How should Christians respond to allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the film industry, in the workplace in general, and in the church? Most people have been abused at some point in their lives. Statistics suggest 1 in 3 women have been abused, but newer reports suggest that the numbers could be even higher. Clearly much of this has gone on in the church, so we should probably be more prepared to deal with this than we are.I do not believe that abuse in the church negates faith in God. The church is made up of people with problems. Some are trying to live the Christian life through the power of God’s Spirit, but there are wolves in sheep’s clothing who use the church as a way to harness power to abuse others. This happens in every walk of life and is a testimony to the fallen, sinful, broken, state of humanity.
Here several things should be said about abuse:
- Sexual abuse and harassment are not beneficial or healthy for our culture.
- Sexual abuse and harassment damage emotional well-being and negatively impact interpersonal relationships.
- Sexual abuse and harassment imprison victims in a way that prevents authentic freedoms that all should have in our country.
To learn more about the negative impacts of abuse, read Developing and Implementing a Christian Sexual Ethic: Making a Theoretical Practical by Wade Berry.
Here are some principles that should help Christians correctly respond to these issues moving forward.
First, we should be slow to judge. Allegations do not imply guilt.
Second, when guilt is admitted, we should console victims and give aid to the accused. Those who abuse others are likely also victims of abuse. While some are simply doing what they can to take advantage of others, many are struggling with psychological disorders and are in need of much help. This does not excuse their behavior. While there are a number of problems with our legal system and the way it punishes criminals, those who abuse others should not be left in a position or place where they can continue abusing people. Helping does imply incarceration and reformation.
Third, we can choose not to partake in art that promotes objectification of people or that devalues humanity. It is one thing to portray sexual abuse in art and another to promote it. We should not support what exalts this kind of evil.
Fourth, we can and should create places in our churches where those in the community can come and receive help in reporting their abuse. We should also provide resources to help abusers get help through counseling and even in-patient care.
Fifth, we must see value in everyone. All people are created in God’s image. No person deserves to be abused. We must commit to help those who are being abused regardless of their ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, etc. If someone is being harassed or abused, the person needs help.
In our society we often wait until something is legally mandated to provide help. Instead of waiting for Uncle Sam to require more in the way of helping both victims of abuse and abusers with psychological problems, our communities should do more to help people now. Every human is valuable. No one deserves to be treated as a means to an end. No person has a right to use others, but everyone has a right to justice in the face of abuse. We must make it easier for help victims receive justice. We must provide safe havens where victims can escape abuse. We must provide oversight in our places of employment so that abuse can be reported without the accuser facing duress.
As a society we can do better. This is not just something we can do, it is something we must do.
We must do good where we can how we can.
For Christians, providing safe havens is a way of sharing God’s Kingdom now.
Mira Sorvino wrote a very interesting article that was published this week. In it, she states in order for all that has happened to make a lasting difference in our society several things must happen:
- [We must recognize] that sexual harassment and violence is a pandemic and should be treated as such.
- The statute of limitations on sexual harassment or abuse should be abolished.
- NDAs should not be allowed to be used to cover up “morals issues” and should be considered void if the person’s conduct is hurting someone else, especially sexually. Far too many men of power have used these legal agreements to intimidate and silence their victims.
- Education on what our rights as humans are, in the workplace, on campuses, in relationships, etc., must begin early in schools, and become more and more specific as children grow older so that we raise generations of informed, protected people and so that men who will not become harassers or abusers.- Mira Sorvino: The Vindication and Aftermath of My Weinstein Story (Guest Column)
I agree with her words and will be willing to stand for whatever legal, educational, and social changes need to be made to help our society at this juncture.
Chris Cilizza recently wrote an article about the moral vacuum in our country. More than a critique of relativism, it is a critique of how actions have led to the absence of a moral authority, especially in the White House. While many presidents have faced moral failures during their time in office, most have tried to lead America to a “higher moral ground.” I think the virtue of honor that characterized great leaders throughout history is finally being seen again as a need in our country moving forward. Plato stated that the best societies are societies governed by those with honor–people who do right for the sake of doing what is right. Now we have an opportunity to do what is write for our citizens, for our society, and for our humanity. I pray that in the coming months honorable men and women will make decisions that change the direction our country is going, that will begin to right the wrongs and abuses that have gone on for far to long, and that will return dignity to women and others in all vocations where abuse has run rampant.
Now that this series is complete, share your thoughts. What did I miss? What would you like me to add? How has this series helped you? What do you disagree with?