Every day, it seems, another leader is exposed for abuse scandals and cover-ups. Most recently, Paige Patterson, a titanic figure among Southern Baptists, has been facing intense criticism. Full disclosure: I believe that he deserves it. The first page of a Google search will explain why I feel that way. But rather than take a strong stand against this damaging style of leadership, the Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary gave Patterson a cushy retirement as the President Emeritus complete with salary and a new home on campus. It’s possible to honor a leader for the previous decades of honorable leadership while still rebuking them for their equally egregious failures. Paul did it (Galatians 2:11-14), what’s stopping us?
Power makes cowards of us all, particularly those dedicated to holding onto it.
Here’s the real question: what do we make of this #MeToo and #ChurchToo moment? Is this some well-orchestrated conspiracy from a cabal composed of Liberals, LGBTQ activists, and the “lame-stream” media? I think something else is happening; something that ought to shake us. I believe that God is allowing our cultural and institutional sins to be found out. In Numbers 32:23, God warns the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Those had chosen land on the other side of the Jordan river establishing a self-imposed separation from the rest of Israel. The Lord tells them they still bear the responsibility of joining the other ten tribes in driving out their enemies from the land (32:20-22). If they refuse, "you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” For two generations, we have been waging war against those “enemies” of the faith; those outside the “land” of Evangelicalism. We have failed, however, to deal with the enemies behind our own walls. And God’s promise is proving true.
In fact, John the Apostle writes an entire book of the New Testament that embodies this very idea. His visionary work is called an “apokalupsis”, an “unveiling.” Pop culture and bad theology has taught us that the “apocalypse” is the end of the world. Biblically, it actually means to “reveal.” The Apocalypse of John is a dramatic stripping away of the facade that conceals. The root of “apokalupsis” means “to hide, cover, or conceal.” The “a” prefix puts the word in the negative (similar to a-theist, someone who does not believe in God; versus a theist, someone who does believe in God). The Apocalypse that John invites us into in the book of Revelation is the removal of that which hides, covers, or conceals the world as it really is.
I believe that we are living in a moment in history where God is removing the facades that allow us to live in unrepentant ignorance. Rather than doubling down on fear, we ought to be a people of repentance. No more non-apologies and half-measures. If we really want to be about our Father’s work, then there is only one thing necessary: repentance. At this point, it’s the only thing that will prove we belong to our Father in Heaven.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Search us and know us
Try our anxious thoughts
Reveal the grievous ways in us
And lead us in the way everlasting.