I once worked with a client whose physical health, as well as mental well-being, had been in decline throughout their entire adult life. As we worked through their crippling anxiety, long-term depression and extreme distrust, we eventually came to the root. As a child, they had been repeatedly raped and molested by their father and their father’s friends. The realities of their abuse were sickening. Eventually, as a young child this client told their mother, who ignored it, and then their Sunday school teacher, who said it couldn’t have really happened, and then their pastor, who told them they were just making things up. As this grown adult now told about their experiences, they told me their prayer as a child, which was simply that God would make it stop. Sadly, this story is quite common.
As I drove home I felt enraged and prayed something like, ‘God, how could you let this go on? A little child begged you to make it stop? Where were you?’ To which God replied ‘I sent help. I sent the mother, and then the teacher, and then the pastor, and now you.’ It still feels too little, too late, but this brought home a truth to me that I will forever carry. We must always call out abuse, expose it for what it is, and keep after it until the abused person is safe.
Recently the headlines have told story after horrid story of Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood tycoon, who molested, groped and raped women in his industry. It has been right to hear people call his actions out for what they are, as well as calling out those who helped cover for him. Many of these folks associate themselves with 'conservatives’ as they call this ‘Hollywood liberal’ to accountability. Earlier this year, after hearing Donald Trump brag about his propensity for sexually assaulting women, and then seeing testimony after testimony of women accusing him of abuse over the past few decades, many who associate on the ‘left’ cried foul and asked for some sort of justice or accountability.
I hope you have spoken out against both, but I want you to know that you should feel the same sense of violation and disgust at any and all incidences of abuse. There is no favoritism shown in the Kingdom, either to an abuser who holds power, has wealth, or has neither; nor to the abused, regardless of their stature, fame, size, or anonymity. In the Kingdom of God, there is neither rich or poor, famous or forgotten, adult or child, male or female. There are only those made in God’s image who are held accountable for how they treat other image bearers. The abused child whose name and story no one knows holds the same place of importance to God as the beautiful and famous actress or actor, and vice-a-versa. In the same way, a President who has abused and sexually assaulted women holds the same place of judgment as the father who creeps into his child’s room night after night without anyone knowing.
As one made in God’s image, abuse should disgust you, and you ought to be driven to speak up and take action, no matter who the abuser is. The Pastor or Music Minister is to be held just as accountable as the strung-out, jobless heroin addict who commits acts of abuse. Titles and position do not protect you from judgment by Almighty, nor should they protect you from dissenting voices. For those who name the name of Christ, you should be even more motivated to do for the ‘least of these’. If you see or hear of abuse, act. Speak up. Make it known to those in authority. Stay with it until you know it has been heard, seen and acted upon by those in authority, and then stay with it a little longer. To stay silent is to co-condemn the abused to a life of silent pain and crippling shame, of which you will be held accountable for your inaction just as the abuser for their action.
Be warned, however, that if you speak up against abuse you will incur the push back of the system that supports it. You see, abuse can only happen in systems which allow for it. The pastor would not be able to seduce and prey upon his congregants if his church system held him accountable, did not give him an overindulgence of power, or support silence. Nor would the tycoon be able to get away with predatory actions unless the system in which he works made it possible. When you call out abuse in any system, you will be lashed out against. They'll say you're being divisive, judgmental, unforgiving, slandering, or a dissenter. Do not let this stop you. You're reward does not come in accolades here and now but in the 'well done' of a King who promises liberation to the oppressed and judgment to the oppressor.