Stop Hate-Watching the Church

Image: Facebook

In the past, I’ve done something called hate-watching, which involved watching the musical TV drama Smash on Hulu every week and tweeting hilariously bad dialogue and plot twists as they happened. The show was such a perfect combination of technically well-crafted accomplishment and bumbling misguided creative direction that it was a genuine joy to watch it slowly fall into itself like a carefully constructed bonfire.

Although it was just a TV show, sometimes I found myself feeling sorry for the writers and actors who bore the brunt of my jokes. It was all in good fun, but it was fun for me. I still struggle with an empathetic impulse toward those who work to make good television and end up creating an object of ridicule.

It’s difficult for me, then, to understand the impulse behind a recent trend that takes a more self-serious and high-stakes approach to hate-watching. Communities like the Facebook page titled “Stuff Christian Culture Likes” (SCCL) have devoted themselves entirely to delivering the latest missteps of evangelicalism straight to our newsfeeds. SCCL represents a growing trend of websites and internet communities that thrive on feeding their readers’ disgust and frustration with the Church.

Take, for example, what happened at SCCL after reporting that Mark Driscoll posted a request for donations to Mars Hill Church and acknowledged they were behind in giving this year. SCCL shared the post with the simple introduction: “Mark Driscoll wants you to give.”

Then the comments began:

“This is what all churches are really about—raking in money,” clarified one comment, providing context. The next comment provided editorial critique: “It’s a poorly written epistle style letter, which deviates quickly.” Two comments later, some helpful marketing advice: “I guess misogyny doesn’t sell?”

I’m all for a little good-natured ribbing. John Piper makes funny hand motions, that sort of thing. And I’m all for calling out Christian leaders for saying dumb things, as Christ and Pop Culture has done in the past with Driscoll himself. But the kind of regular mockery that SCCL manages to pull off, day in and day out, is in a different category.

“Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not,” John Piper sputtered through a mouthful of yogurt.

That is an actual SCCL post, their best shot at a joke about Piper’s well-established views on election. Just to be clear, the joke is that Piper is very old. Implying, I guess, that he is slowly losing sanity, causing him to adhere to the same views he had as a young preacher? I guess that’s it? I don’t even know anymore.

The fact is, communities like these seem to have stopped trying. They no longer appear interested in living up to the challenge of Ephesians 4:29, to speak words that are “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

These groups see themselves as safe havens for those who have been deeply wounded by the Church. I don’t, for one second, want to cast any doubts or aspersions on the claims that the Church has wounded many who visit or frequent these groups.

I have experienced my own betrayal at the hands of the Church, having been fired from a ministry position in a way that was underhanded and undeserved. I have felt the lasting repercussions of that experience. I struggled for years with bitterness toward those involved and still find it easy to go down that rabbit hole if I let myself. Of course, I can’t begin to fathom what it must be like to deal with the much worse sexual and emotional abuse that many have suffered at the hands of church leaders and institutions. I have done my best to empathize with and internalize those struggles. My heart aches for those who have faced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse at the hands of the Church.

I also know how incredibly hard it is to speak edifying language into those situations when you’re the one affected by them. The struggle to maintain a godly hope for the Church and its leaders in the face of intense corruption and harmful teaching is a very real one. I don’t intend to shame and blame victims of these things for finding it difficult to cope when confronted with very real triggers. The Internet is full of these triggers, and it’s no surprise that our always-online lives are full of frustration and bitterness toward those who are going about teaching the Gospel of Grace oh-so-wrongly.

But these Internet communities too often aren’t about healing. Not really. They funnel all of these triggers into one place, providing an opportunity for us to direct all of our rage, anger, and malice at what we have deemed to be rightful and deserving targets. These places of supposed healing become places of malice and mockery.

Online communities like these are more and more common, not just among those frustrated with the church, but also among frustrated ultra-reformed and conservative folk, such as Apprising Ministries. Both sides have their own watch blogs and safe spaces where they are free to rail insults and presumptuous remarks at their opponents without being challenged by outsiders or worrying about having to change the minds of those who disagree. These tactics thrive on outrage, resulting in a divisive and predictable pattern of anger and perceived persecution.

Here’s why I find this trend so frustrating and distasteful: biblical healing doesn’t happen this way. Hate doesn’t solve spiritual problems, and God’s Church isn’t sanctified by mercilessly mocking those who have done us wrong. These groups are hate-watching real-life drama, laughing at all the horribly written lines, mocking each villain’s downfalls, and gawking at bizarre plot twists. But these characters are human beings, whom the Bible refers to as neighbors. These plot twists have real consequences.

At the very least, SCCL seems aware of these concerns. The “About” section on its Facebook page reads:

This forum is for people who have been harmed by Christian culture. This page is a safe space for people who have never had a place where they can speak their true feelings that don’t look pretty. After we get this out (and it often takes awhile to recover from because it was drilled into us for so long) we can emerge with true positivity and hope. It is such a beautiful thing when abuse survivors can offer the world something more than their sneer. Until then, they can vent here. I completely understand if it’s not your scene.

I just want to be completely clear about this: If you are harmed by Christian culture to the point that you have given up on Christianity altogether, I get that. If you find Christian truth claims to be negative and harmful, that’s fair enough. I wouldn’t want to make any claims about how you deal with your struggles. You may do whatever you want.

But groups like these have engendered a culture that identifies as Christian, yet despises the Church. They have led fellow Christians to hate and despise their brothers and sisters for the sake of “venting.” But Christians are held to a different standard, one that results in edification and unity for the sake of the Church. To struggle with that standard is understandable, but to reject it altogether is giving up, on the Church, on the teachings of Christ, and on your own spiritual sanctification.

Scripture doesn’t reject the concept of venting. It has a realistic and tender approach to emotional suffering, and in fact commands Christians to weep when others weep. God knows the Church could use some help with this principle: just as many struggle with bitterness after being victimized, others struggle with the blindness that comes with privilege. None of us should be willing to stay there. That famous commandment to weep with those who weep is meant to be carried out within God’s covenant community, among flesh and blood church members who take it upon themselves to empathize and care for one another.

God does mock and is harsh towards his followers at times, but those are rare exceptions, and redemptive in nature. But we, with all our flaws and frailty, were never meant to be God’s instruments of justice. We are to be instruments of God’s incredible redemptive grace. Turn over all the tables you want, but in the end, all you’ll have to show for it is a God-forsaken mess.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • georgeyancey

    Very well said. I have seen this trend as well and simply did not have the time to intelligently comment on it. Thanks for doing this for us. Perhaps it will also some individuals to reflect on what they are doing.

  • Stuart Blessman

    On the other side, it doesn’t serve the church to sweep the crazy and wrong under the rug. Where’s the middle ground?

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Completely agree. The middle-ground is truth in love.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Looking at history, so much evil could have been stopped or corrected if people would just expose the wrong but do it in love. But stand firm in exposing.

  • Lee Sandy

    “God does mock and is harsh towards his followers at times, but those are rare exceptions, and redemptive in nature.”

    When
    I read through the Gospels, Jesus is pretty harsh and (by our modern
    standards) demeaning to the Pharisees AND the twelve disciples even when
    they’re asking good questions of Him. The frequency of His responses to
    these folks in this way was not rare…

  • Lee Sandy

    Stand firm in exposing…that’s hard…especially when many of our brothers and sisters in Christ like to say that our standing firm is intolerant and bigoted and-by default-not in love.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Few short points:

    1. If Jesus was harsh, then they probably weren’t good questions. That’s kinda the tip-off.
    2. Frequency in the Gospels is a hard thing to gauge given the nature of the documents.
    3. The Pharisees & such were trying to kill Jesus. Harshness is to be expected.
    4. None of this gives us a positive example of brothers disdaining brothers.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Yeah. It’s also hard when our hearts become hardened in the face of what we stand against and forget that our battle is not against flesh and blood, certainly not against our own flesh and blood in the body of Christ, but against principalities and powers. It’s a tough thing.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Exposing the wrongs of churches is necessary. But if it falls short of the necessary and positive correction to the problem, this “diagnosis” is little better than the stereotypical cultural-fundamentalist churches of old, where the pastors railed against sins but offered no Gospel cure.

    Plenty of books have been published diagnosing how terrible churches are (and many certainly are terrible). But without even attempting Biblically grounded cures, these books end up committing the exact same error as reprisal.

  • Lee Sandy

    That does help. Thanks. I’ve dealt w/ a nasty divorce and remarriage of my parents (as an adult) & recently witnessed the break up of a church plant I was very close to (the members weren’t necessarily close to me-and were actually pretty rude to me-but I still loved the concept of the church.) I’m very vocal of my reservations (outspoken) and a lot of ppl in the Church have isolated me to the sidelines in both cases. Its definitely hard not to despise the ppl who were the culprits in both instances.

  • Ben Howard

    I have to say I’m just highly disappointed in this article. I don’t always agree with CaPC (in fact, I probably mostly disagree), but I respect where you’re coming from most of the time. I truly felt as if this article made little attempt to empathize with those who need to voice their frustrations (even in mocking ways) as a way to deal with pain.

    Instead, it reads as an apology for the authors favored Christian leaders when they say things others find offensive. I’ve seen people find healing, solidarity and peace through SCCL. If you don’t see that, you’re clearly not looking hard enough.

  • http://1t412.wordpress.com/ Christina

    I am all for finding solutions to the church’s ills, but I think it’s worth pointing them out even if we don’t have solutions yet. After all, the more people are aware of the problem, the more people can be galvanized to work towards a solution.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Ben, I’m sorry to have disappointed you, but I went to great lengths to demonstrate my empathy for those who are hurting. My point is that voicing their frustrations in this way isn’t the way to heal.

    As far as defending my favored Christian leaders, you’re just incorrect. I’m not a fan of Driscoll at all, which I clarify in the article. Piper is fine, but I’m certainly not making an attempt to defend anyone in this piece. The point is that we all make mistakes, and ought to respond to one another with grace rather than mockery.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    I agree completely, Christina.

  • Ben Howard

    But it can be part of the way to heal. By voicing these frustrations, people in the SCCL community are able to name and voice the places where they’ve been hurt. That often looks very ugly and I understand the frustration of someone who doesn’t feel that.

    Often, I’ve found myself wanting to temper the emotions/vitriol of people in the group. However, I’ve also seen how when that pain is received in solidarity it has a way of flushing itself out and allowing the people in question to find peace and reconciliation with the church and community.

    In reference to your second point, I appreciate you pointing that out. It was helpful as I read through certain sections again.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    I think dancing on someone’s grave and showing disrespect in general is a far cry from voicing frustrations one might have about certain churches or leaders. More importantly, I think the bible teaches that unmitigated hate is sin, and indulging it is harmful not just to the one hated, but to the one doing the hating.

    Scripture isn’t blind to the idea of christians being hurt by other Christians. As a result, it gives us very specific and practical ways to deal with those instances, all of them characterized primarily by grace.

    Thanks for your perspective, Ben.

  • http://loneprairie.net/ Julie R. Neidlinger

    I appreciate what you’ve said here.

    I used to comment on the “watchblogs” up until about 5 years ago. Whether what they were pointing out or “discerning” or whatever word they wanted to use, making it the sole focus changed them (and me). It was ugly, we became ugly, and it fed itself. We assured ourselves that Jesus became angry at the Pharisees, and had all of these reasons why it was OK.

    It was not OK.

    It was rarely even valid, by the time we got done. There are few uglier places to go than a Christian discernment site’s comment section. I finally left the whole scene when I had that wrath turned on me and I realized what it was like to be misunderstood and taken out of context and all things in between. There is nothing like having a bunch of Christian men, for example, dismiss you as a “ugly angry old pathetic single woman” and try to validate it with scripture. You don’t arrive at that extreme reaction immediately, but you do get there, comment by comment, until nothing about it is Biblical, but just pure hate.

    There are other ways to point out needed course corrections.

  • http://caldwa.tumblr.com/ Andrew

    “Well established views on election?” If by well established you mean that people are very familiar with Piper’s stances, then fine, but I think in this instance, SCCL is calling out what (she) sees as definitively not the gospel (a stance with many people agree), so how is that “old”?

