The Least of These

Given the writings of Paul, it seems clear that the church of Jesus Christ has had divisions, angry dialogue and exclusions since its inception. With global access to information and instant responses, there seems to be a multiplication of judgments, hatred, divisions and demeaning words. To see such things increasing in those who say they love Christ is very sad indeed.

It is a foundational truth in the Word of our God that all human beings since the beginning of time, have been created in the image of God, knit together by the Father’s hands in their mother’s womb. You will never meet an exception to this. Whether they are male or female or of another race, healthy or sick, citizen or immigrant, rich or poor, brilliant or limited – everyone, no matter their birthplace or capacity or unlikeness to you is an image bearer. No matter how we choose to treat another or what language we use to describe them this fact cannot be undone.

            One of the (many) current and volatile dialogues today concerns the immigrants at our borders. It is without question a critical topic. However, some of our dialogue about this topic has frankly, been vile and grieves our God. Although we may not easily find a consensus regarding immigration, we can alter the way we dialogue – a change that might even spill over and bear fruit in other discussions.

            Here are some thoughts:

  1. This is a very complex problem that needs attention both now and long term. It will require bright minds with knowledge, expertise and experience to come up with responses both short term and long term. I am certainly not one of those experts and neither, I suspect, are most of us. We can however, call on the government to find such people and have them think, suggest and inform those who have the power to develop wise policies and procedures both for now and for the future. The old ways are clearly not sufficient. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no wise guidance the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
  2. We might consider laying aside our reactivity. For example, expressing concern for immigrants is often construed as wanting open borders with no rules. It is, however, possible to be concerned about humans who are suffering and yet not think that porous borders is a wise solution. That is why wisdom and experience are necessary to think through these matters. How do we have compassion for immigrants and maintain the stability of our country at the same time.   Choosing one without the other is neither wise nor good.
  3. A second reactive response seems to be that concern for the immigrants means you are naïve and ignorant of the fact that there are some bad folks mixed in with those truly suffering. We have predators, abusers and deceivers in our families, churches, schools and institutions. Of course there are some among the vulnerable and desperate ones seeking sanctuary! Such places are where predators often hide. And this fact alone should not lead to neglect of the vulnerable. In fact, it increases the urgency.
  4. While we are not government and not experts, we are the church, the body of our Lord. It is in fact, to be our primary identity. The collective/prophetic voice of the church is needed today on many fronts. And our voice is, above all else, to sound like the voice of Christ – not government, politics, personal preferences or anything else. The detention centers at our borders are full of image bearers – both immigrants and border agents alike.  Both groups are being traumatized. I suspect many of the immigrants were traumatized before they came. Sadly, that trauma continues here. Agents are overwhelmed and without resources. They too are traumatized and either grieving or hardening their hearts so they can endure. On all fronts damage is being done to precious people made in the image of God.
  5. The immigrants lack clean water, food, clothing and a place to lay down and sleep. Those are familiar deprivations. “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked and you clothed me…what you have done for the least of these, you have done for me”.  We are the body of our Lord here on earth. We are the present day Word made flesh. He has been exceedingly clear about what that looks like for his people. You and I cannot literally go to the borders and do these things. We can, however, use our collective/prophetic voice to call on government to insure this happens, to ask them to allow groups like World Relief, World Vision and many others who know how to care for the thirsty, the hungry and the naked, to go in and provide services. It will bring relief to the immigrants and also to the agents. 1 Government has a huge job to do. So do we. The voice that you and I are called to  heed; the voice that is to overrule all others such as the voices of tribe, race, nation, politics, or fear, is the voice of our Lord saying this: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy (Proverbs 31: 8, 9). The Lord can also guide the Government into making the immigration process easier so that people who are thinking about moving to the country has a better chance at starting a new life. It has already been made relatively easy by providing people with form i-864 which enables them to have financial stability through someone who is already a resident in the States. This is already a great opportunity for them but we have a long way to go until it can be made easier.
  6. Our voices need to be used respectfully and kindly to one another. Our reactivity and rancor do not sound like our Lord. We also need to raise our collective/prophetic voice in obedience to our God who came, oh so graciously, to the least of these – you and me. Perhaps such unity on our part might bestow on the immigrants – whether they stay or leave – and on the beleaguered border agents, a brief whiff of the fragrance of our God who created and loves them all. That aroma will be the sweet fragrance of Christ inviting them to seek him no matter where they live. We know for sure that that aroma will please our Lord (II Corinthians 2:15).

Breaking Faith or Bearing Fruit?

Divorce. It is an ugly word… a sad word. It is about something breaking or fracturing and can involve neglect, bruising or a break in the wall of unity. It is a violation of someone or something that was once whole. We in the Christian world have primarily used the word for the end of […]

Recommendations for Churches Dealing with Abuse

Like any other institution churches are susceptible to the twin plagues of the abuse of power and sexual misconduct. How should a church respond when such things are alleged or exposed?


  1. We need to acknowledge to ourselves and publicly that the problems of abuse (child sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse and clergy sexual abuse) are not just out there; they are also in here with us.
  2. We need to approach this work carefully and with great humility.  Churches often have little to no education about these matters.  Most seminaries never speak about abuse. We have not invited victims to tell us their stories and learned from them.  We have not been taught about offenders and how they work. We have not developed policies and safeguards for the children under our care. We teach about God, marriage, sex and parenting but we do not usually include the topics of sexual abuse, rape or domestic violence.
  3.  We often assume that when sin occurs in a relationship it is always a 50-50 proposition.  We have assumed that with rape, domestic violence, verbal abuse and with clergy or counselor sexual abuse.  We look for an external cause for sin. “I hit her because she…”

The Bible does not support the assumption of an external cause. Jesus said that it is out of our hearts that evil proceeds. Abuse is an exposure of the abuser’s heart, not the victims.

  • One of the things both research and experience make very clear about those who offend is that they deceive themselves about their actions, their motives, about the victim and about the impact of their behavior.  They have habituated deceit. That means that the words and tears of the offender are never sufficient indicators of the reality of what is going on inside his/her mind and heart.  Such deception is very entrenched and slow to change.  An abusive person can eventually lose the capacity to discern truth from lies. Because of that, we must not just be concerned with protecting the vulnerable from the offender but also with protecting the offender from himself. Proverbs 1:18, 19 says, “They ambush their own lives…violence takes away the life of the possessor.” When we do not understand the level of deceit we make it is easy for the offender to continue in deception and sadly, often call it “grace”.  If it lacks truth then it is not grace. If we love the abuser we will know that one of the most powerful weapons of deception for a pastor or church goer to use is the use of spiritual language. We will not be deceived.
  • When abuse is alleged or exposed you are working with a devastated victim and most likely a family, as well.  Abuse of any kind is shattering to the victim and to those who care for her/him. Victims need safe people to walk with them for an extended time, not to instruct, but to be with them in their confusion, fears and suffering. We cannot “instruct” victims out of the damage of abuse. We can patiently accompany then on a difficult journey.
  • The church is called by God to tend his lambs. We are not called to protect our institutions nor do we protect the name of the God of truth by covering up sin and/or a crime. To do so is to “protect” the cancer – and cancer kills. We honor God by caring for the wounded and by dragging sin to the light and calling it by its right name.
  • Keep in mind that to be a predator is to be a deceiver. That means there are some in our midst who do not look like what they are and because we are unaware of any known cases does not mean we are safe. Protecting our children and all vulnerable ones should be part of the DNA of the church since we are called, like our Lord, to protect His lambs. “Let the little ones come and forbid them not…” should be part of all that we do. To fail to be watchful on their behalf – be they children or adults – is to fail to be like Him.


