Sometimes, the process of reporting a column is infuriating, and that happened with this column. I’m writing about some of the latest sex scandals in the Catholic and Baptist churches, in particular the revelations (first reported in the Houston Chronicle) that hundreds of Baptist figures committed sexual assaults, including rapes of children as young as three.
What’s infuriating is not only the sexual assaults themselves, but also the way some prominent Baptist blowhards like Jerry Falwell made a name for themselves thundering against gays, even as rapes were unfolding with impunity in their own church network.
But I think it’s also worth exploring whether the problem doesn’t go beyond individual pedophiles; to me it seems the problem is also of unaccountable and patriarchal church structures that relegate women to second-class status. Read my take!
.. But Biblically and historically, true prophets spoke out about injustice and exploitation. They spoke on God’s behalf when his people went astray and forgot the poor.
They punched up. Not down.
They spoke truth to power, not condemnation to the downtrodden and marginalized.
(As a fun exercise – have a read through the book of Amos and see how much these words resonate, or not, with the words of the so-called “prophets” of ultra-right wing Charisma News).
There are a whole lot of people who call themselves “prophets” today. But most of them barely ackowledge poverty, expoitation, or injustice. Jesus knew this, and that’s why he warned that there will always be a bunch of false prophets and false teachers running their mouths off who will “deceive many people” (Mt. 24:11).
You will know them by their fruit, because they only have one key message – God is going to “enlarge your tent” and “expand your influence”, he’s going to “give you great favor” and “bless you mightily”.
Of course God blesses. Of course God gives people favor, and even gives them influence sometimes. But these were not the main priorities of the Biblical prophets. This did not form the core of their message.
In Biblical times, there were two types of prophets.
- Firstly, there were those who feasted at the King’s table because they had been co-opted to speak well of evil leaders (1 Kings 18:19). They were always bringing these smarmy words of favor and influence and prosperity to the king. And the king lapped it up. Like a sucka.
- Secondly, there were those who were exiled to the caves, or beheaded (like John the Baptist) because they spoke out about the injustice or immorality of their leaders (1 Kings 18:4). The king didn’t like them very much. He tried to have them knee-capped.
I would suggest to you that, the leaders of the religious right in America, Charisma News, and so-called “prophetic leaders” of the charismatic and evangelical church (like James Dobson and Franklin Graham), have become the false prophets of this generation.
Case in point, their support of Donald Trump – possibly the most corrupt, immoral and unjust man to run for leadership in the Western World in recent years.
This man and his evangelical groupies have led a majority of white American evangelical Christians astray. (A Pew survey showed that 78% of white evangelicals support Trump).
These false prophets claim he is “God’s Trumpet” who will restore the power they long for – power over Supreme Court appointments. They hope to feast at his table when he comes into power and are willing to turn a blind eye to things they have been talking about for decades, including adultery, sexual assault, racism, misogyny, violence, etc.
They are the very definition of false prophets. And to my mind this calls into question every aspect of their ministry and teaching. They clearly DON’T have a hotline to God, because I know that God is particularly concerned about orphans and widows and foreigners. The very people that Trump bulldozes to build his next casino.
I urge you to consider what a true prophet sounds like. Listen to people who echo the prophets of the Bible, speaking truth to power and grace and love to the downtrodden.
Here is a sampling of Biblical prophets just to remind you what they sound like:
“Hear this, you who trample the needy and destroy the poor of the land!”
Amos the prophet (Amos 8:4)
“Seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 1:17)
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice”
Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 22:13)
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
Ezekiel the prophet (16:49)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah the prophet (Micah 6:8)
“Thus says the Lord of hosts… do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the immigrant, or the poor…”
Zechariah the prophet (Zechariah 7:9-10)
Got it? It’s pretty clear to anyone who has immersed themselves in these scriptures.
The teachings of many modern day evangelical church leaders just do not resonate with God’s heart for justice, the way the Biblical prophets did.
