One thing I’ve discovered when writing about clergy sexual abuse is that many Baptist pastors come to their jobs because they claim to be “called” by God to do so. Once called, they start on the path to preaching and one day to running their own church, all without the benefit of a mandated formal education. These callings are a part of church culture and are treated as if they are divine. Church culture values the calling, over all else.
Many of the Baptist pastors I report on are uneducated. They were called to preach, but not called to learn or called to earn an education. They don’t know what they don’t know, yet the are leaders of people and help guild the lives of those who freely listen to them as if they are somehow made wise by the process.
When I confront these pastors for the heinous crimes of pedantry, rape, or abuse of power, I am often told of their calling as a justification for their innocence. The logic goes something like this; God called the pastor to preach the word and God would not call somebody who would commit a crime like this, so the pastor is innocent.
This “calling” is a fraud committed by men in pursuit of their new profession. It’s also their meal ticket, claim to power and authority over others. It enables leadership based on charisma an superstition instead of leadership based on character and learning. It creates a fertile bead where moral turpitude can take root, and worst, as a handy excuse for private time with children, woman, and people at risk. Claiming God called them is an invitation to the smorgasbord, and pastors like to eat their fill.
A better approach is education and increasing levels of responsibility built on demonstrated performance. It does not make one immune to the temptations of the flesh, but it offers a better chance at weeding out those without the character or morality for the job. Education and accomplishments are hard work. It is much easier to stand in front of the pulpit and preach. All one need do is wake up one day with a calling and a new career awaits. Each time it happens, the bar is lowered until the position is meaningless. Why is it the faithful cannot see this?