This slightly edited article first appeared the blog, Average Youth Ministry.
What a wild several weeks it has been politically! Multiple stories about a powerful man treating women as sexual objects and using and abusing them to his heart’s content. And right now, at least in my Facebook stream, is a whole lot of people who are horrified and outraged that a presidential candidate would behave in such an awful way. I also have another group of people on my feed who are dismissing the allegations because the other side is worse.
Politically you can choose to vote for the person that makes most sense to you or against the person that seems most dangerous to you. This post has nothing to do with who to vote for or against. But this post does have everything to do about powerful men and the attitude that they / we / I take in our position of power, especially when it comes to people with less power, and even more so when it comes to minors.
Ever since the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the late 90’s, the conversation regarding sexual assault and harassment has gotten incredibly complex. It seems that sexual assault, sexual harassment is horrible and should be condemned and those who perpetrate it should be held accountable. That is, unless the person of power is deemed to important to your cause to take down. But, when the feminist sided with Bill Clinton something fundamentally human was revealed about us as a nation, and more importantly, about us as a people.
We long for power first and we will protect the people and the institution that allow us to keep our power at all cost. This reality has been, and is crushing our politics, our culture, and in the church.
The Roman Catholic Church experienced the same problem when it came to priests molesting young boys. There were powerful men who leveraged their position of power to prey on those weaker, and in this case minors, which made it even more horrendous. But the powers that be felt like protecting the institution was more important that protecting these boys and covered up and shuffled around the perpetrators in hopes of keeping everything under wraps. Like all things, the truth eventually comes out and when it did, the sexual assault on these boys not only crushed the individual priests involved, but has crushed the entire institution.
And now we have a situation where sexual assault is again on the front page of our feeds and we are forced to wrestle with how to respond.
Are you going to defend sexual assault or are you going to condemn it? Before you get too self-righteous, take a deep breath and consider what team you fight for. For it is in our human nature to defend the indefensible when it comes to fighting for our side to get and keep power. And we can go from defense to outrage when it helps take the opposing side out of power.
This is where it might be helpful for the church to step away from the political scene and not endorse or aligning yourself too closely to any politically powerful person or movement. For the quest for power and the desire to keep it corrupts us to our core. And when we do, we lose the opportunity to be the prophetic voice our culture desperately needs.
The church needs to reclaim her rightful prophetic voice to a culture that is dark and depraved.
The church stands with and up for the weakest and poorest among us. The church does not sit back and make excuses for those who abuse their power. The church doesn’t defend those who crush their victims even further to defend the status quo. No! The church advocates for the dignity and respect that all humans deserve. It doesn’t matter your age, your race, your sex, your gender, your sexuality, your political affiliation, your economic status or your body type. If you are a human, then you are valuable and deserved to be treated with dignity.
We must be done with dehumanizing each other. And in this particular case, we must be done with dehumanizing others as sexual objects. We have turned a blind eye for too long and we have tolerated too much when it comes to sexualizing everyone and everything.
The young people in our churches must know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have value and worth, and that goes far beyond their sexuality.
Particularly, our girls need to know that it is never ok for boys to grab their bodies as they walk across campus, or to perform sexual acts for them in public or in private. They need to know that the ways the boys on campus, the men who coach them, the images that consume their social media feed are not the way that God longs for things to be.
They will never know that unless we as the church stop defending people and institutions of power, our own included, and leverage our power and influence for the sake of the poor and oppressed.
SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NEVER OK.
We should be ashamed that we have let our quest for power and influence (on both sides) dilute our prophetic voice. May God have mercy on us all.