Dear Reader, the following is a note from survivor, advocate, and author Christa Brown about the fight against oppression and the power of truth, which she speaks of in her book Baptistland.

Many survivors have told me how grateful they are for my work—that my writings validated their own experiences and helped them see more clearly, and that my advocacy showed them they mattered. Some have told me that, even in their silence, they could see me fighting for them. “I’m alive because of you,” said more than one.

For all of that, I am glad. But while I feel grateful that others believe I made some difference, and while I’ve certainly strived to honor the holiness of survivors’ lives and traumatic stories, I have also felt the exhausting futility of my efforts at prodding institutional change. And the personal cost has been unfathomable.

Still, it gave me pause when journalist Sarah Stankorb profiled me in Vice and summarized my history with these words: “Using just her legal expertise, a Blogspot website and a Twitter account, she was fighting an institution . . . with what was then a $1.2 billion operating budget.” That single sentence helped me put things in perspective. I thought about the stupefying odds of it—the holy defiance of it. I have stood as a raised fist in the face of this institution that callously and recklessly decimates so many lives.

When lies, abuses, manipulations, and cover-ups run rampant, then speaking truth becomes a form of resistance. Others see it. Others find their own voices. Others then also speak truth.

When the Religion News Association showed me at number five on their “Top 10 Religion Newsmakers” of 2022 list, I couldn’t fathom it.

Christa Brown, whose advocacy for fellow survivors of sexual abuse helped force a reckoning over the Southern Baptist Convention’s history of mishandling cases of sexually abusive ministers and of mistreating victims.

I’m a quiet person—an introvert—and yet my name was there with people like Pope Francis, Thich Nhat Hanh, Justice Samuel Alito, and “the Iranian women who led protests against their nation’s theocracy.” On the one hand, it seemed tragic. We had gathered such massive global media about sexual predations within the SBC that an ordinary person like me wound up on a list like that, and yet the SBC had still barely responded. On the other hand, I know that truth does not reside in the determination of a recalcitrant institution to change or not change. Truth stands on its own as a moral force in the universe.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s membership numbers have been in freefall. There are many reasons, but I believe one of them has to do with the wider dissemination of truth about sexual abuse and cover-ups. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the SBC’s downward turn began the year I did my first side-walk press conference outside Southern Baptist headquarters in Nashville. My efforts may have never succeeded in prodding meaningful reform within the SBC, but I hope they have at least contributed to the growing knowledge of the truth about this institution.

Resistance against oppressive forces is energy in the universe that is never wasted. Most days I still believe that. My task has been to bear witness and to speak the truth about the abuses and betrayals of Baptistland.

Adapted with permission from Christa Brown’s Baptistland: A Memoir of Abuse, Betrayal, and Transformation. Learn more about Baptistland here, including a video interivew of Christa Brown.

Christa Brown

Named as one of the “top 10 religion newsmakers” of 2022, Christa Brown has persisted for two decades in working to peel back the truth about clergy sex abuse and coverups in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. She has consistently demanded reforms to make other kids and congregants safer. Brown has been featured in The Houston ChronicleVice, writes for Baptist News Global, and has had numerous mentions in national media. She’s the author of Baptistland: A Memoir of Abuse, Betrayal, and Transformation, and This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. Brown is a retired appellate attorney, a mom, and a grandma. She lives with her husband in Colorado.