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Reflection for June 4, 2015 -- Justice in a Time of Distress

posted Jun 18, 2015, 12:28 PM by Parish Administrator

Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you, at a time of distress.... Psalm 32:6

On Wednesday morning, I was shocked by the headline: "DC Teacher Charged with Child SexualAbuse." The news was even more horrible because it referred to a teacher at my kids' school, one of my daughter's favorite teachers.

At the present time, what we know is that an accusation was made followed by an arrest. Court reports say the teacher has acknowledged the accusation of inappropriate touching and sending an inappropriate image. One thing is clear: there will be no winners in this situation. 

I know people who were victims of sexual abuse as children. I have listened to their stories and witnessed their pain. I have seen the emotional and psychological tolls of the experience on their lives, the ones who spoke up and the ones who kept silent. The havoc wrought by those who sexually abuse children is enormous and unconscionable.

At the same time, I have known this person as a gifted teacher. I've known my daughter's deep affection for him and how many good lessons she's learned from him. And so, as the story unfolds I try to communicate to my children the great tragedy of this event and my faith.

My child's outrage and indignation, that anyone would accuse her teacher, gives me the chance to talk about "due process" and "withholding judgement." I also talk about the difficulty of being a "whistle-blower" and the courage that it takes. I ask her to put herself in the shoes of the accuser and imagine how hard it must be. 

To her questions of "Why would he (the teacher) do such a thing?" I talk about human brokenness and about how a person can be good to one person and terrible to another. When she despairs about "How could he be such a great teacher and do something like this?," I remind her that God gives us gifts because God is good, not because we deserve them or because we all will use them well. Many of us squander our gifts. Whatever this teacher may or may not be guilty of, his career as a teacher is over; his life is permanently damaged. 

Who cannot feel a profound sadness? What I would like is to have irrefutable proof, one way or another, and with such proof in hand, I'd like for all of us to be able to put this awfulness behind us so we could move on down the road. But I know that this is highly unlikely. Because the damage done by this isn't just individual; the whole school and neighborhood have been injured.

Trust and community are hard to build and difficult to maintain. And once broken, they are nearly impossible to restore. In light of this news there will be division, and wounding and hard feelings. The reverberations will be felt in our school community for some time to come. And this, too, saddens me deeply.

And so as I pray for Oyster-Adams School, I ask your prayers as well. Pray for the school, for its students and teachers; pray for the accuser and accused. And finally, pray for justice: real justice that makes whole what has been torn apart, which right now includes us all.