Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shame and Church Hypocrisy

Last week Dale Richardson of Ladson, South Carolina was arrested for allegedly kidnapping four women and raping three of them. (From http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44219189/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/preacher-accused-raping-women-behind-church/) While some people are confused because they have always seen him as a good person and never saw this coming, he is being held in prison with no bail because he is believed to be a “danger to society.” What is most interesting (and disheartening) about this story, and the reason it is attracting much interest is that Dale Richardson is a pastor of a Baptist church.

Few will argue against the fact that kidnapping and raping is wrong. In no way do I condone the alleged crimes that Richardson is charged with, nor do I diminish his own responsibility in the wrongdoing. My curiosity though begs the question, “What might have led this person to commit this crime?” In the first book we are reading for class, Hurt People Hurt People, by Sandra D. Wilson, the title says it all, and I have to wonder – “Where did this man go wrong?” How has he been hurt and what wound is he carrying that has contributed to his poor and evil choices?

I propose that in part it has to do with shame. Wilson says, “Shame is the soul-deep belief that something is horribly wrong with me that is not wrong with anyone else in the entire world.” She goes on to say, “shame is rooted in the lie that human beings can and should be perfect.” Do we not at least subconsciously expect our leaders to be perfect? What happens to a leader who has his own unseen hurts, who struggles with childish coping mechanisms but cannot admit to anyone that he struggles for fear of being “found out?” He hides in his shame to cover the sin that he secretly battles within.

I believe that we as a church do a terrible disservice to each other as we walk around pretending to have it all together. The pastor who is expected to be perfect is too ashamed (or prideful) to confess to another his struggle with lust, driven to carefully construct a false life of perfection and wholeness when reality would show utter brokenness. This perceived perfection in turn shames the parishioner into posing too because he or she knows that they too have missed the mark but shouldn’t have. And a downward spiral of shameful hiding and disconnected pride ensues, robbing each of real community, humility, and healing. Honesty, forgiveness, and healing are replaced with shame, lying hypocrisy, and an ever-entangling sin leading to tragic examples like the news story above.

Certainly, the blame falls on this pastor who committed the crime. I propose though that instead of only pointing fingers we take time to consider the type of tightly knit “community” that could allow a major internal struggle such as this to go unnoticed. Are we allowing the fear of shame frighten us to put on our hypocritical pious masks or are we boldly confessing our struggles to each other, striving to be a broken but authentic, healing community?


  1. What a powerful argument for how shame slowly demolishes a person. I agree that more times than not Christians are trying to patch up their own hurts without allowing anyone to help. I believe many times a person feels so shameful about something in their life that they hide it so tactfully from the people around them for fear they might be judged. When we hide our shame and do not have confidence in the ability to share it with a close trusted friend, we rot from the inside out and do the acts that we thought would never be done. That's why its so important to find someone trusted to share your guilt and shame with so you can heal and know you not a leaper!

  2. This is a really interesting way to look at this type of situation. I am so grieved for the church that must walk through all of this hurt. But I think you make a good point that instead of presenting an attitude of perfection, we as the Church must present ourselves as broken people in desperate need of a Savior. If we truly desire to ever reach others, I think humility and acknowledgement of our constant need for grace is so important.

  3. Believers are people too. Thinking that we have to be perfect in order for God to accept us is not true. He has and always will love you as you are. He wants to show his glory through every believer though. Being caught up in such extreme situations never make Christians look Christ like. Jesus is the only one who can change the heart though. No matter how many degrees or titles a person has, biblical truths are the same and forever will be for every soul. Just because a person may be a pastor or an extremely successful believer does not mean they are excused from temptation, deceit, anger or any other negative source that will draw us from God's will. Basic repentance from the heart, humbly getting on your knees and being naked spiritually in front of the Almighty is hard for a prideful individual. That is why God says except you receive the Kingdom of God as a child you will not inherit it (Mark 10:15).


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