Jesus was the first social worker
I am what you call a pariah. I am so because I am a teacher and a soon-to-be social worker. In the spirit of Jesse Bering’s book, Perv, the Sexual Deviant in All of Us, I qualify as a “pervert.” So I am a pervert pariah! It has a nice ring to it.
Learning is in Being Inside and Outside
However, Bering is quick to note that the true meaning of pervert is one that is outside of faith. A convert is one that is inside faith. In this way, I embrace my pervert pariah status because one has to be on the outside in order to see the inside. Therapy would never work otherwise, nor would teaching.
Such is my job, and that is to educate college students and help those that Jesus, the very first social worker, speaks of “Whoever among you has not sinned cast the first stone.”
If you follow my Twitter account, which is new, by the way, you will see that I am followed by many people that others won’t follow.
They follow me; I follow them. Some are attracted to kids. If you follow me, I will follow you. If you hate, I will cast you to deletion. And I have a message for those that hate. Stay tuned. I have an ethical motive, no deception required. Though I am agnostic, I see Jesus as more hope than man.
I never asked for this role. It found me. But there is the saying, you know. I think it is Jewish, that in order to know a pig you have to get in the mud with them. No, I am not calling these human beings pigs. I am saying that if we can get in mud with an animal, a dirty one by Jewish standards, then we can walk in the shoes of those we hate and are afraid of. We dehumanize because we are afraid of ourselves.
Preaching Love is Not Love
I learned this in prison. If we can love our dogs more than human beings then maybe we love our dogs for the wrong reason; they are perfect slaves. As Korean Buddhist Haemin Sunim reminds us, “When we pray for others, we pray for ourselves.” Did you ask your dog if it was okay to neuter him? Did he provide consent? Hmm. Okay, don’t hate me just yet.
Give me a chance, but could you love a pedophile? Could you love him if he’s your child? Could you love an active shooter? Love is the most beautiful and painful feeling because it’s unconditional. Few ever experience love.
I spent the summer interning about fifty hours per week providing sex offender treatment for a statewide program. I did 15 groups per week, inpatient (prison) and outpatient. The work I did was so stigmatized that you cannot find the program on the internet. We cannot see often what we should.
I worked with everyone from a no-contact offense to one of the most notorious child killers in the United States. I can distinguish between a child molester, rapist, psychopath, and, the worst, sadists. Few are actually pedophiles. Yet, some bleed together. As my Columbia professor told me, “People are sloppy creatures.”
I learned that if one says to you they can tell a lie, they are lying. Our trusted FBI agents are no better at detecting lies than a coin according to psychologist Anna Salter. Be humble.
Why did I do it? Why not take the summer off, put my feet up, and read a book? Because as one that served on the altar of a church for 8 years, I never found God. I was told to look where few others do. Did we put God in prison? “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you onto me.”
Child Abuse Victim Offender
I was scared that first day, the gates locking behind me. It’s nothing like the movies, big glass, and the monster of a man peeping at you, wishing to devour your flesh. No, I got to a room, sat down, and all the inmates wondered in. There was no corrections officer to be found. No restraints, no cuffs, it was just me and them. Crimes are too heinous to write in print here. Social work is a dangerous profession and like most helping professions, it pays little.
Then I realized that they were men. They were similar to so many men I met over the years, and they would ask me, “Earl, why do you want to work with sex offenders? They were looking at me, hoping, I would say I was like them.”
Others were attempting to sniff out vulnerability. For most, though, they wanted hope. They hoped to be better men. Others, the light of humanity had log burned dark through unmanageable child abuse. We never hear of a child abuse victim-offender.
I held my ground. Did not disclose.
“Why not teach? You mean they are not paying you a cent to come here?” I then learned what they and I had in common.
If you ask me why I am on my sixth college degree, why I got a Fulbright that was not supported by my school, why I had to pull a school program because I use words like “sex” and “pedophile,’ why I got push back at Columbia University for a caucus I started, and why I write here, you will get the same answer: trauma.
I ran. I ran away so many times and disappointed a girls’ group that I was to have to speak on campus. I ran away from Case Western University to Columbia, from Columbia to Buffalo, and then I found home at Louisiana State. When that prison gate shut behind me that first day, something changed in me. I was blind, but now I was seeing.
If Leaders Didn’t Fail, There Would be More of Them
I am not supposed to self-disclose, but I will. Because I know when reaching others demands it, and when compliance is more about protecting the agency than the client. I know men need to hear from other men that getting help is okay. I will comply, but I will also walk the path of those I serve. I will do so to prevent abuse, not foster it.
Because sometimes even cowards have to lead. Leaders almost always fail. Because the trauma I heard in just one day from just one inmate is more than most have in a whole lifetime, because my childhood trauma mimicked theirs, and I found myself saying, “How did I stay out here and not in here?”
I could put my feet up and shut discomforting thoughts out of my mind. I can balance the scale because for those who are mentally ill, balance is everything. Yet, I never asked for this role, a kind of father of the new age leper. It found me. I cannot help how the powers that be label me. But I have work to do.
We all have shadows but don’t always have to look at them. We would not have cell phones, the internet, airplanes, Freud or Albert Einstein if they chose to stay home that day. If they chose to always look at their shadows. But it’s okay to look at it sometimes.
We live in a world where Hitler’s choice for the idealized blonde child turned out to be a Jewish girl.
Hope is Freedom to have Vision
I use the word deliberately; those leaders were “crazy.” In other words, they had the freedom of vision uninhibited by fear. And so is the best art in the world. Don’t tell me to sit in the middle and tow the line. If we did, humanity would likely not exist because given our state of the environment, someone, somewhere is going to have to lead and jump down the mountain head first.
There is a reason Jesus was killed. That’s just how afraid of truth we really are. Yet when we stare into the darkness deep enough and let go of ourselves, an unimaginable beauty will follow.
My last day there, the most infamous one asked me the last question: “Earl, you have all this information. What are you going to do with it?”
Can you answer him? I think I wrote enough.
Earl Yarington (LMSW) is a social worker and school bus driver. He taught literature and writing for nearly 20 years and spent 3 years working in forensic social work internships with offending populations, including work at Delaware Correctional facilities and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He has a PhD in literature and criticism (feminism/women writers) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Master of Social Work from Louisiana State University, and an interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts from Arizona State University, where he studied the impact of visual image and girlhood in media/social media. He also has an MA and BS in English from SUNY College at Brockport. He is currently in the later stages of his MFA program at Concordia University-St. Paul, where he is studying and writing about Anne Frank. The opinions and analyses that Earl writes are his own and are not necessarily the positions or views of his employers, the agencies he supports, or that of his colleagues.
2 thoughts on “Jesus was the first social worker”
Jesus, whether myth or man, has taken on a profound meaning in our contemporary discourse. Be that as it may, the life it has taken on to its own, is philosophically and ontologically rich and deep. Speaking as both a Christian and a scientist, I have mastered and reconciled both views secular and religious, which is paramount being both an anthropologist and social worker. Until you or anyone else is able to reconcile both ontologies, then you cannot call yourself an anthropologist or social worker. You must have an open mind and realize that we are all inherently sinners but can only be redeemed once we listen.
When we can openly look into the face of an outcast, we can look at ourselves.
Some can never do this. And some can after a prison gate slams shut. Thank you for not staying home that day, Dr. Yarington,for lepers need compassion most of all.
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