an abusive apology

an abusive apology January 19, 2013
an abusive apology cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“An Abusive Apology” by David Hayward (nakedpastor)

Let’s deconstruct this “apology”:

  1. He doesn’t apologize as a human being, a man with a heart, but as a pastor, already positioning himself in a superior role over his victim.
  2. He plays the “authority” card, implying that he has the authority to do whatever he thinks is best for his people.
  3. This is his church. Not hers. She really doesn’t have any rights or say.
  4. By the end of his apology he is only “sorry” that this is an unfortunate situation… for him!
  5. She “feels” this way, meaning that she isn’t being logical, that she’s being a typical woman who only thinks with her feelings, and therefore invalidates what he really did to her.
  6. It’s only “apparent” that he abused her. It’s not a fact. Just appearances that have been misinterpreted.
  7. He really doesn’t believe in the concept of spiritual abuse. Therefore the air quotes.
  8. She obviously has a complaint, so he does have an unfortunate situation on his hands that he has to remedy quickly because she could talk to others and spread her poisonous lies.
  9. He invites her to leave. Invites means that he isn’t making her, but it’s already clear that he’s the boss and she really doesn’t have a choice. It’s a “Here’s your hat what’s your hurry?” kind of invitation.
  10. She must leave. She’s a Jezebel. And, like Jezebel, the biblical thing to do is throw her out the window to her spiritual death and let the dogs eat her. In other words, he’s handing her over to Satan to be disciplined. Very biblical.

I like the woman. She’s no dummy. She’s feisty! She’s pissed. And she should be! She’s come to her senses and is taking his invitation.

She’s going to start a blog.

(You know what’s cool? She reminds me of all the women on The Lasting Supper! Actually, she’s a member!)

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  • Sara

    This is spot on!!

  • I once had a pastor “apologize” for loosing his temper with me by saying it was a sign of how much he cared for me. Never even intimated that he was sorry because he wasn’t…he was right to be upset with what I had done. (I called out the cliques in the church…probably not in the right manner, but my inexperience did not negate the truth). Sadly it was several more years before I left that church. But I did and I’m happier.

  • Free

    Wow!! I feel like you took this from my brain. I thought as I was reading this, were you there? I get this and it’s so accurate for my story also.

  • ‘eff’in brill mate!

  • Liza

    This is spot on!

    When I came home from the Navy and contacted friends from my first church, they told me that the church fell apart. One person told me that the pastor was in the back office of the church when their son overheard him praying rather loudly for his messed up church members, using very hurtful words. If that was his prayer life, can you imagine how he treated us? He was on a serious power trip. He would, at times, preach about the “pastor roast”, warning us that we had better not speak badly of him or we will be punished by God the way Aaron and Mariam were struck with leprosy and put outside the camp. Pride comes before a fall.

  • patti

    I agree with Sara this is Spot on!! And Ciera, I stayed wayyyyy to long in a cult/church that I should have left as well. The manipulation of not only the pastors, but the culture itself, played on my desire to be “godly” wife and mother and a “good Christian”. This organization paraded well behaved children and promoted God honoring familes in front of us all the time. These leaders/pastors gave false promises of a wonderful life with the brotherhood of believers. (As long as we obeyed.)

    We were told not to go by our feelings and our thoughts were often manipulated. Any behavior was evaluated. Our outward appearances were very controlled. We would be rebuked for calling attention to ourselves if we stepped outside the allowed decision making requirements, behavior, or style of dress.

    I was finally rejected by pastors and members (friends) when I tried to call attention to the things I saw as harmful. I was rebuked as divisive and a slanderer. No one would discuss my concerns and I was told I only had to forgive those who abused me. That my first priority was to forgive.

    No one has come forward to speak to me even after sexual abuse, and its coverup, spousal abuse and lies have come into the light. The leaders had covenants drawn up for future members to sign so they could not sue. This was after reports of sexual and physical abuse were reported. The culture itself is evil and deceptive. It still holds many people captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy. To be free from that captivity is a wonderful gift of grace and mercy. It cost me much. It harmed my family and my soul. I will recover but will also speak out against the men who continue to lead this way. SGM ministries is an abusive environment and will twist your mind and your heart. If you are a member there, you are part of the problem. I would encourage you to leave and be part of the solution.

