What Makes Us Think Pastors Wouldn’t Sexually Assault Women?

Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels stands before his congregation, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in South Barrington, Ill., where he announced his early retirement effective immediately, amid a cloud of misconduct allegations involving women in his congregation. The announcement was made during a special meeting at the church, one of the nation’s largest evangelical churches, which he founded. (Mark Black/Daily Herald via AP)

I was asked in a recent interview if I changed my theology so I could have gay sex. My answer was that I didn’t need to change my theology to have gay sex. I could have done it anytime I wanted, regardless of what I professed to believe.

Let’s face it. Pastors are caught having extra-marital sex all the time and almost never claim to have changed their theology. For some reason, we are shocked, surprised, dismayed, and taken aback by their behavior as though the title of pastor or church leader has somehow changed their biology.

Bill Hybels is the latest in a string of prominent pastors to get caught. Not surprisingly, people have come to his defense in spite of the mounting evidence of multiple women over several decades with similar stories.

There is a line of thinking in the evangelical church that claiming the title of Christian somehow makes people, especially leaders, immune from biological impulses and lapses in judgments. This assumption creates a false sense of security among parishioners, and wraps them tighter in a bubble of seclusion from the real world.

The problem is the theology of “supposed to.” It’s an ideology that Christians are somehow different than the rest of the world, disconnected from the bodies they occupy and that having a relationship with Jesus is “supposed to” inoculate them from temptations of lust. The reality is that no amount of prayer, piousness, or Bible memorization changes us to something other than human. In fact, I would argue that temptations are more difficult.

Someone wrote me recently and asked about my opinion on pornography and if I thought it negatively impacted relationships. I responded by saying the most negative effect I’ve seen on sexuality is shame, which more often than not comes from the church.

Christians, in my experience, are obsessed with who’s doing what in the privacy of their own home, how women dress, and what words are considered obscene. There are more taboos on sexuality in the church than there are theological dogmas.

Christians are being forced to rethink what they’ve been taught to believe about leadership, authority, and perhaps the foundation of their own faith. Pastors, just like everyone else, must be viewed as capable of committing sexual assault, or the church will be forced, at some point, to choose between their pastors or their mothers, daughters, and children. The world is watching. The church should be watching, too.

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