Press-Republican

On Religion

February 7, 2014

Dark secrets in modern pews

At some point before 35-year-old Jesse Ryan Loskarn hanged himself in his parents' home outside Baltimore, he wrote a painful letter soaked in shame and self-loathing in which he attempted to explain the unexplainable.

The former chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) had lived a secret life, hiding memories of child abuse and his addiction to child pornography. Even as U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents used a battering ram to enter his house, it appeared that he was trying to hide an external hard drive -- containing hundreds of videos -- on a ledge outside a window.

"Everyone wants to know why," he wrote, in a Jan. 23 letter posted online by Gay Loskarn, his mother.

"I've asked God. I've asked myself. I've talked with clergy and counselors and psychiatrists. I spent five days on suicide watch in the psychiatric ward at the D.C. jail, fixated on the 'why' and 'how' questions: Why did I do this and how can I kill myself? ... There seem to be many answers and none at all."

Shock waves from these tragic events were still rippling through closed-door gatherings of Beltway insiders this week when the Rev. Jay Dennis came to Washington, D.C. Dennis arrived for meetings linked to the Join One Million Men anti-pornography initiative, which was approved last summer by the nearly 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention. People who thought they knew Loskarn were, of course, shocked by the details of his terrible secrets.

"Secrets always have power. ... Here was a secret that literally put this man in chains," said Dennis, the veteran pastor at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla. "People are still grieving, of course. They are shocked and in a state of disbelief. ...

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