Book Review

Learning how to care well for abuse survivors

"We Too" and the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis

August 9, 2019

One of the most disturbing revelations from the #MeToo movement was the realization that these horrific events weren’t only happening in Hollywood but also under steeples and in churches. The Houston Chronicle conducted an investigation within Southern Baptist congregations, in paritcular, and exposed horrific information about sexual abuse in America’s largest Protestant denomination. The terror was two-fold in churches across America. For one thing, sexual abuse was happening inside churches by staff members. And second, it was being reported to leaders, and no action was being taken. 

Mary DeMuth is painfully aware of this reality as a sexual abuse survivor. She uses her story in her new book, We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis, to address how churches can respond to the evil of sexual abuse and assault. One poignant section of DeMuth’s story captures the essence of the book:

On the last day of the conference, Malcolm, who hailed from Johannesburg, beckoned me . . . “Mary,” he said, his South African accent lilting. “I need to tell you something.” I knew then that something significant stretched out before me. It’s one of those times I sensed the Lord say, You need to listen. Be in this moment. Take it all in. Malcom struggled to keep his composure. “I apologize,” he said. “I am sorry on behalf of all men for all the awful things that have ever happened to you. I’m desperately sorry.” . . . “Will you forgive me? Will you forgive us?” I wept a yes his way. He stood. We hugged. And I walked away changed (Demuth, 28). 

DeMuth is one of many Christians who are rising up to do everything they can to educate and inform Christians on how to care for victims, report abuse, and protect church members in the future. The power of DeMuth’s story and the testimony of others, We Too offers a vision for the church as a place of healing and hope. 

The book is broken into three sections: understanding the roots, interpreting the present, and shaping what’s next.

“Understanding the roots”

In this section, DeMuth uses the Bible and history to show early examples of abuse. Instances in the Bible where sexual abuse or harassment are present include the horrific accounts of the concubine in Judges 19 and Tamar in 2 Samuel. Even our great faith figures like David and Abraham dealt with sad issues of sexual abuse. Thankfully, we read how God brought them near and led them to repentance. Most importantly, part one prioritizes Jesus as our model for both victim and healer. 

A short but informative chapter on abuse and the Church concludes this section, calling local churches to learn what to do and what not to do in abuse cases. Overall, Demuth defines terms well and demonstrates that the Bible tells us to care well for sexual abuse survivors.

“Interpreting the Present”

Part two tackles many of the problems that the Church has unknowingly adopted and have been evident in the mishandling of so many sexual abuse cases. DeMuth shows that bad theology is at the root of the cover ups of these cases, which in turn, has led to a culture of secrecy. DeMuth points out that it’s bad practice of theology that has enabled abusers to go unseen and in turn shift the blame onto the victim. 

Alongside bad theology and forcing victims to keep secrets and hide their trauma, many other factors play a role in abusers and lead to abuse, pornography specifically. DeMuth points out that pornography addictions and predators have for too long been hiding in our churches behind facades and are often flying under the radar in church contexts.

This leads to the disheartening, main chapter of the second part on the passivity of churches. In most cases, DeMuth says, churches has been passive in its care for victims, its handling of fallen leaders, and its duty to report. Victims have been taught to keep silent to avoid threats and disruption. Furthermore, reputation has become a priority in churches more so than care and true gospel ministry. Frightening statistics and stories saturate this section, pulling the reader into a deep and empathetic connection with the victims.

“Shaping what’s next”

The third and final section of this book is a challenge for the Church to do better. Demuth makes sure to show how this book was never intended to be a “how-to” piece, for those have not helped nearly enough in the past. Instead, it’s not “how-to” but “We-too” that comforts victims. Demuth stresses to victims that they’re not alone, and they are heard. The main goal of the book is to listen to and hear victims of sexual abuse. Hearing is not in vain, because it calls us to act. Getting authorities involved and also trusting investigations is not easy, but it shows the Church’s priority in abuse cases is the victim, not reputation.

We Too is an important book for church leaders to consider. Filled with extra resources at the end, the final call to action should lead the reader  to several other ministries and writings dealing with sexual abuse. American evangelicalism needs resources like Demuth’s book so that individuals are safe from abuse and another list of church names avoids the national headlines. We Too will lead Christians and churches to start thinking more about caring for the sexually abused, getting justice for victims, and leading members and congregations to healing. 

Cameron Hayner

Cameron Hayner was an intern in the Nashville office of the ERLC. He is a senior at Liberty University where he is majoring in Theology and Apologetics and a student fellow in the center for apologetics and cultural engagement. As a writer, Cameron seeks to bridge the gap between Christianity and … 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