For the last few years, I have quietly told people that the next big battle of the sexual revolution will be over our children. The rationalization, decrimination, and societal acceptance of pedophiles seemed to be years away. I thought it would be the pressing issue of my son’s generation. However, the recent trends seem to suggest that the push to normalize sexual interactions between adults and minors will shortly become a mainstream issue. As Christians, we need to ready to address the issue of pedophilia.
Late in 2014, the famous novelist, John Grissom, stoked the flames of the discussion by defending adults who downloaded child pornography. He sees no reason to imprison guys for few unwise clicks. After all he said, “These people haven’t hurt anybody” (Oldenburg, 2014)
Sadly, Grisham is not alone when it comes to mainstream thought. The famed Atheist, Richard Dawkins agrees with the author. Reflecting on his own experiences of being molested by a male prep school teacher as a child, the scientist concluded,
I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage (Singh, 2014).
Defining Pedophilia Today
According to WebMD, “A pedophile is a person who has a sustained sexual orientation toward children, generally aged 13 or younger” (Martin). (The age at whence a preference is an expression of pedophilia or normal sexual behavior has not been firmly established). Though there is still some debate over whether pedophilia should be mentioned in the same breath as “gay, straight, and bi-sexual,” the inevitability of its arrival as a sexual orientation is not in question. The Harvard Mental Health Letter concluded back in 2010 that, “Consensus now exists that pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation, not something that develops in someone who is homosexual or heterosexual” (Pessimism About Pedophilia, 2010) Moreover, almost every mental health representative thinks that a person’s attraction to a child cannot be cured. Perhaps, it can be controlled with therapy. But the disposition towards loving children cannot be undone. As a recent New York Times article made very clear, lusting after a child is not inherently wrong because it is a natural phenomenon. The editorialist wrote,
A pedophile should be held responsible for his conduct — but not for the underlying attraction (Kaplan, 2014).
The only question keeping pedophilia from wide cultural acceptance is the question, “Should sex between a child and an adult be deemed appropriate conduct?” The answer is increasingly becoming a yes.
Researchers contend that adults should only have the freedom to engage in sexual acts that do not lead to the, “the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner” (Martin). To be deemed acceptable, pedophiliac actions would have to result in positive experiences for all involved. Over the past 20 years, researchers have begun noticing that Richard Dawkins view is more normative than most Americans thing. One researcher concluded from a meta-study (compiled from 1998-2000) that sexual encounters between adults and children do not, “cause intense harm on a pervasive basis regardless of gender (Rind, Bauserman, & Tromovitch, 1998).” In other words, if a boy or a girl entered willingly into the experience, the child often viewed the experience positively. As another supporter of pedophilia Tom O’Carroll said in a recent interview,
It is the quality of the relationship that matters. If there’s no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power, if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm (Henley, 2013).
The Path Towards Acceptance
In 2014, pedophilia was deemed by psychologists to be a natural, human condition that does not necessitate harm against children. Furthermore when the sexual expressions of pedophiles are limited to consensual encounters, their actions are increasingly seen as being “harmless” if not even a positive experiences for children. How long can a secular society devoid of Christian undergirding resist the urge to legalize pedophilia? After all, isn’t it another expression of love? And who are we to tell others who they can and cannot love?
I fear the discussion and the resulting acceptance of pedophilia will continue to gain momentum. And here is why: According to a 2004 study by the U.S. department of Education, almost 1 of every 10 public school kids will be sexually harassed by a school employee (teacher, principal, coach, etc.) (Shakeshaft, 2004, p. 20). And even more troubling, 6 of every 100 kids will have some type of physical encounter with a school employee (Ibid). In other words, 6 out of every 100 kids in our schools will be involved in sexual acts with a pedophile (Ibid). This is a lot of children and adults (not to mention those involved coaches, family members, clergy, other adults and children not associated with the public school system).
Despite all the marches, protests, and controversial judicial rulings, homosexuality is becoming a normative part of American society mostly because we all have a likeable neighbor, teacher, or sister who is a homosexual. When it comes to American sexual ethics, familiarity breeds acceptance.
Though a different issue, I don’t think it’s farfetched to believe that pedophilia will follow the same trajectory. One day soon, we will probably all know someone who has participated in a pedophiliac action. When that time comes (it may be here), will the members of American society really want to punish what they deem to be a natural and often loving behavior? Will Americans really want to send their “often professionally accomplished and even celebrated” adult brothers, neighbors, and coworkers to prison” for crimes of loving passion (p. 31)? As Sarah Goode, one of the leading researchers supporting the reclassification of pedophilia commented,
We outlawed homosexuality, and we were wrong. Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia (Henley, 2013).
Are we wrong again?
