Christianity and Theatre: Conflicting or Compatible?

There was a time in history when the church not only accepted art, but were the main promoters and encouragers of artistic expression. Perhaps that may still be the case for parts of the church today. Other parts may accept some forms of art, such as music and painting, but reject others, such as dance and theatre. Anabaptists (although not completely alone in this) exhibit a particular distrust or even outright condemnation of these forms of self-expression. In doing so, they overlook the incredible value that theatre in particular can bring. I personally have observed many Anabaptist sermons and books, even children’s school books, decrying all theatre as being antithetical to Christianity. Other, more “liberal” Anabaptists may admit that it is entertaining and morally permissible, but see no added value in it. However, by taking part in plays and other performing arts, children grow and improve in a variety of ways. The job of an educator is to equip children with the skills needed for a productive life. The additional burden of a Christian educator is to instill Biblical values and truths in those under their tutelage. The correct use of theatre encourages competent oratory, improved language and reading skills, confidence, and self-expression. Not only that, but it also is a compelling way to cement lessons about morality, empathy, and true heroism by seeing and being concrete examples that many children relate to more readily than to text on a page. Far from being evil, theatre is extremely profitable to a child’s development of practical life skills and ethical thought. Theatre, like any of the arts, is a tool and can either be used for great evil or God’s glorification.

In order to set the stage, a quick look into history shows the prior positive uses of theatre in Christian education. The integration of theatre into Jesuit schools demonstrates that theses positive are timeless. The Order recognized the power that theatre had in shaping their students.. Indeed, they believed that plays and theatre productions were essential to a proper education. In their work “The Use of Drama in Jesuit Schools”, Jonathan Levy and Floraine Kay present three reasons for this Jesuit viewpoint.
First, they saw that the theatre permitted them to accomplish their original mission of propagating the faith; second, they found that the public performances served as excellent publicity for the Order and as public demonstrations of the high quality of the Order’s schools; and third, they discovered that the theatre could educate students who participated in it in ways that no other subject in the curriculum could. 1

With this high view of the theatre, the Jesuits were prolific playwrights and a large proportion of the schools had highly involved theatre productions.2

The theatrical experience of the playwright and the actor boosts their proficiency in wielding words and in public speaking. To increase their student’s physical grace, vocal control, and confidence, the Jesuits encouraged acting. Developing these useful skills improved the competence of the students in public speaking—competence necessary for future preachers, teachers and lawyers. Memorization of lines and dialogue was integral to improving memory and learning rhetoric.3 Furthermore, in his book dedicated to the historical significance of the Gettysburg address, historian Garry Wills attributes much of Lincoln’s oratorical skill to his prior work in theatre and acting. Lincoln’s habit of spending “hours reading speeches out of Shakespeare to any willing (and some unwilling) audiences,” impacted his rhythm of delivery and the meaning injected through vocal inflection.4 This added skill in oratory is demonstrates just one of many benefits of theatre.

Jesuits also thought plays affected the students in deeper places and the medium of theatre influenced the shaping of one’s character, morality, virtue, and empathy. A compelling protagonist, particularly one relatable to the boys in their schools, exemplified the virtues the schools hoped to instill. Levy and Kay state that “Through acting, the Jesuits hoped to build the students’ wills; they believed through re-enacting a character’s noble decision and the process leading to it, the student would learn to make a similar decision.” 5 These decisions were often not easy and were used to depict the proper way to overcome difficulties and make wise decisions in complicated situations. The plays often depicted relatable and flawed characters to stress that one can make virtuous decisions without being faultless. 6 The empathy-building aspect of theatre was not lost on the Jesuits either. The Order believed that “the process of acting, itself, might teach the students to be sympathetic,” and the act of putting one’s self in another’s shoes might soften hearts.7

Despite this historical evidence, we see that today the benefits of theatre are highly undervalued, even in the secular realm of the arts. Perhaps the advent of television, movies, and Netflix have rendered it obsolete in the eyes of some. And yet, no one denies the value of painting and drawing, even with today’s color photography, or the value of sculpting, even with 3D printers. Neither is the value of musicianship and vocal skill decreased with computer vocal and instrumental synthesis. Both research and consensus conclude that music and art are beneficial, particularly in education and brain development. Yet theatre is broadly excluded from this category of educationally valuable art forms. A 2000 study by the University of California at Los Angeles confirms the historical narrative of the power of theatre. This study followed over 25,000 students from 8th-12th grade and documents the associations between their academic success and their involvement in the arts.8 The resulting data seems to indicate that involvement in theatre may increase a student’s language skills, self-concept, empathy, and tolerance. These social and academic improvements show the merit of engaging with theatre.

