My husband said, "Wow! And when I say 'wow,' I really mean WOW!"
Read more at RNS.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
It has been an interesting few weeks for the survivors of spiritual abuse and those who have suffered the “extra special” kind of spiritual abuse that comes with sexual advances made by clergy.
After years of suffering in silence and scorn, many have cause for hope. Bob Jones University reinstated the Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment Group to complete their investigation of unreported assaults. And... Bill Gothard was placed on administrative leave by the board of his parachurch organization, the Institute in Basic Life Principles. These matters have even caught the attention of the secular press including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
It has been said of critics that people like me are dancing with glee over these new developments with Gothard in particular, as somehow it means that there will be no consequences for sinful activities. (I can't connect any of those dots at all!) I wish to see the abusers come to justice so that restitution can be made to the survivors. And in many ways, that is impossible. It would be nice, however, if places like Sovereign Grace would at least pay for therapy to help their victims can recover. It would be something. It is a starting place. – But it makes me anything but happy. Part of me cringes, half anticipating that all of these efforts will result in no change at all, despite all of the work and the public scrutiny that the victims have suffered in the process. Or it may be change that no one will see tangibly in quite a long time. That's often how these things work.
Back to matters concerning Brother Bill...
Recovering Grace (RG) is an online organization that helps people work through the challenges that they face after their involvement with Bill Gothard's teachings. To date, thirty four women have come to them with reports of Bill Gothard's sexual misconduct, and this is in addition to his previous history and similar reports. At the end of this post, I will post the chart that RG created to trace his modus operandi with just a few of these young women, some of whom were still minors when he pursued them. There is something chilling about seeing this comparison, and I'm grateful to RG for allowing me to repost it here. For more information about all of this, visit “The Gothard Files” tab at the top of the RG website to find more information. The drop-down menu makes it easy to sort through the history and categories to particular information. I was excited to notice a special section (“Silencing the Lambs”) that speaks to the false doctrines that Gothard uses to suppress criticism. Some of these teachings are miserable and difficult, mingled with just enough truth and delivered in such a way as to seduce a person into accepting them.
Recovery from Gothard
I only had a short brush with Gothard's material, and I was blessed to have very good basic doctrinal training prior to my exposure to it. I had access to mentors in the faith who could help broaden my perspective. I knew about spiritual life outside of a heavily controlled system of conformity. Yet despite all of this, the teachings proved to be quite toxic for me. It took several years before I was able to sort through the many skewed ideas that Gothard taught and the church I'd left still followed. I'd like to think that seventeen years after leaving that church and the Gothard mentality that I am free of it all, but it would not surprise me to find some new issue that triggers the automatic and rehearsed response that was part of this indoctrination. My church wove his ideas into everything, and I lived it as much as I could for four years while trying to make it work.
I identify with the people who grew up in Gothard's system however. If you've read here for very long, you likely know that I experienced many of the same issues as a child. What the legalistic homeschooling families required of their children for religious reasons, my parents often required of me for their own personal reasons, with the exception of corporal punishment. You learn to bury your own feelings, you follow your authorities, and you do what your parents want. In the middle of it, you become a universe ofshame and self doubt in a nutshell. I suffered sexual abuse, too, outside of a religious context, so I can relate to that experience as well.
In all of the talk about this new sanction placed on Gothard until his Board decides what to do, I came across a very well written blog post about recovery. I identified with it and still struggle with answering some of the questions the author poses and the challenges that one faces when you are taught to live in a system of self negation and shame. It was honest and lovely and painful and sweet and melancholy.
Micah Murray's blog post at Redemption Pictures talks about how hard it is to make sense out of something so pervasive in addition to discussing the accusations and why he finds them absolutely believable. When your normal is abnormal, you have no standard of comparison. All you know is deeply flawed. He starts out early in the post, noting that people often say, “Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.” You're supposed to rescue the good and leave the bad behind in the rubble as you move on, but no one tells you how to do this. It's almost like people to tell you to “just get over it.” I don't even know what that means. If all of your experience is grounded in trauma, you don't know how to get over anything. You only know how to exist in the system that hurt you.
No one tells you how to pick up the pieces of your life. You have no idea where to begin and how to begin. It is this sense that I felt when I wrote about how difficult it is to study the Bible after someone has used it to beat you up. There is such a mix of emotions and good and bad, and all you want is an easy, black and white way to make things feel good to you again. Then you realize that there is no black or white, or that those instances are more rare than common. Unique people make for much grey.
I loved how Micah phrased this as well about being raised in Gothard's system which he calls a cult. I once likened it to the “splinter in your mind” from The Matrix film. You know something's wrong, but you don't have the words or the perspective to define it.
You know it somewhere in your mind before your mouth will admit it.
We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn’t what it looked like.
His article is well worth reading. The pictures are quite telling, too.
