Home Should Be Safe


Another one bites the dust// And another one gone and another one gone// Another one bites the dust (Deacon, popularized by Queen) That sentiment sounds so harsh and uncaring but it has floated and flitted through my mind this last month as I mulled and contemplated the results of the independent study conducted about a prominent apologetic speaker and leader in the modern evangelical world, Ravi Zacharias. You can google all the gory details if you want but it is the exact same story line we've seen and heard repeated ad infinitum -- ever since I can remember-- when this type of thing occurs. The patterns are so obviously identical that no excuse rendered as an explanation means anything.


Money and fame bring a man shame// Ain't' no doubt about it (Rinehart, Rinehart & Tozer, popularized by NeedtoBreathe) That song lyric has also echoed in the recesses of my brain as I have thought about the predatorial actions of one 'religious' man, the abjection of duty that his two religious governing bodies provided (over the ten plus years that he allegedly abused) and the modern evangelical Christian & church movement's response and reactions.


I've thought about 'it' every single day for 28 days. I've read all the articles. It's haunted my sleep, brought up my own memories of rankling with Christian institutions and reminded me that the universal or local Church Home that so many abuse victims wish to turn to and be comforted by is simply not safe.


And that is simply a crying shame, if you are prone to crying any more about these issues. Which I'm not, but Home should be safe. The gathering of two or three should be where Jesus is--not where powerful over-sexualized and underdeveloped men go to harness and monopolize their power.


Some people were surprised. I was not. Some people erroneously thought it was only about sex and advised dialing back to an overzealous purity culture. I did not. These actions on the part of a celebrity, this celebrity among a long list of celebrities, was and is about power. He got away with it because he could. He got away with it because no one was paying attention, and to those that were--they were maligned and tamped down by a culture that must keep their celebrities famous at the cost and expense of the will of God. 'For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;' (the apostle Paul, popularized by the Bible)


I've been around the block. Born into a church-going family, I remember being carried around the church as a toddler to sing 'Zacchaeus' to the after-service crowd. I was dedicated, baptized, and called to a life of ministry in the church. There was Sunday School, youth group, Christian camp, Christian high school, Christian college,

missions trips and Christian homeschool groups. For sixteen years, I labored alongside my husband as a pastor's wife. We faithfully and joyfully served 4 congregations and were forever impacted positively by Bison Hunter and White Hair, Grandpa-ish and Little Doll. We attended conferences, denominational meetings and learned all the inner workings of it all. I've eaten my share of potluck dinners, carry-ins and meal trains. (I can still taste the homemade noodles and sugar cream pie) I've led Vacation Bible School, the church nursery, Bible Studies, kids clubs and small groups. I've sung in the choir (and the fat lady did sing). I've had a front row seat to para-church ministries and have volunteered regularly on their behalf. When it comes to resumes about church work, I have some street cred.


And, I've been around the block. Mr. Magoo was a Dr. 'Of Something Religious', a Christian school teacher, a pastor, a camp director, a missions board director and identified as a christian. Small c. He groomed me in the context of Christian environments and institutions and sexually harassed & abused me over 3-5 years as a vulnerable teenager. I am grateful it stopped when it did. I don't want to discount my story, but in reality it was a more easily treated cancer than the horrors of my sister & brother survivors in the Southern Baptist Convention, Sovereign Grace Ministries or Mamou. The cancer in those places has utterly ravaged its victims and the true stories will keep you up at night. On the heels of that, (Un)incredible Hulk violently abused me on a Christian college campus re: intimate partner violence . He graduated with a Youth Pastor Degree while I was sitting at home, encouraged by leadership to drop out and stay out of two semesters of college to give him the freedom to graduate with a ministry degree. That fact alone still makes me crazy. He, too, identified as a christian. Small c. I've had a front row seat to my own abuse and have listened to the stories of the sisterhood, too. When it comes to resumes about abuse in Christian environments, I have some street cred.


Why care // Because obviously you don't (Sadie Speaks, popularized by the indifference in the Church, universal and local) Yeah, I said it. Because I felt this sentiment this past month. I felt it in my bones.


