When Home Isn’t Safe

Recent quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many people vulnerable to suffering abuse when isolated in a dangerous situation at home.

Many abuse survivor advocates and professionals are expecting that child abuse, intimate partner abuse, and sexual assault will increase during the pandemic because of the increased isolation. Most abusers are parents, siblings, intimate partners, or acquaintances and they now have much more access to victims. Additionally, the victims may no longer have faith leaders, school teachers, co-workers, friends, neighbors, or mandated reporters readily available to help or detect signs of abuse. Also, survivors now have less access to medical and mental health care.

 

Prevalence

The statistics on child abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner abuse are jarring. One in five children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday; 34% of assailants are family members and 58% are acquaintances, while only 7% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.  One in four woman and one in six men have been or will, be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Young women between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault. One in four women and one in 20 men will experience intimate partner abuse. Nearly 75% of Americans personally know someone who is a survivor of intimate partner abuse.

 

Compassionate, Practical, and Informed

As sobering as the statistics are, they don’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by survivors. Because abuse causes physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual pain, survivors need advocates who are prepared to respond and care in ways that are compassionate, practical, and informed.

 

Listen and Believe

Clergy and church members need to be vigilant to check-in and provide accountability to potential, alleged, or known perpetrators, as well as encourage those who may feel threatened.  The power of listening to and believing survivors cannot be underestimated. Research has proven that “the only social reaction related to better adjustment by victims were being believed and being listened to by others” (Sarah E. Ullman in Psychology of Women Quarterly 20, 1996).

 

Safety Plan

If someone is experiencing physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse, they can create a personalized safety plan that will guide them if they find themselves (and their children) in an emergency. The safety plan will help even if they are not ready to leave.  Planning before leaving increases the likelihood that survivors will stay safe. Such a document needs to be kept in safe hands, so it is extremely important to decide who will have it and where it will be stored.

 

Words of Hope

Survivors especially need to hear this message: God responds to their pain, and their story does not end with abuse. Their life was intended for more than shame, guilt, despair, pain, and denial. Abuse does not define them or have the last word on their identity. Yes, it is part of their story. But the message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace.

 

Survivors needs to hear words of hope:

What happened to you was not your fault. You are not to blame. You did not deserve it. You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. Nobody had the right to violate you. You are not responsible for what happened to you. You are not damaged goods. You were supposed to be treated with dignity and respect. You were the victim of assault and it was wrong. You were sinned against. Despite all the pain, healing can happen and there is hope.

Grace is available because Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death and rose from death. The gospel engages our life with all its pain, shame, rejection, lostness, sin, and death. So now, to your pain, the gospel says, “You will be healed.” To your shame, the gospel says, “You can now come to God in confidence.” To your rejection, the gospel says, “You are accepted!” To your lostness, the gospel says, “You are found and I won’t ever let you go.” To your sin, the gospel says, “You are forgiven and God declares you pure and righteous.” To your death, the gospel says, “You once were dead, but now you are alive.”

-From Rid of My Disgrace, by Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsey A. Holcomb.

 

Resources

Here are practical resources and tips that could be useful for those supporting those vulnerable:

 

In addition to these resources, here are the numbers and websites providing help:

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call: 1-800-799-7233

TTY: 1-800-787-3224

thehotline.org

 

National Sexual Assault Hotline

Call: 1-800-656-4673

https://www.rainn.org

 

National Child Abuse Hotline

Call: 10800-422-4453

childhelp.org/hotline/

childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline/

 

If you are a leader in ministry, there are people close to you that are currently suffering abuse. Part of God’s mission for the church is to proclaim his healing and to seek justice for everyone it encounters. The deepest message of the ministry of Jesus, the entire Bible, and the ministry of the church, is the grace of God to all of us because we are all broken people in a broken world.  Grace and mercy are most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness.

What Is a Girl Worth?

What Is a Girl Worth?

In What is a Girl Worth?, Rachel Denhollander exposes the truth about her perpetrator, Larry Nassar, and the institution that covered it up, USA Gymnastic.

While it takes lots of courage, strength, and vulnerability for a survivor to tell their story of sexual assault, it takes even more to report that crime and sin to the legal authorities and the church. Rachel’s story reveals why so many sexual assault survivors do not report the sin and crime perpetrated against them.

Reporting

With regard to the reporting or sexual assault, there are two major issues to consider—false-reporting and under-reporting.  While under-reporting is a major concern, false reporting is not. Actually, false reports are quite rare.  The figure often used by sexual violence experts for estimating falsified reports is two percent, which is a lower rate than other crimes.

Given the horrific nature of sexual assault and the shame it brings to survivors, it is not shocking that it is one of most underreported crime. The fear of intrusive and re-victimizing court procedures prevents many survivors from reporting their assaults.  Most survivors choose not to report their assaults. According to the FBI, sexual assault is “one of the most under-reported cries due primarily to fear and/or embarrassment on the part of the victim.”

Under-reporting is because of the unique shame, fear, and embarrassment that sexual assault victims experience. All of this is then compounded by a victim-blaming culture in which survivors are often said to be “allowing it” (by not resisting strongly enough) or “asking for it” (by dressing too provocatively, going out alone too late at night, or drinking). The victim-blaming impulse shows up frequently when a story of sexual assault appear in the news or is disclosed in a church.

Rachels tells about the victim-blaming she experienced directly and sometimes more subtly. This takes place in numerous ways.  A major way this can be done is by asking suspicious questions: “Why did you wait so long to tell anyone” or “How did you let them happen to you?” or “Couldn’t you have done something to avoid it?”

