By Becky Castle Miller. On church abuse of all sorts. She makes a statement worth your serious consideration: it’s a discipleship issue. People who abuse are not following Jesus. In fact, Becky told Kris and me over lunch once this year some numbers she had researched and one of them was that up to one fourth of your congregation has suffered some kind of abuse.
Jesus cared for the marginalized and the abused and wounded. He had a radar for suffering persons. Jesus was anti authoritarian, she observes. He blessed the poor and peacemakers. He didn’t power up or power over others.
It is therefore completely against Jesus to wounded the wounded by telling them they are suffering like or for Jesus. Or that forgiving the abusers so they can keep on abusing them. Or that they can work wonders by staying with them and suffering in silence.
Becky said something that struck me. There is “disdain for victims” among some, as if in listening to them or giving them choice one will lose power and authority and control. To yearn to control is the opposite of discipleship to Jesus.
Another observation: she suffered abuse as a child, in young adulthood, and as an adult — and at the time didn’t know it was abuse. Only when she studied it did she come to terms with what she had become accustomed to.
What is abuse at its roots? “oppression by leverage.” Abusers use as little force as they have to in order to get their way. They are skilled at this, and the abused learn to read the displeasing in the bodies of those who are abusing them.
They control others instead of learning to control themselves. They keep the abused victim in an orbit of control. And most never stop abusing.
In order to change, abusers need the strength of the Spirit to convict them into true repentance, support in coping with the shame that can come with confession, and help from specialized counselors to relinquish their perceived entitlement to control.
DARVO happens too: when the victim establishes boundaries the abuser will often turn the tables to see himself as the victim. Roles are reversed.
Here’s what I have known about Becky: “I am mama-bear angry about abuse in the church.” And she’s working to nurture trauma-informed churches.
One of the big numbers Becky told Kris and me about is that is very rare for someone to make false allegations. Under 10%, and probably between 5 and 1%, she told us.
Think about this one: “Church leaders should never try to determine whether an allegation is credible themselves and never try to cover it up.”
Questions to ask: “Is what I am doing and saying contributing to the liberation of this victim from the oppression of abuse? Or am I adding to their oppression?”