There is a trend that the church simply cannot afford to ignore – cybermisogyny and harassment of women “in the name of Christ”. I wish I was joking.
I’ve talked before about what I call “Trolls For Christ” – the worst kind of ill-informed Pharisee determined to spill hate in defence of the church. Just recently I penned an open letter to a church leader engaged in cybermisogyny dressed up as a book review.
This “defending the church” argument in support of cybermisogyny (because it targets women far more than men) is wrong on two grounds – a minor point but the church does not need us to defend it (that’s taken care of, read the Bible) but more importantly – because hate speech should have no part in Christian living. Not ever.
Jesus talked about being meek, turning the other cheek, forgiving sins, and healing people. Somehow we have made it all about defending our rights. Did we forget that he said over and over that when someone tries to trample your rights – help them to do it? If they sue you for your coat, give them also your shirt. If someone compels you to go a mile, go two miles. That is literally where the expression “to go the extra mile” comes from.
How bad is cybermisogyny?
The Guardian reports that women writers are facing unprecedented levels of harassment, rape threats, and abuse.
In 2014 there was an organised campaign of harassment that became known as GamerGate. The harassment campaign targeted several women in the video game industry; notably game developers Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu, and media critic Anita Sarkeesian.
WMC report that this can include defamation and accusations of blasphemy. Defamation, in this case, can include coordinated attempts where a person, or, sometimes, organized groups deliberately flood Google, social media and review sites with negative and defamatory information.
As for the blasphemy charges…
Women face online threats globally, but they run a unique risk in conservative religious countries, where, in blasphemy is against the law and where honor killings are a serious threat. Accusing someone of blasphemy can become, itself, an act of violence.
A 2013 report from the organisation Working to Halt Abuse Online showed that 72.5% of those who reported being abused on the internet were female. That, right there, is cybermisogyny.
This all culminated in a campaign under the hashtag #MeToo. How did the church respond?
What is the church doing about cybermisogyny?
Is the church speaking up those that have no voice like the scriptures say (Proverbs 31:8)? Do we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15-18)? Do we, as God’s law command, protect the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)?
No. No, we do not.
We don’t do this because the church is too busy joining in with the cybermisogyny. We cannot condemn the sin because we are the sin.
To all the people who are sending me messages like this one via my website Contact Page (many of those messages with language too foul & offensive for me to post here) please stop. It serves no purpose, it just causes me pain. Nothing about this models God’s love or grace. pic.twitter.com/9ttW28jdts— Vicky Beeching (@vickybeeching) July 20, 2018
Australian Christian news website, Eternity News, shared an article dedicated to ordinary women revealing sexual harassment by Christians.
And we wonder why the church is not seen as relevant any more?
Disagreeing with you is not a sin, church
I hate to have to be the one pointing this out because I thought we were past these basics but disagreeing with someone while being a woman is not a sin; harassing a person you disagree with is a sin, though.
Treating women like something you can own is a sin.
This cybermisogyny, protecting cybermisogyny, and failing to speak out against cybermisogyny from Christians are all sins too.
It is not okay to call women all kinds of names, to suggest their character, their faith, or their life is anything less than it is just because the way they interpret the Bible or chose to live their lives, differs from the way you do.
Jesus said, in John 13:35, that it would be our love for each other that would show we are his disciples. This behaviour shows that we are not His disciples. Maybe few of us ever were.
The church needs to repent, and fast
The moment #MeToo started to break headlines, church groups the world over should have joined with the oppressed and cried out for justice. We did not and that is to our shame.
Our churches must, most urgently, change how we address sexual violence. So far we have done too poor a job of even recognising that it exists. We have failed to be salt and light. I think we all know all that salt which is no longer salty is good for?
I don’t pretend to have a plan for how we can change but Eugene Hung has some strong suggestions.
- Ministers and their churches need to address sexual violence on a regular basis.
- Ministers and churches must not neglect biblical passages that describe sexual violence.
- Churches need to bring more women into upper levels of leadership and decision-making authority.
- Church leaders must refuse to be party to conspiracies of silence.
We need to change and we need to change fast.