Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Hurt & The Healer (Mercy Me)

The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from the explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all the scars are understood
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I’ve fallen into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here

Monday, 28 April 2014

Silence Is Not Golden - It's My Time To Speak

I will no longer be silent!

I feel this today as clearly as I felt that we were to leave our CLB.

For the past year (except for a letter to two friends the first week we left) we have not initiated any relationships other than the ones who sought us out and those whom had already left the church.. We have worked hard sometimes to keep those – especially in the beginning – but we have not gone to our former friends to see if they wanted to have any sort of relationship with us.

But somewhere in the past few weeks I have decided something. I’M NOT WRONG!!

Now, I may not be entirely right. In fact I can say quite emphatically that I am certain that I am not entirely right on how I see facts from our past or our present situation. Really, that does not bother me anymore. I don’t haveto be completely right. What a freedom that is!!

Husband has always said that when I finally decide that I have done nothing wrong, I will be dangerous. He was right because what has kept me quiet all this time is that I felt that somehow, I was missing something. Somehow, I was reading the situation at our CLB wrong. Somehow, I would find out that really they were not as deceived as I thought they were. Somehow, I deserved to have relationships cut off. Somehow, I had done something really wrong. Somehow, what I had done necessitated my not being able to have relationships with these people.

I felt like I needed to just disappear from their lives so that they could go on unhindered in the church life that they have. If I saw them, I needed to just tell them that I loved them and “be nice to them.” I felt that I should not be the one to address the proverbial elephant that was standing in the corner of our conversation.

Then Daughter taught me a lesson the other day. She ran into some of our leaders unexpectedly. They waved and smiled. She approached them and without a lot of anger told them that it was not appropriate with what they have done to simply smile and wave at her. She stood her ground. She pointed out the elephant between them and her. She told them that she was not going to play the games and then turned and left.

Know what? In addressing the real issue that is between her and them, she felt free for the first time since she left. Fear rolled off her. She is a new person today. She is no longer slinking around. She is no longer afraid. She found freedom! I was so proud of her. To our knowledge, no one has had the guts to do what she did. Keep reading here.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Thrive (Newsboys)

Down here in the valley
Every shadow You see
Has its own story
Down here in the valley
Every puddle of mud
Comes from tears and blood
And it's so hard just to get warm
That the chill turns into despair

Will You lift me up with tender care?
Will You wash me clean in the palm of Your hand?
Will You hold me close so I can thrive?
When You touch me, that's when I know I'm alive

Down here in the valley
Nothing's able to grow
'Cause the light's too low
Folks spend their days
Digging 'round for diamonds and gold
'Til they just get old
And they don't know anything else
They don't know they're breathing bad air
But I'm tired of living like this
And my soul cries out, "If You're there...

Call me up to Your side
Draw me up to Your light
Let it blind me
Lord, refine me
Refine me out of my mind

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Over the past couple of years I’ve read a lot of stories. Stories about 'the church', about abuse and pain and loss and grief, about leaving or being driven out, about healing, about rebuilding hope, about learning to trust again. And in every story I’ve read there comes a point in the narrative where the storyteller started to ask questions. For some it came early, for others late. But whenever it came, the questioning seemed to come for all.

And the time when the questions start marks a new phase in the journey. A new chapter in the story. Because when we start to ask questions we begin to engage differently with the reality we've known and accepted up to that point. Our perceptions change and the view becomes strangely unfamiliar. We start to grow. We begin to change.

In my own story, the questions came slowly at first. Like tentative steps into an unknown river which might carry me away to who knew where. But as I wrestled with them, became more confident in my uncertainty, I found myself being swept into a maelstrom of fear and rejection.

Don't question us. Don't rock the boat. Sit down. Shut up. SUBMIT!

But ironically, it was those very questions which then became a life-line as I painfully dragged myself out of the raging waters which threatened to drown me.

I have travelled a long way since then and one of the things that has kept me going is the freedom to examine and challenge the things I thought I once knew. Things I'd been taught by 'the church', things I'd been told were unquestionable, things I'd never before thought to doubt. Incontrovertible truths.

But that's the upside to betrayal!

