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Christianity Today


they took it down


That’s what I felt like last night around 11 pm. Then I started crying.

First, I want to thank all of you for joining me in asking Leadership Journal to #TakeDownThatPost. Seeing so many of us rally on twitter, and on facebook, and reading the e-mails you were sending … it was extraordinary.

I also wanted to say this, in case they ever have the chance to read it.

To his wife: you are an incredible woman. What you did when you left him was amazing, and courageous, and I – a stranger you’ve never met—am proud of you. You did the absolutely right thing in what must have been one of the darkest times of your life.

To his victim: I wish there was a way to express how much my heart broke for you. My horror if my rapist had the opportunity to manipulate and deceive Christian leaders all over the country would be inexpressible. Hopefully you didn’t know that he’d been given a platform, but if you did, I hope you know that everything we did to get that post removed, we did for you. You are a child of God, and we love you.


It took the Leadership Journal five days to remove the post, and there were some significant bumps along the way, but they did, ultimately do the right thing and removed it. And not only did they take it down—the absolute best I was hoping for—they apologized. And it wasn’t a non-apology of “we’re sorry you all were stupid enough to be offended.” It was a real, legitimate apology.

I read it, and I laughed, and rejoiced. We did it. They listened. It was . . . incredible. This week had been so hard because I fully expected them to continue ignoring us, to delete our comments, to silence our criticism, to block us and ridicule us. Since when would a Christian media outlet recognize that they’d screwed up so epically? I was cynical, and my cynicism made me angry because I desperately wished that I didn’t have a reason for it. I hated that an entire editorial team had been taken in by a manipulative abuser, and that they had allowed a rapist into a pulpit to spread his lies.

And then I cried, because oh how I wish I weren’t so surprised that they’d done the right thing. It is a sorrowful thing to know that it is so extraordinarily rare for a Christian organization to admit to wrong doing.

So, thank you, Leadership Journal and Christianity Today for not taking the road that so many Christian leaders before you have taken.

But what now?

They were right in one thing: Christian leaders desperately need to be educated about child sexual abuse, clergy abuse, rape, and sexual ethics. To me, it is the most glaring and hideous fault in the modern American church, that they are negligently ignorant about this issue and the lives that are at stake.

I would like to see the Leadership Journal replace that hideous screed with posts—not just one, but many, and again and again and again in the years to come—from the perspective of victims and those who work with abuse survivors of all kinds. The American evangelical church knows nothing about abuse—not physical abuse, not domestic violence, not spiritual abuse, not sexual abuse—and that needs to change. Now.

They need to go to pastors like Jeff Crippen, who have been working with abuse survivors for decades. They need to ask the leaders at GRACE to do an entire series about how to identify abuse and how to properly respond to victims, especially children.

They also need to think about bringing more diversity into their editorial staff. All of them are men. I can’t help but believe that if they had a woman on the editorial staff, this atrocity would never have happened. Women are the targets of sexual violence in a way that men simply aren’t, and because of that we are going to be much more aware of what sexual violence is and the ramifications that it has on victims.

During this week, it was women who were leading, women who were telling our stories, women who were starting and participating in the hashtags #TakeDownThatPost and #HowOldWereYou. Men were there—good, amazing men—but the overwhelming majority of the voices calling on Leadership Journal were women.

We are half the church, after all.

So—you did the right thing, Leadership editors. You apologized. You took it down.

Don’t let it end with that.


Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost


Have I ever mentioned that my rapist is a youth pastor now? I probably have, but only off-hand. I cannot even begin to express the amount of grief I have suffered since I discovered that. I reported him to the police, but there’s no other action I can take. The only thing my report can really do is help a future victim. When—possibly if, but most likely when—he rapes someone else, if she has the ability to report it there will be a history there. It will help any future investigation be successful.

It breaks my heart every single day that there’s a rapist walking around a church, and he’s a pastor of children. He is in a position to do to another girl exactly what he did to me, and I have I wept so bitterly for those children. I still do, every time I think about the power he wields and the trust those parents place in him. It infuriates me like nothing else does that he is beyond the reach of justice.

Which is why I haven’t been able to read the piece that the Leadership Journal published this week. I have tried, many times, over the past few days to make my way all the way through it, but I can’t. It … it sounds like him. My rapist. It is exactly what my rapist will say when he rapes one of the girls in his care, if he is successfully convicted as so very few rapists are.

