Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Demand an Apology? CBMW's Actions Belie their own Disclaimer on Abuse

I was never really a fan of social media, but I'm developing an appreciation for Twitter. I've just fallen in love with some of the sarcasm and spoof Twitterlings. “Sergius Martin-Georg” at Steam Tunnel Pilot most recently caught my attention, but the first of them was “False Wayne Grudem.” I find their sharp wit and insight delightful, using humor to elucidate the true nature of so much rubbish that too many accept blindly as a faithful reflection of Christianity.

I read this tweet from False Wayne Grudem the other day, and the problem that it highlights has haunted me since:
Working on my next book:
"Intentionally Ignoring Victims' Stories,
According to the Bible."

As I've mentioned in part on this blog, I witnessed the bad fruit produced by complementarianism in the lives of others, though I didn't know that the belief system had a name. I also hear from countless people who write to me for help or who share their sagas of abuse with me – abuse that was excused, defended, justified, and promoted through complementarianism. I don't claim that this population of whom I speak are true of all who follow the belief system required by the followers of and high priests at Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), but they are still worthy of attention, compassion, and care. Many of these abused ones have no voice or are too distracted by their troubles to find their voice to raise it against the injustice inflicted upon them. Captive to my conscience, I must speak for them.

Disclaimers versus Teaching and Action

I could not help but think of the difficulties of living with or working through a relationship with a person who avoids justice by calling for mercy prematurely. I thought of what it is like and how difficult it is to be in a relationship with a person who abuses you in some way without acknowledging their behavior as abuse. My attention was then drawn to this article from an author who I've quoted here in the past.
From George Simon's Character Disturbance: 
There is a big difference between regretting the consequences to oneself of bad behavior (e.g., getting caught, paying fines, receiving other social sanctions) and experiencing genuine empathy-based remorse for the injury caused to others.

For a person to experience any degree of genuine “contrition” which could prompt them to change their ways, two things must occur: 
     1. they not only have to feel genuinely badly about what they have done (i.e. guilty), but they must also be internally unnerved about the kind of person   
      2. they must have allowed themselves to become (i.e. shameful) to have behaved so irresponsibly.
Their shame and guilt must then propel them to make of themselves a better person. True contrition always involves what the ancient Greek philosophers termed “metanoia” or “a change of heart.”
Read more from George Simon about Contrition HERE.

I then thought of CBMW's Statement on Abuse, yet another disclaimer which allows them to state that they believe one thing while they teach and enforce another. For years, people have voiced the problem of abuse that arises directly from their teachings, but CBMW denies the veracity of the accounts and minimizes them. Then, they fall to the typical mantras that are so often heard in high demand religion and cults, all wrapped around the Sacred Science, the Demand for Purity, and Doctrine over Person: “You just don't understand what we've taught.” “You are confused.” “You're just doing it wrong.” “You failed to get results when following our paradigm because of sins of which you will not repent.” 

On the rare occasion that the group acknowledges abuse, they claim that the abuse validates their paradigm, refusing to entertain anything other than the purity of their doctrine. They retreat to their submission doctrines, umbrella of authority beliefs, and the ways of shepherding as a scapegoat for the bad outcomes.

Please take a closer look at the disclaimer that is made and that which it alleges.

From CBMW's Statement on Abuse (emphasis mine):
  • We are confident of the power of God’s healing love to restore relationships fractured by abuse, but we realize that repentance, forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation is a process. Both abusers and abused are in need of on-going counseling, support and accountability.
  • In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.
  • We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian community can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.

If the Council and those who support it really believed in the imperative of responding to the abused, firm discipline for the abuser, and the advocacy, support, and protection of the abused, I think that their response to this heinous problem in the Church would be much different that the one that we see. We would not be considered and censured as “confused.” 

One of my favorite books is Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov which illustrates a variety of destructive consequences that result from unwise ideas. I become heartsick when I realize that I've made errors or even when making no errors, my actions create pain for others. Those raised with a shame-existence bind feel this type of pain and burden of responsibility even more acutely. You do all that you can to intercede and to restore those who have been hurt. You also feel a special burden for those who have suffered like you have.

Why then do we see such a callous response to the problem of abuse in complementarian marriages – that is marriages that follow the CBMW paradigm? At the very least, wouldn't you expect the Council to have a committee or an initiative to help their followers understand and properly respond to the problem of the various kinds of abuse that people suffer? Wouldn't there be a ministry extending care to those who have been hurt? Instead, CBMW and its agents deliver condemnation and threat. "There is no problem."  The problem is said to be a consequence of the abused own foolish behavior. There are few responses that I find so foolish.
Read more about the Statement on Abuse (pdf) at Barbara Roberts' website, Not Under Bondage, named for her book which bears the same title. She also blogs regularly at A Cry for Justice.

The Petition

This problem represents one of the important reasons behind the Freedom for Christian Women's Coalition's petition to CBMW to apologize and repent. The responses that critics and wounded people receive from the group belies their disclaimers in so many ways!

If you have not already done so, please review the petition and join us in signing it. Deeply consider what you believe about the organization and put your actions behind those beliefs. Don't let your words and your heart belie your worship of God through action.