The Seven Deadly Sins: Society and Evil

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Imagine a Christian—a follower of Jesus—as a beautiful crystal glass. Pick up a similar-looking plastic wine glass. Those who call themselves Christians and do what Jesus says are the real deal—the crystal glasses. Those who call themselves Christians but do not do what Jesus says are fakes, plastic, imitations of the real thing.

They look a lot alike on the outside, but eventually, the lack of fruit in their lives, the lack of foundation, will show when they do not love others. If we call him Lord, we must do what he says. And then there is forgiveness.

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I see forgiveness as one of the central concepts of Christianity. The role of forgiveness in our lives, in our faith is important, but it needs to be approached with care for the survivor. It cannot be pushed on people by others.


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Speaking your truth requires courage and it requires community. In fact, the two usually go together. I hope, I hope, I hope, this Advent, that the times, they are a changing. If nothing else, our ears and hearts are perked to believe the victim. And this: Maybe, just maybe, we can learn to apologize properly. Because of these crises of faith, victims are vulnerable to spiritual abuse, in which people try to keep women in those abusive relationships. But there is nothing in Christian teachings that can be rightly used to justify abuse. Where do you stand?

Are you the kind of guy who takes a stand to prevent sexual assault? According to the Bible Amnon is responsible for this crime, but his friend Jonadab is implicated as well. Men cannot be bystanders when their male friends are consumed with lust or acting as if they are entitled to sexual dominance over women. Tamar means palm tree, a symbol of justice in the Jewish tradition, particularly the justice that women require and create.

Domestic violence does not, in one sense, have anything to do with religion. Yet, religion, if not the cause, often provides the context for abuse in a home in which either the abuser or the victim may cite religious beliefs for the abuse itself or for staying in an abusive relationship. Thus, where religion is part of the problem, religion necessarily must be part of the solution.

In a church that takes care of the needy and vulnerable, in a Matthew 25 church, there is no gospel justification for domestic and sexual abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is. These are uncomfortable topics. Perhaps even more of an uncomfortable situation would be one in which we left these topics unaddressed, without any faith perspective share from which to consider them. Freedom from sexual assault.

Freedom from exploitation. Freedom from war. Freedom from mob beatings and unjust imprisonment. Freedom from a bound spirit. Freedom to be where Jesus is. Freedom to see his glory. It also includes taking bible verses out of context in order to keep victims in submission. Today, as we prepare for the coming of the Messiah, I want to light this candle in honor of Tamar—someone who had nothing but hope.

And for all the Tamars in the world, who struggle to believe that good things could be in their future. Beloved siblings, it is our right to be whole.

Introduction

Hear Tamar's story. Let her story be a reminder that privilege and power have devastating effects on marginalized bodies. This morning, we need to have an open conversation about a problem that is plaguing every college campus in America - the problem to name it openly in the biggest venue we have on this campus - sexual assault. Yes, we need to talk about that, even in Chapel. Who is this Jesus who blames her body, who suggests that she is not a good fit for his ministry because of the way that God created her?

Who is this Jesus who fills us with the Spirit and then restricts us based on our flesh?

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He is the Jesus of our patriarchal imaginations, of our machismo, of our male ego. Because both the message of his arrival and his departure are given to women. Her mouth, her body was good enough for Jesus; why, then, is it not good enough for us? These women and girls came together, strengthened and supported by each other, to speak the truth of their horrific experiences and for once, the world listened.

This is what casting out demons looks like in our world. This is what confronting evil directly looks like. Friends, I think that we have a lot of reflecting to do on who we, as a church, have silenced.

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

In our theology, in our sacred Scripture, in our traditions, whose stories have we suppressed? Even now, we rest in a gleaming sanctuary outfitted with the latest liturgical colors. And yet, there are members of our community whose seemingly picture-perfect worlds, are actually shattered at the core. When we listen deeply, we can re-humanize, offering to each other a mirror which reflects back to us the beauty and worthiness of our being once again. That God has been subject to violence and abuse and injustice, and has used that experience to know all of our pain, and to make a way forward toward new life and connection and redemption.

Given these statistics, it is very likely that a good number of women and men in this room have been the victims of some form of domestic violence or sexual assault. I recognize this may be a difficult sermon for you, triggering painful memories. Please take care of yourself, be kind to yourself today. If you need to leave, please do. I will not be offended. And please know that this community is here to be of support to you, I am here to be of support to you. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out. And if you are currently in an abusive relationship or the victim of sexual assault, there are many resources available to you.

Me too. My cup ran over the day my eyes were opened to the many layers between me and the justice my own body has never received. My cup ran over when I read defenses of Harvey Weinstein and the many assaulters whose stories have been famously surfacing these days. Alsobrooks: "Leaving often becomes the most dangerous point in a relationship. Because this is about power and control, we find that very often when we talk about homicide, it generally comes after leaving…We ask that people not announce, in many cases, the intention to leave until you have a plan in place.


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The workplaces of our world, especially the church and the school, these need to be safe and protected places for children and young people to grow in faith and in knowledge. Are they all people who are not in church? Or are they men who go to church who think this is somehow okay?


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I want to be very clear to the boys and men in the room and to any women who might also be assaulters, abusers, or harassers: sexually harassing, sexually assaulting, or in any other way physically or emotionally harming another human being is always wrong. No man has the right to dominate His wife, to intimidate His wife, to abuse His wife!