  1. Both humility and wisdom ask for help when facing a new and complex situation.
  2. If a child discloses any form of neglect or abuse (sexual, verbal or emotional) the first and immediate response is to call the civil authorities. A failure to report abuse is a crime and subject to fines and/or jail time depending on the state.
  3. The investigation of a report of any kind of abuse requires an experienced and independent investigator or organization (e.g., ). Independent means not from the circles in which the abuse occurred. Choose someone who has no investment in hiding whatever truth is found or in getting a particular outcome other than what is true.
  4. When considering an investigator(s) or organization ask questions about previous work – with whom, outcomes, and the response of victims.
  5. Those chosen to investigate must be known to have credibility with victims.  They must be known for protecting people over institutions. The investigative body is not there to protect the institution but to deal with abuse disclosures and protect the vulnerable.
  6. The experts should have documented history in abuse/rape investigations or as prosecutors in abuse trials. An investigative organization should be comprised of individuals from multiple disciplines e.g., law enforcement, professional counselors and lawyers. It is also best to hire those who understand the dynamics of a faith-based institution or church.
  7. If possible speak with or hear from victims (anonymously if needed) about their experience with the investigator. Victims are by definition vulnerable and require protection. Safety is often at risk for children and for those in violent relationships. If they do not trust the investigator, find another one or your investigation will have no credibility.
  8. Inquire about the investigators’ training in the nature and impact of abuse, the patterns of abusers and also how they work with those who have experienced abuse.
  9. Ask the investigators if they have the experience and expertise to help implement the recommendations they make to the church or organization as a result of the independent investigation. Ask to see examples of previous recommendations and how they were implemented.
  10. The investigators should also have expertise and experience in when and how they confront alleged perpetrators as well as how to inform a congregation or organization without doing further damage, releasing confidential information or doing further damage to the victim.
  11. Caregivers for the victim (and the victim’s family) need to have knowledge of abuse and its effects and how to walk alongside during and long after the process. It is advisable to have people in the church (both men and women) who have read about abuse and perhaps gotten some training from professionals.
  12. It is also recommended that pastoral staff – prior to a crisis – look into local professionals with training and experience in abuse and trauma. Meeting with them and asking about their training is a wise way for a shepherd to care for his sheep prior to an emergency. The church plays a vital and necessary role. So do professionals. The work of healing from the damage of abuse is difficult and often protracted. Trained and licensed counselors with experience in this area are needed so as not to create further damage. Their role is critical.
  13. Finally, abuse of any kind is deeply damaging to victims as well as for many others in their world. The people of God are called by him to name things in truth, to sorrow with the sorrowing, to help free the oppressed and to comfort the grieving. Sadly, we often fail to follow him in these ways. I pray that we as his people learn how to demonstrate in the flesh before a watching world that our God loves truth and is a true and certain refuge for his sheep.

Divisions, Deceptions and Disease

Divisions, Deceptions and Disease

John Baillie, in his book A Diary of Private Prayer, wrote this: “Grant that my part in this world’s life today might not be to obscure the splendor of your presence but rather to make it more plainly visible in the eyes of men.” I fear that we as the body of Christ today are doing much to obscure the splendor of the presence of God in our midst. I have been reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and been struck by their relevance to the present day church.

Corinth was a great city in the Roman Empire. It was wealthy and lustful. It was known for the clever arguments of its resident philosophers. The delivery of such arguments was of the highest form and it was the center of all things intellectual. The city was also rotten at its core, corrupt and lewd. The body of Christians in that city were meant to be characterized by righteousness, sanctity and the fruits of redemption. Instead they had taken God’s name while departing from him and his ways, gathering around their own views and ideas. They were centered on the philosophies of the hour and created within the church schisms based on opinions. They were focused on the material, having lost their understanding of the spiritual. There was moral failure in the church, as wrong thinking easily leads to wrong doing. The sin in their midst was ignored, covered up and they failed to deal with it by bringing it to the light and grieving over it. Sound uncomfortably familiar?

We have caused divisions and arguments by adamantly using labels to define the place of women in the home and the church. We identify ourselves by those words; “I am this or I am that”. We have divisions over issues of justice. Justice is what the church is called to, or justice is not the church’s call – evangelism is the only call. We have been and continue to be divided over race. We say, “they”, which means not “us”. We treat “them” with disdain, disrespect and distance. We tolerate bullying, rage, arrogance and sexual sin in our leaders. We have ignored and covered up sin, saying we are protecting “the work of God”. And now that such evil is being exposed, we somehow think a rule will prevent it – as in never letting men and women work or dialogue together. If rules could prevent humans from sin God would have delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses and sat down. And frankly, if we follow that rule we will build more chasms between male and female in the body of Christ. Not to mention there are those in power who also abuse boys and young men. We have divisions over politics – in the church of Jesus Christ! It has infected the church with a warfare of words. We are focused on the material and are losing our understanding of the spiritual. Our Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. It is not in human governments or human groups or human ideas. Jesus’ kingdom is formed by leaving all and following – not ideas – but Him.

Paul calls the church in Corinth to God’s wisdom which is always displayed in righteousness, sanctification and the fruit of redemption. By righteousness he means conformity to Christ. That means we look like him; we bear his fragrance. I fear he looks little like us and we have indeed obscured his splendor before the watching world. By sanctification Paul means progress in the character of Christ. That means I should be growing in love, kindness, self-control, truth and justice for these are characteristics of my Lord. I am to be increasingly demonstrating the fruit of redemption until the day comes when we fully escape from the bondage of sin.

We have been deceived. We have believed that size and fame and numbers are proof of the presence of God. In doing so we have protected institutions instead of sheep and fostered arrogance rather than humility. Paul showed deep concern over the church that was covering up sin and the influence of that cover-up on God’s people. We have believed that controlling human government is more important than obedience to the government of God over our lives. We scream hateful words, both literally and via social media, at those who do not agree with our stance as if the “right” human government determines what our God can do.  We think that rigid adherence to stringent rules separating men and women in the name of propriety will control human hearts. Yet our God clearly says our wrongdoing comes from our hearts, not from those around us. We have thought our race, our community, our nation, our way of thinking is superior, rather than seeking desperately to develop the mind of Christ about all things. Anything that deflects the mind from the centrality of Jesus Christ and his cross is of the flesh. He, and he alone, is made unto us wisdom. Then and only then will the diseases infecting the people of God be cured.

You want to be a safe and holy shepherd who feeds his sheep? Then feed on him only – not the position, the applause, the growth or fame. Feed on him so you can teach his sheep to do the same as they go out to minister in his name (character).You want women and men, girls and boys to be safe with those who have power? An immoral woman of the “wrong” race was utterly safe with Jesus – who broke all the rules in sitting alone with her. She was safe because he sought to do only the will of his father. No one in his world was a “them” unless they chose to be so. And it is very sobering to see that those who did that all the way to the cross were religious leaders. They treated him as a “them”. They excommunicated the Lord of glory. The man Christ Jesus served neither Rome nor Israel.  He bowed to no government or human institution – secular or religious. He called both to truth and light.

The call to the church of Jesus Christ today is to fall on our faces, seeking him and asking him to search our hearts and lives. You and I are all ministers to the world in Jesus’ name. The word for minister in the New Testament means under-rower. Yes, a galley slave on a warship who does not obey wind or weather or waves but rows ever and always according to the instructions of the captain. When each under-rower lives fully under the authority of that captain then that ship can survive battles, storms and weariness as they row together under the command of one.

Oswald Chambers has taught me many things. He says, “We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ.” We have substituted ideas and opinions, institutions and groups, for allegiance to the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word. His first obedience was always to the will of the Father no matter the cost. May we, the body of Christ today, be known for our devotion, our love and obedience to Christ – under-rowers whose service is never dictated by current ideas, or groups, or causes – but within those spheres we are first and foremost devoted to the Crucified Christ. It is then and only then that we will make “the splendor of his presence more plainly visible in the eyes of men”.


Twitter Question Mandated Reporting

A Response to a Twitter Question

I was recently asked the following question on twitter:

“Can you address the complexities of mandated reporting related to the fact that adults typically have power of consent, other than elders and those with disabilities? With battered women or those abused as children it is possible to violate confidentiality and expose people to physical and emotional pain if they do not consent to a police report. Can you address this as a part of empowering adult survivors, balanced with cutting off access by predators?”

