UNC, the Vatican and Sovereign Grace Ministries: When PR trumps concern for victims

(CONTENT NOTE: This gets ugly and painful. We’re dealing here with some really awful, evil topics, including sexual abuse, abuse of power, rape, and the ways that powerful, self-righteous people defend all of the above.)

Let’s start in Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina.

A UNC student, Landen Gambill, faces possible expulsion for speaking out about her sexual assault.

Last week, she was called to appear before the school’s “Honor Court” because she’s charged with “disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another … so as to adversely affect their academic pursuits, opportunities for University employment, participation in University-sponsored extracurricular activities, or opportunities to benefit from other aspects of University Life.”

… Gambill has not once publicly identified her attacker. She has, however, called out the school for their failures in dealing with her case. She’s said that the internal disciplinary process was offensive, inappropriate, and victim-blaming. “They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.” She’s accused UNC of betraying her trust by not letting her know that her attacker was returning to campus and in fact would be living across the street from her.

At a preliminary hearing, Gambill asked if she could have violated the Honor Code simply by saying she was raped and was told yes.

That’s from Maya at Feministing, who comments:

The message UNC students will take from this – if they haven’t gotten it already – is to think twice about coming forward. Because their school seems to think that – just as being seen as having a rape problem on your campus is considered worse than actually having one – being called a rapist is a more serious injury than being raped.

That seems to be the core of the problem at UNC, just as it seems to have been the core of the problem for decades in the Roman Catholic Church: “Being seen as having a rape problem … is considered worse than actually having one.”

For more than 20 years we’ve witnessed the slowly unraveling horrors of a massive sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic church. We’ve learned of widespread abuse and rape, and of even wider efforts to cover it up. We’ve seen the cruel injustice piled upon injustice of an institution treating crimes against children as, primarily, a PR problem to be addressed primarily with PR solutions. Instead of seeking justice and healing for victims, those victims were silenced, hidden, or attacked all over again in an effort to discredit their testimony. The institution was more focused on protecting its reputation and shielding itself from bad press or legal liability than it was on addressing the problem, weeding out the predators and criminals, and seeking restitution and healing for the victims.

That PR-focused strategy led the institution to shield, defend and enable the predators within it, while compounding the harm those predators had committed and further abusing their victims. Above and before everything else, that’s just simply evil.

But in addition to being abominably immoral, this PR-focused strategy also failed abysmally on its own terms. It turned out to be disastrous public relations — making the institution look even worse because it was even worse. And it turned out to be disastrously expensive in terms of the liability they sought to escape.

If anything good might have come from that ongoing horror show, I had thought it might be at least that other institutions could learn from it. The Catholic church was providing a vivid lesson in what not to do, and I had hoped that such a prominent, infamous example would be something other institutions would have to notice and to remember if they should ever discover abusers and predators within their own ranks.

But no.

As the example of UNC shows, other institutions seem to be taking the Catholic church’s evil and counter-productive PR-strategy as a template. Just like the bishops and cardinals who have done irreparable damage to the church, the leaders of other institutions seem fixated on, as Maya wrote, the idea that “Being seen as having a rape problem … is considered worse than actually having one.”

All of that is a long introduction for this: Go read T.F. Charlton’s essay at Religion Dispatches on “A Church Group, a Lawsuit, and a Culture of Abuse.”

It’s the best one-stop summary I’ve seen of the slowly unfolding scandal involving Sovereign Grace Ministries — a network of 91 conservative, evangelical churches.

SGM is independent, but it’s affiliated and allied with most of the leading figures of the angry, patriarchal, Reformed wing of conservative white evangelicalism — folks like Al Mohler, John Piper and Mark Driscoll, and groups like the Gospel Coalition and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. So this is not a fringe group, but one that is associated with some of the most vocal and prominent white evangelical church leaders in America.

Before this scandal began unfolding, SGM was considered one of the rock-star success stories of this patriarchal Reformed brand of white Christianity. Charlton does an excellent job summarizing the history of the scandal, and an even better job of showing how it is not an aberration from, but a consequence of, that very same patriarchal form of American evangelicalism.

Several other writers have recently addressed this scandal and the further scandal of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ failure thus far to respond to it with any evident concern for the victims. I want to discuss some of those other posts as well, but before we turn to them, please do go read Charlton’s essay for a clear-eyed introduction and overview.

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LBCF, No. 164: ‘That girl’

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  • Jenny Islander

    I thought I had seen every disgusting child-beating manual out there, but the flippant tone and cutesy “naughty” photo on the cover of that Tomczak book make me sick!  Oh, tehee, Junior stole cookies, chuckle, let’s use the rod on his bod for God!

    Is anybody out there surprised that the first page of hits for Larry Tomczak includes allegations that he systematically abused someone for 25 years and abetted the cover-up of abuse within a church?  

    Of course the imprint for this manual of horrors is “Power Books.”  Of course.

  • Carstonio

    While I share your revulsion at what the book is promoting, I admit that I read “rod” metaphorically, since Fred is talking about the sex-abuse scandal.

  • Fusina

     My Mom had this book.

  • AnonaMiss

     I am so sorry.

  • Fusina

     She also has/had copies of several Dobson books, “Strong Willed Child” and at least one other. If anyone wants to know why I hate James Dobson so much, read a copy of the title I mentioned, and see what he says about spanking a child.

  • AnonymousSam

    Um. Wasn’t Dobson the one who said something to the effect of “if your male child seems effeminate, show him your penis so he’ll understand how manly he’s supposed to be, and if that doesn’t work, beat him soundly until it does”?

  • Lori

    Yup, that was him. He’s also the one who freely admitted to resorting to violence in a power struggle with a small dog, and had such a total lack of self-awareness that he didn’t realize that admission made him look not only monstrous, but totally ineffectual and pathetic.

  • AnonymousSam

    *Nods* Slacktivist doesn’t like to reliably display in Google searches. All I could find were the more recent Dobson articles, like him saying that Sandy Hook was a form of vengeance from God for abortion.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What tends to work is “Search term you know is only on Slacktivist” site:patheos.com

  • Jenny Islander

    Yeah, that was Dobson.  The basic situation was that Dobson was all, “Me have penis, me paterfamilias, you dog off me sit place,” while the dog was all, “You again?  You’re the big shouty jerk who travels a lot and the real leader of this pack is the woman who feeds me and lets me out and lets me in and makes me mind my manners because she’s actually, you know, here, and I never read your books, so eff off,” and then Dobson went and got his belt.

    IIRC Dobson also got mad at this little dog–a 12-pound Dachshund!–for not attacking a burglar on his word of command.  A command which Dobson had never actually tried to teach the dog BTW.  He was just all, “Attack!” and the dog was all, “Bzuh?”  (And yes, Dobson the mighty man of the house was trying to make a tiny animal fight for him.  The burglar could have kicked the dog to death.)

  • GDwarf


    Um. Wasn’t Dobson the one who said something to the effect of “if your
    male child seems effeminate, show him your penis so he’ll understand how
    manly he’s supposed to be, and if that doesn’t work, beat him soundly
    until it does”?

    I think so, yes, and that particular combination of phrases brings to mind something rather worse than I think even he meant.

  • AnonymousSam

    Call it what it is. It’s physical and sexual abuse.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Here is the Dobson “show your son your penis” article.  (Note: it’s not Dobson being quoted here–it’s some guy.  Some horrible guy.)

    He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.

    Well, yes, one would hope that it would be bigger.

    btw, I don’t think the article is available at Focus on Your Own Damn Family anymore–but the eeevil secular blogosphere has managed to save it.


  • vsm

    So the Christian Right has finally discovered Freud. Interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    And only, what, 100 years after the rest of us gave him up as a deluded fool playing psychologist? Why am I not surprised? -.-

  • AnonymousSam

     Oh FFS, now I remember. FRC Dobson. Right. Mister
    “Homosexuals want to murder Christians and replace Christianity with a
    religion based around pedophilia” Dobson. It was Sean Harris who
    advocated beating up children to make them act like the proper gender.

    Dobson having a parenting guide is a scary thought. Add my condolences to the pile.

  • TheBrett

    It’s typical institutional self-preservation, like what we saw with the Sandusky cover-up at Penn State. You get a group of people with the idea that the institution is the highest priority, and must be protected at all costs – anything that damages it must be suppressed and dealt with quietly. The Catholics are just one of the more appalling examples of this.

  • Lori

    As Fred points out, these cover-ups fail as institutional self-preservation almost as badly as they fail morally. This kind of maneuver only protects that institution to the extent and for as long as the cover-up holds, and the cover-up never holds forever. Once it comes out the cover-up makes the original problem so much worse.

    The question is, why can’t people grasp that? I’m aware that some people value institutional prestige more than doing the right thing. I also understand why lying about the problem is so often the first impulse. It’s less clear why people actually go with that instead of learning from others’ mistakes and coming up with a different strategy.

  • Albanaeon

     People can’t grasp it because we are ridiculously bad at thinking about things like the odds and consequences, and we have a bad habit of identifying with “tribe” over “others,” whatever we’ve done to them.

    There’s a slim hope that if you cover it up, it’ll just go away particularly if it seems like a one off occurrence.  So they try the cover up because it seems like a good bet.  And then once you’ve done it once, its easy to keep doing it because now “that’s what we do about it.” 

    So we get the same play over and over.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The odd thing to me is, purely from a PR standpoint, one would think it would be better to be seen as doing something to address a rape problem and prevent future recidivism of the crime than to be seen as trying to downplay and cover it up.  The former demonstrates that you care enough about the institution to prevent individuals dragging its reputation through the muck by the institution condoning reprehensible actions they are taking, the later demonstrates that the institution does condone those reprehensible acts (even if in the doing so you are also acknowledged that society in general considers them reprehensible.)  

    This kind of consideration is… not actually all that hard.  The longer you let an odious lie fester, the worse the fallout is going to be when it finally gets exposed. Even a few token gestures of addressing the issue would be enough to deflect most of the public rage such acts would inspire since you are showing at least caring enough to do something about trying to fix it.  

  • Lori

    Yes, this is clearly the reasoning of decent people. And then there’s what the powerful actually do. All of this strongly suggests that the Venn diagram of  “decent people” and “powerful people” is at best two circles with barely touching edges.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Doing something about the problem is hard. Denying the existence of the problem is easy.

    And frankly, they’re right to be concerned that “We caught X rapists this year!” will not be attractive to prospective students. Especially if they think they can pull off “We’ve never had a substantiated rape report!” 

    (It’s essentially the same catch-22 that causes the TSA to look as ridiculous as it does: if they reported “We stopped X attempted terror attacks this year,” no one would ever get on an airplane.)

  • Ursula L

    The question is, why can’t people grasp that? I’m aware that some people value institutional prestige more than doing the right thing. I also understand why lying about the problem is so often the first impulse. It’s less clear why people actually go with that instead of learning from others’ mistakes and coming up with a different strategy.

    The thing is, the cover up can’t last forever for the institution.  But often, the authorities, such as university presidents, only hold their office for a few years.  The cover-up only needs to outlast their tenure in order to serve their needs, and push the problem on for their successor to deal with.  

  • TheBrett

    Everyone thinks they’re the ones who are going to get away with it. The sickening thing is that they did, for years. 

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    You get a group of people with the idea that the institution is the highest priority, and must be protected at all costs – anything that damages it must be suppressed and dealt with quietly.

    It wouldn’t be nearly so bad if the people protecting the institution didn’t fail to correctly identify the abusers (rather than abuse victims) as the faction that’s damaging the institution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    One problem, for me, is that the PR blowback for the Catholic church hasn’t seemed to have caused it the kind of distress it _should_ have.  With the mind-boggling amount of abuse and coverup going on, that institution should have _toppled_, not just faced some angry comments from the blogosphere.  I heard a lot of chatter about Ryan’s Catholicism in 2012 informing his morality, but nothing about how he was supporting an institution that provided material aid to child rapists.  The Catholic opposition to the birth control insurance mandate based on upholding their religious principals should have been laughed (painful laughter, but lest we cry….) out of the court of public opinion, not kowtowed to.  The MSM of the Pope’s step-down has been more focused on his pretty red shoes than on the hideous abuses he presided over…

    I get really riled up about this, but rape does that to me.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTIorwtJbhE (NSFW)

  • AnonymousSam

    The UNC spokeswoman went on to say that the school “is committed to providing policies and procedures that are fair for everyone, especially about an issue that is as difficult and often involves strong opinions on both sides like sexual assault.”

    So, taking this opportunity to ask my friends in North Carolina to reconsider moving…

  • Kirala

     I might be more a forgettable-passing-internet-acquaintance than friend, but this North Carolinian is staying in hopes of leaving her home state solely in the hands of fools.

    Of course, there are points where I start thinking that’s not the best policy. I have a cousin at UNC; I worry about her safety (especially as she and her friends are busy organizing public support for Landen). Meanwhile, I’m left with my pride in my alma mater shattered. Why?

  • Kirala

     *staying in hopes of NOT leaving her home state in the hands of fools. Although those who know me might argue that the original phrase works better…

  • AnonymousSam

    To a degree, I agree. We’ve seen this in several groups — radical behavior, failure and the consequences of both drives the moderates away. Those who remain have done whatever mental gymnastics to justify staying. After enough repetition of this, the only people left are the hardcore fanatics with no keeping in reasonable perspective at all, only unquestioning loyalty to the purpose — and now they’re the only ones with a voice.

    In theory, if the moderates never leave, the fanatics never take over.

    It’s a hell of a responsibility, though…

  • Carstonio

    Sexual assault is “an issue that is difficult and often involves strong opinions on both sides”?!!! It’s official – we’re living in an Onion parody.

  • Eamon Knight

    The strong opinion of sexual assault victims would be that they should not have been assaulted. And the strong opinion of perpetrators would be what — that they should be able to get away with it?

    Nope, I can’t come up with a rational completion for that, either.

  • Kittehonmylap

    Apparently the strong opinion of sexual assault victims is “I was assaulted.” The strong opinion of the perps is “No, you weren’t.” And the school can’t possibly take sides, can it? Let the kids being bullied on the playground figure it out themselves, they have to learn sometime. It was probably just a misunderstanding, don’t want something small like that getting out & seeming worse than it is. He’s a person too, he has feelings that are just as keen as the girl accusing him of this awful thing. What a bitch. /sarcasm

  • Tricksterson

    Rape:  Teach the controversy!

  • Carstonio

    Yes. Bending over backward to be fair, the spokesperson could have meant the principle of innocent until proven guilty, concerned about wrongful accusations. The only reason to even consider that possibility is the gender of the spokesperson. Feministing is exactly right that the outcome is the same, treating being accused of rape as worse than actually being raped.

  • misanthropy_jones

    so there are strong proponents of sexual assault at UNC?

    what a horrid bunch of people…

  • frazer

    Kudos to UNC for respecting the apparently equally valid opinion that sexual assault is A-OK!

  • MikeJ

    Teach the controversy!

  • Hth

     Fuck no.  Durham is my city, and I’m not budging one toe out of it.  You don’t let yourself get bullied out of your home by jackasses any more than you negotiate with terrorists.  You seriously want the take-away message to be that the worse your behavior is, the better your chances of getting the annoying feminists to go away?

    Fuck. no.  This state is stuck with me.

  • fraser

     And Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill is a lot more sane than some parts of the state. And parts of many other states.

  • LL

    Oh, Fred. Your hope that people who are awful might recognize their awfulness and do something to be less awful is sweet. I gave up that hope pretty long ago (and I have not been horribly abused by anybody, FWIW, so my outlook comes from observation, not necessarily first-hand experience). 

    The truth is, powerful people always protect themselves first. And because “protecting” in this context means not admitting/acknowledging they’ve done anything wrong, that means innocent people (often children) get thrown under the proverbial bus. You can’t remain a leader for long if you admit that you don’t care that some of your employees (or you yourself) abuse children. So – you don’t admit it. Ever.

    And as long as you have enough suckers left to funnel money to you and give you support in the form of political power and free labor, you never have to answer for any of this. 

    It’s the laypeople of every church/religion who allow these things to continue. The Catholic Church as it is today must be working for its adherents, if they continue to support it with their time and money. And the same goes for all the other awful religious institutions that reward abusers and punish victims. If their followers left en masse, they’d have nobody left to lead and they’d die. But their followers continue to support them. 

    The awful institutions continue to behave they way they do because IT WORKS. 

    OMG, Victor is rubbing off on me. Before long, half my comments will be all caps. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    That would be the start, but you’d still need to start talking to/about “Sinner LL”  to get the full effect.

  • LoneWolf343

    This seems to go hand in hand with another growing scandal against the Catholic Church: Teresa may have been more style than substance: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/03/06/mother_teresas_saintly_image_comes_under_fire_in_new_study.html

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s only starting to get scandalous now? We’ve known it for ages.

  • Lori

    That was my first response as well. Then I reconsidered. The original revelations about Mother Teresa and her order were largely dismissed because they came from what amounted to disgruntled ex-employees and of course a presumptively evil atheist who was “obviously” out to get her. The latest assessment comes from legitimate researchers who initially started looking into her work because they were studying altruism and thought her an obvious example.

    Nothing is ever going to make a dent in the beliefs of her hardcore fans and I can’t imagine this will even slow down the Church’s race to canonize her. I would like to believe that it can serve as the beginning of getting people to stop using “Mother Teresa” as a synonym for altruism and sacrificial aid to the less fortunate. She was not a saint and I’m long past tired of hearing non-Catholics talk as if she was.

  • fraser

     I wouldn’t put quotes around “obviously.” Hitchens asserts the very fact she believed she had a mission from God proved she was insane, QED. I found it hard to take the book seriously after that (and nothing I’ve read by Hitchens since has made me see him as anything but a pissed-off asshole better ignored). It did, however, lead me to better books that covered most of the points in the article–so no, this stuff isn’t a revelation, even if you exclude Hitchens (but they’re still worth bringing up again).
    The good book I read emphasized that one reason she falls short of her image is that she doesn’t see her primary ministry as caring for the sick–the sick are there for her proteges to grow spiritually by caring for them. So they get unskilled nuns rather than trained nurses (this is not meant as an excuse).

  • Madhabmatics

    I know this is about Theresa, but this post reminded me of all the people who try to argue that John Brown was insane based on the fact that he was a white dude who dared kill slave-owners.

  • Mrs Grimble

     What makes me angry about the Mother Teresa fans is their unwavering belief that she was the only person offering free medical care to Kolkata’s poor.  In fact, at the time she was operating  there were –  and still are – several charity hospitals and clinics providing excellent care for the city’s sick poor. A number of these places are run by Indian charities, who must have been pretty aggrieved at being completely written out of the picture by the West. 
    Not to mention the subtext of much of the reporting at the time – that of compassionate white Christians stepping in to rescue poor brown people from cruelly dispassionate  Indian culture.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Lori, I am with you my sister, there is nothing more agravating and infuriating about the Religious pretention to exclusive goodness than the deliberate and assumed ignorance and minimising of secular charity efforts that are often more effective and more efficient than the loud pretentious overbearing fanfare of religious “Do-gooders”.

  • AnonymousSam

    Her definition of “medical care” could do with some scrutiny too, given that she opposed her staff receiving any form of medical training, opposed anesthesia, and felt both suffering and death were good things…

  • SergeantHeretic

    Yeah, I’ve known about that for years. The last time somene compared me to Mother Threasa I nearly decked the bastard. Then I reined in my temper and realized he didn’t know any better and was trying to pay me a compliment.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Yeah, I’ve known about that for years. The last time somene compared me to Mother Threasa I nearly decked the bastard. Then I reined in my temper and realized he didn’t know any better and was trying to pay me a compliment.

  • LoneWolf343

     First I heard of it, actually, at least in this detail. I heard “fraud” before, but nothing detailed, so I thought nothing of it.

  • Hexep

    The only Theresa I can think of who’s ever done anything good is Theresa Tang, and she was more benign than actually beneficial.

  • flat

    sigh, You know what I hate about these things:  The guilty gets protected, the victims got blamed, the people in the church who weren’t involved with this also becomes victims.
    And God’s name got dishonored because of those people.

    And not the kind of bullshit honor those abusers in the church used, but you know REAL honor.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Well, nothing is stopping god from showing up and doing something to defend his name…

  • AnonaMiss

    At a preliminary hearing, Gambill asked if she could have violated the
    Honor Code simply by saying she was raped and was told yes.


    Yes, I’d heard about this before, but apparently I had forced myself to forget it because it causes brain seizure.

    Thanks for the content note, by the way. I’m not one of the ones who really needed it (obviously, since I read the post), but it was appropriate.

  • Amy

    One problem, for me, is that the PR blowback for the Catholic church hasn’t seemed to have caused it the kind of distress it _should_ have.  With the mind-boggling amount of abuse and coverup going on, that institution should have _toppled_, not just faced some angry comments from the blogosphere. 

    Agreed.  I also have wondered- why aren’t the catholic people I know more upset?  Why aren’t they demanding change? Refusing to tithe & in other ways support this?I think it’s for the same reason that someone called “Janet” felt the need to add this to the comments on the linked article:
    “I am a member of a SGM church in NC I have to say that I have seen nothing but impeccable love, care and concern from the pastors of this church…I can’t attest to what is being said but only what I have witnessed and have never seen a child or woman abused in this church.”  (Shortened just to keep this shorter.)

    No outrage, not “it sickened me to learn this is happening” just- “As for the ones in the hirearchy they will be dealt with if they prove to be guilty.” and “Pray for SGM and its members.”  (In other words- please do nothing!)
    I see it as proof of how harmful and toxic those belief systems really are.  There’s no end to what you can get someone to tolerate if you tell them from Day One that they’re going to spend eternity in a lake of fire if they don’t do exactly what you want. But I don’t see it as an excuse for failing to seek justice  if your child has been victimized.  Imagine how messed up you have to be, that upon finding out your own child has been raped or molested, you go to the perp’s boss for advice! rather than the police, an attorney, or even a therapist.  But don’t they on some level realize how CRAZY that is? If their daughter was raped by some guy who works at the grocery store, would they ask the store manager for advice on what to do about it?   
    If they have a human conscience (not to mention claiming to have the holy spirit inside them) they have to know. And share a little accountability.

    So much more I want to add, but my comments are always too long as it is!

  • Lori

    I can’t attest to what is being said but only what I have witnessed and
    have never seen a child or woman abused in this church.” 

    I am experiencing a powerful urge to slap the ever loving crap out of this woman. This is such a stupid, stupid, horrible thing to say.

  • smrnda

     I have also never personally witnessed a murder and I have never personally seen a terrorist attack, though nothing would surprise me if it turned out I was vaguely acquainted with someone who did either. Bad people are great at blending in and looking normal, if not even better than normal. How else do they avoid getting caught?

  • stardreamer42

    “This IS my costume. I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everybody else.” – Wednesday Addams

  • The_L1985

    IKR?  Why on earth would you commit sexual assault in direct public view?

  • Carstonio

    why aren’t the catholic people I know more upset?  Why aren’t they demanding change? Refusing to tithe & in other ways support his?

    The ones I know treat the Church with familial or even filial loyalty. Among this group, the older ones have devolved into variations of Tea Party grumps and sourpusses. Some of them recently began boycotting Girl Scout cookies despite having young relatives who belong to troops.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Amy I grew up in this culture. the indoctrination is deep and far affecting. I literally DID NOT KNOW that the way I was brought up was in the slightest way strange. Not until I got away from it and the Army’s headshrinkers told me and showed me how bad off and self blaming I was.

