By Scott Tibbs, April 14, 2010
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. - Matthew 25:40
The Shalom Center faced a controversy last month when it was revealed that one of the people they serve is a registered sex offender, having served prison time for child molestation. Now, Shalom is searching for a new home after the First United Methodist Church decided not to allow the shelter to operate in its facility any longer. Shalom would have probably needed to move at some point soon anyway, but the sex offender controversy accelerated the process. (See articles here, here, here, here, and here.)
Jesus Christ commands Christians to take care of "the least of these." The sex offender in question, Fred Reed, is homeless and falls into that category. But the children at the church's day care center also qualify as "the least of these." Jesus also warns in Mark 9:42 that those who "offend one of these little ones" would be better off having a millstone tied around his neck and cast into the sea.
Hal Taylor, an advocate for the homeless, told the Herald-Times that "Christians are two-faced as hell, because Jesus commissioned us to attend to the poor." That is not a fair judgment. First United Methodist is damned no matter what it does. On the one hand, they will be attacked for not providing care for a homeless man and will be accused of violating the commandment of Jesus Christ.
But even with the security measures in place, what if Reed had abused one of the children in the day care? The Catholic Church is taking an enormous amount of heat for not properly dealing with priests who have abused children. You can be assured that First United Methodist would suffer a permanent stain on its reputation if the unthinkable were to happen. They would face lawsuits and possible prosecution for criminal negligence.
Taylor lost all credibility, however, when he said "sexual deviants have become the new witches in our society." Honestly, when I read this statement I was furious and wanted to punch Taylor in the face. Taylor's statement is sick and depraved primarily because it makes light of the very real suffering that sexual abuse victims have endured. It is also offensive because it equates the very real crimes and very real harm done by sexual predators to the innocent victims of the "witch trials" hysteria. Taylor's false equivalence is disgusting.
Ideally, Reed should never see the outside of a prison. In a perfect world, he would have been put to death for his crimes. But if I may use an overused cliché, our criminal "justice" system is what it is. Reed served his time and is in need of assistance by charitable organizations. I honestly do not know what the answer is and how the competing needs can be met. There is a great deal of prayer needed by all involved.