When you've learned the hard way that some of those foundational things you've believed to be true have suddenly proved to be false, you start to wonder what other things might be too.

You'd believed. You'd trusted the whole weight of your soul to those foundations. And you'd found them to be rotten right through.

And you'd started to question. And you were silenced. By friends. By family. By 'the church'.

And then, in a miracle of desperation, you learned that God was not afraid of your questions.

And you realised that a religion that was so fragile that it crumbled under the weight of a single question was not one you had time for.

And you grieved that you'd bought into an institution so afraid of being examined it was willing to engage in human sacrifice.

And you walked away heartbroken.

And you knew that you'd learned something important. A life-long lesson. That the things worth believing, things solid enough to trust in, are always contestable.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Lost Sheep: Running for His Life

By David Ryser at Catch the Wind

I was hanging out with Cliff, a former student of mine who ministers powerfully in the country of Uganda. He was regaling me with tales of his adventures while preaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God in a culture quite different from our own. He noted that the culture in Uganda is similar in many ways to the culture in which Jesus ministered during His time on earth. As a result of Cliff’s exposure to this culture, the preaching, teaching, and parables of Jesus have been cast in a fresh light for him. As an example, he cited the Parable of the Lost Sheep recorded in Luke 15:3-6.

As we talked about it, I realized this may be one of the most preached--and least understood--of Jesus’ parables.

Part of our difficulty interpreting this parable comes from our misunderstanding of the context in which Jesus spoke it. Who was Jesus talking to, and what was going on at the time? We must interpret what He said in light of the situation that prompted Him to speak. Luke 15:1, 2 tells us that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and scribes because they were criticizing His ministry over the fact that the spiritual riff-raff (tax collectors and sinners) were being drawn to Him in order to hear Him.

This parable had one important thing in common with the rest of Jesus’ ministry of preaching and teaching: He spoke to the people who were there (Luke 15:3). I have searched the Gospels and have discovered that Jesus never preached to people who were not present. He never preached to, or even about, the Romans or Greeks, for example. If our preaching follows the pattern of Jesus, we will preach to the people in front of us.

This may seem self-evident to us until we realize that a great deal of the preaching in our churches is directed at people who are not there (unless your church is filled with homosexuals, abortionists, politicians, and other assorted miscreants whom we blame for all of the world’s problems).

So what did Jesus have to say to the religious people who were offended that the “bad people” were coming to Him and entering into the Kingdom of God?

First, Jesus established the worth of the people whom the Pharisees and scribes considered to be worthless (Luke 15:4a). He tells of a man who has 100 sheep, and one of the sheep has wandered off. Why is this such a big deal? The man still has 99 sheep left.

So why all the fuss over one sheep?

It may help to know that in Jesus’ day, a man was considered rich and successful if he had 100 sheep. Any less, even 99, placed the man in a lower class of wealth and achievement in the eyes of the community. So the one sheep is of great value relative to the rest of the flock because without him the total value of the flock is significantly diminished. Jesus’ first lesson to the Pharisees and scribes: These people you consider to be worthless have great value both to God and to you.

Second, Jesus notes where the flock is when the lost sheep wanders off. And He does this in a way that gets their attention by saying, “What man of you…does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness…?” (Luke 15:4). In fact, no one would leave 99 sheep in the wilderness. The wilderness--by definition--is a place without food, without water, and full of predators. And what are these sheep doing in the wilderness in the first place?

No shepherd in his right mind would take sheep into the wilderness to feed and water them; rather, he would seek out a lush pasture and an ample water supply for them.

So why were the 100 sheep in the wilderness? For the same reason that the Pharisees and scribes were wasting away in their religion rather than feasting and drinking from the life and presence of God available in Jesus (John 6:48-58, among many others).

But not everyone is content to suffer spiritual hunger and thirst with the rest of the religious crowd.

Third, so now we know why the one sheep had wandered off. He was hungry, he was thirsty, and his situation was not getting any better by hungering and thirsting along with the other 99 sheep. He had gone to search for food and water.

