Over the last 24 hours, I’ve watched as a simple hashtag has given women a voice. A tiny slice of empowerment. The ability to say, “You experienced that? Me too.”
Yesterday I posted that all of my experiences with sexual harassment have been within the context of church and ministry, and it’s true. Starting back in youth group as a timid little girl and continuing all the way to the mission field as a strong grown woman.
The most difficult part for me is not the men. The hardest part of these experiences for me is the response of the church…
He was just pursuing you like a godly man should.
He thinks he heard from God.
You should be flattered that *insert ministry position* is interested in you.
He would never do that. He’s a good, godly man.
Are you sure you weren’t dressed immodestly? You don’t want to cause your brother to stumble.
You know what? There is nothing flattering about being cornered in hallways and stairwells. There is nothing godly about needing church staff to sneak me out of the sanctuary. You did not hear from God if you have to deceive me by planning a “ministry meeting” to get me alone. And the accusation that as a single woman in ministry I am a threat to married men makes me want to punch you in the face.
My dad made the mistake of reading the comment thread on my post. It did not sit well with him. He got upset. I’ve seen posts and tweets from other men who are upset at the numbers of women in their circles making #MeToo posts.
Good. Get upset. Be angry. Be angry at a society that condones and promotes this kind of behavior, in both subtle and outright ways. Be angry at the devaluation of women and toxic masculinity embraced by the church that makes the church feel unsafe for so many women. Be angry at the way society has blinded you. Be angry at the ways you have been complicit without realizing. Be angry when your buddies make jokes and comments that you know are inappropriate. Let your anger move you to action.
Most of the women I know can say “Me too.” From young girls to grandmothers, I’ve watched the response grow. Some can’t or won’t or don’t know how to speak up, and that’s okay. We will be here to listen when they are ready. But Church, we can’t wait to respond. The numbers of women who have shared their experiences not only with sexual harassment and abuse generally, but within the church is truly heartbreaking. Harassment and abuse at the hands of ministers, in youth rooms and Sunday school classrooms, on church trips, at Christian colleges.
We need to address this now. We need to look at the problem square in the face and say “Enough!” We need to talk about the crisis of pornography, which studies show is connected to violence against women, and is epidemic in the church. We need to look at what we consider to be “masculine” and “feminine” and see if it truly lines up with the Word. We need to stop being complicit with our silence. We have to stop sweeping it under the rug and using tidy little euphemisms to cover up wrong doing. Enough with “moral failures,” call it what it is – rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation. Recognize when “pursuit” crosses the line to stalking. (Hint: it’s when the woman says “No.”) We need to look at the little girls in our church and speak the same power and strength and capacity into them that we do in our boys, and we need to hold our boys to the same standards of kindness and love and gentleness that we expect of our girls.
In case you were confused, kindness, love, and gentleness are not girly or feminine character traits. They are fruits of the Spirit. So is self-control.