Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Elephants In The Church

In a recent interview with Christianity Today*, Rachael Denhollander (a survivor of Larry Nassar's horrific reign of abuse) pointed directly at the elephant in the room and clearly named it. The elephant is, of course, the truth that the church is not a safe place to look for help when dealing with abuse. In fact she said it is actually one of the worst places to seek help!

But she wasn't finished. She then looked slightly to the right of this animal and identified it's twin brother - the vilification and shunning of those who dare to expose abuse within the church.

She was under no illusions that the support she had received from evangelical christians in exposing Larry Nassar's abuse was very much tied to the fact that he was regarded as "other" - an outsider and therefore fair game. Evangelicals of all sorts claimed her as their own and held her up as a sterling example of 'christian' courage and forgiveness. Yet when she addressed the issue of the cover-up and enabling of child sex abuse in the church, she was suddenly "mistaken" and making "false accusation[s]". Her own abuse was used as a weapon against her - because she was so wounded, she was seeing things that just weren't there!

But she is intelligent, articulate, and - despite being labelled, judged, and shunned - she is refusing to sit down and shut up. She is standing her ground. And she is pushing back! 

She is pushing back against an institution which, on the one hand, is well-known for advising victims of abuse to simply "forgive and move on", or suck it up for the sake of appearances or even submit to their abuser's supposed "God-given authority"; and which on the other, has a long history of silencing, shunning, and further abusing those who attempt to expose this evil in its midst.

Of course the irony is that this same institution has habitually held itself up as both model and arbiter of all that is righteous and pure in the world. It has regularly condemned "sinners", railed against "the world" and pursued power to enforce its own moral code. And in doing so, it has far too often achieved nothing but to drive people away from the One who came, not to judge and condemn, but to prove his outrageous love. The One who put power aside - consistently rejecting its allure - and cared so little about his own reputation that the religious leaders ruled him unfit to represent their god.

So maybe it's time for a new plan - one that looks a whole lot more like Jesus. And maybe that needs to start with acknowledging those elephants are there; admitting that we invited them in; and cleaning up those stinking piles of their dung!

* I highly recommend you click through and read it!