Understanding and Living Our Faith: When Protectors Become Predators
“To give free rein to the senses is to shackle the soul, to shackle the senses is to liberate it. When the sun sets, night comes; when Christ leaves the soul, the darkness of the passions envelops it and incorporeal predators tear it asunder.” (Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia)
Powerful men of Hollywood, the entertainment industry, news, and politics accused of rape, molestation, groping, and other violations of women. Female teachers, married and single, accused of having inappropriate sex with teenage male students. These are the types of distressing news headlines I am reading daily. So much damage—physical, psychological, and spiritual—is being done to innocent people by these predators.
Men are not supposed to violate women. There is no simpler way to put it. Men are supposed to be protectors among their many roles in life. Men who have power and influence are not meant to abuse it at the deep expense of women’s well-being that can damage them for life. Women who are teachers and mentors and who have power and influence over young men’s minds should not be taking advantage of them. Though lacking the physical violence of assaults by men on women, there is psychological and spiritual violence being done to these young men that may also damage them for life in terms of their ability to have normal relationships.
Though a deeply troubling subject, I feel compelled to write about it and to show just how much dark evil these predators are committing. I am not a psychologist or any type of mental health professional, but I have known women and men who are victims of predators and have seen the terrible negative effects. When I read, see, and hear the predators who committed these crimes talk about how they are sorry and, in some cases, say they will seek counseling, it bothers me because remorse (if sincere and not motivated by them wanting to keep their worldly position intact), and therapy are not enough. These predatory violations are so much more than physical and psychological assaults—they are deep crimes of being. Why do I emphasize the word being? I do so because our Orthodox Christian faith is both ontological and relational at its core, and it is driven by love. As Orthodox Christians we need to understand these violations of persons in this context.
Ontology is about existence and being. In the dome of our Orthodox Churches the letters around the icon of Christ the Pantocrator’s head mean “He who is,” and this points to how Christ in His Theophany revealed Himself in Exodus 3:14 when He tells Moses at the burning bush, “I AM the Existing One.”
The Guiding Truths of Our Faith
Christianity is about something much deeper than rules, morals, laws, and psychological principals. It is about being. God created us, willed us, into being out of love, to freely choose to be in loving relationship with Him and others. Sin damaged our ability to choose rightly, but Christ came in the flesh and sent us the Holy Spirit from the Father to aid us in our choice and growth. Our journey in this life as human beings is supposed to be about a continually deeper union with God (theosis) that manifests itself in love of others. It is a journey of greater and greater wholeness within ourselves that repairs the division caused by sin between our will and nature. In other words, it is a journey toward true being or existence. When we choose to sin, we reject God and thus go in the opposite direction and actually diminish our being.
The reason predatory behavior is such a serious wrong is because the predator is violating both the victim’s being and his or her own being at the same time in a way that is diametrically opposed to God and therefore is nothing short of diabolical. Why is this? Why I am using such strong language to describe this evil. Think about God in terms of power. God is all powerful yet chooses to give us complete freedom out of love to choose Him or not Him and never exercises power over our wills. He came to us in Christ in a meek and humble way (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ never exercised any power over others, except to heal them. He both rejected and refused to use worldly power on multiple occasions such as the Temptation in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), when He was arrested in the garden (Matthew 26:50-53), and when He was standing before Pilate (John 19:10-11), just to name a few examples. There was also never of any hint of Him trying to control the wills of others.
From an Orthodox Christian perspective (which as Orthodox Christians should be our only perspective), those who are in positions of worldly power are supposed to use it in a loving way to benefit others, not destroy them. When they use their worldly power, which is a gift from God, to violate others as predators simply to gratify their own base cravings, they could not be doing something more opposite of God. They reveal themselves to have a deep and pervasive spiritual sickness that can only be healed through Christ and true repentance.
Are we seeing repentance at all? I see the News media calling out predators even among their own. That can be applauded, and I hope they are doing it sincerely and are not simply trying to get in front of the issue to do damage control.
I see Hollywood and the entertainment industry turning on itself and removing many of the predators from their positions of power, and that is also a good thing. But I wonder if Hollywood is using its money and power to help the countless victims. I don’t know the answer, but I fear a lot of what is driving their behavior has more to do with the bottom line than anything else. I hope I am wrong. I see political parties turning on their predators as well. Again, I question what is really motivating them and if it is more about staying in power than true outrage and if there is any real desire to help the victims. If so, will we see this expressed through actions? As citizens, we should demand they resign from office, regardless if they belong to the party we support. Predators are not fit for any kind of leadership.
Hollywood and the entertainment industry love to be activists and make movies about issues and causes they believe important. For example, they made a fine movie called Concussion to highlight the plight of football players suffering brain damage from the sport. Hollywood also made a wonderful movie, Spotlight, about the abuses of the Catholic Church. And this was rightly so, because the Church, whatever tradition or denomination, should be the ultimate protector of persons. It must not ever be a place where predators can damage people beyond repair in secret, hide, and then be protected by leaders who thus also make themselves complicit. I wonder if Hollywood will make just as good a movie about themselves. Perhaps they could use the money made from the movie to fund organizations and professionals that strive to help these victims.
We all need to pray for any person who has been wronged but also take whatever action we can to help in every capacity. Those with power should do so as well and more.
“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48)
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