tremendous dysfunction in the Jackson home, it does not excuse the brothers for raping their little sister. I don’t believe for a moment that none of them knew what they were doing was wrong. Unless they were raised as feral animals, they had to know that what they were doing is wrong; especially by the time the brothers became adults.

All that matters now is that girl the brothers abused get the help she needs. There are also two other children to consider. Brown says there are 11 people in the Jackson family. The parents, the six brothers who are in jail, and the girl who was molested. This leaves two other children. Nothing has been reported about them, their age, or sex.

I hope in the coming days that investigative reporters will focus on the patriarchal and hierarchical authority structures found in the Jackson home and churches like Hope Baptist Church. This movement deserves to be thoroughly investigated. I am convinced that once this happens, others will be less likely to be sucked into their pernicious, soul killing, damaging beliefs. We now know, thanks to the Doug Phillips’ sex scandal and Bill Gothard’s sex scandal, that these beliefs can and do lead to gross manipulation and abuse of others. These kind of churches give the appearance of being safe places for families and children, but in some cases they are anything but. Behind the manipulation and abuse is a Bible that is used by men to control others.

Updated

Four of the six Jackson brothers pleaded guilty to sexually molesting their little sister. Eric and Matthew Jackson each pleaded guilty to first degree sex offense and were sentenced to twelve to fifteen years in prison. Nathaniel and Benjamin Jackson each pleaded guilty to multiple counts of incest and were sentenced to twenty four months in prison. Aaron Jackson, Jon Marc Jackson, and parents John and Nita Jackson, have yet to plead guilty or are awaiting trial.

Raw Story reports:

Four homeschooled brothers pleaded guilty Thursday to molesting their younger sister from the time she was 4 years old until she was almost 15 – and their parents and two other brothers still face charges related to the case.

The oldest brother confessed in December 2012 to molesting the girl after becoming a born-again Christian, and a pastor from the Baptist church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, contacted authorities the following day.

“He confided in his pastor and his pastor told him that was wrong and not the way normal families are,” said Perquimans County Sheriff Eric Tilley.

Eric Jackson, then 25, told authorities that he and all five of his brothers had sexually abused their younger sister for a decade, and authorities say their parents knew but did nothing to stop the abuse.

An elder at Hope Baptist Church, which Jackson and another brother attended, compared the pattern of abuse to other “horrible” sins such as adultery and homosexuality.

“If Jesus had not saved Eric, perhaps the devastating culture of this family could have continued, even to more generations,” wrote elder Scott Brown. “But the gospel transforms and shines light in dark places. Jesus was the source of light that caused things to be brought into the light.”

Eight of the family’s 11 members have been indicted in the case — which bears similarities to newly revealed claims that reality TV stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar may have covered up their eldest son’s molestation of his sisters and other girls.

The victim in the Jackson case told investigators that she believed she would go to hell if she told anyone about the assaults, which she said took place at least twice a week…

…The girl told authorities her mother had witnessed at least one assault and walked away.

After the eldest brother — who was the first to abuse his sister — contacted authorities, the parents fled with the victim to Colorado.

But the family was tracked down, and the girl was taken into custody by the Department of Human Services and confirmed the confessed claims of her brothers.

Tilley, the sheriff, said the family was “bizarre” and the father held “anti-government” and “anti-school” beliefs.

The eldest brother had difficulty writing his own name when he met with investigators.

“The children were home schooled with very limited education,” Tilley said. “They were very private and the whole yard has a fence around it — like a little compound. They’re very different.”