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I wanted to share a little perspective from my own experiences regarding the Me, Too and the Church, Too Movements.  I wanted to point out a few things that I think we all would do well to pay attention to.  The overarching theme being: abuse is evil – especially abuse of authority or power.

So, #1, abuse matters.  Why does it matter?  All the Christians should be filling in the blank.  Abuse matters because all injustice matters.  Corruption, deceitfulness, wolves in sheep’s clothing – that stuff all matters because God hates it.  We hate it because God’s law is written on our hearts and we innately know that it is wrong.

That much we have right.  Well, some of us do.  I can’t tell you the number of “Christian friends” I had tell me that they wanted to hear nothing about what had happened to me and that I should just be quiet and get over it.  There’s something else that matters, though.  And we need to talk about it just as much.  That something is called false accusation and slander; the intentional maligning, discrediting, and darkening of another’s character for personal or political gain.

Now, I can say with 100% certainty that I have experienced both sides of this coin.  I would venture to say most people, on some small level at least, have, too.  Both are atrocities.  In my honest opinion, I believe the latter is far more damaging.  The reasons are:

  1. When someone falsely accuses you, especially when they are in a position of power, self-defense is non-existent.
  2. You are silenced.
  3. You experience a great deal of self-doubt.
  4. The masses believe the public figure’s lies about you without a shred of factual evidence.
  5. Many friends and acquaintances abandon and blacklist you for things you never did.
  6. You suffer for many months/years from post traumatic stress including severe physical, psychological, and emotional distress – depending on the severity of the offenses done to you.

    Being falsely accused and shunned by trusted friends and leaders causes one to doubt their own sanity.  Being falsely accused and never being given any platform or opportunity by which to defend one’s own innocence is demoralizing, severely personally damaging, and downright evil.  It’s called a witch-hunt.  When the mob is marching with their torches, it doesn’t matter how loud you speak, no one listens.I think another important conclusion my husband and I came to when this was happening to us over the past six years, is that credibility should never be a given.  NEVER!!!  Position, title, charisma, or popularity do not assume credibility.  Pastors lie.  Women lie. Men lie.  Children lie.  Politicians lie.  All kinds of people lie.  It is not a person’s position, gender, fame, or fortune we need to consider when trying to determine truth.  It is a person’s character, which, by the way, can often be determined by examining the general direction and fruits of their lives.

    When we have a well-known prostitute on television purporting outrageous stories about a man who claims to have been celibate for years before, during, and after the time the claims were to have taken place,  we need to at very least consider what the likelihood of truth is coming from someone whose conscience has been seared so severely vs. someone who everyone involved with knows to be a person or great, tried, and true integrity.

    Now, I understand the danger of that as well because, again, position – be it a title – political or pious, does not dismiss a person from the possibility of being abusive and deceitful.  We need to be wise.  We must always look at facts, allow BOTH the accuser and the accused to speak, listen carefully to both accounts by way of factual evidence, and only then determine truth.

    Never, ever should we assume guilt or innocence based on one side of a story, the gender of a person, or their position or lack of position.  We can assess evidence and come to educated conclusions if we are honest enough to hear both sides of every story.

    No one did that for me when I was falsely accused or abused. In both cases, men’s power and position trumped the truth and they continue to lead the masses under a guise of respect and piety.  Nevertheless, God will indeed judge those men.  Vengeance belongs to the Lord.  Because I both believe and trust him, I have no need or desire to be a victim or take on some victimized identity.  I am not a victim.  I am nothing more than a truth-teller and that is the only agenda I have.  I will not be silenced.

platypus

If I were an animal, I think I would be a duck-billed platypus.  I mean, I’d love to imagine myself as a kangaroo so I could be a boxer, or a bird so I could sing and fly.  But, honestly, I think I’d have to identify with the derelict duck-billed platypus.  I’m simply an anomaly.  Truly, truly.  I fit in no cut and dry categories as assigned by our culture.  And I’m OK with it.  Anomalies are not defective.  We are different.  I find that it often bothers other people because they simply don’t know what to do with me – just how I imagine the scientists feeling when trying to classify old duck-bill.

