Christianity Today, Church Rape, And Why We Still Don’t Get It #TakeDownThatPost

The other day the Leadership Journal at Christianity today published a piece entitled “My Easy Trip From Youth Minister to Felon” which has quickly shot up in the rankings on my list of “most offensive things I’ve ever read”. The piece is written by a former youth minister who is now in prison because of an extramarital relationship he had with one of the members of his youth group.

Well, the anonymous author of the piece called it an “extramarital relationship”, but let’s be real: people don’t end up writing anonymous letters from prison because they had an “extramarital relationship”. People write anonymous letters from prison because they’ve been found guilty of RAPE.

This piece, penned by this anonymous rapist and propped up by the folks at Christianity today, should have more accurately been entitled: “Musings From A Church Rapist On Why My Life Now Sucks”, because that’s all it was.

Excuses for rape, such as: “I wasn’t feeling appreciated at home”. “Since I felt I was not being rewarded at home, I deserved to be rewarded elsewhere”.

Not just excuses, but horrible excuses at that.

Strike the “Musings From A Church Rapist On Why My Life Now Sucks” as an alternate title, perhaps it would better be called “Excuses of a Child Rapist”. No mention of a child who was raped by a male in power, or the full wake of destruction other than talking about why his life sucks. It was all about him. This is classic of someone who has yet to realize the gravity of their behavior– there’s a long list of excuses, and a hyper focus on self, instead of a quiet horror over what your behavior has done.

The anonymous author continued to demonstrate a horrific lack of understanding about the seriousness of preying on children by continually describing the crime that landed him in prison as a mutual “friendship” that simply crossed the line:

“The “friendship” continued to develop. Talking and texting turned flirtatious. Flirting led to a physical relationship. It was all very slow and gradual, but it was constantly escalating. We were both riddled with guilt and tried to end things, but the allure of sin was strong. We had given the devil far more than a foothold and had quenched the Holy Spirit’s prodding so many times, there was little-to-no willpower left.”

Clearly, however long he’s sat in prison hasn’t been long enough to realize the gravity of his behavior. Even Christianity today, clearly didn’t get it. Just look at how they’ve classified the piece:

Adultery? Mistakes?

No, this wasn’t adultery and this wasn’t a “mistake”.

People don’t go to prison for the mistake of adultery, they go to prison for the crime of rape.

I am appalled that Christianity Today first ran this piece, and secondly have yet to take it down after many in the Christian community have asked them to. Classy that a Christian magazine who first bullied World Vision into the front pages, costing thousands of kids their needed sponsorships, is now giving a rapist a platform to whine about how bad life sucks after going to prison for rape. There’s no excuse.

Now, had Christianity Today wanted to do a piece on finally taking abuse in the church seriously, I would have applauded the effort. However, as Elizabeth Esther astutely noted:

“…a predator loses the right to tell his side of the story right about the time he decides to PREY on a CHILD… TRUE confession and amends-making should be done PRIVATELY with the victims. TRUE repentance isn’t about page views via JUICY HEADLINES.”

On the issue of true repentance, Suzannah Paul mentioned what I had thought as well– repentance ought include a demonstration that one actually understands how seriously they have harmed others:

This is not leadership. This is rape culture, abuse apology, and re-victimization under the guise of education and grace. It’s not even a bad redemption narrative, as the youth pastor, publication, and many of its commenters fail to demonstrate a most basic understanding of the fact that what transpired was the rape of a minor, not an adulterous affair. Repentance requires actually accounting for–not glossing over–the actual harm one commits.

Libby Anne also brought up something that was quite concerning– a note at the bottom of the piece states that the author “helps lead the Christian community at the facility where he is serving his sentence”, which she correctly raises concerns about a rapist serving in Christian leadership.

And for those who get side-tracked on the “statutory” part of this rape, Tamara Rice does an eloquent job taking those to task who might try to lessen the seriousness of the issue:

Do you understand that even small children who are abused often believe it’s “mutual” and believe that they share the guilt and that they “wanted it”? They believe this, because their predator  skillfully convinced them that it was true. And surely you GET that it’s never the fault of a small child, right? (Please tell me you do.) So what you seem to be missing here, what’s important here is that you understand that a teenage girl, whether 13 or 17 may have the body of a woman, but she is NOT a woman, and she is NO match for a much older man, her spiritual leader, who has made her his prey… Do you understand that as this girl grows into adulthood she will very likely be more and more horrified by what an adult spiritual leader in her life led her into? Do you understand that it’s statutory rape for a reason? Do you get that he is in jail FOR A REASON? Do you even understand what a horror it is that you let her abuser go on and on and on for pages and pages talking like this was an adult consensual affair, when she was obviously young enough that it LANDED HIM IN JAIL? Do you have any inkling of what he’s done to her and her life and her self-esteem and her sexuality and her emotional health and her spiritual health and everything about her not just for right now but most likely for years to come?”

 Clearly, we’re still not getting it.

Sexual abuse in the church is a serious issue, and one that for far too long, has been swept under the rug and quickly dismissed. Abusers have too often been quickly restored only to prey again, victims have been marginalized, and criminal behavior has been justified.

