A chronic complaint among kidmin is that we aren’t taken seriously enough. Often we have lamented the fact that we are treated as child care providers rather than ministers. Well, here’s an opportunity to be a ministry, to stand up on a cultural issue that strikes at the very heart of children’s well-being in this country.
Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald Sandusky, 67, has been charged with 21 felony counts for allegedly abusing eight male minors over a period of 15 years.
Evidence is mounting that many in the upper levels of Penn State knew about the sexual abuse Sandusky had inflicted on numerous boys but failed to notify police. Among those determined to be negligent were Penn State President, Graham Spanier, and legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno (pictured). Both were fired this week.
This unthinkable tragedy is disturbing on many levels. Here are but a few.
- Eight boys were named in the felony charge. That means there are a lot more we don’t yet know about. If there are eight we know about, there are probably eighty we don’t yet know about. If history about abuse cases teaches us anything, it is that this was bigger than we yet know.
- Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit organization he started in the late 1970s. He used the organization to gain access to young boys.
- Penn State covered this up. Graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, entered the locker room on March 1, 2002 to find Sandusky having oral sex with a young boy. McQueary went to Paterno’s home and told him what he saw. (Click here for a chilling timeline of events.) Their football program was a national model and made a $50 million profit each year. Apparently, they valued football and money over the safety of kids. There is no other plausible reason why more wasn’t done to stop Sandusky.
- When the Pen State Board of Regents fired Paterno, 3000 students rioted. The board fired him because they rightly felt he should have taken decisive action to stop Sanducky’s abuse of boys. The students were more outraged over the firing of their hot shot coach than over the child abuse victims.
- Children’s pastors in America have largely been silent on an issue that should have struck a nerve with them. If we want to be taken seriously as ministers, than this is one time we need to put down our coloring sheets and organizational charts and make our voice heard.
I am not advocating that we march in the streets or start a riot, just speak up. I have a few suggestions.
Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to express your dismay over the abuse at Penn State. Just say something as simple as, “The abuse at Penn State is heartbreaking. As a society we need to value kids over football and money.” Let’s make the point that we need a clearer societal focus on protecting children.
Report child abuse to the police anytime you know about it for certain. It is NOT enough to report abuse to your pastor. If you know about abuse and do NOT report it, then you are breaking the law. Your pastor does not have the authority to prevent you from reporting abuse. Sadly, some lead pastors are afraid to report abuse that might reflect poorly on the church, particularly if a staff member was involved. That makes no difference. Report abuse to the police. You can inform your pastor about what you are doing, but you do not, should not, seek his permission. Aside from it being the right thing to do, saving your job is not worth the legal challenges that could occur.
Talk to your volunteers about this. Make sure they understand the gravity of child abuse.
Pray for our country. Would other universities have acted differently? Maybe not. Valuing football and money over children strikes at the soul of America.
It’s time for kidmin to find their voice. I have heard more outrage from Geraldo than I have from children’s pastors. Franky, this embarrasses me. Timidity is not a fruit of the Spirit. Let’s stand up and be heard on this one.