When I was preparing for the Mrs. Pennsylvania America Pageant, I would have to answer random questions about world events and personal views.  When asked my thoughts on the Me, Too Movement, when it was in its infancy, I knew well what my answer must be.  My answer was, firstly, that someone in this movement needs to define its terms.  We have everything being chucked into one big pot of witch’s brew called “abuse.”  Everything from unwanted compliments to cat calls to statutory rape to revenge after breakup is being lumped into a giant ball of confusion and outrage by these people.  The first thing I said was, I need to know what we’re talking about when you say, “Me, too.”  I need some more information.  Do you mean you were hit on by a man you weren’t attracted to?  Or were you actually hit by him?  Do you mean you were raped by a car-jacker?  Or do you mean you had consensual sex when you were 17 and a half with an 18 year old?  I’m confused.  I need more information before I can answer what I think about this movement.

Secondly, the answer is, “No.  I do not agree with lumping all women into a group of helpless victims who, until this movement came along, had absolutely no idea what to do after they’d been legitimately abused, harmed, or injured.”  We are not that stupid.  We are not helpless.  If we have been hurt, we have resources and outlets by which to appeal and seek justice already.  If we have been an adult for any amount of time, we have had ample provisions to use.  I say that not as one who has not experienced injury at the hands of men’s and women’s sickness, but as one who most certainly has.

On the positive side, I do believe the movement has helped many people to be more vocal about their experiences, and, perhaps, helped the conversation get started about how, when, and why true abuse should be dealt with.

Now, I could go on for days talking about ways other people have sinned against me.  I surely could.  You could, too.  We ALL could.  Human nature is ugly.  Really, really ugly.  No one has to tell us who we are.  We already know well what we are all capable of.  But you can’t tell me that 99% of the women coming forward have never once in their lives said anything inappropriate to the opposite sex; have never once overstepped boundaries in a relationship; have never once done anything injurious or demeaning to a man.  They certainly have.  I have.  You have.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we all have.  That’s why we need to go back to point number one.  We must define the terms.  Are we talking about rape?  Or are we talking about being uncomfortable or angry with something we ought to shrug off, forget, and forgive?  Because we are all guilty of causing those negative emotions in others just the same. It’s unfortunate, but ladies, it is not the same as a crime and should never be equated to such.  That is not victim-blaming, it’s reality living.  If you’re so sensitive that when a man compliments you you have to cry, “Abuse!” I would argue that that’s a crime in itself.

Futhermore, if you truly care and are seeking justice for a true crime committed, you do not wait years until the person is in the public light.  You seek justice when you realize you were wronged and realize the potential the actor has to hurt others.  Otherwise, it is not about justice or the common good at all.  It’s about slander, control, manipulation, and revenge – none of which are justifiable, decent, or just within themselves – hence making the accuser just as guilty as the accused in a game of who can hurt who better.  And that, friends, is ridiculous, embarrassing, and demoralizing.

I was abused several times in unbelievable ways by church leaders and corrupt men in authority who were supposed to be making “moral decisions and upholding the law.”  I have never been silent – never, ever, ever, no matter what persecution has come to me because of my testimony. I have lost every “friend” I loved and trusted in the church save one, because they don’t want to be associated with someone who holds their hero demigod leaders accountable. So I totally get it. I do. Believe me I do. My life was nearly completely destroyed because of men such as are being described in this movement.  I remember every detail, I have every text, every email, every Facebook screenshot, every recorded conversation still saved to this day and I have never stopped shouting it among those who should but don’t care. I never will. I forgive. I pray for them. And I educate and advocate for people about abuse of authority within the church. I’ll tell you what wouldn’t happen though. What wouldn’t happen is the town being surprised by decades old allegations when one of these men rises to power in another arena. They will have YEARS of documentation of my accounts, attempts, and pleas for reconciliation and truth when and if those men were in such a position. So there’s that. That’s what real victims who really care about the public over which men like this rule actually do when abused.