In accordance with the purported improvement in language skills through the theatrical experience of Jesuit students and Abraham Lincoln, the UCLA researchers observed an increase in reading and vocabulary skills in the student population with more theatre involvement. They justify the reason for this improvement by stating,
Students involved in drama and theatre, according to our definition of intensive involvement, probably spend time reading and learning lines as actors, and possibly reading to carry our research on characters and their settings. In any case, theatre is a language-rich environment and actively engages students with issues of language. 9

The data showing a higher level of language proficiency in students with extensive theatre involvement seems to back up this claim.

One might think taking part in plays would only increase one’s pride, thus reducing one’s capacity for humility and kindness. Yet, there is indication that such activities, while improving one’s self-confidence, actually increase empathy and respect for others. The UCLA researchers tested levels of tolerance in students by polling them on their friendliness with other racial groups and on their opinions on whether certain racist remarks were acceptable to use. They found those involved in the theatre to be more friendly and courteous to other ethnicities. This makes sense if we look at the broader worldview that can come from involvement in theatre. The published paper reads,
As a character in role, one labors to understand how another character encountered on the stage has conceptualized and enacted his or her role, or to comprehend how his or her character is understood by others. Theatre is loaded with potential opportunities to interact with students that one might not in the ordinary course of school life gravitate toward–including students from other economic strata or other racial groups. This holds both for interactions in role and for interactions with other members of the cast as a play or scene or improvisation is developed. 10

The theatre is an excellent environment to facilitate many of such interracial and inter-socioeconomic interactions.

But despite the benefits of theatre, objections persist, particularly among Christians. Perhaps one of the sources of these objections is the Patristic view of theatre. Tertullian, one of the early church fathers condemned the theatre as well as the other public entertainments present in the greater Roman society. In his words, “We may hold it as a thing beyond all doubt, that for us who have twice renounced all idols, they are utterly unsuitable.” 11 To Tertullian, supporting the theatre was tantamount to supporting idolatry. Theatre in that era consisted of plays about Roman gods and often took place in temples or other buildings dedicated to these gods. The mythologies the actors portrayed often glorified deceit, death, drunkenness, and debauchery. Being entertained by such blatant sin was incongruent with the life of a transformed Christian, and thus Tertullian opposed it.

Idolatry was not the only danger of theatre that concerned Tertullian. He also argued that shows lead to pleasure which leads to strong and passionate feelings, the inevitable outcome of which is rivalry, wrath, bitterness and spiritual agitation. These are also antithetical to the Christian faith. He writes, “God has enjoined us to deal calmly, gently, quietly, and peacefully with the Holy Spirit because these things are alone in keeping with the goodness of His nature.” 12 Since theatre-going results in excitement and zest, Tertullian saw it as unfit for a Christian.

Not only did Tertullian condemn theatre because of the idolatrous origins and excitement it caused in people, but he also decried acting itself as intrinsically sinful. He argues,
The Author of truth hates all the false; He regards as adultery all that is unreal. Condemning, therefore, as He does hypocrisy in every form, He never will approve any putting on of voice, or sex, or age; He never will approve pretended loves, and wraths, and groans, and tears. 13

He further decries the inherent dishonesty of dressing up and pretending to be someone else, referencing Biblical verses that condemn cross-dressing and saying that those who wear high-heeled shoes desire to “make Christ a liar” as they are trying to “add one cubit to his stature.” 14 Instead of turning to theatre for entertainment, Tertullian encouraged the Christian to seek other, more suitable pastimes. “If the literature of the stage delight you, we have literature in abundance of our own—plenty of verses, sentences, songs, proverbs; and these not fabulous, but true; not tricks of arts, but plain realities.” 15 Tertullian admonished Christians to find other more uplifting pastimes and delight in literature that portray truth rather than pagan myths.

