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?