Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
The reality of that agony is more real than ever as this powerful imagery speaks volumes to an important issue we face as a nation, and inside our church walls, today. The issue of sexual abuse and scandal has rocked and ravaged our front pages, our computer screens, and our congregations within the past year.
Women across the country—and around the world—have put up with too much for too long. The tidal wave of reports bringing their stories to the surface in a tidal wave of reports called us all to reckon with the #metoo movement.
Last year, Time Magazine’s person of the year was actually more than one person. That annual high-profile cover showed us “The Silence Breakers,” those behind the movement that gave voices to so many women.
But well over a year after this all began, we still have so far to go—especially in the church.
What followed #metoo was #churchtoo—the telling of stories of abuse specifically within the context of church life. The posts, tweets, and hashtags once again flooded our social media pages and dominated conversations everywhere. And still, the stories haven’t stopped.
Most are aware of the fire being felt by the Catholic Church for the behaviors of priests and bishops towards children. Some of the headlines this past year alone have read, “American Priest is Accused of Molesting Boys in the Philippines” and “U.S. Catholic Church Hit with Two National Lawsuits by sex-abuse victims” and “Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says.” The pope, in response to what happened in Pennsylvania, wrote in a letter this August, “We [the church] showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
Will all of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ care for “the little ones?”
A Systemic Problem
But we can no longer look from the outside and say that this is their problem. The Catholic Church is not the only one that has fallen short. Recent headlines, in fact, confirm the problem in many faith communities.
Just this week, The Star-Telegram conducted an investigation that uncovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and other affiliated institutions spanning 40 states and Canada. Another young man told his story to The Hanover Evening Sun in August about his experience being groomed at a Lutheran church he attended as a boy. The Chicago Tribune exposed devastating allegations at Willow Creek Church that sent shock waves through evangelicalism.
And a few days ago, news broke about a volunteer in a prominent SBC church who was charged with the molestation of numerous preschool boys. This is far from the first story in the SBC—the SBC has had its own reckoning over the past year.
Earlier in the week, CBS News reported on abuse allegations in camps, many of them religious in their orientation.
So, yes, Catholics and Fundamentalists need to clean their house. But, so do evangelicals.
Churches across denominational and geographic lines are all falling short of who we are called to be. It isn’t an issue for one group. It is an issue for many religious groups. Few of our faith traditions are in the position to cast stones, but all of us need to be aware and take action.
With many others, we are heartbroken by the stories and allegations coming out. We grieve when someone tells their #metoo or #churchtoo story. There is no time when sexual violence, or oppression and victimization of any kind, is alright.
Our sweeping condemnation—across all denominational and religious lines—of all those engaged in oppressing and harming others must be unwavering.
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Source: Christianity Today