Friday, May 25, 2012

How Christians Can Deal with Child Molestation Without the State

I consider myself blessed to have received the following thoughtful response to my earlier post about the suicide of Tom White, head of Voice of the Martyrs. The e-mail I received was too long to post as a comment, so I have included it here in grey, with my responses.

Concerning your first question, ‘was Tom White most likely a Christian or not”, my first thought is we cannot know another’s heart, we can only know our own. We can never be sure of another’s. My second thought is based on why I guess someone would commit suicide. Two reasons come to mind: the first is when the future looks in general too painful to live, so the easy way out is to not live it. The second reason is to pay for the cause of the embarrassment and shame. If Tom felt like he was a Christian, he probably felt he had besmirched the reputation of his Lord. The kicker comes when he decides to execute the punishment himself for the crime. He is either not trusting God to do what is right and has to do it himself, or he is trying to earn points by self-punishment. God never asked anyone to pay for their own sin. That Tom would do this would suggest he did not understand or accept the gospel. To do it to save the victim further pain just doesn’t ring true to me.

It is possible that he did not understand the gospel or that he forgot what he had learned. Sinful humans do that. But one would think that a man who spent years building a ministry that clearly reflects the heart of God, not to mention 17 months in a Communist prison because of his efforts (effective or otherwise) to spread the gospel, would have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit—in short, he’s no flake like me—in such a way that his first reaction when he knew the jig was up would have been to seek reconciliation with the girl and her family.

And, as a better mind than mine has pointed out in private, this assumes that events were what the government says they were.

First, we don’t know the identity of Brother Tom’s accuser, and it could be that there is no girl at all. One would think that a system interested in justice would publish the names of either both parties or neither. That only the defendant’s name is published creates a moral hazard for the prosecution (including the plaintiff) in that it suffers nothing if it loses—and the prosecutor himself, of course, is paid handsomely for his efforts—while the defendant loses freedom, time, and money in the process. It’s win-win for the prosecution and lose-lose for the defendant.

Second, people don’t usually commit suicide at work. They do it at home or in isolated places. Conclusive evidence that the state was after him for something else? No. Strange? Yes.

The above is from a human perspective. You ask also about God’s perspective. We can be assured that God is both good and just, and allows only that which ultimately brings Him glory. One could argue that either suicide or not committing suicide could meet those ends. In this case perhaps the lesson is ‘the punishment for sin is death’, either one’s own death, or the death of our Savior on the cross.

Concerning the setup for the second question, let me respond to some of your statements. [My original statements are in italics; his response is in bold.—QP]

  • 1. Every rape complaint means more work for government agents. For some I am sure this is true. To say it is true for all is oversimplification and unfair to many truly helpful, caring, and loving social workers.
  • Government workers are paid whether they do their jobs or not. Yes, some are scrupulous. Others are not. The question then becomes, do the scruples of the scrupulous justify a system that also pays the unscrupulous (using money that is, don’t forget, extorted from those who earn it)? Or do the scruples of the scrupulous actually allow the extortion–sinecure system to expand by lending it the perception of legitimacy?

  • 2.  I assume you consider soldiers exemplary government agents. Not true. We are all aware of unjust, hateful, cruel and mean acts conducted by soldiers through all of history. They are sinners under severe mental strain given inordinate power, which is a recipe for problems.
  • The church attended by the letter’s addressees prays regularly and specifically for the US military and until recently—and then primarily because of yeoman efforts by a lay woman—sporadically and generally for missionaries the church supports. While there have been occasional prayers that Christian soldiers will act in a manner that befits their claim to be Christians, the assumption that the mission they are on is truly to defend our freedoms, to execute God’s wrath on evildoers, and to be of no threat to those who do what is right has never been questioned.

  • 3. the same soldier who told me, "I don't make the policies. My job is to carry them out." Yes, lower ranking soldiers in general are paid to follow orders, not to make decisions.
  • Is this not also a moral hazard? Will God not judge the soldier who ordered female prisoners at Auschwitz to disrobe and enter the gas chamber and then turned on the gas, as well as the officer who commanded him to do it, as well as the politicians who set the policies? To acknowledge the legitimacy of the state is to legitimize the whole process: the guy at the top gets a pass because he didn’t turn the switch, and the soldier gets a pass because he didn’t give the order.

  • 4. government agents in charge of investigating sexual assault are less interested in the welfare of the victim than in doing their job... No- not every government agent is a soldier. Other people are paid to investigate justice and make moral decisions- not to just follow orders. You are grossly oversimplifying.
  • This was a blog post, not a doctoral dissertation, so yes, I was oversimplifying. But again, it is the scruples of the agent, not the incentives built into the system, that results in justice. And no less an authority than Chuck Colson has gone on record as saying that victims feel exploited by the “justice” system.

  • 5. The welfare of the victim is secondary at best. I agree that it seems that way sometimes. This contradicts, however, a quote in the second article you cited. “Bartlesville Police Capt. Jay Hastings … noted that the department's next step is to ensure the girl receives proper treatment or counseling.”
  • If I read Colson correctly, his point was that the welfare of the victim is secondary most of the time. When Bernie Madoff went to jail, how much of the money he stole went back to his victims? Or are they rather now not taxed to provide him room, board, and whatever else he consumes as a prisoner? And if the government were not to see that the girl gets counseling, what recourse would her family have?