  • Wow, David’s repeated cartoons like this make me so glad that my intuitions turned me away from protestant churchism well before I had to confront folks like this — for I certainly would have. But it must be hard for the nice, soft, obedient, modest folks out there that this sort of spiritual-specialist is great at abusing.

  • Cleveland Dawsey

    This so-called “pastor” is in a lot of trouble, according to Ezekiel 34:1-11. Although the shepherds spoken of there may be political leaders, the application can apply to pastors, I think. And in 1 Peter 5, pastors are admonished not to lord it over the flock. Scripture teachers that they will have to give an accounting of their ministry. It is no light thing to offend the flock of God.

  • “The Flock of God” — LOL
    I can just hear your all squawking as you fly in formation.

  • Syl

    “She’s going to start a blog.” Ha! Love it.

  • Adam Julians

    While this cartoon focussed on a lady, the same is true for gentlemen. I don’t know if there was any intention for there to be a gender issue implied and I hope that it would be accepted that equally the same thing happens where there is a famale leader with a male.

    I have been told (by female leaders) that there is a “real concern over my insensitivity”, that they were talking to me in a particular way because “men have the power and that I am speaking to you prophetically because that is how God deals with things by adressing the men first”. An attempt by a female leader justifying her opression saying she was being bld because “men have demeaned women, not listened ot them and caused them to have low self esteem”. When sharing a difficulty with working with children and facing false accusation of inappropriateness, a female leader said “you need to not work with children then”.

    I hope it can be accepted that it works both ways. And I hope I would be understood and be supported as the women who have expereinced likewise fomr the opposite sex have beenon this site.

  • absolutely adam.

  • KM

    Amplify the patronizing tone when the “leader” is also a relative, regardless of gender or age.

  • KM

    In fact, don’t even expect an apology! You’re oversensitive; real family has hard conversations sometimes. *pat on head*

  • Carol

    “Flock of God”–I guess that is why the term “Sheeple of God” instead of “People of God” came to be used.

  • Carol

    Adam, I guess that is why I have never been able to join either early secular or religious feminist movements. I really don’t see how a matriarchal society is all that better than a patriarchal society.

    I have a cyber friend of many years who says that much of the feminist theology presents God as “Yahweh in drag.”

  • Can I add to “and then she starts a blog”?

    And then her pastor sues her $500K for defamation.
    And he loses the court case.
    And then he starts his own survivor blog because he claims he’s been abused.

    Thank you for this. I’ve had a few readers inform me of this great article.

  • oh yes… the stories abound! thanks julie anne!

  • Fred Flinstone

    Is it reasonable to interpret a “troublesome” congregant who “leaves” [insert air quotes] such an “abusive” church as having “fired” their former pastor?

    Why yes, I do think so …

  • Ang

    I never heard a pastor say “I’m sorry”….
    as I was trampled and left after the abuse, the rape of my soul, the pilferage of my financials that they ‘supposedly’ were taking care of for me.….

  • Wonderful David.

    The abuser believes that he/she is God’s right hand man/woman – His enforcer of law filled grace.

    Spiritual abuse doesn’t exist in their vocabulary – only church discipline and Divine quality control.

  • Crystal (the original)

    How I love this cartoon! It’s the best one ever! So cool and so true. I haven’t read any of the other comments yet, but I will. I just had to tell you how powerfully this hit me. That women could have been me. Thanks to you David for your honest insight into this kind of situation.

  • how do you know the woman isn’t you, crystal? 😉

  • amazonfeet

    Spot-on, David…thank you…

  • rjw

    I fortunately haven’t run into such idiots. Years ago, I learned that people who announce “I’m a people person” rarely are.

    I find my self considering whether people who feel it necessary to talk about their authority actually have real authority.

    When I think about the authorities in my life over the years, not one of those who was successful as a leader, as an authority, ever spoke about the authority they have.

    They just seem to act, they naturally act with authority, and people willingly follow.

  • VanPastorMan

    I think if you asked the people in my church if I was like the pastor depicted in this cartoon they would say no. Also, I’ve had pastors in my life who have not been like this, and I know pastors today who are wonderful colleagues, just trying to preach the Gospel and love their people. How come we never see a cartoon about the good pastors? Do any of you believe they exist?

  • Carol

    I was a member for 25 years in a Church that was under the pastoral care of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists), a contemplative Religious Order that is faithful to the vision of its Founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori.

