The 2014 National Crime Victims' Rights Week took place last week from April 6-12th. The annual event honors crime victims and the service providers who support them, raising awareness of the needs of crime victims. Communities around the U.S. celebrate National Crime Victims' Rights Week with special events that pay tribute to crime victims, and I attend one such event every spring.
Every year, I attend a crime victims vigil in my hometown, in which anti-violence advocates, law enforcement officials, political leaders, clergy, and former crime victims speak on behalf of the victimized. The gathering never fails to humble me when I realize how devoted these people are to serving victims and seeking justice. How many lives have been saved, how many souls are now thriving because of their work? Too many to count.
As of late, I've been thinking about American fundamentalists, crime, and insularity. Some fundamentalist subcultures grow insular in a misguided attempt to shut out undesirable influences. Convinced that some ominous other seeks to contaminate them or harm them, they retreat into subcultural bubbles, shunning non-fundamentalists, non-Christians, LGBTQs, and anyone they deem too worldly. The problem is, the greatest danger to fundamentalists is the crime that persists in their own communities, among themselves and their neighbors. Violence and trauma come not from outsiders, but all too often from their fellow fundamentalists: parents, spouses, mentors, and employers. These violent crimes are not recognized as such, which makes them so difficult for fundamentalists to address.
It's a crime when parents physically brutalize their children.
It's a crime when a husband abuses his wife.
It's a crime when a husband sexually assaults his wife.
It's a crime when someone in a position of authority abuses their station to commit acts of violence.
No amount of scripture or bad theology can erase these simple facts. Those inside fundamentalist subcultures who have experienced violence are crime victims, and they deserve justice. Those inside fundamentalist subcultures who brutalize others are perpetrators, and they must be held accountable. A major undertaking before us is to help fundamentalists understand violence not as parental discipline, not as a husband's prerogative, not as a leader's indiscretion, but as a crime.