One very big reason survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence don’t come forward for years–if at all–is that they fear that some of the very people who should stand with them will instead leave them in the lurch. Without a doubt, the church is one of the worst offenders. There have been far too many stories of victims of both sexes wanting to speak out, only to find out that their church’s outward claims of love, acceptance and support aren’t worth a nickel. And that’s particularly true if another church member was the alleged assailant.
One of the most prominent voices on the religious right gave us a lovely example of the kind of mentality that still prevails in many churches today. He claimed with a straight face that even if Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford 35 years ago, it wasn’t really a big deal.
Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma magazine, the largest Pentecostal/charismatic-oriented magazine in the nation. While his name isn’t that familiar even to political junkies, anyone who watches the religious right has come to know Strang all too well. In recent years, he has used Charisma and its sister platforms to carry water for the most extreme elements of the religious right.
Strang took it to another level in 2016, when he threw his weight behind Donald Trump after his original choice, Ted Cruz, dropped out. Since then, he has become one of the loudest generals in the army rallying evangelicals to Trump’s standard. Earlier this year, he published a book, “God and Donald Trump,” in which he argued that Trump’s upset victory was nothing short of a miracle. He is getting ready to roll out a follow-up, “Trump Aftershock,” which purports to explain how Trump is making America great again from a Christian perspective.
It should come as no surprise that Strang joined the rest of the nation’s so-called moral guardians in going all-in for Kavanaugh. Two weeks ago, for instance, he parroted the standard religious right shibboleth that the Democrats were using Blasey Ford’s claims to put “another conservative voice” on the Supreme Court.
But Strang really went off the deep end in a message to Charisma’s Facebook followers on Wednesday night. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got clips.
While talking about how his 90-year-old mother was gearing up to vote in November, Strang turned again to Blasey Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh. As far as he was concerned, even if Kavanaugh did attack Blasey Ford that night, it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Leader after leader after leader gets on there and talks about how bad Judge Kavanaugh is. He’s denied these things, but even if they’re true, it was pretty nickel and dime stuff that high school kids do. Everybody on that committee probably did that kind of stuff when they were teenagers.
Riddle me this, Steve. Are you saying that when a teenage boy hustles a teenage girl into a bedroom, pins her down, gropes her, and covers her mouth if she screams, it’s just teens being teens? If so, Steve, then with apologies to Politifact, you’re not just wrong, but you’re Pants on Fire wrong.
Believe it or not, this message was even worse than it actually sounded. While it appeared Strang was directing his fire at the Democrats, he was taking a not-so-subtle swipe at Blasey Ford. By suggesting that what Blasey Ford claimed happened was merely “nickel and dime stuff,” he was accusing her of making a big fuss over nothing. In other words, classic victim-shaming.
Strang was speaking in a code that is all too familiar to many survivors who want to confide in their church families about their ordeal. In far too many churches, they’re told that they overreacted, and should really think about the prospect of ruining their assailant’s reputation. That alone is usually enough to keep survivors quiet.
How far this mentality ran has come into sharp focus in the last year, with many social media users sharing their stories with the hashtag “#ChurchToo.” Many of them have heard pigweed along the lines of the same pigweed that Strang spewed on Wednesday. That is, their ordeals really weren’t that bad, and any efforts to speak out about them are just making a big deal out of “nickel and dime stuff. One of my longtime friends has a name for this–“Christian witchcraft.”
Put yourself in the shoes of a Charisma Facebook follower who was sexually assaulted, and is wondering if he or she should speak up. He or she watches one of the biggest names in the charismatic and Pentecostal world dismiss Blasey Ford’s claims as “nickel and dime stuff.” Chances are they may at least wonder if they’re making too big a deal of it themselves. Congratulations, Steve. You may have just kept a survivor from coming forward.
But more on point, Steve, are you willing to tell Blasey Ford that she was just making a big fuss over nothing? And are you willing to do so to her face, rather than from the comfort of your home near Orlando? If not, sir, then you need to shut up and get the hell out-of-the-way. After all, you have proven beyond any doubt that you are part of the problem.
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