Saturday, March 31, 2012

Oh Brother, You Are A Sex Offender, So I Don’t Forget Your Past!

 
I was visiting Portland and attended a home prayer cell. After a few meetings, I was not longer seeing some sisters and their kids. So I asked the cell leader what happened to them. He told me that they have informed him that they will no more be coming to the prayer meeting because there is a brother attending who is a sex offender; a sex crime he committed when he was 18. As part of his conviction, he must register as a sex offender (which he did) and announce to people with children that he is a sex offender (which he did). I felt my heart broken because the same brother had told me that he was a sex offender, and it was like a joke to me. I told him everyone is an offender of some sort. Should Christians be putting people in quarantine as the world does, no matter their crime despite their repentance? Have you thought about it that the person you are putting in quarantine was convicted of mere sextexting?  What if you are convicted of having sex with a girl who told you she was above 18 meanwhile she was not? Where is the second chance? Where is the possibility to remediate their situation? This article will look at the ramifications and propose solutions on how Christians and the society should handle sex offenders.
The sex offenders go through cumbersome difficulties like not being able to find work and homes to stay. Those safeguards designed to keep the community safe instead keep communities unsafe because desperate people will do desperate things. They are stigmatized and quarantined like lepers in the Mosaic Era, yet that is not as bad as making them outcast that they are not even given an opportunity to redeem their souls.  They are registered in a national registry-sex offender registry (SOR), must appear in person and allow the jurisdiction to take a current photograph upon their movement into a new place. Depending on their level of offense, they are required every three, six or one year to repeat the process according to Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).  They go to church with ankle bracelets and electronic monitors.
A few years ago, I watched a movie called “The Apostle” by Robert Duvall[1]. You need to watch it too because it is captivating!  I felt so touched to see that a man who had committed a crime years ago, repented and is impacting the society differently is retaken into custody because he did not serve his time. Taking him away left the gap and possibility of raising up many prepastoral Duval which is not good for the society.
Another film that has a similar theme is “Les Miserables”. In “Les Miserables”, we see that people with dirty hearts love to stigmatize others. Even when you have left the past, they still follow you with it. The prisoner has become a mayor. He has changed his life, the ultimate good of mankind has become his sole purpose for living, yet those who refuse to leave their pasts feel as if he too should stick in his past. Consequently, they pursue him all to their own demise.
Grigory Ordzhonokidze was a murderer (euphemism) in Stalin’s days but repented and instead brought a great change. 
Reformatories are there because man has the belief that people could be reformed. If society did not believe man could be reformed; it would not have been doing it. Do you know how many people have been reformed in Buea from the Bostal Institute? For some of you who have been to other countries, I am certain you have heard of reformatories. They are places to reform the wayward. Behavioral psychology teaches that humanity is so docile that it could be manipulated like an automaton. The United states calls prisons “Correctional Facilities” even though most of them are actually incorrigible and corruptible facilities because they have made many worse than when they went in there.
The sanctimonious Christians do not realize that the SOR does not prevent the offender from entering a school zone or picking or dropping off kids. SOR does not even decide who you live with after you leave the supervision of the department of corrections. During supervision, they will spell the conditions in your probation or parole documents.  Isn’t a prayer meeting same as going to church? Aren’t there house churches? Why would it be wrong then for the Registered Sex Offender (RSO) to attend a prayer meeting in a house? Perhaps that is just the legal and social part of it. Let us look at the biblical side of the matter.
Even though we have believed, confessed our sins and found mercy, Jesus still has enormous amount of patience as we sin daily (I Tim 1:16). The Bible says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Gal 6:1).” These RSOs have been overtaken by their sexual faults. Nonetheless, should they should not be put in quarantine. Shouldn’t the church restore them? Shouldn’t the church fight those laws rather than endorse them? Should God keep all sinners in quarantine too? The number of sex offenders uncaught would outnumber those caught as most of the people implementing these laws have sexually offended too in secret. They have just been fortunate. The RSOs have confessed their sins (I John 1:9), and they have served their sentences. What then must they do to be rehabilitated?
Some people contend that sex offenders (SO) repeat their offenses. Murderers, DUI convicts and armed robbers who have killed both women and children too repeat their offenses, but they are not put into quarantine, so that argument is untenable. They neither need a special tag nor do they need to be stigmatized. You and I have sinned, but God forgave us without stigmas, so the RSO does not need that stigmatization.
People elevate sexual crimes above other crimes. Did you know that adultery and fornication are sexual crimes? Can most of the people advocating for the quarantine of SO be acquitted from the crimes of fornication and adultery? I am not saying parents should not protect their kids, but I am saying that those who are not SO are not very clean as to put others into quarantine.
Others leave the debate and ask me if I have a child of my own.  Whether I have a child of my own or not is of no importance because not all sex victims are children. There are many sex victims who are adults and even men, so it is still unfounded to position children as the only victims. Now, can you raise a better argument why RSO should be treated as lepers while murderers still enjoy our freedom largess?
Saul was a murderer who repented and most of the people who have and never even sinned half of what Saul did, can not show any impact they had for the world. If Paul was around nowadays, he would have made the same plaidorie he did to the Corinthians (2 Cor 2:6-8). He told the Corinthians that these people have already served their sentences, so it is left for the society to forgive and comfort them else they will be overwhelmed. Nay, the society and the church have instead made them like lepers and kept them as recluses.  Just like Paul, today I urge you to reaffirm your love for that brother or sister or neighbor who fell into such calamity. Secondly, I appeal to you to forward the article to friends and family, probation officers, lawmakers, social workers and all you know can impact those laws. 

Until then, Christians, churches and the society must and should remove that stigma on Sex Offenders.

St Arrey of Ntenako.






“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk). Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk). Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).

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