    Amy Please understand that when I made mistakes in Basic traning I was sidelined into treatment because I startied hitting myself and cusring myself.

    No one was there to curse me and hit me and tell me how stupid I was so I started doing it to myself.

    Because I was trained to believe that is what is SUPPOSED to happen when I make mistakes.

    THAT is the culture we’re talking about. I needed weeks of therapy to stop doing that and act normal so I could graduate basic. Even to this day the impuses are still there, I’ve just learned to cover them up and push them aside.

    THAT is why that,…woman responded the way she did. Bercause the first step in the indoctrination proccess is to teach the victim that they’re being “Loved”.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Amy Please understand that when I made mistakes in Basic traning I was sidelined into treatment because I startied hitting myself and cusring myself.

    No one was there to curse me and hit me and tell me how stupid I was so I started doing it to myself.

    Because I was trained to believe that is what is SUPPOSED to happen when I make mistakes.

    It is kind of funny that I was never raised in such a belief system, my parents were agnostics who never hit me (my father spanked me once as a toddler because I ran into the road after he explicitly told me not to because he was afraid I would get hit by a car) and they gave me nothing but love and support.  And yet I would still hit myself and curse myself because I believed that I deserved to be beaten and battered for any of my manifold failures to live up to an impossible standard that I had set for myself.  When therapists asked me why I hurt myself the way I did, I told them it was because no one else would judge me and punish me, so it fell on my shoulders to carry that out.  When I was little, I wanted to go to a military academy where I anything less than excellence in all things would be punished by beating and failure by execution.  I fully expected to die in such a scenario, believing that such a death would be just and more fair than a life as anything less than the best I could be forced to be.  My parents said that they would never do such a thing, because military school was only for bad children and I was such a good boy.  
    I have no idea where the hell all this came from, but that kind of internalized hatred is not monopolized by a particular subculture, it comes out regardless.  I guess that I part of what I find so repugnant about a subculture which would encourage this.  My mind is messed up enough without that kind of pressure I imagine that you must have been under.  

  • Amy

    I grew up in this culture too, and I think that I get where you’re coming from and I totally sympathize with you!
    (…are we related?)

    I started thinking that perhaps it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be as a teenager.
    At 15, I was raped by the man who’d been my youth pastor.  When my parents found out, -long story short- they took his side.  Never called the police.  Punished me instead.  “You must have done something to seduce him, because I know him and he wouldn’t do that.”
    My Dad went to the rapist’s boss, the head pastor who’d hired him, and was told “The Christian thing to do is just forgive him.” 
    So my dad forgave him, because of course my dad was the victim!  (I think that’s why he told me I needed to beg for forgiveness.  God’s or his, I was never quite sure.)  He said I was lucky we didn’t still live in OT times because I would have been put to death for not being a virgin.  Then he went on to lament how this used to be a Christian Nation but our gov’t sadly no longer follows God’s Law when it comes to the death penalty, etc.

    Basically he was complaining to me that it was so unfair that he didn’t have the legal right to end my life because I’d brought so much shame upon my family.  He owned guns.  I lived in terror.  I loved may parents, and I HATED them too.  Same with God.  But not as much as I hated myself.

    I can relate to your story about hurting yourself. I “knew” that before I could be forgiven, I needed to be punished.  So to speed things along, I started to hurt myself physically.  I thought that the more it hurt, the sooner God would forgive me.  Skipping ahead, that was over 25 years ago & I’ve come a long way, but I can’t say that I’m over all that. 
    Here’s to continued healing for both of us!

    I bet the woman who made the excusey comment on the SGM story has no idea that she’s part of the problem!  She’s probably been there her whole life too and can’t see it.  Just like my mom.  But no matter how indoctrinated my parents were too, I can’t bring myself to make any excuses for what they did. 

    Forgiveness, that’s a topic for another day, or this post will turn into a BOOK.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I’m sorry this happened to you.

  • ReverendRef

     Wow . . .  I don’t even know where to begin. 

    Here’s to continued healing for both of us!

    But that’s a start.  Yes, prayers for continued healing.

  • LL

    Damn, that’s appalling. Not that it should mean much, but you have my permission, at least, to never forgive. Ever. Of all the things we tell people who’ve been victimized, that bullshit forgiveness stuff may be the worst. For fuck’s sake, people who won’t acknowledge fault don’t deserve forgiveness. Parents who take the side of a perpetrator against a child may be at the very top of the list of people I would gladly launch into the sun. That’s right: gladly.

    I’m not a Christian, so take my opinion for whatever you think it’s worth. 

    Stupid people say you can’t move on with your life until you forgive. That is absolutely incorrect. People who say it are either religious hucksters or have been brainwashed by religious hucksters.

  • Richard

     My favorite quote on this subject is from an 18th-century poem whose name I have forgotten:

     “One must, to be sure, forgive one’s enemies — but not before they have been hanged.”

    Like with most quotes I don’t agree with it in a literal sense, but it gives an interesting counterpoint to the more common notion of forgiveness as the opposite of punishment.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Richard, I could not agree more with the mtaphorical sentiment of that expression.

    Forgiveness is not free, nor should it ever be. Even i nthe Bible the price of forgivceness is genuine contrition from the perpetrator followed by a definitive stoppage of the behavior in question. In the bible the one seeking forgiveness must be genuinly remorsefull and most importantly to STOP DOING what they are seeking forgiveness for.

    You damned sure don’t drag the victim in front of the perpetrator of the crime and order them to forgive the son of a bitch. That’s not how it works.

    How it works is, the perpetratr feels bad, as they should and feels convicted for what they’ve done. Then they go to the victim like a proper supplicant and ask and if need be BEG to be forgiven for what they’ve done.

    “I have hurt you, I have wronged you, I have done terrible needless damage to you. I am sorry to have hurt you so badly can you please find it in your heart to forgive this crime I comited against you?”

    The reason you say it that way is because it puts the power with the victim. That’s where it belongs. It takes the power away from the perpetrator and gives it to the victim. That’s how it SHOULD BE!

    That is also why the religious ownership/power/property/rape culture doesn’t do it that way. They don’t do it that way because empowering their victim is the LAST thing they want to do.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I like the Church of the SubGenius’ take on that:  “Forgive them first, then kill them.”

    (Not literally, I hasten to add.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     GAHWHATTHEFUCKWASWRONGWITHYOURPARENTSI’m so sorry and glad you survived.

  • Jenny Islander

    The poisoned cherry on top of the horror sundae of your story is that “just forgive him” isn’t what Christians are supposed to do within the congregation.  Jesus Himself clearly lays out the steps (see Matthew 18):  The one who notices that a fellow parishioner has sinned goes privately to the sinner.  If the sinner will not acknowledge the sin, the next step is to take along some witnesses and try again.  If the sinner still won’t listen, it becomes a congregational issue, and if the sinner still won’t admit that he/she did wrong, the congregation is to treat him/her “as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (NIV), which is to say, with hospitality and compassion–and expectation of repentance and reformation if there is to be any relationship (remember, “don’t cast your pearls before swine”).  

    As for legal action, Jesus never preached a revolution against the existing government.  Rather the opposite.

  • Fusina

    treat him/her “as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (NIV), which is to say, with hospitality and compassion

    I thought I was the only one who had read this with this twist. I had read this and the upside down way to look at this verse just came to me one day–although I am not very good at it. I cut off contact with this one person–although, come to think of it, she didn’t exactly come over and say anything to me, and I had nothing to say to her until she apologized for her extreme nastiness. I guess just not badmouthing her to anyone and not screaming at her when I saw her was a good thing?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Wow, that’s horrific.  I’m glad you’re getting out of it, though.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    But I don’t see it as an excuse for failing to seek justice  if your child has been victimized.  Imagine how messed up you have to be, that upon finding out your own child has been raped or molested, you go to the perp’s boss for advice! 

    But who else would you go to, if not your most trusted council, your spiritual leader & guide to all things worldly and otherworldly? 

    That might sound snarky, but the Berkley Prison experiment showed that when people are removed from their normal environment and placed into an isolated situation, some pretty astonishing cognitive distortions can occur. 

    But don’t they on some level realize how CRAZY that is? 

    “CRAZY” is a matter of context and perspective. If everyone around you behaves in a certain way for years and years and years, that way of behaving becomes your baseline measurement for “normal”. 

    When I was in 3rd grade, my family toured Europe for the summer. When I got back and talked about it at show-and-tell, another kid asked if it was hard for French children to learn two languages. I was confused, but the teacher explained to the class that French children didn’t learn English, only French. My classmate spoke English, everyone he knew spoke English, so he assumed that everyone, everywhere spoke English. That’s the basic human standard for  “normal” versus “CRAZY”: me, you, and everyone we know.

    Abuses like these don’t happen to new members, and they aren’t perpetrated by strangers or distant figures. There is a period of “grooming”, of shifting the boundaries of “normal” that happens before any abuse begins. Is your child asking tough questions? Ask the pastor for advice. Is the child acting up and being defiant? Ask the pastor for advice. Is the child melancholy, often upset, but quiet? Ask the pastor for advice. Are you worried that your child is struggling with sin? Ask the pastor for advice. Gradually, over time, “normal” gets shifted. 

    If they have a human conscience (not to mention claiming to have the holy spirit inside them) they have to know. And share a little accountability.

    No, sorry, but that’s victim-blaming. These families are victims of abuse and of exploited trust. 

    Remember what I said at the start, about “who else would they turn to?” If you have “a little of the holy spirit” inside you, giving you some nagging worry or doubt or fear, who would you turn to? Your priest, your pastor, your parish? Or would you turn to a lawyer, a police officer, a judge? Would you go to a minister with years of history with your family, deeply tied to the community, or go to an impersonal doctor, assigned by the vagaries of your insurance company? 

  • Amy

    I’m not super-offended because I know you didn’t know where I was coming from with my first post, but wow, that doesn’t sit well and I do want to address this idea.

    Do some adults take advantage of other adults’ trust?  Yes, certainly.  I’m with ya on that.
    But since the subject of my post was parents who fail to seek justice for their children after a rape or molestation… let’s try to keep that in perspective.

    Adults have options and resources that their children don’t have.  They’re responsible for their own decisions and actions, and for the physical and emotional well-being of their children.  (Unless literally insane, which isn’t what we’re talking about here.)

    I don’t accept the notion that these adults don’t know that there are places to go for help besides their pastor.  If their car was stolen or their home was broken into, I betcha anything they’d call the police instead.   Maybe they’d get some pastoral counseling for dealing with the fear, worry and anger that probably result from that, sure.  But would they really expect their pastor to get their car back or catch the thief who took their TV?  I think not.  In reference to the car thief, would they say, “The Christian thing to do is just forgive him” and let that be the end of it?  Just get themselves another car?  I reeeeeally doubt it.

    My parents, for example,  did what was EASIEST FOR THEM.  They let a crime that they KNEW was a first-degree felony go unpunished because they didn’t want to be embarrassed.  (What will people think!)
    Then, to maintain their sense of control,  they listened in on every phone call I made and read every letter I wrote before I could mail it.  For years.  (no e-mail or texting then).  I was not allowed to get a job or a driver’s license until I left for college, etc. In the process they did everything they could to wall me off from anyone I might be tempted to ask for help.

    So…Victim, or Victimizer?  I’m willing to say- “both, …but each to what degree?”  I’m honestly trying to be fair, I recognize that it’s nigh impossible for me to be objective about this.

    Since I’m trying to be objective, I also can’t assume that my own family’s experience is the “norm” (for lack of a better word) for such situations.   Is there a point where some people are so brainwashed (also for lack of a better word) that they really aren’t capable of thinking for themselves?  It would seem the answer is Yes, and though I’m not qualified to say when/where the line crossed, I just don’t think all of the millions of people in these type of churches are completely beyond being able to reason.  (Again, probably more a matter of degree than Yes or No.)  I have to believe there’s a little voice somewhere inside them insisting “No, this isn’t right!”  Even a basic fight or flight response.  Asking themselves WWJD?  Something other than total compliance.

