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the Church and #metoo

When the #metoo movement started, I felt a stirring. But I got nervous thinking about it. Even now, my stomach is in knots as I work on this...as I wonder how this will come together...how this will be received. But in the wake of 150+ women/girls from USA Gymnastics coming forward recently with testimony after testimony of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted doctor within the organization, I just can't keep silent.

I am a #metoo. But I don't want this to be about the details, because I know too many other women who are also a #metoo. I know girls--children--who are a #metoo. People who are dear to me are #metoos. I know the long-term ramifications of being a #metoo. So I don't want this to be just about me.

But I DO want to talk about it. Not loosely, but specifically...in the context of the Church. Like former gymnast Rachael Denhollander's testimony, I want to talk about #metoo in light of the Gospel. (If you haven't read Rachael's testimony, I encourage you to read at least this short excerpt!)

Here are two paragraphs of Rachael's powerful words: "The Bible you speak [of] carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

"I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well."

Wow. I can’t bring myself to read any of the stomach churning details of the crimes. It is too horrific. The triggers are maddening. But I could read those words over and over. Because the Gospel is where freedom lies.

In my experience, any sort of revealing of #metoo abuse--sexual harassment, sexual abuse, physical violation--has been largely met with resistance. With heads in the sand. With excuses. My most recent experience with this sort of violation happened to someone I love and was within a church body...where the act was largely met with avoidance. And as a #metoo, the revealing and then disbelief made me hurt all over again. When a #metoo comes forward, there is really nothing to gain. Chances are, a #metoo won’t be believed, and then will face the shame again as people judge them and their story.

Coming forward is counter to all instinct of self-preservation. The high risk of sharing is, at least in part, why so many victims remain silent for years or even lifetimes. I desperately want that to change. I want the Church to be a safe place...not only physically, but also emotionally.

So here are some thoughts on how to get there: As the Church, we should be the first to understand humanity’s sinful nature. The destruction of sin fills the pages of our Bibles. It shouldn’t surprise us when we have to deal with sin. And yet, it does.

In a way, I feel like we have lost the reality of what sin can do. How damaging it is. How far-reaching it is. And most importantly, how sin completely separates us all from a Holy, Righteous God. It’s the precious blood of Jesus spilled out that covers us from that “final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out” on those without the Way, Truth, Life. The Gospel is beautiful and completely undeserved. And yet, Jesus willingly went to the cross for us! The Church has those things written in black and white.

Because of the inspired word of God, believers know when something is crooked because we have something straight to compare to. Rachael states: "Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is…"

Because of Biblical standards, believers can (and should!) call evil what it is. We should call sin what it is. We should not make excuses for abuse. Ever.

Survivors of a #metoo incident have a lifetime of recovery. To excuse perpetrators or to look the other way denies victims basic dignity, but also encourages the perpetrator to tighten the millstone around his/her neck. (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2)

Rachael is right. The crushing weight of guilt is the only way. The Gospel is the only way for any of us! And as the Church, we know that, or at least claim to. In the case of #metoo, I would love to see the Church willingly provide dignity and support to victims, preventative care for the future... and the opportunity for repentance to perpetrators. And that comes by calling sin, sin. By calling evil, evil. By taking a stand against abuse in our local Church bodies.

To me, these stats are nauseating: By 18, 1 in 4 women will have been sexually assaulted/abused; and by 18, 1 in 6 boys will have been sexually assaulted/abused. These are our family, friends, neighbors. These are the dear ones who share a pew with us on Sunday mornings. It's not a matter of IF sexual abuse is part of our church bodies. It IS. It’s HERE. And I think it would be life-changing and powerful if the Church took the intentional lead in the #metoo movement--steered by the Gospel.

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  1. Sharing. Because your words here matter!

    1. Thank you Joy! I really appreciate the share, and the encouragement!

  2. This is such an important perspective. I'm glad you were able to write about it in light of the church. I really hope the #metoo movement can find the church backing them so that many can come to know His grace and compassion. Blessings!

    1. Thanks for reading on this difficult subject, Bonnie! I hope the same! It doesn't help to brush stuff under the rug!


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