On the "survivor movement": 'these are folks who have a profoundly unhealthy preoccupation with the alleged wrongs done against them"

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Wayne Wilson's picture

I didn't find Fred Butler's snarky post very helpful.  Spiritual Abuse is a major sin issue in churches today.  Why he chose to "mix it up" with a woman who was sued by her pastor for daring to criticize him, I have no idea. 

I would suggest a more worthy article on the subject comes from a former SGM pastor. It can be found here:

http://www.rickthomas.net/2012/05/07/former-sovereign-grace-ministries-pastor/

Fred Butler's picture

The post wasn't meant to be intentially snarky as if I am mean-spirited.  BTW, how is that former SGM guy's post more insightful with regards to the problem I see with survivor bloggers? 

Lookit, after encountering this group up in OR, and then surfering around the internet examining other so-called "survivor blogs." I stand by my evaluation as noted by the title of this filing: survivor bloggers are by an large too preoccupied with the bad experiences they had with leadership and whatever church it was they attended.  This obsession on getting thier double-pound of flesh from so-called abusive leadership by chronicling in agonizing detail every slight against them and incompotent decision made by a prideful pastor in dealing with their issues, is spiritually unhealthy.  Dwelling on personal sin indefinitely is never a good thing for Christians.

Additionally, as I understand the situation in OR per the media (which is hardly the best source for truth for either side), this pastor's lawsuit was not made in a vacuum. There is a backstory leading up to it, which includes having folks  aligned with the group call social services on him and accusing the adults of spreading pornography around to the teens in the church.  If you have been unjustly accused over a three year period of such things, and are desparate for it to cease, I can sort of understand the motivation.  I happen to disagree that a defamation lawsuit is course one takes, but I can understand it's reasoning. 

So this is more than just some hyper-authoritarian Fundamentalist Mullah like preacher defending his media ministry against a group of innocent victims who's lives he has destroyed with his over the top legalism. 

T Howard's picture

The first "survivor movement" blog I am aware of is one that raged against the "cult-like" behavior of Pensacola Christian College. I believe it started in the late 1990's. Before PCC was web-savy, the originator of this group purchased the domain www.pensacolachristiancollege.com and successfully defended it against PCC's attempt to wrest it away from him. While the website still contains information about / against PCC, it is now out of date. This movement has now morphed into the current website www.pccboard.com.

I think what Fred wrote in his article would typify some of the folks who have frequented there and even some who continue to post there.  One of the moderators there also runs www.stufffundieslike.com.

Jim's picture

  • If it was your decision to go there .... and if you weren't happy there .... look in the mirror and blame yourself!
  • If your parents decided for you .... and you weren't happy there .... blame them UNLESS
  • If your parents paid your way .... thank them
  • If you went to XYZ Christian college because your Pastor / Y/P told you to go there ... and you weren't happy there ... Well your parents abdicated their parental role .... blame them. (if they paid you way ... see above)
  • If your Pastor / Y/P insists you go to XYZ Christian college ... ask them to pay your tuition!

On complaining about accreditation issues:

  • Caveat emptor: buyer beware. The accreditation conversations / news / issues are so 30 years ago! If you went to your school with an expectation without checking it out and you feel the school failed you .... honestly you were just naive and uninformed! (I could use another word that starts with an "S" but I won't)
  • If you are mid-stream ... say at the end of your Freshman year ... and you suddenly come to realize that your school does not have the kind of accreditation you expected .... change course!

On complaining about the rules / student handbook , et cetera. See above

On your job prospects now that you have graduated with one of these majors: Bible, youth, Christian Education, Women's ministries. Camp ministries, Christian puppetry, etc.:

  • On Bible as a major. You could have probably learned all of that at Church if you just read your Bible. If you end up being a Pastor this was probably a good choice. If not ... well it's the expecation thing again and caveat emptor
  • On the others: If you can't find a job ... you were naive and uninformed. You've learned something the hard way
  • Ever heard of the STEM fields: STEM fields is an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • People go to college many different reasons:

    • Get away from home to "grow up" (here's a free tip: if you are not working and not really helping to pay your own way .... you are not "growing up"!)
    • Mature as a Christian isolated from the perils of the world
    • Find a spouse (the MRS. degree as they sometimes call it for women!)
    • But it you go to college to find a job ... The STEM fields are key
Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that wallowing is bad, and much of the survivor blogging sounds like hysterical ranting instead of a thoughtful, reasonable, fact-based relation of the situation. 

