The Fear of God #3: A Safe Place
In my previous essay I looked at the responses I’ve received at a couple of churches and my sadness at being asked to leave them. Though I’m hurt by these decisions I can see what prompts them. After all, bringing in minor-attracted people (MAPs) does raise some legitimate concerns about the safety and security of other church members.
So, let me start by saying that I agree: it is paramount in any group that the children be protected. This is a natural reaction to danger, and it helps illuminate the motivations behind people’s responses to non-offending MAPs. It also highlights a conflict of interest within the church itself: can we sufficiently protect our children while we also provide a place for MAPs among us?
Though it might be controversial, I have to answer yes. Understand that this view isn’t based on some hopeful ideal. Instead, I am convinced that it is already happening.
I believe there are already MAPs in your life. You unknowingly interact with them at work and at church. They are your relatives and friends. I don’t know how many you know, but I’m certain that at least some (if not all) of you have unknowing interactions with a minor-attracted person on a regular basis.
This may seem unbelievable, but the truth is that just because a person has these attractions doesn’t mean there will be any overt signs. I told more than three dozen people about my struggles before I came out publicly; only two had the slightest idea that that might be the case. The rest were caught completely off guard. Even my family was shocked.
There’s no way to know for certain who is a MAP. While some people’s demeanor may imply their nature, others will slide completely under the radar. For good or ill, there are no universal external cues that tip off their desires. Thus, if there ARE minor-attracted people in our churches, there’s no reason to expect we know who they are.
If this is the case, then it means that those who chose to self-identify and seek help have taken a step forward. Even if a MAP doesn’t out himself to the entire congregation, those he does tell will know his struggles and help steer him away from improper situations. Choosing to be known, even by only a handful of people, introduces an incredible advantage to this equation: accountability.
Accountability is one of the main forces that kept me strong against my urges all these years. By sharing my struggle with other people, it aided me in two ways. First, and more immediately, it made it less likely that I would get away with any kind of crime of this nature. If I chose to act upon my desires, I knew that there were always at least a couple of people around me who would know that I struggled with attraction to children. This dramatically reduced the likelihood I could get away with any such crime, and while I agree that fear of punishment isn’t the most noble of deterrents, it can be effective. The hope is always that people will move beyond a simple risk analysis when analyzing right and wrong, but we must begin somewhere.
The second benefit of accountability, though, is having someone to lean on. Does anyone doubt that having a friend to walk beside you in the darkest is a major asset? How much easier is it to survive the deepest of temptations when someone is willing to kneel beside you? We’ve all experienced this in some ways in our lives, and I can assure you that the same is true for this specific struggle as well.
If all of this is true regarding accountability, then it paints a very different picture. If there are already MAPs in our churches, then the ones least likely to offend and harm anyone are the ones whose struggles we share. Thus, it is the ones who have embraced the ideals of honesty and openness who are less likely to do harm to others.
There’s still another facet of this argument that needs to be addressed, though. If we create an environment where MAPs feel safe enough to open up about their struggles, then by the above logic each individual person will become safer. However, that church will likely begin to attract MAPs, which could collectively raise the risk level of the entire congregation.
One solution that immediately comes to mind is to create a congregation solely for minor-attracted people. This seems the simplest way to address the problem, but I worry that there are hidden pitfalls in such a tactic. For one, this is unlikely to work well with MAPs who have already tied into a church. I have now experienced this specific scenario and being asked to leave that church because of my attractions is not a strategy that is conducive to displaying God’s love.
I at least knew that being asked to leave was a possibility, and I was prepared to fight through it. It is a difficult message, though, hearing that your temptations—not your actions—have led to your eviction. For those who are not expecting such an answer, we risk driving people from Christ completely.
So, how can we balance the church’s needs and the needs of the individual here? I believe the answer lies in recognition of limitation. Some of these situations will be obvious. For example, just as it would be folly to ask a recovering alcoholic to head up a bar ministry, MAPs shouldn’t be involved in children’s ministry.
These types of boundaries exist for all good ministers. Many male ministers I know won’t meet alone with a woman in their office. This both prevents temptation and eliminates even the specter of misconduct. It is a recognition that while our Christian intents might be good, people are imperfect. Our barriers help keep us from failure.
I firmly believe that the church can stand united against evil and that we will all be stronger together than apart. Ultimately, every Christian is going to suffer from some temptation that is potentially damaging to the church. Lust is one of the most obvious, but greed, envy, and pride have destroyed enough of God’s plans that we shouldn’t ignore them. It is important to remember that God’s love extends to all his children, and that all are welcome. We are fighting a common war, but the enemy is intent on dividing us. We can’t let that happen.
If you are unfamiliar with my series of essays on life as minor-attracted person, you can read up at my website (wileyhaydon.com/blog) or in my first series of Facebook essays on the topic: Beyond Pride. You can reach me at email@example.com