The last couple of weeks have been intense on the societal reflection front. The Roastbusters scandal has had so much said about it, so much about what it shows about our society, it is hard to know whether to say anything else.
A few things seem clear about our society from all of it:
We do have a sexual violence issue. That is not new, but I guess at least it is being talked about, and maybe more will be done to help victims of sexual violence and coercion, if some of the petitions and other voices are taken seriously.
We do have an alcohol issue. That is not new.
We do have a culture so over-sexualised that young women (and others) can be thought of as ‘things’ rather than precious people made in the image of God, dehumanised in their perceived status as sexual commodities to be ‘taken’ (even without consent) or ‘won’. That is not new, but it is acute now in a way it may never have been before – this has been painfully brought to the fore by the way these girls were treated, and even the way some young women have themselves spoken about their sexuality in the aftermath. With that, too, perhaps the effects of treating sex the way our culture does will get a little more airtime now. I hope so.
But in reading a few things about this whole horrible incident, in comments made about it and about the messes and scandals surrounding it, it seemed to me one thing was worth saying from a gospel point of view:
We are not that different.
Jesus’ words were rightly enough brought up in one comment I saw about this – where Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23:
"What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come– sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
What I don’t think quite came across from the commenter who used this passage though, is the massive implications of this. Namely – these sort of things come out of all of our hearts.
See what I have seen in discussion around this scandal with regards to the perpetrators of this atrocity, the Roastbusters members themselves, has been largely either:
a) defend them or lessen what they have done by shifting the questioning back to the victims. This has received a lot of focus and rightly so – nothing can justify the sort of actions these guys have taken. But that has led most people to…
b) condemn them unequivocally – what they have done is shocking, they should be locked up, society needs people like this taken out of circulation.
But I think in fact a better option, at least for a Christian, is:
c) see myself in them, expressed at my worst.
I have the same stuff in my heart as they do. I am made of the same stuff. The same warping influence of sin exists in my life. I may not have expressed it in this way (I can only thank God for that), but it is all part of the same disease.
That leaves me in no position of distant condemnation. Because as I condemn what they have done (as I must), as I call for justice to be done (as I believe I also must), I am recognising a verdict that has come in on me too. I am guilty – not of this particular crime perhaps, yet I am far from innocent. And that means my call for justice and my condemnation of the actions comes with a recognition that at heart, I am no better.
But, in the beautiful logic of the gospel, it also means I must have hope – hope that these young men may yet turn and see what they have done. Repent. Be forgiven. Be transformed by the only power that can do it – the love and mercy of God through Christ, applied to us by his Spirit.
And I can have hope for these victims, hurt by this acute expression of the sinfulness of the human heart – hope that they too may be restored and strengthened. I have the enormous and harrowing privilege of knowing some victims of sexual violence who have found, and continue to find, just that sort of restoration and healing in Christ. So I have hope.
Hope is one thing that is needed in the light of this sort of disturbing picture of where the sinfulness of the human heart can go. And despite the darkness of this whole thing, because of Christ I think there is good reason to have hope. For all of us.