Monday, May 24, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
On facebook I posted a link to this list of 10 ways Christians tend to fail at being Christian. Someone commented that maybe “we should all make a list and look very carefully for ourselves in it.” I don’t have time for that! I’ve got my hands full detailing other people’s self-righteousness!
For the last couple of weeks I’ve had a decent routine of personal devotion that is really good for me. It’s generous of God to give me a disposition toward this habit. I have found, though, that every chapter I read leaves me thinking about sr pastor and how destructive and misguided his efforts are. Stupid brain. I don’t want to be thinking about him, even to consider in detail his misunderstanding of the Christian life.
I am of two minds - maybe I’m being sinfully distracted from God’s message about himself and me, or maybe this is a necessary step in making sense of (and discarding the lies of) what’s been going on for the last couple of years. I’m not sure how to distinguish between the two.
I have exerted a lot of energy trying not to judge sr pastor & co., but realized that I have to judge their actions so that I don’t take responsibility for all this misery. “Love the sinner, hate the sinner” is much more complicated than it sounds.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
After my last post, a reader wrote me with this thoughtful question:
How do you keep people from your previous congregation and even the sr pastor from reading your blog? Are you ever afraid they will identify you by what you write? I think you are so brave to voice your troubles. I don't know that I could do that.I have thought about this a lot and people close to me have listened to me fret about it for, cumulatively, hours and hours. Below are some of the things I've decided upon that allow me to write this blog.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Several years ago I volunteered at a domestic violence center and learned about the cycle of abuse. It involved the abuser repeatedly working to separate the victim from support systems (usu. family, friends), to control choices and behavior, to undermine the victim’s sense of autonomy and capability so that the victim becomes more dependent on the abuser.
I found this outline of the cycle of abuse on a domestic violence web site. It’s alarming how similar this looks to what happened at our last congregation. I’ve crossed out the elements that do not apply to the conflict with sr. pastor. As it happens, that’s every item that has to do with repentance.
Any type of abuse occurs (physical/sexual/emotional)
Abuser starts to get angry
Abuse may begin
There is a breakdown of communication
Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm
Tension becomes too much
Victim feels like they are 'walking on egg shells'
Abuser may apologize for abuse
Abuser may promise it will never happen again
Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse
Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims
Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
Physical abuse may not be taking place
Promises made during 'making-up' may be met
Victim may hope that the abuse is over
Abuser may give gifts to victim
The “incident” was always some episode of sr. pastor aggressively asserting control. He was surprisingly creative about doing it, but in every case his objective seemed to be to force compliance at any cost. He did crazy things and then refused to talk about them, manipulated every confrontation so that he did not accept responsibility. He was unpredictable and blamed (privately and publicly) Husband for anything that went wrong.
Other people on staff at the church have indicated that they are discouraged, unhappy, frustrated by our departure, but that they feel they cannot say anything.
Writing this is hard for me because I am furious that Husband - we - have been treated this way. It has caused immense pain to our family. It has sown doubt about things we ought never have to doubt. Everything about this is antithetical to my understanding of what pastors are called to do. I’ve been trying to write this for weeks, but thinking about it still makes me so sad and angry.
Now that we have left that church, I feel confident we will heal. I am thankful that God provided us with a way out. I continue to feel distressed, however, by the effect of this pattern of control on the church. It turns the congregation’s energy and identity toward a few particular rules of Christian living and away from God’s love and mercy and justice and a relationship with him in Christ. I cannot imagine why God allows this to continue.