What I realized after writing this poem (MeToo BlackChurch Me Too) is that poetry provided me with a means to convey a theology of healing, resilience and action to survivors of abuse and assault committed by Protestant clergy in ways that my formal training in systematic theology has not provided me thus far.
Theopoetics and bringing support to the cause of awareness and prevention of Religiously-justified Rape Culture
Having not really explored theopoetic expression was also made more challenging by choosing a topic that many black liberation theologians and black religious leaders have found to be taboo: sexual harassment, sexual assault, black religiously-justified rape culture, and complicity as a failure of black clergy sexual ethics and many times a failure of congregational compassionate response. I’m glad to see that in the past 2 years, these issues are finally being addressed by organizations such as Children of Combahee and the Just Beginnings Collaborative, both of whom are collaborating to initiate institutional and cultural change and support survivors.
Religiously-justified rape culture creates a silencing impact on people, male & female, that are experiencing or have experienced sexual harassment, abuse, & assault. Also, there is a double or even triple layered trauma because trust is breached at the levels of the body mind, and soul. The shame and loss alone can become overwhelming for a survivor because there are multiple things leading to the obstruction of justice for the victim/survivor, including the pastor, parents, other congregational members, cultural norms-plus sometimes and including theologies that assist the victim in identifying with suffering itself or a pastor’s manipulations of the doctrine of forgiveness as a desired response to their own criminal actions.
What should be the first course of action in clergy sexual ethics is seeking justice for abuse and assault survivors, not forgiveness or protection for their perpetrators/abusers.