Saturday, August 01, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 36 - Grace, Forgiveness, True Repentance, and Reconciliation}

I read a critique of an interview a couple of days ago.  It is an interview of a well-known pastor who has stepped down and been accused, and incriminated, of some not-great things.  I'm going to post portions of it here and add my own emphasis to parts...because gracious does it resonate with me in my own situation...and what I see in the church at large.  The incriminated pastor, by the way, wasn't accused of any sexual or physical abuse of any kind.  The abuse that he was found guilty of was an abuse of power...and wrong ways in which he wielded that power that caused much damage (this very sentence could be written about perfectly describes what has happened in our marriage).

The critique:
Having now seen the video I make the following observations. There is a recurring pattern in the way leaders in the Christian church handle cases of domestic, sexual, and spiritual abuse. It is prevalent here in Australia and from what I've observed also in other places. This pattern includes a need on the leader's part to be seen to be showing grace. Unfortunately the grace is nearly always directed to the perpetrator, not the recipients of the abuse. 
There is the desire to move the situation towards a so called reconciliation, at any cost, and so to be done with it. Adequate time to assess the fruits of repentance in the perpetrator is seldom allowed, nor is adequate time given to the recipient of the abuse to be healed from the trauma and recover a sense of safety in the church. 
The third notable component is distortion of the context of abuse. "He only hit you once? Well, we know he was going through things at work that week. We all make mistakes. Your part is to forgive and reconcile." Key words become 'grace', 'forgive', 'reconciliation' and these are all put back on the victim as something he/she must produce, give, show. In a Christian/church context this would be fine if this is what grace, forgiveness and reconciliation were really about, but they are not. That's for another discussion. 
To turn to this particular video interview, all these pattern components are present. Words that are used over and over again are 'grace', or the incriminated pastor, saying his actions and words were 'ungodly, unwise, unhelpful." When he made certain derogatory remarks about women 'he wasn't himself'. Not once does either the interviewer or the incriminated pastor use the words 'abuse' or 'abusive'. It is the elephant in the room. 
The incriminated pastor's 'desire was good, he just got the message wrong."  Tears are shed when losing his former church is touched on, but no apparent connection to losing the church with his behaviour. The statement that God told him to resign from the church, (rather than undergo the discipline his church had requested), because 'a trap had been set' is the statement of a man who may be seeking repentance, but is a long way from attaining it. He had to leave the church because a trap had been set for him? Here the sense of being the victim in all this is exposed. 
Mention is made of contacting pastors he has criticized to apologise and writing letters to them, but no mention of a sense of the magnitude of his spiritual abuse towards the ordinary pew sitter, listener, watcher, reader in his field of influence, which was huge. For his part the interviewer asks some probing questions, but also asks about those who 'stood with you'.  The interviewer mentions he himself has a pretty big platform and wishes to give people a 'leg up onto my platform'. Bear in mind the incriminated pastor is a former megachurch pastor who has publicly spiritually abused the Bride of Christ over several years being interviewed by a popular megachurch pastor who himself has questions over his head about how he has responded to abuse allegations in his own church. The only woman given a voice here is the incriminated pastor's wife who is totally behind him in every statement he makes....after all she has a lot to lose. These facts in themselves should raise red flags for all of us in evaluating this video. 
The incriminated pastor makes a point of saying how angry he gets when 'men abuse women'. Again, another red flag. When a perpetrator gets angry at others for abuse without having recognised at the time of his anger that he was both influencing and condoning the same behaviour, again reveals a heart that may be on its way to repentance, but has a long way to go. 
Finally, on the question that has been raised about whether setting the terms of receiving an apology and reconciliation should be on 'our' own terms...if 'our' is talking about the part of the church that has been on the receiving end of spiritual abuse, whether it be by this incriminated pastor or some other spiritual leader, the answer is absolutely YES. We are not talking here about someone merely offending you at church. We are talking about sustained, systemic, damaging abuse
I do not believe there is anything in the gospels that indicates Jesus requires victims of abuse to reconcile to abusers on the abuser's terms. Conversely, he tells Judas, when he rebukes the woman pouring her ointment, to "Let her alone!". Grace? Yes, but the pattern we are seeing repeated in this video is not grace. Forgiveness? Yes, in time, as the victim heals. Reconciliation? Perhaps, but that will depend on the true fruits of repentance being evident in the abuser. Who is best placed to set the terms of such reconciliation? The one who has been abused. To force any other scenario on them is just piling more spiritual abuse on top of what has already been suffered. 
There are some serious issues here that need deep consideration by the whole Body of Christ. When will the pattern change?
This is so rich.  How many times have I been pushed to just forgive.  "Just forgive, Michawn.  You're going to just have to let go and move forward."

