A deeply moving email landed in my inbox addressing the CAM and Jeriah Mast abuse case. Tears flowed as I read his message. As someone who had no experience with abuse – neither as victim nor as offender, and whose idyllic childhood left him with no understanding of it, he put into words something I, as a female, had never thought of or heard from anyone. He put to words the shame that he as a man feels after hearing of Jeriah’s crimes.
I don’t know if that response is common, but it made me realize again how victimizing children violates so many, even beyond those who are sexually abused. Certainly not int the same way, and the assault victims are and always should be prioritized, but the ripple effect creates trauma and suffering that extends far beyond the initial crime. I’ve been told that for this reason the crimes should not be publicized. I would propose that it is the reason we must speak out and make the crimes known so that accepting as ‘moral failure’ and a ‘slip during a weak moment’ is no longer acceptable. (And the Old Testament, which documents slaughterings of humans and sexual assaults, would give testimony to the need to speak out).
Thank you to Emanuel Lapp, the author of the following letter. And special thanks for permission to post the letter. I do not know him, or what group he is affiliated with, but appreciate the care and compassion shown in the letter.
I suppose i’m sending this to an open forum, so if I am, then hello to all of you. I don’t know much about blogs, or whatever this is, not because it looks hard to learn, but because I’ve had so little time to invest in one more thing to take up more off the extra time that I don’t have. But I do at times use the computer at the local library, which is where I stopped in to get a news update on the Mast/Haiti/CAM situation.
I was aware that I had unanswered questions about homosexuality in the back of my m ind, but first, a disclaimer and then a little background about myself. In the following paragraphs, I use the umbrella term of “Anabaptists” loosely and do not wish to imply that “Anabaptists” of today would be accepted by original Anabaptists. They were recognized for their exemplary lives and for their firm stands against sin in the church. Now for my background in short form:
I was born at home, in a farmhouse on a peaceful dairy and crop farm in Lancaster County PA. Being Amish, I, as well as my ten siblings, were taught good work ethics and high morals from little up. Growing up, I knew nothing of immorality among our people, and would have been devastated had I found out. Mine was indeed an idyllic life and a protected childhood. I was never abused as a child, neither sexually nor otherwise, and have never been a perpetrator.
However, I was exposed to sexual sin at the young age of 10 or 11 when I overheard a 13 year old boy being a self-appointed teacher on human sexuality to a small group of his peers in a corner of the school playground, explaining it all, including masturbation, in graphic detail, only without exposing himself.
About a year later, as I was working a field in preparation for planting, I came upon a pornographic magazine lying in the roadside ditch. For years afterward I vacillated, never quite sure masturbation was wrong, but feeling dirty afterward.
As a teenager, I loved music. Gospel music. Then Country and Bluegrass. Then Rock & Roll. Then heavy metal Rock & Roll, and by that time, give over to the Rock & Roll rebellion of the 70’s, I indulged in drinking, dancing, and pot.
But perhaps because of the strict training of my Mom, or the warnings from Dad, coupled with their prayers, my first experience of having sex was at age 21 with my 19 years old bride. Now my wife of 37 years, going on 38, she is the only one I’ve ever had in that way. Which is a wonder that I ascribe to God and to praying parents, for during my “wild years” I had various girlfriends and many dates.
That is a little briefing on my background, now for the unanswered questions in the back of my mind.
One; How can men have sex with men?
Two; Or little boys?!?! Impossible! my mind screamed.
How could I not know? It’s 2019. I’ll be 59 years old this month.
The answer is that I have studiously avoided finding out. I’ve known sin.
I know natural temptation. And I knew how defiling sin can be to the mind. So I avoided perversion life the plague that it is. When the Scripture tells us “there hath no temptation taken you but that which is common to man,” it is referring to natural sin, not the perversions of Romans Chapter One. Those are in a class by themselves.
So then, the first reader response that I read to your blog was the one from Jay Voder. It was disturbing. Thank you for your level-headed response.
The next letter was the one from […] the experience of a victimized 12 year old boy. And I read….oral sex….anal sex…the pain of sitting in school the next day….I cried. And then I was filled with shame. “Anabaptist” shame, for though I’m no longer Amish, I’m still “Anabaptist” at heart and part of a church so identified. Masculine shame, almost ashamed to be a man. I don’t know that the above incident was “Anabaptist” nor do I know how far Jeriah fell, that is now up to the courts to discover, but to think that men can, and do, fall that low brings shame upon my gender. And no matter how far Jeriah fell or didn’t fall, we do know that little boys were defiled.
I had known of the Catholic scandal about their priests, knew it involved little boys, found the thought disgusting and shoved it aside. But now….it hits close to home and cannot be shoved aside.
Nor should it.
Then I got angry.
And then sorry. For little boys. Especially in comparison to my idyllic childhood. Unprotected little boys. Exploited little boys. Defiled little boys.
And then I searched the news.
Sex abuse perpetrated here by a school teacher.
There by a coach.
Over here by a Pastor.
Over there by a Priest.
I read back over your response Jay.
And got mad.
And got over it. Maybe you’re just naive. I hope so. I hope Jeriah didn’t go as far as some do, but even if he didn’t, where is God in this unfortunate way of allowing a young man with a history of perverse sexual attraction to children, to have children in his care? Even at night. I understand the need for forgiveness and trusting God to change the hearts and lives of evil men, but even trustworthy men can fail by trusting people, including themselves, too far.
So now, as we pick up the pieces, let us also pick up those neglected pieces under the rug. So we can finish the puzzle and have the big picture, seeing where we must change. The puzzle pieces under the rug so often are the victims, or so I am told.
And so it seems.
They need a voice.
We need to allow them a voice.
We need to be a voice for them.
And as we hear them, may we say, as the Nations said of the Holocaust after WWII:
Because these young victims have their own personal Holocaust to live through. And as our Never Agains upset failed methods, may our faith be ignited with personal Pentecostal fire.
May the perpetrator, his family, and victims alike, find the grace of God to face life as it is now and be made whole, again or for the first time, through the power and love of Jesus.
Thank you Trudy, for being a “voice crying in the wilderness.” A voice for the victims of sex abuse.
And to my fellow “Anabaptists,” how can we ever trust again? Must we eye each other from here on with suspicion? Or may we call for a deeper level of transparency? Indeed, I believe I hear the Word of the Lord, through the Voice of Exposure and through His Word calling us to a deeper level of transparency.
To a deeper love and kinder help for abuse victims.
To tougher love for perpetrators.
No matter how close the emotional or relative ties.
God is calling us back to the Bible.
May we, together, heed the call.
The call to finding Exposure Redemptive.
Because Jesus Lives,
I am so grateful for men and women who are rising up to stand with victims. To see such a broad positive response, and encouraging the community to see exposure as redemptive, this is an answer to prayer. And to hear men – even those who have not been victimized or victimizers – rise up and call for the victims to be remembered and heard… this is healing for many!
Remember the victims! Remember Haiti!
~ T ~
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief. It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.
NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.
Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.
If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.