Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ruth Krall, A Brief Afterword to "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice"

Healthcare Workers in Ebola Protective Gear (i)

Ruth Krall has generously prepared a brief afterword to her six-part series of essays entitled "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice." I've published those six essays in installments at Bilgrimage, and at the end of this posting, will provide links to the entire series. The basic premise of Ruth's series of essays is that sexual abuse of vulnerable people by leaders is an endemic problem in religious groups across the globe, and, as she states in the afterword below, "Until the world community learns how to accurately assess this world public health/community mental health phenomenon of clergy sexual abuse of the powerless and the vulnerable, the problem will continue to proliferate." Ruth's essay follows:

A Brief Afterword to "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice"

Ruth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhD

Introductory Comments

I began this series of essays by utilizing a series of visual and verbal metaphors for today's sexual abuse scandals inside Christian communities (and inside other world religions as well). As I studied and wrote, I learned a lot about the current Ebola crisis in Africa. Privately, I hypothesized that because of the surrounding war zone and because of the ideologies of culturally-spawned hate, this disease epidemic would continue to cause death. I hypothesized that because this was so, it was inevitable for the disease to spread into other nearby nations and eventually and inevitably into other world regions.  

The comparison to clergy sexual abuse is perhaps opaque, but to me, it seems quite clear. Until the world community learns how to accurately assess this world public health/community mental health phenomenon of clergy sexual abuse of the powerless and the vulnerable, the problem will continue to proliferate. This is especially true in parts of the world where the secular culture is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute these types of criminal acts: (a) the actual acts of abuse and (b) the acts of institutional malfeasance in protecting perpetrators/sexual predators and destroying institutional evidence of the abuse and subsequent cover-up actions….

There is no protective gear that can be worn to prevent the violent attacks of affinity sexual abuse. These attacks occur because trusted individuals violate their community's trust. They occur because trusted individuals attack vulnerable individuals who know and trust them. They occur because victims cannot protect themselves. They occur, quite simply, because they can. Unchallenged and unchecked, affinity violence (perpetrated by the powerful) occurs in multiple nations, in multiple religious communities, and inside a wide variety of domestic situations. 

Christian Evangelization Is a Foundational Factor 

Wherever the Christian Church has institutionalized itself, it is vulnerable to corrupt religious practices and to sexually violent leaders. Religious leader sexual abuse is found wherever the Christian Church is found. Not every leader is an abuser; not every congregation is an enabling community. That said, however, Christianity's dirty little secret is a theologically-justified ambiance of clericalism, a pervasive and pathological from of institutionalized authoritarianism. This pervasive form of religious authoritarianism continuously breeds abusive leaders who sexually abuse vulnerable individuals — inside and outside the community. It concomitantly and simultaneously creates an institutional culture that enables abuse and hides its presence under pious words.  

When the corrupt institutionalized religious establishment ideologically distances itself from the full and equal humanity of women and their children, it becomes prone to the abusive and violent behaviors of male entitlement. Inside that now-toxic institutional environment, abuse against women and their children thrives. Abuse done by powerful men against less powerful men also thrives.  

At this moment in history, there is no cure.At this moment in history, isolated protective programs have an indifferent effect.  

Needed Next Steps

What is needed, in my opinion, is the formation of working and highly functional coalitions of activists, advocates, healers and researchers. What is needed is an informed prophetic voice supplemented by the work of academics, theologians, ethicists, healers, demographers, and the world's health organizations, i.e., public health and community mental health outreach workers. What is perhaps even more essential is a creative prophetic imagination that calls on each one of us to build a different bridge to the future. (ii)

As long as we do our work as lone rangers, it is unlikely that the trajectory or the long arc of history will change. Future generations will remember us for a deeply rooted cultural history of religious leader abuse — a history whose taproot we did not dislodge; a culture whose trajectory we did not change. 

Until this taproot is pulled, replications of both forms of abuse will continue in future generations. (iii) The rich potential of every abused human being will continue to be tarnished and damaged.  


i. Walker, T. (October, 2014).  "Ebola: First Case of Deadly Virus Diagnosed in US." Independent.

ii. Brueggermann, W.  (2018). The Prophetic Imagination; 40th Anniversary Edition. Minneapolis/St. Paul. Fortress Press. 

iii. Religious leader sexual abuse of the vulnerable and less powerful ones in his or her community (i.e. the laity) and institutional cover-ups of these events of sexual abuse in order to protect the organizational, institutional church.

Essays in Ruth Krall's essay series "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice":

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