When the Church Too Movement piggybacked off the Me Too Movement, I was very interested to see how similar so many people’s experiences with the church were to my own.  I was thrilled that corruption in church leadership and abuse of authority in the church was being exposed for what it truly is and how we, as ones who endured the darkness of spiritual abuse at the hands of men in prestigious and pious positions have been treated.  I found myself saying, “Yes!” and “Amen!”  more times than I can count as these advocates began to take the stage and expose the evil going on within the church at large in today’s world.

As time has gone on, however, the Church Too Movement has progressively shown the same dangerous trends as I have seen in the Me Too Movement.  There is no balance.  There are real victims and real abuses, but the agenda showing through the truths being told is one of a group that seeks to tear down everyone and everything that doesn’t agree with it.  I see not safety and security in labeling myself as part of that group, rather, I feel like a pawn they seek to use to promote their own new-age, man-hating ideas.  I have a saying for that problem, “What’s true is not new, and what’s new is not true.”

I don’t like being used.  I don’t like being used by a man.  I don’t like being used by a church.  I don’t like being used by a movement.  I don’t like being used by a political agenda.  I have one purpose, and that purpose is truth.  TRUTH.  Truth leads to things like justice, accountability, personal responsibility, respect, honor, and reconciliation. Being an advocate for the truth often automatically disqualifies me from being an advocate for anything else…because at some point all people groups – be they churches, movements, political parties, or even social groups – at some point they all hate being confronted with the truth.  Enter: duck-billed platypus.  I will not sell out for any group or movement.  The truth is simply too incredibly important.

I say this to warn those of you who are attracted to any one group.  If you find yourself making excuses for a man, a woman, a church leader, a political figure, a boss, a co-worker, a family member, a friend….anyone, when they have clearly done something unjust, unfair, illegal, or otherwise abusive, become a anomaly.  Do not excuse them.  Confront them.  Expose them.  Depending on the severity and circumstances, deal with the injury as kindly, quietly, humbly, and reasonably as humanly possible.  Before you do so, recognize and repent of your own sins.  Get the plank of your eye and then help that person see the speck in theirs.  That’s step number one in every single one of these situations.  If you are one injured or afraid, find a trusted friend or proper authority who can confront the abuser or the situation.  That is the Bible’s prescription when we are sinned against by another person.  See Matthew 18.

 

 

Gods+Calling

Once the unusually long fast for Esther is complete, she wastes no time fulfilling her end of the deal.  Queen Esther goes directly to the king’s quarters hoping not to be executed for her disobedience.

Obeying her father figure, Mordecai, in an effort to try to save her race, Esther does the right thing.  But obeying Mordecai meant disobeying the law.  She was not allowed to enter the king’s presence without being sent for.  She chose to do right – even if it meant sacrificing her own life.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “It is better to do evil than to be evil.”

Esther came when she was not called to a king whose last queen was banished for not coming when she was called.  Still, the king extended grace and mercy to her rather than wrath and punishment as he had done to Queen Vashti.  Humility opens doors while pride deadbolts them.

The king asked Esther what she wanted and promised to give her up to half of his kingdom.  When she said she’d prepared a feast for he and Haman (the man behind the plot to kill her race) he “quickly” sent for him.  The king was much obliged to grant Esther’s request – still not knowing nor even suspecting that Esther was herself a Jew.

Meanwhile, Haman, the jealous, insecure, murderous right-hand man to the king is busy counting his blessings and not being thankful for them.  The text says he sent for his family, “recounted” all his riches and comforts,  and yet said, “Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jews sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:13)

The only solution to Haman’s rage and wrath within came with building a death trap to be used on the religious man who refused to bow down to him out of his fear of God.  That man was none other than Mordecai the Jew.  Haman’s sole satisfaction came from having gallows built while he prepared to the attend the feast with Queen Esther and the king.  This alone was able to appease his anger and rage.