He was running for his life! Continue reading here...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

One of the things I wanted to do in sharing my story was to be honest about how I was doing as I journeyed forward. I didn't want to give the impression that I was totally over everything and that life was always easy. I wanted to be authentic. To share the good, the bad… even the ugly.

And looking back over my last couple of posts, I realised that some of the 'ugly' had leaked through. Maybe revisiting those emails from 'D' wasn't such a great idea. I think I got upset again at the injustice. And my words were perhaps a reflection of that.

I thought about re-writing them, but then realised that would be going against what I'd chosen to do. I want those who are walking away from abuse and into healing and freedom to understand that the journey has the odd bump in it sometimes. Even now, there are still times I struggle with the injustice, but I want you to know that the good days are far more numerous than the bad.

And anyway, it was kind of cathartic to say it as I felt it at the time.

And then walk away.

Smiling again.

But in case my point was missed, I'd like to reiterate that there are no magic words and that deep wounds do not just heal overnight (or in a single meeting). And that it just compounds the abuse to be judged and condemned if you dare to speak out about your pain.

Because that was exactly the expectation I faced. I had been urged to promise to forgive and never speak again of the abuse I had suffered.

And I did promise because I so desperately wanted things to be ok.

And after that the behaviour just got worse.

And worse.

And I so much want you to know that it's not ok to be abused and then told how you should feel or act.

And that it is ok to name abuse for what it is.

And to do what it takes to keep yourself safe.

And to learn to smile again.

Just like me :)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Silencing is Abuse

In my last post I talked about finding two common themes running through the email communication I'd received from one of the board members of my old church. The first was what I call magic words syndrome where people act as if there's some sort of magic in using words like "I'm sorry" which means that all the damage is mysteriously gone and there is no need to actually address any of the emotional or relational devastation that has been inflicted.
The second approach was the insistence that I was supposed to never, ever talk about my pain again. It is closely tied to the first idea because if things have been dealt with by the 'magic' then there's nothing more to be done or said, is there!? But the message in the emails was: We've let you whine (and probably lie) to us and validated you by saying we understand this is what you believe to be true ("we accept this is your reality"), you've spoken the magic words, now just shut up and stop talking about it.

In what was for me one last, desperate attempt to find some way beyond the abuse, I had urged 'D' to meet with us and (I believed) he had finally been convinced of the damage he had done to me. ("I spend half my time counselling those who've been abused by the church, I never thought I'd be the one guilty of the abuse!")*

At the end of that meeting we parted having made what I then believed was a first step towards beginning the process of reconciliation. However, when I wrote to him asking what he thought was the next step in moving forward, it seemed he had an absolute melt-down. He wrote to me, "you cannot even imagine the shock, the grief, the sadness and the shear (sic) frustration that hit me, when you broke the power of our reconciliation, instigated by Jesus. You continued with your accusations towards me of bullying and abuse which I have never owned and never will own."

He was now not only denying he'd admitted to abusing me, but also made it clear that he'd only asked forgiveness from God, but not me, because it was like when King David said to God in Psalm 51 "Against you and only you have I sinned." (Seriously! How does that even work!?)

I'd written suggesting that there had been a great deal of devastation caused, in part because of his own actions, and where did he think would be a good place to start rectifying it. (Just one of the devastating effects is being cut off from all relationship by my younger brother and his family because he relied on D's judgement against me.) But instead of viewing our meeting as a starting point in reconciliation, D had viewed it as an end of the matter and was furious that I thought he had anything to deal with. But what was (apparently) even worse was the fact that I had dared to tell anyone about our meeting. He had "felt [it] was sacred and private between us" and how dare I actually tell anyone that he'd admitted any wrong doing towards me! I was obviously being manipulating and trying to create further division!

My purpose in sharing all of this is to shine a spotlight on this type of behaviour so that others might more easily recognise it for what it is. If you are fortunate enough to have the abuser admit the truth in private, they then deny it if you try to bring that into a more public sphere. They refuse to take responsibility for the results of their actions and attitudes, and think that by saying "sorry" everything is made right again. They then further abuse the victim by shutting down any further conversation on the subject and attacking the victim anew if they try some other avenue for dealing with their pain, accusing the victim of gossip, slander and creating division.

