Tag Archives: abuse

you will go to church tomorrow

you-will-go-to-church-tomorrow
About five years ago, I sat next to her the morning she was trying church again. I understand why she had quit trying altogether up until now…the threats and the punches from her husband, the need to stay in the marriage from her old church and pastor, the reality of how in hell to care for her children and protect herself at the same time. I couldn’t believe she showed up to begin with. And on that Sunday morning, the sermon itself was ultimately about how wives should keep doing the right thing even when their husbands’ don’t in hopes that their husbands will come around. God bless.

For people dealing with socks in the floor or toilet seats left up, perhaps this is not a problematic statement. But the reality that more than two thirds of christian women in violent relationships feel like it’s their duty to tolerate the violencemakes it a problem. The difficulty with knowing that nine out of ten church-going, christian women interviewed felt that their husbands used their religion and doctrine to support their abuse2 makes it even messier.

I worked at the church at that time, so I found myself on Monday morning wringing my hands while deciding whether or not to mention this difficulty to the preacher. When walking in that morning, one of the staff who worked there at the time asked if I had been at church the day before and what I thought about it. After playing dumb and answering with questions, it became clear that she was a survivor of domestic violence and left the sermon the day before feeling guilty for leaving the marriage. Another conversation with yet another church staffer made it clear that there were at least two women in the building who had been in “christian” marriages in the past where domestic violence was present. They had both pushed courageously through their church’s tradition that you have to stay, wait it out, and keep doing the right thing in hopes that your male “head of the christian marriage” will come around. The two of them before 9:30 in the morning made it clear that I had to mention this issue to the preacher in hopes that in the future he would be willing to make the caveat to avoid these silent sufferers leaving church thinking God is mad at them for their bravery in avoiding assault.

His response when I scheduled a meeting with him about the issue?

“You can caveat a sermon to death.”

A few days later, an additional response.

“It’s not your place to talk to me like you’re my teacher.”

I managed to leave my employment at that church too many months later after these interactions. I’ve learned in the meantime, now serving my second year as chair for an incredible nonprofit working to empower women and men in abusive relationships to get the hell out, the reality that many churches are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence out of fear that people are looking for excuses for divorce.

Please catch your breath with me.

Many churches and their male pastors, in this area at least, are afraid to address head on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault out of fear that women are looking for excuses for divorce. Or, for the incredibly important reason that we can “caveat a sermon to death.”

To my friend that Sunday morning sitting next to me, leg and arm muscles tightening as you received word from the pastor that you should stick it out, I’m so sorry. I wan you I left. I moved on. And I wish I had never invited you. To church staff who pushed through the same issues, I’m so sorry. I left. I want you to know I moved on. And so did you. To the women who are still in church and still in marriages and still wondering whether or not God honors marriage more than your own safety and dignity, I have good news. He is for you.

This past Sunday, I watched as the Executive Director of WRAP, the nonprofit working to empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence, climbed the steps to the microphone at my church during the middle of the service. I felt my watery eyes turn on as she spoke gently and directly about the number of women who show up for services at WRAP and say that they were afraid to tell their churches because they were afraid they wouldn’t be believed. I watched the priest walk over to this woman as she was trying to make her way off the platform as he said, “please don’t go yet. If I can, I’d like to pray for you and the people your organization works with.” I watched him put his arms around her and say, “Thank you God for women like Daryl, and for places like WRAP, and for the work they do as a part of your church to let people know your heart if for marriages and families of mutual respect. You are a God who wants peace in families, and safety for all in the family. We know, God, that you are never for the abuse of your children. So we say today that we stand with you against domestic violence for all reasons.  Empower your servants to work with great power to free those in danger, and know that you are with them.”

You will go to church tomorrow. Is your church willing to honor peace over abusive marriage? Ask. Find out. Make it an issue, and make sure that your church will speak up. The people affected by these issues won’t cause problems in your congregations; they will go home and take another fist to the face. The burden is ours. The insistence is His.

djordan
Pine Tree

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic or sexual violence, contact WRAP by visiting www.wraptn.org. 

Nash, S. T., Faulkner, C., & Abell, R. R. (2013). Abused conservative Christian wives: Treatment considerations for practitioners. Counseling and Values (58). October, pp. 205-220.
2. Nickmeyer, N., Levitt, H. & Horne, S. G. (2010). Putting on Sunday best: The silencing of battered women within Christian faith communities. Feminism and Psychology. (20)2. February, pp. 94-113.

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an end to preludes

boyond-preludes

There is a rumble of insistence for
an end to preludes without their symphonies.