Gothard's Advice Regarding Sexual Abuse
Another enlightening feature of Micah's post focuses on what Gothard had to say about how to counsel sexual abuse victims. It's basically a guide of how not to approach a victim. He says of it that it is “The very sort of thing you’d expect, in retrospect, from an alleged sexual predator.”
In hindsight, he expresses how terribly hard it is to consider that, at the time, he didn't realize how terrible this advice really was. I wrote recently about this and recalled how I felt when I froze several different times when walking through the different moments of realization I had when my friend had been locked in the basement. It never occurred to me that it could be happening at the time that I took this woman's call or when the pastor downplayed it as trivial. And I froze, not knowing what to say when I learned that she was calling from her confinement. What on earth was wrong with me? Like Micah, I was brainwashed, too. You don't know what to do. You freeze. You play along. You survive the pressure of the moment. But thank God that other moments come when you realize that you have a choice. You don't have to remain frozen indefinitely.
I agree with him that brainwashing is “a real thing.” It happened to him. It happened to me. It happens to the young and the old, the best and the brightest, the simple and the meek. We believe the promises that are made to us if we can only follow the plan. As Micah puts it, we end up floundering in a sea of lies, wondering if there is even any baby or bathwater.
And here is the promised chart that Recovering Grace put together. Please visit there and read more. These processes are predictable, just like patterns of spiritual abuse and brainwashing are predictable. It still amazes me.
As Micah notes, “Pray for us.” And let us hope that more will be done than repentance for “defrauding,” loaded code language for enticing someone sexually without ability or intent to follow through on satisfying that desire. Recovering Grace has a post about that, too. Pray that all of the wounded find healing and that justice can be established. Mercy comes later.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Truth Stranger than Fiction? Who Cares? Enjoy Some Humor. The Viking Apocalypse is Imminent, so Bite Me!
From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Actually, this is just a post about some great stuff that others have already addressed, and there's no point trying to reiterate what others have stated so well.
At first blush, this looks like satire, but it isn't. A Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate named Steven Furtick who rubs shoulders with The Elect (TM) apparently distributes a coloring book to small children at his church to begin early spiritually abusive indoctrination. I wonder if they discipline little ones for failing to color inside the lines?
I laughed and thought at first that perhaps a parent decided to scribble over The VisionaryTM. I loved the BBC Open Forum's commentary about the matter, so I invite you to visit and read more about it there. (I believe that the first notable source of the information appears HERE.)
Friday, February 21, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Note: For background info, please visit the embedded. The following is packed with them, and you may need a scorecard.]
After posting a link to a new article in the New Republic entitled Sexual Assault at God's Harvard in social media today, Eric Pazdziora drew attention to it. (Eric is an exceptionally talented musician, composer, and graduate student who was a featured contributor to the book, Quivering Daughters and has written much on the topic.)
Note: Patrick Henry College (PHC) designed for homeschoolers by the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and was referenced in as “God's Harvard” in the title of Hanna Rosin's book.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Commonalities Between Shirley Taylor's New Book and the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate? A Review of “Women Equal – No Buts”
I've just read Shirley Taylor's newest book, Women Equal – No Buts: Powered By the Same Source. I spoke to Jocelyn Andersen a few days ago who said the book would be ready in about a week. I was thrilled to find it several days early! We talked about Shirley, and we spoke about how God has put fire in her belly for the cause of equality for women within the church. I'm humbled by her witness and her perseverance for this cause, and No Equal Buts is yet another passionate effort to advance true, functional equality for women within Christianity. Unlike Dethroning Male Headship (her previous book published by One Way Press), this new work demonstrates how some of the male headship doctrines “flesh out” in real life. (I don't use the term “flesh” as a pun, for that is exactly what much of complementarianism really is.)
Thursday, January 16, 2014
A few months ago, Kathryn E. Stegall shared her new book with me. I keep sitting down to write a review of her book, but I have such a plethora of thoughts, memories, and passionate emotions that I had trouble sorting through them to figure out how to start.
I will finally start here!
Her book presents the power of the Gospel more than anything else, simply by focusing on Scripture, and the doctrines shine through in the process. Though the declared subject of the book concerns this modern gender debate that has come to the forefront in the Evangelical world, I think that it's really more of a book about soteriology: what salvation is, how it is obtained, and what it does for those who put their faith in Jesus. I imagine that as a Christian writer, one couldn't ask for more. Through a focus on Scripture, the book dispels competing and idolatrous doctrines that rob God of His glory, power, authority, and ongoing works that belong to Him alone.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
In the last post, I defined what I call the “epiphany moment” – the moment at which a member of a spiritually abusive group finally begins to consciously consider that the pain that they endure to be a part of the group may not be worth it. Whatever benefit they gain just isn't worth the compromise that they're asked to make or the collateral damage suffered. Within the context of the cycle of spiritual abuse, this moment of realization usually falls within the Confrontation Phase of the process after conflict and tension has built up over the course of time spent in the group. Another former member once described this moment by using the analogy of a shelf upon which memories of confusing experiences and doubts were stored but avoided. One day, your shelf just breaks, and you must make a moral choice. Do you step back from membership to deal with the doubts and the things you overlooked, or do you turn the shelf of doubt into a heap on the floor so that you can return to the convenience of your life within the group?
