Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Wives: Own Your Own Credit Rating

A young couple, newly married, was searching for a new home. The wife knew what she wanted and felt she needed in a home. Her plan was to stay home and be a homemaker when they had kids...and she was going to have their first in a few short months.

As this young wife and mother talked about her new potential home, she said the oddest thing. She said she was letting her husband pick the home since he's the "head" of the household. She said she was sitting back and letting him do this. 

And I thought she was thoroughly kidding herself. 
Let me tell you what's wrong with this scene.

First, if a wife has to "let" her husband lead, he's not leading at all. A leader does not need permission to lead, nor does a leader only lead if and when someone else steps back. The reality is, he is not "the leader" of the household. The reality is, they lead together whether they admit it or not.

Second, a wife has equal say in a home the couple is buying, especially if her name is on the mortgage, (but regardless if it is or not). Taking a back seat is not godly, it's irresponsible. Wives, if your name is on the mortgage, the car title or any other official document for joint ownership, you own it just as much as your husband and it is not ungodly or unladylike to assert yourself if that's what it takes to be an equal part of the process. 

There is no godliness in taking a step back. Taking a step back to let someone else "lead" indicates you have been in a leadership position and are relinquishing that position. This is a mistake. I know more than one wife whose credit rating has been ruined by her husband. This is financial abuse, pure and simple. 

Third, the husband had the opportunity to dispel this myth and tell her it was nonsense and make her an equal part of their marriage. Instead, he did not. He took her permission to be the "leader" and ran with it, touting his "leadership" in the process. And people in their lives fell for this. This man is not a leader....he doesn't meet even the simplest of definitions of a leader. There is thick wool over his eyes.

"Head of household" is a myth, borne out of patriarchy and wrongly assigned as "God's design" when nothing could be further from the truth. God didn't design this, this is completely man-made.

Wives, stop lying to yourselves. Embrace the equality that naturally occurs within a marriage whose partners love the Lord their God. Stop acting all "submissive" and embrace the power in decision making and tackling the world together with your husband. 

If you're in the habit of "letting" your husband do things, you are lying to yourself if you think he's the leader. Instead of living that lie, embrace Truth. Like it or not, you are equal with your husband and there's nothing ungodly or unholy in embracing and acting on this.

If your name is on the mortgage, car title, refrigerator purchase order or any other document showing joint ownership of anything, insist on full involvement in the process of buying, owning, disposing of and/or taking responsibility for that thing, whatever it is. You are simply embracing your already-positioned authority in ownership and power over your own credit rating.

Stop lying to yourself. Own your credit rating. 

~Tricia


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Is Your Church Listening to Rachael Denhollander?

Church leaders should be flocking to read Rachael Denhollander's interview with Christianity Today. Pastors ought to take notes. Mothers who send their kids to the nursery, or children's church, or youth group need to read this, digest it, then read it again. You can read it by clicking here.

Rachael Denhollander ought to be in the pulpit, teaching congregations what forgiveness really is and preaching about seeking justice for the abused and be a voice for the silenced and victimized.

This strong young woman left no stone unturned. A few things rang very loud to me and I want to highlight those here. But, first, I want to say that Rachael experienced exactly what every other abuse victim experiences in the church: No one will listen.

My favorite parts of this interview are many:


We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes like God works all things together for good or God is sovereign. Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God. Goodness and darkness exist as opposites. If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.

_______________________________________________________________________


When asked, Where did you find an answer? (To doubting God's goodness), she replied,

Going to Scripture directly.


There is no substitute. She did not go to the latest Bible study book by some well-known author. She did not seek out a publishing house or commentary or even a sermon or a conversation with a friend.
She went to the Scriptures directly and found the answers....all the answers.
They, the answers, are there.

____________________________________________________________________________


Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard to thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.

It is beyond sad to me that the church is considered one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse. This is true of the vast majority of evangelical churches. This has to change. The path to change is going to be hard, but it is possible. More on this later.

____________________________________________________________________________

When asked what happened when she told her church she was going to speak up about what happened to her. she said in part:

 .......my status as a victim was used against my advocacy.

......rather than engaging with the mountains of evidence that I brought, because this situation was one of the most well-documented cases of institutional cover-up I have ever seen, ever, there was a complete refusal to engage with the evidence.

I have seen this happen time and time again. It's almost an automatic response. This response is so far from what the Bible teaches that one has to wonder how any church leadership can do this. Rather than realize a victim's advocacy is borne out of their victimization, making them especially qualified to be that advocate, church leadership dismisses it as biased. 
Who better to advocate for victims than another victim?
Certainly a bunch of men sitting around making rules for their church is not more qualified.

