Monday, April 3, 2023

Complicated Forgiveness: Colliding with Organizations that Cancel You

On the Fifteenth Anniversary of my Cancelling

A Companion Post to Mess with the Bulls and You'll Get the Horns: The Dominating Behavioral Context of CBMW

I remember my exit counselor talking to me after a month to consider that many of the leaders in cults like the one I'd left are trapped and bound in the system more deeply than I ever was. I bristled at the suggestion at the time, but in time, it would help me get past the trauma and see my former leaders with compassion. (Read more on this much-misunderstood topic HERE.)

I'm glad today that my exit counselor made that statement to me. With the experiences of some cultic churches under my belt, I would go on to learn about even more complicated experiences with a good, loving Christian pastor with a day job who also works for a couple of Christian counter-cult organizations.

In short, while I have forgiven the individual who served as the mouthpiece for an organization that denounced me in 2008, I have not forgiven the organization.

The organization broke trust with me when they acquiesced to those who control the discussion of gender among many Evangelicals.

The individual, my contact there, walks a fine line among many people with different beliefs and among many agencies within Evangelicalism. He makes decisions that hopefully strike the best balance among these many interests while preserving his passionate work to build a more vital, better-equipped Evangelical church. He guards against the shipwreck of his efforts and those of the other Christians who work with him to create these counter-cult apologetics spaces. It's often a thankless job for all involved – and such folks are treated like a “red-headed stepchild.” He explained that his choices concerning my situation were pastoral, but I cannot explain them as such.

Without those exact words, he asked me to pretend that many critical events between us never happened, and for the past fifteen years, he's stood by his decision. I froze in disbelief when I first heard his negative statements on April 11, 2008.  I was unable to speak to most of his denials. It was the day I was urged to delete the video of the conference lecture. My husband (by phone and open letter) and a few others approached him about these matters soon after they happened, and my contact chose to respond only with the organization's prepared official statement. 

He explained to me that he chose to protect me from harm and aggression by men at the organization (a choice he made without my consent) which I see as another indicator of his goodness. I was not given a choice in the matter. I would have gladly faced the aggression myself. He expected me to accept his choice as a kindness. I'm sure this would now be denied, too. (Read more HERE.)

I spoke with him about the matter again a few years ago, not quite a decade after the events first transpired. I explained that I could not understand why his account of these matters differed significantly from mine. He remained entirely silent without so much as a sigh or a peep over the phone until I changed the subject.

(As I prepared this post, I asked my husband if I should give a confrontation with my contact another opportunity to reconcile or if I should send this to him. My husband just laughed at my optimism.)

I believe I gave Matthew 18 a good try, if it is even appropriate in this matter. I forgive him, we did not reconcile, but I still love him, and he seems to offer that same Christian love to me. We just have that pesky elephant in between us, and I hear his voice soften and muffle when we get near anything that touches on the subject. About six weeks ago, I heard the change in his voice and felt that familiar, painful twinge in my heart when I brought up the subject of John MacArthur.

I can only speculate about what this matter meant to him at the time. Perhaps it all seemed
theoretical. Reviewing all of our correspondence again, I now wonder if he thought that I was going to speak only to my experience with Vision Forum acolytes without also drawing on my experiences in other Quiverfull churches.

He failed to understand what the subject represented for me. I gave a voice to the physically, mentally, and spiritually abused women I knew personally in the churches I'd attended. That wasn't in the talk or the materials I submitted, but it was why I gave it. Those women were flesh and blood people with names, broken lives, and broken families. They represented so many more who would suffer if no one ever called out the false guise of allegedly Biblical teachings of complementarian theology that birthed and armed the Quiverfull movement to continue abusing women. And I would clearly never be given another platform in that forum to again voice those ideas. Deleting that video seemed like deleting the abused which is what those churches did to them.

A few men took the shame imposed upon them and hung it around my neck. Many still remember it and judge me wrongly for it.

It is possible to do the right thing and resist doing the wrong things, even if we think they are for the right reasons. A commitment to resist doing the wrong things even if they serve some good and justifiable end often distinguishes good religion from the cults.

If I had to do it all again, I would have done everything in writing via email to have all matters well-documented for the benefit of all. The phone calls allowed for much manipulation, and I wish that I'd asked for written confirmation of absolutely e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.!  Be wiser than I was.