From Genesis to Revelation to Us
“Me Too.” Tarana Burke coined this phrase back in 2006.
It all began with Myspace. Before Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—there was Myspace. Today, this online platform still exists but is irrelevant to most of us. We often associate the Me Too movement with something more contemporary: the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations and subsequent trials.
In October 2017, celebrity Alyssa Milano made the hashtag #MeToo go viral by tweeting, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” How swiftly and powerfully multitudes of women came together to openly share their stories of sexual harassment and assault from people of power. #MeToo created a sense of honesty and empathy that drew out testimonies from thousands of women online. Through the simple unifying tool of a hashtag, women realized that they were not alone, but that sadly, experiences of harassment are extremely common.
Is this primarily a women’s issue? Yes, it largely is—91 percent of victims of rape and sexual assault are female and 9 percent are male. And while many may imagine these nightmare scenarios happening in a dark alley in the wrong part of town, in 8 out of 10 cases the victim knows the perpetrator. This widespread problem affects women around the world, and it affects the women you relate with every day.
A massive problem
I want to say that the problem is bigger than we ever knew, but I’m not sure that’s the truth. We’ve always known that women are regularly on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances. More than 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. Nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced completed rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are shocking. But #MeToo isn’t about the shock factor. It’s about how unsurprised women are. You’ve been sexualized against your will? So have I. We are half the global population, and yet we can all empathize together in this familiar experience.
If the movement is intended to include harassment, as mentioned in the original tweet, almost 100 percent of women would be qualified to state “Yes. Me too.” Some women would choose not to participate in the #MeToo movement because of the pain of resurfacing trauma, and this should be honored. But whether it is an extreme case of assault or just an unwanted comment, most women can relate to this movement. The magnitude is beyond what the general public previously acknowledged.
Myspace is old, but the pattern of sexual harassment against women is even older. If Tarana Burke’s original post is from 2006 and didn’t gain momentum until it resurfaced 11 years later, how far back does this problem go? It goes back several millennia and has not improved through the generations. The crisis that #MeToo is addressing is not a trend that will fade away with today’s young people—this is a deeply–rooted human problem that has been passed down through the years and adapts to match the culture.
As old as time
At the inception of human history, Satan launched an intentional demonic attack against women. I recognize that my language here is strong, and I weigh my words carefully. In Genesis 2, the enemy approaches Eve first. When Adam and Eve sin, God curses the serpent and we catch a glimpse of what is to come: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15). War is declared between Satan and women. This is echoed again in Revelation 12, when Satan is portrayed as a serpent who intends to devour the offspring of a woman in labor. The child is born and reigns on the throne, but the serpent continues to pursue the woman. He is enraged at her (Revelation 12:17), and wages war against her and her offspring. From the first to the last book of the Bible, Satan hates women.
History repeats itself
Sexual violence against women is also a pattern found in the historical books in Scripture. In 2 Samuel 11, we have the infamous story of David and Bathsheba. The record only states that King David saw her bathing, sent someone to get her, and then they slept together. This was a king with immense power, using his authority and connections to take advantage of a woman, with or without her consent. Would Bathsheba have been allowed to reject the king? David flexed his social power and used it to abuse Bathsheba.
Unchecked privilege and power are at the center of the #MeToo movement. When some people are given power without limits, they can begin to think that others exist only to meet their desires. This is one reason why we need both men and women together in positions of influence.
In 2 Samuel 13, Amnon becomes obsessed with Tamar and calls his feelings “love.” He manipulates the circumstances so that they are alone, and though she clearly protests, he rapes her. Once it is done, he suddenly hates Tamar and cannot stand the sight of her. Tamar is not given justice, but instead her brother Absalom encourages her not to “take it to heart.” Amnon is the clear villain in this account, but Absalom was in a position to defend his sister, and instead diminishes her trauma. How many women today have also been encouraged not to take their abuse to heart? We are told to forgive, to avoid making a big scene, to smile and to move on.
The hatred of women has always been a demonic influence among humans, and it continues in our generation. The #MeToo movement has pulled back the curtain on sexual predators in Hollywood and in other positions of influence. Women are speaking up, more than before, and the darkness is coming to the light. I would encourage women in the Church to do the same. If you have been assaulted or harassed by a spiritual leader, as you feel ready, please tell someone. You do not need to protect such a person’s reputation, we need to know the truth.
A different way
Jesus shows a different way. Jesus includes women, even encouraging Mary’s counter–cultural choice to sit in the place of a disciple and learn (Luke 10:42). Jesus protects women, not allowing husbands to divorce and abandon their wives just because they are done with them (Matthew 5:31–32). Jesus honors women, praising the so–called “sinful woman” for her choice to worship Him, and declaring that she would be remembered in the history books (Mark 14:9). Jesus relates with women as human beings, having an extended heart–to–heart conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, even though this would have been considered inappropriate at the time (John 4:1–26). Jesus defends women, refusing to shame a woman who was brutally, publicly, and singularly punished for committing adultery (John 8:11). Jesus listens to women, granting the request of the Canaanite woman who asked for healing for her daughter, and affirming her great faith (Matthew 15:28).
The #MeToo movement does not need to cause us fear or division. Instead, let’s be inspired to act like Jesus. Let’s include women, ensuring they are equally trained and promoted as men are. Like Jesus, let’s protect women, creating a Kingdom culture that does not allow them to be pushed aside. Like Jesus, let’s honor women, recognizing their value and their significant contribution, rather than only observing their past. Like Jesus, let’s relate to women as human beings, unafraid to engage them in thoughtful dialogue and to send them out to preach. Like Jesus, let’s defend women, shutting down those who would condemn them while simultaneously holding a high bar of holiness. Like Jesus, let’s listen to women, hearing and responding to their needs and acknowledging their significant strengths.
Let’s fight for a Church that is not rife with testimonies of abuse, but rather with radical stories of inclusion and honor.
by Captain Olivia Munn–Shirsath