THE PREDATOR’S PATH
In this second installment of a series on Predator Pastors, we will explore the downward spiral that changes a pastor into a predator. We will look at one particular case, the case of Pastor John Price, a wolf in shepherd’s clothing.
If you have not yet read Sharper Irony’s previous post “Profile of a Predator Pastor”, then you really should read that before reading this. The question for this post to answer might not be as complex as it appears. How does a pastor become a predator? How could the one meant for our spiritual health become instead an agent of spiritual death?
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Do not err, my beloved brethren. James 1:14-16
So then, it should be no mystery to us what brought down this man. We live in a fallen world. We are a fallen race. Whenever these kinds of horrible things happen, we know that sin is involved. John Price’s problem was a sin problem. Not an “IFB” problem, not a Fundamentalist problem, not a religion problem. The problem did not stem from his education at Hyles-Anderson College. The problem came from his own flesh. Not from outside of him, in his environment or his culture, but from inside of him, from his own heart and his own flesh.
Sins, like grapes, grow in clusters. Like termites, wherever you find one, you can be sure there are many. Sins eat into the very grain of the wood, weakening the very structure of the building. Sin wreaks havoc on lives, and even more so when a person does not restrain himself from his desires, and fails to discipline himself. If you can’t say “no” to yourself, you won’t say “no” to sin.
The believer should live his life for God’s pleasure, not his own. When the pastor sends everyone out soul winning, then takes his assistant pastor over to the house for some video games, we have a person who is given to appetite. His pursuit of pleasure takes priority over his purpose of pleasing God. The sin can be traced back to pleasure. A Christian should find his highest pleasure in pleasing God. He should live for that pleasure. But John Price lived for other pleasures.
Amusement was an important part of John Price’s life. He once invited me over to his house for an afternoon of video games. As a teen, I felt funny about this. Now that I am a pastor, I see the absurdity of it. A pastor’s work is never done. How does a pastor have time for video games? I couldn’t say it was wrong. But those who know Price know that he dedicated a significant portion of his life to these and other amusements.
Now, amusement did not make him a predator. But the pursuit of pleasure did. And particularly, the pursuit of sexual pleasures. But even before he became predator, there was another pleasure which preoccupied Price’s mind. One word: admiration. It is pleasant to be loved and admired. And John Price loved to be admired. The fast growth of Freedom Baptist garnered a lot of attention and admiration. Sadly, the quest for fame is like a tapeworm. It is always eating, and never filled. A man who craves admiration, no matter how much he gets, will never be satisfied.
At first, it was that hunger for admiration that attracted Price to other women, and eventually to teen-aged girls. There was something intoxicating about the adoring eyes of his followers. He could do no wrong. He was a big man, an important man. They loved him. And he was hungry.
Price learned from some of the best of the best how to stir up the awe of the women. Had he not watched “Dr. Poopsy-Whoopsie” himself, the grand master of women? Technique doesn’t cause sin, but it sure makes it easier. The flirting grew and increased, the women responded and were flattered, and soon, Price found himself in a position to benefit from the adoration of these women.
Sin is the problem, but several things make the sin easier, the slope slicker. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says,
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
No doubt Price made mistakes. But few he owned up to. And people simply would not hold him accountable. I believe that men like this start with small failings, and rather than owning up to those failures, they excuse them or ignore them. Sure, they are ashamed, but they also have the ability to cover up, rather than facing the sin in a manly way, dealing with it, and making it right. Glossing over small sin paves the way for greater. Soon, the man believes himself to be invincible.
The preacher turned predator believes that he can carry out these horrible crimes, and can gratify his lusts with married women and teen-aged girls. Sure, he knows it is sin. But when personal pleasure dictates decisions, then the only sin will be restraint. So long as he has the opportunity, he will take it.
The preacher, of all people, believes that he would never be suspected of such a thing. After all, he is the preacher, revered, and held in the highest esteem in his society. And molesting teen-aged girls? Statutory Rape? Who would think such a thing possible? Besides, he figures that nobody will find out.
So, John Price felt pretty secure in pursuing carnal pleasures. Besides, he could always talk his way out of it if somebody stumbled into the knowledge of what he had done. He had important friends in high places who, no doubt, would vouch for him. And he had many enemies. Successful pastors always do. He would simply say it was “the devil fighting”. Besides, who would take the word of a teen-ager over his?
But in the worst possible scenario, there would always be repentance. If he had to, he could always stand before the church and cry about how sorry he was, and how the pressures of the ministry overcame him, and how, as Jack always said, “you can’t fall down from a crawl; if you are in the race, you are going to fall down.”
I doubt that the possibility of jail time ever crossed his mind. Certainly, the more he got away with it, the bolder he became. In John Price’s mind, he could do this, and he could get away with it.
So, John Price went out to get what he wanted – sexual gratification. And, when adult women did not meet his needs, he sought out teen-aged girls. He chose them, not because of anything they had done, but simply because they had what he wanted. They were accessible to him, and besides, they trusted him. And they would no doubt be so ashamed that they would keep quiet about it. He counted on that. In fact, he probably discussed their shame with them, maybe even told them that he was ashamed too, and that it was best that it be their little secret.
This is the nature of these kinds of men. The above describes their mindset, their motive, and their mode of operation. This is how they think, how they rationalize their crimes, and often (sadly) how they get away with it. We should be cautious, we should be warned, and we should beware. Pastors must keep themselves clean and pure, must keep their body under and bring it into subjection. And their people must love their pastor enough to keep him accountable.
In the days since posting the crimes of John Price, many have responded both with support and with anguish of heart. Healing, which I believe can take place, will require some understanding. Many wonder, “how could this man do these things?” “How could he get away with them?” “Who is to blame for this?” The answer is sin. Sin caused it, sin blinded eyes to it, sin led this man into it.
In order to heal, we need to understand how this happened. I hope this was helpful. And may God heal us and help us.
Labels: John Price