Sermon Audio. It’s a collection of nearly a half million sermons from Fundamentalist churches, schools, camps, special meetings, ladies retreats, pastors conferences, and just about any other gathering of the Faithful you can imagine.
So if reporting and assisting in sexual abuse cases is a topic in which Fundamentalist leaders are so well-versed, we would expect to find a vast library of sermons detailing their methods.
We would expect to find lots of evidence here that Fundamentalist pastors don’t encourage, by their silence, the culture of shame and neglect which too often keeps the abused silent and abusers in power.
We would certainly hope that areas of lesser importance would be less preached-about than such a vital topic as abuse. That these Men of God wouldn’t shy away from speaking out on a subject which might weaken their pastoral power in favor of messages more in line with traditional Fundy soapboxes.
If you’re hoping against hope to find those things on Sermon Audio, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, searches for “abuse” and “molestation” on the site returned just 13 sermons which deal, even marginally, with child abuse of any kind.
I haven’t analyzed these paltry few sermons to find out if they’re even good or helpful. We’ll just give them the benefit of an enormous doubt and call them shining examples of nobility and assistance for the hurt, the mistreated and the neglected.
But even if we manage that level of belief suspension, simple math tells us that sexual abuse is a topic about which Fundamentalist churches avoid speaking. In fact, if we pretend that Sermon Audio is one big Fundamentalist church meeting every Sunday and working through its sermons at random, you’d have a 1 in 36,615 chance of hearing a sermon on abuse on any given week. Just for fun, I figured out how long you’d have to live in order to hear 36,615 Sunday sermons. With 52 weeks in a year, it’s 704 years.
For more fun with numbers, here’s how other topics on Sermon Audio stack up against sermons on sexual abuse prevention and resolution.
Bob Jones–14 (These are just the sermons about the various members of the Jones family. They alone outnumber sermons on child abuse.)
Y2K–27 (That’s not a typo–there are twice as many sermons on this ridiculous topic than on dealing with molestation and rape.)
So what do we learn from all this, besides that Fundamentalist leaders only publicly address this issue 0.002% of the time?
-Fundamentalist preachers are really, really proficient at calling out other Christians they deem “false teachers”, but pretty much worthless when it comes to explaining how to help victims of sexual abuse.
-This movement is more concerned with “worldly” trends and competing theological views which threaten its power than with giving public affirmation to the downtrodden and abused.
-Churches of this stripe aren’t doing nearly enough to show support to kids. In the absence of this support, victims will remain silent since they’ve no reason to believe they’ll be believed or helped.
Here’s more to consider:
-The numbers are a bit skewed because two pastors (Trevor Hammack and Kevin Swanson) account for 11 of the 13 sermons I did find. That means 99.9% of the churches and “ministries” on record at Sermon Audio have no recorded sermons on sexual abuse.
-No sermon titles reflect an emphasis on compassion for victims above pastoral reputation or ego.
-Ready for some irony? 91 sermons are on Paul’s command to “preach the whole counsel of God”–apparently all but 5 of the preachers on Sermon Audio don’t consider abuse prevention part of that counsel.
These numbers just reflect what so many of us already knew–sexual abuse (and sex in general, unless it were a harangue against “the strange woman” or teenage promiscuity) is a hush-hush topic in Fundamentalist circles. This deadly silence endangers kids right now. It’s up to pastors and leaders of the movement to humble themselves and turn this situation around–but that’s not looking too likely.