By Danni Moss
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One of the greatest gifts we can take away from a case of clergy sex abuse that strikes close to home is that it brings a crisis of faith. Unless and until we are personally and deeply affected by a circumstance that calls into doubt what we have believed to be true, we do not question what we have assumed to be fact. We short-circuit that benefit if we decide that the abuser must be a “sick-o” or we lightly heal the wound by attempting to reconcile without fully dealing with all the ramifications of what has happened.
How can it be that someone we know, love and trust can turn out to be a sexual abuser? That is the central question. When it happens once, we are shocked but we put our paradigm back together. But – and this is the critical central point – it is happening with greater and greater frequency. Not only is clergy sex abuse on the rise, or at least being exposed more frequently, the incidence of domestic abuse in the church is even more common. The church as a whole is turning a blind eye because it doesn’t want to believe it’s that big a problem. But let’s look at this honestly.
Statistically, 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused and 1 in 6-8 boys are sexually abused – how many people in our churches have experienced sexual abuse? By far, most sexual abuse occurs not at the hands of a stranger but at the hands of a family member or close family friend. So that means, statistically, not only are people in our churches abuse survivors, but a significant number of their abusers are also in the church.
It is reasonable to expect, given these facts, that the incidence of abuse in Christian families equals or exceeds the occurrence of the same in families outside the church. So why are we blind to that fact?
I believe it is because to think deeply about these realities and take them to the Word and God for answers takes us to the threshold of needing to make major changes to our belief paradigm and it is easier to turn away than to face major changes to our beliefs. Not only are these things happening in the church, completely off the radar, but the church is turning a persistently blind eye to something that is affecting the lives of nearly half of the people we see in church every week. Doesn’t that strike anyone else as being extremely odd?
Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18, 19). We have made church about “getting saved,” living in “obedience,” “serving God,” and “evangelism.” Yes, all of those are in quotes for a reason. But for now, let me ask the obvious question. Do any of those things match Jesus’ self-stated purpose in coming to earth? We can Jesus’ purpose is accomplished in them, but the truth is that we are NOT accomplishing those purposes in the church. We are creating followers of Christianity (religion) who find acceptance and acceptability in doing the things “Christians do.” “Doing” Christianity will never heal anyone. That is just empty religion.
The church as a whole, and each of who bear the name of Christ, need to dare to let God de-construct our paradigms of belief that would enable such a state of affairs to occur on a regular basis.