Tag Archives: abuse

Read along as Doug Wilson strains out the gnat and swallows the camel

Have you heard of Doug Wilson? He was sparring partner of the late Christopher Hitchens in the documentary Collision, and he is author of Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning.

Homeschoolers Anonymous has published documents that reveal Wilson blamed a girl and her father* a girl’s father for the crime committed against her. Oh, he certainly blames the criminal, too. But apparently there’s something noble about salting wounds. Maybe he picked that up from Hitch.

When you read the post, I think you’ll agree with me that Wilson’s behavior could become a new analogy for straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel, but in Wilson’s community, all authority belongs to those with sweeping powers of blame.

One can only hope for a genuinely sola scriptura environment around that guy. And you know I’m someone who thinks of Tradition and traditions as ways to prevent people from turning the Bible into a hammer. As a friend of mine once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything is a nail.” Maybe Wilson has that figured out, just not in the ironic sense my friend intended.

Another thought (updated): Wilson in the hierarchy of authority:

What kind of Lord of the Flies scenario allows a special council to mull how to best punish the father of a victim? To best punish someone for not being a “helicopter parent“?

For that matter, why shouldn’t Wilson be punished for allowing someone under his spiritual authority to misbehave? Maybe Wilson should no longer be allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper—that’s the exact punishment he considered for the father of the victim, and yet Wilson apparently thinks he has spiritual authority in a community in which one of his own students sexually assaulted someone.

By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be punished for allowing one of his students to sexually assault the girl. The father has authority over the girl; Wilson has spiritual authority over the community. Spiritual authority is greater than earthly authority, right? (I mean, if you doubt that, read Wilson’s own letter!) By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be in more trouble with his Lord of the Flies council than the father.

*Another Update:

The girl, now an adult, reveals in a blog post that Wilson and his church are even colder than the Homeschoolers Anonymous post revealed, specializing in precise, technical legalism while tossing any pretense of the Bible’s “Fruits of the Spirit” in their dealings with the victim:

“While I’m pretty certain I know exactly what was in the heart of the criminal who took my innocence and broke my spirit, I can’t pretend to know what was in the heart of Doug and the elders when they stood behind him, and I certainly can’t pretend to know the reasoning behind leaving me out in the cold with no support, no love, compassion, or empathy, not even so much as a consoling pat on the back for all I’d been through. But I have my own theory. There’s a couple of ideas about this lack of support I received floating around and I’ve heard them over the years – one of them is that the church leaders didn’t feel they were in a position to reach out to me because my father had expressly told them to stay away from his family and reaching out to me would be disrespecting his position as head of our household, which may be true, except there’s a problem with that theory, one that thickens the plot. In the letter pictured below from Doug Wilson to my father, Doug, writing on behalf of the elders of Christ Church, clearly places a great deal of blame on my father for the abuse I suffered and treats him with a coldness and severity that I find heartbreaking. I truly cannot image being a father who’d just found out his daughter was horrifically abused for years under his roof and then being told his “sin and folly” of not protecting her is equally as distressing as the sins of the criminal who molested his little girl for years. My father was a destroyed man when I came out about my abuse, and what father wouldn’t be? His tears of sadness and broken-ness went on for years, and still to this day he breaks down on occasion and begs my forgiveness for the hurt I suffered, and I always tell him the same thing: It’s not your fault. Because it wasn’t.”

On ‘Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide’ from The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is one of the most interesting guys out there. In this long and worthwhile post, he talks about a time of depression and suicidal ideation.

I’m linking to and excerpting the post not merely as a public service announcement, although that aspect is certainly critical.

Ferriss’s post fits with the overall purpose of my blog. Unfortunately, the research is consistent and clear: for many who have suffered religious authoritarianism, spiritual abuse, or cult dynamics, suicide can be a real, substantial temptation.

Ferriss doesn’t seem to be a religious man in any traditional sense of the word, but he makes an interesting observation:

I personally believe that consciousness persists after physical death, and it dawned on me that I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things. It’s a terrible bet. At least here, in this life, we have known variables we can tweak and change. The unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno or far worse. When we just “want the pain to stop,” it’s easy to forget this. You simply don’t know what’s behind door #3.  — via Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss.

Read the entire post: Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss.

Some Christian beliefs make matters worse, insisting that God ordains each sin (and suicide is considered a sin).

However logically and systematically consistent some theological thinkers might be, the idea of God ordaining horrible things is abhorrent.

