It’s very tempting for Christians to take the moral high ground as the evils of Hollywood’s god, Harvey Weinstein, are brutally exposed and rightly denounced.

Even film-makers, actors, and actresses who have made millions of dollars portraying women as men’s sex-objects are now bravely lining up with the masses to denounce someone who…em, well…treated women as men’s sex-objects.

But before we charge up the hill to the high ground and start our moral lectures, perhaps we need to pause and learn some moral lessons ourselves. As church history makes clear, especially recent church history, many churches have their own Harvey Weinsteins (though not on the same scale, unless you include the Catholic church), and we haven’t covered ourselves in glory in dealing with them.

1. The most powerful Christian leaders need the most accountability. 

Unfortunately, the more powerful and successful a man becomes, usually the less accountable he becomes. He answers to no one but himself and those around him (e.g. elders, deacons, boards of directors) are often afraid to challenge him. As a result, behavior that we would not tolerate in our children is ignored, the man’s sense of impregnability increases, and he eventually views himself as untouchable.

2. A person’s gifts and usefulness should never be used to cover or balance out evil.

Just as, “But he makes great films,” and, “But he makes us lots of money,” were used for decades to excuse Weinstein’s abuse, so “But he preaches great sermons” and “But he brings in lots of people/money/publicity” can also excuse a Christian leader’s abuses. Great gifts and great success must never be used to justify inactivity in the face of great evil.

3. Evil leaders need enablers to succeed in their evil.

Everyone around Weinstein knew what was going on, and many of them, including female employees, not only turned a blind eye, but even facilitated his wickedness. It’s virtually impossible for a man to engage in multiple abuses without people around him allowing it and even enabling it. Those are are complicit in evil like this share the guilt and must share the consequences of the penalty too.  It’s not enough to say, “Well he’s gone, now let’s get the show on he road again.” No! Who else knew and did nothing? Who enabled him? Who defended him? Who attacked his accusers?

4. Multiple rumors must be investigated.

Leaders in any walk of life, including the church, are vulnerable to false accusations. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that accusations against an elder need two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). However, when the number of witnesses begins to multiply beyond that, serious investigation must take place. As with Weinstein, too often people have heard multiple accusations and had their suspicions for years, but they never acted on them. They never followed up. They never investigated further. And the result was that multiple others needlessly suffered.

And remember, those who have the courage to come forward are usually the tip of an iceberg. From what I’ve seen, for every victim who comes out publicly, you can probably count a few more that will continue to suffer in secret, and another few more that he’s grooming for the future.

5. Victims must be cared for.

When a high profile figure falls, you’ll often get people who can only feel sorry for the fallen man. Expensive schemes are put in place for his “treatment,” his counseling, and his rehab. Prayers are offered for him, sermons about forgiveness,  grace, and not judging are preached. Perhaps financial settlements are reached to ease his family through loss of income and so on. But hardly a thought or a cent is sent the victims’ ways. This is completely upside-down, inside-out, and back-to-front. They are the victims and he is the victimizer. They are the church’s priority, not him.

6. Men need women to understand sexual assault.

Men often find it difficult to understand the deep and long damage done to victims of sexual assault. What to a man seems minor and insignificant can be huge to a woman. Already I’ve seen some opinionators downplaying some of the Weinstein assaults: “He just kissed her or hugged her…He just exposed himself…he just asked for a massage…he didn’t rape her…” and so on. I’ve heard even Christian men saying things like that concerning other cases.

In these kinds of situations, male leaders in the church need the help of women if they are to begin to understand how even the slightest sexual advance without consent can cause such deep and long pains. Surely we can devise ways of retaining the biblical mandate for male officebearers while incorporating female wisdom in such critical areas?

7. One strike and you’re out.

The ink was barely dry on the first Weinsteingate headline when the fallen man was telling the cameras, “I’m going to rehab…I’m asking for a second chance.” He’s hardly hit the ground and he’s already thinking about how to make a comeback! That might make for a good story in Hollywood but it must never happen in the church. Go flip burgers, anything, but don’t even think about shepherding God’s lambs again. Yes, there can be personal forgiveness, but if you lay a finger on a woman who is not your wife, there is no way back into church leadership. If more Christian leaders knew on this front that it’s one strike and you’re out, there would be far fewer walking to the plate.

