When heroes hurt women

25 09 2018

I don’t think I’ve ever really had a hero. Women and men have mentored me – Mrs. MacDaniel, my high school English teacher; ‘Doc’ Yotes, my high school chemistry teacher; and Drs. Sandy Brown and Richard Peace, professors from seminary. Countless friends have served as both counselors and companions over the years; my colleagues in PA and VA have nurtured me in deep and meaningful ways; and of course my parents have taught me volumes of “life lessons.” But as far as a hero?

Nope! Never had one!

However few people have come closer than Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, in South Barrington, IL. He has been a guide, instructor, motivator, and ‘life coach’ to countless pastors and Church leaders around the world; and beginning back in the early 1990s, he began speaking into my life with profound prophetic wisdom and inspiring evangelistic passion.

Bill put Nancy Beach in a position of leadership at Willow long before women were being allowed to serve in such capacities. He recognized the heresies of the Religious Right back in the days when people first began assuming that following Jesus meant you had to vote Republican. And for the past twenty-plus years, while most people have focused on the dying nature of the Church, Bill Hybels has regarded it as the “hope of the world”.

Needless to say, when Hybels was forced to resign this past summer, just weeks before his retirement, because of sexual indiscretions with members of his staff as well as his congregation, many were saddened and surprised. We were not so much surprised by what he did, because old white men have been doing such things for way too long. We were surprised because a successful and privileged white man with power was finally being held accountable. We all know that nice people, even good pastors, do bad things all the time. But in too many instances, such . . . evil . . . is excused, overlooked, and explained away. Accountability is rare, if not nonexistent!

Now the sexual abuse and exploitation of women by white men in positions of power has gone on for years: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and most recently, in what is no doubt America’s most blatant disrespect for disrespect, Donald Trump. Patriotic charisma has been allowed to overshadow white men’s disregard for and assault of women for decades. “Boys will be boys” we’ve said! “That’s just the way men are wired” we’ve proclaimed. “Who hasn’t done such things when hormones were running crazy?” we’ve asked rhetorically. Even rude and offensive language has been written off as “locker room talk”. Most tragically, much of this dismissal has been at the hands of some of the most religious in our society.

But finally, things are beginning to change; for when heroes hurt women, it’s time for some new heroes! Old white men can no longer keep calling all the shots, and society needs to ensure that what was done to Anita Hill back in 1991 does not happen again. The voices of women need to be listened to, and America’s “Me too” movement must be allowed to continue to shift power, practices, and prejudices.

Unlikely heroes are all around us. Women like Kristina Ruehl, Jessica Leeds, Stephanie Kemplin, and Christine Blakey Ford are people whose names need to become as familiar to us as Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky. For they are this generation’s uncommon heroes. They are women who have not been afraid to stand up and speak up, challenging the status quo, and no longer allowing the voices of women to be silenced.

Is Brett Kavanaugh a bad guy? Who cares? Is he a respectable member of society? Irrelevant! History has revealed that ‘nice’ and ‘respectable’ white men often do bad things. And everyone needs to stop asking about ‘due process’, and insisting that people are innocent until proven guilty. This isn’t a court of law. Today we’re talking about the court of public opinion. And some people still think public opinion matters. Some people today still think that even when not proven in a court of law, some actions and behaviors are unacceptable. And regardless of how slippery that slop is, heroes are willing to go there. And for that, we need to stop condemning them, and ridiculing them, and questioning them; and instead, we need to start thanking them.

No one, at least right now, is saying that Brett Kavanaugh should be thrown in jail. We’re just saying he is not deserving of a life-time seat on the highest court in the land – regardless of his ability to further a political party’s political agenda! He may be a wonderful husband and a father, extremely knowledgeable about law and judicial process, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he is a white man who has abused his privilege and been sexually inappropriate with women. And the women who are willing to say so, and deal with the backlash that comes when they do, need to be applauded and thanked, and acknowledged as the heroes that they are.



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