Whenever I talk to people who have exited a spiritually abusive group, I usually ask them about what I have come to describe as the “epiphany moment” – the moment when circumstances force them to acknowledge that there is something desperately wrong, and they find themselves no longer able to make excuses for what they observe or experience. Everyone who has walked through the process knows that moment well when they felt the foundations of their trust fail. It's a point at which the the pain necessary to maintain group membership suddenly, significantly, and painfully outweighs any benefit and gain. I believe that people who remain in a group often have such moments, too, but they choose to ignore the conflict so that they can remain a part of their group.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Though a person can be thrown out of a high demand religious group, most people choose to walk away from them on their own because involvement in the group becomes demanding for them. Less frequently, a group can actually fall apart after the death or demise of its leader. If you've been an acolyte of Vision Forum, you may find yourself examining what the group really offered to you and whether you want to continue following the ideology. If you find yourself in such a situation, or if you are the loved one of someone who is involved in an group that creates concern, the cycle of involvement can help you understand the experience. If you have participated with Vision Forum and are shaken by Doug Phillips' resignation, I challenge you to keep reading.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Most people walk away from high demand religion on their own because some event or series of them bursts the bubble of wonder that such systems create. A vital part of that process for me involved “gradually waking up” to see the very negative side of my pastor – the side that I denied through most of the time that we were in contact. I was moved to write this after reading about Peter Bradrick's experience who seems to have had a more abrupt awakening and a much longer indoctrination period during a more impressionable time in his life.
In my mid-twenties, my husband and I relocated to a new state, and we soon found new friends and people who seemed to us like family. In fact, the pastor heard a “word from the Lord” when he first fell into the role after a church split, telling him to treat congregants “like family.” (This was not true of everyone, but it became true with me – up until very near the end of my four year experience at the church.) One of the things that I grew to love about this man was his genuine interest in people and an ability to appreciate them, even if he didn't identify with them. He was gentle and compassionate, though I didn't even really think of him as charismatic, save that he had a father-like appeal for me. Before he started pastoring full time, well before retirement age, he shared the same profession as my own father and was the same age. Oddly, his daughter and I were both nurses and also were the same age.
Friday, November 15, 2013
If you want to understand the psychology of someone who runs a very elitist religious group, you'll find a good deal of information on this website about it! A big chunk of understanding an aberrant or destructive religious group, you have to understand the leader.
When people learn about a high demand group and want to understand how it can dominate members, they usually look at their beliefs (their system of ideology), particularly if Christians seek to understand an aberrant Christian group. Most of the content on this website focuses on the additional factors of manipulation and control that govern the psychosocial and social psychology of a high demand religious group. I like to use the concept of “Bounded Choice” to understand the process of how such a group comes together and stays together in the first place. But this is not the only factor.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
For those who are following events concerning Hana Williams' death and her adoptive parents' conviction, Kathryn Joyce has just written another excellent article. I'm still so deeply affected by this that I just recommend that readers just link over to Slate online to read Joyce's new article. I could embed a snippet here, but I couldn't figure out what to choose.
I will borrow from Why Not Train Up a Child's post about the article, however:
The above mentioned article is perfect for sharing with any politicians or celebrities who might be willing to put pressure on Amazon.com to remove the book, To Train Up A Child. If you can’t think of anyone, here is an idea from StopSpanking.orgMaureen McCauley Evans continues to write excellent articles concerning the aftermath as well. Follow this link to the "Hana Williams" tagged articles to continue to read her poignant pieces about Hana, the trial, how this affects adoption/adoption related practices, and a compassionate thoughts about so many ways that this tragedy affects so many different groups of people.
Hermana Linda also faithfully posts updates and links to everything related to Michael Pearl.
I am so grateful for all of these women who continue to do faithfully bring attention to this issue, with grace and compassion which I so appreciate because of the difficulty of the subject matter.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
An Open Message to Judge Susan Cook About the Williams' Sentencing: The Development of the Perfect Storm
Sentencing was just handed down today, following theguilty verdicts of the Williams Family parents in Skagit County, Washington. They were both found guilty of abuse charges for their adopted children as well as manslaughter charges, with an additional charge of “Homicide by Abuse” for the mother only. The jury could not come to a consensus on the same charge for the father, and it was subsequently dropped – a special charge reserved for those who are implicated in the death of children age thirteen years and younger. (A challenge of Hana Alemu Williams' age played a large role in the case presented by the defense teams for both parents to avoid the implications of this charge.)