The former star of Murder, She Wrote was misrepresented in the news when she made a statement about women taking some responsibility for the sexual harassment scandals that have dominated the news. Angela Lansbury clarified her words in a later article saying, “There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner. And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise.” I told the ladies in my Bible studies last week that I might be stepping into the same mess Angela Lansbury found herself in with this week’s blog post.
Let me start by saying that there is never a time when a woman should be sexually abused or harassed physically, emotionally, or verbally. Let me add that men should not be abused in those ways either. The conversations in the news have been important, inflammatory, and markedly one-sided. After almost every news story, I have thought, Everyone involved could have done better.
I know my words will make some people angry. For the women who have been abused or attacked, please know that I would never want to add to your pain, and there is nothing you did that could justify the crime. But, I believe there is an important conversation that is being set aside right now. I am going to attempt to at least cause us to think about it. I will step prayerfully into a discussion that I think is necessary, but I imagine it will be decidedly unpopular.
Even as I began to type those words, I felt God’s encouragement. My television set is muted so that I can glance at the news feed while I’m writing. A commercial for Chanel perfume just played, and it was a naked actress in bed with a man. Could it be that we aren’t saying enough right now? Should that actress ever be harassed or exploited by a producer? That answer is an easy and clear no. Should that actress exploit herself for a hefty paycheck? To me, that answer is equally important and equally clear.
Sex sells products. That has been proven and, as a result, we will see more movies, commercials, television shows, and books that seek to use what sells. We will also see more women and men sell themselves and others because it is profitable. It is important to tell the truth about sexual harassment, but it is important to tell the whole truth if we want anything to truly change.
I am often in conversations with women who are fearful for their children. When I started in ministry thirty-plus years ago, women were concerned that their teenage children might be involved in a sexual relationship with the person they were dating. I don’t remember the last time I had that conversation. It was years and years ago. Women often expect their teenage and young adult children will be sexually involved now, so they worry about things like abuse, pregnancy, or heartbreak. When did Christians stop worrying about their children remaining sexually pure until marriage? Why did we stop teaching that as the biblical standard for their lives?
These days, I have amazingly frequent conversations with mothers of sons. They ask for prayer or biblical advice for what to do because their sons are being harassed and receiving lewd photos from girls on their cell phones, at all hours of the day and night. The road of sexual harassment exists, but there are at least two lanes. If we are sexualizing perfume ads, car ads, even floor mop ads, we are creating a culture with consequences we don’t want.
The good news is that this problem is not new. Everyone has heard of David and Bathsheba. Many consider the king’s encounter an abuse of his power and an abuse of Bathsheba, and it was probably David’s most public and costly sin. Many theologians have described Bathsheba as a victim, but the Bible doesn’t make that clear. David sent for Bathsheba—but did she have to come? Her bathing is described as the ritual cleansing required after her monthly cycle. But Bathsheba becomes pregnant. That isn’t possible, scientifically, until about two weeks later.
The story of David and Bathsheba is about David’s sin. But was Bathsheba sinless herself? I don’t know that answer, but I have often wondered why she chose to bathe on the rooftop, in the late afternoon, when she knew she could be viewed by others, and maybe even the king. The Bible is correct to point out David’s sin. It doesn’t matter what Bathsheba might have been doing; David knew better and should have done what was right. But, could Bathsheba have been more careful or thoughtful as well?
That is the point I am attempting to make with today’s blog post. Maybe the conversations about the various news anchors, movie producers, and business executives should take a broader position. Maybe actresses shouldn’t go to a producer’s hotel room, especially when they already know he has a “reputation.” Maybe actresses shouldn’t hide their abuse to obtain the movie role or pursue a career. Maybe the job isn’t as important as the next woman who will surely be abused as well. Maybe the men and women who choose to be sexual objects for the world to view in a commercial or movie shouldn’t be shocked when others treat them as a sexual object later.
I’m not saying that abuse is ever justifiable or victims should be blamed. I am saying that everyone can rethink their own behavior and live with higher standards. Let’s think again about the words of Christ when he said we will reap what we sow.
Finally, let’s remember that none of us are guiltless when it comes to sexual sin. Everyone is weak in this area, which is why Satan is quick to use God’s gift as a weapon against God’s people. Last Sunday, we were singing “Amazing Grace,” and even as I sung those great verses, I knew I would close my blog with the words, “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.”
Our past mistakes aren’t as important as our present choices. I’m glad the women who have been abused are coming forward. They were brave, and most wanted to right a wrong. I think our culture is waking up to some important realities. As Christians, we can offer God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, and God’s help. We can also offer God’s higher standards as a basis for his future blessings. All of us can do better with what we watch, what we think, and what we expect out of ourselves and others. Parents today have enormous choices to make, and we should be praying for them—every day.
My prayer for this blog post was that maybe we would all think about the ways we have allowed ourselves to be “blinded” by Satan’s standards and choose, instead, to see God’s. There will probably be a lot more stories in the news in the days to come. How will you use the news to share God’s word? Teach your children? Set ground rules for your own life? His grace is amazing, and all of us need it. The same is true of his holy and perfect word.
We can all do better—we should.