  • Jordan

    Views like Piper’s should be shamed and condemened as the systematic theology from which he draws his doctrine and his teachings on election put G-D in a footrace with satan for the title of most evil being in the universe (with G-D winning).

  • Lewis

    This really comes across as a big Jesus-juke, almost as an inference that if people don’t recover from religious abuse or what have you in a manner you agree with, then they’re wrong.

  • Chuck Steinhilber

    “Online communities like these are more and more common…” But you targeted one. That doesn’t seem fair.

  • Martin Browne

    I agree with a lot of this article; it is important not to be antagonistic for antagonism’s sake.

    Personally the reason that motivates me to do my own ‘hate-watching’ is precisely my love for the Church, for and God. When I see people like Driscoll or Piper or whoever doing what I would consider harm to the reputation of Christianity and the Gospel, I want to call it out so I can distance myself from it and hope to show people that they do not represent the entirety of Christianity. It is because of my hope that people will find God that I want to direct them to avoid bad teaching and leadership.

    However I am aware that it can also become fun to just pick on people who you consider foolish and realistically Christians are called to be merciful and forgiving. I think some times I have acted out of the perceived merits of mockery rather than out of desire to protect others from bad teaching. I believe it’s always useful to have people keep us in check like this article has.

    “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” – Nietzsche

  • SCCL-er

    Not all of us on SCCL “identify as Christian,” so I wouldn’t harp on too much about how “we” are harming Christianity by not being edifying or some such jargon.

  • SCCL-er

    I’m a complete agnostic, I read SCCL and empathize with people who see what horrible harm is being done in the name of a God I can’t bring myself to care about, and I want that culture (not the actual, heartfelt religion, the CULTURE – the two are NOT SYNONYMOUS) brought into the light and scorned loudly and with vitriol.

  • Chris Naish

    I’ve re-written this comment several billion times. Trying to figure out how to reply…

    You’re wrong, dude. You just don’t get it.

    SCCL isn’t about tearing the church down or tearing Christianity down. It’s about empowerment, and if you actually looked at it as opposed to using it as fodder, you would’ve noticed that.

  • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

    Your post makes me angry.

    You have made it quite clear that when people see theology rooted in a systemic problem in the church -a problem that let to abused people, wounds, bitterness- we had better be careful to not call it out in a way that could be perceived as mocking. Or, God forbid, share it with people who could possible take issue, anger, and resort to mocking it themselves. This is a cold shoulder and another “sit down and behave” to people who have serious issues with the church.

    You want to stop the “hate-watching”? You want the response to these things to change? Then help the church reform, away from these things that we who love Jesus end up hating because of their wounding, abuse, and disregard for the humans they are called to love.

  • http://www.lightsinthedarkness.com/ Mike

    Ditto

  • Adam Heffelfinger

    I’ve been a reader of SCCL for awhile now, and have engaged on a couple of occasions. I have not personally been hurt by The Church, but left the faith for a time for my own reasons. (I’ve since returned).
    I think that SCCL’s reason for existing is two fold, and I think that different commenters go to it for different reasons.
    Is it a Daily Show-esque mockery fest, filled with post after post pointing out the worst (and objectively, perhaps sometimes not all that bad) of Evangelical Culture? Sure.
    Is it ALSO a place where real solace can be found, where real grappling with one’s Church-inflicted injuries takes place? Yes. It is.
    Many of the people who visit SCCL are in a church, I’m near certain its FOUNDER is. We are simply in churches that, we believe, look more like the Biblical ideal of church than the buzzword heavy churches we (I think rightly) skewer.
    I think that the pride, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and utter lack of humility among some in the Evangelical world is an absolute cancer. It’s off-putting, it’s graceless, and though consumerist, western ideas of church growth seem to indicate that whatever these kinds of places are doing is “working,” it’s also injuring untold numbers of people daily. And SCCL is an antidote for that.
    It’s a curse-word filled, atheist infested social media collective, and yet I’ve described it in the past as a sacred space.
    I stand by that.

  • Alan Noble

    Yes, Rich is absolutely saying that there are inappropriate ways of criticizing the church. If it’s not done out of and with love for your neighbor, it is categorically wrong. We can disagree about what that looks like, but I hope we can agree that there are loving and unloving ways, Christ-like and not-Christ-like ways to critique.

  • http://ryanrobinson.ca/ Ryan Robinson

    Yes, a huge piece of Jesus’ ministry was about calling out how people had gotten so caught up in maintaining the status quo through religion and politics that they have forgotten the more important parts of the law like (restorative) justice.

    Look at the OT prophets, too. It’s no surprise that a lot of Christians with earthly power generally ignore them or reinterpret them to only be about the past or the future. Some would even argue that the real definition of a prophet is somebody who calls out harm committed by those in power in the name of God. The reality seems to me that we need a lot more prophets right now in the Western church and a lot less Pharisees.

    That to say, sometimes it takes deconstructing something dangerous before you can get something positive in its place. In my experience, SCCL aims to provide this essential voice. Yes, it is problematic if you stop at deconstruction – Jesus didn’t stop at dismantling the power-holders of his day but did offer something better. There are probably some in SCCL who do want to just stop at venting, never work toward something better, but I’ve never gotten that impression of Stephanie herself.

  • Martin Browne

    I really believe the article was very clear in taking time to emphasise how legitimate the pain of those who have been hurt is. Paragraphs 9, 10 & 11 are literally all and only about that.

  • rstarke

    Richard – this gets to the heart of a tricky issue so well! It seems like Psalm 73 models the right approach, and especially direction, in dealing with justified anger at wrong done. Asaph directs his honest lament and anger *upward* to God, rather than outward to other people. And in that very process of concentrated, honest wrestling with God, he realizes that had he done the OT equivalent of starting a survivors website, he would have “betrayed the generation of (God’s) children.” Even in his anger, his heart is still for protecting God’s reputation with His people. As he spends time communing with God, he remembers that it is God who puts an end to everyone who is unfaithful to Him.

    I had a ministry friend who experienced what you did, Richard. He was utterly unjustly dismissed from the only job he’d ever had, after over twenty years of faithful, fruitful ministry. The economic and relational fallout was awful. But instead of launching a website or a letter campaign, he quietly made the appeals that he could, and prayed and prayed and prayed. His testimony to me, and his family (not all of whom are saved), was one I’ll never forget. (He’s now in a different ministry, even better equipped to love and serve people walking through similar circumstances).

    It’s not that we don’t use *any* legitimate means, like the courts for example, to plead our case. But like Asaph, we must orient our defense around the only One who is ultimately our defense, and remember that it’s He who upholds us, not us.

  • Evidence2Hope

    Thing is, we’re human and humans react quite ferociously when they’ve been hurt. , We can’t all be calm and considered all the time, we’re not Vulcans or robots; I need to vent and rant and its not about rationality it’s about feelings and just letting it out. I’m not a regular contributor of SCCL but when I read the comments, I can identify and empathize with the pain many have. The vast majority is quite measured compared to what has been dished out. The internet has redefined community and if groups like SCCL help, then great.

    The church has massive problems and the theology espoused by many Christians damages people and it is right to get angry about it.

  • aar9n

    This remembers me of growing up in the church, when someone pointed out a problem in the church, they would be thanked for bring it up, but if they did it again they would be reprimanded for being bitter and tearing down the house of god cuz we are all sinners saved by grace the church can’t be perfect the enemy is using you la la la. This article is a prime example of the christian culture I’m glad I’m no longer a part of. Props to SCCL.

  • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

    So why is the pressure on the self identified angry, wounded, and abused to be more Christ like?

    Would you ask a battered wife to respond to her abuser more loving and less anger?

    I get what you are saying, I do. And I agree to a point. But the issue I take here is this: you are telling people that the emotional actions they have to the systemic issues in the church are wrong and that they need to fix how they respond to those whom have hurt, shunned, and dehumanized them.

    This isn’t just some one time issue; these are things that have shaped the lives of humans. You are telling people in need of reparation and restoration that they better behave and respond rightly otherwise they are still wrong.

    I’ll say it again: if you want a different response from the wounded then you better ask the church culture to do some reformation and autopsy.

  • Stephen M.

    Oh yes, why isn’t that Stephanie Drury more edifying? She’s so bitter. So, so very bitter. And how dare she mock, in such a bitter way, such a damaging theology from a guy who thinks tornados are caused by gay people. I think it’s time this Stephanie Drury finally takes a good long and hard look at what is coming out of her tweeting mouth. As Scripture says, always edify, even those who are causing much damage, don’t worry about wolves in sheeps clothing and never question mega-church pastors, for lo, they bring in the money. I think thats in Galations. Or maybe 2 Peter, I can’t remember. Good word brother!

  • Martin Browne

    Ironyfest2k13: You could really have made that comment in a much less dicky way :/

  • KR Taylor

    You may not believe that it is happening, but *I* am personally finding a tremendous amount of healing w/ SCCL. I grew up PK, w/ a father both in the pastorate, and at the top level of the SBC. Harmed by the local church and those in it, and by the broader Christian culture, I left at age 12, saying, “If these people are Christians, and represent Jesus, I want no part of it.”

    I returned in my early 20′s, and found it was still no better. Multiple churches, multiple abuses, multiple hurts, and I left again for about another 10 years or so. Most recently I left a church I had been at for 5+ years. I thought it was different. I thought, for the first time, I had found a home… and then a cowardly, egotistical, prideful “pastor” turned wolf when questioned about things he had done wrong, and abuses he had allowed one congregant to another. Not being able to withstand being called out on his actions, he began abusing and misusing scripture as a bludgeon against us.

    Same old, same old, same old. There is nothing new under the sun. And once again, I am without a church home, at age 43, after a lifetime of exposure to the behind the scenes workings of the evangelical church. I’m not sure if I’ve given up or not. I haven’t given up on GOD, or JESUS, but I do believe I’ve given up on the organized church… certainly the institutional, denominational church. There has GOT to be another way.

    Out of love for truth, for Jesus, and for seekers, I will continue to call out the abuses of the church. I find real church w/ SCCL and other similar crowds who have found a way to seek and find Jesus outside of brick walls. Spiritually, I am in a very good place, but that place does not include sitting down, shutting up, and pretending that these things aren’t going on, and watching the church continue to devour both its own and outsiders. I won’t do it.

    I’ve come to a place where I pity those who can only find their salvation within the walls of the institutional church. Jesus isn’t found there. If you haven’t met him outside of that abomination, then you haven’t really met him yet.

  • Stephen M.

    I really should have been more loving, more tender in my venting. Then maybe you would accept me.

  • http://hyattregency.wordpress.com/ Sarah

    “Would you ask a battered wife to respond to her abuser more loving and less anger?”

    John Piper would!

    …I’ll see myself out.

  • Alan Noble

    Why put pressure on the hurt rather than those who caused the harm? Well, because we don’t think it’s an either/or issue. Our response is both/and.

    If you check out our work, you’ll find that we regularly critique the church. If you’d like, I can give you a long list of just the articles I’ve written critiquing evangelicals and their leaders. We agree: the church culture *must* reform, although I suspect we don’t agree on *what* ideas need to be reformed. But at least we can acknowledge that growth needs to happen.

  • Alan Noble

    Except that we are not reprimanding anyone for continuing to criticize the church.

  • Alan Noble

    Except that we do critique and encourage critique of wolves in sheeps clothing and we do question mega-church pastors.

  • Alan Noble

    Well played.

  • Stephen M.

    Thats good. Keep doing that then.

    But lets not demonize everyone and anyone who does it differently or uses satire and/or humor that from ones cultural perspective may be harsh. This article reeks of a very rigid cultural perspective that doesn’t have room for people at the table unless everyone is wearing a suit and tie and those boys get a proper haircut and turn down their music.

  • Lewis

    On what grounds? Making sure they preach sound doctrine? Who cares what doctrine they’re preaching if people are being hurt by what they preach, and I don’t mean “doctrinally” hurt.