_______________________________________________________________________


When you support an organization that has been embroiled in a horrific 30-year cover-up of sexual assault, you know what that communicates to the world and what it communicates to other enablers and abusers within your own church. It’s very obvious that they are not going to speak out against sexual assault when it’s in their own community.

When reading this statement, I reminded myself that she was not talking about ABWE, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, a mission agency that allowed a pedophile doctor to practice his pedophilia in Bangladesh then covered it up for him for decades. Some leaders within ABWE, even to this day, are ones who were part of the cover-up. 
Her last sentence, "It's very obvious that they are not going to speak out against sexual assault when it's in their own community," speaks to ABWE as much as USA Gymnastics.

__________________________________________________________________________

When asked, "Why are we capable of seeing evil in other communities but not our own?" She responded, in part:

One of the dynamics that you see in a Christian church that is particularly devastating is poor theology. 
But often, if not always, people are motivated by poor theology and a poor understanding of grace and repentance and that causes them to handle sexual assault in a way where that a lot of predators go unchecked, often for decades. 

Poor theology. But, how can that be? How can one go to an evangelical Christian church and have poor theology? Isn't the preaching, the main avenue of teaching theology, enough?
It is not enough because pastors are not preaching, they are regurgitating what they've read in the latest commentary or book they've read. They are not expounding God's Word, they are expounding mankind's words. They are not citing Truth, they are citing catch phrases and acronyms. 
This has led to poor theology. This has led to a massive famine of doctrine.
People have become afraid of doctrine and want to feel good, have their comforts handed to them and go home to their first-world, privileged lives feeling like they are going to see special blessings from God because they "obeyed" Him and went to church.
Um, I hate to break it to you, but that's not how it works.
Rachael is 100% right.....poor theology contributes greatly to the problem of abuse within the church.

_______________________________________________________________________

When asked if she was apprehensive in telling her abuser she forgives him, she said, in full:

I did to an extent, because forgiveness can really be misapplied. Taken within the context of my statement, with the call for justice and with what I have done to couple forgiveness and justice, it should not be misunderstood. But I have found it very interesting, to be honest, that every single Christian publication or speaker that has mentioned my statement has only ever focused on the aspect of forgiveness. Very few, if any of them, have recognized what else came with that statement, which was a swift and intentional pursuit of God’s justice. Both of those are biblical concepts. Both of those represent Christ. We do not do well when we focus on only one of them.

This has also been our experience.
Focusing only on the forgiveness aspect of this is misguided thinking.
It is Secular Humanism, something very few Christians recognize.

___________________________________________________________________________

When asked what it means for her to forgive her abuser, she said, in full:

It means that I trust in God’s justice and I release bitterness and anger and a desire for personal vengeance. It does not mean that I minimize or mitigate or excuse what he has done. It does not mean that I pursue justice on earth any less zealously. It simply means that I release personal vengeance against him, and I trust God’s justice, whether he chooses to mete that out purely, eternally, or both in heaven and on earth.

It's incredibly sad and disheartening to me that so few Christians understand this.

____________________________________________________________________________


The first thing that has to happen to help this change in the church's response to sexual abuse to take place is, patriarchy has to die. 
Patriarchy gives power and there is no place for power in any church.
Pastors/deacons/elders/leaders are not in a position of power, they are in a position of servanthood. 
If there is no position of power, there can be no abuse of power.

If you have kids, you are their authority, not the pastor/deacon/elder/leader. 
You are the authority over everyone when it comes to your kids.

Read Rachael's interview.
Take notes.
~Tricia




Friday, January 26, 2018

"Leave Your Pain Here"

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave a voice to every single one of Larry Nassar's victims by allowing them, yea, inviting them, to give victim statements in the sentencing portion of his trial. The former gymnasts were all sexual abuse victims at the hand of the USA Gynmastics team's doctor, Larry Nassar. He abused them when they were at their most vulnerable.. The Honorable Rosemarie Aquilina gave those victims a voice like no other and because of that opportunity, and her response to them, they will heal much stronger than they ever thought possible.

Read her top 10 most powerful responses to their victim statements, as chosen by Glamour Magazine, here. Every single one of these made me cry. Then I read them a second time and they each made me cry again. Words can't even express the deep emotion Judge Aquilina's words stirred up in me and, no doubt, within the victims.

Judge Aquilina did what ABWE (The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) did not do with the victims of their "star" doctor, Donn Ketcham. ABWE did not validate these victims. Instead of showing compassion, they immediately focused on "damage control." To this day, there is an imbalance of power within the organization and some of those people who were part of the cover-up are still in leadership.

