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I’m angry.  I’m angry, and I’m praying, because I know that my anger does not work God’s righteousness. I’m angry, and I feel the impotence of that anger, because no amount of awareness or words from me will bring justice or change.

God creates with purpose: He calls us to live and work passionately and joyfully for His kingdom. He gives us goals to work towards. I believe firmly that as He gives us things to love and build up, so He points us to hate and destroy what is evil. Tonight, I feel that push to fight. So I am writing, though I’m late to this discussion already.

This is not my story. It is the story of a friend who gave me permission to write about it here. All names and locations have been changed, per her request. No other detail is altered.

A preface:

Over the weekend, a horrific and violent tragedy at Isla Vista, CA, cost seven people their lives and injured several more. The instrument of this massacre was a deranged young misogynist who posted a YouTube video prior to his killing spree, detailing all the ways that ‘you girls’ were responsible for his murderous, evil acts.

I watched the video with my husband as the news broke. It was sad. It was chilling. It was demonic. In itself, it was angering enough to inspire scores of blog posts.

In response to the killings, a massive social media surge under the hashtag #YesAllWomen opened up a sobering, thoughtful, and revealing discussion about the worldwide state of female oppression. I believe that this hashtag is important. As a Christian woman who self-identifies as a feminist, I’m writing to ask you not to ignore it.

Allow me, brothers and sisters, to issue the disclaimer that, tragically, must accompany that label: I do not hate men. I love men. I love people. I love God. I love Jesus Christ.  I have many Christian friends to whom this message does not apply. I love you.

I hate sin, and I hate Satan. I hate his works in God’s created world. Oppression of women is Satanic. And it is everywhere. And it IS in the Church.  Oppression angers me outside of the church, but it does not surprise me. In the Church? It infuriates. It ought not be.

The story:

Meg is a friend and fellow ex-pat. We meet on Tuesdays for Bible study at a neighborhood café. For the past few weeks we have been moving slowly through the book of Malachi.  This week, like other weeks, started as a general update and discussion about life and current events, eventually landing on the Isla Vista story. We picked up the Bible study at Malachi 2.17, reading about the Lord’s promised return to purify and judge the corrupt priesthood prophesied against earlier in the chapter. We stopped at 3.5. We didn’t get any further.

Malachi is an intense book. It’s not directed at pagans or outsiders. It deals with the rot at the core of those claiming to be in God’s service. It calls out the wicked priests and the wicked people who support them. In the section we read, God proclaims a day where he will witness against ‘sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts’ (Malachi 3.5, ESV).

After we read this verse, Meg started to speak. She told her story quietly and slowly, even with occasional laughs—not of joy but of shock.

Before moving to Daegu, Meg worked at a Christian university in another city. She’d told me before that things hadn’t worked out with that university, but she hadn’t told me the details. Her university hosted a seminary with a large international enrollment.  Meg was working alone in her office when one of the international seminary students, who was studying to become a pastor and in Korea on scholarship, came in for help on his thesis. Her officemate was out and they were alone. He was married and Meg knew him casually, through friendships with other students from his home country. While she was checking through his thesis, he pushed her up against her desk and began kissing her.

She pushed him off and screamed for help. He stopped.

Administration was brought in. Initially, he blamed Meg, insisting that she’d come on to him. After some time, he confessed the truth.

The response of the administration of the Christian seminary was that the incident was 100% the fault of Meg. Because “he had needs and he was away from his wife, and she was alone with him in the office.”

The university had no policy about opposite gender teachers and students working together.

Further, students who knew Meg and supported her were warned that involvement would jeopardize their enrollment (which, for international students, meant visa status and scholarship money).  Coworkers at this Christian school who knew her assured her privately of their support but said nothing to administration. She sat through meetings answering questions like ‘What did you say when he asked for help on his paper?’ and ‘How did you say it?’ She was told she was not allowed to bring an advocate or a friend to these meetings—a dictum which she now regrets following, but was so shellshocked at the time that she had no ability to defy.

“The worst part—worse by far than the attack itself—was how institutionalized the response was,” she said, pushing the last of her iced coffee around the bottom of the glass. “It was so hard to believe that now—in this day and age—in the CHURCH—I could be treated that way. Worse than that? He has his degree and is back home now, working with young girls in churches, doing who knows what, because of his needs.”

The truth, as Meg says herself, is that it could have been much worse. She has friends whose stories are far, far more disturbing and horrible. She shared how supportive her church outside the university was, and how friends tried to help her locate support groups for women—either expat or Korean—and though they didn’t find any, she appreciated how they tried.  She is grateful to have a job at a secular university where the boss and administration have clearly outlined policies that they rarely if ever have to enact. And she knows that there will be justice, one day.

The point:

I have never been treated that way. But I, and Meg, and all women, everywhere, have been, and are, afraid.  That is why #YesAllWomen matters.

All women have, at some point, feared a man. When we are alone, we fear the physical presence of what is not even there. And, if we are not afraid—if we brush off that fear and something happens— we are scolded, ridiculed, or punished. Punished for not being afraid enough.  That is the reality of being a woman, across the world, in any culture.

This is not and has never been God’s will. We are called to oppose fear. Stand against a system that punishes victims and celebrates, condones, or ignores attackers. Speak with humility of what we do not understand. Pray without ceasing.

#YesAllWomen is important because it is true. Please, please do not discount or ignore it because it is ‘secular’ or ‘feminist.’ I have seen how defensive Christians can get in the face of ‘feminism.’ Please, let that guard down and consider what #YesAllWomen is saying. Institutionalized injustice is not a specter magicked up by bitter jezebels intent on usurping men.  It is a reality, enacted and encouraged by the enemy of God.

In the Church, it looks like accusing women of overreacting if even the word ‘sexism’ or ‘feminist’ is mentioned, or greeting its mention with eye rolls and gusty sighs. It looks like ostracizing a woman who speaks confidently.

It looks like church administration teaching that ‘boys will be boys’ and that the only prevention for violence against women lies in the woman’s ability to dodge it.

It looks like NOT REFUTING what the world teaches about men. My mother has a favorite saying that echoed through our home growing up: ‘Absence of malice is not an excuse.’ Let that sink in. A negative virtue is not a virtue. You are not helping us by defining us as a man’s sister, mother, or daughter. You are not helping by condemning young women for revealing dress. You are not helping by shaming victims or refusing to stand against aggressors.

Christian brothers: Accept that you have no idea what it is like to experience fear for your physical wellbeing at all times and in all places.

You are not called to shush, to roll your eyes, or to condemn. You are not called to dominate that discussion. You are called to pray. You are called to help. You are called to hold yourselves and your brothers accountable. You are called to consider that there are things you cannot understand, and in those moments, to pray for understanding

For Meg, for the victims of Isla Vista, for yourself, for the message of Jesus: #YesAllWomen matters.