It’s not the kind of thing any of us want to believe, because we want to hold him forever in our minds as the sweater-clad, Jell-o eating American dad that he has been for so many years. Rape allegations against Cosby have long been part of his public narrative, but he’s played them off and we have ignored them. And the people who have done the worst job of ringing the alarm, of working to bring justice to an area that they should be most concerned about? Christians. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
In 2005, Andrea Constand brought a lawsuit against Cosby claiming he had drugged and assaulted her. Twelve other women made similar allegations, but Cosby and Constand settled out of court before any of them could testify. (Read Time‘s helpful timeline here.) Since then, several other women have come forward, including Tamara Green and Barbara Bowman, two of the earlier twelve, Joann Tarshis, and model Janice Dickinson.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out in his (wonderful, which should go without saying) article about Cosby:
A defense of Cosby requires that one believe that several women have decided to publicly accuse one of the most powerful men in recent Hollywood history of a crime they have no hope of seeing prosecuted, and for which they are seeking no damages. The alternative is to see one of the most celebrated public fathers of our time, and one of the great public scourges of black morality, revealed as a serial rapist.
There are articles in Slate, Gawker, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post, among many others, documenting these claims. There is the now-viral (and now-removed) footage of comedian Hannibal Buress doing a bit about Cosby’s rape allegations, most of which involved disturbingly similar details about women being drugged and coming to much later, or while Cosby was raping them.
Every major news outlet has written about this. Except the Christian ones. Other than Relevant Magazine, I cannot find one instance of a Christian news outlet that has covered this topic. (Please, correct me if I’m wrong. I hope I am.)
Christian environments have not proved to be safe places to talk about rape and sexual assault. Remember this article about sexual assault at Patrick Henry college? Or this one about sexual assault at Pensacola Christian College? Or seminary graduate Todd Akin talking about “legitimate rape?” The list could go on.
We want to believe people are good, and we want to be nice. We want this especially of a conservative black man, who is aligned politically with many other Christians and who seems, from his famous television double, to be a Nice Old Guy. But he’s not. Bill Cosby is not a Nice Old Guy; he’s probably a rapist. And we who are tasked with “acting justly” should be at the very front lines of talking about this, not burying our heads in the sand.
White Christianity has become, culturally, a religion of terminal niceness. We want to believe the best about everyone. Surely Darren Wilson wouldn’t have shot and killed an innocent teenager! He’s law enforcement, he’s just like us! (Which means he’s white.) So we aren’t on the front lines fighting for justice in Ferguson, because we see ourselves in Wilson rather than Michael Brown. (To be very clear, I am not talking about the black church, whose record fighting for social justice we would be lucky to emulate halfway. They are there. They have always been there.)
It’s easy to avoid talking about rape, a crime with so little physical evidence to prove it that 60% of rapes are never reported and 97% of rapists will never see the inside of a jail cell. (Stats via RAINN.) It’s easier to leave it to the rest of the world to cover. But that’s not what any good, self-aware, justice-oriented faith would do. It’s not enough.
*Post updated to reflect that Cosby has not been criminally convicted of rape.