One of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, has been accused of sexual abuse. Headlines. Except that the accusations go back years and years. For some time there was a wink, wink attitude among certain people about his “womanizing ways” but few took it seriously and, apparently, it emboldened Mr. Weinstein to believe that his behavior was OK. The powerful become even more powerful through silence. Which leads to another reality, that Weinstein was and is a bully. As more and more actors were interviewed, not one said that they knew what he had done, though a few acknowledged the rumors, but more than a few said, “Harvey has always been a bully, everyone knows that, but this? A bully, yes, but sexually assaulting women?” So, curiously, why was bullying acceptable?
In the midst of this real-life Hollywood scandal Alyssa Milano started a social media campaign entitled: #MeToo. The call was to invite any woman who had been sexually assaulted to simply write that phrase on their twitter or Facebook page. The purpose was simple: to help people see the scale of the problem. And it worked…big time. Twitter and FB blew up.
Why do I (Jay Kennedy) write about this on COMmunications? What does this have to do with our faith or spirituality? The second question directs the answer to the first. If our faith is compartmentalized we stick our head in the sand about social ills and evils. But one of our core values is being a safe space for all people. We cannot kid ourselves that sexual abuse happens “out there.” And we also have to acknowledge that being a safe space also requires that we must be a brave space. We cannot turn a blind eye to unacceptable behavior of any kind, sexual assault or bullying, lest we empower people to keep on keeping on. But we must also teach people how to be brave and stand with them in their bravery. For far too long women have defined their own sexual harassment and assault in this way: as something unspoken, something private, something to be ashamed of acknowledging. We must be brave. And we must also be willing to be brave about teaching boys, and men, what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The most powerful lesson I ever had in this regard was in college. About 10 of us, guys and girls, took a road trip to St. Louis in a friends beat up van. At a stoplight I whistled at a young woman on the sidewalk next to me. As I turned back around my dear friend Anne Thompson gave me a look that caught me off guard and confused me. Later that night we had a heart to heart conversation in which I said simply I thought whistling was a compliment to which Anne replied, “It is not. It is not to most females and it certainly is not to those females who are hanging out with you.” That was brave and it changed me forever.
Which gets to the last point I would like to make. If you have been following what is happening through all of this you might have also heard about Kevin Spacey and a young man named Anthony Rapp. The news reported that this happened when he Rapp was 14. When I heard that, my jaw dropped and my heart sank. I turned to Jan and said, “That means…” You see, I know Anthony. He was in my youth group back in Joliet. And I remember when he went on that trip and that I didn’t see much of him after that. He was a young boy pursing his dream. But if this happened as he said it did, were we there for him? Was I there for him? Could he have thought for even a moment that I was someone he could talk to about this? And was I that someone? How might I have responded? I don’t know for certain one way or the other but I do know that it matters. And we, as people of faith, must make that very clear. It is not Hollywood. It is not something that the world addresses. It is us, the people of God, who must be brave and stand in the gap for all people, everywhere. #NOmoreMeToo.
IF you are being bullied or are being sexually abused or harassed, please do not suffer in silence or go it alone. If you cannot talk to Pastor Brenda or Jay, talk to someone. We, at Church of the Master, are not flawless but we want you to know that we take this very seriously and our values are more than a talking point. We want you to be safe and we want these grounds to be a safe space. We acknowledge that evil exists but we also acknowledge that God has called us out to be the hands and feet and heart and mouth of Christ. So shall we be.