First of all, the behavior that is being forgiven has to be stopped before 'letting go' and 'moving forward' is even possible...which has not happened.  But also, 1) forgiveness happens in time, as the victim heals (so so true; and again, not even possible to start unless the behavior has stopped), and 2) it is all dependent on the true fruits of repentance being evident in the offender...because if the true fruits of repentance aren't there, the behavior continues...and that lands us back to my 'first of all' at the beginning of this paragraph.

About grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, this author went on to say:
I have seen wide misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what true Biblical grace actually looks like. I do know it is not grace to support perpetrators of spiritual abuse NOT to confront and deal with the depth of their abuse [in other words, it is not a grace that lets perpetrators off the forces them to see the depth of their abuse and actions]. It is not true grace or true reconciliation when abuse victims are pressured into reconciling on the grounds that if they don't they are not showing grace or giving forgiveness. The misapplication of these authentic Biblical concepts continue to perpetuate the pattern of spiritual and other types of abuse in Christian churches.
I've written about this a lot, all throughout this blog series.  About the topic of forgiveness (see links in next paragraph)...about how others have pressured me into 'forgiving' when they don't even know what true forgiveness is and entails.  They promote a forgiveness theology that says "forgive quickly and don't ever bring it up again."  Doesn't matter if we're talking about someone accidentally stepping on your toe or someone who betrays, neglects, and slanders you for years causing major harm.  It's all treated the same.  You forgive quickly and don't ever bring it up again.  No discussion.  No 'lingering' on the matter.  It's done, it's over, move on.

That is what happened with Joel's family.  I wrote about what happened with them specifically and what true forgiveness really entails here and here (sidetone:  I love reading back over these blog posts and knowing that all along, Joel and his family were 'together' behind my back; betrayal...the gift that keeps on giving).  Joel's family discussed me for 2 ½ years with Joel and amongst themselves.  They all came up with lots of things that they thought about me...without ever talking to me.  They gave lots of advice to Joel (that he followed) that seriously damaged our marriage.  They said some really horrible things about me (and my family)...all speculation packaged in 'the Lord impressed upon me' type language...and all based on a certain belief system that believes certain very unhealthy things about a wife's role and how she matters not as much as the husband.

Yet, when the time came to try to work this all out, what they, what they demanded...was that I 'forgive quickly and never bring it up again.'  I wanted to talk it out.  They refused.  It was always on their terms...even though they were the offenders.  Which very definitely pointed to what the true fruits of their repentance was...and that there was, in actuality, no fruit of repentance there at all.

Who is best placed to set the terms of reconciliation?  The one who has been wronged.

Sadly, Joel has also always blamed me for the absence of reconciliation with his family.  All along.  He never once stopped trying to pressure me into 'forgiving' his family...on their terms.  He always believed (and still believes) that I was wrong.  It was part of how he justified going behind my back and being in contact with them, being with them secretly, this whole time.  Because I was wrong.  I should have just 'forgiven quickly and never brought it up again.'  Nothing had been worked out or cleared up...they still believed the same things about me that they had believed for 2 ½ years...yet, just 'forgive quickly and never bring it up again.'  I have constantly been accused of being an unforgiving person...first by his family, and then by Joel this whole time.

Oh that Christians really knew the true meaning of grace, forgiveness, true repentance, and reconciliation.


tara loe said...

So why stay? If I was being "abused" like you have alleged to be and so unhappy, why not divorce? If you're going to stay stay and be happy. Having gone through divorce, I don't understand why you talk about your husband the way you do. Yes, y'all obviously have problems, but if you deem them as nonfixable then divorce him. Your children should never be involved in all this mess. They should be shielded from it as much as possible. Your children are his children too. Yes they love you but they were a gift to Joel as well. I'm not at all belittling you or your feelings. But how can you compare the distrust of your husband to a woman being raped or a child being molested? I've read your blog and it's yours but there are many things I disagree with. This definitely being one of them. I agree you were hurt and you want to stand up for yourself but there's absolutely no comparison. I've had both done to me. Also been lied to as a spouse. It's definitely no comparison!! Also, in previous blog posts Or maybe Facebook post I read how you loved so much, when talking about Christianity, well I agree we are supposed to love. I do. I love all people. Blacks, whites, Indians, Mexicans, straight people, homosexuals, even my ex husband. Yes we're divorced!! Our marriage ended. Where is all the love you speak of in the homosexual post? Does your husband not deserve this Christian love you so rampantly speak of? I'm not taking sides. I've only seen your posts. I'm just stating my position and my opinion. I love my children more than anything in this world they should be shielded and not in the middle of adult matters. Their children. Not adults. You all are in my prayers!!