    They gave me guidance; not direction in my theological/spiritual formation. I know that good pastoral care does exist; but it is exceedingly rare. I have not found it after moving from MD.

    I can’t say that I fault the clergy for the sorry state of the Church in America. Most lay persons are not too eager to take responsibility for their beliefs and practice of the faith and are quite content to “follow the leader” as long as the leader doesn’t take them too far out of their psychological comfort zones.

    The problem with most American Christianity, as I see it, is that it is more American than Christian. The Holy Trinity is God, Church and Country; not Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the civic virtues of the Protestant work ethic have replaced the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.

    The Health and Wealth/Prosperity Gospel is preached instead of the Cross of Christ. Hopefully, our prolonged economic crisis will lessen the appeal of a “Gospel” that feeds rather than challenges the narcissistic ego.

  • Van: on the one hand I do understand your concern. But then on the other hand, if you were in an actual meeting where 26 other people expressed their abuse, would you dare defend pastors right now? That’s totally beside the point.

  • BW

    VPM – I agree with Carol that they are very rare, and personally I haven’t known a ‘good’ Pastor. I have only known those where ulterior motives abound. And I also agree with David. I am wondering why a ‘good’ pastor like yourself would defend pastors when so many on this post are discussing their bad experiences. Definitely beside the point. Don’t you think a more pastoral response would be to show empathy?

  • Carol

    Unfortunately, seminary training is usually inadequate for pastoral preparation in our 21st century world that has become unmanageably complex and depersonalized by advanced technology and the Church has adopted a corporate structure rather than a communitarian struction in the vain hope of meeting the challenge.

    “We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology.” —Edward O. Wilson, esteemed Harvard biologist

    Anyone who has studied the history of technology knows that technological change is always a Faustian bargain:
    Technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure. A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates. But it is never one-sided. The invention of the printing press is an excellent example.
    Printing fostered the modern idea of individuality but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and social integration. Printing created prose but made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of expression. Printing made modern science possible but transformed religious sensibility into an exercise in superstition. Printing assisted in the growth of the nation-state but, in so doing, made patriotism into a sordid if not a murderous emotion. –Neil Postman

    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

    In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe , where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise. –Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate

    In a rare interview in 1967 with Thomas McDonnell, [Thomas] Merton pronounced that the great crisis in the church is a crisis of authority precipitated because the church, as institution and organization, has overshadowed the reality of the church as a community of persons united in love and in Christ. He now charged that obedience and conformity with the impersonal corporation-church are a fact in the life of Christians. “The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity. ~George Kilcourse, ACE OF FREEDOMS: Thomas Merton’s Christ, Notre Dame Press, 1993

    Cardinal Newman said there were three authorities in the Church: the authority of tradition, the authority of reason and the authority of experience, which he placed respectively in the hierarchy, the university and the body of the faithful.
    He added that if one of these three became too dominant, the right exercise of authority in the Church risked being compromised. Each needs to be strong; for example, the theological faculties have their authority. Charismatic movements, for example, easily tend to give too much authority to experience. There have been moments when reason appeared to be absolutized, as in some countries in eighteenth-century Europe. Today, I think that some groups within the Church give too exclusive a stress to tradition, to the detriment of reason and experience. ~Timothy Radcliffe, OP

    “Reforming Church governance is not about shared power but about mutual empowerment in the Holy Spirit.” –Fr. Patrick Collins, from his essay on “Thomas Merton on Ecclesial Reform and Renewal” in Commentary.

    “The institutions of Churchianity are not Christianity. An institution is a good thing if it is second; immediately an institution recognizes itself it becomes the dominating factor.” — Oswald Chambers

    Institutions are a strange mix of the mass and the individual. They abstract. They behave according to a set of rules that substitute both for individual judgments and for the emotional responses that occur whenever individuals interact. The act of creating an institution dehumanizes it, creates an arbitrary barrier between individuals.
    Yet institutions are human as well. They reflect the cumulative personalities of those within them, especially their leadership. They tend, unfortunately, to mirror less admirable human traits, developing and protecting self-interest and even ambition. Institutions almost never sacrifice. Since they live by rules, they lack spontaneity. They try to order chaos not in the way an artist or scientist does, through a defining vision that creates structure and discipline, but by closing off and isolating themselves from that which does not fit. They become bureaucratic.
    The best institutions avoid the worst aspects of bureaucracy in two ways. Some are not really institutions at all. They are simply a loose confederation of individuals, each of whom remains largely a free agent whose achievements are independent of the institution but who also shares and benefits from association with others. In these cases the institution simply provides an infrastructure that supports the individual, allowing him or her to flourish so that the whole often exceeds the sum of the parts. ~John M. Barry, THE GREAT INFLUENZA: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, p. 299

  • BW

    Good points Carol. Particularly regarding the church as a corporation. That allows the pastor to act as a CEO, oftentimes in a businesslike manner without much regard to his/her congregants difficulties.

