“Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.” Exodus 2: 16,17
I haven’t regularly addressed cultural issues that arise from to time. This one has caught my attention, both as to what is right with it and what is missing. In preparing for this post, I read dozens of posts, mostly from women victims. I felt led to write a post giving a male perspective to this issue. It’s a voice that is needed.
For context to those who are not aware of what #MeToo is about, it started with the disclosure of Harvey Weinstein as being a sexual predator. Weinstein, a well-known producer in Hollywood, recently had over 60 women go public to say that he sexually assaulted or raped them.
Until that publicity came, it was a dirty secret in Hollywood. Everyone looked the other way. The victims remained silent. Then, last year, an actress, Alyssa Milano, used twitter to encourage women who had been sexually assaulted or harassed to tweet #MeToo. Within a day, it had half a million tweets.
The hashtag phrase became a rallying cry to those who had been victimized but who, for many reasons, have kept silent about it. Until #MeToo, many women treated sexual harassment or abuse as “something unspoken, something private, something to be ashamed at acknowledging” according to Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic.
Soon, other occupations – media, business, politics, modeling, music, academia, and yes, even in the church – have had the #MeToo spotlight put on them. The daily news is replete with accounts of yet another highly visible person who has been accused of misconduct.
I was astonished at the number of women coming forth saying “#MeToo”. But, as I think about how we got to this point, I have to admit that the issue is not new. King David had his way with Bathsheba, and then went so far in his “cover-up” by conveniently arrangeing for the death of Bathsheba’s husband by having him sent to the front lines of the battlefield to be killed.
One thing is clear in my review of articles: women are vulnerable in a way that men aren’t. A victim of a sexual assault leaves deep wounds. Men, like me, have a hard time grasping the damage that has been caused. Those wounds last for years – sometimes decades.
I have been in touch with Rachel Denhollander, an Olympic gymnast who testified at the sentencing portion of Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse trial. She was the last of 150 women to testify, all of whom told their story of his abuse over the previous 20 years.
Her testimony was riveting. She was aused by Dr. Nassar at age 15. She is now married with three children and an articulate lawyer whose mission is to provide resources for leaders to educate them and understand the issues.
I now have a better understanding of the scope and incredible damage done to these young women. Most have been preyed on by predators who took advantage of their age, position or power.
They have been violated but most stayed silent because of the perceived risks: “What will my family, friends, pastor, etc. say if I tell them what happened to me, and what I have been going through all this while?” That is an actual quote from someone I know.
With this enhanced understanding, I have been pondering how our culture has permitted this. The answers, I believe, are multiple. In the 1960’s, promiscuity became the norm. In the 1970’s, colleges added to the problem when they created co-ed dorms. Our public schools changed their sex-ed curriculum, often using courses sponsored by Planned Parenthood, that teach “safe sex” without any moral boundaries.
When Christianity got thrown out of public schools, we lost a means of teaching morality and respect. As a result, sex has been promoted and dumbed down to getting consent of the other party. There is no moral perspective of having sex outside of marriage or what is right or wrong.
The results are predictable. We have been teaching that aggressive sexual behavior is OK, when it is not. Getting consent may be as easy as providing the second drink. Two stories recently reinforced this.
There is the story of the fraternity at Cornell which had a competition to see who could have sex with the heaviest coed. And if that isn’t enough, two women teachers recently have said #MeToo and disclosed that they have been sexually harassed a dozen times by high school students over the past 15 years. What’s wrong with this picture?
To see how far we have gone, the 2018 Olympic Committee handed out 110,000 condoms for athletes at the Winter Olympics this year, which is 10,000 more than the last winter Olympics. And that’s not the record which was recorded in the Summer Olympics in Brazil in 2016 where 450,000 condoms were handed out.
As the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan College, Everett Piper, noted in an interview, this avalanche of sex scandals was predictable. “What we’ve been teaching [in the public schools] for the past several decades…..has mocked morality. Why are we shocked to find we live in a society that has no understanding of personal morality?”
