One of my choicest sermons (that I wrote and liked) was entitled the “Commandments of Jesus,” and dealt with many of the commandments that Jesus left us in the New Testament and sayings thereof.
We study little of these as Christians, I discover. We should pay attention to the Lord’s words and warnings. One of the most severe of these, of his, was this:
“But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, American King James Version.)
As you may know, there is a currently a fellow who is angrily denying allegations against him of abusing young girls and using his high office in law in luring them to his imaginative solitude. This man, well-known for his faith, is known for hanging the Ten Commandments in his courtroom to show the world his own virtue and “closeness” with the most high. Unfortunately for him, he has not so much emphasized the text from Matthew quoted here. Jesus was way on track with this and one can sense his indignation and fury at those who make prey of the little ones.
I do not believe that being a member of the clergy or a member of the legal profession, or the political profession or the cinematic position, makes it less likely for these crimes to occur today. I think it makes it more possible for people, parents and guardians to let their guard down. For some reason the wolves in sheep’s clothing still get past the shepherd. It is a modus operandi. The target of these wolves with darkened consciences is the little one who has no power, no voice. Children seldom sue.
Where I studied at one church, the current pastor told me that the pastor before him had been accused of molesting young family members, and the pastor prior to that one had also been accused of the same thing. He wanted me to know the rocky history of the church even though I never heard this from any of the existing congregation members.
There are many churches that have such a history. Also schools — one of my son’s school principals was accused by many parents of having fondled their daughters. Nothing surfaced in the news, but strangely enough this youngish man developed a serious cancer that felled him in the year after this had been uncovered.
As a boy, I myself remembered my scripture teacher’s offer to drive me home and, when I accepted, made attempts to mess with me in his car. I moved away from his attentions. I was about 11 years old but got away from him. I have retained my suspicion ever since.
A priest I knew here in the USA was accused of having molested five young men. Another priest I knew was withdrawn from his work as a chaplain for a similar reason. The stories about each staggered me. From what I knew of them it seemed so unlikely.
A journalist friend of mine in Europe in investigating matters from the Second World War found a large archive, a cache, of birth records of babies born to young unmarried girls, fathered upon them by the clergy and their upkeep paid for by the churches of that region. As you may know, the Boston Globe has unveiled the shabby secrets of these lost children in a large way.
I do not think that sexuality is an enemy of prayer or virtue, but I do firmly believe that people can get themselves into massive amounts of trouble in denying a relationship with God’s early commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply” — in an appropriate way. One cannot try and strangle one’s own God-given propensity, but one must learn to take it. One cannot suppress humanity; one must guide it under the advisement of law and compassion for the other.
In my view we need to treat our own selves like dangerous weapons and really understand our own impulses while guarding the persons of those in our charge. The same types of people are included in all of these tales of criminal conduct: teachers, pastors, doctors, trainers — people who share much intimacy and blur boundaries. They should be examined most carefully.
One woman I knew had been molested by her karate coach in her early teens and she never disclosed her pain to even her parents. She has suffered ever since and she is still suffering now in her later years.
So I don’t have much of a good outcome for this story. I just say to you all: Be warned of all hidden enemies concealed behind the sheepskin. The devil himself wears faces that look kind and trusting yet are ready to pounce and bite. These are dangerous territories.
Among the 12 of Jesus’ friends there was one truly bad apple. If that statistic holds, we are in a world of hurt.
I pray that while we are here on this troubled earth we will keep our eyes open and defend the lambs from the wolves. It takes a village to guard a child.
Colin Brown is the former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boardman.