Mandated reporting laws are state laws. Therefore, I cannot advise you about what is required in your state. The first thing you need to do is find out what the laws are. For example, in about 18 states any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it. There are also mandated reporting rules for those working with the elderly or those who have disabilities. Anyone in the health or mental health professions is required to take mandatory reporting training. It would be wise for every church to learn from those in their midst who have taken the training in their state. The church should be known for its protection and care of the vulnerable. Child abuse of any kind should always be reported to those who are trained to investigate.

Another law that needs to be considered is the Tarasoff rule which requires psychotherapists to warn if a client threatens someone’s life. Due to a case in California, therapists need to also be concerned when a family member gives information of a reliable threat by a patient regarding someone else. Please educate yourselves on your state laws and professional requirements so you are clear about what is required. Consult with both the law and with your respective professional organizations. Churches should get training from an independent organization such as GRACE so they learn how to protect the children and vulnerable in their community.

There are however, many situations where an adult is being abused in some way and the law does not mandate a report of any kind. The issues become quite complex when you are working with adults dealing with domestic abuse, drug/alcohol addictions, rape, those being prostituted or those seemingly trapped in abusive systems (families, churches). If the victim is in a counseling relationship confidentiality standards apply. In the arenas of both health and psychological care, reporting of domestic violence related injuries or threats interfere with the confidential nature of patient/provider relationships and can quickly undermine the victim’s trust in those who are the caregivers. It is very difficult as a therapist to work with someone who is going to leave your office and return to an unsafe environment. It is downright frightening. In a domestic abuse situation this is exacerbated when the victim is part of a church that teaches her that tolerating abuse is godly. She is confused. She loves her husband and wants it to get better. She listens to her church and yet, she feels like she cannot think straight. She knows what he is doing is wrong.

Number one, if there are children in the home who are being hurt by abuse or physically threatened or neglected due to addictions, it falls under mandated reporting. When there are no children we long to simply take charge and get the victim out regardless of what he/she wants. If we do that we break confidentiality, we make choices for them and silence their voice – which happens to be what the perpetrator does. One of the cardinal guidelines for working with victims of trauma (which I repeat to new therapists ad nauseam) is that what we do in the counseling office should be the reverse of what the abuser did. The abuser silenced voice, broke trust and took away any sense of power. We need to give back her voice, remain trustworthy (which includes confidentiality) and invite him/her to exercise power over their own choices. These “muscles” are often very weak. In order to build those muscles up we have to work little by little to affirm the fears (which are justified), the desire to get out, the small choices made along the way and the truth, as it is seeded, grows. Those who have been relentlessly abused and used come to believe the lies taught to them. It is hard work overtime that eventually replaces those lies with truth.

Another factor to consider is the increased danger when trying to leave their circumstances. In domestic violence homicides about 75% occur when the woman tries to leave. People are also in danger when attempting to separate from drug dealers and pimps who do not want to lose a source of money. If your life is endangered or any number of things consent is not possible because it is not safe to say no. We do not want to be the next person who does not allow them to say no. Outside the parameters of mandated reporting, building up the capacity of an adult to think things through and say no is critical. Most will start doing so when they say no to you – which from your perspective is neither safe nor wise.

It is very tempting when we work with an adult who is suffering abuse to forget that their consent to any action taken is vital to their healing. It can take a long time and much suffering before someone who has never had a voice learns that he or she can say no, leave, and protect themselves. It is hard to wait and watch the suffering. It is painful to see the confused thinking. It is angering when a church supports that confused thinking for then the victim has two systems to respond to. However, to wait, to invite, to walk with, to strengthen and to speak truth – though a painful and often costly road – will often result in an utterly transformed human being who has acquired some discernment, come to see that they are worthy of protection and can use their own voice to speak truth. But consider: we follow the Lord Jesus Christ who walks with us, arms extended, calling us to truth and safety. Yet we refuse choices that would feed our souls and instead choose those things that are destructive to us and others. He speaks truth, He invites again and again and little by little our eyes and hearts are opened and like the prodigal we run back to the Father. Our slow seeing, choosing and running develop muscles in us we would not have otherwise.


Living with Trauma Memories (in French)


Pendant ce moment passé ensemble aujourd’hui, je voudrais vous dire ce que signifie vivre avec des souvenirs traumatiques. Ceux d’entre vous qui ont des souvenirs traumatiques savent que leur unique désir est de les voir disparaître. Si vous ne pouvez pas les faire disparaître, vous voulez au moins pouvoir les oublier. Vous voulez les cacher loin de vous. Ceux d’entre vous qui tentent de les cacher ou de les oublier connaissent aussi l’expérience de les voir resurgir sans cesse à leur conscience.

Écoutez ce témoignage d’une femme qui a survécu à un traumatisme : « Je vis à ses côtés. Le traumatisme est là, figé, immuable, enveloppé par la mémoire comme dans une peau résistante qui le sépare de ce que je suis aujourd’hui. Je voudrais que cette peau soit encore plus résistante, car j’ai peur qu’elle devienne plus mince, qu’elle se déchire, laissant le traumatisme s’échapper et s’emparer de moi. » Et ceci encore : « Ma tête est remplie d’ordures, vous savez… toutes ces images, et ces bruits, et ces odeurs qui remplissent mes narines… on ne peut pas anéantir cela… c’est comme une autre peau sous votre peau, on ne peut pas s’en débarrasser. Moi, je ne suis pas comme vous. Vous, vous avez une vision de la vie, moi, j’en ai deux… J’ai une vie double. »

Cette victime décrit une expérience très commune : même si elle essaie d’oublier ou de cacher le souvenir loin d’elle, celui-ci continue à vivre à ses côtés. Elle a toujours peur qu’il ressorte pour s’emparer d’elle. Vous ne pouvez pas effacer les souvenirs traumatiques.

Les souvenirs traumatiques ne disparaissent pas de notre esprit. Nos cerveaux sont faits de telle manière qu’ils n’oublient rien. Il nous arrive de ne pas être en mesure de faire revenir quelque chose à notre mémoire, mais ce n’est pas la même expérience que l’oubli. Puisqu’il en est ainsi, il semble que nous devons apprendre à vivre avec nos souvenirs en sorte qu’ils ne puissent pas détruire notre vie présente. Les choses que je veux présenter aujourd’hui sont de celles qui peuvent aider ceux d’entre nous qui ont des souvenirs traumatiques, pour vivre avec ces souvenirs, les accepter, et néanmoins vivre leur vie présente d’une manière constructive et créative.

Nous allons faire cela en deux étapes :

D’abord, nous discuterons des trois réactions aux souvenirs traumatiques par lesquelles les êtres humains peuvent – par eux-mêmes – progresser et surmonter leurs épreuves.

Ensuite, nous aborderons trois moyens par lesquels les victimes peuvent prendre position contre le traumatisme et pour la vie.

Première étape du rétablissement post-traumatique

À la suite d’une expérience traumatique, chaque être humain doit faire un réajustement très douloureux pour vivre dans un monde nouveau rempli de deuils. Nous avons déjà montré que le traumatisme implique un événement qui menace la vie ou l’intégrité physique, ôte toute possibilité de choisir et submerge de terreur. Cet événement peut être la guerre, la violence, un viol, des sévices sexuels et des agressions physiques. Lorsque de telles choses arrivent, les victimes éprouvent de la solitude, de l’impuissance, de l’humiliation et du désespoir. Après un traumatisme, les victimes se replient sur elles-mêmes, se retirent de la vie, parce qu’elles n’arrivent plus à gérer autre chose que leurs émotions. Ce n’est pas mauvais en soi, c’est même nécessaire pour un temps. Cependant, si la vie doit continuer, la victime doit finir par revenir dans le monde extérieur. De quoi a-t-on besoin pour aider ces victimes à affronter ce qui demeure en elles, à s’en souvenir tout à fait, et à acquérir néanmoins la capacité de revenir vers nous et vers la vie d’une manière positive ?

