It is always good to give a bit of history before rushing forward into the telling of truths. On this topic it might be helpful to understand my backstory so that you can have an idea about the place from which I write. At the age of 9 my parents began taking in foster children. This continued for more than a decade. After college I was able to work for a nonprofit foster care agency. I was a caseworker for kids who could not remain in their birth homes… those same types of kids that I had spent the majority of my growing up years living with were now on my caseload.
My whole life I have been around abused, neglected and/or orphaned children.
My parents were fiercely protective on this issue with me because of the things that had occurred within our extended family. Rape, child sexual abuse – these things had touched us closely and I was not a child who lived unaware of the horrible places even before we took in hurting children. I knew and I am grateful for my dad and mom’s fierce diligence in protecting my innocence and the innocence of other children even if that meant forsaking their own reputations.
I’m a fierce advocate for kids because I have seen the generational consequences of abuse up close and personal. When you have to sit in a waiting room or an exam room as a young one is examined by a professional – collecting samples and taking notes – you learn quickly in what forms evil exists.
It’s a holy rage that wells up in my heart and makes me want to shout… This is me shouting so I hope you will be patient enough to read this because there might be something in here that will help you, your church, or someone you know (in other words this is a mini-sermon-informative gathering). Grab a cup of coffee and some chocolate… it’s gonna be a long one and I am breaking all the rules of blogging 101.
In the last decade a couple of major headlines have made us cringe and gather our children closer. Those headlines have often included the words: Catholic, priest, sexual abuse, minors, Boyscouts, leaders, pedophiles, etc. It would be easy as a naïve Protestant – not involved in any of these organizations to say, “Well that doesn’t happen in our church. Or that doesn’t happen in our family.” And you would be wrong .
Our churches no matter the towering bubbles and building campaigns are not immune to the sinister exploits involved in the sexual abuse of children.
Evil is in our midst whether we choose to see it or not.
What the church does not need is more gullible men and women….
What the church does not need is more people being polite and good and nice…
Being polite and good and nice and gullible does not SAVE children from harm.
It takes a lot of balls to pick up the phone and call the police when you hold evidence that could harm lives and make you look bad… Been there and done that. It isn’t fun.
It takes bravery to stand back and access a situation in truth– when red flags are raised and something is not right….
It will break your heart to have to ask very difficult questions of people you love and people you trust….
You will have to ask your children questions and have conversations with them that will make you squirm, you will be afraid of the answers….
LOVE doesn’t just ask questions…. LOVE ASKS THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.
What the church needs is more bravery, more discernment, and fierce warriors – willing to look bad and lose their reputation on behalf of the innocent in their midst.
If you don’t find your voice for them…. who will speak?
If you can’t be faithful with these little ones….
It is ironic that as I finish this article the Catholic Church announced the appointment of its new pope and how the online world was all abuzz about the criminality of the church’s past in their treatment of sexual abuse victims and the hiding of predator priests. However, my protestant friends I hate to be the one to tell you, but these things are not mutually exclusive to the Catholic faith. I grew up in a Protestant denomination that also has its share of hidden sexual sins: men preying on children, and authorities/families covering up the messes. I strongly believe that because they have failed to deal with the past in a Godly, fierce manner – these sins will come back to haunt this generation and future generations.
It won’t stop until a holy, spirit-filled people stop the cycling.
In recent months in the county in which I live, another protestant, well-known ministry that has many churches beneath its banner – respected leaders and pastors, has seen its several decades-long ministry come under scrutiny with allegations and legal filings centered on child abuse and the subsequent cover ups.
What is Happening Here?
What makes the church susceptible to hidden sexual sin, and the exploitation of children a common phenomenon? Why do pedophiles find it so easy to hide in our ranks, prey on our children, and openly exploit our culture in satisfying their lust-filled desires?
This is NOT simply a celibacy issue…
This is not about “if they would just let those priests marry”….
Because I know married, straight protestant men and women who have committed these same offenses!
It is this church culture of fear, masks, hiding sin, and silence about sex in general that makes our basements a breeding ground for every form of violence and evil against children.
