Restoring Victimizers | Neglecting Victims

Let me grant you a warning: In this post I will be addressing my own offense, from five years ago, as well as perspectives from victims who have been further abused or victimized by pastors or Christians. This post is inspired by a Facebook post from Julie Anne Smith, author of the Spiritual Sounding Board site, part of which reads: "Isn't it sad when the Christian community is more concerned about the one who sinned being restored than caring for the ones he hurt?" This is, tragically, true.

When I sinned against and violated the privacy of my dormmate, back in 2012, most people who knew me understood that the behavior was uncharacteristic of who I am as a caring human being. However, this "caring human being" had unwittingly adopted cognitive distortions that were not only unhealthy for me, personally, but also unhealthy for certain guys in my immediate environment, as an opportunity was present for me to manifest those cognitive distortions. The reactions were varied.

Some people pitied me, even though I really had committed an offense, and even though there was no possible means of justifying my despicable behavior. Some condemned me as a monster. I understand why they did so. I think "monster" is an unwarranted exaggeration of the actions involved within the context of the offense; but I understand. So many others, though, were quick to minimize my offense (which itself is a cognitive distortion), to see me restored, even to preach in the pulpit. I had no interest in preaching and I denied every effort toward that goal.

Some of these same people, even within a year of the offense, also wanted me to "move on" from the event, to not bring it up or discuss it, and to let the past remain in the past. I was still in therapy during this time and I needed to bring it up; I needed to think seriously about all the contributing factors that led to the offense, so that I could learn how to think properly, all in the effort toward never committing such an offense again. But the restoration agenda from the church was swift and fierce.

Not once, however, did anyone ask about the well-being of my dormmate. What if my actions caused him to distrust and fear people/guys/gays in the future? What if he questioned the integrity of God because of my invasive behavior? What if he eventually denied the faith because of me? Where was the compassion and concern and care for the guy I offended?

I am grateful that people care about me, that they wanted to see me trusting Christ, and not loaded down in shame. While guilt declares that I did something wrong, shame declares that I am something wrong, and shame is a poor motivator toward being and doing good. Yes, by all means, work toward helping me in Christ. But, at the same time, pour a seemingly inordinate amount of effort into helping my victim!

A brief mention of former pastor Tullian Tchividjian is evidence enough that some are all too eager to hurriedly "restore" a fallen pastor, especially if this fallen pastor is favored in certain circles, without a) making certain the man has spent enough time in therapy/counseling/repentance, and b) making certain that the victimized are receiving proper care emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Tullian is Franklin Graham's nephew, for example, and not once did we hear any lament or rebuke from Franklin regarding his victimizing nephew. But you can be certain that we heard condemnation for LGBTQ people, atheists, and liberals from Franklin last year during the 2016 election season.

Or consider the pastor Saeed Abedini debacle. He spent time in an Iranian prison for preaching the Gospel. Cries from the evangelical community, headed by Franklin Graham, were heard in this country demanding his release. When Saeed's abusive nature toward his wife was revealed, however, did Franklin Graham condemn him for it? No. Franklin knew about the abuse and continued to support Saeed. What of "pastor" Saeed's adultery? Did Franklin Graham condemn this action? No. But you can be certain that Franklin Graham continued his crusade against LGBTQ people, atheists and liberals, naming them all "godless secularists." (His choice for President, Trump, is the epitome of a godless secularist.)

Or consider when Josh Duggar was exposed for child molestation and Religious Right Republican advocate Mike Huckabee came to his defense. This well represents the good 'ol boy club in which many evangelicals defend their favored comrades no matter what the offense; just like when the Calvinista boys at The GospelTM Coalition defended Tullian Tchividjian; or when they and Al Mohler and other Calvinists defended C.J. Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace sex abuse scandal, which Boz Tchividjian (Tullian Tchividjian's brother) named the biggest sex scandal in American history, worse than any Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Do you see the pattern that has emerged? As long as you can garner support from certain conservative evangelicals then you can be absolved of any immoral or unethical behavior. This is how, in my opinion, religious hypocrites like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Eric Metaxas, Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Ted Cruz, Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow and a host of other so-called Christians can support a victimizer like Donald Trump. These evangelical men do not care about victims. They care about their own ego and their right-wing agenda -- an agenda that neglects and victimizes women and others.

Understand just how unChristian is neglecting victims, advancing arrogance, and hating your self-perceived enemies from the view of Jesus (Matt. 5:3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 38-42, 43-48). In other words, from all we have witnessed over the last at least forty years, male evangelical leaders within Evangelicalism have displayed that they are not advancing the Kingdom of God but their own kingdom: a kingdom of politics that suits their man-made ideology of women, minorities, and foreigners. They quickly restore (even defend and justify) victimizers while neglecting and ignoring victims. They then condemn opponents, their self-perceived enemies, as godless and in need of their Republican savior.

The only way we are going to experience change for victims among such "Christians" is solely by exposing, confronting, and challenging them. Victimizers need to be brought to justice, counseled by proper methods, and be included in among the body of believers when genuine repentance is expressed. This does not mean, however, that the same always need to be restored to pastoral or other church-related ministry.

Their offense(s), too, must not be referred to as a "mistake" or an "error." I did not mistakenly offend my dormmate. I committed an intentional offense. Tullian Tchividjian did not mistakenly emotionally/spiritually/psychologically manipulate and abuse several women during his adulterous affairs. He intentionally sinned. Offenders do not make mistakes; they commit offenses. Name the event for what it is: an offense.

Those who commit crimes against minors need care, psychologically and spiritually, and also, inevitably and foremost, to be kept away from minors (or be supervised by an adult aware of the perpetrator's offense(s) regarding minors); while minors must be protected at all cost. What matters most, however, are the victims and not the feelings/thoughts of the victimizers. All victims need attention and care and a safe environment in which to live their lives: in the community and especially in the church. We must, now and henceforth, listen to, tend to, and care for victims. If you are uncertain as to how to do so then do not neglect them but point them in the right direction. Here are a few resources:


My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.