Reason and the #MeToo movement
The #MeToo movement has been front and center in the United States and to some extent it has become a global phenomenon. My understanding of it is that its intent is to focus on sexual harassment and the assault of women to prevent the continuance of a culture that has existed for many years. Women may have been subject to harassment and assault or would have faced the repercussion of diminished advancement and career opportunities. It is a silent culture that has existed for years, and as women have come forward, the momentum has begun to build to identify, shame and prosecute where possible those who have been guilty of these offences. I believe this is most laudable and indeed something that should be encouraged to change the existing culture and prevent future abuse of women. From that perspective I fully support the #MeToo movement as I believe women should not be subject to unwanted advances, sexual harassment or assault in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter.
This is a very noble, courageous and necessary movement and it should be encouraged. While I agree with the aims and goals of the movement – like all movements over the years, reason must prevail or the movement can be derailed by fringe elements who may act in the extreme or use such a movement to advance their individual agenda which goes beyond the original purpose. I believe it is important to be reasonable in approaching past actions to ensure that the intended outcome prevails and does not become engulfed in unreasonable expectations and judgements. When speaking of reason, I would like to consider several points:
• Allegations should not be considered as fact without research and evidence to substantiate claims. It is important to expose wrong, but if there is nothing to substantiate it, it could result in damaging persons who are accused.
• Some allegations and experiences from the past may not be applicable today as they would have happened a long time ago and in a different culture and time. Serious offences are important to identify, but I believe there are some things that may have happened that do not warrant inclusion in the discussion of today. If an adult who has grown children did something when they were 14 or 15 that was a minor indiscretion, is it worth it or even relevant to bring up today? Some things may be better off left in the past.
• It may prove unfair to apply rules retroactively to an entirely different culture that existed in years prior. Is it reasonable to expect to go back to incidents decades old that happened during a different era and involved reckless behavior? If we were to trace groping for example (in The Bahamas, we would call it “feeling up”) from decades ago we may have to lock up or destroy 80 percent of the males in The Bahamas. There is a new and better understanding today that was not present in the culture of years gone by.
• I believe going forward with the new awareness and new sensitivities it is important to educate young men today on what is appropriate, and the focus should be on changing our culture rather than retroactively applying the standards of today to past decades.
• What do we do with persons who have done things in the past but have made significant changes and are no longer the person that they were before? Do we redeem such persons, or do we look back at what they may have done and seek to bind them to a past they have walked away from and have successfully reformed from?
Today we are wiser, we are more educated about what is appropriate and not appropriate, and as such we should seek to ensure that going forward we have an environment that is free from sexual harassment and assault. Where there are major violations, perpetrators should be pursued legally if the charges can be substantiated.
I write from the perspective of a diplomat who is an ambassador and representative of the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about. If we look at this issue from a “kingdom” perspective, we would be wise to follow the biblical admonitions found in 1 Timothy: 5 (NKJV): “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”
If we followed this perspective, there would be no need for a #MeToo movement. But we know that not everyone shares or adheres to this perspective so there is a need for a movement such as this. If approached with reason and proper perspective, the movement can be quite effective in changing the culture. If it is approached from an unreasonable perspective many decent and upstanding persons could see their lives ruined and chaos ensuing. There must be a balance and a perspective on the issue that is redeeming and advancing, rather than retroactively punitive with no allowance for redemption.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to [email protected]. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.