Now, with the Leadership Journal, we’re seeing it again– and we should be appalled. As if the original publication of the story didn’t demonstrate this, the complete lack of repentance and refusal to remove the story from the journal ought be further evidence of how badly we still don’t get it.

Please join me in making some noise and demand that this story be removed. Samantha Field provided the best plan of action (and also makes an excellent point on how power dynamics remove the possibility of true consent):

“Please e-mail the editors of the Leadership Journal and ask them to remove the post ( LJEditor@christianitytoday.com). Ask them to replace it with an article from the victim of a youth pastor, and then another from someone like Boz Tchividjian that offers church leadership an actual education in child sexual assault, clergy abuse, statutory rape, and how it is impossible for a pastor gain consent from a parishioner because of the power he or she has… If you subscribe to the Leadership Journal, please cancel your subscription and tell them why. “

I am disgusted with the lack of repentance and understanding of not only the rapist himself, but also Christianity Today, and the Leadership Journal.

It’s time to #TakeDownThatPost. Please join me, and the others I’ve linked to above, in demanding that we no longer give attention and a platform to abusive leaders who prey on our children.

 

Update: Thanks to your efforts, Christianity Today as removed the post! Thank you to everyone. Here is their official statement:

“We should not have published this post, and we deeply regret the decision to do so.

The post, told from the perspective of a sex offender, withheld from readers until the very end a crucial piece of information: that the sexual misconduct being described involved a minor under the youth pastor’s care. Among other failings, this post used language that implied consent and mutuality when in fact there can be no quesiton that in situations of such disproportionate power there is no such thing as consent or mutuality.

The post, intended to dissuade future perpetrators, dwelt at length on the losses this criminal sin caused the author, while displaying little or no empathic engagement with the far greater losses caused to the victim of the crime and the wider community around the author. The post adopted a tone that was not appropriate given its failure to document complete repentance and restoration.

There is no way to remove the piece altogether from the Internet, and we do not want to make it seem that we are trying to make it disappear. That is not journalistically honest. The fact that we published it; its deficiencies; and the way its deficiencies illuminate our own lack of insight and foresight, is a matter of record at The Internet Archive (https://web.archive.org/web/20140613190102/http://christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/my-easy-trip-from-youth-minister-to-felon.html).

Any advertising revenues derived from hits to this post will be donated to Christian organizations that work with survivors of sexual abuse. We will be working to regain our readers’ trust and to give greater voice to victims of abuse.

We apologize unreservedly for the hurt we clearly have caused.

/signed/

Marshall Shelley, editor, Leadership Journal

Harold B. Smith, president and CEO, Christianity Today International”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ali Wilkin

    First of all *thank you* for centring the voices of the women who have so articulately (and bravely) spoken about how deeply offensive, damaging and utterly absent of any real repentance this horrible piece was. The so-called Leadership Journal have demonstrated absolutely no leadership qualities at all (censoring the majority of the critical comments under the piece), but have been very *very* good at sticking their fingers in their ears and going ‘la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you’.

    One wonders just how loud our voices have to be to get any acknowledgement at all..

  • Cory N Jamie Gilliam

    It’s typical of the misogynist Christian right to protect there male leaders like this. This article is typical of all the excuses these super macho types make when a “brother sins”. Woman are still chattel in the minds of some these fundamentalist.

  • FemmeFreak

    I haven’t read the article, I refuse to read such disgustingness but thank you for reply!

  • Abigail Jane

    THANK YOU!

  • Ronda M Kelso

    thank you for bringing this to light and holding the magazine and the felon accountable. not a relationship, not sex, not and encounter — it is Rape — child predator, creep and yes.. criminal. serving time in prison does not, in my mind, atone for the horrific harm he has imparted..

  • Lalie Hyde

    did you notice they’ve deleted some of the comments from the original article? yesterday there were about 30, predominantly negative. now there are 18 and the article rating has increased from one to three. i’m so angry i can’t even articulate it.

  • mirele

    There were up to 80 comments at one point last night. As you noted, it’s down to 18. If LJ can remove the comments, it can certainly remove the article.

  • http://adelasteria.blogspot.com/ K. Elizabeth Danahy

    It’s so cowardly, I’m sickened. I read the comments last night – most were fierce, but neither cruel not untrue.

  • Garp

    Yeah, mine was one that was deleted. I didn’t use a single bad word or give any reason to delete it other than I made it clear that the article was not okay.

  • toddh

    Mine was deleted too. It looks like they removed all the “take it down” comments instead of actually taking it down.

  • Brandon Roberts

    some guys are just wusses the word i really want to use shouldn’t be uttered here.

  • http://www.lainiesips.com/ Lainie Petersen

    LJ should be called out on this.

  • jdm8

    Yeah, I had seen 40 posts at one time. I didn’t know there were 80, but I’ve seen people elsewhere say their post was removed.

    So this is continuing to sweep the objections under the rug.

