Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

We should be better at fighting sexual abuse

  | Courtesy Unsplash/ Wikimedia Commons

In February 2023, 16 plaintiffs made the LA Times, alleging that Kid’s Kingdom “served as a demented playground for sexual abuse.” That lawsuit claims that leadership covered up the incident because reporting would hurt “God’s Modern-Day Movement.” This failure to act allowed David Saracino, now a known child rapist featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” to operate in the church until 2012 after he was finally arrested for raping a 4-year-old child.

There is no way to mince words. The allegations are horrifying. And David Saracino attended the International Church of Christ for many years before being caught. This underscores the reality that there are those in our community who look like “one of us,” but are not. They give lip service to morality but do Satan’s unclean work. This should come as no surprise since even the 12 disciples had a Judas among them. And while Judas’ betrayal ultimately worked for the purpose of salvation, one cannot say the same thing about sexual abuse. Because Christ died to save the “least of these,” exposing them to abuse is a betrayal of the cross.

Leadership must ensure that they, and the people in their care, understand warning signs of misconduct so that the entire community can identify would-be offenders before they isolate and abuse potential victims. But, whether it’s child abuse or #MeToo style sexual misconduct, people cannot confront abuse if they don’t know what to look for. Confronting abuse is not something they can just “learn on the job.”

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

With such a clear responsibility to train and prepare their communities, one would think that churches and ministries would showcase a prime example of “Training Done Right.” Unfortunately, for many religious organizations, that is simply not the case. The repeated failure of spiritual leaders such as Andy Savage, Johnny Hunt, Ravi Zacharias and Ted Haggard proves the trend — churches and ministries are not prepared to confront internal threats. But why?

There’s the obvious excuse: a lack of money. There is a perception that training is expensive, exhausting and cumbersome. Churches relying on the goodwill of volunteers may feel they have neither the financial nor interpersonal capital to spare. But that is a misconception. While it is true that in-person training is expensive, online training is not. And while some online training is cumbersome, many others are dynamic. Particularly when compared to the spiritual and financial consequences of a worst-case scenario, training is not only necessary, it’s relatively painless.

The second reason is less an excuse and more naivety: people simply don’t believe the worst could happen at their organization. They’re counting on their organization’s culture — the shared belief in God or human decency — to protect them. But as has been proven time and time again, this attitude doesn’t protect the congregations from offenders, instead it veils the offenders from discovery. Christians, by vocation, serve the least of these. We gather them together in one spot to minister to them. Like lions to a watering hole, this draws predators and would-be offenders. If Christians are going to serve “the least of these,” we carry a heavenly mandate to protect them.

The third reason resembles dentistry. Initially, low motivation, poor insight, and difficulty changing behaviors create an “un-flossed situation.” From there, fear of being judged and misunderstood makes asking for outside help stressful and embarrassing. Instead of seeking help for problems, people minimize the issue and think of “root canals/misconduct” as something that happens to other people, all the while missing that the very conditions they’ve failed to act on put them at terrible risk.

While crippling, this dentist-like fear is unfounded. Judgment and condemnation are not the way training and accreditation work — at least not when it’s done well.

There are things Christians need to be doing to protect our future. We are not doing them, because they take time and effort, and don’t seem real. But some part of us knows the problem: We haven’t been as good stewards as we should have. But that’s the trick, I use the term “we” because everyone has been there with something in their life: maybe it’s flossing; maybe it’s hoarding; maybe it’s not protecting the people you’ve been called to protect. Regardless of the problem, treatment, training and accrediting are not shame-based exercises. It's never too late to start, no matter what issues your ministry is facing.

A founding member of Telios Teaches with over a decade of experience in curriculum management, David Sidebotham takes attorney-generated curriculum and translates it into online courses that are accessible to all learners, while still remaining informative to learners who may be subject matter experts themselves. Telios Teaches includes both sexual harassment and child protection training.

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion