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To love is to be vulnerable. C S Lewis
Crusading Bloggers Exposing Abuse in Protestant Churches: No one was paying attention — until these armchair investigators came along
For those of you who know me, this Washington Post article was a real stretch. I like being in my quiet house, pecking away on my computer with my able pugs who advise me and keep Steve trapped under the table (Inside joke.) Besides, I am here to tell the stories of victims, along with observing trends in evangelicalism and helping folks to avoid hyper authoritarian churches who just love to discipline their members. It’s not really about me.
When I was first approached about the possibility of an article, I have to admit that I was a bit frightened. Journalists are different than bloggers. They elicit your thoughts and then they fact check. There is no guarantee that they will see what you want them to see. They may negatively view what you do.
Jesus said that we are to be lights on a hill. That means that people can see who we are and what we are doing. Was I willing to risk this? Or did I want to hide behind the door and only hang out with those who won’t challenge me? Recently, someone wrote on a blog that all they want to do is find nice, happy people who don’t stress them out.
Jesus saw things quite differently. He saw those who are hurting and spent time with them. He didn’t hang around the *happy* people. In fact, His disciples could be a royal pain in the butt at times.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”(Mark 10:37 NIV)
If Jesus thought we should all attain a stress free, happy life, He sure had a funny way of modeling that to us. When we get to heaven, will we proudly say “Hey Jesus, I just cruised on through life, maximizing my happiness and avoiding all that unpleasantness?” Meantime, Jesus will be standing there with the nail pierced hands and scarred back…
So, one day, I threw my hands up in the air and said “Ok, God. I’ll give it a go.” Sarah Stankorb from The Washington Post came to my house and sat at the kitchen table with my pugs adding to the ambience. We began a conversation that lasted over 2 hours. I knew she was really good at what she did because I was surprised to see how fast the time passed.
We talked about the good things. For example, I spoke about how wonderful it is to meet so many wonderful people, like those who comment on the blog, as well as other bloggers. I spoke of my frustration in trying to put out all of my posts and not having time to make things like spelling come out perfectly. By the way, I enjoy putting out the posts and that is why I keep on writing. Spelling, not so much….
I told her about the pain I feel when I listen to victims’ stories and how I cannot believe that leaders in the church universal would do such things. But I should know this because the gospel not only saves me but educates me about the pervasive sin in this world and that sin is also found in the church. Yet somehow leaders want to cover it up to *protect the church.* Protect the church from what? From admitting that their leaders are also sinners and some of those sins are even crimes?
And over the next number of months she asked me all sorts of questions. Then, she called churches, pastors and predators that I have known. And you know what? I found out that some of those churches have become a lot more serious about protecting their churches from predators. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve made little progress. However, looking at some notes I got today, we still have a long way to go.
What clinched the deal for me is this. Maybe, the next time a victim comes to me and I call a church, they will take my call more seriously. Maybe people like Joe Carter, editor of The Gospel Coalition, will hesitate before calling me pathologically dishonest and listen to what I’m saying, Or, maybe not. People don’t stop covering things up or calling people names when they are challenged. The Bible tells me that this is part of the human condition and I’d better be ready for the next challenge.
Thank you for walking this journey with me. You are the real heroes. You speak out even when it is hard. You express love and support towards victims. And many of you are the victims who continue to hope that things can be different in the church. You put your hearts on the line.
I was also thrilled to be on the same pages with Jules Woodson, Julie Anne Smith and Amy Smith. I count them all as my friends and I deeply admit their work. This is one group of gutsy women! Jules made me cry with what she said. What I wouldn’t give to spend a week with them on beach in the Turks and Caicos, sipping on frosty Sangrias, laughing and crying.
I want to thank Sarah Stankorb for writing this story. She taught me that maybe I can trust well known journalists from well known publications. I respect Sarah and it gives me confidence that there are good people in the world of journalism. Thank you, Sarah. I took a chance and it was worth every text message with a new question. (She wants the names of my pugs?) 🙂
I know she has a job to do. But, I also believe that this is a woman who gets abuse. I hope she knows that her willingness to write this post will help more victims to gain their voices and seek out those who will write their stories. I wouldn’t be surprised if she writes one or two herself. From my keyboard to God’s ears…
I bet you may have some question for me. I will try to keep an eye out for them once I get some sleep tonight (after my hands stop shaking.)
This was my most favorite part of the post. Sarah made me cry- a good cry. She gets it.
Parsons told me about a quote from C.S. Lewis that she considers a driving force in her life. It reads, in part: “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.” She and her fellow watchdog bloggers keep returning to their computers because the stories keep coming. In the process, they lighten others’ loads by risking the same reproach, fear and self-doubt the survivors feel. And isn’t that the measure of a church anyway? Not thousands in pews, or secrets held in shame to protect the powerful — but a community of people, with shared faith, who care enough about one another to build sanctuary.
Let me add one more Lewis quote. This is dedicated to those who seek stress free lives, seeking happiness by avoiding those in pain. Jesus calls us to stop being self centered. He commands us to love others, and in so doing, we will find deep, lasting joy and meaning. When we take on the burden others, paradoxically we find ourselves feeling lighter. Thank you all for being there for one another and for me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves