Spiritual Abuse Review: What Do They Really Mean When They Say You’re “Bitter” and What Do They Want You to Do About It?

James Webb Telescope-Infrared capture of Jupiter-NASA

“Only courageous hearts can endure the bitterness of truth.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson,


I have come to cringe when I see an article by some well-meaning (or not well-meaning) person discussing the issue of bitterness. Through the years, I have become convinced that the authority-driven theodudes utilize this word to abuse and demean those in their churches. The first time I heard this word wrongfully used against me was by Dr. David Nelson, formerly Dean of Faculty and well-known professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Without belaboring an old story, Nelson asked some of us involved with questioning the actions of my former Baptist church to meet with a woman who was a child abuse expert. Nelson, along with the attorney, was serving on the internal investigation group looking into accusations that the church leadership did not respond to allegations of behavior from a year previous.

This was when I first found myself mistrusting the actions and intentions of pastors and church leaders. So, I looked up the woman’s name and was shocked. We were asked to speak to, first and foremost, an attorney. I couldn’t believe it and thought a mistake had been made. This was before he resigned from SEBTS and my former church, where he functioned as an elder. I contacted Nelson and asked why he didn’t tell us he wanted us to speak to an attorney. I was concerned because I knew the Catholic church used attorneys to get information from witnesses and victims.

Nelson said, “You are bitter.” I was stunned. First of all, my son was not one of Goodrich’s victims. So, I wasn’t angry about that. I was angry about the number of boys molested (over 13.) I was trying to figure out what was going on along with some others. For the record, I did not meet with her, but my husband did. The meeting resolved nothing. I forgot about being charged with bitterness by a now-defunct Baptist seminary professor until I started this blog.

I started this blog without any idea what was happening in this post-evangelical wilderness. As I began to hear from victims of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Churches), Mars Hill (Mark Driscoll) victims, victims of Calvinista churches, PCA churches, charismatic churches, IFB churches, and so forth, one of the words that sexual abuse victims and their loved ones heard regularly is that they were bitter. Comments came into the blog, claiming that I and the commenters were all bitter. It became so prevalent that I banned the word “bitter” from being used against victims. I even suggested that if it was essential to use such a word, then find a better one from the Thesaurus. I kind of like “mordant.”

Let’s look at two authoritarian uses of the word “bitter.”

First, bitterness due to sexual abuse is a sin-repent!

How do the theodudes view those who are in pain due to abuse?

I found the following post at TGC confusing. The Gospel Coalition posted How to Starve Bitterness.

Bitterness is poison dipped in honey. It tastes sweet going down, then it kills us from the inside out. In this way, bitterness is the poster child for the deceitfulness of sin. Whenever we love something that brings death to us, the devil has us right where he wants us.

If we do not actively starve bitterness, it will bring death to us. So how do we starve it?

So being bitter is the poster child for the deceitfulness of sin? He believes that a bitter person replays the sin repeatedly in his mind. He doesn’t seem to understand that serious trauma which is unresolved can lead to the profound mental anguish that can last for decades. Why do many abuse victims wait for 20, 30, or more years before dealing with their abuse? Yet many churches call such a victim “bitter” and “unforgiving.”

Even more stunning is the author’s contention that repeating this pain to another is “gossip'” another dearly beloved word of the authority set. Does he not see that the person is seeking strength and help from others because they are often left alone and rejected by their church which wants the person to get over it and move on.

He says one is allowed to “lovingly” confront the person who “sinned against us” and discuss his sin with him. It’s also OK to discuss this matter with law enforcement, but not much else.

The Biblical counseling problem: The victim is a sinner and must confess their sin of bitterness to God and their abuser!

I have written extensively about my problems with Biblical counseling. You can see many of my posts linked at Why (ACBC) Biblical Counseling Will Continue to Throw Counselors Under the Bus.

I knew I would find some illuminating material if I searched for the words “sexual abuse” and “bitter.” Bitterness and sexual abuse was written by Mark A. Mayerstein, who admits he is not a psychiatrist but a BIblical counselor.

He starts off well by admitting that the effects of abuse stay with a person for a long time.

He believes that a biblical counselor can add to the intervention of professionals.

In his book, Practical Counseling Principles for Christians,Dr. Jeff Owens outlines tend different reasons why people become bitter and offers some suggestions for counseling them onhow to overcome the devastating impact of these destroyers of the spirit. Of these causes, themost difficult with which to deal is sexual abuse because it, by definition, includes both physical and psychological abuses. Also, it affects us at such a deep, personal level and its effects stay with us for a long time. While I believe that in many cases individuals suffering from this type of abuse will require professional, medical intervention, I also think there is a tremendous benefi twhich can be derived from the caring of a trained “biblical counselor. Addressing the needs of the soul as well as the psyche offers a powerful synergistic treatment, which God makes available to the benefit of the believer. I am a trained biblical counselor, I am not a psychiatrist

Bitterness is a sin, and the person must conquer that sin.

This next section is disturbing. Not only must the “bitter” person confess their sin to God, but they should confess their bitterness to the abuser!

In the book authored by Dr. Owens to which I referred earlier;, he lists four steps bitter  people must take in order to properly and effectively begin to heal their bitterness resulting from abuse. The victim must first admit that bitterness is a sin unto itself, and then confess to committing that sin. He/She must realize the importance of dying to self and, once the bitternes is conquered, staying dead to that sin. Finally, the counselor must lead the person to forgiving his/her abuser and then begin the process of rebuilding that person%s life and self esteem.

the bitter person must confess his/her sin to self, to God,and sometimes even to the one toward whom his/her bitterness is being directed while some are readily willing to confess their transgression, some aren’t even to the point of defiance. When this happens the wise counselor will lead the victim to the realization that, in order to heal, a confession also must be made. If the counselor can elicit these confessions, this will help the bitter person make huge progress in his/her questfor peace. At this point, the counselor must make the decision whether or not to press for the victim to confess his/her bitterness to his abuser :James 4:25;. Dr Owens believes that this should only be done if the abuser knows the victim is bitter AND the victim can pursue this enlightening tactic in a positive and nonconfrontational manner. If not, then the eventual attempt at forgiveness will be skewed towards the actions of the abuser and not towards the sin of the victim

Second, bitter means that “Your pain and concern make me feel uncomfortable, and we want you, and it, gone.”

I found this great article at Common Grace: Part 2: The characteristics of spiritual abuse.

Exploit the doctrine of our fallenness to accuse, berate, critique, attack, belittle, condemn or produce guilt in the victim. They may cultivate or take advantage of their victim’s conscientiousness in regards to moral matters in order to make them feel like the real problem is the victim’s inferior spirituality. They may make the victim feel like the only reason things aren’t better is because the victim is immature.

