Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: This Little Light

Few authors tell stories that evoke a demonstrative emotional response from me. Yet Christa Brown had me pacing and angry after just a few chapters. The anger subsided and was quickly replaced by my ever so male desire to “fix” things. This was replaced by anger, disgust, empathy… oh hell, the book pulled all my strings. In the end, I could not put it down. I even gave up blogging for a day to finish reading it.

This Little LightThis Little Light
By Christa Brown
223 pp. Foremost Press

This Little Light is a combination memoir and exposé that not only tells Christa Brown’s personal story, but also documents the beginning of her efforts to bring clergy accountability to the largest organized church in America, the Southern Baptists  Convention. She is the David in this story. Unfortunately, she has not yet slain Goliath, but I see a few big dents in his forehead.

I have a casual relationship with the author. Over the years we have traded comments on each other’s blogs. Christa Brown writes Stop Baptist Predators.  She is a great source of information on clergy sexual abuse within the Baptist church. I’ve come to respect her work. Although, I must admit, I did not realize Brown was “the thorn” in the side of the Southern Baptist Convention. After reading her book, I have a whole new level of respect for her.

The first few chapters were uncomfortable. I half expected to see the gory details of her sexual abuse. I read with one eye closed most of the time thinking that any minute things would get graphic and I would lose control of my stomach. As a father, few things get under my skin quicker than child abuse. Reading about it, even if it happened 30 years ago, makes me angry. My paternal compulsion to protect the weak kicks in and the anger builds. Brown does something smart though, she leaves the gory details out. The reader must fill in the blanks. This is perhaps worse, because my imagination painted a horrific picture of abuse. After completing the abuse chapters, I put the book down then. I needed some space.

As her story unfolds and the reader encounters the entrenched bureaucracy of the Baptist church, anger is replaced with disgust. The institutional inertia she faced was staggering. When it became apparent that the inertial was as strategy, I again grew despondent and put the book down. But my fingers itched more. I needed to know what came next. I was not disappointed.

Christa Brown shines her light on the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Convention. Backed by the media and SNAP, she marches right down the halls of Baptist power and tweaks them on the nose with the reality of her mission. She is the woman who started the accountability movement and will likely be credited with reforming the Baptist Convention when it finally comes to its senses and holds its pastors accountable.

There are times when I wanted to protect the young Christa Brown from her bad pastor. There are times when I wanted to take her for a walk  to talk some sense into her. At times I even spoke to her through the book saying, “Don’t trust them!”

In the end I came to the conclusion that Christa Brown was abused by faith. It was used as a tool to suppress and control her from her first encounter with sexual abuse up until her emancipation. The cult-like victim mindset of the church is the enemy. The brainwashed women and children are the fodder for the abusive male dominated power structure. There is no interest in protecting the weak from the wolves. Christa Brown is a better shepherd.

If you are interested in clergy sexual abuse and the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Convention, this book is a must read. You can buy it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or order it at your local bookstore.