When Politics and Christmas Collide

The Adoration of the Magi, Edward Burne-Jones (1890)

A careful reading of the Gospels reveals that the birth of Jesus takes place amid dark political machinations. Despite generations of Christian efforts to make the story suitable for children in cheerful Christmas pageants, Christmas has a menacing subtext of  poverty, marginalization, the threat of an honor killing, angel warnings, bold escapes from danger, a ruthless tyrant, and the actual killing of countless baby boys. 

Epiphany marks the final episode of the Christmas story: the magi’s visit to the Christ child. By the time we reach this day on the calendar, the holidays are over, kids are back in school, and with a sense of relief we’re packing up Christmas decorations and settling back into our normal routine.

Taking one last look back at events surrounding Jesus’ birth seems almost anticlimactic.

Yet to close the books for another year’s round of Christmas celebrations is to miss the point. Especially within the context of a world in constant turmoil—where wars, injustice, oppression, and evil seem always to prevail, and powerful despots hold the upper hand and command the headlines—we need this final chapter of the Christmas story more than ever. 

A Cosmic Confrontation

Far from being a welcome distraction from all of the divisiveness and turmoil of today’s politics, the birth of Jesus triggered cosmic events that are still playing out and that directly engage today’s political realm. 

All four Gospels begin with bold subversive political statements that would be regarded as revolutionary in any country. Matthew establishes Jesus’ legal right to the throne of King David. Mark declares, “The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news” (1:15). Luke records the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary about the son she would birth: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (1:32). The Apostle John casts a global vision of King Jesus who is the light that invades the darkness (1:1-5).

This cosmic battle intensifies and things turn deadly when the magi arrive in Jerusalem, determined to find “the one born king of the Jews.” Matthew is the only Gospel writer to record their story (2:1-23). The fact that they are Gentiles explodes the boundaries of this new King’s realm beyond the borders of Israel.

A Ruthless Tyrant

The reigning king of Israel was Herod the Great whose paranoia and ruthlessness inspired Caesar Augustus to say, “I would rather be Herod the Great’s pig than his son.” Herod, who was part Jewish (meaning pork was off the menu), had a bad habit of murdering his rivals, including his own wife and sons. 

When word of the magi’s mission reached Herod, it set of loud alarms. He asked the Jewish religious leaders where the true Messiah was to be born. They pointed him to Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

To get a sense of the terrible threat this posed, imagine how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would react (and the subsequent bloodshed) if an impressive delegation of wealthy dignitaries and experts showed up in Riyadh asking, “Where is the one born King of Saudia Arabia?”

Herod’s order to slaughter Bethlehem’s little boys age two and under in hopes of assassinating Jesus displayed, not just his willingness, but his determination to kill Israel’s true Messiah. 

Where Thrones Shake  

The birth of Jesus was not good news for King Herod. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer powerfully reminds us, neither is it good news for perpetrators of injustice and abuse, for power mongers, or for ruthless tyrants at any point in history. 

“For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged. . . . Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.”[1]

Epiphany demands a new kind of politics. The Lord’s Prayer itself is a public declaration of political allegiance to a different Kingdom. Eugene Peterson (whose passing is our profound loss and heaven’s gain) agreed.

“Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less act of defiance against any claim by the current regime. . . . [As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God’s sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God.”[2] 

We live in the already-not-yet, between Jesus’ two advents. Epiphany compels us to wait and watch and . . . in the meantime to participate as active agents of King Jesus and his kingdom.

“There might be nothing more radical and politically important than the notion that we are both anticipating the coming kingdom of God and offering glimpses of it today. This posture of ‘waiting and hastening’ (2 Pet 3:12) is a necessary stalwart against both political idolatry and political apathy. Instead of using the coming reign of Christ to justify political inaction, exploitation of the natural world, and indifference toward material suffering, Advent reminds us that we still have a job to do. While the master of the home is away, the expectation of his return motivates our participation in the redemption of the world. At the same time, the Advent reminder that we live between two advents keeps us from putting our hope and salvation in earthly political systems, for our true King is coming again and possesses the real power to make all things right.”[3]  

Come Lord Jesus, come!