Exploit the doctrine of our fallenness to excuse or minimise the severity of their own behaviour. They may try to convince the victim that since everyone is sinful, their abuse is normal, and they shouldn’t expect anything different.

Exploit the doctrines of forgiveness and reconciliation to demand that a victim forgive the abuse, even if there has been no real repentance. They may pressure the victim to ‘move on’, as though any ongoing hurts are the result of ungodly bitterness or resentments. They may demand that forgiveness equate to the restoration of all the previous conditions of the relationship (including contact, communication and trust).

Julie Anne Smith posted, “Stop Being So Bitter.”

This is the fifth blog post referring to an article by Jonathan Hollingsworth, What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Hurt by the Church.

…People who have been hurt by a church have a right to be angry. Not only is anger an appropriate response to injustice, it’s a healthy response if it’s channeled the right ways.

So why do Christians have such a hard time letting each other express negative emotions? Why do we always have to fish for some deeper spiritual problem like a root of bitterness or unforgiveness?

The other day I heard someone put it this way: “Religion will molest you, then accuse you of being bitter about it.” Do you see the double standard? When victims react to being hurt by someone in a church, we treat them as though there’s something’s wrong with them. This is why abusers are so often exonerated. It’s easier to justify letting the abuser off the hook if both parties are “in the wrong.” Source

We are told we need to hurry up and be done with it. If we don’t get over it on “their” timetable, we are labeled bitter. I have difficulty with that. No one can determine another’s heart, the pain someone has gone through, or how long it will take to recover from spiritual abuse.

I felt that this line was vital.

Maybe it makes them uncomfortable because we represent the reality that: church is not always a healthy place; and there is a wake of sadness, anger, disillusionment left in their wake.

In the end, maybe that is what David Nelson was saying to me. I represented the reality that my former church was not always healthy, which is an understatement when you look at the numbers of young teen boys horribly molested by a Baptist seminary student. Nelson was so tired of being committed to everything that he ditched his elder position, church, and SEBTS seminary and got out of Dodge. Yet I was the bitter one.

Have you ever been called “bitter?’ How did it affect you? Do you still think about it? I sure do. The word is part of the deeply embedded spiritual abuse found in many of today’s churches.

 


Comments

Spiritual Abuse Review: What Do They Really Mean When They Say You’re “Bitter” and What Do They Want You to Do About It? — 124 Comments

  1. One would think that it’s a normal and important function of human cognition to remember bad experiences in order to avoid their recurrence in the future. If the abuser is a sociopath, the only safe response may be avoidance, which ‘biblical’ counsel to forgive and reconcile subverts, potentially endangering the victim.

    From what I have read, and the little I have experienced, sociopaths do not genuinely repent; perhaps they are not capable of repentance — perhaps it’s a form of reprobation. There is no duty, under the laws of God or of men, to forgive an unrepentant sociopath, regardless of the apparent (but lying) sincerity of the transgressor’s expressions of remorse. Let the sincerity of the heart change be demonstrated by giving the victim the relational distance needed to heal.

    I suspect that there is something inhumane in people who command grievously mistreated people to forgive the perpetrator. Maybe the apparent inability to experience empathy for sufferers is itself evidence of sociopathy in the ‘counselor.’

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  2. While I haven’t experienced “You are bitter” directed at me, I have had church leaders accuse me of having a critical spirit. If you question errant belief and practice, ungodly rules and regulations, heavy-handed authoritarian leadership, or lack of Gospel preaching, the church heirarchy will slam you with being bitter, critical, mean-spirited, or some other make-you-feel-bad charge. It’s all designed to shame you into silence or make you go away.

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  3. Amen to Samuel Conner, who wrote saying, “I suspect that there is something inhumane in people who command grievously mistreated people to forgive the perpetrator.” Recently I spoke with an old friend (who had later become a pastor) about the time we both spent in a singles Bible study. When I made a brief comment about how poorly women had been treated by the dudebros, he went ballistic. “You’re bitter.” “You’re still beating that dead horse!” “Get over it.” “You need to forgive everyone.” That last statement hurt. I had long since moved on and had no desire to find these men from 50 years ago and apologize. I have to wonder what nerve I touched.

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  4. Max: all designed to shame you into silence or make you go away

    “root of bitterness”
    “critical spirit”
    “unforgiving”
    “Touch not my anointed”
    “unsubmissive”
    “outspoken woman”
    “Jezebel”
    “church contentiousness”
    “not a team player”
    “out of order”
    “not under their umbrella of authority”
    “What did you do to make him treat you like that?”
    “She asked for it.”
    “Submit and make things right.”
    “Endure for a season.”
    “It’s all part of God’s will for your life.”

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  5. Had an elder and his wife (happened to be our small group leaders) and a pastor come to our home under false pretenses. The elder questioned my character in front of my children, repeatedly interrupted my husband (who leaped to my defense) and I, fact-checked us, and flat-out lied.

    Then his wife told us that we were being “fearful” because of our bad experience at a previous church, and projecting that fear into them.

    I’m pretty sure we were being “fearful” because of the stunts she had just witnessed her husband pulling. But what do I know.

    https://www.whyhavewefasted.org/a-letter-to-my-friends-at-our-former-church/

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  6. The use of the word ‘bitter’ like it was an accusation against a ‘sinner’ reminds me of the terminology used by the male leadership of Utah cults practicing polygamy:

    “Keep sweet”

    honestly, if the opposite of ‘you seem bitter’ is you need to ‘keep sweet’ in the midst of an abusive situation, I’ll take ‘bitter’ as a COMPLIMENT any day!

    using ‘bitter’ as a pejorative under the circumstances described doesn’t make sense, but seems a manipulative term to confuse the issues

    actually being accused of being ‘damned angry’ at perpetrators would be infinitely MORE appropriate, as who would not be greatly angered by any religious community allowing a perpetrator to continue to molest the young?

    I’m thinking of the ending scene with Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’, where the actor says
    ‘Out of order?
    I’ll SHOW YOU OUT OF ORDER!’

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  7. “Have you ever been called “bitter?’ How did it affect you?”
    +++++++++++++

    it caught me off guard. my sister described me to me, sort of sweetly, as a way to say ‘no church is perfect, and it would be good if you got over it.’

    i wasn’t able to address it in the moment. but a few months later it still stings.

    the lack of any depth of thought is staggering to me. but instead to opt for christian programming? it’s crushingly disappointing.

    what does one do when she realizes her religion is not only silly but stupid & destructive?

    the irony that this is Jesus’ namesake religion floors me.

    (well, as it turns out, i can maintain both faith in God as described in the Bible and my integrity without the system.

    i love – LOVE – having my integrity back!)