  • David, your “an abusive apology” is most powerful! There’s too many of us who can relate. Your cartoon “pastor” with his sick, self-righteous attitude moves me to laughter and tears, to anger and deep sorrow. Your deconstruction, i agree, is spot on! I’ve also appreciated the comments here. I found you via Julie Anne’s Spiritual Sounding Board. I hope you don’t mind if I repost your cartoon and analysis on my blog.

    It’s a blog (inspired by Julie Anne’s valiant blogging) i set up last spring to address some spiritual abusers—some Presbyterian Elders—in a previous home church of mine here in Pittsburgh. Your “an abusive apology” illustrates perfectly the insanity of the very situation i’m gearing up to address.

    . .

    Carol, if you have any more good quotes please keep them rolling!

  • hey monax. thanks for your kind words. of course you may use it. just credit thanks.

  • thanks, David. it’s already up.

  • nice! thanks.

  • VanPastorMan

    David, your site doesn’t speak to the fact that good pastors exist. I’ve never seen a cartoon about bible believing pastors who were doing their work just because of their love for the Lord and his people.
    Sure, I have empathy for anyone who is abused. It doesn’t matter if it’s at church or at your jobs. People get abused in all kinds of ways and places. I do pastoral counseling and pray with folks who have been hurt by their family members and life’s consequences.
    Before I became a pastor I had different pastors. Some were better than others, but I can say pretty confidently that none, absolutely none of them were like the cartoon’s depiction.

  • VanPastorMan

    Carol, my apologies for not responding in my above post. It’s ironic to me that people think that institutions for higher learning might be part of the problem. I was a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Can I be completely honest with you about some of my training? Sure we learned about the role of the pastor, and the qualifications which 1 Tim 3 speaks about. But, there was quite a bit of info we learned about survival. We learned that the pastorate is a rough job because many pastors get beat up by their people. In 11 yrs of pastoral ministry I can testify to the truth of this. Some people have been very brutal towards me. In one of my churches I was physically threatened by a huge ex football player. What was my crime? It’s that I wanted to eat supper with my family instead of being at church later in the evening. I completely understand that some pastors are bullies. Some are monsters. But the same goes for people in the congregation. Some are reasonable and good, and others are not. I think that the bottom line in all this is to follow the Word of God. Paul said we have to put up with each other. He also said that we are to consider others as more important as ourselves. If you read the book of 1 Corinthians you will find that they didn’t do that very well. In fact we still struggle today to get along, to be reasonable with each other. My whole point in my first post was that the good side, the good pastors are never mentioned. I’d like to see David do a cartoon on the good,godly, Bible believing pastors who hardly anyone knows, but their small congregations, and the Lord above.

  • VanPastorMan: Would you go to Jesus to ask him about the advantages of being a Pharisee and the good that Pharisaism contributes to the world? No you wouldn’t because you know that he was on a mission to undermine the principalities and the authorities that silenced the voice of the people, limited their freedoms, and burdened their shoulders with shame, guilt and fear. Pharisaism was a crucial part of an intricate system to control the people, just as the church has become. Sure, there were some good Pharisees and good synagogues as there are good pastors and churches. But that wasn’t Jesus’ concern. The problem was far larger than the few bright spots. And pastors who recognize and admit this are the best ones.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    In other words, he’s handing her over to Satan to be disciplined. Very biblical.

    Is that anything like “relaxing to secular authority” so the Church proper isn’t the one burning her at the stake?

  • Carol

    VanPastorMan, Jesus did not teach that others were more important than ourselves, he taught that we were not to compete in the worldly game of status-seeking.

    Jesus taught that we were to love others AS much as we love ourselves. We are not to love ourselves MORE than others; but we are not to love ourselves LESS than we love others either.

    Loving ourselves less than others is the dynamaic that produces either a messiah complex or victim/slave mentalities and leaves Christians without legitimate defenses, powerless when abused.