It is sometimes necessary to warn others about a problematic church. People often invest quite a bit of themselves in their church- it is their primary social circle, where they expect to worship the Lord and receive spiritual guidance, and where their kids are encouraged to internalize the teachings and bond with the other young people. They let down their guard, they respect, trust, and admire, and so the pain of betrayal runs deep. By the time folks realize that the pastor is $20,000 in credit card debt and uses the church as his personal piggy bank, that his kids are deeply involved in sexual immorality, his wife is a Jezebel, the youth pastor has a foul mouth and a fouler temper, and any attempt at confronting the issues is squelched with a thorough blackballing, claims of martyrdom and persecution and blahblahblah, the family is lucky to survive the experience emotionally and spiritually intact.

But leave you MUST. A pastor who doesn't qualify for ministry as per the pertinent Scriptures is NOT a Biblical pastor. Period. Find a church with a qualified pastor, sound doctrine, and the proper view of a healthy Scriptural relationship between church leadership and the congregation. Just make sure YOU know what that is. No sense in the pot calling the kettle black. Then get on with your life. Lesson learned. The best revenge is to live an excellent life. 

 

Barry L.'s picture

The same could be said about choosing your church. Why stay if the leadership is so awful?  I'm having trouble understanding this so called "spiritual" abuse. I understand sexual, physical, and mental abuses that need to be addressed publically, but spiritual abuse? What is that? If you are an adult and, in your opinion, the pastor is unscriptural in his dealings with members then go to another church. Don't wring your hands about being a victim of "shunning" by the members there if you leave. If they are shallow enough to choose to stay under an autocratic church situation and decide not to speak to you then so be it and move on. If the pastor wants to "discipline" you then just don't show up.

 

I know I'll get flack for being insensitive, but are we so pampered that we become an emotional wreck for being "shunned" and not accepted by those in the wrong? We need to be stronger in our faith than this.

Wayne Wilson's picture

It is sad to see such a lack of understanding and sympathy for Christ's sheep who have been battered and bruised by their shepherds.  Yes, some people are weak.  They don't all have long years of experience in healthy church environments.  They found something that seemed good and biblical and they committed to it.  Some are deeply emotionally invested in a church that taught them it was a superior kind of Christianity --- the "happiest place on earth."  They give heart and soul to leaders who take advantage of them.  It is common, not rare.  Some "movements" are characterized by such abuse.  These same movements and leaders are sometimes affirmed and welcomed by men with good reputations and are known to be solid, adding to the confusion.  It is a godly leader's task to "help the weak," at least according to my Bible, not mock them for trusting in men who are supposed to be Christ's servants.

What is spiritual abuse?  Is it real?  One recent article described it this way:

• Church leaders who use guilt or greed to compel attendance, financial giving or service
• Spiritual leaders who take emotional or sexual advantage of others in the name of "comfort or compassion"
• Religious people who accuse those who disagree with them of being rebellious against God
• Ministry leaders who demand absolute, unquestioned obedience no matter what … whether reasonable or not … whether biblical or not

 

Here is Ronald Enroth's description:

control-oriented leadership,

spiritual elitism,

manipulation of members,

perceived persecution,

lifestyle rigidity,

emphasis on experience,

suppression of dissent,

harsh discipline of members,

denunciation of other churches,

and the painful exit process.

Helpful questions for members would include:

___ Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
___ Do they demand your absolute allegiance?
___ Do they discourage your questions?
___ Do they shame people publicly?
___ Do they insist on making major decisions in your life?
___ Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, diet or activities?
___ Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
___ Do they consider themselves the "only true church"?
___ Do they consider those who leave their group "apostates," "backsliders" or   "doomed"?
___ Do they teach that godly people should give more financially so that they will receive more?

 

Julie Anne's picture

Fred:  I've read your comment and find it interesting that you come to the defense of the pastor without having knowledge of this case.  First you base your accusation on media saying it is not the best source for truth, but then say the pastor's lawsuit was not made in a vacuum.  Then you go on to say:  "which includes having folks  aligned with the group call social services on him and accusing the adults of spreading pornography around to the teens in the church". 

Where is this information coming from?  "Folks" - meaning more than one  person has reported it?  I haven't found any such wording in the court documents and have first-hand knowledge about who turned him in for not reporting sexual offender in the church. 

