Opinion

Winter inside the Church and the hope of Christmas

Photo courtesy of Evannovostro, Shutterstock

(RNS) — As the dark horrors of sexual abuse finally begin to surface across all spectrums of our society, we are once again reminded that our churches are not immune from this wickedness. The #metoo and #churchtoo movements are a sobering and painful reminder that a dark winter exists inside the Church … a community that claims to follow the One who is the Light of the world.

My 20 years of confronting and addressing sexual abuse within churches and other faith organizations has convinced me that abuse within the Church will only end when professing Christians stop distorting Jesus for the purposes of excusing abusive behavior and silencing the abused.

We distort Jesus when we empower and idolize abusive Christian leaders because of all the “great” things they do “for the Kingdom.”

We distort Jesus when we celebrate institutions that share the “good news” about a God who silenced and sacrificed Himself in order to save the individual, but then turn around and silence and sacrifice abused individuals in order to “save” the institution.

We distort Jesus when we silence victims by decrying their cries for help as sinful “gossip.”

We distort Jesus when we cover up the horrors of abuse within our churches in order to allegedly “protect the reputation of Jesus.”

We distort Jesus when we tirelessly advocate about “Merry Christmas,” “wedding cakes” and kneeling during the national anthem, while exhorting suffering victims to simply “forgive and move on.”

The list could go on and on.

Be encouraged. There is hope for the Church. The undistorted Jesus is the great light who “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” He longs for us to be a reflection of this hope-filled light into the dark places of the world, including inside His Church.

We reflect the light of Jesus when we follow the path of the good Samaritan and spend our lives crossing roads and getting into the dirt with those who can’t move and have given up.

We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we speak up and advocate for those who have been abused and whose voices are either too weak or too exhausted.

We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we expose abuse wherever it is found, regardless of the consequences to individual careers or institutional reputations.

We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we believe, affirm and welcome survivors who have bravely stepped out from the shadows.

We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we tirelessly work to make our churches the safest places for victims who are suffering in silence, victims who long for the day they feel safe enough and loved enough to step forward.

This list must go on and on.

For too many precious souls, inside the Church is always winter, but never Christmas. God gives me great hope that one day light will indeed overcome darkness and there will be no more sexual abuse … and those who have been abused will experience unconditional love from Christians all over the world.

They will finally experience Christmas.

(Boz Tchividjian is a law professor and the executive director of the nonprofit GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

About the author

Boz Tchividjian

“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also a Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. Boz is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.

He is a graduate of Stetson University and Cumberland School of Law (Samford University).

7 Comments

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  • Last year Liberty University hired Ian McCaw, the former Baylor AD, as its athletic director after he had to resign over the scandal of sexual abuse coverups. The Chicago Tribune reported it this way.

    ‘Anyone who knows even the barest details
    of the Baylor scandal cannot help but be horrified. Yet, in the statement announcing McCaw’s hiring, Falwell said, “You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure, it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.”’

    “No more sexual abuse” that’s a great Christmas wish, but at Liberty University where apparently Boz is a law professor, you will probably get a football instead.

    Raw raw ree
    Kick’em in the knee.
    Raw raw raz
    Kick’em in the other knee.

    Way to give a institution a piece of your mind Boz.

  • I am looking forward to the day when professing christians do, indeed, cross roads, speak up, expose abuse, believe survivors, and make safe places (and doing what I can to be part of that reality).

  • Some reality about the real and undistorted Jesus with an updated prayer:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2017: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

  • Yet another LGBT wedding cake saga posted on Franklin Graham’s Facebook page today while he has completely ignored abuse allegations against Roy Moore, Trump and many other politicians and Christian leaders in the USA.

  • (Sung to the tune of the old Petticoat Junctuon sitcom theme song)

    There’s uncle Frank, his poop don’t stank, at the White House.

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