Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Have We Become?

Sex offender laws were birthed out of a perfectly understandable concern; if I had children, I'd want to know if one of my neighbors was a convicted rapist or pedophile. Unfortunately, these laws that were designed to protect us have morphed far beyond their original intent.

My first encounter with how the law has been abused came when I met a man in Utah who had been on the wrong end of another person's prejudice. "Matthew's" first mistake was that he happened to be gay in an extremely conservative state. His second was falling in love with a boy two years younger than him. His third mistake was getting caught in an intimate moment by his boyfriend's homophobic father when he (Matthew) was 18. The father had Matthew arrested, and a hostile judge threw the book at him for statutory rape.

"Matthew" spent the next twelve years in prison - years he might have spent graduating from college and becoming a productive citizen. Since then he's repeatedly tried to get on his feet and rebuild his life, only to be slapped back down every time. Whenever he finds a job or a new place to live, it's only a matter of time before somebody discovers that he's listed on the sex offender registry and raises hell until he's fired and/or evicted. Who wants a sex offender in the neighborhood, after all? And what difference could it make why he's on the registry?

Last time I talked to Matthew he was living in a homeless shelter and trying to save up money from the latest menial job he'd managed to find. Through it all he's never resorted to crime, despite the state of Utah's efforts to turn him into the hardened criminal it deems him.

It would be easy to chalk stories like this up to the famously repressive atmosphere of a state like Utah, and in fact I didn't realize just what a huge problem these abuses of our sex offender laws had become until I read this essay (and its follow up with corroborating links). No doubt some states are worse than others, but the list of activities that can get a person branded as a sex offender continues to grow - even streaking is now treated as a dangerous and predatory crime in the eyes of the law.

Read the stories in the linked articles. Does anyone seriously think that branding these kids as sex offenders for life will in any way improve anybody's safety? How many of them will ever be able to hold onto a good job or live in a decent neighborhood, thanks to their "criminal" record? Is there anyone this side of Sally Kern who can look at this long trail of ruined lives without being outraged?

This is what happens when people begin to view government as the solution to every problem and the provider of every need. Soon everyday life is so regimented by well-intended efforts to mitigate every risk and eliminate every ill that the law becomes a club that can be wielded by anyone with a grievance against anyone else whose behavior they happen to disapprove of. This is how free nations cease to be free, when safety becomes such an overriding priority that no sacrifice is too great to achieve it. In the end the world is just as perilous as it ever was, but the things that once made it a better place to live are gone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've got a couple posts in the works that don't seem to be moving beyond the "in progress" stage, so in the meantime, here's a reply I gave recently to somebody who asked me what I would say to a young gay man or woman who's still in the closet. I suppose I'm really addressing this to a younger version of myself, but I know I'm not the only person who's ever been in that dark place...

God loves you more than you can imagine. You've no doubt heard that in church many times, but deep down you don't really believe it. You've bought into the lie that there's a catch, that you have to become someone else before God will really accept you.

But that's not God speaking - that comes from the voices of people who confuse their personal feelings for God's will and then pick out a few verses that seem to back them up. God was not surprised when you turned out gay; He knew long before you did, and He wouldn't have it any other way. When you cry yourself to sleep at night, God is crying with you - not because you're gay or because he's disappointed in you, but because somebody he loves very much is in pain.

*You* are more valuable than any *thing* could ever be. You are infinitely more important to God than any doctrine or "design" or abstract ideal, and anyone who tells you otherwise has their own agenda. Jesus did not die for a doctrinal statement, or for an institution, or for "traditional marriage" - he died for you.

Don't ever listen to the voices that tell you you're less valuable than other people, or somehow more "broken." You have something unique and important to contribute to the world, a gift you might not have had if you had turned out more "normal" (a human concept, not a divine one). And the world needs what you have to offer, whether the people around you realize it or not.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More Links

1. Classically Liberal eloquently articulates the problem with partisan politics (and all other forms of "us vs. them" thinking).

2. As a fan of both Gregory Boyd and Jacques Ellul, I was happy to discover that Boyd also cites Ellul as an influence.

3. Gabriel Arana shares some reflections on marriage in the wake of his recent engagement.

4. Finally, if you need a laugh this week, check out the ultimate board game...