And so two viewpoints emerge, one praising theatre and the other denouncing it. Is Tertullian right that Christianity and theatre cannot mix, or are the Jesuits right, with their view of theatre as conducive to Christianity? What about the research showing the benefits of theatre? How do we reconcile these conflicting stances? I would like to propose that theatre is a mode of communication—an art form. The theatre has the same moral and amoral aspects as music or painting or poetry. Any communication device, especially art, has incredible potential to influence for either good or evil. The benefits of theatre are unmistakable, but so are the evil influences that Tertullian observed. Theatre can indeed be beneficial. It has also in the past been detrimental to some people’s Christian walk.

Most don’t deny this inherent influence of theatre. But some Christians view this influence as solely negative. They see the way various societies in the past used theatre to perpetuate evil societal norms or to glorify sin and conclude, like Tertullian, that theatre is the spawn of the devil. And yet the same Christian would not view the medium of music in the same way. They would admit that music has an inherent influence. They would admit that we can use music for unspeakable evil or the good of God’s kingdom. Why then, do they not view theatre in the same way? Music can be used for instruction in morality, the furtherance of God’s kingdom, and the edification of Christians… and so can a play.

Furthermore, does something’s less-than-holy origins preclude it from being used in a God-honoring way? Let us hypothetically suppose the inventor of the binoculars devised this breakthrough to spy on his neighbor’s wife getting dressed. Would this sinful and disgusting origin prevent a Christian from using binoculars for bird-watching? Or suppose they designed the two-way radio as a way for assassins to communicate with each other while on a mission? Would this make radios inherently evil? Tertullian is correct in stating the idolatrous pagan origins and evil usages of theatre. Yet, these origins do not mean that the essence of theatre is wicked and it cannot be used righteously.

What of Tertullian’s assertion that the theatre’s provocation towards excitement is destructive to a Christian? I won’t deny that theatre can exhilarate and have a profound effect on one’s emotions. My issue once again is with the assertion that it is wrong to be excited. According to Tertullian, “to deal calmly, gently, quietly, and peacefully with the Holy Spirit” 16 excludes fervent feelings from a Christian’s life. And indeed, we are to exclude sinful passions such as bitterness, rivalry, and anger. However, the Bible is filled with examples of passionate emotion: Miriam’s song, David’s dance, the prostitute’s spikenard, Jesus’ cry on the cross, Peter and John’s sprint to the tomb, the passionate letters of Paul, and endless other examples. Our biblical models of righteousness did not always act calm and quiet and serene. Yet I doubt that Tertullian would argue that these emotions were evidence of the lack of the Holy Spirit and would lead to spiritual agitation and rivalry. Strong feelings are not wrong. The wrong strong feelings are wrong.

Furthermore, theatre can stir up the right emotions within someone. As both the Jesuits and the UCLA researchers observed, the theatre has a great capacity to encourage empathy and compassion, emotions not only modeled by Jesus 17 but also commanded for his followers. 18 Emotions can also be used in other positive ways. A good story told in theatrical form can stir up indignation towards evil or reveal man’s tendency toward sin and the destruction in which that sin results. Or a protagonist’s modeling of morality can awaken the desire to act morally and heroically in both the actor and the viewer. This medium of theatre can often be more effective in imparting these positive emotions than a written story—particularly when one is immersed in the production process.

Perhaps the most difficult of Tertullian’s arguments to refute is the claim that acting is hypocritical and dishonest. Once again, there is some truth to this statement. Acting blind to beg money, acting pious to receive men’s praise, or other types of “acting” that aim to deceive are indeed abominable to God. However, stage acting does not intend to deceive. Both the audience and the actors well know that the play is a story. This is an express part of the medium. Was Jesus lying when he told his parables? They did not happen in real life. Jesus told his disciples, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” 19 Jesus states these actions as factual, even though they didn’t actually happen. The point here was not deception, but illustration. His audience knew that this was a story. Similarly, when a play is being acted, the characters do not pretend to present fact, but a story. An actor is not being hypocritical or lying because his audience is aware that he is acting.

