I understand the concept of crime and punishment. I’s not my main concern. I’m into justice and accountability. A criminal need not spend time in prison if there are alternatives that includes accountability and redress. I don’t mean slapping a felon with community service, especially if that person was a moral leader. I mean real accountability, like the loss of ones leadership position until such time that they can prove the issue is behind them.
I like the concept that some Christian churches have of requiring fallen leaders to go through a restoration process. In some cases, where the crimes are egregious, restoration is not possible. In others, it is the right thing to do. And I don’t mean the magic three month homosexuality cure we saw with Ted Haggard. I mean real restoration bent on repairing the damage of a bad decision.
The case of Gaston Smith is a good example of my frustration on this issue. Smith stole $10 worth of grant money meant to help the needy in Liberty city. Despite his conviction, Smith will remain the president of his local Baptist Ministers Council and the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. I scratch my head and wonder, what the hell is going on? Is this all just a family business with an emphasis on protecting Smith’s cash flows?
According to Sims, Smith offered to abide by whatever the group decided, including if the members saw his continued leadership as a detriment. Instead, he got a full-on endorsement from the assembled Black clergy, and from the moderator of another group, the Seaboard Baptist Assocation[sic], for whom Smith serves as a “vice moderator…” The moderator, Alphonso Jackson (another local pastor,) reportedly told the group the Seaboard association would stand by Smith, too.
What does this teach those who follow Pastor Gaston Smith? It teaches people to be out for number one. Screw the poor, screw the needed, its ok to pay your Las Vegas bar tab with $500 meant for the needy. It’s ok to lie, steal, and hustle the needed as long as you give a good account of yourself in the pulpit. How can Smith look his parishioners in the eyes and say, don’t steal? Hello… it’s in the 10 commandments and all. Don’t steal. If you can’t even keep this simple commandment, how can you teach it to others?
The real message must be, what one does is more important than what one says. Pastor Smith says don’t steal, but then steals $10K for himself and fails to used the $25k of grant money to help anyone. His message is inauthentic. He must be held accountable. But how is he held accountable be the religious community? He keeps his job as a moral leader and his leadership role among his peers. It is hypocrisy of the highest order.
One last thing. Whenever I visit a church website and it has the happy smiling face of the pastor on each page I know at once that the church is all about the cult of the pastor. It’s a dead giveaway. Can you guess who’s face is all over the website for Friendship Missionary Baptist Church? Pass the collection plate. The pastor needs a new Bentley.