  • ClaraB43

    Yes, I saw this just now and that’s why I’m here to comment. There were nearly 50 comments when I last looked yesterday.I thought CT might be obtuse enough to ignore all the comments, but to actually delete most of them and artificially revise the article rating? Oh man. That’s just scheming deceit. I hope that now the story of this cowardly, perp-protecting move by CT massively backfires on them and they get huge negative publicity for it.

  • samueljames

    For a group that has zero problem with infanticide, progressives sure do get after the sex offenders.

  • Mark Lee Schnitzer

    And you wouldn’t?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    What’s funny, is that you’re commenting on a blog by someone who has been very publicly pro-life and anti all violence. Gotta love those quick drive-by comments by folks who don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • Kaeli Vandertulip

    Amazingly, we can tell the difference between a human life that is being actually harmed and potential human life that is also harming an actual living being. And how obscene that you think being pro-life excuses you from rape.

  • samueljames

    wow, massive ignorance here. The readership of this blog is telling.

  • Guest

    …What?

    First and foremost, you assume that all progressives are pro-choice, which is clearly not true.

    Second, why even bring that up? Why distract from this issue by comparing it to others? It appears that while reading this article, all you could do was think, “Who cares about a girl getting raped? Abortion is still legal!”

    There are a great many tragic and terrible things happening in the world. Belittling and dismissing something simply because you don’t think it compares to the horror of other tragedies is not only silly, but disrespectful.

  • jdm8

    So you’re coming here to distract from this issue by trying to swerve off topic?

    I wonder exactly what your agenda is if “THIS problem isn’t as big of a deal as THAT problem” is the most you can say.

    I also don’t get why you should want to attack people for pointing out statutory rape for what it is. I mean, the guy “repented” of adultery, but didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with 1) having sex with someone underage (statutory rape) and 2) being an authority figure with the person he was charged to protect, but committed statutory rape. We have laws to punish this predator, in trying to protect youth from them.

    Someone like him apparently doesn’t have moral scruples to be worthy of his position, and he deserves to be in jail for violating a very valid law.

    So, it was abuse, period. Don’t attack the post or the author because it didn’t cover your favorite topic in this post.

  • Ali Wilkin

    Do you want to deal with the subject being talked about, or do you want to ignore it? In other words, what have you to say about the problem of rape and child sexual abuse being minimised and excused, and quite sickeningly labelled as an ‘affair’? Because if you want to keep changing the subject then we might think that was very telling of *you*.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    Yeah, how dare they stand up for victims of sexual abuse! The shame, the shame. Don’t they know that since the people who really care about unborn children don’t care about victims of sexual abuse, clearly no one should? We all know that God expects us to care about children before they are born. Once they pop out, they’re on their own. If they want to go fornicate with married men when they’re 12, that’s their sin and God has a nice toasty spot waiting for them in good time. It’s not our concern! Protect the unborn! Geeze the nerve of these progressives and their fixation on sex offenders! Where do they get off?

  • Samuel J. Kribbs

    Amen.

  • Molly Harrison Stewart

    LOVE ME SOME GOOD SARCASM! Thanks Rebecca!

  • Wes

    This piece is definitely misguided, but to say Christianity Today bullied WV on the policy issue is completely misinformed. As someone close to the situation, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is just being used as a way to further demonize CT even though its completely off-point.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey
  • samueljames

    Yes, Tony Jones who says churches that don’t have female preachers are false churches…great, balanced perspective.

  • mirele

    As is the patriarchal belief that we women are supposed to shut up in church.

  • jdm8

    Link, please? That doesn’t sound like something he’s actually said.

  • Garp

    Actually, I am also close to the WV situation, and the way CT handled that was, in my opinion, awful as well. I really believe CT sensationalized that headline (Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages) in giant bold letters, which actually mis-characterized the whole situation for page views and clicks. ETA: They never hired any gays in a same-sex marriage, the policy simply made marital status an non-issue.

  • mirele

    CT was definitely part of the Evangelical-Industrial Complex which has decided that hurting the “homosexuals” (my GLBTQ brothers and sisters) in any way possible is far more important than any collateral damage. And, given that CT’s Leadership Journal can find it within itself to remove critical comments on the rape apologia piece, I’m pretty darn sure it has the ability to remove the original story. That Leadership Journal so far has failed to acknowledge there’s a problem with the story says volumes.

  • Garp

    Please, if you can, take screen shots of the article and comment section. I noticed they were deleting comments, but I can’t take screen shots.

  • mirele

    Dee over at the Wartburg Watch has screen shots. I believe she will be posting them soon.

  • Garp

    Thank you!

  • Dee Parsons

    Actually, I downloaded the entire post because I believe it will disappear. I plan to write a post on Monday, using the post as a tutorial on how pedophiles gain footholds in the Christian culture. Most pedophiles and molesters offend again, even after incarceration. This post gives us clues of what to watch for.

    Also, there are some people defending this guy, tweeting that we could all fall into such sin. No, the vast majority of us will not have sex with underage children.This is the old “sin is sin is sin” argument and it is particularly dangerous in this sort of situation.

