Who is Fred Butler?
I saw this tweet the other day. Long-time blog readers will recognize the name, Fred Butler, an employee of Grace to You, the radio ministry of Pastor John MacArthur. Butler’s tweet references another tweet from the @9Marks Twitter account which quotes from an article recently posted on their site. The article is about the church’s response to the #MeToo movement.
I have a number of problems with Fred’s tweet.
Firstly, in general, I believe the “worldly culture” has done a better job of addressing the issue of sexual abuse than the Church. Having attended many churches over the years, I don’t recall any that dealt specifically with the topic of sexual abuse in an ongoing fashion. I don’t recall hearing about churches that have a ministry focused on this topic since blogging, either.
In full confession, I have difficulty with 9Marks because of hyper-authoritarian teachings which can lead to spiritual abuse, but I wanted to see what Fred Butler was reading when he tweeted his criticism of the article, What the Church Can and Should Bring to the #MeToo Movement. What problem did Fred find?
The article was written by a woman, so there’s that. Did Butler have difficulty because the author is “teaching” a man as he reads it? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, at the time of this screenshot, 28 people “liked” and 4 people retweeted Fred’s tweet.
Here is the author’s bio:
Whitney Woollard is a writer, speaker, and women’s Bible teacher in Portland, Oregon, where she and her husband Neal attend Hinson Baptist Church. She holds her M.A. in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary and loves sharing her passion for the Bible and good theology with others.
Back to the Butler’s tweet – the world may hate God, but there are a lot of people in the world who hate abuse as well. God also hates abuse (Ezekiel 34). So, because many in the world hate abuse, we must dismiss #MeToo because it’s now a cultural thing? I can’t buy that logic.
So, what did Ms. Woollard say in her article that Fred Butler would find difficult to stomach? I’ll share some quotes which give the overall gist of the article, which by the way, I found quite good.
Like any movement, #MeToo is imperfect, but that shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating it as an expression of God’s common grace. He restrains evil and pours out graciousness on all people, enabling even those outside of Christ to do good, carry out justice, and promote human flourishing. It’s not salvific, but it is good.
I agree with this overall thought. Evil is evil, and it is not only Christians who can identify it. I believe that Christians should be leading the way on shining the light on evil, but sadly, this has not happened; and thus, we have the #MeToo movement. This should be a wake-up call for the Church.
Ms. Woollard discusses the following topics:
- #MeToo is dragging wickedness into the light.
- #MeToo is forcing a conversation everyone would rather not have.
- #MeToo is teaching women that abuse and harassment is real and wrong.
Once again, I found myself agreeing with Ms. Woollard. I appreciate how Ms. Woollard shared a recent personal experience she had. Women are regularly gawked at sexually, and I do not think men understand how pervasive this is for women. Many women cannot walk anywhere in public without fear of receiving some sort of sexual comment or catcall.
Don’t believe me? Yesterday I left my house for one hour and encountered a man in a semi-isolated spot who told me “if women don’t watch out, white men are going to start fighting back against #MeToo” and we should “fear the force with which their wave would hit us.” Then I was cornered at a crosswalk by a man who yelled sexual obscenities at me, saying, “I’m sorry but I have to because, God, you’re so (bleeping) hot.” (I was wearing a baggy sweatshirt and loose jeans.) I felt uncomfortable and unsafe, yet unsure of how to respond without calling more attention to myself. I grew up thinking you just smiled and laughed that stuff off. But now I rejoice in a new era where that speech and behavior are unacceptable and where women are taught to stop inappropriate comments or “playful” touches and say, “Stop right now. This is making me uncomfortable.” This is common grace at work.
See? One hour. She got all of that in one hour! Ugh!!
Further, in the article, Ms. Woollard describes what happens in healthy churches. Again, I have yet to see this for myself, but it is my heart’s desire to see this take place:
THE CHURCH HAS ANSWERS THE CULTURE NEEDS
They need hope, healing, and restoration. In other words, they need the church.
Assuming we’re talking about a healthy church with good structures and policies in place, what does the church have to bring to #MeToo
- The church has the gospel.
- The church has a biblical bias.
- The church has member care.
- The church has corrective and formative discipline.
- The church has a theology of imago Dei.
Sadly, here’s a tweet I sent out nearly 3 weeks ago before the article was posted. If Twitter had an edit feature, I probably would have added the words “in general.”
Rachael Denhollander and Unhealthy Churches
Back to Fred Butler – he is wrong. The world is exposing sexual abuse and harassment. It’s here and it is now in all places/business/industries. The world is ahead of the Church in drawing attention to the problem and forcing a response. The Church now has a responsibility to deal with it, not play theological word games about collecting “action points” from the world. This is not about action points, this is about the hearts of women who need healing, and most likely, their souls do as well if they were harmed by someone in the Church.
The mishandling of sex abuse cases in the Church is not only causing survivors emotional harm, but I strongly suspect it has led to many abandoning their faith. That’s why I would rather survivors seek secular mental health help from trained and licensed professionals who understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. I’m not alone in this thought. Read the words from Rachael Denhollander, the brave woman who took down Dr. Larry Nasser, the pedophile who sexually assaulted hundreds of young girls while “treating” their injuries:
When asked, “How can people trust the church and Christianity?” in the wake of sexual abuse, Denhollander simply said, “Don’t.” ~Rachael Denhollander
In case you hadn’t heard, Rachael Denhollander was selected as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the year 2018. She is a conservative Christian. Big names in Christendom talked about Rachael, even wrote blog posts about her and her victim’s impact statement. Because along with sharing how the abuse affected her, she offered her evil perpetrator forgiveness and presented the Gospel to him. But even Rachael cannot recommend that sexual abuse survivors get help from the Church.
Denhollander said that while she is a “very conservative evangelical,” she believes the Church has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with victims of sexual abuse.
“That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth,” she said. “There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the Church.”
Fred Butler and his “liking” buddies need to read this article from Dr. Diane Langberg before spouting off on Twitter about the #MeToo subject. #MeToo is not just a “worldly cultural” issue, it’s an issue prevalent in evangelical churches.
I will close with part of Dr. Langberg’s letter to the Church:
God calls us to the truth and light of transparency. Transparency protects both alleged victims and alleged predators from the horrific burden of lies. A transparent process protects truth for all. When those in power attempt to dissemble in order to protect an institution they are no longer accomplishing damage control. They are causing damage – damage to God’s precious sheep and damage to the name of our God –this, in the name of protecting the house of the Lord. That is what the Israelites said in Jeremiah – “the Temple of the Lord” – all the while throwing their children, the vulnerable ones, into the fire of Moloch.