Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Molestation In The News. . . Framing The Conversation. . .
For the last few days, the social media splash of the moment has been all about sexual assault and molestation. Triggered by revelations of a media icon’s heretofore hidden history of horribly destructive and damaging behavior, everyone is talking about this story. Of course, we easily forget that the story is mediated. . . too many times to count. . . in ways that should make us all careful and cautious about what is and isn’t fact. So maybe rather than debating what did and did not actually happen in this one particular case, perhaps it’s best to stand back, pause, and consider the bigger picture, of which this incident is only a part.
I’ve been working hard to think more about the issues than the personalities involved. I’ve been trying to frame this story in the bigger picture of our sexuality, God’s sex story, and the sexual stories our culture is communicating to us all. This morning, my walk through II Samuel with Scripture Union’s Encounter With God took me to Chapter 11 and the gut-wrenching story of David and Bathsheeba (yes, for those of you following along, I’m a week behind in my readings!). After reading, I jotted some thoughts that I hope will be helpful in framing the conversation about the individual stories of sexual assault, abuse, and molestation that we encounter, and the bigger picture and scope of the issue itself. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful. . .
Sexual desire and curiosity is a good thing that we should expect to exist in all humanity. God is the sexual gift giver, and we are the recipients of this good and wonderful gift. Sadly, the church has failed miserably to communicate this reality. Failing to see how our sexuality was made by God right at the start, woven in and through us, and given to us as a gift for our flourishing. . . well. . . we not only fail to communicate good theology, but our silence and uneasiness with things sexual communicates a horribly flawed theology of our sexuality which leaves young and old alike scrambling to figure out how to understand and live out these powerful drives and desires. Our silence communicates that sex and sexuality is shameful. Could this be why Christian fundamentalism is a hotbed for sexual sin? And while the church tell’s God’s story void of sexuality, the culture is guilty of telling a sexual story void of its rightful place in God’s story. We all struggle to get it right.
All people are horribly broken. Our sexuality is broken too. Yes, we need a robust and realistic theology of sin. When we understand human depravity, we will not be surprised by revelations of sexual sin. Perhaps even more important, a robust and realistic theology of sin should leave us looking inward with great fear and trembling. “Know yourself” is a mantra I tell myself all the time. And what I should now more than anything else are my points of weakness. And, as I tell youth workers all the time, “You are just one bad decision away from being a headline.”
We are responsible to develop self-discipline. Peter issues this warning in I Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I don’t know about you, but I can easily downplay and forget the unseen battle that rages all around us and inside us. Mistake. Have you ever read the first three chapters of Genesis? Why is redemption necessary? Why is our world so broken? Know yourself. Know your default settings. Know your unique issues and temptations. Know your triggers. Don’t go where you can’t go. Seek accountability and help. And if someone you know comes to you and says you have a problem and you need help. . . listen.
In a “do-anything” and hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality. Honestly, I’m surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” As I always say, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” And then there’s the schizophrenic mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids. . . things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong. People are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. But I’m not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission.
So that’s a start that’s not at all complete . . more tomorrow. . .