Piper’s summary: “If you teach lechery, you produce lechers.” What the #MeToo movement has missed is that personal morality needs to return to our culture, and we can’t expect it to come from the schools. The Church has to stand tall as do Christian men.
According to a study done by the Harvard Graduate School, 87% of women between the ages of 18 and 25 have experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment. It’s mostly a male problem, although 15% of men have had similar experiences.
Even medicine has its problems. A study in 1995 showed that 52% of women in academic medicine said they had been sexually harassed according to NBC News. Medicine has been described as a male dominated profession.
Dorothy Greco, in Relevant Magazine, says that if we want fewer #MeToo stories, men need to step up and “condemn and interrupt misogynistic behavior.”
Condemnation is not enough. What I find lacking in the #MeToo movement is that there is no public discussion of personal morality. None. While calling abusers out is a good thing, I think we need to look at the root causes and start to work on that side of the equation with men.
I have grappled with what the Christian response should be, particularly when some of this abuse has occurred in the Church. Christian voices on this topic have been muted, which is why I am taking this on. We need clear guidance on dealing with epidemic that has been culturally swept under the rug.
We have heard from the victims, but it is time to hear from men. Men who are not abusers need to speak up against those who are. We need to become Moses who came to the rescue of the seven daughters at the Midian well in Exodus 2.
We need to teach males how to be men, something that is lacking in our world. Many males “have not been mentored into manhood or were mentored badly” according to James Emory White in his blog “Church and Culture”. That’s a clarion call for mentors of the next generation.
The sociological breakdown of the family unit, and the disappearance of fathers in many marriages has only exacerbated the problem. Teaching and modeling morality in the home has declined. In many cases, parents have abdicated their responsibility in this area to the schools. It’s a bad choice.
The challenge is for mentors to guide their mentees to become men. Manhood involves a developed concept of personal morality and respect for women. Mentors need to model it in their own lives. They need to speak out against those who have been sexually abusive, even in the church, which has dropped the ball in helping victims or dealing with abuses within its walls.
Just ask Rachael Denhollander who found that poor theology “has caused churches to deal poorly with sex abuse victims”. She said that going public “cost me my church and my closest friends.” She’s correct: forgiveness and justice are both biblical and must go hand in hand.
Our additional challenge is to be sure that our churches become better at helping abuse victims, as well as being outspoken on the topic. It is an issue that is front and center, and it needs to get some traction from our leaders. Silence is not golden when it comes to sex abuse.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You can help your mentees learn what manhood Is. Becoming a man is about by showing them that character, respect and personal morality matters. Be proactive in asking probing questions about their attitudes to be sure they are on the right path.
FURTHER STUDY: An article in Christianity Today on God’s message for #MeToo victims:
Rachel Denhollander’s testimony: https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/rachael-denhollander-full-statement/index.html
Rachel Denhollander’s article in Christianity Today highlighting the price she paid for going public in her church: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html
The distribution of condoms at the Olympics: http://time.com/5137272/condoms-at-olympics/
The story of Eva Rieder, a math and English teacher, which contains a video of her presentation in front of the school board of her experiences with male students: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5388817/Teacher-claims-male-students-sexually-harassed-her.html
The Cornell Fraternity suspended for its competition to have sex with heavy women: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/cornell-fraternity-zeta-beta-tau-suspended-for-offensive-pig-roast-game.html
A Christian perspective of what needs to happen to have less #MeToo victims: https://relevantmagazine.com/culture/if-we-want-less-metoo-stories-heres-what-has-to-happen/
Sexual abuse in medicine: https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/sexual-misconduct/harassed-hospitals-operating-rooms-women-medicine-await-their-metoo-moment-n846031
On Becoming Men by James Emory White: http://www.churchandculture.org/blog.asp?id=12210
WORSHIP: Listen to Natalie Grant sing “Clean” which is a message of hope and how God can make us clean again. Natalie Grant – Clean (Live) – YouTube
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Background of the #MeToo movement: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/the-movement-of-metoo/542979/