The following article is compiled from a series of comments I made on a post at The Wartburg Watch in June 2018 about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the impact of abuse survivor movements. I have only edited it for link format, indenting quotations, and bold-facing major points. I have also added some links to related resource posts and pages, and any add-on notes are in square brackets.
Historical Source Notes:
The “Me Too” movement was begun by Tarana Burke, as documented in this New York Times article: The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags, by Sandra E. Garcia (October 20, 2017). It was picked up in late 2017 as the #MeToo hashtag campaign on social media, in the wake of a series of reports and revelations by survivors of sexual and power abuse by Harvey Weinstein and others.
Likewise, the #ChurchToo hashtag and campaign have a history. It goes back to about November 2017, when first used by Hannah Paasch and Emily Joy, as documented in their podcast with Exvangelical podcast host Blake Chastain: Ep. 59: #ChurchToo with Hannah Paasch & Emily Joy (December 6, 2017).
The #SBCToo hashtag campaign on Twitter apparently started April 28, 2018, following the detailed reports of abuse of power by Paige Patterson. It picked up significant pace and intensity with the approach of the SBC annual meeting (June 12-13, 2018), their resolution on abuse, the publication of two survivors’ experiences of SBC clergy sexual misconduct: Jules Woodson and Anne Marie Miller, and the publicity of these SBC situations via such sites as For Such A Time As This SBC Rally 2018 and Justice For Anne.
Other denominations and organizations have also adapted this hashtag campaign to their institution.
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My Comments on The Wartburg Watch:
Sheila Gregoire: Paradigm shifts don’t happen quickly in lots of systems – family, government, church, business, etc. Sometimes it never happens. Sometimes it takes generations. Sometimes it happens in a surprisingly quick way.
#1. To follow up what you said, @emily honey about paradigm shifts, and what @Sheila Gregoire said about hopefully being at a tipping point, I’d add that one of the tools I learned in strategic foresight (futuring studies) is STEEPER. [I learned this concept from Christian futurist Cassidy Dale who is, I believe, the futurist who expanded the STEEP framework into STEEPER.] This deals with the order things tend to change. Here’s a copy-and-paste section from a post on that topic.
26. Trend-Tracking: Fads, Short-Term Trends, and Drivers of Change
Futurists keep up with diverse aspects of societies, and especially look to discern what is changing. This is done through a technique called “environmental scanning,” which assumes that the order things tend to change in a culture can be captured by the acronym STEEPER. So, like a chain of dominoes, once a significant cultural change occurs in Society, Technology tends to follow suit. As Technology changes, that impacts the Environment, and all of the above start working themselves out in terms of changes for individuals and groups in their Existential (identity) issues. As more people’s lives are affected by what started as a social change, the last three areas to follow suit are, in this order, Politics, Education, and Religion. These final three are the most “conservative” in terms of how tenaciously they cling to the ways of the past. (Sidenote: After working at a seminary for over a decade, I have to wonder if combining Religious Education intensifies the sluggishness of transitions …)
The trick with trend-tracking comes not so much in identifying social changes, but in discerning which are just pop culture fads (probably two years or less of social influence); which cultural trends have short-term impact (at least five to 10 years of influence); and which are “drivers” of long-term, deep-level change (50 years or more).
This concept is especially important to us: We are smack dab in the middle of a confusing era with substantial changes globally in prevailing paradigms and contemporary cultures. This level of upheaval has happened in Western civilization only three times since the founding of classical Greek culture over 2,500 years ago. Could this mean that missional models will be “drivers” within the next primary paradigm, while emerging and multi-campus churches and church planting movements prove themselves to be mere faddish blips on the seismographs of social change? Whatever “wins” has crucial consequences for how we interact in our cultures.
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#2. Continuing that train of thought to tipping points and change, over 20 years ago, I ran across a quote that I can’t shake, about how deep-level change takes place — in other words, paradigm shifts. Below is the copy-and-paste of a section from a post on that topic.
