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Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune offers analysis and commentary on issues that concern the work of FaithTrust Institute.

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Guest Blog: Hope in the Research

Guest Blog: Hope in the Research

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By Rev. James S. Evinger — Since 2008, FaithTrust generously has posted on its website a document I compile, Annotated Bibliography of Clergy Sexual Abuse and Sexual Boundary Violations in Religious Communities. Intended to be extensive and broad, the bibliography, as of the semi-annual update of October 11, 2017, is now over 1,600 pages. Here are four emergent themes in the recent (last five years) literature which deserve attention from those who support FaithTrust’s mission.

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Order More Millstones...

Order More Millstones...

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Brentwood Academy is an elite, non-denominational Christian, college prep school in a Nashville suburb. A civil lawsuit has been filed by a mother on behalf of her teen-aged son who was a sixth grade student at Brentwood in 2014-15. The suit alleges that the sixth grader was bullied and raped repeatedly by an 8th grade student in the locker room while other boys held him down and watched. The suit further alleges that the school knew and did not report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services as required by law.

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When Child Rape Leads to Marriage

When Child Rape Leads to Marriage

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“When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her. ‘It was forced on me,’she recalls. She had become pregnant, she says, and child welfare authorities were investigating — so her family and church officials decided the simplest way to avoid a messy criminal case was to organize a wedding.” -Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Not in Afghanistan or Sudan or the Philippines. In Florida. In the 21st century. In the church or at least a church. A child is raped, becomes pregnant as a result, and the “solution” to this problem is to force her to marry her rapist. How can a church even begin to affirm and bless this kind of “marriage”? I wonder if the rapist also paid the child’s father 50 shekels of silver (see Deuteronomy 22:28)?

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Has Nothing Changed?

Has Nothing Changed?

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As Sexual Assault Awareness and Action Month draws to a close, we might pause to consider where we are. Thirty years ago, Catherine MacKinnon said, “The fact is, anything that anybody with power experiences as sex is considered ipso facto not violence, [i.e. not wrong] because someone who matters enjoyed it.”

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We Showed Up

We Showed Up

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Women learn at an early age to live with fear of violence—at home, at school, in the workplace, on the street. This awareness is something we all share even though our ways of coping with it may differ.

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GUEST BLOG: Dancing in the Darkness

GUEST BLOG: Dancing in the Darkness

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My friend Amy doesn’t do windows. Unless she happens to be working on a computer system using Microsoft. In that case, she’s an expert, on single PC’s or corporate systems. In the course of this work, with all the fast clicking often required to solve complicated, technological issues, she’s sometimes found herself accidentally running across a whole can of worms no ethical person would dare to ignore. Amy does do doors, if need be. Even if those doors open into places where others might fear to tread.

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GUEST BLOG: International Solidarity for Survival {16 Days of Activism} by Mary E. Hunt

GUEST BLOG: International Solidarity for Survival {16 Days of Activism} by Mary E. Hunt

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Argentine feminists are experienced in struggles against violence. On October 19, 2016, thousands of women took to the streets to protest femicide, the murder of women because of their sex. “Ni Una Menos,” (literally, “not one less,” meaning no more women killed) is the name of the sponsoring group that has now convened the country’s women three times to demand government help with an epidemic of murders. The proximate cause of their demonstrations this time was the rape and murder of Lucia Perez, in Mar del Plata.

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Hope in a Time of Darkness

Hope in a Time of Darkness

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Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can. These words are often attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, although there is some dispute about their authorship. They may have been penned by a woman, unnamed of course. It appears they were frequently revised. But our ancestors offered them to us to ponder so ponder them we shall.

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Living in Parched Places

Living in Parched Places

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I live in a parched place. In east Tennessee, it has only rained 3 times in the last 4 months. This relentless heat and drought are palpable every day. So also on this political landscape: the heat of hateful rhetoric and the drought of substantive discussion of the serious issues. Facing the weeks ahead, I turn to Jeremiah 17.

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GUEST BLOG: Just My Mother's Daughter

GUEST BLOG: Just My Mother's Daughter

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“For crying out loud!” I yelled for three long months, starting in early June. “My whole life’s being hijacked!” “Why NOW?” I asked, as if there’s ever a good time for a case of abuse threatening to destroy a ninety-year-old—who just happens to be my mother, living hundreds of miles away.

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Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

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This is what Rape Culture looks like—Donald Trump’s “locker room” chat that was recorded and is now before us. I am not as offended by the lewdness of his comments as I am by his aggression and his assumption of entitlement to women...

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Good News for New Year 5777

Good News for New Year 5777

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As I wish blessings in the New Year to Jewish friends and colleagues, there is also good news to celebrate. There is finally a solution to the problem of the get in Modern Orthodox Judaism. For centuries, women have suffered because a husband in a divorce refused to give the get, the agreement to divorce, to his wife. Orthodox Jewish wives, committed to Jewish law, could find themselves bound to a spouse for life which meant that they could not remarry. Many Jewish battered women have suffered from get refusal on the part of an abuser and even rabbinic tribunals have been powerless to force a husband to give a get. Now there is an answer: a halakhic prenup.

