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This secular atheistic Jew wants to know: what the hell is a "youth pastor?" Is it a pastor who's a youth? A pastor that only ministers to youths?

Posted by Algernon | March 24, 2008 11:35 AM

Did you say shark attack? Where? Do you have a link? Is there video?

Posted by elenchos | March 24, 2008 11:41 AM

@1 young adult in his early twenties that hangs out with teens and peers his age to praise jesus.

Or as I recall from college, hook up with as many freshman girls as possible.

Posted by seattle98104 | March 24, 2008 11:42 AM

@1 - A youth pastor is a pastor, often of a younger age, that ministers exclusively to the youth of a congregation. The problem is that they end up getting a lot of time alone with kids, often have a lot of influence over kids (which is why some stay silent about the abuse for so long), and have very limited accountability because, as Dan points out, people are so reluctant to believe that a pastor could be guilty of such heinous crimes.

I've heard of some churches now requiring criminal background checks for anyone who wants to work with children at the church. That's a start, but it can only be so effective, as many of these youth pastors are pretty squeaky clean prior to molesting someone at their church.

Posted by Hernandez | March 24, 2008 11:53 AM

I was starting to get really sick off reading these posted with such frequency- but seeing how obtuse Church leadership is to the problem, I've come to the conclusion that such atrocities must be cataloged in one place for all to see.

...and I guess the Slog is as good a place as any.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | March 24, 2008 11:55 AM

WHAT "secular venues" is he talking about?


Posted by max solomon | March 24, 2008 12:09 PM

OK, sure, burn down the Dennys. But not the Ballard Denny's, because that's like, you know, sacred.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 24, 2008 12:12 PM

Googie architecture is rape too, of a sort.

Posted by elenchos | March 24, 2008 12:22 PM

News flash: twentysomething men who get to spend lots of one-on-one time with teenage girls try to fuck them. This has been going on since before there was a spoken language to describe the phenomenon.

Posted by Big Sven | March 24, 2008 12:30 PM

RIGHT ON, DAN!!! Give 'em hell.

Oh, and on the "evil" taking place "regularly" in "secular venues"..... given that the only "non-secular" venues are SECTARIAN (i.e., religious) venues it would make sense that numerically there may be more incidents in secular venues.... BUT that does not reduce the horror we all feel when allegedly-safe places like churches are the site of abuse.

I'd be curious to see a study on the incidence of sexual abuse in secular vs. sectarian settings. Without doing even a moment of research I am pretty sure that there are a larger percentage of "religious" folks abusing children than secular people. Certainly, outside of sexual abuse within a family, I would think that children are more likely to be abused in a religious setting than not. But of course there are a number of factors involved, not the least of which is the expectation that parents have that their children will be safe at church. The violation of trust is extreme when the violator is attached to a religious organization.

Heck, let's just limit our comparison to the Catholic Church and public schools. In these two settings, where is a child more likely to be abused? Anyone?

Posted by Jonathon | March 24, 2008 1:30 PM

Everyone please note: In that first "here" link, there's a story about some kid who is a youth pastor but HAS DONE NOTHING "EVIL" AT ALL.

Dan chose to include him in Youth Pastor Watch, I guess, because the kid is also a wrestler? I don't know, that's the best reason I could come up with. I can see no other reason why this kid was lumped in with a bunch of criminals.

Dan Savage is an entertaining read, but an incredibly irresponsible journalist. Period. His bosses should be ashamed.

Posted by beardo | March 24, 2008 1:38 PM

beardo, read the comments on that first "here". Dan explained why he included that article.

Posted by julia | March 24, 2008 1:42 PM

"Dan Savage is an entertaining read, but an incredibly irresponsible journalist."

I resent that, Beardo. I am not a journalist.

Posted by Dan Savage | March 24, 2008 2:24 PM

Love most of your stuff, but I always thought the point of these "youth pastor watch" posts was to show that no group is infallible. This post is quite a reach. The Denny's comment is absurd. Of COURSE it doesn't happen at Denny's. But what about schools? Scouting? Athletic coaches?... etc. These fuckers are found in all sorts of situations where they are given a position of trust with children. Do these "youth pastors" fill a larger proportion than any other group? I doubt it, but I haven't done the analysis. The point is that neither have you. So fuck off with the religion=evil crap. Criticism of the nutjobs is great, but as I'm sure you know, there are many Christians who aren't automatically hypocritical gay-bashing creationist douchebags.

Posted by MR. Language Person | March 24, 2008 2:41 PM

Dan, do I have to do the numbers for you again, or can you go back to the first time I did the math. Again, 35 million youths in churches every Sunday, conservatively speaking, and how many get molested? How many youths in Denny's every single week?

And seriously, as someone in the journalism biz, you should know that if it's in the news, it's because it's unusual. Do you report every incident of vandalism or only murders?

C'mon, be intellectually honest and post a "Youth Teacher Watch." Let's see you keep up with those numbers. I doubt that there will be room for anything else on Slog.

Posted by Gitai | March 24, 2008 2:50 PM

The last couple of people criticizing Dan's post using what I'll call "statistical" argument (i.e. "secular teachers do it more often than sectarian ministers" or "people in any position of trust are prone to do it, and probably more than religious folk") are, with all due respect, taking his religious criticisms too personally and you've missed the point of his posting these stories.

