Good morning and welcome to the weekend. Normally I would have curated a few stories and updates about books for you to peruse. But this morning I simply want to share some thoughts about the last few weeks of news.
I’ve been thinking about all the allegations of sexual harassment that we’re hearing/reading/watching in our news streams and how to react and deal with these in a way that makes sense. It seems to me that what is missing amongst the outrage and the venom is a careful inspection of the facts, an offer of grace for those who have sinned, and a differentiation between each case (they aren’t all the same). But the main thing that is missing is a way forward that is not complete tyranny.
This reality drove home to me the difference between how the world works, and how God in His grace works. The world wants to sensationalize sin and then wonders why people are exploited. The world wants to marginalize and tyrannize one group to the exclusion of others as a response to marginalization and exploitation. In other words, the world’s (with the media being the expression of this) reaction to sin is to douse us with even more sin. In one very important respect, it is good for victims to be able to tell the truth, though from its outset America has been a comparatively open society for those desiring to tell the truth. So that is healthy – freedom begets both lux et veritas.
The problem we now face is environmental. An environment of liberation without diligence for truth can, and indeed has, very quickly turned into toxic tyranny. This is manifested in the oppression of accusation and finger pointing in response to the tyranny of exploitation and sexual misconduct. Generalizations flying, battle lines forming, slander spoken faster than anyone has the ability to refute or clarify. It is becoming harder for truth to be found, and this actually works against victims – though it works for ratings.
Watching the media over the last few weeks has been like pulling up a front row seat at Madame DeFarge’s knitting exhibition. We are on dangerous ground, stray but a little to the right or left and our society will be in great peril.
Don’t mistake me for siding with or against someone – I am perfectly horrified by what these elected officials have done. Even friends of mine, people I thought I knew, have resigned in disgrace this week – all the while putting a happy face on the thing or not completely even admitting their sin, and thus further enabling rumors and slander to run rampant.
But the main question I want to put to you in the midst of this is: what is the way forward? The world is not going to offer a viable way forward. There will be no end to the toxicity – it will only get more rank. The way forward isn’t simply codifying behavioral ethics in an H.R. document and forcing people to go through “training” – this behavior is so obviously wrong that no one ought to need such training! The fact that this is so is manifested in the well-warranted outrange of horrified Americans who are watching their elected leaders being outed as perverts.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out the gross irony in these stories. Perhaps this week’s allegations against Sen. Al Franken best typify that irony, for if he had behaved the way he did in real life during an on-screen performance, it would have been called “art” or “just another movie.” In short, Hollywood has trained Americans to think sexual depravity is normal. We have swallowed these lies hook, line, and sinker. And so, in a round about way, we celebrate exploitation as we chuckle at perversion in our living rooms. And now the world is outraged when people (actors like Franken, for example) behave this way in real life…where do you think they got all the perverse ideas for their on-screen behavior?
I believe that the world as typified by those in the media writing the stories, those in Hollywood and people in the Halls of Power around the country, cannot adequately deal with these issues because they lack both the moral authority to do so, and the power of grace to rebuild the brokenness that remains. They will either descend into injudicious accusatory and sensational anarchy, or they will normalize the disgusting and exploitive behavior. In fact, they may end up doing both simultaneously.
Only (yes an exclusive claim) Jesus Christ has both the grace to say “neither do I condemn you” and “go and sin no more.” Only Christ can justly say “this is wrong” and “you are forgiven.” There is a balance to the message of Christianity – not because WE bring balance to it, but because our darkness, our sinfulness is both exposed by His light and washed clean and forgiven by Christ’s mercy and God’s justice which Christ bore.
In one respect, it is times like these that expose the utter sinfulness of sin. You don’t think men and women need Christ’s death? You think He paid an awful cost for no reason? These are the reasons. This is the sickness that drove Him to that hill and which nailed those spikes in His hands. I defy you to turn on the news and then tell me men don’t need a Savior and that victims don’t need a Redeemer.
While we all rightly find ourselves disgusted by the sin we see in these news stories (apparently Hollywood has not so desensitized us yet that we can still find some sense of outrage over sin), let us not be so quick to forget our own sin. Let us not be so quick to forget that for victims and for their violators there is a way forward that doesn’t involve slander and bitterness and secretiveness.
I would encourage you to read an old column from Jon Bloom to help clarify these thoughts some more. Not every Biblical example is going to be a perfect one-to-one correspondence with what we’re seeing in today’s news cycle. But the principles are there.
This isn’t a soapbox plea. It’s a reminder to all those who claim to be Christian that we hold truths so powerful that lives truly can be mended, reputations rebuilt, and, most importantly, souls redeemed and minds and hearts renewed. We can come to the aid of the victims without being surprised by the sinful natures of men that made these things possible, and the culture that elevated the sin as entertainment in another setting. We can offer healing to the broken, and grace to those who wish to repent of their wrong. And we can do this all without forgetting who we are, and where we would be without Christ’s sacrifice.
That’s it for today, I hope you have a great weekend.