Archive for the ‘Spiritual Abuse’ Category

10:22 am, Friday 7/22/11

Several years ago I wrote a post called The Space Between.  I had just reconnected with a dear friend who had previously been a pastor’s wife. I had been thinking about why in the church we allow pastors sometimes to get away with behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated by normal people in the congregation, when I do believe they should be held to a higher standard. I have known many amazing pastors who faithfully pastor their churches and love their families. I have also known a lot of pastors who were control freaks and treated their families horribly either through neglect or brutalizing and controlling them emotionally. 

So many times I watched their families suffering in silence while those close to them either didn’t recognize what was going on behind closed doors or chose to look the other way “for the sake of the ministry” or because they didn’t feel like they had the right to “rebuke” their pastor.  Too many times I stayed quiet hoping and praying for a genuine repentance from the pastor.  In retrospect that silence was probably the most unloving thing I could have done to the pastors and their family.  These pastors were men I loved and prayed for, worked along side of and loved their families. I should have been willing to wade right into the mess even more than I did… like I would have done for any of my other friends.

Increasingly with the growth of social media, I’m seeing pastors use their blogs or Facebook pages to attack other people, ministries or Christian leaders in a way that is bullying or mean-spirited.  I do think we can disagree with each other without carelessly wounding at the same time. Some of the media I’ve seen reminds me too much of what I saw some of the pastors I knew personally doing in their own homes. 

When I originally posted that blog years ago I got some angry responses from people suggesting that I was bashing pastors and I had no right to criticize them.  Some of the responses were pretty extreme. My point then and now wasn’t to bash pastors at all. But it was to point out that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for men who are not able to lovingly care for their families or their extended  church family is to remove them from ministry and help them to get their own lives in balance instead.  At the time I was amazed at how few people expressed any concern for the pastor’s families or what they endured.

Recently, some bloggers posted a response to a well-known pastor’s Facebook entry suggesting that he was a bully for using his social media to belittle a group of people, and for his history of previous sermons and blog posts that were also questionable. A huge firestorm of criticism erupted on those who disagreed with him.  As believers  sometimes we need to stand up for those who are being wounded, especially in the name of “ministry”.  I think that God is passionate about His people and that He doesn’t appreciate them being torn apart in the name of just making a joke, illustrating some bitchin’ sermon series, or stirring up controversy to help the sales of the speakers next book.  Regardless of the criticism I might get I would still rather err on the side of caring for the ones who are being wounded.

My heart also goes out to the pastors who are human like the rest of us… broken like the rest of us… and are in need of healing grace and mercy. Over the years I’ve grown a thicker skin, but my heart is still tender and I never want to lose that. 

What do you think… do you think we should hold our leaders accountable for how they treat others? Shouldn’t we love them enough to confront them and try to help them?

9/21/2010  3:33 am

Recently esquire magazine published a piece by Shane Claiborne that I can’t get out of my mind. He managed to put into words a lot of stuff that I’ve been thinking about lately. I loved Esquire’s intro to the piece:

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

“This radical Christian’s ministry for the poor, The Simple Way, has gotten him in some trouble with his fellow Evangelicals. We asked him to address those who don’t believe.”

He started this way…

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God”

The whole article is well worth the read. I’ll include the link at the bottom of my post. I think what he said struck such a nerve with me because lately I’ve been finding myself apologizing to several groups of people for similar reasons. I’ve been apologizing to my younger friends and students on behalf of my generation. While we’ve been on a quest to “find ourselves” and find the satisfaction with life  we “deserve,” we’ve left them to fend for themselves and have failed to care for and nurture them. I’ve watched so many of my students basically lose their parents to divorce and midlife crisis. 

I’ve found myself apologizing to my younger friends who are believers because while the Bible talks about the older people encouraging and teaching the younger ones, so many of my generation in the church have basically said, “why in the world would I want to do that… I’ve already raised my kids.”  In the process we miss out on some amazing friendships. I learn so much on a regular basis from my friends who are younger. They constantly remind me about what is important. I love their generation’s unwillingness to pretend that everything is wonderful in their lives when it’s not. I love the intolerance for religious b.s., and their desire for their faith to make a difference in their lives and in the world around them.

And, like Shane, I find myself apologizing to my friends who aren’t believers, or who have been so wounded by the modern American “church” that it is a place of pain for them. I remember vividly reading the Bible for the first time. It was all new and fresh to me. The Jesus I found in the New Testament was so appealing to me. I loved the way he interacted with people and cared for them. It really was the good news to me. My heart was captivated by Him. We carry the good news inside us of a God of mercy who came to love, to heal and to redeem us.  God forgive us for presenting Him as mean-spirited and made in our own image. May people catch a glimpse of who He is through their encounters with us.

You can read Shanes piece at:

http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209

Hey gang it’s a looooong one, but it has some great news for me.
 
