Observation: Reasons for Sexual Abuse in Christianity

A woman looks outside from the window.
A woman looks outside from the window.
By Li DaonanMarch 12th, 2021

This title may seem biased against Christianity because sexual abuse is prevalent not only among Christians but also other religious leaders. Christianity is no worse than other religions when it comes to this. I chose this title because the main issue in this article concerns sexual assault by Christians.

Whenever the keywords "sexual assault by Christians" is typed on a search engine, a long list of cases and words pop up, some of which are news reports, disclosures, complaints, and some of solidarity. It can be said that the number of sexual assault cases in the aspect of religion is none lesser than that of the society, rather it is even more; what we see is only the tip of the iceberg.

Because religions often emphasize the sanctity of the objects they believe in, they also emphasize the sanctity of the clergy. Thus, the clergy is equipped with a divine aura that can serve as a good camouflage tool used to carry out sexual abuse in the name of sanctity. Therefore, religious sexual abuse is more hidden than social secular cases.

Most incidents of sexual assault that have been exposed and reported in the media so far have been of leaders of large churches, such as the late evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias, whose sexual abuse was reported in "Christianity Today" last September. This is because these large churches are often paid more attention to, and the number of women who have been assaulted is high; if the demands of these women are heard, the sexual abuse cases can be made clear for everyone to see. For smaller churches, abuse may be more common, but the women who are victims are often too shy to come forward because of their reputations, and too often because they are alone and their voices cannot be heard.

We should ask why sexual abuse is a frequent occurrence in Christianity, which is based on the doctrine of holiness and high moral standards.

In my opinion, there are reasons why sexual abuse occurs in Christian institutions, and it is done majorly by priests and leaders of large churches. The main reasons may be as follows.

The divine halo effect of the clergy

Christian doctrine emphasizes the sanctity of the object of worship. The emphasis on God's sanctity and holiness is the core doctrine of Christianity. In the Old Testament, we can see that the Jewish temple has the Holy of Holies, which is a place of absolute sanctity and holiness. Although Christianity broke the system of temple worship, the emphasis on God's holiness, and therefore the sanctity of the church, is still one of the core elements of the church.

The emphasis of the Jews on the Holy of Holies is to raise the status of the priests, thus strengthening their authority. The emphasis of Christianity on God's holiness brings about the sanctification of the clergy.

God's holiness is true, but Jesus did not separate it from the world and life. When he was nailed to the cross, the heavens were opened, and the veil of the holy place was torn apart, which means that Jesus has broken the holiness that God established based on separation.

Traditional Christianity has continued with the Judaism model in the aspect of God's holiness, which guarantees the holiness of God by sanctification, and the separation of man and God to ensure the holiness of God.

Thus, the clergy have the divine aura of the Jewish high priest, which leads to the worship of the clergy. The clergy, under the divine aura, believed that they could do whatever they wanted, which began to stir evil thoughts in their hearts.

Lack of discernment between holiness and sexual discrimination

We often hear that God's judgment must begin with his family. So who is the family of God? The obvious answer is the clergy. Since God's judgement begins with them, we, as believers, do not have to investigate the crimes of the clergy, but simply hand them over to God. This notion provides an excuse for protecting sexual abuse by clergies.

Secondly, once sexual abuse by the clergy is exposed by a few brave people, believers under the influence of the clergy's divine aura will blame the victims and accuse them of causing discord. Just like the woman brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees and accused of adultery, too often believers tend to blame the female victims for such matters rather than looking at it fairly and objectively. This leaves those who disclose such matters isolated, thus concealing the sexual abuse by clergy.

Lack of legal conception by believers

Perceiving the traditional church as holy has created tension between the church and society. The church is regarded as God's family and society as an evil world; therefore, when a problem occurs in the church, it cannot be measured by social standards. As a result, believers often attempt to solve the problem internally by praying for God's instructions or informing other clergies, further reducing the possibility of such an event being exposed. And this also encourages the clergy who perpetrated the abuse, which leads to further development of the situation.

Believers have a poor understanding of their own doctrines

Before committing sexual assault, the clergies may need to falsely indoctrinate their victims in order to legitimize the act. Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical apologist, sexually abused a female believer, telling her it was his reward for serving God and likening himself to those godly men in the Bible who have more than one wife. Apparently, this female believer was a divine gift from God to him.

Traditional church believers often get their understanding of the doctrines from the clergy, so the clergy becomes the sole interpreter of the doctrines, the single-channel through which believers get their knowledge of the doctrines. The understanding of the doctrine often comes from the interpretation of clergy. Through this way, the clergy can use this convenience to create a doctrinal convenience for justification for their sexual abuse.

To put an end to this situation, on the one hand, we should break the divine aura of the clergy, lay aside the religious concept of the Jews being necessarily holy, come to God by ourselves, study and read more, to end the monopoly of the clergy on the interpretation of doctrines. On the other hand, we need to say no to violations by the clergy, bravely stand out to expose their evil and use social laws to protect our legitimate rights and interests. Also, believers should put a stop to gender discrimination, objectively judge illegal violations in the church and protect the vulnerable.

Only when the church acts as a whole can we protect ourselves and protect the Christian image from damage.

- Translated by Nonye Nancy

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