Mom and Dad came over a few months ago and saw I was reading, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen. After we talked about the book some, Dad immediately began to confess and to ask our forgiveness for his abuses. The next day, Mom found the book in a bookstore, and the two of them read it together. Not long after, she started confessing and mending relationships, noting to me how subtly she'd hurt one of her own siblings who'd been expressing doubts about God, which my Mom had wanted no part of and had chastised this sibling for. It's a book I'd not recommend everybody read.
The authors write for Christians, or at least for church goers who have been abused by church leaders; and they write just a bit for the abusers too. If you've read it then you know how the authors dedicate the book to "the weary and heavy laden, deeply loved by God, but because of spiritual abuse, find that the Good News has somehow become the bad news." And, at the end of the book, they write to abusers: "Even if you've abused others, God still extends his arms to you and says, 'Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' Does this sound like a welcome invitation? We believe it is from the heart of God." In the middle of the book, they also give this same quotation, saying, "It is possible that Matthew 11 gives one of the best descriptions of Jesus' earthly 'job description.' If you want to see His stance toward tired, wounded, struggling, people, here it is."
I'm bringing this up because there's talk in the bibleblogosphere of bullying. So you might say this blogpost of mine is how I respond to how Joel Watts responds to how "Peter Kirk responds to Anthony Bradley," which includes how Bradley responds to how Rachel Held Evans responds to Mark Driscoll for what she calls Driscoll's bullying, which could be seen also as his homophobia (if you read one of the many posts she links to). I am weary now. Heavy. Heavy laden. So what should I do?
Yesterday, my neighbor and friend told me how sad she is we're moving. "And, do you know what kind of neighborhood it is you're moving to?" she asked. "Tell me," I responded. "Up through the 1970s, your new neighborhood was full of houses that were only deeded to whites. When we were looking to buy there then, we were told, don't bother."
You see, my friend is, by her own self-identity, "black." In other words, she's African American. She knows the history of discrimination of whites against black in the United States very well. She knows her history very well. She knows it personally. Sometimes the abuse of blacks by whites is very subtle. Sort of like the power of spiritual abuse of Christian church leaders and powerful bloggers.
At any rate, my neighbor pressed. She knows I'm white. In other words, I'm Euro-American. She told me that when she was a little girl, her mother took her into a department store that only whites frequented. A young white store clerk grabbed the little girl by her pony tail and exclaimed to her mother, "You negroes must leave this store right now." The mother looked at the clerk and apologized. She looked at her daughter and told her that she must also apologize. "This is the same mother," said my neighbor, "who used to beat me. And now she was telling me to apologize. For what? For being black? For going with her into a white store? What did I do wrong?"
My friend and neighbor confessed. "I used to hate it when Martin Luther King came on tv. He'd talk of freedom. But he'd stir everybody up. He'd make for tension. What good is freedom when it's just going to get you in line for more abuse? Why couldn't he just be quiet? Why did everybody have to listen to him? I was a little girl then. The attitudes were deep."
The attitudes run deep. Very very deep. This is some their power. The subtleties reinforce the power and perpetuate the abuses. I'm not saying I have answers for anybody else right now. I'm just blogging. I do think fb, twitter, and blogging, like pulpiteering and pony-tail grabbing can be abusive. And yet, and yet. I still believe in good news and in good change.