Have mercy on us, Lord! Have mercy
because we’ve had more than enough shame.
We’ve had more than enough mockery from the self-confident,
more than enough shame from the proud.
Enough of Men Behaving Badly
Harvey Weinstein…Kevin Spacey…Bill Cosby…Bill Clinton…Al Franken…Bill O’Reilly…Roger Ailes…Roy Moore…Charlie Rose…and, of course, our self-confessed sexual-assaulter-in-Chief, Donald Trump.
In fairness, each case is different. Some accusations are far more significant than others. Any of us can be tempted to or accused of bad behavior. But all the stories have one thing in common, namely, the way men in positions of power abuse, assault, or sexually harass women and girls (and sometimes boys or younger men).
The difference at this moment in time is that the crack in the dike has broken open and women who were expected to put up with bad behavior in the past are now telling their stories in ways they’ve not been empowered to do it before.
Another difference is the way different men have responded to the accusations, from the arrogant denial of Roy Moore to the confession and apology of Al Franken or Charlie Rose. There are also different reactions, from immediate dismissal by the news and entertainment industry in New York and Hollywood to the protective defense by supposedly Christian pastors in Alabama. Talk about irony!
What’s a Pastor to Do?
So, what’s a Christian pastor supposed to say or do? While the image of Christian clergy is being severely damaged by folks like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, a host of otherwise unknown pastors in out of the way places are leading lives of faithful witness, moral character and humble service. So, a few random responses that have been working their way through my mind and heart.
- I’m grateful for the United Methodist Church.
In the ’70’s our denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women began training clergy about sexual assault or abuse. United Methodist clergy are not immune to temptation or moral failure, but our denomination has done all it can to train us and to provide a just process for dealing with accusations. (You can learn more here.)
- Believe the women.
I realize that an accusation can be as damaging as a conviction and that there is the possibility of being falsely accused. It happened to one of my friends. But an attorney friend who deals with these issues continues to point out that the women are usually correct, particularly when they are courageous enough to confront a man who holds power over them.
- Focus on Christian character.
The Road to Character by David Brook is one of the most important books of our era. He diagnoses the “Big Me” that has led to “the rise in narcissism and self-aggrandizement…our basic problem is that we are self-centered.” (I’d say Trump is the not the cause of our problems, but the ultimate expression of the narcissism of our culture.)
- I’m grateful for the United Methodist Church.
Brooks sounds like a Methodist preacher when he describes what he calls “the Humility Code.” (p. 261-267)
“We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness.”
“The best life is oriented around the increasing excellence of the soul and is nourished by moral joy, the quiet sense of gratitude and tranquility that comes as a byproduct of successful moral struggle.”
“Humility is the greatest virtue.”
“Humility reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order.”
“The things that lead us astray are short term–lust, fear, vanity, gluttony. The things we call character endure over the long term–courage, honest, humility.”
“No person can achieve self-mastery on his or her own.”
“Everybody needs redemptive assistance from outside–from God, family, ancestors, rules, traditions, institutions and exemplars…You have to draw on something outside yourself to cope with the forces inside yourself.”
“We are all ultimately saved by grace.”
“Grace floods in…Gratitude fills your soul, and with it the desire to serve and give back.”
“The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature.”
“The mature person has moved from fragmentation to centeredness…because the mature person has steady criteria to determine what is right. That person has said a multitude of noes for the sake of a few overwhelming yeses.”
Men Behaving Well
I give thanks for the men I know who demonstrate that a life of Christian character is not only possible, but is more than worth the effort. I give thanks for the men who continue to show me what it look like to love, honor and respect the women with whom we live, work and serve. I give thanks for men who have walked with me in the past and for those who will continue walk with me in the future. I give thanks for the women who continue to hold me accountable for my behavior. I give thanks for the sons-in-law who treat my daughters with respect and for the grandsons they are raising. And most of all, I give thanks for the woman who chose to share life with me, and for the daughters and granddaughters who see in her life what it looks like to be a woman of Christian character.
Have mercy on us, Lord! We’ve had more than enough of men behaving badly. As the old hymn says:
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
Grace and peace,