Baylor University, my alma mater, made it to ESPN.
Oh, what thrills that statement would’ve sent throughout the student body when I was enrolled at Baylor (1988-1991)! Our football team was horrible then. Our favorite cheer was “Up the middle! Up the middle! Up the middle! Punt!” We scheduled Rice for Homecoming so we would have a shot at winning.
In those days of Baylor football mediocrity (and that may be too positive of a word), I still knew a couple of things about the football program that instilled pride in this young Bear: I knew that Grant Teaff was a committed churchman. He taught college Sunday School at FBC Waco, where I attended. He even made arrangements for a separate Saturday night flight for himself from Colorado to Waco once so he wouldn’t miss the class. I also knew that the football players were having to meet serious academic standards in order to play at Baylor. I tutored football players who were taking Greek. Yes. That’s right. Football players. Taking Greek. None of them were dummies.
Lately, Baylor’s athletic programs have been posting wins and gaining accolades that I never imagined that I would see in my lifetime. Winning the Big 12? Playing in bowl games? Being mentioned as potential contenders for national titles?
I imagined that the situation I had previously observed in the tutoring program must have changed. To make it this far in football, I reasoned, Baylor must have taken some steps toward the SEC approach—you know, subjugating academics to athletics and indulging in a little corruption and subterfuge. Baylor has to have made some sort of a little deal with the Devil to have ascended so far, so fast in Division I athletics, right?
But the truth is far uglier. Baylor has made ESPN’s Outside the Lines not for fudging grades or even letting boosters bankroll promising recruits; the price Baylor has paid for headline-making football is that the Baylor campus has become a private hunting preserve for sexual-predator-athletes looking to bag a few naïve freshman girls. As with any hunting preserve, the managers don’t actually point the gun and pull the trigger. They simply create the environment in which predators are able to hunt with impunity. Read the article. If you are a human being, it will make you sick. And angry.
Tonight, having already read the ESPN article a few days ago, I encountered this companion piece, written by the daughter of a SWBTS-graduate-turned-SIL-translator about her rape at Baylor. As it turns out, you don’t have to show the promise of leading Baylor to the BCS to get a hunting license. Being good enough at Mock Trial will do the trick.
The Bear Doesn’t Wander Far from the Den
I left Baylor just as Baylor was leaving the Southern Baptist Convention (yeah, I know, they never formally left the SBC, but trust me, they left). Because of that past, because of what happened later in Texas, and because of my own allegiances, I strongly wanted to make this about the rabid commitment to theological liberalism that shaped all of my religion classes at Baylor. I wanted to wrap this around the neck of the BGCT, lapdog that they’ve been to Baylor for all of my adult life, and contrast the results of their approach with that of my state convention, the SBTC. I wanted to say that this is what happens when universities wander away from the churches.
But I don’t want to write that post any more, having reflected on the matter a bit further.
I submit to you that Baylor University has handled sexual violence on its campus in such a shoddy and disgraceful manner not because of the way that it has wandered away from the churches, but because it has learned so much from churches. Poorly handling sexual violence is something that many Baptist churches and some Baptist universities share in common.
Baylor is becoming what Baylor is becoming because Baylor is highly, highly ambitious. Baylor is ambitious athletically. Baylor is ambitious academically. Baylor is ambitious economically. They want to be a top-50 school in US News & World Reports. They want to be a contender for football championships. They want to publish cutting-edge research. Baylor wants to be THE PLACE that Evangelical parents want to send their very brightest kids. Since the late 1990s, Baylor has been palpably ambitious.
And here’s the thing about sexual assault: It doesn’t go well with ambition. Sexual assault generates bad press. For some reason God only knows, highly talented leadership-oriented types get involved in sexual assault and sexual misconduct far too often, and so sexual assault prosecutions often take away valuable contributors to the enterprises of ambition. Sexual assault cases frighten people, making parents wonder whether they can really send their daughters to the involved institutions with peace of mind.
Ambitious people and ambitious organizations often see allegations of sexual assault as a threat to themselves.
That’s why so many churches have tried to cover up sexual misconduct. I differ with Christa Brown’s approach (I am unwilling to adopt unbiblical, enslaving polity just to empower the denomination to stamp out sexual misconduct. I don’t think it is necessary, and I’m not even sure it would be that effective. Also, there’s a lot of guilt-by-association mudslinging going on over there, it appears to me), but who can read the stories at Stop Baptist Predators and miss the undeniable truth that there is a virulent disease eating away at the souls of Baptist churches? It’s bad enough that we have sexual predators in our midst. It’s even worse that we so often respond to these tragedies by trying to shush victims (abusing them all over again) and protect assailants. Our failures to aid and protect the vulnerable and innocent among us is, I believe, an abomination before God.
This has to stop. Go back and read Stefanie Mundhenk’s post again. That’s your sister…your sister in Christ. It has to stop.
It has to stop because:
- It is destroying people.
- It is sullying the name of Christ.
- It makes our efforts to shine a light into the darkness of the sexual revolution to founder on the shoals of hypocrisy.
- It empowers to violate multiple victims predators who should never have had the opportunity to commit their crimes again.
- As I encounter more and more women who have been victims of sexual assault in our churches—some years as many as two-thirds of the brides I have counseled—I realize that ending the coverups is just a baby-step toward the place that we really need to be: mobilized as an army to wage war against sexual crime and misconduct.
So, I give you this simple proposal: If any church has taken action to hide sexual crimes from the proper authorities, has failed to warn enquiring churches when giving employment references for ministers credibly accused of sexual misconduct, or has intimidated victims into silence, let us disfellowship those churches. Let us remove them from our local associations. Let us remove them from our state conventions. Let us remove them from the Southern Baptist Convention. Let us shake the dust from our feet before their eyes. Let them only return to affiliation after they have made amends with the victims and have put in place procedures and safeguards to protect those who report sexual misconduct in the future.
Let us start by hearing The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and beating them to the punch. Let us start by encouraging the Baptist General Convention of Texas to take disciplinary action in its relationship with Baylor University.