Religion And Sex

Breaking news! It isn’t just the Catholics.

The Houston Chronicle, among other publications, has now publicized revelations about what the Baptists have been doing.

It’s not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

 They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.

The revelations about Catholic priests spawned a number of articles blaming the priests’ sexual misconduct on celibacy–after all, human sexuality is a primal urge. Asking men to forego sex in the service of Godliness…well, that’s asking for trouble.

But Baptists don’t have to be celibate. What’s their excuse?

I’ve always been bemused by the emphasis so many Christian denominations place on morality “below the belt.” When I was growing up, my impression of Christianity was that its practitioners were obsessed with sexual “purity”–and not particularly focused upon other issues of morality/immorality, like cheating, lying, stealing, bullying…..I could never understand the belief, evidently held by many Christians, that concerns about “morality” applied primarily if not exclusively to the genitals.

The impression I got–at least from clergy representing more fundamentalist denominations–was that Christians could engage in all manner of questionable and self-serving behaviors, and God will still love them–so long as they don’t have sex outside of marriage.  Have you been stealing from widows and orphans? Cheating on your taxes? Forwarding racist emails? Those behaviors might elicit a “tut tut,” but they would be likely to elicit far less pastoral opprobrium than sexual misconduct.

Interestingly, that judgmental approach to sexual behavior was absent when it came to their own clergy. Much like the Catholic Church, the Baptists protected their own.

At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.

The new revelations about Baptists’ sexual misconduct are particularly ironic in view of the denomination’s thundering disapproval of LGBTQ folks. Labelling gay men as pedophiles looks more and more like projection. In fact, when it comes to Protestants, it seems to be clergy from the most theologically-rigid denominations, the most “fire and brimstone” pastors, who are most likely to prey while they pray.

I haven’t seen any accusations of misconduct against, say, Episcopalians or Unitarians.

I’m not a psychologist, so I am ill-equipped to analyze the appeal of clerical careers to sexual deviants. It may be that working for the church attracts weak men who want to dominate others–or perhaps it’s an easy way to meet potential victims, men and women who come to the church at times when they are most vulnerable.

It really is amazing what you can get away with when you are cloaked in faux piety.

I wonder what denomination is next…..


  1. Sheila, another difference between the Southern Baptists and the ‘Episcopalians or Unitarians’ (apart from this now publicized sexual abuse), is that, like the Catholics, the Southern Baptists don’t allow female pastors; Episcopalians and Unitarians do. Coincidence?

  2. The more extreme the personality and proclivities of the individual, the more comfort they may find in extremely judgmental and controlled environments. Of course, they may just become comfortable and self-righteous enough to act out extreme desires, feeling empowered by their belief that they are ‘saved’ and part of the chosen few.

  3. I have to tell you that the Methodist Church is not immune to such behavior. Just Google pedophilia and Methodist ministers. Among articles which immediately appeared were about pedophilia in the British Methodist Church and a case in North Carolina where the minister was allowed to give up his credentials rather than undergo a chuch trial where his transgressions would have been publicly revealed.

    Next week the Methodist Church will have a special General Conference in St Louis on the LGBTQ issue. Currently if you are gay, you cannot be ordained in the Methodist Church nor can you be married in the Methodist Church. Stay tuned for the results of this conference and see if the Methodists do the right thing.

  4. During a poignant moment at a Shabot Dinner in Jerusalem, surrounded by top thinkers, we shared through just about every headline in depth. Realizing I was uncharacteristically silent, a friend at the table asked, well, Norris what do you think? I paused for a moment, looked around the table, then I said: “I am compelled at this moment to speak to truth.” Being the only gentile except for my wife at the table. I went on to say: “There were five Jews who literally changed the world.” Not sure where I was going with this, there was rapt attention if not astonished concern. “Abraham said it was all about POWER. Then Moses came along and said no, it is all about the LAW. Then Jesus came later and said it is all about LOVE. Then wouldn’t you know Freud. Sig said it is all about SEX. Well … then Einstein comes along, shrugs at the shoulders, and declares: “Hmmmpf! It’s all RELATIVE.” … (have we had dessert, yet?)

  5. “…Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.”

