Unless you live in a cave, if you are a U.S. citizen, you have probably heard of the Dateline series To Catch a Predator. Last Friday, after running errands all day, I wanted to relax, so I turned it on. At first, all I could feel was delight as sexual predators were getting what they deserved. It is almost impossible to watch the program without putting yourself in the predator's shoes. Here a respectable man in the community with a wife and children shows up to a house thinking he is going to have sex with a 13 year old girl only to discover the operation was a sting. Now the whole country gets to watch the guy squirm in his pants as his dirty little secret is revealed. If that is not enough, just when the guy thinks he is off the hook,there is a swarm of cops waiting for him before he leaves the garage (the garage part is no doubt for cinematic effect).
The reaction is ever so typical of those who are caught with their pants down-please turn the camera off! Most of the men tried to justify themselves, saying they had no intention of doing anything or tried to say that they didn't know the girl was 13. This is understandable. Wouldn't you or I do the same thing? The host of the program then pulls out sexually explicit e-mails written by the men revealing that they actually did know the girl (who turned out to be a undercover investigator) was 13 and that they actually intended to do what they said they had no intention of doing.
Let me preface what I am about to say with this. In no way do I believe any of the men on the program were innocent. In every way, I believe those who take advantage of preteens and adolescents should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I do not want to see young boys and girls preyed upon any more than anyone else. Neither do I think that it is wrong to trap sexual predators with sting operations. I know you can sense that there is a "but" coming, and there is. The question must be asked, does the show go too far in tempting vulnerable men to do what they would otherwise not do? If so, is that moral?
It is one thing to set up a sting operation for those who are actively seeking young adolescents to prey upon. It is quite another to tempt someone to sin and then shame them in front of the entire country. In one instance, one of the men wrote to the "13 year old" that he was afraid and didn't think he should go through with it. The "13 year old" then wrote back "What are you-chicken?" I don't know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like the word "temptation" to me. Temptation is something that the devil does, not God. The Bible teaches that God does not tempt anyone to sin. If God does not do it, then is it moral for man to do it? If you answer yes to the question, then a further question must be asked. To what degree should people be tempted for the purpose of prosecution? Should the sex police jam 40 year old men's e-mail addresses with child pornography and then show up at their doors when a few of them download the photos into their hard drives? Where does it stop?
In asking these questions, I am not proposing that I have the answers. I do not. But I think the questions should still be asked. In our efforts to catch predators, we can easily become predators ourselves if we are not careful. As someone once said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.