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A Theology of Sexuality and its Abuse: Creation, Evil, and the Relational Ecosystem, Part 1

For many reasons, studying the brokenness of SA alongside Scripture—of an already mysterious sexuality—creates a “messy obligation.” Understanding and responding to the sexually abused means we are committed to the revealed truth of Scripture as well as the observed truth of empirical studies,11 which help illuminate the victim’s lived-experience.12 When revealed truth and observed truth merge, then the complexity of the human condition is in fullest view—the “treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7).

Creation Theology: The Backdrop of Sexuality

In Genesis we find “a theological understanding of the Old Testament on its own ground.”13 Here is the canonical “downbeat” of sexuality, a sexuality rooted in *creation theology. Paradoxically, the Creator’s intention for human sexuality can appear all the more vibrant when we consider the demise of Eden. While it may seem counter-intuitive, we are aided in a theology of sexuality by acknowledging the state of the broken world as we know it—the world that victims of abuse know in uniquely painful ways.

Eden Is Long Gone: Facing a Collective Reality

Creation’s portrait of human sexuality is deeply fractured. This rupture of biblical sexuality exists in every class, country, culture, and religious expression. When, for example: pornography remains so well funded, affecting children, women, and men; when women are victimized through *corrective rape in war-torn countries like Africa; when a 170-page manual on child *molestation circulates that details step-by-step, how to find, *groom, and molest children;14 when human *sex trafficking exploits children and young women like *“chattel” on a global market; when young girls must endure *female circumcision; when boys are sexually abused throughout the world but shame, *cultural mores,15 and male *stereotypes keep them quiet; when women are maimed or burned in *“honor killing” for breaking sectarian relational *taboos; when protestant churches sensitively pray about infertility on Mother’s Day but won’t acknowledge the sexually abused sitting in the same room;16 when the Catholic Church remains so dogmatic about adult contraception but criminally silent about child sexual abuse of epidemic proportion—the portrait of biblical sexuality is indeed fractured!

In his book Sex in the Bible, J. Harold Ellens captures the moral gravity of our time when he laments that, “we increasingly witness the progressive unfolding of the horror of sexual abuse and other forms of sexual aberration in all societies on this planet, particularly in religious communities.”17 Singling out the religious communities and the leaders of our faith traditions is a haunting but necessary remark. Any shepherd who preys on their sheep by sexually abusing them is a profound illustration of corrosive hypocrisy—to faith, body, and community (Ezekiel 34).

It has been estimated that in a fifty-two-year period (1950–2002), at least fifty thousand young people were abused by priests.18 What major Western country has not had the sexual abuse crisis hit their community of faith? Through symbolism or other means, there is now a need for collective *restitution and healing on an international and inter-faith scale (Psalm 32). On the model of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission,19 the international faith community needs to demonstrate a renewed welcome to their sexually violated, standing in solidarity with the betrayed in the name of our Wounded Lamb who stands “as slain” (Rev 5:6a).20 The eternal scarring of the Savior is extremely meaningful to the sexually violated. This biblical text holds out a precious truth and a healing paradox for abused people still struggling with the effects of their *trauma: at the center of the throne John no longer sees the Lion (5:5), but now a Lamb (5:6). John’s theology of Christ’s victory through sacrifice “emphasizes the lasting benefits of his sacrificial death and resurrection.”21 Christ did not die to save humans from their humanity, but to authenticate and redeem it.22 Through the scarred Christ, a holistic redemption is provided.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and a contributor to the forthcoming book, Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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