    Doctrine over person is a key component of cults, abusive groups, and high demand groups. Placing an emphasis on doctrinal soundness instead of the healing process is a continuation of doctrine over person.

  • Eliska Havelkova

    ad “God’s Church isn’t sanctified by mercilessly mocking those who have done us wrong..”.I really believe that my Bible-studying is leading me (I know I may be wrong, that´s why I use the subjective mood) to the conclusion that it is only and only Jesus that the church can be sanctified by. It is already holy despite the fact that it is full of imperfect people in different meanings of the word. Jesus has sanctified the church by sprinkling his purificatory blood on those who he has called. I seriously doubt that people can, by their behaviour, which would probably be defined as wanted by some parts of the church, sanctify the church. People can sanctify Jesus in their heart. People can edify each other within a church, but sanctification of the Church, I believe, is the mercy of God. Is not church something that God is doing? Is not it the invisible group of followers of Jesus across the denominations? I know, you were making another point, it is just something very deeply on my heart and I hope to be clear, as I am not an english native speaker. I believe mocking people in church does not sanctify, but neither does it desecrate. I mean, are the frustrated broken people really such a threat for the holiness of church? Is it men´s capacity to sanctify the church and does it need to be really so desinfected, perfectly pure? I mean, look at Jesus, he had his hands dirty day by day by touching the untouchables. Are not the people you are speaking about in your article, just those who were not able to keep up with the high set of rules ridiculously and randomly chosen by some church-group to measure up with, thus being identified not to be good enough like a tumor on the body of church and then dissected? For these people, like me, who have left or have been made to leave this particular part of church, such forums as SCCL can really be a place of healing. Because, see, I was tumor, I was cut off, but Jesus still loves me. Jesus has come to look for lost, not the self-righteous pharisees who keep the church superclean. Jesus got his hands dirty and church should be place of all- and sanctifying church, you think you can sanctify the church? I would rather leave that job on God.

  • Martin Browne

    “Would you ask a battered wife to respond to her abuser more loving and less anger?”

    Yes. Absolutely yes. Now I’m not saying that easy, and i’m certainly not trying to advocate that which has been said at times, that “She should say with him because she’s married him” or any of that nonsense. But if she is a Christian then ultimately she has a responsibility to forgive any and every person who has wronged her in any way. And to be as loving as possible. Anger I dont really have a problem with. But Christians are required to be maximally loving and forgiving.

    Being hurt is not just a free license to act in whatever manner you feel like.

  • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

    I think it’s a both and as well. However, when the hurt are still hanging out in fox holes in a war zone (which is how many of us feel the church culture is), we have to change the whole battle ground before you can expect us to feel safe enough to be vulnerable like Jesus.

    I appreciate your comment that you agree the church needs to reform. I agree; we both agree this needs to happen. However, don’t assume that you know what I think needs to reform. Just as I wouldn’t assume that about you. This is a prime example of what I was just talking about. See, you dismissed my statements expressing need of reformation because you are sure that we want different things. You didn’t ask what I want reformed; you didn’t engage with me other than to tell me how my view is incorrect.

    After years of treatment like this, in small and big ways, by the majority of voices from church culture, how can you expect people to not be bitter and angry? Telling them to stop and play nicer is in fact taking the side of the people that have hurt them, because you are (un-intentionally I would imagine) telling us to not rock the boat and that our thoughts are different from yours, and therefore not to be trusted.

    I am not trying to make this personal, so please forgive me if I have given offence. I just don’t want the downtrodden to keep being told to shut up and play nice.

  • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

    Anger and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive.

    Wow.

  • http://1t412.wordpress.com/ Christina

    “I’ve come to a place where I pity those who can only find their salvation within the walls of the institutional church. Jesus isn’t found there. If you haven’t met him outside of that abomination, then you haven’t really met him yet.”

    I am sorry that you’ve been hurt by the Church, and if you find that the online community as SCCL works better for your spiritual life I certainly don’t begrudge you that, but please don’t judge all of us who stick it out in one of the many forms of the institutional church. I can’t speak to how typical my experience is (and I freely acknowledge that, as a heterosexual cisgendered person, I have not experienced that worst that the Church can throw at people), but for every wound the Church or one of its members has given me, I’ve met Jesus there. I found Him in the pastor and his wife who heard that our transmission had broken down and stopped by with a cheque to help us repair it. We had been visiting their church for all of two weeks. I found Jesus in the woman who attended the Church I went to in college who asked how I was doing each week and actually remembered my answers. I found Jesus in the people who helped us move and stopped over with meals and meant it when they said they’d pray for us. Is it the whole story of the Church? No, and it certainly doesn’t make up for the the abuses that need to be called out until they’re eradicated. As I’ve said, I don’t begrudge your need to withdraw from the institutional church to find healing, but that doesn’t mean that those of us who keep sticking it out need pity. We may be finding our own healing in the middle of the physical community that is the local church.

  • Irrelevant

    Absolutely. I don’t identify as such either. This idea that I have to somehow listen to fundie nut-jobs prattle on about what their holy book says, and turn around and follow such idiocy, is why I like SCCL.

    This article is the same wimpy, cop-out writing that caused me to begin questioning all theists. “Hey, if we sound nice to the people we hate, maybe they’ll join our club!”

    Truth is, you genuinely dislike those who disagree with you. I sensed no empathy here, because there wasn’t any true defense of the side you disagree with. Frankly. the word “edify(ing)” was enough to make me almost puke. Nothing is edifying about Christianity, and to borrow Inigo Montoya’s words: You keep saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    So, like SCCL-er here, I detest this notion that we must conform to rules that your congregations don’t adhere to. Some of the most hateful sentiment has been located within the confined spaces of a pastor’s office. Follow your rules, don’t worry about those of us who’ve done perfectly fine without bowing to your imaginary friend.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Curious, do you ever find that some of that mockery is maybe contributing to a mirror-image pride and self-righteousness towards the rest of Christian culture that doesn’t get it? I mean, I say this as someone who likes Stephanie (she makes me chuckle sometimes) and sees some of the point of what goes on. That said, I mean, isn’t there a danger that some of this isn’t the airing of wounds, but their toxification?

  • Margaret Marquez

    maybe the church is being ripped on because its not really the church anymore

  • Drew Dixon

    The point of this article is to say that what you describe SCC as, “a Daily Show-esque mockery fest,” isn’t healthy communication. The goal of such mocking seems to me to be to tear down and ridicule rather than to correct.

    That’s the problem. If you love someone, offer them correction. If you don’t love them you will just mock and ridicule.

    If I thought that by and large, SCCL was trying to help churches correct oversights and point out unbiblical practices, then I would be on board. I think maybe that was the point early on, but at some point it turned hateful and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

    The past abuses, missteps, and prideful remarks of the church don’t justify hating it.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Agreed that we should point them out, even if we don’t know the solutions. But we should want those solutions, at least in theory. From some (not all) sectors of the-church-wronged-me cause célèbre, people seem content to believe that repeating the problems or verbally abusing those who once abused them is the same as a solution. It may be a step toward healing — even the freedom to laugh at the nastiness — but it is not the same as healing itself. For what we should at least hope for more so that we may find forgiveness — not pretending that God’s justice doesn’t exist, but that He in His perfect justice will avenge every wrong one way or another.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    I’m new to CAPC and to that FB group. Maybe you can help me get this.

    Who then is being “empowered”?

    Per the classic Marxist understanding of power, it seems like another way to repeat the very same religious “empowerment” that caused the abuses — only in reverse, and only to reverse the cycle of oppressors/victims.

    Another question:

    What application has “the abused can themselves become abusers” potential truth have here? If the critic responds “this has no application whatsoever, and you don’t understand our hurt,” it seems he or she may not know the true causes of spiritual abuse — similar to the spiritual abusers who just happened to arrive earlier and level up faster in this game.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    You don’t know this writer, then. :-) I’ve only worked with him for a few weeks and I can confirm this is a stereotype.

    Alternative? Heed to the wisdom of all your favorite fantasy good-versus-evil movies: Beware taking actions that make you become like your enemy. If you kill him you’ll be like him.

  • Stephen M.

    My enemy isn’t the Daily Show.

  • FHC1990

    Oh wow. Whilst I totally agree that the tone in which ‘hate-watching’ is conducted is often distasteful, there is something I feel is missing in this article. The fact is, it’s not as though spaces such as SCCL are for Christians who were hurt by ONE particular church, but for people who see unhealthy patterns in Christian culture. SCCL helped me to put a name to some of the things which I see, and I am able to laugh about the things I disagree with – even though I am part of a vibrant, Bible-believing church. It was refreshing for me to realise I wasn’t alone in what I observed, which actually saved me from falling into bitterness…I think instead of rushing to the defense of the likes of Piper – whom I sometimes listen to, but basically disagree with when it comes to ‘predestination’ and such – we need to ask ourselves if maybe we need to come back to the simplicity of the gospel and remove the ‘culture’ bit.

  • Chris Naish

    People are being empowered to not allow themselves to be victims of terrible perversions of a beautiful thing.

    People are empowered to not victimize others. For example, there was a thing on SCCL awhile ago that mentioned, in funny terms, that it’s not awesome to blather on about your “Hot Wife.” This created a dialogue between those who do that and those who are against it. One dude didn’t realize that while he said “I have a smokin’ hot wife” it was interpreted as “I only care about my wife’s body, and what a lovely trophy she makes.” After dialoguing and digging into this, and maybe getting offended, the dude realizes that he’s unintentionally hurting people.

    I’m rambling, and feel very dumb when it comes to smart discussions, so let me just try to sum it up…

    SCCL, to me, isn’t about abusing people and hurting them for hurting us. It’s about levelling the playing field. Everyone is accountable, everyone needs to be called out for their shit. It’s not about making Mark Driscoll feel worthless and voiceless and the abused feel like a king. It’s about realizing that EVERYONE is an equal. EVERYONE has a voice. It’s an equalizer.

    Dig?

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Perhaps one thing at play here is our understanding of the word “forgiveness.” Secular culture and Christian culture often teach that this means “let abusive person X do whatever they like.” This leads to two extremes: enabling gross abuse, and having murderous hatred. (Yes, Christ would call this murder.) But in fact God never expects His people to forgive any more than He does. Instead He says that for people who have sinned and do not care, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” All the abusive church leaders will have their sin punished. That’s why we may maintain a spirit of forgiveness in case they do repent, but if they do not repent, we can know God will punish them. Ergo, we can spare our own wrath — even while exploring churches’ and evangelical culture’s many problems, as CAPC is in the habit of doing.

  • jtheory

    My last three tweets, and some more thoughts.

    It
    is a tragedy when the Church sees places like @StuffCCLikes picking up
    their wounded left by the wayside, helping them heal & call it hate.

    They assume pointing out abuse is hate or that forgiveness and healing means accepting the church did no wrong or going back. it’s not.

    By
    continually giving our middle finger to continued abuse we are showing
    the wounded they matter more than the one who abused them

    In other words,

    Dear
    Church, it’s not about you, get over yourself and stop being so damn
    defensive. What you are seeing is therapy 101. You are seeing the first
    stages of it, when the person who has been abused learns to own their
    anger, and not feel guilty about it. To realize their boundaries have
    been crossed and that it is good to see the injustice in that. When
    Stephanie points out new abuse she is saying, see here, it’s still
    happening, I know, I stand with you against it, I am sorry.

    Some
    have rightfully over the years healed, or moved on, SCCL is not for
    everyone, it is a rehab center for the abused. Yes, some have gone back
    to church, or forgiven it, and others have simply healed in other ways
    and moved on in other ways. The point is to heal. The process is our
    own, and cannot be told how to do so, and I don’t think the Bible should
    be used as a primer for that either. It is to tell Christians how to
    love, not to tell the abused how to feel loved.