Se rétablir implique de renverser la dynamique du traumatisme. Le traumatisme provoque le silence, car il semble qu’il n’existe pas de mots pour décrire véritablement ce qui s’est passé. Le traumatisme provoque une nuit affective et la solitude, car il semble que personne d’autre ne s’en préoccupe, que personne ne peut comprendre. Le traumatisme arrête le temps, car on est tellement perdu dans ce qui s’est passé qu’on ne peut pas regarder plus loin et qu’on perd tout espoir.

Trois choses sont nécessaires pour inverser ce processus et permettre le rétablissement. Les trois doivent intervenir car une seule ne suffirait pas. Ces trois choses sont : la parole, les larmes, le temps. Examinons chacune d’elles.

La parole – Parler est absolument nécessaire pour se rétablir. Même si les mots sont maladroits, ils doivent être prononcés. Garder le silence, c’est échouer à accepter l’événement et les souvenirs. Par « accepter les souvenirs » je veux dire : affirmer la vérité sur l’événement, affirmer que cela s’est véritablement passé, affirmer que c’était véritablement mauvais et que cela a véritablement causé des blessures. C’est mépriser les victimes si nous gardons le silence sur ce qu’elles ont vécu, ou prétendons que cela n’est pas arrivé ou que c’était sans importance. Parler, c’est dire : me voici, c’était mauvais, je suis blessé, la justice doit être rendue, et il faut prendre soin de mon coeur brisé. Au début, prendre la parole se fera peut-être sans mots. Parfois ces personnes ne peuvent que gémir, ou soupirer, ou pleurer, ou crier. Elles commencent ainsi à donner la parole à ce qui ne peut pas être exprimé. Souvent ces personnes ont besoin que nous restions assis à leur côté en silence. C’est un moyen de les rejoindre, afin qu’elles ne soient pas seules dans leur combat pour trouver des mots. Mais pour finir, il faut que des mots viennent. Parfois, ces personnes ont besoin d’aide. Pour les aider on peut dire ceci : « je vais prononcer un mot, si cela décrit ce que vous avez ressenti ou vu, hochez simplement la tête. » Vous pouvez utiliser des mots tels que effroyable, ténèbres, solitude, chagrin, peur, désespoir, ou douleur. Peu à peu, vous les aidez à trouver des mots, jusqu’à ce qu’elles puissent vous communiquer des morceaux de leur histoire. Les histoires de traumatismes ne se racontent pas d’emblée avec un commencement, un milieu et une fin. Elles se racontent par morceaux, dans le désordre, elles peuvent être confuses.

Parler c’est dire la vérité. Cela relie la victime à une autre personne. Cela restaure sa dignité, parce que son histoire compte vraiment. Cela lui donne la possibilité de choisir, elle peut décider quand parler et quand se taire ; et les victimes ont le droit de choisir leurs propres mots. Encore une fois, c’est l’inverse de ce qui s’est passé pendant le traumatisme. L’injustice, la violence, les agressions nous enseignent des mensonges. De tels événements suggèrent que nous ne sommes nuls et sans importance. Dire le traumatisme rétablit la vérité et redonne de la dignité. Car l’histoire subie a de l’importance, et la vérité a aussi un impact sur la vie de la personne. La violence et les agressions nous privent de relations bienveillantes. Nous sommes seuls, nous ne sommes pas pris en compte. Raconter l’histoire du traumatisme fait place pour une relation bienveillante qui soulage l’âme. Pour se rétablir d’un traumatisme, il faut raconter, et plus l’histoire est répétée encore et encore, plus grandit la force de dire la vérité et de la comprendre.

Les larmes – Se rétablir d’un traumatisme exige aussi des larmes. Faire face à un monde nouveau, rempli de deuils, provoque le chagrin. Beaucoup d’émotions accompagnent le traumatisme, en voici quelques-unes : la peur, la tristesse, la solitude, l’humiliation, le désespoir, la colère et le chagrin. Ce sont des émotions fortes et elles sont difficiles à vivre. Ce sont des émotions qu’aucun de nous ne désire dans sa vie. Cependant, comme des mots, elles doivent être exprimées. Les émotions racontent l’histoire tout autant que les mots racontent l’histoire. Les émotions disent à haute voix ce que le traumatisme a fait aux victimes. C’est comme voir et reconnaître les blessures physiques du corps après un accident. Les émotions sont l’expression des blessures du coeur et elles doivent aussi être vues et entendues.

Chez la plupart des gens, les mots ont tendance à venir en premier. Et c’est vraiment positif parce que choisir ses mots, les dire et avoir quelqu’un pour les écouter et les accueillir contribue à donner à la victime la force d’affronter ses émotions. D’autre part cela la relie à une personne bienveillante à qui elle peut faire confiance pour supporter avec elle ses émotions terrifiantes. Beaucoup de victimes font effort pour ne pas éprouver d’émotions. Souvent elles diront ce genre de choses : si je commence à pleurer, je ne pourrai pas m’arrêter – ou bien, si je laisse le chagrin et le désespoir m’envahir, je tomberai dans un trou noir dont je ne pourrai jamais sortir. Beaucoup s’efforceront de ne rien ressentir, et certaines personnes iront jusqu’à consommer des drogues ou de l’alcool pour se rendre insensibles. Elles pensent qu’une ivresse continuelle leur permettra de tenir leurs émotions à distance. Pour les gens qui se comportent ainsi, leur vie entière reste sous le contrôle du traumatisme, parce qu’ils ne font rien d’autre que de le fuir. Le traumatisme reste aux commandes de leur vie, exactement comme lorsqu’il est survenu.

En même temps, il est très important pour nous tous de nous souvenir que raconter l’histoire d’un traumatisme – affronter la vérité – et exprimer les émotions fortes et douloureuses qui l’accompagnent, exige un énorme courage. La plupart des gens ne peuvent pas faire cela seuls. Ils ont besoin d’une relation avec une personne bienveillante et patiente qui les aidera à avoir le courage d’affronter la vérité de ce qui s’est passé et les blessures qu’ils ont subies. Être accompagnés dans la tragédie ou les difficultés nous aide toujours à avoir du courage.

Beaucoup d’émotions ne peuvent pas être exprimées convenablement par des mots, c’est pourquoi les expressions non-verbales sont importantes. J’ai souvent demandé aux gens de me peindre ou dessiner leur tristesse, ou leur peur, ou leur chagrin. Il y a des années, j’ai rencontré une femme qui était danseuse. Elle a créé une danse qui racontait son histoire : ce qui était arrivé et ce qu’elle ressentait. Certaines personnes écrivent des histoires, des poèmes ou des chansons. D’autres fabriquent des bijoux symboliques, ou d’autres objets d’art qui représentent leur traumatisme et leur douleur. En tant qu’êtres humains, nous exprimons souvent des émotions fortes par la créativité – des émotions positives aussi comme la joie ou l’amour – et je pense donc qu’il est utile d’encourager les victimes d’un traumatisme à utiliser aussi de tels moyens pour exprimer leur souffrance. Utilisez les traditions de votre propre culture pour développer cette méthode.

Dans le psaume 56, il y a un verset qui dit en s’adressant à Dieu : « Tu comptes les pas de ma vie errante ; Recueille mes larmes dans ton outre : Ne sont-elles pas inscrites dans ton livre ? » (Traduction Colombe, Ps 56.9).

Il s’agit d’une vérité très importante, car souvent nous sommes mal à l’aise avec les émotions fortes. Certaines traditions culturelles affirment que de telles émotions ne sont pas convenables ; certains enseignements religieux disent que de telles émotions indiquent un manque de foi ; certaines traditions familiales suggèrent qu’on doit résister et n’avoir aucune émotion, ou bien que ces émotions sont pour les femmes mais pas pour les hommes, ou encore pour les enfants mais pas pour les adultes – et qu’elles sont en quelque sorte signe de faiblesse. Mais ce verset du Psaume affirme que Dieu, qui nous a créés, considère notre souffrance, qu’il y prête attention, qu’il recueille nos larmes dans une outre, et les inscrit dans son livre parce que nous sommes importants, ce qui est arrivé est important et les émotions que cela a provoquées en nous sont aussi importantes pour lui. Dieu écrit notre histoire et compte nos larmes. Nous aiderons les autres à se rétablir si nous apprenons à considérer les émotions comme Dieu le fait, et non pas comme ce que d’autres nous ont enseigné.

