Church and #metoo
Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?
A little bit of historical context about the #MeToo Movement. Revelations came out in waves in 2018, with allegations of everything from harassment to rape by a Hollywood movie maker Harvey Weinstein. Then on October 15 actress Alyssa Milano sent out a tweet that said, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write #MeToo as a reply to this tweet.” The next day she woke up to find that more than 30,000 people had used the hashtag #MeToo. Within 24 hours, it had risen to 12 million. And has since grown to hundreds of millions in at least 85 countries. We all know Hollywood has issues but what about when it hits closer to home .
These courageous women and millions like them have found their voice and it has resulted in the exposure of hundreds of prominent men in news, morning shows, entertainment, sports, business politics, and education. Men we thought could be trusted. Names that we knew. People that we believed in that have been publicly exposed.
And sadly, I must acknowledge it has reached the church world too! Sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse of any kind anywhere is always tragic, damaging, hurtful, and sinful. Even more complicated and hurtful and dark when it’s inflicted by the very people who should have been the safest refuge and protectors for victims of abuse.
WHERE DOES THE CHURCH STAND?
So where does the church stand? I hope it’s obvious but this is not a gray area. The Bible never flinches in recording and denouncing the sexual sins and mistakes of its characters.
And it’s always wrong when one of God’s treasured daughters (or God’s treasured sons for that matter) experiences sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. There are many scriptures I could point you to, but the clearest relational blueprints in Scripture are these words from the apostle Paul to a young church leader named Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:2: “Treat… older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
In other words, treat the people you work with, the people who report to you, the people you attend church with, and the people in your neighborhood like family with absolute purity. If someone is young enough to be your daughter, treat her like you would want your daughter treated. If someone is a peer, treat her like you would want your sister to be treated. If someone is old enough to be your mother, treat her like you would want your mother to be treated.
Now can I just take a minute to talk directly to guys? Guys, listen to me please we need to be courageously more like Jesus was with women. Here’s what I believe, no matter how many women share their stories, until enough men rise up to intervene, condemn, and protect….the exploitation of women isn’t going to end. Proverbs 31:8 instructs us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. So guys, what does it mean for us to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and to ensure justice for those being crushed? It means instead of laughing at a joke that was demeaning or disrespectful to a woman, a real man says, “That joke wasn’t funny and it wasn’t appropriate.” – When a man hears that from another man, he doesn’t tend to repeat that joke.
It means instead of laughing at a guy’s remark about a part of a woman’s anatomy, it means saying, “I don’t appreciate you talking about her that way. She’s somebody’s daughter. She’s somebody’s wife. She’s somebody’s mother.” It means instead of turning a blind eye to a pat on the butt or a brush against a breast, or a way over-extended hug, it’s a man intervening and saying, “Don’t ever touch her that way again.” Chances are, he’ll think twice next time. Guys the time has come not just to stand for women by treating them with absolute purity as our mothers, sisters, and daughters but to stand up for women.
We need men in the marketplace who treat their female colleagues with respect and dignity, and appreciation for their skills and abilities, and who extend equal pay and benefits for equal work. We need husbands and dads who understand that the way they treat their wives, the way treat their daughters is as much of what they’ll be held accountable for on judgment day as anything else. And I just want to say a word of encouragement not only do I believe you can be that man. I see many many of you who are becoming or are already that man. Thank you on behalf of my wife and daughters and every woman in this church for manning up!
Now if I could say a few words to you as a woman. Statistics would indicate that quite a number of you have been the target, the object, or the victim of sexual harassment in many different forms and I know this is painful for many of you. Almost every woman who has gone through sexual harassment in whatever form, talks about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual fallout. They wrestle with guilt and wonder if they somehow asked for it; if they could have deflected it. They wonder if they were making a big deal out of nothing and many victims carry shame that should only belong to the perpetrator.
So let me say something to you and if you will allow me as a husband and a father, listen to me… IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
It doesn’t matter what you were wearing.
It doesn’t matter what you said.
It doesn’t matter where you were.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT and it’s always always a big deal!
Be careful not to project onto God all the “bad man qualities” you may have seen in a dad, brother, abusive boss, or even a rogue pastor. Please don’t see their horrible and inexcusable behavior with how God is.
God’s Word declares you are loved; you are valuable; you matter; and in Jesus, there is no male or female and He wants you to be a powerful and change-making force for good in this world with your life inside and outside the church!
You don’t need to apologize for who God made you to be whether that’s a leader, a teacher, a mother, a lawyer, a doctor, a grandmother, a musician, a wife, an artist, or a pastor. Be who God made you to be inside and outside of the church. I am so sorry for anyone in your life who has mistaught or mistreated you, and I for one want to be part of setting a different tone and direction in my life and in this church.
Friends, not only am I sickened when mistreatment happens in a workplace, in a school, in the military, or in a family but I am so troubled and grieved when it happens in a church. I’m a pastor. The word pastor actually means shepherd which means my job and the job of every pastor is to protect the sheep. So if you have ever had an experience with a pastor, church leader, or volunteer who instead of protecting you turned into a predator and did tremendous damage to you, please know I am so so sorry.
We never see in the Bible anywhere God ever attempts to cover up the embarrassing behavior of His leaders? They may have tried to cover it up, but God never did! He sure didn’t cover up the time Noah got drunk and naked. There was no cover-up of Abraham’s lying problem or having a child with another woman. There was no cover-up when Amnon raped his half-sister. Nor was there a cover-up when David committed adultery.
When sexual misconduct happens it should never be covered up; never spinned; never hidden. I agree with the hashtag #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. What matters in these instances is not the church’s reputation but that a treasured child of God has been abused or assaulted and justice has to be brought to bear. Anyone victimized by power needs to know Eastside will be their refuge, their strength, and their champion. As a church, we must and we will stand with the oppressed, the assaulted, the harassed, the demeaned, the disrespected no matter who the perpetrator may be. I commit to you that this is going to be an issue we’re going, to tell the truth about at Eastside. We refuse to ever hide, cover up, or go into spin-control mode.
Statistics tell the sad truth that many have been victims of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual violence, and you’ve never told anybody. Find a trusted friend or counselor and take the first steps towards healing by bringing it into the open. Take hold of the healing that God has for you. He loves you and you can choose to trust Him.
Now for many of you, this is a very painful topic, and it’s not a topic I enjoy talking about but one we MUST talk about. Jesus didn’t just come to set us free from our sins but also the sin done to us. The blood poured out on the cross of Jesus Christ doesn’t just heal you from the grip of sins that you’ve done, but the grip of sins done to you. –The cross does both. There is freedom for you, but you have to trust God….you have to receive it and experience it. God made a way for you through Jesus and there’s freedom for you.