    So
    please, just stop, if you see your name here being pointed out as
    abuse, and feel the need to say something let it be “I’m sorry.” and
    then let Stephanie and others do what they do best. If you feel like you
    didn’t do any wrong, then keep it to yourself. If you are one of the
    Church and feel offended by being lumped in with abusers then you’re
    looking at it all wrong. We’re all part of the human race, that means
    we’re all lumped in with the abuser AND the abused. That is why it’s so
    important for us to not be defensive and to pick up the pieces others of
    us have left broken on the side of the road. Because we’re all in this
    together.

    The
    Church has abusers. Accept it. Deal with it. Don’t tolerate or “forgive
    it.” without first bringing it to repentance. You decry the idea of
    tough love being hated on by those you tried to toughly love, but when
    it’s done to you (and hear me here, I love you Church, I believe
    Stephanie and many others here do too), you get offended or hurt. Stop
    that! Use it as a means to look at yourself, and see if it’s true. If
    it’s not then that’s good, step aside and let those it does apply to
    deal with their hearts and those it has hurt heal. If it does apply then
    your defensive posture and offense is taking away valuable time you
    could be using to become a better person.

    In love,
    Justin Hanvey

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Thanks much for your interaction. I appreciate it.

    It’s not about making Mark Driscoll feel worthless and voiceless and the abused feel like a king.

    That’s encouraging to me, even though (at this point) we could light candles and hold hands and sing at an anti-Driscoll rally. Thing is, I want someone like Driscoll to repent of his absurdities. I’d love to meet him in Heaven, and then on the New Earth, and have that sarcastic wit be turned on himself for a change. (Wasn’t I an idiot back there, man? Thank God He is forgiving.) From this vantage point, I have not seen that among the majority of folks in this group. Perhaps I will pay closer attention, but then even a piece as mildly constructively-critical as this one gets such backlash, and I have to wonder what the “chief end” of it is. Surely those who have confronted the spiritually abusive, who know that one characteristic of abusers is that they fancy themselves above any and all correction, would be the first to seek correction to this nasty practice and apply it to themselves.

  • KR Taylor

    You keep using the phrase “sticking it out”. That’s typically used to describe enduring something that is fairly unpleasant, even against your better judgment or personal desires. Why would you want to attend an institution that you have to “stick out” rather than feel at home at? Our language and the words we use reveal us. It is striking that you did not use more comfortable, peaceful words when describing your relationship with your institutional church.

    Be happy wherever you are. But I stand by what I said. If you haven’t been intimate with the Savior in the wilderness, alone, caught in the brush, covered in thorns with nothing but Him by your side, there is SO much more to Him than you have yet to experience.

  • Chris Naish

    Thanks :)

    I think that it’s hard because things like this post just feel like the millionth voice saying “You don’t have the right to be dissatisfied. You don’t have the right to be upset. You’re not being Christ-like. You’re not being edifying.”

    It just feels like a broken record telling you to keep quiet. Or if not keep quiet, to cloak your complaints in Christian-ese and false modesty. The only difference between:
    “This makes my heart ache, and is truly not Christ-honouring.”
    and
    “This pisses me off.”
    Is that one of these people is using Christianity as a sword and shield whereas the other is using their humanity.

    No, this piece is not that harshly worded or anything, but that’s almost the problem. Maybe it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, or whatever.

    (Again, apologies for the rambling.)

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    I think I know how that feels. If if helps, that’s partly why I joined CAPC. I saw how the staff here was tackling Christian-culture challenges with attempts to be Biblical, gracious, and yet also firm. (They also got onto my favorite “targets,” folks who I overall admire as Christian leaders but who are just clueless about some things.) And yes, if the “discernment blogger” trick from an ally focuses on you personally, I’m sure that can be troubling.

    It’s also reminiscent of legitimate spiritual-abuse scenarios. You feel like it’s happening all over again and those defensive I-am-not-going-back-there-ever-again mechanisms kick in. You feel like this is just more of the same, that people are trying to say “I’m not the problem, you are, and you should feel guilty until you fall in line.” That is indeed manipulate and should be rejected. However, part of the genius of the manipulator is in coming across as merely a voice of accountability and impersonating the legitimate Christian call to reconsider.

    Now I’m rambling, or else trying to be a cyber-therapist. :-) Anyway, we may certainly agree that people are using the Bible and faith as weapons for bludgeoning rather than tools for understanding and living out the joyful, loving, imaginative Epic Story, the Gospel.

  • HJB

    “I struggled for years with bitterness toward those involved and still find it easy to go down that rabbit hole if I let myself.”
    I spent a year in a ministry that was soul crushing. I spent 10 years trying to forgive and like you would often go down the rabbit hole of bitterness and resentment. Then I found SCCL. Having a place to vent has been tremendously healing. I no longer have the bitterness and resentment. I’ve figured out where the anger is coming from and found my voice. What happened to me was wrong and finally getting everything out in the open for people to pick apart with me has eased the pain and frustration. I’m not like you anymore. I don’t go down the rabbit hole because I’ve been able to deal with the problem, even though it was an ugly process.
    I grew up in a conservative Baptist home. It wasn’t nearly as bad as many of those on SCCL, but I saw many people horribly hurt and was hurt myself. SCCL may not be pretty, but it helps open my eyes to more abuse than I ever saw. This isn’t the church that I want for my kids. I don’t want them to need therapy because CC has turned church into something it was never intended to be. My husband and I have been saying for years that the church is broken. SCCL is able to point out the areas where its broken and for that I applaud Stephany. In many ways she’s a modern day prophet.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Pitting doctrine against persons is a false dichotomy. Doctrine and life go together in scripture because, as Eugene Peterson says, “A lie about God becomes a lie about life.”

  • buzzalot

    Mr. Clark, I read your article again and noticed that you seemed to surmise quite a bit of fallacies about this site without actually asking us what Stephanie or us meant. You took quotes out of context and said Stephanie was making fun of the elderly.

    I’ll quickly give some examples:

    “Just to be clear, the joke is that Piper is very old. Implying, I guess, that he is slowly losing sanity, causing him to adhere to the same views he had as a young preacher? ”
    –(re: the yogurt comment) No where in any of the comments on that tweet did anyone mention age at all–you said “just to be clear” so you were sure of her implication when that was not the case at all. I know, because we have mentioned Pat’s name several times and people have mentioned “he is old” AND others on this very site have said ‘no ageism here, please’. You could have equally assumed we were talking about ‘sputtering out yogurt’ as referring to a mentally disabled person.

    “”But these Internet communities too often aren’t about healing. Not really. They funnel all of these triggers into one place, providing an opportunity for us to direct all of our rage, anger, and malice at what we have deemed to be rightful and deserving targets. These places of supposed healing become places of malice and mockery.””
    –are you suggesting that no one is healing here? You are saying it is only to make fun of others and not to heal? Do you have any idea how often positive articles are posted and hailed by many of us who are humbled? You are making an incorrect assumption that ‘this place isn’t about healing.’ WOW! I had no idea! (–sarcams–).

    “”I don’t intend to shame and blame victims of these things for finding it difficult to cope when confronted with very real triggers.”” Mr. Clark, this is precisely what you did. You shamed me for feeling the way I do. You can argue that I’m not really angry with YOU if that makes you feel better, but I am, in fact, angry with you now.

    I’ve learned HERE, of all places ) how to ask why and how instead of point fingers and surmise. So I ask you, why did you make these statement assuming we were promoting hate? Do you really think the way people heal should only follow typical patterns?

    Check your privilege. I’m glad you nor your loved ones have had to experience some of the pain from member who have posted here. Their stories are heartbreaking and humble me. Especially given that so many of these people are gifted. Read Alice Miller’s “Drama of the Gifted Child” if you want a bit more insight on how amazing some of the people who post in MY secret hidden group. The most amazing ones are those who have not healed fully, yet.

    Thank you for allowing so many comments through. I hope you know although I am passionate, I greatly appreciate your listening with your heart. Different viewpoints take time to apply and repetition. (I hate suggesting books to people, but Miller’s book only takes one chapter to understand what she is discussing)

  • buzzalot

    “healthy communication” sounds more like ‘you’re not communicating correctly.’ Sometimes, the more passive and gentle communication doesn’t work–so we try the direct approach and I have been told ‘I wasn’t speaking in grace.’

    It is like being gaslighted. You aren’t going to accept what I hear now matter how well it is wrapped and bowed with sparkles all over it unless it is what you (general) want to hear.

  • http://concerningpurity.blogspot.com/ Lynn Grey

    While I understand that seeing the face of anger and bitterness in healing places like SCCL can be shocking and ugly to those either still in the church or to those who simply haven’t experienced the pain members of that site have gone through, I think there are more loving ways to react than what is displayed in this article.

    Rather than defining the right and wrong ways for someone to heal, simply acknowledge that they have been hurt and deserve to go through the feelings they have towards their abusers. If you feel that their anger has been misdirected or overreacted, don’t take it personally. Be understanding that they are going through something and need to find their own way out of it.

    I’ve seen how the church jumps to the defense very quickly in these situations, and it prevents them from truly listening and observing.

  • Mark Burns

    I’m an atheist who has deconverted from conservative Christianity. I found the environment that is fostered by SCCL to be one of the most therapeutic available as I wrestled through spiritual issues. Though SCCL isn’t close enough to me to take it personally, I nonetheless take issue with the myopic compartmentalizing of the group as being, “identifie[d] as Christian, yet despis[ing] the Church.”

    For starters, it isn’t a “Christian group”. The people involved in SCCL are of all different ilk. Don’t take the title of the group to be demonstrative of any purpose or association. It was merely born out of a young woman who was hurt by Christian culture. All religions (or lack thereof, such as my case) are welcome there.

    Secondly, I would suggest you consider that there are many Christians who don’t interpret scripture as you do. Many do not see it as God-breathed/infallible/inerrant/etc. There are many people who still identify as Christian who take the bible as literature with metaphor and deeper truths to be mined from, but also recognize that literal interpretation of much of the bible is infantile, frankly.

    Lastly, I despise much more than just the Christian church. Try not to take it so personally. Your church is just one component under an umbrella of world view of which I am critical. SCCL could just as easily have been born as SMCL were Stephy born in Indonesia, but the space it has grown to represent is much larger irrespective of the origin.

    If you are going to criticize others’ perspective, you’d do well to understand it better as well as to recognize this group serves a larger purpose than simply to criticize your religion.

  • buzzalot

    No, it isn’t “free license” but it is completely inappropriate to tell a woman she should talk to her abuser with love. This is the kind of stuff that shames and silences people–I take it you have not met someone with a trauma disorder? You know how you teach your children to react to fear when walking out into the street without looking first? Well, that SAME fear is instilled in people (adults) when talking to an abuser. It is automatic and scary. If they are brave enough to approach their abuser, they are scared which shifts our mental acuities into a different plane. This shift makes them access the ‘flight or flight’ part of their brain stem which makes them react appropriately to them.

    An abused person has had their mental awareness altered to where they are just trying to survive. Trust me when I say that no one ever ‘wants’ to act out of fear and anger. Christian or not. God made us this way for a reason–to help us survive.

  • Drew Dixon

    Ok let me be more specific. What good is there in making fun of Christians who have quiet times? Those people aren’t abusing anyone, why do they need to be ridiculed? And yes I am aware that the Bible doesn’t teach that you have to have a quiet time, but where is there grace in making fun of someone for talking about how they “spent time with the Lord”?

    Where is the grace in making fun of Christian husbands for tweeting about how they go on “dates” with their wives?

    I am not talking about “taking the direct” approach. Often times the approach is very indirect and still just as lacking in grace.

  • Mark Burns

    I eat yogurt, and I’m a young man.

  • ramus

    Evangelical culture is so radically crazy, someone needs to point these things out- even if they will not listen. FYI- I have a Masters in Spirituality and was a Fundamentalist pastor for 30 years. While I am a follower of Christ, I no longer self-identify as a Christian. The term is too closely associated with loonies…. like Piper himself. Evangelical culture is unable to hear itself talk due to its incredibly closed system. Richard, if you totally walked away from the culture- no books, no preachers, no music, for 6 months then listened to what evangelical culture “says” you would be shocked at what you hear. For instance, you would be able to hear the actual hatred in Dobson’s voice, Driscoll’s patriarchy, and Piper’s babel.