When you have been damaged to the point of wishing you were dead, a simple sorry just doesn't cut it. To be berated and attacked because "sorry" doesn't just make everything better for you is really not ok! You have every right to expect issues to be dealt with and reparation made. It is appropriate that what was done in public (or had public repercussions) be addressed in public, with complete honesty and transparency. No-one has the right to silence you, and it is highly manipulative to use the accusation that you are "damaging unity" or "creating division within the body". Please understand, you do not have to submit to this sort of abuse from anyone! Ever.

* These were the words spoken by D at that meeting. He subsequently denied them. I only wish I'd been recording our conversation!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Magic Words Syndrome

I recently re-read a couple of the emails (or nasty-grams, as I call them) I received from one of the board members of my old church. It was quite interesting to engage with them now, without the incredible pain of betrayal and judgement I felt at the time they were first sent. It feels like they are full of justification on his part and judgement against me. None of the issues I have raised were ever addressed, I just received a continual barrage of words telling me how much I was the one in the wrong.

Apparently I was living in the past, causing division, gossiping to others, slandering the leadership, using cruel words and accusations, refusing to walk in the power of reconciliation and anyway, I "gave as good as I got". The ones who'd abused me were walking in their freedom and I was still (by my own choice) walking in bondage.

The very last email correspondence was from last year, when I had tried a last-ditch effort to find a way of bringing about reconciliation between us. The letter started by telling me how little it had cost me to meet with 'D' (even though he had nominated a time exactly when he knew I needed to be collecting my children from school), but how much incredible trouble he had gone to.

What it articulated to me was how important he was with all his important ministry and everything, and how unimportant I was because I'm just a trouble maker, and how grateful I should be that he bothered to actually meet with me at all. He assured me that he was willing to pay such an immense cost because he thought 'reconciliation' would be the outcome. The trouble was that by reconciliation, I can only assume he meant I'd finally shut up and stop making trouble for him.

It seems I was in grave error right from the start because my "welcome [of him] was icy cold" and my husband's was "only slightly warmer". Seriously! What did he expect? I felt completely unsafe with this man and it was only my desperate belief that there had to be a better way than we'd found so far that propelled me into meeting with him at all. I'd felt sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought of that meeting because of all I'd suffered at his hands. He'd already made it quite clear that elder J was his golden boy, and that the only part I had to play was in submitting to J's "godly leadership" (although I would have described it more in terms of abusive usurper-ship, but then I'm the evil one of the piece). When I'd objected to the abuse I'd experienced, he'd made it crystal clear by his nasty-grams that the blame was mine alone.

This was also the man who had preached for 3 weeks in a row(!) warning the church against me and whose judgement against me had caused my brother and his family to sever all contact with me. I did explain this to him, but he rejected any responsibility in this matter.

In revisiting his written words, two things became painfully clear.

The first one was the evidence of what I've come to call 'magic words syndrome'. The way it works is that in dealing with an issue, you listen to the one you are 'counselling', agree that they believe in what they say they are struggling with, get them to say some magic words, and hey presto, everything's all ok.

The trouble with this approach is that it doesn't actually deal with any of the very real, existing problems. It doesn't deal with the emotional damage that has been inflicted, neither does it address the relational issues that have caused so much devastation. You repeat some formula words as if they have some sort of magic power, say forgiveness has happened and then equate that forgiveness with actual reconciliation.

This leaves those who have devastated you by their behaviour completely free to continue their ill treatment of you, because everything's been dealt with, and it places the onus on you to smile and just keep accepting the abuse. And woe betide you if you find yourself still wanting to deal with things, because that just proves that you are bitter and unforgiving; unable to move on (like everyone else has!) and rejecting the reconciliation that's been decreed to have happened - as if reconciliation can ever be a unilateral event imposed on another!!!

The second point, I will address in my next post, Silencing is Abuse.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Better Way to Say Sorry

By joellen @ cuppacocoa (This is not just for kids - there are many adults who could use this advice, too!)

“Say sorry to your brother.”

“But he’s the one who–”

“Say it!” you insist, an edge of warning in your voice.

