Al mohler just had no idea about all that sexual harassment in the sbc. e m database

First, he needs us to believe that he had no idea in the world that his pals were doing anything wrong. The news of recent weeks completely T-boned him. He just had no idea! He didn’t even see it coming–so he’s 100% innocent here. We’ll be talking about this goal today.

Second, this onslaught of abuse allegations and cover-ups had nothing whatsoever to do with the Conservative Resurgence, its doctrines, or its revised power structure. The system is perfect and operating perfectly within parameters. And its message is likewise perfect. Whatever is going wrong in the SBC, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Al Mohler’s sweet, innocent little baby. We’ll be covering this goal next time. “We Thought This Was a Roman Catholic Problem.”

We thought this [sexual misconduct] was a Roman Catholic problem.


The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority.

See, various watchdog groups have been trying for years to talk the SBC into adopting a denomination-wide database to prevent sexual predators in SBC ministry from hopping from one church to another within the denomination as they get caught. SBC leadership has consistently refused even to consider the idea. Moreover, in 2008 Paige Patterson called one of those watchdog groups (SNAP) “evil-doers” who were “just as reprehensible as the criminals.” (He said it because the group dared to criticize Patterson’s handling of sex-abuse accusations against his star protege, Darrell Gilyard.)

Even aside from the database problem, the sermon that got Paige Patterson in such hot water was delivered in 2000. He mishandled that rape victim in 2003. Various groups cried out for years about the sermon, and the epidemic of rapes and assaults in right-wing Christian colleges finally broke news in 2014.

But Al Mohler’s first goal in writing his essay is to convince readers that he had no idea at all that his denomination was a festering pit of what he blithely minimizes as “sexual misconduct.” What Did Al Mohler Know And When Did He Know It?

Interestingly, Gareld Duane Rollins’ second lawsuit includes a statement that names a number of other SBC bigwigs as helping Pressler cover up his actions. Everyone from Pressler’s wife Nancy to his law partner to his pal Paige Patterson–but interestingly, not Al Mohler himself–show up in the complaint. Rollins’ lawyer, Daniel Shea, says Pressler’s alleged activities were the “worst kept secret in Houston.”

Notice the italics? He wants us to know there was no organized conspiracy of silence. He din’ know nuffin. Instead, it’s just a wild coincidence that so many accusations have come up so quickly. It’s a coincidence that they keep involving the same leaders’ names over and over again. The left hand knew nothing of what the right was non-consensually doing.

Al Mohler’s essay seeks to establish that the SBC didn’t have a dedicated, planned-out cover-up response to scandals. For what it’s worth, I believe that. I don’t think he, Pressler, and Patterson regularly met up at strip clubs to drink illicit beers and discuss how they were going to deliberately suppress scandals. Instead, I think that suppression happened organically–case by case, moment by moment. I also think Al Mohler helped create an environment where suppression was easy to enforce, and then ignored all the warnings about where his efforts would lead. ( A Southern Baptist guy who knows him sure agrees.)

He seeks to exonerate himself on the basis of intentions. One of the most serious flaws in the fundagelical mindset is this insistence that individual motivations are supremely important. It doesn’t matter what Christians do, only that they do it with pure intentions. If they have pure intentions, then it doesn’t matter what happens as a result of their actions. They are off the hook in terms of culpability.

If anything, though, we’re faced with a far more insidious outgrowth of this belief. The SBC is sprouting scandals left and right, each worse than the last. The scandals reach all the way into the very heart of the denomination. They taint the names of the denomination’s biggest names and brassest hats. But because the leaders of the denomination have convinced everyone under them that motivations are what matter, nobody’s allowed to wonder if something about the denomination itself is causing all of these scandals to happen.

“Organized” equals systemic, in the broken system he’s helped to create. “Unorganized,” to Al Mohler, means it can’t possibly be systemic. It’s an individual problem, just like the SBC’s conceptualization of its problems with racism, misogyny, and bigotry in general. Al Mohler can blame this rash of scandals on just a whole bunch of individual Southern Baptist leaders with individual problems.

Fundagelicals are never allowed to look at their system when problems inevitably arise. The system, which is both the messaging they internalize and the social structure they impose on themselves (and seek to impose on others), cannot ever be questioned. It is considered to be perfect–even sacrosanct.

So Al Mohler needs to persuade his fellow Southern Baptists that their system is perfect, and to do that, he must persuade them that he, personally, acted with pure motivations and simply had no idea that anything in his denomination was going so wrong. When the dust settles, ideally he’ll be standing above the rubble of the denomination with both his reputation and his precious Resurgence intact.

I hope I’ve made a solid case for why I don’t believe for a second that Al Mohler had no idea that his denomination was riddled with scandal. I don’t think he could have missed what was going on–especially not at his level, and not with super-close associates as corrupt as his have turned out to be.

NEXT UP: The string of scandals, involving as they do the biggest names in the SBC, reflects poorly not only on the denomination’s leaders but upon what they’ve wrought in the SBC itself. They reflect on the Conservative Resurgence. Even more so, they reflect on the values of that takeover. Al Mohler seeks to protect his baby there even more than he seeks to protect himself. Spoiler: I don’t think he succeeded at all on this front, either. I’ll show you why, next time. Please do join me! Endnotes.

1An earlier draft had Mohler as an “architect” of the Conservative Resurgence. A reader very helpfully pointed out that Mohler was not present at the initial meeting between Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson. He’s as deep into the Conservative Resurgence as someone can get, but he is not guilty of that “sin.” I appreciate the correction.

(Also, I wonder if Al Mohler rose to the attention of the Powers That Be in the denomination in the 1980s. At the time, he was a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary working for its then-president, Roy Honeycutt. Honeycutt sounds like an early victim of the Resurgence. He got ousted in what sounds like a spectacularly dramatic episode in 1992 when a trustee accused him of not really believing in the Bible–and used Honeycutt’s own writings to demonstrate that point.)

2 I highly recommend you read that chronology. It’s downright chilling to see how a vulnerable group can fall so quickly and so completely, despite every single decent member’s best and most concerted resistance. As we saw with “ Project Blitz,” it doesn’t take a majority to completely destroy a system. Three men with an agenda destroyed the biggest Protestant denomination in the country, after all.

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