My wife and I wanted to watch a light film at home this past Saturday night and then go to bed early. We made the mistake of putting in the movie North Country, which came out in 2005. It was inspired by a landmark sexual harassment case that took place in a Minnesota coal mine. As I was watching the film, I was shocked by how mercilessly the protagonist Josey Aimes was treated by her co-workers, her family, and even the other women in the mine who were victims of the same sexual harassment. I said to my wife, “This seems a little bit over the top,” and she said, “Oh no, this is what women really deal with.” As I saw Josey standing up for her dignity with the whole world against her, I thought a real test of my Christian morality would be if I had the guts to stand up for her if I were working in that mine.
Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I got wind of the John Howard Yoder sex scandal. Yoder is a hero in the Christian pacifist community and a key influence on Stanley Hauerwas, one of my key theologians. Anyway, Yoder sexually assaulted, harassed, and/or had adulterous relationships with a lot of women. A Mennonite commission was just formed to investigate cover-ups that happened. A whole lot of radical Christians in our Despised Ones bloggers collective have been heavily influenced by Yoder’s teachings. And then somebody asked a question about the sex scandal and the fit hit the shan. So I wanted to offer some reflections on our messy conversation. I’m not sure how interesting this will be to people outside of our little club, but I’ll try to write it in such a way that you can get something from it.
I wasn’t going to blog this week and instead re-post old blogs from each of the months in 2012. But my blood is really boiling about the case in which the all-male Supreme Court of Iowa ruled that there was no gender discrimination at play when dentist James Knight fired a dental assistant Melissa Nelson because he was “irresistibly attracted” to her. Dan Brennan has a much more eloquent response, but I guess I just needed to write something too. Knight’s wife discovered that her husband and Nelson were sending text messages to each other, so she confronted her husband about it and he responded by firing Nelson. What bothers me the most is that a pastor from Knight’s church presided over the process of Nelson’s firing. They had a meeting at which the pastor was present where Knight read Nelson a prepared statement announcing her termination. In response to the oft-played card that “straw men” are being deployed in the evangelical church’s gender debates, this would be an example of a living straw man. This is a case of the false narrative of sexuality in “family values” culture creating an abominable, misogynistic ethics. Continue reading