I started this post in October. Of 2013
It’s sat here in the recesses of this website, in draft form, for 1 Year, 7 months.
I’ve looked at it a time or two. I’ve even opened it up and proceeded to add some words. I’ve erased some words as well.
I don’t want to write this post.
I’d rather write something light-hearted on this beautiful spring day, after spending the afternoon on the deck at Sweet Frog with my crew. Or maybe something on productivity. Or one of the zillion theological questions my brain tends to ponder (admittedly, that’s not light-hearted. But it is nerdy.) Or something funny, even. There’s much funny that happens in a tiny house with one single parent, one young adult, two teenagers (now that the third is at boot camp) and a dog. And maybe a lizard (hmm, I should probably check on that status.) And the boy friend of the young adult. (No need to check that status. I know he’s around). And a gaggle of friends of the teens. Playing kitchen soccer or table-top football. Belting out songs to Phantom of the Opera and cooking junk food. There is much laughter. This is not a boring place.
But, here it is, April.
And it is Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Sexual Assault is sexual abuse. And Sexual Abuse is always, always, always assault.
And when the heinous evil occurs within the walls of a church, it shatters. Shatters.
It’s a subject I don’t write much on here. For many reasons. I do have a resource page for victims and those who minister to/care for those victims. I’ve touched on it a time or two in the course of writing here in this space. But to look at it straight in the face in such a public forum and to call it for what it is and to write public words about it—that I always find a bit challenging.
That is why this post has lain dormant for several months.
I do not speak from inexperience. I wish that I did.
This week alone (in October 2013, I think that is when I am referring to), I’ve read in the news of a few ministers who have been or are in the process of being sentenced for horrific crimes. I don’t like reading these accounts, but on some days it is like a moth to a flame. Sometimes I can move on to the next news article. Other days, I read. And burn.
There is a dark, suffocating evil that weaves itself around the sin of sexual abuse. No, rather, that is the sin of sexual abuse. It often involves power, domination, closed doors, threats, and the breaking of all things right in the world. And when it enters the church, perpetrated by the very ones who have been tasked with teaching the gospel, it creates a whole different realm of horrid confusion.
On one hand, I have been taught and have heard all my life that all sins are equal, and equally forgive-able by God. That it is just the wake of destruction that varies. And, maybe that is true. The wake of destruction post sexual abuse certainly is equal to that of a tsunami, coming in wave after wave after choking, drowning wave.
But, I’m not entirely sure that it is true. I don’t doubt that they are forgive-able, but I can’t quite get my mind wrapped around the idea that they are equal. I don’t think that they are. I certainly do not understand the theological subtleties that surround the disaster that this sin is, so maybe that question is better left to those much smarter than myself.
What I do know, to the very core of my soul, is that this shadowy evil has to be–is–particularly evil. Particularly evil, because it damages deeply–not just the victim’s self, but the victim’s perception of church.
And of God.
We don’t like to think about it. We don’t like to dwell on it. And we shouldn’t, because if we live fearful lives within our local community of believers, we really aren’t communities. We are called together to worship together. To make disciples. To care for needs.
But, someone has to think about it.
Someone has to be aware.
And that is why I’ve returned to this post, in this month of Sexual Assault awareness. To sound a warning bell. To plead with church leadership across all denominations, in large mega churches and small country churches. In fact–small country churches may need the warning more than larger churches, just by the nature of “trust” that is sometimes given in those environments to “Brother so-and-so”. Regardless–all churches, missionary organizations, parachurch organizations, everywhere:
Protect. Your. Children.
Protect. Your. Youth.
There are resources available–excellent, sound resources–to help walk you through steps you can take as a church. How to do background checks. How to establish policies. What to do if a registered sex offender decides to visit your church, or ask for membership. Some of those resources I have listed on my resource page. The book On Guard by Deepak Reju looks to be particularly helpful for church staff, though I’ve not been able to bring myself to read it. You could read his excellent article here at this link over at The Gospel Coalition. As church staff, though, you have a responsibility to do everything within your power to put safeguards in place. Discuss these things. Review them periodically. Schedule that review so it is on the staff planning calendar.
I am so grateful to be a member of a church that takes these things seriously.
But sometimes, nightmares occur even when the best safeguards are in place.
And, in those moments, what is our response, as Christ-followers, to those whose lives are shattered?
I’m not entirely sure. I’m not entirely sure, in spite of the fact that I have been granted the honor of entering the stories of a small number of victims. It is an honor, anytime you are allowed to sit with someone in their pain. I do so woefully imperfectly and inadequately. But, in working with these amazing individuals, I do know this:
The pain is long-term and deep, and requires a long-term and deep response from those of us who follow Christ and know that what scripture says is truth, and who also know that the depth of His grace and mercy and love is truth as well.
Because it is grace, mercy and love that is needed.