Today was about betrayal. It was about trauma and pain.
The last three days have been really hard.
Linda and I have joined a church called Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville. We have both joined the choir. It has been and continues to be a joy in our life.
The children’s minister was Jason. He was responsible for kids from birth to 5th grade. We never really knew him. We had met him once and both Linda and I were impressed with his passion and enthusiasm for the kids he served and what seemed like a genuine kindness to other people.
Thursday night he was arrested. He was charged with soliciting prostitution and trafficking. He had responded to a fake ad the Knoxville Police Department had put in a shady website offering sex with an underage girl. He came expecting to have sex with a 15 year old, put down his $100 and was arrested.
And the damage to human life has just begun.
Many years ago I worked as a therapist with sex offenders and had known many Jason’s. If he was anything like the people I knew this was no where close to a maiden voyage for him. He didn’t just choose high risk behavior. He graduated to it. He has hurt people before… Maybe a lot of people. I am sure he probably rationalized it away as not really hurting anyone. But what he did was as much robbery and murder and assault as anything anybody could do with a gun. The pastor talked this morning about a third grader wondering why their dad had not been home from work in 3 days and a mother trying to figure out what to say. The destruction is real and horrifying. And has just begun.
The police have seized his computers. I told one of the church staff this morning to expect the worse. Unless he is really unusual bad stuff is going to be on those computers and more charges are coming.
The pastor this morning did a great job. He was open and honest. He talked about betrayal and grief. He talked about anger and rage. He talked about depression and withdrawal. He talked about healing too and faith. Life sometimes does hurt. Meanness and brutality are real. But hurt is not life and the losses we face do not mean all is lost.
I think people need to know they didn’t mess up. Jason messed up. No one is guilty. Jason is guilty. No one shut their eyes. No one missed anything. Jason hid everything. People who worked every day with him, people who knew him well all swear they didn’t see it coming. It was a shot out of the blue. Jason made it a shot out of the blue.
A lot of people will take this and run with it. They will talk about the hypocrisy of Christians. They will loudly shout that this proves what they already believe. Someone was asked if he had heard about what happened to Grace Baptist Church. He replied no. I heard what happened to one man.
This story should scare everyone. The abuse, the trauma, the oppression of one person for the sexual pleasure of another knows no boundaries of religion, social status, race, age, or financial status. There are way too many Jason’s in every city, every community, every rung of the social strata. In the sting Jason was arrested in there were also engineers and a firefighter. Jason got the headline because he was a preacher. There is no occupation, no membership in any social group that protects us from the human capacity for evil.
We live in a culture that equates the reality of what a woman is with her physical appearance. Too many women know what it is to be treated as little more than a piece of meat. It is even more tragic when it is a child.
There are a lot of hurt people at Grace Baptist Church this day. With time and God’s grace there is a lot of healing ahead. Please pray for them.
And there still is a third grade waiting for a daddy to come home who isn’t coming. Please pray for that family.
And pray for Jason. We will survive his betrayal, his injury of us. I don’t know if he will survive his betrayal of himself.
Life is consequences. Jason will have his consequences. Please take care of the people in your life. May you and they know the joy of life all of us seek so fervently.