Unbelieved

I just finished watching the new miniseries on Netflix by this title, inspired by true events. It’s about a young woman who reports being raped but later recants under pressure and “confesses” having lied about it (and is prosecuted for her supposed false report), and the police investigation in a different state that finally led to the capture of the serial rapist who had indeed raped her and many other women. It is a grim story to watch but good – even necessary, I think.

As Adrian Horton put it in his review for The Guardian, the series is “a portrait in how things should be – how serious sexual assault cases should be taken, how crucial it is to listen to victims, how memory lapses and scattered details should be considered part and parcel of trauma memory, not a strike against it.”

Marie Adler, the victim accused of presenting a false report, was not believed even by the people closest to her. Her friendships, her mental health, her lodging, her job, all fell as collateral damage. There is a very poignant scene where she was asked by her assigned therapist how she would handle the situation if it ever happened again. This was her answer:

If I had to do it over…I would lie earlier – and better. I would just figure it out on my own, by myself. No matter how much someone says they care about you, they don’t – not enough. I mean, maybe they mean to, or they try to, but – other things end up being more important…Even with good people and with people you can kinda trust, if the truth is inconvenient – if the truth doesn’t, like, fit – they don’t believe it.

I could not help but think of the many people in religious systems – specifically my own, the evangelical world – that have borne such terrible burdens. The burden of living in environments where abuse is structurally enabled, and abusers protected. The burden of being forced to occupy positions (because of age, or gender) that make them terrifyingly vulnerable. The burden of being shamed and disbelieved. The burden of having to keep secrets. The burden of having to pretend or lie because the truth is inconvenient to others. Burdens that they must stagger under their whole lives.

And I ask, with Detective Karen Duvall, WHERE IS OUR OUTRAGE?

Marie Adler’s stern, two-word response to the officers’ fumbling and inadequate apologies applies to us as well: DO BETTER.

“Asleep In the Light”

I was dumbfounded when I read James Dobson’s July 2019 newsletter, in which he described his visit to the border at McAllen, Texas. He called it heart-wrenching. At one point he asked an official to tell some “skinny young men” in a holding pen (and my heart cracked as I thought of my own son) that God loved them, and that he did too.

But then. His finishing paragraph:

I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don’t deal with it. And it won’t take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.

NO MARKETABLE SKILLS? Should we have compassion only on those who can bring us profit? ILLITERATE AND UNHEALTHY? Should we turn from them, lest they infect us? THEY THREATEN TO OVERWHELM THE CULTURE AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT? Is our way of life, the Culture As We Have Known It™ our god?

How could you, Mr. Dobson, look at these people from the other side of a holding pen fence and say, “God loves you and so do I”, and then turn and warn American Christians that people such as these must be pushed back and held away lest they “flood our great land” and “take us down”? Whose ambassador are you?

We Western Christians need a fresh reading of St. James. We are in terrible danger – not of the hordes of immigrants (nor liberals, nor terrorists, nor atheists), but of our own hearts. We need to wash our hands and purify our hearts. Grieving and mourning is in order.

“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days… You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.” (JAMES 2, 4, 5)

 "Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don't you care?
Don't you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done
"Oh, bless me, Lord!
Bless me, Lord!"
You know, it's all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear
But, he cries,
He weeps,
He bleeds,
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
'cause he brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you!
Be at peace!"
And all heaven just weep,
'cause Jesus came to your door,
You left him out on the streets
Open up! open up!
And give yourself away
You see the need,
You hear the cries,
So how can you delay?!
God is calling,
And you are the one
But like Jonah, you run
He told you to speak, 
But you keep holding it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark, 
That the church just can't fight,
'cause it's asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you've been so well famed
Jesus rose from the grave,
And you!
You can't even get out of bed!
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead!
Come on, get out of your bed!
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
Don't close your eyes,
Don't pretend the job is done
Come away! come away!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess,
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away,
Come away with me my love!"

“Asleep In the Light” as written by Keith Gordon Green. Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP