“As long as it refuses to examine the culpability of its explicitly patriarchal theology in fostering abuse, the SBC’s [Southern Baptist Convention] systemic abuse problem is going to remain unsolved.” —Chrissy Stroop, Playboy
You may remember reading the bombshell investigative report on sex abuse scandals and the ensuing cover-ups plaguing the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination, expertly reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last December. Amid well-deserved praise and shock, one common reaction was, “Okay, good work. Now do the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention).” The Houston Chronicle responded with a resounding Hold My Beer. A months-long investigation exposed hundreds – and there are likely more – of victims of sexual assault by the hands of their pastors and youth ministers, and that the SBC has consistently shielded them from consequences while shaming the victims. The corruption is deep and systemic, and not totally surprising to those of us who grew up immersed in that culture. The culture itself is most of the problem, a fact that Baptists refuse to acknowledge. That patriarchal, male headship, purity-obsessed, all-sin-is-the-same culture provides fertile breeding ground for rampant, unchecked abuse. The backlash and public pressure was swift and harsh, as well it should be.
If you grew up in those circles, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before someone you’ve known personally gets exposed as a predator. That’s what happened to me on Sunday. I saw a tweet linking to a NY Daily News article about Stephen Bratton, a Houston-based SBC pastor who was just arrested for molesting and raping a female teenage relative on a weekly and often daily basis for two years beginning in 2013. Also part of this vile story is that this revelation follows on the heels of Bratton’s vehement public testimony in favor of a proposed Texas bill to criminalize all abortion as homicide – including in cases of rape and incest. (Thankfully, the bill never made it out of committee). As I clicked on the link, I kept thinking the guy’s name sounded familiar, and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the picture and immediately put two and two together: I went to college with that guy. And his wife.
I read through the news articles, and though they are scant on details in order to protect the victim, the alleged crimes he committed are horrific, and my mind wandered back to knowing him during undergrad, at the small evangelical college I attended. He was a few years ahead of me and I guess it’s more that I knew of him rather than being personally acquainted. He was quite the Big Man on Campus. Everyone knew who he was. Every time I think of this, I become more and more angry. This disgusting human being has had extremist, harmful views since college; and I know that because my alma mater constantly gave him more and more leadership positions and ever-enlarged platforms to spew his abhorrent zealotry; more importantly, he was never challenged in any way. He was well known for extreme anti-choice politics, male headship complementarian theology, and “not believing in” birth control or even dating. He and his now-wife were the talk of campus for a bit because they didn’t date like normal people. They went from platonic classmates to engaged literally overnight, which they sanctimoniously spouted as the true biblical way – they apparently thought dating was “secular” and “sinful”. And, yes, people can do whatever they’re going to do, but the university was not obligated to put them on a pedestal for it. They were called “godly” and “wise” instead of questioned. My old college has not made a statement about this heinous crime, they haven’t published one single word about it on their website or any social media. And given how they exalted this man as godly and constantly handed him an uncritical microphone to trumpet his noxious views – the very likes of which provided him cover to rape a teenager on a regular basis – they owe their alumni and current student body an apology. To be fair, the news is still breaking, so perhaps they will issue a statement yet. But I’m not holding my breath.
I think the ONLY reason Bratton was turned over to police by his church elders and excommunicated is because of the recent Houston Chronicle exposé. Had his terrible crimes been revealed prior to that, he would’ve been another statistic in their systemic cover-up, just another pastor quietly transferred to a different church out of state, nothing to see here. I don’t believe the SBC has one ounce of sincerity or concern for their widespread abuse problem other than the PR headache it’s caused. The actions taken against Bratton were likely the right ones for the wrong reasons. And given that my alma mater is part of that closed system, they’ll likely cower and say nothing, hoping no one notices, yet all the while they’re probably in the throes of elevating the voices of young Stephen Brattons: a new generation of patriarchal extremists who would, with gusto, advocate for a bill that would literally punish their own rape victim with a homicide charge if she terminated the resulting pregnancy.
Milk Street's Piri Piri Chicken
- 3 tbs New Mexican chile powder
- 1 tbs ground cumin
- 1 tbs ground coriander
- 1 tbs sweet paprika
- 1½ tbs kosher salt
- 1 4-to-4 ½ lb. whole chicken, spatchcocked
- 2 tbs white sugar
- 8 medium Fresno chiles, stemmed and quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, 2 to 3 lemons
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt. Transfer 2 tbs of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside.
- Loosen the skin over the chicken's breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between it and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tbs of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.
- In a food processor, combine the reserved spice mixture, the sugar, chilies and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar; process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
- Measure out ¼ cup of the sauce, reserving the rest for later, and brush evenly over the chicken, including the bone side. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of one breast. Keep watch on the internal temperature and start preheating a grill pan over screaming high heat when the chicken temperature hits around 135 F. Continue cooking in the oven until the thermometer hits 145 F. Immediately remove the chicken and take out the thermometer. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil on the grill pan, then brush the chicken with 2 tbs of the reserved sauce. Now place the chicken skin side down onto the hot grill pan. Cook until the skin is charred and the internal temperature hits 160 F. This will only take a few minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest, tinted with foil, about 10 minutes. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then liberally baste the chicken once more. Carve and serve with more sauce on the side.