David Hayward shared the above cartoon, about coping with post-traumatic church syndrome. It is a real condition. And for victims of abuse, a punching bag – whether literal or metaphorical – can play a crucial role in the healing process.
But we also need to be careful. This is one of the reasons abuse victims have been known to turn into abusers themselves. If you generalize from the man who beat you to all fathers or all men, from the women who betrayed you to all women, from the church that bullied you to all churches, there is at best unhealthy stereotyping and at worst a perpetration of abuse, as you may find yourself treating the innocent as though they were guilty by association.But perhaps gods are a safe exception to this rule? If there are false idols, those are surely appropriate punching bags. And if there is a real God that transcends all things, that God can handle a few punches. Indeed, one of the things that makes the mythology of incarnation such a powerful symbol in Christianity is its depiction of a God who not only can take our punches, but who did do so, and who provides an example of being stronger than the abusers, not by making them victims of worse abuse as payback (although alas, some do think of God in such terms), but by demonstrating love, forgiveness, and strength of character that refuses to allow abusers to gain the ultimate victory, which is making their victims like they are.