    When pointing out that it isn’t just the Catholics; concentrate on the quote above which appears to report that those accused were dealt with by legal action, many in the judicial system rather than financial settlements. Then look at the Catholic years of history and ongoing situation of spending mega-millions to keep the accusations within the church system so there is no public record of the criminal charges for the criminal actions by their priests. It appears to report that action was taken to remove the accused from their individual parish, send them for “treatment” then place them in another church with no warning of their past sexual abuse history…many of them repeatedly being “treated” and reassigned. The Sunday School Superintendent in Burge Terrace Baptist Church in Indianapolis attempted to rape me in my basement on the lower landing; he would have succeeded had my children not come in the side door from school. He had a hauling business and the former owners of the Irvington home we had recently moved into had left a lot of junk in the basement and I had asked him for an estimate to remove it…I did NOT hire him.

    Watch the movie “Spotlight” for an education in the depth of the Catholic Diocese preventing criminal charges by keeping the situation within the church system for years. They also cover up the sexual activities of more than 50% of their priests within their celibate religious system. Yes; other religious denominations have their sexual abusers along with thieves and liars; the evangelical movement in the Trump administration, with Pence at the pulpit and the conservative stacked SCOTUS system, will continue to support and cover up their own sex abusers. How many of them are Catholic or Baptist…or Episcopalians or Unitarians? The Spotlight investigative journalists of the Boston Globe newspaper uncovered 87 known guilty priests within the Boston Diocese; their initial report brought out more victims who decided to report the abuses. They reported at the end of the movie uncovering 249 priests within that system and more than 1,000 victims. They also listed other major cities uncovering problems within their Catholic churches; Indianapolis was on their listing. We saw the latest local report reported priest just days ago.

    Does the depth of individual’s religious fervor, whatever their religion, lead to a more exciting sexual encounter due to it being forbidden? What about Atheists; any statistics on their numbers or does the lack of religion consider sexuality to be a primal urge and part of nature?

  6. And they do all this damage to others while enjoying their tax exempt status
    Tax them
    Tax their property
    Tax the daylights out of these creeps

  7. To add to the Spotlight report; they uncovered the fact that Cardinal Law had been covering up the same priests repeatedly for years. Cardinal Law resigned his position in Boston; NOT within the Catholic Diocese. His punishment was a transfer to Rome where he maintained his lofty position, lived out his life and died at the age of 80.

    Norris Lineweaver; you totally blew me away with your profound observations and comments. They deserve to be made known beyond this blog; a concentrated history of Jewish wisdom which goes beyond the Jewish religion, as you so simply stated, they changed the world. Thank you!

  8. lys face it human needs, seems covington Kys mass issue,uummmm,seems to have disappeared overnite,literally.. hire PR,and its done.. that money donated,sure went to a good cause, keeping paster whoever,gainfully,er satisfied,either in mind or body. and theres the hormone theory, young,directional,insperational,and the ones who are trying to stand up again,thats the congregation. so here’s theologian speaking inspirationally,and well getting the sweat up. moral responsibility, like the present rightwing agenda,(hypocritical church) our thoughts and prayers are with you…. right?

  9. I think I should point out that that “pastoral opprobrium” you wrote of was directed primarily at women. It’s also noteworthy that the article stated that some of those 700 victims were encouraged to “forgive their abusers or to get abortions.”

    Are any of those “believers” actually believers?

  10. “The impression I got–at least from clergy representing more fundamentalist denominations–was that Christians could engage in all manner of questionable and self-serving behaviors, and God will still love them–so long as they don’t have sex outside of marriage.”

    This sounds like a kind description of our evil VP pence.

  11. The problem this country has is – ignorance, plain and simple. But I also have to say that given our country’s condition at this time – there would be only extremes of address to any problem, so I do not see any remedy coming forth for this problem in the near future – unless the populace awakens and I mean awakens to the fact that any Judeo-Christian-Muslim religion is obsolete, as they stand now – so we will not get to a social balance by any means in the time we live in. And I believe that whoever it is – no matter affiliation or religious order – if you are found guilty of sexual assault – you go to PRISON(.) no church intervention no protection by the church or organization allowed, the Law is the law for ALL. (Including Fuckface von Klownschtick and his evil minions!)