Rachel’s story is very familiar to other survivors who have been asked suspicious questions or have been ignored or avoided once they’ve dared to report what had been done to them.

Social psychology research on attitudes toward sexual assault demonstrates that our culture holds prejudices and negative views of survivors. Thus, survivors suffer from the trauma of the assault itself as well as the effects of negative stereotypes. The result is that after an assault, victims feel socially derogated and blamed, which can prolong and intensify the psychological and emotions distress of survivors.

Because sexual assault victimization is stigmatized in American society, many suffer silently, which intensifies a victim’s distress and disgrace. There appears to be a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering. One rationale is that this provides nonvictims with a false sense of security if they can place blame on victims, rather than on perpetrators. Negative reactions to sexual assault victims, such as attributing blame or responsibility to the victim, generally have been found to be greater for assaults by an acquaintance and supposedly “non-resisting” victims.

Blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only erroneous, but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization. Research has proven that victims who are believed and listened to by others adjust better than those who are not. Victims that experience negative social reactions have poorer adjustment.

Many survivors know how unlikely they will succeed in their quest for justice if they do report sexual assault. The statistics from the Department of Justice are staggering. Only 4.6% of reports lead to an arrest and less than 1% of cases are referred to prosecutors. Only .5% of reported sexual assaults will lead to a felony conviction or incarceration. Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Even if a perpetrator serves jail time, the frequently serve ridiculously short sentences.  Therefore, survivors feel little incentive to report from the criminal justice system and feel every reason not to report from this same system and victim-blaming culture. For many survivors, corruption, laziness, and/or lack of investigative ability makes reporting not worth the trauma.

In addition to being grateful for Rachel’s description of the difficulty of reporting, I appreciate What is a Girl Worth?because it serves as a testimony to trauma, tells the truth about perpetrators, and serves as a warning to institutions.

Trauma

An important part of Rachel’s story is the trauma she suffered. It is very difficult to read about the heart-wrenching evil that Nassar and others perpetrated against Rachel. Seeing darkness that up-close will affect most readers. It should. I recommend that survivors be attentive to their own emotions, healing, and trauma if they consider reading the book.

The only thing more staggering than the number of occurrences of sexual assault is the acute damage done to the survivor. The effects are physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Sexual assault causes harmful psychological effects that are more severe than effects of other crimes. Abuse survivors experience the second highest prevalence rate for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—only exceeded by survivors of war. The best word to describe abuse is “traumatic.” “Trauma” is a state of being negatively overwhelmed. It is the experience of terror, loss of control, of helplessness during a stressful event.

Perpetrators

Rachel describes well the intentionality and manipulation of Larry Nassar as he perpetrated against young girls under his medical care. These girls and families trusted him and his response was to reinforce their trust only to violate it and assume the benefit of the doubt when accusations mounted against him. Perpetrators devastate lives, sin against God and their victims, commit crimes, violate trust, deceive, and blame their victims.

Like Larry Nassar, most child sexual offenders, are known by their victims. Only 10% of child sexual offenders abuse children they do not know.  Like Larry Nassar, most offenders have many victims. Those who sexually victimize children likely have victimized dozens of even hundreds of other children during their lifetime. Like Larry Nassar, many offenders offend with other child and even adults in the room. According to one study, 54.9% of child molesters offended when another child was present and 23.9% offended when another adult was present.

Institutions

Rachel tells how USA Gymnastics protected Larry Nassar and covered-up the abuse done to her and many other girls. It was systematic institutional suppression of anything that might threatened to derail them from their goals. And this is done at the expense of young girls’ lives—bodies, minds, and souls.

Regardless of the institution—USA Gymnastic, churches, schools, business, families, tend to rally around the accused, minimize the offense or cover it up completely, blame the victims, avoid transparency, mock justice, and cause survivors to feel that their only option is to suffer alone in silence and shame because nobody will believe them.

For churches, consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Churches must recognize that they need to be proactive in keeping children safe and to be communities of hope, healing, and good news to those that have suffered sexual assault. Failure to do so will result in additional cases of abuse, and in lifetimes of agonizing physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. God calls his people to be agents of good news and tell people that Jesus responds to their pain and past. We get to remind survivors that their story does not end with the assault; that their life was intended for more than shame, guilt, despair, pain, and denial; that the assault does not define them or have the last word on their identity.

Not the Final Word

Sexual assault is part of Rachel’s story, and it is an important part of her story, but she is very clear that it is not the final word of her story and it does not define her.

Evil and abuse are not the final word. They are not capable of creating or ultimately defining reality.  That is only God’s prerogative.  However, evil and violence can pervert, distort and destroy.  They are parasitic on the original good of God’s creation. In this way evil serves as the backdrop on the stage where God’s redemption shines with even greater brilliance and pronounced drama. What evil uses to destroy, God uses to expose, excise, and then heal.

Both What is a Girls Worth? and How Much Is a Little Girl With?, the children’s book she also wrote, offer hope, healing, and worth as our individual stories are brought into God’s larger story of dignity, value, rescue, healing, wholeness, redemption, and shalom. God redeems what has been destroyed and to their sense of disgrace, God joyfully applies his mercy and grace.  Rachael captures this message well in How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?:

“No one has the power to change what God’s done,

And He says you’re worth everything, even His Son.

Worth all the pain, worth great sacrifice,

Worth leaving heaven, worth giving His life.”

 

How Are You To Be “More Than A Conqueror”?

How Are You To Be “More Than A Conqueror”?

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all threats against you are tamed. Jesus conquered death, so death and evil are not the end of the story and we can have hope.