We are NOT open about appropriate sex nor are we creating environments where sin of any kind is confronted or confessed openly. I know personally what happens when you confront hidden sin (even privately and scriptural)– you are pushed out, shamed, ridiculed for being judgmental and shown the door. Four years later I am living the consequences of saying, “NO” and refusing to remain silent and lie about sin.
I have lived my whole life standing beside a father who was shoved out of his family for making the decision to stand in truth and not allow a perp to have the final say… sin is sin (who the heck are we kidding to pretend it is anything different?).
An unrepentant man does not change.
Watch Your Step
Church is a lot of stepping on egg shells and playing nice. We like to “play church” and aren’t very good at standing upright when God forces us to BE the Church, be the light and shine that light on all our dark corners. We shrink and cower and squirm – when we like to be comfy and cozy together. I don’t know how many times I have heard the statement, “Well I’ve known so and so for 20 years. I know he is a great guy….” Meanwhile, the dude he is talking about doesn’t feed his kids or rapes them and hides the truth of his home from everyone he knows.
Just because everything looks sparkly great on the outside does not mean that it is OK and healthy and whole and GODLY on the inside.
Have you seen “Hoarders” – think about how many of our lives inside are just like that. We look good and wear nice stuff, but so many in our pews are hiding a massive amount of garbage, excrement, and flies deep inside. Nip at the surface a tiny bit and you see the lies – because the reactions to pocking at the pretense in the life of a poser are: anger, hiding, blame, refuting, deflecting, projecting, and fear.
Step back and watch the chaos and mayhem ensue… it’s not good.
Pedophiles can hide in our midst undetected because our churches are not really filled with spirit-filled people – add a spirit-filled, fierce person to the mix and the yuck is shown right quick. And what you will find is the posers squirming and pushing you out the door. I am not kidding. I speak from experience.
“If you attend a Christian fellowship where prophecies are a part of public worship, don’t expect prophecies like ‘I love you, my children’ or ‘I’m coming soon’ if members of the congregation are living in sin…The Spirit of God is not going to lull His people into an unrighteous complacency… A prophetic message should motivate people to righteousness, not placate them in their sin. According to Paul, the gift of prophecy will disclose the secrets of a person’s heart, causing him to fall on his face and worship God (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25). God is more concerned about church purity than about church growth…” (Neil T. Anderson)
If the Spirit is a part of your church – this stuff will NOT be able to hide for long. Whether prophecy is part of the corporate worship or quietly behind closed doors, the truths and the darkness will be revealed – if the Spirit is allowed to be there. If sexual sin (and all the others) has remained hidden for decades and you find that your fellowship is surprised when it is exposed – then it’s time to pray for the spirit to re-enter those doors because somewhere in the church’s history He was shown the exit.
If the gifts of the spirit are not evident and prophecy is light and fluffy and lying to make you feel good, warm, and fuzzy, then your church is: 1. without sin or 2. in deep excrement without a paddle. And scripture has some things to say about folks that claim to be without sin:
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-9)
It’s like we stand at the door greeting one another shouting “NOTHING TO SEE HERE… just go about your business.”
Whether your church claims to be “spirit-filled” or not – the spirit should be there. And the way the Spirit works is to expose sin so that we can confess and be reconciled to God and have genuine fellowship with each other.
Wolves Who Act Like Sheep – Can You Tell the Difference?
Sexual predators – this should be your number 1 thing to watch for in your church’s basement. The good thing is that most churches are now requiring their workers to have security clearances before they are allowed to help or teach children. However (and this is a big however), do not allow this “safety measure” to lull you into a fake feeling of safety in regards to adults preying on kids within your church. Whereas Adult Bullies disguised as sweet Sunday school teachers could be labeled Spiritually abusive with their fear, shame, and anger tactics; so also sexual predators can talk the religious lingo and make you feel like they are just like you.
They know how to work adults to get to the kids and they know how to keep your kids bound in fear so that they won’t tell a soul. Having security clearances is all fine and dandy but, many predators, rapists, molesters, pedophiles have gone uncharged by authorities, undetected, and even hidden within the walls of church for YEARS.
