A Christian Response to Sexual Harassment

Much has been said in the recent weeks as celebrity after celebrity faces accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. To have a Christian response to all of this might seem silly to some. After all, isn’t our response simply that we think this is wrong and terrible?

Yes, that is an appropriate response. But it is also worthwhile for us to ask (1) how we cultivated a culture that ended up perpetuating this and (2) how we can respond to this epidemic of inappropriate behavior.

How Did We Get Here?

While there is—and always has been—sin everywhere, I think it is striking that so many of those accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment are celebrities. It strikes me because popular culture, which is reflected and influenced by Hollywood, is a culture of loose sexual morals. It is a culture that tells all of us to relax about sex. It is a culture that tells us that we are prudes if we think sex should only be for marriage, that pornography is bad, or that women should post nude selfies.

Popular American culture has tried to say, on the one hand, we should all be casual about sex, but then, on the other hand, that it is a horrific evil if a man makes non-consensual contact with a woman. This seems like a strange pairing.

Now, lest you misunderstand me, I am not advocating for a casual attitude toward men touching women in inappropriate ways. This is evil. But it is also evil for unmarried people to have sex, for people to view pornography, or for people to engage in open marriages.

As Christians, we recognize that sex is never casual. It is part of a covenant between a man and a woman. It seems obvious that sexual harassment and assault has become widespread in our nation—and in Hollywood in particular—because it is a natural outflow of trivializing sex and then shaming anyone who objects to this.

A Big Distinction?

There’s an odd and troubling passage in Genesis 34 in which Jacob’s daughter Dinah is defrauded sexually by a man named Shechem. The odd aspect of the passage is that it is not completely clear whether he raped her or seduced her. Bible scholars debate this because the passage is not clear on the point.

On the one hand, the outcry after the matter (verse 7 says, “Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel”) points to rape. On the other hand, verse 3 says that Shechem loved Dinah and spoke tenderly to her. On top of this, he then sought to marry her. Was this rape or was this seduction.

For those of us living today, it seems unthinkable that we would look at a story and not be clear on whether a woman was raped or seduced. However, for Dinah’s brothers, and for many people living at the time of this story, the distinction was not as sharp. While rape certainly would have been worse than seduction, both were viewed not only as sinful but as a defrauding of a young unmarried woman.

I direct attention to this story because this gives an insight into God’s view of this issue. The ambiguity between rape and seduction is not meant to lessen the horror of rape. It is meant to strengthen the immorality of a man taking advantage of a woman by bedding her without marrying her. If we had that standard today, we would not be fostering a culture of sexual harassment and assault.

What Do We Do?

We can look at how we got to this point as a culture, but then we must ask what we do now. I have two suggestions.

First of all, we as Christians don’t need to be ashamed of practicing or championing God’s wisdom and standards on sexual activity. Don’t be ashamed to teach your kids to save sex for marriage. Don’t be ashamed to practice chastity if you aren’t married. Don’t be ashamed to teach the biblical sexual ethic in Sunday school, in small groups, or in any other setting.

If you sense the world seeking to shame you as a prude, remember that God’s wisdom is always vindicated. And remember also that the world’s loose sexual ethics are part of what has led to the recent mess in our culture.

Second of all, make it a practice to treat your sexuality as something that is private. This not only means reserving sexual activity for marriage but also practicing discretion when it comes to talking about sexuality. In Proverbs 5:15-16 Solomon advises his son (in a not-so-subtle euphemism), “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public square?”

His point is that his son’s sexuality is something that belongs to him and to his wife, and to NO ONE ELSE! If a person is consistently talking about sex or about their body, this invites people into an area of life that is meant to be private. As Christians, we can set a positive tone by treating sex as something important, not as something trivial.

And, by the way, being discrete about sex does not mean that we are ashamed of sex. We aren’t! Sex is a good gift from God. But if you enter an art gallery, you are not permitted to simply touch and handle the art. This is not because the artist is ashamed of his work. It is because it is too valuable to be treated casually. The same is true of our sexuality. If we handle sex with a bit of reverence and respect, we will avoid a great deal of pain and sin and destruction.