And then you use the word "unjustly accused".  How do you know he is unjustly accused?  How intimate are you to this situation?  More intimate that me, a defendant who speaks very frequently with former members?  CPS never discloses who reports.  It is illegal to do so.  It sounds like you are echoing the words of our former pastor who is claiming that people reported him.  The truth is that there is no former member that I know (and I know quite a few) who reported him for abuses.  None of us believe he is a sexual offender.  It doesn't take a rocket science to figure out that CPS initiated the investigation on their own after learning that the pastor harbored a sex offender in his church for approximately 8 months without reporting it (btw, this sex offender was tried and convicted of sex crimes including rape, etc). 

If you are going to go from blog to blog spreading your opinions on this matter of which you are not personally connected, please provide proof of where you are getting your information. 

I am happy to provide public legal documents to any who ask:  bgbcsurvivors@gmail.com

 

 

Julie Anne's picture

Wayne - Families of alcoholics like to cover up alcoholism and make excuses for it and I find the same happening in the  Christian community where spiritual abuse is concerned.  Read Ezekial 34 and Jude.  Spiritual abuse shatters souls, leaving people confused, angry at church, pastors and God.  Interestingly, after I was sued and the media spread the story, I was inundated by e-mails.  Many were from atheists who said they were devastatingly hurt in a church situation - so much so that they never could go back to church and don't trust pastors/God.  There are indeed pastors who do not exmplify Christ.  They put their own needs and desires first and devour the sheep.  Thank you for speaking up for them here.  We cannot abandon these precious souls. 

One must not confuse disagreements on rules or procedural differences of opinion as spiritual abuse.  They are clearly not the same.

T Howard's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

What is spiritual abuse?  Is it real?  One recent article described it this way:

• Church leaders who use guilt or greed to compel attendance, financial giving or service
• Spiritual leaders who take emotional or sexual advantage of others in the name of "comfort or compassion"
• Religious people who accuse those who disagree with them of being rebellious against God
• Ministry leaders who demand absolute, unquestioned obedience no matter what … whether reasonable or not … whether biblical or not

Wayne, unfortunately, many of the descriptions of "spiritual abuse" you provided are too subjective to be helpful. For example, I've seen examples of people claiming to be victims of spiritual abuse who were the recipients of church discipline for unrepentant sin or for clearly violating the rules of a Christian college. They claimed "control-oriented leadership," "spiritual elitism," "manipulation," "harsh discipline," "shunning," etc. while minimizing / justifying their own sin.

I've also known people who claim to be victims of "spiritual abuse" who were confronted about sinful decisions they were making and got their feelings hurt because the confrontation didn't leave them feeling warm and fuzzy.

 

I grant that there are real cases of abusive leadership in churches and Christian institutions, but I wonder if many of these "victims" are only victims of their own pride, over-sensitivity, and sin.

Fred Butler's picture

Julie Anne writes,

Where is this information coming from?  "Folks" - meaning more than one  person has reported it?  I haven't found any such wording in the court documents and have first-hand knowledge about who turned him in for not reporting sexual offender in the church.

I am merely reading online statements and media reports. I don't have any "inside sources" if that is what you are implying.  The online statement at the church website states that former members, plural, which would mean "folks," have called the police, DHS (social services) and the media to accuse the pastor and other current church members of being a pedophile, and allowing sex offenders free access to children.  Are you telling me you weren't involved with any calling of these individual agencies against anyone in the church? Do you mean to say that this pastor and church are lying as to the truth of the matter? Can you prove that apart from your "he said, she said" testimony? Did any of these charges stick? Meaning, arrests of individuals, etc.?

this sex offender was tried and convicted of sex crimes including rape,

According to this report, this sex offender was a mentally handicapped teenager.  Is that the "offender" who was tried and convicted of sex crimes including rape or was there other ones? 

 

Wayne Wilson's picture

Wayne, unfortunately, many of the descriptions of "spiritual abuse" you provided are too subjective to be helpful. For example, I've seen examples of people claiming to be victims of spiritual abuse who were the recipients of church discipline for unrepentant sin or for clearly violating the rules of a Christian college. They claimed "control-oriented leadership," "spiritual elitism," "manipulation," "harsh discipline," "shunning," etc. while minimizing / justifying their own sin.

