A reader sent me a link to a blog written by Benjamin Mullet, a convicted sex offender serving a seven-year sentence for “statutory sodomy.” His victim was 15; he was nearly 30. He had been married for nearly a decade and had four children. Mullet’s sister posts his writings; he is a “Bible believing” Christian (and always has been), and much of what he writes is from that angle.
Let’s have a look at a blog post titled Sex Offenders and the Church.
How does the Bible instruct us, as the Body of Christ (the church), to deal with sex offenders? This is an issue that has seen a lot of media coverage lately, and seems to be driven much more by social pressure than biblical truth. In fact, this has probably become the most stigmatized issue of our current culture–or, at least, competes with school shootings for the number 1 spot.
Notice the contrast he is setting up—social pressure v. biblical truth. Do Christians stigmatize sex offenders because the Bible instructs them to do so, Mullet asks, or because they experience social pressure to stigmatize them? The Bible, the Bible, the Bible—that, and not things like harm or consent or grooming, should be the final word on these matters, he argues.
Also, there is this bit:
First, let us look at some statistical information even though it really has no bearing on our biblical responsibilities.
According to national statistics, sex offenders have an astronomically low recidivism rate in comparison to any other felony type crime. The latest report I read put it at 3.5% nationally, and 4% in Missouri. Contrast that with nearly 70% recidivism for drug offenders… and your sex offenders are under considerably more scrutiny as well as registration and a plethora of other requirements they are required to meet.
Actually, the stats on this are all over the map, but most studies have found far higher recidivism rates than 3.5-4%—including meta analyses that combine the findings of multiple studies:
Hanson and Bussière’s (1998) meta-analysis involved 61 studies and a combined sample of 28,972 sex offenders. The researchers found an average sexual recidivism rate of 13.4 percent based on an average followup period of 4 to 5 years, and an average overall recidivism rate of 36.3 percent. More recently, Hanson and Morton-Bourgon (2004) conducted a meta-analysis of 95 studies involving a combined sample of 31,216 sex offenders. The average sexual recidivism rate found was 13.7 percent and the average overall recidivism rate was 36.9 percent, based on an average followup period of 5 to 6 years.
does did Mullet bring up recidivism rates at all? To back up his argument that sex offenders like himself should not bear the stigma they do in modern society. Recall, now, that Mullet was convicted of committing “statutory sodomy” against a 15-year-old when he was nearly 30, married, and had four children. But he definitely should not face stigma!
Mullet goes on, hammering this in:
We also must realize that this is primarily a political issue, not a religious one. The society is all about taking their agenda and trying to conform the Church to it. To have this conversation we must realize Scripture as the final authority, and be willing to submit our personal and cultural views to the Bible–both on the offender and the victim side of the equation. This will deal primarily with the Biblical response to the offenders. It is easy to make a social target of a stigmatized class of people who are in every way just as human as you. Keep that in mind.
Mullet assures readers once more that only the Bible should matter, not modern culture’s ideas about consent or harm. Indeed, those ideas are part of an “agenda” designed to subvert the Church. It’s a plot! What the Bible says and what the Bible says alone is what goes. And if that means sex offenders like himself should get a pass—well, what can you do? It’s the Bible.
And just what does the Bible say about sex offenses, according to Mullet?
The criteria for our recognition of a fellow believer is one who has called upon the Lord, and is further evidenced by a new believer’s public confession, and in the obedience of faith by being baptized. Beyond these outwardly observable acts, we are not given the liberty of judging another man’s heart or pretend to know another man’s future. …
How should our assemblies (churches) receive a fellow believer whom the State has labeled a sex offender? 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 addresses this pretty directly– “…punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him…”
Ah, so there it is. Forgive and comfort him.
I’ve read 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 multiple times and I’m still not sure what it means. Mullet is not taking this passage out of context—at least, in any way beyond its being extremely vague. What does it mean for a person to “cause grief”? What is “punishment by the majority”? What majority?
But here’s a question—what does this “forgiveness” look like?
Keep in mind the context of a fellow believer; either one who sinned and repented, or one who became converted after the fact, they are both members of the body of Christ.
Yet, many churches are required by their insurance providers to usher, monitor, restrict, and chaperone a previous sex offender 100% of the time on their premises. These conditions must be looked at in a biblical light and a practical application.
Why does the secular culture have a voice in how believers are to be treated when we come together to worship Him who called us?
Surprise surprise, Mullet’s against taking precautions to ensure that sex offenders don’t reoffend. Ensuring that convicted sex offenders aren’t alone with children is unbiblical, after all! It’s conforming to our pagan culture and all that, rather than following God’s Word.
Of course, Mullet doesn’t think the secular authorities should be involved at all to begin with.
1 Corinthians 6:1-8 condemns the church in Corinth for taking matters outside their assembly for judgment by the secular establishment. Verse 1 says, “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?”
Verses 4-6 says, “So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?”
Obviously Paul thought the Body of Christ should have enough wisdom to deal with even legal matters internally.
Sexual offenses should be arbitrated entirely within churches, regardless of what the law says, Mullet argues. Gee, where have I heard that before?
So, what is it that Mullet wants?
How are we to treat a repentant sinner? If God forgives, do we have the freedom not to? Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
From a brother to brother standpoint, Jesus told Peter that if his brother expressed acknowledgment of his sin in repentence, he should be forgiven seventy times seven — and that in one day! Colossians 3:13 “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.”That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for us to debate “genuine repentance”, does it? In fact you could probably argue that if your brother offended you even just 70 times in the same day, the personal responsibility for his sin is apparently a battle requiring assistance rather than questioning sincerity of the confession. Yet Jesus made it clear that our imperative is to forgive.
