Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Truth and Light

“He only fondled the girls. It’s not like he raped them.”

“He was too young to know what he was doing. In his mind, it probably wasn’t much worse than stealing a cookie.”

“He only touched their breasts. It could have been worse.”

“He repented and was forgiven, so his slate has been wiped clean. I would have no problem asking him to babysit my own children.”

“They were just ‘playing doctor.’ A lot of kids do that.”

“Those girls aren’t really victims if they were asleep when it happened.”

These represent just a few of the more shocking comments I’ve seen in the wake of last week’s news about the Duggar family. The comments are bad enough by themselves, but what makes them worse is that they all came from Christians. And not just the ones who are members of those weird little sects. A couple of those comments came from a preacher in a mainstream denomination.

I have a couple of theories about why so many people of faith have been quick to defend the way the Duggar situation has been handled. First, Christians tend to be very supportive and defensive of their own people. Every time a movie like Fireproof or God’s Not Dead comes out, Christians flock to see it because we need to support Christians in the film industry, right? Christians tune into shows like Duck Dynasty (and buy up all that ridiculous merchandise) because they are Christians and we need to support them, right?

So when something pretty horrible comes to light about a Christian in the national spotlight—someone who has been held up as part of an example of how Christian families should be—some Christians will rush to his defense. “Judge not lest ye be judged” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “we all sin/make mistakes” will get thrown around as though one Bible verse or not-completely-thought-out sentence will provide a quick resolution to an extremely complex situation.

I definitely think this unhealthy, unwavering loyalty is at play here. But my fear is that something much worse is going on. From many of the responses/reactions I’ve seen to the Duggar reports over the past few days, I think many people in religious communities are horribly ignorant and naïve about sexual abuse.

Students at Bob Jones University were told not to report rape/sexual abuse because it might “damage the body of Christ.” Sovereign Grace Ministries, a denomination with churches on five continents, allegedly failed to report sexual abuse allegations from decades ago. A pastor of a Maryland church knew the youth leader had molested three young boys, but never reported it. These are just a few examples of many, many horrific incidents of abuse that happened in religious settings. Google “sexual abuse in churches.” The stories are never-ending.

The Catholic church has been making headlines about sexual abuse cover-ups for years, but it’s everywhere. And it’s clear that many church leaders either don’t know how to handle these situations, or choose not to handle them correctly. It’s also clear that when it comes to sexual abuse, many people of faith just don’t get it. They don’t get that while “forgiveness” sounds nice, telling a victim they have to forgive can only worsen the damage. They don’t get the depth of the trauma. They don’t get that repentance will not guarantee the perpetrator will never do it again. They don’t get that the verses about judging and casting stones come across as thinly veiled attempts to guilt someone into silence. And that silence is exactly what an abuser needs to keep abusing and keep getting away with it.

Organizations such as GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) are already working to turn this tide of ignorance and irreversible harm, but more needs to be done:

- I believe all clergy members should be mandatory reporters. This would mean that if any clergy member knows or suspects any kind of abuse (not just sexual) is going on, they would be required by law to report it to authorities.

- I believe people who work with minors in all churches, temples, mosques and other religious entities should undergo abuse awareness training on a regular basis. My husband is a youth and family minister, so yes, this would mean both of us, as well as all of our Bible class teachers and parent volunteers.

- On a more personal level, we have got to stop passionately defending abusers and badly-handled situations whether the people involved share our own faith systems or not.

One comment I have read on the Duggar situation is that we should not speak out on these kinds of situations because “we should not enter a battle that is not ours.” But when 93 percent of sex offenders describe themselves as religious* (meaning they are likely involved in a faith community somewhere), and when studies have found that sexual abusers within faith communities have more victims and younger victims**, this is a battle that belongs to all of us. Sexual abuse is the kind of criminal activity that thrives in silence and darkness, and faith communities should be repositories of truth and light.

*The Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study
** “Startling Statistics: Child sexual abuse and what the church can begin doing about it


  • At Wed May 27, 09:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Honestly, my reaction had nothing to do with being a Christian. It was from experience. My mother was molested by a family member. My brother approached me and my sister. I refused, she didn't. I had an ex-boyfriend who still beat himself up for exposing himself to his sisters. Boys are curious, right? And their sisters are around to experiment with. It's pretty much status quo. If you detect bitterness, you would be correct.

    Is he forgiven? Yes. Should he be crucified by the media? Hardly. The liberal media wants to put Josh Dugger on a stage for the world to stone. Yet I say, there wouldn't be a stage big enough to fit all of the older brothers on. Has anybody done the numbers? If you're going to point fingers, start with my brother, my ex-boyfriend, etc. etc. etc.

    Stop singling out Josh Dugger.

  • At Wed May 27, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger Deana Nall said…

    If you would read my post more closely, you would see that my criticism is directed toward the failure of churches and religious communities to properly deal with these situations. I didn't even mention the person in question directly.

    Thanks for your comment, though.

  • At Sun May 31, 09:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Deana, thank you for this post. I completely agree with you about all of this. As a retired CPS caseworker, I would also like to point out that abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) is not only harmful to the victim but is also against the law. When someone becomes aware of the abuse of a child, it must be reported to the authorities or that person will be in violation of the law, also. I cannot speak for all states, but Texas does not leave any legal loop holes for the incident to be forgotten because the abuser has been forgiven. The abuser must suffer the consequences of his or her actions, regardless of religious affiliation. It is the law. And the victim never forgets........

  • At Tue Jun 30, 10:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Resources that have empowered us in recent years are Jimmy Hinton's and Clara Hinton's blogs and jimmyhinton.or

    And also RBC's booklet, "Avoiding the Dangers of Superficial Forgiveness"

  • At Thu Sep 13, 12:02:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

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  • At Sat Apr 24, 04:10:00 PM, Blogger -blessed b9, Catalyst4Christ said…

    Jesus, have mercy on their souls...

  • At Sat Apr 24, 04:10:00 PM, Blogger -blessed b9, Catalyst4Christ said…

    ...our souls I mean...


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