[1]Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. God Is In the Manger, (Westminster John Knox Press), 26.

[2]Eugene Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms that Summon You from Self to Community, 66

[3]Kaitlyn Schiess, “Advent is actually quite political.”

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The Men of Troy


Nothing pleases me more than seeing Ruth’s name in lights—especially when I know it is the ezer-warrior version of Ruth (rather than the Cinderella version) who is getting the attention.

Ruth was in the spotlight again last week at Kensington Church in Troy, Michigan and will be now for several weeks as they engage a Bible study series on the book of Ruth. The backstory of how she got there in the first place was an unexpected encouragement for me.

Version 2

Lead Pastor, Danny Cox

The lead pastor at Kensington Church/Troy Campus, Danny Cox was assigned to read three books for a class at Fuller Theological Seminary: Wilmer G. Villacorta’s Tug of War: The Downward Ascent of Power, Andy Crouch’s Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, and Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World.

He said all three books had a profound impact on him and spoke a lot about the chapter in Presentation1Malestrom on Boaz, “The Power of Power.” Boaz led Pastor Danny to my other books and also to invite me to speak at the kick-off for Kensington’s church-wide study of the book of Ruth.

If you haven’t read that chapter or my other books on Ruth, Boaz embodies a redemptive view of male power and privilege. His encounters with Ruth the Moabitess—in his barley field and at the threshing floor—are the epitome of power and powerlessness. The power differential between them is extreme. Yet not once in the entire story does Boaz surrender his male power and privilege. Instead, he employs his male power and privilege fully to empower Ruth so that her initiatives succeed on behalf of Naomi and Naomi’s family.

The book of Ruth is both a powerful man-story and a courageous ezer-warrior story.

The example of Boaz couldn’t be more relevant and transformative in our current #MeToo world, and the men I met at Kensington Church/Troy get that. Male power and privilege can inflict horror and life-long scars on those less powerful. Or they can be a force for good, for the healing, flourishing, and empowering of others. The version of male power and privilege that Boaz projects doesn’t come at a loss for men either, even though he makes enormous sacrifices. In the end, he stand taller—taller I’m convinced—than any other male figure in the Old Testament. He is a leader in the recovery of the masculinity God entrusted to his sons in the beginning.

By the time I arrived in Troy, members of the church leadership team were reading Malestrom and Half the Church, a church-wide study of Ruth was starting, and the church leadership team was already engaged in discussions about relationships between men and women—a.k.a. The Blessed Alliance—and how that impacts their leadership.

And if all of this was not encouraging enough, hope exploded when I met Theo—grandson of Steve Andrews, the Kensington Network’s Lead Pastor and Co-Founder. Who knows how promising the future can be if the little men of Troy catch this vision early!?

Version 2

Theo, Future Champion of Women

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Heading to Troy, Michigan


No one has to twist my arm to get me to talk about the Old Testament book of Ruth.

It has been a total game-changer for me. I live in the book of Ruth. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not pondering this story. After publishing two books on the subject (The Gospel of Ruth and Finding God in the Margins), I still haven’t exhausted everything this book has to say to us.

Who knew the message of this small book could be so 21st Century relevant and so utterly earthshaking.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to be invited to help kick-off the Midweek Series on Ruth at Kensington Church/Troy Campus. Like I said, no one has to twist my arm.

If you’re in the area, I hope I’ll see you there!

Kensington Church

1825 E Square Lake Rd
Troy, Michigan
Wednesday, October 10

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Called and Courageous Girls!