    Also FWIW- I recognize that anyone who means well and tries to explain “They did what they did because…” runs the risk of looking -from my perspective- like they’re making excuses for people.  I just want you to know that I know you don’t mean it that way and I’m truly sorry if I’ve ever bitten someone’s head off when they were just trying to help!

  • Amy

     Replying to my own post just in case anyone is curious- I did eventually call the police myself as an adult.  They took my statement, (a 45 minute recording,) but the statute of limitations has already expired so the man was never arrested or charged.  The law has since been changed to never expire, but that doesn’t cover cases that had already happened.

  • Trixie_Belden

    That’s a damn shame.  I’m sorry you had to live through that.

  • Fanraeth

    I think the really devoted Catholics are suffering from some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Since the Pope announced his retirement, I’ve been in a ridiculous amount of arguments with people who absolutely refuse to admit he’s a terrible person. Non-Catholics even buy into the idea that Benedict is really a good man.

  • AnonymousSam

    Does the fact that Non-Catholics believe that he’s a good man not imply that it’s not limited to some form of Stockholm Syndrome?

    I don’t understand where it comes from myself, but it’s definitely not limited to devout Catholics.

  • AnonymousSam

    For that matter, “devout” is a sketchy word. Devout in what way? One can have devout Christian beliefs, while being Catholic, which have nothing to do with the Catholic Church or the Pope. Likewise, I’m certain there are people who have devout beliefs regarding the Church, but who make pretty terrible Christians.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I had the good fortune to be the first person to tell my ery devoutly catholic coworker about Benedict’s retirement. He got very upset and told me that he needed me to find some good news to tell him.

    I said “I thought I just did.”

  • SergeantHeretic

    I read Fred’s blog and the article he wanted me to read. I absolutly believe every word of both because they rang true. I KNEW the truth of the rape culture from having been raised in an only slightly less brutal and sickmaking version of it.

    I joined the army when I was seventeen primarily to get away from this kind of environment. When I got away from it, I made contact with a bigger world and I learned how utterly inhumanly bizarre and sick that culture really is.

    I learned that in secular/moderate households the little boys and girls are NOT the de facto property of Daddy. I learned that the way he raised me constituted physical and emotional long term abuse. That abuse marked me and caused me to be abnormal in a clinical sense. The army psychiatrists thought I was borderline crazy. That I had P.T.S.D. from just being a little girl in that house!

    THAT is a culture that I come from. It’s real, it exists and it is turning little boys and girls into basket cases and bordrline nutjobs every day, I know because to this day I AM ONE OF THEM!

    The purity culture is real the rape culture is real the wives and children as de facto property of their husbands and fathers is REAL! The sexual abuse, the emotional and physical abuse, the twisted long term lasting mental and emotional wounds are NOT aberrations, they are what this culture is all about!

  • Daughter

    I was living in Boston when the Catholic Church pedophile scandal first broke there, and I had the attitude that such things couldn’t happen in my church.

    A Catholic co-worker shared this story that changed my attitude. She was part of a prayer group that met at her gym in the mornings, and was one of the group’s only Catholic members. One morning after the scandal broke, one of the men in the group was praying and said, “Lord, we pray now for the Catholic Church.”

    Oh no,” my co-worker thought, I’m about to get slammed.

    The prayer that followed, however, surprised her. The man prayed, “We know you’re exposing the Catholic Church’s sin right now. But we know that there is sin in all our churches, and we pray that you expose all of it. Bring us all out into the light, and help us all change.”

    I was really moved by this story, realizing that the guy praying was right, and I needed to get off my high horse. And sure enough, my own church ended up having its own scandal exposed the following year – financial rather than sexual, but still.

  • MaryKaye

    My stepfather, a lifelong Catholic, is giving serious and prayerful consideration to leaving the Church, mainly over this issue.   I believe he has stopped tithing and does volunteer work instead, in ways that cannot profit the central administration (e.g. organizing blood drives).

    It is hard to let evil people drive you out of something you believe is fundamentally good; it’s like conceding ownership of a major part of your life to them.  I won’t condemn people who stay and try to make things better.  I don’t feel as kindly toward those who stay and do nothing, and to be a booster or apologist for one’s church when it is clearly in the wrong is a vile act.

  • Fusina

     I reached that point with the church I currently attend. I am not a member, I do not give money as an offering (I do support an orphan in Haiti through the church, and we go to various fundraisers that are held to support things like the food pantry etc… ) but we quit giving general funds. I have personal reasons why, and don’t see them changing in the near future.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Folks, you have to realize and understand that as bizarre and sick making and frankly monsterous as this phenomenon is, for those of us raised in it it’s normal. the victims who come forward are very often the exception, not the rule.

    To a large extent when I was pulled aside and diagnosed by the specialists of USAMPSYCH I objected i nhe strongest terms. Crazy, me? No waym man I’m not crazy, no sir!

    But I was abnormal. I was dysfunctional. normal people i nthe real world don’t do that. they don’t hit themselves and call themselves names and so on.

    I know that now, but I didn’t know it then and I didn’t want to know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

    Hey, secular nationalists often demonstrate the same phenomena that causes Catholics to become apologists for their church, so, dear commenters, lighten up on the whole “religion is evil” thingy, thanks.

  • SergeantHeretic

    No one said “Religion is evil” no one even implied it.

    What are are testifying to is real things real events and real systematic crimes of abuse and mental and emotional and physical maltreatment by a system hard wired to protect the perps and humiliate and further abuse the victims.

    It’s real and it happens every day.

    Don’t blame us, pla, blame the religious and church heirarchies that minimise and trivialise these horrid crimes. blame the religious heierarchies that think the accusation is worse than the crime.

    WE’RE not the ones making religion look bad, sonny Jim that’s all the heirarchies and the perpetrators and enablers of these crtimes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

    I’m an atheist, FYI. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Hmmm… No.

    I’ll just castigate the nationalists EVEN HARDER, to keep it even, OK?

  • SergeantHeretic

    Consumer Unit 5012, I hate to break it to you mister, but the nationalists don’t write books about the most effective waysto beat the hell out of children!

    The secular nationalist aren’t the ones that keep getting in hot water for RAPING women and children and then trying to COVER IT UP!

    The Secular Nationalist aren’t the ones creating brutal conspiransies of silence against the victims of child sexual abuse, rabe, emotional abuse and who knows what else.

    So just you watch who your scolding mister. We’ve had quite enough of so-called fair minded people bending over backwards to blame the victim and make exuses for abusers.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I know that for my $LocalParish, a check made out to $LocalParish goes 100% to them, while cash dropped in the basket has to be split with higher levels. Don’t know if this is true everywhere.

  • smrnda

    Authority and power are always used to justify abuse. This is why our government is (ostensibly) answerable to the people and is supposed to have checks and balances.

    The problem with these churches is they are basically autocracies. The opinion of the person on top counts, and nobody else. You don’t develop a sense of compassion by telling people to shut up and do what you say, and people with any level of decency aren’t attracted to arrangements like that; anybody decent welcomes accountability.

    I think these authoritarians are really narcissistic, insecure people who want to build little empires. If a few kids get molested or women are abused, it’s collateral damage to them.

  • ReverendRef

    This thing at UNC is awful.  After all the (bad) examples from the Catholics to Penn State and everything in between,  it’s hard for me to understand that people are still trying to hide this crap.  As one of the commenters said (sorry, I forgot who), “What . . . we need to allow space for people to be opposed to rape as well as space for rapists to rape?” — or something along those lines.

    However, as much as I am appalled at the stance UNC is taking, I can’t say I’m surprised.  After all, this is the University of North Carolina — as in, the North Carolina that overwhelmingly passed Prop 1 so that they could legally discriminate and hate people.

    Appalled, yes; surprised, no.

  • EdinburghEye

    Earlier this week I was struggling through the details of the Cardinal Keith O’Brien situation – trying to work out a timeline of what had happened when. (Which is here.)

    In October last year, a priest came forward to the Papal Nuncio in the UK to reveal that O’Brien had molested him, 12 years earlier. O’Brien was due to retire from being Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh at the end of March, and as far as anyone can tell at this point, the Vatican’s decision was to get O’Brien to write his formal resignation to be accepted promptly when he turned 75, and delay any investigation of the priest’s allegations until after that. A retired Cardinal I think normally lives at the Vatican, so O’Brien would be out of the country and out of the news.

     In  2013, four more priests (one of whom had left the Church due to the molestation) had found out that very similar things had happened to them over the span of about 30 years. They didn’t know about the first priest: but they did make statements to the Nuncio, who warned them not to talk about it because it could damage the Church.

    Then Pope Benedict announced his resignation, and O’Brien would be going to conclave (and would likely have reached retirement age before the conclave ended!) and the four priests decided that if they did nothing, the new Pope was unlikely to trouble himself with investigating allegations against a retired Archbishop who was one of the Cardinals who had elected him.
    So they went public. The story was published in the Sunday Observer.

    The Pope promptly accepted O’Brien’s resignation – while O’Brien was still denying everything and saying he would talk to his lawyers about legal action against the journalist who wrote the story – but a week later, after the journalist published again pointing out that she had copies of the priests’ statements, O’Brien had cautiously and unspecifically admitted the allegations were true, and he was going to withdraw from public life.

    He is apparently now living at an undisclosed address in England, told by the Church he will have to live as a hermit from now on, without contact with anyone he knew in the Church. The Vatican will carry out its own investigation. What will happen to the four priests still in the Church is anyone’s guess, but none of them apparently have much hope of a happy ending despite having been vindicated.

    It seems clear that the Church has learned nothing even after all these years of having it demonstrated to them that, first of all, a man who will molest once will molest again: that the priest who came forward in October was very unlikely to be the only man who’d suffered O’Brien’s unwanted sexual attention: and second of all, that trying to cover up only makes the Church look worse.

    Keith O’Brien wasn’t just the most senior Catholic cleric in the UK, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland: he was also the man who had for eight years been the most outspokenly vicious critic of any kind of gay equality. He’d likened gay parents to child abuse, he’d said same-sex relationships were grotesque subversions (in his case of course that was true), and he’d claimed that legalising gay marriage would be like legalising slavery. All of this while – as the Vatican knew at least in October 2012 – he had been having sex with priests very much junior to him in the Church. They should have known when the first priest came forward that this was not something they could hope to sit on and cover up and trust they’d get away with…

    …but they did, anyway. (Oh, Fred, I quoted you today!)

  • hidden_urchin

    The top people in the Catholic Church are still living in the 15th century when the Church was so rich and powerful that it dictated the truth and everyone from peasants to kings agreed. They haven’t yet figured out that the world changed and they were left behind.

  • Fusina

     And maybe that is what Jesus was talking about when he said people would be left behind?

    I love looking under bible verses, holding them upside down and shaking them to see what falls out. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to look at something from another angle. Hee.

    Err. the first is a joke. I am not a theologian, nor have I been trained to be one, I haven’t studied ancient cultures as a scholar, I’ve just read a lot of myths from a lot of different cultures, and found them fascinating.

  • MaryKaye

    The one thing that gives me some hope in this horrendous situation is:  people *are* speaking up.  I am utterly sure that sexual and physical abuse by clergy is not a new thing, but in previous generations most churches were successful in hushing it up.  Now that is becoming steadily more difficult.  People who have remained silent, in fear, their whole lives (like the priests in the previous posting who were abused when much younger) are coming forth, they are speaking out, and people are hearing them.  Not everyone who needs to, not yet, but still this is a bending in that moral arc thing King talked about.  I hope.

  • fraser

     The Toledo Blade had an excellent article some years back on how when parents in the fifites and sixties decided to prosecute, the Catholic Church could always find a “good” Catholic in the prosecutor’s office or the cops who would see to it the case never made it to a courtroom. So yeah, not enough improvement now, but some.