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  8. I also think that many Christians are “programed” to have “canned”, happy, answers to all of life’s complex issues…. Because, Christianity is the TRUTH and has all the answers and “proper way of doing things”….
    When we come along and blow the whistle, they do not have an answer, so they quickly play the card that you “ the person raising issues” must be flawed ( i.e. sinful, less pious, etc)…. So, an easy card to play is “bitter”…another is a “lukewarm” Christian, or you lack faith,

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  9. I am so amazed that people in authority don’t deal with the perpetrator. Disgusting.

    We had to leave a CREC church, which is full to the hilt of dudebros, because of an accusation that the new pastor made against me. He excommunicated my husband and I. There were no church by-laws, only a mission statement, and his excommunication was based on whatever was in his head. This pastor was a golden boy of the Doug Wilson crowd. I hired an attorney to begin a case of libel against him. The case did not make it to court.

    I believe he was angry at me because he wanted to incorporate the church, and my husband and I presented our case against incorporation. He didn’t like his ‘authority’ being questioned, and I got under his skin. I was important in the coffee hour, and he changed the whole thing without consulting or notifying me. Again, an action to show me who was in charge.

    The other person involved in the false accusation was Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition. I would have had my attorney go after him also, but I could not get a clear and written statement of Carter’s accusation against me. I have a digital recording of the incident they accuse me of. Four years later, Joe Carter wrote a Gospel Coalition article without using our names about us. Another pastor involved in the whole situation notified me of the article. He had been with us through the whole sordid affair. It was complete slander.

    Joe Carter – deceitful and a snake
    Steven Wedgeworth – authoritarian and mean (now an Anglican). Stay away.

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  10. Samuel Conner,

    “there is something inhumane in people who command grievously mistreated people to forgive the perpetrator. Maybe the apparent inability to experience empathy for sufferers is itself evidence of sociopathy”

    This. Especially when “forgive” is used to mean essentially “pretend this never happened so that we can all go back to business as usual.”

    And as far as empathy for survivors goes, well, have you heard of the notion of the “sin of empathy?” That is some dark, dark stuff if you stop to think about it.

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  11. CMT: the “sin of empathy?”

    Empathy for others should be in the toolkit for those genuinely called to minister in Jesus’ name. Preachers who know in their heart of hearts that understanding and sharing the feelings of a hurting person is the right thing to do are guilty of sin if they don’t do it.

    “Any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17)

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  12. The thought occurs that the posture of ‘theologically authoritative’ denigration of memory of past mistreatment, and (in response to the mentions of the “empathy is sin” meme) of the function of the brain’s mirror neuron system, which is thought to be the neurological substrate (some may prefer the term “correlate”) of empathy, is a way of controlling people by defining biology to be sin.

    Perhaps the leaders would be happier if all the led were simply to be lobotomized.

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  13. As one who carried her bitterness for a long, long time, I can now share with you that my deliberate effort to let go of my hurt, anger, and bitterness was the best thing I ever did for myself. We’re told to forgive, even as we are forgiven. My original prayer was “God, help me be willing to forgive”. It took a long time to be willing to actually do it, and it was only then, that I was able to move forward toward peace.

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  14. A few random thoughts: the charge of bitterness, in my experience, is usually reserved for women. And it is a term of dismissing our input. I have been called bitter for pointing out no need to spend a quarter million to reroof a building we planned to demolish in two years. I have been called bitter for calling out a pastor/dj for telling folks that even if you were in your 90s with one foot in the grave you needed to get off your keister and get to church in the height of the delta surge of the pandemic. And I have been called bitter for pointing out that if a church brings in new leadership, changes its theology and music and worship style, and loses over half its membership, maybe the problem isn’t the missing pew packers, but leadership. Both my husband and I have also been called bitter when we strongly disagreed with a teaching of a pastor, to the point we felt it best to quietly leave the church.

    But I will agree there is such a thing as true bitterness and it will rot your soul. For the sake of your own mental health it is important not to feed, fertilize, water, and savor that root of bitterness. No matter how heinous the abuse you have received, if you stay stuck in bitterness and unforgiveness it only hurts you. And the abuser still wins. At some point you simply have to lay it at the foot of the cross, give it to Jesus so he can take over dealing with the perp, and walk away free. And that is often the ultimate in punishment for an abuser, the ultimate loss. They did NOT get to destroy you. You CAN not spend every minute obsessing over them, thus feeding their narcissistic supply.

    Easier said than done, and I judge no victim who is not there yet. But your return to health is really the best thing you can do for yourself. It gives you back your own power, and robs the abuser of their ability to continue to hurt you.

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  15. Wild Honey: Then his wife told us that we were being “fearful” because of our bad experience at a previous church, and projecting that fear into them.

    I’m pretty sure we were being “fearful” because of the stunts she had just witnessed her husband pulling.

    But she’s a Winsome Chrsitian Wifey.
    Quiet, Submissive, and LOYAL to her Godly Husband.
    And being a PASTOR’s Wife, she’s Queen Bee at the top of the heap.
    Serena Joy lecturing YOU the Handmaid.

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  16. Nancy in Naples: my deliberate effort to let go of my hurt, anger, and bitterness was the best thing I ever did for myself

    Many who comment on TWW have channeled their experiences into the blogosphere to inform and warn others. Forgiving perhaps, but not forgetting, they have moved past their hurt, anger and bitterness by sharing their journey to help the Body of Christ steer clear of the counterfeit church where authoritarian rule, aberrant theology and physical/spiritual abuse reside … the best thing they ever did for themselves and others.

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  17. Ava Aaronson,

    To add to the list:

    “divisive” not specifically directed at me, but generally publicly spewed immediately after a power move by “men only” (some had not, as they were likely instructed, even discussed the issue with their wives). The power move was to embed one-upmanship of males to females in the by-laws of the church. The issue search was men only, deceptively, non-transparently done because, well, “some men can’t think around women,” as it was later mansplained to me. In addition, there were public calls for,

    “unity”, “love”, and no “gossip” (all the “playbook” moves and words that have been written of here and CBE)

    behind the public scenes there was

    “you sin, too” said by a female relying on church funding.

    “the end justifies the means” said by a pastor, supposedly with “counseling” character qualities. And “wrestle with it” said by this same pastor.

    In the the end, I kept my head, and left at a time that I prayerfully considered would be good timing for myself and my three teenage children.

    From reading at CBE, I read of responses that I had already given as I waited for the timing of my exit that were appropriate, according to CBE, one being change the way you direct your money to causes that don’t pay salaries but rather go to compassionate causes. It was encouraging to read of these after I had already given these responses.

    I wrote a couple of letters, one right after and my exit and I did not accept any elder/pastor’s invitation to talk about it. What would have been the point of that? Somehow, I didn’t think that would be meaningful, that all of the CBE considerations that resonated with me would be reasonably listened to and considered, after the fact. I don’t think they were considered before the supposedly “congregational” vote either.

    I wasn’t notified of my excommunication if, in fact, they did that. But, I never considered the leaders there, in charge, anyway after that. I should add that, fortunately I knew I wasn’t alone, had friends that understood my letters and I sought therapy to work through this authoritarian move and similar other events that had happened in my life. I, apparently, had been prepared for it, or prepared to take in a deeper awareness and understanding of the things at play in authoritarian power grabs.

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  18. Ella: the things at play in authoritarian power grabs

    … which is encroachment on another’s agency. Healthy boundaries, anyone?

    We should be able to be engaged in Christian fellowship while respecting each other as Christians. One would think. What was the second commandment of Jesus? Love your neighbor as yourself? That doesn’t exist in authoritarian autocracies.

    True, a parent parents a child, for 18 years, give or take.
    True, a boss lays out the plan for the employee, who then takes orders at work, but goes home to rule/enjoy their own palace and their own private life.

    But in every situation, there are social contracts: limits, boundaries, expectations, rule of law, mutual respect.

    For Christians, by definition, as we each follow Jesus Christ, the ground at the foot of the Cross is level. Any shifting of that level ground, is not following Jesus. As an elderly church prayer lady told me, “I bend my knee to Jesus, and to Jesus only.”

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  19. Your average father would be filled with RAGE if he discovered a man molesting his daughter. Many men would want to literally kill the perpetrator. This is called testosterone!!! It would be a normal reaction to a heinious sin. How much more …for victims to feel trauma for many years? These guys have no heart or compassion.

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  20. freemarketmises: I am so amazed that people in authority don’t deal with the perpetrator. Disgusting.

    Fortunately, God does. Deal with perpetrators.

    Yesterday, I was looking at the prophecy Jesus read from Isaiah about the Messiah (himself) coming to help the marginalized in society, the humble and blessed who are seeking God: https://wildmustangmall.com/blog/f/humble-blessed

    Lo and behold, the prophecy from Isaiah says that the Messiah would come “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God”.

    So, apparently, God does not forgive and forget about injustice. Bitterness? Not mentioned. But the prophecy does say “vengeance” of our Lord.

    This is not to say we are to go on a rampage of vengeance or unforgiveness or bitterness.

    But apparently God does vengeance which He reserves for Himself – never bitter but always just. (“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. Deuteronomy 32:35. Romans 12:19.)

    Prayer from a God seeker: “O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” Psalm 94.1. (Thinking: vengeance left to the hands of God is the right thing to do.)

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  21. Ella,

    “The power move was to embed one-upmanship of males to females in the by-laws of the church.

    The issue search was men only, deceptively, non-transparently done because, well, “some men can’t think around women,” as it was later mansplained to me.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    can you further explain what this change in the by-laws was all about?
    .
    .
    (the preoccupation with male dominance and male preeminence in christian culture is quite a sight to behold.

    but it’s not the only example of christianity or christian culture [can you even separate the 2?] selecting the more base elements of human nature, nurturing them along & calling them godly or biblical or some other marketing power word.

    planet christian is so messed up)

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  22. Ella,

    “well, “some men can’t think around women,” as it was later mansplained to me.”

    Puh-lease. This sounds like a “you problem,” my guy.

    I would have loved to ask this person why men who are supposed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to emulate Jesus Christ can’t function around other humans who happen to be female. Men in secular spaces are expected to do this every. single. day. Most of the ones I’ve met seem to have it figured out. Perhaps this church’s male population needs to take notes.

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  23. CMT,

    All of my “bosses”, from my chair to President, are women…. And several board of trustee members are women…..
    So, should I quit, and go live in monastery??
    Such wacky teaching, “men can not think around women” needs to be publicly ridiculed… that is one of the more disgusting teachings that TWW has reported on..

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  24. elastigirl: can you further explain what this change in the by-laws was all about?

    2005-2006 By-Law change majority approved, whatever that means. Later, found it was a movement, larger than the small EFCA church that I moved to after a similar manipulative(non-transparent) political move by a more liberal church.

    When I inquired about sexism before attending (1999-2000), the pastor said that women could be pastors, except for Sr. Pastor. This was what another woman vocalized that she had been told.
    From what I could gather, two years prior to 2004-05, a few men had quietly asked women currently on the board to step down (without telling them, or the larger church, why). They were replaced with only male choices (without telling the larger church why). This was done so that a male only small group could research the issue of women in pastoral, teaching, roles. Found that the chair of the board had some association with John Piper. I think he attended Piper’s church during college or something like that.

    Noticed that my neighbor’s kids(2001-2003), a bit older than mine, had been given Wayne Grudem’s made for youth “Systematic Theology.” Picked that up myself, the regular version, but was too busy then to look carefully through it. I was participating in a parachurch, ecumenical ministry, even before starting with this church. My neighbor went to this church, although was a PK in a denomination that did not have a problem with women in pastoral and teaching roles.

    One or two weeks before an open forum to discuss the results and recommendations of this search group I had know idea existed, the agenda of the two year issue search was revealed. That is, embedding language into by-laws where only men could be elders and pastors, teaching and final say roles. Women could not be pastors, but they reserved a place on the board in non-elder named roles, whatever that means. Only the elders and pastors would have final say on “important” matters. They were the “head” of the church. The church was supposedly congregational but denominationally there was larger influence. This was supposedly a plan that would appease both sides, those against women in teaching roles and those for both men and women in teaching roles.

    A fellow soccer mom asked several people, including me, to write responsive letters. This was two-three weeks before a vote would be called for, one-two weeks before an open forum. (my take, women had been left out of representing egalitarian women’s views for the two year discussion of this issue- a glaring overstep and not transparent). So, basically, from my perspective, they “took” what they wanted the result to be, or what the chairman of the board wanted the result to be. Chairman of board, Piper mentee, was mysteriously missing at the open forum, having read letters of push-back, I presume.

    At the open forum, the woman that had previously been told that women could be pastors, asked a question before me, about why the change? She was on the staff, had a husband in the search group. She was obviously hurting. So, I asked my question after her. I think I asked another question, too, but can’t quite remember what it was, something about the timing and the lack of women in the small group search. I asked the group’s representative, leading the forum, if they expected the vote to be “informed?” He said, “No.” Then a man, worship leader, did his manly thing, stood and shouted “Let them lead!” in response to my good question. I probably would not have been at the meeting if the fellow soccer mom hadn’t asked me to write a letter, which I did , after perusing through Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology. I hardly, but definitely, in some regard, knew what was happening. My body told me later in aftershocks.

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  25. Max: The inability of a “pastor” to emotionally understand what other people feel, to imagine being in their situation, and to minister in their suffering with the love of Jesus = spiritual abuse.

