“And that’s . . . the REST of the story . . . “
Remember Paul Harvey? He would tell us some remarkable story, and then he would tell us the REST of the story. The part we didn’t know.
The part that actually mattered most.
I had a rest-of-the-story moment last week. Like everyone, I was following the Larry Nassar trial — whether I wanted to or not, my news feed was flooded. One day, I noticed my personal friends-and-family feed lighting up with clips, comments, and articles about a young woman, Rachael Denhollander, who had — remarkably, and please note, I’m not contesting or diminishing this part of the story — included in her impact statement a brief but powerful testimony of the gospel. You know — forgiveness, grace.
And oh, my Christian friends were all over that. Praise! Marvel! Witness!
I was intrigued — as I said, it is remarkable and moving — so, I went to read the transcript of her entire impact statement, as you do.
Or maybe just as I do, being as how I’m not satisfied to take anyone’s word for anything or just watch a video clip.
As I was reading her entire transcript, a phrase jumped out at me. The part where she said, ” . . . My advocacy for sexual assault victims, something I cherished, cost me my church . . . I was left alone and isolated . . . ”
And then this: “This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable.”
My ears filled with white noise and my hands shook.
This was the rest of the story.
This was my story. Rachael Denhollander, in one of the most public court cases in our generation, was standing before a judge and she was telling my story. “This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable.”
This was the part that the Christian community didn’t notice, or ignored. So — because, as my song inspiration for this blog points out, I have an issue with keeping my big mouth shut — I shared that part of the story, the part that jumped out at me. It felt a little bit like I got my hand smacked — just gently, mind you — until a few lovely and brave friends came alongside me and said — “I hear you. I’ve heard you before. I know. You’ve been saying this for years. I’ve listened.”
(Thank you, friends.)
I wondered — did anyone else notice that the Christian community was missing the point?
Yeah. Rachael Denhollander noticed. She got the message, loud and clear, and she called it out loud and clear in an interview with Christianity Today.
She called it for what it was, and she made another impact statement, this one in the court of public opinion, and she went on record, and she said, ” But I have found it very interesting, to be honest, that every single Christian publication or speaker that has mentioned my statement has only ever focused on the aspect of forgiveness. Very few, if any of them, have recognized what else came with that statement, which was a swift and intentional pursuit of God’s justice.”
And then she turned around and did it again, she told my story again, when she said, “Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim . . . There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.”
Preach, sister. I’ve been saying this your whole lifetime, loudly, to anyone who would listen.
So what happens now, what happens now that the rest of the story is out there? What will happen, with a broad evangelical Christian community that quickly embraced Rachael Denhollander as a darling and then fell into awkward silence when she applied the truth of institutional abuse to the evangelical church?
What will happen, for those of us who have been dismissed and ignored for decades as we have spoken this truth?
I’m not sure.
I hope we haven’t yet heard the rest of the story. I hope we have yet to get to the part where as an institution, the church stops, takes a breath, and starts to listen.
(Speaking of the rest of the story — please, take the time to click on the links and read Rachael’s transcript in its entirety, and the entirety of the Christianity Today interview. It’s time we started listening to everything that’s said.)