40219638_2061450690775057_1381514842514391040_nThe brave little climber in this photo is my four-year-old grand-ezer. She’s the same little ezer who, this past summer at a pool here in Philly, stood in line with kids twice her size and—armed with her floaties—jumped off the diving board into the deep end. Anyone watching her tackle that rock wall or jumping off that diving board would have heard her parents cheering her on.

And yes, she made it to the top!

A New Day for Girls

Today little girls are finally hearing, “You can be anything you want to be!” That message is long overdue, but doesn’t yet have the global reach so desperately needed in today’s world.

It is one of life’s mysteries that the church hasn’t led the charge—challenging girls to push the limits of their abilities and opportunities. The Bible is a storehouse of powerful narratives of women (many of them young girls) who courageously answered God’s call, often risking their lives, to step up and lead in a variety of situations. Their bold actions take place within the ancient patriarchal culture, which effectively places an exclamation point beside their stories. Yet instead of giving these narrative texts the same weight we give to any other biblical text that references women, the language of “silence” and “submission” has become the dominant message for women and girls.

Strong women like Tamar, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Priscilla, and Junia have always posed problems for interpreters because biblical writers clearly admired these women and held them up as outstanding examples of godliness even though their conduct broke with accepted convention. They were daring, took the initiative, and courageously exercised leadership, even in their interactions with men. To resolve the conflict this poses, biblical interpreters . . . reclassify them as ‘exceptions,’ thereby removing their portraits from the gallery of acceptable role models for Christian women.   —Lost Women of the Bible

Considering the enormity of the mission God has entrusted to his image bearers, the church cannot afford to bench half of our vital human resources. This creates a major quandary for women, for we have responsibility before God for the gifts, privileges, and opportunities he has entrusted to us. It’s hard to imagine burying our gifts and folding our hands when so much kingdom work needs to be done. Furthermore, in this #MeToo/#ChurchToo world, we need these Lost Women of the Bible to teach us to be strong and courageous.

For those who fear a female uprising, let us be clear. This is the best possible kind of uprising, and it is long overdue. These biblical stories and the impact they are having on women’s lives are good news for the church and beyond. Narratives of strong women and girls in the Bible aren’t fomenting a gender war or encouraging women to elbow their way to the top of the power pyramid. The strengths and gifts God entrusts to his daughters (and to his sons) are never ends in themselves. They are a God-given trust—a stewardship—gifts designed to empower, bless, and bring goodness, flourishing, and justice to others. These indispensible female role models exert themselves in radically counter-cultural daring gospel ways for the sake of others and for God’s kingdom. The world is a better place because of their courage. And their stories challenge us—women and girls today—to do the same.

Recovering the Bible’s Message for Women

For nearly twenty years, I’ve been committed to recovering the stories of women in the Bible—for my own sake as much as for other women.

Through the women of the Bible, God puts real everyday faith on display for the world to see. Their stories portray in vivid tones the resolute ‘risk it all’ brand of courage that faith in such a God produces.  —Lost Women of the Bible

These ancient stories have been utterly life changing for me, and it is gratifying to hear women from around the world say these strong female role models are changing their lives too.

Like the wheelchair bound woman in her 70s—a former missionary, then a pastor’s wife, now divorced and alone—who was completely convinced her climbing days (metaphorically speaking) were over. When a young friend of mine told her Eve’s story and explained the meaning of ezerthat this calling begins at birth and lasts for a lifetime—the spark of life returned to her with force. “I have a mission!” she exclaimed.

Then, because this news was too good to keep to her herself and because she wished she’d known it all along, she urged, “Go tell the girls!”

That’s exactly what is happening.

“Go tell the girls!”

Authors Rachel Spier Weaver and Anna Haggard, along with illustrator Eric Elwell, have launched the Called and Courageous Girls book series for girls ages 3 to 7. These beautifully illustrated books present the courageous stories of women in the Bible in ways that little girls can truly relate to and own for themselves. We owe these two authors a tremendous debt of gratitude for taking these powerful stories to this young audience before negative messages for girls begin to take root.