Beaucoup de victimes de traumatismes ont peur d’affronter et de ressentir les émotions liées au traumatisme. Elles craignent de perdre le contrôle d’elles-mêmes, et redoutent la douleur et la souffrance qu’elles auront à endurer. Ces peurs sont compréhensibles. En effet ce que l’on ressent autour d’un traumatisme est très puissant et ressentir de telles émotions peut rapidement réactiver le traumatisme pendant lequel la victime était accablée et impuissante. Gérer ces émotions et en guérir ne peut pas se faire d’une traite : les émotions alterneront avec l’insensibilité, puis l’épuisement. Ces ruptures sont nécessaires, il ne faut pas les brusquer. Une victime de traumatisme se sentira bien plus en sécurité pour vivre ses émotions si elle est avec quelqu’un qui écoute, lui assure que ses émotions sont normales et qui ne les condamne pas. Le deuil est une des émotions les plus intenses qui accompagnent le traumatisme. Faire son deuil, autant à propos de la violence subie que de ses effets, est une part importante du processus de guérison.

Vous constaterez que pour de nombreuses victimes de traumatisme, un ou deux souvenirs particuliers sont devenus symboliques de la totalité de l’expérience. Nous pouvons parfois nous en rendre compte en écoutant attentivement et en découvrant à quel souvenir ou à quelle portion de souvenir la victime ne cesse de revenir. D’une certaine manière, ces parties de l’histoire représentent la totalité, et véhiculent une émotion intense. De tels souvenirs symboliques racontent en fait une histoire plus complète. Par exemple, le récit de la mort d’un enfant peut aussi raconter la mort de toute espérance. Quelqu’un qui fait le récit d’un traumatisme provoqué par une personne croyante peut aussi raconter la mort de sa foi. Pendant que vous écoutez l’histoire, que vous voyez et reconnaissez les émotions, c’est important de suivre aussi le fil des émotions les plus intenses et d’écouter la totalité de l’histoire – celle que très souvent la victime elle-même ne s’entend pas raconter.

Une des caractéristiques du traitement des traumatismes est la nature répétitive de cette tâche. Les victimes répéteront la même chose encore et encore – « Comment mon père a-t-il pu me faire cela ? ». Elles décriront leurs émotions de manière répétitive – « Cela me met tellement en colère… » Elles rediront leurs deuils encore et encore – « Je ne peux pas croire qu’untel soit mort… » Attendez-vous à cela et prenez-le en compte. L’ampleur du traumatisme est telle que la répétition devient nécessaire. L’esprit ne peut pas imaginer ce qui s’est passé. Il ne peut pas retenir une telle pensée. Il est impossible de supporter l’intensité des émotions, on essaie donc de s’y habituer peu à peu. Ces tentatives visent à supporter l’insupportable. Ce sont des combats pour intégrer dans la vie des pensées pour lesquelles il n’existe pas de place. Soyez patients, et encore patients. Raconter et raconter à nouveau, cela aide à résorber les souvenirs. Parler ou raconter l’histoire et exprimer les sentiments qui vont de pair avec la tragédie, ce sont de véritables outils à la disposition des victimes. Elles peuvent s’en servir pour progresser vers leur guérison. C’est un moyen de maîtriser la peur et le sentiment d’impuissance. C’est choisir la vie, et non plus la mort. Écouter une histoire, c’est apprendre quelque chose ; mais raconter une histoire, c’est en devenir le maître. Raconter son histoire, avec toutes les émotions qui l’accompagnent, d’une manière audible et compréhensible pour une autre personne, c’est aussi avoir appris à parler en vérité, et à dominer cette vérité pour qu’elle ne vous engloutisse pas.

Le temps – Il y a un troisième élément qui doit intervenir pour que le rétablissement post- traumatique commence et se développe. C’est un élément sur lequel nous n’avons aucun contrôle. Nous ne pouvons ni le faire advenir ni l’arrêter. C’est le temps. Se rétablir d’un traumatisme exige des paroles, les larmes et du temps. Les trois sont nécessaires. Si vous ne racontez pas l’histoire, le rétablissement sera impossible. Les victimes resteront coincées dans le passé, dominées par le traumatisme – soit qu’elles dépensent une énergie considérable pour le tenir à distance, soit parce qu’il domine leur sommeil, leurs relations, leurs émotions, leurs actions et leur foi. Il doit être exprimé en paroles, de nombreuses fois. Se rétablir d’un traumatisme nécessite des larmes. Les larmes attestent la dignité de la victime et l’horreur de ce qui est arrivé. Les larmes expriment les émotions enfouies qui hantent le sommeil et perturbent la vie. Les larmes redonnent leur dignité à ceux qui ont disparu – ils méritent que l’on pleure sur eux. Les larmes sont un moyen de se souvenir. Exprimer ses émotions, trouver des mots pour les décrire, c’est déjà un moyen de les maîtriser. Lorsque la victime parle et pleure, elle toise le traumatisme comme on toise un ennemi en disant : Je vais parler de toi, tu ne me réduiras pas au silence ! Je vais dire les terribles douleurs que tu as provoquées dans ma vie. Je vais garder mémoire de ceux que j’ai perdus. Je serai responsable de ma propre histoire et je lui donnerai la place et la dignité qui lui sont dues. Elle avait de l’importance alors, et elle en a encore aujourd’hui.

Évidemment cela prend du temps pour en arriver là. Il faut du temps pour que les mots viennent. Il faut du temps pour écouter et comprendre. Il faut du temps pour que les émotions soient exprimées et comprises. Se rétablir de quoi que ce soit prend du temps. Si vous ratez une marche, tombez et vous brisez un os, il faudra du temps au médecin pour savoir quel os a été brisé et ce qu’il faut faire pour le ressouder. Il lui faudra discuter avec vous, écouter, examiner pour comprendre où est exactement le problème. Vous, vous aurez mal, vous souffrirez. Même lorsque le médecin aura remis l’os en place, vous continuerez à avoir mal. Vous voudriez sans doute que votre jambe aille mieux dès demain. Vous voudriez que la douleur disparaisse. Mais cela ne changera pas le rythme auquel avance le temps. Il avance toujours d’une seule minute à la fois, et vous ne pouvez rien y changer. Il faut du temps pour se rétablir. Et ce n’est pas la même durée pour toutes les victimes de traumatisme. Pour certaines c’est plus long que pour d’autres. Il y a de nombreuses raisons à cela. Mais peu importe la force de ces personnes, peu importe l’énergie qu’elles déploient pour raconter leur histoire et exprimer leurs émotion : de toute façon cela prendra du temps. Laissez-moi vous dire deux choses certaines à propos du temps : d’abord nous ne pouvons rien faire pour l’accélérer, et pourtant quand nous souffrons, c’est exactement ce que nous voudrions être capables de faire.

La recherche nous a aussi montré qu’au fur et à mesure que le temps passe, une victime de traumatisme finit par voir diminuer sa souffrance, surtout si elle a raconté son histoire. Tandis que la vie continue autour de la victime, elle découvre de nouvelles expériences et de nouvelles relations. Elle peut apprendre de nouvelles réactions à son passé, différentes de celles suscitées par le traumatisme. Au fil du temps, les victimes peuvent choisir ce qu’elles veulent faire de leur souffrance. Elles ne peuvent pas l’effacer, mais elles peuvent choisir comment l’utiliser.

