You may not immediately recognize his name, but you may have seen his hashtags trending across Twitter. Christopher Stroop, a college professor in Florida, began the #YouDontKnowEvangelicals and #EmptyThePews hashtags, which are designed to call attention to abusive practices that are driving Christians away from church.
Not long after, the hashtag #ChurchToo — purposely similar to the hashtag #MeToo — was created by Hannah Paasch and Emily Joy as a way for survivors of sexual abuse in church settings to share their stories.
In a post on that explains the backstory behind the hashtags, Stroop names some of the biggest concerns about evangelicalism on his blog:
I believe that America’s Evangelical problem can only begin to be solved when conservative Evangelicalism’s authoritarian nature is widely exposed. And make no mistake, conservative, mostly white Evangelicals’ illiberalism is a serious national problem, given that 81% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump and against human rights and democratic norms, and that they remain the dangerously demagogic, racist, and widely (rightly) reviled so-called president’s single most supportive demographic. I am convinced that ex-Evangelical voices are key to exposing the authoritarian and abusive nature of conservative Evangelicalism, and so I advocate for the inclusion of ex-Evangelical perspectives in national discussions.
If you search for #YouDontKnowEvangelicals, #EmptyThePews, and #ChurchToo on Twitter, you’ll find a number of heartbreaking stories, as well as calls to action:
If #churchtoo shocks you, wake up. The sheer level of shame heaped on women just for being women inside the church is ground level basics in Christianity and a breeding ground to perpetuate abuse.
— Kimberly Ann (@kimberlyannme) November 22, 2017
This story about Bob Coy, who founded Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, being accused of child molestation needs more attention. He'd rant about gay people from the pulpit while molesting a child in private. #EmptyThePews #YouDontKnowEvangelicals https://t.co/sbPEUb37yt
— Kathryn Brightbill ✒ (@KEBrightbill) November 15, 2017
#churchtoo : here’s an issue that I feel passionate about.
I was sexually & physically abused by a bf who was also a member of my church.
When I went to my church leaders for help the discouraged me from going to the police & encouraged me to give him another chance.
— Beth (@alittleotmark) November 21, 2017
— Herd Papley (@Woofaraw) November 19, 2017
Many who are seeing #churchtoo want to pretend these are isolated incidents.
— Nate Sparks (@NateSparks130) November 25, 2017
If your church is making excuses for these men rather than listening to these women, it’s time to #EmptyThePews.
— Doug Rice (@douglaserice) November 26, 2017
1. You don't get to tell people how to feel about the trauma they have suffered.
2. Purity culture enables sexual predators.
3. The institution of the church enables sexual predators by sweeping their misdeeds under the table. #churchtoo
— Matthew Benson (@MattBensonLaw) November 22, 2017
A trend I am noticing with #churchtoo: abusers are often charismatic, adored by a community, and in leadership positions. This is what keeps folks silent. It’s kept me silent too.
— kirstin (@gayravenclaw) November 22, 2017
I was told that my cheating, raping husband would be faithful to me if I fulfilled my "wifely duties" better/more often/etc.#ChurchToo #MeToo #EmptyThePews #YouDontKnowEvangelicalshttps://t.co/3IifUwK98O
— Beth KACM (@elizebethtown) November 23, 2017
#YouDontKnowEvangelicals if you think those same people bestowing grace on blatantly unrepentant #RoyMooreChildMolester bestow that same grace on other unrepentant “sinners” or that they don’t decry how (insert pet sin) is ruining the young ppl of Alabama.
— Jerri (@MsJerriR) November 13, 2017
And here’s my own contribution:
1). If God can truly "use" anybody, then why can't he use liberal Democratic politicians?
2). This rhetoric makes "You will know them by their fruit" utterly meaningless.#EmptyThePews #YouDontKnowEvangelicals #ChurchToo https://t.co/w9bCu4SmQP
— Sarahbeth Caplin (@SbethCaplin) November 29, 2017
As the hashtags gain popularity, major news outlets such as Vox, the Washington Post, TIME, and The Guardian have interviewed and given platforms to survivors. Now that the media has picked up these stories, those on the inside of evangelicalism must face a personal reckoning about why abuse continues to occur, and what they should do to preserve their reputation as part of the “Moral Majority.” No longer can sexual abuse be treated as something that only infects “liberal Hollywood.”