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It Is Possible

It is possible to change.

The following is from my book, hoping to encourage faith leaders to start making movements to change a cultural travesty that unfortunately has also infiltrated our faith communities. 

Several factors give unnecessary power to the words rape, incest, and other forms of sexual violence.  Most significant include the lack of faith community leadership in caring for survivors, and the insidious nature of postmodern thinking in the culture at large.  The result of these is to keep all of us stuck in a merry-go-round of sexual violence.

… community leaders recognize know that in our congregations the divorce rate, abortion, pornography addiction and alcohol/drug addiction rates are equal to rates in the greater culture.  These words no longer have the power to produce the silent treatment, a silence that ordinarily implied shame, judgement, and negative consequences.  Today, more openness to recovery and help is available to the people experiencing these kinds of devastation.  But how often have you heard a sermon offered on sexual violence?  Has any pastor/priest you know announced attendance at a conference on rape, sexual abuse, incest, or sexual violence?  Are Christian workshops available to people interested in helping rape survivors?

Three incidents of rape in the Old Testament include 1.) the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19:11-30), 2.) Dina (Genesis 34), and 3.) Tamar (2 Samuel 13).  A fourth, left out of most translations, would be in the book Daniel.  In the first and second stories, the focus is on the violation of the male property rights with ensuing war.  In Tamar’s case the story focuses on family violence.  The fourth story is of Susanna [Apocrypha as “Daniel and Susanna” and in the Cannon as Daniel 13], who unwilling to submit to her two attackers and successfully driving them off, was falsely accused of having a lover.  Allowed no voice in her trial, she would have been killed if Daniel had not discovered the plot.  Each of these stories, written with no attention to the survivors, portrays remarkably the fact that the women involved had no voice and no rights.

But what if each of these stories, in powerful examples of what we might label as primitive culture, were to be contrasted with Jesus’ position of compassion toward the welfare of women abused by men? [John 8:3-11] If our faith community leadership were to take seriously the topic of sexual violence as a cultural problem, we would hear more preaching and teaching from these stories of rape.  We would hear a challenge to give voice to violence as Jesus did. [John 8 3-9, Ez. 45:9, Malachi 2:16, Jonah 3:8 are only a few]  Where are the pastors/priests and leaders who will be challenged to get educated on this topic?  Where are those who will open the church door to survivors, providing safety, resources, know how to keep appropriate boundaries for themselves, and encourage them to begin their Unintended Journey?

Almost every faith community includes at least one family dealing with incest, marital rape, date rape, or other of the types described in the appendix of this book.   And, to say ‘at least one’ is most likely a gross understatement.  Yet, generally, faith community leadership on this issue actually promotes silence around sexual violence.  Silence implies a lack of safety to acknowledge or talk about one’s experience.  Ignorance in the congregation and among leadership about what to do ensues.  In a chain of worsening consequences, this implies to women that they are less important than men.  It also implies that women who are survivors are to be treated as they were in the most primitive of cultures.

In my book I do not tackle the problems the silence on this issue is creating for male survivors.  Please understand there are plenty of them out there.  Pastor friend Jim Caffaro has a special gift of creating a safe environment for them to open up to him.  I have only had one very courageous male survivor as a client over the years.  Except for the sexual violence issues in the Catholic church the past few years, even littler attention has been given to them. 

To be continued

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