(Photo: REUTERS / Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office / Handout)
At the center of the scandal at Penn State University is the football team's former defensive coordinator, who is facing 40 criminal charges in connection to the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys. But lesser known is the fact that Sandusky is also a regular churchgoer, and even has a Bible verse posted on his home's garage door. So, is Jerry Sandusky a Christian, or not?
“You'd have to ask Mr. Sandusky that ... That's between Mr. Sandusky and God,” said P. Stevens Lynn, senior pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in State College, Penn., in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
“All of us are sinners. All of us fall short of what God expects, and my feeling is that the Christian community thinks that justice needs to be done,” Lynn said about the matter. “The allegations are horrific, and, if proven true, then punishment needs to happen ... but I think, still, we can move toward forgiving as well."
Grace Lutheran hosted a community prayer event Tuesday evening, where they asked God for healing, hope and unity in the community. Eight other pastors joined Lynn at the event.
Those in attendance at the event took time to lament, repent of their own sins, pray for the healing of Penn State and the surrounding community, pray for future hope, and pray for both the alleged “victims and abusers.”
Lynn said the allegations against Sandusky, along with the firing of head football coach, Joe Paterno, and university president, Graham Spanier, have had a heavy impact on his congregants, many of who work as university employees.
"It's very difficult. It's very difficult for us. There's confusion. That's probably the biggest thing. There's confusion, and sadness, and anger and betrayal – all those things are ways that the people ... are feeling," he said.
"We're working our way through it. That's one of the reasons we're having the prayer service, to ask God's help in getting us through this difficult time."
Sandusky regularly attended St. Paul's United Methodist Church in State College before the news broke of the allegations. He also has a sticker that reads, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) attached to his garage door. The pastor of St. Paul's, the Rev. Edwin Zeiders, declined to speak with CP regarding Sandusky's faith, but his church participated in Tuesday night's prayer event.
Dan Nold, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in State College, Pa., and another one of the event's organizers, told CP via email he devoted an entire sermon to addressing issues surrounding the scandal recently, and has frequently written about it on his blog as well.
When he first heard about the allegations, Nold recalled his first feelings were those of “grief for the victims.” In one blog post titled, “Sad Valley,” Nold also addressed his own spiritual weakness as he reflected on the shocking events.
“I think part of the difficulty is that there are some of us in Happy Valley who think we have earned grace … or at least we deserve it more than someone else,” he wrote. “But the reality is that I don’t deserve grace … anymore than a child abuser, or someone who covers the abuse up. The bad news is that you and I have a greater capacity for mess/sin than we ever realized. The good news is that we are loved by God far more than we could ever imagine.”
New information about the Penn State fallout is emerging daily, and although things are changing rapidly and much confusion is still in the air, Lynn said things will get better.
"Are we okay right now? No, but we will be,” he said. “We will be, because God is in control, and God loves us and God will get us through this difficult time."