Every Anti-theist on my twitter feed: If we could get rid of religion, then we could seriously reduce that amount of sexual abuse that takes place. Because clearly religion causes men to abuse children.
I actually wish that were true. I wish I could have confidence to say that ending religion would end sex abuse. I just think religion is a scape-goat in this case. Sometimes it’s the playground of abusers, who hide and manipulate in communities like churches. But I think they’ll exist long after Christianity crumbles.
But while this was all going on, I was handling a domestic violence issue as a pastor.
The victim is mildly religious, but the abuser is not. Though he darkens the door of my church roughly 4 times a year. I’ve known him longer than her. I’ve met with him through the years in attempts to evangelize/disciple him. Yeah, I got nowhere with him. He’s an odd ball that would be more comfortable living in a cabin in the woods, living off the land, maybe panning for gold. He has an over-inflated sense of self and thinks he’s more intellectual than he actually is. Spiritually speaking, from a Christian standpoint, he’s pagan with nihilistic tendencies. I’m also pretty sure he sociopathic.
Monday evening his wife called mine. She came over with her kid (whom the abuser is not the father of) and stayed the night. This made me uncomfortable but for as strange as the abuser is, I have pretty good report with him. I new I had to get her out of the area.
She’s from clear across the other side of the country. This couple met on the internet. Internet “dated” for like 6 months. Got married, and he drove her and her son out here. Now 6 months into their marriage he becomes aggressive and assaults her.
I knew what I had to do.
I had to find a way to finance her trip back home to her mother. And this is where being a pastor of a church comes in real handy. Because I know generous people. I know people who give to charity. I know people who out of their own pockets regularly give to people in need. Our church has it’s own in house charity. People give to our fund so that I, with discretion, can give to any immediate needs that come my way. I’m very selective about who I use it for, because I want to make sure there’s enough in there to actually do someone a lot of good who is in real need. But in the case I knew there wasn’t enough money in that fund to give this woman what she needed. So I went to an elder of the church.
Me: Hey Clark, sorry to drop in on you like this, I just have a real need come up.
Clark: I’ve told you countless times, if you ever know someone in need, you call me. I want to help.
Clark is rich. He might actually be a 1%er. He’s also the most generous person I’ve ever personally known. And he’s a member of the Tea Party. We don’t talk politics.
Me: Well I don’t come to you often, because I want to make sure that when I get a request, that there is a legitimate need and one that only you can actually help out with.
Clark: Well I don’t believe you come to me often enough.
Me: Well I got a girl and her kid staying in my house. Her husband has gotten violent with her. She’s from [state clear across the country], and I want to send her back home to her mother.
Clark: How much do you need?
Me: Well since it’s just her and her young son, and she has to drive clear across the country, I figure if we can get her 6 days worth of expenses then she’d be good to go.
Me: I’m thinking $1,200 should be fair.
Clark: Really? I hardly think so. I was thinking $2,000.
Me: Well I won’t argue with you.
We went to his bank, he got to prepaid debit cards of $1,000 each, and then he thanked me for telling him. He thanked me for letting him help.
This young lady stayed at my house for a couple of days and left this morning.
Sometimes being the pastor of a church I’ve been able to help abuse victims (and those with medical bills) more than I would have if I was not a pastor. As an organization I have the funds to do something big for the occasional person in need. Sure this woman could have gone to a domestic violence shelter, but she needed to go back home to her mother. A domestic violence shelter couldn’t have done that. Or could they?
This gave me a small existential crises. If I leave the church, will I ever be able to find enough generous people to do amazing things like this? Will I ever find a community and a network of support where I can call 10 people and get anything done financially for someone in need.
This isn’t the first time I’ve done something like this. Once I got all the sitting elders at our church to contribute $100 a piece so that a young lady could hire a family law attorney to get her great grandparents out of an abusive care taking situation. Things like this happen yearly. Will I find a place in a community of non-religious people to do the same?
I reached out to my friend (fellow member of the Clergy Project) Drew Bekius about this, he gave me permission to quote him directly.
Me: [I’m] handling a domestic violence case right now. Makes me wonder if I’ll ever find people who are as generous outside the church. [An] elder of our church just wrote a $2,000 check to help this young lady.
Drew: Domestic violence is no joke! Hope all has gone well today. And yes, I think there is just as much generosity out there among nonbelievers (sometimes even more so, per capita). You just have to know how to look in the right place. I think what Christians have atheists beat on is community, which does make atheist generosity less visible. It’s that community that’s harder to find. But that too is changing. The work of Gretta Vosper and Jerry DeWitt are examples of that!
Part of Drew’s point is what bugs me. The church is a community that makes it easy to find generous people to do something really good for someone in need. His comments about Gretta and Jerry are about secular Sunday meeting, or “Sunday Assembly” as it is often called. A weekly community for atheists.
I just don’t know, I hope he’s right. But right now I know that without the church, that young lady wouldn’t be on the road today heading home.
A lot can be made of the church housing and even hiding abuse. That is a real problem. But my experience has always been the church helping the abused. It would be terrible if the helpers disappeared along with the abusers.
Again, I’m conflicted. We need stronger humanist communities.
Thanks for reading.