Time to “take back” the Christian name and influence
Back a few years when we lived in Fort Worth, still one my favorite towns, Jody and I visited the Birchman Avenue Baptist Church to hear the famous Lester Roloff preach.
Hearing Lester on his daily radio program made me curious to see and hear him in person. He was apt to break out in song right in the middle of his sermon.
He would sashay into song at the end of every 15-minute broadcast with, “One sat alone / beside the highway begging / then Jesus came / and washed his sins away.”
Lester was a real spellbinder; he was ahead of his time and missed out on the riches to be made in televangelistic preaching. He died when his private plane crashed in East Texas in 1982. He was not so much flamboyant as he was common, which really attracted South Texas farmers and peasants.
Lester Roloff got into trouble in 1967 with his unorthodox, yet Christian fundamentalist, management practices of his Rebekah Home for Girls in Corpus Christi became public. For one thing, Lester went all out in promoting and using the Bible verse: “spare the rod, spoil the child.”
In 1973 the Texas Attorney General finally had enough complaints to take him to court. Brother Lester (that’s what everyone called him) was prosecuted for his excessive corporal punishment of the girls. Lester said on the stand: “Better a pink bottom than a black soul.” The attorney said he was more concerned with bottoms “that are blue, black and bloody.”
(It is not important to the story, but Lester Roloff was a graduate of Baylor University. The school is not likely to build a statue for him anytime soon. Actually, old BU would rather forget Bro. Lester. While on the subject, BU also hates to admit Willie Nelson once went to the world’s largest Baptist university. They ought to name a music building after him.)
Weird as it was, Roloff got a lot of support as Kathryn Joyce, author of “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,” wrote recently in an expose of abusive teen homes. Roloff passed off the scene but his co-workers moved on to cause even greater misery for young girls and more shame on the name of Christ in Missouri. Wiley Cameron, who worked for 35 years with Roloff opened “New Beginnings” home for girls.
In 1998 Cameron’s group returned to Texas after then-Gov. George W. Bush deregulated the activities of faith-based groups in Texas. Later Wiley Cameron was chosen to serve on Bush’s peer-review board for Christian children’s agencies in Texas.
Abuse charges emerge all the time in Texas, Missouri, George and Florida. State legislatures consistently look the other way. “We the People” can’t get a hearing on this immoral practice of consecration camps for teens.
The situation is made even more tragic when “faith,” and particular “Christian” terms are tied to the shameful practice. These modern day pirates go about their nefarious ways, hiding behind that very thick, dark and misleading “faith-based” curtain.
These groups are powerful. They are also good at stirring up fear when they are exposed. Nothing like a little fear to rouse the troops. (Typical tactic of the G. O. P. and their appendage “tea parties.” But, I digress.)
Anytime someone suggest more oversight on faith-based programs, especially those “reforming” teens, they whip out several myths: Christians are being persecuted; regulations are bad; government want to control the churches, etc.
When bills come up in State legislatures that would curb such abusive projects as those begun by Lester Roloff clones the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs will oppose it.
Martin Luther King, Jr is not the only one with “a dream.” I hope to see the name “Christian” vindicated and restored to its proper status, and no longer abused by these shysters.