I was talking to my fiancee about this well-understood dynamic we have in Christianity, where since the church prioritizes forgiveness and repentance/redemption, it is also a haven for abusers of all varieties and stripes, but particularly male abusers of children and women. When their aggressions come to light, they are treated as grave-but-forgivable sins. The person who has committed the offense merely needs to act contrite in front of the church leaders and maintain that God has forgiven him.
If God has forgiven the repentant abuser, we are assured, then who do we believe we are to not do likewise? We are sinning against God. And moreso against redemption – this idea supposedly unique to Christianity that those who have done wrong can be made right again; those broken can be fixed; sold can be bought back.
Testimony time in the fundamentalist and evangelical church is rife with people who once were lost and now are found. And the more lost they were, the more attractive their stories. We celebrate the bad-boys-gone-good. For if God could change a murderer, God is still good, right?
While not exactly the same formula is used in progressive circles, there is still this stretch, this application, this remnant of redemption. Redemption is a prize over safety. It’s sexier. If the church area is justice-oriented, well, even better.
Justice-oriented spaces prioritize messengers who are also redeemed.
The man who -despite all odds – became a feminist and is now a national leader and speaker on feminism.
The white guy who teaches – for a price – how to not be racist.
The spousal abuser who speaks, and writes against violence.
How much brave.
Too many redemptive.
God used a donkey. God used Saul of Tarsus. God can use them. – We’re told. Time and again.
But these redemption stories aren’t quite… redemptive. They don’t encourage repentance, but cheap grace. Redemption is something earned – the traitor has to earn (back) trust, not authority and responsibility. They can make things right, possibly, but it is up to those they have wronged to decide that.
To do so minimizes those hurt the most and tells them that they are not safe in these spaces.
Then what kind of Christianity are we enacting?
What sort of justice are we fighting for?
One that prizes the powerful over those who they’ve disempowered. Those with megaphones against those they’ve devoiced. We prize the very ones we are supposed to be fighting against because they have done a great job of presenting this image as protectors of the powerless. So good that they cannot allow messages that counter their narrative to be loose out there on the internet.