I have many possible links for the usual “Check out” post but there’s only one you must read, so I’m not giving you a choice today. It’s a Christianity Today interview with Rachael Denhollander, the Christian woman who gave such an outstanding statement and testimony at the recent trial of Larry Nassar.
I’d encourage you to watch the whole video. Don’t just watch from where she “preached the Gospel and offered grace” to Nassar. That would be to miss the biggest lessons the church and society has to learn from this modern-day Deborah.
In this statement she mentioned how she “lost her church” in her fight for justice for sexual abuse victims. I was curious, though not surprised, about that and had been waiting for more information to emerge. That’s part of the important background covered in this Christianity Today interview. Here’s how Rachael’s husband Jacob tweeted a link to the interview:
If you wondered what it looked like for us to “lose our church,” this article from @CTmagazine might explain a few things.
I doubt this story will get as many blogs, tweets, links, and likes as Rachael’s video, but it should. It’s the most important interview Christianity Today has published in many years. It should be required reading for every church, every Seminary, every para-church ministry, and for every Christian conference that wants to show care for victims and avoid adding injustice to their pain. As she said:
I have found it very interesting, to be honest, that every single Christian publication or speaker that has mentioned my statement has only ever focused on the aspect of forgiveness. Very few, if any of them, have recognized what else came with that statement, which was a swift and intentional pursuit of God’s justice. Both of those are biblical concepts. Both of those represent Christ. We do not do well when we focus on only one of them.
It’s not enough to admire Rachael’s incredible offer of grace and walk away. It’s time to listen to all that she has to teach the church about justice and the damage of cover-ups. It’s time to listen to her warnings about how the evangelical church and Christians in general are among the worst at victim blaming and perpetrator sheltering. I’ve seen this time and time again in my twenty-plus years of ministry on both sides of the Atlantic. As she said:
The extent that one is willing to speak out against their own community is the bright line test for how much they care and how much they understand.
And here’s her final challenge:
Obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.
What’s the biggest lesson church leaders must take from this? It’s that ignoring and covering up abuse is just as serious and sinful as the abuse. We heard and admired Rachael’s cry for justice at MSU and USA Gymnastics. But will we hear and act upon her cry for justice in the church? #Timesup Church.