With the “me too” hashtag on social media, hundreds of women have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. The hope is that fostering a community of voices around this issue will hold men more accountable, change the culture, and support other women (and men) who are survivors of sexual assault.
I could add a number of my own #metoo stories to the chorus, and sadly, I’m sure a lot of people reading this column could, too. But while I certainly see the value of ending the silence and stigma around the issue of sexual assault, I’m not sure that sharing our experiences takes us far enough. To really effect change, we need a #metoo that moves us beyond victims and victimizers, and past the awful sense that predatory behavior is somehow to be expected.
How about #metoo as in, “I’m joining with you in praying about this issue.”
This week, I’ve been praying to discover the ways in which we as Christian Scientists can participate in saying #metoo—ways that bring genuine healing to those who’ve been hurt or harassed, that inspire reformation in those who’ve hurt or harassed others, and that can ultimately bring about an end to sexual intimidation and violence.
Here’s a really simple one. How about #metoo as in, “I’m joining with you in praying about this issue.” There are so many wonderful, individual ways we can be doing this, and our focused, consistent prayers about sexual violence can have a huge impact.
As I’ve prayed over the last few days, one of the things that’s come to me to deal with is my own unaddressed feelings of betrayal and anger toward guys in my life who have crossed the line. That’s not to say those feelings aren’t warranted. But letting them fester, or worse, grow into a more general hatred toward men, doesn’t contribute to healing. So I’ve been asking God to help me think differently. To see both myself and the perpetrator in God’s eyes and to let that conviction of our shared inherent innocence redeem those past moments of pain. This isn’t to excuse what happened. Healing doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Healing brings us to a place where we can face up to what we’ve done, or be lifted above what we experienced—and most of all where our thinking can be purified—and then feel the power of God’s love, propelling us toward change and freedom.
Here’s a #metoo that’s a little more radical. How about #metoo as in, “I’m joining with you in not seeing myself as a victim.” Again, I want to emphasize that this isn’t about ignoring anyone’s pain or a perpetrator’s need for reformation. This is a call for us to go deeper. Through our most humble, earnest spiritual reasoning, let’s pray together to see why there’s not a single individual—man or woman—whose wholeness, innocence, and purity have ever been compromised. This would sound crazy if we didn’t have the profound truth that Christian Science articulates: “The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 151 ). But we do have it, and we can lean on it. We can also ask God to show us why this is true, and how we can live it—and God will answer those prayers.
At times when we feel like our purity has been violated, it’s this spiritual fact—that all that we are, every quality we express, comes from God and is maintained by God—that can help us disbelieve this victim narrative. It’s not always easy, and the relentless mental replay of difficult incidents tries to argue otherwise. But we do have the clarity to trust what God is telling us about our spiritual identity as coming from Him and always intact and safe in Him. This ends the painful replay and heals emotional and physical scars.
These prayers have the potential to help people the world over who have been subject to sexual violence.
Finally, here’s a #metoo that’s probably the most challenging—but also has the potential to do the most good. How about #metoo as in, “I’m joining with you in holding to this fact: Man’s God-created nature is spiritual, not sexual.” As Christian Scientists, we have an inherent understanding that the real nature of God’s creation, including all of us, is spiritual—the pure reflection of Spirit. But we can’t just say, “Yeah, yeah, we know that,” and move on. We have to really get it—know it with all our heart for ourselves and others.
We also have to know what saying “we’re spiritual” implies. For example, being spiritual means that none of the ugly beliefs of mortality can touch us. A spiritual idea can’t be driven by lust, entitlement, a love of power, or a debased view of anyone. The reflection of Spirit could never be weak, helpless, or capable of abusing or being abused. There are no currents of thought that can pull us toward sensuality, or make us think that self-gratification is normal or necessary.
Thinking and praying this way is demanding, and it’s going to require persistence. But these prayers have the potential to help not just our own society, but also people the world over who have been subject to sexual violence. That’s why I hope you’ll respond to this call to join together by saying you’re willing. I hope you’ll lend your voice to the chorus of pray-ers who are saying #metoo.