The church does not know how to deal with abuse. 

The church will not listen to those who do know how to deal with abuse.


Some churches think they are doing something good when they handle abuse "internally," and not get "the world" aka, the police, involved. This is wrong. Organizations are required by law to report abuse and churches are to obey the law. (Romans 13:1,2)

Some churches hold the victim partially responsible for their abuse. This is wrong. A victim is never responsible for the actions of their abuser. 

Judge Aquilina's final statement, "Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things," says so much. My statement analysis:

"Leave your pain here" acknowledges the realness of their pain. While some try to minimize a victim's pain, she gave it full acknowledgement and a place in their lives. It was already taking up place in their lives, as pain does in every victim. Acknowledging that pain actually shrinks it. Minimizing someone's pain causes it to grow; it's only through full acknowledgement that healing can start. Many people minimize the pain of others because they, themselves, can't cope with it. Get over it, it's not about you. It's about the victim. Give them every acknowledgement you can and then some. This statement also lets the victims know they have finally found a safe place....here. Leave it here. Here, where the judge can put it in its proper place - the past - and paint a future you never could have imagined.

"and go out" acknowledges that they now have the freedom the abuse initially took away. They have it back. They are free to go out - and be out - and impact the world even more than they already have. This shows a stark contrast to their abuser because it shows that he no longer holds the power. They can go out - he cannot. He got a 175-year sentence; he can't go out. They can go out and he no longer has the power to do anything about that.

"and do your magnificent things" lets these victims know that what they have done, what they are doing and what they will do are all magnificent things. Magnificent is defined as "impressively beautiful, elaborate, extravagant, striking." So, Judge Aquilina said in effect, "do your impressively beautiful, elaborate, extravagant and striking things." 

If every victim was given a voice, if every victim was given acknowledgement, if every victim was given validation, if every victim was given vindication, we could start to put a stop to the rampant abuse going on around us. 

The church should be leading this, but it is so full of victims it can't find its way. 

Church leaders, don't think for a minute that this is confined to USA Gymnastics or to ABWE or to some entity that does not touch you. I guarantee you this: there are victims in your seats and many of them have been abused on your watch, right under your nose. What are you going to do about it?

~Tricia







Sunday, January 21, 2018

BANNED! But Still Qualified?

I learned this week that a church, in response to a man who said some disturbing things about his interaction with a baby in the nursery, banned all men from the nursery. All men....banned.

Let's get this straight....instead of dealing with the man who has the problem, this church put all men in the category of being a danger to babies and banned them all, even the fathers of the babies who stay in the nursery.


Yet, even though all men are banned from the nursery, men in that church continue to serve in other leadership roles in the church. Wait, what?

Again, let me get this straight. The men are all deemed to be a danger to babies, yet the men are qualified to serve as deacons, pastors, teachers, trustees and supervisors of other ministries? Uh, no. No they are not.

This is a good example of a church refusing to deal with sin. One man has a problem and instead of dealing with that problem, the church put all men in his category and declared them all a danger to babies. They brought down all their men to cover the sins of one (really two in this case). How can the other men, the men who didn't have a questionable interaction with a baby, allow themselves to be aligned with the one who did?

When the pastor and his wife were given the opportunity to know who the guilty men are in this situation, they refused to listen. Instead, they want all their men to be thought of as potentially abusive to babies. Every single man in the church is banned from the nursery. Get that. Let that sink in. If you are a father in that church and you take your baby to the nursery, you are NOT ALLOWED to enter the room where your baby is being held. How can there not be legal ramifications to a man not being allowed in the same room as his own child?

This is all so deeply disturbing. What else are they hiding?

If you are a father and you go to a church that will not allow you to be in the same room as your baby or toddler, get out of that church as fast as you can.

If you know the men in a church are not allowed in the nursery but are allowed to "serve" in other ministries, get out as fast as you can.

Men who are not qualified to serve in the nursery are not qualified to serve anywhere.

How can the moms of these babies and toddlers tolerate their husbands being aligned with abusers? How can they stand by and let their men be dragged through the mud of abuse without speaking out against it? Oh, wait, I forgot.....women in church are rarely allowed to speak out. So, churches like this get to make rules that turn all men into abusers and the women have to sit down and shut up about it.

Aly Raisman, Olympic gymnastics hero, recently addressed the judge and the court in her victim statement in the sentencing trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar. You can watch that statement here. She is brave and heroic for speaking out, as are all the victims speaking out. She pointed out that her abuser served on the very committees designed to keep athletes safe, yet he was the biggest perpetrator all the time! Think about that.....this is also true in your church. The men are the leaders, the men make the policies, the men have the voices, yet the vast majority of the time, the men are the abusers!