    Jesus did teach that we should not seek revenge or resort to violence–two “wrongs” do not make a “right” and we can’t do the Lord’s work with the devil’s tools; but that is quite different from devaluing ourselves as an excuse to surrender to fear when abused.

    “Religious creeds encourage some of the craziest kinds of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and favor severe manifestations of neurosis, borderline personality states, and sometimes even psychosis.” – Albert Ellis

    Nietzsche criticized Christianity for causing herd and slave mentalities. Of course, it is not Christianity but Churchianity that instills these pathologies in people. Same for Marx’s accusation that religion is the “opiate of the people.”

    “The institutions of Churchianity are not Christianity. An institution is a good thing if it is second; immediately an institution recognizes itself it becomes the dominating factor.” — Oswald Chambers

    “The whole world seems to crave what Jesus has to give, and when Jesus is presented to them people can’t get enough. They don’t want to learn about the teachings of a church or an institution. They want to meet the real Jesus [Girzone speaks from experience] and learn what
    He is really like…. If we try to substitute the doctrines of an institution we are then teaching them the medium of the message and not the message.” –Rev. Joseph E. Girzone

    “Once ‘the religious hypothesis’ is disengaged from the opportunity to inflict humiliation and pain on people who do not profess the correct creed, it loses interest for many people.”
    –Richard Rorty, Religious Faith, Intellectual Responsibility and Romance

    “I love Jesus, it’s his fan club that freaks me out!” –Blog Post

  • HURT

    David knows how this speaks to my heart. This happened to me this past week. I’m still crying off and on, but in between crying, I’m PISSED! I can’t believe I just said that. I’m free now to say what I feel. But if I say too much I will lose close friends still in the church. It’s easy to say “Don’t walk away from something you’ve worked so hard for.”—when you’re not the one being FIRED! I’ve never lost a job in my life, much less one I was doing for the Lord! I’ve always been the one kept no matter what.

  • Hi Hurt. I know your story, and it is terrible. I know exactly how you feel, having been there myself. Can I hold out hope that if you process your hurt well, you will be okay?

  • HURT

    I will be okay, and hopefully will be stronger. Sadly I will likely be less trusting and may not give as much of myself. Thank you for your support David! I’ve had many people already contact me with support. At least I feel the love of those I was there for.

  • i’m glad you have support. and i’m here for you too 😀

  • HURT

    Thanks David!

  • missjoni

    Oh, my. Once our pastor was removed, the church paid for our family’s counseling bill. There has been restoration with many from that era in our lives–we’d all since moved on to healthier situations–yet the former pastor seems is still in his own world. One person he specifically “put out” of the church is now a worship leader with an amazing traveling ministry especially to those in addiction recovery. God works it out. There is hope for repurposing that kind of abuse.

  • Hurt, take one step at a time(if I may blast you some advice) and feel free to work through the crap. You may have to sit in it for awhile and don’t feel you have to jump in with trust right away. I know this will sound trite, let God guide this recovery–days to sit in it and days to push through. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is so lonely especially if your closest friends are still in the thick of it. Our family found a lot of help talking to those outside of the situation–who weren’t mired in it.
    Van, there are many amazing pastors and church leaders. We know so many and try not to approach each one with cynicism. Sadly, some just don’t get it. We humans are a messy bunch.

  • Carol

    I highly recommend this website:

    Mind-Field: Eight Ways to Identify Religious Brainwashing (Part 1 of 8)

  • Catrise

    Thank you for sharing this. It really is spot on! I believe the problem stems from the whole concept of “church” or “circe” which replaced the term ekklesia. Which kind of got ‘lost in translation’. Hence “church” became this Nicolaitan hierarchy with a central, physical location filled with schedules, agendas, ceremonies, etc. The ekklesia of Acts 2 did not function that way. The elders/leaders were servants of God sent to help God’s people and to reach the lost, not rulers to control the people.

    We are admonished not to forsake assemblying together, but I do not believe God meant “doing the church thing”. Where even as few as 2-3 are gathered in Jesus’ Name, He is there, and that can be anywhere, at any time. We have a Pastor, Jesus. He gives us leaders/elders to help raise us up to spiritual maturity, and we have Holy Spirit in us who is our Ultimate Teacher, Counselor and Guide Tas the Word says, since we have Him, we need no other person to teach us).

  • well said, Catrise! thank you