So who will you listen to? I’d love to know, who you see as prophetic in this day and age? Share in the comments.
Harvard University forced a victim of dating violence to live in the same dorm as her abuser for several months and did not act on multiple reports of ongoing harassment by him, a new lawsuit claims.
Alyssa Leader, a 2015 graduate of Harvard College, the university’s undergraduate school, filed her suit against the school on Wednesday in federal court in Massachusetts. When Leader formally complained of abuse and sexual assault by a “John Doe 1,” he harassed her in retaliation, the suit states, claiming Harvard showed “deliberate indifference” towards her reports of Doe’s “retaliatory conduct.”
The suit is the latest in a string of allegations in recent years that Harvard has mishandled sexual violence cases by using outdated policies and lopsided procedures that favor alleged assailants and making insensitive comments to students who report assaults... The details in Leader’s suit are highly similar to a widely read 2014 column titled “Dear Harvard, you win,” which described a woman’s unsuccessful attempts over seven months to have Harvard move her assailant out of her dorm. Leader said she faced a similar struggle during a six-month-long investigation into her report.
“Unfortunately, this situation is not at all unique to me or to the writer of that article,” Leader told The Huffington Post in an interview Wednesday.
Leader and Doe, who were in the same year in school, dated through March 2014. Leader describes their yearlong relationship as an abusive one, in which Doe coerced her into sex and got violent when she refused... She said she reported the abuse multiple times to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in 2013 during the relationship. She also said she reported Doe’s harassment of her in 2014, after they broke up, and again in January 2015. Leader reported the abuse to her residence dean in November 2014 and was told it would not be possible to remove Doe from the dorm where they both lived, the suit says.
“There was so much ongoing harassment by the perpetrator,” said Alex S. Zalkin, an attorney for Leader. “It was constantly brought to Harvard’s attention, but they didn’t do anything; they ignored her.”.. However, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, the university said Title IX coordinators “are responsible for identifying reasonable and appropriate interim measures designed to support and protect the Initiating Party or the University community.” Those measures could include “restrictions on contact; course-schedule or work-schedule alteration; changes in housing; leaves of absence; or increased monitoring of certain areas of the campus.” Leader contends the university did none of that.
Doe sexually assaulted and harassed Leader, the suit says, “implementing intimidation, coercion and manipulation,” most of which took place at Cabot House, a Harvard dorm where they both lived. Sometimes Doe would start arguments with Leader at the building’s cafe, where they both worked, the suit claims.
Leader approached Doe in September 2014, after their relationship ended, to ask him to treat his new girlfriend better than he treated her, the suit says. Doe replied that that wouldn’t be an issue because his new partner did not “set an expectation” like Leader had by having a sexual encounter with him before they began dating. He later made harassing remarks to Leader at work, according to the suit, such as, “You know, if you have to coerce someone, you’re doing it wrong.”.. Leader officially filed a school complaint against Doe for abuse, sexual assault and harassment in February 2015, prompting a university investigation. Her main goal was to have him removed from her dorm, she told HuffPost.
“I think his behavior was unacceptable, but my priority was just to have him gone from my home and workplace,” Leader said. Any further punishment was up to Harvard, she added.
Leader stopped going to her dining hall, skipped shifts at work and stopped sleeping at Cabot House out of fear. The suit says she reported additional harassment once in March and twice in April — including threatening comments, Doe’s visits to her workplace and encounters where he stared at her.Doe openly discussed the details of the case with other students on campus who knew both of them, according to the complaint... The suit also accuses Harvard of “premises liability,” claiming Harvard knew it was allowing Doe to continue to freely roam the Cabot House property where Leader said he had abused, assaulted and harassed her.