At very least we could acknowledge that an impassible God becoming incarnate to die in place of his creatures is anything but logical. Perhaps loving, but not logical.

Here one of G.K. Chesterton’s quotes pops into mind: “The mad man is not the man who has lost his reason. The mad man is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

Maybe some theological thinkers have been orthodox and mad.

Logical and insane.

Logic and analysis are good. Problems come along when a mind becomes so focused on and so obsessed with the parts that it can no longer see the connections and the wholes. No one can live while seeing only fragments and pieces.

Which reminds me of a thought that, I think, came from C.S. Lewis: for the modernistic scientist, a real bird is a bird opened on the dissection table, pinned down and pulled apart. In an earlier time, a real bird was a bird on the wing, with its song.

Everyone knows the bird has guts. But even in a natural order sparked by a blind watchmaker, who would think the bird exists merely in relation to the functioning of its internal organs? The bird exists in relation to the rest of the natural order — bugs, fish, soil, water, and trees, as well as humans and human culture. We appreciate these relationships — they’ve been there as long as we can remember, as far back as we can see in art and literature.

Endless dissection is useful, even helpful, but discoveries made through analysis are never for themselves, but for better understandings of wholes.

Over-analysis of a single situation leads into a singular focus, a mental microscope on a single cell, with no context for its wider circumstances, its situations and connections. The suicidal person might feel like this one bad circumstance is all there is. But there is so much more.

So for some scientists and some theologians, reasoning has been a force for good, for making connections and seeing wholes, for continuing to live in spite of extraordinary difficulties.

They use reasoning to see the connections and the wholes — in other words, the meaningfulness of everything that exists.

Also see:

Walker Percy’s passage on “the ex-suicide” from his book Lost in the Cosmos.

‘Bob Jones University Told Sex Abuse Victims It Was Their Fault: Report’

Yet another example of Bible-proclaiming right-wingers undermining law-and-order by hiding sexual abuse.

“Nearly half of the sexual abuse survivors at Bob Jones University who replied said staff discouraged them from making a police report or told them directly not to report the abuse.”

Read the full article: Bob Jones University Told Sex Abuse Victims It Was Their Fault: Report.

*More examples of Bible-proclaiming right-wingers undermining law-and-order:

Justifiable Skepticism: What did C.J. Mahaney really know, and when did he really know it?

Bill Gothard, Sexual Predator

How Purity Culture Kept Me Silent About My Sexual Abuse As A Child: Dinah’s Story

‘Instead of calling the police, they prayed the Lord would make it stop’

How Purity Culture Kept Me Silent About My Sexual Abuse as a Child: Dinah’s Story

Another Bible-based disaster.

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.04.46 AM

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Dinah” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse.

I’m going to be honest—growing up in the Christian homeschooling world is hard.

People in the community that I grew up in were picture perfect families, with all their perfect children all in a perfect row, making perfect grades, milling their own wheat and making their own bread.  They were highly esteemed Christians who (of course) have a home church and serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. These people sound like they’d be lovely to be around, however, that was not the vibe I got at all. There is a heavy feeling that comes with being around those families—judgment:

You don’t mill your own wheat? Shame on you! Don’t you know store bought bread has chemicals? You don’t pastor your own church? Shame on you! Don’t you know…

View original post 1,050 more words

Is Pastor Mark Driscoll’s leadership at Mars Hill Church unique?

(Updated 2:20 p.m. July 16 to include Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth, a sociologist whose work has been insightful and helpful. The book cover is linked. It appears as the last book on the list below.)

(Updated and edited 10:20 p.m., July 3: I decided to remove some of the books I originally placed in the post because I thought they would distract from the best and most relevant books in the list. However, the books removed from the post are still available on the linked book page; just click any of the book covers below.)

Mark Driscoll and the current situation at Mars Hill Church are NOT unique. In the U.S., spiritual abuse, toxic religious communities, and narcissistic leadership are substantial problems. These problems have spurred dozens of books — and who knows how many counseling sessions.

Before I list the books, two blog posts can give you some background on the Driscoll-Mars Hill situation. If you haven’t already, be sure to read “Hello, my name is Mike, I’m a recovering True Believer” by Mike Anderson, and “A Former Mars Hill Pastor Speaks Out and Why Others Are Afraid: The Mars Hill Non-Disclosure Agreement” by Warren Throckmorton. Apparently, Driscoll isn’t the only pastor who has caused problems for his congregation and ministerial team, as these books suggest (click a book cover for more information about the book):

Click the image to learn more about the book.

