In 1958, Vladimir Nabokov rocked America's sleepy, conservative culture with the publication of Lolita, the story of a middle-aged scholar obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. Lolita is perhaps the most brilliant, well-crafted example of a literary device called "the unreliable narrator"—a narrator who cannot be trusted because of limited knowledge, mental illness, or questionable morals. The book's narrator is Humbert Humbert, a literary scholar who has long been obsessed with prepubescent girls.
From the first sentence, "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta," we're plunged into the mind of a sexual predator and pedophile. Throughout the novel, Humbert shows little remorse for his emotional and sexual affair with a child—at least not enough to break the relationship. He tries to stir the sympathies of his audience as his describes events to reflect well on himself, presenting himself not so much as a perpetrator as a victim of the "seductress" Lolita.
Last week, when I read the Leadership Journal article, "My Easy Trip From Youth Minister to Felon," I had much the same reaction as when I first read Lolita. "This is a narrator who cannot be trusted. This is the voice of a sexual predator." For many people, like me, it was all too familiar. We readily recognize the biased perspective of sexual predators because we've been on the other side, as victims.
I appreciate Leadership Journal's original intention to draw attention to the issue of sexual abuse by clergy, and I applaud their decision to ...1
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