    And that’s almost a textbook description of what it’s like to have a personality disorder. The question of mental health as affected by churches and church abuse has been forced into the public gaze because of several decades of litigation. The question of the way people with real problems of all sorts, sexual emotional, psychological, etc, are drawn to church, has not really publicly arisen despite basically appearing in every post on sites like this.
    I don’t think anyone would demur if I say almost no church is ready to deal with the reality of the people who go to church and minister, let alone actually include or help.

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  26. John Berry: I don’t think anyone would demur if I say almost no church is ready to deal with the reality of the people who go to church and minister, let alone actually include or help.

    Yes. Exactly. Nor do seminaries in any way prepare pastors for the reality of the people who go to church.

    The seminary profs who churn out theology books in spade$ but never address the reality of the people who go to church = useless, as are their protégées.

    One of the reasons why I wrote “Legal Grounds”. Because of the reality of people who go to church.

    Each time we open and read this TWW blog with comments, we encounter the reality of people who go to church – realities about life outside the church and in the church. This is one reason why reading TWW makes sense. TWW discourse is largely what is not said in churches – not permitted. And silenced with such terminology as “your root of bitterness spirit”.

    Polite church society is delusional, among other things.

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  27. John Berry: Max: The inability of a “pastor” to emotionally understand what other people feel, to imagine being in their situation, and to minister in their suffering with the love of Jesus = spiritual abuse.

    And that’s almost a textbook description of what it’s like to have a personality disorder.

    Which is to say there’s a whole cadre of pastors with personality disorders.

    The “empathy is sin” theo-dude-bros, for starters. They actually teach that empathy is sin. They say this and it’s recorded on youtube. (Thanks, Dee, for posting about this and making us once again aware of the nonsense in Christendom.) If this is their heaven, maybe there’s a better place to spend Eternity.

    This is so obvious. Wonder where the shrinks and head-doctors and such attend church? Or, do they?

    (Among our family friends: a psychiatrist and his wife who are Dones.)

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  28. CMT,
    Ella,

    “some men can’t think around women,”

    …why men who are supposed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to emulate Jesus Christ can’t function around other humans who happen to be female.

    Men in secular spaces are expected to do this every. single. day.”
    +++++++++++++++

    yeah, christian men should all regress to 7 years old cuz women have cooties.

    apparently there’s no power of God to help in time of need, or they’re entitled to be impotent to it and never grow up.

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  29. I remember when one of the clergy leaders at one of my former churches told me that I needed to go to each person that I had an issue with and talk to them, specifically mentioning the church board. The pastor had told me to “worship somewhere else” because I disagreed with one of his decisions about my abusive husband, so I had been somewhere else for 2.5 years at that time. Pastor and husband hadn’t told anyone about the reasons that I was somewhere else.

    I told the leader that I didn’t have any problems with the board and couldn’t imagine what I would need to talk to them about. On top of that, I hadn’t spoken to the leader in over a year, so I didn’t know where they were getting their information about me. (I suspected that husband was the source) The leader decided to stop talking to me and then pulled back from supporting my husband. It took a little over a year before the leader started to say anything to me. I’m still “somewhere else,” but close enough to visit occasionally.

    Ava Aaronson: This is so obvious. Wonder where the shrinks and head-doctors and such attend church? Or, do they?

    I had a meeting recently with one of my friends who is a “mental health professional” and has a good understanding of the ways that churches are bad at handling abuse allegations. He was commenting on all these, and another person said that they had problems with “organized religion” because of how churches have hurt folks. They both have deep distrust of leaders because of the things that they have seen.

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  30. Have you ever been called “bitter?’ How did it affect you? Do you still think about it?

    While still separated from my cheating, part-time minister husband, a woman in my church (whose husband had also cheated on her), when I had simply stated, “I don’t understand how my husband could have done this,” shocked me by suddenly raising her voice at me and saying, “You’re just a bitter woman!” I knew she was wrong in saying that, at that time I was really too devastated to be bitter, but it still stung anyway. I left that church shortly after, when the pastor told me I was “messed up from my divorce,” that I can’t trust my own judgment, and that the Holy Spirit was not pleased with me. I stayed away from churches for 7 years.

    Imagine my surprise, then, after making the decision to go back to attending church (a different church), and being there for about 2 years, the pastor says from the pulpit on Fathers Day, after holding up King David as a great example of a husband and a father, “If you’re thinking about committing adultery, go ahead and do it, you’ll get forgiveness later.” This wasn’t a joke, he was serious, and not one person in the congregation looked shocked or questioned it. I was thinking, “Church sure has changed in the last 7 years; adultery use to be a sin.” I also wondered later if this was some sort of reasoning the pastor was using to excuse something he’d already committed. When he posted that sermon on the church’s website (like he did all his sermons), the reference to adultery had been edited out, but all his angry rants against women in the same sermon were apparently deemed inspired enough to stay on the posted recording. I left that church some months after. I should’ve left that day.

    (It should be noted that this was not a church from a denomination known for restricting women. I didn’t even know the word complementarianism even existed till I started searching online.)

    That was over 2 years ago. That sermon, plus increasingly angry words directed at me personally from that pastor, reverberates in my soul even today. In searching online and trying to process these non-sensical church experiences, I stumbled across TWW. That’s when I first started to hear words like complementarianism. Reading others’ experiences, which have been far worse than mine, has given me a peek inside the heads of these abusive leaders, and how far removed they are from the gospel of Jesus, and it has somehow given me a measure of relief. I’m really thankful for all of you, posters and moderators, on this site <3

    Back to the OP, I think "bitter" is just one of many tools in the toolbox of abusers and manipulators to control the upstarts. If "bitter" doesn't quiet you down, they'll use "disobedient." If "disobedient" doesn't have an effect on you, they'll try "unsubmissive" or some other term. They'll keep going till they find the one label that you fear being called so that you'll crack and believe that you're the unspiritual or sinful one. One of the healing salves that has comforted me is to continue to read the 4 gospels and see, really see, how Jesus treated people. A true pastor doesn't beat the sheep.

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  31. Ava Aaronson: Polite church society is delusional, among other things.

    Yes!
    As a former psychiatric nurse I have worked in several places where everything revolved around getting people (both staff and patients) to do and say the ‘right’ thing. It’s exactly the same situation as in churches.
    I’m delighted to say that I have quite a reputation in mental health services locally for being incredibly difficult and making a point of asking the questions!

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  32. How many times does the “move on” impetus get abused by hirelings and grievous wolves? How many times does a permutation of the following get rolled out: “Oops, mistakes were made, yay forgiveness… we good?” — with the well-compensated offender(s) returning after a “season” where applicable?