    Also, what kind of counseling would the girl receive? Would a government that fastidiously avoids mixing church and state pay for her to receive Christian counseling? Or is it more likely that she’ll be counseled by a radical feminist to blame her situation on the patriarchalism inherent to Christianity? And who will pay the bill? The putative offender is dead. Will his family have to foot the bill? Or will the already-overburdened taxpayer be hit up once again?

  • 6. the prosecutor, another government agent, is not likely to be as concerned with the victim's welfare as with advancing the interests of the state or his own career.  Yes, this is likely, however his job is to uphold justice, which is a higher calling than the interests of an individual. Otherwise the legal system would be nothing but retribution and blood feuds. That’s the value of the rule of law.
  • Again, he is paid whether he upholds justice or not. If the position requires an election, the only thing that keeps him employed is getting the votes, and only his scruples dictate how honestly he pursues those votes.

    I disagree that his job is to uphold justice. His job is to further the ends of the state, whatever they be. “Law enforcement” is not the same as upholding justice: the agents who enforced the fugitive slave laws in the US and who rounded up the prisoners for Auschwitz were enforcing the law, but I don’t think they were upholding justice.

    God never calls us to “the rule of law.” He calls us to submit to him as a person. This is what we as his ambassadors are to be calling our neighbors to. There are rules, but they are God’s rules. Most of the laws our law enforcement people enforce—prohibitions against peaceful activities like growing hemp and selling raw milk come to mind—are unbiblical.

    So, I think your second question is “How is this [judgement by the church] a worse situation than what … would have [happened] had Mr. White taken his medicine like a man [and lived to be investigated and prosecuted by the law]?” My answer is I don’t think it would have been worse, but may have been considerably better by being tempered with love, compassion for both, a deep God-given understanding of human nature, and willingness to invest counseling and time in restoration. I think conflicts between believers should be resolved in the church—God is quite clear about this.

    Thank you. That was my point exactly.

    It would have been considerably better had the situation been handled through non-state means, specifically the church in this case. First Corinthians 6:7 says, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

    Child molestation is certainly more serious than the financial matters Paul appears to be talking about, but then the question arises, when is a matter too serious for God’s people to handle alone? When do they need the assistance of the godless state?

    Here the victim’s family apparently chose state terrorism—“the state is supposed to be a terror for evildoers,” some would say—rather than the path of fraternal confrontation, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation, a path I have never heard of a state even offering. Perhaps the family tried non-state means first and that was never reported. But even so, then, we’re back to the question of when God wants us to hang our dirty laundry out for the world to see.

    I have seen signs in churches declaring that the state will be called in to deal with any cases of child molestation on church property. Now I’ve had four daughters go through church youth programs, and had I had any doubts about the moral fortitude of our church’s staff—no such doubts ever crossed my mind— I would have taken comfort in knowing that the matter would have been taken seriously. But the last thing I would have wanted to see would have been those men and women whose names I knew and whose children were my children’s friends put in jail, their names in the papers, their futures ruined, their spouses alone and impoverished, and their children publicly shamed—not to mention the church's name in the papers and thousands of tongues wagging that Christ not only doesn't save his people from sin, they can't deal with it without help from unbelievers.

    I hope the girl’s father is happy. If it was a dead child molester he wanted, he got it. I suspect the only fly he sees in the ointment is that either he didn’t get to do the deed himself or the process wasn’t made more torturous by some sadist in prison.

    Call me what you will, but the sooner I no longer share the planet with people who share his happiness, the better.


    1. Friend of molesters everywhere, would be a good name for the author. If you let the church handle it it will lie and cover up, and keep drawing money, till every kid is screwed. What a fine neighbor this guy is, he don't want to bother anybody that is screwing children.He seems to think belonging to his church entitles you to screw children if it would be an embarrassment, to have you arrested. As far as the girls father I don't think happy is a good word, and he has no happiness to share. Why not a sign out front that says we don't call the cops for sex offences? That way every body who wanted to risk his children for Jesus can throw them in the furnace. Everybody who wants to screw kids can go to a church where that kind of thing goes on. I think it is a bit late to impress the world with your church and how holy your members are. If you don't like to see people in jail and their families ruined that is is fine.Try getting some self control among the membership. I am all for giving the child molesters after they serve their sentence.

    2. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      I've heard from people who disagree with my main point that for victims of rape and molestation the police investigations and the courtroom proceedings are as traumatic as the original crime. This could be predicted from the fact that the state is the plaintiff ("the State versus Tom White"), prosecutor, judge, and executioner (or jailer) in all such cases: rather than the state serving the victim, the victim is a tool of the state. Can't we do better?

      If any of my children had been molested by church workers, I would have gone to the pastor and asked that the church leaders arrange for the perpetrator to pay for counseling and whatever else was needed to heal my child, and then some. If the pastor and church leaders had put me off, I would have gone higher up in the denomination, or to other members of the church (parents who don't want their kids molested), until pressure was brought to bear on the church leadership to make our situation right and make sure it didn't happen again. If the situation still weren't dealt with, I would leave and encourage others to also to keep from happening the situation you describe, where the church can "lie and cover up, and keep drawing money, till every kid is screwed."

      The Bible tells Christians that we are not to take our sins to the state: That same passage tells us that any church that tolerates sexual immorality, of which molestation is a part, has no business calling itself a church. There are non-state ways to deal with molestation. I think the church should pursue them.

      Thank you again for your comment. Feel free to comment on other posts!