Jogging through my neighborhood this morning, I spied a bird’s nest in a crepe myrtle only because its leaves were in the process of shedding. It made me think of exposure. I would never have noticed the nest had it not been for the advent of autumn. All that to say, sometimes the leaves have to fall to see the truth behind them.
And that is why I’m grateful (in one way) for the Weinstein admissions. Victims have dared to go first, and when they did, they opened up a fury of #metoo. And that opened the door to more brave men and women who have been hiding their stories. They’ve hidden them because of fear, because of power, because of the strange status quo of those in positions of authority. In short, the leaves stayed, and the exposure seemed unlikely. The predator marched on through life with zero consequences.
But the leaves have fallen in the form of stories. And those stories have changed the landscape of the world forever. I can feel the liberty in their words, can rejoice that what has been perpetrated in darkness is now exposed to the light. The emperor, it seems, has been de-clothed. The Wizard of Oz in all his fury and pomp has been uncurtained to reveal someone short in stature pulling levers (oh how he got away with it for so long).
As I continued my jog, I remembered Jesus and how He always empathized with the marginalized–the ones with no voice. He loved the man on the side of the road, wounded and bleeding. He loved the woman who bled for years. The adulterer daughter of Israel, naked in the center of taunting voices–He chose her, dignified her, listened to her. Those broken by life were his friends.
He reserved His harshest words for those bent on power, for those who enslaved others, for those who harmed children. Snakes, he called them, worthy of millstones.
So why is it that we believe that aligning ourselves with powerful people makes the kingdom come? Why is it that we overlook people’s predatory sins if they happen to have our same political ideal? I think it’s because we align ourselves with a Weinsteinian philosophy: exertion of power wins. Those who are strong get to do whatever they want, and if they usher in our perceived political nirvana, then all is well.
All is not well. Predators, despite their political affiliation, are predators precisely because we allow them to be. Victims stay silent (it’s normal for a victim to wait decades before they share because of fear, threats, and shame), and when they expose the predators, they are then berated, unbelieved, and marginalized. And yet, I see this great kingdom of God advancing in precisely the opposite way a predator builds his/her kingdom: through the weak ones, the broken, the overlooked.
Jesus builds his beautiful kingdom on the testimonies of the authentic and honest and meek ones. He doesn’t need political might or Hollywood clout to disseminate His message. He is speaking right now through those brave enough to tell the kinds of stories no one likes to hear. But these stories must be told.
I believe God is cleaning house, and this house cleaning is not just for “those people” out there. Peter soberly writes, “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News?” (1 Peter 4:17). It starts with us, church.
It’s time we, with sound mind and deep conviction, call predators out within the church. It’s time we stop tolerating it, stop looking the other way hoping things will improve. The statistics prove that predators typically continue to offend until they’re caught. Our inaction, then, allows for more abuse. And if we think we’re immune in the Christian community, take caution. Within the Christian publishing industry, I (and dozens of women I know) have experienced predatory behavior. Men in positions of power (literary agents, editors, publishing professionals) have Weinsteined their way into many compromising situations. Thankfully, many of these perpetrators have been banned from Christian writers conferences, but they continue to live with the covering of leaves. I pray winter is coming, the leaves fall, and expose those who name Christ but prey on others.
So I am grateful for one good thing: this new climate change where leaves fall, victims (victors, actually) tell their stories, and people get fed up with powerful predators living immune from their grievous sin is ushering in an era of brave accountability. Judgment will begin with us, and Jesus will continue to advance His kingdom through the marginalized. It’s always been that way in this upside down kingdom.
Take heart, those who have been preyed on. The leaves are falling, and the nest of lies will be exposed.
For the sexual abuse victim, this book written by my husband and me may be of help:
Beautifully written Mary. Just the encouragement I need right now. I’m hoping this week to finally contact my elder and ask him to call my husband out on his abuse. It’s long and complicated and I doubt he will agree to my request but at least I will have a written record of asking him. Then I can take whatever step comes next. The elders own emotional abuse of me is farther down on the list and needs to come out too. Too many people live in fear of him. Please pray that I will have the courage to stand up to him and not back down.
Might I suggest going to the police or women’s shelter advocates first? Much as I love the church, clergy has historically been terrible at dealing with these situations. Stay strong!
Yes, great advice, Nicole. And the church’s responsibility is the same. They are SUPPOSED to contact the authorities. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen.
Thanks for your advice. I should have clarified that I have been separated for two years (went to a shelter, police, etc). What I’m wanting now is my elder to speak truth to the church. He had disciplined us both publicly stating this was mutual conflict and that we couldn’t take communion until this “conflict” was resolved and we stopped all talk of separation. There are other hidden abuse cases in our church and I’m getting to a stronger place of wanting to stand up against wrong. I have enough proof of abuse (videos, court documents) that the elder can’t deny it. By calmly speaking up I hope to help change our church’s response to future victims. I need to be calm and respectful or they won’t hear me. But I also need to be firm and not back down when they use abusive tactics on me. I can only do this when I am strong enough and I’m thinking it will primarily be by email so I won’t react and so I have proof of what’s said. I’m not backing down and I’m not walking away from this. Too many lives including my family’s (who would never leave this church) are at stake.
You are beautifully brave!
You are preaching. Thank you!
Thank you Preslaysa!
Oh, now you’re talking! I think it’s safe to say repression and suppression of allegations in the church lead to a higher number of victims, even higher than in the world, where leaders aren’t often as revered or sheltered. The Christian product industry is not immune to this same corruption and evidence of it is everywhere. Evangelical church’s sex crimes are likely as common or even more than the Catholic church’s. They’re certainly as damaging. But leaves are falling, my friend. And I will lend whatever help I can to the brave women fighting to speak. Thanks for your voice and for all you do.
Thank you Mick. So appreciated.
This onion has more layers than I ever imagined. While #metoo has touched my life, I now understand my responsibility to the Christian community–even the Christian writing community. Powerful thoughts that need to be shared.
Thank you Robin. So sorry you have a #metoo story.
And there is peace in knowing that despite the leaves the cover the misjustice that ultimately God will defend those who were preyed upon because His heart breaks for those without a voice, those who have been marginalized.
Yes, He is good to the brokenhearted.
Thanks, sister. Great post. Thank you for speaking truth.
My pleasure. Grateful for you.
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Thank you, Mary, for continuing to speak out against the darkness that masquerades as the winning team.
Love that verse!
Sunlight disinfects darkness, and I’m glad the light is finally reaching into these dark corners. It’s so much easier to just ignore it. Thanks for starting the conversation, Mary.
Thank you dear Susy. Appreciate your dogged pursuit of justice.
Oh, Mary. What a powerful post. Thank God for fallen leaves and the cold work of winter. What appears dormant is actually preparing for spring and new beauty. Church, arise! And live in the Light where exposure has purpose.
Amen to that, great words, Ellen.
For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
Thank you for courageously speaking the truth, Mary. May God use your piece to embolden others to break the silence.
Such a great verse, Anna.
Brave Mary, thank you for rustling the tree of its dead leaves. Yes, good things can come from the Harvey Weinstein incident. Healing can come for us all.
Thank you dear Lorilee!