Category Archives: Religion

Unbiblical, Part 4 – Trusting God, Self, and Others

Detail from “A Girl Comes to Christ” by Fritz von Uhde (1884), Museum der bildenden Künste (Accession No. 550), Germany (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Trusting God v. Trusting Self

Christians talk casually about God’s plan for their lives and the lives of others.  This can be grating to the ears of abuse victims (especially those new to, or unfamiliar with, the faith).

As victims are inclined to see it, God’s plan for them included abuse.  Whether He caused that abuse or merely allowed it to occur, He failed to protect them against it. And they have the scars to prove that.

The issue of innocent suffering is a profound one, and cannot be papered over with a handy Bible verse.  For abuse victims, coming to terms with it may be a lifelong struggle.

Trusting themselves can be as great a challenge.  Abuse has effectively “taught” victims not to rely on their own judgment, their own instincts.  This is something they must unlearn.

It is not helpful for Christians to urge victims to trust in God, rather than themselves.  Such trust will come with time.  It cannot be rushed.  There are deep wounds which must be healed first.

Trusting Others

Christians should be sensitive in the language they use around abuse victims.  To victims of incest, even the term “Father God” can sound disturbing.  To those who were sexually abused or tortured by siblings, the term “brothers and sisters in Christ” may be equally threatening.

Christians should not pressure victims to drop their defenses, and should not hug or make other physical contact with victims without their permission.  Victims may experience either as invasive, and shy away.

Christians should allow abuse victims to take the lead, insofar as relationships. Friendships should not be forced.  These will develop as victims gradually come to see they will not be harmed.

Originally posted 3/29/15

This series will continue next week with Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

“Eve” by Auguste Rodin, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Author MicheleLovesArt (MIchele Ahin at https://www.flickr.com/people/39627257@N04) (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value.  They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare.  This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify.  However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless.  This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life.  His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

Originally posted 3/22/15

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Woman with a broken heart, Author Nevit Dilmen, Source Sunset 02459.jpg and Broken Heart symbol.svg (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have.  Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars.  Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues.  The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart.  Nor is it for the self-righteous.  Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims.  That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip.  Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

Originally posted 3/15/15

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

 

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“Domestic Violence in the Church” by Stephanie Jafta

First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI, Author DavidCrumm (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

I have discussed elsewhere the Scriptures clergy mistakenly use against victims of domestic violence.  This post by Stephanie Jafta addresses the responsibility of the church toward such victims.

“The words ‘domestic violence’ and ‘church’ do not belong together and do not exist in the same context.  To deny this would seem traitorous and unfaithful, and yet, to ignore it would bring into question our faith, values, and beliefs as Christians.  Domestic violence is alive and kicking in the church, and turning a blind eye to the plight of women, children, and men will only strengthen the excuses made for the abuse…[Continued at https://godinterest.com/2018/08/08/domestic-violence-in-the-church/ ].”

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

 

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Sex Tourism

Detail from painting at Casa del Centenario, Pompeii (PD)*

The ancient Roman city of Pompeii was known for its hedonism.  Archaeologic evidence has been found of numerous brothels.  Erotic art was common in homes.  Phallic symbols were used all over the city, as signs of fertility and good fortune [1].

This may sound titillating to us.  We have not though progressed far, in the centuries since.  Sex tourism is widely advertised today.  Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia are among the countries that derive income from it [2].

Those who plan their vacations around the sexual activities – legal and illegal – available in foreign countries are unlikely to consider their impact on the local men, women, and children selling their bodies (and souls) to survive. Continue reading

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Hope for Sex Trafficking Survivors

Acer Aspire 4930G laptop, Author Jeff777BC (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Catie Hart was trafficked by a man she thought of as her boyfriend.  Their relationship became increasingly threatening, till the 18 y.o. was forced into prostitution.  Fear kept her from escaping.

The line between “boyfriend” and “trafficker” was intentionally blurred from the outset.  This type of grooming is typical.  Catie’s story did not though end there.  She is now training to become a computer programmer.

The fledgling non-profit AnnieCannons https://www.anniecannons.com/ helps survivors of human trafficking achieve financial independence by teaching them web design.  Since survivors are often stigmatized by a past which includes an arrest record, AnnieCannons, also, assists graduates of its program with networking and job placement.

