A little while ago I wrote, in the light of the unfolding Jimmy Savile scandal, about how it is that people can be hurt by other people and that they don't feel able to speak out.
Recently, someone that I didn't know communicated a claim to me about someone who I did know. I needn't go into details, but the person accused in that situation was someone I have known since a child and have nothing but kind remembrance of. The person making the claim was a stranger to me, and so it was that I did - perhaps instinctively - that thing that so many victims fear that the church would do or has done in the past and brushed aside claims as simply "ridiculous".
This isn't a post about that situation specifically, but more about how it is that I reached a conclusion instinctively, and that I am far from alone in doing the same in like situations elsewhere. I ponder this a great deal at the moment, and this post is where my thoughts rest currently.
I think that for Christians at least, the default position is an optimistic one. We are a people who believe in forgiveness, a people who claim a 'good news' that must surely colour our world-view, a people who for the most part are good-hearted people and for Christians, deep down, I wonder if our instinct is to assume the best, particularly of another Christian. Perhaps inevitably, we based our judgments on our own experience and where I have not been hurt by someone, find it nearly impossible to believe that they are capable of hurting others. We focus, by our injunctions and teachings, upon the good in someone - which quite possibly means that that we lose the art of acknowledging their potential darker side.
I am not sure that there is a sin in any of that. I am not sure that we can change our mindset, and that perhaps if we did, so much would come unravelled for us. It is perhaps true to say that churches are easier to steal from, that other Christians are easier to be abusive to, and that Christian communities more ready to forgive than to act through the channels of the law. I may be wrong, but I know those who have transgressed in all of those ways and have received a Christian-flavoured leniency that wouldn't reflect the sanctions (and concomitant help, even) of the world beyond the doors. As a people of love, as we claim to be and strive to be daily, I wonder if we have lost the ability to sense, acknowledge, or then believe that someone we see as good can be bad in some way.
I have failed in that recently, though I hope that I have taken a more balanced view now (and for the record, this is not a parish matter where I minister). However, what I have learned is that perhaps I need to take more realistic view of the sins of men and women. I am not perfect though I think I am good. I have messed up many times, and so must others. I think it comes down to how we love properly. Loving through rose-tinted glasses isn't proper love. Loving someone capable of darkness - that is perhaps what Jesus would have us learn to do - to love someone despite their failings, not after disregarding those sins in a fit of ill-conceived grace. Proper love is not instinctively defending offenders in favour of victims because we think we know different. For me, it starts here. It starts now.