It's a tale as old as the church. A pastor, almost always a man, is caught doing something that God & the church would deem to be sinful. Homosexuality, infidelity, molestation, embezzlement. Sometimes the "sin" is less insidious like when a pastor begins firing anyone under him who questions his authority or when a pastor is caught with pornography the week after he ranted and raved against it. These indiscretions sometimes catch up with them, although I suspect many take it with them to their graves.
Those in the church often appear to be devastated as many pastors earn an almost cult following in their churches. For those of us outside the church, who have watched quite a few of these grenades blow up, we aren't so surprised. Wait...you were surprised that Marc Driscoll turned out to be a megalomaniac who bought his way onto the NYT best-seller list and encouraged the practice of shunning those who left his church or were fired? Did you read the man's books or listen to his sermons? Of course, that's the person he was. He wasn't even hiding it very well. Or Ted Haggard who ranted and raved against homosexuality while being diddled by male prostitutes on his down time. At this point, I suspect anyone who is that homophobic is probably struggling with feeling of same sex attraction. We know all about the various Catholic priests who sexually abused the children under their care. Even Martin Luther King Jr., this supposed paragon of virtue, was an adulterer, the truth of which only came out after he died although all accounts seem to point to that situation reaching a tipping point anyway.
Perhaps the strangest after-effect of these serious missteps is that within the Christian religion is a mechanism called forgiveness. Now, unlike the coloquial understanding of this word, this isn't about forgiving a person for a misdeed so that you can move on. This is about redemption and afterlife. This is the kind of forgiveness where you could commit a murder and if you just say the sinner's prayer and ask for forgiveness, the religion not only teaches that you will get into heaven, but here on Earth you are seen as a success story. I grew up hearing about these stories. The redeeming power of the blood of Jesus.
A guy once came to a youth convention and talk to hundreds and thousands of teenagers about how he used to be a gang banger and killed people and his mom was a witch, and then one day he met a pastor who never gave up on winning him to Christ, and eventually he saw the light. Of course, these stories were littered with things that were suspect. That gang banger admits to killing people. He knows the names of the people he killed. But he never went to jail for any of his crimes. But it's okay because he became a Christian and Jesus changed him and he would never do any of that now. Him being in jail for murder would be a waste because his testimony has more of an effect outside of prison. Of course, there are plenty of other people who did go to prison and are serving out sentences for gang related murders, but they deserve to be in prison. Unlike this guy who the Christian community has forgiven. And this guy, this avowed murderer is hanging out with kids. He admits that he still has extreme anger issues and at one point had to separate from his wife because of his issues, but get this, he chalked it up to demons and once they had a good old-fashioned exorcism, he's all better now. And people believe this shit! They gobble it up.
You had an affair with a teenager and sexually groomed her for two years? No problem, as long as you asked for forgiveness in front of the church, all is forgiven. Your old church may kick you out, but nothing is stopping you from starting a new one and several people who feel like you were done a disservice will follow you. Dude feels up a teen and shows her his dick, but it's alright and even deserving of a standing ovation as long as he said he is sorry and looks repentant.
Don't get me wrong. I am all about redemption. I absolutely believe people can modify past behaviors to the point that they are safe to be around, BUT I would be very very careful about what that looks like. If you are caught sexually grooming a teenager, then you should never again be in charge of teens in any way shape or form. You may never do it again. Perhaps you learned your lesson. But you should also not be put in a position where you could do it again. If charges can be brought against you, they should. The Catholic church swept their improprieties under the rug, shuffling known child molesters off to other churches where they would absolutely have to opportunity to commit their crimes again. They hid the crimes from the authorities and all of this was done under the authority of a god and pope. Forgiveness should never mean that a person is allowed to continue to work or function in the same position they did before, with the opportunity to commit the same indiscretions again. That's the appropriate response from people who care. If you care about teenagers or children being abused, you should not allow opportunities for it to continue.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.