Thoughts and Truth from the Impossible Life

How Christians should respond to Child Sex Abusers in Our Midst

The ‘Monsters’ Among Us: Child Sex Abusers in Our Midst | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

How Christians should respond to Child Sex Abusers in Our Midst
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 4/20/2012 08:58PM
 He loved children.

The man and his wife had parented 75 foster kids in their suburban home encircled by a white picket fence. He worked in marketing for three Chicago ministries, going on to establish a support network for foster-care families.

“Long before we got married … we agreed we wanted to have large families,” the man told a Christian publisher in 2009. “We thought it would be fun to have a lot of children.”

And then, the man was arrested and held on charges of sexually assaulting two of his foster children, one 6, the other 12 at the time. This winter, he confessed to police of many nights spent drinking before coming home to commit literally unspeakable violations against these and likely other children.

We at Christianity Today recognized the mug shot. For nine years, he was our coworker in a non-editorial role.

The story came to us right before another: a Wheaton College Christian education professor arrested for hoarding and trading thousands of child porn images.

And now today comes another tragedy, with the news that Voice of the Martyrs executive director Tom White, a source, partner, and friend to several of us here, apparently committed suicide to avoid an investigation into an accusation that he had molested a young girl.

These events brought a sickening dose of reality to our hallways. While the stories don’t signal a trend, they do mean that all faith-based institutions can no longer afford to assume that predators are somewhere “out there,” over the clean Christian rain-bow. They are not just in college locker rooms and Catholic rectories either. They are on our evangelical faculty and work in our community nonprofits, and we must respond to them in a way that bears the judgment—and mercy—of the gospel of Christ.

To this end, with the counsel of experts in sexual health, we offer two principles for the Christian community in responding to child sex offenders and preventing such offenses.

First, we must prioritize protecting innocents. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a movement among churches discerning how to include ex-offenders into the community of faith. No doubt many lives have been transformed in the process. Still, when the well-being of children and the inclusion of offenders conflict, we believe a gospel-shaped community should prioritize protecting the most innocent among us, whose violation invites drowning by millstone (Luke 17:2).

“There is something about exploiting children that even our sexually permissive culture gets: that you don’t touch children—even murderers in prison get it,” observes William Struthers, a neuroscientist at Wheaton College. Our culture’s prevailing response tells us something true about child abuse: Not only is it biologically abnormal (prepubescent children aren’t capable of relating sexually), it’s devastating for those who endure it.

Faith-based institutions can no longer afford to assume that predators are somewhere ‘out there.’

Practically speaking, all this will require more proactive preventive measures than many ministries are used to. Parents can help children develop clear physical boundaries, recognize inappropriate behavior, and strengthen that feeble “no” into a shout. Faith-based institutions are wise to develop a strategy of, “If an employee reports observing danger signals from a coworker, here’s how we will respond.” A clear policy for network and computer scans is wise. Background checks for all who interact with minors are obvious. Most important, it means teaching that working with children is not a “right” or an unchecked “calling.” If a former abuser insists on ministering to children, their request should be denied. “The truly repentant person is not likely going to apply to be restored, because he doesn’t want to fail again,” notes Mark Laaser, who works with abusers at his Minnesota-based recovery ministry. “If a person is humble, the restoration question becomes moot.”


Christianity Today

Christianity Today


May 17, 2012 - Posted by | Christianity / God, Societal / Cultural Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] How Christians should respond to Child Sex Abusers in Our Midst ( […]

    Pingback by Advocate called for Sex Offenders to be Named and Published. « My Blog | May 18, 2012 | Reply

  2. For all your pretense to be concerned about the victim first and foremost you have devoted most of your prescriptions to rehabilitating the offender. What about the other victims – the parents and loved ones who have had to shoulder enormous burdens on behalf of the wounded, like therapy and boarding schools for kids who have become so violent as a result of the rage they harbor that they have to be sent away to protect the rest of the family? Why not encourage the Christian community, particularly those Christian leaders who have sheltered the offender in an effort to protect their reputations, to share the burden?

    Have you ever given any thought to other members of the victims families – siblings who suffer abuse from angry victims, and parents who lose control of children who are filled with rage at not being protected? I lost everything that is precious to me because of one incidence of molestation. Years later when my boy reached his teens he exploded in rage and began drinking and doing drugs. For years he terrorized our home. We had the police at our door on an almost weekly basis. He tried to strangle his mother and did time in the local juvenile detention center. My wife blamed me and drove me out of our home so she could freely carry on an affair with her boss. I had a nervous breakdown and lost my job. My ex-wife took everything I owned “for the kids.” I lost all my retirement savings.

    Although I pleaded to the church for help, no one listened. Two different pastors turned their backs on me when I asked for help. One was too busy watching Monday Night Football to give me the time of day. The other didn’t want to get involved for risk of tarnishing the reputation of the church ( a well known Bible scholar who used to pastor College Church in Wheaton). TEAM mission declined to help with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in rehabilitation costs their missionary placed upon me or his other four victims (whom I contacted by way of an Internet post that they Googled). Although I appealed to every supporting church I could find by exposing all of the back links to TEAM’s website, not a single one agreed to sign a protest on my behalf. I finally put a protest website right up next to TEAM’s on the web in the hopes of preventing others from supporting these people or joining their ranks.

    So how do Christians typically respond when I tell them my story? They tell me I need to forgive and forget, to let bygones be bygones. But that doesn’t put money in my retirement account. And it doesn’t erase all the horrible memories that have turned my daughter’s recollections of her high school years to a complete blank (she honestly cannot remember details of anything that happened during that time). The only good that came out of all this is that I got rid of a woman who only thought of herself and took me for everything I had, who literally drove me into the ground with her incessant demands and insistence on being allowed to flirt with whomever she chose (breaking up at least two marriages in the process). And I found a new wife who is generous and kind and compassionate to a fault. But I haven’t seen either of my two kids in twenty years because my ex-wife turned them and my own mother and father, brothers and sisters against me. I was not invited to my daughter’s wedding (I only found out after the fact, and when I asked my ex for her address so I could send a wedding present, she filed an order of protection against me. I ended up in anger management with a lot of guys who didn’t belong there, either!).

    This is the side of sexual molestation your article misses, i.e. where is the Christian community when these things happen? They are AWOL because they are so afraid of tarnishing their precious image that they don’t want to get involved.

    Comment by Casual Christian (@craigolson001) | May 27, 2012 | Reply

    • Your comment is approved.

      You do bring up important issues and the healing needs to be for everyone involved.

      It sounds as if the Christian community to which you turned failed you. This failure is the failure of man.

      The community is a community of imperfect people, some whose own issues prevented them from responding appropriately. Much needs to be done. May the Lord bless you and comfort you and inspire the bravery in the hearts of those who must answer the call in the Name of Jesus to help ALL heal. Amen.

      Comment by Paul Marcel-Rene | May 27, 2012 | Reply

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