Matthew Henry challenges us to compare and contrast Esther’s position with our own.  “Esther came to a proud imperious man; we come to the God of love and grace.  She was not called; we are: the Spirit says, Come, and the bride says, Come.  She had a law against her; we have a promise, many a promise, in favor of us: Ask, and it shall be given you.  She had no friend to introduce her, or intercede for her, while on the contrary he that was then the king’s favorite was her enemy; but we have an advocate with the Father, in whom he is well pleased.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.” 

Lastly, if we cannot be happy with all the many blessings and advantages that knowing God provides, we must examine our hearts.  Most times, when we become bitter, sullen, wrathful, or vengeful, it is a result of pride, envy, and self-centered ideas which our deceitful hearts will do just about anything to appease.  Like my Bible teacher always said, “Sin makes us stupid.”

I had a man tell me I was not called once.  Somehow, God still chose me to show on up.  I guess I should have told that man I was there for such a time a this.  Esther wasn’t called on by men either, but God called her and used her to save her entire race.  Just because men disallow and disqualify us does not mean God won’t call and use us to do amazing things!

 Count your blessings.  Pray about your problems.  Be bold in your faith.  Obey the law of righteousness above all other laws.

 

inaction

Esther 4 gives an account of how Mordecai and Esther dealt with the threats against the Jews made by Haman and their king.  This, after Mordecai was passed over for a promotion by Haman who now sought to annihilate the Jews altogether.

The plan Haman had was to slander and discredit the Jews and then destroy them all.  Haman’s ambition was a result of Mordecai’s unwillingness to bow to him.  Mordecai knew the jealous leader would stop at nothing to destroy him, but he could not submit because he knew only God was worthy of worship.  It’s quite interesting that Mordecai was the only Jew noted to have refused to bow.  Apparently the others did not take their religion very seriously.

When word got around that the Jews were to be destroyed, Mordecai made his grief very public.  He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and cried out loudly in the middle of the city.  He went to the entrance to the king’s gate and did the same.

The text says he did not enter the king’s gate because no one who was grieving was allowed to enter the gate.  Isn’t it just like unconcerned, corrupt authorities to not allow any negative press in their sphere of comfort?  Only positive vibes allowed here in the king’s little world.  Too bad that mentality doesn’t work in real life.  Which of us can stave off sickness, trouble, consequences, and death simply by eliminating anyone and anything that causes us distress or discomfort?  How many today follow this same false ideology?  These are the kind of responses we get when we seek to tell the truth about corruption and abuse among church leadership today.  White-wash the outside and silence the naysayers.  Show me a person who seeks to expose injustice and corruption and I will show you a maligned, misrepresented, hated loner.  There’s nothing new under the sun.

If we consider David’s response when faced with a murderous king, we see a man running away, eluding, and hiding.  But if we consider Mordecai’s reaction, we see a man highlighting injustice, making himself highly visible, and loudly declaring his displeasure with the corruption.  These men have the total opposite response.  Why?

Perhaps it was because David faced individual persecution and Mordecai faced corporate punishment based on his individual actions of obedience.  David’s obedience to his king endangered his life, but Mordecai’s obedience endangered the lives of all his brothers and sisters.  Herein we find the answer as to when we should lay low and when we must stand up.

Then again, if we really think about it, Saul’s abusive authority would certainly lead to more abusive authority dealt out to others in the future.  Perhaps, instead, we are simply dealing with two very different men and two very different personalities when met with the very same hardship.

Once Mordecai’s wailing is made known to Queen Esther, she sends him clothes to change out of his sackcloth.  He refuses to change.  Then she sends a man to ask Mordecai what his problem is.  It seems that she really would have rather Mordecai not be so loud and visible about his distress.  She knew he was putting himself in danger by not conforming to the positive vibes only rules in the kingdom.  Still, she cared greatly about Mordecai and it is proven in the fact that she asked exactly why he was upset.  A person who cares about the pain of another will ask why you are upset even if they would rather you hide it from others.  People who care don’t try to silence those who grieve so that they themselves might be more comfortable.  I cannot tell you how many brothers and sisters told me that they did not want to know anything about my story when I sought to right the wrongs being done in leadership.  Fear kills faith.  As Matthew Henry comments, “If we must weep with those that weep, we must know why they weep.” 

