This past week has been as disturbing as it has been busy for me. I have followed the “rape allegation” saga against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo with curiosity, growing anxiety and heartache. Some comments on social media intensified my misery. I shall return to these comments later.
The reaction of some people to this allegation—especially some men from my own Christian tradition—has revealed a lot and it is to these that I am responding. Better late than never. Are these men trying to intimidate other women from coming out?
I had hoped that our understanding of such matters as people of faith has progressed over the years, but I was sorely mistaken. How could anyone with a good conscience listen to Busola’s testimony and still have the audacity to insult her, even if they doubt that she’s telling the truth? She’s not the first person to accuse the same man nor is she the last—as it turned out!
When we call for “evidence” over what commonsense and intuition should make clear, we become untruthful and victimizers. I am sure those who rediculed the story and called for “proof” to know whether it happened or not will not think it necessary were the victim to be their daughter or sister or mother.
My own experience of 22 years ago came back and I felt the bashings that this woman was receiving as though they were personally aimed at me. I do not pretend to know exactly what Busola is feeling since I was fortunate to escape physically unscarred, but I know that my pain at this revelation is intense.
I must make clear from the outset that my speaking now on this matter is not intended as a me-too moment but a response and a lament. I will give a sketch of my story just so I can press my point.
The first time something like this happened to me (of course it happened more than once) was with a “man of God” whom my father respects very much and had shared with him some concerns about me. I wanted to become a missionary instead of studying law as my father had wished. This “man of God” convinced my father not to “stand in God’s way,”—for which I am still thankful—but also said he would like to speak with me.
My father dropped me off one morning at the house the man was staying and left for some errands before picking me up later. First, the man pulled me close and told me—his face to mine—that the Lord had revealed to him I was to be his wife and asked what I thought of that. He did not allow me enough time to recollect myself and respond before he started out on me…
I know today as I knew then that the physical strength I had to fight him was not my own. The Lord was there to help me. Again, I had neither physical nor emotional attraction for him—not even spiritual admiration as I hardly knew him—which must have helped as well. I cannot imagine what would’ve happened if he was a man I had come to trust as a father.
I returned home and for several days tried to process what had happened that day. Later I told my mother that I wanted to talk to her but could not bring myself to tell her what actually happened. I finally told her that the “man of God” said he wanted to marry me but I did not trust his intentions and would like to have nothing to do with him again. She was shocked that I wasn’t elated by such an honorable offer. What mother will not be thrilled by the prospect of a daughter marrying at 20, and to a pastor at that?
Because I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened, they entrusted me to this man to see to my theological education. Thankfully, he was too ashamed to look at me in the eyes henceforth let alone make any further advances.
Would my mother have believed me if I had told her the whole truth? Of course! And my father would have wanted to kill this “man of God” had he known the truth. But why did I not tell them? All I can say is that I believed it was my Christian duty to forgive and forget; after all, he did not succeed.
Again, I must have thought that even if my parents believed me, who else would? It would’ve been my parents and I against the world.
after my experience, several young women came out to confess worse stories about the same man, but as far as I know, nothing was done to him. Instead, the women were called “Delilahs” who were trying to destroy his ministry. He continued with his “amazing” ministry. I wish I know where he is now and what’s going on with him.
It happened to me again a second time, and then a third time, with two different “men of God”—yes, it was always “men of God.” I concluded then that I was the problem; that I was under a curse to be a stumbling block to men of God, even though I wasn’t a bad girl by any standard.
I do not recall sharing the full story with another soul except my husband, even though I have been bold enough to share more embarrassing stories about me. My parents would have been hearing this for the first time were they to read this post.
Perhaps because of my father’s emotional excesses, I knew it was best to save him the trouble. Again, it was a very dishonorable thing to talk about and I felt there wasn’t any need. After all, with God’s help, I was able to take care of myself in a world of “men of God,” which I happened to occupy because of my own calling, a calling no one respects because I am a woman.
So, why would a woman choose to tell such a story “20” years later? Because (1) she is much older and fully understand the evil that was done against her. (2) Because she now knows that it was not her fault; it is not a curse to be a woman who happened to be “attractive” by some men’s standard, even if they were “men of God.” (3) Because she feels a sense of responsibility to the church to say what this man truly is. (4) Because she finally feels a sense of responsibility to protect other girls/women from his harassment. And yes, (5) because she has watched him progress seemingly successfully in ministry under false pretenses after his cruelty to her, and IT HURTS!!! It hurts to see him in a pedestal he does not deserve to occupy.
My experience almost made a “feminist” of me. I went to the seminary fueled by anger and the desire to prove a point. I toyed with dangerous ideas and hated the writings of Paul the apostle because I believed they were against women. I wanted to chat a new course or follow in the path of people who were redefining theology and giving a voice to women.
It was studying the way Jesus treated women in the Bible that sobered me. Suddenly here is a man – not just any man but God incarnate – befriending and defending women, even sinful women who “deserved” the rejection and wrath of a society that viewed them as properties to be owned and used than humans. He put his own integrity on the line to give women a life and a voice.