“In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next.” ~ Helen Haste, page 149 in The Sexual Metaphor: Men, Women, and the Thinking that Makes the Difference (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-674-80282-9)
Ms. Haste used that statement to begin a chapter on ”The Next Generation” (i.e., the “post-feminist” generations), whose members grew up not having to fight the social and political battles of the feminist movement in the 1960s and ’70s especially, but who inherited the results of those who did. Since these younger generations of women and men live in a world that takes feminism as a given, what does that mean?
Whether we approve the worldviews and agendas of feminism or not, if we want to understand the context of the world we now live in, we’ve got to grapple with what is really there and not just with what we believe should ideally be there. If we don’t choose to contextualize for that real world, we shouldn’t really complain when everyday people are repulsed by our presence and/or presentation. We can’t blame their responses totally on their spiritual blindness when we prove ourselves to be culturally blind, can we?
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#3. So … putting some of those concepts together, the big question is, “Are #MeToo and #ChurchToo ‘drivers of change,’ or just mere fads?”
If they are drivers of change (and I suspect they are), then the underlying concepts of PARITY in the value of women and men; girls and boys; will be taken as a given in next generations. So will EQUITY in seeking dignity of individuals, and justice and fairness in society, for all.
Why do I think these are drivers of change? I have been observing many dimensions of abuse survivor issues for over 40 years — basically my entire adult life. Much of that interest comes from being supportive of my sister’s ministries — as a theological conservative/evangelical Christian. Romae [pronounced row-MAY] began with support for domestic violence survivors in the mid-1970s. She branched out from there to sexual assault survivors, rape crisis counseling, child abuse prevention training, and more. For more historical background, see this post.
So, #MeToo and #ChurchToo did not just show up in 2017 out of a socio-cultural vacuum. There has been a long historical arc building up to Tarana Burke instigating MeToo 10 years ago, which served as groundwork for the social explosion that happened in the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein.
The vast majority of the activist work of the last 45-50 years has been by women. Along the way, men have been adjuncts to this movement. (In terms of secular history, the so-called “first men’s movement” described pro-feminist men of the 1960s and ’70s.)
So, back to tipping points, I believe what we’re looking for are combinations of long-term trends that build toward change, along with catalyzing events that bring the need for change into the spotlight. With #MeToo, it was a merging of feminist activism, advocacy for women survivors of abuse and violence, investigative reporting on child abuse and systemic coverup (as in the film *Spotlight*) — and then Harvey Weinstein provided a catalyzing person with a series of women sharing their personal accounts and Ronan Farrow and others with key reportage.
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#4. With #ChurchToo, I believe we can see the movement toward change building over decades such that, once #MeToo emerged in the national scene in 2017, it provided a natural segue for addressing publicly women who’d survived abuse, harassment, and violence in church-related settings.
Ministry movements parallel to those in society were building as well, though religious resourcing for recovery and advocacy has often been 15 to 20 years behind those from secular sources. (And this delay reaction seems standard, that the STEEPER’s “R” for religious institutions is super-slow to change and grow.) In the era my sister began ministering, she most often worked with community groups and agencies because churches were not (yet) interested. The earliest Christian books on domestic violence were published in the early to mid-1980s.
As best I can recall without going to do some research right now, earliest Christian books for women on recovery from sexual abuse and/or clergy sexual misconduct were showing up around that same time. For men who’d survived sexual abuse, Christian books were not much available until the early to mid-1990s, following resources coming out of the “second men’s movement” (Robert Bly/Iron John; Sam Keen/Fire in the Belly) and “third men’s movement” (Promise Keepers).
Books on spiritual abuse recovery didn’t really get going until the early 1990s. In the internet era, connections started getting made for group-specific spiritual abuse recovery in perhaps the early to mid-2000 decade. The few more “broadband” spiritual abuse survivor blogs like Wartburg Watch, Warren Throckmorton, and Spiritual Sounding Board began emerging after mid-2000 decade. (By “broadband,” I mean addressing a range of abuse issues and survivor accounts, from multiple theologies, denominations, and movements.)