  12. Those southern baptist congregations are not only full of sexual deviants, their preachers and leaders are all about handing down rules for women to follow and they demand that the women be obedient and submissive to their husbands.

    When a man beats his wife or commits adultery those congregations hurl blame onto the victim. The women are brainwashed into believing everything is always their fault.

    Ten years ago I was driving from the Atlanta, GA airport to Athens, GA to spend a couple weeks there on a business trip. It was three hour trip at night on rural GA roads. I was amazed at the huge beautiful churches that I kept passing by in the middle of nowhere. They were all lit up so you could see the both the amazing architecture and size. I just couldn’t understand how so many rural area churches could come up the funds to build them. The churches were not very far from each other in distance along the rural roads.

    I met a nice young woman at lunch one day and mentioned the churches to her and how I couldn’t understand where all the money came from. She was a member of one and proceeded to tell me where the money comes from. The church members must commit to tithing the first 10% of their income to the church and absolutely must follow this rule. Their tax records can be reviewed if requested for proof. It doesn’t matter how poor a family is, this is a rule that cannot be broken. I asked her “what if a family cannot afford to pay rent or buy food or other necessities if they tithe that much”? She said “then it is up to the members to either go without or get government assistance for their necessities”.

    I believe a bulldozer needs to be taken to every single one of those massive church buildings and the pastors and leaders need to be told to repent their sins of the worship of money and idols.

  13. While the abuse of thousands by the clergy in this country should not be ignored, the horrific abuse of millions in the middle east by religious minded people needs to be commented upon too. There the most radical believers have murdered, raped and destroyed entire countries and their heritage. Soldiers from our country have tried to put a stop to it and have been horribly injured or killed as well. Divisions between peoples have been intensified. And for what? So one religious group could hold sway over another?
    Lurking behind all of this is religion… it is at the same time both the reason for so much evil in the world and the tool used to commit evil in this world. While much good comes from religion one must ask “is there no other way for goodness to be taught and practiced than via a delusional world view and the thinking that it produces?”

  14. Absolutely no surprise to me. I have a brother who is a “preacher” in the Southern Baptist Cult and he is one of the most hypocritical people on the face of the earth. Denies science especially climate change, included an altar call at Dad’s funeral, announced those who would be going to Heaven at the funeral making a point to leave out myself and my wife, treated Mom so badly her physician was ready to hospitalize her for high blood pressure, calls mainstream orthodox churches such as the Episcopal “social clubs”, etc. etc. He also has a “doctorate” from a diploma mill so he insists on being called “doctor”. BTW, I have an earned doctorate from Oklahoma State University and refuse to address him as such. He’s obsessed with other’s sexual practices and ignores the many criminal and treasonous behavior of Trump. I could write a dissertation on his twisted “morality” so I’ll stop here.

  15. I think if we were honest, we might easily come up with the name of a prominent, widely acclaimed and honored Presbyterian minister-turned-politician who fit the abusive “Baptist profile.” I could even make an introduction to one of “the cocksman’s” victims of predation. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  16. Stan – WOW!

    I hope that you have been able to enjoy many public/family occasions to put your hypocritical brother “in his place”, so to speak.

    From your comment it seems that the family you grew up in wasn’t southern baptist, so I am wondering how your brother managed to stray to the insanity of that awful religion? Was it the only way he could obtain some type of power over others?

  17. When I was young a popular song played often on the radio was about a banker who spent the weekdays throwing widows and children out on the street, but he was considered a paragon in the community because “He Went To Church On Sundays.”

  18. Just a thought – Authoritarianism would seem to be at work here. I was raised a Catholic (Now agnostic), the common link with Catholics and evangelicals would be the hierarchy of authority which cannot be questioned.

    Authoritarianism is also rampant in sports. We have probably all read the various stories of how the sports establishment covered up years of sexual abuse by coaches and others in connection with sports.