  • Garp

    CT seemed to think it was okay to run this piece. They can argue that he repents. But he repents of “having an affair” not of abusing a child. He calls her a student, his “friend,” and even says that they were sinning (not just him, but she apparently is guilty of sin in his eyes for their relationship). He conveniently doesn’t call her a child or mention exactly how old she was when it all started. I feel this article is extremely harmful to victims. How did CT not see the problems with this article? Then, to top it off they deleted comments that were not favorable. I left a comment yesterday that is now gone. I didn’t use bad or abusive language or anything.

  • Margaret Marquez

    that’s because once a girl has boobs she’s not a child anymore but an evil temptress(snark)

  • Samuel J. Kribbs

    Your point about “but she is apparently guilty of sin in his eyes…” Is a great point and one I had not thought about.

  • Garp

    He mentions in the article that they tried repeatedly to stop (they updated the article online and now he only refers to himself as the sinner and that he tried to stop). But in the original article he said “we tried repeatedly to stop sinning.” I am sure he saw it that way, and they had many conversations where he placed her on equal ground as he was in that what they were doing was wrong. Makes me kind of want to vomit.

  • Kaeli Vandertulip

    Considering how often these people use their influence and authority over the young people in their charge, I’m surprised we don’t see more of these. It shows the control they have. I’ve dealt with a youth pastor who was prowling for girls in the membership (and with their friends) while simultaneously preaching the Jolly Rancher purity lesson (http://aintiawomanblog.net/2013/04/purity-is-like-good-candy-still-in-its-wrapper.html).

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    The modern Christian church has a rape problem. That’s really all there is to it.

    By ‘rape problem,’ I don’t mean ‘rape happens.’ I mean ‘rape is allowed to happen, is dismissed, is hidden, is minimalised, is allowed to happen again.’

    While the Catholic Church may get the brunt of both the outrage and the publicity, this article and the response (or lack thereof) by Christianity Today is just a small example of the culture of abuse that much of Christianity fosters.

    When you place a higher value on ‘redemption stories’ than revictimising children, you’re going to have a rape problem.

    When you let preachers and pastors hold an intimate spiritual relationship with children and other parishioners that creates dependency and approval seeking, you’re going to have a rape problem.

    When you put credit on passages from Matthew 18 that allow you to handle abuse and rape as an ‘internal church issue,’ you’re going to have a rape problem.

    When you follow a doctrine of total depravity that considers all sins to be equal, you’re going to have a rape problem.

    When the success of your church depends on it’s reputation as the arbiter of morality to a fallen world, you’re going to have a rape problem.

    The epidemic of sexual abuse and rape in church, especially in children, needs to be called out for what it is – an epidemic. I’m not surprised to see a number of Christians vocally opposing the depravity of this article. But there should be even more outrage that the Christian church has become a place where giving a child molester a platform to teach a moral lesson is okay.

  • Molly Harrison Stewart

    That rage at this man having a platform is there! And thank you for your comment…it is so very true!

  • Cory N Jamie Gilliam

    You may be an atheist but this sermon is one that Christians really need to hear! Amen and Amen again!! I as a Christian do see what you see in that churches and leaders foster an unhealthy sense of clingy dependence. A backslapping, hand washing, ego fluffing, brown nosing culture has grown like a malignant tumor in the Church as a whole. All denominations, despite their hair splitting differences, are guilty of tolerating the excuse making, poor mouth mentality among inflated leaders. This is why I am totally adverse participating in sectarian Christianity but purposefully seek a non denominational fellowship. Rotation in leadership, strong accountability and thorough examination or training is needed for any one who steps into a role of responsibility no matter what. The leaders need to treated like employees in a business even if they are volunteers in order to protect families and children.

  • Hannah Glover Little

    Apparently I’m the minority, but I don’t take issue with the article being posted, or even the fact that it was posted by CT. I think it’s extremely informative because it shows the thought process he went through; it shows how a slow entanglement over time can cause someone to justify a heinous crime. As to whether he truly accepts full responsibility for this – there’s no way to know, but I don’t think that was the point. (I did not see this as a “repentance” article.) The point (as reinforced by the title) was to demonstrate the thought process he went through – and I believe this thought process is an extremely accurate representation of how many instances of pastor/minor rape evolve. If anything, it serves as an incredible warning to parents that the slightest hint of pastor/student impropriety should be taken extremely seriously and quenched immediately.

  • Margaret Marquez

    i dont have an issue with the posting of the article, but i do have a huge issue with the blog deleting critical comments and only leaving up the supportive ones–and i have a HUGE issue with the writer of the article referring to his victimization of a child as an “affair”

  • ClaraB43

    Exactly. Look, the sincerity of the author’s repentance is a matter for his spiritual advisor. But the argument in the text he published is a public record, and open to criticism. CT’s editors have acted foolishly and need to be called to account.

  • mirele

    I disagree. He categorized this as an affair and adultery, thus putting the blame on a minor for his criminal acts. Since the pastor is currently in prison for what he did, it’s pretty clear that he violated the statutory rape laws of his state. But the article says none of that. It’s all about him.