  • buzzalot

    I can address your specificity, it is the braggarts that are being questioned. If you can point me to the times others made fun of quiet times, I could explain better or tell you that it is wrong.

    Going on ‘dates’ with their spouse is bragging, once again, about how hot they think their spouse is–it is called ‘dating’ before marriage usually. It is labeling their relationship. (these are all my opinions, of course).

    Also, from what I know, these two things aren’t abusive, they are making cutsie statements out of serious relationships to appear to make God ‘cute.’ It is a part of the Christian Culture that is taking away from the serving the poor like Jesus would be doing and using God’s name to hang out with your spouse. You don’t need God to hang out with your wife or to label ‘quiet time.’

    When I thought God was listening, I spoke to HIm all day long, all the time so I guess the whole day was like quiet time.

    It is like pointing out examples of Emo. Those people like to paint their hair black, get piercings, and wear their hair in front of their faces. The appearance and cutsie actions have nothing to do with Emo (or with Jesus for that matter).

  • buzzalot

    also, I was asked if I was having ‘quiet time’ with Jesus. Like it was a requirement to be a Christian–when in reality, no I didn’t–it was all day long for me. Why put a label on it?

    Same with ‘dating your spouse’. Is it a requirement of Christianity. These two things were pointed out because we finally realized that doing these things or not had nothing to do with Jesus.

    It is an example of ‘Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship’ (relationships with others)

  • Lewis

    Yes, because Eugene Peterson is always right.

    You do understand that there are people who don’t care about traditional Christian doctrine, right?

  • Drew Dixon

    I get that I do. I think making fun of them though, is bragging that you aren’t as immature and self righteous as this silly lot over here.

  • Lewis

    Why does the cure have to be “biblical”? Seems to me this overwhelming desire to do things “biblical” is a big part of the problem…people in power using a collection of books to control another group of people. You can argue that it’s people in power using their own faulty interpretation of a collection of books, I suppose, but isn’t the end result of correcting this faulty interpretation nothing more than bringing others in line with (and controlling them by) your own interpretation?

  • Lewis

    Not all of us are fighting a battle of Christian theology. We don’t necessarily care what Paul had to say about it. In fact, some of us don’t care about doctrine at all. We just want to see people no longer hurt by religion.

  • Andrew Dowling

    This piece has caused quite the reaction!

    I often see people say something akin to “well we shouldn’t speak negatively about XYZ because they are a brother/sister in Christ. While I will agree that utter meanness and cruelty is bad on any end, I think people who preach hate, and Driscoll of course is the most obvious example but I’d put guys like Piper and Mohler in the same boat (and there are numerous others), have basically opened the door to whatever they get coming back to them from their judgmentalism and nastiness. Especially among the “Neo-Reformed,” you see a love of confrontation and a smugness that is the antithesis of brotherly love and charity. They are not “on my team” simply because they fly the Jesus flag. So no, Driscoll, you are not ‘my brother in Christ’ . . .you are a charlatan and a bully with a black, black heart. May God have mercy on your poor soul.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Yes, I do understand that. I think that’s sad for them, of course, but then again, those people probably aren’t the intended audience of this piece anyways. Why they are bothering about it, I don’t know.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    The language of “sticking it out” reveals a truth about the church, to be sure: it’s a real place with real people, which means it can be difficult. Kind of like marriage, it’s not all fun and games, there are sad times, frustrated times that you have to “stick out” because ultimately they are worth it.

    As for your original statement and her response, I would just say that many of us, if not most of us, have found Jesus in the Church. No, our churches haven’t always been Christ-like. Yes, many are just straight-up horrible. I mean, that’s to be expected given that half of the New Testament is written simply to correct jacked-up churches. That isn’t to say that the entire thing is God-forsaken and horrible. There are good churches out there. There are godly pastors and elders and congregations making the best of it, sharing the Gospel and pastoring people faithfully. I’ve seen beautiful stories of redemption, healing, and wholeness in the church as much, if not more, than I’ve seen the awful stuff that you inevitably encounter there.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Just curious: and the alternative is, listening to your opinion based on what? Your opinion?

  • Neil

    Disagreeing with his sytematic is one thing, mocking him personally is quite another.

  • Lewis

    So, anyone who professes Jesus Christ must adhere to traditional Christian theology? Must accept the biblical canon as inspired and divine in its own right? Must accept Paul as an authority?

  • Lewis

    My opinion of what?

  • wisdomhunter

    Jordan, if you are an Open Theist, Universalist or Atheist, I can see the condemnation of Calvinism as making sense…as long as you recognize that the Arminians have the same problem–namely, what kind of God would create beings whom he knew would suffer in torment eternally? Why didn’t he simply chose only to make those whom he knew would chose salvation (if Arminianism is true) or chose only to create beings that were elected? And what happens to our free will in heaven–can we un choose God at some future point?
    But regardless Jordan, I think your reaction illustrates a lot of the difficulties in the Church today: instead of brothers having a reasoned, charitable debate about such weighty issues like election and free will, it’s much easier to criticize how horrible your opponent’s theology is and what a monstrous, evil religion you have if you accept it…and by extension, what an evil monster YOU must be for believing it.
    I have Arminian brothers in the faith that I would never dream condemning by saying they serve God more evil than the devil. The most I would do is say that I believe their theology is incoherent and I believe unbiblical. Heck, I respect Open Theists for their consistency, Universalists for their compassion and Atheists for their intellectual rigor (even if I categorically reject their theology). Shall we tone down the rhetoric a bit when we discuss these issues? Must be have an “us vs. them” attitude on these issues INSIDE the Church?

  • buzzalot

    What about when Jesus overturned tables in the temple in anger. He wasn’t directing that anger at God at all–that anger was directed at those who were doing business in the church.

    The bible was never meant to help others with mental health counseling. I don’t know why people go to it for answers how to heal. It is healing but nowhere in he bible are there step by step instructions on how to heal a broken arm–not a broken heart. You cannot pray either away.

  • buzzalot

    Oh, we are definitely immature and self righteous as anyone else AND we keep each other in check. Everyone has an equal voice over there. There are, however, jerks in every group–just like in the church and SCCL. Jerkyhood knows no bounds and is rampant among all.

  • buzzalot

    Is it the bible?

    I, personally, don’t need the bible to give me an opinion.

  • Martin Browne

    Yes, that is exactly how it works. If you have a good point to make, but make it in a ‘dicky’ way, people will not accept you as much as if you made it in a calm, balanced way. That is just the way society works- especially in a field so controversial and heated as religion/philosophy, i think its fair to say if you don’t present your point of view in a calm, loving way, you will be disregarded, ignored and not respected. :(

  • Martin Browne

    Thats not what he said. I dont do those things, but I also don’t “not care about traditional Christian doctrine”. It is pure folly to just disregard something because it is ‘traditional’

  • Martin Browne

    I cannot understand how you have got that from this article. i recommend you reread it because you have misrepresented it as vastly differently to how it was written.

  • Martin Browne

    But the hurt we want to stop is a direct result of bad theology. You cannot take a church with bad theology which is hurting people and reform it without reforming its theology.

  • Martin Browne

    I agree. I specifically said that.

  • Martin Browne

    Sorry I didnt intend to imply that someone should try to talk to their abuser in a loving way. I meant respond in a general sense, as in concerning how they should act in general in response to the situation.

    I agree it would be folly to try to have a ‘loving conversation’ with the abuser. But they do still have a responsibility to act towards the situation generally with love and forgiveness and mercy etc.

  • No_6

    Richard, I frequent SCCL and yes, I sometimes find it too dismissive. However, your critique of the site is rather grossly, willfully mischaracteristic. Critiquing Piper or Driscoll in the manner that SCCL does is not dismissive of the church at large–unless you consider the church at large to be comprised primarily of Piper, Driscoll, etc.

    Additionally, sputtering through a mouthful of yogurt is what many individuals worldwide do on a daily basis. Nowhere did Stephy’s post imply anything age-ist about Piper–that misconception is entirely in your head. Please concentrate on what is written, as opposed to what you *think* is written.

  • Martin Browne

    edify – to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually

    Christianity (Proper) finds the downtrodden and rejected and hurt people of the world and tells them they are not actually worthless.

    Christianity finds the rich and powerful people of the world and instructs them of their responsibility to help the less fortunate.

    I will continue to use that word, because despite the many misrepresentations of Christianity that we’ve been talking about, it is a word that is totally applicable to Christianity.

  • Martin Browne

    It’s just a practical fact that you have to move from generality to specificity if you are going to write a worthwhile article.

  • buzzalot

    I thought the intended audience were those who post on the SCCL facebook page. Why is it sad that there are people who don’t care about traditional Christian doctrine?

  • Martin Browne

    While I totally agree with you, its important to remember not to go over the top and totally consider the Bible worthless. I don’t need the bible to give me an opinion, but I do find it very useful for informing my opinions.

  • Stephen M.

    Here’s a crazy idea. We disagree on it. How about you just deal with that instead of making condescending little remarks.

  • Stephen M.

    Are you even able to hear how condescending you sound? Grow up.

  • Chuck Steinhilber

    That would make sense except this started on SCCL, Mar a brief comment that others exist, then stayed on SCCL. That’s going from specific and staying there.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Well, depends on what you mean by traditional Christian theology because given your tone it’s probably a loaded term. But, generally-speaking, yes, I think professing Christ should lead you to something along the lines of the Apostle’s Creed. As for the Biblical canon being divine, no. It is divinely-inspired, yes, but only God is God. That said, treating the Bible with the same amount of respect as Jesus had for it seems like a good idea for people claiming to follow him. As for Paul, yes, I think he’s an authority, someone who as authorized by Christ himself. I do think that’s a logical/theological corollary, although it’s psychologically possible for someone to love Jesus and reject Paul. I mean, I think it’s confused, but it’s possible.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com/ Derek Rishmawy

    Well, I think it’s sad because, if we’re talking about things like the Apostles’ Creed or the Heidelberg Catechism, then that traditional Christian theology is beautiful, life-giving, and, most importantly, true. I think that truth leads to goodness and healing.

  • buzzalot

    I don’t think I said the bible was worthless.

  • JP

    And they’re followed by, “But…”, which negates everything before it.

  • Alan Noble

    Actually no. We rarely if ever deal with “doctrine” specifically. That’s not the focus of our site. Look around. Search our site for our articles on Driscoll. Or for my criticism of Piper on race.

  • jeux999

    “You may do whatever you want.” well thanks cap’n jesus! glad you’re passing out permission.

    ps: as a pagan, i find sccl to be hillarsballs, mostly because of responses like this one.

  • Lewis

    Heal the wounds first. Leave the theology out of the healing. You can’t tell people who’ve been beaten up by God and the bible how they should view God and the bible. They have to reach those destinations on their own.

    “Christianity” isn’t the valuable part of Christianity. People are.

  • Lewis

    Jesus didn’t have a “bible”, at least not one as thick as ours.

    The Apostle’s Creed is the Apostle’s Creed. Christ is Christ. Even the bible says that no man can serve two masters, correct?

  • Lewis

    I don’t trust people who use the word “folly”. Seriously. Nothing personal.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

    Richard, you say “The fact is, communities like these seem to have stopped trying. They no longer appear interested in living up to the challenge of Ephesians 4:29, to speak words that are “good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

    You may (or may not) be interested in my post that addresses what you have just written:

    “Christian culture has guidelines about which sorts of things are edifying and which aren’t. There will be instances in which you find something to be edifying that your Christian culture compatriot does not, and you’ll be afraid to tell them because they are swift to express their concern. In the same breath they are likely to cite Romans 14:19, I Thessalonians 5:11, II Corinthians 12:19 or Ephesians 4 as scriptures which reference edification.”

    The rest of the post is here if you want to know more about where I’m coming from — http://www.stuffchristianculturelikes.com/2011/05/blog-post.html

  • buzzalot

    I think Jesus’ teachings were beautiful and we all have that. I love art but do not think it is sad if others do not–it is their preference. By saying it makes you sad sort of sounds like you pity those who don’t believe the same as you.

