More on “Me-Too”: The Amazing Witness of Rachael Denhollander
Today Christianity Today magazine published an interview with Rachael Denhollander. A member of the USA Gymnastics Team and a Christian, she was assaulted by Larry Nasser at age 15. Sixteen years later she was the first woman to come forward to accuse the highly respected Michigan State University faculty member. Her courage made a path through the Red Sea waters.
In this interview with the evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, Denhollander offers a powerful example of the courage which I described in my post yesterday (“The Me-Too Movement: Some Thoughts”). In fact, she offers a perfect example of my discussion of the passage from John 9. Dennhollander’s witness cost her her church.
What struck me most is how serious and faithful a Christian Denhollander is. She has done some profound, real-life, theological work in relation to her experience of abuse and being a disciple of Jesus Christ facing this evil.
An evangelical Christian, Denhollander says that “Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse . . . It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help . . . When I did come forward as an abuse victim, this part of my past was wielded like a weapon by some of the elders of the church to further discredit my concern.”
Denhollander says the problem is bad theology.
“People (in the church) are motivated by poor theology and a poor understanding of grace and repentance and that causes them to handle sexual assault in a way where a lot of predators go unchecked . . . It’s devastating enough when money and medals are put against sexual assault victims. But when the gospel of Christ is wielded like a weapon against . . . victims, that’s wicked. There’s no other way to say it.”
One of the most powerful parts of Dennhollander’s testimony is her insistence that forgiveness and justice belong together and cannot be uncoupled.
“. . . forgiveness can really be misapplied. Taken within the context of my statement, with the call for justice and with what I have done to couple forgiveness and justice, it should not be misunderstood . . . Both of those are biblical concepts. Both of those represent Christ. We do not do well when we focus only one of them.”
“Forgiveness can really be misapplied.” You can say that again — and again. When forgiveness and justice are separated the Gospel is distorted.
“Obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.”
However much the church failed Rachael Dennhollander in the midst of this crisis, some Christians and perhaps some church have formed a person of incredible faith and courage in this woman.
To read the whole, remarkable testimony, click here.