Thursday, 23 June 2016

Twenty Minutes of Action

Dear Christian Parent (and all parents who may get to read this)

Before I took on my current job, Jeanette and I were pastoring together for 23 years, and today Jeanette continues part-time as a pastor on our son Shane's team in Hamilton. If I were still a pastor, I would use the horrible incident that happened last year at Stanford University (could have been any university in NZ) to have a pastoral chat to all the pre-teens and teenagers in my church and then to you as their parents. 

I guess this phrase—“twenty minutes of action”will forever be etched on our minds, not in a positive or even neutral context, but in a destructive and dehumanising one.

Let me re-cap the context briefly.

One night in January 2015, two Stanford University graduate students biking across campus spotted a freshman thrusting his body on top of an unconscious, half-naked woman behind a dumpster. This March, a California jury found the former student, 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, guilty of three counts of sexual assault (felony). Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in a state prison. Earlier this month, on Thursday 2nd June 2016, he was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics—a point repeatedly brought up during the trial.

This case is shocking on two counts. In part, it's because the crime was so horrific, a fact made clear by the victim’s heart-wrenching letter, (click here to read), which she read aloud to her attacker (and the sentencing Judge) at Turner's sentencing. Her letter describes what happened in graphic detail, giving voice to her horrible trauma and ongoing suffering.

In part, it's because the perpetrator was a member of the Stanford swimming team and has been viewed as a child of privilege. His father's claim that his son should not have to go to prison for “twenty minutes of action” is utterly reprehensible to every decent person on earth… yes, men and women, Christian and non-Christian. And no, his words were not taken out of context. The man said what he said. And keep in mind, Stanford is an Ivy League University which means kids from so called 'good homes' go there.

Twenty minutes. 1200 seconds ... 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 ... you may like to count out loud ….
It's a very long time whichever way you look at it, isn't it? So much time to do so much pain. 

We raised up four sons. Now we have four beautiful (in-law) daughters and five of the most gorgeous granddaughters on planet Earth, and so do many of you. I cannot even imagine what I would be going through if it were to happen to one of them, irrespective whether they were drunk, or high, or anything in-between. The pain in my heart would be too much to bear.

And then I came across an open letter last week written by a 20-something-year-old young man. I've copied it below for you exactly as it was written. I have never met him but his letter makes me very proud to be a Christian.

So parents, here goes my pastoral chat.

1. Can I remind you that your teenager is still a child. Sure he/she is growing and maturing but still a child especially in terms of his/her emotional and sexual development.

2. You are the first educators and, according to well-researched literature, still the most influential people in your child’s life over the long haul.

3. Please do not assume that because your youngster goes to church and youth group, reads his/her Bible, hangs out with good kids, and may even go to a Christian school, that he/she is somehow magically protected and immune from horrible stuff happening to them. I wish—I so wish—I could promise you that, but I can't, and no one should even hint at it being true.

4. And now, can I remind you about teen peer pressure. Do I need to spell it out, or can you remember back 10-20 years ago when you were a teen? I am 62 now, and I can remember back 47 years ago, when I was 15, like it was yesterday, and it isn't pretty. And yes, I was a bible-class-attending, Christian-home-that-prayed-together kid. And yet that peer pressure was soooo strong for about 3-4 years. In fact, there were more than a few occasions where the pressure was such that I lost my moral moorings, and despite point two above, I forgot my parents’ instructions. 

5. Please tell your daughter that she is beautiful inside and out and that her sexuality (her virginity) is a God-given gift to be cherished and kept for the man who will love her for the rest of her life and not just do a dirty deed behind a dumpster or wherever.

6. Please tell your son to look upon all girls as sisters to be treasured and protected and never, ever … that's right, NEVER, EVER, to be used for their own selfish pleasures, because that is abuse. Terrible abuse. Give them a copy of the letter below if they are old enough.

7. Talk to both your sons and daughters about internet porn (and all porn) and the dark and evil thing it is. Tell them that if they mess with it, then they run a huge risk of getting hooked on it and it forever hurting future relationships with the opposite sex including their future spouse. And, by the way, internet porn is no longer a boys and men-only problem—it is now a growing issue amongst young girls and women generally. Teach and model coping strategies. And teach them to pray every single day: “and lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil”, because I believe that is exactly what God wants to do for your kids. To protect them and help you protect them. He loves them even more than you do. Hard to believe, I know, but that is the truth of the matter.

There is so much more to say about this very important subject, but this is enough for today. As your pastor I love you and I love your kids, each and every one of them (even the ones whose behaviour is very challenging right now). Jeanette and I are here to walk beside you in the parenting journey.

With my love and blessings

This is the letter I referred to earlier in this post:

I’m Male. I’m in My 20’s. And I Have Something to Say to the Girl Who Got Raped at Stanford

“Dear Girl by the Dumpster at Stanford

First off, I have to say how hard it is for me to write about this, not because I don’t want to talk about it, but because the ENTIRE story just breaks heart and makes me angry all at the same time.

It’s important because women need to know they’re not the only ones infuriated with rape and this kind of injustice. So with that said, I want to apologize to the girl who was raped behind a dumpster at a college campus.

I’m so sorry.

I’m so sorry it wasn’t me who found you by the dumpster instead of him. I would have called for help while trying to get you to eat some bread. I would have gone to your phone to try and call one of your friends to come get you. I would have given you my coat, not removed yours.

I’m so sorry.

You are not just “20 minutes of action” as his father put it. You are not some girl at a party. You are not alone in your fight.

I’m single. I’m male. I’m in my 20’s. I respect you. I grieve with you.

I don’t want you to think, not even a second, that you “asked for it” or that any of this is “your fault.” As men, it’s our job to protect women regardless of what they wear or how much they drink.

I’m so sorry that instead of a broken down man in a ball of tears you got an emotionless courtroom statement that turned you from victim to the guilty. I wish jail would sometimes work like time out—you can’t come out until you realize the gravity of what you’ve done and are truly ready to apologize. Granted, this would mean your attacker would spend the rest of his life in prison. And I’m okay with that.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way you’re handling it. I so desperately want you to know you’re not alone and it’s not just girls that stand with you. I pray you know that this case doesn’t define you. You may feel broken, but I know a guy who’s in the business of making all things new. He’s doing it for me as we speak. You are not worth less because of what happened, if anything I pray this makes you stronger as you see your support come through the woodwork to remind you of the beautiful creation you are.

Also, this is what I wish I could go back in time and tell your attacker about consent.

Here’s a bit of truth for ya, if you’re even ASKING this stupid question “Is it okay to have sex now?” then news flash…IT’S NOT OKAY!

The goal of a relationship isn’t to get to the moment where you get “the signal” —the goal is to get to the “I do.” Keep it in your pants!

We’re so fixated on this stupid freaking question. “When is it okay to have sex?”


OK, end of rant!

I guess I get really heated about this because I can’t imagine a world where I’d want to sleep with someone who doesn’t want to sleep with me. I’m a Christian, so sex and love go hand in hand in my world. I’ve loved people who didn’t love me back and that sucked, so why would I want to force someone to share such a moment of intimacy when they don’t want to be there? Maybe because I have sisters I have a soft spot for women—or maybe it’s just because I’m not a pig and my dad would beat the crap out of me if I ever touched a girl with violence instead of defend me.

I don’t know.

But I do know is that I’m here. I can’t erase what he did to you but I can stand with you. I can and will pray for you and your family.”

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