Cru pays her and The Gospel Coalition just published her piece. The only change made to her writing is that the sexually “degrading passions” (Romans 1:26) the author is pleading sympathy for have been changed from lesbianism to paedophilia. Thus amended, her piece reads as follows:
How to Be a Safe Space for the Paedophile
Ralph was crushed. He’d told just a member of his church his secret, and the member warned him that if anyone else found out, he would probably lose his position teaching the youth. What was this secret so deadly that he would be warned to hide it?
Ralph’s sexual desires are for little boys.
Neither the struggle nor the terror is uncommon. How, then, do we create an environment in our churches, small groups, and families where we can even have this conversation, where Ralph can share his struggle without fear?
Here are three places to start.
1. Don’t Assume Anything about Anyone
According to one recent study, 83 percent of paedophile men grew up in a church. One obvious implication is that there are youth in your church right now dealing with these feelings. There are adults as well, and if they’re in a conservative church, odds are they’re hiding this part of their lives.
Humans like to be normal. This means most men in conservative churches whose sexual desires are for little children don’t look or act any differently than others. Because they’re committed to the Bible’s sexual ethic, there’s little about their outward lives that would reveal this inward battle. You would have to be told. But the church often hasn’t been safe for those who experience sexual attraction to little children. Ugly assumptions are made and spoken; misunderstanding and suspicion abounds. Therefore, many stay hidden in fear.
Your friend and Bible study partner who’s married with three kids might experience sexual attraction for little children. The single guy who serves faithfully on the hospitality team might have known since he was little that his desires were different than other boys’. The elder’s wife who is every woman’s shoulder to cry on may weep privately about this struggle of her husband that just won’t go away. I’ve met all of these people. Start by recognizing that sexual desire for little children is in the church already.
2. Create a Safe Space for Them to Disclose
It’s not your responsibility to guess who’s little-child attracted, just like it’s not your responsibility to know all the struggles of your church. Your opportunity is to become a safe person for disclosure. Ask the Spirit of God to help you identify false stereotypes you may hold. Read a good book like The Noble Struggle of Christian Paedophiles [read The Gospel Coalition’s review], or check out the excellent materials at PaedophilesLivingOut. Repent and confess anything the Lord brings to mind.
In your speech at Bible studies, in one-on-one conversations, or any church context, discuss what you’re learning with humility and honesty. You don’t have to know everything to start a conversation about how your church can be a safe place to not be okay, to be growing together toward holiness. You may be the key to helping other Christians recognize ways they’ve been (wrongly) off-putting while trying to (rightly) hold to Scripture’s truth about sexual morality. You may even be the first Christian your brother or sister has been able to share with about their desires for sex with children.
3. Be Ready for Disclosure
The scariest thing might be when someone actually tells you, like Ralph, that he is sexually attracted to little children. What a powerful moment, with the explosive potential of a firework—or a bomb. If someone comes out as a paedophile to you, recognize that this disclosure took incredible courage on their part and that you were picked because you seemed trustworthy.
The first thing you should do is look your friend in the eye, thank him for his trust, and affirm that you love him and that Jesus loves him. Give him a hug; reach for his hand.
The next thing you should do is listen, and listen, and listen. When he gets to a pause, ask him to tell you more. When did he first know? What’s his experience been like? Has he felt wounded? This is not the time to run a theological litmus test or demand linguistic perfection. This is the time to bear each other’s burdens in love (Gal. 6:2); perhaps this is a burden he’s been shouldering alone, silently, for decades. Don’t make assumptions; ask how you can serve. Take a long-sighted relational view. This conversation is the first of many you will have on this topic. While you listen and love, pray for wise and compassionate words.
Christians, we serve a God who casts out fear with love; we worship a Savior who came that we may have life to the full; we are filled with the Spirit who makes all things new. In his power, let’s be quick to listen and slow to speak as we embark on the long road of discipleship.
Rachel Gilson is director of theological development at Cru Northeast. She holds a BA in history from Yale College and is completing her MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She blogs at rachelgilson.com.
[NOTE FROM TB: Again, the only change made to Ms. Gilson’s writing for Gospel Coalition is that the sexually “degrading passions” (Romans 1:26) she is pleading sympathy for have been changed from lesbianism to paedophilia.]
Need I say there is not one single reason sodomitic desire should be treated tenderly by Christians while paedophilic desire continues to be shamed and condemned. Get copies of “The Grace of Shame” for your pastors and elders and Titus 2 older women, and have them read it. Write letters to The Gospel Coalition’s celebrities shaming them for their cowardice. Write Ms. Gilson and call her to repentance. Write Cru and ask them how it is that they allow such a woman to lead their students and staff members? In other words, please help in this difficult work—any way you are able. Thanks.