  • stardreamer42

    I think part of what we’re seeing here is an attempt to redefine the term “rape problem” itself. According to groups like the Catholic Church, UNC, and all the others under discussion here, a “rape problem” no longer means you have people being raped; it means that you have people not being quiet about being raped. The problem isn’t the rapists, it’s the insufficiently-submissive victims. 

  • fraser

     “No longer”? Complaints and charges about slutty sluts ruining the lives of good men with their accusations have been around at least two decades. Longer than that, I’m sure, but that’s as far back as I recall it.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Amy, there are probably a LOT of totally Effed up kids just like you and me out there. Bent and twisted into shapes that make it terribly hard for us to live thrive and survive and this was done to us by a religious culture of purity and female property and rape.

    The worst thing about this culture of rape and female submission and slavery at least to me is the many enablers and apologists for it.

    “Secular culture does it too.”

    No, it doesn’t not to the degree of systematic and merciless indoctrination that religious culture does it. And I sure don’t have to listen to secular people who hear and read my story and tell me I can’t be mad at the systematic abuse/slavery/rape culture that did this to me.

    As I look around I see a system of established organised religious architecture making endless claims to arbitrary moral superiority to me with absolutly NO CALL to make justified claims.

    The Christian established “Moral Majority isn’t even CLOSE to being morally or ethically superior to anyone.

    It’s just another big lie they tell loudly and often hoping to be believed.

  • Wingedwyrm

    The ironic thing is that the secular culture *can’t* be just as bad.  The reason being that the secular culture doesn’t have a claim (implied or otherwise) to being morally better for membership.

    Public schools don’t have a claim made that their secular nature makes them inherantly better than private, religious schools.  Nonreligious charities do not have an inherant claim of being more moral through being more godly.  So, if a school teacher or counsilor is caught in a sexual scandal, the school has the freedom to admit that this happened.  For them, there’s a measure of good PR in saying “we caught this early and dealt with this appropriately.”

    If, however, you have a centuries old claim of moral superiority, then dealing with a problem is inherantly admitting that religion did not, as you have been claiming for so long, insulate your organization from sexual abuses.  Admitting that, at some level, it was your organization’s failure, as opposed to the victim, admits that religion didn’t make you better.

    The secular culture can’t be as bad as these heavily religious cultures, ironically because it doesn’t claim to be inherantly better.

  • AnonymousSam

    Er, what does this say about the University of North Carolina, which is not a religious institution?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Says they’re a piece of shit, but they’re at least not a piece of shit that’s advertising itself as chocolate cake.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t really see a substantial difference between abusive religious and abusive non-religious organizations aside from the specific rhetoric they use and maybe some of the tactics to control people (the non-religious institution isn’t going to threaten your immortal soul or where you’ll be buried when you die, but they are happy to threaten you with being fired, censorship, lawsuits, prison time, etc).

    And they’ll be more than happy to do it while claiming to be the Best Company in America (TM) in the process. Just ask Fox News.

  • Wingedwyrm

    In specific?  Nothing.

    But, what does this say about the UNC as a part of the popullation of secular universities?  It says that the secular universities do not have that inherant moral superiority that they do not claim to have, at least not in vast majority.

  • AnonymousSam

    Only because there’s no group identity that secular individuals see in secular institutions. That’s not necessarily perceived as true by others — someone like James Dobson is glad to hold all of secular society accountable for the actions of a select few. Even outside of people like him, though, these institutions do like to boast about their honor and PR, claiming to be superior to other institutions both implicitly and occasionally explicitly. I’m not convinced that’s not comparable behavior.

    Also, not all religious institutions claim to be morally superior by dint of their religion. Is it any more right to hold all such people and places accountable for the actions of their worst members? (Can we even call them members of the same groups? What about Jewish day schools, which teach both Jewish and secular classes?)

    I’m wary of trying to make a blanket claim about any group, religious or not.

  • AnonaMiss


    The ironic thing is that the secular culture *can’t* be just as bad.

    Ehh, I disagree. An insufficiently cynical secular culture can glom onto any number of non-religious causes – a political ideology, a national identity, an ethnic identity – and view them as a cause worth burying victims to protect.

    Though it is of course very rare for any such cause to remain wholly divorced from religion.

  • Wingedwyrm

    Of course, and I’m not claiming that individual secular organizations are better than individual religious organizations.  This is something I stand by as true statistically.

    It’s a generality that applies to the secular culture at large versus the claim that it is just as bad as the cultures that applaud this kind of child abuse and/or rape appology.

    I fully admit that all generalities break down on the individual level, but I’ll still say that this is statistically true.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The thing that comes to mind every now and then is that the Catholic Church must have learned from Colin Thatcher’s famous three words.

  • Hilary


    Remember when you wrote on these threads that you were feeling down and needed to hear os something hopeful, and I posted a link to the Parents Circle in Israel/Palestine? I’ve got an update for you.  It’s 100% off topic but this is a depressing disgussion thead and maybe you and others would like something less triggering to read.

    I went to hear Roi (Israeli) and Wajeeh (Palestinian) twice, at my temple and at an Islamic center/mosque.  It was amazing. To see a Palestinian standing calmly in a Jewish temple both amazing, and almost kinda triggering.  Like, you’re a Palestinian, shouldn’t you be hating us, throwing rocks, anything but standing here as a human being talking to us about peace?  But Wajeeh lost a brother and two nephews, one three months old, to IDF and settler violence and yet he still came to tell us that there is nothing in the world more important then saving lives by stopping hate and violence.  He said that he tells his story, with an Israeli at his side who also lost a brother, he goes over this history and pain over and over again to build a bridge over a valley of blood so that someday his children or grandchildren can walk over that valley to some thing better.  He told us that he believes with all his heart that no conflict can last forever, someday there will have to be peace and until then he will work to build a bridge to it, one story at a time.

    Roi talked about who his brother was, who we lost.  But what stands out most in my mind is when he told the story of when in one of the Parent Circle meetings, a Palestinan woman spoke out that she couldn’t stand to hear about the Holocause any more, she couldn’t take it any more or listen about it.  It was the other Palestinians, he said, who spoke up and told her they have to understand it, no matter what.  They, the Palestinains, said they have to understand how the Holocaust is woven into the deepest fears of Israelis and Jews as part of their own story to be able to get beyond that fear to create peace. He also told how when he and Wajeeh went to Israeli high schools to talk to Israeli kids only a few years away from the IDF draft, he would introduce both of them then the kids spent the entire time talking to Wajeeh, useing every minute they had to talk to a real human Palestinan who spoke to them in Hebrew about peace, trying to humanize the people these kids would soon face as soldgers. 

    At the Islamic center we watched the film, “A two sided story” If you have to move heaven and earth to bring this to whatever organization anybody reading this belongs to, religious or atheist or secular, it’s worth it. 


    I watched my Rabbi stand side by side with an ECLA Lutherin pastor and an Imam, as each took a turn to pray for peace, both as a blessing for the work to bring Roi and Wajeeh to their temple, church and mosque, and to inspire people for more work yet to be done. When I talked to Roi after the movie and told him I’d bring up what I’d learned in an on-line project I’m part of (Libby Anne’s “Everything I never new about Judaism” over in the Atheist channel, I’m one of the panelists) he told me I should also mention that they also go out for beer together.  So maybe that’s the secret ingredient missing at the ‘official’ middle east peace talks – good beer.    

    Sorry everybody for the complete interuption, I just wanted to share this with Fusina, and anybody else interested.  I will now proceed to comment on the actual post by Fred. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Thank you. I think I needed that.

    Amy, SergantHeretic, whomever I may have forgotten, or whomever else who may not have spoken out, for whatever reason, you have my condolences as well. As has been said, something like that should never have happened to you.

  • fraser

     Agreed! Nobody deserves this shit and I do hope the arc of the universe tends to much better lives for all of you.

  • Hexep

    This isn’t for me, and I don’t know if I even qualify, I don’t know if my background qualifies as ‘abusive’ by the proper use of the term, and I don’t want anyone to refrain from anything for my benefit, and I don’t know what I’m hoping to elicit by saying this, but something about statements like that just rips my heart out. I don’t know why. I don’t know why, and I feel like if I did, maybe I would make some progress with the comprehension of my own heart, but whenever I read things like that, like, ‘you deserve so much better,’ or, ‘I hope you find healing,’ or anything like that, it just makes me palpitate.

    Is it because I hate myself for finding it seductive? Is it because I have no sense of my own accomplishment or self-esteem, nothing in which I take a sense of pride except for, well, being proud? Is it because I feel marked by sex, class, and skin-color to be forever the adversary of the heroes of the world, born into the armies of oppression and too frightened to defect? Is it because I divide the world rigidly into the two classes of ‘those who support others’ and ‘those who require the support of others,’ and am hell-bent on never falling into the latter? Is it because I’m ashamed of making much of my problems because hey, my father never actually laid a hand (or any other thing) on me and left me lots of money when he died, and that thus my problems don’t count?

    Sometimes, I have good days. Today was supposed to be a good day. Today, I marched my ass into the police station and registered my apartment, which I just finished paying off for three months. This was to get my paperwork all in perfect order, rendering me totally immune to any sort of predatory police-work or stickling, and thus finally grant me the security I needed in order to sleep peacefully at night without having to be afraid of someone kicking down my door and demanding to see my permits. It’s taken 3 months – three months of non-stop running, non-stop hurry-up-and-wait, of needing just one more thing and having to dash right now to get it, now wait six weeks for processing, and you never know if it’s going to actually come through in the end… and today was the end of that. I got the papers. I got the stamps. I’m clear.

    And yet, for some reason, today I just feel miserable. And I feel miserable that I feel miserable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Requesting permission to hug you :/

  • Hexep

    Hug me? You’re not supposed to hug me, you’re supposed to hate me! I’m a foot soldier in the armies of darkness and tyranny! I’m the enemy, can’t you see, I’m the enemy of all that is right and good in the world; I was born to carry a spear for the power of the powerful. Can you not see it in my white skin? Can you not smell it in my blood, the stench of centuries of oppression and cruelty and exploitation and… and cannibalism, to those of our own who were made imperfect?

    It is my fate and the fate of mine to be on the losing side of history, and to go down fighting and thus make the victory of the good – of the just, of the tolerant, of the equanimitous,  of the welcoming, all – to make their victory meaningful. Here is my ship, I could say, and it is my business to go down with it. But it is a warship, and for generations uncounted it has given stern chase to you and yours.

    Where is your sense of triumph?

  • SergeantHeretic

    Hexep, It’s O.K. I too know the scrambling mad feeling of unsafety of insecurity of uncertain fear. In my case it was the fear of forgeting a military rule or forgetting an important protocol or getting in trouble for breaking a rule I didn even know I broke. This was a carryover of the way I was raised. The constant fear of angering the big scarey monster that yelled and called me names and hit me and never let me forget that it was MY fault for doing things that made him mad enough to hit me.

    To this day that fear still lingers. I am either in trouble for something or afraid of being in trouble for something i know not what.

    I am forty three years old and I wonder, am I EVER going to stop being that terrified little girl seeking the aproval of the big powerful auhority?

  • Hexep

    I could ditto that, except that he died before I could make my true thoughts known to him, and in a tragically hilarious way. The bastard, my father; I was supposed to kill him, and he up and died before I got the  chance.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Hexep I am going to tell you what my therapist told me.

    “It’s not your fault. Listen carefully to me, Its not your fault.

    None of what you suffered, none of what was done to either you or me was our fault. We didn’t deserve any of the brutality we recieved. My brothers keep wanting me to forgive my father for what he did and how he raised me and I told them that I can’t. He hasn’t asked properly for my forgiveness.

    As the victim of his crimes the power lies with me, not him. I must forgive him only when he acknowledges his crimes against me and expresses sincere remose and contrition.

    Until he does that, I CAN’T forgive him.

    That’s the way it is.

