When professing Christians apply law to victims and grace to perpetrators, victims suffer while perpetrators celebrate -Boz Tchividjian
Unless you have been living in a cave, you have probably noticed a common trend in the news lately. Abusers are being caught.
There are two ways to look at these headlines. One is despair. Wondering if anyone seeks truth, beauty, and goodness anymore or is everyone a liar? This is a normal reaction and one that my husband and I have fought desperately against the last four years. When you have been lied to by someone you know and respect whether personally or from afar, it leaves a mark on your soul that is hard to ignore. Every observation I make seems to need a caveat.
“He is such I nice guy….from what I know.”
“They have such a great family.. from what I can see.”
Trust is a foreign word now. Each time you move past the latest revelation there is another headline or phone call confirming the darkness in another human soul.
However there is a second, less obvious way to look at the number of abusers being caught, and that is with great hope. Four years ago I began praying a specific prayer almost daily. Lord, please continue to expose the unfruitful works of darkness. And boy has He ever. The Ashley Madison hacking, Josh Duggar, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Andy Savage, Bill Hybels, Matt Lauer, Paige Patterson, and on and on.
I know what some of my Christian brothers and sisters are thinking.
“Why would you mention the names of Christians?”
“Isn’t this going to hurt the church?”
“Love covers a multitude of sins!”
“Who are you to throw stones? We all sin!”
That last one is possibly the most egregious misuse of scripture when it comes to abuse. To use a verse that describes how Jesus defended a vulnerable woman from corrupt religious leaders and twist it to defend corrupt religious leaders so they can prey on vulnerable women is the most despicable scripture manipulation one could attempt. We have lived under this unBiblical mandate for far too long, and the church has suffered because of it. The Bible teaches that we are to be the voice for the oppressed. However, we have been told and believed that keeping sins quiet is in the best interest of the church, but this is just not what the Bible teaches. Rachael Denhollander said it best in a recent interview with Christianity Today.
“First, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not need your protection. It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church. Jesus Christ does not need your protection; he needs your obedience. Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual assault and the evil of covering it up.
Second, that obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.”
Rod Dreher also gives advice to the Southern Baptist Convention leaders here:
“Your inability to deal with these things straightforwardly got you into this mess. You will only prolong the agony if you don’t face the truth now, and accept just consequences, no matter who loses power and status.”
When a pastor has sex with a member of the congregation, it is a crime, not an affair. And that man is no longer “above reproach.”
The notion that forgiveness means silence not only goes against scripture but also the law. The consequences of ignoring reality to promote fake grace are unspeakable. For example, a well known pastor named Doug Wilson lived out this philosophy in the most unthinkable way. He condoned and officiated the wedding of a convicted pedophile and a naive woman claiming the man was repentant. Predictably, however, after having children, the pedophile confessed to having sexual thoughts about his own child. What a nightmare. We are not called to check our brain at the door.That poor woman and innocent child. All in the name of “forgiveness.” Lord have mercy.
If you have suspicions of abuse, and you do not report it, it is a felony in many states. Sit on that for a minute. Yet I have heard faithful church goers with legitimate suspicions say things like:
“The Lord will take care of it.”
“ I am praying about it”
“ It’s not my business.”
“ We have to forgive”
“ We must show grace.”
Jimmy Hinton expresses the danger we risk when we use scripture to protect the predator:
“Many leaders “forgive” (protect, embrace, assimilate, etc.) alleged abusers because they don’t want to be viewed as someone not exercising grace.
Make no mistake, there is no grace when this is done at the expense of the victims-whether past, present, or future.”
Our previous pastor was caught in horrific sins of abuse. Women’s lives were destroyed, even to the point of suicide. And while this happened four years ago, there is one question everyone is still asking….
Jerry Sandusky was convicted of being a serial child rapist. His case is over, and he is behind bars, but there is one question everyone is still asking…
Larry Nassar was convicted of molesting hundreds of gymnasts. His trial is over. He will die in prison. But there is one question everyone is still asking…
Thirty minutes away from me seventeen precious teenagers were murdered in cold blood. The murderer was caught and will be convicted, but there is one question that everyone is still asking….
We are the hands and feet of God. Doing nothing is not an option. Once you know of inappropriate behavior, you do not have a choice to stay silent. Morally or Legally.
Author Alice Hoffman succinctly concludes:
“Once you know some things, you can’t unknow them. It’s a burden that can never be given away.”
When sin is exposed it is not an attack from Satan, rather it is the grace of God calling His people to repentance. Exposing sin is never easy, in fact it is the most difficult thing you may ever do. Jimmy Hinton talks about the excuses we tell ourselves when we really should report abuse. It is a must listen.
Literally no Christian is saying that someone is beyond the grace of God. Let me make this abundantly clear. All that repent are forgiven. However, offenders need to live out their forgiveness away from the pulpit they have misused, without the title they have disgraced, and in some cases, behind bars.
Natural and logical consequences do not negate the authenticity of the forgiveness.
Today I am choosing to hope for great change. I see every exposure as a step closer to healing. The ball is in our court, Church. How will we respond? If you know, and have spoken, and been ignored, don’t give up! There are many fighting this good fight. Pray for strength for the victims and repentance for the abusers. Pray for opportunities to be a part of the grand awakening. And don’t just pray….ACT!
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.” Proverbs 31:8
Resources for education and action: (Please add more in the comments!)