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 hook...it 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 wanted...no, 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.