Dolly Parton and Kid Rock. Who’s next?
Charges of sexual harassment seem to be making the rounds like some contagious virus. What’s up? Randy Travis just joined other country music stars in severing ties with Nashville power publicist Kirt Webster. The allegations against Webster are gross, and I won’t repeat them here. So Dolly Parton and Kid Rock fired Webster, Parton’s longtime ambassador. Dolly tweeted late yesterday: “I’ve worked with Kirt Webster for many years and he has done a wonderful job. I am hoping that the accusations are not true.”
You’ve likely read about the West Coast problems too. We’re just a few weeks into the stories about media mogul Harvey Weinstein. Every day brings new allegations against other powerful men in related industries. #MeToo has flooded social media. Hollywood A-listers are dropping like flies. Serious charges loom against Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey, and the Emmy-nominated House of Cards will be no more.
When we lived in SoCal, Eileen, Joshua, and I flew regularly back and forth between Los Angeles and Nashville. We were always a bit surprised by how popular that route is, and by how many of the “up and coming” were on board. The cities have lots of glittery things in common as meccas of entertainment, and apparently both urban centers are experiencing a tidal wave of sexual abuse allegations.
I think what’s going on is that we’re seeing in the public arena the idols of our private lives. Hollywood and Nashville are simply localized illustrations of a national disgrace. What’s the disgrace? It’s an idolatry which I will summarize with this all-too-prevalent sentiment: “you were put on this Earth for my pleasure.”
Friends, the church is not immune to this twisted thinking, which ends up sexually objectifying women (and men, for that matter). We’re quick to point out the evils of pornography or salacious advertising, but we can be blind to other ways in which we treat people like objects instead of images of God.
At least one in four women and one in six men will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. About 80% of victims are assaulted by someone they know (and, to some degree, trust). Child sexual abuse is far too common. The offenders are usually people both the parents and children know – not strangers. One in five children is sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I don’t need to tell you that this can happen in evangelical churches, and I don’t need to tell you of all of the pain and suffering caused by this kind of horrific abuse. Many victims never tell, anyone. Can you imagine carrying such a burden alone? Others are blamed for their post-traumatic symptoms and behaviors. And many blame themselves. Often silence and shame set in, and last a lifetime.
As the senior pastor, I particularly want to call upon all the men of our congregation to regard women with utmost respect. This is our high calling in Christ Jesus. If your doctrine of male headship is such that you’re the boss, you answer to no one, and your maleness dominates her femaleness, I can assure you that you have misunderstood the Bible (starting with Genesis 1:27) – and you need to repent. (Just for the record, “you were put on this Earth for my pleasure” is Islam, not Christianity.)
Perhaps the best thing we as God’s people can do for those who have been sexually violated is to listen to them, and to listen well. We all need to learn about this epidemic. As a community of faith, we the faithful – together – can take proactive steps to help people find healing in the gospel of Christ. He is able! And we can do our part to prevent further abuse, harassment, trauma, and sorrow.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the church could show the world something more gracious and truthful – and in fact infinitely more durable and glorious – than a house of cards?