I'm very shaken up. Last week I tweeted an article published on Relevant magazine's website. The article, written by Hugo Schwyzer, made some excellent points about beauty vs. sexuality. Since then, Hugo Schwyzer's past has been brought to my attention. I am absolutely blindsided. I tweeted an apology for publicizing his article and am so mortified by my unwitting participation in making his piece popular.
A quick Google search will show you how some organizations have recently cut ties with Schwyzer because he was not forthright about his past: ie., sleeping with former students and a suicide attempt (turned on the gas in his apartment) that almost killed his then girlfriend.
Since getting sober, Hugo has written prolifically about women's issues. I suppose there's nothing more compelling than a repentant abuser and addict sharing their hard-earned wisdom, right?
Not so fast.
It's one thing to write about your past on your own blog. It's quite ANOTHER thing to start building a name for yourself on a major Christian website. Relevant should have known better.
I have a serious problem with a large, Christian website publishing Hugo's article. Why?
Because women deserve better advocates than former abusers and addicts.
Because we do not protect victims of domestic violence by making their abusers famous.
Because even if you are sober, you are still in RECOVERY.
Because recovering addicts and abusers of women should not be given a huge platform on a big, Christian website under the auspices of "helping women."
Because GRACE does not preclude accountability.
And I'm sorry, if you almost killed your girlfriend and, as a professor, slept with numerous students--you have disqualified yourself from public ministry. PERIOD. (And yes, writing helpful articles about women's issues on a big, Christian website counts as a kind of ministry).
The church is not so lacking in teachers and healers that it needs to place former sexual predators in positions of ministry, is it?
Yes, there is room for grace. Yes, there is room for repentance.
But let's put it this way: even though he repented, would I allow my daughter to take Professor Hugo's class knowing he'd slept with multiple students? NO.
That is because there should be actual consequences for certain harmful behaviors--especially in the church. If doctors are convicted of malpractice, they lose their medical license. If you're a recovering alcoholic, you don't go to the local bar to try and "help" other drinkers.
"Extending grace" does NOT mean allowing a recovering addict and former abuser to teach, lead and help women.
Furthermore, since running the article, Relevant has actively silenced and deleted the comments of women who objected to his being published on their site. That scares me. Relevant Magazine claims to promote "progressive Christianity." What's so progressive about silencing the legitimate concerns of women?
Relevant Magazine deliberately suppressed important information. By silencing the dissent, Relevant Magazine directly blindfolded women like myself who would have NEVER promoted that piece had we known about Hugo's past.
Why was it wrong for Relevant to publish Schwyzer's article?
Because it is wrong for Schwyzer to build a ministry from his sin.
Because it is wrong to gain popularity from actions that harmed women.
Because it is wrong to publish an author who has built a public platform that glorifies the deeds done in darkness--one of Hugo's other articles is called "The Real Reason You Shouldn't F***k Your Professor." Did Relevant even background check him?
I have a major problem with perpetrators of abuse, violence, adultery and addiction becoming popular or making money off their salacious behavior--especially if they are being held up as Christian examples.
On a personal note, my grandfather's adultery and coverup of domestic violence destroyed my family and church. Even if he were to repent, it would add insult to injury if he publicly wrote about all the shameful details of his sin and then was published by large Christian website. If he was then allowed to build a new ministry helping women, I would be unimaginably horrified. Frankly, it would feel like betrayal all over again.
And yet, we victims are often told to "extend grace" and to "forgive and forget."
But grace does not preclude accountability.
And protecting victims from further victimization means refraining from making their abusers famous--even if the perpetrator has "repented" and "recovered."
UPDATE: I am NOT saying that ALL former addicts should never minister to others. I'm very glad when former addicts who are in active recovery are able to help and sponsor other addicts. I applaud that! This post is specifically aimed at the dangerous practice of placing someone in a ministerial position when their violent, abusive past (with a murder-suicide attempt, no less) goes beyond the pale of garden-variety addiction, especially since there are things happening RIGHT NOW which indicate a less-than truthful disclosure. YES, former addicts can provide necessary help to others (and I support that!)--but this particular case is much different.
I am deeply sorry for my unwitting participation in publicizing Schwyzer's article. I trusted the source who tweeted it. In the future, I will be more careful. Please forgive me. If you'd like to sign a petition asking Relevant Magazine to disclose Schwyzer's abusive past to readers, the petition is here.