It's a trap that Christians, and more especially those Christians who are called into ministry, can find themselves caught up in. What makes matters worse is the fact that often they dig the hole they fall into; and the foot in their mouth is usually theirs too!
This is what I am seeing with the issue of Ched Evans, a professional footballer who was convicted of rape and sentenced to five years. I am finding people who are stating many things (as facts). Three of the most common things I have heard (in face-to-face conversations and in the media) in support of the chap thus far have been:
1. That the man has served his sentence,
2. That the man is awaiting the outcome of an appeal, and
3. That had he been a plumber or carpenter he would have been allowed to find work without the opposition he has to him taking up employment as a footballer.
'Served his sentence'
Well he's done his time in prison and is completing the second half (30 months) of the sentence out in the community on licence until the five years have passed. There is nothing remarkable here - this is normal practice and neither negates or rewards the man.
'If he'd been a plumber or carpenter'
The he would of course be free to take up employment in his chosen work area. Of course there would be the proviso* that he couldn't actually be engaged in any work (paid, unpaid or voluntary) where he could have access (directly or indirectly) with anyone under the age of 18. He is not able to become a cab driver or children's entertainer or any one of a number of other potentially 'difficult' roles either.
The reality is that the man in question was a footballer and so the additional issue of 'role model' has been introduced. An interview this afternoon basically said that he needed to find a job where he could use his skills but not in the public arena. The reality is that the only skills he appears to possess are kicking a ball and so the only arena he has for that is public - a real 'Catch 22' situation!
'Awaiting the outcome of an appeal'
Well, as I understand it, he isn't!
He has on two occasions applied for an appeal hearing but these have both been dismissed because there were no grounds (wrong process, new evidence, etc.). What we have is a man who was convicted and found guilty and the courts are confident that justice was done. This means that he is guilty of rape and that's it.
What he is waiting for is for his case to be reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). This is being done at the request of Evans and his legal team but the chances of them saying that there is a case for an appeal being heard is on a par with Tamworth making it to the FA Cup final at Wembley! It is possible but highly improbably (sorry to disillusion all the Lamb's fans out there!)!
Ched Evans is not awaiting the outcome of an appeal - he is a convicted rapist and therefore needs to suck it in and man up and find another occupation (or country where he might be able to ply his trade without the restrictions and opposition he is facing here).
The three main thrusts here appear to be:
1. The man needs to be made an example of, after all he has never 'owned up',
2. The man needs to be made to pay and to act as a warning to others,
3. He deserves everything he gets!
'Should be made an example of'
Well actually he shouldn't be made an example of, he should undergo the due process of law and then, having served his sentence, be rehabilitated. This is one of the areas where I find people generally do pretty badly these days because we don't generally desire justice, we just want revenge and to 'make people pay'.
The problem is that what we should be looking for is 'Justice and mercy' as the prophet Micah tells us - and that this is really only found when we act in 'humility' (there but for the grace of God goes any one of us). This is a really tough call made even tougher by the attitudes around us!
'A 'warning' to others'
As much as I have understand the sentiments behind this as I listened to to those who have suffered such awfulness themselves preach this stance, I have to say that it is education (on all sides) and the development of mutual respect (have I mentioned how shocked I was to find boobs in the Sun recently? I was under the impression that page three and the wobbly bits pages had gone. Can't express how surprised I was at the sight!).
Warning to others rarely are a warning. It seems to me that what they turn out to be is an example of 'unlucky' and rather than act as a warning only seek to define who the enemy really are. I don't think 'warnings' have ever done much to the rank and file - other than fire them up and get them against whatever it is that you consider to be right.
'Deserving everything he gets'
Perhaps it's the business I'm in but working for a man who went to a cross to ensure that we didn't get what we deserved I guess I might be on a bit of a loser here. You see my view is that Mr. Evans has indeed got what he deserved in a court of law and that this is how we deal with things in a civilised society.
The problem is that what the expression really appears to mean for many who utter is that he deserves more than was prescribed by law and that this is an extremely vocal support of him getting perhaps more than he deserves.
Now a female friend I shared this thought with turned around and agreed with me but then, after a moment's thought, said, 'But there will be many who will want more than that which the law imposes who will disagree.' And this is is surely the rub!
This is an issue that has caused such polarisation. Such vitriol and so many irrational pronouncements from both extremes and this is sad and wrong.
Sad for us as a nation.
Sad for us because it speaks of injustice and revenge where justice and rehabilitation should be found.
Wrong because the man should most definitely not become the hero that he appears to be in some people's eyes and yet should not become the demonised talisman that others have made him either.
He is a foolish man who acted wrongly in the eyes of the law and that should be enough for us. Now we have to work out how he can move forward and be rehabilitated and, most of all, ensure that he never repeats his wrong doings again and look at how we can bring healing to the many who have had awful memories revisited because of the media coverage (can I say excesses?) relating to this!
It is so easy for us to sound as if we condone or dismiss the experiences and pain of others. It is all too easy to sound as if we are offering excuses or ignoring the pain that wrong behaviour of others has brought and in so doing cause more hurt.
This is an area that will not go away overnight - but it is an area that needs to be discussed, dialogued with and the right path through the swamp found lest all perish!
ps. in case you haven't clocked it yet: the good people are those who can be found polarised at either extreme of this discussion!
*Probation Circular 29/2007 Post Release Enforcement – Licence Conditions provides useful information about the wording of additional licence conditions and may be of assistance when formulating prohibitions for other court orders.
Proposed prohibitions should be necessary, proportionate, specific and enforceable. They should result from an analysis of the circumstances of the individual case and include advice and information from other agencies. Legal advice should be sought on the precise wording of particular prohibitions. Examples of prohibitions on the offender, depending on the nature of the civil order applied for but particularly relevant to SOPOs and RSHOs, include the following:
Not to seek work either paid, unpaid or voluntary where they
may have access, directly or indirectly to anyone under the age
Not to have contact with any past victims, until they reach the
age of 18;
Not to frequent any educational establishment, including
nursery or pre-school groups where persons under the age of 18
may be present;
Not to enter any premises where a person under the age of 18
is currently staying;
Not to engage in private-hire taxi work;
Not to obtain employment as an escort, or otherwise engage in
- Not to enter particular areas as defined by maps or postcodes;
NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED © ACPO, NPIA 2010 201
Guidance on Protecting the Public: Managing Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders, Second Edition, Version 2
7: The Police Role in Offender Management
Not to seek the company of, or be in the presence of, any person
they know to be an RSO or subject to an order under the SOA;
Not to possess camera or video footage, stills or photographs of
any child under the age of 18;
Not to film or take photographs with any image-capturing
device of any child under the age of 18;
Not to meet, communicate with or engage the services of
prostitutes or any other sex industry worker;
Not to contact, intentionally associate with or befriend any
child or any child of a particular age group (eg, those under the
age of 18);
Not to work in a particular profession (eg, children’s entertainer);
Not to take part in sporting activities that involve close contact
Not to live in a household with children under 18 years of age;
Restrictions on movement (eg, not frequenting areas where
Restrictions on associations (eg, drug users, convicted people,
Requirement to disclose information about past offending to
potential employers or others (eg, partners with children).