Abusers in Church – Why churches are abuser-friendly environments
Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
In discussing the double life that sex offenders and other predators establish in order to gain people’s trust, Anna Salter (Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists & Other Sex Offenders [*Affiliate link]) quotes a man who was the youngest deacon in his church:
“I lived a double life…. I would do kind and generous things for people. I would give families money that did not have any money that was not from the church treasury, it was from my own bank accounts. I would support them in all the ways that I could. Talk to them, encourage them. I would go to nursing homes. Talk with the elderly. Pray with the elderly. I would do community service projects. Pick up liter off the side of the road. I would mow lawns for elderly and handicapped people. Go grocery shopping for them.”
But this was only his “double.” The real person was actively and regularly sexually molesting children — and his children of choice were the emotionally disturbed children who no one would believe even if they told. And when two of them did tell, many people from his church came to his defense. Ultimately he went to prison for molesting one child from the youth group he led, but in fact he had violated 95 others, all from the youth group.
As domestic abuse victims know all too well, churches are one of the most abuser-friendly environments. Even when they are reported multiple times, they are most often not prosecuted and the victim is disbelieved. When they do go to prison, they frequently return to a church that does not know them once they are out of prison, and begin the cycle all over again. Churches usually don’t bother to check the person’s criminal history because the nice, “Christian” facade is so well played. Salter suggests a number of reasons why Christians are so gullible:
1) The abuser’s double life. “Niceness and likability will override a track record of molestation / abuse any day of the week.”
2) Children usually do not report being molested, especially when the perpetrator holds a position of trust in the church.
3) Molesters realize that “church people” are easier to fool than most other people because they have a trusting mentality. They want to believe in the “good that exists in all people.” [Something the Bible certainly does NOT teach, by the way!]
4) Despite the fact that decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying and who isn’t, most people believe they can.
All of these factors also come into play in the case of domestic abusers who pose as Christians. Almost every Christian who has been victimized by an abuser will testify to this wall of refusal to believe such evil could be happening, let alone perpetrated by “such a fine Christian.”
This is all intentional and dangerous naivete. God’s Word has plainly and repeatedly warned us about evil people who will come in among us. We are to test the spirits to see if they are from God. We are to expect savage wolves in sheep’s clothing and examine them even if they can “baa.” But we don’t. We haven’t been. And we are paying the piper for it. Or, more accurately, the victims are paying.
Why is being on watch and on guard considered to be mere paranoia and a lack of faith? Why are shepherds who truly watch over their flock viewed with suspicion and criticism? Why?