As I write this, trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have been in a closed-door executive session for twelve hours, debating (among other things) what to do about the school’s president Paige Patterson.
As we’ve written before, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention has been under fire over the past month for encouraging women to stay with their abusive husbands (because divorce would go against God’s will) and for making sexually inappropriate comments about a “very attractive young co-ed” who “wasn’t more than about 16.” Two weeks ago, Patterson released a pathetic apology that completely ignored his comments about the underage girl and didn’t say divorce was a reasonable option for women in certain situations.
Is that who Southern Baptists want running a seminary? We’ll find out soon. But in the meantime, the Washington Post‘s Sarah Pulliam Bailey has another bombshell: Patterson once told a woman who claimed she was raped not to tell the police and (wait for it) to forgive the rapist.
The unnamed woman was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 when this took place, and Patterson was running the school at the time.
… She said she reported it the next morning to the administrator who handled student discipline. That administrator then reported the incident to Patterson, she said, and she was required to meet with Patterson and three or four male seminarians she said were proteges of Patterson’s. She said she doesn’t remember the specific words Patterson used but that he wanted to know every detail of the rape.
Patterson and other administrators did not report the incident to the police, and she claims that Patterson encouraged her not to, as well, she said. The Post confirmed that a report was never filed with the Wake Forest Police Department.
The woman said she was put on probation for two years, but she doesn’t know why, saying it was perhaps because she was with another man alone in her apartment, which was against seminary policy.
The Post mentioned several pieces of evidence confirming the story occurred as the woman described. The woman also said her assailant reached out to her years ago, asking for forgiveness, which she granted… though she didn’t grant the same to Patterson, who never apologized for anything.
Let’s assume, then, the story is accurate. In that case, a school run by Patterson punished a woman who reported being raped while taking no action whatsoever against the man accused of the crime.
Is anyone surprised by that? Would anyone really be shocked to learn that Patterson — and other Southern Baptists — treated a woman with complete disdain for her suffering?
That sounds like a perfectly Southern Baptist thing to do.
Of course Patterson, the man who told women abused by their husbands to stay in the relationship and who thought it’d be funny to talk about an underage girl like a sexual object, would tell a rape victim to keep her mouth shut before punishing her. (That’s not out of the question at other Christian schools, either.)
This is what it means to be a conservative Christian for many women: If you’re assaulted, you have to choose between reporting the attack or risking punishment (since you’ll be blamed for letting the situation occur).
This is the culture that Paige Patterson helped create.
It shouldn’t take 12 hours (or more) to decide his fate. (Do you think Patterson took that long to decide what happened to the rape victim?)
This is a simple moral question… or at least it should be. It’s telling that the seminary trustees currently deciding Patterson’s fate need to spend this much time deciding what to do.