Yes, abuse happens in churches

My latest critic took it upon himself to write a long and accusatory comment denying that a certain kind of abuse happens in churches across America: that of making sexual abuse victims feel worse by teaching a purity doctrine that compares them to worthless used chewing gum (or other disgusting things). To him, and anyone else who denies that some groups that call themselves Christian sometimes can and do teach harmful things like that:

Yes, this abuse happens in churches.

No, I am not saying it happens in all denominations, or by all leaders, as your comment seems to accuse. Does everything apply to everyone, all the time? When someone points out that a certain teaching is being taught and is harmful, does that mean that they’re saying that EVERY leader teaches that? Of course not. Not unless they clearly state that. Don’t assume they mean what you expect them to mean. Slow down and actually read what is there. In the last 35 years or so, I have run into some real pieces of work who are called “church leaders.” They have taught some extreme and incorrect things, harmful things, specifically purity doctrine and other disempowering notions. Their denominations run a pretty wide spectrum, too:

  • Mormon
  • Baptist (Southern, American, and Independent)
  • Free Methodist
  • Assembly of God
  • Nondenominational Christian
  • Orthodox Christian

I want to be clear, one more time: not all Christian groups, and not all Christians in those groups do the harmful things I might talk about in some of my posts. Just because I say some people in Group A teach a certain off-the-wall and harmful thing, it does not necessarily mean that everyone in that group teaches that and harms people with it.

But some do. And some = too many.

Disrespect, discount, dismiss

This is my experience, and when it comes to the topic mentioned in the post in question (about purity doctrine), it’s also that of many others. If you’ve never seen these kinds of things happening, that’s great. In fact, I would love it if no one ever saw those kinds of things happen ever again. But don’t you dare discount my experience—or that of countless others—just because YOU don’t think you’ve heard these harmful messages in your church. Maybe you haven’t heard them. Maybe they haven’t been sent in your church. I hope it’s true. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been sent or heard in thousands of other churches. When you attack my writing using words like “everyone” and “never” and other all-inclusive and incorrect terms… When you tell me that everyone who reads it questions my motives for writing it… When you tell me not to speak these truths and accuse me of striking at the Church of Christ… It doesn’t send me cowering into a corner. It only shows that my post hit close to home and that you’re overstating the things you’re saying. “Always,” “never,” and “everyone” are usually lies. Is it possible that you don’t want the truth uncovered? If you are not perpetuating those harmful teachings, then what do you have to get defensive about? The Church is not harmed by shining the light of truth in the dark corners. It is made healthier by rooting out the evil being done.

Playing God

You played God with your statements, acting as if you could judge the hearts of other people, that you could know what each and every person who reads it thinks/will think of it. God’s shoes are some pretty big shoes to fill. You don’t know me. You don’t know my motives, or what I know and what I don’t. And you sure don’t know what’s going on in churches across America every week. That is, unless you’re present everywhere at once and you can witness what they’re teaching, and unless you’re inside every young person who hears those teachings and can tell what message they receive and what it does to them.

What kind of abuse happens in churches?

Abuse happens in churches sometimes. More than one kind of abuse happens. Financial abuse happens. Sexual abuse happens. Spiritual abuse happens, where people throw their weight around and try to control things that are none of their business. Young girls and women are made to feel less than human because of the chauvinism that still exists in many churches. And, when taught purity doctrine, (many? most?) sexual abuse victims receive the message that they are worthless now. Many Christian books have these teachings in them, so to tell me that I made it up, and just recently, too, is laughable. As of May 27, 2014, Google shows 7,580,000 search results for purity doctrine, and 3,000 for it in this specific context. If I “just made up that term,” as you claim, then I could take credit for all of those search results, but alas, I can only claim two so far. The rest of those webpages were created by other people—many other people. Many, many people have had this same experience, have received this same message, and thousands have written about it. I didn’t “make it up.” It’s real.

Your comment has many incorrect assumptions about me and attacks on me that I think are, to use your own words again, “decidedly unhelpful to anyone.” As if you get to decide for others what is or is not helpful to them.

Helping others who have been hurt

Get to know me a bit and you’ll find out that the purpose of everything I do is to help people. Almost everyone who invests any time in getting to know me comes to that conclusion. Granted, I don’t always help people with a sugary tone. Sometimes helping someone doesn’t mean giving them what they want, but instead speaking some painful truth. Sometimes I fail, but I don’t let that keep me from doing what I can, when I can. I help people directly, one-on-one and in groups, and I help others in other ways, such as through blog posts that might help them realize that they are valuable and loved, no matter what happened to them. Sometimes helping people means quietly holding someone’s hand and letting them work through it. Sometimes helping people means standing up and saying “Hey, this is wrong, and it needs to stop.” As long as I’m able to, I’ll keep at it. I hope you further the cause of Christ as well, in whatever way(s) you’re equipped.