He huffs, rolls his eyes to the side and says flatly, “Sorry.”

“Say it like you mean it,” you demand.

“Sorrrrry,” he repeats, dragging out the word slowly with bulging eyes and dripping insincerity.

You sigh in defeat and turn to #2, “Now tell him you forgive him.”

“But he doesn’t even mean it!”

“Just say it!”

“iforgiveyou…” he mutters, looking down to the side dejectedly.

“Now be nice to each other.”

Harumphy silence. Keep reading here...

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Church Sucks at Reaching the Lost

By Travis Klassen

I write this one with years of experience as an outcast, a rebel, a truth-teller, pot-stirrer or whatever else you’d like to call me. This blog was previously called “” for a reason.

It’s usually right here, in the first or second paragraph of one of my provocatively-titled articles, that most good, church-going Christians will tune out the rest, skipping to the comment section to defend their local church. They will feel compelled to explain how amazing their church is and how it is completely unlike the churches I’ve described. So go ahead my friends, skip ahead; I’ll meet you down there. Read more...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

I Want to be a Clone!

I'd gone through so much other stuff
That walking down the aisle was tough
But now I know it's not enough
I want to be a clone

I asked the Lord into my heart
They said that was the way to start
But now you've got to play the part
I want to be a clone

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

They told me that I'd fall away
Unless I followed what they say
Who needs the Bible anyway?
I want to be a clone

Their language it was new to me
But Christianese got through to me
Now I can speak it fluently
I want to be a clone

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

Send in the clones

Ah, I kind of wanted to tell my friends and people about it, you know?

You're still a babe
You have to grow
Give it twenty years or so
'Cause if you want to be one of his
Got to act like one of us

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

So now I see the whole design
My church is an assembly line
The parts are there, I'm feeling fine
I want to be a clone

I've learned enough to stay afloat
But not so much I rock the boat
I'm glad they shoved it down my throat
I want to be a clone

Everybody must get cloned

Saturday, 5 April 2014

"Don't Talk About It"

By Kristen at Wordgazer's Words

I was in college, living in an ex-fraternity house made over into a Christian boarding house for members of Maranatha Campus Ministries. It was 1983 or 84.

The leaders of Maranatha, Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, had come up with another new revelation that they said was from God. They took their text from John 15:8:

"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."

Bob Weiner and Joe Smith said that by "bearing fruit," Jesus meant "making converts." This meant, they said, that the more converts to Christ you made, the more you had "proved to be His disciple." Therefore, those of us who had never made a convert were not really disciples of Christ. Oh, we were saved all right, and we would go to heaven when we died, but were were all a sort of lesser follower of Jesus. Not bearing fruit. Not proving ourselves. Not quite measuring up.

I and some of my friends were very upset when we heard this new teaching. We were accustomed to taking every word uttered by Bob or Joe as the very truth of God. They had taught us "total commitment" to Jesus, to our leaders, and to our brothers and sisters in the church. To follow Jesus as He wanted, we must follow Him with our whole hearts, not being "lukewarm" like so many who claimed to be Christians were.

I had embraced total commitment and believed I was following with my whole heart. But suddenly now, even that wasn't quite good enough.

I began to search the Scriptures. Could the passage really mean what they said it did? On the other hand, should I be questioning my leaders? Feeling a little guilty, but also remembering that they had also taught us to read the Bible for ourselves, I looked at every passage where "fruit" was mentioned in the New Testament. It didn't seem to bear out what they were saying. Somewhat relieved (maybe I was a real disciple after all!), I determined to wait for Joe Smith's upcoming visit to our fellowship. Surely if I put my questions before him, he would see where I was coming from and maybe even get back together with Bob Weiner to discuss it again.

A few weeks later, Joe Smith arrived. We had spent the time before his arrival scrubbing the ex-frat house from top to bottom, preparing and handing out flyers for the meetings, and praying, praying, praying for lots of new people to come, be converted, and become members of Maranatha. Since I was also carrying a full course load of college credits and trying to keep up with my regular household chores, I hadn't had much time to think about what I would say to Joe Smith after the meeting.