He’s a youth pastor. His church probably subscribes to the Leadership Journal. And . . . I . . . oh, GOD!! I don’t want to picture him reading this because I know what that will do. He will read it, and everything that is inside of him, everything about him that would make the rest of us recoil in horror, will rise up in glee. Because here, here is a man who understands him. And he will feel justified, because he knows that a journal dedicated to Christian leadership wasn’t able to see the atrocities in his heart. And he will tell himself that the girl he is grooming wants it, wants him, and it’s only an affair. It’s not rape. It’s romantic.

My heart is wailing.

If I had sackcloth and ashes, I would be in the streets gnashing my teeth at the horror of this.

But, I can do something. You can do something.

Please e-mail the editors of the Leadership Journal and ask them to remove the post ( Ask them to replace it with an article from the victim of a youth pastor, and then another from someone like Boz Tchividjian that offers church leadership an actual education in child sexual assault, clergy abuse, statutory rape, and how it is impossible for a pastor gain consent from a parishioner because of the power he or she has.

If you use twitter, tweet along with #TakeDownThatPost and at @CTmagazine and @Leadership_Jnl.

If you use facebook or other social media, please share one of the following articles.

An Open Letter to Christianity Today” by Elizabeth Esther
Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story” by Libby Anne
Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post” by Tamara Rice
On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement” by Dianna Anderson
Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse” by Suzannah Paul
Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?” By Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose

If you subscribe to the Leadership Journal, please cancel your subscription and tell them why.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer


throwing feminism under the bus


So, I read this article by Amy Julia Becker yesterday: “Why We Need Paternity Leave.” First off, I want to applaud Becker for supporting this idea. One of the more significant problems facing families and parents today in America is that there are rarely good options in all things money and career related. Very often, men and women are forced to make decisions that they’d rather not make in order to simply be practical. These decisions, while more than understandable and completely justifiable on an individual level, can frequently have the long-term effect of hurting both men’s and women’s options in the long term and as a society.

Paternity leave– a concept thoroughly discussed by feminists (and argued against by anti-feminists)– could be a very excellent step forward in eliminating some problems. I’m not an expert, and I’m not thoroughly read up on the idea, but what I have read about it has a common-sense appeal. Thusly, I was happy when Becker decided to write a post about it.

And then she said this:

Much of the feminist movement has not empowered and protected women or called men to greater responsibility for their actions and relationships. Rather, it has encouraged women to become just like men.

First of all, this is not the first time that Becker has made a claim like this. While most of her writing for her.meneutics is related to motherhood, she does have a few posts like “Hookup Culture is Good for Women and other Feminist Myths.” While I’ve really appreciated the sorts of thoughts she shares in her motherhood-related posts, anytime she writes about– or even casually mentions– feminism, I’m left with not a whole lot else except irritation.

And I’m irritated by this because this post had so much promise. I’m thrilled anytime anyone introduces a feminist or non-traditional-gender-roles conversation into a mainstream Christian media outlet like Christianity Today, and it’s beginning to happen more frequently. While her.meneutics, the part of Christianity Today set apart for “the Christian woman,” tends to be a little (or a lot) more conservative than I am, I still fairly loyally read their articles. I think it’s important to at least be aware of what everyone is saying.

So here’s Becker, writing about a feminist idea, advocating for it, and suddenly there’s a whole paragraph awkwardly placed slap dab in the middle that seems to scream “I KNOW I’M TALKING ABOUT A FEMINIST THING PLEASE NO ONE THINK I’M A FEMINIST BECAUSE I’M ABSOLUTELY NOT.”

Also, the editors at her.meneutics used this quote in their initial facebook link for the post– I don’t want to stretch that too far, but choosing this particular quote when it doesn’t represent the body of her argument? Seems a little click-bait-y.