    The victims not only suffer at the hands of the individual in power but, also at the hands of the establishment that wants to protect itself and in so doing protects perpetrators of these crimes. The victims I would suggest are selected because they lack power. An accusation of sexual misconduct must be proved and how do you prove it when the crime is committed by behind closed doors. Other victims would have to come forward to prove at least a pattern of sexual abuse has happened.

  19. As I mentioned I was raised a Catholic, during my early Boomer Years. We were taught when I went to Catholic school that all non-Catholics no matter how “good” they were, were destined to go to hell.

    My wife was a protestant in a liberal church. Gays were accepted as well as people of color. When I would go to church with her there was no hellfire and damnation speeches.

    The Baptists or other evangelicals, I have encountered had similar beliefs to the Catholics – Join us or go to hell. The Baptists or other evangelicals also tried to maintain constant control over the flock. It was not good enough to go to church on Sunday you had to commit to various fellowship meetings during the week. Control was exercised through the church of social gatherings. Associations with outsiders was discouraged. When I worked in a large office, the bible thumper’s would be reading their bibles during breaks or at lunch. The control never seemed to relax.

    What may seem odd at first but, in my readings about Soviet Communism was the use of the same techniques applied to party members. It was not enough to be a card carrying communist, you had constantly demonstrate your commitment by attending various party functions and spreading the “gospel” of communism to non-party members. The party members enjoyed a higher rung in the society.

    Those Baptists or other evangelicals that I knew that left the churches found themselves shunned by family and friends.

  20. Without naming people or places, I know of a Lutheran minister who had a married lady in his congregation come to him for counseling in her faltering marriage and they were soon abed, and then her husband came to the minister for counseling for his faltering marriage and the minister, who was also married with children, was counseling both of them while amidst a classic case not only of adultery but one of what I would call egregious fraud.

    Upon discovery, he was immediately defrocked, but imagine the damage left in his primal wake not only to his family and the family he was counseling, but the horrified congregation he formerly led, not to mention the collective loss of trust and confidence ordinarily reposed in men and women of the cloth. When primal urges are mixed with social expectations it is not surprising that we have failures, and to expect those of the cloth to act much differently than the general population suggests that they are not a part of the general population where primal urges are concerned. They are; it’s baked in as part of our animal status. The question becomes how we as social animals living in community deal with this problem.

    Membership or leadership in churches, lodges and clubs which serve as voluntary associations have little if anything to do with primal urges. Catholics, Unitarians, atheists and tree worshippers have similar if not identical urges; the trick is to subdue one’s passions for the greater good. It can be done short of playing monk and sitting in a cell praying all day long. As we may be painfully aware, there are good and bad people in all such associations as well as among those who do not belong to any association, church, fraternal, club etc.

    To do – look in the mirror, get a grip on your responsibilities to family and the larger society, and go out and do good – which you can do while belonging or not belonging to any voluntary association. Perhaps the Ten Commandments (all negative) should be supplanted by another such Ten Commandments all positive (Thou shalt as opposed to Thou shalt not). Whatever works for the greater good.

  21. Norris: That was brilliant. I had to copy and save that to my computer. I love it.

    Theresa, amazing comment and question. I don’t have an answer.

  22. Over the years, I’ve often found cause to question the morality of those who use their religion as a club to use on others. You are right that they have a fixation on sexual “sins”. We are seeing it today in our legislature’s reluctance to pass hate crimes legislation if it includes LGBTQ folks – as if hate crimes against anyone would be acceptable. The more they PROTEST always raises my questions about the more they PROJECT their own sins onto others.

  23. Nancy: All excellent, and that look on Pence’s face as he stares adoringly at DJT is just sickening and scary!
    Stan: Brother is typical of the subject today, continue with your own plans.
    Norris: Shabot dinner, correct and beautiful story.
    ALG: Agreed!
    Sheila: No way to top ‘prey while they pray’. Thanks for doing this piece.

  24. John is right on…while the numbers might not match, no doubt there are rabbis, imans, Friends’ leaders, etc. for all the world’s religions who have taken this path. “Question Authority”.

  25. If you need a God to tell you to love your neighbors as yourself there are those who have one to sell you but you should know that adding God to the equation rarely helps. The solution is love not rules.