I don't remember what he preached about. But afterwards, when other church members were clustering around the great man praising him for the sermon and receiving his blessings, I approached him, shaking inside, and asked if we could speak in private for a moment. With a kind, fatherly look, he agreed and we stepped apart a little from the meeting room, out into the foyer.

Nervously I asked him about the new revelation, about what "bearing fruit" meant. I told him that when I had looked it up in the New Testament, in all other passages where "fruit" was mentioned in terms of "bearing" it, it seemed to be talking character traits-- about the fruits of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, like love, joy, peace, patience, etc. I told him that in every other passage where "fruit" was mentioned in terms of converts to Christ, it was spoken of in terms of "gathering," not "bearing." I also asked if he thought "proving" to be a disciple really meant "proving to Jesus' satisfaction that you were a disciple" and not "proving to the world to be Jesus' disciple."

Joe Smith let me babble on for a few minutes. The look of kind, fatherly attention never left his face. Then, in just a few words, he let me know that I was wrong. "I discern that you are not letting Jesus' words into your heart," he said. "You are notresponding to His words-- you are only reacting. You need to stop, listen to the truth of what we're teaching, and let it go deep inside you. Do you understand?"

Speechlessly I nodded. Joe Smith was telling me that not only was I wrong about what I thought the Bible said, but that I needed to stop fighting the truth that I was not a full, true disciple of Jesus. I needed to let this truth sink deep inside me. I felt myself letting it do so. And as I did, I began to weep uncontrollably.

Joe Smith smiled. "That's it. Let the Spirit of God touch you."

How could I tell him that I was weeping not because I felt the Spirit of God touching me, not because the truth was sinking in and changing me, but because I now believed I was a second-class follower of Jesus, a person Christ was not really satisfied with? That all my efforts to follow Him with my whole heart were in vain unless I could make a convert? That since I could never seem to speak the right words to make someone else want to follow Jesus, I probably never would be a real disciple?

My tears were tears of despair.

I couldn't tell him. Blindly I turned and stumbled up the two flights of stairs to my own room in the Maranatha house. I sank down onto the floor, and cried and cried.

After about 20 minutes of hard crying, I felt a stirring in my heart. Then four short words out of nowhere flooded into my mind, along with a deep warmth that filled my heart to the brim. "Daughter. He is wrong."

A wordless conviction filled me with assurance that I knew was not from myself. Jesus did absolutely consider me His disciple. He was fully satisfied with me. Joe Smith and Bob Weiner could be wrong. They were wrong.

My tears vanished, and joy welled up inside me as I wiped my face and blew my nose. I got up from the floor and went downstairs to help serve food. As I ran down the steps, the deep assurance filled me again. Joe Smith was wrong, and God had spoken to me. I was Christ's disciple no matter what any human being said. Even if they called themselves prophets.

But I told no one.

Not even my friends, who I knew were also upset by the new teaching. Not my pastor, or pastor's wife. Certainly not Joe Smith! A leader was never to be spoken against, in public or in private. To speak out would be to rebel against his God-given authority and to shame myself by showing a rebellious heart.

So I held my joy inside me, drinking of the certainty that my leaders could be wrong, in the privacy of my own heart. I never felt the same way about them again. I continued to read the Bible for myself, and if something they said didn't make sense to me, I no longer felt obligated to believe it.

I guess for me, it was the beginning of the end of Maranatha Campus Ministries. Years later, the group would dissolve under protests from some of the pastors of individual churches that the upper leadership was too authoritarian. But my own freedom began that night, and as I rested in the vine (as the actual context of Jesus' words about "bearing fruit" in John 15:8 said to do), I did indeed bear fruit. Fruit of strength in my own heart instead of dependence on others. Fruit of confidence in my relationship with Christ. Fruit of compassion for others who were being made miserable by destructive teachings.

And fruit of understanding-- first-hand understanding-- of what "spiritual abuse" meant.

Joe Smith was right and I was wrong, because Joe Smith was big and I was small. Because Joe Smith was a leader and I was an underling. Because Joe Smith was an authority, and I was a nobody.

No words against Joe Smith were ever to be spoken. If I spoke them, it was I-- not Joe-- who was in the wrong. Joe Smith could never be in the wrong, because he was in authority.

