Monday, May 21, 2012

My brain is treading water tonight.

My brain is treading water tonight. I spent the afternoon at the federal courthouse in Charlotte, along with a number of others from Holy Trinity. We were there to show our support for one of our members. He’s a former Lutheran pastor who has gotten himself into a lot of trouble. When he was serving as a missionary in Haiti, he suffered some serious personal struggles and he acted out sexually. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a couple of the people he engaged sexually were minors. In the courtroom today, we heard all the details. To say it was unsettling is an understatement. Especially since this is a man who has done such wonderful ministry through the years. How can this be the same person they were describing in the courtroom?

My friend is going through all this because he was willing to face his demons head-on and work his way through issues that had held him captive. No one filed charges against him. But when he hit bottom, he knew he had to do something about it. He sought help and confessed what he had done to a counselor. And that’s how his transgressions became known. He was doing what he needed to do to turn his life around. He courageously faced his problems, came clean, and has been working hard to stay that way. Over the past few years, he has shown us what it means to walk in the way of repentance.

I know that repentance doesn’t mean we are no longer accountable for the things we did in the past. I get that. There are consequences for our actions. An important part of repentance is making amends. He needs to do that, to be sure. But where do mercy and forgiveness come in?

At Holy Trinity our motto is “Loving Not Judging.” We try hard to live by it. In this case, we’re supporting our dear brother with as much love as we can muster. I have framed the story for myself as “a good man, who did a lot of good things in his life, was human, and made a mistake.” That’s what I told the T.V. reporters over and over again today as they stood before me with their microphones in my face.

But there was one of those reporters who rattled me. First she asked me how I would feel if my friend had done those things to girls in the United States? I processed that one quickly, confident that I would feel the same way. The fact that these were girls in Haiti didn’t make what he did any less horrific than if they had been American girls. The fact that he had repented and worked so hard to turn his life around over the past three years was still the important factor for me.

But then she asked me another question that has been haunting me all evening. She asked, “How would you and the people in your church feel if he had done this with children in your congregation?” I don’t know how I answered her. I said something, because I knew I had to. But such a question deserves some serious rumination. What would it mean to be loving not judging in a situation like that?

So my brain is treading water tonight. I'm afraid that if I stop I may drown in my doubts.

1 comment:

Protecting Children in Haiti said...

Why can't you understand, Rev. Kraft, that it's just not the time to be speaking with concern for the abuser. Your thoughts and words should be focused on the children who were raped by Larry Bollinger.
The sexual abuse of a child is a non erasable fact. The lives of these children have been altered forever. Oprah Winfrey says that a child who is the victims of sexual abuse is wrecked forever.
Child molesters are cunning and manipulative. Bollinger "groomed" and deceived his victims and his friends.
Start using adult words to describe Bollinger's abuse. Bollinger committed felony child abuse. He is a criminal.
Have you asked how you and others can show your care and support to the abuse victims in Haiti?
Have you thanked the psychotherapist who called the cops on Bollinger? Thank God for mandatory reporting laws.
Have you alerted the community that Bollinger is an admitted child molester?
Have you asked parents whose kids were in contact with Bollinger to talk to their children/
Have you asked Bollinger's former and present co-workers, friends and colleagues to report anything they saw or suspect about Bollinger to law enforcement authorities.
Stop portraying Bollinger as a hero. There are probably other victims who have not yet come forward.
And, what about other kids who are being abused as we speak by a parent, coach, teacher or priest? They will be afraid to come forward if all they can see is adults like you being angry at the victims who reported the abuse by Bollinger.
Bollinger did disgusting things to innocent children who, in this case are among the poorest of the poor in the world.
They are scared, frightened and don't understand why these things happened to them.
We must help them understand it wasn't their fault. It is never, ever the child's fault.