Not Me. Not Ever.
So, I’m writing on Wednesday, purposely ahead of the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and sadly just after learning there are accusations from other women. I’m writing now because the outcome of tomorrow’s deliberations will have no bearing on my position. Tomorrow will bring no resolution – and there may never be full resolution, much less redemption. Such is the power of sexual and political perversion.
The word “accusation” is forever. It sends cold chills down my spine. As a somewhat public figure, one entrusted with a measure of assumed deference and presumed character, the thought sometimes keeps me awake at night. Over three decades of ministry, how many girls and women have I had conversations with in church buildings… youth lock-ins… week-long mission trips… Sunday school gatherings in people’s homes…?
At the over-careful instruction of mentors I’ve perhaps taken precaution to a fault. I cannot think of more than a couple times over all those years I’ve even allowed myself to be in the confines of a closed room alone with a female. I’ve perfected the “shoulder hug.” I confused, and maybe offended a female colleague recently by declining an invitation to join her for lunch together at Chick-fil-A.
The thought of an accusation, from yesterday or from 35 years ago, shudders me with horror. The mere whisper of the word “accusation” is a career-ender. I’ve always feared the destructive power of the word; it is fraught with pain – so any thought of carefully-timed partisan scheming is unforgiveable, pure and simple.
So is any kind of sexual assault or attempted rape. Even 35 years ago.
We have a serious problem with sex in this country. Serious problems. The Good Book says, “Your sins will find you out…” and the #metoo movement is a “finding out” moment that we cannot take seriously enough. The statistics on the number of women who are sexually abused in our culture are staggering, heart-breaking. That anyone would hide such a soul-deep wound, given the shame and self-abuse that always accompany such violence, should surprise no one.
Even for 35 years.
What has surprised me this week are the justifications and equivocations I’ve heard. I’m beyond despair that we are so frightfully divided that even some mothers will shrug off sexual violence as “boys being boys.” There was a recent interview with a room full of politically conservative women, each of which essentially laughed at the accusation: “It was all those years ago…” “Get over it…” “They were just drunk…” “ALL boys do this.”
Excuse me? Did a mother just justify sexual assault and attempted rape because “ALL boys do it?” And have I really heard fathers and grandfathers laughing recently: “If they only knew what all I did. HaHa... It’s a wonder any men get jobs!”
For the record, let me state unequivocally: Not me. Not ever.
Pure and simple: Not me. Not ever – and not my father, who taught me how to respect women (and other men for that matter), and not my pre-adolescent or teenage sons, nor my now-college-age sons, who were raised with the same moral rectitude as my father raised me. I’ve spoken with my father and my boys, and they join me in saying…
Not now. Not ever.
I have never been drunk, so I could never have drunk too much not to remember where I had been, what I might have done when I was wherever I was. I have never been part of a culture of carefree or abusive sex. I have never been violent in any relationship. I have never used a position of power to threaten, anyone.
Not now. Not ever.
I don’t know what happened or did not happen with Judge Kavenaugh or to Dr. Ford or the other women, but I know if we are living in a culture where it is common that drunken boys do not remember forcefully attempting to rape a girl or to shut her screaming mouth with threatening hands – and where this kind of action is being justified by their mothers – and if we are so divided that we allow partisan loyalties to justify laughing about or excusing “all boys” of acting in such a depraved manner, we are in far deeper trouble than the seating, or un-seating, of any Supreme Court nominee might portend.
We need to rid “boys will be boys” from our vocabulary, and then we need to commit to removing it from our cultural experience. If you cannot say, “Not me. Not ever.” you need to take responsibility for your actions, accept the consequences for your behavior. Saying “I am sorry” is only a beginning, but it is an appropriate place to start.
“All boys” do not do this. Please tell me I am not wrong, and please join me: Not me. Not ever.
(Dr. Russ Dean is co-pastor, with his wife Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte. Both are graduates of Clinton High School.)