culture of sexual assault: what can leaders learn?

This is (I think) the final set of my thoughts on this saga. This story is now like a rain soaked flooded river that is carrying trees and all kinds of debris and descruttion. The problems with the magazine, the writer and the reported victim now are serving to distract from the bigger problems. These bigger problems are what need to be addressed by leaders whose work, actions and policy decisions have impact on the safety and well being of young people.

At the Board of Visitors meeting immediately after the story broke, both quick action and pause were called for. It would appear that the school president chose to develop an action plan. Granted, much of that action has been to have consultations, but in her address that I have posted on this blog (just scroll down) she outline some very practical and positive steps: more police partnership, more counselling resources, and a review of policies. From this keyboard, it looks like she is on the right track. She is addressing the symptoms of the problem as best she can. She can do little to address the disease. The disease is a culture that is falling apart before our very eyes.

Indeed, at so many levels, this saga is like a veritable kaleidoscope manifesting cultural flaws. The more this story gets turned, the more we see the flaws in our culture. It has shined an international spotlight on the way the university wrestles with all the aspects of rape (I would suggest that this is true at every American college at one level or another). It has cast a spotlight on the Greek culture, where out-of-control 18-22 year olds live virtually unsupervised and are usually looked upon with “tisk-tisk” or worse, “boys will be boys,” and “say nothing until my lawyer gets there.” It has cast a spotlight on poor journalistic practices at a national magazine (did none of us consider the source?). And now the competition is having a field day tearing the story up and the reported victim was ‘outed’ last night on Twitter and her life is coming into the spotlight.

I could go on, but won’t, because the real problem now, as this story unravels, is that leaders (now that their feet are out of the fire) will be distracted. There are systemic problems brought up in the story that need to be addressed. All deans at all colleges need to be asking “What are the ways that we are not serving our student body in this case?” But they can only treat the symptoms of a greater cultural disease.

I’ve said it before, college presidents and boards of visitors don’t change culture. Culture is changed one person at a time. And the only way to affect real change to cultures is done as God changes hearts. This is why Jesus came. This is why we followers of Jesus celebrate Christmas. He came. God with us. Emmanuel.

So the leaders of the university need to press on with needed reforms. But one reform I would suggest is that leaders of the university take a fresh look at the way they treat Christian ministries to the university. Rather than putting roadblocks in front of these ministries, who seek to bring the life changing good news of Jesus, the university could realize that these volunteers may be their greatest ally.  For this life changing good news of Jesus is the only real means to change hearts and therefore cultures.

Finally, I would suggest that the leaders of churches take a long hard look at the way they have abdicated their responsibility to take the gospel across town (admittedly a cross cultural endeavor) to the university. Yes, there need to be people specifically called to the university community. But I suggest that the senior pastors get together with the leaders of the university ministers and say “How can we partner with you? What can our churches do to help you as you bring the gospel to this community?”

Laws and policies don’t change hearts. Broken laws and policies just point to hearts that are in need of reform from the inside out. Jesus came, died, and rose again for said change in hearts. That is how culture is changed.

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Filed under being a disciple, crisis at UVa, culture, disciple making, seeking understanding, shifts, spiritual questions/musings/wonderings

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