3 ways to support women who have been victimized

November 8, 2017

Major stories concerning male predators have sent deep reverberations through our society recently. The death and legacy of Hugh Hefner and the Hollywood scandal of Harvey Weinstein have brought to light abuse, harassment, and exploitation at the hands of these two men, with others accused as well. As part of a social media campaign, thousands of women joined in solidarity across platforms like Facebook and Twitter, sharing their own traumatic experiences of rape, molestation, and more.

These stories have formed a weighty moment and the question of how Christians should be responding to this grievous issue looms large. The  myriad of responses reveals just how much individuals approach the subject based on personal experiences, socio-economic status, theological views, and other factors. Does this mean there’s no hope for unity among Christians as it pertains to women and activism? No, I don’t think so. But I do think we need to be different in our approach.

Our activism should be infused with gospel hope and be modeled after Jesus’ treatment of women. Jesus’ kingdom justice is a justice that extends far beyond any sort of legal system. Though there is certainly a place for the judicial system, the biblical understanding of kingdom justice is much broader and is held in tandem with the concept of shalom (peace). I want to flesh this idea out, first, by looking at the way Jesus brought kingdom justice to women, and then, by unpacking what this sort of kingdom justice should look like for women who have been oppressed and exploited today.

Jesus’ example

Tom Minnery, the former president and CEO of CitizenLink (Focus on the Family’s public-policy partner), offers a poignant definition of biblically-rooted activism in his book, Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate To Shape Our Culture. He describes it as activism that shapes and transforms our society for Christ and his kingdom. When we read the four Gospels, we see that this sort of biblical activism begins with Jesus’ ministry on earth. He is the forerunner, and he sets the standard.

Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God, and from its very inception, it is a kingdom dripping with social care and justice for all. Think of, for example, the start of his ministry in Mark 1. What does Jesus do immediately following his introduction by John the Baptist and the calling of the disciples? He heals “many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (v. 34). Holistic care forms a major heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and this holistic care brings peace for the body as well as the soul.

Moreover, Jesus’ care is not gender-partial. It is striking to note how much time he spends with women and the way he tends to their needs. In John 4, he invites a dejected, Samaritan woman at a well to find true and satisfying water in him, thereby caring for her soul along with her emotional thirst. Through this interaction, he also helps her break out of a vicious cycle of non-committal relationships. This is a woman who has suffered abuse from men and shame from society. Her heartache is doubly wrought, and Jesus intentionally seeks her out to give her eternal satisfaction and to help her reintegrate into her community. Peace.

This is but one example of the way in which Jesus transforms his society with one woman at a time. He never shames women. Instead, he makes deliberate efforts to cultivate relationships with them (Luke 10:38-42), let them cry before him (Luke 7:36-50), and care for their physical burdens (Luke 7:11-17; Luke 13:12-16).

When we read stories like these, the broad paint strokes of Jesus’ kingdom justice for women are slowly revealed. He acknowledges, helps, and defends women.

How we should respond today

In light of recent events, I think it’s time that Christians seriously (re)consider Jesus’ individual engagement with women in the Gospels. His relentless pursuit of them formed a bedrock to the advancement of God’s kingdom, and this prioritization should put into perspective our own involvement with those who have cried out in pain. The call for peace continues, and we can begin by practicing Christ’s examples of acknowledgment, help, and defense for the women in our life today.

1. Acknowledge. Though it may not feel like activism per say, kingdom justice starts with empathy. Too often, Christians get caught in the trap of suspicion and doubt. They dismiss women’s claims of assault, questioning instead the timing of their statements or, worse, rationalizing the abuse. Jesus never does that and, plain and simple, neither should we. In fact, it’s only when we truly acknowledge, care for, and even weep with these abused women that we can position ourselves to provide real help and defense. Holistic care starts at the level of the heart.

2. Help. There are many forms of help at the structural and individual levels. Though both are equally important, I want to focus on the latter, because much of Jesus’ transformative justice took place with one woman at a time. The situation of women in Hollywood is far-removed for most of us, but that doesn’t mean that the women in our own lives—our neighbors, coworkers, and friends—have not had similar experiences.

If we want to practice kingdom justice, the women we know are the ones we should begin reaching out to and inviting into conversations. In gentle and appropriate ways, ask your friends if they’d be willing to talk about the subject of abuse. You should also be prepared to start with your own stories first. It’s not that we want to rip open old wounds, but rather we need to recognize that most women never get the opportunity to share their trauma with anyone, and we simply want to create a place for that opportunity.

You could open conversations with statements like, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? Have the stories of Hugh Hefner and Harvey Weinstein impacted you personally?” and “Has the #MeToo campaign struck a personal note with you?” Those are two suggestions amongst hundreds, but they are a start. Be sensitive. Listen more than you speak. Ultimately, like Christ, help women find healing and true peace, and that might mean also encouraging her to find a counselor, doctor, or pastor to talk to.

3. Defend. Finally, defend the women in your life. The story in John 8:1-11, where the Pharisees are trying to stone a woman for committing adultery, illustrates this point. I find this story so fascinating because while, yes, this woman was complicit in the act, Jesus’ sole focus is on protecting her and turning the finger around at the accusers. In many ways, this story is not very different from, say, the situation of women in the porn industry today. Too often, Christians and non-Christians alike don’t seek the welfare of these women, feeling that they “chose” this lifestyle, and therefore they deserve what they get. But, once again, this was not Jesus’ perspective, and it shouldn’t be ours either. He didn’t look at this woman as a monster who needed to be shunned, but rather as a broken image bearer in need of love and restoration.

The places in which attacks on women take place are almost too many to count. They happen in our offices, on social media, in the news, and in our communities. It’s all around us, yet sadly still goes unaddressed. We, as Christians, are called to come to any woman’s defense in such a situation, which means literally standing up at times, freeing these women of their tormentors, reporting incidents, and fighting for safer work environments, among other things. The old adage rings true: “If you see something, say something.” We cannot excuse or justify.

These are charges for both men and women. It was Jesus, as a man, who brought this kingdom justice, this peace, to women first. If we are to follow his example, then all of us must practice this as we advance his kingdom today, and we can start by offering it to one woman at a time.

Michelle Reyes

Michelle Ami Reyes, Ph.D., is the co-author of The Race-Wise Family, vice president of Asian American Christian Collaborative and scholar in residence at Hope Community Church in Austin, Texas. She regularly speaks at events on faith, culture and justice and is the author of the ECPA award-winning Becoming All Things. Her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24