In the words of Sarah Bessey, author and mother of young girls,

“If you’ve ever wondered where the women of Scripture are in the children’s book section, this book is your bright and bold and gorgeous answer.”

Weaver and Haggard just released their third and newest volume, A Fearless Leader: A Bible Story about Deborah!


To give you a taste of what’s inside and get the blood pumping through your veins, here’s the trailer.

What I wouldn’t give to have had these books when I was reading books to my daughter. What I wouldn’t give to have read these books myself when I was little.

Truly A New Day for Girls!

As I watched my courageous little four-year-old ezer reach for that next rock—her little three-year-old sister watching from below with every intention of climbing that wall too—I thought my heart would burst with hope. How good to see her discover that she can do more than she imagined. How incredible for her to inspire her little sister to reach for new heights too.

I thank God for the Called and Courageous Girls book series and for the expansive vision and aspirations these stories are instilling in the hearts and minds of little girls God created to love and serve him with all their hearts, souls, strengths, and minds.

Truly this is a new day for girls, and because of that it is a new day for all of us! Who knows how this will change their stories and how their courageous stories will change the world for others!



A Brave Big Sister: A Bible Story about Miriam

An Extraordinary Teacher: A Bible Story about Priscilla

Coming soon! An Unexpected Hero: A Bible Story about Rahab


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Coming to the City of Sisterly Love

phiiladelphia CContact

4word: Philadelphia September Gathering

with Carolyn Custis James

“Minding Your Own Business as a Jesus Follower”

Anyone seeking biblical guidance for how to follow Jesus into the workplace would probably never consider the Old Testament book of Ruth as a crucial place to start. Traditional interpretations of Ruth as a beautiful romance obscure its profound relevance to multiple dimensions of twenty-first century life, including the workplace.

Women who follow Jesus into the workplace will find much to ponder in this powerful resource.

Thursday, September 27,

American Bible Society
101 N Independence Mall East FL8
Philadelphia, PA 19106-2155

The Philly 4word chapter invites Christian women in the workplace into a local and national network of likeminded women. Over a hundred women showed up for the inaugural event in August to hear 4word president and founder Diane Paddison explain the vision that is driving this organization/network!

Coffee and tea will be served. We hope to see you there! Bring a friend or two!

Registration ends September 25th at noon!

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Something to Ponder on Labor Day . . .


“At the beginning God didn’t deliver a finished product; rather, God provided a setting in which human beings, working with and enabled by God, could cause the created order to flourish. . . . As Martin Luther once said, as we do the work to which we have been called we become the hands of God.”

—Jeff Van Duzer, from Why Business Matters to God


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Trauma, Resilience, and the Church


Note: This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture, Vol. 13, edited by Paul Louis Metzger and is reprinted here with permission. 

As a young girl blessed with vigilant parents, I got early signals that somewhere “out there” lurked some mysterious danger. I needed to be alert and take precautions.

As a child, when a kind man in a bookstore gave me candy, my parents taught me never to trust a stranger—even nice ones. To make sure I got the message, they confiscated the candy. When they refused to let me go on an errand in a car with a male relative, I learned that not even everyone I knew and loved was safe. As a young teenager, when I was walking home in the dark after spending the afternoon at a friend’s house, my father tracked me down, picked me up, and drove me home as he warned me that it was dangerous to be out in the night by myself.

As a teenager, I never heard warnings from school officials or youth group leaders about the ever-present risks of sexual abuse or violence against women and girls. I never heard boys warned to respect girls. I never heard anyone say that a real man or true masculinity, understands that “no” means “no.” School officials warned us about STDs. Youth leaders mainly talked about sexual purity. I’ve since learned that already some of my friends and classmates had been sexually assaulted or were currently being abused.

