April is child abuse prevention and sexual assault awareness month. While one would hope that churches would be a safeguard against child abuse, that is not always the case. Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention faced a backlash and investigation for hiding sexual abuse allegations. In its own way, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has made efforts to speak to issues of rape and assault through programs like enditnow. Ultimately, though, the responsibility to keep children safe needs to start at the local level with churches themselves. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, and every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Is your church talking about proactively keeping children safe? Here are some discussion points to start the conversation.
While these are helpful suggestions, it seem like making training a REQUIREMENT for those working with kids would be more tangible. In my Episcopal church the mandatory program was called “Safeguarding God’s Children” Now it’s called “Safeguarding God’s People” because we realize that persons of any age can be targeted for abuse. Recently I attended a funeral in my (late) parent’s SDA church, and I noticed that the solid doors on the Sabbath School rooms had been replaced with glass doors - a good step towards visibility and safety.
If working with kids, or potentially working with kids we are required by law to obtain a WWCC (working with children check). This is a national criminal check done by the police. This applies to both paid and voluntary roles. There are some exceptions - if the individual has children involved.
The church also has an online course that we are required to complete. This is a waste of time as anybody can do it and there are no checks. Just agree that you have done it.
Good reminder of what each church needs to do. All church volunteers that work with kids and all church elders in my church have to complete a background check and take training. We also provide our own training to teachers on what to look for. Unfortunately we’ve had to report several incidents to child and family services and the police of suspected child abuse. It’s really tough because it’s people we know, but child safety comes first. And of the incidents in our church, most occurred in the home…one brother was starting to groom a young girl but we caught it and reported to police, thank God it was before something more serious happened. Everyone stay vigilant and remind churches over and over to stay alert, especially in the home.
The bottom line on religion is that, at its essence, it is an institutionalized, systematic and legalized form of child abuse.
Indoctrinating one’s offspring, starting at the neonatal level, with an incessant stream of messages that there’s an invisible god, like an all-seeing evil Santa, constantly monitoring his every move and who punishes each misdeed both on earth and after death, would be considered as unconscionable as telling a child to inappropriately touch your tongue in front of a live audience if there really was a god who cared anything at all about his most vulnerable creatures and if polite society had any collective conscience, whatsoever, and was concerned with doing what’s right, instead of just “seeming nice”…
Of course, children are apparently born with an innate curiosity about where they came from, but as a loving parent, if your god is real, and is as powerful as he supposedly claims he is, why do his dirty work for him? Why not trust him to reveal himself to the child, rather than using terrorist tactics and mind control techniques to coerce and scare the poor kid into believing what you credulously accepted as real, even in the face.of an absolute dearth of any tangible evidence?
Or everyone could remind every kid every day that he is a child of god, I.e., an integral part of a self-creating consciousness, just like David and Jesus supposedly said.
It seems to me, this topic is further down the scale of christian behaviors than anything having to do with sexual identities? Abuse happens to all children regardless of gender identity, yet it will get less discussion or feedback on any forum. Maybe it’s just me, but priorities of the denomination seem to be ‘out of wack’!!