To the One Who Conquers, I Will…

In Revelation, one of the key themes is conquering through suffering. The number of occurrences of the verb “to conquer” throughout the Book of Revelation illustrate this theme.[1] John describes amazing promises made to Christians, addressing the promises specifically to those who “conquer”:

  • To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (2:7)
  • The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death (2:11)
  • To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it (2:17)
  • The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations (2:26)
  • The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels (3:5)
  • The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name (3:12)
  • The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne (3:21)

The One Who Conquered

How will these staggering promises come to pass? How will “the one who conquers” conquer amidst affliction and persecution? How will they find the strength to endure and overcome against all odds? John provides the answer: they will conquer by looking by faith to the One who has already conquered, Jesus Christ. We read in Revelation 5:5-6:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.

John describes Jesus as both the kingly Lion and the meek Lamb who has conquered all His and our enemies. Jesus has conquered his enemies through his suffering and death on the cross and yet he is also one who has been slaughtered. Jesus is “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” and he is the one who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”[2] We reign with him because he died and freed us and made us a kingdom for his glory.

This truth is a strong encouragement to you in the midst of suffering. We follow a crucified redeemer who by his death and resurrection has conquered death. Death is no longer the enemy that produces fear in you. Jesus says: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”[3]

This image of the conquering Christ who prevailed through suffering gives you hope. In being united to Christ, you too will conquer as you look through the eyes of faith to the one who has accomplished everything on your behalf through his death and resurrection. It is for this reason that John writes in 12:11: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

We Are More Than Conquerors

The truth of Rev 12:11 can free you to breathe a sigh of relief and thanksgiving instead of despair. Because God’s plan for you is never to allow anything to separate you from his love, you can face the worst of the world’s uncertainties with great confidence, as St. Paul writes in Romans 8:31-39:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[4]

No opposition. No accusation. No condemnation. No separation.

And since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, God will most surely, most certainly, without any doubt or any possibility of failure, provide for us. John Chrysostom explicates: “The wonder is not only that God the Father gave His Son but that He did so in this way, by sacrificing the one He loved. It is astonishing that He gave the Beloved for those who hated Him. See how highly He honors us. If even when we hated Him and were enemies He gave the Beloved, what will He not do for us now?”[5]

Because God’s plan for you is so certain, you can face the most difficult circumstances, the most terrifying enemies, and the most devastating ordeals with confidence. You do not merely survive your trials; you are “more than a conqueror” because absolutely nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ.

 

[1] John uses the verb “to conquer” 17 times: Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 6:2; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7

[2] Revelation 1:5-6

[3] Revelation 1:17-18

[4] Romans 8:31-39

[5] John Chrysostom, “Homily on Ephesians I.I.8.” in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 8, Ed. Mark J. Edwards (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 114.

The Justice Calling

The Justice Calling

The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance is a comprehensive biblical theology of justice that is practically engaging. Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson bring together their deep study of scripture and their direct engagement with human trafficking and slavery, their scholarship and their activism.

To give you a glimpse of the book, here are two brief excerpts that reflect its theological richness:

“The source of justice in the midst of even the most heinous injustice in our world is Jesus Christ. God’s very character is one of justice, and he has given us Jesus as the manifestation of his justice both now and for eternity. God is the one who reveals the justice calling upon our lives, because God is the source of justice.

I have been on a journey to discover justice rooted in Jesus, to know this call that comes first from God, and to navigate the brokenness of this world with biblical hope as my sure-footed guide. Justice rooted in Jesus broke open for me the possibility and promise of persevering hope—the possibility that I could shed my paralysis and actually move forward one small step at a time because there is a God who is and will be victorious over injustice. And while God certainly could and does act on his own, God beckons us to join him, calling us into his family to be part of his work of redemption and healing through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” (pages 3-4)

“In the light of Christ, we come to see that we are all poor, wretched, helpless, and utterly dependent on God’s saving grace to rescue us. Outside the grace of God, we are incapable of getting right with God, others, ourselves, and the rest of the created world. As slaves to sin, we find it impossible to be holy, to act justly, and to love mercy, but thanks be to God that Jesus Christ came to this earth to find the lost and free the enslaved. Through Christ’s righteousness we can become righteous and be restored to right relationships. Because of this grace, we can live the way of life God intended for his holy people, the way of justice and righteousness, the way of shalom.” (page 28)

I appreciate how Bethany and Kristen explore the convergence of justice and spirit formation. This excerpt from an interview with them capture this well:

You speak about this idea of moving into the darkness, how would you encourage someone who longs to do so but is paralyzed by fear?

Bethany: I think there is a temptation to despair or even to be apathetic and draw back and embrace cynicism rather than believing anything can change or holding onto hope. What we learn from the prophets, especially Habakkuk, is that we can contend with God. We can argue, wine, ask questions of God, and we can know that He sees everything we see in a far more specific and complete scale than we ever could. He invites us to bring our questions to him and to wrestle with him. Just the act of questioning, rather than an affront to God—even if we are angry, is still us coming to God. And God longs for you to talk to him and tell him all the details, to leave nothing spared of what weighs on you and to let him enter into it with you. There is a beauty that he brings from even the most devastating ashes.

Throughout the book, justice work is defined as being long and hard, what would you say to someone who is burnt out from justice work?

