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October 26, 2017, 3:32 PM

#Me Too



The recent internet campaign that goes by the title #Me Too, has exposed just how widespread sexual abuse harassment is in our society.

It began with revelations that media mogul Harvey Weinstein had used his power to act as a sexual predator for decades without challenge.  A couple of years ago, we were horrified to learn that “America’s Dad” Bill Cosby was apparently a serial rapist who had also gone unchallenged.  There were rumor about both of these men for years, but no one seriously dared to challenge them.  The founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes was exposed to be a serial harasser of women working for him, and so was his biggest star, Bill O’Reilly who unsuccessfully spent tens of millions of dollars trying to keep his activities secret.

John Kennedy is again in the news because of the release of long classified documents concerning his assassination.  What was concealed during his lifetime was his voracious sexual appetite, and the multiple and reckless encounters he had with countless women, including at least one young White House intern.  And, of course we remember another presidential peccadillo (that’s a polite term) with an intern by Bill Clinton, whose campaigns were marked by what his allies labeled as “bimbo eruptions.” (Thus putting the onus on the women, and not the man with power.)

The White House is now occupied by a man who bragged about his multiple acts of adultery, not just on that infamously vulgar “Access Hollywood” tape but in radio interviews when he knew he was being broadcast.  Multiple women have come forward to say they were harassed and assaulted by him, but they are dismissed by his partisans, just as other women were dismissed by Clinton and Cosby’s accusers.

I have counseled with women who have made accusations of horrendous sexual exploitation by members of the clergy. Each time, I launched investigations which led to their removal from the ministry.  I am happy to say that in every case I have brought, the church hierarchy has taken the accusations very seriously and dealt with the victims in a respectful and compassionate manner, and the offenders were removed from the ministry.  But, in each of these cases there were women who attempted suicide because of the effects of what happened to them.  All were deeply traumatized.

For FAR too long, victims of abuse and harassment have been dismissed or made to feel that they were somehow to blame for what was inflicted upon them.  It’s not just about violent sexual assault.  It’s about the notion that men can act like predators or engage in demeaning “locker room” talk and get a pass…while women always have to be on guard, and if they are actually assaulted it means they must have done something to bring it on themselves.

Too often, we have consoled ourselves with the convenient fiction that this kind of behavior is rare and doesn’t happen that much to “good girls.”  But, the #Me Too campaign has show the lie behind that assumption.  This sort of thing is NOT rare, at all.

Maybe most men don’t commit these acts, but as we have seen, even a few can victimize scores of women and girls (and boys and men).  And, there are men (and women) who know it is going on and don’t say anything for fear of being dismissed and ostracized themselves.

The Bible has numerous examples of women being sexually used.  Even the father of the Judeo-Christian faith, Abraham, made use of a slave girl who really had no choice in the matter, by impregnating her in order to gain an heir.  When his wife became jealous of the woman, she ordered Abraham to cast her and her son out into the desert…which was potentially a death sentence.  He did. 

Folks, that is flat out abuse. 

Of course, there was David who engaged in an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, who may or may not have tried to seduce him.  He may have simply wanted her, and he was king, so he got her.  The account is unclear of this point.  But he committed mass murder to try to cover up his sin.

There is an exception though… Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well when he is travelling through her country, and speaks with her.  The meeting is exceptional for several reasons.  Samaritans and Jews loathed and avoided each other.  Unmarried rabbis normally avoided personal contact with women, even if they were Jewish.  This was especially true if the woman was considered to be of “ill-repute” because of a colorful sexual history.

He notes that the woman has been married five times and is currently living with a guy who is not her husband.  The common assumption is that she is a slut.  But that is not necessarily the case, at all.

I know a pastor who is about to enter into her fourth marriage.  The first ended in divorce when she left an abusive and unfaithful spouse.  The second marriage lasted several years and then her husband suddenly died.  Her third husband was in fragile health, and died less than a year after they married.  Now she is about to marry another man.  She is NOT a loose woman.

The Samaritan woman may have been widowed or abandoned by her first husband.  Either way, in that culture she was seen as “used or damaged” goods.  Men of stature would avoid marrying her, and the guys who would take her might not have been good guys.  Since it was easy for a man to dump his wife (but not the other way around) other husbands may have left her after using her.  And each time it happened she became less attractive to good husband material.  But a single woman had no social security or standing, so she would have to marry whomever would take her.  Finally, she has to settle for a guy who won’t marry her.

On the day she met Jesus, she had to go to the well for water in the heat of the noon sun, because that was the only time she could go and not be subject to the contempt of “decent people” who looked down on her.

But then came Jesus, who knew her history and still treated her like a person of worth and dignity.  She was astonished, and grateful.  That he would make this “fallen women” his messenger in that community was downright shocking.  It was his way of saying, “I accept this woman whom you do not.  I do not blame her for her situation.  And even if she has made some grievous mistakes with men, she is still a person of worth.”

Especially for that time, it was a stunning rejection of judgmental taboos.  But, too often we have concealed or ignored that fact by simply painting the woman as a sinful slut, rather than a victim of a sexist culture.

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s time for another reform.  It’s time to repent of the way our culture has victimized and demeaned women simply seeing them as sexual appliances and then dismissing their fears and objections to such treatment.  It’s time for men to grow up and realize that women are our EQUAL partners and not junior partner in humanity.

Jesus treated the woman of his time with surprising respect.  Not the condescension of a man looking out for the “little ladies” but an acknowledgement of their full humanity.  There are other examples, but this article is already going long.  If you want to know more about them, please feel free to contact me.

The church has too often reflected the culture and treated women as inferiors.  But, if you get to know Jesus, you will discover someone who is still ahead of the curve.  It’s time we caught up.

When it comes to showing the love Jesus did, we need more people to declare, "Me Too."


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