Dear Brother Dean,
You and I have found ourselves on the same campus here in Tucson, and I have noticed you (as you most certainly are hoping to be noticed) as you preach loudly on the mall in the center of campus. You share a lot about passersby going to Hell. There is name calling. There is shouting. There are some who get up in arms and are deeply offended by what you say. There are others who simply roll their eyes as they walk by, barely glancing up at whatever sign you happen to be displaying this week. There are Christians frustrated because you are hurting what they are working so hard to do on campus. There are atheists thankful they don’t believe in such an angry God.
Forgive me because I have been one of those frustrated, eye-rolling types. I confess I have not been a fan.
However I can’t help but wonder if we are connected some how, if we aren’t more similar despite what our different theologies and evangelistic styles might ordinarily suggest to me.
Because of this I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but allow me to explain why I have a hard time doing so.
Recently, Dean, you have made a little bit of a bigger stir than normal with your sign that you have proudly held up on campus declaring YOU DESERVE RAPE. The “YOU” in this context being women, which is the gender I happen to belong to and am very protective of and proud of.
Dean, do you really know what rape is? Have you lied on the floor next to an 18 year old girl as she is being raped in her dorm room? Do you know that rape is a violent act violating a woman’s body, soul, mind and heart? Do you know how common rape is?
Do you know Dean that in 2012 15% of all college women reported being raped. 15% – that is about 5,000 calculated for our campus. That is 15% of women reporting being raped. Statistics show that 95% of rapes committed on college campus are never reported.
How many of these women, these rape victims, walked passed you last week hearing these words.
You deserve rape. Whether intoxicated or not. Whether with your boyfriend or not. Whether wearing short shorts or not. You deserve to have a man on top of you, forcing intercourse. Ignoring your dis-consent. Whether a screaming no. Or a whispered no. Or a crying no.
In our own society, and in others much different from ours culturally and religiously, women are are beaten, raped, and enslaved on a daily basis for a myriad of ‘reasons’. And as a child of God, and as a woman myself who cares deeply about the plight of my sisters next door and around the globe I cannot fathom a scenario in which a woman would deserve such a horrendous act committed against her.
In my outrage, still I see areas where we might agree.
I think that the state of the way that women dress on our campus is a shame. Trust me, I send my husband there every day, only for him to be bombarded by small bits of clothes barely hiding, or not hiding at all, the bodies of beautiful young college girls. And it might be true that when a woman dresses like this, she is likely to attract men who really, really, really want to have a lot of sex. And, once again as a child of God and a woman, I want more for them. I want more for those precious women because God has created them and called them worthy through His abundant mercy and loves them oh so much.
God loves them in the same way that my little girl is loved by her daddy.
Dean, you don’t know me, but I am not a violent person. I don’t think I have ever had a violent thought in my head (unless a spider is involved). Although I am sometimes quick to anger, violence has not been committed against me nor is it a natural reaction or thought for me to have.
However, I can I tell you that if I had been on campus and seen you holding that sign,
I would have come at you.
Violently throwing my weak, girly punches at you. I actually imagined myself doing this. I am a 31 year old mom of two. I am a Christian. Yet I was prepared to give you the response that I believe you dearly deserve. A mother-bear reaction to protect all of the daughters on campus.
I am thankful that I wasn’t there, for this reason, because I don’t think it would have been a very good idea for a campus minister to be arrested for assault. I am thankful because I am accountable to my family and my supervisor and my pastor.
As this foreign and unknown-to-me reaction of wanting to physically rip the sign out of your hands and bonk you on the head with it because YOU DESERVE IT ran wildly through my head, Jesus spoke quietly into my heart with his Great Spirit of conviction.
You in your corner, preaching that women deserve violence.
And me in my corner, actually wanting to commit violence.
Again, I wonder how similar we really are, Brother Dean.
Truth is, You and I are the ones who both deserve something pretty damn awful.
We both deserve the full wrath of God.
We both deserve the consequences of sin in our fallen, broken, messed-up world because I believe we both bring sin into this world.
We both contribute to the problem.
We are both guilty. But Dean, we are no more guilty than those lovely, lively sorority sisters or those wild and fun fraternity brothers towards whom much of your condemnation is directed.
And yet God – the holy, jealous, powerful God who says right is right and wrong is wrong and could not even allow a glimpse of himself to be had because his Glory and Holiness is too bright and too perfect and too majestic for our broken, death-deserving selves to contain.
This God, that you and I both claim to worship took a step. Away from the Holiness of Heaven toward a filthy manger. Away from perfection, to tenderly and compassionately hold the hand of the prostitute. To patiently and persistently teach the Pharisee. To die for our sin, because without his death we could only hope to receive the condemnation that we deserve.
I didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.
I have hope for the women on our campus, Dean. I want to hear their stories as Jesus did. I want to show them their worth as Jesus did. I want to invite them into new birth and new life as Jesus did, rather than condemning them to remain stuck in their darkness.
I have hope for the men on our campus.
I have hope because what was deserved, and what God actually did, are two different things. And that difference has made all the difference.
So Dean, as offended as I am, I forgive you as Christ forgave me. I hope that you will forgive me for my violent thoughts toward you. I have hope that you will extend a hand of forgiveness to those who couldn’t in a million years fathom that our Holy, Jealous, and Perfect God could actually love people like them.
Or, people like us.
*Please read one of my favorite bloggers’ article for Relevant magazine here about young men and violence.
**Rape statistics here.
***Info. on Brother Dean here.