  • Hexep

    I have never forgiven anyone of anything in my life, least of all myself, and I am not about to start now. It is for lesser people to beg forgiveness, and lesser still to grant it; to those who wrong me, I offer only scorn. My position remains unchanged.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Harsh, but quite understandable. I HAVE forgiven a few people in my life because they were sorry for what they did to me, they sought to redress the damage of their crimes and they came to me as supplicants and asked humbly for my forgivemeness.

    I granted it because they gave me the power. They gave me the place of power due me as the victim.

    That’s the cost.

    They also never did the bad thing ever again.

    Again, the cost of forgivemess. Remorse, contrition, redress of grievence and cessation of the crime.

    If the old man pays me that price I’ll think about forgiving him.

  • Fusina

     I am fifty, and I am getting there. My abuser was my Mum. When I was 43, I was pretty much where you are now. Turning 50 was a big help there–somehow, being half a century old kind of made me feel like I could take on the world and possibly win. Also, I have become less willing to put up with crap from the people who gave it me all my life.

    For me, one of the turning points was realizing that it is a privilege for other people to be in my life, and if they don’t treat me well, I don’t have to let them in. That I am allowed to hang a “No Admittance” sign on my life to anyone I want to.

  • Fusina

     As someone who is half Jewish (no, not religious, and it is my Dad, so not technically considered at all Jewish and yet…) I read about Israel. And it hurts to see a nation which is so psychologically messed up–and the Palestinians, also with psychological problems–I would like to see peace between them. Friendliness is so awesome, and forgiveness and change is also–but requires both sides to lay down their metaphorical swords and communicate with gentle words.

    Thank you for the update. I talk to anyone I can, I like to get opinions that I might not share on things–I like to discuss things into the ground–I think that might be the Jewish bits of my personality coming out. So again, thank you. Also, I have quite enjoyed readings in the Pirke Avot–based on some of the bits I’ve read, one is not required to agree with conclusions therein?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    As someone who is half Jewish (no, not religious, and it is my Dad, so not technically considered at all Jewish and yet…) I read about Israel. And it hurts to see a nation which is so psychologically messed up–and the Palestinians, also with psychological problems–I would like to see peace between them. Friendliness is so awesome, and forgiveness and change is also–but requires both sides to lay down their metaphorical swords and communicate with gentle words.

    I suspect that your vision is shared by a lot of Israelis and Palestinians.  However, the unfortunate thing is that all it takes is a small handful of people who stubbornly refuse to stop for one long standing grievance or another, and the whole area gets yanked back into conflict with them.  

  • Hilary

    Fusina, my slacktivist friend, you are not required to agree with a damn thing if it doesn’t suit you.  As for the Pharisees/sages/rabbis of the Pirke Avot, when they were trying to put back together the shattered remains of what was left from losing two wars against Rome, they came to an understanding.  They would enforce orthopraxy, right behavior, but not orthodoxy, right belief.  Or at least the balance would strongly be toward communal behavioral norms, with a decent allowence for difference of opinion and belief.  Because like hell they could all agree with each other, but there needed to be community standards to survive with any cultural coherence. Hillel and Shammai couldn’t agree on the time of day, however both their opinions were recorded and by majority rule went with Hillel’s ways for practical use.

    So no, you don’t have to agree with every conclusion those guys came to.  You’re of Jewish decent, so that allows you more then one opinion on anything related to the Torah or Talmud.  Or anything else that takes your brain for a walk in meandering circles. 

    And I guess my update on Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation wasn’t as off topic after all.  Considering the direction this thread has gone, how to or even whether or not to forgive terrible things, it wasn’t so far off.  I will not speak on another person’s story or pain, but I think for myself, forgiving someone for acting in fear is important, and particularly for Israel/Palestine where there is so much fear and trauma behind the hate.

    Amy, that was wonderful to read what you wrote.  Thank you.

  • Hexep

    You see, I can say one thing about the PRC. We don’t have priests and we don’t have pastors; we have the party. And everyone knows that the party protects its own; it conceals everything, I mean everything, just to stay in the habit of concealing. And they don’t get caught that often, and even when they do, they have to face down a fair kangaroo court that’s still devoted to finding them innocent. What mud there is, seldom sticks.

    But when it sticks, and when the people have their leaders absolutely dead to rights, and when the 人肉找找 has irrefutable evidence that someone’s been behaving badly, there are no excuses and no second chances. The only thing that power loves better than protecting its own in this country is taking a bad apple and throwing it under the bus, for public consumption and public destruction.

    Bo Xilai thought that he was above the rules. For the most part, he was; but the moment he stepped too far, well, now he’s in Guangxi, mining asbestos. We have secrecy and we have favoritism and we have injustice, but when it comes to those who have been given the holy Red Stamp of Authority, we do not have forgiveness.

  • Hilary

    About Fred’s post – does anybody else see how this ties into his earlier post about how Evangelicalism’s literal reading of the bible has it’s roots in the financial interest of the pre-civil war South? It stuck in my mind, that the slave owners would use the most literal reading of the OT and NT to justify their owning other human beings for wealth, and Amy’s story of her father saying if they were back in the Old Testiment times they would be justified in stoning her, from his literal reading of the OT. 

    It’s not that the Torah can’t be read and used in such a way as to stand against this type of abusive rape culture, but it takes a willingness to play with the text, and the freedom to flat out reject parts of it.  Or at least the flexablility to say “The tribal brutality of 3.5 thousand years ago is part of this record, we will not whitewash over it, but we will choose to engage with the text differently.  We will choose to use it in such a way as to uplift both women and men, and that means that women have full control of their bodies and sexuality.”

    But if a literal reading justifies a man’s wealth, power and control over other men, and women and children, then a literal reading is what will be enforced by men who want that power and wealth.  And realistically if they didn’t have a copy of the Old Testament, they’d find something else to justify their actions.   

    It’s late, I’m tired and I think I’m loosing coherence, but I just want to say to Amy, I’m sorry.  What happened in your family should never have happened to you.  If you ever choose to forgive, for your own sake, it’s your own damn choice and nobody elses to make, on your own time, if ever.  I wish for you and SergentHeritic a life of full healing and joy.  A life well lived amoung trusted friends with gentleness for yourselves and all you’ve been through. 

    Take care


  • Carstonio


    does anybody else see how this ties into his earlier post about how
    Evangelicalism’s literal reading of the bible has it’s roots in the
    financial interest of the pre-civil war South?

    I didn’t notice that. Excellent point. The reading I’ve done on slavery argues that it fucks up the society’s institutions, norms and attitudes. Everything becomes geared to preserving the power and position of the slaveowning elite. Malcolm Gladwell argues that the South was already fertile ground for those attitudes, because the colonists who settled there had brought an honor culture with them.

  • SergeantHeretic

    To the poster who noticed a direct connection between Fred’s post about Evangelicalism’s literal bible reading and this post, I must say I agree. now that you point it out the connection is inescapable. Modern white Christian evangelicalism is a direct descendant of the 19th century “Ownership culture” that the Union fought against in the war between the States. A century and a half ago, they lost the war to control this nation’s destiny and ever since they have been in a guerrilla cultur and class war against “Us filthy dirty ungodly liberals”.

    Don’t believe me? O.K., try this, look at the modern G.O.P. versus the current President of the United States. President Barack Obama represents EVERYTHING that the White Christian Evangelical culture of power, wealth and privelidge has been fighting unsuccesfully against for a century and a half.

    They lost this war in 1865, but they’re still stubbornly holding on, arn’t they?

  • ohiolibrarian

    I was thinking about how the hierarchy of the Catholic Church weren’t very good shepherds of their flocks. They not only didn’t protect them from wolves (predators); they moved the wolves from sheepfold to sheepfold.

    Then it occurred to me that the interest of the shepherd in their sheep is actually the same as the interest of the wolf–lamb and mutton (ok and wool). The sheep only matter in relation to  self-interest. The problem is even baked into the metaphor of pastoral care!

    And it puts a whole new complexion on “The Lord is my shepherd … “

  • SergeantHeretic

    Yeah, that’s all tied up in the central theology God owns us and can do with us as he pleases, this carries over to the corrolary; The church owns its flock and can do with them what it wishes to. That is the root assumption behind EVERY crime ever commited by any religious group in the west.

    After all if the members of a chuch or congregation or family are defined as the literal property of the leader then why WOULD anyone question what the master of the flock does with or to them?

  • P J Evans

    A lot of shepherd don’t own the sheep they watch, and that makes a big difference. Their pay depends on keeping the sheep alive and well.

  • ohiolibrarian

     No, not really. Whether they own the sheep or just get paid to watch them, their interest is always self-interest. To some degree, that may benefit the sheep, but only to the limits of self-interest.

  • SkyknightXi

     Given that the phrase dates from David, I think it’s bound up in the henotheistic understandings the Hebrews had before contact with the Persians. I get the feeling that the conceit of Mesopotamian peoples in general was that they existed EXPRESSLY so things would be easier for their cities’ respective gods. This is especially noticeable in the Enuma Elish, where Marduk creates humans simply because the Igigi or Anunnaki (I forget which) are whining about their tasks being too difficult. Answer: slave race. (I sometimes wonder if the bit about humans being made from the blood of Qingu, arguably the true villain of the Elish in that I think he was manipulating Abzu and Tiamat all to get the Tablets of Fate for himself, is supposed to explain human propensity for ignominy.)

    I think one could argue that the Sumerians and Babylonians themselves were ALSO henotheists. As I said, each city had its own god. Guess where your spiritual fealty ultimately went, if you didn’t want to be regarded a traitor? Just because you recognized multiple gods, didn’t mean you were allowed to regard them all with the same level of respect. Which one owns you and your labor, after all?

    I once got the feeling that Mesopotamian wars were interpreted as, in some measure, wars between the opponents’ respective gods; earthly politics just mirrored divine politics. Victory meant that the victors’ god had proven theirself superior to the losers’ god. The soldiers? Really just the gods’ armaments.

    Living so close to that culture, I doubt the Hebrews could avoid having some of it rub off. Like sheep for a shepherd, they would be succored from predators (and thieving gods) by Yhwh, but if he needed them to stampede some other upstart shepherd-god…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Living so close to that culture, I doubt the Hebrews could avoid having some of it rub off.

    It did, and a lot of the stuff in the Bible was appropriated from the Mesopotamian cultures.  For example, the story of Noah is quite probably an adaptation of one of the stories of Akkadian folk hero Atra-Hasis, who built a large boat to survive a world-consuming great deluge.  Adding credence to this connection is the behavior of God in Noah’s story, being a bit out of character for him to flood the entire world, but completely in character for the Mesopotamian cultures, who regarded their gods as fickle and often send floods to harm people on a whim.  Which is unsurprising considering the rivers that the Mesopotamian cities were built by, the flooding there was very unpredictable (in contrast to places like the Nile in Egypt which had very predictable flooding) and anthropomorphic inclinations tended to attribute such floods to capacious divine will which might answer mortal pleas or ignore them as the mood takes them.   

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Living so close to that culture, I doubt the Hebrews could avoid having some of it rub off.

    It did, and a lot of the stuff in the Bible was appropriated from the Mesopotamian cultures.  For example, the story of Noah is quite probably an adaptation of one of the stories of Akkadian folk hero Atra-Hasis, who built a large boat to survive a world-consuming great deluge.  Adding credence to this connection is the behavior of God in Noah’s story, being a bit out of character for him to flood the entire world, but completely in character for the Mesopotamian cultures, who regarded their gods as fickle and often send floods to harm people on a whim.  Which is unsurprising considering the rivers that the Mesopotamian cities were built by, the flooding there was very unpredictable (in contrast to places like the Nile in Egypt which had very predictable flooding) and anthropomorphic inclinations tended to attribute such floods to capacious divine will which might answer mortal pleas or ignore them as the mood takes them.   

  • Amy

    It took me a while to catch up on all the comments, I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind words and encouragement.  In my mind I’m piecing together something to say about forgiveness, but since I need to get to work now I’ll ponder it until lunchtime.

