Friday, January 12, 2018

How the Evangelical Culture of Forgiveness Hurts Victims of Sexual Abuse

From Slate-

When megachurch pastor Andy Savage sat on a stool in front of his congregation on Sunday and confessed to a regretful sexual incident from his past, he ended his statement with an apology and a request for forgiveness. “I love you all very much,” he said, at which point the congregation rose to applaud. In context, Savage’s congregants were returning an expression of love, not grotesquely cheering for an assault. Nevertheless, the optics were painful—and so are their implications: The flock’s insta-forgiveness of its pastor illuminates the way evangelical culture, long known for its harsh judgment, is now just as likely to err in favor of what theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”

The incident in question happened in 1998, when Savage was a 22-year-old youth minister at a Baptist church in suburban Houston. Jules Woodson was a 17-year-old high school senior who attended the church youth group. In Woodson’s account, Savage offered to drive her home from an event at the church, but instead he drove her down a dirt road, stopped the car, and pressured her to perform oral sex. When she told another pastor at the church what had happened, she says he suggested that she had “participated” in the incident, and Savage was allowed to resign with no public reckoning or police involvement. (The pastor who she turned to has been placed on leave by his current church over the allegations.)

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