Of course, one can make those claims and be entirely in the wrong.  Anyone who has been in ministry knows that.  That doesn't diminish the reality of spiritual abuse, as one brother above claimed he couldn't even grasp the concept.  All of these markers for spiritual abuse are common and geniunely abusive.  Just because someone can cry "Abuse!" when there is none doesn't mean it doesn't occur.  Police brutality is real, even though people often scream police brutality when reasonable force is used.  You can read Enroth's book for a detailed understanding of the terms I listed as they describe genuinely abusive spiritual authority. 

  My problem is the disdain shown for real victims here.  Fred asked how the "former SGM guy's post" was more insightful than his.  I hesitated to point out the obvious, but perhaps I should.   It is found in the word compassion.   Former SGM guy Rick Thomas :

I never condone my sin and I don’t condone the sin of others, but I get it. When people are hurting, more than likely they will respond sinfully. In such cases I listen to them, but I listen through them first – I listen to the real story, the hurt, not the sin that is coming out of their mouths.

I want to help them. In time, after they have been heard, helped, and are on the road to being healed, you can begin to address their sinful reactions. If I rebuked them or marginalized them because they did not say it the way I wanted them to say it, I would never be able to help them.

There is nothing like that in Fred's original blog posted here on SI...nothing even close.  Survivor blogs are often full of hurting people. They are open forums.  Some people on them behave badly. Some have left the faith.  Some believe, but can't set foot in church again.  Some have recovered enough to seek out fellowship again.  Survivor blogs are safe places for people to know they're not alone.  They often encourage each other and try to understand what happened to them...why they feel shattered by their church experience.  The blogs are messy.  There is wisdom to be found and foolishness. But it's where people turn when the truly wounded are treated as whiners and weaklings by those who should be ministering grace to them.   

Julie Anne's picture

Your original statement referred to media.  I don't consider the pastor's statement to be media.

 

Are you telling me you weren't involved with any calling of these individual agencies against anyone in the church?

 

That is 100% correct.  I made no phone calls to police or DHS.  I know of only one person, Meaghan, who made a report to DHS.  She did not contact police regarding the abuse, only DHS.  Meaghan, did however contact the police regarding trespassing.  The pastor/elders came to her home unannounced with concealed recording device.  This was a couple months after Meaghan's family left the church.  This was not related to the sexual abuse. 

 

Do you mean to say that this pastor and church are lying as to the truth of the matter?

 

If he is claiming that I called or any other person other than Meaghan (who admitted in her court document that she notififed authorities), then yes, I do not believe that he is telling the truth.  In the MSNBC article you linked, it only mentions Meaghan as the informant to DHS. 

 

Can you prove that apart from your "he said, she said" testimony? Did any of these charges stick? Meaning, arrests of individuals, etc.?

this sex offender was tried and convicted of sex crimes including rape,

According to this report, this sex offender was a mentally handicapped teenager.  Is that the "offender" who was tried and convicted of sex crimes including rape or was there other ones?

 

This document links to the sexual offender's mother's court declaration.  She states he was charged and convicted and is serving time.  It is located on the bottom of Page 12.  My attorney has found the info regarding his charges and found he was charged with rape along with other sexual crimes (against minors, not just one). 

T Howard's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

Survivor blogs are often full of hurting people. They are open forums.  Some people on them behave badly. Some have left the faith.  Some believe, but can't set foot in church again.  Some have recovered enough to seek out fellowship again.  Survivor blogs are safe places for people to know they're not alone.  They often encourage each other and try to understand what happened to them...why they feel shattered by their church experience.  The blogs are messy.  There is wisdom to be found and foolishness. But it's where people turn when the truly wounded are treated as whiners and weaklings by those who should be ministering grace to them.   

 

Unfortunately, in my experience with "survivor blogs," I've seen a lot of commiserating but very little biblical counsel given. A lot of people may feel "safe" to share their experiences, but rarely are they challenged to move beyond their experiences and feelings and to apply the truth of the gospel to their situation. Rick Thomas may say that "in time" this is what happens, but how often do you see this taking place in these "survivor blogs"? Rarely.

 

Therefore, in the main, "survivor blogs" (at least the one's I know about) tend to enable and reinforce victimization through therapeutic labeling, coping mechanisms, and catharsis rather than to bring the Scriptures and the gospel to bear on the situation.

 

People who have been wounded by poor / unbiblical church leadership shouldn't be dismissed; rather, they should be ministered to with the love, truth, and hope of the gospel. Again, Rick Thomas may say, "... after they have been heard, helped, and are on the road to being healed, you can begin to address their sinful reactions," but someone cannot be truly helped and healed apart from the gospel and its implications for both the offender and the offended.