  • MaryKaye

    Hexep writes:

    I got the papers. I got the stamps. I’m clear.

    And yet, for some reason, today I just feel miserable. And I feel miserable that I feel miserable.

    This happens to people at the end of big gruelling projects quite often.  After we turn in a big government grant, despite all efforts to make it a happy event, people are usually depressed.  I think it’s a natural response to having pushed so hard and probably put off your personal needs so that you could keep pushing.

    If you don’t mind advice–do something nice for yourself.  It needn’t be big.  Have a hot bath with the scent of your choice, or eat something comforting, or curl up in a warm place with a book–whatever makes you feel cared for.  Put something pretty up on the wall of your newly secure apartment, even if it’s just a page torn out of a magazine or newspaper.  Sometimes a concrete act of care will help when no amount of thinking about it does.

  • Jenny Islander

    Re forgiveness: Forgiveness is possible without the guilty party acknowledging the debt, but only the creditor knows whether this is desirable.  The financial terminology is deliberate because originally forgiveness was a financial term that got borrowed as a metaphor.  Forgiveness means writing off a debt and ceasing to expect repayment.  Forgiveness does not imply any subsequent relationship between debtor and creditor.  In fact, IME, forgiveness is the last step before cutting ties with an abusive family member.  And this forgiveness need never be spoken aloud–certainly not to the abuser.

    Forgiveness is advisable when the cost to the creditor of carrying a debt that the debtor will never acknowledge becomes too much to bear.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Forgiveness is advisable when the cost to the creditor of carrying a debt […] becomes too much to bear.


  • SergeantHeretic

    Fred is helping us here with his posts by rying to help both the uninitiated and the veteran of the White Christian Evangelical culture to UNDERSTAND the culture.

    But I think in a way, Freddo is too idealistic and forgiving for his own good sometimes. Too often he gives the benefit of the doubt to a culture that doesn’t deserve it.

    You see, Fred, this culture is a direct modern evolution of the pro-slavery, Christian dominionist racist culture that ruled the south before and during the American war between the states.

    When the Seccesion crisis boiled over into full on internecine war the Confederacy looked North and saw the enemy. The Union then and modern Liberalism today are the same enemy that the modern conservative racist religious rape ownership culture has been opposing for a century and a half.

    Fred, you have touched on this and even mentioned some of it, but in talking about the trees, I don’t think you’ve quite seen the forest.

    Listen to what these men decry, Rebelion secular education, liberalism, “Unruly women” “Unruly rebelious children” “Uppity” minorities and poor people. The “Lost casue” legend was alive and thriving before the bodies were cool after the battle of gettysburg and these same bastards have been trying to “Win” that same war ever since.

    Think about it.

    These people’s cultural and philisophical descendents are happy to see this country destroed rather than give a minute’s defference to “The uppity nigger” i nthe White HOuse. 

  • Amy


    I know this is mostly off topic and I’m afraid it will get
    hugely long, but for some reason I feel like writing about it.  (Yeah, I know- start your own blog
    then!) :-)


    Some of what I was taught as a child (with plenty of
    scripture backing it all up):

    * Don’t forgive someone until they ask you to.  (So if they never do, I have to be hurt
    and angry for the rest of my life?)

    * Forgiving erases the offense as though it never
    happened.  Which means:

    – You’re not allowed to protect yourself from it happening
    again, if you did that would prove that you haven’t forgiven.  Prevent what- nothing happened.

    – There’s an instant restoration of trust.  (At least- you better act like there is.)

    – Once you tell someone they’re forgiven, you can never
    mention it again.  (So be sure you
    punish them first, if you’re in a position to do so.  Because you’re not allowed to later.)

    * If someone asks you to forgive them,  an immediate “Yes” is mandatory.  No is not an option.

    * Forgive and forget. 
    If you haven’t literally forgotten the offense, you’re a failure at
    forgiving.  God forgets, so you
    have to too.

    * If you don’t forgive people, God won’t forgive you.  (And if God doesn’t forgive you, you
    burn in hell forever and ever.)

    * I have to earn forgiveness from others, but I have to
    grant it freely with no stipulations.

    * The proper response to “I’m sorry” is “Oh, that’s
    okay.”  (Minimize the harm done, if
    not- you might hurt their feelings and that’s unacceptable.)


    You know, I don’t really care for those rules!  So for many, many years I just didn’t want to think about it!

    But about 12 years ago I worked through a Christ-focused 12
    step group (for abuse recovery and anger), dreading the ‘Make amends and Offer
    forgiveness’ part.  I did a TON of
    research on the topic of forgiveness, looking for a loophole!  What I found was basically- “You keep
    using that word.  I do not think it
    means what you think it means.”


    For one thing, there’s more than
    one dictionary definition for forgiveness, so which are we even talking about?

    1.    To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.

    2.    To renounce anger or resentment against.

    3.    To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example)


    To forgive a debt means that I no longer expect someone to
    pay back whatever it is that they owe me. 
    Since there’s no possible way for them to restore what they’ve taken anyway,
    I have nothing to lose going along with that one.


    To excuse or pardon… 
    I REALLY didn’t like this one at first, because I was still hung up on how
    it’s not fair, not being allowed to report a crime.  Eventually I realized that it’s two different things.  I vaguely remember a old quote from a newspaper re: how the church should respond to pedophile priests- Forgiveness
    for the Sin, and Justice for the Crime. 
    I realized that criminals are only ever pardoned after they’ve been
    convicted!  So let’s not skip over that


    Renouncing anger and resentment.  Basically, I’m free to stop dwelling on it.  I used to have a habit of going over it
    in my mind, the things I wished I’d had the guts to say to my parents back
    then.  It was part of my daily
    routine.  Not anymore.
    Still, it isn’t a one-time thing where you say the magic
    words and the hurt is all gone. 
    You can decide to forgive, but you still have to keep deciding again and
    again.  For me, it’s a lot like losing weight.  I made the decision
    to lose 50 pounds.  But I still have
    to make the right decisions every day for a long time for that to actually


    I relinquish my right to get even.  I relinquish my anger. 
    I’ve heard it said that holding on to Resentment is like swallowing poison & waiting for the
    other person to die.  (It’s almost
    literally like swallowing poison, if you read about all of the health issues
    that are aggravated by it!)

    Forgiveness is something I do for MYSELF, not for them.  For my own mental and physical
    health.  Yes, I have the right to
    be miserable.  But it’s not a sign
    of great maturity to exercise that right! 
    I don’t want to live & die with a bitter heart!

    It will never be okay, what they did.  There’s no way to fix it.  But I’m not waiting around for them to
    decide to ask for forgiveness, that gives them WAY too much power over how I
    live my life, how I feel every day. 
    I want them to have less power over me, not more.


    As part of my 12-steps, I talked to my parents about the
    rape, the aftermath and how it affected me, for the first time since it
    happened (16 years before.)
    Mom said “if we could do things over we would do things
    differently”.  Dad mentioned one specific instance of overly-harsh punishment from my childhood (previous and
    unrelated to this) and said “That was my one mistake raising you”.   Okay, I admit, it, that stung.  He doesn’t want or need my forgiveness.  (Still doesn’t, after another 12

    I have a decent, albeit superficial relationship with my
    Mom.  She treats me like a real
    person now so I don’t see what good there is in rehashing the past.  We’re friendly, there are just a lot of
    subjects we don’t discuss.

    Dad I am civil with because I can’t cut him out of my life
    without losing contact with my whole family.  We talk about twice a year.  For my mom’s sake I don’t make him angry.   (I live far away, so he takes it
    out on the people I love instead.) At this point, I don’t expect him to ever change.  I don’t expect anything from him at all.  It’s not the way I would
    choose for life to be, but- we don’t always get what we want.


    Ask me again in another 12 years, who knows, I might feel
    completely different.

    That’s my story. 
    If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

  • SergeantHeretic

    Amy, I wish I could be like you but I don’t know how.

    My father literally drove me crazy, clininacly crazy. because of him when I hit the real world I was a nut. literally insane as in a danger to myself and others!

    I don’t have any idea how to forgive that. I guess my point is, Amy that you are a hell of a lot better woman than I am and probably a lot heathier too. My hat’s off to you.

  • Fusina

    That is possibly the best sermon on forgiveness I have ever read. I hope you don’t mind, but I saved in in a file so I can reread it every so often.

  • Amy

    Another off-topic question: Sometimes my posts look different after I hit “post”, weird spaces and line breaks get added.  I’m on a Mac,  does that have anything to do with it?  If anyone know how to fit it please let me know!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Traditional response around here: Blame Disqus.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Use “paste and match style” – cmd-shift-opt-V on a Mac. Disqus flakes if you paste in anything but plain text.

  • Amy

     Thank you!

  • AnonymousSam

    There are some components of Christianity which I don’t think apply as read from scripture. Forgiveness is one of them. I like to think that it’s not that we owe forgiveness to those who wronged us; instead, I think it’s a matter of being capable of letting go of your own hurt and anger when it no longer benefits you. Rather than forgiveness being something you grant a person, it makes more sense to me that forgiveness be something you grant yourself when and if the time comes.

  • Wingedwyrm

    Regarding Forgiveness.

    I do not believe that releasing myself from the burden of seeking justice or seeking remorse from those that have hurt me means releasting them from the burden of having hurt someone.

    I have a life.  I have to live it.  And, I am no longer in the position of being forced to stay in the company of people who harass me.  So, I am no longer bound to let this be a defining aspect of my life.  But, that does not mean that I am bound to say unto the harassers or those who had the responsibility to act but did not that “your debt is gone.”  Rather, I say “Your debt remains but I do not have the inclination to spend energy attempting to extract your debt from you.”

    Forgiveness is, in essence, a mercy practiced upon those that wrong you.  When it comes to bullying in any form, whether it’s children bullying children, parents abusing children, adults abusing adults, etc, creates a moment, a single moment in which the victim may recieve mercy.  When some kid was harassing me, mercy could have come to me in the form of teachers or peers stepping in, in the form of the bully ceasing the bullying, or in the form of me defeinding myself.  But, that moment is the only opportunity that incident provides.

    Yet, for those that make a victim of others, the opportunity to recieve mercy, created by hurting someone, extends unto the end of their days or unto eternity if there is an afterlife.  The forms of mercy are multitude.  They go “Oh, you were just a child” or “that is in the past” or “I’ve changed, now.”  And, that mercy is practiced by nigh the whole of society, particularly when society does not feel itself the victim.

    Saying that I have to release this debt in order to release myself says that, in order to practice a small mercy upon myself, I have to become a part of the infinite and infinitely cheap mercy given unto my abusers and their enablers.

    And, I say this in the full knowledge that the abuses I have suffered pail in comparison to others present.  If those that have recieved greater abuse have decided to practice this mercy, then that is your choice and I wish you well, but that is not the choice I make.

  • Carstonio

    Granting or withholding forgiveness for a bully or abuser sounds very strange to me. Like the question was whether to forgive a bear that mauls one’s child, or a tree that falls on one’s car. Maybe the anger could be at the fact that abuse or bullying exist and that one had to be subjected to it, like the perpetrators are simply forces of nature that cannot always be avoided or evaded.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    And speaking of focusing on your own damn family, here is a heartwarming article about the first “confrontation of wills” between Dobson’s wife and daughter, when Dobson’s wife asserted her loving parental courage and reduced a nine-month-old baby to tears because she (the baby) wanted to crawl into the kitchen.


  • Lori

    I’ve now read that story of Mrs Dobson and their daughter several times and each time the thing that strikes me is that it was the mom who made it a confrontation of wills, not the child. What non-idiot keeps putting a 9 month old in the doorway of a room she wants to, but is not allowed to, enter instead of placing her farther away and focusing her attention away from the kitchen? Mrs D set her daughter up to fail and then pushed until she cried & gave up, which was celebrated as a victory. Because the point is not keeping the baby off the newly waxed floor, its obtaining obedience, no matter what. That’s foul on more than one level. If anyone ever wonders why someone would marry James Dobson and stay married to him, that story certainly provides the answer—she’s a bad as he is.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The hilarious part is that Dobson portrays the story as a victory, but his wife did the exact opposite of the end advice.

