Bob Jones University, an extremely conservative Christian university famous for carrying on a ban on interracial dating through 2000, has hired GRACE (Godly Response to Sexual Abuse in a Church Environment) to help investigate sexual assault on its campus
Bob Jones University had nine reported sexual assaults in the 2011 year. While more sexual assault reports can be correlated with a culture that encourages sexual assault survivors to come forward, it can also, in this case, be indicative of bad practices. Especially when you consider that all the assaults were carried out be a single individual, who has been suspended rather than expelled. And when you consider that in 2010, it came out that a member of Bob Jones’ Board of Trustees, Chuck Phelps, had been covering up decades of sexual abuse at his church, and required a sexual abuse victim to read a statement at church saying that she committed adultery. And when you consider the fact that Bob Jones himself has said its not rape if it happens more than once, and it seems as though Bob Jones University has a culture of tolerating sexual assault and discouraging victim reporting.
The university has encouraged students to come forward through an anonymous, online survey, and hired GRACE to help carry out an investigation, which they will make publicly available. It is hard to say whether GRACE would be able to equal a secular organization in fighting sexual assault- but looking at their website, GRACE seems to be an earnest organization with good ideas about fighting sexual assault, fighting the victim-blaming that so often goes into attempts to right the wrong of sexual assault. They condemn the victim-blaming nature of church “investigations” into their own sexual abuse, and they make strong statements like this one,
What these criminals are doing to the victims destroys them emotionally, inflicting emotional injury that will last the rest of their lives. It not only devastates the lives of the victims, it does untold harm to the victims’ relationships with their future spouses and children. There is nothing that could ever be presented that should allow an abuser — or the church — to minimize this sin.
Notice that Saul not only tried to deny and excuse his disobedience but also tried to minimize the sinfulness of it by reasoning with Samuel that the animals were saved to sacrifice to the Lord (I Samuel 15:15).
Proverbs 21:3 says: To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice(NASB).
There is no conscionable way we can minimize this sin, yet because it is so troubling to believe that it is happening in the Body of Christ, many are willing to deny, excuse, and minimize it … whatever it takes to ease their consciences.
It seems to me that acceptance of sexual assault is widespread in far right Christianity, as it is in any conservative culture, as it is in almost every contemporary culture, for that matter. But GRACE’s mission statement offers hope for change – perhaps Christianity can fix Christianity.