Sunday, January 20, 2013

Practical Theology for Women: Abuse Allegations in Ministries We Love

Wendy writes about how to approach allegations of abuse in ministries we love.  She mentions that the two temptations we're likely to face are to write off the allegations as unsubstantiated or to play the "bitter" card.

Now being in the custom of reading blogs that deal with concerns about abuse I'd say that it is valuable to not be too swift to draw a conclusion without evidence.  Not everyone who shares a story has told the whole story and while it's obvious that advocates of a ministry will say "There are two sides to every story" as a way to preclude or blunt the legitimacy of criticism there can be a problem on the other side of that divide, wanting to believe the worst accusations because of a judgment already arrived at.  You don't have to go to comments in articles in The Stranger, just take my word for it that some folks are sure that anyone who publicly speaks about homosexuality negatively must by definition be a raging closet case who will one day be caught with a rent boy.  That is not necessarily perception so much as an emotional script used to make sense of the words and behaviors of others.

And that's where allegations of abuse will hit us, because if there's a ministry we love the allegations will, in some fashion, announce that there is at least the possibility that that emotional script we've cherished to provide the story of a ministry we like could be, or definitely is, wrong.  This is something to remember when you are inclined to rush to the defense of a ministry that is facing scandalous accussations--you're not really, meaningfully defending that ministry in any fashion whatsoever, you're defending your emotional and financial investment in it.  That probably feels like the same thing to you but let me playfully suggest something, there's a world of difference between "I want you to be happy" and "I want to be happy for you."  In many cases people say the former when they potentially mean the latte in addition to or even above the former. 

Most ministries we love in this day and age may be ministries that are media empires to which we have no meaningful connection, which will get to the flip side of things.  If a famous ministry faces significant allegations of misconduct or criminal activity it's possible to make an emotional investment against as well as for, which may be presented as standing with the victims.  Now if you actually personally know victims then, yes, stand by them and give them as much support as you're able to.  Do labor that the truth about wrongdoing will be made known but also realize that it can be addictive to invest in those kinds of things.  But if you're not involved in the lives of people who have been harmed directly by a ministry there is such a thing as recognizing that you don't actually have a dog in that fight.  Symbolic support of people who say they've been hurt may be more for your emotional pleasure than the real benefit of people who have been actually harmed.  Not saying that to be offensive, but to urge consideration--likewise, consider the earlier proposal that when you defend a ministry you love to which you have no connection other than having downloaded podcasts or bought books, you're not defending that ministry so much as you're justifying your emotional and financial investment in that ministry.  You see the self-defending consumer choice of discretionary time and income can go in either or any direction. 

Having said that, Wenatchee The Hatchet has known quite a few former employees of a certain religious institution.  Wenatchee The Hatchet helped line up work for at least one of them but with the caveat that he'd want to save as much money as possible because he might get laid off after ten months.  He got laid off after eight.  See, it'd be hard for someone to seriously sustain the case that Wenatchee's just an "other side" blogger if he's helped find friends and associates at Mars Hill find jobs.  Even people who read The Stranger had some nice things to say about guys like former pastors Bill Clem and Paul Petry.  Wenatchee has nice things to say about those guys, too. 

There are going to be posts on music again at some point, by the way. :)

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