They love it in those pews: the meat is fresh, the adults easily manipulated, so they settle in for a very long time.
One of the things that struck me about the whole Jerry Sandusky case was that several of his victims testified that he took them to church with his family. This issue of pedophiles hiding in church pews is everywhere – and could be anyone. Even the nice guy, who is successful, looks good in a suit and you LOVE to have volunteer in the church’s nursery. He may give fabulous gifts and come to the rescue meeting a need in the church or in your life, but he is not doing this because the Spirit is leading him. He does these things to get close to his prey – your children.
Jerry Sandusky took his victims to church!
In my own church history a similar problem existed, undetected and just out of reach for decades, a respected member, involved with youth, a father who preyed on the children he taught, the children of his friends. This happens everywhere – pastors preying on kids, teachers preying on kids all while wearing a Jesus T-shirt and a fish sticker stuck on the bumper of their minivan. They cozy up to you, rub backs, build trust and fondle your kids beneath their Sunday best all before you can say, “Amen, pass the offering plate, and can I get a Hallelujah!”
All the while godly men and women close their eyes, ignore the signs or refuse to push the issue – out of fear of how they will look.
Out of fear of what people will think….
OH HOW the enemy of our souls loves to swim in our fear and people-pleasing ways. Fear keeps us immobilized with terror forever unless we learn how to break it.
I would protect them… with my life.
Children Hurting Children
It is also a common occurrence for sexual predators to be young themselves. A high percentage of those who are abused have been harmed by someone that they know – and that does not have to be an adult. Oftentimes there is a cycling of abuse that occurs: a young person who has been harmed by someone they know then in turn harms a younger sibling or someone they babysit, or watch at church. Sexual sin cycles – it passes to the next generation before we can say, “boo.”
It becomes ingrained in the fabric of a church or family while we stand around mute and terrified. Abuse at the hands of trusted, slightly older friend or teenage helper is certainly just as likely to occur and go undetected (and these helpers under the age of 18 have access to your kids without clearances).
Make sure that the policies for bathroom use and diaper changing are in place, perhaps to avoid an issue you should make sure to do this yourself instead of expecting others to manage the very private functions of your children. We have to be fierce – forget being polite when it comes to your kids’ privates!
You, yeah you…. Be Fierce!
At the end of the day you are your kids’ best advocate. You can’t be blind to what is happening in your church or your family.
People I trusted and loved hid truth – to protect images. Children were endangered because it wasn’t polite or comfy. Predators have gone free because people are cowards!
Remember – Jerry Sandusky went decades before he was caught. When he was caught the leaders and authority (at Penn State) around him sought to limit the damage to themselves and their institution only by making a rule that he not be allowed on the grounds with minors. BUT were they then NOT to be held responsible for his actions in his home (he abused his own adopted child) and elsewhere?
Just because you were able to remove an offender and that perp no longer goes to your church does not mean that you are free and clear, especially if those in leadership have not taken the necessary steps to make sure that the abuse does NOT occur again.
You can’t watch the abusers every day….
You can’t go to work with them, or the playground…
And you certainly can NOT protect children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews and such…
Rapists go unpunished… and churches and families let them get away with it.
This has happened so close to my life and my home more times then I can tell or count. Those aren’t my stories to tell, but what I can say is that ABUSE of a child should not be tolerated or hidden or written off, because an unrepentant man is NOT going to stop.
“…when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die…. ‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die… ‘Therefore, repent and live.’” (Ezekial 18:27-32)
And we are naïve to think that a person who has harmed children will stop –
Sometimes sin does not stop until it hurts.
Be fierce till it hurts and then some.
This is why I won’t apologize for praying for all the kids stuck in the basement of their church.
The stuff that goes on in basements is not OK…
Congratulations you made it to the end. Now what did you learn?
This was part three in a mini-series on Church Culture and Your kids.
You can find Part One: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and Part two: “What Happens in the Basement of Your Church?”
I’ll conclude NEXT WEEK with “Redeeming the Basement” some tips and tools to consider for your family and church.