What the Church can Learn from Weinsteingate

It’s very tempting for Christians to take the moral high ground as the evils of Hollywood’s god, Harvey Weinstein, are brutally exposed and rightly denounced.

Even film-makers, actors, and actresses who have made millions of dollars portraying women as men’s sex-objects are now bravely lining up with the masses to denounce someone who…em, well…treated women as men’s sex-objects.

But before we charge up the hill to the high ground and start our moral lectures, perhaps we need to pause and learn some moral lessons ourselves. As church history makes clear, especially recent church history, many churches have their own Harvey Weinsteins (though not on the same scale, unless you include the Catholic church), and we haven’t covered ourselves in glory in dealing with them.

1. The most powerful Christian leaders need the most accountability. 

Unfortunately, the more powerful and successful a man becomes, usually the less accountable he becomes. He answers to no one but himself and those around him (e.g. elders, deacons, boards of directors) are often afraid to challenge him. As a result, behavior that we would not tolerate in our children is ignored, the man’s sense of impregnability increases, and he eventually views himself as untouchable.

2. A person’s gifts and usefulness should never be used to cover or balance out evil.

Just as, “But he makes great films,” and, “But he makes us lots of money,” were used for decades to excuse Weinstein’s abuse, so “But he preaches great sermons” and “But he brings in lots of people/money/publicity” can also excuse a Christian leader’s abuses. Great gifts and great success must never be used to justify inactivity in the face of great evil.

3. Evil leaders need enablers to succeed in their evil.

Everyone around Weinstein knew what was going on, and many of them, including female employees, not only turned a blind eye, but even facilitated his wickedness. It’s virtually impossible for a man to engage in multiple abuses without people around him allowing it and even enabling it. Those are are complicit in evil like this share the guilt and must share the consequences of the penalty too.  It’s not enough to say, “Well he’s gone, now let’s get the show on he road again.” No! Who else knew and did nothing? Who enabled him? Who defended him? Who attacked his accusers?

4. Multiple rumors must be investigated.

Leaders in any walk of life, including the church, are vulnerable to false accusations. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that accusations against an elder need two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). However, when the number of witnesses begins to multiply beyond that, serious investigation must take place. As with Weinstein, too often people have heard multiple accusations and had their suspicions for years, but they never acted on them. They never followed up. They never investigated further. And the result was that multiple others needlessly suffered.

And remember, those who have the courage to come forward are usually the tip of an iceberg. From what I’ve seen, for every victim you know of, you can probably count a few more that no one knows about and another few more that he’s grooming for the future.

5. Victims must be cared for.

When a high profile figure falls, you’ll often get people who can only feel sorry for the fallen man. Expensive schemes are put in place for his “treatment,” his counseling, and his rehab. Prayers are offered for him, sermons about forgiveness,  grace, and not judging are preached. Perhaps financial settlements are reached to ease his family through loss of income and so on. But hardly a thought or a cent is sent the victims’ ways. This is completely upside-down, inside-out, and back-to-front. They are the victims and he is the victimizer. They are the church’s priority, not him.

6. Men need women to understand sexual assault.

Men often find it difficult to understand the deep and long damage done to victims of sexual assault. What to a man seems minor and insignificant can be huge to a woman. Already I’ve seen some opinionators downplaying some of the Weinstein assaults: “He just kissed her or hugged her…He just exposed himself…he just asked for a massage…he didn’t rape her…” and so on. I’ve heard even Christian men saying things like that concerning other cases.

In these kinds of situations, male leaders in the church need the help of women if they are to begin to understand how even the slightest sexual advance without consent can cause such deep and long pains. Surely we can devise ways of retaining the biblical mandate for male officebearers while incorporating female wisdom in such critical areas?

7. One strike and you’re out.

The ink was barely dry on the first Weinsteingate headline when the fallen man was telling the cameras, “I’m going to rehab…I’m asking for a second chance.” He’s hardly hit the ground and he’s already thinking about how to make a comeback! That might make for a good story in Hollywood but it must never happen in the church. Go flip burgers, anything, but don’t even think about shepherding God’s lambs again. Yes, there can be personal forgiveness, but if you lay a finger on a woman who is not your wife, there is no way back into church leadership. If more Christian leaders knew on this front that it’s one strike and you’re out, there would be far fewer walking to the plate.

Saint Harvey

Here’s where the church must really differ from Hollywood, and that’s in the Gospel grace we still offer to monsters like Weinstein. Yes, even Harvey, if he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Christ alone for salvation, can go to heaven and live forever as a saint of God. Does that offend you? Then the Gospel offends you. Our reaction to such a possibility is an accurate gauge of how much we really understand the Gospel, and especially our own need of it.