Sunday, June 8, 2008 (5:01pm)
The Space Between…

The older I get the more time seems to fly by. Part of that is due to my somewhat crazy work schedule. I get up every day and work at making it through. The next day I do the same. I try to really live in the moment while I’m there with each person I encounter. But still the months race by… the years race by. More and more I’m becoming convinced that time is the most precious commodity of anything we possess. To be continued.Sunday, June 29, 2008 (1:05am)
Ah… see what I mean. 21 days went by… in a heartbeat. For me, the lack of writing normally doesn’t mean “no news.” A lot of times it’s because there are so many things going on that are so meaningful, that I can’t figure out how to condense them into a few phrases. My private journal is considerably more full. Even there sometimes it’s hard to put into words the inner working of my warped brain, or my spirit. I looked back and realized that for the most part, since February, there’s been only silliness in my blog with the exception of a heartfelt prayer for peace and a remembrance of a dear friend.

I think we all have those things that occupy the space between. They make their presence known late at night when we can’t sleep, or we are weary… sometimes they are fleeting memories that show up in the midst of great joy. Sometimes for me they happen in one on one encounters here in my teaching room, late night at Barnes and Noble or out to eat with someone. Sometimes it’s triggered by reading someone else’s blog.

So many times lately I’ve had those kinds of people encounters where I wished that I had a video camera running to record the moment. Some of those moments I wish I could share with all of you. There are times when the things that come out of my students mouths (especially the young ones) take my breath away at how they see life… how they get what’s important about living and God and loving people.

There is one little boy whose father has to travel a lot for business. Most of the kids I teach like that are almost always angry at their fathers for their not being around. This little boy loves his dad though… and more than that, he knows how much his dad loves him. Every week he tells me about the stuff they do together and the trips they make together. I hear stories of his dad moving heaven and earth to get back early from business trips to make it to his talent shows and activities. I wish his dad could hear him talk, and I made a mental note to call his dad and thank him for being a great father and let him know I see it all over in the life of his son.

This time in the space between, something amazing has happened in my life. That’s what originally caused me to start this blog back on the eighth. Anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows my sketchy church history. I’m like the Typhoid Mary of Churchdom. I’ve been in more churches that have had horrible things going on… both dealt with and swept under the rug… with sin and corruption and pain and pastoral flameouts… you name it… I’ve been there right in the middle of it. At the end of the day, much more than being angry or bitter, it has left me on one hand with a lot of grief for all the brokenness and loss, and a sense of thankfulness on the other hand for the mercy of God and His ability to bring new life out of the pain.

There aren’t many things in my life that I deeply regret… but there was one that left a huge pool of grief for years. In the early 90’s, due to some circumstances out of either of our control, I felt like the best and most loving thing I could do was to step away from a relationship with one of my best friends, music partner, and also a partner in ministry, who happened to also be a pastor’s wife. For me, and other women in our close knit group, it was hard because we so wanted to be there for her and her son. Through all these years I’ve continued to pray for her and her family and I’ve missed her. I’ve missed having the chance to see her son grow up. Every time I’ve gone out to play, I’ve thought that she would have totally loved what we were doing. And for all these years I’ve hoped that one day there would be a way to make it right.

Recently, I heard that there were some major changes getting ready to happen in her life… and I knew that I knew that I knew that it was time to contact her again, although I had no idea how she would respond. When I called her, she called me right back… and on June 8th, at nine in the evening at Barnes and Noble, we saw each other for the first time since around 1993.

In all these years we never ran into each other. To me when I was contemplating calling her I was blown away by how long it had been when I stopped to do the math. For me the space between 98 when my husband became ill and now has been one huge blur of work and medical bills. It seemed like yesterday when I saw her last. It was like the years just melted away and we had a great time catching up on a lot of missing years. We are both older and grayer and more tired, and yet, even with everything I think we are both at a point of looking forward to this new season in our lives. Last night we went to dinner at a place I eat at all the time… and it turns out her son, who’s now in his twenties works there and I have talked to him before. I remember looking at him and almost asking him if he was her son.  Perhaps I’ll have a chance to spend some time with the young man I loved so much as a young boy. There’s so much more to the story, but it’s still in process… to be continued.

All of it though has made me really stop and think about a lot of things, including why we who are a part of the “Christian subculture” will allow things from pastors we would never allow from people who were just showing up on Sunday mornings. Pastors these days only get canned if they get caught in some heinous act. The last few weeks have made me think that maybe we should start with really looking at how they love and care for their families. If they can’t do that, then maybe it doesn’t matter what a “gifted speaker” they are. Perhaps instead of bowing out, I should have stayed at my friend’s side and become an even bigger pain in her husband’s back side. There’s no way of knowing for sure. But I did apologize to her for not being there. I know too that I need to write her son too and apologize for not finding a way to let him know what was going on and for disappearing out of his life… and to apologize too for all the crap he had to go through at the hands of the church.

I am so thankful for that opportunity. I’m happy to be able to see her reconnecting with other old friends. I know they are so glad to see her too. In the end, real church is about being family… and continuing to love.

So, I’ve rambled on long enough for now. There’s so much more I could say… and probably will somewhere down the line. Let me just say that I am one thankful girl. And such a weight has been lifted.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite portions of the Bible, that has been so true for me in Psalm 126…
1 When the LORD brought back the captives to
Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.