Yesterday I read this great article from Slate stating the plain reality of those who experience a romantic and/or sexual attraction to children. I recommend reading it, though not all of it is relevant to this discussion.
For me, the subtitle was all I needed to read, but I suppose this is such an entrenched taboo that a lengthy essay is required to help readers realise the plain fact:
A person’s feelings or actions do not negate their humanity.
They are not monsters. They are our friends, relatives, colleagues,
Pedophilia is the only evil act left in our society. All other transgressions are handled in the courts or in the PR offices. This one? This calls for a lynch mob. Unless of the course the individual caves in to their despair first and chooses to end their life.
It’s death or death, really.
It’s even easier to direct all that malice to an organisation than to face up to that one trusted man or woman who abused someone. Churches and charities run a legal gauntlet whilst the overwhelming majority of pedophilloic activity occurs in family homes and it buried under the shadow of the mountain of shame we have piled skywards.
And even the shadow of that mountain will crush a person.
The beast becomes a recluse, hiding away from the fear and rage of the townsfolk. He is abandoned to his castle, his prison. And he is terrified to be alone. Afraid of what stares at him through the mirror.
We gather our torches and pitchforks frequently enough to remind all such beasts that they are only good to be skinned and hung as trophies for Daily Mail readers.
Now, this kind of self-righteous public shaming actually wasn’t invented by the Mail, believe it or not. Jesus seemed to know about it.
On one occasion a woman caught in adultery is dragged before Jesus and it is demanded of him that he cast judgement on her. He doesn’t, replying (John 8:7):
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Of course they all leave, and Jesus offers forgiveness to the woman. He sternly warns her to sin no more.
The interpretation implicit for the pedophile ought to be plain. For those who still can’t soften their hearts to see the humanity of another, I shall explain:
The pedophile is rather like the woman caught in adultery. All the rancour of the people is directed at him–though the parents, partners and friends are all strangely absent from the scene. He is all alone before the masses, naked with the thousands of images found on his hard drive.
In this instance, Christ becomes his only friend and defender. Christ is always in solidarity with the lonely scapegoat. I suppose he knows a thing or two about that.
Now, feminist readers might want to claim that the stoning in John 7:53-8:11 is motivated by misogyny.
But what if she was really as guilty as they claimed? What if she was a willing participant in adultery? What if she isn’t merely a pawn in some sick game to catch Jesus out?
What if Jesus really just forgave a guilty woman?
What would that say to the pedophile? The child-molesting scout leader? The abusive Priest?
Would Jesus stand between them and the mob?
The Church claims to be the body of Christ and thus acts as his agent in this world. How then would it interact with pedophiles?
Can guilt be fully acknowledged while grace is extended in love?
If the Church stands amongst the mob, it would be impossible for any person living with this kind of disordered sexuality to step forward and ask for help. They must face the raw terror of the men with rock in their hands without hope of an advocate. And all alone in their darkness the likelihood of acting upon that disorder will only increase.
Churches then will only be safe not when they close the doors to pedophiles, but when it opens them. If pedophiles are found in all groups of people, it is a futile exercise in self-righteousness to exclude one token pervert as if that will make the issue disappear. A renewal of the patient love of God is then the only real resource the Church has to deal with this fact.
Yet do not lose heart, for the One who stood with the naked woman is the One who will never leave us.
If your church or organisation needs some practical resources to think through these issues, check out Safe to Grow. A resource from the Baptist Union of Great Britain for the safety of children.