“We are all sinners,” people post when a sexual predator, who happens to be a Christian leader, is outed. Some other frustrating (albeit well intentioned, perhaps?) responses:
- “Let’s not cast the first stone.”
- “Gossip is a sin, so by posting or warning, you are gossiping.”
- “Judge not lest you be judged.”
- “Women should expect harassment and get over it. They’re being too sensitive, weak.”
- “We need to be people of grace.”
First, let me say this: Yes, of course, we are all sinners. But not all of us are criminals. Not all of us break laws and prey on people against their will. Not all of us stalk our victims. There is a vast difference in legal consequences in someone who has sinned versus someone who has committed a crime or multiple crimes. We can offer grace to our brothers and sisters who commit crimes, but that grace is best given in the context of justice, when they are behind bars.
But what about our tightly (and rightly) held views that a person is innocent until proven guilty? Yes, this is true, but remember that sexual assault is difficult to prosecute, and that few people report their crimes. And if they do, they face a deluge of victim-blaming, questioning, and an onslaught of online abuse. Boz Tchividjian aptly tackles this issue in this excellent post.
People who respond with “grace, grace,” which I would argue is cheapened by our nonchalant use of it, simply do not understand the nature of a predatory person. They don’t realize that a person who has multiple victims is highly skilled at persona creation. 98% of them is an upstanding citizen, helping others, serving people who are hurting, living an attractive life–all as a cover up so they can offend in the hidden 2 % of their lives.
Hear me: you can absolutely meet a charming, witty, selfless predator. He or she can woo you to the point that you would trust them implicitly. That’s how it works.
You could even swear upon a stack of Bibles that this person is utterly innocent because he or she has NEVER ever preyed on you. You never experienced weird vibes around them, never heard them say raunchy things. In fact, they were the exact opposite of that. Some predators even hide within organizations that try to out predators! They are clever, deceiving, and really, really good at creating a shiny public persona.
So when a victim or a group of victims level accusations against a predatory person, it is more likely that people respond with incredulity. They don’t want to believe that this amazing person did that awful thing. To think that would be to allow for insidious evil in this world. It would mean that we were bamboozled and fooled by a clever predator. It would put us on shaky ground. Who wants to live in a world where that youth pastor did such awful things? Or that missionary school hurt so many children? Or that Christian publishing professional preyed on writers?
We must remember that Satan, the enemy of us all, does not prowl around as a wolf. He dons the sheep’s gentle coat, slips in quietly among the fold, then murders in the margins. This is the same MO of a predatory person. He or she will look innocent, lamb-like. The predator will be amazing 98% of the time so they can deeply harm others the other 2%. This non-threatening, created persona of upstanding citizen allows them to slip through the sheepfold unnoticed–yes, often in churches. Why? Because we are so trusting.
These are not shadowy people driving around in windowless vans. They drive family minivans or ordinary cars. They go to Rotary, support our schools, and help those in need.
People who break the law and harm others do not need our grace or our cries that we’re all sinners. (And when you say these things to victims, you revictimize them.) For the sake of the innocents harmed and those who are potential victims, predatory people need justice–for their sake so they can no longer harm, and for ours so our families and children can be safe.
Jimmy Hinton understands these difficult dynamics. He, along with his mother, turned in his father for sexually abusing many, many girls. Jimmy’s father had been their pastor. As a pastor, he did amazing ministry 98% of his life–performing weddings, visiting the sick, leading people to Christ. He endeared himself to his church and community. His “trustworthiness” helped him accomplish the predatory 2% of his life. Jimmy writes, “My dad has dozens of victims who all have heart-shattering stories of shame, pain, and humiliation. He was able to gain access to children precisely because everybody trusted him.”
You can imagine how horrifically hard it was for the congregation left behind to wrap their minds and hearts around this terrible truth: this pastor they’d known, loved and revered, was actually a criminal.
Jimmy told me, “The first year after his arrest people would ask me how my dad was doing. Only one person asked me how his victims were doing. Several people said, ‘Isn’t it a shame that your dad fell into temptation in the past few months?'”
What should’ve been said, “Isn’t it a shame that we didn’t expose him earlier? Isn’t it a shame that he had so many victims whose lives will never be the same? Isn’t it a shame that this supposed man of God tarnished the reputation of the church by his actions?”
That’s the shame.
Enter Poop Brownies.
Poop brownies look just as delicious as regular brownies. Upon examination, and because only 2% contains feces, they smell like brownies too. Placed alongside non-poop brownies, they would look identical.
But they are not the same.
That 2% absolutely matters. It has been inexorably mixed in with the rest of the batter. It permeates the brownies. Never mind that most of the confection is good. The 2% negates the 98%. And those brownies have infected and forever tainted victims who will never be the same. We err so often offering grace to the perpetrators, while leveling harsh judgment on the victims who dare to stand up and swear to the 2%.
Yes, every person on this planet sins. But not all of us are creating elaborate facades of amazingness IN ORDER TO prey on people. Not all of us are poop brownies, with a devastated flood of victims in their confectionary wake. Let’s call them what they are and expose them. And let’s dare to offer victims the dignity of belief.