Notes from my talk at Collegiate Reformed Fellowship February 11, 2019
According to Wikipedia, the phrase seems to have been first used by Tarana Burke, a social activist, around 2006. But the hashtag began to go viral in October 2017, touched off by the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano may have been the celebrity who gave the push it needed to get off the ground. She tweeted the hashtag around noon on October 15, 2017, and it had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag had been used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. This was followed by Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman, and others joining in.
Harvey Weinstein & His Ilk
After making movies that exploited women for decades, in October 2017 Weinstein was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, and on May 25, 2018, he was charged and arrested for “rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women.”
Let’s begin with stating emphatically that men are sinners, and men sin against women frequently. The Bible does not hide this fact. Rather, God’s word acknowledges this evil and seeks to protect men and women from this (e.g. Gen. 34, Ex. 21:10-11, Dt. 22:25-27ff, 2 Sam. 13). In a culture that celebrates lawless sex, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, and even 50 Shades of Abuse as popular entertainment, I do not doubt for a moment that a majority of the women in the #metoo movement have been mistreated and/or harassed in some measure by bosses and boyfriends, brothers and fathers, even pastors and police officers. And let us state with absolute clarity that this is evil and wicked. The Bible teaches clearly that women are to be honored and protected and cherished (1 Pet. 3:7). God forbids even a man from lusting after a woman in his heart (Mt. 6). The Bible requires a man to nourish and cherish his wife as his own body, just as Jesus does the church (Eph. 5). The Bible requires a man to provide for his family, and failure to do so is the equivalent to apostasy (1 Tim. 5). The duty of husbands and fathers and brothers and pastors and civil magistrates to honor and protect their daughters and wives and sisters and members and citizens, and this includes the duty to take all necessary precautions to protect them, to report sinful or criminal activities to the appropriate authorities, and to execute justice speedily as defined by the Bible.
Failure to Actually Repent
Is there widespread sexual harassment and abuse of women in our culture? I would argue that there is plenty of evidence to make it highly likely. What must we do in such a situation? We must repent of our sins. But this means that at the top of our list of sins to repent of would need to be the sins of abortion and every form of sexual promiscuity: pornography, Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendars, pornographic scenes in movies, what passes for clothing in many hip department stores, and most modern swimwear. Men need to repent of supporting all of these things, and women need to repent of participating in them. Sin is always the insistence of no brakes. But you cannot cut the brake lines when it comes to your pet sin (an immodest dress or a roving eye at the beach) and then magically command the brakes to work when it comes to how you will treat the women around you or how you will be treated at work or school. You cannot insist that you be left alone to follow your heart and do what feels good and then suddenly object when someone else is doing that. So this is the first problem with the #metoo movement: it fails to address the problem at its root. While I do not doubt there may be a few exceptions here and there where this movement has unearthed something that was dealt with from the root, biblically, the movement as a whole is a big distraction tactic to the extent that it isn’t actually telling the truth about the source of all the harassment and assault.
Failure to Get Real Justice
And this leads to the second failure, which is that #metoo fails to get real justice.
It fails to get justice by making no attempt to distinguish between sins and crimes. The word “abuse” is an amorphous and ill-defined term that under-reports certain heinous crimes (rape, for example) and over-reports things that might merely be matters of rudeness, thoughtlessness, or naiveté. And it all gets lumped together. This is a real travesty to the women who have suffered actual violent crimes. But the Bible makes a clear distinction between different kinds of wrongs, different degrees, and different jurisdictions. This is because God knows that various wrongs and hurts are better dealt with by different means. If you have a doctor who prescribes chemotherapy for every ill, you better run away. But you should have the same opinion of those who want every single thing reported and investigated by the police. The civil magistrate is ordained by God to punish crimesand protect the innocent (Rom. 13), but God has also established the Church and the Family as spheres of legitimate authority and ministry – particularly for dealing with sins. Some acts are both sinful and criminal and so they need to be dealt with by all the jurisdictions in various ways, but some acts are only sins and not crimes. The point of this is not God going easy on sins or crimes. The point is that God knows better than we do what justice actually is. He requires just weights and measures: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod. 21:23-25).
Related to ignoring the distinction between sins and crimes, there is no attempt in the #metoo movement to judge allegations of crimes with biblical justice. While we may readily assume that many (if not most) allegations are true (given the heart of man and the state of our culture), it is still the case the women may sin and commit crimes by falsely accusing men and ruining their lives (Gen. 39:7ff). This is why the Bible requires that every accusation be confirmed by two or three independent witnesses (Dt. 19:15). It’s important to note that the Bible considers various forms of verifiable physical evidence as a “testimony” (Dt. 22:13-21), and so this could include things like DNA, fingerprints, rape kit data, etc. The Bible does not require there to be 2 or 3 witnesses to reportsomething. The Bible requires 2 or 3 witnesses to convictsomeone. And a charge against an elder cannot be publicly recorded or officially “received” unless there are two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5). Related to due process also includes the right of the accused to defend himself, to cross examine witnesses/testimony, the duty of judges to inquire diligently into matters, and the punishment of false witnesses (Prov. 18:17, Dt. 19:16-21). If a witness cannot be cross-examined or is unwilling to face the consequences of being proven false, it cannot be considered credible evidence/testimony.
