This past week has been difficult for Common Ground Church in Cape Town. The reason for this is that on Wednesday the 6th September, one of their youth pastors was arrested for, “possession of child pornography and failing to report knowledge of the commission of a sexual offence with children” as was recorded in the TimesLive article here: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2017-09-08-church-leader-accused-of-luring-teens-in-online-photo-scam/
This story is of great interest to me for two reasons. The first reason is because Common Ground Church was my family for 11 years. The second reason is that this youth pastor is my friend. I have known him for around 7 years, we worked together for roughly 3 years and we lived together in a student house for 1 year. While thinking about all that has happened over the past 3 years I was left with three questions:
1. Is he a predator who preyed on young boys?
2. Is he a victim of a corrupt system?
3. Is he both a predator and a victim?
It appears, from the upwards of 10 accounts of his crimes that I have heard or read, that he was a predator who prayed on young boys. He manipulated, lied, and acted in ways that were terribly evil. What he did was wrong and we all feel deeply saddened for the 50 – 60 boys who were affected. Many people have commented on this and I so I don’t need to say any more.
Is he also a victim? Some might say no. I say, let us think about it. No one does these terrible acts over night. No one becomes a sexual offender in one week. No one thinks about doing what he did and then do it in a few seconds. It is most often known that people who do such things are victims themselves. And so it got me thinking that perhaps this man was a victim, but a victim of what?
Perhaps he is a victim of a broken family and broken community. Perhaps he could be a victim of sexual abuse himself. Perhaps he is a victim of the utterly corrupt media that promotes and propagates pornography every day. Do you know that at the bottom of one of the articles about this man was an article displaying a picture of a half naked woman. It makes me so sad to think that the same media companies who condemn him are the ones that add fuel to the fire through the promoting of celebrity pornography (soft or hard) and so on. Pornography is a poison that is poisoning our society – what happened here is an example of this. Perhaps this youth pastor is also a victim of sin. Whether you like it or not all humans are born sinners. We sin from day one and sin enslaves us. This man, like us all, is a victim of sin.
Is this man responsible for his actions?
I am definitely not saying that he is not responsible for his actions. The teacher who abused my brother when he was 13 was responsible for his actions. The older boy at school who abused me when I was 14 was responsible for his actions. This youth pastor is responsible and he must face the consequences. What I am trying to say in this blog is that in order to gain a clearer understanding of this situation we must see that he is also a victim. We must let this inform our thoughts, words and actions. Let us not take the moral high ground and think we would never do that. Someone who knows this man said in response to the news, “that could be any of us” and I agree. It could have been me. It could have been you.
This 27 year old youth pastor lived as a predator of these young boys for many years. He needs to experience the consequences that his dark actions deserve. At the same time he is a victim who needs our prayers, needs the power of Jesus and needs to be restored. Do you know that some of the boys most affected by his actions are currently praying for him? I find this incredible.
My prayer for the boys and for my friend