The Church And The Moral Abyss Of Washington D.C.

Oct 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

Ed Stetzer, who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, asks this poignant question:  “How can we spiritually lead our people struggling to respond in a culture charged by political polarization and fed a diet of cable news and social media?  We’ve all seen them. Accusations. Denials. A nation divided. Social media upheaval.  It’s not new. In fact, to some it may be getting so disturbingly ‘normal’ that they have tuned out.  This time we are dealing with accusations against Supreme Court nominee and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. At a time when the dam continues to break on decades of sexual assault and harassment allegations, the political import of the nomination has taken an already challenging issue and supercharged it with political tribalism.  The result is that many church leaders are unsure how to respond. Yet this is precisely the time when pastors and ministry leaders need to stand with courage in leading their people . . . So how do we respond? Or, for that matter, should we?”

 

The Founders who established our democratic-republic in 1787 expected there to be disagreement, and, although they did not envision the well-oiled machines of political parties, disagreements were already evident (e.g., Jefferson vs. Hamilton).  However, they never envisioned the political culture of 2018!   Today, if your political opponent disagrees with you, you no longer treat that opponent with respect; instead, you consider that opponent your bitter, evil enemy, who needs to be bullied, pilloried and shredded.  Our leaders in Washington, D.C.—both Democrats and Republicans—have permitted this to happen.  Both parties have engaged in destroying people’s lives for political ends.   Over the last several days, I have read numerous Twitter feeds and Facebook posts by Christians where that same demeanor of bullying, shredding and seeking to destroy people they disagree with is clearly evident.  No respect for an opponent. Only piercing hatred laced with accusatory, bitter words.  When one reads Christian posts on the social media, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a liar, who contrived her story and is thereby a tool of the devil.  Whether Brett Kavanaugh was responsible or not, many Christians evidence no compassion, no empathy for a woman who obviously was deeply hurt by sexual abuse.

 

What I observe is that some Christians are willing to get into the cesspool of Washington and participate in the destruction of people’s lives—both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford—for political ends.  The appointment to the Supreme Court is an extremely important appointment, but does it please God for members of His church to be wallowing in the Washington mud pit of destroying people regardless of the cost?  From reading Twitter, Facebook and other social media, it is obvious that many evangelical Christians accept as absolute truth the pronouncements of Sean Hannity of Fox News (or, if you are on the leftwing of the political spectrum, of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC).  The Church of Jesus Christ evidences the same political divisions and destructive penchants that pervade our broader culture.   As Stetzer correctly and wisely counsels Christian leaders, “We live at a time that unless leaders instantly respond to current events on social media, they are hiding or ignoring the issue. There is a sense that we have to speak into everything. The truth is we just don’t.  You are not a senator. You are a Christian leader. You have a calling to lead your congregation, not to comment on the news. Don’t demean the importance of the former in favor of an impulse towards the latter . . . A deliberate word spoken in due time is infinitely better than a hasty word spoken simply to have the appearance of being culturally engaged. At the same time, be careful of those who use the excuse of ‘getting all the facts’ to disparage or discredit those who come forward with accusations of sexual assault or harassment.  We must, in our desire to not rush to judgment, hold in tension the accusations and the presumption of innocence as simultaneously legitimate . . . And, if the message your church gets from your comments today is that you will mock or dismiss accusations of assault, that’s a message you must not send.”

 

Stetzer also reminds us that we tend to defend those we support.  Personally, I have supported the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, “but we must always remember how these political biases can shape our reactions, sometimes in ways that subvert our witness and leadership.  Right or left, if your immediate reaction is to overlook accusations against politicians you support or to revel in accusations against those you oppose, you need to consider how political tribalism is shaping your worldview . . . We must remember that our (and my) impulse to look past the criticisms or faults of our allies can provoke rather than solve difficulties.  We’ve seen in the church with the recent example of Willow Creek Community Church, where the failure of leadership to respond effectively to accusations against Bill Hybels caused untold damage. The elders later confessed—all resigned—because their impulse to defend one they supported overwhelmed their need to hear someone from outside.  So recognize that you have biases, assess how they have and continue to shape your thinking, and develop relationships that can help you engage these blind spots.”

 

Historically, the church has either ignored or diminished as unimportant charges of sexual abuse and harassment within our churches and often in the broader culture.  But, as Stetzer argues, “The church is in uncharted territory as we respond to accusations of sexual impropriety both in and out of the church. So much of this is good and long awaited as sin that had been covered and ignored is brought to light.”  What we often refuse to recognize is that many women (and men) in our churches are intimately familiar with sexual assault and with how little is done to support those who have been victimized.  “This cannot be the case for us as believers. Whether with the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh or in any other case, the allegations must always be heard and taken seriously . . .  such allegations need to be investigated, in government, church, or wherever . . . That does not mean that allegations are simply accepted as true, but they are taken seriously. The accusations need to be heard and considered.”  In the case of Judge Kavanaugh and others, due process should always occur. And, in the church, during that time of due process, both the accused and the accuser should be ministered to by the church.  We need to follow that due process now and always. No one should have their name raked through the mud. “This goes for pastors as well. There should be a process. If someone brings an accusation, we must take this accusation seriously, but make sure to hear all sides. By doing so, we help ensure due process.”

Finally, it is important for many of us as Christian leaders to recognize a brutal truth:  Many in our congregations have experienced sexual abuse, harassment and all of the pain that goes with such tragedies.  For that reason, many women especially will quickly identify with Dr. Ford.  “When those burdened with this hidden hurt and shame read how people are responding to the allegations against Kavanaugh with jokes and insults, it further solidifies their belief that they can’t share their own stories and that they can’t have the healing and restoration that the gospel offers and that we profess to preach.  This is horrifying to me, and it should be to you, too. If one member in any of our churches has a story they cannot feel safe sharing, we have failed as leaders.”  May that not be said of my church, my pastoral staff or of any church.

 

See Ed Stetzer, “How Christian Leaders Should, and Should Not, Speak in This Kavanaugh Moment,” www.christianitytoday.com (25 September 2018);

One Comment to “The Church And The Moral Abyss Of Washington D.C.”

  1. Jim Roberts says:

    You stated that “many Christians evidence no compassion, no empathy for a woman who obviously was deeply hurt by sexual abuse.” where was there any evidence that Dr Ford was the victim of sexual abuse.

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