Over the weekend, the #yesallwomen hashtag exploded around the Internet. CNN reports more than a million tweets (and counting) have expressed solidarity for the women that endure harassment, abuse, sexism and sexual assault on a daily basis in our world.
And—much to our dismay—in the church.
It might be easy to look at the hashtags and think they address secular culture, not Christ’s body. Women speak of being harassed in bars, at work; they speak of being out on the street, walking to their cars at night.
We might assume abuse happens over there, to those secular people.
We might think everyone in church knows how to treat women (and men) with respect.
We’d be wrong.
The truth is, the church desperately needs to join this conversation.
The church, perhaps more so than any institution, needs to speak up about sexual abuse.
1. It happens at church.
The priest abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has gutted that institution. Long decades of silence and cover-ups have not just emptied pews and coffers, but damaged the Church’s ministry and reputation in the world.
But it’s not just happening the Catholic Church.
Of the women close to me who have been abused, two suffered in a Protestant Christian context, from men who were supposed to be shepherding them. The American Prospect wondered aloud if Protestant churches would be at the center of “the next Christian abuse scandal.”
Staying silent about this issue endangers our witness.
2. Churches, unfortunately, are sitting ducks for manipulative abusers.
As one predator put it, “Church people”—always looking to see the best in people, to welcome converts, to save sinful souls—are “easy to fool.”
Church families are predicated on trust; no one wants to believe the brother or sister in the pulpit or pew would be capable of abuse.
We must be fiercely intentional to prevent our trust being broken.