Spiritual abuse.

This last week, a prominent Christian leader was forced to resign amid allegations that he was having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, a prior victim of sexual abuse, who had come to him for pastoral care. Some blog sites devoted to exposing and helping victims of spiritual abuse have posted stories about it. And some of the comments on these sites have taken a page right out of Maranatha Campus Ministries' old book.

How dare you post something like this about a man of God? Who do you think you are?

This girl consented, didn't she? And anyway, no sin is worse than any other sin in God's eyes. We need to show mercy to this pastor. After all, "love covers a multitude of sins." [The fact that Jesus placed greater emphasis upon offending "one of these little ones" than on any other sin, is not taken into account. Matt. 18:6]

This pastor is a godly man! Don't contribute to the rumors! We shouldn't be judging him, we should be praying for him and his family! [No mention is made of possibly praying for the 17-year-old girl and her family.]

You don't know what you're talking about. God will be angry with you for bearing false witness.

This is an internal matter for the church involved. Stay out of it. You are casting stones at a man of God. You should just be quiet.

Counselors for adult children of alcoholics will say that one of the features of a dysfunctional, codependent family is the "don't talk about it" message.

Be quiet. This is family business and no one else's. How dare you talk like that about your father?

Keep the secret. Sweep it under the carpet. No one must see. No one must know.

But it isn't only families that can be dysfunctional. Churches can be, too. And when they are, they will tell their members this same thing. The result is what's called "enabling:"

An enabler is a person who by their actions make it easier for an addict to continue their self-destructive behaviour.

It is possible to become addicted to authority. A person who is so addicted will uphold his or her authority at all costs, even at the expense of those whom their position of authority was created to serve. And the person who is addicted will encourage his or her followers in enabling behaviors, to make it easier to hold onto his or her authority. When religion, God or the Bible are used to encourage enabling, in ways that bring shame, harm or misery to the enablers, this is spiritual abuse.

I agree that this pastor needs help-- but not at the expense of his victim. And "don't talk about it" will help neither of them. It will only perpetuate the girl's shame and misery, and enable the pastor to continue in his abusive, dysfunctional behaviors. In Ephesians 5:1-13 Paul talks about relating to other professing Christians who commit heinous sins. He says in verse 11-13:

"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that is visible is light."

Paul is not saying, "The person who did the deed is a Christian, and therefore we need to keep this quiet." He is not saying, "The deed is disgraceful, therefore youwill be disgraced if you speak of it." He is saying, "The disgraceful deed must be exposed in all its disgrace, precisely because it is so disgraceful even to speak about!"

Yes, it is disgraceful to speak of a pastor entering a sexual relationship with a vulnerable member of his flock whom he was supposed to be helping. But it is not disgraceful to the person speaking. It is disgraceful to the person doing the deed spoken of. However it also brings the deed out into the light, which is the only place where healing can happen.

I'm not saying it's ok to have a free-for-all of name-calling and abusive words about this pastor. Two wrongs don't make a right. But in the light is where the enabling stops. In the light is where the perpetrator must face himself and his deeds. In the light is where the victim can see that the shame is not hers to bear.

So to those who are saying, "Don't talk about it," I say this.

Do talk about it. Stop sweeping it under the carpet. The stories must be told. Stop shaming those who tell them. The person who is in the wrong is not above the rest of us. He needs the light just as much as anyone.

"For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth." Eph. 5:9.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Resistance is Futile. You Will be Assimilated.

In a post I wrote a little while ago, I proposed that christians behave like Daleks when they insist upon unquestioning submission from others. Today I'd like to suggest that when they mistake uniformity for unity, they end up acting like the Borg!

According to the Star Trek database, the Borg are "a cybernetic life-form thousands of years old which is part organic, part artificial life… Born humanoid, they are almost immediately implanted with bio-chips that link their brains to a collective consciousness via a unique subspace frequency emitted by each drone."