Kristen: We know that burn out is very common for those who long to see justice in this world. That’s a big reason we wanted to write this book–to explore what it would take to seek justice as people with deep roots that are sustained and nurtured by the living waters of Jesus Christ. We believe that what we do is supposed to flow from who we are – so that our work of justice, ideally, flows from the grace we have been given in and through Jesus Christ that enables us to become God’s children. This same savior, Jesus Christ, is the one responsible for reconciling all things (Col 1:20).  We are invited to share God’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation and justice, but this work ultimately depends upon God, not us. We hope that by looking deeply at God’s commitment to justice and righteousness throughout the whole story of Scripture and by being reminded of the centrality of Jesus Christ for the reconciliation of all things, you might find strength to continue on in the journey. We hope that the practices of Sabbath, lament, worship, and Eucharist might be ways the Spirit can revive you as you are reminded of the beauty of God’s vision for the world along with your own identity in Christ and your reliance on him for all things.

Click to download a free sampler of Chapter 1.

8489070

Interview with Ashley Null

Interview with Ashley Null

Ashley Null is one of the world’s foremost experts on Thomas Cranmer. He is canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, visiting fellow at Cambridge, visiting research fellow at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview him.

 

What are you currently working on?

I am preparing a critical edition of Cranmer’s private theological notebooks for Oxford University Press—a five-volume project. The first volume, The Efficacious Word of God, should be available in print this time next year.

 

What can you tell us about what you are finding and why this is so important?

As part of this project, I have located Cranmer’s massive research notes on the Eucharist during the time he was preparing the prayer books. They shed much more light on his understanding of the Eucharist, including the importance of Eastern sources in his thought. These papers should forever close the debate on whether Cranmer was a “mere memoralist.” He clearly believed the Eucharist was fundamentally a fresh, supernatural encounter with Christ which promoted sanctification in the believer.

 

How is a better understanding of Cranmer, his influence and his theology, fuel for a more robust focus on evangelism and mission?

Firstly, Cranmer’s commitment to the transforming power of Scripture is the only solid hope any church has for a fruitful mission program. Unless our efforts are built on God’s Word, we have no truth or hope to offer folks. Remembering that this was the foundational truth of our first Anglican formularies can help guide our contemporary sense of what it means to be Episcopalian.

Secondly, Cranmer’s understanding of human nature and the importance of the affections can help us have a much better understanding of those we are trying to reach with the Gospel. According to Cranmer, “what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” As shrewd observers of human nature, the Reformers realized that there were forces that drive people, often without them realizing it. Real change can only happen when those sub-conscious needs are addressed, and the greatest need is to be loved. Only when we know we are loved can we gain the power to love others. Until then, all our efforts, whether we be aware of it or not, are directed at making ourselves feel loved. Until then, the role of reason is simply to justify our efforts at self-love, often in the form of self-gratification. Since many people think they have to be good enough first before God can love them, they avoid church, since they fear going there will make them feel unloved. Therefore, any effective evangelistic strategy must begin with proclaiming the unconditional love of God for sinners.

Thirdly, we live in a culture where we are defined by what we do, rather than by whom we are loved. That was the issue that Cranmer faced in his day, and his presentation of the Gospel was tailored to meet that cultural challenge in the light of human nature. We can learn so much from his notion of divine allurement as summarized in the Comfortable Words. Step by step, Cranmer’s gospel sentences begin with felt human needs and gradually lead people to see the glory of God as revealed in his unconditional love for the unworthy in the cross of Christ.

Fourthly, Cranmer was the originator of the Anglican concept of the difference between biblically determined essentials and church-determined non-essentials. In a time when there is so much confusion between these two categories, it is helpful to remember their original meaning in the Anglican context. Cranmer thought Jesus came to proclaim a message that had the power to create a community. How that message was proclaimed would depend on the cultural context of the audience. Just as his gospel of divine allurement was thoroughly biblical but still shaped to address contemporary needs and issues, Cranmer believed that the church in every generation needed to rethink its liturgy and institutional life to make sure it expressed the unchanging Gospel in terms understandable to ever evolving contemporary culture. The great advantage of this understanding of mission is its sensitivity to the great diversity of human flourishing. The church will not be expected to look the same amongst different people groups, although they believe the same truths. Of course, the great danger of this understanding of mission is that cultural accommodation can lead to cultural capitulation, i.e., cultural truths can replace biblical truths in the name of contextualization.

Lastly, we can still learn from Cranmer’s understanding of the relationship between good theology and a great society. According to Cranmer, grace leads to gratitude, gratitude births love, love leads to repentance, repentance produces good works, good works make for a better society. What better mission strategy could a church follow?

 

Books by Ashley

 

Why You Shouldn’t Call That False Teaching a Heresy

Why You Shouldn’t Call That False Teaching a Heresy

This article originally appeared in Christianity Today (October 2016).

A group of bloggers seeking reform in Southern Baptist circles recently decried pastor Rick Warren for teaching that God communicates to believers via dreams. The bloggers named Warren and other speakers at a 2015 Hillsong conference “heretical preachers that claim extra-biblical revelation from God.” To be sure, the nature of God’s revelation has been debated throughout church history, and overemphasis on dream interpretation can be theologically dangerous.

Elsewhere, a UK Christian leader has devoted much of his writing and teaching to criticizing Christian Zionism—the belief that the founding of the State of Israel is foretold in Scripture. He and others have begun calling Zionism and its political implications “heresy” in online columns. And their views are not unique: Many Christians believe that Zionism is a misreading of God’s promises throughout the Old Testament.

But are these problems of heresy? Both complementarian and egalitarian leaders have taken to the Internet to call each other’s views on gender and leadership heresy. That, though their respective movements have officially existed for about 30 years.

Some say the Internet has democratized knowledge. Clearly, it has also democratized theologizing. Anyone with a computer and Wifi access can publish their thoughts and declarations onto a level pixelated playing field. Some blogs and Twitter accounts exist solely to cry foul whenever a well-known preacher makes a controversial statement.