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Be The Church

Be The Church

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I recently preached at my home church on the issue of justice for survivors of sexual or domestic violence. During my sermon, a member of the congregation got up and left. Obviously I didn’t know why. I called and emailed the next day just to check in. Her first response was that the sermon triggered some very old memories and she just needed to leave. But the next day, she emailed and said that really what happened was that “you are the first person I have ever heard exhibit understanding and compassion for people who have had these experiences.”

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Good News is Always Welcome

Good News is Always Welcome

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I’m probably not alone in feeling the need for some good news, so I'm happy to share this: In a welcome development, three groups of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis have issued a proclamation addressing child sexual abuse. Over 300 rabbis from the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University have signed the proclamation which outlines in detail their response to the suicides of members of the Orthodox community who were victims of child sexual abuse.

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Sometimes We See Justice Made

Sometimes We See Justice Made

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When national Protestant denominations meet, there is a lot of necessary but mundane business that goes on. But sometimes something very important occurs and it should be noted. This summer, I've received updates from two denominations that are explicitly addressing abuse by clergy at their national gatherings: The Presbyterian Church USA and the Unitarian Universalists.

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Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

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Hate is by definition not a reasonable, rational thing. Yet it is a powerful motivator that causes untold suffering for so many people who are regarded as “other,” as marginal. In the case of the Orlando massacre at a gay bar, the hatred is about homophobia. Make no mistake: laws that seek to intentionally perpetuate discriminate against LGBT people, churches that continue to deny us acceptance as full members, individuals who deny us services in public commerce and defend their right to do so with religious arguments— all of these contribute to a culture in this country that accepts discrimination and homophobia against us and opens the door to individual acts of hatred and violence.

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The Courage of Survivors: The Stanford Rape Case

The Courage of Survivors: The Stanford Rape Case

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The Board and Staff of FaithTrust Institute want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the outstanding responses we’ve read to the rape case at Stanford over the last few days. The media attention has been extraordinary, as have the comments and reflection on social media. Perhaps it's because of the powerful statement read by the survivor in court, which she addressed directly to the perpetrator, Brock Turner. (Note: If you haven’t already read this, be mindful that it is painful, powerful, and graphic. It may be difficult to read.) Or perhaps it was because the perpetrator was a college athlete from a prestigious university. Or maybe it was the blind entitlement and callousness of the letter written by the perpetrator’s father, which stood in stark contrast to the heart-wrenching pain expressed in the letter that the victim of this crime read in court.

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Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

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Ramadan is almost here. It begins on June 6. This holy month is a time for Muslims to fast during the daylight, focus on prayer, generosity, compassion, and family. It is a special time set aside from normal daily life. Meditation, prayer and reflection take a central role in the day, while the fasting focuses the mind (and the body) on a personal sacrifice for faith. It is a beautiful holiday. You have certainly heard the hate-filled rhetoric that permeates our airwaves these days. It began on September 11, 2001 and has waxed and waned ever since. Now it has reached the presidential campaigns. We have a candidate who is inflaming hate and violence against Muslims and threatening to prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S. Of course, the U.S. is not alone in this. The response in Europe is just as shameful, with many countries struggling with the challenges of thousands of refugees leaving the war-torn Middle East.

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Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

I am sure that there must be some nights that you can’t sleep because you are carrying a load heavier than most of us can even imagine. But I can only assume that some nights are especially hard. A few months ago, Monsignor Tony Anatrella told new Bishops that they did not have a duty to report allegations of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. Not only did this instruction contradict your current policy of requiring reporting, but your Commission for the Protection of Minors was not even involved in the training. As soon as it hit the news, Cardinal O'Malley, who chairs your Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, came out asserting strongly that Bishops have a moral obligation to report disclosures of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. It will not be a surprise to you that Cardinal O'Malley’s position is one that I strongly support for all clergy in all faith communities. And then there’s Cardinal Pell, who is now one of your closest advisors at the Vatican.

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GUEST BLOG: Lessons From Rebecca: Gender in the Bible

GUEST BLOG: Lessons From Rebecca: Gender in the Bible

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There has been a recent spate of attempts to reverse progressive laws protecting people of all genders from discrimination. These include the repeal of laws in North Carolina requiring restrooms to be accessible to transgender people, the so-called ‘Potty Law’ HB2. Some of the proponents of repealing these laws are faith communities believing the Bible only accounts for two genders, male and female. The Bible’s Five Books of Moses (Torah) passed down over the millennia speaks to our origins and how we define ourselves, even in modern times. The Chapter Gen. 24:14, 16, and 28, called ‘Life of Sarah’ is one of them.

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