Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jerry Sandusky, Sexual Abuse, and Nurturing More of the Same. . .

I've been trying to figure out what it is about this case that's played so much with my thoughts and emotions. Perhaps it was the fact that Jerry Sandusky was known in our commonwealth and community as someone who really cared about and looked out for kids. He had spoken with great passion at a fund-raiser for our local Christian youth center. Maybe it was the fact that I had been impressed with his Second Mile foundation and the work it was doing on behalf of kids who needed advocates and help. There was the time in 1999 when I met and chatted briefly with Sandusky at his football camp for middle school players. My son was attending the camp. The photo of my son and a smiling Sandusky is now a bit creepy. And then there's the way people here worship Penn State football and everything/everyone that goes with it.

Before turning the lights out last night I spent some time watching the online feed from the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, PA. The verdict had been handed down. The image I can't get out of my mind is the one of Sandusky being helped into the police cruiser and driven off, most likely never to see freedom again. It was difficult to fall asleep as worked to rewind the whole thing in my mind, wondering where, when, and how Jerry Sandusky's relationships with kids went from healthy and wholesome (if that was indeed ever the case) to horribly sick and twisted.

As we sort through the mess and fallout of this case, here are some initial things to think about. . .

  • There are no winners here. The justice system may have worked, but lives have been changed forever. And like a pebble thrown into the still water of a pond, the ripples will spread far and wide for a long, long time.
  • We have to listen to the victims when they courageously speak up. Children are impressionable. When an adult says something, they not only believe it, but it shapes their reality for the rest of their lives. The fear of consequences for speaking up are very real and very lasting.
  • If there's anything redemptive that will come out of the Sandusky case it will most likely be the fact that victim's will be encouraged to speak up and speak out. If you work with kids, get ready and know what you're going to do when they take the risky step of opening up.
  • Once again, the people closest to the perpetrators sometimes refuse to see that the one they know and love would or could ever do these things. Some refuse to ever believe it. And in their disbelief, they blame the victims.
  • We are not inherently good. We are broken people who desperately need to be fixed. Until we are finally fixed once and for all at that day when Christ makes all things new, we will struggle, struggle, and struggle some more with our sin natures. Every one of us must realize that we are each only one bad decision away from being Jerry Sandusky.
  • This is only the beginning. Sure, sexual abuse has been around since Genesis 3:6. When things have gone right, society tells us that it's wrong. But I'm afraid that our sexualized culture void of a moral compass is setting the table for a coming day when everyone does what's right in their own eyes. That day is not far off and might in fact have already dawned. We're nurturing a generation of kids who will grow up to perpetrate, tolerate, and perhaps even celebrate this kind of behavior.
This morning, our hearts should ache for our culture and for our kids. Hopefully it's even more clear how we should be praying, believing, and working for the Kingdom to come.


Karri Boyd said...

Great words, Walt, totally appropriate and profoundly true. My hope is that this verdict will empower children everywhere to have the courage to speak up if they are experiencing abuse of any kind. As a teacher I know how impressionable children are and how we as the adult figures in their lives can either help or hinder in their development.

Dan Keefer said...

Thank you, Walt, for articulating so well what I have firmly believed. We are not inherently good and we all are broken and desperately in need of being re-created to be like Christ. I struggle with the venom and hate being poured out upon Jerry Sandusky. Were the acts he committed reprehensible and monstrous? Yes. Is he a monster? No. To label him as such, I believe, is to declare him irredeemable. If he is irredeemable, then there is no hope for the rest of humanity.

While this is the time to address the issue of abuse and how to intervene and support the victims, there will also be a time to address how we respond redemptively to those who have been the abusers.

Our perspective changes significantly when we pause and recognize we are all one tragic choice away from an action that will impact others in ways we could not have imagined.