“Do I out my high school abuser? ” she typed into the group chat on the night #ChurchToo was born. “Probably, huh? ”
I knew the heavines behind this seemingly apathetic subject. Times ago, when I first satisfied Emily Joy, a college rookie at Moody Bible Institute, she was fresh off the missionary assembly line. While still decidedly her own person, she had been indoctrinated with some deems about bracing mitts with sons so strange that even my sheltered judgment couldn’t fairly wrap itself around them.
It made a few months of the late-night coffee years and Bible clas sleepovers that made up our budding affection before she disclosed her secret to me: that a religiou youth president had groomed and operated her into a dreamy affair at persons under the age of 16.
When the truth came to light, it was Emily who had been censured by her peers in the youth group, punished by her parents and generally shunned from the faith of good stature at her neighbourhood megachurch. The last years of her teens were wasted saving to herself on the outskirts of the church and — thankfully for the world — writing a lot of enraged poetry.
She told me of other scapegoats who had suffered at the youth leader’s paws. Their mentions would reiterate through my psyche at “the worlds largest” inopportune moments: in the middle of chapel, in methodical theology class. The cognitive dissonance was jarring.
Recently, as accusation after allegation surfaced against potent workers in Washington and Hollywood, Emily and I realized that it was time to create gap for survivors within the missionary church and for those who have left its walls. So we propelled #ChurchToo, a Twitter hashtag that immediately selected out pervasive floors of sexual abuse and provocation. It was a reckoning.
For me, it was also the pinnacle of years of speaking out against and unlearning the strictures of evangelical piety culture.
It was around the time I matched Emily that my own Christian nightmare originated. Precocious, sheltered and only just 18, I was convinced that a campus full of fellow Christians would instant be my 2,000 closest friends.
It came to my pain courtesy very early on in my short stint at Moody that I was the odd one out, however. I alone had discovered lipstick, it seemed, and while my cleavage was always well veiled, I wasn’t the kind to hide my figure under North Face shells and puffy vests. Couple those wardrobe selects with my open, responsive manner toward males, and it quickly became common knowledge around campus that I was the “loose woman” Proverbs 10 had reminded about. I couldn’t fathom how I’d managed to become a slut as a virgin.
I fell into a penetrating clinical depression. Countless periods I couldn’t get out of berth. When I did, the glares of my fellow students would greet me as I ambled through the coffee shop or the student dining room.