Mullet argues that believers have no grounds to question whether repentance is genuine. After all, when Jesus told his followers to forgive seventy times seven, he never mentioned anything about taking steps to ascertain whether the offense to be forgiven has been genuinely repented of!
Forgiveness and restoration should not be followed by more rules, Mullet continues, because Jesus was against rules. To paraphrase: something something scribes and pharisees. Besides, Mullet writes, making rules for sex offenders would constitute “adding to” the commandments.
And then he adds this:
It is also of interest to note how Jesus handled the issue of sexual sin when the Pharisees brought Him the woman caught in the very act of adultery. In John 8:3-11, the Pharisees had an ironclad case, with the law clearly stating her punishment of death by stoning. It was very clear cut, and Jesus did not disagree with them, but simply said: “Let him who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.”
Notice there was only one man who met that sinless criteria, and He wasn’t scrambling for the rock pile. Instead, after all her eye-witness accusers went a way, Jesus did not condemn her either, but told her to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11); Suggesting that even for sexual immorality that self-control is the preventative solution.
And there it is. Adultery is equated with rape and sexual assault of a child. What a good, godly system of morality. Oh—and internal self control is enough to prevent repeat offenses. No need for a prison sentence or a conviction or chaperones. Self control is the answer.
I’m not going to keep quoting, because this really does go on and on. Mullet pontificates at length. Jesus forgave the woman who committed adultery before she even repented, he writes. So should we! We shouldn’t be concerned about justice being served, because “our very salvation is based on injustice“—-Jesus death on the cross, giving his innocent life for those of the guilty.
The Bible doesn’t include the concept of “victims,” Mullet writes. This is because everyone has been hurt in some way, and everyone needs forgiveness. A sin is a sin is a sin—and all have sinned.
Going on, Mullet writes that repeat offenders should be treated no differently from first-time offenders. How should they be treated, exactly? Well, like this:
Scripture only gives us one option. Matthew 18:15-20 lays out the process of confronting him, then restoring a repentant brother, or exercising church discipline. Our available biblical options as a church are both based upon rebuke and repentance. If repentance is expressed, restore them.
And remember, to Mullet, “restore them” means embrace them and welcome that back into the fold like any other member of the body, without any guardrails or safeguards.
Isn’t this a bit risky? No, says Mullet:
The secular world will look on (as will many believers) and say that biblical church discipline is not enough to provide a true consequence and, thereby, risk a repeat. Personally, I believe we are treading some dangerous water when we say that what God says isn’t good enough.
Whether this works is irrelevant, Mullet writes. All that matters is that it is what the Bible says—and it super definitely is, he pretty promises!
Besides, there’s this:
The reason we can, and must, practice forgiveness with fellow believers is because Jesus paid it all.
I am curious. If this is the case, why do we have laws at all? Why do we have police? If every offense is already forgiven by God, why try to stop people from offending—and why punish them when they do? Yet despite this seeming conclusion, I doubt Mullet is an anarchist.
Let me point to one more line in Mullet’s piece:
Sin is sin. Sin is against God. We all sin, and hurt others, and are hurt by others. Grace is the only antidote to this problem, both with God and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Be bold in following the path laid out in God’s Word. Realize repentance is of God, and be careful not to judge another man’s heart, and learn to bear one another’s burdens.
Learn to bear one another’s burdens … what does that mean, exactly? Whose burdens? The sex offenders’ burdens? Also—the idea that sin is against God takes away from the extent to which sin is committed against a person. It diminishes the role that person—the victim—plays in this narrative. It diminishes the impact an individual’s sin can have on their community.
This is a problem.
In case you’re curious, a perusal of Ben’s blog suggests that he believes the only thing he did wrong was the “marital sin of sexual unfaithfulness.” That he carried out said unfaithfulness with a fifteen-year-old girl when he was nearly thirty is irrelevant. He merely cheated on his wife.
Need I bring up my Tale of Two Boxes?
I think I know why reading Mullet’s post struck me so deeply. An individual I grew up with—we were part of the same evangelical homeschool community—committed a nearly identical offense and was sentenced to a similar term in prison. During of his trial, I heard many of the arguments Mullet makes above, voiced by my parents, the offender’s parents, and others in the community.
I have sometimes wondered what this young man, whom I knew in childhood, thinks now about his actions, conviction, and imprisonment. I have worried that if he has imbibed only a fraction of the excuses those in his family and church community fed to him, he will have difficulty taking true responsibility for his actions. And in Mullet’s writing, I see exactly that playing out.
Interestingly, Mullet, too, was homeschooled.
I spent this time looking at Mullet’s writings to highlight how very twisted this logic can become. Mullet is sincere. He appears to believe what he writes. And I would hazard a guess that when he gets out of prison in another six years, Mullet will be welcomed into a “bible believing” church as a witness of how God changes a man—and how he uses unfortunate circumstances to refine him.
And yet—Mullet still has no idea what he did wrong.
Not once does Mullet indicate remorse for what he did to his victim—his only remorse is for the end of his marriage. Contrary to what he apparently believes, however, he is not in jail for committing adultery. He is not in jail for committing sexual immorality. He is in jail for grooming a 15-year-old child and committing statutory sodomy.
Even now, he does not get it.
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