Disclaimer: the posts in Every Day Together are the views of Rev. Jason Wells himself and not necessarily the views or positions of the New Hampshire, National or World Council of Churches.
In reading posts tagged #metoo and the responses, the silence of both men and Christian churches speaks much. The silence speaks indifference to suffering and satisfaction with the status quo. I offer some steps for Christian men to reflect on what they are reading, to respond and to end our silence. The steps here follows the basic outline of how Christians already receive and respond in faith, for what is at stake here is an act of conversion and faithfulness.
1. “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).
Now many men have seen women’s posts with #metoo. Sometimes there were stories, sometimes now. Sometimes it was a share or a copy-paste, sometimes just the words, “me too.” They have given testimony to us, as though we heard someone on a witness stand. We have heard and learned things that we didn’t know or avoided knowing.
In the Bible, Jesus opens the eyes of two disciples to understand how the story of the Bible intersects with the story of Jesus’ own crucifixion and resurrection. Having their eyes opened, they too became witnesses. When God opens our eyes, there is a Biblical path for what happens next:
2. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).
First, we refuse denial. One example of this instinct is to point a blaming finger outside the Church. We might cry, “Such a thing is not done in Israel” (2 Samuel 13:12), suggesting that the fault is out there, somewhere in a lost, amoral secular society.
Instead, we look for signs of sexual harassment within the Church and do not believe the lie that it only happens “out there.” We search our own souls for the times where we have either participated in harassment or made excuses or remained silent.
Second, we believe what our witnesses are telling us. The Holy Women who found the empty tomb on Easter morning encountered ridicule from the disciples (traditionally all male). When women make us witnesses of what they experienced first hand, believe their testimony
3. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops (Matthew 10:27).
When we became Christians, each of us received Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the Good News and to share our faith.
When we receive women’s testimony, each man personally has a decision to make about what to do next. A man’s choices might include:
- Sharing that story (as always with consent) so that the eyes of others may be opened
- Speak out to other men, holding them accountable for their behavior
- Reporting that story, when necessary, to the police or to church disciplinary bodies
My own Episcopal Church has put time and resources in training its members to recognize signs of sexual harassment and abuse (Safe Church). This church invested much in fixing its rules for abusive clergy (Title IV disciplinary canons). Almost every denomination has done similar work. All of the Church’s good intentions mean nothing if the stories are never told. Abusive clergy will remain in their positions and sexual harassment in our congregations will continue.
Further, we make time and space for this to be a priority. Recently I heard Rev. Eric Jackson of Brookside Congregational Church in Manchester say that our word “busy” is usually a synonym for “silence.” Over-worked clergy and stressed-out laity can make this a priority and give it importance over other demands and so not make themselves “too busy” for speaking up.
4. “It shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:26).
Another consequence of God opening our eyes is the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Many men have toxic ideals about masculinity that they try to live up to. At least, those poisonous images lead men to accept and tolerate abuse when they observe other men perpetrating it.
One insightful article says that it’s time to stop worshiping powerful men. In the Bible, worshiping anything that is not God is idolatry. Our conversion and coming to faith in Jesus requires that we give up idols, such as toxic masculinity or the alpha male. Such idol-worship has consequences in our behavior, as Jesus says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.”
Listening to the witness of #metoo should be yet one more call to worship Jesus alone, who showed us true masculinity as a “servant of all.”
5. I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)
The Christian journey moves from:
- receiving the witness of a resurrected Jesus to
- transformation of heart and mind and then to
- the commitment to living in a new and different way
The Christian life must bear fruit in action. The letter of James says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)”
Just so, being witnesses of #metoo cannot end in only having new ideas and perspectives. As someone said, “We cannot think our way out of patriarchy.” As a partner to #metoo, men are encouraged to use #IWill to name specific actions they will commit to in public. From a Christian perspective, some #IWill commitments include honoring the image of God in women, loving others as we love ourselves, recognizing all women as sisters through the grace of Jesus.
What will you #IWill commitment be? What further reflections do you have for the #metoo campaign?