When Christians Defend Predators

There’s a story in the Bible about one of Jesus’ beloved students named Peter, who publicly denies ever knowing him. Jesus has been arrested and is facing death at the hands of the Romans—and Peter, fearing for his own life distances himself when questioned.

“I do not know the man!” he insists three times.

It is a sin of separation based on Peter not wanting to be associated with him.

Yet as ugly as followers of Jesus creating distance from him is, it’s a far more vile act, when in depravity they claim proximity; when they stand proudly in the world and commit the greatest of atrocities upon humanity—and contend that Jesus consents to it all.

It’s hard to imagine a greater illustration of Christians losing the plot than when they defend predators. There are few bastardizations of the life and the message of Jesus, as complete and grievous as taking the side of rapists and pedophiles and genitalia grabbers—but this is where we are now. With the Evangelicals embracing Donald Trump and with those now rallying to the defense of Roy Moore, this is what we’re watching in America: the least of these being thrown to the wolves by the supposed shepherds.

In dog-and-pony, Bible-waving press conferences, in Scripture-affixed social media endorsements, and in pulpit-pounding Sunday sermons, we’re seeing professed people of Jesus willfully protecting the monsters, heaping shame on the accusers, ascribing virtue to their offenders—and passing it all off as redemptive, as something of God. 

And because of this filth now parading in his name, Jesus has left the damn building—and good, decent people of faith are rightly following him out. In these days, the Evangelical Church is proving itself to be the truest danger to the most vulnerable. It has now become the very insidious evil he so pushed back against while his feet were on the planet. 

I don’t know how to understand the mind of a man or woman who attempts to profess devotion to Jesus while simultaneously defending a molester—and I’m not sure I want to. That’s a darker place than I think I can go without losing hope or sanity. I can’t imagine how a human being can so horribly distort the “love the least,” “blessed are the peacemakers” message of Christ, enough to stand on a wooden or social media platform—and knowingly bless a man who rapes, patently excuse violence to a child, or passionately campaign for a predator. It’s all about stomach-turning as it gets.

As a disheartened and embarrassed follower of Jesus, I can only openly grieve these things. All I can do is to denounce such wanton twisting of the Gospel to those still willing to listen, and stand with the victimized and the wounded and the vulnerable—because I know that this is where Jesus would be.

There’s a sickness here that we need to name and condemn. Regardless of the Bible verses they drop or the high-profile ministries they wield or how sanctified they try to sound—when Christians defend predators they deny Jesus and they sell off their souls.

It’s really as simple as that. 

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

 

A Guide to Sexual Assault Claims for Bible Belt Evangelicals

Bible Belt Evangelicals, many of you seem to be having a really tough time navigating sexual assault claims against men in power lately.

As a service, I’ve provided the following simple guide to better prepare you:

1) Sexual assault is wrong—period. It is indefensible, regardless of what the victim was wearing or their dating history or their orientation or their politics—or whatever supposed signals the offender received prior. Unwanted verbal harassment or physical contact without clear consent is abhorrent and deserves no advocate. This is about the character of the victimizer, and the unequivocal condemnation of violence against another human being. Anything else is misplaced and shameful energy.

2) There is almost nothing to be gained by falsely reporting sexual assault. Survivors who take the courageous step to report violence against them, face every kind of character assassination and public humiliation. Their pasts are dissected, their motives are questioned, and their deepest wounds are fully exposed to a vast multitude of critics, pundits, and voyeurs. It is a second trauma. If someone comes forward to report a sexual assault, they’re probably telling the truth—and your first response shouldn’t be ascribing some supposed motive to them that would probably never be sufficient compensation for the hostility they endure.

3) Name-dropping Jesus is a really terrible idea. Men who abuse their power and leverage their position in the Church in order to commit unspeakable acts, are not persecuted martyrs deserving of some Biblical callback. Every time you invoke religion in an attempt to lionize a possible offender, you’re nurturing the very environment that has protected abusers and silenced their accusers in the Church. You’re also dragging the name of Jesus into the vile acts you’re defending—and you’re muddying-up a beautiful message with the most foul of human excrement. Stop it.

