How should a Christian view the #metoo movement?Question: "How should a Christian view the #metoo movement?"
Answer: In 2006, civil rights activist Tarana Burke introduced the phrase me too as a way to help women who had experienced sexual harassment realize that they were not alone. A decade later, the #metoo movement erupted across cyberspace in response to a tweet posted by actress Alyssa Milano suggesting that all women who had been the victims of sexual assault post those words in her comments section. Within hours, the internet was bombarded with #metoo posts on Twitter and Facebook. The passionate responses were due in part to the explosion of sexual abuse and harassment charges coming out of Hollywood. Both men and women were stepping forward to point accusing fingers at former bosses, producers, celebrities, and others who had allegedly exploited them sexually in the workplace. So how should Christians respond to the #metoo movement?
Christianity, by its very nature, opposes any and every kind of abuse and exploitation. Any form of mistreatment, and especially sexual harassment, is in direct contrast to Jesus’ command to treat others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12). Loving one’s neighbor as oneself is a bedrock of the Christian faith, so anyone purporting to follow Christ must submit to those terms (Matthew 19:19; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8). Clearly, any form of sexual intimidation or harassment falls far outside those parameters, so Christians can confidently defend and champion anyone who is a true victim of either. In Psalm 82:3, God gives this command: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” When someone has been the victim of sexual abuse or assault, Christians should be first on the scene to rescue, comfort, and help him or her pursue justice.
However, as with many movements in our cultural climate, the #metoo movement was quickly swept into a political morass that insisted it include abortion rights, pay equality, the gay agenda, and a host of other hot-button issues. According to its founder, Tarana Burke, the #metoo movement has lost its potency, weakened as it has been by the addition of other women’s rights issues leaching its popularity. So, while Christians can and should support any attempts to stop the increasing tide of sexual abuses, we should be careful about throwing full support behind any movement that is not Christ-centered. While non-Christians can and do create and champion worthy causes, often those causes join forces with non-Christian values that are at odds with our Christian faith.
Another weakness of the #metoo movement that should concern Christians is that it may have had the opposite effect on our culture. The sensationalizing of an issue tends to desensitize us to it. Sexual victimization, especially of children, is a horrific crime and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, when everything is called sexual harassment, then nothing is sexual harassment. When girls who have a change of heart decide to cry “rape” after consensual sex, then actual rape loses its meaning. If every “handsy” boyfriend is declared a rapist, then how do we define the stranger breaking into an old woman’s bedroom? In the same way, the #metoo movement loses its potential to protect little girls and women from true sexual predators when we so name every tipsy creep who gets a little “handsy.”
Christians should encourage those who’ve been sexually exploited to speak up and pursue justice. Our churches should be safe havens for victims, and it should be widely known that sexual overtures of any kind will never be tolerated on any level. However, our culture’s obsession with this issue is creating a backlash of fear for honorable people. Men in childcare or pastoral roles are reticent to hug a crying child or lay a fatherly hand on a woman’s shoulder for fear of being misinterpreted. Godly young men who find a co-worker attractive are fearful of complimenting her attire or asking her to dinner. They no longer must fear mere rejection. They now must consider whether she has the potential to accuse them of misconduct.
Our culture is in desperate need of healthy human connection, and touch is part of that. Sexual victimization occurs, and it should be prosecuted fully. But in our haste to give a voice to the true victims, we must not deny equal rights to the falsely accused.
A hashtag has no power to right wrongs or bring about justice. Instead of joining a movement that may offer thirty seconds of validation, wouldn’t it be better if the church offered to walk alongside those victims through the court process and see real justice done? Wouldn’t it be more effective if Christian churches were not afraid to teach their young people about acceptable levels of touching and why it matters to God? What if every church provided crisis counseling and legal help for women who found themselves victims of sexual harassment? What if 1 Timothy 5:2 was so ingrained in the heart of every young man who grew up in a church that he would never even think of violating a young woman’s purity? What if there came a day when #metoo belonged only to the world because Christians preferred the hashtag thechurchhelpedme?
Recommended Resource: We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis by Mary DeMuth
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How should a Christian view the #metoo movement?