Michawn said...

i'll just answer your questions one by one here.

why stay?, you ask. well, we are at the end. i'll talk more about that in posts this week. but, i've stayed this long because, as i told someone on Facebook last week, "i just want to share that the *only* reason i haven't left at this point is that, truthfully, joel has always been a teachable person actually. in this instance, not teachable by me obviously. but, i just keep thinking that if *anyone* would just speak the actual truth to could turn things around. truly though...he's always been teachable. i really do still believe he would still be teachable. it would take LOTS of work...and lots of renewing of his mind. but, i think he could/would do it. truly. that's the only thing that still has me here. we're at the end though. if it doesn't happen soon, we'll get the divorce."

why do i talk about all of this? if you don't understand by now, after i've stated the whys over and over and over, then you will probably never understand. but, this touches sooooo many people...the things we are going through, so many others go through. the issues that this has brought up...great big broad issues...they are common. but...nobody talks about them. probably because they will get hammered by people like you, lol. but, i'll take the hammering (and i have...plenty), because talking about it is opening some eyes in a big way to all of these different subjects i'm talking about and have learned through all of this. *it's much, much bigger than me and joel.* i hear daily from people who say things like this, "I hate that you have had to experience this, but it has truly helped me." or, "You are walking in uncharted territory. A place so many have needed to be written out and described to help them thru their battles that they had no one just like u. What you are writing could seriously be a book to be an eye opener for everyone and the 'church' world." a pastor's wife wrote that last quote. she also said this, "People really need to just shut up and really LISTEN to your heart! You are vibrantly expressing it and people still are not getting what you are saying... Blows my mind! Joel needs to seriously wake up! U are not alone and you are deeply loved by God and me! Hang in there." she loves joel. saying that he needs to seriously wake up isn't bashing him or saying bad things about him. she wants the best for him...and waking up to what is going on and what he's doing would be the best for him. she doesn't want him to lose his family.

what i do is not a bash-fest of my husband. i haven't said anything mean-spirited about him...i haven't called him names or said anything hateful or out of anger. i have only said what he has done. those are facts. if it sounds horrible, it's because what he is doing *is* horrible. these are horrible things he's doing. if people get the 'wow, i can't believe she's saying that' feeling when they read my stuff, what they should actually get and be thinking is 'wow, i can't believe he's doing those things.'

as someone said to me yesterday about me speaking out, "it's not that you hate him, it's not that you are badmouthing him or the church or anyone...but, you see the wrong. you lived with it quietly for a long time hoping that it would change. it didn't change and nobody did anything. so, now you are doing something about it. and it needs to be done. you don't hate your husband or any group you've spoken about...that is clear. but, you are willing to call these damaging things out and say 'this is wrong. it has to change.'"

Michawn said...

abuse is abuse is abuse. it just is. do a little reading. but not just reading the research, i've spoken to *many* abuse victims...physical and sexual as well. it's all damaging. and the perpetrators all use the same sorts of tactics. they just do. and *that* is the main point that i've drawn out in what i've written. it's all the same tactics...and it's all majorly damaging in the end. many who have been physically/sexually abused *and* emotionally/mentally abused actually say that it is the emotional/mental that is most damaging. i don't say that personally...because i haven't experienced each type of abuse. but, to hear those that say that, it just proves what i do say...that it is all so very, very damaging...and for a long time. can say there's no comparison. you can have that opinion if you would like. but, it's not backed up by any research or even personal testimonies. i promise.

and lastly, my children are just fine. they have learned and grown so much. and i'm not sure what you think they are 'in the middle' of. i think maybe your worldview is a little small if you think that there's not a way to keep them involved and aware of the hard things of this world, even some of the specifics of their parents' hard (right now) marriage. we have incredible discussions about all of this. why? because i don't bash their daddy. do we discuss the things he's done and the wrong things he believes? yes. it's important that my kids know the right things and walk on the right path in life...and don't follow down that wrong path that their daddy is on. that is wisdom to discuss those things. but there is no bashing involved. just facts and lessons from those facts. doesn't mean they don't love him. but, they know he is wrong.

you have to be able to see the big picture. when people can't see the big picture, they do fall into bashing and being unloving and speaking in an unloving way about their spouse. what i've done in my writings has been speaking out about the facts...and the kinds of big-picture issues in marriage, in the church, in society at large that those facts point to. no opinions, no badmouthing, no name-calling...just facts. horrible facts, yes. but, the ill feelings should go to the person who does those things that the facts are about...not the person who has been mistreated and finally tells those facts. the 'you shouldn't do that' thoughts and words should go toward the person who is committing these acts in the first place...not the person who refuses to just sit back and let those things happen and finally starts to talk about it.

why do i talk about it instead of just being quiet and getting a divorce? because someone should be able to expose the things that are being done to them and others come to the rescue. that is the way the church is supposed to work. that is the way community is supposed to work. that is the way family is supposed to work. has that happened here? not at all. but that is what is *supposed* to happen. that is what is *right.* instead, everyone shoots the messenger.

but, this messenger will not stop bringing the message.