4) Publicly supporting accused predators before and above alleged victims is, too. If you take to social media to say that you’re “praying for” a man with multiple, highly credible allegations of sexual assault of minors, and you don’t mention concern for those possibly traumatized by that man—you probably have your priorities out-of-order. You’re probably saying more than you’re pretending to say. You’re probably broadcasting your politics and undermining the victims under the guise of prayer. God help you if you are.

5) Don’t play politics. If a fellow Republican or Conservative Christian stands accused of heinous deeds, and your first response is to bring up the member of another political party’s past sins, as some apparent comparison of public response—you’re deflecting and wrong. Rape should be seen as a nonpartisan abomination, and your defense of humanity should trump your loyalty to party and to religious tradition. The offenses in front of you should be the ones you respond to, and that response should emulate Jesus.

Bible Belt Evangelicals, there are moments when your professed faith is supposed to show up and be a clear source of goodness and truth in the moments of our greatest human darkness. This is never more true than when someone with tremendous power exploits someone with far less power—and then tries to silence and shame them. You are supposed to elevate those quieted voices and guard them from guilt that does not belong to them.

When Jesus commanded us to love the least, he was ordering us to the defense of the most vulnerable, the most silenced, the most overlooked among us. I’m not sure there’s a more accurate description of those who are preyed upon by those who feel emboldened by their position and privilege to do so.

When Jesus warned people not to hinder the little children from his presence, he was condemning those who would steal the innocence and obscure the light from their eyes—those who would prevent them from accurately seeing him.

Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd, because he saw how many were harassed and helpless, how many people were vulnerable to the wolves in the world. This is your calling too. It is to step into the world and be the protector of those who often have little protection. You are not called to cultivate more fear in them, to commit more violence to them.

Christian, those who are assaulted are the sheep. You are supposed to defend them.
Men who assault are the wolves. You’re supposed to stop them.

Stop getting it twisted.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

 

Dear Donald Trump, We’re Not Afraid of You.

Dear Donald Trump,

I am an American citizen and I am fearful of you.

That is to say—I fear your ignorance, your recklessness, and your incompetence because they place this country in great peril.

I fear your disregard for our Constitution, your contempt for our Rule of Law, and your lack of anything resembling a working moral compass, as you repeatedly bulldoze the pillars of our Republic.

I fear the bigotry you so irresponsibly fuel, the violence you give Americans permission to inflict upon others, the contempt you leverage of people with brown skin and foreign birthplaces and love for someone of the same gender.

I fear the coming flood of funerals for people who will die by the guns you force upon our citizenry—and by Cancer due to the care you insist on denying them.

I fear the opportunistic men and women in the Government and the Church who’ve sold their souls and abandoned their convictions for Supreme Court seats, Cabinet appointments, and Prayer Breakfast pulpits.

I fear the supremacists and the bigots, the sexual predators, and the trigger-happy, violent men who have all been emboldened by your consent.

I fear the politicized Christian Church you’ve polluted by your association, the toxic religion you’ve released into the blood stream, and the unthinkable atrocities you commit while name dropping a God you clearly don’t believe in.

I fear the stomach-turning precedent you’ve set in the office you hold; for falsehood, for cruelty—and for abject malice toward the very people that office is intended to represent and protect.

Yes, in countless ways I deeply fear the near irreparable damage you’re doing to the country I call home and love dearly, and to the people who live and raise families and do work and dream dreams here.

I am incredibly fearful, but make no mistake, Donald Trump—I am not afraid of you.

I am not afraid of you, because even with the greatest seat of power, you are a spectacularly small man.

I am not afraid of you because you are not worthy of my fear, because that would mean respecting you—and I do not.

I am not afraid of you because I know a quivering bully when I see one.

I am not afraid of you because you, like all bullies—are a fraud and a coward.