Obstacles remain.  The non-profit operates on a small scale.  While involved with the program, survivors must provide their own food and housing.  With limited job skills, some continue to work in so called “gentlemen’s” clubs to do this.

But, as Helen Keller, said:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

Christ, of course, offers hope to all.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5: 17).

[1]  Global Post, “This sex trafficking survivor is moving 0n — by learning how to code” by Arthur Nazaryan,  8/17/18, https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-08-17/sex-trafficking-survivor-moving-learning-how-code.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Life

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139: 16).

Abuse survivors have not always experienced life at its best.  But life remains a priceless gift.  We must cherish it.

Mother Teresa (standing all of 4’11” and weighing less than 100 lbs) worked among the poorest of the poor in India.  Yet she maintained a positive view of life.  The poem below is by her.

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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A Long Silence

Broome County Courthouse, Binghamton, NY, Author Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Statutes of Limitations are time limits under the law within which accusations can be criminally prosecuted or civil damages pursued.

Purpose

Statutes of Limitations serve a dual purpose.  They encourage investigation while evidence is still available and memories fresh.   And they allow society to move forward in an orderly fashion, with old disputes resolved.

Tolling

Murder has consistently been viewed as the exception.  The crime is considered so grave by society that it warrants investigation whenever uncovered…even after many years.  The question we must ask is how closely other allegations parallel this.

Most states suspend or “toll” their Statutes of Limitations to allow injured minors to reach majority.

Many states have made special provisions for child sexual abuse cases – in part because of the breadth and heinous nature of such crimes, in part because victims are often reluctant to come forward for years, and in part because there may be repressed memories involved [1].

A Long Silence

Systemic suppression of the truth – as, for instance, by the Catholic Church – may result in a long silence.  That does not ensure societal peace…much less justice.

[1]  National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “State Civil Statutes of Limitations in Child Sexual Abuse Cases”, 5/30/17, http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-civil-statutes-of-limitations-in-child-sexua.aspx.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Credibility

Detail from “Allegory of Justice” by Claude Laprade (1702), Museo Nacional Machado de Castro, Portugal, Author P.Lameiro (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Given the recent #MeToo Movement, the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal, and the growing frequency of child abuse allegations in the context of custody disputes, the issue of credibility is crucial.

False allegations – whether of rape or child abuse which did not occur – are a serious concern.  Lives and careers can be destroyed by them.

Signs of Truthfulness

There are factors which tend to support the truthfulness of victims.  These include the following:

  • A complaint to authority, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Documented physical injury, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Changes in the behavior of a child, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Detailed descriptions of sexual interaction by a young child.
  • Multiple victims, unrelated to one another.
  • Recurrent victims, when an accused relocates or is reassigned.

None of these factors, by themselves, assure that allegations are grounded in fact.  Each, however, carries some weight.  All are present in the Catholic Church sex scandal. Continue reading

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Predator Priests, Part 3

Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, former Archbishop of Boston who resigned in response to the Catholic Church sex scandal, Author City of Boston Archives, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofbostonarchives/9519694234/ (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Whether in the Roman Catholic Church or evangelical church, clergy abuse is a fundamental betrayal of Christian belief.

The Good Shepherd

Christ the Good Shepherd, the Suffering Servant, sacrificed Himself for our sake.  The sinless Savior took on our sins, and went to the cross in our place.  Predator priests do the opposite.  They prey on the innocent, targeting the weak and vulnerable under their care, for the sake of perverse self-gratification.

This is perhaps the lowest, most despicable form of abuse.  Not only does it destroy a child’s confidence and self-esteem, but a child’s very faith in God.

The Priest/Penitent Relationship

The relationship between a priest and penitent is intended to be sacred, on a par with the relationship between a father and child.  It is meant to mirror the relationship between God and man, and is or should be based on trust.  When that trust is violated, the wound is deep and lasting.

Qualifications for Christian Leadership

And a servant of the Lord must…be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…” (2 Tim. 2: 24-25).

“A bishop…must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior…not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle…one who rules his own house well…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3: 2-7).

“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but…a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1: 7-9).

Scripture lays out the necessary characteristics for Christian leadership.  These include self-control, gentleness, humility, fidelity, and genuine holiness (as distinguished from the mere appearance of piety) .

Predator priests lack every one of these. Continue reading

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