So it’s kind of a social trend that right now, allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct are just flying through the press. Last year, all the celebrities were dying. This year, they’re just all being outed as sex offenders. It’s almost comical, except with every new name being added to the list, there are women and men who are the victims of a crime.
There have even been spoof articles, circulating social media, in which an actor deals with “accusations of taking women on really nice dates”. I’m not sure how I feel about these spoof articles. They sort of trivialize the fact that the women making these allegations about powerful men go through a lot of stress while trying to decide whether to come forward or not.
In reference to the buzz against the alleged offenders, there’s a large part of me that is saying “Hell. Yes. Don’t let them get away with it!”
But there’s the other large part of me that sees how this is actually being received by society.
I haven’t seen a lot of wide-spread articles honoring and respecting the victims and their pain and experience. Instead, there are pieces about the offenders. There are pieces about how this will impact politics. There are pieces about the empires the accused have built, and their families, and their power. There are pieces about how the different constituent groups of accused politicians might vote or respond.
People are angry at the accused, of course, but they aren’t talking about the crimes committed and the impact these actions may have had on women’s lives, and they’re certainly not talking about the fact that many offenders who are convicted receive light sentences because of their ‘promising future”. (Here’s a reminder that Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and spent 3 months in jail for it. 3 months. Goddamn bullshit is what that is. )
It’s all a mess. And personally, I’m really just disappointed in the dialogue surrounding this situation.
And a huge part of what hits me personally is the fact that Roy Moore is a Republican from Alabama. Which means a lot of his supporters are conservatives from the bible belt. Which means a lot of people are looking at the Christian community’s response to the allegations. (Spoiler: It doesn’t look like the Christian community is doing much to denounce Moore. This does not go over well in non-republican circles.)
And to be honest, even now, I’m finding it really hard to write this piece the way I want to. I generally take measures, with pretty much every subject I write about or discuss, to present all angles of a situation and to present the limitations and faults of an argument along with its merits. I was trained to think and write this way, and it’s part of what makes me so long-winded and annoying at parties. I talk too much about all of the different sides. I get too excited about things and then talk about them too much.
But right now, I don’t want to defend the status quo. I’m not emotionally ready to make the argument that “Individuals in the justice system should be considered innocent until they are proven guilty.” That argument is already being made, I’ve seen the people writing about it.
(I felt kind of the same way after Charlottesville too. Trump supporters were denouncing Antifa right along with the Nazis within a week of the Charlottesville conflict. And it made me really mad to see those arguments, because there was something about the situation that made it feel like these people were arguing that Nazism is tolerable, even though I know intellectually that they didn’t mean it. I settled on the conclusion that it was fine to have that debate, but that maybe right in the wake of a Nazi rally where Antifa was in the side against the Nazis was not the right time to have it.)
In this moment, I feel a shadow of my feelings after Charlottesville. Something is wrong with how our society is discussing this issue. I haven’t quite put my finger on it. It bugs me that I haven’t put my finger on it. But frankly, I don’t know if I want to put in the effort to figure it out right now.
No, right now, I’m just angry.
I am angry on behalf of the women who have had to weigh the decision of whether or not to put her painful story out there against a wealthy and powerful man.
I am angry on behalf of everyone who has to sit there and listen to some twat spewing the “well they’re probably just saying it to get attention” trope, especially if they have experienced sexual assault or harassment in the past. (I mean really, if you were going to pretend you were assaulted, why on earth would you pretend the assault happened at the hands of someone who is wealthy and powerful and well-connected enough to have a team of lawyers ready to pounce? Is that really the story you’d want to make up?)
I am angry that powerful men have assaulted women in their workplaces and homes, and then gone on to enjoy regular lives uninterrupted by the memory of the event or the consequences of their actions.
I’m angry that a member of my husband’s family posted a photoshopped image of Joe Biden groping a woman’s breasts, with the caption “this is what America tolerated 8 years ago” and that I now have to decide between causing drama within my husband’s family and keeping my damn mouth shut and not standing up and asking the question “so does that mean we shouldn’t care now?”
(To be fair, the original image of Biden wasn’t really all that great either, and I was still disappointed to see that sort of conduct, but that doesn’t take away any validity for the question “DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULDN’T CARE?”)
(And on a related note, I learned this week that this tactic of pointing fingers at other behavior (or, apparently, photoshopped behavior) is called “whataboutism”. You should look that up on Google.)
But more than anything, I am so, so angry at the church.
I’ve been angry at the church, actually. While writing to a friend a month ago, I wrote out half a page of stream-of-consciousness fury with the church. The amount of swearing I do in that half page is kind of cringey, so I probably won’t publish it without some heavy editing. But that doesn’t stop me from being angry.
I’ve been angry at the church for a number of reasons. I am tired of the way they treat homosexuality as though it is some sort of cardinal sin that ought to be condemned over all others. I am tired of the way that the church has treated virginity, especially the virginity of women, as the grand beacon of womanly beauty without which a woman or girl is a dirty, irredeemable whore. I am tired of the way the church has built this atmosphere of condemnation and judgment, but only against certain sins. Where is the condemnation for corporate greed? Where is the condemnation for those who seek to push people away? Where is the condemnation of trump saying he would grab a woman by her genitals?
I’m angry at the preachers who travel around college campuses with the express purpose of telling students that they are sinning. That’s no way to build relationships and introduce them to Christ. That’s just pharisee behavior.
And so you know, I’m harder on the church because I expect better from them. I don’t expect much from the RNC or the DNC, I don’t expect much from legal groups or from special interest groups. These groups may have Christians in their populations, but they aren’t Christian groups.
But to speak to the church candidly for a moment: Church, what the fuck? We’re supposed to be the representation of Jesus in this world.
And yet earlier today, someone posted an image on their facebook wall, listing names of pastors from Alabama who were on a letter supporting Roy Moore, a senator from Alabama who is soon up for re-election. (well, he was up for reelection.)
And instead of immediately thinking “oh that’s got to be fake, someone’s just trying to make the church look bad” my first thought was “I’m so disappointed.” It took another 2 minutes of disappointment and frustration before I looked it up on google.
And I was surprised to find that the list was fake. That should tell us something.
I wasn’t surprised to find that the image of Biden groping a woman was photoshopped, yet I was surprised to find that a list of Alabama pastors supporting a republican senator after allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers was fake.
And like… This is what happens when you google “Christians and Roy Moore”:
You’re damn right, Washington Post Opinion Section. Silence isn’t enough. Christians should be the loudest voices against sexual assault. Christians should be the first ones to say “this sort of behavior is not befitting of someone who would support us.”
And this is what the secular side of America is seeing right now. Especially the young ones in college.
Church: in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, we are called to avoid the appearance of evil. And yet the appearance of evil has been so developed that even a fake news story about pastors supporting an accused sex offender of teenagers seems plausible and even probable to a professing, devout fellow christian.
I’m angry about that.
Instead, I want the church to rush to the aid of the victims and their families. I want the Church to reach out and say we won’t stand by this man unless he is found Not Guilty by a court, (and for his innocence to be secure in that situation, not just the result of a technicality). I want the church to provide a safe space for rape victims of all ages and backgrounds to come and find emotional and social support so that they can feel empowered to press charges against their attackers rather than push back and ignore it. I want the church to be the first ones to shut someone up when they ask what the victim was wearing or otherwise insinuate that the victim is to blame for their being attacked.
I want the church to stop pretending that having authority over the laws in the United States will change the culture and make us all more moral people.
Legalism doesn’t change hearts. American politics doesn’t change hearts.
Jesus changes hearts. Represent him. Stop fucking around.