I am not afraid of you because I recognize a terrified child who knows that he has lied and cheated and threatened his way to get things he knows he doesn’t deserve, and will soon lose.

I am not afraid of you because the louder you scream, the more you thrash and bluster, the more you rage in all cap rants, the more you spit and posture—the more it becomes clear that you are afraid.

And I see you clearly.

I see your smallness and your unworthiness.

We all do, those of us whose eyes are clear and open.

And that’s why Donald Trump, while we fear for our country and for our children and for the planet and for the unfathomable harm you’re causing—we are not afraid of you.

We are the vast majority.

We are people of every shape and shade. 
We are cisgender and transgender.
We are immigrants and refugees and homegrowns.
We are male and female and gender fluid.
We are Christian and Muslim, Jew and Buddhists, Sihk and Hindu.
We are humanists and atheists and agnostics. 

We are We the People; together, united, unshakeable.

Together we will resist you.

And together we will outlast you.

Because we are the thing making America great.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

Kneeling Black Men, Running White Predators

Sometimes the truth about America appears in black and white.

Sometimes it comes with unmistakable clarity, even if you’d rather not see what you’re seeing.

On the same day this week, former NFL quarterback-turned pariah Colin Kaepernick received GQ’s Citizen of the Year award—while GOP senate candidate Roy Moore (now the subject of several sexual assault accusations), received bold public expressions of support from white celebrity evangelists and Republican politicians.

These very same professed Christians and supposed lovers of America, have spent the past two years incessantly crucifying Kapernick. The then-San Francisco 49ers QB began kneeling during the National Anthem to bring awareness to the racial inequities in this country, most specifically with regard to the conduct of law enforcement and lawmakers. He and those who joined him were clear and repeated in their intentions and their methods: they wanted to save the lives of people of color. They wanted to be treated with simple equality. That turned out to be a rather offensive gesture, apparently.

Kaepernick was subsequently essentially blacklisted from the league by white team owners all cowering in the face of their Conservative patrons, who branded the protesting players traitors—aided in large part by a race-baiting President who changed the narrative from one of racial equality, to one of insulting the Military, even bragging that the “sons of bitches” should be fired.

Over the past year, Kaepernick and the current players continuing to take a knee, have been the subject of a steady stream of white-hot, white outrage from men like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Papa Johns Pizza owner, John Schnatter, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell—along with a predatory parade of opportunistic GOP politicians and preachers all looking to cash in on the phony Nationalistic fervor and moral histrionics.

Enter Roy Moore—a white man running for Senate in the Alabama Bible Belt; a man now accused by five different women of sexual assault; one allegedly occurring when the victim was only 14; a man whose predatory past has been well documented.

And yet, even with such a swirling storm of suspected atrocities (the kind of allegations instantly destroying careers elsewhere)—these supposed “family values”, Conservative, Christian white folks are now inexplicably lining up to profess even greater support for Moore.

Well, perhaps it’s not that inexplicable. In fact, perhaps it’s quite easily explained.

Maybe this isn’t about morality to them at all.
Maybe it isn’t about America or Patriotism or respecting the Military.
Maybe it isn’t about Jesus or family or protecting children.
Maybe it’s never been about safety in public restrooms or the sanctity of marriage.
Maybe it’s never been about what is right.

Maybe this is just a good ol’ fashioned racism, that sadly still plays all too well to the white Evangelicals so willing to buy the narrative of scary, bad black men and perpetually oppressed white heroes.

That seems to be where Kapernick went wrong.

For years now he’s been trying in vain to get white, GOP Christians to come alongside him and to publicly support him in his cause of justice—and has been met with enmity and condemnation.

Instead of kneeling before a football game to call attention to racial injustice, he should have harassed young girls at a mall (or worse).

He should have done that—or simply been white.

Today he’d be a noble man worthy of their public adoration.

Today he’d be a GOP leader.

Today he’d be an Evangelical hero. 

Today he’d be their “citizen of the year”.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.