Monday, February 26, 2007

Controlling The Flow Of Information

Reprinted from last February:

A friend spoke movingly about prison ministry at church yesterday. He spoke about a man he was working with who was doing 10-21 for Felonious Sexual Assault. He read at length from the man's recent writings about incarceration and how it affects his family. The presentation highlighted what he was learning from this man spiritually.

It also highlighted why I won't do prison ministry, at least not with sexual offenders. Prison ministry is a wonderful thing, and Christians should do more of it. The Wymans send money to Prison Fellowship, we participate in Angel Tree, and I wish repentance and forgiveness for all of prisoners.

But slips of information came out, information that could only have come from the perpetrator, that pass most people by but I zeroed in on. "He had an affair (huh?) with a girl who was 15, almost 16..." I immediately thought bet not. The age of consent is 16 in NH. Why would a repentant person make sure that his spiritual advisor think his crime was borderline? That also didn't square well with the length of sentence.

My friend read directly from the prisoner's writing. It was mostly gentle, humorous, and warm. But. "I have noticed that women get shorter sentences for the same crimes than men." Whether true or not true, that is not the statement of a repentant person. What happens to other people is irrelevent to the state of your soul. Whether life is fair or not is immaterial.

My antennae were up and I googled the name and read up on the case. He had molested the girl from when she had just turned 14 to just before she turned 16. See how a liar can use the truth? She had come from a Brazilian orphanage, and he had met her through church, as she was the age of his daughters. Where do wolves hide? Hint: Why would a wolf hide in wolves' clothing? So she was doubly helpless, doubly dependent on adults for affection.

He had been "inappropriate" with four other underage females as well. Funny how that got left out of the story he puts out.

Here's the "flow of information" part. Sex offenders have a strong need to control exactly how you hear things. Criminals in general do this, but trebly so with DSO's. He had appealed his conviction because he had not testified, on the advice of his attorneys. His attorneys noted that testifying was likely to land him in even more trouble, but that he was more fully involved in the design of his defense than any of their other clients. He now thought that it would go better if he could control the flow of information. (It didn't, BTW)

While it is my experience working with sexual offenders which first put me on to this uber-suspiciousness, I have understood it not from observation of others, but from observation of self. The exquisite skill in admitting guilt while redirecting focus, of minimizing criminality, of using the truth to lie -- I don't hate these things because they are foreign to me, but because I understand them all too well. It is lying to yourself which comes closer to the unforgiveable sin. To lie, not merely for a moment of fear, but as an ongoing proposition -- that is a sin which will never be confessed. And hence, unforgiven.


jw said...

Well said. Doubly so on the lying to one's self.

I've seen the desperate need to control information by telling parts of the truth and spinning the rest. It's the norm in the politics of gender as well as in sex offenders.

For Christians involved in prison ministry, I think a basic class is needed. Someone to teach how some people spin information ...

Solomon2 said...


Yankee Doodle said...

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Right on the money. I deal with self-deceit regularly, especially during Lent. Sometimes I win. Sometimes not. The fight will go on until Christ returns.

Erin said...

Reminds me much of M. Scott Peck's work "People of the Lie"