Beyond announcements and proclamations,
beyond ceremonies and unveilings,
crowds of regular people gather
who are still working and sweating
to raise their families
to help their neighbors
to reimagine their surroundings
to dream their futures
and to build into their communities
into something a little more whole.

Beyond the prelude
the people are still waiting
for the movement to begin.

Beyond the prelude
we are waiting and clamoring,
we have become restless waiting and clamoring,
for the movement to begin.

There is no longer an acceptance of only preludes;
we’ve learned the movement is supposed to follow.

We don’t expect it to be played for us;
we’ve been learning to play for quite some time now.
We expect to add our own music to the work.
We don’t expect it to ring without error;
we’ve been learning from our errors for quite some time now.
We expect to mess up, tell the truth about it, and continue to play.
We don’t expect to hear it immediately;
we’ve been learning how long it takes for good music to be born.
We expect to see it both in small pieces and suddenly in finished products.

But let us be clear;
we will no longer accept the preludes without their symphonies.
If there is intent to impose again
an acceptance of the status quo
of all prelude and no movement
of all proclamation and no production
of all appeasing and no activity
of all explanation and no substance,
hear this:
We do not accept your offer.

We’ve waited.
We’ve traveled.
We’ve worked.
We’ve trained.
We’ve sweat.

You will not scare us into silence.
You will not threaten us into acceptance.
You will not bully us into appeasement.

We know that the prelude is only the prelude;
there’s music to be heard.
And we know that while terrifying,
it is the music of the kingdom.
And we will play it together.
And we will hear it together.

And whether or not you join us,
we will move beyond the preludes.
There’s music to be heard.

djordan
Chicago, IL

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gracefully critical

gracefully-critical

Recently on vacation, the most stressful part of planning for the trip was not packing, arranging the house details, getting work squared away; the most stressful preparation was choosing which books to take when I knew I would have a week of incredible views, delicious food, and nothing to rush for other than finding a place to sit and read.

I had been saving Becca Steven’s new book, Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth Telling, for the trip and it definitely did not let me down.

The book’s author, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt’s campus, founded Magdalene, a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets, in 1997. From this work and the reality that getting clean and off the streets isn’t enough to support a new and whole life, she and the community around her began Thistle Farms, a social enterprise run from top to bottom by members of the Magdalene community, and involves making oils, candles, paper and more from the highway-found, stubbornly resilient and ultimately delicate thistle. As the women work in vats of oils and in meetings of scent-testing or tubs of paper-making, they are both creating an income, adding quality products to the market and community, and telling a story of healing and hope through the thistle.

Already a fan of Stevens after hearing her speak a few years ago, and following the work and even more so the spirit of the work at Magdalene and Thistle Farms, I’ve learned much about the nitty-gritty of what it means when Stevens says, “It takes a community to put a woman on the street, and it will take a community to bring her home.”

In our work at Area Relief here in Jackson, it’s that push for working to see the delicate beauty in what others have overlooked as weeds that is at the core of who we are. We aren’t great at it, as we often look at ourselves as much as those around us, as wasted and useless. But once we begin to work in the grace and hopefulness that whispers of the kingdom add to any story, we begin to find that we are becoming a part of healing community, seeing others healed as well as ourselves.

What struck me the most when reading Steven’s book was her uncanny ability to be gracefully critical. It is no butterfly and sunshine story of human trafficking, abuse, molestation, drug addiction, fundraising, second-guessing, and ultimately losing many battles to drugs and sex and objectification. It is no easy work no matter how ethereal our ways of speaking. There are power players to be called out, habits to be carefully questioned, ways of operating to completely burned up. And yet Stevens manages to tell the truth about all these issues in ways that lead the reader to want to be more hopeful, more loving, more compassionate, more trusting, more free in the promise of kingdom come.

The hard work of seeking first the kingdom is not child’s play, and yet we’ve been charged to work at it as a child. Truth-telling and healing all at the same. Silence in the face of injustice is not God-honoring, but neither is pessimistic cynicism. Stevens’ work is a strong and beautiful reminder that the kingdom comes through the action following graceful criticism.

And the kingdom does come.

djordan
Juneau, AK

To order the book, CLICK HERE.
To learn about Thistle Farms, CLICK HERE.

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he loves the justice

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I got an email yesterday afternoon from a friend and coworker in Nicaragua. She is fighting for justice in a case of child abuse, and has seen this thing from the very beginning to where it currently stands. We’ve been praying together via email and Skype conversation. We’ve been spreading the word and asking others to pray who hold the child and the situation close to their hearts and minds.

We pray, of course, when we don’t know what the hell to do.