By | 2017-11-21T09:27:52+00:00 November 21st, 2017|Categories: LBF Church|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Disappointedbymen January 6, 2018 at 7:39 am - Reply

    This is such a bad take on a systemic problem which permeates all aspects of a woman’s everyday life, and is not just limited to celebrities. Sit back, and I’ll tell you a little story about Life Bible Fellowship church. When I was a young girl, my best friend in youth group was sleeping with the youth pastor. They were in a relationship. She was 14 if I remember correctly, and he was in his early 30s. I didn’t report it at the time because it seemed unremarkable. She seemed happy; he seemed happy. Now, I’m horrified. If you think LBF is unique, you would be wrong. Every single woman has a story. I’d be willing to bet that most of them haven’t “posed nude.” Are you that daft? Let me give you some advice: if you are a white, cis-het male, you are the least qualified person to bloviate on sexual harassment. That girl? Of course, she left the church long ago, her scars evident to all who meet her. I was reading the blog in hopes of finding a new home church. I guess I will rule out LBF.

    • Dan Franklin
      Dan Franklin January 6, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

      I’m really sorry that you found this post to be so troubling. I would be more than willing to hear what specific points I made that you found troubling. In the meantime, I’ll share just a couple of thoughts.
      1. I know nothing of the case with the youth pastor. If that happened, then that is horrible and wrong. I would never defend that.
      2. I don’t believe that I said anything in the video about LBF being unique. I think there are problems everywhere. My reason for doing this episode was not to elevate our church or to say that we have no problems. It was to speak about this issue so that people inside and outside LBF can make good decisions that will keep them from falling into traps.
      3.As i said, I am willing to hear your objections. I suggest, though, that I don’t think the fact that I am a “white, six-het male” makes me unqualified to speak about this issue. If you would like to object to a specific point that I made, I would be happy to discuss it. If you want to email me directly, you can do so at danfranklin@lbfchurch.com.

  2. Hestilldoesntgetit January 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    1) You said “if.” This is why women don’t come forward. Why would anyone make that up? That is also why I’m protecting my identity. The church would shame me for telling the truth, I’m sure.
    2) I said “IF you think LBF is unique, you’d be wrong.” You should learn to read words. Just this week, a story similar to mine made headlines around the nation. My point is that it is a systemic problem, has nothing to do with women posing nude or our celebrity culture, and has everything to do with men being awful. Men have always been awful. Your take on Dinah fires me up, too. You need to listen to some women, and stop talking for a minute. I am so angry that you are pastoring sheep using this drivel.
    3) I didn’t write six-het. I can’t even pretend to guess what that might be. Your life experience makes you ill-qualified to talk about this subject.
    4) If you would like some victim sensitivity training, let me know, and I’ll contact you directly. Otherwise, LISTEN TO WOMEN. My first reply was very clear and concise, yet you responded in a rush before considering what I had to say – not a great look for a pastor. Remember, that you will be judged for what you teach. This teaching, sir, is wrong. Good day.

    • Dan Franklin
      Dan Franklin January 10, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts. It seems like you have experienced a lot of pain and disappointment, and I really grieve at that. If you ever want to have a conversation with me–or with our Women’s Pastor Marnie Grigsby–I think you would find people anxious to listen and to help. In the meantime, may God’s blessing be with you.

  3. Colleen January 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    This is pretty horrific commentary.
    The reason “Hollywood” is having this reckoning is due to one big reason. Power in Hollywood is more fluid than in the rest of society. You can be the starting out, powerless actress or assistant one year and a hugely powerful rich bankable actress or producer 10 years late. Contrast this to the church where the women are always less powerful than ministers. Contrast this to the business sector where it is incredibly rare that a starting intern would ever outrank her boss.
    These women have power now. They have their own audiences where they don’t have to be dependent on their minister, police, prosecutors, journalists, editors, or human resources departments to protect or validate them in order to get justice.
    The most sexually assaulted group of people in America is those with mental disabilities. So how does that reconcile with your “it’s all the fault of sexualized popular culture” meme?

    • Dan Franklin
      Dan Franklin January 11, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Colleen. I guess we have different opinions on this issue.

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