Of all the accusations of sexual misconduct that have come to light, those against television journalist Charlie Rose shocked me the most. What little I have seen of him has given the impression of a gentleman. So when the accusations appeared, and he partially acknowledged their accuracy, I was dismayed. I am not the only one.
His co-anchors on “CBS This Morning”, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, appeared devastated when covering the story. Rose is not only their coworker but their friend, and their feelings were understandably raw. At one point, King said, “What do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that’s so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that?”
Since all the accusations began, people have asked what all this means and how we can fix it. But here at last is a truly meaningful question, because it comes from the complicated perspective of one who loves the accused. It is also a question for which faith in Jesus provides the answer: not an easy answer, but a truthful and hopeful one. A mature response to this long concealed culture of sexual predation involves three points that faith in Jesus makes possible: a demand for justice, an urge for grace, and an acknowledgment that the problem is not just “out there” but in our own hearts.
Faith in Jesus Demands Justice
At the heart of Christianity is a longing for justice in the world and faith that our Lord will bring it about. Faith in Jesus demands that those who abuse their power by coercing others into sexual compromise be held accountable. As a believer in the lordship of Jesus Christ, I view the peeling back of the glamor of our society to reveal a diseased interior as nothing less than the judgment of Christ.
True justice, however, is not simply railroading people into conviction on the basis of accusation. Our justice system works on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. This can be frustrating, because it demands much of the accuser and seems to facilitate wrongdoers going free, but it is the best basis for human justice. Otherwise, an innocent person can easily be punished unjustly, which is far worse than a guilty man going free. Faith in Jesus trusts that even where our justice system fails, the righteous Judge will make sure that wrongdoers are eventually held accountable. Regardless of how many are accused, every single accusation must be treated separately, with innocence presumed in every case – by our justice system and by us as individuals.
Faith in Jesus Urges Grace and Forgiveness
It is easy to despise someone accused of sexual crimes when you have no personal connection to them, but the world gets a lot messier when the accused is someone you love. Faith in Jesus demands true justice, but at the same time it urges us to show grace and even to forgive. This is for our own sake as much as for the accused. The vindictiveness that the world encourages is unhealthy.
Jesus shows us that forgiveness is not antithetical to justice. Forgiveness does not mean that we simply forget about a person’s wrongdoing. It does mean, however, that we stop feeling that we personally must punish these men by hating them. This is especially true for those of us who are unconnected to the accused, but it is also true for those, like Gayle King, who feel the accusation deeply because of their friendship with the accused. Faith in Jesus liberates us to forgive, because we can trust the Lord Jesus to sort things out and make sure justice is done, even when our justice system fails.
Faith in Jesus Leads Us to Acknowledge Our Own Depravity
Society has failed to comprehend how to confront this situation. The main thing one hears is, “Get involved in the conversation.” The subject of the conversation that society wants us to have, though, is limited to how men in positions of power mistreat women or even how all men are corporately responsible.
Faith in Jesus leads us to realize that there is a conversation to be had, but it is not limited to men’s mistreatment of women. That is an important part of the conversation, but it is not the whole conversation. Faith in Jesus leads us to acknowledge that underneath the injustice du jour is a dark depravity in every single human heart. Before we can deal righteously with the problem of sexual predation, we need to confront the fact that we are a pervasively sinful people who are in ourselves incapable of not being sinful. No amount of conversation is going to solve our sin problem unless it addresses the godless self-worship behind our sin.
Limiting the conversation to headline crimes keeps the real problem at arm’s length. Making men, even a few men, the scapegoats will not remove sin from our society, just as the Israelites sending their scapegoat into the wilderness never truly removed sin from their camp, because sin resided within their hearts (Leviticus 16:7-10). If we focus exclusively on male sexual predation, we still fail to address the real problem: sin in the hearts of all, including women. We need to take a hard look at the way we as a society and as individuals are systematically demolishing every boundary of sexual decency.
It is good that this particular sin sickness is coming to light, painful though it might be as the lancing of a boil. But we are not addressing the real problem if all we do is demonize men and claim everything would be okay without male sexual predators. Everything is not okay while we presume to be our own gods, and no amount of conversation will heal the spiritual sickness that generates sexual predation – unless the conversation is not just among us humans but between us and God.