Click the image to learn more about the book.

1112HealingSpiritualAbuse 127ICantHearGodAnymore 121FreedomOfMind 120ByHookOrByCrook 119TwistedScriptures 118PropheticCharisma 117TakeBack 116RecoveryFromCults 115HealingYourChurchHurt 114ToxicSpirituality 113HolierThanThou 111SubtlePower Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth(Remember, for more information, you can click on each individual book above.) Also:

Websites that give specific accounts of spiritual abuse:

From various people who grew up in particular types of authoritarian churches and homes: Homeschoolers Anonymous Ongoing coverage of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle: Wenatchee the Hatchet A helpful look “cultic aberrations” in the Roman Catholic Church: International Cultic Studies Association’s Catholic Aberrations Page That last webpage includes an interesting point, a good thought for the closing of this post:

The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church makes it easier to connect these various movements and organizations to the Church. Protestantism also has many cultic movements; however, there are so many Protestant denominations and so many independent Protestant churches that it is more difficult to associate them with an institution.

Innocent beginnings, horrific endings

“Suppose you move to a different area, and are keeping your eyes open for a good group to belong to (a social club, a church, a synagogue, or service organization). You visit one such group where the people are very friendly, loving, and give you individual attention. The group has a variety of programs: a rehabilitation program for drug addicts, services and nursing homes for the elderly, help for the poor, and free clinics. The leader inspires the disillusioned, the disenchanted, and those who have been rejected elsewhere. He is well-known and respected in the area, and the mayor gave him a position as Director of the City Housing Authority. Would you join this group?

“Suppose you spend four years in college and nearly two years in graduate school to prepare for a career in Christian music. Then the ministers of your home church tell you that you are not needed in their music program. Shortly afterward, you find a new group that welcomes you with open arms. They really care for people. The leader of this group has fascinating Bible studies. You and everyone else are able to sit and listen to him for several hours at a time. Would you stay in this group?

“If you answered ‘yes’ to the first situation, you joined the church led by Jim Jones who led over 900 of his followers into a mass suicide murder. If you liked the second group, you became a follower of David Koresh who led over 80 of his followers to die in a blaze of fire.

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing is a short and simple description of a cult leader – as these men were.

“Are there any warning signs that a group and its leader are dangerous? That’s largely what this book is about.” — Stephen Martin, from the introduction to his book The Heresy of Mind Control: Recognizing Con Artists, Tyrants, and Spiritual Abusers in Leadership

Association of Former Pentecostals not to blame

I have posted several times in the forums of the Association of Former Pentecostals, and I have read many posts from other participants.

I had never previously seen the kind of violent rhetoric that published reports allege had originated from Matthew Murray, the young man police say killed two people at a Youth With A Mission center in Colorado, and killed two more people at a community church, before taking his own life after being confronted by a security guard.

What I had read at the association’s Web site, ex-pentecostals.org, were difficult, personal stories written by people who were very upset or troubled by their present or past experiences in Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

It is true that people posting on the forums have expressed anger and frustration with pastors, prophets, fellow church members, and assorted self-styled ministers. Some posters have mocked public figures.

It is also true the people have expressed anger and frustration with every president in our nation’s history. Most public figures are mocked at some point in their careers.

Legitimate frustrations, properly expressed, have nothing to do with violent, anti-social behavior.

What I find interesting is that many people on the forums shared the experiences I had in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement: controlling ministers and laypersons, emotional abuse, outrageous claims of special knowledge, promises that one can manipulate God into granting material blessings, and — I cannot state this too strongly — a complete incapacity to express the Gospel in a way that Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Cranmer, St. John Chrysostom, or the Apostle Paul would have recognized it.

I say this after spending approximately 23 years in nondenominational charismatic churches; you can read about part of my journey by clicking here.

Furthermore, I’m completely baffled by the way some people have suggested that the Association of Former Pentecostals is an extremist group or an anti-Christian group. Based on my experiences while reading the forums and posting on the site, I would estimate that approximately half of the regular posters have remained Christians, while the other half were driven into atheism, agnosticism, or other religions solely by the craziness and unhealthiness of Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word-of-Faith churches.

The media and irresponsible commentators need to stop all attempts at guilt-by-association — Murray’s postings and actions have nothing to do with the tone that is common to the Association of Former Pentecostals’ forum.

And, perhaps most importantly, the administrators of the association’s Web site state in a long-standing note that that purpose of the forums is to share and to heal — and then to move on in freedom and in peace.

-Colin Foote Burch