Do you folks remember Anthony Waller? He’s a youth pastor I discussed about a year ago who got caught with a lot of child pornography on his computer. At the time, I considered his story to be yet another entry in the ever-growing list of ways that Christianity is failing its own young people. There are some noteworthy updates to the tale that I want to briefly touch on today.
A Most Dreadful Addition.
It turns out that Mr. Waller wasn’t just looking at a whole lot of child porn. He was also regularly raping a pair of 10-year-old girls who attended his church–sometimes even committing his dark deeds inside the church itself. He had also installed a hidden camera in the church bathroom and was raping the two girls in that bathroom. And he’d somehow forgotten these deeds while he was sobbing his crocodile tears over his supposed lifelong “porn addiction.”
Yes, this guy is yet another example of a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ “godly” man who attacks the vulnerable in bathrooms and spies on women and children in their most private moments without consent.
By November of that year, rape charges had been brought against Mr. Waller. He was recently sentenced to two life sentences with no possibility of parole–and the court system still has the voyeurism and child porn charges to work through.
But what really had the pastor of Mr. Waller’s onetime church upset at the time of this pedophile rapist’s arrest was how “heartbroken” he felt over the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. You see, this lame movie “glorifies destruction” and opens “the door to a world of spiritual attack,” apparently. This pastor thinks that movies like this one twist his god’s purfick plan 4 mawwidge “into something ugly and grotesque.” (Apologies for letting my sarcasm beast romp a little here–I really find the whole idea odious, tedious, and misogynistic.)
Gosh, if the idea of a woman voluntarily choosing to get tied up and spanked in a sexual context breaks his poor little heart so much, what do you imagine happened to
this tender little hothouse flower this fellow after he found out that one of his own hired ministers, someone charged with caring for his church’s youngest and most vulnerable group, was raping two of them in the church bathroom and spying on other folks? He is curiously silent here about a situation that demonstrably involved far worse ugly, grotesque destruction than Fifty Shades of Grey ever could have.
I didn’t notice any blog entries written after the arrest of his youth pastor, nor did I notice any statement on his church’s site about the fellow; he’s just gone from their ministry page as if he never existed. The site itself has seen some major renovation since we last checked in on them; it doesn’t look much at all like it did once (though the map reveals that yes, it’s the same church). But one entry, written a couple weeks before the arrest, involved how very, very, very saaaaad he felt that churches so often focus on “plugging the holes” in their staff rather than “filling the roles,” with an implication that his church certainly would not ever do anything so crass. (Given what was happening in his church, this word choice seems especially gruesome and inappropriate.)
I don’t know about y’all, but I’m sure glad that that this church’s senior ministers tried extra-dextra-super-mega-rilly-rilly-chicken-chilly hard to “fill the role” of youth pastor at Mr. Waller’s church. Joe Pesci alone knows what might have happened if someone had nonchalantly tried to “plug a hole” in the church’s staffing without checking with “God” that the candidate involved was the extra-perfect one for the role.
I mean really! The whole church might have ended up murdered!
A Broken System.
Christians aren’t usually prepared at all to confront the idea of pedophile rapists in their own ministerial ranks.
The very idea of “predators among them” flies against their entire chirpy, scrubbed-clean worldview. Jesus changes people! “God” heals those who ask sincerely and fulfill all the various requirements for physical or emotional healing! Christians are more moral than those evil atheists and ickie Christians In Name Only (CINOs)! Churches are safe havens full of people who are well and truly, and in every meaning of the word except for the legally-binding sense, family! People who subscribe to the Christian god’s purfick plan 4 mawwidge automatically treat women and children better than people who do not.
The problem, of course, is that not a single one of those beliefs is actually objectively true.
Because their broken social system is built on a scaffolding made of these beliefs and many other false ones besides, fundagelical Christians can’t honestly engage with the flaws that system possesses. They don’t understand that when a worldview is built around authority rather than consent, it draws to itself a group of people who don’t value consent–which allows abuse and predation to flourish.
Admitting the truth about any of these beliefs would open them up to a lot of questions about why there doesn’t appear to be any real change in people after they convert to Christianity, or why Christians seem like such massive hypocrites–or, worst of all, why their purfick plan 4 mawwidge only seems to result in abuse, division, injustice, and predation.
Making the changes needed to actually resolve these issues would require a sweeping overhaul of church culture. It would involve them accepting that “Jesus” certainly isn’t lifting even one tiny pinkie finger to stop predators from hurting little girls in their very own churches, that Christians aren’t actually better people than non-Christians are, and that consent is a non-negotiable requirement if someone wants to build and perpetuate a healthy, respectful, civilized, safe culture.
If church leaders really wanted to make a serious dent in the abuse and crimes committed by their leaders against all those innocent sheep, then they’d be making those changes. But they aren’t. Instead, they are building an environment that allows this abuse–and which presents believers with a devastating dilemma.
A Cruel Dilemma.
When reality collides with belief, people have the choice of either accepting reality (which would require a modification of the belief) or denying reality in order to maintain the belief as is. It is a cruel dilemma, one that churches are quite purposefully and deliberately creating by teaching and fostering delusional beliefs that are not based on objective facts, and it is one that every single believer must confront nowadays in order to remain faithful.