    If those affected seek to bring up some of the consequences or do anything else that falls into the hard questions/uncomfortable conversations realm where they might be consequences for actions, how often are they treated as the problem? How many times do people want to use the “that’s water under the bridge, it happened X number of months or years ago, can’t you get over it and be forgiving rather than bitter?” How many who do not automatically say “we’re good” are regarded as a problem, while the powers that be either wait for people to get frustrated with the delays, denials, deferrals and so forth, or choose to weaponize against them?

    Of course, we know numerous cases well-documented from this and other places that have been chronicling them. And what’s the general response for so many in the ‘Christian Industrial Complex’; a variety of marginalization, vilification, etc. rather than acknowledgement of the problem? More of the above?

    All I know is the people that experience various levels of abuse and attacks might not be able to instantly process the impact of that let alone move on from it, especially when they saw no actual and measurable repentance. Part of that might be because they might be some of the only ones willing to stand up for what needs to be done. The inability to instantly move on certainly would seem to be the case where one of the institutions where they would seek to get spiritual encouragement has let them down to varying degrees. The more this can be documented in truth, the more some of those looking for the “healthy marks“ of institutions might possibly come to a level of understanding — and even righteous action.

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  33. Nelson, along with the attorney, was serving on the internal investigation group looking into accusations that the church leadership did not respond to allegations of behavior from a year previous.

    Dr. Nelson, wherever you are:

    You were my favorite professor at this time. I learned a lot in your classes. I thought you had a semblance of common sense. You should have known better. Did the seminary want you to cover up Brian’s crimes? Bully people in your church into covering it up, too? You should have gone immediately to police and let them handle it, end of story.

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  34. John Berry: The question of the way people with real problems of all sorts, sexual emotional, psychological, etc, are drawn to church, has not really publicly arisen despite basically appearing in every post on sites like this.

    And this is probably why they are so adamant that secular psychology is “evil” and have their own system of “biblical counseling”, which is pretty much just more abuse “subject to pastoral authority”.

    If people really got help in abusive churches, it would be really clear to them they needed to leave.

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  35. Max,

    Yup..
    And given what I have seen, from a 7-12 grade, Christian College, leading secular humanist, pagan universities, campus ministries, and a number of churches over the years, the LACK of sound orthodox, Christian leadership is not a surprise to me…
    Oh, might add, evangelicalism embracing one political “side” also contributed..

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  36. Ariel: While still separated from my cheating, part-time minister husband, a woman in my church (whose husband had also cheated on her), when I had simply stated, “I don’t understand how my husband could have done this,” shocked me by suddenly raising her voice at me and saying, “You’re just a bitter woman!”

    I listened to a CBE talk on abuse back in the days closer to my experiences with poor church leadership. The mission leaders told the story of a woman in Africa who had been stolen, raped and brutalized and then had been left to return to her village. In her village her husband would not take her back and the other women blamed and beat her. The Christian counselors said this woman represented the shame and insecurity that the village women had about their own situations in the culture.

    Ariel: from the pulpit on Fathers Day, after holding up King David as a great example of a husband and a father, “If you’re thinking about committing adultery, go ahead and do it, you’ll get forgiveness later.” This wasn’t a joke,

    I got tired of the references to King David from the pulpit or discussions at these types of churches, too. When these stories are told, in these settings, they never mention David’s grief or his not getting to build a temple for God because of the blood on his hands, if I’m getting that right. I’m not an expert.
    But, I did go to a small ELCA, I think, church, to hear a college choir sing a song about David, a song that included the grief part. And I heard some older church ladies behind me whisper very attuned words of relating to the grief part of David’s story, good composer, too, and choir. This was a more refreshing, authentic experience than hearing another “dudebro” compare himself to King David, leaving out the consequences that David endured.

    Ariel: In searching online and trying to process these non-sensical church experiences, I stumbled across TWW.

    Glad to read here, too. It does help make some sense of some things.

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  37. Muff Potter,

    This has already happened: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/us/village-church-texas-sexual-abuse-lawsuit.html

    I believe the Catholic church case is still in progress, but that will probably be the same thing.

    However, the dudebros are trying to get around cases like this by putting required mediation in their covenants for any disagreement, of course by a mediator of their choice.

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  38. Nancy in Naples,

    Amen! While I fully realize there is no time line, no certain line where a person must move on, I also know personally one can get “stuck” so to speak, and move from not yet able to forgive or build a good life into a state of refusing to heal. Hard to explain if you have not been there done that, but if you have, you get it.

    There just comes a point for one’s own sanity to simply rest at the feet of Jesus and be healed. One can still testify against the perp, hold their feet to the fire legally, etc, but also move on and not let that root of bitterness the Bible talks about take hold.

    Because if you cross the line from “not healed yet” to “I refuse to ever be healed” you sadly become the one revictimizing yourself forever.

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  39. Max: We need to stop dragging David into the stories of failed pastors and wayward churches. David was in the military, not the ministry …

    David was also an archetype of the successful man who is top of the heap when it comes to his profession/business, but completely falls on his face when it comes to his own family.

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  40. Ella: they never mention David’s grief or his not getting to build a temple for God because of the blood on his hands

    i.e. God telling David his son and heir will build the Temple because he (David) has too much baggage in his past. His son can start clean, without the baggage.

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  41. ishy: And this is probably why they are so adamant that secular psychology is “evil” and have their own system of “biblical counseling”, which is pretty much just more abuse “subject to pastoral authority”.

    JUST LIKE SCIENTOLOGY!

    Free tip: When your church’s shtick can be described as “Just like Scientology, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”, that is NOT a good sign.

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  42. Muff Potter: Like I’ve harped here before, sooner or later there’s gonna’ be a land-mark case in which child sex abuse WAS NOT REPORTED to the cops first, and as a result, some big-whigs in some ‘church’ somewhere, will go down for complicity in trying to cover up a crime.

    Only until their Tithe-funded lawyers get it up to the CHRISTIAN Supreme Court.

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  43. Ken F (aka Tweed):
    The apostle Paul apparently gave into bitterness in light of all the difficulties he wrote about rather than forgetting. E.g. Alexander the coppersmith…

    I think this is a really useful counterexample, and Paul’s language also suggests that he is following his own Roman 12 counsel to “leave room for the wrath of God.”

    Unfortunately, the Scriptures don’t give clear guidance about what to do in cases where the perpetrator claims to have repented but the victim is reluctant to trust the claim. The old Sovereign Grace tactic

    https://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2018/03/22/a-theory-of-why-sovereign-grace-churches-seemed-to-side-with-perpetrators/

    of accusing the victim of a greater transgression against God (unforgiveness of a repentant person) than the victim had suffered at the hands of the perpetrator* relies on the assumption that the perpetrator’s self-assertions of repentance are presumptively trustworthy. I would argue that the perpetrator’s prior actions imply that they are presumptively not trustworthy and the victim should not be expected to forgive until such time as the victim him-/her-self is prepared to trust the perpetrator’s word. That might be a very long time. It might be never.