She arranged for many bodies to be seated in the courtroom when the case was heard to make it clear that we are watching, the eyes of many from around the world are watching, and we seek justice. And we demand it.

I received an email from her yesterday afternoon that brought me to tears.

We correspond often, and I speak horrible Spanish and she speaks incredible English, but one can only imagine the wrestle of trying to make sure we understand what is being said and what is not being said.

Her email, however, made it perfectly clear. In a kind of correct English from the words of a highly-educated Nicaraguan spoken in a way a native English speaker never would have spoken, I have been repeating her phrase both in my mind and out loud since.

We’ve been waiting, you see, for news from the trial. Will those who’ve committed abuse against children be held accountable? Will reasonable measures be taken to ensure that they are no longer able to perpetrate violence against other women and children?

Her email had this phrase buried in with many other words, but it is this phrase in particular that has been on my mind ever since.

“Thank you for praying. Our God he hears our prayer. And he loves the justice.”

Words from an attorney, among many other things, who is working tirelessly toward kingdom come on the ground in Nicaragua where justice doesn’t have the luxury of being a theological issue; where the luxury of whether or not or even how to talk about the kingdom of heaven is not a conversation, but rather a life and death issue. Words from her speak so clearly about the heart of God in the middle of seeking the kingdom where all points to hopelessness and loss.

“Thank you for praying. Our God he hears our prayer. And he loves the justice.”

The perpetrator of violence was found guilty in the courtroom that morning.
The story is not over and the work is not done, but the anthem of his people remains:
Our God, he loves the justice.

djordan
Salt Lake City, Utah

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divine proxy | intro to a series

The notion is not a new one, but it appears to be one seldom discussed explicitly, unless I am missing the entire conversation altogether (please let me know if I am). I want to spend a few posts on the idea of divine proxy. I hit the concept in “Congregation as Expert; a New Way Forward” during the “Culture and Crises” lecture series. It’s something that lurks behind practitioners in the helping fields, especially those practitioners who are Christians, as we falsely imagine that we are the changing force in the lives of our clients.  It’s something that lurks in church offices and behind the desks and efforts of those who try to help and change situations being faced by others.

Today, the idea itself could use explanation, however brief.

Divine proxy is the idea that when someone is speaking from authority, whether professional or religious, whether self given, institutionally given, or transcendently given, they are then interacted with, heard or perceived as becoming the official voice of the source of the authority.

So, …

a therapist who speaks on matters of relationships can become the final authority on a specific relationship.

a pastor who speaks on matters of moral or spiritual issues can become the actual voice of God on specific matters with individual people.

So, …

if a therapist has a misguided view, or is offering a personal, cultural or biased view on someone else’s specific relational situation, the someone heeds the advice as fact, and acts accordingly whether or not everything in them says otherwise and the result is damaging and more disabling. Or maybe they do heed advice even though they feel otherwise, and it is helpful and healing and the person comes to know that to be true later. Or, the person finally hears what deep down he or she knew all along about the situation, and they are set free because the professional speaking offers a more authoritative voice than the person views his or her own voice as being.

If a pastor has a misguided view, or is offering a personal, cultural, or biased view on someone else’s specific moral or spiritual issues, the someone heeds the view as fact––from God rather than from the individual––and acts accordingly whether or not everything in her or him says otherwise and the result is damaging and more disabling. Or maybe the advice is heeded even though the individual feels otherwise, and it is helpful and healing and the person comes to know that to be true later. Or, the person finally hears what deep down he or she knew all along about the situation, and finally freedom is experienced because a pastor speaking offers a more authoritative voice than the person views his or her own voice as being.

We can quickly see how the influence of authority gives incredible weight, whether someone turns a back and walks away from the perceived authority and the authority represented forever, or someone follows the authority because it is seen as direct from the authority source, and therefore should be heeded.

While it may sound pointless or semantic, the issue quickly becomes incredibly personal and incredibly immediate. I think about people who experience great healing because a pastor sees the presence of divine proxy, and takes great caution to express anger and action toward injustice and evil.  I think about the latest story coming out of a megachurch about a spiritual abuse and misogyny that is only headed because the pastor has an unquestioned direct link to God, and questioning is called disloyalty to him…and God. I think about other church experiences where people continued to go home to abusive homes because the pastor says the wife should act more like Jesus to make the husband come around.

So it’s not pointless, and it’s not semantic, and it’s worth the time to consider, even if it’s only mine. So, the first time for a series on mosthopeful.com. We’ll see what happens.

Next up: divine proxy | stories of the phenomenon

djordan
Pine Tree

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