Cheap Grace

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I’ve been back and forth more times than the airport shuttle on whether I should comment on this topic. We, as Christians and especially as women, are taught to forgive and smooth things over, especially things that make us deeply uncomfortable. I’ve come to the conclusion that to keep quiet is akin to being complicit. So here goes. . . hopefully short and anything but sweet.

What am I talking about? Christian publishing’s own version of Me Too. #metoo.

You may have seen the article in Publishers Weekly or the one in World magazine. The articles were carefully written, uncovering a troubling situation that had been going on for years in our writers conferences. Ever since word came out, naming four serial offenders, there’s been silence among industry professionals. I spoke to one person involved in a large writers conference, and she said they had known for a long time and handled the situation quietly but swiftly. I kept thinking about that. Isn’t that what many in the Catholic churches did– handled each situation quietly? Isn’t that cheap grace?

By cheap grace I’m referring to the huge cost of sin. After all, my own sin caused a man’s death on a cross– the most costly death known. I know that same man spoke the words, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Perhaps we are all thinking of our own sins and feeling like we have no business casting stones, let alone pebbles. But I’ve read some of the posts and read comments that broke my heart. So I’m going to cast some stones with all my sins flapping in the breeze. Here are the problems I see unresolved:

  • There are women, mostly very young women, who have largely been ignored in this frenzy of forgiveness. I know for a fact there are those who felt called to a writing career who have left, feeling disillusioned and defeated. Others are still moving forward, but it has been years since they felt comfortable gathering with other writers. One of those men accused of multiple inappropriate acts said he “took the high road” and quit before being fired from his position. The high road? That is cheap grace. Women have had their lives changed forever. That is not hyperbole.
  • The comments made to these articles and to several of the blogs or Facebook posts have been unbelievable. One said that women shouldn’t dress so seductively. Really? In 2018 someone blamed the women for their serial abusers’ behavior?
  • Another commenter stressed that the women are equally at fault. It takes two, was the gist of her post. That denies the research done in the field of abuse. Didn’t we learn anything from the Clinton scandal? When someone in power abuses those under him, whether it is teacher/student, literary agent/writer hopeful, it is misuse of power. It’s about power, people– not “mutual” liaisons.
  • Speaking of research, the comments ignore the issue of “grooming.” Serial abusers are experts at this. It is done so delicately that many times the victim is facing an impossible, embarrassing moment without knowing how in the world they got there. We’ve heard of children being groomed by pedophiles but there is no age limit on this kind of surreptitious maneuver.
  • Some of those named were johnny-on-the-spot to come out and ask forgiveness as soon as they heard that articles were in the works. Many of these men had been quietly banned from writers conferences for years– why didn’t they come out then and confess and ask forgiveness? Or even before? One wise commenter hit the nail on the head when he called it “preemptive confession.” Writers by the hundreds came gushing onto those blogs posted on Facebook to tell the abuser how much they admired him for his courage. Seriously? All the while the victims are being traumatized over and over by those very comments. I cringe to read them.
  • When well-known pastors have had what is euphemistically called “moral failure,” they are usually required to leave their positions and seek years of counseling. There is no cheap grace in those instances. Why do we rush to offer such cheap grace here?

I’m hurting for the victims. Be careful what you say. It is read by those who are suffering. Many of those victims look just like our daughters or our friends.

Feel free to comment. If I am wrong, I invite you to engage. Just be careful not to victimize the victims all over again.