I have lost count of the number of women who have come forth over the past year alleging that actor, author, comedian, and producer Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them. I believe the count is over forty women.
Just to be clear, I am not making any judgment on whether or not Bill Cosby did what he is accused of doing. At the time of this posting, no current charges have been filed against Cosby. Therefore, I will not try him in the court of public opinion.
Still, even more recently, an alleged recording from a 2005 deposition became public. On it, you can allegedly hear Cosby admitting to obtaining Quaaludes with the intention of drugging women. Actress, singer, and songwriter Jill Scott took to social media to relent on her previous support of Cosby with these words, “I stood by a man I respected and loved. I was wrong…”
While I admire Jill Scott’s earlier determination to not abandon her friend until more evidence became known, I still have to ask: What does the timing of that decision say about our culture? Why did the lone voice of a man on a leaked recording seem more valuable, carry more weight, and have more veracity than the voices of more than forty women?
Additionally, something that I kept hearing when these accusations first surfaced was this:
“If it’s true, why did they wait so long to say something?” or
“I don’t believe these women. I mean, why wait forty years to come forward?” or
“If it’s been that long, why bring it up now? Just let it go.”
Could any of this be because Cosby is famous and likable?
I understand our penchant to protect and cover favorable people. Even in our churches, that happens with well-loved leaders as well as with personable congregants. We do not want to believe horrific things we hear about those whom we admire.
In Genesis chapter 9 we read the familiar account of Noah getting passed-out drunk and unclothed, and the consequences of his sons’ reactions. Noah’s son, Ham, instead of covering his father’s nakedness, tells his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. Shem and Japheth behaved appropriately, walking backwards into their father’s tent, in order that they could cover Noah without themselves also seeing his nakedness. After Noah awakes and finds out what Ham did, Noah curses Ham’s descendants, which would be the nation of Canaan.
Why were the descendants of Ham cursed? Because Ham should have covered Noah instead of leaving him exposed. In our churches, we are not supposed to leave our brothers and sisters exposed, even when they make bad decisions. We should cover our family instead of shaming them.
Nevertheless, I am sure we are all aware of churches mishandling cases of abuse, oftentimes under the guise of “protecting privacy”. While I definitely understand the need to maintain confidentiality, I do have to ask: When does protecting privacy outweigh protecting the flock? When does protecting the privacy of someone who has offended take precedence over protecting the people who were hurt?