    Your explanation of why you are sad is full of empty words. Truth leads to goodness and healing means little without stating what goodness and what healing. The bible doesn’t *heal*. People who follow Jesus (if you believe in Jesus and the bible) heal others.

  • Martin Browne

    No, sorry I didnt mean to imply you did, I was just going on to make a point of my own.

  • SCCL-er

    Yes thank you, we know what the word means. The condescension you just demonstrated is precisely why I don’t have any intention to spend time and energy on the culture behind a religion that I’m sure you INTEND to be for the purpose of helping the downtrodden.

  • Martin Browne

    You can’t leave the theology out of the healing. If people have been “beaten up by God” then one of the best things you can do to help them heal their wounds would be to show them that God is actually on their side and that they were told lies about God by other people. You just cannot separate theology from life. Ill say again: you cant come to a Church that is hurting people because of its bad theology and convince it to stop hurting people without convincing them that their theology is wrong- you’re not going to be able to convince a church to act in a way that it still believes is opposed to God.

    Also, If Christianity has no truth then it is worthless, if Christianity has value then that value must be found primarily in God and in Christ. I don’t understand how a Christianity whose most valuable part is the people that follow it could be a Christianity at all.

  • Elizabeth Faith

    Jesus probably shouldn’t have called out the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers.” That wasn’t very edifying. Seriously, though, the community at Stuff Christian Culture Likes has played a significant role in my healing process. It was healthy and empowering for me to finally question aspects of church culture that were very damaging to me personally. Stephanie Drury does tell-it-like-it-is, but as I referenced earlier, a significant portion of Jesus’ ministry while on earth was doing the very same thing. He wasn’t polite, restrained, or edifying. He wasn’t trying to make the Pharisees look great in front of their friends. He would point right at the woman who had put a tiny amount of money in the collection plate and say, “Look at her, I tell you the truth, she has given more than all of these other guys.” (My paraphrase.) I see SSCL doing quite a lot of that. It could be that the small penny SSCL is able to give is a greater gift than postulating pastors preaching behind pulpits.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    While the article raises some valid points, there are some key differences I would like to point out.

    1) The group SCCL does NOT identify as Christian and contains many atheists, agnostics and SBNR. The one unifying factor seems to be that they were affected negatively by Christian culture. Many of its members still identify as Christian, but that is due to their own personal relationship w/ Jesus, and frankly a near- miracle.

    2) there is a key difference between the type of damage SCCL highlights and the personal anecdote the author uses. The author experienced betrayal by a person or persons within a church, SCCL points out teachings and practices that damage it’s members, especially children. While I do not always agree with all that they object to (I am distinctly Roman in some ways) I always listen to their feedback. The most recent kerfuffle I remember was one I agreed with fully. One pastor tweeted to his electronic flock. ‘Teach your children they are broken, and can only be healed in Christ’. While human are flawed, deeply deeply flawed, and every person could be better, we do not need to be tearing our children down. The world and time will do that far better than we ever could. As parents and as a church we should be trying to put me back together and showing them how to move on and do better. Considering the large numbers of young people that are leaving the church for more free-wheeling spirituality I would consider this valuable ex-customer feedback.

    Now if there is one practice I could do without it is the RT gang-pile that sometimes happens. When one person Retweets something objectionable and thirty other people reply emotionally without constructive critique. This is a favorite attic of the twitter group ‘Atheist Super Heroes’ (ASH) and it is simply annoying and kills conversation. However, I have gotten to know Stephanie a little bit thanks to twitter and she is not a hate filled person. She is a person that is wise from hard -won experience and lacks patience for those that do harm.

  • Adam Bryant Marshall

    “Tell-it-like-it-is” is pretty difficult to manage. “Call it as we see it” is about all that we can manage, and our vision’s often cloudy.

  • Martyn Jones

    “Additionally, sputtering through a mouthful of yogurt is what many individuals worldwide do on a daily basis.”

    This is the most hilarious thing I’ve read all day! No_6 I have laughed out loud at least three or four different times from reading or thinking about this sentence. Thank you so much. My stomach hurts. I’m not kidding! I am laughing again right now. Gah! Bless you, No_6, bless you.

  • Lewis

    This article makes me less apt to be interested in the rest, considering how little understanding of spiritual abuse and the healing process was shown here.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor
  • Alan Noble

    Except that I explicitly did not say I was “sure that we want different things.” I said: “I suspect we don’t agree on *what* ideas need to be reformed.” I’m not sure at all.

    Which means that technically you dismissed my qualified statement and the openness to difference which it represented in order to reduce my position to one that suits your narrative.

    In any event, I think we’re just talking past each other to some extent. So, let me say that we would never tell people to not critique the church, but we do hope to see that critique done in a way that desires repentance and maturity from the target of critique.

  • Alan Noble

    Sure, I get that. I just wanted to make clear that your concern that we only call out people over “doctrine” is unwarranted.

  • Ihor Zhakunets

    Helpful article. Thanks Rich.

  • Jim Wangerin

    So why is it ok for you to hate-watch those you accuse of hate-watching? From your article it’s clear that you’re not a fan of SCCL and don’t care to be a part of their community. You obviously have been following them anyways…for the expressed purpose of posting criticisms of them. This meets your definition of “hate-watching”. It seems your hate-watching of the “hate-watchers” comes from being convinced there is a deity on “your side” while being sure that deity disapproves of those who criticize institutional religion. The actual message of this article is that the institutions of abuse, the theologies that empower them, and the people that promote them must be protected at the expense of those harmed. The lip-service regarding your “empathy” for the abused is quite unconvincing. It’s extremely evident that you’re an apologist for the same system that has hurt those who participate in the SCCLish crowd and yet are posing as somebody “in-between” to try to quell the criticism.

    One of the main themes in groups like SCCL is that they’ve started to find freedom from the shaming you and your kin would inflict on them. I doubt your current shaming technique will do anything more than confirm that they’re on the correct track.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Why does the cure have to be “biblical”?

    Well, I’m assuming here a search of a cure within the Biblical church, against bad churches that abuse and cause other nastiness. As a Christian, when people do spiritual abuse and use the church for their own selfish ends, hurting people and worse, I see how they have in fact violated the Bible they purport to uphold. That’s my basis for criticism: you have disobeyed God’s Word. I’m not sure how more rejection of God’s Word is meant to fix the problems already caused by rejection of God’s Word. (Note that when I say “God’s Word” I do not mean “God’s Law,” but the life-changing Gospel announcement therein.)

    Yes, one could offer other reasons as primary. But here is one problem: the cry “You have hurt me, and that must stop” often sounds the same when uttered by a true victim of the powerful and by the victim of a justifiable life sentence in prison. So a claim of “I’m hurt” is, while vital, not enough (and sadly, is drowned out in a society of professing victims of everything).

    Seems to me this overwhelming desire to do things “biblical” is a big part of the problem…people in power using a collection of books to control another group of people.

    This is prone to abuse, yes. But is this more or less,or exactly equal, prone to abuse than people who use other things to control others — money? cultural “karma” and popularity? natural resources? military advancement?

    We are touching on “apologetics” here. But for the Biblical Christian, there is an objective Word that all parties claim to follow — a Word at least theoretically above opinions.

    You can argue that it’s people in power using their own faulty interpretation of a collection of books, I suppose, but isn’t the end result of correcting this faulty interpretation nothing more than bringing others in line with (and controlling them by) your own interpretation?

    The spiritually abusive critic would ask, how is that different than trying to “control” others by even sincere professions of personal victimhood? That’s a logical challenge; now for the “interpretation” challenge. Here the question is really what source we are appealing to as ultimate authority, and here we are all in the same boat. All of us are appealing to some Greater Morality to critique the spiritual abusers. And logically, which has the greatest force: “my personal opinion is that I have been hurt and abusers must pay somehow” or “the abusers have violated the spirit and clear command of the Word they themselves say is true, and must repent”?

  • griffingulledge

    This comment section is part and parcel proof of the bitterness and mocking spirit you talked about in this post. Pitiful.

  • Julie Anne

    I haven’t read through all of the 133 comments and so I apologize if my thought is repetitive. In general, I think it shows poor taste to criticize the response of abuse victims, some who may be hanging on to their faith by a thread, others who are experiencing a crisis of faith due to the horrific damage done to them by those who should have been shepherding their souls.

    My blog deals with spiritual abuse and trends/ideologies which can lead to abuse. I do not know you or how you have responded to spiritual abuse in the past, but this article will discredit you as having empathy or compassion for abuse victims if you have not publicly said anything about the atrocities of abuse in churches. If you have done so, thank you! If not, then let me know. I’d like to share some personal stories of church abuse with you. I have a feeling that many church leaders who speak out like you have here may not have a full picture of what spiritual abuse is like. I’d be happy to help. spiritualsb @ gmail.com

  • Stephen M.

    Wow! Thanks for opening my eyes to what kind of spirits I have and how pitiful we all are, boy, God sure knew what he was doing when he put you in charge of judging everyone!

  • Martin Browne

    You’ve misunderstood me, I wasn’t intending to be condescending at all. I was simply challenging your claim by showing how I believe Christianity *does* fit the definition of edifying.

    I also am not talking about the *culture* of Christianity either. I think I made clear that I was speaking specifically about Christianity Proper, not Christianity as it appears in the mainstream in 21st Century Western countries.

    I would say that it is objectively true that Christianity Proper *is* for the purpose of helping the downtrodden.

    I’m not intending to be condescending in any of my comments; it can just be hard, as you doubtless know, to properly communicate tone via text. I myself feel you have been quite rude in how you have responded to me, but that only emphasises my point. :)

    However there is an important distinction to be made between someone passionately stating what they believe to be true within a debating atmosphere, and someone arrogantly proclaiming what they believe without being open for debate. I dont feel that a simple statement of believe should need to be couched in caveats and apologies in order for it to not be perceived as arrogant/condescending. Should we not all give each other the benefit of the doubt?

  • Melody Kay Young

    Martin, I don’t understand how you can say this when Christians are to be known by their love (God-like-ness), per the Bible, not simply by their theology (the study of God). What hurting people are reacting to is the tendency of this current church culture where the head (knowledge) is more important than the heart. Both are needed. (Jesus, full of GRACE and truth.) The Body of Christ is people, not theology, and God is not to be put in a box.

  • Melody Kay Young

    In fact, doctrine rarely causes churches to split anymore. Churches split over personalities and deep hurts. (I’m not the only one who sees this as a pattern, check out http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Your-Family-Patterns-Finding/dp/0802477445 )
    In working through a lot of the hurt I’ve had in the church and in a Christian family setting, I think there are still too many in the church who are more known by their “right-ness” than by their love. People like that tend to (intentionally or unintentionally) hurt people like me who are in recovery from being right all the time.

  • Keith

    Lewis, You are speaking as though you can follow Christ without following the canon of Scripture. If you are not following the canon Scripture founded in Apostolic authentication, then what are you following? If you are not following the Christ of Scripture, then what Christ are you following? I would go so far to say that if you are not following the Christ of Scripture, you are following “a Christ” of your own subjective invention. Even Christ’s anticipation of the subjective work of the Spirit in his followers was founded on the anticipation of a body of truth coming from the disciples as the Spirit guided them into truth. Otherwise, you are following the wisp of a rumor of a man who once lived, but cannot be known.

  • Martin Browne

    But that’s it- Christians try to be Godlike, so therefore their beliefs about God are going to directly influence their actions in life. The WBC think they are being Godlike when they spread their hate, because they conceive of God as primarily judgemental and condemning.

    If I believe God wants me to tell everyone else how evil they are they it doesnt matter how many ‘liberals’ try to tell me to stop being hateful and be nice. They would just be trying to address the symptoms(actions), rather than fixing the problem(beliefs).

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    Oh, Richard, please stop hate-watching people who are angry at the church!

    “It’s difficult for me, then, to understand the impulse behind a recent trend that takes a more self-serious and high-stakes approach to hate-watching.”

