I've been struggling for two weeks to write these two blogs on sex offenders. A friend said, "If it's so hard, why do it?" My answer is that I know it is important to talk about our feelings towards the least among us.
Actually, a friend of mine who was convicted for possession of child pornography on his computer hates being referred to as "the least among us." He's right. He's a person and whether saint or sinner is not for me to judge. He says he downloaded a batch of porn and didn't know the pictures of children were there. He says he never saw them. He served seven years in prison and he's angry.
I don't know what he did. I don't know why men like pornography. I can't change what happened to him. I can try to be a support to him as he looks for work and rebuilds his life. And I can work to change my own feelings that sex offenders must be the ones Jesus was talking about as the least among us.
I read about what has been done to a child and my emotional response is to execute the perpetrator. I have to work my way back to "Thou shalt not kill." I have to re-explain to myself why non-violence is our strength.
This "ich factor" operates among public defenders who draw the sex offender as a client. The Missouri Attorney General established a special team to track accused and convicted sex offenders, but there is no special defense team support and the accused are urged to plead guilty. In the jails where they await trial, guards may tell the other inmates they are child molesters.
And I see prosecutors who have found a fertile field here for self-aggrandizement. They have the power to charge someone who urinated in a public place with a sex offense. Same with public fornication. These used to be misdemeanor disturbing-the-peace and public-nuisance charges. But the prosecutor has the power to elevate the charge to what amounts to a life sentence requiring registration, housing restrictions and Internet posting.
Then there is the 18-year-old who has consensual sex with a 16-year-old. I've worked in a prisoner release program and two men, one from Missouri and one from New Jersey, who have served their full 10-year prison sentences applied to my program. They were both 28 with statutory rape convictions.
Men and women of faith must talk together about sex offenders, even though we cringe. It doesn't make society safer to deny someone a place to live or an opportunity to earn a living.
If we who believe in God's forgiveness cannot reach out to the sex offender, then how can we build the realm of God?