A Culture of Abuse

I listened to this yesterday and how wish everyone else would too. It isn’t easy to listen to, but this presentation by Sheila Wray Gregoire, an author and researcher on sexual abuse offers some critical information for us to understand the culture of abuse that permeates Christianity. According to her research, much of evangelical teaching on marriage and sexuality actually creates a climate of abuse not only within a marriage, but within the body of Christ as well.

According to her, the unspoken conclusion of many evangelical books about marriage encourage the idea that “men are entitled to women’s bodies; (they) cannot be expected to act honorably or even safely. So, when men do harm it’s because some woman, somewhere hasn’t done her job.”

I hope that turns your stomach as much as it did mine when I heard it yesterday morning. According to the podcast description, “Sheila and her team  analyzed many popular Christian books on sex. Many teach that men are incapable of not objectifying women. And instead of training men to control their urges, these books teach that women must save these men. If a husband struggles with porn, for example, it’s his wife’s job to give him more sex so he can go cold turkey. If a husband is abusive to his wife, it’s his wife’s job to pray the abuse away. And if you’re a single woman, it’s your job to dress in such a way that your body never “intoxicates” a man. With messages like these, is it any wonder that abuse victims often feel like it’s their fault if someone hurts them? Is it any wonder that pastors like John MacArthur can convince wives that it’s her duty to stay with a man who abuses her and their children?”

So, when you read that another Christian pastor, speaker or author has been exposed for abusing women, on their staff, in their congregation, among twenty-somethings attending there schools and seminars, or even children in their care, don’t be shocked. That’s the environment we’ve created by thinking men are too weak to resist temptation and that women are responsible to prevent them. Just this past week a popular pastor and author from the Dallas area was exposed for molesting a twelve-year old girl in her bedroom and that it continued for five years. He was in his twenties at the time, but the church eldership knew about it in 2005, and let him continue to lead the congregation until it became public last week. The list of popular leaders, authors, prophets, and speakers who have taught things about Jesus while being abusing women grows even longer. When will we care enough to end the view of women that allows this abuse to persist?

Until we break the environment that allows this abuse to hide in the shadows of religion, it will continue to disfigure the image of God in the world.  What is it about our perception of the Gospel that allows men and women to teach about it, without his presence actually penetrating their hearts? Why is it that so many “gifted leaders” feel entitled to take whatever they want from women for their own amusement? I’m also curious why do we not see the darkness in charismatically-gifted personalities until their sexual sins are exposed? Before those come to light their lack of transformation in Jesus almost always shows up in the arrogance, anger, excess and manipulation of others around them.

We’ve got to rid ourselves of the notion that these are just men committing “indiscretions.” These are men who take decades of wholeness from young women for their own pleasure. Their actions cause traumatic reactions that can last for decades. I see the effects of sexual trauma every day in Sara’s courageous battle to overcome what her relatives did to her at a very young age. Yes, God loves these perpetrators and wants to redeem them, but before we get there, let’s not minimize the damage they done. If they had experienced a real engagement with Jesus, they wouldn’t see women as prey and when they turn from their sin they would offer to do whatever they could, including pay for therapy all the therapy their victim might need to help mitigate the grave damage they have caused. The fact that we show more compassion for the abuser than we do the victim in these cases, is because we don’t understand the horrific damage sexual abuse causes.

Please listen to her podcast, and see how you can change the environment in which women are exploited among the family of God. Abuse is not just a problem of a few weak men; it is a systemic problem that permeates evangelical culture as much as it does in the world.

These things ought not to be, and talking openly about it is the first step to unraveling the false teachings that harm women.

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