    “I also know how incredibly hard it is to speak edifying language into those situations when you’re the one affected by them. The struggle to maintain [patterns of behaviour that damage others] is a very real one. I don’t intend to shame and blame [critics] for finding it difficult to [hold back] when confronted with very real ["opportunities"].”

    “Here’s why I find this trend so frustrating and distasteful: … healing doesn’t happen this way. Hate doesn’t solve spiritual problems, and God’s Church isn’t sanctified by ["biblically" criticising] those who have done us wrong. … But these characters are human beings, whom the Bible refers to as neighbors.”

    “But groups like these have engendered a culture that identifies as Christian, yet despises the [victims and the oppressed]. They have led fellow Christians to hate and despise their brothers and sisters for the sake of [preserving church institutions.] But Christians are held to a different standard, one that results in edification and unity for the sake of [Jesus]. To struggle with that standard is understandable, but to reject it altogether is giving up, on the Church, on the teachings of Christ, and on your own spiritual sanctification.”

    “Scripture … has a realistic and tender approach to emotional suffering, and in fact commands Christians to weep when others weep. God knows the Church could use some help with this principle: … with the blindness that comes with privilege. … That famous commandment to weep with those who weep is meant to be carried out within God’s covenant community, among flesh and blood church members who take it upon themselves to empathize and care for one another.”

    “But we, with all our flaws and frailty, were never meant to be God’s instruments of justice. We are to be instruments of God’s incredible redemptive grace. Turn over all the tables you want, but in the end, all you’ll have to show for it is a God-forsaken mess.”

    From all the responses I’ve seen, Richard, you have made a bit of a mess…

    So, because it is a mess, I invite us all to “weep with those who weep”, whatever their griefs, backgrounds, or stories.

  • Lewis

    You MUST leave the theology out of the healing process. Again, trying to help heal the spiritually abused by correcting faulty theology with correct (which is quite open to personal interpretation) is to still place doctrine over person – which is a recognized form of the thought control process. It elevates religion, devalues people, and reeks of religious addiction, regardless of the intent behind it.

    I’ve dealt with countless spiritually abused people over the last few years. The common denominator in the healing process for the majority of them is leaving God/theology/doctrine OUT of it. They have to find their own way to God if they’re gonna find their way to God. You can’t define God on their behalf.

  • Lewis

    I agree that the God of most Christians is a reflection of themselves. You guys seem to believe that God really cares about doctrinal positions. I don’t. It’s very religious. Stephanie posted this, from the Message translation of Amos 5:21-24…

    “I can’t stand your religious meetings.I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
    I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.
    I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
    I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
    Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
    I want fairness—rivers of it.
    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

  • Lewis

    If evil’s going down, I don’t care if it’s opposed “in love” or not, so long as it’s opposed. This is almost being paralyzed by the concept of “in love”.

  • Lewis

    That sounds like religious addiction, Keith.

    “Even Christ’s anticipation of the subjective work of the Spirit in his followers was founded on the anticipation of a body of truth coming from the disciples as the Spirit guided them into truth.”

    Seriously?

  • Lewis

    Fair enough.

  • Lewis

    I’d rather she beat the hell out of him than follow your advice. This is a classic example of valuing a religious paradigm over people.

  • Wayne Rumsby

    First of all, which church? The whole church, as in the group of all believers? But wait, believers in what? What if they don’t buy into everything? What if they’re other? Who decides?

  • Wayne Rumsby

    About 30 years ago a member of the church, and a leader, a pastor, found out that his 14 year old daughter was pregnant. He stripped her naked and tied her to the kitchen table, and walked around the table with a chainsaw (running) and threatened to remove the evil. Her younger brother was hiding in the pantry. The baby was born, and sent away to live with relatives. The mother of that baby took her own life the next year. Sixteen years later the baby took her own life and died in the arms of her uncle who had been hiding in the pantry. How do I know this story, because I sat with the homeless man, horribly afflicted with guilt for not having been man enough to stand up to the God man.

    So who is the church? is it the God man? He was a God man because nobody called him out, and the damage of not saying anything critical caused at least 3 deaths.

    We should be very careful before we stand up to defend the church. We should be very careful when we prescribe best healing practices for situations we know nothing about. We should be very careful when we show concern about the hurt inflicted on Mark Driscoll. There are 14 campuses hiding in the pantry as Driscoll screams at his children, “Who do you think you are?” And you’re concerned about what?

  • Martin Browne

    We’ve been talking about reforming Churches that hurt people, so they aren’t bad churches any more. Whereas I think you’ve now focussed in on a situation where you are talking with a hurt person. I agree you would deal with that differently.

  • Lewis

    I don’t care anything about the churches. I care about the people. The churches can dry up, the buildings decay, and the ceilings fall in for all I care.

  • Guest

    John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth,comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

    2 Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    I would contend that if there is no inspired NT canon, then there is also no inspired OT canon, making Jesus as misguided as I am since he quoted the OT as inspired Scripture.

    More importantly, if you cannot accept the doctrine of inspired divine-human Scripture as supernaturally feasible, then I would think accepting the incarnation of Jesus Christ the divine-human son of God as 100% God and 100% man. Inspiration and incarnation and inseparably
    linked as divine mysteries.

    To honor God and his word is not an addiction, but is faith. To hold faith in God and his Word does not mean I deny reason, because I constantly put Scripture and people’s application of it to the test of both faith and reason. If there is no certainty of who Christ is and what he teaches, then there is no such thing as a Christian, for a Christian is merely a follower of the Christ – not followers of many christs.

    See also the view of Scripture from Jesus and Paul in the below passages.

    Luke 4:21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

  • Keith

    John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

    2 Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    I would contend that if there is no inspired NT canon, then there is also no inspired OT canon, making Jesus as misguided as I am since he quoted the OT as inspired Scripture.

    More importantly, if you cannot accept the doctrine of inspired divine-human Scripture as supernaturally feasible, then I would think it is even more impossible to accept the incarnation of Jesus Christ the divine-human son of God as 100% God and 100% man. Inspiration and incarnation and inseparably linked as divine mysteries.

    To honor God and his word is not an addiction, but is faith. To hold faith in God and his Word does not mean I deny reason, because I constantly put Scripture and people’s application of it to the test of both faith and reason. If there is no certainty of who Christ is and what he teaches, then there is no such thing as a Christian, for a Christian is merely a follower of the Christ – not followers
    of many christs.

    See also the view of Scripture from Jesus and Paul in the below passages.

    Luke 4:21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

    2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

  • Keith

    Lewis,

    By the way, if you are coming from a past of people who encouraged addictive religious activity as a means to please God or that offered abusive manipulation as a means to guilt people into obedience, I am sorry for your experience and apologize on behalf of all who genuinely know the love of God. If you are truly seeking Christ and seeking to know God’s love, then I am confident you will both find God’s grace and his truth. Honoring God’s truth is not about blind obedience to an authority or Stockholm syndrome style of mindless adherence to an abusive deity. Knowing God’s character as a God of love and a father who desires the best for his children informs everything that I interpret in Scripture and hopefully prevents me from using it to accomplish an abusive end through manipulative means. Being in love with God is a lot different to be addicted to God with a childish crush that’s craving acceptance as though God hasn’t already given his unconditional love.

  • Lewis

    You’ve kinda put me in a box there, Keith, where if I don’t worship your canon, I can’t worship your God by-proxy…because that’s what it is – by-proxy.

    2nd Timothy 3:16 gets thrown around a lot by people trying to prove the inspiration of “the bible”. The only thing I’m fairly confident about regarding 2nd Timothy 3:16 is that when Paul wrote it he wasn’t talking about 2nd Timothy 3:16. Anything beyond that is mere speculation on your part (and mine).

  • Lewis

    Religious addiction isn’t a childish crush. It’s a coping mechanism and crutch like any other addiction.

  • Lewis

    Exactly, buzzalot. Nouthetic counseling is poison, salt added to a wound, more weight added to an already heavy load. It’s judgment disguised as grace.

  • Keith

    Lewis,

    I fully agree that real religious addiction exists and real abuse exists and am not saying it is childish. I am saying, however, that such cases are absent of true Christian religion and true Christian love. Addiction implies that the object of the addiction is harmful, whether innately or in large enough quantities. You might say that I am addicted to breathing and do so compulsively. However, oxygen is essential to life rather than harmful to it. Such is the case with true faith that is founded on true love for God and understanding of the true nature of God’s love. You can call me addicted to love anytime — God’s love is as essential to my life as oxygen. Being addicted to guilt-laden manipulative condemnation and tireless religious ritualism to gain acceptance is an entirely different issue.

  • http://1t412.wordpress.com/ Christina

    I used the language of sticking it out a) to indicate that relationships in a faith community take work and b) to acknowledge that for those currently dealing with much worse wounds than me there are times when going to church can be very difficult. I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t feel at home in my church. The worst thing I have to deal with right now is that the worship team has played 10000 Reasons by Matt Redman every week for the past 10 months and I’m really sick of it :P

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    You MUST leave the theology out of the healing process.

    Lewis, this is only your “theology.” If spiritual abusers got that way by making up their own theology, why fight their errors with more of the same? Or might we assume we are the first people ever to assume we can “leave out theology”?

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    If evil’s going down, I don’t care if it’s opposed “in love” or not, so long as it’s opposed.

    This is a perilous position in which to find yourself.

    This exact justification is how many spiritual abusers got where they are. They said, “The end justifies the means,” or “It doesn’t matter how we fight this sin, so long as we fight it,” and then ended up becoming like their enemies.

    Note that this truth is also reflected in the climaxes of many fantastic good-versus-evil stories, such as Return of the Jedi. Would you also suggest that it didn’t matter if Luke turned to the Dark Side, so long as he killed Darth Vader and defeated the Empire?

  • Theo Darling

    “The past abuses, missteps, and prideful remarks of the church don’t justify hating it.”

    Oh yes they fucking do.

  • Elisabeth M

    Truth in love… yes, but. There’s a time.

    When one is being wounded, there’s a lot of deep cuts and broken bones going on. In that scenario one might continue to be able to speak the truth in love. I know I did, when I was suffering through a situation like that. I loved the person who was hurting me, and continued to root for him and my own healing until the impact of his actions on my life had taken away my ability to root for anything but God’s judgment to fall down on me.

    Afterward, with distance, there was numbness and bizarre peace. As I processed and healed, I continued to be able to speak the truth in love. Pain was there, but so was love.

    It wasn’t until years later, when I had enough space to really soak in what had happened and how inexcusable it was, that my love turned to hatred. I would say righteous hatred. It wasn’t just anger, it was hatred, and I think it was a necessary part of that healing process. In order to speak the truth at that point, I had to give myself permission to breathe fire.

    I don’t know whether I hate him or not at this point, but I do hate injustice. That same fire in me now breathes on behalf of those who suffered, or are suffering, like I did, and to have denied any part of that process would have crippled the strength of the result.

    If everyone across the board were to try to continue to speak the truth in love, regardless of where they were in the healing process, I think there are many who would find their wounds had gotten infected. When all you’ve got inside you is vitriol, you can’t obey a rule like that without boxing yourself up. Healing, like life, is dynamic, chaotic to some extent, and there are times one has to take the skeletons from the closet, sit them in a chair and tell them what you think. To do this in community strikes me as perhaps the safest and most sacred way to go about it.

    As Ecclesiastes said: “There’s a time to speak the truth in love, and there’s a time to air your toxic thoughts, breathe fire and clear the air with laughing.”

    I appreciate your article and your voice.

  • Theo Darling

    Because we /have a right to leave the Church/ should we choose to do so. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have experienced a significant amount of religious abuse–and yet I know there are other understandings of the text out there. I am aware of feminist theology, of liberation theology. I have done a lot of independent study into these theological branches and though it was a temporary fix, ultimately I had to leave. Because the “healing” that was promised me by more empowering and compassionate theologies was not enough to undo the years of compounded damage inflicted by everyone else. Too little, too late. When I left Christianity, it was like an enormous roadblock was removed from my road to healing. It may not be for everyone, but it was definitely the right choice for me, and I deserved to make that decision on my own.

