I’ve read a New York Times article recently that included an alarming comment from a young woman who said she’d gone to a counselor at her Christian university regarding sexual assaults she’d suffered while young:
The person who supposedly counseled me told me if I reported a person like that to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell. He said all of my problems were as a result of my actions in the abuse, which mostly took place before I was 12, and I should just forgive the abuser.
You can see the bullying tactics evident in this type of “counseling”:
- Don’t report it. Think of how that will harm the body of Christ.
- Besides, any problems you’re experiencing now are because you didn’t handle it right back when you were only 12 years old.
- In fact, everything about this is your fault because you haven’t forgiven the one who preyed upon you. Shame on you for not being a forgiving person!
If this young woman’s report is true, then shame on that counselor.
Going to Hell
One other thing about this bullying that jumped out at me is the part about hell. Note what the woman said she was told:
If I reported a person like that to the police … I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell.
There is so much wrong with that message. It plays upon a victim’s emotions, it serves to protect the abuser, and – as I argue here – it’s heresy. Whether this particular counselor actually said it it or not (and the times article doesn’t report a response from the counselor, unfortunately), this isn’t the first time I’ve run across this misbegotten doctrine of salvation and hell.
Bottom line: no one’s actions are sending another person to hell. The Bible explains that under the New Covenant each person is responsible for his or her own sins.
In those days people will no longer say, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes — their own teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:29-30.)
It’s right there in the Bible, everyone is responsible for their own sin. So how can anyone teaching the New Covenant gospel of Christ say that a victim of another person’s sin is responsible for that person’s destiny, whether to eternal life or eternal death?
Any assertion that reporting a sex abuser means the victim has now consigned the abuser to hell is completely unbiblical. It’s also a horrible thing to say, trying to put that responsibility on a person who has already suffered. And that makes it doubly un-Christlike.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21.)
If there is a Christian college advising its students that reporting abuse will lead to the abuser’s eternal damnation, it is completely missing the point of the ministry of Christ and should close its doors immediately rather than continue in this blasphemy and heresy.
After all, protecting the abuser by using Christ’s name is blasphemy, and promoting this teaching about hell and damnation is heresy. Both of them – blasphemy and heresy – hurt the very people who should instead be ministered to and comforted in Christ’s name.
Blasphemy and heresy – what a college curriculum.