A Christian Response
As a Christian who affirms the Bible as the inspired word of God, I believe the answer is a resounding, “No; we were not wrong.” We should uphold the scriptures and oppose the spread of both homosexuality and pedophilia (and all other sins). The question facing Christians is not one of love or of practicality. Paul condemns the Corinthian man who slept with his stepmom without care for the two’s emotional state or rational (I Cor. 5:1-2). The question for Paul and for all Christians is: “What does God say about sex?”
According to the divine scriptures, God says that sex is designed to occur within the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). God’s Genesis command is reaffirmed by both Christ and his apostles (Mat 19:5; Mark 10:7; Eph. 5:31). Any other sexual action that occurs outside of a loving, monogamous marriage relationship, whether tied to pornography, fornication, homosexuality, or adultery is sin. And every time we depart from God’s plan for sex, relationships are broken, people suffer both emotionally and financially, and God is dishonored (Brandon, 2009, pp. 114, 135).
Since pedophilia is an attraction to an age type, it often cannot be expressed within the confines of marriage. As the child becomes an adult, the pedophile will have to find a new and younger lover. God’s plan calls for monogamy. “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:15b). As Christians, we are to find our sexual satisfaction in our spouse until death do us part.
Sadly, some of the relationships between a minor and an adult occasionally end in marriage. But the marriage of a pubescent child to an adult, contradicts the Biblical idea. A 12-year-old child cannot leave and cleave to their new spouse who is some 20 years their senior. Studies indicate that children enter into a relationship with an adult viewing the adult as their new parent (Shakeshaft, 2004, p. 33). Moreover, the child cannot manage a house, adequately care for children (and in some cases they are not even physically ready to reproduce), or provide for their families. Consequently in pedophiliac relationships, men and women are not leaving their parents to start a new family. Rather, kids are being manipulated into embracing new parent who offers sexual favors. We must oppose pedophilia.
As parents, we must also frame the sex conversation for our kids. As they approach puberty, we need to help them understand that sex is natural, good, and enjoyable. Then, we need to help them understand that sex is designed by God to be experienced within the safe, stable, and loving paramiters of marriage. If our kids grasp the Biblical concept of sex, they will be bettered prepared to resists the advances of pedophiles, understanding that all offers of sex prior to marriage are wrong. Though it may be awkward and uncomfortable for us to talk about the birds and the bees, we need to help our kids understand sex. If we do not, the world will, and it will not go well for our children.
Hope For A Broken World
Lastly, we should also offer hope to our lost and dying world through the love of Christ. The phycologists, the pundits, and the professors all say there is no hope for pedophiles. They can manage their symptoms, but they can’t change. How depressing! But these claims are only partially true. Yes, people cannot change their desires! But, God can!
If we trust in Christ, God will make us new creations! He will radically cause us to put off our sinful desires and embrace righteousness. Notice what Paul says in I Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Such were some of you! Churches are made up of sinners who were once trapped in all kinds of sins (self included). We were all hopeless, unchangeable at one point. And then God changed us! I understand that some men and women are predisposed to be pedophiles. Their natural, sinful tendency is to lust after children. But there is hope. God can redeem such desires. The dead can be brought to life. Pedophiles can be changed!
Now admittedly, some believers may still be tempted to lust after children post salvation. Addressing sexual sin, Pastor Sam Allberry writes,
We continue to struggle with sin. Temptation does not cease. The full healing and deliverance we long for are not promised this side of creation (p. 50).
Though temptations may not end (and I may not think it wise to let some people serve in our children’s ministry) desires and their resulting action do change by the power of Christ. As long as we have time, we have the hope of change! Let’s care for troubled souls by offering them the hope of Christ.
Allberry, S. (2013). Is God Anti-Gay. The Good Book Company .
Brandon, G. (2009). Just Sex: Is it ever just sex? Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press.
Henley, J. (2013, January 2). Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light. Retrieved October 9, 2014, from theguardian.com: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jan/03/paedophilia-bringing-dark-desires-light
Kaplan, M. (2014, 10 5). The Opinion Pages. Retrieved 10 6, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/opinion/pedophilia-a-disorder-not-a-crime.html?_r=1
Martin, L. J. (n.d.). What is Pedophillia . Retrieved 10 9, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/explaining-pedophilia
Oldenburg, A. (2014, 10 16). John Grisham: Child porn senences often too harsh . Retrieved 10 16, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2014/10/16/john-grisham-child-porn-white-guys-prison-harsh-pedophiles/17344755/
Pessimism About Pedophilia. (2010). Retrieved 10 16, 2014, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2010/July/pessimism-about-pedophilia
Rind, B., Bauserman, R., & Tromovitch, P. (1998). A Meta-Analytic Examinaiton of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples. Physchological Bulletin, 22-53.
Shakeshaft, C. (2004). Educator Sexaul Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature. Hutington.
Singh, A. (2014, 6 14). Richard Dawkins in storm over ‘mild date rape’ tweeets. Retrieved 10 16, 2014, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10998498/Richard-Dawkins-in-storm-over-mild-date-rape-tweets.html