Julie Anne's picture

T Howard commented: 

. . . .  A lot of people may feel "safe" to share their experiences, but rarely are they challenged to move beyond their experiences and feelings and to apply the truth of the gospel to their situation. Rick Thomas may say that "in time" this is what happens, but how often do you see this taking place in these "survivor blogs"? Rarely.

 

How do you know this to be true?  Do you stay at a survivor blog long enough to see the same people months/years on end?  Perhaps people stay long enough to get their stories told/validated and then move on.  

 

Throughout the Psalms, David cries out to God in praise, joy, sadness, and in anger.  So many emotions are expressed.  We tend to have difficulty with people expressing negative emotions.  A mother having a baby has intensely emotional feelings and if you get a group of moms together, the topic frequently goes to sharing birth stories - the good ones and the bad.  The same thing happens with any other deeply intense emotional time.  I was with a group of people this weekend who shared with me their cult experience.  They've been out over a decade and yet the emotions expressed were raw.   There was sadness because of the pain that they went through, but also happiness because of what God had brought them through.  This is beautiful.  God made emotions.  They are not bad.  The challenging part is getting people to a point where they can learn to trust again - trust pastors, trust people in churches, and trust God.  They aren't going to trust if their story is not believed and validated.  It takes time - sometimes years.

 

God sets a precedent in His word about how shepherds are to tend hurt/lost sheep - by going after the one lost sheep.  This beautifully illustrates how he loves and tenderly and cares for the wounded sheep.

 

I fear that in some people's quest to prove that most cases of abuse are really not abuse cases, but sin, they may be unintentionally re-victimizing legitimate abuse.  Wouldn't it be more loving to listen to the stories (1 Cor 13:7 "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things"), trusting that the person is telling you the truth, showing love and compassion.  Then, later if it was discovered that the person was probably in sin and perhaps there wasn't real abuse, there would be ground on which to stand and an established relationship to gently confront the person.  We must be careful to not not further inflict additional pain on God's battered sheep and cause them to stumble.  (Luke 17: 1-2 )

 

Barry L.'s picture

When I was an 11 yr. old boy we had an autocratic pastor who was ill-tempered and was a philanderer. I was unfairly treated and even disciplined in the Christian school because the pastor was at odds with my father because he was a deacon who called the pastor out on his activities. My sister, who was at a university was "shunned" by members of her society who went to this pastor's commissioning church. Fortunately, most of the members thought the same and the pastor was told to leave. His loyal minority left the church never speaking to us again (shunning) and still after 30 years still do not speak to us. If the majority of the church wanted him to stay, we would have just left and attended another church.  

Were me and my sister treated unfairly? Yes. Were we abused? No. That would cheapen the term. I don't want to claim victimhood on the same level as someone who was sexually, physically or mentally abused. Victimization, too many times, is a crutch by many to excuse nonspiritual behaviour. We need to show love for people, yes, but we should not encourage them to wallow in their sinful vindictiveness or excuse their lack of spiritual growth on circumstances. Does God say to get vengeance? No, he tells us to give them up and move on. It's a cancer to our soul if we do not.

Mike Harding's picture

We definitely live in a "victim" culture where nearly everyone seemingly plays the role of victim in order to endear themselves to the empathy of others.  The sad truth is that there are real victims which get lost in the confusion.  It is similar to over-playing the "race" card.  When everything is deemed racism, true racism gets ignored.  I just read a website yesterday of so-called victims from a Christian college.  All of these victims had one thing in common--they were all practicing homosexuals.  Their true agenda is to change the policy of the Christian institution in accepting same-sex marriage and other co-habiting relationships outside of  traditional, biblically defined marriage.  "Abuse" is a buzz word today and should only be used when clearly appropriate.

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's a really hard balance to strive for in this. At one end you have a need to empower real victims so that leaders are accountable and this kind of conduct can be reduced. At the other end you have a need to avoid empowering false victims who are simply complainers. At the same time, you have real victims are now victimizing themselves on top of what was done to them--victimizing themselves by obsessing indefinitely over a past they cannot change after they've already done everything they can and should to fight the evil.

To me it seems unlikely that outsiders are usually going to be in a good position to know whether a case they're encountering is at one end of the spectrum or the other or somewhere in between.

If we really can't usually tell, what should we do? It calls for a whole lot of sensitivity.

