A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

A Sandusky Sermon – Especially for Preachers and Youth Workers

Last night at about 10:00 pm, the verdict was read for Jerry Sandusky: guilty on 45 out of 48 counts of sexual abuse of children. Immediately afterward, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with reactions. Some were more classily worded than others, but across the board there was a sense of great relief and joy that justice had been done.

Along with many others, I posted this to my Facebook page:


A little later as I scanned my Twitter feed one last time before going to bed, I ran across this tweet:

What we would say to Jerry Sandusky if he walked in our church on Sunday directly reflects how we feel about the Gospel.

Those words hit me with the same force as a sucker punch to the gut. I could not go to sleep until I responded. I couldn’t say all I wanted to say in 140 characters, nor did I want my response to set off an ugly tit-for-tat match. Finally I settled for this:

True, but please understand that many who love Jesus have also been similarly abused. Sometimes forgiveness takes time.

Maybe this person has never looked into the eyes of someone who, as a vulnerable child, was abused at the hands of somebody they respected and trusted and then were told: “Nobody will believe you if you tell.” Or “I will hurt you mama, your baby sister, your little brother if you breathe a word.” Or “Who’s going to listen to you? I’ll just deny it. They will believe an adult over a punk kid any day.” Or “They will know it’s your fault. Everybody will look at you and know what you did.”

I have. Someone I love – several someones, in fact – experienced this very kind of thing. Year ago I attended a seminar for law enforcement officers and social workers on the sexual abuse of children. I went with the investigator who was working on the case of someone I knew very well. It was horrible. The stories and the images have never faded from my mind. Unlike most of our society, I have never since been able to stick my head in the sand and pretend that such things could never happen to my kid, or in my neighborhood, or in my church.

For someone to find the courage to take his/her story public – to sit with investigators to tell the story, to sit in a public courtroom to tell the story again in front of countless witnesses and the abuser himself and to be cross-examined and torn apart by defense attorneys – it’s almost more than any victim can bear. I cannot imagine the inner strength it took for those ten young men, plus Sandusky’s adopted son, to be willing to do that.

So to those who would tweet/proclaim/preach things tomorrow like the tweet I shared above, I say this:

Please do not further the abuse and shame of the victims of sexual abuse by indicating that if they could not, tomorrow, welcome Jerry Sandusky (or their own abuser) into their church with open arms, then they are also failing as disciples of Jesus’ gospel. Yes, they need to work toward forgiveness, but if they don’t have it by this Sunday, or next Sunday, or on Sunday a year from now, they are not failing Jesus. They are recovering from abuse. Preach forgiveness, but do NOT shame those already shamed at the hands of others.

Please be careful what you say and how you say it, especially if you will be speaking from a place of authority, such as a pulpit. I guarantee you that a victim will be in your midst, listening to what you say. So encourage forgiveness, but do so with care. You will be speaking to hearts and bodies wounded in ways you cannot understand.


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21 thoughts on “A Sandusky Sermon – Especially for Preachers and Youth Workers

  1. Jan, Your words are powerfu. When I was first started talking about my story, I was encouraged to join a group run by a “faith based organization”. They met in a similar fashion to 12 step groups. They broke up into small groups but at the end everyone..including children victims, adult victims, AND perpetrators were to sit in the group and at the end join in a circle to hold hands. They told us unless we forgive and understand our perpetrators we could not heal. I left refusing to join the circle. I called my therapist who did not know I had decided to go to this group. She was not thrilled at my decision but said, “This is your first step to healing. You stood up for yourself. ” If that would have been my church that day, I would have made the same decision.
    Thank you for taking a stand as a friend, a woman, and a pastor. It takes courage to take a stand. You may be “simplyjan” my friend, but you are MERIDA today!!!

    • Stories like this is why I felt so compelled to write this. We all know that forgiveness is ultimately what we strive for, but for anyone to dare say, “Ok. Let’s say everything’s fine now and get on with it” is just WRONG. It takes time – sometimes a very, very long time. Those who think otherwise have never been up close to the situation.

      Merida lives! 🙂

  2. I have both tweeted and posted this on my Facebook page. Growing up, a friend confessed to me that her uncle had abused her and now she thought he was trying to target her younger sister. She was scared of telling her father, who was seriously ill. This was back in the 1960’s when this kind of thing was not spoken of. I had never heard of molestion (not that it didn’t happen; it just was swept under the rug) and didn’t know how to get her the help she needed. (I suggested she write Dear Abby-what a lame response.) She moved away shortly after and I never knew how that story ended. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • Thank you for helping me share the message, Alana. Unfortunately, your friend’s story is not that unusual. And your response wasn’t lame. It was the best you knew to offer at the time. You hadn’t been given to tools to help someone fight back yet. That’s why I think it is so important to talk openly – to get the message out there. It is our best weapon of defense.

  3. Reblogged this on Cathy's Voice Now and commented:
    This is a courageous and powerful post!

  4. Reblogged this on Amma Ponders and commented:
    A friend of a friend posted this about the Sandusky verdict.
    Please read it.

  5. Forgiveness is a powerful part of healing and making whole, but it is a tremendously difficult process. It takes courage beyond the norm. Thank you for a great blog and repost.

  6. Francis Hale on said:

    This happened to one of my classmates at a Catholic borading school in Maine in 1960. It was run by Catholic Brothers. The boy told his parents, the Brother was packed up and transferred out the next day. The boy’s father, a French Canadian, hunted the Brother down and killed him, aided by members of the mother’s family.

    These were the men who fought WW2. There was no tolerance then, nor should there be now. Sandusky should be executed immediately. Who would not stand before God in defense of the innocent?

    • This kind of crime evokes such deep, passionate, angry responses – for understandable reasons. I would never encourage that kind of vigilante response, though. There has to be a better way to seek justice – one that would not further destroy children and their families.

  7. Very powerful and insightful post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  8. As a survivor and hopefully someone that will eventually thrive in life, I find in my heart no compassion for Sandusky and the people who covered it up. They have no idea of the pain and suffering they have created or could have prevented if they had stopped this sick man. As a practicing Buddhist…compassion is essential yet I feel this man deserves none…my feelings may change over time…maybe not…but I can live with it.

    • Dakini207, I am so sorry. It is truly unacceptable what happened – to you, to the Sandusky victims, and to all victims. Everyone who had the chance to stop the abuse but did not is equally guilty. I hold you up to the Light in hope that in time you find the peace and even the compassion to find the healing you desire.

  9. This is a very relevant post. I’m glad I found it. Keep up the good work!

  10. Pingback: Simply Jan – A Writing Year in Review « simplyjan

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