Last August, a 16-year-old girl was raped by two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio. The boys were convicted Sunday and sentenced to youth prison. Now Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced that he will convene a grand jury next month to consider charges against those who were at the party but did not try to stop the crime.
Images of the victim and text messages about her were shared by the boys during and after the attack. Three other boys saw the attack, but recorded it on their cell phones rather than trying to stop it. They were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Other students apparently also recorded the attack on their phones and gossiped about it online. The family's attorney said it was upsetting that no one who saw the victim could be "courageous and man enough to stand up and help."
In researching today's essay, I was surprised to learn that the law does not require us to report a crime unless a special relationship such as parent and child exists. We have a moral responsibility, but not a legal liability. (A woman in Florida is promoting a law that would make witnesses to a crime legally responsible if they do not report it, but so far no such statute exists.) Teachers and coaches, however, are legally required to report any type of child abuse, a fact that may be relevant to the Steubenville investigation.
Here's my question: as our culture continues its moral decline, what is our obligation in God's eyes? If you knew a friend was driving in the wrong direction, you would do what you could to alert him. What does God hold us responsible for doing about the moral direction of our nation? What influence has he entrusted to you for this purpose?
The victim's mother is using her influence for good. After the trial, she made this recorded statement to the boys who attacked her daughter: "Human compassion ... is a God-given gift instilled in all of us. You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives, including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on. This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow, and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions, and pray hard for his forgiveness."
The Lord made Ezekiel "a watchman for the house of Israel" and charged him to warn his nation: "Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:7, 11). How has he made you his "watchman" today?
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009 and is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.
Publication date: March 19, 2013