On the one hand, to the extent that we have allowed our justice system to drift away from biblical norms, we have created a situation where justice is not being carried out swiftly for the guilty or false witnesses, and we thereby tempt women and others to take matters into their own hands. But on the other hand, I’m convinced that this is a calculated move by some leading the movement to lump every charge indiscriminately together in order to justify mobs. And the mobs are not after justice. A mob, by definition, cannot do justice. Mobs are for destruction, revolution. The point of this is simply to tear down God’s established authorities. It is a popular temper tantrum. All it wants is whatever it wants right now.
The #metoo movement fails to get real justice by encouraging the frenzy of posts and articles and “outings” whipping up the *feeling* of having done something, but without any certainty that anything has actually been done. It is not justice to merely go on social media and say that you too were sexually harassed or abused or share someone else’s post or story. In many cases, this is a fleshly response, an electronic middle finger to the abuser, but not real justice. This frequently backfires on real victims, leaving them without real justice. This movement is not about helping real victims, but rather, a few powerful people are using the collective outrage, coopting the power of the mob to accomplish a few particular goals. The hashtag movement creates a false sense of “having done something meaningful,” when in reality I wonder how many women have done a #metoo post, felt an initial rush of exhilaration, feeling courageous and brave and maybe even something like “peace,” and now months later the old feelings of depression and desperation are coming back because no real justice was done, nothing has changed. Social media movements don’t necessarily mean anything has actually been reported to appropriate authorities, investigated thoroughly, or adjudicated properly.
Finally, to the extent that the #metoo movement has churned up a frenzy and fears, alongside a collapsing of biblical and judicial categories, we need to at least recognize the high probability of at least some men being falsely accused and falsely convicted in the court of human opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh barely survived one such witch hunt that ultimately produced no plausible allegations of any wrong doing after multiple investigations.
Failure to Provide Healing
We could list everything we have already listed as part of the problem of failing to bring actual healing and reconciliation. God’s justice is His prescription for healing and reconciliation. He is the great physician; he knows what we need. This means that sin and crimes need to be distinguished biblically so that we have a true diagnosis of the problem and appropriate treatment. This leads us to establish whose jurisdiction the allegations fall into. Is this a sin and a crime that needs to be handled by multiple jurisdictions? Or is this only a sin that needs to be handled by the family or the family and the church? Do we need a band-aid or chemotherapy or a cast or a round of antibiotics? Finally, the point of witnesses and evidence and careful inquiry and cross-examination is to protect the truth at every level which is the way of freedom and healing. The truth really does set people free, but bundling all allegations and accusations into an amorphous hashtag and the vague heading of “abuse” leaves women in the bondage of uncertainty. Some things need to be prosecuted and full biblical justice should punish the guilty; some things need to be covered in love and forgotten; and other things would fall somewhere in the middle. Part of the background in all of this are certain false assumptions we have inherited from pagan psychoanalysis (Freud). Freud taught that the root of all evil was essentially repressed pain, and his false gospel teaches that simple venting of pain brings about healing. But turns out that’s a pack of lies.
Why Should Christians Care?
Remember that every time the world diagnoses a problem, there is always an implied solution. Or to put in more religious terms: whenever the world identifies a sin, they are always getting ready to offer you a Savior. Christians should care that an alternative gospel is being preached and infiltrating the Church. The real problem is sin, biblically defined. The real solution is the gospel of Christ. Every sinner deserves the death penalty, and Jesus paid it for us. Every sin and crime will be punished in the cross or it will be punished forever in Hell. Obedience to God seeks an approximate human justice to be applied in this world, but our ultimate hope is in the absolute justice of standing before the Living God who searches the hearts and will bring everything to account.
Not only is the blood of Jesus sufficient to wash away our guilt, but the good news of the gospel is that the blood of Jesus covers all our shame. Human justice is important and God honoring, but apart from the peace of Christ that comes from His blood covering our guilt and our shame, human justice will never be enough, it will always fall short. But in the Cross, we have the certainty of perfect justice and perfect mercy and perfect peace.
It is right and good that families and churches and local communities teach the whole Bible in order to properly protect our wives, sisters, daughters, and children abuse and assault and harassment, but it’s a statist lie that insists we must have a “national movement” or that a law must be passed in Washington D.C. to do something meaningful. Rather, if we teach the whole Bible, there will be no shortage of opportunities to talk about these things, and when faithful churches and civil magistrates obey God in their duty to discipline impenitent sinners and punish criminals, we are teaching wisdom to our children and warning evil doers. But the attempt of various churches, ministries, and Christians to ride the #metoo wave, pretending to be able make distinctions in that mob is a fool’s mission. All the attempts I have seen by otherwise wise and godly men have been confused and troubling. The Church should reject #metoo and embrace the gospel, the whole counsel of God, and biblical justice. These are sufficient for our needs.
This is the only foundation for building/rebuilding a society in biblical justice. This is the only way of freedom and justice and healing for women and men.