Donc redisons ensemble ces trois choses nécessaires pour commencer à se rétablir d’un traumatisme : la parole, les larmes, le temps. Souvenez-vous : Toutes les trois sont indispensables. Parler une fois ne suffira pas ; la répétition au fil du temps est nécessaire. Mais on peut parler sans que le coeur soit impliqué. Les larmes ne suffiront Vivre avec des souvenirs traumatiques | 10

pas ; avec elles seules, pas de maîtrise possible sur la situation – il faut des mots aussi, et plusieurs répétitions. Le temps ne suffira pas non plus ; car avec lui seul, la vérité ne sera pas déclarée ni pleinement reconnue, elle ne sera pas non plus gérée activement. Alors la victime restera à la merci de ses souvenirs, exactement comme elle a été à la merci du traumatisme.

Deuxième étape du rétablissement post-traumatique

La parole, les larmes, le temps, tels sont les outils qu’une victime peut utiliser pour progresser vers son rétablissement. Mais il faut quelque chose de plus. Ce que nous avons mentionné jusqu’à présent est entièrement tourné vers le passé et vers le traumatisme. Reprenons l’exemple de la jambe cassée – au début toute l’énergie se concentre sur l’os brisé, sur la douleur et sur ce qu’il faut faire pour guérir cette jambe. Mais si le patient ne fait rien d’autre, il ne pourra jamais remarcher normalement ! Cette étape montre comment tout réapprendre pour être capable de vivre.

Rappelons encore que le rétablissement post-traumatique demande de renverser la dynamique de ce qui a été une menace pour la vie, une privation de choix et une peur accablante. Le traumatisme nous réduit au silence ; il nous isole, et nous sommes impuissants à le faire cesser. Le traumatisme détruit l’amour et la dignité, il détruit le but de la vie. Notre seconde étape étudiera les trois mêmes choses mais de manière différente. Cette étape implique des relations aimantes, un travail ou un but, et la foi. Voyons chacune de ces choses à son tour.

Des relations aimantes – d’abord que veut-on dire par relations aimantes ? Le retour à une vie relationnelle après le bouleversement du traumatisme commence par la personne à qui nous racontons notre histoire. Nous parlons et nous sommes écoutés. Nous sommes écoutés par quelqu’un qui cherche à comprendre et à partager ce que nous ressentons. Nous ne sommes plus solitaires, ni isolés dans notre souffrance. Finalement il va nous falloir choisir si nous voulons aimer à nouveau, prendre soin des autres à nouveau, nous rapprocher à nouveau d’un autre être humain. Le traumatisme nous a privés de toute possibilité de choisir. Avoir survécu, puis raconter notre histoire restaure cette possibilité de choix. Nous devons choisir ce que nous ferons avec les humains. Nous avons la possibilité de nous cacher, de haïr, de fuir… mais alors, le traumatisme reste aux commandes. Chaque acte de bonté, chaque acte de sollicitude, chaque acte de pardon et chaque acte d’amour est un défi au traumatisme. C’est comme si vous vous teniez debout pour affronter ce qui a tenté de vous détruire, comme si vous mettiez vos mains sur vos hanches et disiez : « Non, tu ne me posséderas pas. Tu ne vas pas me déshumaniser. Tu ne me créeras pas à ton image de ténèbres, d’impuissance, de solitude et de terreur. Je choisis d’être bon ; je choisis d’aimer à nouveau ; je choisis de pardonner ; je choisis d’être à nouveau en relation avec mes semblables, les humains. » Ceux qui commettent la violence détruisent la confiance et l’attention aux autres. Peu à peu, les victimes peuvent reconquérir ce qui a été perdu, et choisir de nouveau tout cela. Faire du bien aux autres ou prendre soin d’eux contribue à inverser notre terrible sentiment d’humiliation. La violence subie fait de nous des personnes qui se sentent dégradées, déshumanisées, remplies de honte. Chaque fois que nous prenons soin de quelqu’un, cela nous rappelle, à nous et aux autres, ce qu’est notre humanité, et il y a de la dignité dans cet acte.

Avoir un but – c’est la seconde chose. C’est quelque chose qu’on trouve souvent dans son travail, mais par d’autres moyens aussi. Il y a quelques années, je suis allée en République Dominicaine, et je me souviens avoir parcouru les bidonvilles de la capitale. Je voyais beaucoup d’hommes assis sans rien faire ; leur visage était sans expression, et leurs yeux semblaient morts. Ils n’avaient pas de travail. Ils ne pouvaient pas subvenir aux besoins de leur famille. Ils étaient déprimés, sans respect pour eux-mêmes. Ils pensaient qu’ils étaient méprisables. Beaucoup d’entre eux réagissaient en buvant, et il y avait beaucoup de violence dans leur foyer. Ils pensaient qu’ils n’avaient pas de but, ils avaient perdu toute raison de vivre.

Nous sommes censés avoir un but. Lorsque Dieu a créé le monde, au commencement, le monde était encore bon, l’homme et la femme étaient actifs. Dieu nous a créés pour travailler : cela nous donne de la dignité, notre vie a un sens et un but. Nous pouvons voir notre influence. Quand vous pouvez subvenir aux besoins de votre famille par votre travail, en cultivant et vendant de la nourriture, en pêchant, en vous occupant des enfants, etc., vous êtes valorisés, vous vous sentez forts. Vous voyez le résultat de votre dur travail. Quand vous créez quelque chose pour les autres, des objets, de la beauté – un beau panier par exemple, ou un bijou, de la musique, ou un bon repas – vous pouvez montrer votre oeuvre et dire : « Regardez ça, c’est moi qui l’ai fait ! Cette oeuvre existe parce que moi j’existe ! » Ce n’est pas seulement la preuve de votre existence, cela montre aussi que vous produisez quelque chose de bien.

Le travail peut être payé ou bénévole. Il montre que vous utilisez votre force, vos capacités ou votre intelligence pour être productifs et créatifs. Vous pouvez le faire chaque jour, avec de petits moyens, et vous aurez un impact sur de nombreuses vies. Vous aurez des choix à faire. Cela vous donnera de la dignité, de la valeur et du respect. Oui, vous faites le bien dans ce monde. C’est l’inverse du traumatisme qui a provoqué l’impuissance, le mal et la honte. Les victimes de traumatisme à qui on donne un travail se rétablissent et reprennent contact avec la vie bien plus vite que celles qui n’ont pas de travail. Le travail procure un but, un emploi du temps, un centre d’intérêt et des lieux familiers, et tout cela est relié au présent et à l’avenir.

La foi – Pour finir, réfléchissons ensemble sur la foi : comment elle est affectée par le traumatisme, comment en tenir compte en ce qui concerne le rétablissement. Je suis chrétienne, c’est pourquoi je vais considérer spécifiquement la foi comme un agent de guérison pour les victimes chrétiennes. Pour commencer, notons quelques éléments à propos de la foi. Le traumatisme fige la pensée. Une personne qui a subi un traumatisme pense à elle-même, à sa vie, à ses relations et à son avenir, à travers le prisme du traumatisme. Le traumatisme stoppe la croissance parce qu’il bloque tout. Il est semblable à la mort. La pensée qui naît de l’expérience traumatique contrôle l’introduction de nouvelles expériences. C’est-à-dire qu’après le traumatisme, ce n’est plus la foi qui est fondamentale, mais c’est l’expérience traumatique. Le traumatisme devient le prisme. Plus nombreux sont les aspects de la vie d’une personne touchés par ce que le traumatisme lui apprend, plus forte sera la leçon. Par exemple lors du traumatisme d’une agression sexuelle, chacun des sens a été affecté : le toucher, le goût, l’odorat, l’ouïe, la vue. Ils ont été affectés pendant un état d’hyper-conscience dû à la peur. Les leçons enseignées (par exemple « je ne vaux rien »), bonnes ou mauvaises, ne seront jamais oubliées. Pensez à un couple, en Chine qui a perdu un enfant dans l’effondrement d’une école à cause d’un tremblement de terre. À votre avis, que se passera-t-il si quelques années plus tard ils ont un autre enfant et l’envoient à l’école ? Que ressentiront-ils, à votre avis, le premier jour où ils le verront entrer dans le bâtiment de l’école ?