    ============

    * I have a guess at where the Sovereign Grace people got this concept — it looks highly reminiscent of David Powlison’s “see-saw” diagram (the perpretator’s sin against the victim is on one side of the see-saw, and the counselee’s own sin against God is on the other side) that was a part of his “Dynamics of Biblical Change” class taught at Westminster East in the ’90s through the ’10s. I think the goal, in the context of that class, was to encourage the counselee to self-examine. I don’t think it was intended to be used as a bludgeon to reverse victim and offender, though that is how it seems to be used in some settings.

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  44. Ariel: the pastor says from the pulpit on Fathers Day, after holding up King David as a great example of a husband and a father, “If you’re thinking about committing adultery, go ahead and do it, you’ll get forgiveness later.”

    There’s a lot that goes on with church people, it seems, because “go ahead and do it, you’ll get forgiveness later”. Church becomes the giver of the Get-out-of-jail-free Card, possibly extracting payments such as indulgences, from the lay folk. With the clergy? Indulgences? They seem to be above that.

    This particular pastor seems to be in favor of this for the men, while being disdainful of women.

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  45. Ariel: rants against women

    There’s more. You write of women dealing with adultery and divorce.

    There are women who deal with a husband who becomes chronically, or even fatally, ill – and the miracle of healing doesn’t happen. Words from pastors to these women:
    – you just want attention (asking for prayer)
    – you are one of those enabling types
    – it’s your fault; you never should have married him
    – you are one of those women who marries into trouble & expects sympathy for your bad choices
    – Who left you on our church’s doorstep?
    – It is your fault your husband isn’t healed – you don’t have faith.
    – Your situation is too depressing. Stay away. It’s not our problem.

    Evangelicalism seems to be the ticket for a bubble of doing what we want, getting what we want, and staying away from people whose lives are not like what we want.

    Jesus ministered to people who were not getting what they wanted out of life, through no fault of their own and nothing to do with their choices. In Hebrew, these people are called the anawim (marginalized in society as they seek God through thick and thin):

    John 9:1–12 Jesus saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    Jesus replied: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned … but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

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  46. ishy: However, the dudebros are trying to get around cases like this by putting required mediation in their covenants for any disagreement, of course by a mediator of their choice.

    The dudebros make sure things are going to go their way, always.

    Beware church participants. Enter their kingdom, and they rule. Over you. For their benefit. It’s predatory. Which is why, with all of their authority in place, they are NOT dealing with predators (as they should) but enabling them as birds of a feather flock together. Predators all find each other in predator-led churches.

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  47. Friend: the FBI has raided some churches near military bases, for allegedly fleecing veterans:

    https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/crime/2022/06/30/fayetteville-house-prayer-church-raided-fbi-things-know-military/7771025001/

    Thanks for sharing. Excellent article.

    From the article:

    “Veterans Education Success works to ensure the success of military-connected students using the GI Bill and other federal educational benefits, and to weed out waste, fraud, and abuse, according to its website.”

    Instead of fleecing their people, the church should actually be like this org: helping to “weed out waste, fraud, and abuse” on behalf of parishioners.

    I guess we each need to assess whether the church we attend is of God or is of the devil. The case in the article makes this real: a church fleecing the sheep.

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  48. Ariel,

    “and how far removed they are from the gospel of Jesus,”

    …I think “bitter” is just one of many tools in the toolbox of abusers and manipulators to control the upstarts.”
    +++++++++++++

    the way i see it, the current iteration of christianity (cuz it’s what i know firsthand) is a weird frankenstein of ideals and rules.

    most of the body parts are from Paul.

    and Paul developing his own ideas based on what he had heard second-hand about Jesus (someone he had never met, except for a glowing encounter on the road to Damascus where a few words were exchanged)

    [where’s mine, Jesus? anytime now.]

    But there are no body parts of frankenchristian from Jesus. Nothing.

    (ok, maybe a scant reference every few years to the prodigal son and see how the lilies of the field neither toil nor spin)

    Just a few ideas *about* Jesus from other people.

    so, frankenchristian looks like a contortionist, contorting their body in all sorts of painfully unnatural ways… for show. (google yogi sadhu contortionist)

    christianity produces ideas that resemble Jesus not a whit. and more often than not, people, too.
    .
    .
    “bitter” is the handy go-to item in the toolbox (like hammer or screwdriver)… because Christians are supposed to have all the answers (& can’t bear not having them).

    and being entitled to wield the hammer for horrible sins “I” would never ever commit is just too good to pass up.

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  49. elastigirl: someone he had never met

    Way off topic, but the thought has occurred to me (and one can find similar speculations here and there on the internet) that Saul might be the individual referred to as the “rich young ruler” in the synoptic Gospels. The zeal to persecute Jesus’ followers that one sees in Acts 8 and 9 might be explainable in terms of anger about a prior snub he had experienced during Jesus’ public ministry. And the accounts of Jesus’ law-obedience rhetoric to the “rich young ruler” intriguingly leave out the command to “not covet”, which turns up in the possibly autobiographical account, in Romans 7, of Paul’s struggle with sin.

    It’s a tenuous connection, but a thought-provoking possibility. It’s possible that Saul was considerably more familiar with Jesus’ public ministry than is conventionally reckoned (for example, in Acts 20:35 he mentions a saying of Jesus — intriguingly again on the “covetousness” spectrum — that is not recorded in any of the Gospels).

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  50. Samuel Conner,

    could be.

    and it’s intriguing.

    chances are i’d like Paul.

    but quite frankly i’m tired of a religion based on him and his scribes and whatever food poisoning or other ailments they had at the time that influenced their word choices.

    i’m tired of a religion based on the ultimate shapeshifter called ‘the gospel’

    (which in practice means whatever person wearing the influence hat needs it to mean to justify all his other newfangled doctrines or whatever is convenient for him).

    i’m tired of a religion based on the notion of ‘biblical’ (another shapeshifter).

    i’ve mentioned recently how i read the book of Luke in one sitting. none of it was unfamiliar, but i was quite stunned —

    one would never associate christian culture with what I read. the was no resemblance at all. in fact, the values of christian culture were very much at odds with it.

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  51. Friend: the FBI has raided some churches near military bases, for allegedly fleecing veterans:

    https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/crime/2022/06/30/fayetteville-house-prayer-church-raided-fbi-things-know-military/7771025001/

    I used to think McDonald’s was evil for placing stores near schools, but this is next level

    An elaborate scam! Deception at its best (or worst). No fingerprints of God on the ministry … all Devil from the get-go.

