Heads in the Sand
This past week brought another round of accusations and resignations of people with high standing in the evangelical world, as #ChurchToo follows on the heels of #MeToo. It also brought another round of evangelical backlash, including standing ovations for a megachurch pastor accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. Ten years ago I would have been shocked. Today I understand how far people will go to reaffirm what they want to believe.
In one of this past week’s high profile stories, a church, in its own investigation of sexual harassment allegations, used a service that specializes in representing management. That decision caused some of the victims to feel the investigation process might not be unbiased. Their concern was justified.
In the Hebrew concept, cHesed, when a person enters into a contract they are not doing so to look out for their own self-interest. They are looking out for the best interest of the other person. That is definitely not how American contracts work.
When I was let go by my main employer for being transgender, they chose to engage the services of an attorney who specialized in Christian employment issues. Looking out only for the ministry involved, the attorney informed me I would not receive virtually any of the funds that had been promised, including my own personal funds that remained with the ministry. Things were finally resolved when attorneys were by-passed and people who trust one another worked things out. Nothing about the experience was all right.
That experience is coming back in waves as I watch powerful ministries use their positional power to functionally intimidate accusers. I know the accusers to be people of great integrity and I despise seeing churches and Christian ministries defensively protect their own interests at the expense of those who are reporting sexual harassment.
I previously made allowances for those who saw my coming out as a moral failure, though the Bible says not one single word about being transgender. I would say in their defense, “They were confused and frightened.” I’m done with that. Those from the evangelical world who continue to accuse me are not naive and innocent. They are willfully ignorant about LGBTQ realities. And now, as I watch those same people turn their gaze away from sexual harassment and assault, I find my generosity depleted.
The evangelical world lives in a white male bubble, overseen by men who are unaware of how pervasive sexual assault is within their environment. They tend to think the only kind of sexual assault is rape, without realizing how many other behaviors are also sexual assault. In case you didn’t know, asking a woman to come to your hotel room and attempting to kiss her is sexual assault.
I know the inside of the megachurch world. For the most part, it is filled with people who want to get it right. When they see inappropriate behavior, they act on it. The problem is that when the majority of leaders are white males, they often don’t recognize inappropriate behavior when they see it. Not many churches have seminars on sexual harassment. Leaders do not even know what it is. They just assume they do not have a problem. They don’t know what they don’t know.
I have an idea. Instead of having firms loyal to an employer investigate claims of sexual harassment, let non-church-employed therapists adjudicate matters. Most have clients who have been taken advantage of by church leaders. There is no wool over their eyes. They know where there is smoke, you can be pretty sure you are going to find fire.
When victims choose not to speak to “objective investigators” it is because they rightly understand those investigators are not objective. It takes incredible bravery to speak out about unpopular truth. You get no stars for bringing down a religious leader. Instead you are likely to be vilified. People do not like to see their heroes brought down.
Evangelicals feel under siege, but it is a siege of their own making. No one is out to get them. The problem is that they have no idea how out of touch they are about gender discrimination, sexual assault, domestic violence and a plethora of other ills. Keeping their heads in the sand will no longer be tolerated.
The enemies they have created are nothing more or less than people who believe in the ability of the truth to set all of us free. They should not be feared. My prayers are with those who have so bravely spoken out. Let’s protect them and assure a truly fair-minded process as their claims are vetted.