Once a reporter in the US asked President Carter if he has ever committed adultery in anyway. The question was very blunt and honest.
However, should this be the way one sees this issue of sex crimes?
I have a colleague who suffered from a personal tragedy six years ago. She’s a new graduate at that time and was quite young, innocent and served the Church with earnest. While she knew that there are a lot of crimes in society today, she still believed that the church was a holy place and all the ministers were good people. However, reality is not as black and white as she saw it and she found herself unable to comprehend the truth that she was sexually abused by a minister severely. Shamefully, as well.
When she would remember what has transpired and how she reacted, she would always get angry as she was very silent about how she was violated and who was responsible for her attack. She watched in silence as to how the minister continued to serve God “honorably” and led the church as a “powerful leader.” As the years progressed, she became even angrier when others would say they have experienced sexual abuse from ministers.
The church has often preached about forgiving and the importance of interpersonal relationships in the church. However, with my colleague’s misfortune, I wish to speak about sexual violence in the church.
In comparison to the reports of sexual violence in American churches, we seldom hear this topic in Chinese churches. The revelation that there are indeed sexual crimes of this manner in the clergy started in the United States and the other cases were also revealed in Europe and then globally. In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice of Netherlands, at least 320 children were abused sexually by minister and clergymen since 2009. Older cases from Spain, Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and others were slowly unearthed in the process of the studies done regarding the issue.
In the United States, over 16,000 people claimed that they were sexually assaulted by ministers between 1950 to 2012. Additional accusations were reported by the Catholic Church in the US, citing that 700 people were victims of sexual violence in 2011 and it has spent $144 million to deal with these scandals. The Vatican had also confirmed that such occurrences indeed happened and said that between 2011 to 2012, 400 clergymen were removed because of their confirmed involvement in sexual violence against children.
Sexual scandals in Chinese churches seldom appear on Chinese Christian news because of China’s conservative culture and the belief that churches must be protected from scrutiny or criticism.
However, this should not mean that Chinese churches are pure in respect of sexual underpinnings.
I once heard of a wife of a young missionary who committed suicide after being raped by a senior minister once. There were also minor cases such as ministers taking liberties from a female believer when they are all alone.
It is most often that these victims do not speak about their misfortune and they are not strong enough to fight against their abusers. They fear for their lives and remain silent in order to do so.
How should these victims deal with the physical and psychological trauma from these misfortunes repressed in their hearts? How will they be able to deal with these problems?
I have consulted a local minister about the issue and he gave me some very unusual information. In the past, I was very happy that a political leader’s adultery was revealed to the public because it manages to release the anger I held about such issues. However, I have found a passage in the Bible that allowed me to reassess how I should treat this anger and sooth it with the voices of the angels calming my heart.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:7-8)
One day, every person would stand before God’s judgment. However, what are God’s standards when it comes to judging each one of us? For those who appear to have spent all their lives to serve God but did dirty work in secret, will God let them make up for these mistakes?
According to Disciple James, “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)” If God sees faith without deeds is a dead cause, it could be certain that sinful deeds would be severe in both man and God’s eyes! These people are inconsistent with God’s words.
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)” This is God’s standard. Even if man is able to identify sin, God has the capacity to determine which sins should be taken into consideration.”
God’s righteous judgment will fall upon all of us in the future. What we have done will be judged by God. Therefore, everyone must be responsible for his own deeds before God’s judgment.
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He had a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Revelations 19: 11-13)”
“There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. (John 12:48)”
If someone preaches God’s Words in church and violates what he speaks in daily life, I believe that the Word of God will judge him when the day of judgment comes. How will he defend himself against all the sins he has committed when it comes?
On the one hand, we hope and pray for God’s righteousness. We feel very glad when we see God’s righteousness manifest and sinners are rightfully judged. However, there are still some words the Lord says to us. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)” This statement is astonishing because “Why should I love this guy who has hurt me deeply? What a ruthless order! It is unreasonable!”
In the book of Revelations, the Lord blames the church in Ephesus. “Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. (Rev 2:4)” “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (Rev 2:2)” The Lord praised the church’s deeds and everything it has done for the Word of God. However, the Lord recognizes the loss of love triggered by the church. It is the core of faith.
Anyone who forsakes love will lose his mission. We must repent because have forsaken our love. God has abundant love, mercy and grace for all. However, we have all but ignored it.
Repent means people should have a new life and fill it with love.
In this special instance, loving someone means that one must forgive and have mercy on others.
We often think it is very difficult for those who have been heartbroken to forgive the sinner because the heartbroken has every right to complain what has happened to them.
“Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:9)”
Considering these passages, we must have mercy on others when standing before God “… because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)”
Mercy is a triumph compared to convicting and grumbling against others.
With these in mind, I should have mercy on those who have hurt me? Yes! Do not grumble against this fact and take mercy on them. You may think it is foolish, but do not forget that from the beginning till now, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1: 23-24)”
We must not make “heavenly wisdom” a pet phrase or a term that we can easily use because we must first understand what it means.
Mercy is a triumph over judgment. This is God’s wisdom even if it sounds foolish for some.”
How can we learn from the cases above regarding sexual abuse?
The liberal-oriented society cannot teach us what we need to understand regarding the treatment we should have with regards to the opposite sex. Even parents cannot be good educators for this specific topic. In the relatively conservative Chinese society, I mean. However, there are take-away regarding this topic.
For those who have experienced hurt in anyway, they can look into a book talking about “bounds” of interpersonal relationships. Writers encourages readers to be cautious and learn how to protect themselves, especially assisting them in setting up bounds for others to consider.
As a free individual, one is free to express themselves and make a choice. No one has the right to tell you what to do and force you to do anything; even your neighbors can’t force you to do anything to your house like change its colors.
Exercise your freedom, but set boundaries to set up protections. When evil launches an attack on you, you can stay behind these protections you set up and wait until the danger passes.
Aside from material bounds, set up spiritual boundaries which are not just limited to words, distance and more. Be specific as what you will or will not do. You can even use threats to protect yourself.
Distance cannot be explained much but make sure you have a safe room. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.(Proverbs 22:3)”
Some ministers have actually made several measures to make sure they do not commit any sin. Billy Graham, the famous American Minister, made the “Billy Graham Rule,” which tells him to never stay alone with a female in a room except his wife.” Many ministers followed his example and made several rules for themselves.
One minister I know had also set a strict rule for himself. ‘Never take a photo with the opposite-sex alone. If a sister wants to take a photo with him, she must invite another person.It’s said that actor Kirk Thomas Cameron also practices this rule.
Now that you know your ability and what situations can test you, why not be stricter with yourself and prevent sin from grabbing a foothold in your life?
Pauline Petro is a contributor to China Christian Daily.
Article translated by: Jasmine HE.