What happens after you say, “I forgive you”?

There’s a trouble that confronts us all when we consider the disturbingly high statistics of domestic violence. 

What happens afterward? 

There’s been a story floating around from the U.S the last couple of weeks about a TV ‘star’ called Josh Duggar. He’s hosted some shows on Discovery and is part of a show about his family, as he is one of 19 children in a religious family. 

It’s become clear that as a teenager he sexually molested five young girls, including four of his own sisters. 

Now, part of me wants to share further details, because, I think rightly, we do recognised that there are shades of intensity in such crimes. For example, we distinguish between murder and manslaughter, when both at their core are the killing of another person. 

But the other part doesn’t want to because that information should be enough! So much abuse is denied and shaken off as “high spirits”, “youthful mistakes”, “just a bad mood” etc etc etc. “Justified”, or, to be more accurate, “excused” based on endless permutations of advocation of responsibility. 

Which of these are justified though? 

In most cultures, we accept that childhood and adolescence involve a lessened amount of responsibility based on lessened knowledge, experience and control. And I think that’s fair enough, I think there should be different treatment and judgement for juvenile offenders. So, there is some justification for it being unfair for the press to drag Josh himself through the mud. 

The real problem is his parents. Like so many others, they did not deal well with the situation. When the learned of the initial molestation, they “disciplined him at home”. This was clearly ineffective as he continued in the behaviour, so eventually, Jim Bob talked to the church elders and they sent him away for a few months. 

AT NO POINT WERE THE VICTIMS COUNSELLED. 

I just want to let that sit for a moment. As usual, the Christian impulse is often to cover up, hide from or pretend sin hasn’t happened, as a greater priority than generously and lovingly caring for those effected. 

Anyways. 

After Josh came back from his summer break, dad Jim Bob introduced him to a policeman, who instead of reporting the issues, as a mandatory reporter which of course he was, he gave Josh a stern talking to. In other news, which some claim to be unrelated information, that policeman was later arrested on charges relating to child pornography and is serving a 56 year sentence. Yeah, totally unrelated. 

So anyways, by the time the official reporting happened, it was more than three years after the events and therefore, according to Arkansas law, couldn’t be prosecuted. His parents waited at least 16 months before telling any authorities. Besides, y’know, the church elders. 

So, there’s lots to be said. But the thing this mostly makes me think about at the moment is “how do we deal with the after effects?”

Obviously for the victims (hello-o!!! ANY help for the girls?! No? Thanks mum and dad!!) but also, what do we do with the perpetrator?

Does the fact that he was a juvenile mean we should “forgive” him (whatever that means anyway)? Even though he was never punished, counselled or rehabilitated? 

What if he was punished, counselled and rehabilitated? Do we ignore all the stats that say he’ll reoffend and carry on as usual?

What if Josh (and his wife and kids) were at your church? Would you be happy to have him on the crèche roster (although I don’t think the men at his church do that) (although let’s face it, that’s reality for a lot of churches. Apparently guys are happy to make the kids, they just leave the crèche roster to the women and children)? Or would you feel like a bad Christian for not wanting him near your kids? Does forgiveness complete the process of restoration? Can it? Should it? 

It’s strange isn’t it that for a religion centred on forgiveness and mercy, we’re often unclear on how to deal with the details and struggles of forgiveness between people in a sinful world.
And we’re definitely not clear on how to do this when it comes to domestic violence, because we’re usually to busy covering it up or pretending it’s not happening. 

It’s difficult people. What do you  do when your son has sexually molested your daughter

I know I’ve mostly just raised questions for now, but I do have some pond rings to share later on suggested, partial answers. 

What about you? 

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