Tag Archives: abuse

Christians must deal justly with abuse

I don’t like the narrative that demands we live our lives in fear.  Our 24/7 news cycle promotes a creeping terror that turns parenting into jail keeping and long nights of anxious terror about the “unknown unknown” about to destroy our families.

But churches can be very resistant to implementing the kinds of “best practices” for child care which businesses in general have adopted (either because they’re “good sense” or maybe to avoid lawsuits).  Yet the continuing stream of ugly stories of abuse happening amidst Christians demands that we change.

We don’t need suspicion or blind faith; we need sensible policies and structures in place.

Boz Tchividjian wrote a great post this weekend which puts in front of our faces the reality: Church is a great place to hide abuse.  (Boz is the head of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, abbreviated G.R.A.C.E., a consulting nonprofit that assists ministries and churches in auditing their policies and practice.

Sex offenders, faith communities, and four common exploitations | Rhymes with Religion.

Take time to read his post….. I’ll wait.

In addition to developing sensible safeguards for those who work with children in churches and Christian schools, church leaders also need to move investigations of child abuse and family neglect into the realm of the God-designated authority for issues of justice:  the government.

Stop hyperventilating, conservatives.

It’s hard to cut through the “government is evil” rhetoric that swamps our political discourse these days, but it’s the Church’s job to declare what  Scripture actually SAYS.  And God designated governmental authority to handle justice, punishment, and the law.

(Clarification: I’m not saying “check your judgment at the door”; I’m not saying the government should take over vital services like caring for victims; I think there’s a lot of value in the nonprofit / private sector running ministries like Calvary Home for Children.  So don’t assume what I’m not saying.)

Government is no more or less evil than the people who comprise it, despite the current political rhetoric that demands a small government in the name of God Almighty. *coughs*

God’s commands to government officials cover a constellation of human needs.  From punishing murderers/criminals or waging war to standing up for the oppressed and poor and marginalized, the government stands responsible before the Lord to handle questions related to justice.

As evangelical Christianity has become all the more aligned with the conservative political spectrum, the “government is evil!” narrative has tainted our theology.

So when someone whispers that “Susie” claims “Pastor D—-” acted inappropriately, our church organizations turn inward, circling wagons to protect reputation and PR and brand rather than pulling these questions into the God-approved light of legal investigation.

The word “investigation” makes us nervous. We don’t trust our governmental officials because
1) politicians are creepy and self-serving and slick and feel like used-car salesmen;
2) our political process rewards attack ads and sound bites, not thoughtful discourse;
3) sometimes our laws are just absolutely stupid because laws, by nature, must deal with lowest-common-denominator behavior;
4) America isn’t really that corrupt, all things considered, but the “good ol’ boys” network and back room dealing and ALL THE MONEY that now controls the political sphere sure feels corrupt to most of us;
5) we all know cases where the legal system failed, where a victim wasn’t given justice or where an innocent person was found guilty.

I get that.

But it is the very nature of legal investigation (done rightly) to protect victims and also to protect innocent people from having their reputations destroyed due to  “he said-she said” accusations, for just as many people of power abuse that power to victimize others, accusers sometimes betray justice by lying to destroy someone.

Neither the victim nor the accused benefit when the due process of law is replaced by back room deals, sweeping things under the carpet, or trying to handle an accusation “in house.”

The very nature of abuse is insidious because in many cases, abuse is tied to the wrongful exercise of “power.”  And, as Boz discussed in his  post, our Christian assemblies often deliver power structures and ready authority to any person interested in taking advantage of children or the weak.

So, as Christians, we  need to

  • get involved in politics to the extent that we can stand it 🙂 — because we need people voting in not-corrupt politicians and judges with good bench records
  • contact our local legislators on the state and national levels to ask for better laws to protect victims and more support for victim support agencies
  • implement clear, common-sense policies in our church children’s ministries, Christian schools, and parachurch organizations to protect children from abusers, run all personnel through background checks, clarify who can be where with kids, and mandate reporting charges of abuse to legal authorities
  • ask our denominational authorities to pass resolutions asking congregations to develop better policies, and provide leadership on this issue

Again, there are many ways to misunderstand what I’m saying, so feel free to ask questions in comments rather than just assuming you know what I mean.