Consider also what we see in Esther 4:8.  Mordecai had written proof of the injustice and corruption he was crying about.  He wasn’t out to get anyone or usurp his leaders.  Mordecai was telling the truth and he had proof.  He wasn’t asking anyone to believe him on the basis of his public display of pain.  He was asking for someone to listen.  Vague accusations and discrimination by leadership was being met with concrete evidence by its target.  Often, we see the very same thing in our day.  The question is not, “Who is in the right?,” for that is obvious.  Rather the question is, “Am I willing to do right based on the truth and the evidence?”  Such is a question we must all ask ourselves when faced with corruption in leadership – even when the king is our very best friend…or even, our very own husband.

Mordecai appeals to this very concept.  He is asking his adopted daughter to do justice despite her very difficult position in this situation.  Mordecai even goes so far as to remind her that if she fails to do justice, she loses anyway.  He says this:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” ~Esther 4:13-14

In other words, do not think that by doing nothing that your inaction will keep you safe.  Let me just say that one more time.  Do not think that by doing nothing that your inaction will keep you safe.    SO many people believe this lie in our day and age.  I could write a book about how ubiquitous this false belief is in our culture.  Inaction and avoidance in the face of injustice, abuse, and corruption in leadership is anything but safe!  It is nothing more than cowardice and self-preservation – neither of which, by the way, are indicative of true followers of Jesus Christ.  Do right or you will end up in the wrong.  That was Mordecai’s charge to Esther.  Better to do right and have wrong done to you that to do nothing and die a coward.  Someone inform the Catholic Church, please.

And, just to be clear, this was not Mordecai asking Esther to risk her life for his.  Mordecai would have died for his faith at any given time.  If it were not so, he would not have refused to bow day after day.  He would not have sought to keep Esther’s Jewish heritage a secret if he did not value greatly her life.  He never once sought to keep his faith a secret, though.  Mordecai’s whole purpose in beating his drum loudly about injustice and corruption here was for the good of all and the glory of God.  That is all.  That is why he would not bow.  It’s why he would not be quiet about the decree.  It’s why he would not change out of his grieving attire and why he submitted written evidence of his claims.  Mordecai cared about justice and he loved his brothers and sisters.  He would not be silenced or go down quietly.

Finally, Esther agrees to help the Jews.  She should!  She was one of them!  But, where it would have been easy for her to justify avoiding the whole situation and looking out for number one, she did not.  She asked Mordecai to call a fast for her and then she did something very courageous.  Esther risked her own life for the sake of her people.  Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Like father, like daughter.

Acorns and Buttercups

butter.JPG

Home at last.  I just had a few favorite memories to share from our vacation week.  We started out at the beach and had to leave because of the impending storm, also known as Hurricane Florence.  We took the kids to Washington, D.C. for a couple days, and then went up to Lake Erie for a couple days.  I’d say we made the most of it despite the detours.  Here’s the good stuff…

…Sitting on the seemingly safe sand ledge and getting blasted by unexpected waves…Addie cooking sausage and eggs…Mia with her Ukulele…the holding hands silhouette in a warm bed after my knight, just as tired as the rest of us, drove six hours through rain and traffic…the soft, mumbled, early morning singing of a two year-old…Maylee’s big goggles and even bigger giggles…a lesson on clear communication asking if anyone wanted to go to the beach and Sonny yelling, “I want to go!  I want to go!”…the silence of my family’s restful sleep…the daddy playing with his giggle-squealing daughter…the pastor who loved me…the towering golden steeple…hearing someone literally use the expression, “Battin’ down the hatches”…an eleven year-old who got up to do schoolwork before vacationing for the day…the mechanic at rest…the consideration of all that those who have wronged me did right…the sounds of crickets and bird-songs on an otherwise silent lakefront…Mason Jar desserts and mixed drink slushies…plentiful overhead grapevines…an elderly couple taking a walk together…reading uninterrupted…Meatloaf and Johnny Cash…trees…the lost and found lifeguard…acorns and buttercups…Sonny’s declaration at seeing the ghost crabs, “He’s my little friend!”…his hand on my back and gentleman’s kiss on the forehead…catching the big fish…peace and quiet…Emmanuel…Emmanuel…Emmanuel…

…God with us…

Surely He was here with us.  Surely He always is.

