At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Friday, July 18, 2014

Breaking the Teeth of the Wicked

Some people keep a positive view of life by reminding themselves they can accomplish things if they believe in themselves.

Some people come to a more refreshed view of life by overcoming severe obstacles.

And then there are those who live in hell for sometimes, who are not asking for a ginger-peachy life, but rather for closure and for justice to be visited upon perpetrators of great evil.

They want God--or some balancer of the universe's scales--to pull a major Psalm 3:7 on those who have savaged their souls. "Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked!"

It wasn't a cosmic recalibration of the world's justice, but there was a little good that happened last week. I'm not destroying someone else's reputation, because the details are overly public.

It didn't benefit me, but a little background from my life would be helpful.

I've shared before a few of my trials from being a pastor in North  Carolina, at a small church in the central portion of the state. I entered my charge idealistic that the Gospel of Christ does its own reproducing. I exited rather sobered under the reality that opposition to the liberating and wonderful Gospel often comes from professing Christians.

It was tough. It was a church that needed its colon to work properly and allow some dissatisfied people to leave, and so the "Scottish revival" ungrew the church from 75 to about 45, but they were 45 souls really behind where the church was going. I had received 500 flyers to give out in different neighborhoods about our upcoming late autumn and early winter sermon series dovetailing with the message of the soon-to-be-released The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe film. 

In October 2005, I was called suddenly out to Statesville, NC, where I walked into a conference room containing three men. One of them had anointed the triad as a "special commission" from the regional group of churches in our Presbyterian denomination to deal with the troubles at my church, which I wasn't aware of. They told me that because of the declining attendance and $$$ at the church, they wanted my resignation.

I looked around the room and saw I was the only other person there. I guessed they were talking to me. When I turned back toward this man, he slid a sheet of paper across the table to me, offering a two-month severance. I told them all that was unconscionable and stormed out without a job, vowing to fight for a longer severance and continued medical benefits for our family, especially Joshua.

It wasn't something that destroyed me, obviously. God was faithful. But it was a battle against this man, who, by the way, had violated denominational rules to form this stealth firing committee against me. The battle for continued severance and benefits went for another three months, when a huge meeting of pastors, elders, and committee directors met in Charlotte. The spirit in the air was to continue my severance through August 2006, but this man was resistant. He said to continue my severance would bankrupt their committee. Deadlock.

Until my friend Ben spoke up and asked about a recent sale of another church property. How much money, he asked, was in fact in the coffers of the church planting committee?

Answer: Almost $600,000. My nemesis had been caught with his pants down, lying on the floor of a major denominational meeting. With a blank look on his face, he offered no apology.

That's right. No apology. I never spoke to him ever again. Sometimes, there are folks you can only get along with them if you enforce a personal restraining order.

But something was giving me the impression this guy was toxic. My wife--much to her credit--had that impression a long time before.

Fast forward through the next seven years. We move to Florida, then here to Missouri. In February 2013, curious about what this guy was up to, I delved into the Internet and googled his name.

There, staring back at me from the laptop, was his picture in the Iredell (NC) County sheriff's department. Over 200 counts of indecent liberties with children from the days when he was a fourth-grade teacher from 1970 to 1987. As I observed from afar, the days ticked by until a court date was set and former students steeled themselves to come forward and testify against him.

You can probably find details about the day-by-day progress of the trial, but last week we got the final verdict that brought a measure of justice for boys-now-men whose innocence was taken, whose genitals were grabbed by a teacher who would read the Bible at the same time, a man who professed to be a Christian, who was a church elder and directed the church choir. A man who kept the dark underbelly of his life closed off from everyone else.

Life imprisonment for one count of first-degree sexual offense. Three years each for 172 counts of inappropriate touching/sexual abuse. He's going away for the rest of his life.

Some people have asked me if I'm happy about it. More than anything else, I am glad the former students have finally found a measure of justice, although nothing can ever truly take away their horror for good.

Not every day will be a good one. Positive thinking and joy are good things, but for some, happiness will only come when God breaks the teeth of the wicked.

Some people might think that if that's something God does, he can't be God at all.

I say that if God doesn't kick an evil person's teeth down his throat so that they come out the other end, then he's not truly God at all. Justice is measured, sometimes delayed, and some people will only have it on the other side of the grave, but it is certain. 

A God who can't smash evil between the eyes isn't worthy of our following him. Thank goodness we got a sliver of evidence that true justice reigned last week.

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