And really,  do read Boz’s post.

A dark tale with Southern roots

This will seem like a very strange followup to yesterday’s post about Christianity changing its response to abuse, but hold on till the end and I think you’ll see the connection.

South Carolina has a surprisingly robust music scene, especially in Columbia and Charleston. (The Upstate really needs to catch up. …. and develop more of a “music scene” to support a couple more good venues for good old-fashioned rock. But that’s an issue for another day.)

One of my favorite South Carolina bands is The Restoration, fronted by Daniel Machado and based in Columbia.

The hubby and I first met Daniel when he opened for some friends of ours at the local Irish pub, and then got a flat tire in the parking lot which not a one of us — even the big burly guys — could manage to break free from the rusted lug nuts. So Daniel packed himself off to our friends’ house for the night, which turned into about a 3-day saga. So I feel a bond with Daniel, one somehow linked to great music, a banjo, South Carolina, and the crappy vehicles that musicians always seem to drive because the Universe is unjust. (In MY universe, musicians would make enough to eat without worrying, and financial analysts would have to drive 17 year old Corollas with rusty fenders.)

We’ve followed Daniel ever since, making the switch with him from The Guitar Show (his first band) to The Restoration, his roots-music band that delves deep into the twisted history of the South.

An encounter with William Faulkner at a USC literature course set Daniel’s sights on Southern Gothic storytelling. He grew up steeped in the Southern civic Christianity that flavors everything down here — God is woven into South Carolina life, regardless of your personal belief.  Here, especially if you’re white, good people respect the Almighty and appreciate the Bible; bad people believe evolution, vote for Obama, and claim to be agnostic. I think the Republican to Democrat ratio here in SC is something like 8 to 1.  I’m not even sure why I bother to vote (because seriously, regardless of party affiliation, my vote does not matter).

The Restoration kicked things off with an incredible album called Constance. I’ve written about it before, when we attended the CD release show, and I highly recommend hitting the newspaper interviews that I’ve linked to in that post.

Constance tells the story of a biracial young man in the 1910s whose rage against the injustice of his life, both economic and racial, blazes into hatred against a particular man as the cause for that injustice.  Like any good Faulkner follower, Constance doesn’t end happy, just like the racial reality of many Southern towns. (The last lynching in South Carolina was in 1947.)

This depressing narrative captured Daniel’s soul, resulting in some pretty amazing art.

The Restoration followed with a sophomore album named Honor the Father. It’s a dark, twisted story of a cultish Bible believer in the 1950s who follows Old Testament law straight into the arms of domestic abuse, murder, and weirdness.  Cheery.

The album spawned a Kickstarter for an indie film – fitting for a story of the 1950s, not all Mayberry as they’re cracked up to be.  You really ought to listen to the album in whole, but definitely check out the film:

Honor the Father from Christopher Tevebaugh on Vimeo.

Diana Bright grasps for a means to escape her husband’s transformation from insecure youth to domineering husband in this musical short about the 1950’s South.

The Restoration released a quick EP back in December, I think, called New South Blues. It crackles with satire toward Christians who speak so often of Gospel but live so much like the broken world we inhabit.

To quote a verse from the title track:

Lo the Facebook lamentations 
About the “spoiling of the nation” 
And how the good ol’ days are gone. 
Oh? They never mention ol’ Jim Crow. 

“In the past, turned the page” 
Muslim witch hunt, Proposition 8 
This is the new South 

and later

In all fairness, the South has no monopoly 
On ignorance and bigotry 
You understand 
We just have the most trusted brand

Whenever I hear Constance or Honor the Father and especially New South Blues, it hurts my heart that so many people see Christians as racist, misogynist hypocrites.

I listen, so that I may remember. And be different.