Monday, 30 May 2016

If You Can't Crucify, Why Not Shun?

The one thing about my experience of spiritual abuse that I still struggle to comprehend is the categoric refusal of some people to even acknowledge my existence, let alone sit down and discuss the issues between us.

I don't mean just my ex-friends who were so hell-bent on expunging me from their consciousness, that they resorted to legal action against me. (Luckily for me, the law works on evidence not allegations!)

No, I'm talking about my own brother who's cut off all communication with me; and my fellow elder who kept promising to meet me but then kept finding excuses not to; and the guy at my ex-church who wanted to talk to my husband about me but couldn't bring himself to talk to me.

I'm talking about the board members of my ex-church, and also my ex-boss, all of whom have chosen to ignore my requests to address the legitimate grievances I have shared with them.

I'm talking about the 'leaders' I've recently offered to meet with, to dialogue about our different perspectives, who won't even acknowledge my emails let alone have the courtesy to say, "Thanks, but no thanks".

I could understand one or two people simply lacking the courage to deal with difficult issues, but when you get one after another after another, you start to wonder what is going on. And then you start to realise it's actually a systemic failure as much as an individual one.

Now I suspect that there is a strong unacknowledged streak of patriarchal arrogance at play. I'm just a woman and they are men - God's favoured gender! How dare I not submit to their every dictate!

But I think there is more to it than that.

Then I started thinking about the way the Pharisees ran their religious show. They had all the answers. They had all the power and authority. The had all the people under their control.

And then Jesus came along, and upset their apple cart by asking unscripted questions, and failing to give the correct answers to their own pre-approved questions. He wouldn't play their games and he didn't kow-tow to their self importance. He sided with the weak and the broken and the powerless - all those the Pharisees considered unimportant, expendable. Worst of all, he declaimed their hypocrisy, denounced their self-righteousness, and decried the damage they did to God's people.

Just who did he think he was?

He was jeopardising their rightful rule because they had no come-back to the truth of his words. They were so accustomed to operating in undisputed power that they were unable to answer his challenge to their attitudes and behaviour, or to engage with his call for repentance. They objected to what he said, but they refused to address that with him. All they wanted was to silence this upstart.

They seemed to have no self-awareness and little capacity for self-reflection. They were right and he was wrong - and they were determined to silence him one way or another. If he wouldn't shut up they'd have to do something drastic.

And so... they killed him.

And it has finally occurred to me that this same attitude seems to be alive and well within the institutional church. I have experienced it and I continue to do so - as have (and do) thousands of others.

The attitude that says, "Touch not God's anointed!" The behaviour that refuses to acknowledge and address wrong, but simply shuns the victim instead.

Leaders who bully and abuse. Leaders who use their position for personal gain. Leaders who cover up child abuse in their midst. Leaders who build their own empire and like to play god. They all seem to have the same response to those who threaten to rock their boat.

Pulling off a crucifixion is a bit tricky these days. But it's easy to spread falsehoods. Simple to shun. If you can't kill off the trouble-maker, just pretend they don't exist. If you refuse to see them, and disdain to hear them, that's almost as good... isn't it?

Thursday, 26 May 2016

I Am Valid - And So Are You!

Maybe it's because it's the first anniversary of the day I learned that my sister's body was only being kept 'alive' by machines...

maybe it's because a friend has found closure with someone who denies the same to me...

maybe it's because I'm sickened by seeing almost daily proof that the children of my ex-friends have been taught that shunning and treating others like shit is good christian behaviour...

or maybe it's just because it's cold and wet and grey.

But this morning I feel tears pricking my eyes, and a weight on my soul.

The lies and abuse and deception in the 'church' just continue. The elephant is ignored, and when that doesn't work, it's painted and prettified to make people feel better about its existence.

The religious machine keeps chewing up the broken and spitting them out. The religious leaders today are as toxic as those Jesus addressed 2 000 years ago (Matthew 23) - and the people continue to support and enable them.

And yet I find, even as I sit and write these words, that a renewed strength is rising within me. I no longer hope or expect things to change, but I will not stop speaking out because that is my natural response to injustice.

I no longer let others dictate who I am, or how I should behave. I no longer bow to the pressure to pretend or conform. I have permission to be me - no matter how much others hate me for it.

I am reminded that it is legitimate to be me. Exactly the way I am.

I am valid.

And I want to remind you that you are too!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

I Found My Voice

They told me to speak up
and then silenced me

They told me to be bold
and then caged me

They told me to fly
and then clipped my wings

I was afraid
and ashamed 
and alone 

I was dying inside until I finally understood

They wanted me to speak up
and repeat their pre-approved words

They wanted me to be bold
in being their clone

They wanted me to fly
tied to their rope

And then

I found my voice
And I found my courage
And I flew away...


Monday, 9 May 2016



There is a scene in the film Spotlight where Mark Ruffalo's character discovers incontrovertible proof that the head of the Catholic church in Boston not only knew about the child sexual abuse scandal in the church, but was complicit in its cover-up. He urges immediate publication of the story, and ends up storming out of the office when his editor (played by Michael Keaton) refuses, choosing to wait until they can expose the entire, corrupt system rather than target a single man.

After some self-reflection, Ruffalo confesses to a fellow journalist that his anger and frustration at his editor was driven largely by the loss of an unacknowledged hope he's carried for years. Having been brought up in the church and subsequently walked away, Ruffalo shares that he'd always assumed that one day he'd be able to return - go back to the familiar ritual and comfort of his childhood.

But he's had to face the harsh reality that this he's swallowed the red pill and there's no going back. The institution which has symbolised for him the security of his childhood has demonstrated just how ready it is to sacrifice innocent children in its determination to retain power. He's found proof of a system which cares little about the devastation it has inflicted on the wounded and vulnerable, and, as William Wilberforce said, "[he] can never say again that [he] did not know".

I've been thinking about that scene all day (I watched the film last night). It caught my attention because I know what it's like to wake up and realise you can never 'unknow' what you've discovered. That the institution you once believed was safe and friendly is actually incredibly toxic and will lash out at you if you start to question it. That the people you thought would love and care for you no matter what, willingly turn on you when you no longer support their agenda. That too many religious leaders would rather leave you bloodied by the side of the road than get involved.

The truth, when it hits you, is both shocking and painful. And there is a price to pay for that truth.

But, just as the Boston Globe journalists discovered, when you let the truth out, and you hear the sheer relief in the voices of other victims as they learn they are not alone, you know you couldn't have done anything else.