    Given Leadership Journal’s resistance to taking this down, I have to wonder how connected this youth pastor is. And if we’ll be seeing this same scenario played out over and over again, as was the case with Darrell Gilyard.

  • Samuel J. Kribbs

    Wouldn’t a story by CT, with some quote from the rapist have been just as effective. Rather than giving him an open forum. I don’t agree that one can go from a pastor or non-rapist, easily to a rapist. I don’t believe he takes any more responsibility for it than someone who has a legal adulterous relationship outside of their marriage. There was barely any recognition of victim. The addendum was not enough and without further comment CT should not have presented the story in this way.

  • Margaret Marquez

    of course, they’ve deleted the critical comments–it doesnt support their agenda that leadership is always right

  • shepherdguy

    This really was outrageous…thanks for bringing it to our attention. I was even more horrified when I read the comments to the original post… CT has tacked on a little “disclaimer” at the very end in which the writer gives a perfunctory “mea culpa,” but it’s clear he has no idea of the gravity of his transgression against this girl. Nor does CT seem to understand their own transgression here. I just wrote to the editors expressing my dismay, and raising a question with them: Would CT have given him this platform and the exact same article, had the victim been a teenage boy? Would they have lauded his “repentance” and offered to their readers his “lessons”?

  • Hannah Glover Little

    I’m not familiar with CT, and I don’t know of their motives in posting this article, but I maintain that it’s an incredibly valuable read. (To me, this did not read as a repentance piece.) It’s a first-hand account of a child rapist. We as readers are able to see the process of how he became a perpetrator, and how he justified it. For educational purposes, that’s golden. This should serve as confirmation to parents/youth workers that even a hint of impropriety within pastor/student relationships should be investigated and stopped immediately. This article NEEDS to be read to raise awareness and to help instill proactive measures to stop danger within youth organizations.

  • Hannah N.

    I semi-agree with you – though it would be nice to see this article surrounded with other articles that are doing things like giving voice to victims and providing better resources for dealing with clergy sexual abuse.

  • Samuel J. Kribbs

    As a major critic from CT I can see your point. But I can almost guarantee you that is not the reason CT posted it. As a theologian, I see a man who does not really take responsibility for his actions. He would rather blame the sin, not the person who committed the sin. I would say CT knew this article had issues because of the addendum. The very idea that it is “easy” to go from pastor to rapist is incredibly naive. This article does not read as a confesssion but a person who “accidentally” became a rapist. Although, not once does he own the term to describe himself. He shows almost no reagard for his victim. He expresses regret for his marriage, his ministry and his lost freedom but I don’t recall him ever even apologizing to his victim. Simply because he does not see her as a victim but a willing participant. CT should be ashamed and especially sensitive due to all the sexual abuse cover ups coming out of Evangelical churches. It does need to be read, but CT did not post it for that reason but as a warning to others, as if anyone is just a couple steps away from being a rapist. It is a great insight into the pedophile mind and the Christian mentality that exists in tandem. I am not blaming Christianity but two see the incongruent parts of a person the pedophile and the follower of Jesus is fascinating.

  • Garp

    I agree with you. It is a huge insight into the Christian mentality of how so much abuse goes on in the church and how covered up it is. He never refers to her as a victim, he doesn’t even refer to her as a child. I really wonder how many editors this went through and how they did not see the problem until readers complained. He repented of his “affair” and never mentions regretting hurting this child, even after the article was revised after the outcry. This makes me sick.

  • Samuel J. Kribbs

    You answered that question in your response to me. “Christian mentality of how much so abuse…” It is this American Christian mentality of creating a rape culture. I think it partially comes from this idea that the perpetrator is the pastor. In many strands of Christianity it is unacceptable to question a leader or an elder. They are placed on a pedestal and are supposed to be perfect. There is a mentality it is not the pastor’s fault it is either Satan’s or the victim’s. This is the same mentality that causes Church’s to make victims forgive the offender. His “repenting of the affair” I just hope, even though this is anonymous, his parole board gets a hold of it, when he comes up for parole. This man does not feel bad about anything other than the affair. He almost tries to make himself a victim, saying all the things he has lost (he did not lose them he chose to victimize a child instead). This would have been a much more comfortable article if it had started with an apology to the victim. It seems clear that youth pastor creates a great opportunity for sex offenders and child molesters to have access to children. This was not a crime of opportunity but a long sustained seduction of a child by a person who he was entrusted with caring for as a pastor. Sick!

  • Garp

    Yes, I hope the parole board gets a hold of this. In fact I think he would have voluntarily tried to give this to the parole board because he honestly thought it showed remorse even though it did not show a shred of remorse.

  • Marylyn Morris

    If a child has been through puberty it’s not pedophilia. This man is a sexual predator, imo, and won’t see himself as a rapist because he doesn’t prey upon prepubescent children.