But we're doing the self-victimizers a disservice if we don't challenge them also to embrace the freedom they have in Christ and move forward to better days.  (To me, that group is the most tragic. Satan has made victims of them twice over... and they get up every morning and live out victimization every day until they get free.)

I'm not saying everybody who runs a "survivors" group is victimizing herself/himself. Not by a long shot. This is the sensitivity I'm talking about. We don't really know when they've done everything they should as individuals to help make the abuse less tolerated and less abundant. (I do think some of them don't understand that human nature being what it is, we will never completely stop sinners from sinning in these ways... so for some, self-victimiztion occurs in that they've set a goal they will never achieve--not if they had ten life times to devote to it!)

T Howard's picture

Julie Anne wrote:

How do you know this to be true?  Do you stay at a survivor blog long enough to see the same people months/years on end?  Perhaps people stay long enough to get their stories told/validated and then move on. 

 

I've read several survivor blogs and participated at one for over 12 years. In the twelve years that I was there, it was my experience that many of the people who posted there were more interested in catharsis and blame-shifting than they were in learning how the gospel speaks to their situation. In fact, when someone would attempt to bring the gospel to bear in their situation, that individual was often accused of being heartless, insensitive, arrogant, etc. Instead of helping and healing which only comes through the gospel, these survivor blogs only succeeded in allowing these wounded sheep to wallow in self-loathing and victimization. In the end, these survivor blogs left the wounded sheep emotional and spiritual cripples.

 

As for emotions, we need to teach people that living and re-living their lives based on their emotions will ultimately lead them down a dead-end street. Even David, when he cried out to God, didn't take his refuge in his situation or emotion but in his knowledge and understanding of the Lord. How are you using the Gospel to point these people you meet with to God and to teach them about who He is and how we are to live in light of that understanding?  If you're just allowing them to endlessly wallow in the muck and mire of their past, you're not caring for wounded sheep.

 

As for examples of how the Savior dealt with wounded sheep, yes it is clear that he was a man of compassion who was acquainted with all our hurts and sorrows. But, it is instructive that when dealing with hurting people, (even those victimized by spiritual authority) he did not leave them to wallow in the condition or situation in which he found them. He did not encourage them to spend ten years commiserating with each other about how bad their lives were and how bad the people were who hurt them. Unfortunately, in my experience that is exactly what survivor blogs have done and are doing. They have replaced the gospel with therapeutic labels, coping mechanisms, and catharsis.

 

Julie Anne wrote:

I fear that in some people's quest to prove that most cases of abuse are really not abuse cases, but sin, they may be unintentionally re-victimizing legitimate abuse.  Wouldn't it be more loving to listen to the stories (1 Cor 13:7 "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things"), trusting that the person is telling you the truth, showing love and compassion.  Then, later if it was discovered that the person was probably in sin and perhaps there wasn't real abuse, there would be ground on which to stand and an established relationship to gently confront the person.  We must be careful to not not further inflict additional pain on God's battered sheep and cause them to stumble.  (Luke 17: 1-2 )

I have no desire to prove or disprove cases of abuse. I do have a desire to demonstrate the love, truth, and hope that the gospel can bring even to those who have suffered tremendous abuse.

Wayne Wilson's picture

T Howard said,

Unfortunately, in my experience with "survivor blogs," I've seen a lot of commiserating but very little biblical counsel given. A lot of people may feel "safe" to share their experiences, but rarely are they challenged to move beyond their experiences and feelings and to apply the truth of the gospel to their situation.

We must be reading different blogs, because I see challenges to move on, and testimonies of moving on all the time.  In fact, when "survivors" tell of finally attending a new church, or having come to a place of forgiveness, the rest cheer for them.  Some, of course, are extremely bitter, some still untrusting, some have left the faith.  They are encouraged to deal with those things, too.  And the unbelievers are gently re-evangelized. There is, as I said, wisdom and foolishness.  But there is wisdom.

 

Barry T said:

If the majority of the church wanted him to stay, we would have just left and attended another church.  

There again, measuring others by our strength.  Your father was already standing up to this autocrat. He did the right thing.  In some places, there is no one like your Dad to stand up and draw strength from, or men like your Dad are swept away and others are left to drown in that situation.  The fact is, Survivor blogs, messy as they can be, have rescued others from the autocrat by exposure. 

