Reflections on #MeToo and #TimesUp

Last Fall, when the #metoo movement hit a fever pitch, I wrestled with my reluctance to join the chorus on social media. It hurt to read this status over and over again on the profiles of women I know and love. I couldn’t figure out why, when so many women were reaching out vulnerably into the void, I was fearful to join the fray.

My own experience with sexual assault is complicated, foggy. It involved mostly my own silence and years of wondering if I remembered the story right, if perhaps I was actually complicit—consenting in a language I didn’t understand. In retrospect, I can see how some of my own choices contributed to certain vulnerable situations. At the same time, I also held a certain naivete that any men I met at church would be different, somehow devoid of their own struggles, and perfectly committed to a complimentarian ethic of care for their sisters. My story involves messy sinners making messy, sinful choices. For the sake of the gospel, I have learned to wield its details wisely.

I admire brave women who speak out publicly—and there may come a day for me to do so, too, in a more vulnerable way—but it’s also ok, for either our own care or that of others, to nod subtly in solidarity and share the details of our pain in the context of relationships rather than screens. For all the good that internet wildfire can do for awareness, it does not effectively replicate the healing that the Holy Spirit produces person to person.

The truth is, I’d rather shout from the mountaintops about all the ways in which God has provided healing for me. I’d rather spill my words for men like my husband and other church brothers that have been models of dignity and respect, instead of focusing on those who haven’t. I was so thankful for Scott’s response, affirming Cornerstone’s commitment to be a transparent place of justice, healing, and hope, and calling other church leaders to do the same.

The cultural follow up to #metoo, the #TimesUp movement, aims to take action against sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace. This is good work to pursue, work I am eager to join. But there is also a subtle danger that the phrasing “time’s up” can be misused or misunderstood to mean that the time for men to have authority is over so that women can now assume power. This kind of “us versus them” mentality is harmful to the message of the gospel. Within the church, we affirm that sexual abuse and abuse of power has never been appropriate, and we join the important work of confronting these problems when they arise. But our gospel message is not one of power struggle. Jesus teaches his followers, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20: 25-26). Jesus models leadership that washes feet, cares for the lilies of the field, and gives his life as a ransom for many. His upside-down worldview commends the meek and humble, not pride-filled winners and self-absorbed kings.

So, too, Christian men and women are called to “love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). This means we should affirm godly character when we see it in our brothers. In love, we can also be brave enough to confront a careless joke or patterns that may lead to more insidious behavior. The heart is deceitful, so we need each other’s perspective in this conversation, both to encourage perseverance for those headed in the right direction, as well as to help those who are lured away.

With that in mind, here I stand, hand outstretched with a final note for my sisters with #metoo stories. Oh, how my heart breaks with you. I resonate with you, and at the same time, I know that I won’t exactly understand. I long to show you the pathway to hope.

It is both a pleasure and sadness to serve in ministry alongside other women at Cornerstone who share #metoo stories, as well. I am sad for the pain they endured, but so grateful for God’s ability and promise to restore hearts. I have seen these redemption narratives again and again. If this cultural movement has you feeling like you are lost on the battlefield, know that your sisters at Cornerstone are here to cry with you and to counsel. Let us share how God has taught us to even “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). Let me say that again, hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.

We don’t make excuses for ourselves or for the church to continue in sin that grace may abound, but instead encourage you to join us in Christ’s invitation to walk alongside our brothers in unity and in newness of life. We follow the way of Jesus and cling to his promise together: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).