Deuxièmement, vous et moi, nous apprenons les choses invisibles et celles de la foi par le biais des choses visibles. Nous appartenons à la terre et nous apprenons au moyen de nos cinq sens : l’ouïe, la vue, le toucher, le goût et l’odorat. Dieu sait comment il a créé notre vie, et il nous enseigne des vérités au moyen du monde qui nous entoure. En regardant la mer, nous apercevons un peu ce qu’est l’éternité. En contemplant l’espace, nous saisissons un peu ce qu’est l’infini. Une vapeur qui se dissipe nous enseigne la brièveté du temps. C’est ainsi que Jésus nous a enseignés. Dans ses enseignements, il a dit qu’il était le pain, la lumière, l’eau, et le vin. Nous regardons le monde visible et nous apprenons ce qu’est le monde invisible. Considérez les sacrements : l’eau, le pain et le vin. Nous recevons un enseignement sur ce qui est le plus saint de tout à travers la nourriture d’un paysan ou d’une personne très pauvre à l’époque de Jésus. Par cette méthode, Dieu nous enseigne à le connaître. Ainsi nous n’avons pas à deviner à quoi il ressemble. Il dit : « Voulez-vous comprendre qui je suis ? » « Me voici, venu en une personne humaine, me voici avec une peau d’homme. Regardez Jésus et vous me connaîtrez. » Dieu lui-même se fait connaître à nous à travers ce que nous sommes capables de comprendre. Quand des gens subissent des traumatismes, au lieu d’apprendre de Dieu lui-même qui il est, ils apprennent du traumatisme et ils pensent que Dieu est à l’origine du mal. Alors, beaucoup voient Dieu à travers le prisme du traumatisme. Alors, la violence et l’humiliation signifient que Dieu ne se soucie pas d’eux. « Il ne m’aime pas, il n’aime pas ceux que j’aime. Il nous a abandonnés. » Il est très fréquent que des gens qui ont subi des traumatismes perdent la foi en Dieu. C’est un deuil de plus.

Élie Wiesel – de qui j’ai beaucoup appris sur l’impact des traumatismes – définit parfaitement le problème. Il est Juif, et il a été en camp de concentration dans sa jeunesse, pendant la Shoah. Au long de ses livres, il dit à ses lecteurs qu’ils ne doivent pas supposer que c’est un réconfort de croire que Dieu est toujours vivant. Loin d’être la solution, croire que Dieu est vivant pose simplement le problème. Il ne cesse de lutter avec ce qu’il décrit comme deux réalités inconciliables : la réalité d’Auschwitz et la réalité de Dieu. Chacune semble annuler l’autre et cependant, aucune ne disparaîtra. Il ne réussit pas à trouver un moyen de les concilier ensemble dans sa pensée. Vous comprenez, on peut admettre l’une ou l’autre réalité – Auschwitz et pas de Dieu ; ou Dieu et pas d’Auschwitz. Mais les deux en même temps ? Comment faire avec Auschwitz et Dieu ?

Je n’ai trouvé qu’une seule réponse à ce dilemme. C’est la croix de Jésus Christ. Parce que là, le traumatisme et Dieu se rejoignent. Ou peut-être faudrait-il dire : là, ils entrent en collision. Le Christ a tout enduré : les peurs, les impuissances, les faiblesses, la destruction, la dépossession, le silence, la perte, l’enfer. Il comprend le traumatisme. Il a volontairement subi le traumatisme pour nous. Il a enduré l’humiliation, la trahison, l’abandon, la nudité, la solitude, les ténèbres et le silence de Dieu, l’impuissance, la honte, la douleur et la perte de tout – y compris sa propre vie. Il a fait cela pour deux raisons. La première : il a subi le traumatisme, abandonné de son Père, pour que jamais nous soyons victimes de traumatisme en dehors de la présence du Père. Peu importe ce que nous traversons, peu importent les ténèbres ou le mal ; Dieu est présent et il comprend. La seconde : il l’a fait pour vaincre tout ce qui est mauvais : la mort, la maladie, la trahison, le mal et les ténèbres. Il a promis de faire toutes choses nouvelles. Pourquoi permet-il ces choses maintenant ? Je ne sais pas. Pourquoi devons-nous attendre la réalisation de ses promesses ? Je ne sais pas. Mais je sais qui il est, à cause de la façon dont il a vécu et dont il est mort. Et puisqu’il peut vaincre la mort et l’enfer, alors je vais avoir foi qu’il finira le travail un jour.

La souffrance et la foi sont difficiles à tenir ensemble, n’est-ce pas ? L’une sans l’autre, c’est simple. Quand tout va bien, nous pouvons avoir la foi. Quand nous souffrons, c’est facile de perdre la foi. Mais la foi, c’est croire en des choses que nous espérons et qui ne sont pas encore là. La foi, c’est avoir confiance que ce que nous ne voyons pas encore sera réel un jour. Le mal cherche toujours à détruire la foi. Il veut engloutir l’espérance. Il dit : « Regardez la destruction que j’ai provoquée ; il n’y a rien de bon ; il n’y a aucune espérance de quelque chose de bon. » Mais souvenez-vous : le traumatisme provoque l’impuissance, et le rétablissement redonne le choix. Allons-nous choisir la vie ou la mort ? le bien ou le mal ? l’amour ou la haine ? la foi ou le rejet de Dieu ? Voici ce qui est mauvais : choisir la mort, la haine et le rejet de Dieu. Choisir de telles choses, c’est ressembler au mal qui a essayé de nous détruire.

Dans la vie ordinaire, la foi en Dieu est un combat. Quand nous avons connu la tragédie et le traumatisme, la foi en Dieu est un combat acharné. Mais c’est un bon combat parce qu’il s’agit d’une lutte contre ces choses qui ont essayé de nous détruire, et de nous rendre semblables à elles. Au lieu de porter l’image du mal en nous-mêmes, nous pouvons regarder à Jésus, qui porte également les cicatrices du mal. Mais il est aussi vainqueur du mal, il a refusé de plier quand le mal était à son comble. Dieu est vivant, il règne, il siège sur son trône et il viendra un jour, c’est certain, et il fera toutes choses nouvelles. La question qui nous est posée est : Qu’allons-nous choisir de faire pendant cette attente ?

A Letter to My Twitter Followers

A Letter to My Twitter Followers

Some questions have arisen recently about why I do some of the things I do regarding Twitter. And I don’t mean why I find the best sites to buy Twitter followers, but I mean how I carry myself online. After much thought and prayer I have decided to give the reasons behind those choices because I know that questions not clearly answered can easily lead to misunderstandings and those can easily confuse or wound vulnerable people. So bear with me (or not) and perhaps it will be helpful to you in thinking through underlying issues. I can sometimes get similar questions from some of my Instagram followers as well as I thought it was time I cleared the air.

Some have wondered why I do not respond on twitter. My very first tweet says the following: “I am sorry that due to the nature of my work and the ethics involved in my profession, I am not able to provide individual responses.”

I am a licensed psychologist. As such I have ethical guidelines I am bound to follow. I take those with me wherever I go. Those guidelines are meant to preserve the safety and well-being of those I see and meant to instruct me on what the boundaries are regarding the use of my professional knowledge and skills. For many years, pastors would call and ask to speak directly with me about people I was seeing from their churches. Ethically, I could not even return the call and acknowledge their presence in my office without a signed release. This protected many victims who needed the assurance of safety. It frustrated many who called until they learned the reason for that refusal. Based on these guidelines I find it unethical to provide clinical services on social media. I certainly can speak out, teach principles or express general concerns but nothing personally clinical is to be done via email, texts, twitter or Facebook.

I follow the guidelines. Do they frustrate me sometimes? Certainly. But I have seen tons of damage done by many who function as if they are an exception to the guidelines of their profession, position or, for that matter, God’s standards. Some of you have been victimized as a result of such thinking. Such thinking results in those with power being dangerous to others.