One of my recent counselors listened to my whole story and concluded: "I'm surprised you are still in church." Some Sundays, I am surprised too. Every new instance when a modern evangelical story of abuse makes the headlines, survivors know there are many who don't. For every prominent modern evangelical man idolized for his false spirituality that people race to buy his books, get his autographs and post selfie photos, there are less prominent abusers waiting in the wings sipping a cup of coffee before the sermon. For every victim brave enough to be unbelieved, unheard, untrusted, marginalized, maligned, and ignored after coming forward, survivors know that there are less brave victims waiting in the wings sipping a cup of fear before the reporting. The Catholic community with all its missteps, criminal behavior and hiding has nothing on us, folks. We are contending for a first place trophy in the 'Devastatingly Mishandling Abuse' category in our evangelical movements.


I was brave. Sometimes, less brave. But, I reported because I believed it was happening to other teenage girls. I reported discreetly to the proper authorities, asking nothing in return except a recognition of the truth. In an unnamed Christian environment, I was ignored for one year. I persisted, Following that, I was insulted, lied about, disbelieved, character assassinated and had personal information revealed about me in the court of public opinion on a FB forum. I was harassed on my parents' home phone, at my husband's work and by handlers trying to 'fix' the problem. Then, I was sued for defamation of character. To be clear, anyone abusing others for their personal jolly ruins their own reputation and defames their own name and character. Properly reporting their indiscretions and crimes certainly doesn't put the onus on the victim. Had things gone differently, we could have lost it all--our home. our meager ministry salary; our courage. Instead, he walked away with $10k and I walked away with my voice. I walked away knowing that I did not abdicate my duty to the other teenage girls he was influencing. I walked away a much wealthier woman in faith, but much poorer in trust. My church home, local and universal --a sort of alma mater if you will, was more unsafe. And Home should be safe.


I was brave. Sometimes, less brave. After the abusive relationship with (Un)incredible Hulk ended, one of the first places I attended for solace was Sunday School and Church. I was a broken soul looking for a place to heal. I carried my Bible in. I carried myself in, shrouded with shame. This time I entered with all the street cred I could possibly muster-good church girl broken by abuse. Not one person spoke to me for those three hours of religiosity. I can easily say that it is one of the defining moments of my life. To be able to separate the institution of church from the Jesus Christ in my soul was to meet him personally as the good God who loves and gives that love generously. Home should be safe, yes but Jesus IS the safest place on earth.


I penned this song:


I'm Looking for Love Here


I knocked just once at the front of the door

The church bells rang

And communion was poured

Those stained glass windows really look fine

But the stain on my heart ain't a pretty design


They opened the door just to stare out

Their hearts were closed

And their eyes spoke the doubt

Before they could ask why I looked so confused

I spoke these words so that they wouldn’t accuse


(Chorus)

I said, ‘I’m looking for love here

Can you find it for me?

I am looking for love here

It’s supposedly plain to see

Please open your heart; I want a brand new start

I’m looking for love here.

I’m looking for love here.’



I knocked just once

At the front of the door

The band struck up and the liquor was poured

Those happy hours just aren’t the key

To rid my heart of its sad misery

They opened the door just to stare out

Their red swollen eyes spoke the doubt

Before they could ask why I looked so confused

I spoke these words so that they wouldn’t accuse


(Chorus)

I said, ‘I’m looking for love here

Can you find it for me?

I am looking for love here

But instead I find mockery

Please open your heart;

I need a brand new start

I’m looking for love here…’


(Bridge)

I was tired of knocking

Tired of searching

Tired of crying out

So instead of me knocking

I lived in my restless doubt


And Christ Jesus said,

‘I’ve knocked dear one

At your shut tight door

You’re all locked up

And your soul is at war

Those bars and churches can’t understand

That the love that you need is at high demand

Please open your door

Just to look out

At the Light and the Love I am talking about

Before you can say that you’re so confused

Just let me explain the truly Good News.’


Jesus says, ‘I’m giving My Love here

Will you take it from Me?

I’m giving My Love here

It’s pure and it’s oh so free

Please open your heart. You’ve got a brand new start

I am giving My Love here, I’m giving My Love here…

I’m giving My Love here.