As an adult, I’ve learned that even the best parents can’t be sure their child will skate through life without suffering trauma at the hands of another human being. For years now, through my friendships and teaching, writing, and speaking ministries, women have been (still are) telling me their stories. They’ve put faces and accounts of deep and relentless suffering on the subject of trauma inflicted through the abuse and sexual violations they’ve suffered at the hands of an abusive parent, a twisted neighbor or family “friend,” a controlling boyfriend or husband, or a self-indulgent boss.

One by one the stories came—opening my eyes to a social problem that simmers beneath the surface but often goes ignored. Evidence of trauma surfaces here and there—proving the lasting scars a woman carries after someone violates her person, her body, and her sacred sense of self, sometimes when she was just a child. Apart from a few lone voices and professionals who have devoted their careers to trauma counseling and advocacy for victims of abuse and violence, I was not aware of any concentrated effort to address these issues, not even in the church.

Three factors proved pivotal and compelled me to become an outspoken advocate for women and girls. First were the stories of abuse and assault I was hearing first-hand. Second was my research into the Bible’s empowering message for women and the platform to communicate that message that I must steward. Third was my growing awareness that the problem is far greater and more systemic and global than I ever imagined, thanks in particular to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide—a bracing exposé of the human rights violations of women and girls globally that the authors call the “paramount moral challenge” of the twenty-first century.[1]

These three forces converged in my book, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Call for Women—a call to action for Christian women to engage this crisis as God’s image bearers and ezer-warriors for his kingdom.

Recent events have drawn national attention to this issue and intensify the urgency of addressing this crisis.

Breaking Silence

2016 may well be remembered as the year the topic of sexual harassment and assault stormed the headlines and the dam of silence burst. In October of that year, the Washington Post released a 2005 Access Hollywood video that captured presidential candidate Donald Trump boasting lewdly about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. Over a dozen women stepped forward with allegations that Trump had done exactly that to them. Denials notwithstanding, the issue was firmly on the table, and American women were fiercely determined to keep it there.

On January 21, 2017—the day after Trump’s inauguration—thousands of pink-hatted female protesters flooded American city streets in protest of violence against women and to advocate for women’s rights.

A tsunami of sexual harassment and abuse allegations followed, sequentially toppling a line-up of powerful and once-thought invincible men in media, Hollywood, politics, and technology for exploiting women sexually. Those first few courageous women paved the way for other women to speak their truth. A flurry of #MeToo tweets flooded the Internet, signaling a problem of epidemic proportions. To our shame, a second major wave of #ChurchToo tweets followed. Time magazine acknowledged the global significance of what was happening by naming The Silence Breakers their 2017 “Person of the Year.”

2018 opened with another horrific spate of stories that continued to rock the country. Over 150 courageous young women (former US gymnasts), testified in court of sexual abuse repeatedly inflicted on them by Larry Nassar—the once trusted US Gymnastics team doctor—in the name of “medical procedures.” Attorney Rachael Denhollander[2] was the first former gymnast to make public allegations against the doctor for molesting her.  She was the last of 156 survivors to testify in a sentencing hearing that resulted in a 175-year sentence.

The Power of Trauma

Trauma resulting from abuse of a sexual nature involves irrevocable psycho-spiritual damage that reshapes a person’s story and may well become the dominant controlling force for the duration of her life. The severity of the trauma and the criminal nature of the abuse demands involvement of professional counselors and law enforcement. Allegations that implicate someone within a church or ministry organization make it “essential to have sexual abuse allegations investigated by an independent party that does not have a vested interest in the church.”[3]

The scars are deep and lasting. Recurring nightmares and unexpected triggers keep traumatic memories ever capable of reawakening. The legal notion of a statute of limitations on sexual abuse and violence may give perpetrators a pass on vicious crimes. It is a total fiction for survivors and an outright denial of reality. In some cases, trauma can establish such a debilitating hold on a person that their lives are shattered, driving some to the point of suicide. Trauma’s wounds may be invisible to the naked eye, but the scars are deep and lasting.

