Forgiveness, Sexual Abuse, Sin, United Pentecostal Church

Forgiveness and Casting Stones

Often over the past week, I’ve caught myself thinking about forgiveness. When is it appropriate to forgive? Is forgiveness necessary? I’m suspicious of the idea of radical forgiveness that is often taught in self-help books, new age philosophy, and some Christianity. I’ve tried it and it has never really worked for me.

For much of my adult life, I’ve tried to forgive the worst crimes committed against me. Everyone told me to do it for myself, I wouldn’t heal without it. It did not feel right at the time and it doesn’t feel right now. Where do we get our ideas about forgiveness? I would argue that our ideas about forgiveness come from our culture’s Christian underpinnings. I have had many Christians tell me that I must forgive because god forgave me. Those types of arguments do not work on me because I am no longer a Christian. They’ve also pointed out to me that I’m sinful and therefore have no right to cast stones. This too has no meaning for me because I no longer believe. I have to wonder where that line of logic ends. So if someone murders my child will I be accused of casting stones if I call out the killer? If a person’s home is robbed are they supposed to stay silent because they have sin in their past? Maybe this rule is only applied to church abuse victims? I do not believe that casting stones is the same thing as calling attention to a problem.

I’ve been accused of being bitter and of trying to destroy a man’s life. I don’t feel that finally having the courage to speak truth to power is being bitter. My actions will not be what destroys his life, his actions set that all in motion many years ago. He continues down the road to destruction by minimizing what he did through referring to it as adultery and not child abuse. I suspect his dishonesty will be his undoing. He claims to have asked for forgiveness years ago, but how can that be so when he cannot even speak the truth about what he did? Those around him seek to protect him from his crimes and part of that is by turning the focus onto me and what I may be doing wrong.

In the end, telling victims that they need to forgive is a way to take the heat off of the perpetrator and focus it back onto the victim. It becomes about whether or not she/he has forgiven and whether or not she/he believes they’re sin free and therefore worthy to call out sin. It gives the victim a task to complete and a way to judge the victim whenever they attempt to speak up for themselves. Using the coded language of adultery instead of child abuse is a way to minimize the crimes of the perpetrator and create crimes for the victim. She/he is now no longer a victim but a sinner just like the abuser, guilty of sexual sin and therefore unworthy to cast stones. Pardon my language but that is some bull $%^&.

Since I started writing this blog I’ve noticed a few things. I am becoming stronger and stronger every day. Through telling my story I have received so much goodwill and understanding from people. By bringing it out into the light and revealing the crime I’ve gained support in a way I’ve never experienced before. This blog has led me to others like me and allies that I would’ve never had contact with had I just forgiven and kept it hidden. I don’t see forgiveness for Steve Dahl in my future. This doesn’t mean that I intend to think about what happened 24/7 and let it consume my life, it means that this happened to me and it was awful and I will never forget. I believe there is a time and place for forgiveness, it comes after getting honest about what you’ve done and trying to make amends. It doesn’t come through victim blaming and minimizing your crimes.

 

 

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Childhood, Depression, Forgiveness, Rapture, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Where Have All Of The Children Gone?

Since I have been writing about my childhood within the church many people have contacted me. Through those contacts, I have had contact with even more people. One thing that has become clear to me is that Calvary Gospel Church (CGC) seems to lose many of their young people. Why does this happen? Is it because of abuse within the church? Sure in some cases but I feel there is more to it than that.

When young people are abused the church tends to minimize the damage and try to cover it up. They do not listen to the victims and they don’t offer any kind of aftercare/compassion when these things occur. Because the police and social services are not involved that pathway to help is not available to the victims either. Those young people are left to twist in the wind and try to make sense of the devastation in their lives. This often leads to depression and a low self-esteem. Victims are made to feel less than and because of that they eventually leave the church.

When the survivors leave, the church writes them off. Time after time I have heard about people leaving and never hearing from the church again. Young people who have spent their whole lives within the church are treated as if they never existed. This has bothered me for years. I don’t know how they can see this behavior as Christ-like. When I left no one came after me. It was like I never existed. What the church often does when someone leaves is they gossip about that person. Eventually, the person in question hears about this gossip and is reinjured and suffers trauma all over again. This makes it very unlikely that the young person will ever want to return to the church.

Questions are often off-limits. When young people go through their teen years questions are natural and should be expected. Teenage rebellion and acting out should also be expected. Within CGC questions and questioning authority is not ok. If you ask too many questions you will be told you have a rebellious spirit. If you are a naturally curious person you will not do well within that congregation. Normal acts of teenage rebellion are often used to label a person forever. Things that all kids do are seen as worthy of a life sentence. If you do anything wrong in the future your past will be brought up as if it happened yesterday.

