In the fallout of what has been dubbed America’s “Pervnado” (pervert tornado) by the New York Post, a particularly annoying hashtag began to trend on Twitter. Following the lead of the #MeToo movement, an effort by women to draw attention to the widespread problems of sexual harassment and abuse they’ve endured at the hands of men by simply sharing their stories, a “#ChurchToo” slogan began to make the rounds.
Right off the bat there is a huge distinction between #MeToo and #ChurchToo. The former focuses on the victims and their stories; the latter focuses on and singles out Christians as bad guys. Even if you were inclined to give the originators of the hashtag “ChurchToo” the benefit of the doubt and say that they weren’t lost souls who hated Christ and saw a chance to humiliate His church, rational thinking should have told anyone this was far more likely a call to condemn church than community catharsis.
Please understand this is not about hiding the sins committed by people in the church. Of course there are crimes committed by people who attend churches and even lead churches. That’s because those who attend and lead churches are sinners. They are not immune to temptation. They are not infallible or incapable of falling victim to sin’s attraction.
And where they have committed crimes, they should be punished not only by the state, but they must be chastened by the church as their crime brings disrepute and disgrace upon the name of Jesus. One can be unequivocal on that principle while also believing it is not wise to join a movement that, intentional or not, promotes the lie that the church of Jesus is a place to be avoided.
The problem with #ChurchToo is that it doesn’t seem to appropriately target the criminals – it targets the church as though the institution itself is a haven for sexual immorality. This is both ironic, given that the church is often criticized in our culture for condemning sexual immorality, and incorrect.
Consider: Wade Mullen, the director of the Masters of Divinity program at Capital Seminary published this on Twitter as justification for his support of the movement:
“In 2016 I began compiling a list of reports of evangelical pastors charged or arrested for a crime in the United States. There were 143 such reports in the year 2016 alone. More than 90 of them were sex crimes. #churchtoo is a much needed wake-up call.”
Obviously that makes any believer sick to their stomach to read that 143 people were victims of pastoral predation. But why would any believer not prefer outing and shaming the 143 criminals publicly rather than offering a blanket condemnation of America’s 600,000 ministers – many of whom work daily to rebuild and redeem the lives of so many of these victims?
“There are an estimated 600,000 pastors in America right now. So, 143 infractions is 0.00023833% of the pastoral population.”
To put that in perspective, there are 1,800 Target stores in the United States. The Christian Post reported 10 crimes of girls being targeted while undressing in those store bathrooms since the enactment of the company’s transgender bathroom policy. That is 0.0055555% of Target bathrooms. By this logic, a #TargetToo movement would be far more beneficial in protecting the innocent.
Believers should be leery about participating in any modern hashtag “awareness” movement that brings contempt or distrust upon the truth that is preached in churches. By all means, call out the sin in our midst, pray for it to be exposed and confronted. Specific cases of sexual abuse or misconduct in the pastorate should never be swept under the rug, ignored, or overlooked, nor should the pain and shame felt by victims of such abuse be disregarded. God is obviously not glorified by doing so.
But neither is He glorified in contributing to any effort that slanders His bride.