I have railed against the church, and created a barrier with my anger that has closed doors and alienated people from me. With at times, admittedly misdirected passions, I have generalized my comments and thereby offended those who lead in the church. It has seemed that I have leveled accusations at every single church, however that isn’t the case.
If you would bear with me for a few moments, I would like to clarify my comments concerning this subject.
I never meant to accuse every single church of wrongdoing, or conscious passivity. In fact, many times, I stated that my observations were based on personal experience. A disclaimer that may have been lost in the shuffle. I sincerely apologize that in the process of processing, it was apparently perceived otherwise. I should have taken the time to make that more obvious.
If I were to use my past as a sample, it would put the churches mis-handling (in my opinion) of the greatest and most prevalent issues I have faced in a more accurate light to say 40-50%. That certainly doesn’t warrant saying”the”church.
I am at a stage of dealing with decades long hurt that is frankly decades overdue. I have found that despite my presence in the church and working in the church, as well as being on staff in a church, I have a profound and deep seeded mis-trust lodged in my heart, for God. The last 2 years have been the most challenging of my life, coming to many realizations that broke me to the point of considering suicide.
- When I was a child who’s father was shown to be sexually abusing me, the church we attended was told, and the church did virtually nothing. A singular sit down with the pastor to talk about it. The church didn’t help to protect and rescue a defenseless child from this environment but left him in that same home. They didn’t alert the authorities, but instead they circled the wagons and protected the reputation of their church.
- As a young man in a large church, the youth pastor guided me to a small Christian School in his efforts to replicate himself in the form of his charges. It was a failed experiment that yielded more pain and regret. He never took the time to know me, he never asked the questions, or built the relationship that engendered trust.
- When I was then an adult who hadn’t received counseling or help of any sort to deal with the trauma, I got married and was in another church serving (20 years in total). It was a small church, but they didn’t see the need for anything but spiritual reformation in my heart. They knew my story, the struggles and confusion which reigned in my life, but insisted it was all a spiritual problem. They pressured and coerced me, shamed me, punished me and ultimately threw their hands up in frustration, washing their hands of me altogether.
- The last straw came when I was finally able to achieve my supposed dream of being a worship pastor. Closing in on a year of service I relapsed in my brokenness and resigned. In the following two years, the church never once sought to find out how I was, or offer any support for my healing or restoration. They just brought in the next guy and erased me from their lives.
I get why each one has done what they have. I understand that these churches may not have had the expertise or resources to help such a broken person find healing. I know that I wasn’t always in a place to accept help as I wallowed in the depth of deception and addictive sinning. I don’t put total and unequivocal blame on others, I freely and openly accept my responsibility, which is great.
Let me address each of the above items individually.
- There are the excuses made that laws were not in place to protect children at the time (over 6 years) the abuse took place. This is one of the weakest and most abhorrent reasonings I have ever heard. Since when does the church need a man made law to do what is morally right? That is the most ridiculous reason ever to give the church a pass on the issue of sexual abuse.
- How does someone in spiritual leadership push you to become something you couldn’t be more unable to do. Is it right to randomly chose, based on some sort of eye test, the qualifications to lead kids? It seems to me that may be one root of the problem that could lead to more abusers in our churches today.
- Why is the church at times “so spiritually minded they are of no Earthly good?” Brainwashed into thinking that spiritual advice will cure all ills, and that their responsibility ends within their skill set, without considering passing the individual on to someone trained to help. Smacks of some serious pride to say, “If I can’t help you, no one can.”
- I have also been reminded that the church is made up of people; flawed, imperfect humans who make mistakes and react inappropriately at times. I, however, cannot accept this patent excuse that make these claims when blatantly ignoring the tremendous needs of severely wounded people, turning away.
For some reason we are especially hard on leaders who fail, I believe there are certain reasons for this, a couple here:
1.) Such as distancing our churches from the problem in a wider sense to avoid further inquiry; both from the judicial authorities and the churches membership. I call this cutting out the cancer.
2.) It is about taking the easy road and just plugging in another piece and discarding the broken component.
3.) It is about realizing we have failed in our responsibility to support and equip our leaders and sweeping it under the rug, and assigning blame solely on the offender.
4.) It is about our own wounds and addictions that are still undercover and we cannot allow them to be exposed.
I interacted with a pastor recently. When I mentioned some of what I have written in my conversation with him, I was basically told that it was “disingenuous of me to blame the church for my failings.” That wasn’t unexpected, but none-the-less a foundational reason that contributes to the struggle to move forward in the faith community.
I can accept all the personal responsibility that is reasonable while admitting my numerous failing, but if I hint at the churches inadequacy there comes shaming, blaming, and the unwillingness to absorb criticism from a flawed vessel. Aren’t we all flawed vessels? That is the assertion made to me. Isn’t the person who has experienced what could be called systematic spiritual abuse allowed to speak out on it?
I have had pastors fight me via email and say that my negativity isn’t the way to foster change. There has been little understanding and a palpable lack of willingness to listen without being hit with an incendiary barrage of rebuttal, and then I am supposed to take the high road.
I am angry, obviously. I have lost decades because of abuse that has been marginalized and ignored altogether while I have served in the church. I have documented here multiple failures on multiple levels, by myself and others. But, I am also thankful for those who have heard and haven’t rushed to justify themselves, their religion or accuse; who haven’t cut me off and walked away. I am thankful for the very few who still believe that I am a person who has value, even as I search for the truth and a new purpose for my life.
As you lead, you may have already put into place ways to help and the deeply wounded, thank you! The help you give one, reaches out to countless others and benefits untold lives.
Those who haven’t…why not? There are addicts all over the church, abusers, broken people who a trip to the altar won’t heal.
There are alcoholics, substance abusers and people in bondage to pornography. It is well past time to consider the future of a church who ignores altogether, or provides anemic support to those who suffer these problems. Hoping against hope the repercussions of this growing, subversive menace will somehow bypass them, like death over the first-born of Egypt.
I would like to close and thank you for taking the time to read this post. I am attaching a email I received from a pastor who responded to some of my past writings. I appreciate it so much, and find this is a note that provides the deep understanding and tangible hope to the disaffected and tragically wounded among us.
I have tried to stay up to date with you the best I can through your writing. Thanks for keeping me in your circle. The pain you are experiencing is difficult to read about. You have had a lot to deal with in your life and are still in process. I understand and applaud your courage and hard work. I pray that you have close brothers in Christ who are not just reading your life from afar but who are living and walking with you as Jesus would desire. Perhaps because of pain the more formal church community is not an option for you at this moment. Churches are messy and you understand that at least if not better than I do. If there is something I can do for you please let me know. I know it sounds trite but I fully believe God will use your pain. As a person who is learning how to be rather than always do, moments of quiet, without project and purpose are frightening for me. I am learning how to abide in Jesus in more intimate ways day by day. I pray that the “sap” from the “true vine” is flowing swiftly and strongly into your inner being for healing and comfort.
Bless you brother.