It’s being called the greatest cultural upheaval in decades. Or perhaps, more to the point, the greatest cultural reckoning.
Over the past three months, more than 100 prominent men in news, entertainment, government and education have been publicly accused of sexual harassment or assault.
But these aren’t isolated cases. It really is systemic. Around 60% of all American women say they’ve been harassed on the job. On October 15, when Alyssa Milano sent out a tweet that said, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she woke up the next day to find that more than 30,000 people had used the hashtag #MeToo.
Milano then burst into tears. Within 24 hours, this number had risen to 12 million. #MeToo has now been used millions of times in at least 85 countries.
TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” their 2017 Person of the Year. Meaning, the voices that launched the #MeToo movement. They say it has unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s:
“Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. [So they have] started a revolution...”
The “Time’s Up” campaign has been launched by 300 prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives, along with a full-page ad in The New York Times. One of their key initiatives is establishing a legal defense fund to help less privileged women like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels. Those involved in the campaign said, “We... recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices.”
Their words are powerful:
“To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile, every garment and factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up, and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate in order to make a living: We stand with you. We support you.”
They hope to introduce legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
This is real. There’s no “mansplaining” this away. In fact, mansplaining – and misogyny in general – is the problem.
This isn’t a gray area for the Bible. While the Bible doesn’t flinch from recording the sexual misdeeds of certain individuals, it doesn’t flinch from its denunciation of them, either.
There is no place in God’s economy for sexual harassment, assault or rape.
There is no place for using positions of power or influence to coerce or pressure for sexual favors.
And the call to how we should interact with people of the opposite sex – as men – on a daily basis is also clear. The apostle Paul wrote these instructions to a church leader named Timothy, whom he was mentoring: Treat... older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (I Timothy 5:2, NIV)
There is something else very important to make clear.
Almost every woman who has gone through sexual harassment, in whatever form it may have taken, talks about the emotional and psychological fallout from those advances.
They wrestle with guilt.
They wonder if they somehow asked for it.
Could they have deflected it?
Were they making a big deal out of nothing?
And that brings about the darkest kind of shame there is. It’s the shame you feel for what was done to you. When you’re the victim, yet you feel the shame of how you were victimized. Instead of seeing the shame belonging to the perpetrators, you take it on as the victim.
Here’s the truth: It’s not your fault.
It doesn’t matter what you were wearing.
It doesn’t matter what you said.
It doesn’t matter where you were.
It’s not your fault.
But let’s talk about where fault does lie, fault even beyond the perpetrator.
Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today magazine, wrote what I believe to be one of the most telling editorials in recent memory. It was about the Alabama special election for a coveted US Senate seat and the Republican candidate, Roy Moore. On the day of the vote, Galli wrote that no matter the outcome, there is already one loser: evangelical Christian faith.
“When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”
I couldn’t agree more.
It was just one more example of how Christians have excused, ignored or justified unscrupulous behavior and indecent rhetoric to such a degree that it can only be called hypocrisy.
This isn’t about politics, whether Moore should have been supported, nor whether the accusations were true. It’s about the fact that we should care about whether they are true. That moral character matters. That assault or harassment of women matters—more than winning the Senate or gaining a vote. That we don’t sell our soul in order to achieve a political agenda. That whether you’re a registered Republican or Democrat, you’re a Christ-follower first. That this means there will be times – no matter your political party – where you stand prophetically against it.
It means that when it comes to the #MeToo movement, you stand with the oppressed and assaulted and harassed and demeaned and disrespected no matter who the perpetrator may be.
Because you are a Christian.
James Emery White
For more on this, click HERE for the .mp3 and .pdf downloads of the “#MeToo” series given by James Emery White at Mecklenburg Community Church.
Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards, “Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers,” TIME Magazine, December 18, 2017, read online.
View the full-page ad from the New York Times at TimesUpNow.com.
Mark Galli, “The Biggest Loser in the Alabama Election,” Christianity Today, December 12, 2017, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.