Church: The Place for Predators to Thrive...

Image result for wolf in sheeps clothing
Five rows up and to the left, I see him.

Sitting by his wife.
Singing songs of praise along with the rest of the congregation.
And all I want to do is scream.

What looks like a normal, and maybe even holy and ritualistic picture, is the very thing that makes my insides twist and ache in agony.

Perhaps the twisting in my organs is a result of still working through grief.
But I honestly believe it has more to do with the injustice of it all.
For while he and his wife sit there unscathed,
I am sitting in the back pew alone and in tears with my heart pleading with God, “Why?”

I want to know why it happened.
Why a wolf in sheep’s clothing was welcomed in despite the known blood on his teeth?
Why he was allowed to be on stage and standing at the front of the Sunday school class teaching?
Why no one warned me despite me moving in to their home?
Why his hand was barely even slapped though it had been on the bodies of one of your very own?
Why he received counsel for his soul though I was left to find security on my own?

Church, you have good intentions.
I believe you really do.
I know this type of event probably wasn’t discussed in your seminary courses.
I know you tried your best and later apologized to me for your failings.
I appreciate that.
I would appreciate it more if I knew it wouldn’t happen again.

But even if you develop a plan for next time,
One that involves you putting more disciplinary actions in place for the wolf and providing more shelter and protection for the wounded,
There’s still the other church down the road.
There’s still this type of predator who perhaps is the most dangerous considering the place he thrives in.

He uses Christian phrases to prove to you he has changed.
He asks his victims to look past his actions in "a spirit of grace."
And using your words from the pulpit, his backside is covered and he faces no charges.
Why would he go anywhere else?
And so there he sits.
"Washed clean" by the blood of the lamb.
And no one knows or sees him for who he really is.
Except for me.
Sitting five rows back.
I see him.
And most likely, you have seen him too.

Consider this information taken from an article published just a few years ago:

The Abel and Harlow study revealed that 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” and that this category of offender may be the most dangerous. Other studies have found that sexual abusers within faith communities have more victims and younger victims. This disturbing truth is perhaps best illustrated by the words of a convicted child molester who told Dr. Salter,
I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.

Despite forgiveness slowly making its way through my veins and sucking out the bitterness and pain,
How do I not look at every man in every pew and wonder if he is a wolf too?
The anxiety and fear is deafening.
Forget listening to the sermon and being able to worship in song.
No one addressed this part of the injustice.
For the place that I used to run to when I was hurting and weary,
Has become the place where my hurt and weariness multiplies.
How do you forgive that?
How do you reset your heart and clear away your glasses fogged with suspicion and fear?
If you would have given me an answer, just yesterday I would have done anything in my power to attain it.
But not today.

Today I am thankful for a cautious heart and eyes that pay attention.
I am thankful that I have seen what can be behind the curtain and behind the pulpit.
I am no longer naïve.
Before settling into a new church I asked hard questions and received promising answers.
I want to know I am sitting in a place that protects its sheep to the best of its ability and has appropriate consequences for the wolves that may appear.
Wolves will be acknowledged, exposed to the congregation, and served consequences.
Church, I knew you could do it.
Please just keep proving to me and others that you can.

But even when you don’t.
I know my God will meet you where you lack.
Because my God does not let his children suffer with zero consequences to the perpetrator.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
- Matthew 18:5-6 (English Standard Version)

I know my case will not be dismissed.
I know the countless other victims who have been silenced for the sake of religion, will not be dismissed.
I know the wolf will have consequences for all the broken and slaughtered lambs.
I know the broken and bruised and abused will be restored and redeemed into such a radiant beauty that has yet to be seen.

Now please also hear me say that I do believe people can change.
Repentance and redemption can happen for the wolves of this world.
But I am certain that repentance is more than apologizing to the scarred lamb because the pastor tells you to.
I believe in forgiveness, but not without appropriate consequences (and legal actions if applicable).

Oh church, how I long to believe you will one day learn how to protect her.
To protect and offer bandages to the bleeding victim.
To hold the wolf accountable.
To warn the flock of the wolf in their midst.
To not wait until the friends of the wounded come shouting for justice to be served.
To not wait until your wounded sister comes pleading for justice to be handed out on her broken behalf.
I pray that the call to walk humbly and love mercy is not sought after without also adhering to the call to act justly.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8 (New International Version)

So church, may humble hands be raised in declaring inadequacy in the midst of such brokenness.
And may God grant us the knowledge to be one powerful avenue of healing for the hurting,
May He give us courage to take appropriate action needed for justice,
And may He then allow us the blessing of seeing true repentance and much redemption,
So much so that it pours out through our doors.

Now, let there be boldness that is required to start the change.
Who’s willing to start?


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