The church has long taught that sex outside of marriage is a sin. People who’ve spent any amount of time in evangelical, apostolic, or fundamentalist churches are familiar with verses like, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” (I Thessalonians 4:3 KJV) Forget hunger, poverty, and unemployment. Sex outside of marriage is what makes the church cringe on any given Sunday. For the record, the word “fornication” used in the biblical text is taken from the Greek word porneia, which means ‘selling off or surrendering sexual purity and promiscuity of any and every type’. Marital status isn’t mentioned in the original Greek definition of fornication.
You’ll notice that I’ve highlighted the words surrendering and promiscuity. That’s because some people don’t seem to understand that “promiscuously surrendering” is NOT the same as being forced to engage in sexual activity. Being forced to engage in sexual activity is sexual assault at the least, and rape at most.
Why am I making this distinction? Well, in case you haven’t heard, a major Christian organization has come under fire for overlooking reports of rape and sexual assault. No, the organization isn’t a mega church or a religious denomination’s national or state conference. The major Christian organization I’m talking about is Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist University.
Over the course of the last several years, several female students have come forward and reported being sexually assaulted or raped by members of the Baylor University football team. The university, however, didn’t appropriately investigate these reports. In fact, according to one news report, the University didn’t look into the allegations made by at least one young lady until 2 years after she reported the assault! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/05/26/baylor-reportedly-fires-football-coach-art-briles-amid-teams-sexual-assault-allegations/
A columnist, who is also a member of a prominent family, many of whom are Baylor graduates, recently wrote that for religious schools like Baylor, “the question is how to balance the country’s encouragement of sexual assault victims to come forward with the school’s rules that restrict sexual behavior.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/05/25/the-ken-starr-baylor-story-shows-the-struggle-of-religious-schools-to-deal-with-sex-assault/
According to Baylor’s sexual conduct policy students, faculty and staff are expected to express sexual intimacy in the context of marital fidelity. http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php?id=39247
Surely, this prominent columnist can’t be suggesting that sexual assault is an act of intimacy. But it sounds like this is exactly what he is implying: that because the policy prohibits sexual intimacy outside of marriage, persons who are sexually assaulted are reluctant to report these actions to campus leaders because they have engaged in a prohibited sexual intimacy. No they haven’t engaged in an intimacy! They’ve been criminally assaulted. Sexual assault is NOT the sexual behavior that is addressed in Baylor’s policy on sexual conduct. This is a bunch of double talk. And quite frankly, it’s a bunch of bull.
I believe (and some might even agree) that Baylor’s leadership failed to appropriately address the reports of these young ladies who alleged to have been sexually assaulted by members of the football team for one reason. MONEY! When the football team started winning and finished with a championship win in 2010 under head coach Art Briles, big bucks started rolling in for Baylor! The leaders of this prominent Christian university didn’t just delay looking into a sexual conduct policy violation between consenting adults. These leaders turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to sexual crimes on their Christian campus! And an attempt to reframe the issue of a crime in terms of a policy violation is an epic fail. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/05/25/baylor-university-prepares-fire-president-over-handling-assaults
Sexual activity outside of marriage may be a sin. But sexual assault is a crime. It’s time for Baylor and the many faces of the faith community including colleges, universities, secondary schools, churches, fellowships and religious conferences to put as much attention on crime as they do on sin.
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Copyright © 2016 by Kanisha L. Adkins.
Henrico, VA 23228 – phone 202-854-1963 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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