The other day I posted this article – https://sojo.net/articles/courageous-leadership-actually-vulnerable-humble-belonging. It brought out very strong emotions because it articulated all too well why I walked out on church almost 2 years ago. I was surprised by how betrayed I felt by Bob Goff being mentioned in the article. Here is what was said:
We also need his fellow Boomer brothers in ministry, men such as Bob Goff (who wrapped Hybels in a bear hug and led a standing ovation during the Willow Creek “family meeting” back in March where Hybels called the accusations against him “flat-out lies”) and others, who have enabled or papered over Hybels’ offenses to pull a 180. They all need to come tell the truth — the whole truth — about the rampant culture of abusive power in our churches, or they need to step aside.
I had such strong emotions that I had to talk it out with Jake. Why am I always losing my shit? I know it seems obvious why one would be angry, but my anger is directed in a different direction. My anger is not solely at the actual abuser. I am angry with the nice people trying to balance the equation – always. The people who could help create the change more swiftly. The men who could help women have a safe environment, but just won’t speak. They will do all the good things in the world, but yet – won’t speak. The silence is betrayal of the highest order. Sometimes there is no balance. There is truth and we must live that truth. Will there be a cost, yes. Is that cost worth it? Yes.
I am going to flip flop my time frame of my realization I have experienced abuse with church. I am going to start with the Trump sex tape – my Facebook status said rape instead of tape, also true. I was astounded by the silence of my brothers. Shoot! Sisters were even defending him because nothing could possibly be worse than Hillary. Too many white women voted for Trump. That is a shame. The vote did not have to go to Hillary, but Trump should clearly have been an absolute no for all of us. Everything about Trump was against the christian witness – no repentance, sexual assault, xenophobic, racist, has not concept of morality, love of money — the list goes on.
After that tape came out, I was shaken to my core. I was also dealing with another sexual assault case in my own personal life. People were not acting right. We seem to not understand abuse – or care to change it because we like the abuser. We don’t know the victim, so easier to demonize them. The apathy in my personal life and what I saw in the political environment matched.
After the tape released, one of my friends wrote this as his status. “Come on guys. You know we all have talked like this before. We all say we want to raise boys to never say these things, but boys will be boys in the locker room.” I literally lost my breath. People I knew and respected were liking this status. I commented – “My boy won’t. He is going to know he is good, and that women are not objects to talk about or grab (his words said he did it!). He can control himself.” The responses by these white conservative christian value men were abusive. They mocked me for thinking my son will be different. Then they berated me about Hillary saying “She let her husband run around on their marriage”. I said -“Excuse me? Let him run around? So you are saying Trump is not responsible for Trump, but Hillary is responsible for her husband?” His dad went in cruelly on me. He eventually said, “I will see you at the polls.” I wanted to say, but refrained, “I will be at the polls, and you better hope to God you don’t see me.” Honestly, it was probably best for my safety. These were friends. Not me arguing with strangers on the internet. People I knew in my everyday life who would do anything for us. At least I thought. I looked at Jake and asked, “What is this? 1950?”
Then Beth Moore spoke. Praise the Lord! We needed a respected conservative voice to speak. Turns out – she is a victim of sexual abuse too. She knew she could not stay silent. Later on she wrote this blog post https://blog.lproof.org/2017/12/why-consent-isnt-all-there-is-to-it.html that helped me realize I have experienced sexual abuse. I took it on as my own fault, but we were not two equally consenting parties. One had more power and used it all the time on me. It was emotional abuse, and when he was done with me I felt like I had thrown my life away. All I wanted was to keep him. I had gotten to a point I would do anything. I was unrecognizable. Here is the section that opened my eyes to my own abuse:
Countless women and girls (and boys) consent to sexual advances they do not welcome or want and that scar them for a lifetime. Or sometimes they consent to one thing and get something completely and disturbingly different. They do so for the same reason I did. They feel enormously pressured, extremely unprotected, overpowered and, at times, utterly powerless. I well remember feeling something akin to paralysis. The word “no” was not even in my vocabulary. The boundaries around my life were bulldozed early and by a bully, I might add, because, while not all bullies are sexual predators, all sexual predators are, in one way or another, bullies. There was no manual within my reach about how to rebuild those crumbled boundaries.