Yet the frequency and volume of the proclamations from these sources—and from those who share and retweet them—suggest that some Christians don’t understand the significance of right doctrine, or the gravity of heresy charges. Worse, these disputes lead some to believe that doctrine isn’t worth the effort, since it seems only to breed division rather than promote Christlikeness.

Given our volatile online atmosphere, Christians in general and evangelicals in particular need a clearer definition of heresy. We need to know how to spot the difference between essential truths of the Christian faith and doctrines over which we can disagree and still remain faithful to Christian teaching. Even with a good definition, doctrinal assessment requires wisdom and discernment. It often involves two different ends: first, avoiding overuse of the heresy charge, which strips the word of its usefulness; and second, correcting Christians with beliefs that are false and that can undermine the integrity of the church.

Why Doctrine Is So Important

We may be tempted to think that since theology so easily divides, we are better off simply agreeing to disagree. After all, Jesus said that if we love God and others, we are fulfilling the law. “Why,” some ask, “does it matter that we believe the right things about God, so long as we love him?”

It is certainly true that loving God and others is at the heart of the gospel. But Jesus calls us to love God with our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Loving God involves thinking rightly about him, just as loving a friend or significant other involves rightly knowing their interests, beliefs, habits, and history.

When the Israelites taught their children about God, they recalled all he had done for them and their forebears. They worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One who had delivered them out of Egypt. And they used specific phrases to describe him and what he had done. These specific phrases distinguished the God of the Israelites from the gods of their pagan neighbors.

Orthodox statements about the Trinity and Jesus Christ function similarly. They identify the God we worship and describe his saving relationship to us. Therefore, in order to love God aright, and to be assured of the salvation he offers, we must know who God is and what he has done for us in and through Jesus Christ.

The Bible reserves strong language for false teachers who promote beliefs that undermine or contradict the gospel. Bruce Demarest, a theologian at Denver Seminary, writes that the New Testament “expresses serious concern for ‘false doctrines’ and places the highest priority on maintaining ‘the pattern of sound teaching.’ Scripture urges Christians to be alert to doctrinal deception and to avoid heresy by carefully guarding the pure content of the gospel.” Again, orthodoxy is not just a matter of theological precision. It’s about making sure the church rightly grasps our God and his work for us in Christ.

That’s why Paul wrote so forcefully to the Galatians, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (1:9, NIV, used throughout). It’s why Peter warned against “false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1).

It’s also why early Christians wrestled for centuries over the nature and identity of Christ. The church held services and used prayers that worshiped Jesus. But wasn’t he a man in his earthly ministry? If so, did that mean they were practicing idolatry by worshiping a mere man? Or was Jesus in some way divine? Was he divine but only looked human? Or was he human but became divine, for instance, at his baptism? If he wasn’t fully human and fully divine, then could he accomplish salvation for us?

Such were the earliest doctrinal issues to be ironed out, and for very practical reasons: They affected how the church worshiped God and understood salvation. There were also pastoral concerns, to ensure believers living in a pagan world understood what they confessed together as one body. Doctrinal issues may require abstract language to explain, but they are not primarily academic. They have serious implications for how we live and talk about our faith.

A Word Worth Preserving

What is heresy? Literally the word means “choice”—that is, a choice to deviate from traditional teaching in favor of one’s own insights. The word can also mean “school of thought.” That seems to be Paul’s usage in 1 Corinthians 11:19, where he uses the Greek word haireseis (“faction”). Gradually, the term came to mean “party or sect,” and over time it took on negative connotations.

Some today cast the word heretic in a positive light: a courageous rebel who thinks outside the box and stands up to the “institutional” church. To be sure, some whom the church called heretics have turned out to be heroes; think of how the Catholic Church responded to Galileo when he asserted that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Then there is the almost flippant use of the word, as when others use it to refer to anyone who doesn’t agree with their denominational or theological distinctives.

But just because a word is misused doesn’t mean it is no longer helpful.

Traditionally a heretic is someone who has compromised an essential doctrine, usually by oversimplification, and has thus lost sight of who God truly is or what he has done for us. While most heretics throughout history were asking legitimate questions, they weren’t called heretics simply for asking questions. Their answers were the problem, as was their unwillingness to accept clear and detailed correction. In many cases, the heretics went too far, trying to mold the faith into the shape of unbiblical ideas they found appealing, especially those of pagan Greek philosophy. Or they began to emphasize certain ideas in Scripture to the exclusion of others.

In order to use heresy properly, we must understand that not all theological errors are equal or carry the same ramifications.

Our own tradition, Protestantism, has outlined three kinds of doctrinal error: (1) an error that directly contradicts a fundamental belief (heresy proper, like Arianism—keep reading); (2) an error that indirectly contradicts a fundamental belief (e.g., to teach that God causes suffering implies that God is not good); and (3) an error beyond a fundamental article (e.g., teaching that Christians must speak in tongues to have the Holy Spirit).

More simply, many Christian theologians distinguish heresy from heterodoxy. Heresy, as historian David Christie-Murray explains, is a belief that denies a doctrine “officially defined” as orthodoxy. Heterodoxy, however, is a Christian belief that diverges from a “commonly accepted teaching.” Heresy denies orthodoxy, while heterodoxy adds a questionable or problematic teaching to orthodoxy.

For example, according to Protestants, the Catholic teaching that Mary was born without original sin and remained a virgin for life is heterodox. It’s not heresy, because Catholics affirm orthodox Christology. But it’s heterodox because we Protestants believe only Jesus—the Word made flesh—was free of original sin, and that Catholic teaching adds something not taught in Scripture. However, Oneness Pentecostalism is an example of heresy, because it rejects historic orthodox Trinitarian theology.

