Andrew J. Schmutzer

A male abuse survivor looks back

Andrew J. Schmutzer

I’m 53 now, some 40 years after my abuse started. Time has been a good teacher, but also a very painful one. It has only been about 14 years since I told my wife that I was abused. For male survivors my age, we often don’t get professional therapy until later in life—after kids have arrived and well into married life. How I wish I’d had the healing help I needed decades ago, but no one talked about sexual abuse then—especially of boys.

My story is a long journey of healing; a story of digging out landmines, redefining faith and family, and striving to dispel stereotypes that victims don’t need. This long journey reveals a powerful paradox for survivors: the more one heals, the more one can hurt, because I’m able to feel more. My story can be unpacked through several key observations.

1. I cannot cure what time must heal. 

I continue to be amazed how childhood sexual abuse (CSA) can scar people for life. My father was my abuser. When I learned what abuse was, I confided in my mother—but she did nothing. If I had spoken to my pastor in the late 70s, I cannot imagine the fallout to my church community and family. It would be almost 20 years before I received any help—again, because I went looking. I now know that survivors can struggle with a unique profile of mental health issues, relational suspicion, interpersonal skills, addictions, “bent” views of gender, and skewed views of God. I also know these are not popular things to say. Then again, what’s palatable about incest? 

Survivors need safety and compassion, not timetables, suspicious questions, or theological adages about the sufficiency of the gospel—from the nonabused. Even the richest truths still require timely application. Because sexual abuse is such an extensive breaking of interconnected realms of personhood (emotions, body, psyche, and faith), healing can be an art project for life. Biblical counselors should prioritize comforting over confronting. When the inexpressibility of trauma joins with the inexpressibility of God’s nature, the crisis for a survivor of faith can be profound. It’s not about cure; it’s about care. That requires patience, not prooftexts. 

2. I cannot heal what I will not name. 

One day, between teaching classes and following a number of “triggers” I’d been experiencing, I walked into a counselor’s office. Later I discovered he was also a survivor. Over the coming months, he taught me the horrible name of what I’d been avoiding my entire life and the extensive problems of not facing it. I learned to sit in the complexity of my pain. I learned to cherish psalms of lament. I learned that abuse had a history in my extended family. I learned that my church could not name some types of evil. I learned there were no support groups for male survivors. I learned that unwanted experiences create unwelcomed testimonies. 

Wise leaders know that significant healing requires accurate naming. Such naming is not labeling, because the motive and tone are different. Preachers and leaders must be faithful to teach what we find in Scripture. For example, the first book of the Bible includes stories of shame and sexual abuse, even of men—nakedness and isolation (Gen. 3), Noah’s exploitation (Gen. 9), attempted male gang-rape (Gen. 19), Lot’s daughters’ incest of their father (Gen. 19), Dinah’s rape (Gen. 34), and the attempted seduction of Joseph (Gen. 39). Scripture’s sword is sharper than our stories, and far more nourishing (Heb. 4:12). For the faith community, biblical naming reaches beyond hashtags, safe spaces, and image management. Naming fosters healing and knowledge of an ancient evil. Leaders must give victims the gift of true names, support groups, laments, quality Bible teaching, and opportunities for raw testimonies. 

3. I will not name what I am unwilling to grieve. 

As a professor of Bible, and one who respects the printed page, I looked for quality books on abuse from a faith perspective. I found little. Material for abused men was especially scant, lost in the politics of a sexualized culture, gender fluidity, and a craving for status. The Long Journey Home and Naming Our Abuse were two books that grew out of my story. 

In addition, my church had collective fear, psychological ignorance, and arrogance toward the broken. The elders disciplined me because I would not display the kind of reconciliation they thought I owed my abuser. They did not understand the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. What I desperately needed were leaders who were empathetic, trauma-informed, and capable of grieving with me. In fact, my entire church needed lessons in collective grief for the one in four women and one in six men who experience abuse. Because of the growing antagonism toward me, I eventually left that church.

Collective grief is the antidote to disenfranchised grief. Leaders must model such things. But leaders who live with their own uninspected pain will not be able to enter into the pain of others. Beyond just the penitential psalms (e.g., Pss. 32, 51), lament is the language of victim’s grief, not just sin’s confession. If we are unwilling to lament, then we are unprepared to face the pain that needs it. Find leaders who know what grieving and lament are. These are shepherds who have faced their own pain.

4. I will not grieve what I am unprepared to redeem. 

One of the more difficult tasks I needed to do was tell my children. They needed to know, for example, that my anger was not their fault—that was on me. This was an important way to redeem my deep frustration. By “redeeming,” I’m referring to a release from toxic shame, exchanging some core experiences, and restoring a dignity and purpose within family and church. Survivors need these “exchanges.” One of abuse’s darkest secrets is that it can run in families for generations. By informing my children in age-appropriate ways, I helped stop the cycle. It’s called being a hinge-parent. What is not transformed risks being transferred to the next generation. I needed to redeem my experience from many different angles.

The collective faith of the Body of Christ helps buoy the survivor, renewing healthy patterns of behavior, and restoring trust and relational vulnerability. When we “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), then we are grieving a loss as Christ meant for us to do. The church community and leaders also need to be aware that some language, for example, can be painful to hear: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) is loaded language for survivors who have been physically pillaged. Often, the victim’s story sits too close to the biblical story. Both leaders and laity need to practice sensitivity with the language and texts of Scripture. Restoring their trust in people can be as complex as restoring confidence in Scripture. Unless Bible passages of brutality, rape, and incest are addressed with some warning, psychological insight (e.g., Tamar in 2 Sam. 13), and even an apology for victims in the audience with PTSD struggles, these will remain texts of terror, and largely avoided by abuse victims. 

Healing is more than the art of self-announcement. Society often confuses advocacy for the abused with a vitriolic protest that cares little for the redemptive horizon of faith. That said, what churches and families do need to understand is that survivors have been betrayed at many levels. Show survivors patience, a listening ear, and the willingness to help redeem their PTSD symptoms by keeping quality books on abuse in a church library and offering support groups for both women and men. Are we doing this?

5. I cannot redeem what I prefer to redefine. 

I never asked for my story, but stories teach us how to feel, messy as they often are. Many elements of my life have improved so much in my healing journey. But I still struggle to trust and can’t stand conflict. Healing does not remove suspicion, but it does give one a sixth sense. So I’ve had to learn another paradox: relationships uniquely wound us, but they also uniquely heal us. I dare not redefine any of my struggles or just give up because relationships can be so difficult. 

The church also gives up on survivors when it redefines incest and abuse as a “bad situation” or slaps Romans 8:28 on a survivor before understanding their story. 

This reminds me of Paul’s words about an incident of incest, “that even pagans do not tolerate . . . Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning?” (1 Cor. 5:1, 2). The right words are intentional and face reality. But a secular society that promotes “victim Olympics” wants a maximum platform to punish, not a lifetime dedicated to healing. In other words, society craves an identity without closure and protest without nurture. So the church must declare, in advance of their next victim who bravely speaks up, that they are ready with the full care of Christ, expressed through his body, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s name this most ancient evil for the 12-year-old child in the church youth group who doesn’t know how to. Knowing that our scarred Lamb (Rev. 5:6) takes wounds seriously helps us take our wounded seriously. Sadly, many abused people have already left, before we heard their stories. Now is the time to start listening.

Andrew J. Schmutzer is a professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute.

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