Friday, October 20, 2017

Who is this powerful man who fell?

He was highly creative and what he produced inspired many.
His success led to him being very powerful in his field.
Women sought help from him and wanted his approval.
Tragically, he used his power to sexually abuse countless (hundreds?) of women over decades.
There were widespread rumours.
Because of who he was and his power many chose not to believe the rumours.
Colleagues covered up for him.
His employer covered up for him.
Only after a New York Times article appeared, did his employer properly address the issue.
Reading about the conduct of this "dirty old man" makes one want to take a shower.
He never took full responsibility, or made appropriate apologies, but blamed others.
Furthermore, he came up with highly convoluted rationalisations for his behaviour.

Who is this man?
You are probably thinking of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer.

But actually, this history also describes that of the highly influential Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sexual abuse it does not matter what the religion, philosophy, denomination, or theological position. They all have their abusers and victims.

There is a new article by Stanley Hauerwas [who played a significant role in bringing Yoder's theology to a wider audience] who wrestles with his own role and response. It makes painful but worthwhile reading.

To me, this tragedy highlights many important lessons.
One lesson is the importance of personal integrity and accountability. Furthermore, as Hauerwas emphasises you cannot separate theology and action. Mind, heart, and body are integrated and inseparable.

Christian leaders (that includes me!) have to take very seriously Paul's exhortation to Timothy:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
You cannot separate life and doctrine. How you act is just as important as what you believe. Unfortunately, believing and speaking the "right" thing is an awful lot easier than living the right way.

Furthermore, we have an incredible capacity for self-delusion. This is particularly true when power, sex, or money are involved.

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