Victory.

Where can I go from His Spirit? Where can I flee from His presence?  If I go up to the heavens, He is there; if I make my bed in the depths, He is there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there His right hand will hold me fast.

I can fail miserably.  I can be lazy about spiritual disciplines.  I can even try to run away from Him and admittedly deserve absolutely nothing.  But I still cannot escape his love.  Amen.

courage

Esther 3 gives us a better picture of the character of both Mordecai and Haman.  When we consider who they are based on their respective actions, we see clearly who is really who.

Notice that it is after Mordecai proves faithful to the king that Haman is promoted.  The text tells us that Mordecai would not bow down to Haman.  While it can be quite difficult to watch unfaithful peers get rewards when you are the one who actually deserves them, this was not the reason Mordecai failed to pay homage to this man.  No.  Mordecai had a God who forbid him to worship or bow to anyone besides him.  In fact, all the Jews had that same law.  Funny that he’s literally the only one in the entire kingdom who obeyed it.

Anyway, Mordecai refuses to bow and thus shows us that his service to the king stopped when it impinged upon his service to God.  It also tells us that his revealing of the assassination plot in chapter 2 was not a self-serving act of brown-nosing, rather, a genuine act of service and faithfulness to the king.  We know this because when given the opportunity to bow and worship the king’s leading man, he wholly refuses, even at the urging of many peers.  Mordecai wasn’t a suck-up.  He was an honorable truth-teller.

Esther 3:4 tells us that his peers tried to get him to bow day after day and he continuously refused.  He may have been protecting Esther by telling her to keep her Jewish heritage under wraps, but he himself was surely not afraid to let his faith be known and observed by all.  Eventually, his peers told Haman about Mordecai’s failure to bow to him.

Verse 5 tells us that Haman was “filled with fury” – so much so that he hatched a plot to annihilate every last Jew because of it.  Well, because of Mordecai and because there was a long time hatred between the Jews and the Agagites since the time of King Saul.  Let’s consider Haman’s character for a moment.

Haman was promoted, yet fearfully insecure and jealous.  He was holding on to an old rivalry rather than living in the present.  Despite the fact that every other person in the kingdom appeared to be giving him honor including his king, that wasn’t enough.  Mordecai’s insurrection completely undid him to the point of mass murder plotting against an entire race.

So, Haman did what any unstable villian would do – he darkened the people he personally hated to the one with the most earthly authority.  He misled the king to believe that the Jews were lawbreakers, hindrances, and problem-causers.  (We see the exact same behavior with the jealous officials in Daniel’s story.)  Not only does he discredit the Jews, he pays an astronomical amount of money to the king as a bribe to seal the deal for their extermination.  The sum given by Haman to the king was said to be equivalent to two-thirds of the annual revenue of the Persian Empire at the time.  Little wonder why he is named “the enemy of the Jews” in verse 10.

The king takes the bait and signs, seals, and delivers a decree to kill ’em all to each and every province in his kingdom.  Matthew Henry notes, “No crime is laid to their (the Jews’) charge; it is not pretended that they were obnoxious to the public justice, nor is any condition offered, upon performance of which they might have their lives spared; but die they must, without mercy.”  Such is the lot of all those who fall on the wrong side of justice with corrupt authorities.  There is never a valid charge, never an honest explanation for the brutal treatment given.  When those with authority decide who they dislike, any reason or lack thereof for ostracism, excommunication, or even extermination will do.

The result of Haman’s plot is confusion.  Wherever there is jealous, insecure, corrupt, abusive leadership, there will be confusion.  The Enemy loves confusion.  But Mordecai’s courage proves that God will use a single, solitary objector in times like these.  As the old adage goes, right is right even if everyone is against it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.

Never, ever be afraid to stand up for the truth in the face of a world of liars.  God will surely use you if you do.