I had first read Rachael Denhollander’s powerful statement from a different link, without the Christian angle. It was only later that I saw this article from the Evangelical Christian website The Gospel Coalition, and when I read this editorialized version, it angered me.
Here’s her statement in full. It is well worth the time to watch it from beginning to end:
In context, her victim impact statement was the final statement read in court (after the 150 prior women) prior to the judge’s decision regarding the severity of sentencing. It is clear that she demands the full punishment that the law allows.
This statement is about long delayed justice, and not only calls out Nassar’s evil, but also a long list of complicit enablers and she has the receipts. She tells the story of the years of obstacles that she had to endure and the pain of her suffering. And it is crystal clear that her goal is to demand justice for the heinous acts of Nassar and also for the complicit enablers.
So for the Gospel Coalition to present it as it does here, as if her intention was not a demand for justice, but rather was about forgiveness and preaching the gospel, is to me nauseatingly deceptive and opportunistic. It co-opts a personal testimony of exceptional courage, perseverance, and strength, and turns it into a self-serving generic and diluted example of spreading the gospel. It also perpetuates the idea that victims should be forgiving which is well documented in the #churchtoo hashtag, in the guise of “because God is forgiving” but is another way of silencing women and protecting men. And it attempts to make Rachael Denhollander the poster child of what all Christian women should do – forgive the perpetrators. Sadly, I think these writers are intentionally prioritizing the needs and feelings of their intended audience, male Evangelicals. This is not some subconscious oversight, it’s the natural outcome of their complementarian worldview.
The real message here, as Rachael intends it by the impact of her full statement, is that the God that she believes in is one of JUSTICE. That is the real gospel.
UPDATE: More from Rachael in her own words. The church is also complicit and she has the receipts there too.
Article: Christianity Today: My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness
Given your concerns that Christians can use God’s call to forgive as a weapon against survivors, did you feel at all apprehensive telling Nassar that you forgive him?
I did to an extent, because forgiveness can really be misapplied. Taken within the context of my statement, with the call for justice and with what I have done to couple forgiveness and justice, it should not be misunderstood. But I have found it very interesting, to be honest, that every single Christian publication or speaker that has mentioned my statement has only ever focused on the aspect of forgiveness. Very few, if any of them, have recognized what else came with that statement, which was a swift and intentional pursuit of God’s justice. Both of those are biblical concepts. Both of those represent Christ. We do not do well when we focus on only one of them.