After that I never wanted to return to church. I had broken the worst rule you could break – sexual purity. Our purity culture is from the devil! I could not sign any purity contracts. “I Kissed Dating Good-Bye” was not a book I could live by. The weird thing is though, I did trust God’s forgiveness. I did not trust my own, and I certainly did not trust this story with my fellow brothers and sisters in the church. I was going to church hearing sermons like this – if you are having relations outside of marriage, you are cheating – even if you don’t have a partner currently. You are cheating on your future spouse. I am like great, so when I find someone I have to say, “Hi. I am Lindsay. Just so you know right away, I have already cheated on you.” I could not breathe. Also, why could I not be the kid that never listened in church?!
I got to college, thankful for a new start. I wanted to believe I could be innocent again, all was not lost. A really great (so I thought) friendship sprouted between me and another guy. I kind of liked him, but he wanted to stay friends. We were really close and did almost everything together, but something happened that was absolute betrayal-not with me. Thankfully, we were not in a relationship so I ran the Hell away. I recognized his behavior from the guy I dated in High School. Then he started calling me all the time. He wants to go to church. He started carrying my bags for me to class. I wasn’t giving into this, but I knew I had to take him to church. That is the Paige Patterson way–I had no idea. Later my “friend” comes over uninvited one night and starts grabbing me. I had to push him off of me. It was so scary. He did stop, but the grabbing and groping had already been done. I felt so little, and so inhuman.
There was also another instance where one of my girlfriends set me up with another guy. We went to the lake and had a great time. But later I looked out the window of the car and saw them making gestures with their hands talking about my body.
When I watched Patch Adams and listened to Coryn cry about how she hated men so much, I was bawling with her. I got it. I wanted friends, but I felt like I kept finding friends that saw me only as an object. It is heart breaking. I told Jake I fell for him because he was not raised in church. He was one of the good ones. He was good just for the sake of being good.
I do want to say when I really felt like I wasn’t going to make it, there was a minister that did help me. The College Minister at the Church of Christ was fabulous. There are these moments that I have experienced in church, even in the fundamentalist days, that kept me going. He literally saved my life.
Now back to current day with the political mess, and a different sexual assault issue I am dealing with. This time I had read enough books and listened to enough good voices that told me to go ahead and fall apart. Glennon’s words – “Go through your pain. Pain means you have loved.”
When I finally laid down in the green pasture, I started hearing a new story with scripture-one my heart longed to hear. I was finally hearing the love story. I also noticed we weren’t getting this liberation story at church. Nor do many churches in our area tell this story. Jesus wasn’t so much concerned about personal sins as he was the systemic sin. One we are all participating in. I was still falling apart, but something new was happening in me too. Every minister I ever had showed up when I posted I am not ok. I was even breaking down crying in public. When I started rising again, I noticed they were no longer there. People are generally good when you are down, but don’t know what to do when you rise again and are different. I was ready to take on these justice issues, but the church wanted a balanced conversation. The Silence was killing me on things we should never have been silent on – The Sex Tape, blatant racism, xenophobia, money – all things the Bible is actually clear about. This is why the Bob Goff part hurt me more than anything from that article, because it is what we all so often do. We believe the abuser. We know them. They are our friend. We also try to avoid speaking. We think our good work will cover it. Words heal too. I never told anyone in church my story because I did not feel it was a safe place to reveal what had happened to me. I wasn’t wrong.
This is why my joy is so abundant finding Wilshire. There are men here that not only validate my voice – they see me completely equal as a partner in Ministry. They want to help me make that happen. The thing is, I did not know I wanted to be a minister by vocation – they noticed it–Four of them! They are encouraging and preaching sermons with me in mind, or sending me their sermons. It has healed my soul in ways I did not know still hurt so much. I am also discovering my life story since I have joined. I have not thought about this story in ages. We were raised to hold it in and just move forward. I always felt I was bothering ministers when I would email or take up any of their valuable time. So when I started emailing the staff at Wilshire, I always apologized in my opening sentence because I had it in my head I am a burden. George asked me why do you always apologize when you send emails. He said, “I like reading your thoughts. You are free now”. One of many examples I can give about the healing power of words. Speak! Also, go through your pain. Your story will liberate someone else. Beth Moore gave me words for my own abuse.