Saint Harvey

Here’s where the church must really differ from Hollywood, and that’s in the Gospel grace we still offer to monsters like Weinstein. Yes, even Harvey, if he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Christ alone for salvation, can go to heaven and live forever as a saint of God. Does that offend you? Then the Gospel offends you. Our reaction to such a possibility is an accurate gauge of how much we really understand the Gospel, and especially our own need of it.

  • Paula Coyle

    Excellent! Really wish you would tell us who you’re thinking about currently, but most of us get it.

    • Paine4444

      You don’t “get” anything about abuse dynamics, Paula. You are too busy attacking other women who defend themselves against sexist attacks, justifying genocide against Native Americans, and playing stupid online games to think independently or develop understanding for those different from you. Of course you would slurp up these lies, burp, and ask for more. You get nothing, Paula. Nothing at all.

  • Barbara Roberts

    What you’ve written here, David, applies to domestic abuse as well.

    I lead the blog A Cry For Justice which is seeking to awaken the evangelical church to domestic abuse in its midst. It’s obvious from the things our readers tell us that it is not uncommon for a perpetrator of domestic abuse to be a pastor or have some other leadership role in the church. And many of them sexually abuse their targets as well as use other forms of abuse (emotional, psychological, coercive control, micro-managing the target’s life, financial abuse, isolation of the target, physical violence).

    One of ways churches can bungle the discipline of abusers is a misunderstanding of the ‘two or three witnesses’ precept. And abusers greatly promote this misunderstanding, because it enables them to get away with their sinful behavior.

    In sexual abuse and domestic abuse, there is usually no eye witness other than the victim. So when churches (and abusive clergy) demand that there be two or three other eye witnesses, this makes it impossible to discipline pastors and elders who are perpetrating abuse. What most elder boards fail to realise is that there can be other ‘witnesses’ as well as eye witnesses.

    Here are some examples of the kinds of evidence that a victim may bring. The fact that she is not permitted to spend a dime of her own volition. The characteristic nature of the psychological abuse she reports. Indicators in the children’s behavior. The mere fact that after years of marriage she is now only hesitatingly, coming forward to ask for help. Her own confusion about whether she is to blame. Financial records showing the husband’s credit card payments (e.g. to porn sites). Computer and phone records which demonstrate the abuser’s pattern of sinful conduct. The observation of a member of the church who has witnessed the husband speaking sarcastically to his wife, or belittling her, or smirking inappropriately. All these things point to the disordered character of the abuser — his pattern of entitlement and his hardened heart.

    And here is a post which explains this in more detail:

    • Cindi Eggers

      Really good points Barbara

  • Dee Parsons

    Question: What happens when a child is abused and speaks out against it and the elder has never been accused before.The law allows the testimony of an outcry witness and a person can be convicted on the testimony of one abused child. There are rarely witnesses to child sex abuse. How does this jive with the “2-3 witness” rule? I do not think the Scripture was referring to abuse in this situation.

  • Barbara Roberts

    Hi David, is the a way I can ‘tick a box’ to receive email notification of further comments on this post?
    Please let me know by messaging me somehow. I’m on FB, and my twitter handle is @notunderbondage

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  • GayeC

    I don’t think it’s possible for the church to fully address the problem of sexual abuse while still clinging to the belief that every form of power, control and authority belongs to men. It just won’t happen. It isn’t enough for the men in power to ask their wives what they think about an issue. As long as women have no real voice in an organization, the problems that affect them (and children) will almost inevitably be marginalized. I belong to a denomination that gives women an equal voice with men in the life of the church, and sexual abuse scandals are very rare. Not because the people in the denomination aren’t sinners (of course, we are!) but because when women have a voice and some power they generally do not put up with men sexually abusing children and other women.

    You noted that many people, “including female employees,” turned a blind eye to Weinstein’s vile behavior. Yes, we’d all like to believe that women will support other women and call out horrific behavior by men. But, again, it comes back to power. If your livelihood, the means by which you support yourself and your family, depends on a man who is behaving abominably, the act of calling him on it becomes very complicated and difficult. The same thing occurs in the church. What chance does a mere woman, who has no real voice or power, have against the word of a pastor, elder, or youth pastor? Anyone who is paying attention knows that women or girls who say, “The youth pastor raped me,” or “The pastor fondled me,” or “I saw this elder touch a child,” are typically silenced, attacked and, eventually, shunned. So the act of speaking the truth – of calling those people out – becomes very complicated and difficult.

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