  26. Ditto: “Norris Lineweaver; you totally blew me away with your profound observations and comments.”

    It IS all relative. That is where a SENSE OF PROPORTION becomes the savior of OUR SENSE OF VALUE. Values alone lead to extremes — always — unless mitigated by sense of proportion. Values also lead to double-bind traps when two or more values clash.

    Double-bind traps lead to schizophrenia, thus SENSE OF PROPORTION SAVES US FROM GOING CRAZY.

  27. Lester: Iman is a dark-skinned, beautiful, statuesque Somali fashion model. An I-m-a-m (Imam) is a religious leader. The two spellings are quite similar, but there’s a big difference.

  28. Yeah I know this is just anecdotal bs from me but that’s not gonn’a keep me from mentioning it. Coincidentally a friend, who has a friend who was once a nun, mentioned to me just a couple of weeks ago that the nun friend told him many years ago that during her time in a convent there were many occasions when the local priests would take her to the residence of the local bishop for sex play days. not much more to say.
    If I were a christian maybe I wouldn’t take such glee in seeing this stuff happen in the churches of friends and family. But I’m not, so I do!

  29. The more patriarchal the society, the worse it is on women and children. It’s the powerful versus the powerless.

  30. Theresa,

    “Lurking behind all of this is religion… it is at the same time both the reason for so much evil in the world and the tool used to commit evil in this world.”

    Well said!

  31. It is likely that it has all been happening for centuries, if not millennia. And I doubt that prosecuting a few priests and ministers is really going to change this culture. It’s about the power that priest feels from exerting dominance and control over a victim – often identified through their need for the counseling of the priest. There is a lot of work for the church to do beyond expressing a collective apology and turning priests over to law enforcement. Their culture is broken.

  32. In addition to “Spotlight” mentioned in several posts, watch “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” about the abuse of deaf children in special schools by Catholic priests. One thing that has stayed in my mind from that documentary is that sexual abuse of children by clergy has been mentioned in documents of the Church dating back to the FOURTH CENTURY!!! That’s WAY before the schism of the Catholics into Protestant factions.! This blog really touched a bunch of folks. Sexual abuse is the ultimate betrayal — because it destroys spiritual trust.

  33. Jane, interesting point! Definitely worth consideration.

    I don’t usually comment on such issues on my personal FB page, but re-posted the Houston Chronicle ‘s article. Thought it important to share that it’s not just one Christian denominations that has a hidden sexual abuse problem.

  34. In the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, largest Luth denomination, mainline) we are told to report Any Crime/Accusation by Anyone immediately to the police. Doesn’t matter if it’s the rev or council pres. That’s the way it should be everywhere imo. A crime is a crime.

    There’s an excellent book, just out, by ELCA Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber titled “Shameless.” She writes about how Christianity has f*cked up the bible’s and Jesus’ message about sexual behavior and sexuality.

    I’m a retired ELCA rev, read this blog daily, and have felt since Day 1 that Christian fixation on sex is bizarre and only tangentially related to the roots of the faith. As NBW says, the early church “fathers” really f*cked it up, and its only gotten worse in the ensuing couple thousand years. I can’t recommend “Shameless” enough. (BTW, I have no stake in the book.)

  35. This subject reminds me of the old joke. Why are Baptist no allowed to have sex standing up? Someone might think they are dancing.

  36. I am amazed often driving around rural Indiana and come upon small decaying towns where prosperity only shows in non denominational churches and drug stores. Parasites both.

  37. Right you are, Pastor. I have written that we do not have the religion of Jesus but rather one about him and that sex is only one of the areas where the medieval monks saddled us with their fundamental misunderstanding of what he was trying to convey with their emphasis on divinity and miracle making. He was the Gandhi of his time and his messages for the ages were obscured by these monks in favor of their own interpretations of his appearance and life until the dissident priest Luther made the scene, and predictably, after the Protestant revolution, when there were further refinements of doctrine resulting in the many denominations we have today, including TV preachers who view the teachings of Jesus as means to an end – their bank accounts.

    I will look into Shameless the next time I go past what we call the Buns and Nubble bookstore upon your recommendation along with another book authored by Marty, a book recommended by my niece who also happens to be an ELCA pastor.

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