Thursday, May 19, 2011

In light of 20/20, is the "IFB" a cult?

     I’ve been asked several times about the recent 20/20 program which claimed that Independent Fundamental Baptists constitute  a cult which routinely covers up the abuse of children.  For what’s it’s worth, here are a few thoughts:

1.  Our hearts should go out to anybody who is victimized in the manner described in this broadcast.  While I do not know - nor could I know - all the facts and details, what these women said happened to them should not have happened to anyone.  Every victim of child abuse (and unfortunately, there are many) deserves our love, support, encouragement and the healing Balm of Gilead which can only come through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.  Criminal activity should be dealt with by the criminal justice system.  There are people in jail today because I reported them to the police for abusing children.  In one instance, a mother brought in her four-year-old son who had explained to me what the father had been doing. I said to her, “You need to call the police.”  (At this time, there was no reporting requirement for pastors in the state of Michigan.)  Two or three weeks later, I called and asked if she had reported the incident to the police. When she told me she had not, I said, “Well, I’m calling them today.” 

Early in my ministry,  a young teenager told me that she had been abused by her stepfather. The stepfather admitted the allegations.  The young lady said to me, “But Pastor, I don’t want to send him to jail. What should I do?”  My reply was, “You should tell the truth.  You don’t send people to jail. I don’t send people to jail.  Lawmakers determine what activities are criminal and what the penalty should be for them.  Police officers determine whether enough evidence exists that a person should be arrested on the suspicion of having committed a crime. Juries and judges determine if a person is guilty and what the appropriate sentence might be. Our job is simply to tell the truth.”

3.  Some of our brethren have been less than forthcoming in dealing with these kids of issues.  Whether it’s because they did not want to hurt a pastor or his family, or because they felt the ensuing scandal would harm their church or because they sincerely believed that a person had repented and would not “do it again,” there have been times when some preachers have not been forthcoming in dealing with these kinds of problems.  When Bro. Bill Winiger pastored the North Sharon Baptist Church in Grass Lake, Michigan, two of his men were accused by bus children and their families of molesting them. Bro. Winiger handled the situation in an excellent manner. The men stepped away from any positions dealing with children. Bro. Winiger made available the records of his church to the investigators.  He did not say that his men were guilty but he saw to it that they were in positions where they, he nor the church could be criticized. Eventually, both men were cleared and the matter was dropped.

4.  We should be very cautious about accepting as facts what the media has to say. Remember, this is the same industry that in 1992 rigged the explosion of a gas tank on a GM vehicle on Dateline NBC.  This is the same crowd who promoted counterfeit documents in an effort to discredit former President George W. Bush.  As I understand it, Dan Rather has yet to admit culpability in this shameful incident. These are the same people who on Reuters showed a picture of Lebanon in 2006 and claimed it was an Israeli bombing when it fact, it was a photoshopped picture of a tire dump that was burning.

5.  We should be careful not to blame the victims.  Most child molesters, even if they have defiled a very young person, will say something like, “They wanted it.”  “They enticed me.” There is a reason that our legal system has a crime called statuary rape. In other words, under a certain age intimate behavior is illegal. The lawmakers wisely have determined that a person under a certain age could not make an informed decision about such behavior, particularly when the other participant is much older. There is too much room to be manipulated, threatened, etc. My experience with the young ladies who have been abused is that they tend to blame themselves too much.

6.  We must remember not to credit the media with more power and influence than it actually has.  I am told that the O’Reilly Factor is the highest rated news program on cable. It has an audience of 8 million people a day.  This is less than three percent of the American public.  In other words, 97% of Americans have no idea what O’Reilly said the night before.  Network media in particular is suffering a tremendous decline both in the number of viewers and the in the credibility with which that diminishing number views them. 

7.  We must be careful to be honest, aboveboard and Scriptural in all of our dealings.  The old saying that public sins should be dealt with publicly and private sins should be dealt with privately seems to be to be both Scriptural and practical.  (Proverbs 25:2 - “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”)  All of us have committed sins which have not been made public. God in His grace, mercy and complete knowledge, has determined that we can make those right with Him. We, however, who retain positions of human leadership are responsible to “search out a thing.”  It may that we cannot find the information. It may be that two or three witnesses do not exist. (When we turn potentially criminal matters over to the police, they, too, may fail to come up with a definitive answers on occasion.)  In those cases, we conclude that God has chosen to conceal it.  But we must do our duty to search it out . . . for what it’s worth.

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