What if it was your child?

I’ve been angry all week. Angry and sad.

The allegations of sexual abuse of children by a former coach are awful – really horrific – but they aren't, in and of themselves, shocking. Kids, tragically, get abused all the time. What made this situation so scandalous is the impunity with which the accused acted, and the complicity of his powerful, well-connected and wealthy friends to cover up his crimes.

Today, thousands of Penn State fans are voicing their outrage on Twitter, on blogs and on TV news. They're furious not with the the coaches and administrators who coddled this abuser and enabled his abuse, but with the trustees of the university who have begun to clean house.

As far as I can tell, none of the people defending, excusing or otherwise minimizing the actions of Joe Paterno and his coaching staff have asked themselves the one most important question: "What if it was your child?"

What if your child had been brutally raped -- sodomized in a shower by a man you trusted to mentor him? And then what if you found out that someone had walked in, seen the abuse, and did nothing to stop it? What if you knew that an entire institution had turned a blind eye to the situation and continued to allow this man to retain all of his power, his prestige and his access to children?

I believe that no one who honestly grapples with this question -- no one who actually tries to imagine their own son, daughter, little sister or grandchild in the clutches of this type of monstrous abuser -- can walk away without having their innate, God-given sense of justice grievously offended.

If we can bring ourselves to empathy, we can bring ourselves to action.

I'm so thankful to be surrounded by men and women in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Canada, the U.S and Australia who have had the courage to ask that question: "What if it was my child?"

There are tens of millions of orphaned kids in this world at high risk of sexual and economic exploitation. These are the ones that Jesus called "the least of these, my brothers and sisters." It would be so easy to simply walk away, close our eyes and go on with our business. 

But Jesus modeled that empathy and demanded it of his disciples. He identified so closely with the suffering of the poor that he told followers, "If you give them food, you give me food. If you protect them, you protect me. If you turn your back on them, you've turned your back on me."

Today, a little boy on the streets of Phnom Penh is selling scrap metal. Tonight, he'll be selling his body.

So, what if that was your child?

John McCollum1 Comment