Today we learned that the Mormon church faces yet another sex scandal. Maybe it’s just how it is. Religious institutions and sex scandals go together. As the AP reported: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was hit with several lawsuits Monday for allegedly covering up decades of sexual abuse among Boy Scout troops in Arizona“. This isn’t the Mormon church’s first time at the sexual abuse rodeo. “The same Mormon ethos that has instilled many positive virtues in its adherents has also produced some injurious social evils.” The Mormon Church – as an institution – has committed actual crimes. The church itself didn’t bugger anyone of course. But the hierarchy it created to sustain itself bears responsibility for every abuse it commits. The news media loves religious sex scandals. “Shocking” as religious sex scandals are, is anyone ever really “shocked”? We understand this to be true about pretty much every male-run hierarchical religious institution: their very nature invites abuse.
Talk about a set up for failure! Give any “club” unrestricted power and it’s a matter of time until the club abuses that power. Make the club male and the abuse just got sexual. Add the “unknowable mystery” of a deity to the mix and the club now holds the power of life and death in its clubby hands.
Welcome To “The Club”
The club writes its own rules. Dresses its muckety-mucks differently from the rest of us. The club’s leaders are just doing what God wants it to do. Who are they to question God?
As this blog has said many times, monotheism is dangerous because it puts the “voice of God” inside its believers’ heads. First problem: that voice is entirely subjective. Second problem: God doesn’t speak to every human. Look at all the humans who deny hearing God’s voice. That makes the human who does hear God’s voice “special”. They now speak FOR God.
And they are his will on earth!
Onward Christian Soldiers!
In a roomful of nonbelievers, the faithful are an island of belief. Good in a sea of evil. If they don’t stand up for God, who will? Nevermind the silly notion that a deity – a creator of everything – needs any such thing – or needs human beings to “believe in them” period. What kind of pathologically vain god worries so much about what one of its creations thinks? Hasn’t a creator of everything (and there’s a lot of everything to attend to) got a big enough “to do” list?
The ardent believer steps forward. They’ve made a simple transfer in their heads from being God’s stand-in on earth to being God himself. A good example is televangelist Kenneth Copeland. Watch Kenneth Copeland in this amazing clip and try not to laugh.
He uses every performance trick he’s learned to try and convince a journalist that he must fly private (the costs be damned) because God insists.
The Deity Behind The Curtain
I see this clip like the “a-ha!” moment in “The Wizard Of Oz” where Dorothy and her friends realize there’s a “man behind the curtain”. On stage, Kenny Copeland plays a guy who speaks for God. Backstage, he IS God.
Scaled out to an institutional level – an evangelical ministry, the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church for that matter – it’s easy to see how a fallible human being part of a large God-like institution that empowers him to be God-like himself could end up being abusive. Or, as in this new sex scandal, deliberately covering up the sexual abuses the institution’s structure and rules so easily facilitate.
There simply are no real “checks” inside the institution. The LDS didn’t create its “help line” to try and slow sexual abuse because it wanted to, the church created it because it had to. Lawsuits are a powerful motivator. But, the simple fact is, the LDS’s help line was designed to “divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”
Enablers And Enablement
When ardent church believers run for office, they complicate the situation further. Once elected, they bring their religious faith to work with them every day. Church-related loopholes like Arizona’s appear. Arizona’s child abuse reporting law says that “clergy who receive information about child neglect or sexual abuse during spiritual confessions ‘may withhold’ that information from authorities if the clergy determine it is ‘reasonable and necessary’ under church doctrine.”
“Reasonable and necessary under church doctrine”. That is a giant “get out of child abuse jail free” card. Hell, it’s an open invitation to open up the bullshit vault wide and go for broke.
This atheist’s eyes see an awful lot of S&M in most church-churchgoer relationships. There’s a master and a slave. The slave does what the master says or, the slave knows, there will be punishment. Whereas the rest of us would hightail it out of there because who wants punishment, the S&M slave wants the punishment. It’s the whole point of the exercise.
The only question ever is “how crazy is it going to get?” The same question applies to things religious. Abuse, it turns out, starts at home.