 

Just this week, one large and well known church held a "family meeting," at which,  after many years, the pastoral staff one-by-one confessed their sins and invited the wounded to come to them and find healing with them through Christ.   Here's a snippet of what the pastor said:

We don’t want to miss the opportunity God is giving us to humble ourselves and repent of our sins.

And we use the word “sin” very purposefully here.  It’s easy for us to want to couch these issues as merely deficiencies or mistakes.  But God has used the events of the past year to help us see where we’ve failed to rightly teach and practice his word and where we’ve been proud and have sinned. And we can admit that because we have a sin-bearing Savior who died on the cross for our sins.  Jesus didn’t die for leadership deficiencies but there is grace for sins because Jesus shed his blood for us.

A year ago, the Senior pastor invited his members to read the Survivor Blogs, while others said to shun them.  He chose the humble path and restoration is taking place. Those who took the "tough line" have confessed nothing, and left.  I rejoice in these humble men taking responsibility for their sin.  What examples!  Whether or not He approves of all that goes on there, God used the Survivors to help put this confession and restoration in motion.

 

There are definitely dangers in survivor blogging and sins can be seen there.  But they are not the big problem.  The problem is all too common unbiblical, authoritarian leadership. That problem is exacerbated when other leaders side, by default, with the oppressors against the oppressed.  (I will choose the word oppressor since some can't accept that there is such a thing as "abuse").  Fred's post struck me in just that way, siding with a pastor who has a screw loose against Julie Ann, who is forthright enough to post here. (And my goodness, the woman has been sued! If that's not sufficient cause to go public, I don't know what is)  When we think about the bloggers, we should always have in mind where the greater accountability lies --- and that is with leadership. When we attack the bloggers indiscriminately, we risk siding with the oppressor.  There are a lot of people in ministry that shouldn't be.

 

The value of these blogs is an important discussion to have, their dangers and benefits.  One thing is sure. It's a new day.  The internet is going to be a place where spiritual leaders will be held accountable.  As a pastor, do I want every mistake I've made posted on the internet?  No.  I am as vain and image conscious as anyone.  I wouldn't want it, but I may need it.  And if my ministry generates "survivors" who did not leave because they wanted to sin, but because of my sin, I had better take a good look at myself.  

 

 

 

 

Teri Ploski's picture

I've read these posts and Julie Ann's blog with interest.  While I don't consider myself a victim of such spiritual abuse, it could have in fact happened.  We were in a fundamentalist GARB church in CA where the pastor was EXTREMELY legalistic.  He told us how to dress, what kind of hair styles we could have, what we could/could not watch on television, what we could/could not listen to on the radio, he had to verify each and every song that was sung at church, even told one family that they could not attend a family member's wedding because it was in a church that "we must separate from"!  There was gossip running rampant,  to the point that we were just chatting with some friends there and mentioned Christian liberty, and that got back to the pastor. He called us in and told us that "He will determine our Christian liberty for us, and we were not to question the shephard guiding the sheep." We stayed at the church for a year until God, in his provision for us, moved us to a new position cross-country.

I found out, quite by accident, about 20 years later, that this same pastor had abused students in the now-defunct Christian school that he ran while we were there, and that my son attended. Suddenly, it all made sense.  He had left by then, but was arrested and returned to CA for trial, where he plead "no-contest" and is now serving time in prison.  I've grown and moved on, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened had we stayed there.

Wayne Wilson's picture

Teri,  that's an excellent example.  I think it's a textbook example of spiritually abusive leadership. The big question is: is it permissible or sinful to point out the extreme control and legalism on the web?  Is it revenge to do so, or helping others avoid a toxic situation?  Would it help others evaluating the church?  Is it gossip?   My point is that if there is any wrong in such sharing, the much, much greater wrong is what that pastor was doing while you attended there.  

T Howard's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

The big question is: is it permissible or sinful to point out the extreme control and legalism on the web?  Is it revenge to do so, or helping others avoid a toxic situation?  Would it help others evaluating the church?  Is it gossip?   My point is that if there is any wrong in such sharing, the much, much greater wrong is what that pastor was doing while you attended there.  

 

Wayne, how does Scripture answer your questions? We do know that moral equivalence is not taught in Scripture.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

A masterful statement of the obvious.

