Beth Moore on Sexual Abuse: Why Is the Church Last to Expose and First to Cover?

Beth Moore

Bible teacher Beth Moore says it is the will of God for Christians to expose evil, and she admits that for years she was part of a culture of silence about sexual abuse.

Moore, herself a victim of sexual abuse as a child, spoke at Saddleback Church this past Sunday about the abuse she suffered in her home.  

The crime left her with a pervasive sense of shame that lasted for years. What people don’t understand, she told the Saddleback congregation, is that somebody’s selfish five minutes can cause a lifetime of painful memories and set them on a course to question everything they believe to be true.

Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church, shared the stage as Moore told her story of abuse. In acknowledging the church’s role in revealing sexual abuse he said, “The truth will set you free but it will make you miserable first,” acknowledging how hard it will be for many to stand up and tell their stories. “You may know these steps but not take them out of fear. Then you’re stuck in it for the rest of your life.”

Moore knows telling the truth can be hard and shared how her life was affected when she revealed the abuse.  

She first publicly referenced the sexual abuse in a book and even then did not identify her abuser. But she said the revelation caused a schism between her and her mother that never fully healed.

Moore told Saddleback, “When my mom found out she said, ‘We protect the family.’ There was a sense of shame to her for revealing what happened. It was put back on the victim for speaking out about this.”  

Moore spoke emotionally of how devastating it was not to have her mother’s support at a time when she desperately need it.

The pressure to remain silent about the abuse came from others too. She was told by a mentor early on in her ministry that she should never share the abuse story, that it would “sink her ministry.”

She said her advisor was wrong because staying silent leaves you feeling nothing except anger. The result, in her case, was a shattered worldview and poor choices.

Using Ephesians 5:11 as a reference she said the church must expose sin and needs to become a shelter for the abused, not the abusers: “When we don’t expose them we are taking part in those works of darkness. We are part of the silence culture,” adding, “Why is the church often the last to expose and the first to cover? Why is Hollywood or USA gymnastics more compelled to expose this kind of wrongdoing?”

Moore has a theory; Christians are afraid that speaking out about sexual abuse will reveal their own sexual sins.

“We have this invasive and pervasive guilt about our own sexual sin. We have to get clarity. We have to be able to differentiate between sexual immorality and sexual criminality. One is sin, one is a crime. Both need proper action. One needs the police. Then we can move forward. We don’t talk about it enough.”  

Warren, whose wife, Kay, was also a victim of sexual abuse as a child, was visibly moved by Moore’s comment, telling his church, “A good pastor protects the flock from wolves. It is my job to protect this flock from wolves. I want this to be a safe place for the victims, not for the wolves. If you prey on my flock I’m coming after you. I will hunt you down and I will turn you in.”

But Moore said God has blessed her in spite of the abuse. She referenced one of those blessings in a tweet on Sunday.

And she says even though she thought she would lose her mind through this, she “found her mind as Jesus became her redeemer.” And she reminded others who might have been victims in the same way that “you can thrive, you can have joy and you can be full on for the abundant life of Christ because of what he’s done for you.”

You can watch the entire message at Saddleback Church here.

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.