Her reports of retaliation to the school administrators went nowhere, Leader said, so she ultimately went to Harvard police and reported sexual assaults and harassment on April 27. Leader obtained a court-ordered restraining order against Doe at the end of April. The same day she obtained the order, the suit states, Harvard moved Doe out of Cabot House... Leader had previously asked Miller, the school’s Title IX coordinator, if she could get a no contact order against Doe. Miller replied that retaliation rules in place for Title IX investigations were essentially the same as a no contact order, the suit contends. But when Leader got the restraining order, Miller told her it “was the best decision you could make” and that she “should have done it from the start,” according to the lawsuit... Doe has admitted to a number of actions in the case, Leader said, citing conversations with school officials. He acknowledged making verbal threats to Leader, openly discussing the case with people who knew them, showing up to her work during the investigation and acting violently in the relationship, Leader said...But Harvard found Doe not responsible for all claims of abuse, sexual assault and harassment on July 17, 2015. Leader essentially had no way to appeal for a different decision, because appeals are only permitted if the alleged victim can point to a procedural error.. “For a long time I felt like maybe it had been a mistake or maybe something had gone wrong,” Leader told HuffPost. “But after I graduated I kept hearing stories of people in similar situations as mine or more difficult situations.”
If they’re not held accountable at school, what’s to stop them from becoming the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story once they enter the work force?
Among other changes, her proposed rule would require schools to dismiss all incidents that do not meet an extremely narrow definition of sexual harassment: “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access” to education. As Dana Bolger, a co-founder of Know Your IX, a national youth-led campaign against sexual violence, has pointed out, some courts have ruled that a rape does not meet this standard.
The rule would essentially eliminate schools’ responsibility to respond to incidents off campus, which make up 95 percent of sexual assaults of female students, according to the Department of Justice. Moreover, schools would not be legally responsible for addressing any sexual harassment that is not reported to a school official designated to deal with that issue.
The overall effect of the proposed rule — which supporters say would restore due-process rights to those accused of sexual assault and harassment — would be to make reporting, already an uphill battle for raped and harassed students, feel even more futile.
..“It is completely illogical that at a time when the public is finally coming to terms with the reality of how prevalent sexual violence is thanks to initiatives like Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, the DeVos administration is simultaneously attempting to weaken Title IX protections for survivors.”
It’s safe to assume that most perpetrators of sexual violence who have come to public notice through #MeToo didn’t suddenly become abusers after landing jobs in newsrooms and board rooms and on movie sets. Their idea that one can abuse with impunity is learned, and in many cases it is learned where most things are learned — at school.
Violent sexual behavior that goes unchecked during college does not reach a natural end at graduation. In fact, many perpetrators of sexual violence are serial offenders: Of men who acknowledge using sexually violent or coercive behaviors, around one in five report committing repeat assaults. Another study found that men reporting a history of sexually aggressive behavior commit, on average, more than six sexual assaults.
Examples of school perpetrators who skirted accountability and then offended after graduation are already emerging. Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape as a student at Florida State University and is now a professional football player, reached a settlement with an Uber driver who said he sexually assaulted her in her car in 2016.
But the path from perpetrator of school sexual violence to workplace abuser need not be inevitable. Interventions including cognitive behavioral therapy have proved to be highly effective in preventing perpetrators from reoffending. Far from being unfair, responding seriously to perpetrators of school sexual violence is tough kindness. As the world grows increasingly intolerant of violent sexual behavior, early intervention and clear messages about appropriate behavior can prevent perpetrators from reoffending and facing more long-term career, legal and personal consequences.
While I obtained a restraining order against the man who assaulted me in college, he graduated and got a coveted job, where he’ll only have more and more power as time goes on. While I hope he’ll never become the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story, I am not optimistic. The proposed rules make it even more likely that men like him will leave their college campuses and enter the work force believing they can abuse women and be assured “Nothing wrong occurred.”
As a Harvard alumna and a survivor of sexual assault, I applaud Leaders’ activism to hold our institution accountable. Not just the undergraduate colleague but particularly Harvard Business School, where men demean, degrade, harass and assault women on a scale I’ve never witnessed prior to enrolling in classes there. These are the men going on to run America and the world’s economies… woe to the women who will suffer their crimes.