These are creatures which live, think and operate as a collective, having no individualism and no self-identity. They brook no opposition to their plans, merely absorbing and integrating any other lifeforms they come across. Any race who have the misfortune to be discovered by the Borg are totally subsumed. Each individual loses all sense of being distinctive and ends up just like every other Borg drone. Now you might think this is incredibly aggressive and violent, but apparently, "the Borg only want to 'raise the quality of life' of the species they assimilate".

Do you see where I'm going with this?

How many churches insist (whether spoken or otherwise) that every member adhere to the particular set of doctrines approved by that specific group?

How many church members have been "thrown under the bus" by leaders who insist on conformity to their particular 'vision'?

How many people have been made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at church because they didn't dress right, or speak right, or act right? Or think right!

How many times have hostilities broken out between brothers and sisters because they have a different understanding or interpretation of scripture?

And how many times has the church justified this type of behaviour (like the Borg), claiming it's all for the good of those they target?

Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, just as he and the Father are one. But he and his Father are not the same as each other - they don't need to be. They are different but united. Unity speaks of many parts coming into union, making a complex whole.

Uniformity on the other hand implies an attempt to make everyone the same - uniform - just like the Borg.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Creeds and Redes

By Samantha Field at Defeating the Dragons

Interestingly, several people have asked me in the past couple of weeks whether or not I still agree with the Nicene Creed. If you’re not familiar with the history of the Nicene Creed, here’s a crash course:

In 325 AD, one of the major discussions at the Council of Nicea (council = gathering of all significant bishops) was whether or not Jesus was actually a human or if he only seemed to be human (an idea known as docetism, and a logical result ofChristian gnosticism). The Nicene Creed, which is similar in substance to the Apostle’s Creed and seems to be the final articulation of the creed found in I Corinthians 15:1-11, goes a bit like this:

We believe in one God, the Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the only begotten of the Father; that is, of the essence of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God– begotten, not made, being of one substance of the Father
By whom all things were made
Who for us, and for our salvation, came down as incarnate and was made human
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven
From thence shall he come to judge the quick and the dead
And in the Holy Ghost.

The Nicene Creed is historically important because it establishes that one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity is the Incarnation. You might have heard me rave about the Incarnation before– to me, it is probably one of the most beautiful and significant doctrines of my religion. Immanuel, “God with Us,” means that God became flesh and dwelt among us, and I think that’s extraordinary. It tells me that my humanity, my physicality, my existence, my life– it matters. Considering I grew up in a world where everything about my flesh is wholly corrupt and evil and must be literally beaten into submission, the idea that God became flesh never fails to comfort me.

So, short answer: yes. I agree with the Nicene Creed. It’s considered one of the most essential definitions of Christianity, and I like that it is incredibly unifying. Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant– we all can come to the Nicene Creed and sayhere– here is where we are the same.

But . . . something sort of fell out of my mouth this morning while my partner and I were driving to church. Ever have those moments, where something you say seems like it’s been something germinating for a long time and all of sudden pops out as this fully-formed thought and it surprises you?

I was talking about how there are times when I desperately want to distance myself from the word Christian. I can’t get away, intellectually and emotionally, from my belief in a deity, and for a bunch of reasons I think that deity looks like Jesus. I want to follow Jesus– I believe that what he taught was beautiful and is worth trying to live out.

Sometimes, though, I look at religions like Buddhism and Wicca, and I think wow, there are some incredible ideas in these religions. For example, one of the most absolutely fundamental ideas of Wiccan practice is the Rede: An it harm none do what ye will, frequently shortened to “do no harm.” That’s the north star of Wicca, its central teaching: do no harm.

However, it seems to me that if you ask a Christian “what does it mean to be a Christian?” the answer you’re going to get is a list of varying beliefs, usually organized around something like the Nicene Creed.

Wouldn’t it be a spectacular if, instead, the answer to that question was they shall know you by how you love one another? Because, after all, what Jesus taught waslove. Love each other. Love your enemy. Love your neighbor. Love the least of these.

What if the most absolute essential statement anyone could make about Christianity was that we love people? That how we loved was the only thing we really cared about or ever evaluated, and we stopped asking about how “theologically sound” someone is, or how “biblically based”? What if love were our North Star, instead of do you affirm the deity of Christ and his virgin birth?