Frankly, it’s getting a little exhausting to be attracted to an article coming from a Christian media source because it’s promoting a feminist concept only to get there and have the rug ripped out from under me– and then be run over by the bus I just got thrown under. And, just to be fair, it’s not just Christians:

The arguments, the language, the ideas of feminism are co-opted– stolen– and then the writer advocating for this feminist idea spends over 10% of her time (104 words in a 997 word post) seemingly doing her best to demonize feminism and feminists. This only exacerbates and perpetuates the problem– women like Becker want nothing to do with feminism because of what they think feminism is, and then they take our arguments– but add the statement that this can’t possibly be feminism because see, I think feminists are baby-killers.*

And, because I used to say pretty much exactly the same thing, I understand why Becker made this statement. I used to believe that feminism was almost single-handedly responsible for the destruction of America. However, the first time I actually started engaging with modern feminism? That all ended. Because I know now that statements like “much of the feminist movement has not empowered or protected women” are categorically false.**

Feminism got women the vote.
Feminism set up domestic violence shelters and hotlines.
Feminism made it illegal for a man to abuse his wife.
Feminism made it possible for a woman to leave her abusive husband.
Feminism ensured that women could own property.
Feminism allowed Becker to argue for paternity leave (or anything) in public.

And this frustrates me, because when Becker (and others) write posts like these, they are so close. This is where we could start a conversation. This is where I could join together with them in a common cause. These times, these posts, are where we could sit down over a cup of coffee and hash out our similarities as well as our differences.

But, when I read like post like this one, all I get is: “you’re not invited.”

*please read the whole post. She did make a slightly less hyperbolic version of that argument.
**the “much” in the beginning of that sentence, while technically there to prevent an absolutist statement, doesn’t suceed.


my body is not a stumbling block

culottes 2

The picture above was taken while I was in high school. I am wearing a specific pattern of “culotte,” or “split skirt,” that was distributed by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and Hyles-Anderson College. This particular pattern was voluminous– there was an 8-inch yolk, and box pleats circled around my hips. The idea behind the pattern was that the yolk and the pleats created enough space that you couldn’t see what my actual shape was underneath all of that fabric. I was not allowed to wear any other kind of culotte pattern— not the “loose” basketball shorts, or “loose” Bermudas, or anything else that was permissible for many of the young women I knew– although, as far as I can remember, all the women in my church wore this pattern.

I developed a gigantic, curvaceous, apple-bottom ass when I was around 14. I have the stretch marks to prove it. And as soon as I started developing, the comments started flooding in.

Samantha, you have a lot of junk in your trunk!

Samantha, have you thought about Spanx? Your butt wiggles when you walk.

Samantha, you should put some control-top panty hose on. It would help with that jiggle.

Samantha, you need to be very careful when you walk up to the piano. Don’t take such a large step onto the platform.

Samantha, suck in your stomach and tilt your hips forward. It’ll help your bottom be less noticeable.

Samantha, you need to work out more. Your bouncing rear-end is distracting my husband. 

I could go on. I have searingly vivid memories of hundreds of comments like this, given to me by incredibly well-meaning men and women– people in my church who honestly cared about me, who to this day still care about me, and who I still respect and love. These men and women have played such a huge role in my life, but every time I think about the instructions I received from them concerning modesty, I want to curl up into a ball until the pain goes away.

They didn’t mean for this to happen. I’m positive they’d be horrified if they knew I carried these wounds with me– wounds that still bleed, even though it’s been years since I’ve heard anything like this.

When I picked out my wedding dress, a gorgeous sleeveless gown with a sweetheart neckline, my immediate concern was what people would think when the wedding pictures went up on facebook. I would likely never hear it directly from them, but I could see their faces in my mind– their lips purse, their faces twist, their heads shake. Look at that dress, they would tut-tut. Her neckline is so low! I can’t believe her parents would let her wear that. And her husband, what must he be like, to let his wife flaunt herself like this?

When I pushed my credit card across the counter, I felt… proud. Because I knew what I’d just accomplished, and it had been monumental: don’t let the bastards get you down, and I thought, and I scheduled my first fitting.

So, today, when I read this article on her.meneutics by Peter Chin, I had to fight with myself. Because I could hear all of those people– people I respect, people who mean a great deal to me– I could hear them in his words. I could hear how loving and gentle he must feel. I could practically picture the look on his face– the tenderness and compassion he truly feels and wants all Christian women to know, to understand how sincere he is, how he doesn’t want us to be hurt by his words, that all he wants is to encourage us to do, think, feel, and react in the way that he thinks is “appropriate” and “mature.”

But all his words did was make me want to scream. To pick up anything and smash it. To lay in my bed and cry until I couldn’t feel anything anymore.

Because, honestly, while I appreciate how kindly he worded his thoughts, it doesn’t change the fact that the ideas he’s promoting hurt people. And yes, they hurt me, and I’m a human so I’m not above reading things into what he said that aren’t there, but I am desperately trying to be fair. I’m not taking issue with his wording, or with his motives– I take issue with the idea.