Don't you see? The male dominance in your church is part of the grooming process used to keep abuse alive. In this particular church, all men are deemed unsafe to be around babies and their wives sit back and quietly let this happen. I would not. If I had ever been in a church that restricted my husband's access to his own children, I would leave immediately.

Jesus was trusted with children. If the men in your church are not, they are nothing like Jesus.
Choose your servants wisely.
~Tricia

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Is Your Pastor a Criminal? (It's more likely than you think.)

Another pastor's sexual abuse of a minor came to light recently. You can read about it here in Amy Smith's blog, Watch Keep.

The young woman was 17 years old when her youth pastor took her out to an isolated place at night and sexually assaulted her. Immediately after the horrific act, he "apologized" and then instructed her to keep it quiet and "take it to the grave."

Some people, even people in her own church, believe she was a "willing participant" and even an "opportunistic woman."

The church was not a safe place for this young woman. She suffered the worst devastation of her life in, and because of, the church.

People, this is preventable. One of the problems with abuse in the church is people's fear of talking about it. The church likes to keep their sin quiet so the world doesn't find out. This is why many perpetrators seek churches specifically as a place to find their victims. They know their secrets are more likely to stay secret in a church more than any other place on the planet. So, they go to churches, they put on the costume of righteousness and they begin grooming their victims.

So, the first thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Stop the silence.

Another thing perpetrators do is make sure their victims are seen as equally responsible for the abuse. This is done by making sure the victim is somehow framed in a negative light. In the young woman's story referenced above, she was immediately painted as "unforgiving" and "bitter" because she spoke out. She was told not even to talk to her own parents! She was not validated or treated with respect. He abused her, he gave her a faux apology, then painted her as the problem for her "unforgiveness." Realize this is part of the grooming; a part of the plan from the start. There is no reactionary behavior from the perpetrator....his actions are all planned out from the start, even his "faux apologies."

So, the second thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Keep all blame on the perpetrator.

In this particular case, this youth pastor's superiors went along with his cover-up. The girl was so traumatized that she finally said something to some trusted women in the church. Oh, but those women weren't to be trusted because they went right to the pastors and the girl got in trouble for telling! They should have gone to the authorities. She was further traumatized and further victimized by her own fellow church members. Gossip ensued, making everything worse, which it always does. What should have happened: the authorities should have been called and it should have been reported. The act itself is criminal and not reporting such an act is also criminal. So, at that point, you have criminals - people actively breaking the law - running your church. And, in this case, the perp got a standing ovation. My word.

So, the third thing to do to help prevent abuse is: Report the abuse to the authorities.

Some people think that if it's handled "internally" within the church, it's over. However, the law of the land, which we are commanded in Scripture to obey, says otherwise. We don't get to decide which points of the law we obey.

If your church is known for not being silent, for not blaming victims and for calling the authorities on criminals, a perpetrator is more likely to look elsewhere for victims. You see, perpetrators scout out their victims. They don't wake up and randomly find a victim....oh, no....they plan, plot, set themselves in a position to do their dastardly deeds and groom their victims carefully. That grooming takes time, is done meticulously and done with intent. A perpetrator will know if your church allows these things to be "handled internally" or if they are handled properly and legally. This is part of their scouting process; they have to know how a church will handle them.

If your church handles things "internally," you are more likely to have perpetrators in your midst.

This can be prevented. It doesn't have to happen.
More to come on this subject. One blog post can't possibly cover every point.
~Tricia


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Does your Outfit Make you a Rapist?

Amid all the revelations of abuse by people like Matt Lauer, Roy Moore and others in the news, I can't help but think of all the abuse going on within the church. There is no less abuse going on in the churches than there is in Hollywood, politics and the news media outlets, it's just kept even quieter.

While there seem to be many reasons this is so blatantly common, there is one common thread that will ensure it will continue: blaming the victims. One person described what she considered provocative dressing as "reverse sexual harassment." She said that women who dress "like current celebrities" are "just as guilty of sexual misconduct as men."

This equates dress with rape.
Wear the wrong outfit and you're guilty of rape, abuse and violence against women??
Oh, my.
NO!

This is wrong.
This attitude is part of the problem.
This attitude fuels a culture of abuse.

As long as men are given this type of pass, they will continue to abuse. Dress doesn't matter in the least. Women in Burqas are raped and abused all the time; it's rampant. Nuns in Habits have been raped and abused.