  • WonkishGuy

    I was about to post the same thing. Although I myself sometimes use the word “pedophile” to refer to them, it’s true that we should restrict it to people who are sexually attracted to prepubescent children, whether they have acted upon this attraction or not (the former are clearly rapists, the latter people who need therapy — that’s an important point: our current way to deal with pedophiles before they offend is to pretend that they don’t exist until they strike, and then lock them up for a while before they can reoffend, probably after being raped in jail themselves. It would be better to recognize that it is an abnormal sexual orientation that a non-trivial % of the population has and that there should be programs that offer them some chance of coping with it without victimizing children).

    When the abuse involves older teenagers (which does not apply here since it sounds like this man knew the girl since her early teens and spent a lot of time grooming her), it becomes especially important to focus more on the power imbalance, psychological manipulation and abuse of authority, rather than the age difference. In most states, a 30-year is legally allowed to have intercourse with a 17-year old, as long as they’re not in a position of authority over the minor. What vitiates consent is the unequal relationship between the victim and the abuser, not the victim’s age alone.

  • Indomable

    Actually, when the abuser targets teens ( after puberty ), it is termed ” ephebophilia ” and is considered a subset of the pedophilia spectrum. And you are correct, all sexual abuse has the desire for control at its root.

    And a spiritual leader of any kind should be held to the same professional standards as a teacher.

    I really wish the church would require its leaders to take a course in ethics. It might prove more useful than all that Bible study

  • Ryan Kronberg

    The guy is simply pathetic to no end. I’m really at a loss of words about what the point of that was. It’s a fluff piece at that justifies in his own mind what he did. There’s barely a hint of remorse, and it seems he’s only remorseful because he was caught. The lack of true repentance on his part is sad. And shame on Christianity Today for publishing this. Terrible to no end.

  • ClaraB43

    Well, now the editors have added a longer note before the article:

    “Editorial Note: Since publishing the following piece on Monday, there has been a tremendous backlash from readers. Many voiced concerns that the author mischaracterized the nature of the relationship he had with his student and failed to acknowledge the gravity of his crime. We’ve heard your criticisms and would like to add the following clarifications.

    First, the intent of this article was to serve as a cautionary story for church leaders and to prevent future abuse. According to Richard Hammar, a leading expert specializing in legal and tax issues for churchesand clergy, sexual abuse is the number one reason churches end up in court. Cases involving youth leaders abusing students are particularly common and this piece was meant to draw attention to this tragic problem. We simply can’t deny the pervasiveness of this problem or the deep and lasting wounds instances of abuse leave on the lives of victims.

    Second, we in no way meant to downplay the severity of the author’s crimes. He is currently serving time in prison and has taken 100 percent of the responsibility for what transpired. Some of the language in the article did appear to portray the “relationship” he had with his student as consensual. We regret any implication of that kind and strongly underscore that an adult cannot have a consensual sexual relationship with a minor. This was not an “affair.” It was statutory rape. To make sure the article does not communicate otherwise, we have changed the language to reflect the true nature of the author’s crimes.

    Thank you for reading and voicing your concerns. We are listening and incorporating your feedback. We appreciate your help as we strive to build up the church and equip its leaders.

    Sincerely,

    The Editors of Leadership Journal”

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/my-easy-trip-from-youth-minister-to-felon.html

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I think what bothers me about this is that now they’ve changed the language of the piece to reflect the severity of the crime– but they aren’t his words.

  • http://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/ Living Liminal

    As long as there is a belief in the church that ‘leaders’ are a higher/better class of christian, we will have abuse. Until we see each other as brother and sisters, equal before God, the body will continue to be hurt by those who see themselves as having authority over others.

  • csrima

    Is the article only viewable with a paid subscription? I am not interested in paying to read it, but do want to see what was written. The pathology and insidiousness of Sin and it’s affects on our thought process/rationalization is a topic of interest to me.

    I’ve read the first paragraph, but then the next page has a “read more with a subscription!” signup.

    Thanks for calling this out.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    they have since removed the piece, so it is now down.

  • Maura Hart
  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks for sharing, Maura.

  • Molly Harrison Stewart

    While I do appreciate that CT has clarified the language in the article…obviously that does not mean that the author has ever adequately acknowledged the depth of the crime he committed. He very clearly and repeatedly chose words that implicated his victim as sharing the “sin” he is confessing. This was obviously a child that he knew since she was in Jr. High (e.g. 11-13 years old…READ THAT AGAIN 11-13 years old!!!!!). The only way for this to be made right would be for this article to be removed and replaced with a series of articles from victims of such crimes. #TakeDownThePost

  • Guest

    Yes, those are the things that bothered me perhaps the most, that he implicated that innocent girl in HIS sin. Oh the serious rage that made me feel. And he said that THEY kept trying to stop but THEY couldn’t. Of course SHE couldn’t. She was a child he manipulated since she was, as you point out, 11-13 years freaking old! I just know he had multiple conversations with her talking about how they BOTH were sinning and I am still so angry about that. I am fully committed to non violence. But if I could get my hands on this jerk I would really like to make him feel some of the pain that girl will probably feel for the rest of her life. Another thing that really bothers me is that he talks about how his family was close to his victim’s family. I had a similar experience with my family, a family “friend” was found to be abusing some beloved children in the family and this “friend” sat down to meals with us. Little did we know.

