Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Persona non grata

This is a sequel to my previous post:

How should the church deal with sex offenders? 

i) Sin ranges along a continuum. Some sins are dangerous to others. Some sins are highly addictive.

The church is generally composed of normal sinners. The church can absorb normal sinners. But the church is not equipped to deal with the extremes of the spectrum. That falls outside the social life and resources of the church.

ii) Let's take a couple of examples that don't involve sinners. Suppose Typhoid Mary wants to go to church. Should she? No. She's dangerous. Even though she's dangerous through no fault of her own, that doesn't change the fact that physical contact with her is hazardous.

That doesn't mean the church can't have any ministry to someone like Typhoid marriage. You could have a visitation ministry with quarantine protocols. 

Likewise, suppose someone is psychotic. In that condition, he is dangerous. Can he come to church? No. He's too unstable. 

iii) To take another example that does involve sin, Ted Bundy claimed to become a Christian in prison. But even if he were paroled, or had weekend furloughs, no church should take the risk of having him in attendance. 

People do things that make them social pariahs. They endanger others. In some cases they may no longer be a threat to others, but that's a risk assessment which we're incompetent to make. We can't read their minds. We can't see into the future. 

And even if they are sincere, that doesn't mean they have the self-restraint to avoid repeat offenses. 

I think the church has to treat some people as persona non grata. It's not our responsibility to take extra precautions to accommodate them. And we can't take adequate precautions on site even if we tried. The situation is too unpredictable, too uncontrollable. 

I'm not responsible for the consequences of choices you made in the past. It's not incumbent on me to deal with the aftermath. People can do things that place themselves beyond the pale. It's not my duty to fix that. Some broken things stay broken. 

iv) I'd hasten to add that people can be falsely accused of sex crimes. In addition, the definition of sexual offenses has become very rubbery. I'm addressing extreme cases where guilt is not in doubt. 

v) There are men who may commit atrocities if you put them in a certain situation, but they aren't inclined to commit atrocities outside that situation. And experience doesn't create an inclination to do so. I'm thinking of war crimes which some soldiers commit on the battlefield. Some people are very compartmentalized. What they do in wartime is no predictor for what they'd do in peacetime, or vice versa.

I'm discussing a different kind of sin. A sin where, for all you know, the individual is a timebomb. Maybe that's all in the past, but maybe the timer is ticking away.

vi) I'd add that not all harms can be fixed in this life. Some harms can only be fixed in the afterlife (heaven). 

1 comment:

  1. Bravo: forgiveness does not require status quo ante, and there is a responsibility to protect the flock. The offender, if truly penitent, should understand that.