The actions of a child further illustrate this point. If, as Tertullian claims, God “regards as adultery all that is unreal,” 20 does God condemn a play-acting child with the sin of adultery? Jesus welcomed the children into his arms at a time when the general population regarded children as low-status citizens. Would the same Jesus would chide little Sally for saying that her doll is crying? Or would a child pretending to be a mom or a princess or a cowboy be reprehensible to Him? Acting is an ability given to us by God. If used to fool others, it is iniquitous. But just as a child can use make-believe in innocence, so can an actor.

Tertullian’s arguments are not the only objections to theatre. Another potential concern is that of money. Does the financial drain of a theatre program exceed the benefits of theatre? A common protest is that the money used on a theatre program would be more effective in improving a school’s core curriculum. After all, children can go through life without knowing how to act, but they can’t survive without basic math skills. Good art programs cost money. That’s just the long and short of it. Indeed, art programs are often the first things to go when a school or district experiences budget cuts.

In some situations, theatre can fund itself. Theatre productions can sometimes be the catalyst for donations. But even when this doesn’t happen, art and self-expression are still not superfluous. They are essential for human development and happiness. The poorest, most primitive cultures express themselves through art. The desire to convey our emotions and inner selves is a core part of our humanity, and that desire needs nurturing. Children need art education to develop properly. To promote happiness and healthiness in the evolving child, we need to stop viewing art and theatre as nonessential and realize their importance in human well-being.

Theatre education can have far-reaching ramifications. As with any form of education, we must be sure that the messages we are teaching through theatre are God-honoring and character-building. Using the power of theatre, we can help mold characters in a Christlike way. Through it, we can encourage confidence and increased language skills. The academic improvements in students and increased empathy towards other races also indicate that theatre can help to break cycles of racism and poverty. To toss these assets out the window is to do a great disservice to our children. And despite the Tertullian-esque outlook of the Anabaptists over the years, including theatre within our private Christian schools would be immensely valuable. They say the future of the world lies in the hands of our children. So let’s use theatre in education to shape our children and so shape the world, one play at a time.

END NOTES
1. Jonathan Levy., 59
2. Ibid., 56
3. Ibid., 61
4. Garry Wills., 36
5. Levy., 62
6. Ibid., 63
7. Ibid., 64
8 James Stanley Catterall., 1
9.Catterall., 17
10. Ibid., 18-20
11. James Donaldson., 85
12. Ibid., 86
13. Ibid., 89
14. Holy Bible, KJV (Matthew 6:27)
15. Donaldson., 91
16. Ibid., 86
17. Holy Bible, ESV (Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34, etc.)
18. Ibid., (Colossians 3:12, 1st Peter 3:8, etc.)
19. Ibid., (Luke 10:20)
20. Donaldson., 89

WORKS CITED
Donaldson, James, Alexander Roberts, and A. Cleveland Coxe, editors. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 3: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885).

Catterall, James Stanley, Richard Robert Chapleau and John Iwanaga. “Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement In Music and Theatre Arts.” (2000).

Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992).

Levy, Jonathan and Floraine Kay “The Use of the Drama in the Jesuit Schools, 1551–1773,” Youth Theatre Journal, v.10 (1996), 56-66

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (Crossway., 2001)

Dealing With Sexual Abuse the Biblical Way

Sexual Abuse. It’s a cultural buzzword. The #MeToo Movement swept the internet after allegations of sexual assault were published against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. This movement emboldened a lot of women (and men) who previously felt powerless to tell their own stories of sexual abuse. Although there has been some criticism of the movement, most people would agree that the core issue is one they would support: stopping sexual abuse. Good thing that we as Christians are modeling the right way to address these situations, right? I’m glad the Anabaptists, at least, have gotten this figured out. Except, we don’t. Not even close. In fact, the Anabaptist desire to stay separate from the world has led to some awful decisions over the years. Decisions affecting hundreds of women and children within Anabaptist churches and communities. The unspoken Anabaptist protocol for dealing with sexual abuse (especially in ultra-conservative churches) has been one of “forgiveness.” This “forgiveness” model, while perhaps appearing to work, damages everyone involved. It damages the victims, damages the abusers, damages the church as a body, damages the reputation and witness of our faith, and damages the name of Christ. But what is the proper way to deal with it? The general culture doesn’t seem to have very satisfying answers either! How would Jesus deal with this? How should the church handle sexual abusers? One thing that makes sexual abuse so difficult to resolve, is that it merges a plethora of issues into one package. I will attempt to unpack this tangled mess by exploring what the Bible has to say on three issues: lust and immorality, violence and protection of the vulnerable, and obedience to authority.

