Paige Patterson, the Southern Baptist leader best known these days for encouraging women to stay with their abusive husbands because divorce would go against God’s will, has finally issued an apology.
The brief message comes two weeks after audio from 2000 resurfaced in which Patterson talked about how wives whose husbands beat them should stay and pray (even if the abuse got worse). As that story was unfolding, we learned of another incident from 2014 in which Patterson delivered a sermon that included a “joke” about a “very attractive young co-ed” who “wasn’t more than about 16, but mmmmmm. Let me just say, she was nice.”
The reaction has been swift. Southern Baptist women and men have (separately) launched open letters condemning Patterson’s remarks. The board of trustees for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which Patterson heads up, will gather later this month to discuss what the hell to do about all this.
Patterson himself, perhaps finally feeling the weight against him, has now issued an apology of sorts.
… I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.
I would also like to reiterate the simple truth that I utterly reject any form of abuse in demeaning or threatening talk, in physical blows, or in forced sexual acts. There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person. The Spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.
To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches. I sincerely pray that somehow this apology will show my heart and may strengthen you in the love and graciousness of Christ.
Since that apology doesn’t say much, let’s talk about what it doesn’t include:
- What exactly “lacked clarity” and what he meant to say.
- An explanation for why he said women who are abused should pray for healing.
- An explanation for why he sexualized a girl under the age of 16.
- An explanation for why he punished a Ph.D. student at the seminary who tweeted an article critical of Patterson.
- An admission that there are legitimate reasons to get divorced, and abuse is one of them.
- How he plans to make things right from this point forward.
The problem wasn’t the way he discussed his beliefs. The problems were his beliefs. And there’s no indication he’s changed his mind in any of the relevant places. So what’s the point of the exercise?
If you can’t admit what you did wrong, then you can’t sincerely apologize for it. It sounds like Patterson just knows everyone’s mad at him and he wants it all to go away, but he doesn’t want to make it too hard on himself. So he slapped himself on the wrist, assuming everyone would accept his apology.
They shouldn’t. If he thought this pseudo-apology would put an end to his misery, he’s absolutely wrong.
He better start praying since this is far from over.