Of all of the evil acts that human beings commit, sex crimes are among the most heinous because they inflict deep, often irreparable wounds to the mind and spirit. Sexual victimization can scorch one's sense of trust and self-worth so horribly that fear, anger, cynicism and self-loathing take root in the places where confidence, joy, a sense of safety and a love of life were meant to blossom. These impacts are devastating at any age, but they are especially traumatic for young abuse victims. I believe this is one of the reasons that Jesus declares in the book of Matthew (chapter 18, verses 5 – 7): "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." So important is this warning that it is repeated in the gospels of Mark (chapter 9, verse 42) and Luke (chapter 7, verse 2).)
When Jesus used the terms "child" and "little ones" in this context I don't believe he was speaking solely of persons who are chronologically young; he was referring also to those who are young in their spiritual, emotional and mental development. The men who have accused Bishop Long were emotionally young when, out of the unique loneliness felt by fatherless black teens, they connected with Long as a caring paternal figure. The accusers say that it was for fear of losing this fatherly connection that they submitted to sex acts with the bishop.
The judicial process will reveal whether these allegations are factual, but it is clear that the coercive relationship described by Bishop Long's accusers is typical of sexual predators. Indeed, it was the relationship pattern set by a respected high school football and track coach here in Pasadena who was convicted not many years ago of molesting teens who trusted him as a mentor and friend.
Jesus had extraordinary compassion and respect for children. Throughout the gospels he points to the inherent optimism and faith of kids as a model for adults and he promises rewards to those who treat children with kindness. But Jesus is also uncompromising when it comes to unrepentant child abusers. Sexual predators conceal their crimes behind the shame of their victims and the stubborn skepticism of good people who are quick to dismiss the claims of the victims. But Jesus reminds us in three of the four gospels that there is no hiding place for predators.
The quote by Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle that was so frequently referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remains true: "No lie can live forever!" The truth will come out -- if not in this lifetime, then certainly in the afterlife where God's justice is swift, harsh and eternal.
Thank you for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.