Friday, April 24, 2015


Based on a true story: 

There once was a young girl named Amy who grew up in a Christian home. She had a much older cousin, nicknamed "Peppers" who was a professional photographer.

At family gatherings a few times a year, Peppers always brought his camera and would take lots of pictures for the family. One by one, he would take families and single members of the family and find just the perfect background and take fantastic pictures. Peppers became well-known and many of his photos were published in international magazines. He became quite the family celebrity.

Amy was always a favorite of his because she was so photogenic. Peppers would often take her picture with the promise that he would make her famous as a model. But he also took out other children from the family too.  And indeed a few of his family photos were placed in his studio and garnered much attention.

Amy loved when her mother would dress her up in pretty clothes and do her hair up with curls and ribbons. When she was about seven, Peppers took her out into a field of wildflowers for a shoot. It was within sight of all the people at the family party. After a few shots of her sitting in the field, he asked her to have some fun with him. If she was going to be a famous model some day she needed to begin mimicking the older ladies—be a bit sexy. Then he showed her a magazine so she would understand what he was talking about.

This continued for the next two years—the promises of fame—and getting legitimate pictures of Amy followed up by "fun" pictures. And once, Peppers convinced her mother to allow him to take Amy to his studio.

The rest of this story is inappropriate for general audiences.

When she reached about the age of sixteen, Amy resisted any more photoshoots. She finally had the words in her vocabulary to explain what Peppers had been doing to her.

Her parents were unable to process the girl's words.  They believed she had misunderstood what Peppers had done. Maybe he had gone too far… but surely she was mistaken that he…as a Christian.. would have done such an unbelievable thing. 

They spoke to Peppers and he admitted that perhaps he had shown her some magazines with seductive poses in them, but for the rest… Amy had probably flipped through the magazine and saw other more explicit pictures and simply got the pictures mixed up with reality. She had been so young, after all. 

Tears of regret were copiously shed by Peppers. Amy was brought in and the cousin pleaded her forgiveness for being inappropriate. Amy's parents felt all had been reconciled and she was told to forgive Peppers.

Yet it didn't feel "over" to Amy.  Amy wanted her parents to warn everyone in the family about Peppers so that no other child would have to endure what she had. 

Her father told Amy that she should be careful about administering what she thought was justice. She should not be a part of slander. That wouldn't be Christian. Peppers was a Christian and God was working on him. He bent down and looked into Amy's eyes and whispered, "Have faith in Jesus."

For years Amy's parents avoided seeing the side of the family with the photographer. Later, when Amy was an adult she attended a family reunion where Peppers show up, camera in tow, taking pictures. When he asked to take a picture of Amy and her husband, she walked away. When Peppers attempted to take one of her cousin's sons out for a special picture, Amy went ballistic and started interfering telling the boy to not go with Peppers.

Everyone just passed it off as Amy's emotionalism. She had that reputation. Her brother told her to go see a pastor for some counseling. Her parents were worried about Amy. They told her that God wanted her to forgive her cousin for what he had done to her. Show mercy to Peppers. Do not judge. Allow God's punishment, if there needs to be any, to come upon him.

Amy didn't understand this. But she did everything she could to forgive Peppers and prayed he had indeed changed.

Everyone spoke to her about God's infinite mercy upon sinners. Everyone deserved mercy. She should be the vessel God used to shower His grace upon Peppers. And of course, pray for him.

So wanting to be a good Christian Amy became extremely good at mercy.

A few years later her nephew London, who had been quite a troublemakers and rebellious teenager came to live with Amy and her husband in order to go to the local college. Everyone was so thrilled that London had turned his life around. Amy was more than happy to help.

London had always had a special place in his heart for his Aunt Amy. He knew she was considered a family mess too, like him. He felt he connected with her. She was the only real Christian he had ever met, so he told the family. Which really irritated everyone because Amy was always causing the family some trouble over something.

One evening London confided in Amy that he had been physically abused as a child. Aunt Amy rose in her chair with fury, she began to shake. London saw her reaction and began pouring out his childhood terror. 

Finally someone who believed him and they bonded. Amy confided in London that she had been sexually abused by Peppers when a child. She understood his story. She wanted to know just who this person was,  for she was going on an instant crusade against the person who would do this! She would stand and defend her precious nephew.

London said it was his dad—Amy's sister's husband, George.

She knew her brother-in-law all his life. That was hard to believe. George was very active in church, put together mission trips, was a Eucharistic minister as well as other things. She sat there astounded as London began to tell more horror stories about his father. 

According to London, his father George was the world's worst manipulator and fake Christian. In fact, London hated Christians because his father was such a hypocrite and liar.

Amy's head began to swim. All of a sudden, clues of London's abuse emerged from her memory. Yes, George had been cool and even harsh with the boy at times. Amy had even said something to her sister when London was small. But she thought the problem had all worked out. George's family seemed fine.

So, Amy confronted her sister and brother-in-law. They both told her that London wouldn't let the past go of the past and forgive his father. George said that he had pleaded for his son's forgiveness when he had been a bit harsh, but the boy showed no signs of forgiveness nor mercy on the father. They said they prayed for London to give his heart to Jesus every day. They had to simply wait and have faith.

Amy was confused. She did not go and see  her sister and brother-in-law for months. 

Then George and her sister moved to her town so that London could stay at home while he finished college.  So, Amy, her husband, her sister and George saw each other a lot. 

London lived with his parents but he became morose and irritable. He warned Amy that she should not be deceived by his dad's appearance. George was still a manipulative jerk according to his son. 

Amy's sister assured her that George really had reformed and that London would eventually learn to forgive his dad. Amy and her husband wondered if it wasn't a true God-thing that her sister and George moved close by so they could help George and hold him accountable. Amy thought that she could be the bridge between George and London.

Amy noticed the London was being civil to his parents, but was growing more and more resentful, even hostile towards her. Amy confronted him and London lashed out at her. Couldn't she see George was a hypocrite? He warned her that she and her husband would wake up one day and see who George really was. He wasn't just a fake Christian, he was a devil.

Amy, her husband, her sister and George prayed for London. He needed to forgive. Amy was so sure God had sent her to be the healer in this situation.

One day, George ran off with his secretary, but not before sending his wife to the emergency room from being battered.

Everyone at his church was shocked.

From that moment forward, London despised Amy. 

He despised her Christian mercy.
He despised her unjust God who demanded forgiveness from the weak and victimized but  mercy for the tyrant. 

He blamed her for what happened to his mother. If good, sweet Aunt Amy had only believed him when London said his father George was a fake.

If only someone had the courage to exposed George's hypocrisy.

A few years later, Amy found out that her uncle Peppers was being sent to prison for child pornography.  He had raped more than a half a dozen young girls.

In this Jubilee of Mercy called on by Pope Francis, let us be wise enough to know who needs our mercy. Let us be merciful enough to protect the innocent. Let us be courageous enough to call out sin. For that is the most merciful thing we can do. 

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