Gymnasts, Prophets, and Us
The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians,Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You Marry, and Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth. She is also the author of the Banner Board Series, a four-volume set of books written for young children on church history figures.
The Nassar trial ended today, and it was close to home. About a year ago, I was in a courtroom where a judge handed down a verdict that told everyone that little girls aren’t worth much, really. Yet in the Nassar trial itself, there is a lot to be thankful for in how this horrific situation has concluded: a life sentence, a culture that places blame and shame on the predator and not victims, and widespread support for those brave young women who stood up and faced down an abuser.
But the situation is shot through with so much failure, that this conclusion is hardly a satisfying ending. In her concluding testimony, Rachael Denhollander was eloquent in her assessment of the situation, pressing home the hollowness of dead works and the need for Christ. She was a lonely voice. So many other young women spoke, and it seemed as though they were speaking as much to themselves as to their abuser, reminding everyone of their bright futures and inner strength. Certainly, we wish them no less. They have suffered so much, and can now begin to heal.
But much of the thinking that came through in this trial is a thinking that will ultimately fail us and our daughters, leading to more situations like this.
In Micah 6:8, the prophet asks, “…What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” These three things—doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God—are things that are missing from the discussion around this case and other sexual abuse situations.
Justice: The failure of the US Olympic Association or Michigan State University or any other governing body to deal with Nassar is not first a failure of protocol or professionalism. It is first a failure to do justice. Careers, relationships, money, reputations, got in the way of justice, and so people chose to ignore and abuse it. It was also clear that many saw the sentence as more than justice—as a measure of revenge. But human justice cannot take revenge: it does not have the scope for that, and we do not have the moral authority to implement it. Revenge is God’s prerogative.
Kindness: In her testimony, Denhollander stated that her reason for coming forward and going public with her story was to protect other young women at risk from Nassar. She has had to publically state how she was victimized; strangers read her diaries; she spent many, many hours in courtrooms away from her family. Her sacrifice is kindness. That is laying down self for others. Kindness is not being a wimp and giving everyone their way: it is doing what is right, it is protecting others even when it means personal suffering. It’s the opposite of predation. It is ending sin even at high cost.
Humility before God: When we consciously live before God’s face, understanding our smallness and our need, any temptation to abuse another human being will die. People should be afraid to abuse little girls not because, “they will grow up into strong women who will destroy you,” but because those little girls are made in God’s image, and He will destroy. That thought should be terrifying, in the healthiest way.
As long as our culture celebrates sexual promiscuity, views pornography as inevitable, refuses to value all human life, and idolizes money and power, we will have more cases like this one. It is a scary place to live, isn’t it? In the face of these cultural norms, what are we to do? We are to teach our children, especially our daughters, their inherent worth (and maybe martial arts). We are to require accountability from every authority figure—no exceptions. We must listen to children especially when they are scared or uncomfortable or nervous. We must love our neighbors even when we don’t trust them. Most of all, we are to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. That’s what God requires of His people. That’s what’s possible for His people because of His grace. Without Him, we’re no different from abusers like Nassar.
In case you have not heard it, here's the powerful conclusion to Mrs. Denhollander's testimony. https://youtu.be/2nEvHeEUnVE