Read below, my article on sexual misconduct, printed in Times Union, Albany, NY yesterday.
Finding the Power to say NO
While not excusing sexual misconduct in the name of religion, I dare say religion arms me in the fight against it, even when changes come slowly.
I welcome new policies targeting sexual harassment, even if it comes way too late for me.
In 1970s, I was sexually abused on the farm by a cousin, eight years older than me. I was clueless. I didn’t know to stand up for myself when he manipulated me to perform and endure oral sex.
Fortunately, I had religion to go to with questions.
I asked God, “What did you create?”
“Not a sex object.”
That answer gave me the courage to know myself and to say “No,” to my cousin. The sexual misconduct stopped. He and I worked together on the farm many more years.
Before MeToo took off, I told my story in my memoir, to expose this abuse of power with the hope that it will be replaced with judgment and integrity.
Power comes in many forms. In my case, the culprit was older and stronger than me.
I also encountered power in the form of church authorities.
By that point in my life, however, I’d found a decent man to marry and we were raising children and foster children, not without challenges but successfully. I felt my religion, Christian Science, provided guidance and built character. So I began revising a century-old book by the churches founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who pioneered the study of the human mind and the divine mind.
Word got around, as it always does, and I received a phone call from officials of my church. They threatened me with my church position if I published my writing.
I was torn. Do I follow the rules of human beings or of God? Well, what worked for me?
I had given power to the divine rules of spiritual courage and progress and found peace of mind with my history. I also found that God did not create or allow selfishness or futility but gave common sense and inspiration.
I published what I wrote. I’m a believer in rules. Human rules need to mirror divine rules. It’s not easy. Because human beings love the familiar, we follow what was said and done yesterday, without asking today whether it has been said or done well.
What was said and done yesterday about sexual conduct must change for the better.
A recent Barna Group survey led it to recommend that leaders in churches, entertainment, politics and the marketplace “wrestle” with the problem of sexual harassment.
I recommend we wage this fight with divine rules to bring dignity to humanity and strength to spirituality.
Cheryl Petersen lives in upstate New York and is the author of “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.” Her memoir is “I Am my Father-Mother’s Daughter.”