One of the first things I ask ecclesial bodies when examining a candidate’s fitness for ministry is to apply the standard ‘first do no harm.’
For me, the art and craft of ministry begins with practicing a self-awareness that tunes you in to what you have grown accustomed to in yourself by word or deed that could do damage to another who has come under your care. If you don’t have a barometer for helping you understand this, your potential to do harm is always present. Given that most people who come to you as a minister are looking to be healed, this lack of self-awareness ranks, for me, as the most dangerous characteristic in ministry.
Which brings me to the ‘Me, too’ movement, the recent Senate hearings for the Supreme Court nomination, and the shame of a President saying on one day that the woman who came before the Senate Committee to testify about her sexual assault was credible – only two days later to stand in front of a crowd and make fun of and humiliate her.
This is a spiritual blog, not a political one. But what I can’t avoid this week is commenting on the damage and trauma that this process has caused to victims of sexual trauma. It is an utter abandoning of the commitment to first do no harm by some of the most powerful leaders of this country.
A woman was sexually assaulted. She was forced against her will to assemble before not just the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the entire nation and relive the trauma in precise detail. In the days before and since, she has received death threats while having her character and integrity impugned. The character assassination came at the hands of masses of Americans who want but one thing: a reversal of a Supreme Court decision that, ironically, for religious reasons they will apparently eschew all other moral standards to achieve.
By any means necessary is not exactly the moral compass by which most Christian people assess their life choices. In an effort to undo the clock and overturn Roe v. Wade, though, many Christians have begun just this practice.
The shaming of the victims of sexual assault in the pursuit of a moral crusade doesn’t feel very Christ-like to me. Sexual abuse hotlines across the country lit up over the last week as, in an act of human solidarity and in defense of a woman who was paraded in front of the world and forced to relive her trauma, women began telling their ‘Me, too’ stories.
This podcast is about spiritual well-being, not politics. I have already said that, but it will feel to some like I am crossing that line today. Maybe I have, but there is something deeply hurtful to our collective spiritual health that is being perpetrated against us by those with political motives and agendas – and I can neither ignore that nor set the context for it without crossing into that political landscape.
If you practice ministry, or if you intend no harm to another, or if your spiritual pathway finds you seeking the will of a benevolent creator – then you cannot ignore or treat lightly sexually traumatized victims who, for whatever reason, are forced against their will to tell their story.
That telling is a sacred moment. The hearing of it carries a moral duty to act in ways that both do no further harm and that open up a pathway to healing.
As a collective, over the last week – if not, arguably, the last two years – America has participated in the shared act of shaming the victims and re-traumatizing them. The ‘Me, too’ movement is screaming loud and clear ‘hear me, believe me, heal me.’ No person with a sense of moral obligation can or should treat that wound lightly no matter the political agenda or endgame.
We are frail, fragile, and vulnerable bodies, souls, and spirits. What we do to each other has consequences. When a wounded soul in search of healing trusts their story to us, we should listen, believe, and seek no further harm.
Gentle listener, all who have ears to hear – let them hear. And let not what we choose the hear be in service to anything but a commitment to heal the wounded heart on this, our Journey Into the Mystic.