The majority of Christians agree that abuse should not happen. And yet, it continues to happen in our neighborhoods, friendship groups, families, and churches. So, we have to conclude that our theology on abuse is often either misguided, toxic, or both.
Critics have done a brilliant job of establishing all that complementarianism isn’t. I am grateful for their groundwork. But today, I want to explore what egalitarianism is. I want to move beyond a justified critique of complementarianism toward a strong egalitarian theology against abuse.
In stumbling after Jesus, the church has sometimes faltered. Sometimes, we’ve been the ones holding women’s bruised and bleeding hearts in our fists. And sometimes, for all our good gospel intentions, we’ve done the wounding.
I recently spoke with a mental health case manager about the importance of male vulnerability. He shared with me that most of the men who use his services do so because they never learned how to process and express emotion beyond two extremes: happiness and anger. I was unsurprised by his admission, because I have long observed and grieved the intense cultural pressure on men to suppress their emotions and by extension, their humanity.
We asked our supporters what concrete measures churches can take to combat abuse in Christian communities and strengthen their internal response to abuse. Some of you weighed in with some great ideas and examples, which we’ve compiled below.
This past Friday, The Wartburg Watch exposed megachurch pastor Andy Savage for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, Jules Woodsen, who has now come forward to share her story. Twenty years ago, Savage drove then-seventeen year-old Woodson down a secluded road and sexually assaulted her. At the time, Savage was an adult college student and serving as a youth pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas.
We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.