It would be intriguing to track these various Christian abuse survivor/recovery movements that had been building separately, and see how they’ve been progressively intertwining. There have been efforts behind the scenes for at least 5 to 8 years to develop resource sites that address all of them — sexual assault and harassment, domestic violence, spiritual abuse, etc. Key dimensions that have been relatively absent from all of these are the racial diversity aspects
And now in 2017 and 2018, we have the equivalent of an #SBCToo, as I mentioned that Sheila Gregoire had tracked the history of in her post on “No More Covering Up Abuse or Covering for Abusers–a Plea for Churches.” If you want to see the build-up in the SBC specifically, that post has the major case studies. Also check out the blog posts of Christa Brown, Wade Burleson, Ben Cross, FBCJaxWatchdog, and others who pioneered resistance against SBC leaders on these issues, as well as against misuses of power.
So, was the push for recognition of women’s issues at this year’s SBC annual meeting an attempt to turn the SBC liberal? Make an idol out of “social justice work”?
Or was it a recognition that the next generations see embodiment of faithful practice of biblical principles as an essential dimension of the Gospel? And also that the reputation of the SBC is now in the spotlight, and intense scrutiny is not likely to fade?
It is intriguing that the mission statement for The Courage Conference (founded by younger generation abuse/survivor advocate Ashley Easter) says:
The Courage Conference exists to be a refuge for survivors, a place to educate and empower advocates, and a catalyst to spark the conditions where this movement for change can become a Justice Generation that resists abuse everywhere. Now in its third year, this annual gathering of abuse survivors, advocates, and those who love them is an event that is especially poised for this moment in history.
“A Justice Generation …” [selah!].
Final thoughts: Going back to the quote from Helen Haste, it seems that biblical justice is what next generations of Christians are taking as a given, and also what non-Christian and post-Christendom next generations are taking as a given. So, if Southern Baptist Convention members expect to bring the Gospel message effectively to these next generations through evangelism, discipling, and missions, they must address what “biblical justice” really means.
And, I would argue, how we connect with survivors are crucial dimensions of biblical justice. Unfortunately, the broader SBC’s track record on sexual abuse, harassment, and violence against women does not bode well for their praxis being all that “biblical.” What will they do, as individuals, and in every entity that is part of the Cooperative Program? It’s not just a matter of being “relevant,” but where both faith in and practice of the Gospel meet the needs of those in our churches and in our communities.
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Wowzers, Deb … I really got on a roll there last night. As I started writing, I just kept seeing the many long-term trends and significant points in recent history coming together, and kept on going.
This could be “the perfect storm” for creating a platform for substantive change in the long run, in both society and Church. What will the Church do about it — and especially now the SBC?
* They are being exposed and cannot so easily escape the spotlight and go back into the dark.
* They have many perpetrators and perpetuators of abuse in their midst whom they must deal with.
* They have survivors whom their leaders and entities have further harmed, with whom they need to go through truth and reconciliation processes.
* They have many women and men who attempted to be of constructive help along the way but were instead rebuked, and should now be acknowledged and publicly apologized to.
If I had the opportunity to share one key message with newly-elected SBC president, J.D. Greear, I’d say this:
Getting the SBC house in order is essential to your whole-Gospel-to-the-whole-world mission of this day. Otherwise, you bring people into an environment poisoned by the antithesis of the Gospel. The track record in place shows the SBC has not had the corporate will to accomplish this before (but perhaps now could), and that it cannot do this from internal resources alone (because you haven’t). I believe many survivors would assist the SBC on abuse issues, if invited. Theologically-sound pastoral and organizational equipping resources are available. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, only decide to engage the challenges of getting equipped and moving forward. Do you want our help?
Perhaps the speech given by Mary DeMuth at the For Such A Time As This Rally will be a source of clarification and encouragement in the challenging reconstruction ahead.
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Related Futuristguy Posts:
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SERIES ON TRENDS IN SURVIVOR COMMUNITIES
Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2012-2016)
Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month: Emerging Issues, 2012 (January 31, 2012).
Spiritual Abuse Survivors: The “Community” Becomes a ”Movement” (January 31, 2013).