Monday, October 31, 2011

On Glass Windows and Curtains: The Psychology of Withdrawing from Public View

My wife and I watched the 60 Minutes interview with the family members of Bernie Madoff, the man who swindled American people out of 50 billion dollars through an elaborate Ponzi scheme disguised as a top-tier New York investment company. Andrew Madoff and his mother, Ruth Madoff, deny any knowledge of Bernie's twenty year fraud, which is now considered the largest white collar corruption case in America's history. The interview was so riveting that I purchased the book--released today--which compelled the Madoff family to grant their interview with 60 Minutes. Truth and Consequences is the account of life inside the Madoff family from the perspective of Andrew Madoff, Andrew's fiance Catherine Hooper, and Ruth Madoff.

Chapter One, entitled "An Unthinkable Turn of Events" is revealing. Carolyn Hooper recounts the day that her fiance turned his father into the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraud. The couple lived together in a posh Upper East Side apartment with Andrew's two teenage girls and Catherine's three year old daughter. The apartment had floor to ceiling windows, common for New York skyline views. When Catherine, who is an expert in helping Fortune 500 companies survive catostrophic events,  learned of the extraordinary extent of her future father-in-law's fraudulent activities, she says that the first question that came to her mind was one of survival: "How do we get to tomorrow?"

"The answer came to her (Catherine) almost immediately: curtains.
She would put them up within twenty-four hours; everything else, she would deal with later."

I couldn't help but think of Southern Baptist evangelist Sammy Nuckolls and his family when I read the above two sentences. After being arrested on felony charges, Sammy Nuckolls put curtains up. Sammy is an expert in social media, but within hours of the charges being made public, Sammy's Facebook account was deleted, his Twitter account was deleted, and his web page was deleted. Maybe some would find Sammy's actions understandable under the circumstances, but what is surprising to me is how fast the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway Resources, who used Sammy as a guest speaker for SBC summer youth camps for the past ten years, immediately pulled down any web page, Internet article or other on-line information that associated Sammy with the SBC.

The curtains were put up very fast.

I realize that in our litigious society the first reaction of people in trouble, or those associated with people in trouble, is to pull the curtains and withdraw from anyone and everyone. In our Internet age, the on-line curtain is thrown up via the DELETE button.

My question is "Why do Christians do the very thing the world does when trouble comes?" Why do we pull the curtains and keep information from people? Why do we hide the truth of what has actually occurred to try to alter or stem public opinion? Why do we try to act as if things have not really happened the way they actually did? Should we not want all information, for the sake of any potential victims, available for review by the public? Should we not be asking questions like, 'How many victims are out there?' Should not the Executive Office of the SBC issue some kind of statement encouraging those who may have been victims of Sammy's crimes to contact law enforcement? Should not we leave the information of Sammy's involvement with the SBC up for all to see and simply issue a statement condemning his illegal activities and expressing our desire to help potential victims?

I have already attempted to contact Sammy and let him know of my prayers for him and his family. He knows of our desire to help him, his wife and child during this justly difficult time. We will not abandon sinners. However, we will also be open and honest about the horrible nature of the crimes Sammy has confessed to committing. He should go to jail to help society understand the danger of such invasive criminal actions. I do not know the victims (they, rightfully, have not been publicly identified). I am just as concerned for them, and if they read this blog, I hope they know that there are people who genuinely care for them.

Christian organizations must learn how to deal with problems and not put up curtains or the they will find it very time consuming as they constantly attempt to re-hang the curtains that others keep pulling  down. The Internet has become a game changer. The professional organizations of the future will get out in front of tough issues--keeping the glass uncovered--and be respected for their actions. Those who continually put up curtains will be seen as organizations with something to hide.


Jennifer McSparin said...

Hopefully the SBC's "curtains" in this case are just an initial step (an understandable one). I doubt they will issue any statement before legal counsel vets it thoroughly. Sammy spent a lot of time with the youth of my church through various events over the past 10 years, and the first thing I did when I saw the Watchdog's post was contact my pastor and youth minister. They promptly moved into action to begin contacting the families.

