Saturday, September 30, 2006

Open Arms, Utah: Concept Conception


I was significantly moved today, and circumstances led me to create this blog (If you're interested in the details, you can find them below). Please forgive my stream of consciousness writing. This matter is an intensely emotional one for me, and I am using this blog, in part, to sort out my own feelings and beliefs on the matter.

This blog is centered on compassion/empathy based thinking in regards to sexual offenders and those whose circumstances are similar to them. I recognize that this particular point of view is incredibly unpopular. Many of these people have caused immeasurable suffering for innocent people, and it is easy to empathize with the victims and seek for vengeance on the perpetrators of such horrible crimes. I agree that these people deserve punishment commensurate with their crimes.

Unfortunately what I feel we have done through the current trend of legislation is not only punish them, but ostracize them and set them on a lifelong path of ridicule and intense suffering (reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter). From this ridicule and intense suffering they have no opportunity for relief, regardless of the scale of their offense, or whether they have changed. The victims have countless champions for their cause; as I said it is a popular one. But in many cases, the perpetrators have become victims, and there is no-one to champion their cause. This is why I feel compelled to voice this point of view.

At the core of this blog is an understanding of the rejection and ostracism that these people experience, and a desire to provide for them an opportunity to live in a place where they feel welcome and loved. This understanding finds its expression in my vision of a new city in Utah called Open Arms, a designed community engineered to provide a place for sexual offenders to live where they are not constantly exposed to rejection and ostracism.

I also plan to consider the Christian viewpoint that addicts can change and find relief from their addictions through Christ, and whether it would be worthwhile to make such change (and the support it requires) an intrinsic part of the city of Open Arms. I strongly believe that sexual addiction plays a core role in many perpetrators' lives. In this visionary city of Open Arms I see an opportunity to provide the support that can make such a difference in the success rate of change in these people's lives.

I'd like to share with you the event that prompted me to create this blog:

I read a letter today that made me very sad. I'd like to share it with you (I will attempt to replicate it as accurately as possible, including flaws):


JESSICA'S LAW

Dear Editor:

It is high time we the public, not ask but Demand that legislation be passed to protect our children from sexual predators. Our state has known and dragged its feet in passing Jessica's Law in Utah, year after year they (our state government) promise to pass some sort of Law unknown to the public but never have. When Mark Lunsford came to Utah he was totally ignored by our government and our media gave very little information when he did arrive. Utah is standing still. Do not vote for anyone that will not support Jessica's Law in Utah.

Jessica's Law will (1) Increase the penalty for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child to life in prison or a split sentence of a mandatory minimum 25-year prison term, followed by lifetime supervision with electronic monitoring. (2) Increase, from 20 to 30 years, the period of time before a sexual predator is allowed to petition to have the sexual predator designation removed. (3)Increase sexual predator/offender registration and reporting requirements. (4) Sexual predators who murder their victims now qualify for the death penalty in capital cases. (5) Designate ailing to re-register as a sexual offender/predator or harboring or assisting a sexual predator/offender a third degree felony. (6) Require those already convicted of sex crimes to have electronic monitoring for the remainder of their probation (I would say life). (7)Require all county misdemeanor probations officials to search the sexual offender registry when a new offender is assigned to them. I f we don't act fast we will have sexual predators/offenders running (which they already are) to live in Utah. Start a petition drive for signatures. Let our leaders know how much we love our children in Utah. Our children can't vote they remain vulnerable, they have been for years and years. Please help our children in Utah.

XXXX XXXX Orem Utah

The woman that gave this to me said she sent this to the editor at the local newspaper. The whole thing made me very sad. I was going to send a reply to the newspaper editor, but I was afraid. I was afraid there would be repercussions against me and my family. So, admitting I am taking on a profile of cowardice, I am posting my reply anonymously here.

Dear Editor,

Please understand that my words are in no way intended to minimize or detract from the incredible pain and suffering on all levels caused by sexual offenders and predators, nor the danger that these people can often create for a community.

I was disappointed and dismayed at the letter, "Jessica's Law", that was sent in recently from a resident of Orem. While I understand her outrage, I feel that the position she has taken will only serve to perpetuate the problem (opens in a popup), not alleviate it. In addition, her words reveal an incredible level of callousness in the midst of a strong LDS community that is typically characterized by love, empathy, and compassion.

While the basic, natural human response to violation is vengance, the greater Christian response takes a much higher road. Throughout the LDS doctrine are references to the command that we love all men and women regardless of who they are, what they have done, or who they have hurt. In fact, such personal violation presses upon us a greater burden to reach out to them in a way we would not do to someone who has not hurt us:

Matt 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

It seems that these sexual offenders have been rebuffed from every community they are a part of. They have no one who loves them. What a horrible state to be in. What an incredible obstacle to those who desire to change and overcome their addictions.

I can't think of a better place than Utah for these people. A community filled with compassionate and loving people wholeheartedly and enthusiastically dedicated to helping others become better, become more than who they were, become who God intended them to be. A community that understands the critical role of Christ in success at overcoming any addiction. Where else can these people find such a wealth of support and love to draw from in their pursuit of recovery, in their attempts to become valuable, contributing members of society.

Let us show Open Arms to these people and welcome them into our community. Let us overwhelm them with love, with support, and with a willingness to become their foundation of confidence as they strive to improve and realize a new life of purity and integrity. As we seek to do so, I feel that those who wish to remain dangerous and hidden will leave, while those who desire to change will do so, and our community will be seen as contributing a powerful impact for good on this world, as we as Christians are called to do.

I'll be upfront and direct. My desire in publishing this blog is to attract enough attention and resources to this vision of Open Arms, Utah to bring it into reality. My intention is to treat any topic that will support the creation of this new city, from banal topics such as city planning, utilities and economic development, to core Christian principles such as the atonement of Jesus Christ and the divinity of mankind, to rare topics such as the economics of carnal gratification.

I welcome all comments. I reserve the right to segregate comments that do not show respect into their own category to preserve an atmosphere of welcome-ness for all.

Purple Saffron