A Rant Against Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs
Last week I read with head-wagging sigh-inducing astonishment about a pastor leading his congregation to sue an ex-member for defamation and slander against him and the church. Allegedly, the slander was in the form of a negative review the ex-member left on a website.
The ex-member in question, a homeschool mother by the name of Julie Anne, complained of being "spiritually abused" by a legalistic, over-bearing pastor who would threaten church discipline against those who disagreed with him and asked pointed questions. He is also said to have led the other members to publicly shun this gal and her family, and his constant pastoral abuse supposedly drove one of Julie Anne's daughters away from attending any church at all.
Those are troubling allegations against this pastor and his church. The fact that he has unwisely leveled a half million dollar lawsuit against this woman only serves to exacerbates her charges.
However, I am even more troubled by the way this pastor has been pilloried in the press accounts as being practically a borderline, baby-eating Satanist. Throngs of grievance mongering antinomians have rallied around this woman as if she's been the victim of a serial rapist who was released on a minor technicality.
Now, I'll probably agree that the pastor is acting foolishly with this lawsuit, and perhaps he displays an overall bad attitude that negatively impacts his ministry, but is he really deserving of the name calling and accusations of deviancy made by faceless, anonymous blog commenters? And the rest of us are to let such comments slip by unnoticed?
Surveying the host of news articles, so-called "spiritual abuse" blogs, and even this gal's own "survivor" blog, my "Hmmmm..." alarm began beeping.
I'm sure Julie is as sweet as a plate of cookies, but she comes across, at least to me, as petty and vindictive. The accounts I read is that she and her family exited this church a few years ago, and then at some point after, she was inclined to leave a negative Google review complaining how this church is legalistic and doesn't live up to the name "Grace" that is in their official title.
Her comment wasn’t particularly slanderous. It's the kind of whiny comments that are typically found on any Google review page. You have to take them with a grain of salt. I read similar stuff about every hotel I researched when the family made a cross country trip to Arkansas.
But there certainly has to be more going on than just a weepy lady crying about her feelings getting hurt at this church. American evangelicalism is dotted with disgruntled ex-members of such-and-such a church/denomination who would also complain about similar problems that drove them to leave their churches. I could probably be numbered among that group.
The difference is they don't run to the internet and write hostile reviews or start a "survivor" blog aimed at the church in question. Nor does the church feel the need to take those disgruntled ex-members to court to make them cease their slander. There’s more going on than we probably are aware.
I've circled around the ministry block enough times to learn that the folks who start an active "survivor" blog outlining in scrutinizing detail their alleged spiritual abuse at the hands of a pastor or church are generally coming from the fever swamps of tin-foil hat theology. Not saying this is Julie; I’m just saying its been my experience – and I have a lot of it.
Just notice the people who were stirred up to respond positively to the news report of this lady's pending lawsuit.
First are the atheists and agnostics. Obviously they will chime in because they hate God and Jesus, and I imagine some of them have genuinely been excommunicated from churches.
But the biggest supporters are coming from these hives of spiritual malcontents (nearly all of them women, btw) who maintain various spiritual abuse survivor blogs.
Do any of them attend a Bible teaching church? If so, where? Again, speaking from generalities I’ll admit, the folks who I have encountered who run an active “survivor” blog either don’t attend church anywhere, or the church they do attend is one of these fruiffy emerging style churches with the water-downed doctrine. They’re the ones who are “open” to other points of view on key doctrines like Christ’s divinity and the authority of Scripture. But I digress.
In fact, I am curious as to where Julie and her family attend church. If she does, what does her pastor think of the tactics she has taken starting a “survivor” blog? From what I gather on her blog, she doesn’t attend any church, and in point of fact just recently started “trying” church again. Okay, that’s great; but after a three year’s absence?
Moreover, with all the various “survivor” blogs I surveyed, pretty much everyone of them are overran by anonymous commenters who have a streak of anti-authoritarianism running through everything they write. In my opinion, these are some rather problematic allies. A person doesn’t want spiritually unhealthy individuals informing his or her decisions in matters like what Julie is dealing with.
Now, are there mean, bullying pastors out there? Sure. Do those bullying pastors foster an atmosphere of hostility by encouraging gangs of finger-wagging Delores Umbridge types to stick their legalistic nose in everyone's business and then rat out any non-conformists? Certainly.
However, is taking to the internet with a blog called "shepherd watch" or "battered lambs" or "such-and-such survivors" the best course of action? No. Honestly, those blogs make a person appear loopy, demanding a double-portion of his pound of flesh at all costs. Their white whale must be destroyed or there will be no rest.
Let me add a closing word on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 because I am sure someone will ask about it in the combox.
I don’t believe Paul’s words here are intended as an absolute prohibition against Christians involving themselves in lawsuits against other Christians. The primary point is to rebuke litigious oriented Christians whose first reaction is to take a person to court over personal offenses. Just as it is today in our society, Roman society encouraged people to sue one another to protect one’s rights. Matter’s were made worse because the courts favored the wealthy and judicial decisions tended toward injustice against the one who could not defend himself in court.
Additionally, Paul is reminding the church as a whole that Christ’s people should not involve the world in the matters of the church. God’s people have the spirit of discernment operating among them. The world does not. Hence, in severe disagreements between two Christian brothers, the Christian church has the true resources to judge rightly.
At the same time, however, Paul is clear in Romans 13 that the civil authorities exist to maintain the order of society and protect its citizens. Law courts are a big part of that category of “civil authorities,” and depending on circumstances, there may be a need for law courts to intervene in serious matters in order to protect one group of citizens from another. In rare occasions, such situations may involve Christians.
But, coming back to 1 Corinthians 6:7, 8, Paul exhorts all offended parties to take such offenses and lay them aside. As he says, “Why not let yourselves be cheated?” In other words, it is better to let the bad situation go rather than making a mockery of Christ in the eyes of the world and damaging the overall Christian testimony.
That last point applies just as equally with Julie Anne as it does with her ex-church, and to all the sob-sisters “survivor” blogs.