To say that “modesty is the loving prerogative of the mature” is to instantly label anyone who disagrees with him as unloving and immature, and this is how he begins his argument. This immediately silences anyone who disagrees with him, because we can quite easily be dismissed. We think he’s wrong not because we have research, or personal experience, or even the Bible on our side– we disagree with him because we aren’t exercising true Christian love and maturity. This comment is setting up a false dichotomy between him and the “otherness” of women who have been abused and silenced by teachings exactly like what he’s promoting.

And then he goes to Romans 14, which he does, thankfully, quote the passage in full, instead of ripping out single verses that is so common in this format. But, just because he gives us a lot of context doesn’t remove a basic problem with what Peter, and so many others like him, have done. By using Romans 14, Peter is borrowing from and contributing to a culture where women’s bodies are less than objects– we are unclean objects.

To be fair, he never explicitly says this– in fact, in some places, it seems like he’s trying to deny this idea, but the problem is that women’s bodies as unclean objects is the fundamental premise behind “modesty.” You cannot remove this concept and leave modesty teachings any ground to stand on.

I realize that is a huge claim, so let me explain.

In explanations about modesty like what Peter has given here, the pattern to their argument is:

1) of course, a woman’s body is beautiful, and good. God made it.
2) however, a woman’s body is also sexual, and that sexuality causes men to lust after them.
3) so, out of love, shouldn’t women do everything they can to make sure their brother doesn’t sin?

And then, they frequently go to Romans 14, or passages like it, to talk about the idea of the stumbling block, and how it is every Christian’s duty to “help the weaker brother.”

However, the “weaker brother” in the case of modesty is all men, and the situation being considered is that at least some men see women’s bodies as unclean, and shouldn’t we cater to that? Shouldn’t we do everything within our power to help them avoid temptation and sin? Isn’t that our mature Christian duty?

Hopefully you can intuit the connection. Romans 14 is talking about Christians who think some things (like food) are unclean, and some don’t, but the people who don’t think an item is unclean should still be aware of those who do, and make accommodations for them. When you replace the concept of clean and unclean food with women’s bodies, the only result is that women’s bodies can be perceived as inherently and integrally unclean.

(Some could argue that it’s not our bodies that are unclean, only how we choose to dress those bodies, but that’s not consistent, because the argument goes that men are lusting after the women’s bodies, not their clothes.)

When I was a teenager, and my womanly body began developing, the reaction was not to my clothes– it was never to my clothes. It was to my body, and most of the attention focused on my rear end, which could not be disguised no matter how I walked or what I wore. Nothing— and I do mean absolutely nothing — could change the fact that I had a large, shapely ass or hide it well enough to remove it from my “weaker brother’s” field of vision. No matter what I wore, I was still on the receiving end of cat calls, jeers, slurs– I was stared at, grabbed at, slapped, and mocked, because my body was unclean, and my body was under the purview of what men thought about it.

If I was touched inappropriately, it was not because he was a pervert, it was because I was dressed “inappropriately” (to borrow Peter’s term) and it had caused my brother to stumble.

If I caught one of the young men (or even married men, on occasion) staring at me, it wasn’t because they were not exercising self-control. It was because what I was wearing had caused them to lust after me. It was my “Christian duty” if I was going to “love my weaker brother” and “be strong and mature” to do my dead-level best to make sure that never happened.

But, over the course of well over a dozen years, what I discovered was that no level of modesty could prevent even good, godly, Christian men from lusting after my body if they weren’t exercising self-restraint. I could not make myself shapeless enough, ugly enough, undesirable enough, to escape male attention. It just wasn’t possible.

But what I have learned since then is that there is nothing about my body that I need to hide. My body is beautiful, wonderful, given to me by God, and meant to be fully enjoyed. My body is not unclean– there is nothing about myself, my physicality, my sexuality, none of it, that can “cause” men to lust, or force good men, against their will, to objectify me. I a person, with all the complicated messiness that entails– and my body is fully a part of who I am. It can’t be reduced down to “clean” or “unclean” based on how I dress it– to try to do that is to deny my humanity.

And I love my brothers enough to know that they are capable of making the choice not to objectify and demean their sisters– no matter what they look like or what they’re wearing.