I don't doubt statistics will back you up, because it's a fact that plenty of people abuse or take advantage of youths in situations where youths and adults interact, especially in situations where a third party can't intervene for the safety of the child. But unlike, say, Denny's servers or youth softball coaches, individuals in leadership positions at religious institutions (such as youth pastors) consider themselves the arbiters of moral speech and conduct for their communities and, in some sick instances, the entire country or world.

This self-proclaimed stance makes the offenses these sectarian criminals commit especially heinous and extremely hypocritical. It's the absolute height of hypocrisy: a religious leader telling his "disciples" what they can (and cannot) do in the bedroom and who (and what gender) they're allowed to penetrate (and with what) even if all parties are consenting adults, while these same religious leaders break the law, ruin a young person's innocence virtually guaranteeing that victim a lifetime of self-loathing, self-destructive behavior, or worse a desire to do the same thing to another child. Essentially, these "leaders" are caught doing exactly what they rail about. All while taking the hard-earned money or their too-trusting audience.

You can argue all you want about statistics and probabilities, but I sure as shit know I'm not supposed to trust my little girl alone with a cracked -out toothless Denny's server, and it's about time these religious ignoramuses pulled their heads out of each other's asses and realize they sure as hell shouldn't trust their children with religious clergy, either. Wolves in sheep clothing, indeed.

Posted by rjsplow | March 24, 2008 4:16 PM

julia @12: I know. I read that. Do you buy that that's why he included that? I don't. I'd like to hear Dan *honestly* tell us why he included that and why he bolded "wrestling". If Dan will tell us that he *honestly* included that entry to show not all youth pastors are evil and explain why he bolded "wrestling," then I'll believe him.


Posted by beardo | March 24, 2008 4:44 PM

I didn't miss the hypocrisy, and that's why I didn't attack Dan on it until now. However, he argues beyond hypocrisy, with his "people are blinded because it's a church" argument. People aren't burning down schools or athletics facilities either, so Dan's point goes a bit far. While
Christianity (nor any religion) does not give a free pass, people can't and don't hate all church leaders (or scout leaders, coaches, day care providers, or teachers) because of the actions of a few.

You also missed my point. You said, "[parents] shouldn't trust their children with religious clergy, either." So you're not going to trust your children away from your sight ever? Will you let them play soccer and travel on a bus? Or go on an overnight trip without you at any age? Hypocrisy sucks, but how are clergy any more dangerous than other people to whom people entrust children?

They're not.

Attacking hypocrisy is great and Dan gets plenty of joy from exposing it, but blind rage is not.

Posted by MR. Language Person | March 24, 2008 4:49 PM

@ 14 and 16, well articulated.

It's not a shock that people who want to abuse children gravitate to jobs that involve unsupervised time with children. But there are a lot of youth pastors in this country (at least 300,000 by my quick and dirty statistical calculation.) That a few dozen or even an few hundred of them abuse children every year is a tragedy, and those individuals deserve to be strung up. But it's not fair or sensible to extrapolate from that onto the whole profession.

I'm no longer religious, but growing up I interacted with three youth pastors, all of whom were kind, compassionate, and wise individuals. I would hate to see them tarred with the same brush as these rapists.

Posted by Mary in DC | March 24, 2008 6:12 PM

"Wouldn’t it be great if the media covered youth pastor attacks the same way they covered shark attacks?"

Hasn't a (pretty, young) white woman gone missing lately? Well, why the heck not? You think I want to read about global warming, presidential politics, and what crap the FDA allows off-shore firms to put in my food?

Posted by tensor | March 24, 2008 9:19 PM

"Wouldn’t it be great if the media covered youth pastor attacks the same way they covered shark attacks?"

But see, shark attacks are newsworthy because they're *rare.*

Posted by Abby | March 25, 2008 6:18 AM

I believe the states according to resarchers are 8-1 That for every 5 child molestation (outside of home) only 1 happens in a "religious" setting. Just watch the news there is almost a teacher per week that molest kids...both male and female teachers.

If we are going to be critical we have to use facts and truth not retoric.

I bleive Pasto Spink meant that while we have come to accept that they terrible crimes happen against children in secular settings...when they happen in church it is more upsetting for these are to be safe havens and people who should live by a higher standard...and that is what makes them more grievious. It would be like someone at Children Services raping kids would be looked at as worse than say a carnival bathroom.

Posted by PDM | March 25, 2008 11:41 AM

Have you ever thought about watching your language and thoughts for the Families involved. Have a little respect for those that are hurting Please

Posted by Margaret | March 25, 2008 12:32 PM

What Pastor Spink meant was this. There are millions of churches where the religion practiced is not real, it's not life change, and therefore there are a lot of hypocritical people within. At his church, which I have attended for a while, there is real religion; people who've begun to have a real relationship with God and their lives are completely changed and amazingly filled with joy. Because of this different between the relationship with God that they have there and the empty ceremony in other churches it was more shocking and appalling that the church did not see the hypocrite in their midst. I was around, trust me, he was a good faker. He pretended that his life had purpose and satisfaction from God, but it was a cover to get the relationship with the girl that he wanted. Maybe some day you will realize that you can lump this youth pastor into the hypocrite group with others, but not the whole church... at Berea Baptist, there is real life change happening

Posted by Andrew Spink | March 26, 2008 9:53 PM

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