As I look out into the faces of the people in the congregation I’m speaking to on any particular Sunday, I think to myself once again, It would be so much easier to get up here behind this pulpit and talk about the joy of pap smears. Or snot. Or farting in public.
The message I’ve been given to share, however, doesn’t involve topics as cozy and comfortable as these. I talk to churches and other organizations about proactively protecting children from sexual abuse. I say words like pedophiles and predators and prey. I throw out percentages and numbers, and I watch the faces of the people turn dark as data materializes into reality. Relentlessly, I drop on them the statistical impossibility that everyone underneath this steeple is somehow immune from this horror. Instead, I make it painfully clear that there are people at this very moment, in this very room who have been molested—that there are people at this very moment, in this very room who are currently being molested. The level of discomfort is evident on every grim face. They know what I’m going to say next: that they are statistically very likely to be sharing the pews with someone who has identified and chosen children who typify the desired profile; that they have then groomed those children over time, built a trust with their parents (unless, of course, children are being molested by their parents) and molested them just as soon as they arrived at a comfortable level of certainty that their victims wouldn’t tell. I warn them that their children could even now be somewhere along that dreadful continuum. The numbers don’t lie.
I’m there to make sure they know that pedophiles sure do.
If I were in the audience listening to someone like me, I think I’d be looking around, making a mental note of every person who has had any sort of contact with my child, staring them down looking for the slightest trace of betrayal. I think I’d be freaked out enough to have my boy skip a few weeks of Royal Rangers or have my daughter sit with me in the main service instead of taking her to Children’s Church. If I were a Sunday school teacher or a nursery worker, conversations like this would make me want to stand up and announce, “Hey, everybody! I’m not a perv! Just want to make that clear—thought it was worth mentioning!”
I create chaos, is what I do, and allow people to wallow in a bit of despondency for a time which, if you think about it, seems a little contrary to the pastor who is trying to bring the congregation together in unity, after all, and provide a place where people can come once a week to refresh and recharge. And then some chick has the gall to come along, grab the microphone and start shattering paradigms—not to mention brazenly encouraging those who are suffering in silence to speak up, even if their molester is sitting in the pew beside him or her. Even if their molester is on staff or a deacon or leads the choir. I empower children to speak out against their parents, wives against their husbands, and neighbors against neighbors. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household, right?
So believe me, it’s not like I’m booked out for months in advance to speak in different churches every Sunday. After I leave, it’s entirely possible, probable even, that victims will emerge and people—perhaps very visible people who have been trusted—will be discovered, arrested and charged with very serious crimes. Reputations ruined. Drama. Rumors hot off the prayer chain. It’s interesting to see who claims in the wake of one of my visits that God is “…leading us in a new direction” (as in… not jail) and suddenly parts ways.
It would be easier to talk about farting. Or how the Mormons are all deceived. How secular music is poisoning the minds of our young people, or politics and patriotism and all the Godly candidates. You know, issues good Christian folk can really come together on.
But I come with a sword and bring division; I do not come in peace. I don’t apologize, and I don’t mince words. Christ is coming again, I like to point out, and He’s not coming back as a little baby in a lowly manger this time. He’s coming back on a white horse (which may or may not be a metaphor for a Harley—I’m still pondering that) and He will make right all that is wrong on this planet. Evil will scatter the day that lightning splits the sky, but it will be rooted out of every dismal crevice and corner. No mountain stands too high, no ocean too deep, no distance so far, no location so obscure that the Commander of the Lord’s Army cannot snatch those who oppress the small and the weak right out.
I’m occasionally admonished, “Well, Daisy, that doesn’t seem very gracious. Don’t you believe that Christ can forgive even the most heinous sins?”
In fact, I do. Let Christ do His work in the darkest hearts of those so enmeshed in deceit and manipulation and horror around which the rest of us can’t even wrap our heads. The Church should certainly make sure they have all the cigarettes and socks they’ll ever need or want for the duration of their time in prison.
“So, pedophiles and those who harbor and protect you, be afraid,” I warn ignoring the pallor of pastors’ faces as I slice and dice his congregation, “Christ isn’t just coming for His own—He’s also coming for you. Those who live under tyranny, abuse and oppression, take heart, for the day of your deliverance iscoming. And Church, the laborers are tragically few—so refresh and recharge, if you will, but remember that the body of Christ is a living, breathing entity whose purpose it is to bring hope and healing to a broken world. Bind up those bruised and broken reeds, rescue those in peril and set free those in captivity.”
In other words, grab a sword, people.
Just be careful where you point it because there’s a lot of sword pointing out there in the name of Christ. To be clear, it wasn’t an atheist or a liberal or a homosexual or some other supposed enemy of the church that molested me every day of my childhood. It was the man who sang in the choir every Sunday and sat with my mother and me right there on the pews with his Bible open and his hands lifted in praise toward Heaven, fooling everybody and wreaking havoc on an entire generation—precisely where he remains to this day.
One sobering statistic: Serial pedophiles, the ones who molest children over an entire lifetime can abuse upwards of 400 children. We all would agree that even one is too many. We are called to be lights in this world, and I know we are all willing to be those lights. But we are so reluctant to believe that someone in our family, or one of our friends or neighbors, or someone sharing the pew with us in the house of God could bring that depravity into our inner sanctum. As a result, children suffer mutely and families show up twice on Sundays and Wednesday nights pretending they aren’t splintered into shards, deluding everyone.
My message is twofold: First, be careful and be vigilant, Church. These individuals have no difficultly slipping into churches where a patriarchal pecking order is the generally accepted structure and is not to be questioned or challenged; where even their most egregious sins are cast as far as the east is from the west in just one 30-second prayer; and Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and nursery workers are always in short supply. Has your place of worship put the adults on notice? Does your church ever sit down and have a conversation with kids about this? Do you assure them that you love them and will do everything within your power to keep them safe always? Have you taught them how to advocate for themselves and how to report to you if they are ever in a compromising situation? Do you have a plan of action when (not if) that occurs? If your church provides true sanctuary… it will happen. The statistics can promise you that.
Second, Christ heals. He restores. I am living proof. The nightmare can end, but we, as the body of Christ, need to open our eyes and acknowledge this epidemic of abuse for what it is. I’m not merely talking about tirelessly pontificating against every worldly ill (real or perceived) from the safety of our own bandwagons. I’m talking about stepping outside our peripheries of comfort and finding the courage to battle real evil in what could potentially become an all-out melee with casualties. I’m looking for contenders. I’m looking for redeemers. I’m looking for healers.
Let’s do this.