TIME Religion

Christianity Today Should Not Have Published a Rapist’s Story

The former youth pastor doesn't sound as repentant as he claims to be

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Remember when the Good Man Project posted an article by an unrepentant rapist, supposedly as an example of things to avoid? Well, Christianity Today recently posted an article by a youth pastor who had sex with one of his students and is supposedly repentant—but doesn’t really sound that way. In fact, it squicks me out exactly the same way the Good Men Project’s posting of a rapist’s story does. Maybe worse actually, because this guy is supposedly repentant. Except not.

In the article, the unnamed jailed former youth pastor, whom we will call Tim for the sake of ease, describes his offense as an “extramarital affair” and assigns as much guilt to his victim as he accepts himself. She sinned, you see.

Tim begins his article by talking about how he grew dissatisfied with his wife. Parenting small children, he says, took a tole on their relationship. Tim says he was very successful as a youth pastor, but didn’t feel appreciated by his wife. So he looked elsewhere.

Meanwhile, there was someone else in my life that appreciated me very much. Seeking approval and appreciation, I gravitated toward that person. She and I were always happy to see each other and looked forward to each other’s company. Before long, we were texting each other and interacting through social media. Nothing scandalous or questionable—a Facebook “like” or comment here, a friendly text there. Things friends do.

But I knew what appeared innocent was, in reality, wrong and very dangerous. Red flags kept popping up. Why was I not talking about this “friendship” with my wife? Why was I being secretive and sneaky about it? Why didn’t I, in the earliest stages, when I knew the “friendship” was rapidly escalating beyond what it should be, slam on the brakes?

What Tim doesn’t mention at this point in the article is that this “friend” was underage. She was, you see, one of the teenagers in the youth group he pastored.

In the early stages of this extra-marital relationship, I thought that I was seeking approval from someone other than my wife because I was not receiving it from my wife. But me seeking approval and appreciation elsewhere had dramatically impacted how I related to my wife. The unaddressed sin—my selfishness—caused my wife to respond to me differently. I see now that I failed to nurture our marriage properly, but at the time I silently blamed her for driving me away.

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.

An “extra-marital relationship,” he calls it. An extra-marital relationship between a youth pastor with a wife and children and a girl of 16 or so. Right. Note too that he speaks of the allure of sin affecting both of them, placing even responsibility on his victim. Neither of them, he says, had the willpower to end it.

You may have guessed by now that the “friend” in my relationship was a student. She was one of the core students, involved from the very beginning. Our families were very close, which meant a lot of time together over the years. She adored me and I loved the adoration.

And here he finally gets around to telling us, for the first time, that “friend” he had a “relationship” with was one of his students. It’s about time, don’t you think?

When my wife discovered incriminating text messages on my phone, I knew instantly that everything was about to come crashing down. After hours of screaming and crying, she packed some bags, loaded our 2 kids into the minivan and left the house at 3 AM. I have not seen my kids since. It has been over a year. The only time I have seen my wife has been in court. We have not communicated in one year. I lost my job, and was required to drop out of seminary. I pleaded guilty to 2 felonies, am serving time in prison and will be a registered sex offender for the rest of my life.

You know what’s interesting? Tim doesn’t even bother discussing how this “extra-marital affair” affected his young victim. He talks about how his life came crashing down, but he doesn’t spare another word for his “friend.” Literally—not a single word. He left his victim with a shattered life and only seems to care about the fact that he lost his ministry. Oh noes.

While Tim wrote the article anonymously, there is a note at the bottom:

The writer serves as a GED tutor and helps lead the Christian community at the facility where he is serving his sentence. He is due to be released in the fall of 2015.

Maybe it’s just me, but given how this article is written, I’m thinking this guy really isn’t ready to step back into leadership.

Fortunately, readers took Christianity Today to task in the comments, arguing that they should not have posted an article of this sort by someone who so clearly had yet to take full responsibility for his actions. One of the editors later added this note to the end of the article:

In response to readers’ concerns, the author of this piece has offered the following clarification: “I recognize that what I initially considered a consensual relationship was actually preying on a minor. Youth pastors who do the same are not “in relationship” but are indeed sexual predators. I take 100 percent of the responsibility for what happened.”

I’m not buying it. The article was not written like it was by someone who took “100 percent of the responsibility,” and the author very clearly described himself as being “in a relationship” rather than as a sexual predator.

And Christianity Today posted this piece. Christianity Today is fairly mainstream for evangelicalism, so much so that I grew up thinking it was liberal. The editors of Christianity Today ought to know better. If evangelicals are going to step up and get serious about sexual abuse in their communities, they have got to stop publishing things like this.

Blogger Esther Elizabeth is calling for Christianity Today to take the post down:

Can you imagine the OUTRAGE if a Catholic Priest was allowed to publish an article describing his “relationship” with an “adoring” altar server? And that outrage would be absolutely JUSTIFIED.

Why?

Because a predator loses the right to tell his side of the story right about the time he decides to PREY on a CHILD.

Because the ONLY story that should garner attention is the VICTIM’S story.

Libby Anne is a blogger for Patheos.

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