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: