By Rev. J.C. Mitchell
I was at home when the phone rang. It was the senior pastor where I worked as an associate. She sounded serious, and asked if I could attend the Staff Parish Relations Committee meeting that evening. I could tell that I should, and I could tell from her tone it was serious enough to not ask any questions at that time. I attempted to squash my curiosity and worry until the meeting, as I had no idea what it was about, and needless to say, I am glad the meeting was only hours and not days away.
I arrived at the meeting room filled with the wonderful team. Then the announcement: one of the female youth was sexually assaulted by another member in the church. The senior pastor thought I should be present, as part of my job description included the youth. I am not going to share any specific details. The youth I know suffered in school and needed help, and it was the counselors at school that caught that something was wrong. Blessed are the teachers. I know as a church we handled the situation as thoughtfully and caring as we could, not perfectly, but we learned. The senior minister once said to me that this was the hardest ministry she was ever involved with, and I agree, having had to deal with the return of the man that assaulted the youth when the senior pastor was on sabbatical. (Note to self: have good pastoral care and leadership lined up when on sabbatical).
So why am I thinking of this hard and disturbing event in my ministry? The Audi commercial on Super Bowl Sunday triggered this memory, because I saw the term bravery being attributed to a youth who kissed a girl without consent. That is sexual assault. Yes the girl smiled, but does that make it right? I don’t think so. She may even find herself seeking help in the days ahead, and why shouldn’t she? She is treated like an object: to be possessed. The youth that hit the “brave” boy responded with violence, so I am not happy about that, and while if that was my daughter, sister, friend, or a girl nearby, I may have had felt that same urge. Not only is violence never the answer, it is clear that violence was also a demonstration of the boy believing he possessed his girlfriend.
This is where we do need to be better as society. The GoDaddy commercial that included consensual kissing between what I could tell are two nice human beings, that yeah, I may not have pegged as together even if at a party, is the commercial that seems to be all the talk on Monday and even Tuesday. I still didn’t even really see it, as I was so upset that Audi was broadcasting that bravery is equal to sexual assault and women are simply objects.
As church we need to speak out against such objectification. I can only imagine someone who had been sexually assaulted, watching these commercial at a Super Bowl party, seeing the word “Bravery” printed on the screen, while others said “awesome” or “way to go.” Where could she turn? Will there be someone that will catch the tear before she covers it with fake laughter?
Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘O eternal God, you know what is secret and are aware of all things before they come to be; you know that these men have given false evidence against me. And now I am to die, though I have done none of the wicked things that they have charged against me!’ (Susanna 1:42-43)
We need to hear Susanna, for our worldly culture is viewing her and her sisters as mere objects. To be handled without consent and protected with violence. Let us give voice to Susanna and confess the rape culture, and replace it with the culture of love: the culture of God.