Mental illness is not treated seriously. Often they will attribute it to sin and tell you to pray harder. They treat the consequences of abuse the same way. If you have anxiety because of their end-time teachings that must be because you are not ready for the rapture. It could not possibly be because those teachings are not healthy for young children to be exposed to. If you are depressed and struggling because of abuse that happened during your childhood they will tell you to forgive and let go. Let god handle it. When that doesn’t work some young people will turn to alcohol and sex to try to quiet the demons. They often leave the church looking for help wherever they can find it because the church did not help and in many cases made things worse.

This brings me back to my original question. Where have all of the children gone? Many of them have left in search of a church that teaches love and grace. Some had to leave and even cut off family members just to save themselves and their sanity. Some, like me, have found other paths that have proven to be healing and helpful. The church seems upset that so many of us are angry. They don’t understand why we can’t just forgive and move on, they feel attacked. I would say they need to look at themselves. They need to ask why so many of their children walk away. They need to take some responsibility for the young lives that grew up in their presence and were influenced by their teachings. If I were them I would ask myself why are these people still in pain? Why are they so angry with us after all of these years? What is my responsibility in all of this? They need to come to terms with the role they have played in creating the situation they now find themselves in.

I’m not surprised so many young people have walked away. For many leaving was the only way for them to survive. For those who got out, I’m so happy for you. For those who are on the fence, maybe one foot in and one foot out, we are over here waiting for you. If you ever decide to really leave those of us who have been out will welcome you with open arms. You won’t find judgment here but you will find compassion and understanding. Once I left the church I found my value and I learned I was worthy of love. On the outside, I found acceptance and understanding. CGC isn’t the only way.

 

 

Compassion, Crime, Forgiveness, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Missing

My story is being read by more and more people. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to stop by my blog and go on this journey with me. I have been receiving lots of feedback and I would like to address some of that here.

I’m finding some Christians feel a real need to defend god. They feel like my story is an attack on god or that I’m somehow blaming him for what happened to me. Often their comments are filled with statements like “don’t blame god” or “god never fails” or “I’m sorry you feel that way, I hope you will come back to god” or “god will provide and protect”. Please understand I have no desire to debate god with anyone. I have made my choices in life and I’m happy with them. I don’t care what you believe as long as it helps you get through life, makes you happy, and doesn’t hurt others. What concerns me is the missing lack of attention to the content of my posts. I don’t think it helps anyone to debate who is worse Catholics or United Pentecostals. Arguing over whether or not god was blamed in my post or whether or not it is all UPC churches is not the issue.

I know this can be hard for some folks to hear but I don’t see how god is the issue at all. Why even bring god into it? In my view, the issue is adults and how they commit crimes and are not held accountable. At issue are the systems that make it possible for people to get away with hurting children, or how children fall through the cracks. Another thing to consider is how the church is a business and men are protected because they are the ones paying the tithes. Rape is happening within UPC churches and some people’s main concern is to preach to me? It worries me that I have laid my soul bare and many don’t want to talk about how we stop what is happening.

I know it can be scary when it feels like something you cherish is at risk. As humans, it is normal to want to protect what you cherish. For some people that is the Christian god, pastors, and churches. I would only ask you to take a moment and just be human, show some empathy and compassion, and be willing to look critically at what has happened, and is continuing to happen and ask yourself if you are ok with doing nothing. Do you feel that praying for me is enough? Will you carry my story with you into the pew this Sunday? Will you ask your church leadership what its policies are regarding sexual assault? If those policies are not in line with the law will you leave that church or take action to change the policies?

Whether we agree on the topic of Christianity and god can we at least agree that sexual abuse of the young is wrong and that those who commit these crimes should be turned into the police? Can we also agree that those in leadership who cover up these acts should be turned into the police? I’m fine with people claiming forgiveness if that is what they believe, but should that forgiveness mean they suffer no consequences? When my children would disobey I forgave them immediately because I loved them, but I also made them suffer a consequence so they would understand that there is a cost to our actions. Shouldn’t these adults suffer a consequence as well? I love my country even if I don’t always agree with those in power. I respect my nation as a nation of laws. When an atheist breaks the law he should pay for that, and so should a Christian. Your house of worship or lack thereof should be of no bearing.

If you have any ideas on how we can work together to change the culture of abuse within spiritual communities I would love to hear about it!

D