Today’s post is directed toward those of you who stood up and applauded Andy Savage at Highpoint Church when he confessed to sexual misconduct a few weeks back.
Okay. If I were in the room that Sunday, I might have stood up and applauded as well. It is a powerful thing when it is your pastor who is confessing to this stuff, and I have no way of knowing how I would respond if it were my pastor. BUT…
As I said in the previous post, worship and justice are inextricably linked. Where there is no justice, there is no worship. And there was no justice in what transpired at Highpoint that Sunday.
There is a real victim out there. And you stood up and applauded her attacker.
I refuse to accept that the victim’s–and our–duty to forgive in instances such as this outweighs the perpetrator’s duty to do the hard work of genuine contrition and repentance and humble submission to the consequences of his misdeeds, whatever they may be.
We all love a good story of forgiveness and redemption. I do too. It’s part of who we are as Americans. But don’t go looking for forgiveness/redemption stories where they do not exist. This is not a place where such a story exists. Not at this point, at least. Savage’s statements to the contrary notwithstanding. Dee at The Wartburg Watch has parsed this out in great detail and I find it very difficult to make a case that genuine repentance has occurred as of yet.
“But it was only a minor indiscretion!!!” you say. Okay. So he didn’t get her into bed and…well, you know. The things he did would likely be described by most people as sexual foreplay. You can read the descriptions of Savage’s sexual misdeeds in Woodson’s story here and here, and judge for yourselves. BUT: Savage was Woodson’s youth pastor. He was a clergyman, and one of the responsible adults in her life. She was a minor under his authority and entrusted to his care. Savage’s actions represented a MASSIVE breach of said care and should never have happened in a million years. If Woodson’s math teacher had done what Savage did, he would have lost his job and his ability to teach ever again, and be looking at jail time. Why does the youth pastor get a pass?????
“But it was twenty years ago!!!!!” you say. Sexual sin is in a completely and totally different category from other types of sin. The New Testament writings which address this subject bear this out. Sexual sin leaves a mark that does not go away with time. Thus far Savage has only confessed to committing a minor indiscretion. Even if it legitimately felt like only a minor indiscretion from his perspective, it sure as hell did not feel that way on Woodson’s end. Savage’s misdeeds left a grease stain on her psyche that has not come out even after all these years, and likely will not come out anytime soon. Read her story and judge for yourselves.
“But he was only 22 at the time!!!!! What do you expect?????” you say. There are 22-year-olds who serve in a variety of professions with dignity, class, and professionalism–and who know enough to keep their pants up. With those words you impugn every last one of them.
When Vanessa Williams was Miss America she caused a scandal by posing nude for Playboy (kids: Google). She attempted to defend her actions by saying that she was only nineteen at the time. Lewis Grizzard, then a syndicated columnist for the Atlanta newspaper, responded thusly: “I don’t know where y’all are from but where I’m from nineteen is old enough to know whether or not to take your britches off!!!”
“But we’re all sinners!!!” you say. “Who are we to judge????? Any one of us is just a hairbreadth away from what Savage confessed to, given the right circumstances.” Okay. We are all sinners. We all have different areas and varying degrees of sin and brokenness in our lives. But as noted earlier, sexual sin is in a completely and totally different category from other types of sin, and the Scriptures bear that out. I roundly disagree that all adult males are only a hairbreadth away from molesting underage women. I certainly hope that isn’t the case. People, if you legitimately believed that, you would never let your daughters out of the house for as long as they live!!!!!
I refuse to accept an understanding of total depravity that excuses the worst among us because hey, we’re all sinners.
The secular world did not let this go unnoticed. Neither did the Christian world outside of our evangelical fishtank. Look at the titles of these news stories:
Yep, that’s just about every major news outlet. And they all noticed the standing ovation. Some are calling it “the standing ovation heard round the world“. There’s a reason for that. It tends to be lost on us, as are a lot of things here inside our evangelical fishtank. The evangelical fishtank is a funny place. But the rest of the world, and the rest of Christianity outside our evangelical fishtank, is watching. It isn’t lost on them. The reason is this: When you stand up to applaud a sexual abuser after he confesses said misdeeds, it is wrong. It is monumentally inappropriate. It is unjust.
There is a real live victim out there, people. And you stood up and applauded her abuser.
Think about this from the standpoint of “What does love require of me?”. If you can make a compelling case that what love requires of you is to stand up and applaud a pastor who admits to sexual abuse when his victim is out there somewhere…no. There is no case to be made for that. Not in this universe. Not in any universe.