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Abuse

The church has been increasingly criticized, especially in the last couple of years, for responding poorly to or remaining silent about sexual, physical, and spiritual abuse. Survivors and allies are calling the church out for enabling and overlooking abuse, and urging Christians to educate themselves on the issue.  Many churches have a tendency to keep abuse in-house, prioritizing the reputation of the church over the trauma needs of abuse survivors. Worse, they sometimes even defend perpetrators and deliberately silence victims. Why have we sometimes struggled to do justice and not harm? Sometimes, churches respond unjustly to abuse because they elevate the word of powerful men above the word of women. Other times, churches fail survivors because their theology doesn’t easil... Read more
Editor’s Note: This article makes a case for restorative justice in the wake of #MeToo as one way to transform our violent culture and challenge patriarchal beliefs at the root of sexual violence. The article’s intent is to ask what comes after #MeToo and propose a way forward that could transform and restore our society. We affirm that no survivor should be pressured to pursue restorative justice. On a temperate Southern California evening in 1982, I was raped. It was one of those all-too-common stories of a college girl being assaulted at a party. It was also one of those well-hidden stories of a Christian male refusing to take “no” for an answer. I remember that, when he began to pull at my pants, I said, “No! We are not going to do this.” As he cont... Read more
It’s been an agonizing couple of weeks for survivor Jules Woodsen. Woodsen was sexually assaulted by megachurch pastor Andy Savage in 1998, while he was serving as her youth pastor. On March 20, 2018, Savage released a statement admitting he had abused his power over Woodsen, and announcing that he would step down from his pastoral position at Highpoint Church. A few short days after Savage resigned, yet another prominent megachurch pastor was in the news. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, has been accused of sexual harassment. That story is still unfolding. It’s worth noting that both pastors received standing ovations from their congregations when they made a statement in response to the abuse allegations. Both churches claimed they took proper steps to a... Read more
In December, TIME magazine named the “Silence Breakers,” the women who broke their silence on abuse last year, their “Person[s] of the Year.” The pervasiveness of abuse was made evident with the #MeToo movement this year and awareness swelled as Christians added their voices with #ChurchToo and the more recent #SilenceIsNotSpiritual—a statement calling the church to end silence on gender-based violence. As an early editor of the #SilenceIsNotSpiritual statement, I added data about the 200 million girls and women missing to expose the gender-holocaust distorting humanity. These countless victims are the result of a confederacy of abuse that spans the globe and every demographic. Given the betrayal of humanity these numbers signify, exposing the abuse, though c... Read more
At the beginning of 2017, I wrote a blog calling women to speak out and use our voices like never before. And did we ever! 2017 began with the largest single-day protest in US history: The Women’s March. As the year progressed, women of all political, religious, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds broke their silence about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. And because of their courage, many powerful and influential men who were once untouchable are now being held accountable. The year culminated with TIME magazine deeming “The Silence Breakers” their “Person(s) of the Year” and Webster Dictionary announcing “feminism” as their top-searched term and 2017 “Word of the Year.” Women persisted in 2017. Women resisted... Read more
For the last five years, it seems that sex trafficking has become the social justice issue—the cause that everyone can get behind. Diverse groups of people who agree on nothing else are united in their conviction that sexual slavery is evil. Still, many groups diverge over which method best eradicates it. Many focus on cutting off the “supply” (i.e. how to help women and children be less vulnerable), but few focus on the “demand” (i.e. male buyers, prevention, rape culture, normalization of sexual violence). This is where things get a little too personal and a little too political for most. Between one in five to one in six men in the US self-report purchasing a human being for sex.[1] The numbers are most likely even higher because many more will not admit... Read more
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 salted the wounds we should be binding.  Sarah Bessey  launched a conversation this past April about the abusive #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear which morphed into the more hopeful #ThingsChristianWomenShouldHear, initiated by egalitarian advocate Bronwen Speedie. This is the church many of us both love and lament—flawed and holy, mistaken and striving, haplessly human and somehow still sacred. The church is washed clean in Calvary blood, but it is still the stuff of flawed people. I hold the church in the tension of holy imperfection. But I don’t t... Read more
Recently, my husband wrote about his own journey in realizing that sexual aggression toward women is not about his own moral purity (not all men!), but about the worth and value of women. He was responding to a colleague’s story of a man’s verbal sexual aggression toward her just two weeks ago–in church. My husband writes: “It took me years to realize that such aggression is embedded in the male culture in which I participated daily at school, work, and church. I cannot begin here to unravel that culture but I know that we very much need to do it. We need men to own their culture and the actions it helps to create. We need to call sexism what it is–abhorrent.” Sexism is multi-layered, but we can start unraveling it by acknowledging the simple inte... Read more
Some Christians see logic as the only trustworthy and effective way to communicate and receive knowledge. Unfortunately, there is not enough space in one post to systematically present the origins of this idea. In general, though the topic is a complex one, we can trace this concept from Ancient Greece, which gained momentum during the Enlightenment, through present Western thought. Some critics of Ruth A. Tucker’s book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Violence, have likewise privileged logic over emotion. For example, in their reviews of Tucker’s book, Tim Challies, Melissa Kruger, and Mary Kassian all argue against Tucker’s emotional argument, dismissing it as a weaker approach to the topic of abuse. Challies engages... Read more
If you haven’t yet read Ruth Tucker’s book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, you should. Full disclosure: I have been reading her work for a few decades. It challenged me to reconsider what it meant to be created in God’s image as a female. While I do not agree with all that Tucker writes in her newest book, her methodology and her argument are important to consider. Further, her personal story is invaluable in informing Christians about abuse dynamics. Tucker raises uncomfortable questions for Christians, and painfully shifts the burden of abuse from the shoulders of victims onto the church. For example, some reviewers of Tucker’s book criticize her for not reporting her husband to the authorities for the sexual assault of a minor who was staying in th... Read more

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