  • Theo Darling

    Personally I think the Sith are more ethical than the Jedi, on the whole. Maybe that’s just me.

  • Theo Darling

    This is what we call victim-blaming.

  • Elisabeth M

    I think what you’re saying is wrong when talking to victims, but absolutely right-on when talking to abusers. Victims need compassion, safety, genuine interest in their experience and a belief in its validity. They do not need to be told that what they believe, or have experienced, is incorrect, even with the best of intentions. Abusers, however, absolutely need to be challenged on how they think. The entitlement which causes abuse lies buried in the thought-life. Exposing their actual beliefs, then calling them on it, is the only antidote to that.

  • Elisabeth M

    That is a fantastic translation. Had not heard that passage in those words before.

  • Theo Darling
  • Elisabeth M

    On that note, I love this list – http://www.lundybancroft.com/?page_id=254 – showing what it actually looks like for a person to take responsibility for having done someone harm. Accountability from the abuser is way more important, in my opinion, than forgiveness from the abused.

  • Elisabeth M

    Not necessarily. Sure, whenever people vent, they’re going to get a lot of knee-jerk reactions. That’s the way our culture is (unfortunately). But I’ve been reading this comment thread, venting and all, and my knee has not jerked yet. We humans have a startling capacity to hear the intention behind the words, notice the pain, pick out the truth, disagree where we disagree, and remain compassionate. Yeah, if you’re a dick about it, you stand to alienate your audience. That’s a real risk. But the audience does have the ability to choose not to be alienated – to prove oneself a friend.

  • Theo Darling

    Forgiving abusive religious leaders “in case they do repent” just strikes me as incredibly disingenuous. Whether or not they take steps to make amends and correct their harmful behavior and/or teachings, they suffer no earthly consequences and nothing is done to bring them to justice. For those of us who don’t believe in an afterlife, that’s not quite good enough.

    And none of this is relevant in cases where it isn’t specific leaders who are abusive, but abusive theology. You can’t forgive a doctrine.

  • Theo Darling

    WOW. Actually a TON of the people in this article’s intended audience don’t care about traditional Christian doctrine anymore because they LEFT THE CHURCH. We’re bothering about it because we have suffered at the Church’s puny little metaphoric hands.

  • Elisabeth M

    1. If a question is sincere, it’s a good question. Who says Jesus couldn’t be harsh in response? No dichotomy required.
    2. True, but patterns and personalities do shine through. Seems pretty reasonable to say that hard words were part of Jesus’ style.
    3. Jesus wasn’t one to worry much about his own fate. He railed against the Pharisees mostly for their hypocrisy and behavior toward the powerless, not so much for their animosity toward him personally.
    4. I agree that contempt is dangerous, and can turn poisonous. Mockery isn’t necessarily contempt, though it may look like it.

  • Elisabeth M

    That idea (which gets circulated in lots of places) about the abused turning around and starting to abuse their former abusers is a total fiction. People can be snarky, they can be ass holes, they can be hurtful. But victims abusing their abusers? It’s pretty rare for a former abuser to find that their victim has encompassed them in a state of such sustained trauma that it’s dismantled their emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, sexual, (what have you) health. That’s what abuse looks like. People sitting behind the bleachers cussing amongst themselves does not an abuser make.

  • Elisabeth M

    Protecting God’s reputation is not our work. Speaking as the daughter of a missionary kid whose abusers’ behavior was kept under the carpet for 50 years and counting, because to let it be known would be to make the church vulnerable to secular criticism, would be to make God look really bad. It DOES make God look really bad, when some of God’s most vocal representatives turn out to be slimy snakes. But God is not afraid of the truth, and we shouldn’t be either. “Whose side are you on, ours or theirs?” “Neither, but as the messenger of the army of the Lord I have come.”

  • Elisabeth M

    Yes, that’s a sour feeling, and we do have a responsibility to self-regulate. Still, I do think the “self-” in “self-regulate” is important.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    That must make it hard for you to enjoy fantasy novels, friend.

    “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering.”

    (Point made. But this is a misquote. The original version was: “Prequels lead to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering.”)

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Forgiving abusive religious leaders “in case they do repent” just strikes me as incredibly disingenuous.

    That’s why I didn’t say that. Instead I said:

    “That’s why we may maintain a spirit of forgiveness in case they do repent …” And note that when I’m saying this, I’m speaking only to Christians. Only based on the religion of Christianity is “spirit of forgiveness” or “willingness to forgive” different from actual forgiveness. But actual forgiveness equals a willing transaction between two parties. In this equal and voluntary arrangement, justice and mercy have both been met and now something can change in these two parties’ relationship. The repentant party knows his wrong and desires to change from it. Only then can the wronged party, if his greater sin against God has been forgiven, make a choice to forgive. But repentance comes first.

    (There may still be natural consequences, but the forgiving party still says, “As God has no longer held my sin against me after I repented, so I will no longer hold your sin against you after you repented.”)

    They suffer no earthly consequences and nothing is done to bring them to justice. For those of us who don’t believe in an afterlife, that’s not quite good enough.

    A revealing remark, which demonstrates something I’ve believed all along: throw out the concept of a God of wrath, and you violate your own sense of justice that “someone must pay for their sins.” But while you may think you have saved God and yourself from that nasty Christianity, are you not doomed to a life of little more than anger at the abusers? Meanwhile, they aren’t doomed to anything beyond your anger and mockery (which usually does not affect them). It’s too little a doom for what many religious leaders have done to their victims.

    This is why Richard’s piece torqued so many non-Christian readers. He presumed that God is a just and holy God Who will by no means withhold punishment from the guilty — and so therefore we can rest, being honest about our experiences, but knowing that God is storing up wrath for unrepentant sinners. Richard also presumed definitions of forgiveness and reconcilation that are alien to folks who disbelieve the Bible’s teachings on such things. How could this not seem offensive? But note that the offense is not because CAPC or its writers are abusive, evil, enabling mass-market evangelical sins, etc. It’s solely because we believe in a God Who does punish sin, now and later, and because we also believe in mercy and real forgiveness for those who repent of their evils.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    That idea (which gets circulated in lots of places) about the abused turning around and starting to abuse their former abusers is a total fiction.

    Perhaps. (I haven’t heard of this happening either, except perhaps in revenge-fantasy movies.) That is why I didn’t say anything like that. Instead i mentioned the principle that “the abused can themselves become abusers.” Abusers in general. Abusers of other people (some of whom may by mere happenstance remind the victim of his/her negative experience, and fall under guilt by association). I win no points for my abusing others, if I leave out of the target those who once abused me.

    People sitting behind the bleachers cussing amongst themselves does not an abuser make.

    Not at all. But they do look more miserable than ever. That makes other folks — many of whom have also suffered spiritual or worse abuse, and yet found healing without sacrificing justice — want to step in and offer real help. And if someone walks back behind the bleachers and says, “Hey, can I help?” and gets cussed at, that does approach a simple repetition of the original problem.

  • dws689

    This sounds good, but how do you define justice and fairness? By your own feelings? Or by the Bible? If by the Bible, how do you decide how to interpret the Bible? Doesn’t that take you back to theology and doctrine? If by your feelings, hasn’t that made the universe a morally relative place with you as the king who decides what is right? Isn’t that itself a doctrine?

  • dws689

    When I was growing up as a Christian in the 1970′s, there was a standard byword that went, “the church is like a hospital; you don’t expect to find all dead people, but you also don’t expect to find all healthy people.” The church is full of sinners, because all people are sinners, and the church preaches the Gospel to sinners. If we believe sin is real, we won’t be shocked by sin, even among leaders. But we have a right to expect that a church will not be in rampant sin, including the sin of lovelessness. Every church has sins, but not all churches are nothing but rampant sin. I’ve known several that were great. When I compare that to the power plays that happen in the business world or the academic world, I’d take the church every time.

  • psych495

    Nobody seems to really understand what Martin Browne is saying. What we believe to be true about ourselves, and about God is the starting point for how we handle any circumstance life throws at us. He is truly avdocating what can best be described as a holistic approach to healing.
    We cannot simply treat the symptoms by providing comfort to those who have been abused by judgmental persons in the church. We have to focus on what is true about God.
    The hurting person needs to see that God is not like the judgmental persons who have hurt them. They need to see that when they placed their faith in Christ they were adopted into Gods family.(Gal 3) They were reconciled to God, and are no longer in enmity with Him (Cols 1). He loves them, and because of the completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross they can have faith that He will bring them into eternal life in the future, and begin reproducing His good character in them in the present.
    The theological underpinnings of the hurt are important. You cannot separate belief from experience. The person who understands that God is their friend, and will work out all things for their good (Rom 8) is equipped to handle the afflictions of this world knowing that the burdens they wrestle with are not the result of God’s wrath or vengeance towards their sin.
    Also the Amos passage is beautiful, and very well written. These words are a great warning to the modern church who sometimes puts their programs and events ahead of God. I would caution that God was speaking these words to Israel at a time of great apostasy. God did not condemn religious institutions in Amos 5, and then establish a religious institution in Matthew 16. Why does Jesus establish the Church if God really hates religious gatherings? There must be some characteristic of the religious gatherings that are negative in Amos’ time that God condemns. And furthermore scripture exhorts us to participate in worship meetings in (Heb 10) so we can share in fellowship with others.

  • psych495

    Lewis, the word ‘overwhelming’ you used to describe the Christians desire to pursue Biblical solutions is very appropriate. We should be overwhelmed as Christians with a desire to seek counsel from God’s word.
    Yes the complexity of the scriptures does leave open the opportunity for different interpretations, and the Church must provide leadership to believers in how to keep wrongful interpretations of the scriptures from leading people into sin, or allowing people to use scripture to condemn or manipulate others.
    I would assert however that the essential doctrines of the faith are made plain in scripture.
    The heart of the problem with bad churches is when leaders, elders, pastors etc fail to carry out the mission of the church in the way it is outlined in scriptures. Jesus said the example of leadership as a servant. (Mark 10.45) Additionally In John 1 we see that Jesus was full of Grace & Truth. The Biblical solution to bad churches is creating chruches that share God’s Grace AND Truth, and emphasizes servant leadership the way Jesus served his disciples.
    Bad churches either emphasize Truth, and leave out grace, or emphasize grace, but fail at effectively teaching God’s truth. Or the churches simply fail at serving their congregants. A Biblical solution IS the right medicine.

  • psych495

    Jesus would probably find a way to heal her from her fear, and hurt, AND find a way to heal her from her anger in the situation.
    I would suggest that Jesus is concerned for the abused woman more than the best of us. He wants to set her free from her abuser, but He also wants to set her free from the bitterness and despair that comes along with being abused.
    So many of you find health and catharsis in hurling insults and mockery against those who have hurt you in the past. But you fail to see the collateral damage your anger and resentment has on others. Anger begets more anger.

  • psych495

    You do need to stop and be nicer.
    You need to be more like Jesus.
    The people who hurt you need to be more like Jesus.
    I need to be more Christ like towards my family – EVEN when I don’t think they deserve it.
    I need to be more Christ like to my employer – EVEN after they have wronged me…or reduced my benefits, or told me I cannot read my Bible at work during breaks.
    You do not get to justify your actions by citing your anger.
    You do not get to hold others to a standard which requires them to never say anything the least bit negative towards you –while permitting yourself license to mock, complain, castigate, or hurl other forms of vurbal abuse –no matter how witty it may be–back at them.
    You do not get to demand grace from everyone around you while with-holding it from anyone who has ever said a harsh word to you, or taken a firm stance on something they should not have, or uttered an unkind word to you.
    Your anger may be completely justified, but your actions are not. If everyone must accept what you have to say because you need time to heal and process your anger, then you must grant everyone around you the same lattitude for expressing their anger, over they ways that you have chosen to express yourself. Afterall your verbal abuse may have victimized them, and now they need to … you know… find a voice for their hurt.

  • psych495

    And you just gave a pretty good example of a religious paradigm leading to better outcomes.


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