The line between heterodoxy and heresy can be blurry, so we need wisdom, discernment, and humility before labeling a person a heretic. Additionally, we must remember that the sum of what Christians should believe is not identical to the essentials we must believe for salvation. We need to leave room for believers to grow in their understanding of the faith. We believe in justification by faith in Christ, not justification by accuracy of doctrine. No one comes into the family of God ready to pen a book on systematic theology. We are saved by grace, not by intellectual precision.

However, we must also remember that faith is not ignorant or naïve. It is informed, resting on a firm understanding of the Good News. Genuine trust requires a reasonable knowledge of what—and more important, who—is being trusted. And growing in knowledge of biblical truth is a vital component of the Christian life.

What Heresy Looks Like

The apostles were not afraid to denounce heresy. If a teaching or practice threatened the gospel’s integrity, they strongly condemned it—as when Paul denounces Peter and the circumcision party in Galatians 2. Yet heresy charges were not lobbed casually. Nor were they aimed at mere theological imprecision.

For instance, a couple named Priscilla and Aquila pulled aside an intelligent, competent teacher of Scripture named Apollos and “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). We don’t read of them calling him at heretic. Rather, we see them lovingly correcting a theological error. They wanted him to know the truth and the joy that accompanied it, not to condemn him or stir division.

The early church combated heresy by reinforcing biblical doctrine with creeds. Arguably, the earliest creeds appear in the Bible. Many scholars believe Paul is reciting a creed when he summarizes the truths “of first importance”: that Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised on the third day, and appeared to the apostles and many others (1 Cor. 15:3–7).

After the apostolic age, the early church possessed what was known as “the rule of faith,” which Bruce Demarest describes as “brief summaries of essential Christian truths.” Some teachers, however, began to lead movements that blatantly opposed the apostles’ teaching, and the church was compelled to articulate more clearly the essentials of Christianity. Core doctrines like the Trinity and the person of Christ were developed through the early church’s struggle against heresy. And the rule of faith birthed more precise statements like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. Thus, heresies forced Christians to think more precisely and definitively about the truth of the gospel.

Three important heresies stand out.

Marcionism

Marcion was the son of the bishop of Sinope, Pontus (in modern-day Turkey). Around 140, he traveled to Rome, where he was welcomed by the church, but by 144, his views had gotten him into trouble, and he was excommunicated.

Among other troubling beliefs, Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament was legalistic and wrathful, a fundamentally different being from the gracious and loving God of the New. He rejected the authority of the Old Testament, and also attempted to liberate the church from all law. He believed the only way to do this was to rid Christianity of all traces of Judaism. Marcion ended up creating his own Bible, which included only a shorter and earlier version of the Gospel of Luke and ten epistles of Paul. Marcion also edited these books. For example, he cut all Old Testament citations from Paul’s letters.

The early church concluded that Marcion’s divisions between law and gospel, Old and New Testaments, were foreign to the apostles’ teaching. Second-century theologian and bishop Irenaeus spoke forcefully against Marcion. He wrote that Marcion “mutilated the Gospel according to Luke, removing all the narratives of the Lord’s birth, and also removing much of the teaching of the discourses of the Lord wherein he is most manifestly described as acknowledging the maker of this universe to be his father.”

Sabellianism

During the second and third centuries, Christians struggled to reconcile the oneness of God—“I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:5)—with the three divine names that appear at the end of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19).

If there is no God besides the God of Israel, who are the Son and the Holy Spirit? Are they newer gods who had just been revealed? Are they less divine than the Father? A third-century priest named Sabellius concluded that FatherSon, and HolySpirit were labels for the three different ways God had revealed himself.

His views became known as Sabellianism, better known today as Modalism. This heresy teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons but simply different modes or forms of God. Sabellians maintained that any Scripture passage suggesting that God is more than one person must be interpreted metaphorically.

But an African theologian named Tertullian argued that a metaphorical interpretation twisted the terms Father and Son, which were revealed to us to convey something real about God. “In order to be a husband, I must have a wife,” Tertullian wrote. “I can never myself be my own wife. In like manner, in order to be a father, I have a son, for I never can be a son to myself; and in order to be a son, I have a father, it being impossible for me ever to be my own father.” Further, he showed that Christ revealed his deity to the apostles by assuming attributes of the God of Israel (when he said, for example, “I am,” in John 8:58, harkening to “I Am Who I Am” in Exodus 3:14), and by calling on God the Father as a distinct witness to his own identity.

Arianism

Theology doesn’t often cause urban uprisings, but it did in Alexandria, Egypt, in 318. That year, people streamed into the streets chanting, “There was a time when the Son was not!” The slogan expressed an idea that had become popular: that Christ was a created being. But that idea was opposed by another group of Christians, led by Bishop Alexander of Alexandria and his protégé, Athanasius. They insisted that Christ is eternally divine along with the Father.

This controversy had political ramifications, and eventually spread through the Roman Empire and threatened to fracture the church. What caused this crisis? The teachings of a Libyan priest in Alexandria named Arius.

Arius wasn’t trying to stir division. He thought that the relationship between the Father and Jesus was simple and needed to be freed from overly complicated explanations. Since the age of the apostles, Jesus had always been considered to be divine in some sense. But his precise relationship to the Father had not been settled on yet.

Arius argued that the Son was created before the rest of creation. As Arius put it, “Before he was begotten or created or appointed or established, he did not exist.” Further, Arius believed, the Son is not of one divine substance with the Father. He is rather of a similar substance (homoiousios in Greek) to the Father. The divine qualities of the Son are derivative—contingent, not essential—and given to the Son by the Father.

