There is an article circulating the web that demands our attention. The title reads: Children Are More Likely To Be Molested At Church Than In A Transgender-Friendly Bathroom.
Yes, it seems to have an agenda: to silence the Christian community and their concerns with the new bathroom guidelines that both Target and the government are presenting. But if our hypocrisy is being exposed here, then this is an invitation to admit our failures, respond with grace and learn a few important lessons.
As I wrote in the article Missing The Target, “I am not in agreement with a man walking into the bathroom when my daughter is there. I’m not supporting Target’s decision here. There are many moving pieces in this conversation and they are all important conversations to have. But as a believer of Jesus I choose not to join the righteous noise of boycotting, but rather join the chariot, to talk about God with those who have no access.”
This new viral article finishes with data that need to be reviewed. It’s a necessary discussion that demands honesty and radical acceptance of issues the church needs to deal with. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss our sins and need for change.
We have had way to many reports of abuse in the church which weaken our voice in the national conversation. So what if instead of telling the government what to do, we show them how it’s done?
Christians all too often apply grace to offenders and law to victims and then wonder why so many victims flee the church.
This Boz Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham and a professor at Liberty University. He is also the Executive Director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). He calls out the culture of silence and abuse in Evangelical institutions and is devoted to solving the problems of abuse within Christian organizations.
As stated in Slate article back in 2014, “The only problem is that GRACE appears to be a little too good at its job, and often the institutions that initially hire it end up firing it rather than deal with their own cultures of covering up and minimizing sexual abuse.”
Using GRACE data, Elisabeth Parker (who wrote the article that initiated this conversation) reported that:
- Child abuse accusations against US protestant churches average 70 per week. GRACE acknowledges that the number could be a lot higher due to under-reporting.
- One percent of churches surveyed reported abuse accusations annually.
- 42 percent were volunteers, 25 percent were paid staff, 25 percent were other children.
- The average child molester sexually assaults 50-150 children before being caught.
She continues, “What’s even scarier is that sexual abuse and child molestation may even be more likely to occur in churches due to the toxic combination of the high level of trust placed in church leaders combined with the authoritarian upbringings of many of the children in their charge. It’s hard to defend yourself against abuse when you’ve been taught to obey adults without question all your life.”
GRACE even has a name for this phenomenon that contributes to sexual abuse in churches: The Five Exploitations:
- Exploitation of “religious cover”: Child molesters’ apparent embrace of religious practices and doctrine gives them access to children while providing cover for their behavior.
- Exploitation of faith: “The victim’s own analysis of religious doctrine may result in confusion and silence.”
- Exploitation of power: Children are taught to submit to authority “from the earliest age.”
- Exploitation of needs: Churches are always in need of volunteers and don’t always have the resources to thoroughly vet everyone. On top of that, churchgoers often come in need of support and spiritual solace.
- Exploitation of trust: Churches foster a trusting environment, especially for families with children, and children are taught to trust in God and those whom they see as His representatives.
Yes, it is counterproductive to fight for purity, rightness and the scriptural definition of marriage, while continually being exposed as abusers and predators. It’s even more counterproductive when we excuse our sin because it was done a long time ago, or because the victim had a “measure of responsibility”, or because the Bible tells us to forgive (which most people use it as a way to tell the abused ones to shut up).
It’s time for us to be the first ones to admit, own, and take responsibility for our actions in so we can properly deal with the consequences.
I’ll quote Boz one more time, “Those who step forward and bring truth to the light are often accused of ‘damaging the Gospel’? But Isn’t the Gospel about truth and light?”
As Christians (representing the Good News of Salvation) we should be the first one to stand for the broken and the hurting. We have been empowered from above to care and heal the victims. And it is our privilege as individuals and communities to walk in the humility that says, “This is what I have done. I take full responsibility. How can I make it right?”
What if our approach to this whole debate of pedophiles, transgender and safety in bathroom, became the greatest platform for the church? A platform to call out its own sins, to ask forgiveness for so many cover ups and to take the opportunity to implement across-the-board safeguards to make churches the safest place in America?
For children, for sinners, and everyone in need of healing.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25
* I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this. Go for it in the comment section below.
And you can another perspective on this topic here: God’s Grace for Sexual Abusers.