  • CroneEver

    Our whole society has a rape problem. When George Will is allowed to say that being a rape victim is a “coveted status”; when every jackass GOP politician can make rape jokes and rape statements; when every time a woman or a child is raped everyone wants to know what they were wearing, what they were doing, what they were saying… there’s a real problem. Women are blamed. Children are blamed. The perpetrators claim they were tempted. (I have sat in a courtroom and heard a grandfather who molested all five of his grandchildren say that they asked for it by sitting on his lap.) The perpetrators claim that it was mutual. That they “both sinned”… And it’s all bullshit. And it happens everywhere.

  • Garp

    Oh my god, that is so disturbing (the grandfather story). That is so sick. There are just no words for how incredibly sick that is.

  • CroneEver

    I know – I suggested to the judge that we needed a large wooden mallet to hit people who said something like that and expected to be believed. And exonerated.

  • Garp

    But, sadly, it really says a lot about how sick society is that he apparently thought that was an okay thing to say and that it made any flippin sense at all. I mean it is an incredibly “off” thing to say, but so is saying that (for example) that it is okay to have sex with a girl because she drank too much or passed out, but some people seem to think that is perfectly okay sadly.

  • Sheila Warner

    I will be cancelling my subscription to CT. I will also email the LJ and let them know that I am disgusted, too.

  • Michael Shawn Kelly

    I still remember the disbelieving, antagonistic attitude displayed toward me by members of a church when i advised them what a member of their youth group had recently “learned”. She told my daughters that according to her youth director – and I’ll edit this a bit – that a female knows her future husband if his “manhood” fits into her!
    I am sorry to say I have heard many stories along the same line involving youth groups. Thanks for the public stand and using your space to increase our awareness.

  • Stefatropolis

    So long as Christians believe that they can instantly be forgiven, that a person who is forgiven by God is absolved of their crime and can instantly regard themselves as blameless, that an evil entity called Satan can always be used as a scapegoat, that truly evil people who repent go to Heaven while decent, loving, moral people who don’t believe the right doctrine go to Hell, etc., etc., Christianity will never be anything close to a genuinely moral philosophy. Thus, people of unbelievably twisted morals will still be able to regard themselves as devout followers of Christ.

  • Levi

    CT pulled the piece around 11 PM tonight:

    “A note from the editors of Leadership Journal:
    We should not have published this post, and we deeply regret the decision to do so.

    “The post, told from the perspective of a sex offender, withheld from readers until the very end a crucial piece of information: that the sexual misconduct being described involved a minor under the youth pastor’s care. Among other failings, this post used language that implied consent and mutuality when in fact there can be no quesiton that in situations of such disproportionate power there is no such thing as consent or mutuality.

    “The post, intended to dissuade future perpetrators, dwelt at length on the losses this criminal sin caused the author, while displaying little or no empathic engagement with the far greater losses caused to the victim of the crime and the wider community around the author. The post adopted a tone that was not appropriate given its failure to document complete repentance and restoration.

    “There is no way to remove the piece altogether from the Internet, and we do not want to make it seem that we are trying to make it disappear. That is not journalistically honest. The fact that we published it; its deficiencies; and the way its deficiencies illuminate our own lack of insight and foresight, is a matter of record at The Internet Archive (https://web.archive.org/web/20140613190102/http://christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/my-easy-trip-from-youth-minister-to-felon.html).

    “Any advertising revenues derived from hits to this post will be donated to Christian organizations that work with survivors of sexual abuse. We will be working to regain our readers’ trust and to give greater voice to victims of abuse.

    “We apologize unreservedly for the hurt we clearly have caused.

    /signed/
    Marshall Shelley, editor, Leadership Journal
    Harold B. Smith, president and CEO, Christianity Today International”

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/my-easy-trip-from-youth-minister-to-felon.html

  • nabil89

    the article has been removed

  • Garp

    UPDATE: They took down the article and put up a post that addresses at least some of the criticism that I actually had of the whole frickin situation. However they did not address how the editors thought this was an okay piece to publish which is still disturbing, but at least they took it down.

  • Heather Dawn Celoria

    Thanks for writing this article this week. I wrote today as well.

    “I can only hope that this particular victim felt fought for and seen in ways that so many will never experience.”

    http://www.heatherceloria.com/letthemhavedominionblog/2014/6/14/a-cautionary-tale-about-rape-culture-in-the-church

  • Jewelya

    Having been raped by a church youth leader, and told by leadership that there was no way could have done that, leaving him to continue in his role of responsibility where he also abused others, I thank you for your leadership on this issue.

  • http://carolesmithturner.com/ CaroleTurner

    This situation is nothing new and that is why Christianity Today treated it as it did. The powerful have always seduced the incident and somehow turn themselves into victims, “please feel sorry for me, I fell into sin, she defrauded and tempted me” and the real victim is shunned, given large sums of money to go away and the powerful go on to rule the world! This guy clearly is just following what he has learned from his leaders in the church on how to handle being caught; cry and get people to feel sorry for you.

