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A Bad Place to Be Alone

September 7, 2011

     At the edge of a parking lot, an emergency phone stands like a guard at Buckingham Palace. It’s a big lot – a long run for anyone needing that phone. And what is the response time? The new year finds sexual assaults already reported at or near the University of Michigan with ongoing inquiries at Yale and Stanford. Sexual assault (of both women and men) is an old and silent evil. Somewhere around 1380 BC, an anonymous writer penned the biblical Book of Judges. In it (chapters 19 and 20), the writer describes a gang rape ending in death. The account drips with brutality. Even over centuries, it still inspires revulsion and horror. For those who like their spirituality syrupy sweet, the Bible is definitely not going to be our slice of metaphysical pie. The Bible speaks, sometimes screams, unflinchingly of things we work hard to hush up, to keep silent.

     Back in the eighties, I visited the University of Iowa at Iowa City to see a student I knew. Going out for a burger, we hit the street outside the dorm and Chris said, “Did you notice these?” A little plaque stuck in the ground not far from the dorm’s front door simply read, “A woman was assaulted here.” After he pointed out that one, I noticed a number of them. Chris went on, ” A lot of them are inside, like in stairwells without windows. It’s kind of creepy.”

     It’s beyond creepy. And it’s the kind of thing that used to make Christians’ faith start to boil and then hit the streets. It still should. But we live in times when it’s possible to mail our righteous indignation in – attend rallies, sign online petitions, put out yard signs, subscribe to monthly emails and watch videos that make our chins quiver, eyes tear up and noses drip. And then our outrage melts away and it’s easy to be re-engulfed by our Christian or self-absorbed bubbles. (Take your pick. Some of us are swallowed by both.) We’ve made our statement.

     This is not Jesus ‘way. He didn’t mail it in. He plunged neck deep into the stench and muck of sinful brokenness smeared over the beauty of people He created and loved. And He did it locally, right where people knew His name and where He lived.

     Robin said, “I have to run, Dave. We’re playing volleyball with the lesbians tonight.”

     “What are you talking about?”

      “Oh, didn’t I tell you? Renee and I joined an all lesbian volleyball team.” An all lesbian team in the city rec league needed players. Whenever they played, people turned out to dump the vilest language imaginable onto the court during the games. The team inflamed it by wearing game shirts with obscene pictures and slogans. It was quite a party. Robin and Renee’s hearts broke for these women and they knew there was only one way to get the love of Jesus across. They joined the team. They wore the shirts and got called nasty names. And the love of Jesus hit and stuck.

     That is the Jesus way. The Bible says that Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12) He joined the team and wore the dirty shirt of our junk. And He was called nasty names – illegitimate, demon possessed, drunkard, blasphemer and damned to hell. It’s popular to quote Francis of Assisi (or the late Rich Mullins) who said,”Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.” Sometime this school year, groups on our campuses will spotlight the issue of sexual assault. Preach without words. Sign their petitions, wave their signs, march in their marches and, yes, even wear their shirts. Do it letting them know both Who we belong to and that Jesus cares how women are treated. Ignore people who criticize us for getting involved. Then men and women who love Jesus Christ should sign up for campus escort services taking the late night slots especially on weekends (because that’s serving). If an escort service doesn’t exist, wouldn’t it freak out the administration if all the ministries on campus came together and asked them, “How do we start one?”

     “Rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering to slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this, does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?'” (Proverbs 24:12) No little plaques may dot our campus. But emergency phones do. Take an evening walk and look at one. Think about how far we might have to run to get to it if we were in trouble. Think about how long we might have to wait until help arrives. Think about what could happen in the meantime. Kind of creepy, huh?

P.S. – Check out Timothy Dalrymple’s An Open Letter to a College Freshman.

     Please return your night vision goggles to the attendant and exit to the rear. NEXT ON THE GEEZER – Christian campus leaders and alcohol.

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