Sexual Abuse, Lust, and Immorality
Perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is the fact that sexual abuse is in direct disobedience to Scripture in the areas lust and sexual immorality. Despite the unpopularity of this in today’s society, both the Old and New Testaments are clear on this basic principle — God cares about our sexual choices. The sixth of the Ten Commandments is a directive to not commit adultery. The punishments for adultery prescribed in the Old Testament Law was the death penalty for both parties! “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10 ESV) And it is not just the Pentateuch that addresses this issue. Proverbs addresses this issue as well in several places often focussing on the destructive nature of this type of sin. “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.” (Proverbs 6:32 ESV) Direct commands aren’t the only indicators that we should avoid sexual sin. The many examples contained in the stories of the Old Testament also depict the grave seriousness of this. Joseph is an example of righteousness for fleeing the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, calling it a “wicked thing” and “sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9 ESV) David lost his child as a direct punishment for his sexual choices in his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. This is scratching the surface of what the Old Testament says on this subject.

And the New Testament doesn’t ignore the subject of sexual immorality either. Far from being an affair of only the Old Covenant, the New Covenant commands are even more definite. The Pauline, General, and Pastoral Epistles all address concerns in this area. Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1st Corinthians 6:18 ESV) Revelation reminds us several times that the sexually immoral — as well as liars, idolators, sorcerers, and the like — may not enter paradise and end up in the lake of fire. But perhaps the most revolutionary teaching on this comes from Jesus himself. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28) Here Jesus ups the ante, taking the Old Testament commands a step further. Not only are we not supposed to commit sexually impure actions, but we shouldn’t even allow our imagination to commit it for us.

So what ramifications should this have for our treatment of the problem of sexual abuse? Well, we can see that God doesn’t take the problem of sexual immorality lightly. Today’s culture views someone’s sexual choices as something that no one else should interfere with. The rampant use of pornography, even in the church has desensitized us to the problem of lust and of sexual misconduct. To address this problem of sexual abuse, we have to first have a Biblical sexual ethic in place.

Sexual Abuse, Violence, and the Vulnerable
We’ve addressed the “sexual” part of sexual abuse. Let’s address the “abuse” part. I’ll admit it, I probably am too visceral in my reaction towards this aspect of the issue. Every time I hear a case of sexual abuse being termed as “moral failure” I have to keep myself from screaming. Because sexual abuse is so much worse than sexual misconduct. It’s so much worse than a pornography addiction. It’s so much worse than premarital or extramarital sex. It’s so much worse than strip clubs and hook-ups and prostitution. It’s so much worse than homosexual relations. Why do I say this? It’s because sexual abuse is violence and theft. My heart breaks when I see the innocence that has been stolen from so many children and the choices that have been stolen from so many women (and men). Anabaptists have always claimed non-violence. Yet this utterly despicable violence is still a major issue in so many communities.

So what does the Bible have to say about violence? The first recorded violent act was the murder of Abel in Genesis. God didn’t seem to take kindly to that, as shown by Cain’s exile and punishment. The Levitical law made provision for women who were raped and were not considered responsible for it. Although God commanded the nation of Israel to kill the evil Canaanite tribes, the Levitical priests were not to fight as a picture of God’s true wish for his people to be non-violent. Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount encourage a love for enemies and a refusal to harm them.

Even without the doctrine of non-resistance, it’s impossible to ignore how vehemently both the Old and New Testament oppose the abuse of power and oppression of the innocent. The Lord shows us his nature again and again as the shelter for the oppressed, the Father to the fatherless, the protector of the innocent. We as His emulators should be those who, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV) Isn’t it a smack to God’s face when those who claim to be His people are the ones DOING the oppressing? When Jesus walked on the earth, He was a revolutionary in the way he treated women and children. They were not property or objects to Him, but people. Allowing sexual abuse to flourish violates the very concept of the sanctity of human life. It relegates the victims back to that place of inferiority that Jesus broke. How can we ignore the condemnation that Jesus put upon those who harm children? “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42 ESV) And how can we ignore the call to sacrificially love wives (and women)? Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25 ESV) We as Christians should be protectors of the vulnerable.

