WASP Reformer - Boz Tchividjian
I received positive, enthusiastic feedback to my last piece Why Do WASPs Deny Sexism…mostly from other women. It was incredibly encouraging to me.
The moment a woman starts discussing these issues in religiously conservative circles, many of us feel like pariahs…viewed as raging feminists. But it doesn’t take much to be considered such in these communities.
If I'm a feminist, I never set out to be one.
Ironically, most of my life is spent in the traditional female role, and I greatly enjoy much of it (ok the e-learning is pushing me to the edge!) I am a Mom. I love the hugs and cuddles, and sometimes get annoyed that I can't sit on the couch without being squished or having my throw blanket tugged away. I grocery shop, cook, oversee e-learning, shuttle kids to and from school and to their extracurricular activities, clean and take care of the household. I meticulously shop for the kids’ Christmas presents, wrap them, and decorate with them. I play endless games of Sorry, Monopoly, and Rummikub. My Spotify playlist is disrupted with songs about poop (thanks, Levi) and NSYNC, Rammstein, and Taylor Swift (thank, Sydney). And I’m constantly doing laundry. Sounds like every other Mom’s life, right?
Advocating equal treatment of the sexes and greater accountability for all types of abuse in religious settings is not antithetical to my other roles in life. Nor does it mean I hate men and blame them for problems in my life. Quite the contrary. I like men, as evidenced by having 2 kids. I deeply value my male friendships. These men have skills, insights, humor and knowledge that enrich my life.
I’ve been thinking about how to demonstrate ways WASPs can engage in this much needed broader cultural reform, and especially for those participants in religious institutions. And what better way to do that, than share about a revolutionary WASP who has bravely tackled issues of abuse and sexism in the religious environment. I honestly don’t know what this has cost him professionally or personally, but he’s someone I greatly admire. Here’s why.
Boz Tchividjian Attorney, Executive Director of GRACE(@netgrace_org), adjunct professor, author & speaker (and something he doesn't trumpet...grandson of evangelist Billy Graham.)
This article (DeLand lawyer aims at sex abuse in churches) neatly sums up Boz’s mission and how he became an advocate for victims of abuse in religious environments. I include a few excerpts below.
“It was in that position that I first encountered — in a really real way —
the horrors of sexual abuse,” he said. “I had so many child-sexual-abuse cases as a prosecutor. I probably personally prosecuted hundreds and hundreds of them and supervised the prosecution of thousands of those types of cases, mostly here in the western part of the county.”
While the cases were varied, many of them shared a common element:
they happened within communities of faith. This fact troubled Tchividjian, not only as a man, but as a practicing Christian.
Even more troubling, in many cases, the churches or other faith communities involved would respond with indifference, or worse, with support for the purported offender.
“Most of the time, the churches and faith communities responded terribly
to that,” Tchividjian said. “Either they were not being proactive and protecting the vulnerable people inside their churches and faith communities, or when somebody stepped forward to disclose it, depending on who the purported offender was, they would oftentimes express more support for that person than the victim.”
To many of us missionary kids from a variety of mission agencies, Boz is an anomaly and hero. I do not know of anyone else like him who has dedicated so much of his career to helping survivors of abuse, particularly in Protestant religious environments. He took the lead in exposing abuse of missionary kids in the early 2000’s when few were aware or willing to investigate the cesspool of abuse of missionary kids worldwide. Boz founded GRACE — Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment — in 2004. GRACE conducted the first independent investigation into a New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos 360) boarding school in Senegal, Africa. The report findings were so damning to NTM, that they refused to use GRACE for any further investigations into boarding schools such as the one I attended in Panama. NTM now uses their own in- house counsel, Theresa Sidebotham, and investigative teams that are not remotely independent. They continue to minimize and cover-up the extent of abuse within the mission agency.
Boz has consistently spoken up on our behalf as well as for victims of abuse in churches and other religious settings, urging independent investigations.
Most Christian institutions only want a pretense of independence an regularly employ internal investigations to protect themselves. Boz wrote an important article (Liberty University: Now is the time for an independent investigation) about this very issue when Liberty University announced their independent investigation of Jerry Falwell Jr, but it’s relevant to every other Christian institutional investigation.
Follow Boz on Twitter, @BozT. You’ll learn about the numerous cases of sexual and other types of abuse perpetrated on women in Protestant churches and organizations. Boz doesn’t shy away from highlighting the often abysmal investigations and responses from leading Christians institutions such as from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Hillsong Church, Liberty University, Woodlands Church, the SBC, and simultaneously supports survivors publicly, when many others are blaming and shaming them.
A few takeaways:
1) He pursued an education and became an attorney, providing him the expertise to effectively help victims of abuse.
2) He started an NGO, in addition to his other employment, to address a problem/need in the Protestant community, rather than observe and talk about it.
3) He stood up to the Evangelical power holders in large, Christian institutions, despite the impact it could have on his career and personal standing.
4) He’s provided pro bono work to survivors as many cannot afford the legal fees, rather than focusing solely on enriching himself.
5) He has not joined the “good ‘ole boys’ club of Christian ministry and institutions wherein most WASPs cover up for each other.
I am sure there is a lot more that could be added to this list.
I dream of a day when more men will have the courage and moral conviction of Boz, to actively engage in reducing sexism and abuse in religious settings, rather than merely observe and discuss it. If you are looking for a way to get involved, check out GRACE’s site, learn about their work, and make a donation.
If you know of other WASP reformers like Boz, I’d love to hear about them and feature their work on my site.