    Distract and divert, is the moral he gives.  Okay, fair enough.  I don’t want the beanie-head crawling around on a newly-waxed floor, I toss her in a playpen. 

    Problem frakking solved.

    But oh no, the child is being willful, because her tiny brain that barely understands where her own nose is, wants to Defy Authority.  Not, you know, just crawl where she’s always been able to crawl before.

    Actually, the story is very similar to the “Dobson wanted the dog to attack the stranger, despite never teaching the dog to attack anything.”  The baby sees mommy, standing in a room in which she (baby) has always been free to go.  “No,” mommy says.  Okay, lady, no what?  Why do you expect your kid to read your mind?  She cannot even walk yet.

    Understanding of child development fail.

  • Trixie_Belden

    One paragraph in the article Fred linked to recounts something I found particularly disturbing.

    “[Tomczak] also recounts giving his 18-month-old son “a series of repeated spankings (with explanation and abundant display of affection between each one)” in a motel parking lot, until the boy “realized that Daddy always wins and wins decisively!” [emphasis his]”

    It’s “discipline” without any of the (nominally) rational reasons people usually give for punishment – you know, so the kids won’t do something that’s dangerous (e.g., running into traffic), or won’t do something socially unacceptable (e.g., biting) and thus the child will, it is hoped, survive to grow up and not be ostracized.  It’s discipline used as a mask for some insane desire for absolute control over another human being (always winning) and it’s f*cking creepy. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     Yes, that paragraph almost made me physically sick. Proudly describing how he used physical force to assert his complete dominance of an infant. Just how fragile is this twisted little sadist’s ego?

  • Fusina

     And yet, this is what my Mom did, until the time she went to give me a spanking and she had a wooden spoon so I picked up the broom. I know that after I had my daughter we were having a conversation, and something she said triggered my defense mechanisms, and I finally asked her, “No matter how old I get, you will not consider me as wise as you?” and she agreed that I would never be as wise as she was/is. At that point, I started to pull away from her. That is the other insidious side of abuse–when the abused tries so hard to please the abuser and finds it hard to separate even with the power to do so.

    I had totally forgotten that book until I saw the cover. But I am ready to deal with it now, so it was okay.

  • Hilary


    A Healing in this night.

    Great song – please listen, enjoy, have a tissue on hand.

    Part of the lyrics:

    A Healing in This Night

    There are hearts to hold you when you’ve done your bestFor the love you leave within their livesAnd there are friends to hear if you should cryTo pray if you should dieAnd there are songs that sing us all There’s a pain here that slowly slips awayThere’s a love here that’s leading us from darkness into dayThere are stars here that fade against the lightThey fall but it’s all rightThere is a healing in this night

  • Hexep

    I am insanely suspicious of the word ‘to heal,’ because to me, it is directly symmetrical to the word ‘hurt.’ Both of them can be used without a direct object (my head hurts, my injury is healing), yes, of course, but that isn’t what my mind jumps to – it jumps to taking an object. The shoes hurt my feet. The doctor heals my stomach. Both of these actions are something that the subject does to the object.

    And to me, that surrenders just as much control over my sense of being as does an actual attack. It is someone else doing something, and I am changed.

    I have very, very little in this world, and even less in the abstract sense – I have no accreditation, no accomplishments, no trades, no artistry. The only thing I have in this world is my sense of personal pride – my sense that what goes on inside my own heart and my own soul is ultimately of my own doing, and that I exercise ownership of myself in a way that others do not. It’s all I’ve got.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “[Tomczak] also recounts giving his 18-month-old son “a series of
    repeated spankings (with explanation and abundant display of affection
    between each one)” in a motel parking lot, until the boy “realized that
    Daddy always wins and wins decisively!” [emphasis his]”

    There is not enough WHAT in the world for this.


  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    “[Tomczak] also recounts giving his 18-month-old son “a series of repeated spankings (with explanation and abundant display of affection between each one)” in a motel parking lot, until the boy “realized that Daddy always wins and wins decisively!” [emphasis his]”

    What freaks me out about this is the extremely procedural, ritualistic nature of the “punishment.”  Explanation-affection-spanking.  Rinse and repeat.  Rinse and repeat. 
    “A series of repeated.”  I wonder how many that is.  Three?  Seven?  (Oh, Mrs. Dobson!)  Twelve?  Twenty?  How much of a beating did this toddler have to take before he accepted the explanation of the “decisive” victory?

  • Fusina

    Quite a bloody few. BTDT got the psychic scars to match. Did, most emphatically, NOT do this to my kids. Put stuff up until they were safe, left it up because I have cats (way more destructive than any kid, ever).

    I did have a set of glass unicorns that I thought were up high enough that the kids couldn’t reach. Found out different when my daughter came to me, and without a word held out her hand. She had a broken unicorn in it. At the moment I looked in her eyes, I knew that nothing I could say would make her more sorry than she already was, and yelling would not repair the unicorn. So I gave her the remaining unicorn, which she still has now (she was around five when this happened and she is eighteen now). Learned something about how I believe God operates.

    Ahh, and she asked me to put the unicorn up on a very high shelf to keep it safe. Not a stupid child by any means.

    ETA, I never was broken. Never accepted defeat. Always kept fighting. Hmmm, never realized that before.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Yeah, THAT paragraph of the Tomzcac article shines an unfourtunate and relevatory light on where the author’s head is really at. It’s not about helping the child become a functional healthy adult, it’s about total and unquestioned dominance and control. It really maakes you look at that whole world in a new way.

    EVERYTHING in the White Christian Evangelica world is about dominance and control and ownership and brutality. If you think about it even their theology is invested with the language and semantics of conquest and domination and war.

    It explains EVERYTHING about the world of White Christian Evenagelical world that even one’s own child is an enemy to be conquered and dominated and controlled.

    That’s frightening on a deep and mortal level if one really thinks about it.

  • Carstonio

    That’s exactly the mindset I would expect of a current slave society or a former one, which was the point you seemed to make earlier. The fear of slave uprisings pervaded the South, with SC almost a military state. I wonder if treating one’s child as an enemy was simply an outgrowth of the dominance attitude, or if slaveowners feared their daughters falling in love with male slaves. (I didn’t say sons because the female slaves amounted to concubines, as Fred explained, and the sons likely copied their fathers in exploiting the slaves that way. )

  • SergeantHeretic

    Carstonio, that is exactly what I am saying. Look at the parts of the U.S> where wwhite Evangelical rape culture is the most dominant, then take that and overlay it on a map of the old Confederacy.

    It will shock the hell out of you how closely they match up and alighn.

    The modern White Christian Evangelical society of rape, dominance, brutality and control IS quite literally the direct descendent of the unreconstructed Confederate States of America.

    They’re positive they’re not wrong, they’re obviously not the least bit sorry and if they thought they could, you bet your ass they would do it again.

  • Carstonio

    That’s what I suspected you were saying. If I had been President during and after the Civil War, I might have seized and destroyed the plantations, and then put the slaveowners on trial for crimes against humanity. But maybe some of the methods that the US used during the occupation of Japan might have been more successful.

  • SergeantHeretic

    That would have been best, a sort of “De-nazification” proccess to purdge the ruling parties from the liberate states. What you definatly don’t do is allow unreconstructed unregenerate political and military veterans of the war to resume their posts and or lives and be free to write their own cock-eyed wall-eyed version of the war that casts the victorious liberators as the VILLAINS!

  • Hexep

    The sad truth is that at the time, there was neither the political will nor the legal mechanism in place to do such a thing. If nothing else, we should have executed all their commissioned officers, especially those who had previously been officers in the US Army (and were thus guilty of an execution-level crime).

    But by the time the United States was in a position to decide such a thing, their collective will wasn’t so much about punishment so much as ‘let’s just get this over with.’

  • SergeantHeretic

    Hexep aint that the sad and sorry truth.

    Seriously am I REALLY the only pair o’ tits in the place who has noticed the scarey parellels between the agenda of the CSA and the behavior of the modern Republican party?

  • Hexep

    Since I neither number my supporters, nor do I number their tits, I couldn’t tell you. Smart money is that it’s either an even number, or 0.

  • AnonymousSam

    It certainly makes the allegations of his abuse of eight people seem very plausible. Especially when the primary suit filer specifically references having been hit with a stick.

  • SergeantHeretic

    EXACLY, you don’t do that to a human being that you love and want to see grow and prosper, but to an enemy thaat you want to dominate and control and bend to your own will hitting the kid with a stick or a belt or any other weapon is EXACTLY what you do to the small weak being that is totally unable to defend itself from you.

    Along with anything else you can think to do to the child to enforce your unquestionable will and supremacy.

    The thing is that the people who do that are showing that far from having any control over the child, they can’t even control themselves. They can’t control anything.

    It’s like everything about this mindset is about control and domination. that’s why they react the way they do to reports of rape and child sexual abuse the way they do. Its why the abuse itself is NEVER seen as the problem, only the reporting of the abuse to outsiders.

    I really do think at this point that in their world in their twisted little minds the rape and child sexual abuse really ISN’T the problem. It’s only when outsiders hear about it and therefore the supposedly sterling plu-perfect image of the church/group.heirarchy is tarnished that they react and when they do it is with anger at the victim who reported it, not the perpetrator who did it.


    Because in that world the perpetrator is NOT the wrongdoer, the loudmouthed uppity tattletelling victim is.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The depressing truth, as I have come to see it, is that the KKK essentially re-fought the Civil War in concert with the Southern Democratic Party and managed to win.

    Even if the War, followed by Reconstruction and the Force Acts, were strategic successes in terms of the balance of power of the Union over the Confederacy, the tactical victories the KKK scored effectively allowed the resurgence of the old power structure that only started cracking after the 1940s, when World War II and the attendant social and economic shifts resulting from it started making some southern politicians (like Jim Folsom) see that they could not forever maintain apartheid-like structures in their societies. Unfortunately, others (like George Wallace) also saw the pattern and dug their heels in against any change whatsoever.

  • SergeantHeretic

    And now the party leaders and holdouts like John Beohner and his ilk are fighting a last gasp stand against the forces of liberalism and democracy.

    They’ve been o nthe losing side of history for a century and a half and they stubbornly refused to see it, so much so that they would rather the country go down in flames than stand to lose.

    Trust me, there is a reason these so-called people have macho fantasies about armed resistance against an overriding governmental authority that won’t let them be brutal bullying assholes.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Trust me, there is a reason these so-called people have macho fantasies about armed resistance against an overriding governmental authority that won’t let them be brutal bullying assholes.

    Do they realize that many of the rest of us have macho fantasies about armed resistance putting down brutal bullying assholes?  Because the way they scream about persecution for telling them they cannot bully would seem to indicate that they think they are alone in this.  

    After all, what good is might if it cannot be used to enforce justice?  What is the alternative, enforced injustice?  

  • SergeantHeretic

    But ou see, Fearlessson, what we call Injustice, they call liberty. It’s a very Orwellian thought process. Their thinking is that the powerfull and wealthy SHOULD be free to maltreat and exploit the powerless and the poor, after all isn’t that the natural order as they learned it. To such people freedom and liberty are just different words for “Devil take the hindmost.”

  • SergeantHeretic

    Going along with my train of thought, I look at the tea party and I reaalize these yabbos aren’t nostalgiac for the Revolutionary war, they’re pining for the days of the antebellum south when (In their diseased minds) Happy darkies worked in the fields and genteel gents and coutly ladies minced and danced in grand parlours before that evil nasty tyrannical federal government came along and said they had to treat black people, women and kids as if they were human.