As we have seen too often in the past and once again in the last few weeks, the price of stardom, celebrity, even success in general is accepting that sexual harassment and sexual coercion are “normal” as unnatural, abusive and unacceptable as they are. Rightly seen, I believe, sexual harassment and sexual coercion are not really about sex as such but about power. When some people find they have power and control over others the temptation arises in them to use that power abusively. That abuse can take many forms and only some are sexual. That temptation does not have to be given in to, and yet sadly it is – again and again.
Behind the inability to resist the temptation that power brings is the love of self, the idolatry of one’s self. When we love ourselves too much and love God too little, temptation wins – especially when we see ourselves as better than or superior to others, for whatever reason. Strangely idolatry of the self arises not out of a big ego, the big ego and the love of it arises out of fear. Fear of one’s worthlessness, fear of being unloved and/or unlovable, fear of failure to name just a few. Fears breed idolatry and idolatry breeds abuse.
The church is certainly no immune to giving in to abusive temptations. Residential schools, paternalistic missionaries, abusive clergy and priests, etc. Even Catholic popes have not been immune. This Sunday Protestant churches mark the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses 500 years ago (actually Oct. 31, 1517). Luther was protesting the what he saw as abuses by the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Luther himself was abusive of Jews and Judaism. The wilderness of fear and its temptations to abusive power seem to be everywhere. Yet there is a way through.
This Sunday at Living Spirit we will be looking at our journey through the wilderness of fear and how we can walk it together without abusing ourselves or others. Hint: something must die! (Disclaimer: no violence will be done to your most precious idols should you choose to let them go).