As long as people in your church have this attitude, you can be sure abuse is going on behind some closed door somewhere in the building, or behind a car in the parking lot, or in a quiet hallway after a youth meeting, and it will continue to go on. I guarantee it. It's happening every single week. And just like ABWE*, church leadership - all made up of men and men, only - will blame the victim. This guarantees it will continue. These men have to keep the women out of leadership in order for their abusive ways to continue.

Get your head out of the sand, people.

The problem is not how women dress. The problem lies with the abuser, in this case, men. The problem is patriarchy, a system that forces women to share part of the blame for the sins of men.

I don't care how someone is dressed, no one has a right to rape, abuse, touch, intimidate and threaten them.

Those who blame the victim on any level are part of the problem.

Fixing this culture of abuse starts with educating our sons that they are entitled to nothing....that sex is not a need....that aggressive behavior will not be tolerated.....that they are not better than women and God did not give them exclusive rights to leadership.

It also starts with teaching our daughters that they are the boss of their own bodies, even after marriage, and they do not "owe" their husbands sex. We have to teach our daughters that their relationship with God is not filtered through their father or husband, that they should have a voice in their church and can refuse to be part of a church that will not allow it, and that they, too, can be leaders.

I have to speak out against this kind of thinking lest any victim anywhere would think I agree with the idea that any victim is partially to blame.

People in prominent positions in conservative Christian organizations try to silence me on this all the time.

(*ABWE is the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism whose prized doctor, Donn Ketcham, created an entire system of abuse in Bangladesh to fuel his pedophilia, abusing nationals as well as fellow missionaries and their children. When the children grew up and started telling their stories, ABWE blamed them, tried to silence them, and wouldn't listen to them, yet exalted the doctor and allowed him to go into private practice in the States with no disclosure. There, he was given free reign to abuse even more victims and is only now, in his eighties, facing the charges. ABWE keeps going as though nothing happened, leaving the victims in their dust and calling themselves righteous.)

~Tricia


Friday, October 6, 2017

How to Start a Cult

L. Ron Hubbard wrote massive volumes of books and courses on Scientology, a religion he made up, and Scientology now has millions of followers who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy his books and take his courses. The vast majority go so far as to devote their entire lives, forsaking spouse and children, to follow these teachings. Some people have found their way out, however, and now help others who have been hurt by Scientology.

Joseph Smith, high on something in the woods, wrote the Book of Mormon and created a cult that has followers to this day, although the polygamy he wrote into it and cherished is now relegated to a few sects mainly dwelling in Colorado and Utah.

John Piper and Wayne Grudem, along with a few other misled, insecure men, wrote a manifesto on what they consider "biblical manhood and womanhood," wherein they twisted the Bible and added a multitude of "inferences" to justify their twisted interpretations about what they think men and women should be doing with their time. This manifesto is so popular and widely accepted that pastors and missionaries refer to it more than the Bible, itself, when it comes to questions of gender roles, of which there should be none.

Cult leaders do not encourage independent, critical thinking. As a matter of fact, they discourage
independent, critical thinking. Every single cult leader demands that their ideas, interpretations and concepts are followed to a T and their followers face dire consequences if they do not adhere to them. John Piper even wrote a set of arguments against those of us who have taken issue with any of his interpretations.

A few weeks ago, I was compared to a cult leader because I strongly encourage independent, critical thinking when it comes to Bible study. I was criticized for using a lexicon for Bible study. I was criticized for following and praising the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, even though Luke praised them for looking things up for themselves.

I encourage independent, critical thinking.....the person who criticized me encourages extensive use of commentaries for Bible study. You tell me who looks more like a cult leader. Hint: One who encourages the use of man-made material over the Bible is much more like a cult leader than one who encourages independent, critical thinking.

So, one key to starting a cult is to make sure you do not ever encourage independent, critical thinking. Make sure your subjects are following something other than the Word of God, like a commentary or books written by some wealthy faux Christian author, or, better yet, write your own.

Another key to starting a cult is to subdue women. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood does this so well that even otherwise solid evangelical pastors embrace much of this teaching. Part of subduing women includes minimizing how women served throughout the Bible. The teachings of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood actually teach that Deborah, the Old Testament judge, was only used as a judge because she gave priority to men, which they say proved God would never use a woman to lead a man unless she showed priority to that man.

I've had more than one Christian person throw the links to this false teaching into my inbox along with warnings about how God will not bless me if I don't give priority to men in my life. I have news for those people: It's too late for God to not bless me since He already has.

There you have two keys to starting a cult:

1. Write a manifesto that sounds real close to what the Bible teaches.
2. Subdue women.

Every single modern-day cult has done these two things.

~Tricia