Arianism caught the attention of Emperor Constantine. Fearing that the church’s discord might fracture the empire, he called the Council of Nicaea (325), attended by 318 bishops, to resolve the situation. After dramatic debates, the majority stood with Alexander and condemned Arianism. (Only two other men were exiled with Arius. Thus, the outcome was virtually unanimous.) The bishops formulated a summary of the Christian faith that used precise wording to denounce Arianism: “We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance [homoousious] with the Father.”

Why the precise wording? Because, as Athanasius argued in On the Incarnation, salvation itself hung in the balance. The Bible’s teaching on Christ’s atonement requires a mediator who is fully God, with the holiness to make a perfect offering for sin, and also fully human, one who truly represents those to be reconciled to God.

As fourth-century theologian Gregory of Nazianzus famously put it, “That which was not assumed is not healed, but that which is united to God is saved.” Gregory understood that what we believe about Christ is directly connected to what we believe about salvation.

The orthodox bishops at the council struggled to gain popular approval. In fact, the council caused Arianism to grow more rapidly. It grew so much that Constantine—who was not concerned about fidelity to the strict wording of the Nicene Creed—restored Arius. He required Arius to submit in principle to the Creed. Arius did, but Athanasius, Alexander’s successor, and other bishops believed he was lying.

Athanasius was exiled five times for defending Nicene orthodoxy. In 46 years as bishop, he spent only 17 in Alexandria. But he remained faithful, even though he was up against what seemed like the entire world. Today he is recognized as the foremost defender of Nicene orthodoxy and the most prolific writer of Trinitarian theology in the fourth century.

A few years after Athanasius died, the Cappadocian Fathers—Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus—carried the torch to subdue Arianism and Semi-Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

How to Identify Heresy

This brief sketch shows that a mature definition of heresy draws on the rich biblical, theological, and historical teachings of Christianity. So we must recognize the various places and levels of theological authority.

Scripture is the highest authority, of course, followed by the great ecumenical creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene), and then by denominational confessions. Those include Anglicanism’s Thirty-Nine Articles, Lutheranism’s Augsburg Confession, the Westminster Confession, and Methodism’s Twenty-Five Articles of Religion. Many evangelical organizations use statements of faith to delineate their theological convictions. Creeds, confessions, and statements of faith can help us understand Scripture, but they should never be placed above Scripture.

That said, the creeds in particular are great summaries of biblical truth and are indispensable for pinpointing heresy. Accepted by Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians, the Nicene Creed—which should be called the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, since later debates led to an expansion of Nicaea’s formula at the Council in Constantinople (381)—wonderfully encapsulates the fundamental teachings of historic Christianity. If a believer genuinely accepts the Nicene Creed, they should not be dubbed a heretic. It’s worth asking: “Can they say the Nicene Creed without crossing their fingers?” If yes, they may still be wrong or heterodox on other matters, but we cannot call them heretics.

The creeds are bare-bones structures, the outlines of the sketch. Confessions and statements of faith color in the picture. They tie theology to everyday life and highlight denominational distinctives—how one Christian tradition differs from another. Confessions and statements of faith often define a particular group’s belief on secondary issues such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, predestination, and the end times. They arise when particular theological issues are debated. For example, many evangelical statements of faith include affirmations of the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. That’s because evangelicals have wanted to distinguish themselves from liberal Christianity, which often denied these teachings.

Today we rarely confront heresy as such, in part because those who adopt a heretical view frequently leave the church when they do so. But heresy is still alive and well. One practical example: The reason we don’t count Jehovah’s Witnesses as fellow Christians is because they espouse Arianism.

Even though heresy is rare, heterodoxy and false teachings are not.

In a pluralistic world, some sub-Christian or extra-biblical teachings—like the Immaculate Conception, that the only appropriate Bible translation is the King James Version, or that the Jewish laws are mandatory for Christians—find their way into otherwise orthodox churches. Most would not count as heresy, but that does not mean we can ignore them.

That said, we are called to confront with love, just as the early church confronted Apollos, patiently guiding people to a fuller understanding of the faith. Even this calls for discernment, because often we’re not dealing with theological error as much as different interpretations of Scripture. In those cases especially, we should eschew the word heresy. And in all cases, we should recall this saying: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.”

God Made All of Me is Available Now!

God Made All of Me is Available Now!

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies is available now.

Do you have children or do you have friends with small children? This is a book that will benefit parents for years to come, so please help get the word out.

GMMcover

It’s easy to convey the message to children that their bodies or particular parts of their bodies are shameful. This misconception fuels confusion, embarrassment, and secrecy, and often prevents children from recognizing or reporting sexual abuse.

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help families talk about these sensitive issues with two- to eight-year-old children. Because the private parts of our bodies are private, the home is the ideal environment where a child should learn about his or her body and how it should be treated by others.

God Made All of Me starts from the fundamental truth that God created everything and applies that truth to kids and their bodies. It equips parents to talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch of others. God Made All of Me allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes.

This simple and relatable story, designed to help children protect their bodies, will be an important resource for every family with young children.

  • Simple, relatable story for two- to eight-year-old children, designed to help them protect their bodies.
  • Includes colorful, age-appropriate illustrations.
  • Conveys a clear message that God made every part of the human body and that every part is, therefore, good (the doctrine of creation.)
  • Gently opens the conversation about sexual abuse that every family needs to have.
  • Facilitates open conversations about appropriate and inappropriate touch.
  • Overcomes confusion, secrecy, and embarrassment about bodies with truth.