Beliefs that are considered true, real, objectively correct, and divinely-perfect collide up against the stone cold reality of their complete failure as a social system. A Christian cannot hold those beliefs and still see and take into account reality; they are completely counter to each other. Living as if the beliefs are true will ignore the reality that they are not; accepting the reality that they are not true will obviously destroy the beliefs.
Don’t imagine for a heartbeat that this dilemma is useless, pointless, or counterproductive. To the contrary, it performs its function perfectly.
The cruel dilemma, you see, raises the cost of belief. It tells believers that if they wish to remain true-blue members of the tribe, they must resolve this dilemma in the correct way: by rejecting reality and continuing to live as if the beliefs were true.
Yes, many believers will encounter a cruel dilemma and leave the religion–or else at least will seriously modify their beliefs as best they can. Those believers are no longer of any real use to fundagelical Christian leaders. Such failed believers have thrown in with reality, and their dedication to the holy cause is no longer certain or reliable. They have demonstrated that when push comes to shove, they don’t do what the tribe demands. They are, to put it a little more technically, signaling to the rest of the group that they aren’t quite on the same team.
But the Christians who “successfully” navigate this manufactured conflict by drilling down harder on belief and denying reality are the ones who will come out the other side of that dilemma even more capable of denying reality later about lots of other, even more obviously untrue beliefs–and they’ll become even more fervent in their beliefs. They are the ones who, when presented with an impossibly high cost of belief, pay it–and then look back with pride about their fervor and dedication. They are tighter, more bonded members of the tribe. They are proven to be loyal, and they will, in turn, hopefully reap more trust and power from their teammates as a result.
There’s an even more insidious side to the cruel dilemma, though.
The cost of leaving the religion soars catastrophically high for people who have paid a very dear price for their membership in the tribe; they will be highly unlikely afterward to question other beliefs or to investigate too carefully any other suspicions they may have about their peers, leaders, or indoctrination. They may even minimize the severity of the crimes committed by their peers or else try to downplay the importance or rank of a perpetrator, as one reporter covering the story might well have had in mind when she made the curious decision to demote Anthony Waller from a youth pastor to a mere “church worker” and “church employee,” as if he had been a janitor or receptionist rather than a paid youth pastor. (That news site notes that she is no longer an active staffer there, incidentally; maybe someone else thought her word choices were a little odd.)
A Most Necessary Pressure.
Don’t be surprised that Christians can see a constant parade of shocking, horrific crimes occurring constantly and against even their own children and not think that maybe, just maybe they should look into possibly maybe kinda-sorta altering their culture in ways that will make it more difficult for predators to hurt people in their groups and also easier to bring criminals to justice. At this point, many of them have paid so many prices and resolved so many cruel dilemmas that not even the safety of children could shake their resolve.
That’s why it so often falls to us–the outsiders, the ones who do not wish to pay any price to join the Christian tribe, the ones who refuse to pay such a dreadful price to join any tribe–to call attention to these atrocities and discuss them when they occur.
We not only make Christians aware that these crimes are occurring in the first place–which is no easy feat in itself, considering how insular their world can be–but also give them permission to think about their tribe’s frequent displays of hypocrisy and depravity in a way that their tribe really would prefer nobody thought about those displays.
We are the gadflies who keep pestering them with questions about why their tribe seems so totally incapable of living the way that they keep insisting that all TRUE CHRISTIANS™ should have no trouble living, and about why Christianity and for that matter the entire world seems to look exactly the same with no divine author as it does with the one they think they follow. We show them that, despite their protestations to the contrary, there’s nothing divine about their culture and nothing really laudable about their conceptualization of the purfick plan 4 mawwidge–or, for that matter, any of the other plans they think their god came up with.
By speaking up about Christian hypocrisy, we make Christians aware of the cruel dilemma their leaders have very deliberately thrown into their path, what that dilemma means, and why they should not respond to it in the way that their leaders desire.
And that is why silencing tactics are the #1 go-to strategy Christians have for responding to criticism, whether that criticism comes from inside or outside their churches–and the #1 reason why we cannot allow Christians to silence us.
A Filthy House.
Anthony Waller’s sentencing means justice at last for a number of people, most especially for those two little girls whose bodies he felt entitled to repeatedly violate. His crimes were committed despite his fervent profession of faith and his membership in good standing in a culture, theology, and doctrinal code that should have categorically rendered him incapable of committing such monstrous wrongs.
He’s just one of many thousands upon thousands of hypocrites in his religion pretending to be a moral, upright, strong MAN/WOMAN OF GOD when really he is actually complete scum. The religion not only can’t stop them, it can’t even identify them or adequately deal with them without lots of outside attention and aid from people who aren’t part of the tribe. One might even–if one is not careful–start thinking that perhaps for justice to happen in these cases, it must originate and end outside the tribe.
So when Christians start harping about the evils of LGBTQ people, or make wild-eyed speculations about what will happen when marginalized groups finally get full access to all of their rights, color me unimpressed with their bluster. They can’t even keep their bathrooms and their own children safe from the abuses and violations their very own ministers want to inflict upon them. And they sure as hell can’t even live up to the supposedly-divine moral code they want so much to force upon every single human being alive in the world.
Maybe they need to look to their own house before worrying about cleaning up anybody else’s–especially if other people’s houses are already cleaner than their own.