    “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil” (Proverbs 12:20)

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  52. Samuel Conner,

    “ assumption that the perpetrator’s self-assertions of repentance are presumptively trustworthy”

    There are a lot of other problematic assumptions at play as well, such as:

    A repentant perpetrator is entitled to forgiveness

    Forgiveness means a return to a “normal,” pre-offense state for all parties involved

    The timetable is determined by someone other than the person doing the forgiving

    Forgiveness is a one and done action

    And then we wonder why so many folks are “bitter”…

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  53. elastigirl: I’ve mentioned recently how I read the book of Luke in one sitting. None of it was unfamiliar, but I was quite stunned —

    One would never associate Christian culture with what I read. There was no resemblance at all. In fact, the values of Christian culture were very much at odds with it.

    Which is exactly why I keep reading the Bible for myself, alone, no commentary, yes looking up words & places on the computer, no preaching or teaching, no extra expense of basically old white men’s blah blah blah capitalistic publishing industry books down through the ages and even now, etc. I think everyone in our family, the same. It’s what we agree on.

    Striking the contrast when one does a thorough read oneself. Also, much more interesting. Sometimes the preaching & teaching is like regurgitated Pablum. Who wants to eat what someone else has already eaten then spit out for you to eat? Yuck. No taste. Boring. Useless.

    Historians? Geographers? Archeologists? Now, that’s different. Real facts and information, not Pablum, but added value.

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  54. Paul K: That’s the first time I think I’ve really understood this verse! It seems to mean a person who has no conscience, no ability to see he is capable of doing something wrong or has done something wrong

    Yes, I believe that is exactly what’s implied. It helps when you put it into context with the previous verse:

    “The Holy Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, misled by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron leaving them incapable of ethical functioning” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 AMP)

    False teachers and followers alike falling into an evil ditch, with seared consciences “leaving them incapable of ethical functioning.” In these “later times” we experience such folks who have fallen from faith, even in the pulpit.

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  55. Max: While I haven’t experienced “You are bitter” directed at me, I have had church leaders accuse me of having a critical spirit.

    “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1John 4

    God gives you not only permission, but a mandate to have a critical spirit.

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  56. Ted: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1John 4

    God gives you not only permission, but a mandate to have a critical spirit.

    Amen, brother! In that sense, somebody better step forward with a “critical” spirit!

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  57. Ted: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1John 4

    God gives you not only permission, but a mandate to have a critical spirit.

    This is important.

    Just as we don’t want our leaders speaking carelessly, dismissing, marginalizing, or trash talking people (survivors, victims, the challenged, the suffering, parishioners), we likewise don’t want to carelessly discuss church leaders.

    However, we do need to critically assess what goes on, IOW, what and with whom we support or collaborate with in our churches.

    Assess. Make good decisions. See something then say something.

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  58. Max: False teachers and followers alike falling into an evil ditch, with seared consciences “leaving them incapable of ethical functioning.” In these “later times” we experience such folks who have fallen from faith, even in the pulpit.

    Speaking of which, Ted Haggard’s in the news again.
    Meth and Seme-Sex Ehebephilia, just like last time.

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  59. Wild Honey,

    I read the whole series of your explanations. It was so interesting and so different from my experience. If my pastor said something factually incorrect, I would poke my nose in his office some time when I was making copies for the Spanish choir and say, “Hey, Father! On Sunday, you said Fact X, but I read that Fact Y is accurate,” and he would say, “What book?” and I would tell him, and that would be that, unless he texted me to say that Historian Z had a different take on the whole matter. He’s a big reader.

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  60. Ted: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1John 4

    God gives you not only permission, but a mandate to have a critical spirit.”

    Great comment, TED. Women, especially, as mothers and protectors of children definitely need to ‘test the spirits’ and carefully examine ANY sources of ‘authority’ that they find offensive and ‘not okay’. Women have protective instincts that they need to pay attention to.

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  61. d4v1d,

    ha.

    i took my mk dad shopping at the grocery store yesterday so he could shop for my himself, and I could shop for my husband’s birthday.

    i asked him to take me to bread. then “take me to produce”, I said.

    then i asked him to take me to gin. he did a doubletake and i said it again.

    i wanted to get my husband his favorite pricey gin.

    my dad took off ahead of me muttering the whole way through the store,

    “…cant’ imagine why anyone would want to buy gin,…so bitter…tastes just terrible…smells terrible…chocolate milk is good enough for me…”

    he doesn’t know how funny he is.

    anyway, i thought yesterday how nice bitter is as part of a flavor profile. even for those badmouth ‘bitter’.

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  62. Cynthia W.: If my pastor said something factually incorrect, I would poke my nose in his office some time when I was making copies for the Spanish choir and say, “Hey, Father! On Sunday, you said Fact X, but I read that Fact Y is accurate,” and he would say, “What book?” and I would tell him, and that would be that, unless he texted me to say that Historian Z had a different take on the whole matter. He’s a big reader.

    Yeah, I grew up in a family of educators (and readers), and we do this to each other all the time. Nobody (usually) takes it personally, it’s just kinda a collaborative effort toward sharing knowledge.

    I’m a little jealous of your relationship with your pastor 🙂

    The churches I was in never really had a meaningful review or feedback process for the pastors. I think this was a significant contributor to their lack of ability to receive critique. They were inexperienced and/or poorly trained in how to appropriately respond and how to take meaningful action.

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  63. “You are bitter” means “You are angry and that makes me uncomfortable because it means I may have to acknowledge there is sin in the world, and possibly in me, that is profoundly destructive. I don’t want to acknowledge this because I simply don’t know how to deal with the shame – I don’t know how to repent because I’m in a system that almost exclusively punishes instead of forgives and reconciles. Plus, I’ve been saturated with teaching regarding the qualifications of my position and if I acknowledge I have failed to meet these qualifications in any way, it might suggest I am not qualified for the position I’ve based my entire identity upon and I CANNOT ALLOW this to happen. Finally, we’ve got a religious performance art installation we need to plan for this Sunday (ie, the typical Sunday service) and I don’t see how ministering to you helps me accomplish this. So, go away and stop digging at the deep wells of insecurity I’ve tried so hard to ignore my whole life.”

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  64. Wild Honey: I’m a little jealous of your relationship with your pastor

    He’s in his mid-60s and gets gripy sometimes when he’s tired, but he’s very approachable. He’ll wander into committee meetings and ask, “Is this group doing anything I really need to know about right now? And can I have some of your snacks?” or just sit around at a choir practice if he’s not doing something else. “I like that song! You should do it more often!”

    If individuals or groups at the church want to do something that doesn’t involve him, they just have to clear facilities usage with the secretary to avoid conflicts, and if something does involve him, they just to nag a little.

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  65. I’ve been called bitter, angry and power-grabbing to my face, and who knows what behind my back.

    To bitter and angry, I responded, ” Yes, I am! I’m glad you see that. Now, do you care about it? What changes are you willing to make so that we can have a healthier church?”

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