Fogle, Duggar, Scandal, and the True Enemy

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Apologies to Walt Kelley and dear Pogo, but I couldn't finish the line. Because if the enemy is "us," then "us" includes you and that just leads to a big ol' blame game. Not that we and us and you (and I) don't have a major role in all this, but there's another player. As Ephesians 6:12 so famously states:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Lately, the news has consisted of presidential hopefuls, forest fires, and sex scandals. Since most of my family lives in Washington State, I've chosen to focus on the fires. I certainly don't have the wherewithal to care about candidates quite yet. (Or is it, I don't have the stomach?) But the third topic keeps popping up, like an annoying whack-a-mole that won't be ignored.

So, Josh Duggar is a headliner again. This time for being one of the gazillion people who had an account on the Ashley Madison cheat-on-my-spouse website. I have no consumertainment relationship with the Duggars — I'm not a quiverful proponent, and I think shows like theirs are creepily voyeuristic. But it's impossible to live in the US and not know a little of what's going on. Basically, that kid's messed up. And how horrible for his wife.

Duggar's old news, though, since Jared Fogle's scandal hit the streets. I'm not going to repost the details here (they're easy enough to find if you really care), but the former Subway spokesman has pled guilty to possession of child porn and paying for child sex. His wife, the mother of his two kids, is filing for divorce. In addition, he's looking at five years in prison and restitution costs of 1.4 million dollars.

In between these two headlines, I found out the trafficking recovery ministry I volunteer for is undergoing a massive upheaval. I don't know what the details are, or if the ministry will even survive. I was actually planning on taking a sabbatical next month, so I brought it up a month and bowed out. But I'm concerned for the friends who are still in the mix.

Abuse by individuals isn't the only danger to our kids. Because of the internet and unrestricted access to mobile devices, kids younger and younger are getting access to porn and quickly moving on to harder and harder porn, to the point that they become desensitized to violent sexual acts. They begin to normalize what they see — the boys think this type of sex is normal and the girls think this is what boys want.

I recently came across a letter written by a porn producer to a man who was just getting into the business and had asked for a review. The producer gave two pieces of advice: get less-attractive men so users could identify with the actors more, and make sure the girls always, always, always look like they are enjoying themselves.

The other day, I listened to a This American Life show from May 15th. The first act was how boys and young men learn about sex. College students are often required to take a workshop on making sure the girl they're with has given full consent; for many, the first time a responsible authority figure has spoken to them about sex, the message is "don't rape." But interviews revealed that many guys learn about the actual act of sex from other guys. Specifically, they discuss what girls like and expect. And where did these sages learn about what girls like? From porn.

So guys are watching violent porn featuring girls who are forced to act like they like it, and wind up thinking that this is what girls want. Meanwhile, girls watch the same porn and see the smiling faces and come to believe this is what sex is and what boys want.

Who's the enemy that promotes unhealthy sexual relationships? It turns out to be him, her, them, perpetrator, victim — everybody. And one more.

Russell Moore has a new post out called "Kindness is not Weakness". It speaks about how Christians are called to be kind in any circumstances, even when surrounded by intense evil. About how:
If we are too afraid of seeming inordinately Pentecostal to talk about the Devil, we will find ourselves declaring war against mere concepts, like "evil" or "sin." When we don't oppose demons, we demonize opponents. And without a clear vision of the concrete forces we as the church are supposed to be aligned against, we find it very difficult to differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages.
Having fought against child sex trafficking for the last several years, I was surprised by my reaction to Jared Fogle. It wasn't anger, it was intense sadness. Maybe Brant Hansen's book really got through to me. Maybe I felt what Russell Moore was better able to put into words — I'm starting to "differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages." Brainwashed, damaged hostages who volunteer to strap on the bomb vest, but hostages nonetheless.

Maybe it's because a woman at our church has invited moms to get together to pray that our sons would be protected from pornography. Maybe it's the Radiolab show about a man who would never in a million years look at child porn — until he had brain surgery for epilepsy and he found himself horrified and addicted.

I believe the priority in child trafficking should be the rescue and recovery of victims. I believe we need to focus on prevention by teaching parents how to protect their kids and working ruthlessly to protect kids in the foster system. I believe we need to pray hard for those in the fight against trafficking — for protection and support. I believe that Josh Duggar and Jared Fogle should be prosecuted appropriately. But as much as they are perpetrators, they are also victims of the enemy. All of us are to an extent. And as we fight to pull the poison out of our culture, we need to recognize that poison must also be pulled out of individuals. God can redeem anyone. The hard part is living like we believe that when we really want to take baseball bats to various individuals' heads. We talk about putting an end to trafficking by prosecuting the demand side of things (something Amnesty International has completely disregarded to its shame). What if we added restoration to justice? Healed abusers don't hurt kids.

To that end, both the UK and Germany have nation-wide programs to treat abusers who want to quit. In the US, although individual therapists do address the issue, I could find no organization. Laws that require therapists to report usage of child porn keep people from seeking treatment. Is the mandatory reporting law bad? No. But we have to find a balance between proper prosecution, opportunities for healing, and maintaining the societal moré against abusive sexual relationships. How is Christ calling the church to do just that? Are we willing to join the spiritual battle for such vile hearts? I can't help but think that Jesus already did the same for us/we/you/me.

Next week: Light without Life

Image: Pogo by Walt Kelley

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published 8-26-15