The reason that predators seem to so easily infiltrate churches is that we are often scared to death to be guilty of gossip or rebellion. We know how important it is that our speech be graceful, charitable, salty, and honest. We want to be good examples to our children, to teach them how to respect and submit to authority. But it is never in anyone's best interest to not speak out about unBiblical, immoral, unethical behavior, nor is it unScriptural. There are guidelines for approaching the brethren and church leadership about doubts and questions and misconduct, and we should be careful to observe those procedures, as they are not just there to ensure justice, but for everyone's protection. 

However- criminal acts require us to notify law enforcement. That shouldn't even be a question. 

Wayne Wilson's picture

T Howard wrote

Wayne, how does Scripture answer your questions? We do know that moral equivalence is not taught in Scripture.

I'm sorry, Tom.  Is there a disagreement?  My point is that there is not moral equivalnce here.  There is a greater burden of responsibility on the shepherd, thus a greater sin.

 

Julie Anne's picture

T Howard asks:  How are you using the Gospel to point these people you meet with to God and to teach them about who He is and how we are to live in light of that understanding?  If you're just allowing them to endlessly wallow in the muck and mire of their past, you're not caring for wounded sheep.

 

My blog serves multiples purposes.  It is a place for people to tell their stories, to discuss abuse, to learn about real abuse in the church (again, I'm not talking about church government disagremeents, but real abuse).  The original intent was to make a connection with people who were former members - to tell them that they were not alone, that there was real abuse, that it was okay to talk now, and it was okay to move on to get healing.  I described my experiences, how it affected my faith, how it affected my family and my family's faith (my 26-yr old daughter has tragically left the faith because of this terrible church experience - this is probably the fire in me that causes me to speak out - when you lose your kid, nothing else seems to matter).

 

In an abusive church there are lies that are told.  My adult son came away with the thought that there is nothing he can do to measure up, so why bother.  He was left in a state of spiritual confusion and complacency and didn't care because he knew he sinned and was on his way to hell anyway, so why bother?  So many messages were on sin, sin, sin, and very little grace.  Thankfully, someone recently came into his life and challenged his thinking.  Please keep him in prayers, he is not on solid ground yet.  So, I've already mentioned two of my own kids.  Do you understand my passion?  Imagine someone pulling the rug under your children's spiritual lives.  This is what I saw from so many of teens and now young adults - most of whom have completely turned away form God and the church.  These lies have to be challenged.  Someone needs to call out the falsehoods and show the negative fruit so they can see for themselves.  I am attempting to do that.  Someone needs to identify behaviors that are unhealthy and unscriptural.  The blog serves that purpose, too.  

 

Additionally, I discuss healthy churches, healthy pastors and provide resources.  Because of the media, two pastors have stumbled across the blog.  I am so appreciative of these men who have contributed and comment on the blog.  They may be the first pastors some have connected with since their abusive church experience and these men are showing Christ in their responses.  If you are a pastor and care for hurting sheep, I invite you to read and respond, too. 

 

The personal stories I have read have left me in tears.  People who say "get over it and move along" really don't have a clue.  It's interesting how callous people can be (and I've seen evidence of that here).  Some people give more credibility to rape and physical abuse, yet when we are talking about someone's eternal soul, they say to move along and get over it.  The reality is that if we do not handle these precious souls carefully,  many times they become atheists and those are the ones who speak loudly against Christ.  I had an enormous amount of e-mail and comments from people after the media attention telling me that they became atheists after a horrible church experience.  If the Bible is clear about false teachers and wolves and battered sheep, we need to take a good look and see if we are giving that issue the attention it deserves.  God is not abandoning His hurting sheep, but many Christians are by their negative responses.  That is not love, nor compassion. 

 

T Howard's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

T Howard wrote

Wayne, how does Scripture answer your questions? We do know that moral equivalence is not taught in Scripture.

I'm sorry, Tom.  Is there a disagreement?  My point is that there is not moral equivalnce here.  There is a greater burden of responsibility on the shepherd, thus a greater sin.

 

There is no disagreement between us if you agree that the answers we provide to the questions you asked must come from Scripture. There is also no disagreement between us if you agree that the sin of the offender does not justify the sin of the offended.

Wayne Wilson's picture

Tom, I don't disagree with those points. I was thrown by the idea of moral equivalence.  I believe the oppressive shepherd's sin is greater in God's eyes than the oppressed person's weakened faith or anger. 

 

But I do agree that Scripture should answer the questions I asked, and that no sin is justified, as Rick Thomas said in his superior posting.

 

Also, I hope we can all take what Julie Ann just posted to heart.  I would rather my child be physically beat up than have their spirit crushed in God's house.

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