Very tragic for all, and praying for all involved as well.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Burleson,

You asked the question, "Why do Christians do the very thing the world does when trouble comes?"

The SBC is a business. It just happens to be in the business of managing the religious activities of others. As with any business, the first thing you do when something goes wrong is "damage control".

I am not sure this is a good answer but it is the first one that came to mind when reading your question.

Blessings, said...

Two good points from both comments.



Ramesh said...

Post of posts: New BBC Open Forum > Olive Branch Southern Baptist Evangelist Charged with Video Voyeurism

Anonymous said...

So Wade, why did u pull/delete this story??

"Bribes, Corruption, and a Lack of Accountability: Whistleblowers Not Welcome"

about this

Ron Nollner

hmmm, who are you covering for?

Anonymous said...

I remember that you posted, a very long time ago, information about Twitter. I think you predicted that it would be big. It was the first I had heard of it. Sounded rather funny at the time. I would like to read that post again but cannot find it. Can you help please? If I am correct, that is very impressive. said...

Anonymous 10:13 a.m.

I pulled the post as a favor to a friend of mine who asked me if I would pull it. The reasons my friend had for making the request are secondary. I do not know Ron Nollner, nor do I know those on the other side of the suit.

I do know that we in the SBC have a tendency to want to hide our problems. What I know about Nollner's specific issue is what I have read in papers like the one in the link you provided. said...

Anonymous 12:28,

I am not sure about the post to which you refer, but I'll do some checking.

Anonymous said... said...
"I pulled the post as a favor to a friend of mine who asked me if I would pull it."

The Brotherhood of the IMB?

So this is the Christianity you are preaching about, according to the SBC?

Gotta hid all that bad stuff and then claim its all about Jesus?

Saying that the one who gets caught doing wrong doesn't have the real gospel, its all their fault, that they just didn't get the religion right?

How many more are not being caught?

Spin Spin Spin

Trample on all the converts, then shove them out the back of the bus when they complain or are caught in some egregious sin, to allow for the new converts seats in the front and keep them in the dark about how corrupt the organization is.....

White Wash, White Wash said...

Anonymous 5:32,

Your mind seems made up on this issue so its probably just best to wish you God's grace in your own life and ministry

Anonymous said...

Your post said:

“The professional organizations of the future will get out in front of tough issues--keeping the glass uncovered--and be respected for their actions. Those who continually put up curtains will be seen as organizations with something to hide.”

By removing your post: "Bribes, Corruption, and a Lack of Accountability: Whistleblowers Not Welcome", did you reject your own advice?

I know we don’t want to hurt our friends, and I guess you should have thought of that before your post. But once the ‘news’ is out, how many friends do you hurt by removing the post?

You seem to like my comment about my missionary uncle being a whistleblower, but that’s gone as well as the many hours spent in writing by others.

Do you not think removing comments hurts people?

On your list of topics, I couldn’t find Dr. Sheri Klouda—is she gone too?
For a reminder:

If you don’t want to hurt your friend, you’ll have to remove the comments on this post or the one with the link that tells the same story of the deleted post.

“What a tangle web…”

Rex Ray said...


The news of the lawsuit is all over the Internet, so there is no possibility of it being forgotten.

I am ambivolent about my post simply because it only regurgitated what is already out there in public view.

Of course, the more you press me to put it back up, the longer it will remain down.


Anonymous said...

LifeWay posted this today: said...

Good for Lifeway.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

This says it all:

"I pulled the post as a favor to a friend of mine who asked me if I would pull it."

"Of course, the more you press me to put it back up, the longer it will remain down."

Thank you preacher.

How is your convert in Cancun Mexico doing these days?

Well it did make for a good sermon while it lasted.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous!
Didn’t you see the ‘smile’ with Wade’s joke? I liked his reply.
Rex Ray said...


I can assure you he is doing wonderfully well, as we all are, by the grace of God.