The scandal surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University (my alma mater) is enough to make any right-thinking person angry. Nassar, as team physician for USA Gymnastics, used his position to molest over a hundred girls in the program—some as young as 6 years old—for twenty years. Someone at the university or USA Gymnastics must have known, but Dr. Nassar was the most skilled doctor for the team, and so any indication of problems got swept under the rug.

How could this have happened?

The core problem was that everyone looked at the girls in the program as a means to an end.

For Nassar, the girls were objects to be used for his own sexual gratification.

For USA Gymnastics, the girls were objects that could win medals and prestige for the organization. Nassar was too valuable to get rid of if they wanted to win, and so they were quite willing to pay the price of the sexual abuse of the girls.

In neither case were the girls viewed primarily as human beings with intrinsic value and dignity.

This situation may disgust us, but consider American society today. What do you expect from a culture that gives lip service to human dignity but that looks at people as no better than animals, and arguably as much worse? Whose media promotes objectification of people, especially women, and then is shocked that they are treated as sex objects within their own profession? Whose advertisers trade on the sexualization of children?

What do you expect from a society that promotes sexual gratification as the highest good, and where winning is all that matters?

What do you expect from a culture that argues that the “real you” is non-physical, making the body irrelevant to identity, which implies that the real you is insulated from what is done to your body?

Do you really believe the Sexual Revolution had no victims?

Without recognizing and committing to an objective standard of morality, we can expect more scandals. But that’s a sideshow. The real problem is the harm done to real people, made in the image of God, whose bodies and souls are damaged by the abuse. This is far more important than the tarnished reputation of USA Gymnastics.

And that is the crux of the matter. It’s a worldview issue. This scandal reflects a worldview that rejects absolute, objective standards of right and wrong, and that rejects human distinctiveness and intrinsic value. As a result, the worldview’s adherents view people as means to an end rather than as having intrinsic dignity and value in and of themselves, whatever their abilities or disabilities. (If you are disturbed by “disabilities” in that sentence, then you value people because of what they can do—in other words, you think of them fundamentally as a means to an end, making you different only in degree, not in kind, from Nassar.)

Christians need to recover and promote a robust understanding of the image of God to counteract the dehumanizing worldview of the culture. Without that, we can expect more of the same and worse.