There is no silver lining to this hideous cloud. But survivors have demonstrated again and again that trauma can have unexpected outcomes. Today, we have vivid memories of the remarkable moral strength and courage survivors heroically display by standing up, telling their stories, and fighting for justice. That feat is all the more remarkable because they’ve had to fight against overwhelming odds and overcome the trauma of reliving their ordeal in public. Can anyone truly fathom how hard that must have been or what powerful emotions those former gymnasts suppressed to voice their suffering before a battery of media cameras all while facing their abuser?

Some of the most intensely traumatized women display unearthly levels of compassion and tenderness for others. Their antennae—sensitized by their own suffering—are always on red alert. They are quick to spot someone else who is hurting and possess an exquisite ability to come alongside. As Henry Nouwen astutely observed, “The great illusion of leadership is to think that [a person] can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”[4] The byline on the jacket of Nouwen’s book refutes the notion that wounded people in the church are liabilities and speaks instead to the rich potential of survivors. “In our own woundedness, we can become a source of life for others.”

It is also true—and we have biblical support for this—that survivors of trauma of every kind have given us some of the deepest theology we possess. Job stories are borne of trauma. Hagar, Naomi, Hannah, and Esther are a few examples. These sufferers give us permission to wrestle with the deepest questions human beings ever ask. They take us to the edge of human existence, to the perilous precipice of faith. They remind us that even in our darkest most desperate moments when we feel ourselves going over the ledge—God grips us by our ankles (1 Samuel 2:9a).

In the words of Rachael Denhollander:

There was a point in my faith where I had to simply cling to the fact that although I didn’t understand or have the answers, I knew that God was good and that he was love. Whatever else I didn’t understand couldn’t be a contradiction to that.[5] 

Superficial, pie-in-the-sky, prosperity theology is not only misleading, but foreign to these anguished realms of human existence. And sooner or later all of us will need the insights trauma survivors gleaned in the darkness.

The Resilience Journey

From what I’ve gathered from the women who’ve trusted me with their stories, resilience isn’t so much a destination as a journey. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure that this side of eternity anyone burdened by trauma ever fully sheds that load. Instead, they spend their days traveling somewhere between trauma and resilience—putting one foot in front of the other and pressing on with life, each deliberate step rendering a new defeat of trauma’s powers. Some days are no doubt easier than others. But nightmares and unexpected triggers always retain the power to bring trauma back into the present with devastating force.

I’ve also learned there are forces that can give a sufferer fresh strength on this journey. Trauma survivors have discovered the power of speaking their truth. In Gretchen Carlson’s Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back (the book she wrote in the aftermath of her successful take-down of Fox News mogul, Roger Ailes for sexual harassment) she lets Lady Gaga (raped by a man twenty years her senior) do the talking:

I see a lot of people who have secrets that are killing them . . . We don’t want you to keep your pain inside and let it rot like an old apple on your counter you know? It’s like, just get rid of all that trash. Let’s get rid of it together.[6]

They’re also proving that resilience requires community. #MeToo and #ChurchToo tweets are providing at least a virtual community for a lot of women. The solidarity they are finding with one another obviously raises the question of how the ultimate community—the church—will respond.

So far the record is pretty grim. Although there are healthy exceptions, all too often when sexual assault allegations surface within a church or ministry organization, the response is inept at best and complicit and harmful at worst. When major evangelical figures have been caught up in sexual scandal, protecting their reputations, ministries, and organizations often becomes the priority. Cover-ups result. Victims aren’t believed or are pressured to forgive their abusers. This ultimately re-traumatizes those the church should be first in line to protect and defend.

That was Rachael Denhollendar’s experience.

“Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.”[7]

#MeToo Stories in the Bible

This escalating crisis has had a two-way impact on my work. These disturbing current events have shed new light on biblical stories I’ve heard all my life. #MeToo stories have been in our Bible, right in front of us, all along. But we tend to skip over them or sanitize what’s actually happening and ignore the frightening realities presented on the pages of our Bibles. We’ve all done this.

