MLK and Pastor Saeed

(Because, you know, I’m never controversial enough. I need to break out, write something radical. :P)

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Long before I took the kids to see Selma a year ago today, I knew all about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s infidelities. My parents and paternal grandparents were racists and his extra-marital affairs were used to discredit his work. Ironic considering the adultery my parents committed. So ironic, and so hypocritical, in fact, that, like the rest of the world, I began to ignore or brush over the facts, placing King on a pedestal no human being deserves.

In Selma, the Kings have a conversation about his infidelities and MLK uses the excuse that he loves his wife more than all those other women. It bothered me then, it bothers me today, and I have a feeling it’s going to bother me on this day for the rest of my life.

What King did for civil rights was a good thing. The fact that he was a serial adulterer is completely ignored, and it’s not simply because he did great things publicly. It is because, to be frank, most people don’t see adultery as that big of a deal. They don’t see it as a sin or a character flaw. But when it is committed by someone famous, we see it even less so. If you doubt that, look at the popularity of people in Hollywood. It doesn’t matter how many affairs they have, we keep worshiping them.

The problem is, this extends into the church. I was talking with a friend yesterday who told me the story of his brother’s church, the pastor had an affair, admitted it, and was allowed to remain in the pulpit, because he’s doing great things for Christ.

Like King, it isn’t a big deal because his outward works justify his inner immorality

Which brings me to Pastor Saeed.

When he first was imprisoned I had hoped it would finally wake the church in the West to the problem of the persecuted church around the world. Here was a man who, for all intents and purposes, was simply locked up for being a Christian. I heard his wife several times on Brant Hanson’s show on Air1 (when he was still on that station) and I hoped that this would be the thing that finally brought this issue to the forefront.

Unfortunately, and not surprising anymore to me, all was not as it seemed. It turned out that Saeed is an abuser and a porn addict. We can say “he loves Jesus” all we want, but can a man who beats and belittles his wife and keeps it a secret actually love Jesus? We had that discussion on an abuse board last night. The answer the victims of abuse came up with is “no.”

No, you cannot, because the level of anger needed to become that violent with your spouse is akin to the level of darkness it takes to murder someone. It’s not a momentary lapse of sanity, it’s not even a one time burst of anger, it is repetitive, it is calculated (physical abusers, especially ones in the church, take care to leave marks only where the victim can hide them), it is pure evil.

I know Saeed’s wife still believes that her husband is working for God. But how do we work for God when we are harboring so great an evil? The closer we get to God, the more we will hate our sin, and yet the chances of a spouse abuser reforming are around 3% according to statistics. That doesn’t sound like salvation.

There have always been sheep in wolves clothing, there will always be people who claim to be working for Christ all the while they are subjecting their family to cruelty. But I think this problem is one the church can make smaller. I believe that if pastors would preach as regularly about abuse as they do about other non-Christian behavior, that maybe there would be a change.

I’ve only heard one sermon on abuse in my entire 46 years in the church, and it was a horrible one. The pastor was defensive and mocking, he even said that it’s not a big deal if a man hits his wife once. I wonder if he was justifying something.

We speak out against homosexuality as the greatest sin ever. We shame unwed mothers so greatly that, while the church is equal to the world in all other stats (divorce, porn addiction, etc) we have an incredibly low number of unwed mothers in our midst. They know that the church is the last place that will welcome them.

So, we lock the gates to gays and unwed mothers, but adulterers and abusers we welcome with open arms, make excuses for, and justify their behavior.

I’d love to have some wonderful closing to this post, but I find I’m more confused now that I wrote it all out than I was when I started.

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