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.

 

 

Leadership, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Bitter

Calvary Gospel church has responded. We have been called liars, bitter, and they have accused us of lashing out at the church to bring about its destruction. In every way, they have sought to discredit what we are trying to say. They claim that they have always reported incidents of abuse, but those of us who were victims know this isn’t true. The most common thing I have heard is that we should just let it go and give it to god. We are going about this the wrong way, and that we should get on with our lives.

Being called bitter is a common thing within the UPC. If you ever decide to leave or disagree with the leadership it is because you are bitter. If you are sick and you don’t understand why god hasn’t healed you, it could be because you are bitter. If you say a crime has been committed against you, you should be quiet because you sound bitter. Calling someone bitter is what is used whenever they want to shut you up and control you. Well, that trick doesn’t work on me anymore.

The first person I told about my abuse was Shannon Ramsey. She has passed away and that fact makes me very sad. I could tell as soon as I told her she was horrified, but she was only 19 and I’m sure she had no idea what to do. She went home and told the couple she lived with, Jeanette and Chuck Cox. Jeanette told Shannon to tell me if I did not tell the pastor she would. So then I went and made an appointment with the pastor. Pastor Grant knew because I told him and his wife Darlene knew because he told her everything. Here are the names of the other people in leadership at that time. Roy Grant, the pastor’s son was my youth pastor. Jim Rutherford was my school principal. George O’Neil was a minister and was also the one who baptized me. Felix Crowder was also in ministry, focused on music and the campus ministry. John Seidl was just getting started in ministry at this point. Chuck Cox was a Sunday school teacher and aspiring preacher. Rich Thomas and William Thorpe were both elders at that time, and I know there were other elders I just cannot recall everyone who was in service at that point. These are the men who were in leadership when my abuse happened. Their wives knew too but would have had little power to do anything, unless they broke away from church leadership and went to the cops. I’m not naming them because I’m bitter, I’m naming them because some of them are shifting blame. They were the adults and by going along with leadership they helped cover up a crime.

To understand the scope of this you have to understand how the church works. Everyone knows most everything about everyone else. Gossip is a fun pastime in a religion where most everything is forbidden. There is no way a couple would split up, a man (who was very popular within the church) would just up and leave, and a teenage girl would disappear without people wanting to know what the heck was going on. The kids may not have known but many of the adults did. They may not have known all the details but they knew enough. Because of the control, the leadership has over the congregation I’m sure none of those people would have felt safe stepping out and asking questions or deciding to act on their own. Straight and honest answers are never given so all that is left is gossip and innuendo.

They are not giving straight answers now. They are blame shifting, lying, and victim shaming. They are trying to make us shut up by saying things like, they are monitoring our Facebook pages etc…This makes me laugh a little because my Facebook page is locked down tight. I don’t think I’m their target though, they are targeting victims still in the church, or with family within the church, they are targeting those on the fringes who they fear might start talking. They are doing what they have always done, controlling through fear and intimidation, and with a sprinkle of damnation on the side.

Many of the people listed above are still at Calvary Gospel. Some have spun off and are now running their own churches. Roy Grant my former youth pastor is now the main pastor, John Grant has been granted the title of Bishop. I have to wonder if those who have moved on and started their own churches took with them the lessons John Grant taught them about how to deal with abused children? Roy certainly has, he is showing it in his response to us. No one who is currently in leadership has reached out to me or the other victims. No one has offered support or asked any questions. They are not any more interested in hearing our stories now than they were in hearing our stories when we were young. They just want us to shut up and stop being so bitter. I speak only for myself when I say my days of being quiet and shutting up are over. I have only begun to fight. I’m not bitter I’m awake, aware, and calling them out on their sins.

D