As you pack away the ornaments and the special Christmas dinnerware, imagine a story about a company called Southern Babtoys Corporation, which markets a toy with a pervasive problem.
According to conservative estimates, at least 3 out of every 100 babtoys, and probably more, will blow up in a kid’s hands, hurling tiny fragments far and wide. Typically, the exploding babtoy causes serious injuries, but the pieces are so minuscule that the child often doesn’t realize his injury at the time. He may see only a scratch on his forehead and doesn’t know that some of the pieces have actually penetrated his skull.
To make matters worse, the tiny pieces contain a radioactive compound that releases slowly in continuing ripples of destruction. Over time, the damage in the brain grows worse, but though the damage is real, it manifests so slowly that most people don’t immediately trace it back to the babtoy.
Kids play with babtoys in groups. So a single babtoy will often harm a whole bunch of kids.
Officials at Southern Babtoys Corporation know this is happening, but they don’t do anything about it. They don’t institute quality control measures to prevent the problem, and they don’t even keep records on babtoys that exploded. In fact, when these babtoys are returned, they are often restored and remarketed, but without fixing the problem and without putting even so much as printing a warning on the label. So the same babtoys can explode again and injure still more kids.
You might have one of these warning-never-included, defective babtoys without even knowing it. They look just like all the other babtoys.
“The ‘babtoys’ are Baptist pastors, and the ‘explosions’ are the predatory sexual abuses committed by a percentage of those pastors.”
When someone complains about risky babtoys, SBC officials make minimizing statements, chalk the problem up to other things and blame the complainers. They might say that the kid wore the wrong kind of clothes while playing with the babtoy, or that the parents didn’t properly supervise or that the complainers are just “opportunists.”
The SBC almost never acknowledges the seriousness of its quality control issue, how widespread the problem really is or how devastating the damage is for children. And it certainly doesn’t take any responsibility. In fact, the SBC has been successfully ducking responsibility for so long that it can scarcely imagine any other way to do business. Institutionally, it has simply accommodated to accepting wounded kids as the collateral damage of its business model.
Occasionally, when media reports about exploding babtoys crop up, SBC officials will make such nice-sounding public statements that few can believe such a caring company would ever be remiss for safety. Their official statements reference “precious children” and how terrible the “isolated cases” are.
SBC officials have obviously been well-coached by a whole slew of well-paid public relations professionals and attorneys. They’ve got the talk-thing down. Talk is what they’re good at. But preventive action? Not so much.
Though the SBC markets them, the babtoys are actually manufactured by a whole bunch of small companies spread all over the country. They make them in conformity with SBC standards and package them with a Southern Babtoys Corporation label. Then the SBC takes a percentage of the revenue from the sale of the toys.
It’s a sweet deal. The small local company sells more toys because people trust the Southern Babtoys brand. And the SBC takes in multi-millions with its percentage. So its executives get to enjoy high salaries, and the SBC gets the prestige of promoting itself as the most popular babtoy brand in the country.
But what about the kids who get hurt? It’s not such a sweet deal for them. Or for their families. Or even for their future families. They wind up dealing with the brain damage for a very long time.
The few who try to call the monolithic SBC to account get met with a stone wall. If they persist, they get run into the ground by the SBC’s media people and attorneys on retainer. Because its financial resources are so enormous, the SBC can spin things however it wants, and to a large degree, the public sees what the SBC wants it to see.
If push comes to shove, SBC officials pull forth their most golden “not our problem” excuse of all. “The babtoys aren’t even made by us,” they say. “It’s all those small local companies who actually manufacture the babtoys. The fact that the SBC brand is on them is irrelevant. Those small, local companies are all autonomous, and we don’t have any control over them.”
Most people in America wouldn’t accept such an evasive excuse from a brand-holding secular corporation. So why do people accept it from a religious organization – in this case, a Baptist denomination?
The “babtoys” are Baptist pastors, and the explosions are the predatory sexual abuses committed by a percentage of those pastors. Because the Southern Baptist Convention refuses to take action for keeping records on predatory clergy or warning about them, countless more kids are being grievously wounded.
For the love of children, I pray that 2019 may finally bring an earnest reckoning in this faith group and that justice may finally “roll down like waters.”