Even if you’re only paying half-attention, there is a lot of news, content and awareness on the poor treatment of women right now. Frankly, it’s difficult not to be sensitive to what’s happening. Bad news is bad news but what’s even worse is to not learn from these hurt-filled moments so that people can be helped now and that pain can be limited or even avoided in the future.
To recap the context I’m working through:
Back in April, news broke of 200 school girls in Nigeria were kidnapped in one day. Some have escaped, while the whereabouts of most are still unknown. As a result, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign was born (and shown to be effective). But we ask ourselves, how do we live in such a world? This is absolutely mind-boggling to an outsider like me.
Two weeks ago we read reports from Egypt of women who were sexually assaulted during the inauguration celebration. Make no mistake, these sexual attacks are political statements which brings back the question, what kind of a world do we live in?
Stateside, our heads are spinning from the news of Bob Jones University faculty telling a rape victim to repent of her sin. The link is to a story about a young woman who was assaulted at her summer job, then began college, shared her story, and was advised by faculty to repent because there’s “sin under sin.” Stupid advice is sinful too.
And there’s news about concerning Bill Gothard as the results of his harassment investigation have now been released. He was a popular family and home-schooling speaker and the founder/president of his organization until he resigned earlier this year over the accused misconduct. It’s now been determined that he’s guilty of inappropriate activity but not criminal action. For the sake of these women, I hope it’s true. But if this investigation was done poorly, woe to them.
Then about two weeks ago, this article “My Easy Trip From Youth Pastor to Felon” was posted on the Leadership Journal site where a former pastor wrote this piece about how his “adultery” ruined his life and how all of us need to be careful. From the first page, it was clear that the “other woman” was a student which explained the felon and why he was imprisoned. The title containing the term “easy trip” was only part of this train wreck of an article. I’m sure in the meeting that decides what gets published, it seemed like a good idea to put out this cautionary tale. Between that and how annoyed I was by the preachy tone of the article, I stopped reading. Then I thought, what happened to the girl? Re-opened the page, finished reading, saw there was hardly a mention of the young woman which consequently objectified her even further and then saw social media blow up with #TakeDownThatPost. Brutal.
Uncharacteristically, Leadership Journal was slow to respond for some reason which escalated the outcry on social media. And though it meant people, particularly women, would need to revisit their pain, some incredible and worthwhile essays and articles were posted like:
“A Cautionary Tale About Rape Culture In the Church & #TakeDownThatPost” by Heather Celoria on Junia Project blog.
“My Innocence Was Stolen From Me” – Anonymous published by Micah J. Murray,
#HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heartbreaking Hashtag by Karen Swallow Prior
May these and the many other courageous words shared help many. Leadership Journal eventually took down the post and included a truly contrite apology (although I and many are still not over the part where they deleted comments demanding they take down the post).
If it makes a difference to anyone, I have not cancelled my subscription to LJ. This is an extremely regrettable scene but God is greater and may He bring healing to the many that we discovered are in need of it. Further, from what I know, there are some truly wonderful and brilliant people at LJ and their parent company, Christianity Today. I suspect not only has much been learned but that they will use their platform to help in needed ways.
That said, what do we do with all these horrific stories and what will we do with all the new ones that will inevitably be posted in the weeks to come? The anger and sense of frustration keeps building. Why such unnecessary violence? How do these terrorists live with themselves and a variation of the classic question, “How does God let them live?” Why do these conservative institutions that were founded in the love and hope of Jesus mutate and do so much harm?
Many more why questions but what but here’s what I’m trying to do with these stories and the many like them:
First, pause on it. Read it, get angry about it, and grieve these injustices. For starters, Google the hashtags. Initially you’ll be overwhelmed by the results. Just read a few. There is much goodness found in tuning our attention and sensitivity to the realities of what’s going on. Maybe you’re like me and limited on spending the time and attention you desire on thought-provoking issues, ideas, and needs. Perhaps, include it as part of your prayer-Scripture life (it’s what I do sometimes – and no, I have not found it to dilute my personal worship. Frankly, it makes some things even more real).
Second, be careful to not add to the shame but rather contribute to the healing. If I had not heard it with my own ears, I never would have believed that there are some who justify such abuse and violence with things like, “Well, when you act/dress like that, what do you expect?” or “That’s because …” No, no, no. While we need to always be wise in how we live, if you pay attention to so many of the stories, it has nothing to do with behavior, appearance, or various other particulars. There are predators among us, we need to be part of the protection and when the tragic happens, we need to be part of the healing. We cannot be part of the shame.
Third, and related to the second, we may need to rethink our understanding of victimization and reduce the cynicism and objectification associated with it. All of a sudden the victim becomes a “them.” Confront the part of self-preservation that rationalizes the pain away because you’re tired of feeling the pain. I’m not suggesting that we endure every victim as if each was our own daughter (or son) as none of us have the capacity to do that. There is space between that and apathy. Often it is in a spirit of brokenness and prayer that we find a better understanding.
In the next post, I want to process out loud some of my reaction, what can be learned/gained from such stories and what I’ve been hearing from others (as mentioned in the first step of pausing, reading, expressing the anger/grief and reflect). Feel free to contribute your own. As always, thanks for reading.