Evangelicals, Clean Up Your Act!

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Itโ€™s hard to imagine a greater illustration of Christians losing the plot than when they defend predators. โ€” John Pavlovitz. ย ย Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

I so hate to publish this photo. But it is a fitting image for these troubling days for people of faith. However, just so you know, this post is not about politics. It is about ethics, morality and living oneโ€™s faith authentically. I happen to be a follower of Jesus, and my Bible speaks to me about โ€œloving the least,โ€ allowing little children to come to Jesus, and calling peacemakers blessed.

So from that sacred place, I simply cannot comprehend persons of faith who claim faith in Jesus while defending a sexual abuser. As John Pavlovitz states so eloquently,

I donโ€™t know how to understand the mind of a man or woman who attempts to profess devotion to Jesus while simultaneously defending a molesterโ€”and Iโ€™m not sure I want to. Thatโ€™s a darker place than I think I can go without losing hope or sanity. I canโ€™t imagine how a human being can so horribly distort the โ€œlove the least,โ€ โ€œblessed are the peacemakersโ€ message of Christ, enough to stand on a wooden or social media platformโ€”and knowingly bless a man who rapes, patently excuse violence to a child, or passionately campaigns for a predator. Itโ€™s all about as stomach-turning as it gets.

– John Pavlovitz, https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/11/18/christians-defend-predators/

Pavlovitz goes even further.

There are few bastardizations of the life and the message of Jesus . . . as grievous as taking the side of rapists and pedophiles and genitalia grabbersโ€”but this is where we are now. With the Evangelicals embracing Donald Trump and with those now rallying to the defense of Roy Moore, this is what weโ€™re watching in America . . . Regardless of the Bible verses they drop or the high-profile ministries they wield or how sanctified they try to soundโ€”when Christians defend predators, they deny Jesus and they sell off their souls. Itโ€™s really as simple as that.ย 

Yes, indeed. Itโ€™s really as simple as that. To my brother and sisters who call yourselves Evangelicals, clean up your act! Itโ€™s past time.

And may God help us live our faith with integrity, hold the vulnerable among us in high esteem, stand firmly against those who would cheapen our faith, and allow the life of Jesus to inform our thinking and guide our steps.

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Me Too: Wounds of the Spirit, Scars of the Soul

95CD73CB-3B8E-44AB-B1F4-4057D76D838FFor weeks now, women have been making heart-rending declarations โ€” โ€œMe too,โ€ they cry, as they reveal their experiences of past sexual abuse. As for me,ย I say, โ€œme too.โ€ Add my name to the mournful list of women who have endured the pain of sexual trauma.

I was sexually abused literally dozens of times, by many men. The abuse began when I was about four years old and continued throughout my years as a young child. Sexual abuse did not stop through my teenage years. And even as an adult I faced sexual violation. Never, not one time, was it consensual.

Questions always bombard sexual abuse victims:

Who was the man who sexually abused you?

It doesnโ€™t matter. You wouldnโ€™t believe me. You would refuse to believe that I was sexually abused by more than one teacher, by a coach, by a Baptist deacon, by a Baptist missionary, by an employer, by my father and several of his poker playing friends. You wouldnโ€™t believe it because you know them to be โ€œmoral, upstanding menโ€ who are a part of your community.

Why didnโ€™t you tell anyone?

I did tell. I told many people about every act of sexual abuse I endured, naming every man who hurt me. But I knew all the while that people simply would not take my accusations seriously.

Didnโ€™t you believe that telling might have brought these men to justice and have prevented them from abusing other children?

No, I did not believe those men who caused me suchbdeep hurt would ever face the consequences of their crimes, because most of the people I did tell simply did not believe me. The men were known and respected and no one wanted to challenge that.

Why did you wait so many years to tell?

There are several aspects to this question. First of all, as I said, I did tell certain people who didnโ€™t believe me. Not being believed serves to silence a victim who just doesnโ€™t want to be labeled a liar, an attention seeker, a trouble maker, or worse, an emotionally unstable person.

Secondly, and most importantly, the passing years never take away the pain for someone who has been sexually violated. Sexual abuse is something you never forget. After 55 years, I still remember the time of day, being called into the teacherโ€™s office next door to the classroom, the way he smelled, everything he said and did, and exactly what I was wearing. He was a person I had looked up to and admired. But on that day, he inflicted a permanent wound of my spirit which would become a scar on my soul. Once again, I mourned the loss of my childhood, of the innocence of a young child.

In these days, newsfeeds are constantly reporting the allegations of victims coming forward to say โ€œme too.โ€ ย The women have named their abusers โ€” Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, George H. W. Bush. Ben Affleck, Roger Ailes, Lockhart Steele, Michael Oreskes, Mark Halperin, John Besh. Roy Price, Chris Savino, and the list goes on to name perpetrators in present time and perpetrators from the past. I do not say this lightly, but I have wondered just how many men might be holding their breath, hoping beyond hope that their victim(s) wonโ€™t expose them.

