If adults are talking about something that they see on the news, then teenagers are talking about it too. And I know what headlines my friends and I are talking about: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, the #MeToo movement, and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers.
I spent my entire drive to the church on Sunday morning playing through what I would say to our teenagers, because I had realized a dangerous truth: that if we as a youth ministry didn’t say something, the teenagers would think that we as their Christian community had nothing to say. That the church, the Bible, Jesus, had nothing to say about this. I felt like I had to say something, because the Jesus that I know, definitely does have something to say.
Here’s what I told them:
“Jesus stands on the side of the victim, the oppressed, the abused. Always. Jesus saves his harshest rebukes for those who abuse their power, and calls us to protect the widows and orphans. He believes and listens to and loves those who his society pushed to the margins, including women and children.
Our gospel promises a life that is full and abundant, a life of hope, joy, peace, grace, and love. We were not made to live lives of fear or shame, especially because of the actions of another. The Holy Spirit is always at work bringing those things of God — hope, peace, grace, love, joy, and truth — even if it means rooting out and bringing to light some of the things that hold us back from that.
Secondly — this is not an adult’s issue. Many of the women and men coming forward are reporting now about abuse and harassment they faced as teenagers. Things that ate away at them for sometimes decades before they were able to tell someone. My first #MeToo experience was when I was 14. I didn’t talk to anyone about it until I got to college.
Our gospel declares what it always declares when we face darkness in our world: it doesn’t have to be this way. If these stories on the news are stirring conversations between you and your friends, or even memories in your head that you don’t feel like you can share — know this: I believe you, I love you, I’m sorry, you are not alone, and this is not your fault. You don’t have to have all the words figured out, be able to demonstrate that you’re a perfect angel, or anything. You’re still kids, and it’s OK to call in reinforcements. That’s why we’re here.
I’m sorry that the world is broken, and that that brokenness leads men who have power to abuse those who do not. May all of us who have been hurt by that brokenness find healing, and may all of us use the power we have (because of the country we were born in, our money, our gender, our job, the color of our skin) to protect those who are vulnerable and be God’s people in the world.”
Today, I am grateful for the bravery showed by women and men who have come forward about abuse and harassment they have faced, and I am grateful that we serve a God who doesn’t just have something to say about it, but whose heart is so deeply broken by oppression and suffering that God would send God’s son to walk alongside us in the middle of it. May we be as brave.