Thursday 15th December 2022
I’ve already written extensively on the links between a non-LGBTQ+ understanding of our faith and a theology that at best minimises rape. LGBTQ+ people have become the Christian equivalent of Godwin’s law: Whilst secular abusers say “at least I’m not Hitler” Straight Christian wrongdoers will justify their abusive behaviour with “at least I’m not gay.” For the homophobic perpetrator of abuse, no sin could possibly be greater than being gay, rape, domestic abuse and even paedophilia pale into insignificance in comparison.
Here’s one of my earlier posts about rape and homophobia:
There’s a story in the bible about rape.
In that story we read about how a violent gang of men attempted to gang rape visitors to their town.
These men were corrupt, they were power hungry and greedy. We’re told that they were proud, had excess, but refused to help the poor and needy. God was already getting pretty fed up with them.
But when they attempted to use the heinous act of rape to exert power and control over those they should have been showing hospitality to it was the final straw. God was so absolutely furious that he destroyed the whole town, raining down fire and sulphur.
God takes a really hardline stance against sexual abuse.
Later, in the New Testament, Paul addresses sexual abuse too. It had become common practice for men to develop sexual relationships with little boys, often their slaves. Paul said that those who carried out this abominable act would not inherit God’s Kingdom.
God hates sexual abuse and the bible tells us that those who commit it are excluded from his presence.
Yet the church has been rocked for years now with allegation after allegation of sexual abuse, scandal after scandal is coming out about child sexual exploitation that has been going on, hidden, for years. And it’s not particular to one denomination, its across the board. The most frightening thing about these scandals though isn’t just the evil, vile men who choose to commit these same heinous acts that Paul railed against. It’s those who have hidden it, covered it up, turned a blind eye to it. It’s the culture they’re a part of.
Of course I’m sure there’s lots of reasons why people have covered up child sex abuse, pride, fear, shame. But ultimately what we are seeing is that children have disclosed sexual abuse and adults, Christians have not taken it seriously, have not become angry at the perpetrators, have not taken swift and decisive action to stop it, have not taken a hardline stance. They’ve reacted in completely the opposite way to how God reacted to rape in Genesis 19, the perpetrators haven’t been removed from the fold as Paul said they would be, instead they’ve been pulled deeper into it. And where does that leave the victims?
The bible tells us that God is on the side of victims, that he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. But our church culture has done the opposite to children who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of so called Christian men.
And it’s not only child sexual abuse that the church has got so badly got wrong. The church has a terrible attitude to abuse of all kinds. We have a culture that minimises, denies and blames victims for abuse. Research from Restored tells us that 42.2% of UK churchgoers have experienced abuse in their relationships, yet we have pastors like John MacArthur telling abuse victims to try to keep their perpetrators calm and John Piper telling us to “endure” rather than anyone condemning perpetrators in the strongest possible terms. We have purity culture telling girls that how they dress encourages boys to rape them, rather than teaching boys not to rape, and Christian rape victims report being made to feel that they are no longer ‘pure’ and made to feel shame and stigma by their churches whilst they’re simultaneously encouraged not to speak out or press charges against perpetrators.
How have we ended up with a church culture that denies, minimises and blames victims for abuse when we have a God who rains down fire and brimstone on perpetrators? We have a bible that tells us in the strongest possible terms that sexual abuse isn’t ok and a church that largely ignores and turns a blind eye to it. Why?
Perhaps it’s because we’ve historically taken those verses so clearly condemning rape and twisted and used them to instead condemn gay people. The church has historically chosen to pretend a story that is an obvious and clear condemnation of the act of rape is in fact a condemnation of gay people, and this idea has been perpetuated so much that the term ‘sodomy’ has become synonymous with homosexuality in our culture. I find this blind pretence bizarre because there is nothing, nothing at all in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that says anything about gay people, yet in any discussion around whether gay people should be afforded the same rights as straight people within the church someone will refer to this story. It is no longer ever used to condemn rape.
There is a direct link between homophobia and a church culture that perpetuates sexual abuse. And here lies the irony; those who oppose gay people do so on the basis that they care deeply about sexual ethics, but in twisting verses about sexual abuse in order to bully, oppress and marginalise gay people, they also give a free pass to sexual predators and perpetrators of abuse. The sin of homophobia within the church has had such a terrible influence on our church culture, it doesn’t only cause terrible harm to our gay brothers and sisters, it causes harm to all of us, and it’s this lie, this sin that is an abomination to God.