why aren’t Christians outraged by sexual abuse?

Because I wrote an article for Relevant a while ago (“What Christians Get Wrong about Sexual Abuse“), every so often I get e-mails from their editors asking for pitches on specific topics. This week, they asked for an article titled “Why Aren’t More Christians Outraged by Sexual Harassment Scandals?”, referencing the recent firing of Bill O’Reilly for sexually harassing women at Fox News. I pitched them something, and they published it yesterday.

You can read the whole thing here. I’m a little annoyed at Relevant‘s habit of sanitizing my writing. They removed me quoting Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” line, as well as the word rapacious and various other things. But … considering my first draft included the line “women are just supposed to be animated sex dolls that occasionally do the dishes” (which I cut in later drafts, upon reflection) I may be just a little out of touch with what an evangelical audience can tolerate. Possibly. Have I mentioned lately how much I love you all for reading me even when I’m horrifyingly honest?

The comments so far have been, ehm, interesting. There’s lots of lovely people saying surprisingly lovely things, and a few people who are … goddess bless them they’re just so clueless.

The semester is really close to wrapping up– my last item is due May 5, and then I have the summer off. Sticky notes for post ideas are piling up on my desk, and I’m excited to get back to that. For now, I’m going to enjoy a lone day off and play some Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.

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  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    My opinion is that Christians think they are upset by sexual abuse. But because they have a foggy notion of what it really is, individual cases pretty much always fall into the catagory of “not really sexual abuse.” Why do they not understand a major fact of life, something that somewhere between 1 in five to one in three of female people experience? I think that is because Christians are a culture powerfully shaped by narratives. Think about all the hours of sermons, bible study, ect., a Christian experiences. And more than that, current events are constantly being packaged – in part by sermons and influential Christian teachers – to fit into these narratives. Then say something doesn’t fit. What do you do with that? It’s like looking at something you can’t see because you don’t have receptors in your eyes for that color. To put it another way: it goes over their heads. Or another: they are in denial.

    • Alice

      THIS. In fundamentalism, it’s all about marriage, not consent. I once tried to explain to someone that marital sex without consent is rape, and it blew their mind. It didn’t make any sense to them. We were talking about the Old Testament stories where the men would conquer a city and take the virgins as wives.

      • Paige

        Marriage = eternal consent

    • Paige

      I think this is very accurate, and also true for other kinds of abuse, which often also involve a lack of consent. Reflecting on my thoughts about various things I experienced growing up, I did not characterize them as abuse until much later, when I got outside of evangelicalism and learned what abuse actually was. Basically, I previously would have said that a person was ‘mean’ or had some emotional issues or lacked self-control, but not abusive.

    • Chuck Geer

      And when this happens, people in Evangelicalism subject themselves and others around them to what I characterize as pious denial.

      “Oh, if you had read the Bible more and prayed harder, this wouldn’t have happened.” “God is just testing your faith and trust in him.” “We give up all of our rights at the foot of the Cross.”

  • Rachel

    I made the mistake of reading the comments, and of course the very first comment was a MAN going (paraphrasing here) “I’ve never had this happen to me, so it’s obviously not a thing. Cite your sources.” Like, of COURSE it never happened to you. You get a pat on the back just for being born a man in fundamentalism! And no matter how many women say this is our lived experience, these men won’t trust it unless other men validate these experiences of true.

    (obligatory *not all men*)

    I saw this as well growing up in the IFB Church. Outright child molestation would get kicked under the rug because it could “ruin the ministry.” They are so focused on saving face that they lose all semblance of compassion.

    • Lily

      Yes, I was rather frustrated by all men saying they’ve never experienced that. Like… duh! You’re a guy!

      My husband and I were talking purity culture today and I was saying how toxic it was and how it’s toxic for everyone but women get it from the time they’re born. It was a “I really love my husband” moment when we were in total agreement that it’s just as much objectification as anything else. Yessss.

  • Melody

    “But … considering my first draft included the line “women are just supposed to be animated sex dolls that occasionally do the dishes” (which I cut in later drafts, upon reflection) I may be just a little out of touch with what an evangelical audience can tolerate.”

    LOL, I love that! But you’re right, not so very Evangelical. I also find myself biting my lip or holding my tongue more and more often when interacting with Evangelicals. It’s so easy to offend and I do see things so very differently these days, that sometimes it is hard to remember that to them that may actually be offensive.

    • Chuck Geer

      I think it’s interesting that, in the age of Donald Trump, Evangelical Christians are seeking “safe spaces” and tend to be easily offended while lambasting liberals for their “safe spaces.” I was basically disfellowshipped by a local church (the one in which I was raised as a child!) because I was critical of Donald Trump. Most specifically, his “grab them by the p***y” comments.

      “Well Chuck, don’t you realize America needs to be great again?!” I was characterized by the senior minister’s wife as an unbeliever because I thought the “grab them” comments should be taken seriously! “Chuck, those were just words.” “Chuck, you’re being distracted by the media.” “Chuck, what about Bill Clinton?!”

      What caused me to lose my mind about this is that this was a group of people who didn’t take sexual assault seriously. Trump was going to keep the brown people out. Trump was going to make America great again. Anyone who got in the way of this was no longer welcome.

      Stuff like this was why I rejected and renounced Evangelicalism…

  • Jennny

    Obviously, and very tragically, christians can live in a bubble. Some genuinely have never had to meet the abused or marginalised. They aren’t up to date with research that shows an abused child can have the rest of their life affected or destroyed and many years later still have PTSD. Sadly too, image is everything, you must present a happy family/church/personal life to be a ‘ good witness’ and don’t see the dissonance when you try to cover up abuse, your twisted perspective thinks it’s the right thing to do and blames the victim.
    Also, these are barely half-formed thoughts in my mind. Child abuse is in the bible. Abraham and Isaac, the egyptians’ firstborn, the babies of Ramah, God himself allowing the torture to death of his son. Do you think this can subconsciously affect christian thinking on child abuse? (OK yes, I know about Matt 18,v6) but IHNI and would be interested what others think.

    • Melody

      I think the idea that Abraham sacrificing Isaac is seen as a good thing and no-one even bats an eye, just because it is God that tells him to do it, is very telling.

      If someone today would (very nearly) kill their child and give such as story as the argument for the (near) murder, we’d be appalled – I sure hope – but because it’s in the Bible and it’s about devotion to God, suddenly the potential child-murder is all fine and not a problem.

      • Anna

        Less than a year after I became a parent, I heard a sermon about Abraham and Isaac that in no way mentioned how disturbing the story was. I was deeply upset and had to slip out of the sanctuary. The guy talking was young, still in university, and had no kids, so I don’t think it had occurred to him to look at the story more critically.

      • Just to note, that story “being about devotion to God” is a layer of interpretation that many people don’t assign to that passage. In Judaism, Abraham’s willingness to do this is seen as a sign of failure, not proof of his devotion to G-d.

        • Melody

          Sure, but it’s the typical Evangelical explanation.

      • Rachel Held Evans post about that story – the “I would have failed that test” post – was so resonating. I hate teh Abraham/Isaac story largely because of it being framed as a test of true devotion and faith.

    • kittehonmylap

      I would actually posit that many of the abused and marginalized in fundagelical circles don’t know they are. That 1 in 5/ 1 in 3 number isn’t any smaller in fundie-land- every single fundie has met abused women & children. They just…don’t believe abuse is abuse.

      Hell, I’m many years gone from my evangelical days and it took me months to accept that my marriage was abusive- and that was with a therapist coaxing it out of me. Who knows how long it would have taken without that?

      • Jennny

        Yes, I’ve met fundies who are/were abused and believe it’s ‘God’s will for their lives’ so would never do anything to free themselves from it as that would be sinful.

        • Chuck Geer

          Yep. Far too many of these people believe that this abuse is God’s way of teaching and training them to be “more faithful.”

  • Ysolde

    I liked the article and think you made some excelent points. I also think that a large number of evangelical christians won’t even listen.

    • Chuck Geer

      Unfortunately, they won’t.

  • Madeline Costa

    It is too bad that that they sanitized your article, but I’m happy that you got a chance to write about it. I couldn’t read any more comments after the first one, I thought you were handling it well.

    Also, ESO is my jam 😉 ESO and Skyrim is very relaxing for me!

    • I’m really loving it because it’s actually absorbing enough where I can focus on it and not be distracted by anxiety/depression or worrying about anything. And the game is *huge* with a whole new expansion coming so I’m looking forward to playing it for a while. I haven’t even left Auridon yet really and I’m still picking up quests.

      • Madeline Costa

        I completely agree, it’s very soothing and entertaining. It’s also one of the few games I can play when I have a migraine, it helps keep my mind off of it. I’m such a nerd over the cut scenes and wherever I go to a different area for the first time. I’m looking forward to Morrowwind (sp?) too!

  • Chuck Geer

    Samantha, thank you for writing this article. If nothing else, I am reminded of why I have rejected and renounced Evangelicalism. I can very easily believe that 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump this past November. It is quite evident to me that the statements and confessions of faith in most Evangelical churches are NOT worth the paper upon which they are written…

    “Women are just supposed to be animated sex dolls that occasionally do the dishes.” Yep. In the town in which I was born and raised, if you were a male and (please forgive the crude language forthcoming) weren’t humping anything and everything that had a skirt, you were gay. However, if you were one of the girls who were humped by the males, you were a slut and weren’t welcome in a “Bible-believing” church (whatever that is) until you repented of being a slut. (This usually meant giving a detailed account of the aforementioned humping.)

    Double standards?! You bet!!!

  • JBReiter

    Great article! In addition to the sexism you described so well, lack of consent seems built in to conservative Christian depictions of the relationship between God and humans. We are not supposed to resist that God’s “love” for us. We aren’t allowed to have any rights or will of our own. In that relationship, the parent (God) is always right and his exercise of power is always justified, and the child is depraved. No wonder it is hard for people in this culture to perceive abusive dynamics between a human parent and their child.

  • zbig666

    It’s not that Christians are oblivious to sexual abuse, it’s just that they ignore or easily forgive those who they look up to who engages in it. You might write about this other topic — the scientific reasoning behind what motivates Republicans and Democrats (Conservatives and Liberals): https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/the-radical-theory-of-evolution-that-explains-democrats-and-republicans/258307/

  • Gulo

    Abrahamic texts (arguably) condone sexual abuse like rape. They also (arguably) condone slavery and incest.