These stories convinced me that the #MeToo crisis has come to us, to me—as Christians. The Bible doesn’t avoid this topic. Jesus doesn’t want his church to avoid it either.

#MeToo stories in the Bible have also pressed me with responsibility and given me biblical warrant to address this crisis and call other Christians to engage.

Consider, for example, the trauma Lot’s daughters suffered at the prospect that their own father was preparing to turn them over to a mob of sexual predators. Most likely both the Egyptian slave girl Hagar and Queen Esther were young teenagers and both were trafficked ultimately for sex. What do we associate with the name “Bathsheba”? A growing consensus among Old Testament scholars is that David raped Bathsheba. Yet we often regard her as a temptress and co-adulterer while minimizing David’s violent abuse of power, focusing instead on his heartfelt repentance. What kind of pattern does that reflect?

These stories and others present significant biblical opportunities to raise awareness of the evils of violence against women and of God’s heart for his daughters. They oblige us to join our voices with the prophets in speaking truth to power and to create safe space for survivors to seek and find help and healing within the church.

#MeToo is a Male Problem Too

One final matter.

Many are now acknowledging that this #MeToo crisis isn’t just a women’s issue and that women alone aren’t going to solve it. Although women can ignite the movement, any lasting change will require the significant participation of our brothers.

Once again, the Bible already makes this point. The story of Ruth and Boaz is the #MeToo story that didn’t happen. Boaz, a powerful imposing figure, faced the kind of situation that had the makings of another abusive #MeToo story.

Ruth—a powerless immigrant who is utterly dependent on Boaz’s good graces for her survival—presents herself to him in the dead of night. If Boaz took advantage of her and this came down to a he said/she said situation, no one in all Bethlehem would take Ruth’s word over his. Yet in a radical turn of events, no #MeToo story happens. Instead, Boaz gives us a dramatic gospel vision of male power and privilege employed sacrificially to empower others and promote their good.

Today’s world is hungry for more men like Boaz. He’s an Old Testament example of the brand of masculinity Jesus himself embodied as he honored and empowered women.

The Bible gives us multiple stories of countercultural men who follow Jesus, and we have growing numbers of men like that today. This is the kind of man Jesus’ gospel intends to produce. If I’m right about Boaz—then the church is positioned to make an enormous difference in this battle. This is the kind of man who, allied with his sisters, can turn the tide in this social crisis.

[1]Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (New York: Knopf, 2009), xvii

[2]“Read Rachael Denhollander’s Full Victim Impact Statement about Larry Nassar,” CNN, updated January 30, 2018, http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/rachael- denhollander-full-statement/index.html.

[3]Jen Zamzow, “Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?” in Christianity Today, February 2, 2018, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/february-web-only/should-churches-handle-sexual-abuse-investigations-internal.html

[4]Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, (New York, Doubleday, 1972), 72.

[5]Rachael Denhollander, “My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness,” interview by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, January 31, 2018, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html

[6]Gretchen Carlson, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, (New York: Hatchette Book Group, Inc., 2017), 197-198.

[7]Denhollander interview by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, January 31, 2018.

For further reading:

Carolyn Custis James, Finding God in the Margins: The Book of Ruth (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2018).
     ”          ”        ”          Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).
     ”          ”        ”         Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

Sandra Glahn, ed., Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women in the Bible,  (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2017).

Gretchen Carlson, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, (New York: Hatchette Book Group, Inc., 2017)

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (New York: Knopf, 2009)

Rachael Denhollander, “My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness,” interview by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, January 31, 2018, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html

Jen Zamzow, “Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations Internally?” Christianity Today, February 2, 2018, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/february-web-only/should-churches-handle-sexual-abuse-investigations-internal.html

Join the #SilenceIsNotSpiritual movement of Christians committed to speak out and become part of the solution.

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