The Christian and Abuse

R Kelly: How The Church Contributes To The Culture Of Abuse

The past few days I have seen many different opinions regarding R Kelly and the docuseries, “Surviving R Kelly”, in which various victims speak out about their experiences of abuse at the hands of the RnB singer.

The year 2018 was big in terms of exposure of sexual assault, with movements such as the “Me Too” Movement leading the pack, and we have seen public figures even in the Christian faith have their deeds exposed. Still, I believe this is much bigger than the media coverage and division it has caused within the Christian community. In fact, while we are focusing on the media coverage and entertaining pointless debates around the subject, the plan of the enemy is prospering – precisely because of our bickering and lack of perspective. As the body of Christ, we are completely missing the plot. We are uninformed and perishing because of a lack of understanding of what abuse really is, and the many forms it takes. That is exactly how we contribute to the culture of abuse: our lack of understanding and sometimes, plain and simple ignorance. Our ignorance pushes people away and does more damage than good.

Here are some of the ways we can do better pertaining to abuse within the Christian community:

  1. Educate ourselves, those in our care and those we encounter daily on how to recognise any kind of abuse, but also how to stand up for what is right. Teach kids to be sensitive to inappropriate behaviour and believe them when they say that someone has violated them. Avoid dismissing them simply because they are children.
  2. Support and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been affected by abuse instead of alienating them, judging them and dismissing their pain. We are chasing away the very ones we need to be showing the love of Christ to. When someone tells us that they have been abused, regardless of the form of abuse, we need to avoid responding with sarcasm and stereotypes.
  3. Stop being ignorant to the fact that there are many in the Christian community who have experienced abuse. Some, in their childhood years before knowing Jesus; others, at the hands of members of the body of Christ. Yes, there are those within the body of Christ who are professing Christians, who are abusing others.
  4. Create a community where people feel free to share painful experiences and be able to receive practical, godly advice instead of stereotypical “Christian” responses which, most of the time, do not help at all.
  5. We need to offer more than “I am praying for you” and “I will be praying for you”. Although prayer is the highest form of care we can show someone, our prayers need to not only be genuine, but they also need to be accompanied by practical help. Yes, we are spiritual beings, but we are also human beings. Sometimes, we do need to be advised to see a professional. Sometimes, we do need to be advised to get that divorce {more about that here}. Sometimes, we do need to be advised to leave that church. We should aim to get to the point where we are okay with giving people counsel that is perceived as “controversial”, if that is the direction in which God is leading. There is more than just the spiritual side of things.
  6. Do not dismiss someone else’s experience simply because we have never had a similar experience ourselves.
  7. Stop assuming that someone cannot or will not do you harm simply because they claim to be Christian.
  8. Avoiding the topic will not help, and will only make the pain worse for all involved.
  9. Avoid protecting perpetrators simply because they are relatives or people we know. The truth needs to be exposed so that the victims can receive the help and support they need in order to heal, and the perpetrators need to be held accountable. Never mind “keeping the peace” in the family/church. Healing is much more important than keeping a false sense of peace. More than that, if it is not addressed, it could continue for generation after generation because no one is courageous enough to speak up.
  10. We should not twist the Word of God to suit our agenda. I am sure there is probably a Bible verse we can use to justify anything we do or say, but God holds us accountable to rightly divide the Word and also to give others sound biblical advice that will not keep them trapped in their abuse and pain.

Overall, we just need to do better. The spotlight is currently on R Kelly because he is a celebrity, but we must not neglect to use wisdom when it comes to the people in our own lives. Keeping secrets, being ignorant to what abuse really is, being judgemental, not giving practical counsel and twisting the Word of God enable the continuation of the culture of abuse within the body of Christ.

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