Hubby and I watched a movie, a thriller called, “I See You.” I don’t necessarily recommend it, in fact you should probably avoid it, but I did feel that nudge from the Holy Spirit that said, “you need this story.” And it turns out I did, it was perfect, it was just the tale to soothe my soul.
Briefly, these kids are phroggers, they hide out in the spare rooms and crawl spaces of people’s homes, “living” in the house after everyone goes to work. So they sneak into the house of a perfect, upper middle class family, mom is a psychologist, dad is a cop, and they got the sullen teen-age boy to prove it. You know something is all wrong in part due to Helen Hunt’s rather brilliant portrayal of the completely numbed out wife and mother trying to hold it all together. She actually scared me with some of her deadpan.
Complete spoiler alert here, but it turns out that the dad is a child molestor/serial killer, and the phrogger is really one of his first victims, now a teen ager, but once a little boy whose trust was betrayed, who was kidnapped by this cop. He knew this man’s secret, he’d been deeply wounded by him, he knew he had killed other children, and he wanted revenge, justice, to understand “why,” to reclaim his power and to expose this man. You don’t catch that truth until the very end of the movie. For most of the movie you’ve got this psychotic phrogger kid and his bizarre behavior versus this perfect family man, this upstanding member of the community who’s just working really hard trying to catch a serial killer.
That really is what abuse is often like, crazy making, and you apparently are the “crazy.” I enjoyed this movie in part because we had a male victim and his bizarre behavior was the behavior of a trauma victim, it was defensive, not offensive. It was reactionary and reasonable, not psychotic and unprovoked.
Which brings me to Ravi Zaccharus scandal, to this great debate over the nature of empathy that has been going on. Many people, myself included, have been feeling betrayed, let down, disgusted not just by Ravi’s double life, but by the Christian response, everything from “shut up he’s dead now,” to “judge not,” to “just forgive.”
Right, because when admired religious leadership is shown to be a complete hypocrite and you have also been betrayed by those who were supposed to protect you but instead acted like a numbed out, emotionally unavailable wife who just wants to drape a paper towel over the whole mess and pretend it isn’t there, you should just “get over it?”
But what really got to me, what really drove the nature of the problem home, was that a number of pop culture Christian men who have brought up the fact that we’re all sinners and we could all fall into sin at any time. Their empathy led them to understand, to self identify with Ravi. But for the grace of God there go I, which is an awesome Biblical concept but in this context it just completely misses the boat.
You all empathized, self identified with the perpetrator, with the bad guy. It didn’t even occur to any of these guys to empathize with the victims! It didn’t even occur to them that they could be a victim, to self identify in that context, to relate to what that part of the story might feel like.
“I see You,” gave us this little boy who trusted this kind cop, who believed in things, who was eager to have a relationship, who was full of innocence and thought people were good. All of that was taken, stolen in an instant, in what basically amounted to the theft a child’s mind, body, and soul. If just one of these pop culture Christian guys weighing in on the Ravi scandal could just show a tiny drop of empathy for somebody besides the perpetrator for once, my soul would just do a little skip.
Like, this isn’t about you and your virtuous and generous compassion towards sexual sin, this is about thousands of people including the women Ravi had contact with, feeling betrayed, let down, rendered powerless, sold a bill of goods, conned. I mean if Ravi lied about that, what else did he lie about? Faith?Jesus? Can the people who once trusted him, ever trust their own discernment again? Was he even really saved? Where was God in all of this?
And of course some have just blamed the women instead because that’s always easy and tidy, and allows men to avoid taking responsibility for anything, ever.
I feel silly saying this and I’ve been saying it for some 30 years now, but it’s not actually “empathy” when you can only empathize with the bad guy’s power and not with the victim’s powerlessness. In fact, hearing how much you understand why it happened is really not helpful. This is why #MeToo is still around and #Churchtoo, and why the church in general continues to get such a failing grade when it comes to dealing with sexual abuse.
The implications are far reaching, far more profound then we even realize, and contribute to a myriad of social problems in the world, from addiction to politics, from divorce to abortion.