Yesterday Charisma magazine released an unfortunate (to use the term lightly) story about Christian comedian, John Crist. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read the story for yourself here. But suffice it to say, it’s just another story of a Christian man using his influence and power to manipulate women for his own sexual gratification. In response, I decided to write an open letter to all the pastors, elders, priests, chaplains and other clergy who have contributed to this problem (and others like it) and looked the other way when they should have stood up for justice. Thankfully, I know that not all Church leadership falls into this category, and many DO choose the hard road of fighting for the poor, orphan, widow, alien and abused. For those of you who are fighting the good fight- I see you, I applaud you and I will go out of my way to help hold your arms up while you continuously choose to do the hard thing. This letter is not for you. This is for the leaders who have chosen not to raise their hands at all.
Dear Church Leaders,
What the heck, guys? Seriously. Yesterday Charisma magazine released the John Crist article and I’m over here with my insides literally vibrating in anger over yet ANOTHER story about how your leaders knew what was going on and did NOTHING. To be clear, I’m not here to talk about Crist- I’m here to talk about YOU. If I had a penny for every time one of you turned a blind eye to a leader in our community who was using their influence and power to verbally, emotionally, or sexually abuse a fellow sister (or brother!) in Christ I would be so rich I could buy my own island and move myself and everyone I love far, far away from all of this madness.
Don’t you know that when you accept a position in leadership in our body - a pastorship, an eldership, a priesthood.. etc, that you have accepted the responsibility to care for your flocks? That means if a woman comes to you and TO HER OWN HURT tells you that she is being manipulated or abused, you are responsible to BELIEVE her and stand up for her. You use your voice to challenge her oppressor. You make a choice to have the hard conversations. You shoulder her burden. You put yourself in harms way for justice. You make moves to YOUR own hurt in response to her hurt.
I really don’t understand how or when the trend and focus in pastoral leadership shifted from being a servant to the people, a fighter for injustice, a provider to the poor and a defender of the weak to building your church attendance and making sure everyone on Instagram knows your name. Pastoral position has become a popularity contest and while you are all scrambling for the top spot, the world is LITERALLY going to crap and very, VERY few of you are doing a single thing about it. I’m not against using Instagram, podcasts, music, books and other media as a platform. I get it. It’s the bread and butter of us millenials. But what is the point of having two million followers if you aren’t using your voice to make ANY impact at all? If you won’t stand up for what’s right? If you won’t talk about the hard things? If you won’t do the unpopular thing when the unpopular thing is simply, the right and best thing to do? Jesus never cared about popularity. In fact, He seemed to shy away from it every chance He could get. And when the time came for him to stand up against sin He didn’t just say a prayer or preach a sermon checkered with vague references and call it a day. He wasn’t politically correct or silent for the sake of peace. Quite the contrary- He made a HUGE ruckus and started flipping over some tables!
Two weeks ago I listened through grit teeth as John McArthur verbally (and grotesquely) picked apart Beth Moore and her beautiful years of ministry and service to our faith community. Surprisingly, what hurt the most wasn’t even what was said from the stage. It was the response of claps and laughs that came from the crowd. And the fact that in that moment no one- NO ONE- stood up for her. Regardless of the congregation's Biblical views on female ordination, there is ZERO excuse for the way in which Beth Moore and other female leaders were spoken about that night. And while John McArthur stood there with his foot on their heads, everyone in the room laughed and clapped in support of his disgusting display of paternalism.
Leaders, please listen. When you choose to be a pastor, an elder, a chaplain, a priest, a bishop.. etc (and yes, religious service is a calling, but you do get to choose whether or not you answer that calling or not) you are accepting a HEAVY responsibility. Probably the heaviest of all the responsibilities on earth because you now hold the sobering job of caring for people’s souls. It doesn’t get much heavier than carrying the weight of the only thing about mankind that actually holds ETERNAL VALUE. Whether you like it or not, you stand as a small representation of Jesus here on earth, so your choices MATTER. What you do or DON’T do MATTERS and it matters DEEPLY. And you should feel the weight of that responsibility every day. The calling to religious service should never be one to be taken lightly or one that should ever feel easy on your shoulders. You are choosing a HARD thing.
Are you aware that your continuous inaction against abuse and manipulation of power in the Church is doing the exact opposite of what God has literally called you to do? Do you see that in your attempt to keep the peace at all cost you are ironically and silently paying the greatest price of all? I know how much many of you dislike the term “deconstructing Christianity,” but consider this; more often than not, your abuse, or your inaction when abuse has occurred is the very catalyst for this deconstruction. How can a victim reconcile the disparaging contrast between your apathetic and unloving actions and Christ’s message of unconditional love? Our faith is an intricately woven tapestry, and your response (or lack thereof) just cut a slice in their delicate fabric. With no one to hold those pieces together, the now exposed threads keep pulling and pulling until the entire tapestry is completely unraveled. Now the victim (and often their families and friends, too) are left alone, soul crushed, with arms full of thread. It is understandable how in their exhaustion and pain they look at the state of the Church and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Just for one second, let’s think about how much more powerful and meaningful it would be if you all chose the hard road. If you stood by the victims in your communities and put your necks on the line for the small and the marginalized- even when it was UNPOPULAR. What if all of our church clergy and leaders respond to victims in word and deed with something more like this;
“I believe you, and I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s not okay and I’m going to do something about it to make sure it never happens again and that your abuser accounts for his/her actions towards you. Also, I’m going to stand by you while you journey through this trauma, and if I have to tell you a hundred times a hundred through this process that this wasn’t okay and that your life matters to me and to God, I will.”
C’mon church! Can you imagine what an impact that would have? How many more souls would be softened towards Jesus and His teaching? How many more broken hearts would move toward healing instead of bitterness? How many lost souls would look inside our communities and say, “Wow! Yeah, I definitely want in on this.”
Leaders, our church community is waiting for you to do the hard things. We are begging you to pull the pieces of these sliced tapestries back together and hold them still until they can be properly mended again. Our hearts are desperately praying for you to look less like the face of success and more like the face of Jesus. Please pause and remember the heaviness of your calling- the calling that requires you to respond like Jesus to a world that sees YOU as His representation. Be better, Leaders. It’s time to flip some tables.
One of the Least and an Aspiring Table Flipper
Titus 1:9 ESV
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
James 3:1 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
Matthew 21:12-13 ESV
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”