Wounds of my my spirit, scars of my soul

The unspeakable wounds heal in time, but the soulโ€™s scars remain. And every reminder through these many years โ€” a smell, a memory, a color, a song, and the cries of the women who are saying โ€œme tooโ€ and telling the stories of their abuse. All of these are triggers that bring back the sharp, stabbing pain of the old wounds from long past. Thatโ€™s what I have lived with throughout my entire lifeโ€” multiple assaults, multiple times, multiple men.

We can come forth and tell our stories. We can give voice to our spiritโ€™s wounds, no matter how far in the past they may be. We can speak of our soulโ€™s scars. But the reality is that we will be judged as women who have fabricated a false story of sexual abuse for some sort of personal gain.

How dare we ask why a woman would wait forty years to bring light to this kind of story! For since the day it happened, she lives with vivid memories, feelings of shame, fear of relationships, the disappointment of betrayal by someone she may have admired. There is a catch in her throat when she speaks of it, and there are tears, lots of tears along the way.

Wounds of the spirit, Scars of the soul

The writing of Saint Francis de Sales describes the depth of this kind of pain with this thought:

The soul is aware of the delicate wound . . . as though it were a sharp point in the substance of the spirit, in the heart of the pierced soul . . . This intimate point of the wound . . . seems to make its mark in the middle of the heart of the spirit, there where the soul experiences . . . feels.

โ€“ Living Flame of Love 2.1

So is it any wonder that this kind of wound would leave a permanent scar on the soul?

I am deeply saddened, but also gratified, that so many women are speaking out. I hope beyond hope that their courageous stories will give light to a dark, dark sin that has destroyed so many people for so many years. I pray that we will have the moral, ethical, spiritual and political will to crush the societal culture of abuse and violence and in its place create safe spaces free of fear for every person, every child, every young girl, every woman.

At times, I really want to expose every single man that abused me. But I want peace more. I want a serene spirit and a quiet soul. I want to rest in a prayerful place where my heart can call out to a God that desires for us a world of peace, communities of care, homes that are havens of safety. I want to see God ennoble people of faith to wrap their arms around the hurts, pray for Godโ€™s light to dispel the darkness, and live out their sacred calling to be agents of a better, more excellent way. May God make it so.

 

How Long, O Lord?

DesignThe mass shooting in Las Vegas leaves us enraged. And confused. And heartbroken.

Heartbroken describes us best as we find ourselves dealing with an inescapable and horrific truth that our world is not a safe place. Once we take that into our souls, we begin to live life as victims, refugees from all that is good. The television news is filled with the stories of heartbroken people whose loved ones were gunned down at a โ€œfun-filledโ€ event. As people of faith, our lives are interwoven with the lives of the victims and survivors of the Las Vegas tragedy. So yes, although we were not there and did not experience the massacre, we are heartbroken, too.

We are heartbroken because of lives lost. We are heartbroken because brothers and sisters must mourn the death of persons they loved. We are heartbroken because those that survived the Las Vegas shooting now live with relentless survivorโ€™s guilt. We are heartbroken because a healthy family event filled with music violently lost its melody. We are heartbroken because violence reigns in the world. We are heartbroken because we do not have the moral, ethical, spiritual and political will to change the climate of violence through responsible weapon control legislation.

But we have been heartbroken before, far too many times. Orlando, Fort Hood, Killeen, Virginia Tech, UT Austin, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, among others. We have been heartbroken before, and nothing changed. Our broken hearts did not result in courageous spirits willing to persevere, persist and insist on creating change in our culture of violence.

Dan Hodges made this very sad statement in 2015.

In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. Gun control debate. Once America decided that killing children was bearable, it was over.

The facts, though, convict us of irresponsibility and refusal to effect change. The Guardian published a chart โ€” America’s Gun Crisis in One Chart โ€” that reveals the troubling truth: 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence) The chart, updated on October 2, 2017, reports 1,719 deaths and 6,510 injuries.IMG_5997

People of faith lament and grieve, asking God for answers. Like the Prophet Habakkuk who prayed for help in a time of trouble, we cry out to God.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, โ€œViolence!โ€ Yet You do not save.

Why do You make me see iniquity,
And cause me to look on wickedness?
Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.

– Habakkuk 1:2-3 NASB

I would never presume to know the mind and heart of God, but I imagine that Godโ€™s answer to our question, โ€œHow long, O Lord?โ€ might sound something like this.

How long, you ask. Long enough for you to stand courageously for what is right. Long enough for you to develop the political will to seek change through advocacy in the halls of Congress. Long enough for you speak truth to power, constantly and persistently until a new day of peace and safety dawns in your nation. Do not cry, โ€œPeace, peace where there is no peace.โ€ Instead cry out, โ€œChange! Change! Change now, because God desires to comfort your broken heart and wills for you a world of safety, well being, and holy peace.โ€

May God grant us the courage and the perseverance to make it so.