Finding Forgiveness, Finding Justice (Content Warning)

When someone in a position of authority and respect in a community, such as a pastor, bishop, or some other religious figure, commits sexual assault against someone (worse still, against a child), what should justice look like, and who determines if and when forgiveness should be offered? Who needs to forgive?

Before I get into that, I need to direct you to a couple of links on these topics. Firstly, there’s this post, and then this post, both via The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, discussing Black Collar Crime. These are two different examples from yesterday, and there are many, many more examples. I also need to direct you to this post, by David Thiessen of Theology Archaeology (that’s how you properly credit someone David), who has been complaining that Bruce’s Black Collar Series is unfair.

David’s complaints are tiresome. They are obtuse. They distort the meaning of Bruce’s posts. In short, David believes the Black Collar Series is about shaming and damaging Christianity. It isn’t. It is merely to show that there are elements within various denominations (though Bruce’s main focus is on the IFB) who carry out some truly horrible crimes, and they often get away with these crimes for years, sometimes even decades, because they automatically determined to be pillars of the community, by virtue of their position. Despite numerous examples of people within the clergy carrying out dreadful assaults, people are still expected to unconditionally trust them, and even to unconditionally entrust their children to these people. Churches do not tend to require background checks, so where is the protection for the congregation?

Highlighting this situation is not bullying. It is a service. It is a service David does not like, and he even goes as far as to say:

First, it is not a service. It is returning evil for evil and his work is wrong. There are proper authorities who handle these situations but the extent of the crimes committed are not excluded from the verses we quoted so far.

He is not highlighting them because the news is found everywhere in traditional media outlets. Plus, both BG (Bruce Gerencser) and MM (Ben Berwick) as well as their readers will never meet these men thus the ‘highlighted’ stories only cement their decision to not accept Christ as their savior.

What is evil about reposting a news article? That’s all Bruce is doing. He is not adding his own spin to the reports in the news, he is sharing them. If you are truly a good, pious Christian, you won’t be swayed by the sharing of the news. The news is merely a report on events, factual information. That is not evil, and it is not going to shake the faith of those who truly have Jesus in their hearts, right? What makes David so afraid of these reports?

David goes on to quote me, though as usual, fails to give proper credit:

The organisations involved (usually, but not limited to, various denominations of Christianity) are not exactly quick to deal with offenders in their midst, and have historically shielded dangerous elements in their ranks, lest the scandal and horror rock peoples’ faith.

We are not defending those denominational leaders who have done this. It has been well publicized how the RCC bishops etc., have done this exact same thing. Many protestant church leaders have followed suit.

But the church is not an arm of law enforcement. There are other agencies that are and it is their responsibility to act on the reported offenses. We know of many incidents where law enforcement agencies have dropped the ball in these cases.

Do not blame the church when the flaws of the law enforcement agencies drive leaders to seek alternative solutions. If everyone followed the Bible correctly, these issues would be handled in a much better way for all involved.

Notice that David attempts to shift the responsibility for the problem of offenders in the Church’s ranks away from the Church. Churches are often powerful influences in any given community, and they have proven, time and again, to be most effective at obstructing investigations, and even concealing allegations. There are numerous examples of this:

David tries to blame law enforcement; it seems the Church has a role to play in making life difficult for law enforcement, what say you to that David?

He continues:

People are people and they make their decisions, whether right or wrong, and the results are not always going to be as observers expected. But then the church does not please the unbelieving world. They are to please God and they are to do what God wants which in many cases requires turning in offenders.

Notice that pleasing the victim is not biblical teaching. This is something that unbelievers cannot understand. Often emotions distort what action should take place. and injustice takes place instead of true justice.

More importantly, the Church has a duty of care, does it not, to the congregation? Various Churches, all around the world, have failed in that duty, as evidenced by what Bruce highlights through the Black Collar Series. They have let people down, and hurt people, and the best David can offer is that the pursuit of justice shouldn’t ‘please the victim’. Perhaps not, but there should be justice for the victim, no?

The thing is, if it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be.

This is an interesting statement made by MM. He and BG do not know the truth nor how it can be applied to these situations. They go by their own feelings and viewpoints of the crimes committed. They are not looking for the truth or justice. They are looking for actions that they want or will accept.

Just as the victims and their families want. This is not justice as truth and justice exclude using emotions, personal opinions, and other subjective attitudes. The truth is people do not like it as their lust for revenge or retribution.

I love how David, who has a history of lying, and obscuring the truth, can tell me and Bruce we do not know what the truth is. The truth is very obvious: people who commit violent assaults and sexual crimes, especially against children, should face the full weight of the law. For years, sometimes decades, those within the ranks of the Church who commit such crimes are often shielded, and sometimes go as far as to threaten or coerce their victims into silence. It can hardly be surprising to anyone with an actual heart that the victims and their loved ones will react with emotion in such circumstances. I would react emotionally if anyone hurt my daughter, and I would pursue justice to the fullest extent of the law, fuelled by that rage. That is normal and natural. Denial of justice would understandably lead to anger. Control of it would be important, but it is normal and natural for victims to feel like that.

It’s the police and the law who need to be truly objective, and it’s also up to the authorities within the Church to be open and honest about these situations. Cover-ups and conspiracies are what harm the Church. A failure to be transparent, for fear of a damaged reputation over actual justice, is where the Church fails the entire community. A deceitful parish is going to scar itself, and that’s on no one but that parish.

Also, the truth is that the victims, their families, and observers must obey the following verse:

But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses. (MT 6:15)

We have written other articles on forgiveness and have dealt with this topic. The victims and their families are not excluded from this instruction no matter the severity of the crime. Plus, we have also written that forgiveness does not replace punishment.

But certain people ignore those words and continue to make false accusations of what we have taught on this website. We taught that forgiveness removes the beams from the eyes of the accusers and others so that they can see what true justice needs to be applied.

Victims of assault are under no obligation to forgive their attacker. Justice should be served, irrespective of that. It is not for anyone other than the victim to determine the extent of their trauma, nor is it the right of anyone else to judge the victim for how they respond to an assault.

The presence of these deeply disturbed individuals, who often don’t receive background checks, and are often unsupervised, in places of worship is a serious problem within various branches of Christianity. There is little desire to tackle this, and some Evangelicals have even gone as far as to say the offenders should be forgiven, and that the victims of their terrible crimes should forgive them.

Here is the evidence for what we have said. distortion of our words as while we said everyone needs to forgive offenders, we never said punishment was excluded. We wrote about background checks when we were teaching in Korea and it was published in the Korea Times.

Background checks are useless and often pervert justice because people who have served their time are being denied employment. Thus they are still paying for their crimes and that is wrong. You will notice that neither God nor Jesus did not require background checks for their priests and disciples.

I don’t recall my paragraph saying, or even implying, that David had claimed there should be no punishment, but leave it to David to go to extraordinary lengths to construct a misleading Strawman argument. His rant about background checks is however extraordinary in itself, because they are designed to keep people – often children – safe, and they have usually succeeded – not perfectly, but usually – in achieving that goal. There is nothing wrong with a prospective employer – especially in say, teaching – having an idea as to the history of the person they are employing. Those who complain this hinders their career prospects… well, I’ll leave that there.

David goes on to moan that there is no similar series about schools, or about non-believers. Well, he is welcome to start one! No one is stopping him. He may well find that there is less material though.

‘You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks’. Wise words. Perhaps I should heed them more in respect of David, as I have with others.

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