Over the past few months, our sexual culture has experienced a bit of a reckoning. A spotlight has been shined into some of the uncomfortable, ugly, violent corners of our behavior as a society, and inventory is still being taken.
So today we need to lament.
BY HANNAH SIMS
NEW CITY CHURCH LOS ANGELES
Editor’s Note: Pastor Kevin Haah, lead pastor of New City Church Los Angles wanted to share a Lament that his church did regarding sexual abuse against women, particularly the #metoo conversation. Haah shared with TogetherLA that New City pastor Hannah Sims put together a powerful lament on the subject to do during worship service on Feb. 4, 2018. “We did it last Sunday and it was a powerful Holy Spirit moment for our church. Hannah agreed to give away this lament so that other churches might do it as well,” Haah said.
Before we do, I want to acknowledge the heteronormative limitation of this lament. I also want to acknowledge that men also experience sexual harassment and violence, frequently perpetrated by other men, and sometimes by women. But today we lament the deplorable prevalence and normalization of sexual violence perpetrated by men against women.
I think we all knew that there were dark secrets hiding in the silence and shame that surrounds the topic of sex. Maybe we didn’t want to see the full extent of the damage for fear of facing our own complicity. Starting with the #metoo movement back in October, millions of women declared on social media that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted. That led to a string of high-profile exposés of powerful men engaging in unquestionably reprehensible sexual misconduct, which led to consideration of more ambiguous but common-place sexual encounters where women were violated and men didn’t notice.
All the buzz in the news got me reflecting on my own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. That got me asking other women about their experiences, and the shocking, heartbreaking realization that hit me was exactly what the #metoo movement said in the first place: millions of women have been sexually harassed and assaulted.
Being sexually harassed and assaulted is our twisted normal, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Conversations with my friends, women in this room, reveal that the vast majority of us have been sexually assaulted. Not just women on Facebook and Twitter. The women sitting in this room right now.
Being sexually harassed and assaulted is our twisted normal. Part of what makes this cultural reckoning so resonant is that it asked us to voice a truth that we’d rather forget. Women don’t want to be violated so we laugh it off and pretend it didn’t happen. But the painful truth is slowly coming out.
The news and the conversations I’ve had in the past months make it clear: As a culture, we have failed to create a world where women can live without reasonable fear of sexual assault.
This is not ok. Men, we need you to know that this very reasonable fear follows us everywhere we go. It will follow us on to Spring Street in about an hour. On the street, in the grocery store, at work, at the gym, we will be aware of the eyes scanning our bodies, aware of the very real threat of violence. And as soon as we forget to be vigilant, we will get leered at, whistled at, groped, or worse. And if we show discomfort, if we aren’t grateful or flattered by the unwanted attention, the danger escalates.
Brothers, please listen to us and believe us. I know this is hard to hear. We need your help because we’re hurting and this is not ok. The current state of affairs is bad news for women and for men.
Let us respond with lament. I will read a statement, and if you believe or want to believe that Christ’s love can transform our broken world, respond with “Christ have mercy on us.”
For every woman who has been unkindly touched, shouted at, spoken of, abused, imagined or treated as a sexual object for the power and pleasure of a man, we lament. Christ have mercy on us.
For every woman whose power has been undermined, who has been told that the Image of God in her is silence and subservience, who has been taught that her experience is secondary to the actions of men around her, we lament. Christ have mercy on us.
For every woman who has striven to be whole, only to be told that she’s “too much,” “not enough,” “too sensitive,” “an abomination,” “an embarrassment,” we lament. Christ have mercy on us.
For every time we have turned a blind eye to the wounded, hoping they would heal themselves; for every time we looked outside in anger for a savior when the heart of Christ broke within us; and when we have craved quick solutions that don’t require us to face the pain of the truth, we lament. Christ have mercy on us.
For the men who have been told that they must be predators, conquerors, tearless, fearless, and cruel to truly be men; who despair that their past behaviors make them fundamentally, irredeemably monstrous; who long to be free from the bondage of lust and selfishness, we lament. Christ have mercy on us.
May we be people who love one another well, not shying away from hard truth, but telling one another when we hurt, listening to one another and trusting that Christ is coming, day by day, in the restoration of His good creation, in His Church. May we be men and women who have eyes to see and ears to hear the Spirit breathing healing among us.