  • RGRoboman

    Evangelicals and other conservatives so badly want a world in black and white, and especially a world where sexuality is clear and unambiguous. By dropping the modifier, “statutory,” the author (like others who are commenting on this case) tries to equate an inappropriate but clearly consensual relationship with a teenager (who is, in fact, old enough for legal marriage) with violent, forcible rape. I guess you can take the boy out of fundamentalism, but you can’t take the fundamentalism out of the boy.

  • tyler

    did you… possibly miss the part where he groomed her from the age of thirteen to be his victim? even before throwing in the massive power differential (there is a reason student/teacher relationships are frowned upon, and it is not because “it just feels wrong!”), that fact alone should push his crime far into rape territory.

    and the fact that he’s in jail for it, which, knowing how notoriously difficult it is to get a rape conviction with any real consequences, means that somebody seriously pursued this case. the chances that the victim was not severely harmed by this rape are slim indeed.

    you’re also making a mistake by assuming that the child rapist’s story is accurate. i can only assume from your comment that you are not up-to-date on current research into the mindset of an abusive person, but the entire article is saturated with red flags that very loudly imply that this man is still an unrepentant abuser and that his version of the story has been told specifically to garner sympathy and downplay his crime. the dilution of responsibility by constantly referring to his systematic grooming and subsequent molestation of his victim as “their” sin, the use of passive over active language to describe what he calls an “affair,” the focus on himself and his circumstances to the exclusion of the damage and pain he inflicted on the girl, her family, and the community at large, the liberal usage of “christianese” throughout–all of these tricks are utilized deliberately to garner sympathy and support from his audience and downplay the severity of his crimes. and it’s obviously worked, on a disturbing number of CT’s readers and even yourself.

    this, of course, highlights our culture’s continued ignorance of and inability to deal with abusive people. researchers know the warning signs; what works, what doesn’t; the likelihood of rehabilitation; and so on. and yet, none of this stuff seems to filter down to the rest of society. training for recognizing abuse is still woefully absent from many institutions that work with children, and where they do exist they are often inadequate, poorly executed, and even inaccurate.

    as long as this kind of narrative from the abusers themselves is uncritically accepted by christian culture, and the wider world, abuse will continue to run rampant in the system.

  • Johnny
  • Al Cruise

    Conservative evangelicals, and other fundamentalists believe that those, especially in leadership positions, should have impunity, or at the very least, easy forgiveness, for their sinful actions solely based on their position and the amount of material wealth and worldly influence their institution holds in their community. This has been the great deception that much of western Christianity has been operated under and used to grow in worldly power and have become places of Spiritual and moral bankrupcy. Christ taught the very opposite.

  • Lbj

    On a related topic do you think Harvey Milk should have his picture on a postage stamp give that he had sex with an underage boy?

  • Brandon Roberts

    rape is a horrible thing no matter who the victim and i think giving these creeps crucifixion would be far far too good for them.

  • Susan S.

    Frankly, not a bit of any of this surprises me. I’ve seen it happen before. If you’re familiar with Victory Bible Center/Victory Bible Church in Tulsa, OK, literally across the street from Oral Roberts University, you’ve probably heard about their youth program. It was world famous, and probably the church’s biggest draw.

    Then a couple of years ago, a kid got molested during their summer program. Sorry, SEVERAL kids got molested. The chief pastor’s sister and brother-in-law found the guilty party–I think he was part of the janitorial crew–and on getting a repentance out of him, they covered it up.

    Sadly, it still took more than three months for the story to break, and more than a week after that for the church to admit that anything had happened. About that point, the local news went from interesting to, “Okay, one channel’s on, and the other two are set to DVR, right? We have popcorn and a pot of tea, hit it.” That happened for every single newscast throughout the day, because the TPD kept finding more stuff. It was a carnivale of nightmares (or more like a carnisalve, if you’re up on your Latin). I’m not sure I’ve seen so much as a quarter-page ad in Local Tulsa for VBC since. Previously, you couldn’t drive three miles of highway without seeing a billboard, listen to the radio without hearing ads on every station, or turn on the TV without seeing them, both local and cable.

    Oh, yeah, and there was the acquaintance who pointed a gun at my face and raped me in God’s name when I was 17. You know, after I didn’t come out and say I was bisexual, because then he would have killed me. That was not a fun night. And, no, he was never prosecuted, because frankly, my parents would have assumed I made it up to hide having sex. (IDEK. I was more interested in Isaac Asimov than sex, and he was dead.) Long story short, it messed me up, and I haven’t been surprised at sexual abuse in the church since.

    Mind, I’ve been actively shunned by whole congregations since I was five, so I’m more than aware of the darkness that lurks there, disguised as obedience. I’ve long since become an atheist, but that was founded wholly on history, science, and logic. Even if I were Christian, though, I doubt I’d be comfortable in any congregation around here–if anything, I’d be neo-gnostic, and that’s a path of quiet study and introspection on both scripture and history, as well as Christianity’s original purpose or purposes.