Rachael Denhollander, the first of the infamous Larry Nassar’s victims to speak publicly, is a Christian. A real Christian. That’s very obvious from her powerful victim impact statement that was posted yesterday. The full transcript of that statement can be read here, but this is the part I want to emphasize:
If you [Larry Nassar] have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.
So then, with that knowledge in mind, considering that she as a Christian would have been in a church that claims to love God and love others, to follow the God of the Bible, consider these other words from her victim impact statement:
Even my status as a sexual assault victim has impacted or did impact my ability to advocate for sexual assault victims because once it became known that I too had experienced sexual assault, people close to me used it as an excuse to brush off my concerns when I advocated for others who had been abused, saying I was just obsessed because of what I had gone through, that I was imposing my own experience upon other institutions who had massive failures and much worse.
My advocacy for sexual assault victims, something I cherished, cost me my church and our closest friends three weeks before I filed my police report. I was left alone and isolated.
What? What kind of travesty is this? Why was Rachael Denhollander left alone and isolated three weeks before she filed her police report? Could it be it because she “advocated for others who had been abused”? Was it because her church didn’t want to hear what she had to say?
There is more to this story, and as monstrously horrible were Larry Nassar’s deeds of darkness, there is more going on, in a covering of deeds of darkness in our churches.
May God rip the cover off the efforts of our churches to hide behind the thin façade of pleasant appearances, offering quick forgiveness for a repentance that looks nothing like the Biblical repentance Rachael described in her paragraphs above.
If God has mercy on our churches, it may look something like the Larry Nassar trial. If God has mercy on our churches, the judge may look something like Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. If God has mercy on our churches, the entire church world may actually stand up and listen as one victimized survivor after another comes forward and speaks. If God has mercy on our churches, we may yet avoid the millstones.
A follow-up post about Rachael Denhollander can be found here.