All the years that I have lived in the church as a pastor’s wife, I have watched and listened to how one woman after another was mocked and bashed for confessing that a “man of God” slept or attempted to sleep with her. Even when the man confesses that it is true, the woman still gets the bashing. What I have not been able to understand is how some women also join in such bashings.
I respect and honor my husband for his personal integrity and I am willing to support him in every way, but he knows that one thing I could never do for him is to defend him against any such allegations. If he ever gets himself into a situation with a woman such that she can confidently accuse him, let his integrity and innocence stand for him, not me.
I have wept many silent tears over this and many other abuses of women in the church. It partly informed my writing the novel “Silent Wail.” As churches of Jesus Christ in Africa, do we even have an understanding of what an abuse is? We have a theology on divorce but not a theology on abuse. Culture appears to be our yardstick when it comes to how we treat men versus women.
There were some nasty comments about this issue, but I will respond to those I consider as coming from a seemingly Christian perspective. There were those who were equating Busola’s story with Potiphar’s wife’s, an eisegesis to support a cultural misrepresentation of women as seductresses. This wholly misses the fact that the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife is more a story of advantage and power that seeks to get whatever it wants than anything else.
Ironically, Potiphar’s wife represents people like this rapist man of God, who believes that his position and anointing gives him immunity and invincibility to do whatever he pleases and then punish his victims at will.
There are those whose concern is the way the saga is casting the church in a bad light, as though containing the story would protect the reputation of the church. It appears like a legitimate concern except the Church has no “reputation” to protect but tender souls of men and women—sheep and lambs—to protect from wolves in sheep clothing.
The Church’s integrity is not dependent on covering for sin but in exposing it. I confess that I have often wondered why the God of the church would not protect his church from wolves in sheet clothing.
There are those who insist that Fatoyinbo is “innocent until proven guilty.” Have we all become lawyers now, seeking truth from practical evidence? Are we saying that as Christians we have no moral wisdom to discern truth from falsehood (1 Cor. 6:1-6)? The fact that Fatoyinbo could threaten to take the matter to court shows clearly his attempt to distract from the moral and spiritual weight of his assault by turning to the legal aspect which he knew would be hard to prove.
How can a rape of twenty years ago, carried out against an unsuspecting minor be proven in court? Would the testimony of her brother and sisters be accepted by a court as free of bias, or is it the pastors who were concern about how the news would affect the church that will now testify, implicating themselves for covering an assault against a minor? Should Christians be concerned with the legality of this matter or the moral and spiritual dimension? Or do we not know the difference? Do we who live by faith not know the limitations of empirical evidence when it comes to proving truth? I will rather that we say to leave matters in God’s hands than to call for legal proof.
Also there are those who believe that grace should be extended to “the man of God” because everyone makes mistakes… then there are those who actually think that Fatoyinbo’s more recent “press release” has taken care of the problem. Few people are concern about the woman herself and how she’s doing, especially after such a bold confession!
To see this assault as merely a “mistake” or an act of weakness from a man of God exposes a terrible ecclesiology and a lack of understanding of clerical responsibility by the people of God. This ignorance is being exploited by peddlers of the gospel who see that they can get away with anything under the pretext of “weakness.”
Any understanding of grace that views it as a license to a malicious indulgence of the old nature (often resulting in injuring another Christian) insults the blood of the Son of God that was poured out to purchase it in order that we may have a new nature; the nature of the one who was tempted in every way yet without sin. Do Christians sin? Yes, they do, but they are not supposed to be indulgent and they have the dignity to repent and seek forgiveness.
I have felt the temptation to pray a wicked prayer: that those who miss the evil that has been revealed this past weekend should have their own unsuspecting daughters or sisters raped—and by a “man of God” to whom they have entrusted their safety—in order to feel the full measure of this evil and injustice.
The most ridiculous comment I saw was equating clear cases of Islamic persecution of Christians with an alleged rape by a man of God, wondering why Christians did not have the same reaction. How can these two be equated? Yes, persecution is a grievous evil and painful, but we expect it as an attack against our faith. But the church is supposedly a place of safety and security, a place where we lay off our guards because we are home and we are loved. We expect to receive comfort and grace and courage to do life. When we are attacked and harass in such a place, we become hopeless with nowhere to run to.
We cannot imagine a doctor raping his patient let alone make a comparison between that action and other abuses as one and the same. When a man of God, whom one trusts for guidance betrays our trust and inflicts a grievous wound on us, the pain of such a betrayal cannot be quantified. Usually the anger turns towards God who is seen as sacrificing the weakest of his children to the strong and invincible; to his “favorites.”
What is most painful in all these stories of abuse by men of God is how it is almost always the innocent and vulnerable girls who love the Lord and seek to serve him that become targets. Why?
Let Biodun go to court and let the court declare him “innocent” and let his supporters rejoice. But I believe that the true Judge who judges not by human standards, and who alone can defend/protect his church, will pass his judgement in due time. And God does not need to prove anything to anyone. When his time comes, he will judge and his judgement will be true!
Oh Lord, How long??