Institutions known for sexual assault (including child rape and spousal abuse) are mostly organizations closed to supervision that do not have checks because they answer only to a supreme leader of some sort, usually a man. In other words they are mighty like churches or as their critics might describe them dictatorships. This characterization fits Fox News, the Trump business method of operation — it’s all about one omnipotent white guy — and most churches of the fundamentalist white evangelical type.
The white evangelical Trump-voting churches have a social hierarchy that creates the perfect climate for abuse. First the Bible teaches that men are the “head” of the home. Second they cultivate a climate of silence in order to “protect the Work.” I should know. I grew up in one.
My evangelist father’s word was law.
When Mom had bruises on her arm after a fight it always turned out that the “fight” was no fight all. A fight takes two. In a beating one person administers the “discipline” while the other cowers. Did anyone do anything? No.
For my grown sisters or other workers in my parent’s ministry to speak up would have “damaged the Lord’s work.” When Mom got her leg stitched up one day when I was 10, after Dad threw a brass vase at her, he was sorry. He knew that I knew what he’d done and told me he’d asked for God’s forgiveness. Mom told me not to tell anyone “For the sake of the Work.”
When the white evangelical males protect their own this extends to politics too. O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News is the sort of story that any evangelical has heard on the local level time and again… only no one gets fired. They also have known of many more examples where their church has not asked for accountability from a leader. The stories of individual women abused, beaten, raped, molested and/or spanked into godly “submission” as children — in the evangelical version of “godly discipline” — are legion.
Evangelical leaders usually resist following up on harassment and assault claims.
They even stand up for proven self-admitted abusers on occasion. The norm is “Say nothing! Exposure of the pastor will harm the Lord’s work!” “Pray, forgive! Move on!”
The evangelical mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, as Boz Tchividjian, the Liberty University law professor who has investigated abuse has truthfully noted. While comparing evangelicals to Roman Catholics on abuse response he says, ”I think we are worse,” as he told a Religion Newswriters Association conference, while noting that too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims.
Covering up for rapists and abusers in churches extends to how evangelical leaders cover for big name sexual predators whose politics they like. The “Don’t harm the Lord’s work” paradigm thus extends to “Don’t harm right wing white males (like Trump) who bless us with correct conservative politics!”
For instance Eric Metaxas, a best-selling far right evangelical homophobe and author, tweeted after the firing that Mr. O’Reilly’s ouster that he was was “tremendously sad” and that O’Reilly’s show had been a “blessing to millions.” When people rebutting Metaxas’ tweet pointed out that he was condoning the harassment of innocent women he wrote “Jesus loves Bill O’Reilly” and instructed his followers to pray for their enemies.
Many a rape victim reporting her pastor’s abuse, and many a child raped by a priest have been told the same. Forgive! Pray! Defend the Lord’s work! Remain silent!
Evangelicals like Jerry Falwell Jr., Metaxas, and Franklin Graham have carried the defense of abuse further in service to power politics. Donald Trump’s bragging about sexual assault was defended by evangelical leaders with similar lines of defense to Metaxas’ defense of O’Reilly: forgive! It was long ago! God has used imperfect people before!
Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, the country’s largest Christian college, said that “we’re all sinners” and that Mr. Trump had apologized. Case closed! Falwell even attacked the victims of Trump’s many sexual assaults: Falwell claimed to have proof that the women accusing Trump were liars.
David Brody (the correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network), also defended Trump’s assaults on women saying, “We all sin every single day.” And Jim Garlow, the big time California pastor, said this was no time to “cast any stones” at Trump.
The empathy for powerful men but not for the powerless in white evangelical circles goes along with hatred for (and lies about) women.
It also goes along with lying (sometimes by deliberate calculated omission) about gays. For instance Metaxas wrote a biography of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lied about him in order to (as it were) turn Bonhoeffer into a white male hero of the evangelical “pro-life” right. Metaxas ignored the fact that Bonhoeffer, this hero who stood up to Hitler, and was martyred, was gay. Metaxas’ lie-of-omission was in stark contrast to the story told in the best (by far) definitive and excellent biography of Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the renowned scholar Charles Marsh. Reading Marsh’s book leaves no doubt that Bonhoeffer was in passionate love with another man.
In evangelical churches, the instant forgiveness for heterosexual white male perpetrators in power overlaps draconian demands for “purity” in women. It was evangelical bastion Wheaton College that went to the Supreme Court to demand (and win) their case for denying the women in the college insurance coverage for contraception.
Evangelical women are told to “dress modestly”… or else. The excuse? Men are caused to “stumble” by bad women otherwise. “Maybe the youth pastor did rape that 12 year old slut… but look how short her skirt was in Sunday school!”
John Piper, a prominent “respected” pastor and theologian, said “a lot of Christian women are oblivious to the fact that they have some measure of responsibility” in “managing” men’s lust.
Evangelicals are a smarmy lot.
They wrap moralizing about women and gays in the veneer of piety and defend their powerful molesters using Jesus’ words defending a friendless defenseless woman accused of adultery by men. Jesus defended her against powerful men who wanted to stone her to death.
Jesus never mentioned the length of her robe. He talked about the male hierarchy’s hypocracy.
In contrast evangelical leaders remake Bonhoeffer in their own smarmy image hoping to borrow some his bravery that they lack and… BTW Bill O’Reilly was just great! So sad “those women” got him! He was doing good for so many! He was pro-life!
Meanwhile Trump the abusive bully and serial liar is also a hero to the white evangelicals, but … Oh, those pesky women who speak up! Never mind, we have proof they are all liars, besides, look how they’re dressed!