GMAOM Infographic lg

Download JPG

Download PDF

Purchase God Made All of Me

Here are the citations for the infographic:

  • “About one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused during childhood.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “A child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a recognized, trusted adult than by a stranger.” —Roland C. Summit, “The Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 7, 1983: 182; and Jon R. Conte, ed., Critical issues in Child Sexual Abuse (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications), 122.
  • “Most victims of child sexual abuse know their attacker; 34% of assailants were family members, 58% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.” —US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement (2000), see Table 6 on page 10.
  • “Incorporating parents into prevention efforts makes child safety training most effective.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “Involvement by parents is crucial because 65% of social workers, 53% of doctors and 58% of physician assistants do not report all suspected cases of child maltreatment. Several studies document that even medical professionals often miss cases of child abuse or fail to report suspicions.” —Steven Delaronde et al, Opinions Among Mandated Reporters Toward Child Maltreatment Reporting Policies, 25 Child Abuse & Neglect 81, 88 (2000); David Finkelhor, Is Child Abuse Overreported? 48 Public Welfare 22, 25 (1990); E.G. Flaherty, et al, Pediatrician Characteristics Associated with Child Abuse Identification and Reporting: Results from a National Survey of Pediatricians, 11(4) Child Maltreatment 361 (2006); E.G. Flaherty, et al, From Suspicion of Physical Abuse to Reporting: Primary Care Clinician Decision-Making, 122  Pediatrics 611 (2008); and V.l. Gunn, et al, Factors Affecting Pediatricians’ Reporting of Suspected Child Maltreatment, 5(2) Ambulatory Pediatrics 96 (2005).
  • “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed. In addition to teaching the children personal safety, it is important to provide instruction to the parents so that they can reinforce these lessons at home and will know how to respond if a child makes a disclosure. Many teach fire safety, school crossing safety, or even swimming safety and yet bristle at the thought of personal safety designed to empower children to protect themselves against offenders.” —Victor I. Vieth, “Suffering the Children: Developing Effective Church Policies on Child Maltreatment,” Jacob’s Hope (Vol. 2, Issue 1, June 2011).
A Letter to Parents About Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

A Letter to Parents About Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

Dear Parent or Caregiver,

We wrote God Made All of Me as a tool so you can explain to your children that God made their body. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity, or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.

The message children need to hear is: “God made all of you. Every part of your body is good, and some parts are private. He made the parts of your body that other people see every day, and he made your private parts. Every part is good because God made every part and called them all good.”

Our goal is to help you in protecting your child from sexual abuse. We wrote Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Sexual Assault Victims because it is an important and prevalent issue. One in four women and one in six men have been or will be assaulted in their lifetime. Heartbreakingly, many of the victims of this epidemic are children: 15% of those assaulted are under age 12, and 29% are between ages 12 to 17. Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.

We want parents and caregivers to be smarter and better prepared than those who would want to harm the child you love and want to protect. While we know that actions by adults can be more effective than expecting children to protect themselves from sexual abuse, children still need accurate, age-appropriate information about child sexual abuse and confidence their parents and caregivers will support them.

Education is important in prevention against inappropriate sexual behavior or contact. By teaching children about their body and discussing appropriate and inappropriate touch, you are helping them understand their ability to say No to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt or trick them.

Please consider taking the time to read this book and talk to your child about it.

Best,

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

GMMcoverGet our children’s book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

 

Infographic for God Made All of Me

Infographic for God Made All of Me

Child sexual abuse is more prevalent than most people think and the offenders are usually people parents and the children know, not strangers.

The good news is that parents are not helpless. As a matter of fact, incorporating parents into prevention efforts makes child safety training most effective.

GMAOM Infographic lg

Download JPG

Download PDF

Purchase God Made All of Me

Here are the citations for the infographic:

  • “About one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused during childhood.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “A child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a recognized, trusted adult than by a stranger.” —Roland C. Summit, “The Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 7, 1983: 182; and Jon R. Conte, ed., Critical issues in Child Sexual Abuse (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications), 122.
  • “Most victims of child sexual abuse know their attacker; 34% of assailants were family members, 58% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.” —US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement (2000), see Table 6 on page 10.
  • “Incorporating parents into prevention efforts makes child safety training most effective.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “Involvement by parents is crucial because 65% of social workers, 53% of doctors and 58% of physician assistants do not report all suspected cases of child maltreatment. Several studies document that even medical professionals often miss cases of child abuse or fail to report suspicions.” —Steven Delaronde et al, Opinions Among Mandated Reporters Toward Child Maltreatment Reporting Policies, 25 Child Abuse & Neglect 81, 88 (2000); David Finkelhor, Is Child Abuse Overreported? 48 Public Welfare 22, 25 (1990); E.G. Flaherty, et al, Pediatrician Characteristics Associated with Child Abuse Identification and Reporting: Results from a National Survey of Pediatricians, 11(4) Child Maltreatment 361 (2006); E.G. Flaherty, et al, From Suspicion of Physical Abuse to Reporting: Primary Care Clinician Decision-Making, 122  Pediatrics 611 (2008); and V.l. Gunn, et al, Factors Affecting Pediatricians’ Reporting of Suspected Child Maltreatment, 5(2) Ambulatory Pediatrics 96 (2005).
  • “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed. In addition to teaching the children personal safety, it is important to provide instruction to the parents so that they can reinforce these lessons at home and will know how to respond if a child makes a disclosure. Many teach fire safety, school crossing safety, or even swimming safety and yet bristle at the thought of personal safety designed to empower children to protect themselves against offenders.” —Victor I. Vieth, “Suffering the Children: Developing Effective Church Policies on Child Maltreatment,” Jacob’s Hope (Vol. 2, Issue 1, June 2011).