Christian Stewardship Post-#MeToo
When things change in America, they change quickly. And in 2016 Americans responded to Donald Trump’s “Grab (women) by the p***y” by declaring “enough is enough.” No longer would Americans tolerate leaders using their position and privilege to solicit or abuse women. Of course, Christians had been saying this for years dating back to Clinton’s sexual scandals, which were brushed off at the time. But in 2016, those attitudes finally became mainstream.
Up to that point, sexual misconduct among leaders was often tolerated as a necessary evil, or “just the way things are.” And it wasn’t just political leaders, as we see stories that reflect culture. Sex comedies such as American Pie made light of secretly filming a teenager’s sexual encounter, and Game of Thrones relied on rape and incest not to just to shock, but also titillate its audience.
Some may argue that that “those are just stories” and “Clinton was a one off,” but if one examines the #MeToo movement, there’s been a marked difference in how misconduct is covered and how stories are told since 2016. For example, allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein emerged publicly as early as 2015. And the MeToo movement can be identified in public discourse as early as 2006. But it wasn’t until 2017 that new allegations against Weinstein gained steam and #MeToo exploded into popular vernacular.
Of course, correlation does not imply causation. But, regardless of causation, the reality is that the world has changed. And laws have shifted because of that change. Many states passed or strengthened laws mandating that workplaces provide anti-sexual harassment training to their employees and leaders. And members of the workforce began to feel empowered to push back on perceived and actual sexual misconduct.
So, what does this mean for Christians who’ve been advocating for abstinence, family values, and protecting women for years? Surely Christian men can be thankful that they are not like other men: unjust, extortionist, adulterers.
Unfortunately, decades of normalizing misconduct in places of power and in stories has drawn misconduct into the church like water through a sponge. In November 2017, #ChurchToo began trending. By 2018 #SilenceIsNotSpiritual called to change how sexual misconduct is addressed in the church. And in 2018 Pastor Andy Savage admitted that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl, in 1998, when he was a youth pastor. This is also not a one-off. Church Law and Tax did a survey in 2000 that reported that one of every six employees/volunteers in the ministry workplace has been sexually harassed. Women and younger people were more at risk. At younger ages, sexual harassment is sexual abuse.
Since the Church exists because of Christ’s redemptive work, it should come as no surprise that we find sin in the Church. This reality needs to inform how Christians respond to sexual misconduct allegations and training mandates. The truth is that state mandated training is not really “a secular government forcing its will on a religious minority.” Instead, it represents a fallen world finally acknowledging its sin.
Returning to the question: what does mandated training mean for Christians? Like the parable with the talents, Christians have been given a great treasure: the truth. God instructs them on what it means to protect women, and to protect the innocent. Rather than doing the bare minimum to complete a legal checkbox, Christians should set the standard and go beyond what is mandated into what is just. This means, regardless of state mandates, Christians should protect the innocent , including victims of sexual harassment. Good protection includes good training.
What if we don’t bother? Not just God, but also the law will have its say. In fact, where training is mandated, failing to train can be catastrophic. For example, non-compliance with training mandates in New York City can result in penalties of up to $250,000. And that’s just for failing to train. If there’s actual misconduct, things can get a lot worse. One organization in Memphis failed to train its employees, and their sales team formed a “kissing club” that women were forced to participate in to earn sales leads. During the ensuing lawsuit, it came out that not only did the company not train their employees, but at the time the HR manager didn’t even know what sexual harassment was. Pleading ignorance didn’t protect the company, and their failure cost them $3 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. And we regularly see ministry leaders accused publicly of sexual abuse or sexual harassment.
Failing to take steps to prevent misconduct can be organization ending. And the Church is tasked with doing Christ’s work. If Christians leaders allow their organizations to become playgrounds for sexual misconduct, can can still be said to be serving God? At what point is “a church” no longer “the Church?” What is good stewardship of the ministries we are in charge of?
Fortunately, Christians have an upper hand here. Organizations do not have to become vessels for abuse. And the Biblical model of treating each other as Christ does—as made in the image of God—gives them a head start on not only meeting State mandates, but exceeding them. Sexual harassment training and child safeguarding training are near to the heart of God because they protect His people.
States with mandatory anti-sexual harassment training:
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Municipalities with mandatory anti-sexual harassment training:
NEW YORK CITY
States that require anti-sexual harassment training (only for state employees):
States that recommend anti-sexual harassment training:
Featured Image by Rebecca Sidebotham.
Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations