Encouragement to #MeToo victims inside the church

October 20, 2017

“Me Too.”

In one two-word tweet Alyssa Milano set off a firestorm of victim’s voices throughout Twitter and Facebook. On Sunday night, she issued an invitation for sexual assault victims to make their voice heard:

“Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Twenty-four hours later, the response was overwhelming. The magnitude of #MeToo had been retweeted more than a million times on Twitter and over 12 million times on Facebook. Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Debra Messing and women everywhere are tired of remaining silent. On the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations and the massive cover-up that continues to unfold in the Hollywood industry, victims everywhere want the opportunity to be heard, and they’re hoping it’s finally time.

For the sake of brevity, I won’t attempt to discuss the massively destructive and far-reaching implications of sexual assault on a victim’s life; we know they are complicatedly vast. And as it pertains to the film industry and the wake of Weinstein victims, we’re still waiting on more truth to come to light and justice for the victims. What I want to communicate in this article are truths #MeToo victims can cling to when the sexual assault occurs in our own community or the cover-up happens in the church.

The church’s #MeToo voices

Sadly, some of these #MeToo assaults have taken place in churches, by church leadership, or by other church members and, shamefully, have been swept under the rug, dismissed, and forgotten. Mine was.

I was in my early teens when a church leader began to sexually harass me. I was 25 when I was given the words to describe my experience. In retrospect, the young man I’d spent years thinking of as a “crush” had actually been a child predator. His vulgar, sexually explicit words and innuendos and physical advances were sexual assault—even when he called it “flirting” or just “playing around.”

God wants to the church to be passionate about justice and salvation.

At the time and without my knowledge, my parents attempted to report the concerning behaviors they’d personally observed for themselves. (They only knew about a quarter of what was actually going on behind the scenes.) Instead of protecting me, the head pastor chose to protect the offender and his family. He wasn’t even addressed. I left the church and lost touch with many of my childhood friends as a coping strategy. In the few years that followed my departure, he would pursue and victimize even more teenagers from inside the church, under the watch and protection of church leadership.  

In Lamentations 5:11, the author weeps and cries out to God over the raping of women in Zion and in the towns of Judah saying, “Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?” He begs the Lord, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!” If you are among the #MeToo victims inside the church and you find yourself lamenting too, here’s what I hope to offer you as you work toward healing:

Three encouragements to #MeToo victims in the church

1. God’s wrath is stirred against your assaulter  

The sexually immoral have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph. 5:5). The Lord hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Psa. 11:5). They are an abomination to him (Proverbs 15:9). The wages of their sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The Psalmist assures us, “God is a righteous judge and feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow” (Psa. 7:11-12). His wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and righteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

God’s wrath is stirred against your assaulter because sexual harassment and sexual assault are sinful and offensive to God.

2. God wants to the church to be passionate about justice and salvation

All sexual harassment and assault is sickening and inexcusable. But inside the church, it can be spiritually destructive when the God-given leaders do little to shepherd and protect their flock. In Proverbs 31:9, we are instructed to judge righteously and defend the rights of the poor and needy. The church must do all we can to protect our people from victimization. And sadly, when a church member is victimized through sexual harassment or assault, they become poor and needy, and the church must rise to protect.

In Zechariah 9:3, when God’s people wander like sheep and are afflicted for lack of a shepherd, God says, “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah.” How much more will he punish leaders who not only fail to lead, but fail to protect? When church leaders care more about protecting their own reputation than defending victims, God’s character is defamed, his bride (the body of Christ) is slandered, and his sheep are ravaged by their own careless shepherds.

Because the Lord cares for his flock, pastors must care for their people through tangible means—certainly through comforting words and compassionate counsel, but also by fulfilling their obligation to turn wolf-like predators over to civil authorities when the offense is unlawful or legally punishable, so justice can be served.  

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church instructing them to remove the man guilty of sexual immorality from among the people, to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:4-5). Paul’s command is for the protection of the flock and for the salvation of the offender. Sweeping the offense of the offender under the rug is essentially assigning him to hell. As much as we may flinch at the offer of merciful grace to our offenders, God’s law is laid down for the lawless and disobedient (1 Tim. 1:9) in order that grace may come through Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners (v. 14). The same gospel grace that saved us, is available for sexually immoral perpetrators.

3. God has not forgotten you

Even when crimes go unpunished and churches remain silent, God has not forgotten. God will seek the lost, bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak (Ez. 34:16). The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that behold, the days of justice are coming for those who oppress and crush the defenseless (Amos 4:1-2).

The Lord will take up your cause and ransom and redeem you, too (Lam. 3:58). He will heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds (Psa. 147:3). He will open the prison doors locked shut by your assaulter and proclaim the day of vengeance. He will comfort you and give you beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit (Isa. 61:1-3). The Lord loves justice and hates robbery and wrong and will faithfully give them their recompense (v.8).

To all the #MeToo folks whose stories come from inside church walls: we have an ear with God. Our voices are heard. And as we wait, “Our eyes are toward you, O God, our Lord; in you we seek refuge; leave us not defenseless” (Psa. 141:8)!

Lindsey Carlson

Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a church planter, a mother of five, and a Texas transplant adjusting to life in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find more of her writing on The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, True Woman, and her blog, Worship Rejoices.  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