A Call for Strong Men

Ron Miller, an American Baptist minister

REAL men speak against gender-based violence and child abuse in daily conversations. Strong men step forward. They teach against violence. They preach against it from the pulpits.

Most men are not violent. Violence is a sign of weakness. Yet so is silence. The biggest problem is the silence of bystanders, according to male activist Jackson Katz in this Ted Talk video. When are we going to stop hiding behind the skirts of women, calling violence against women and children an issue for WOMEN, leaving the problem for them to address? What are we afraid of? The perpetrators? Our own inadequacy? Is it our own unspoken insecurities with masculinity Or something else?

As a retired American minister, I'm embarrassed to see how most of us American men fail to lead out on these issues. Yet men of faith in countries you might least expect are leading the way with moral integrity--working with programs like the United Nations' Mobilizing Men. Check out the passion, inspired by faith, in refugees in Scotland. Find out what's going on in South Africa and in the U. K.

Have a look at the myriad of voices being raised on this topic in Sojourners Magazine.

How exciting it is to see this long-overdue activism coming from young men! They fill me with a hope I never expected to see in my lifetime.

Thirty years ago, while in my early forties, I stood alone in my convictions among male peers in a system that had been protecting perpetrators for years, using unwritten rules to sweep crimes under the rug habitually. We all know now that such happenings were far more common among clergy than anyone had imagined.

My stand cost me greatly. Not only was I shamed by people in high places. Eventually, my wife and I were forced to resign as missionaries because we refused to cower to the silencing attempts. Yet I've never been sorry for standing firm. I'd do it again.

Today, as an old man, I'm asking male pastors and leaders in every denomination to stand in solidarity with clergywomen who have led the way through organizations like FaithTrust Institute. If you need help to find the courage and move past your own denial, reach out and ask. Please face the fact that as many as one-third of the families in your congregation have been impacted by these issues.

I urge you to make this a priority in your ministry. You do not have to know all the answers. You only need to know where the resources in your community are and be ready to make appropriate referrals.

You can take advantage of a free sermon guide. Read or listen to the audio of a powerful sermon on domestic violence while imagining how much more effective this same message might be if coming from a male pastor.

Finally, you can announce to your congregation that you are joining the fast-growing movement. First Man Standing. You can join young, male students, encouraging them to lead the way to put their faith in action by speaking out against sexual violence on campus.

Are you with me on this? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Have questions or trepidation? I'd like to hear that, also. Together we can overcome our fears and find the courage to make a difference.

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