Sexual Abuse, Obedience to Authority, and Forgiveness
Another issue that pertains to the problem of sexual abuse in our churches is the view of government and authority. A major contention with the way the Anabaptists have dealt with sexual abuse issues in the past has been their reticence to take things to the authorities. Some refuse to report these circumstances under the guise of forgiveness, some fear it will ruin the witness of the church and want to keep the scandal contained, some simply might just want to protect their friends and loved ones from prison. They may say that reporting sexual abusers violates the principles of love and forgiveness. Yet I think that often this view misses the fact that love doesn’t mean letting people do whatever they want and forgiveness doesn’t mean letting someone continue hurting others. One of the most loving things you can ever do to someone is to remove them from harmful situations and to help them overcome their struggles. If the sexual abuser is truly repentant (which often they claim to be, even if they continue), removing them from situations where they can continue abusing is the most loving thing you can do for them.

I don’t think sexual abusers are irredeemable, but allowing them to continue the cycle of abuse is incredibly damaging to both them and their victims. Paul told the church at Corinth to remove those with unrepentant immorality from the church, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1st Corinthians 5:9-12) Yet often, sexual abusers are “forgiven”… and then continue to abuse.

In this response (or lack thereof), many churches have directly violated the laws of the land. Many Biblical passages in both the Old Testament and New show us that God is the one who sets up all authority figures. Some defend the choice to not report abuse by quoting Peter in saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 ESV). And of course, our ultimate authority is God and we are citizens of his kingdom primarily. Yet, the example of Jesus’ instruction to pay taxes, as well as several passages in the epistles show us that obedience to authority (when not contrary to Scripture) is the duty of the Christian. Paul tells the Romans to,
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those God instituted all those in existence. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4 ESV)

God works through these human authorities. To refuse to report sexual abuse is disobedience to these authorities and thus, to God. Not only that, but it obstructs justice. In Psalm 82:2-4, God asks humans “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”(ESV) Protecting sexual abusers from the justice system in the name of forgiveness is twisting the concept of forgiveness and is ultimately harmful to the abusers themselves.

Sexual Abuse and Solutions
So what should our response be when we come across these issues? In real life, things are messy and not clear cut. What should the church’s response be to sexual abuse? I think we should respond in several ways.

1. Report the Abuse
Sexual abuse isn’t just sin. It is violence. It is against the law. Statistically, most abusers do so repeatedly. We need to stop viewing this problem the same way we would view other sexual and moral failure. We need to report it to the authorities and protect the innocent.

2. Forgive and Help the Abuser
Reporting sexual abusers doesn’t mean that we don’t forgive them. As Christians, we are to forgive all offenses that come our way. As churches, we should offer accountability, support, and help an abuser recover from his strongholds. We can and should do this even if someone is in prison. This is the way we can best love them.

3. Support the Victims
Sadly, victims of sexual abuse are often mistrusted, ostracized, and blamed for their abuse. Instead, we need to accept victims, listen to their stories, and offer what help we can especially since victims will often suffer from mental and emotional trauma. A victim of sexual abuse should be more enveloped within the loving arms of the church, not less.

We need to improve. We as Christians should model the most loving way of dealing with sexual abuse— loving both victims and abusers. We must help both to experience freedom and overcome emotional, mental, and spiritual issues. For abusers, this includes reporting their crimes. Our purpose in dealing with any situation should be to emulate Jesus, who stood up for the poor, outcasts, and vulnerable. Let’s not view the sexual abuse crisis in our churches as something to cover up. Let’s not view it as something to attack the church’s integrity with. Let’s view this opportunity as a chance to show forth the transforming and radical love of Jesus.

My First Post!

Well…the day has come. I, on a whim, started a blog. Well, I didn’t exactly start it today. It has been a draft for approximately a year. Hannah’s blog. That sounds weird. I wonder what it will be like. Ranty? Goofy? Whimsical? Poetic? Useful? Clever? Full of grammatical errors? Who knows. I’m just startin’ folks. Let’s see what happens.

(P.S. I will most likely never update as I am a very lazy child)