The issues raised by the #metoo movement continue to reverberate in our culture.
And for good reason.
The trauma of sexual abuse, whatever form it takes, hits at the core of a person’s identity. The effects of that trauma can haunt us our entire lives because the pain is rare and deep.
The courage it takes to reveal the pain of victimization is staggering. More and more stories are emerging, which is at once tragic — because any abuse is tragic — and at the same time, the stories carry within them the potential for something better and more hopeful because by exposing what is dark there is a chance for a victim to regain their life.
The #metoo movement spawned a related awareness campaign: #churchtoo, which has drawn attention to sexual abuses in the context of religious communities.
Again, so tragic.
These movements are crucial for our culture because they force us to face very uncomfortable truths about ourselves. They insist that we awaken to the brokenness among and within us.
Let’s face it, our culture has a strange relationship with sex. Sexual themes and images permeate everything from entertainment to sports to politics, yet we still often struggle to have healthy mature conversations about it.
Moreover, our cultural confusion regarding sex manifests in interesting ways. The recent release of the third movie in the 50 Shades trilogy was either compatible with the #metoo movement, according to an opinion piece in Variety, or it was contrary to the very notion of the movement, if you listened to Bill Maher and Gail Dines, among others.
In the Variety article, Amy Nicholson contends that Anastasia “might possibly be a role model for the moment,” because the whole 50 Shades trilogy is an “ode to the idea of consent.” On the other side of the issue, Maher wonders why the most popular movie of the #metoo era is “about a woman on a leash.”
But this is bigger than the 50 Shades franchise. The truth is a culture with so much porn available, and so easy to access, shouldn’t be surprised when something like the #metoo movement explodes in its midst.
The same goes for #churchtoo. The dark reality is that the levels of sexual compulsion in religious communities is staggeringly high. The old statistic was that 50 percent of men and 1 out of 5 women in churches has an addictive relationship with pornography. i was one of those men and i spend a lot of time with men who are in that situation now.
But it all begs the question: “What now?”
The danger of #metoo and #churchtoo is that they will remain exactly as they are, and not progress to a point where they become more than vehicles for revelations and catharsis. The victims as well as the perpetrators need more than that.
Victims need healing, comfort, and love. Perpetrators need to grapple with the seriousness of their wrong behavior, and grow into the kinds of people who, instead of harming others, learn how to live as sexual beings in healthy ways.
Neither the victims nor the perpetrators will get what they need if we stay locked in a pattern of exposure, blame, vitriol, and public shame.
The vital next step is for us to work towards true, deep wholeness and restoration. Our sexuality is broken, but there is a way to live as a wholehearted person despite that. There is a way to redeem our sexuality so that it becomes the creative, positive force God intended it to be all along.
Do we have the courage, energy, and vision to take #metoo and #churchtoo to the next level?