A lot has been on my mind lately.
Two recent events are weighing heavily on my heart, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on them.
The first hits close to home because, well, it’s geographically quite close to home.
I was born and raised in the shadow of New York City, and I still live within an hour of Manhattan Island. The city has come under the spotlight due to the Eric Garner incident on Staten Island and the ensuing city-wide protests. I won’t bother going into any of the details regarding the protests because, quite frankly, if you don’t already know, you’re probably not interested in what’s happening in the world these days.
The second hits close to home because it concerns my alma mater.
I went to school at a “Bible college” called Bob Jones University. (I’ve written a bit about my experience at that school here.) Since this particular event isn’t sweeping national news, I’ll go ahead and describe a little bit about what’s taking place there.
A few years ago, several churches came under fire following a 20/20 report exposing a child-abuse cover-up at an Independent Fundamental Baptist (or Independent Baptist Fundamentalist, the identifiers are interchangeable) church (Henceforth, IFB). You can watch that story here.
The pastor who orchestrated the cover-up, Chuck Phelps, was on the Board of Trustees at Bob Jones University at the time. A number of students and alumni, organized by then-current student Christopher Peterman, were bothered by the fact that the university maintained Phelps as a board member. Peterman put together the first ever silent protest on the campus of Bob Jones University, an unprecedented act at the time, especially considering the fact that all who participated in the protest were risking expulsion from the university.
This was the beginning of a series of events that uncovered a highly unusual sex abuse scandal spanning several decades with Bob Jones University at the center of it all. The university hired GRACE, a watchdog group that investigates instances of sexual abuse in Christian organizations, to look into reports of sexual abuse related to the school. GRACE published their investigation report last week. I won’t go into any more detail on this because the details aren’t relevant to what I’m trying to get at. If you’re interested in the story, you can read this article by the New York Times, this incredible piece by Al Jazeera, and this insightful and helpful (though understandably emotional and cynical) blog series from a former Bob Jones University student and
school victim abuse survivor.
Here’s my point. These events have become what they are because of people’s unwillingness to see through the eyes of the oppressed. Why is there such a divide between whites and blacks in our country? Because few are willing to look at life from the perspective of those who are oppressed.
Put yourself in their shoes. What are their struggles? What makes them angry? Why do you think it makes them angry? Would that make you angry if you were on the receiving end?
Now, why has the sex abuse scandal at Bob Jones University become such an issue? Because no one was willing to look at the abuse from the perspective of the abused.
What are their struggles? What makes them scared? Why do you think they’re scared? Would that make you scared if you were in their position?
It’s Christmastime. The incredible story that we celebrate this time of year is about someone who left his place of privilege and comfort and put on the skin of the oppressed. It’s not just that he left heaven and became human. He left a cosmic throne and entered a blue-collar family.
Then he suffered incredible abuse and humiliation. And then he forgave his abusers. He didn’t ask them for forgiveness as one preacher advised an abuse victim to do. Why? Because victims don’t have to ask forgiveness of their offenders. There’s nothing to forgive. “Please forgive me for your terrible act that severely damaged me.” It just doesn’t make sense.
I have to admit, I can’t conclude this post the way I wanted to. I’ll leave it here because the more I think about my alma mater, the angrier I get, and my emotion is obscuring where I think this post should go.
But I’m not going to leave this unpublished either because I think there’s something here we can all take to heart. I wonder what would happen if we all looked at life from someone else’s perspective.