What you do need to know is that I pray for you – often by name when the pain and grief shows up in a tweet. I pray for all – for the whole body of Christ – for she is damaged and damaging His sheep and His name. Some of you personally deal with that damage on a daily basis – in your own lives and/or those you are caring for.

That leads to the second question which is why I use the word “we” in my tweets. There are several reasons for that. Practically, most of the tweets are directly taken from my books, articles or talks. I am simply quoting myself. There are exceptions but that is the source of most of them. A sentence does not tell us context or audience. That is the wonder and difficulty of twitter for everyone. Most of those talks – and much of my writing – have been to the whole body of Christ. There are many in leadership or who are counselors following the account, not just victims. You see, many people can choose whether they follow this account or not, and will be regardless of if they followed me by their own rights or because I read something like this instazood review to see how growth services can direct followers to my account instead. The truth here is that people are following my account, regardless of whether they’re counselors or victims. I have been privileged to listen to victims for forty-five years and as a result spoken about abuse to God’s people. From that platform I say “we” not “you” – which would sound as if I were not a part of that body. That body includes victims, perpetrators, deniers and “cover-uppers”. It also includes me though I am none of those things.

The body of Christ seems riddled with cancer today and I am very grieved by that and must confess, sometimes want to turn the tables over and crack a whip. When we find out we have cancer we do not say, “My leg has cancer”. We say, “I have cancer”. If that cancer is not tended it will infect the whole and eventually could kill us. We fight it with our whole body for it is in our body. The cancer of abuse in the body of Christ is certainly not in every individual part making up that body. But it is in the body and all parts are affected and could be infected if it is not destroyed. We are all affected by the failures of the Body to tend to wounds. The arm does not say to the leg, “You have a problem”. The arm says we have a problem and I am willing to take injections for the sake of our body. We all also have a place in that body from which we are called to intercede and speak truth.

Finally, and most importantly, I say “we” because stunningly our Lord says. “we”. It is all through His Word. Moses stood in the gap when the people of God sinned and he had not. Daniel in chapter 9 prayed – “We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled (he had not)…Oh Lord, to us belongs the shame of face…because we have sinned ((he had not).” It is a powerful prayer. And finally, and most importantly, Jesus, who was utterly righteous, blameless and holy became sin for us, bore our sins, and was punished for our unrighteousness. He became the incarnation of all human failures. He became what He was not so we might become like Him. He had every right to treat us as “them”. He did not. He became one with us. There is no “them” in the body of Christ. One part affects all (I Corinthians 12:26). We are called to follow our Lord knowing full well there is cancer in the body to which we belong and it is spreading and harming us all in different ways. That is why the light needs to shine all on whole body and collectively we need to call thigs by their right name.

So I believe we are to “open our mouths for the mute…open our mouths, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8, 9). We are to speak on behalf of victims. We are to speak truth about those who abuse and the systems that protect them. I also believe that as we raise our voices and name the cancer for what it is, we are called to collectively and humbly pray with Daniel: “…because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers…your people are a reproach to all those around us…hear the prayer of your servant…and for the Lord’s sake cause your face to shine on your sanctuary which is desolate…O Lord hear! O Lord forgive! O Lord listen and act. Do not delay for your own sake, my God, and for your people who are called by your name” (Daniel 9).

How to Create a Church Culture of Accountability in the #MeToo Era

How to Create a Church Culture of Accountability in the #MeToo Era

Four strategies to welcome abuse victims and survivors.

By Ruth Moon

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander-whose testimony against USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar drew widespread media attention earlier this year-told Christianity Today that “church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse” because victims often receive damaging advice from church staff who know little about the topic.

The #ChurchToo movement (accompanying the #MeToo movement) reveals that churches are just as susceptible to issues of sexual misconduct and abuse of power as secular institutions. Often one or more individuals are to blame for abuses, but calls for reform are directed at churches and their leadership. I am a very regular attendee to sermons and I often use the text to give church service in order to provide donations. I feel the church could play a crucial role in helping people heal from the horrible illness they have suffered.

Denhollander’s quote about acknowledging abuse is directed at institutional practices and mindsets that often make reporting and responding to abuse a fraught prospect for victims. And, while churches should not preemptively admit culpability before accusations are investigated, they often find themselves apologizing to victims and communities for inadequate and insensitive responses that create burdens and barriers for victims.

What can churches do to change this reputation? How can churches create a culture that honors due process alongside one that honors victims’ and survivors’ stories, experiences, and expectations?

In short: How can churches create a church culture of accountability and victim care? Experts suggest four tips.

  1. Look out for people, not institutions.

In recent weeks and months, several prominent church leaders have been accused of sexual misconduct. Willow Creek Community Church cofounder Bill Hybels retired six months early after he was accused of a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct. Andy Savage, teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, resigned after confessing to “a sexual incident” 20 years earlier in which he assaulted a 17-year-old congregant. Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, resigned over a “morally inappropriate relationship.”

This newfound focus on abuse of power is heartening, said Boz Tchividjian, lawyer and founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization that investigates allegations of abuse in Christian organizations. “What we’re seeing are victims who, for the first time in their entire lives, are being empowered to step out of silence into the light,” he said. “That’s a positive step forward.”

However, church responses-especially to these three events-show there is still a long way to go. Tchividjian points to Andy Savage as an example: Savage minimized the abuse he committed by calling it a “sexual incident” and then implied that the victim needed healing-and then he got ovation from his congregation.

This leads to the first lesson churches need to learn: Protect the victim, not the institution. Diane Langberg, a psychologist who works with trauma survivors and teaches at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, agrees with Tchividjian in holding that churches can reinforce abuse by doubting abuse victims and protecting abusers. This has the effect of turning the church itself into an abuser.

“It’s not only individuals who abuse-systems can be abusers,” Langberg said. “Often the church circles the wagons to protect the church, not the victim, saying, ‘We have to protect the name of God,’ as if he can’t do that himself. They circle the wagons and keep the victim out. The system becomes the next victimizer in the name of God.”

“The damage is unspeakable. It multiplies the damage that has already been done,” she warned. “What we are doing is hiding ungodly behavior for the sake of God. That should hurt our brains and our hearts.”

Not only does a circle-the-wagons response hurt the abuse victim involved, but it lowers the chances that other abuse victims and survivors will look to the church for help, said Tchividjian. Often, he said, leaders faced with accusations or revelations of abuse feel they must defend church leaders or the church itself because so many others depend on the organization’s survival. Instead, churches should seek to live out the gospel by supporting those who disclose abuse and standing with them.

“When abuse arises, we live out the direct opposite of the gospel,” Tchividjian said. “As an institution, as institutional leaders, we sacrifice the individual-the victim-in order to save ourselves.”

“The institution doesn’t belong to any leader or person-it belongs to God,” Tchividjian said. “We have to have faith that God can protect the church. We just need to be simple and truthful and do the right thing.”

  1. Talk about abuse, even if you don’t think its happening.

A common response abuse victims have is to doubt that the abuse is real, to think that very real abuse is “all in their head.” They may even receive that message explicitly or implicitly from those around them. So when pastors don’t discuss the topic or preach about it, it reinforces that message and makes victims unlikely to confide in church leaders.

And many pastors don’t bring up the topic often. A 2014 LifeWay Research survey found that only 6 percent of the pastors surveyed discussed abuse with their congregants in group contexts at least once a month. A substantial portion (42%) said they rarely or never do so. These kinds of reviews and surveys might come in handy to understand the victims and the abusers in the ambit of the institution of the church. Various types of questionnaire (be it online or offline) prove to be useful.

“When someone is experiencing abuse, one of the tools abusers use is fear and shame – they cause the victim to believe that it’s their fault or that they deserve the abuse,” said Ashley Easter, a writer and abuse-victim advocate. To combat this, people around the abuse victim or survivor should discuss the topic regularly in ways affirming that abuse is not the victim’s fault. Otherwise, Easter said, “They are laying the foundation that the victim is in the wrong. It’s not true, but if they are not in an environment that’s saying actively that it’s not the victim’s fault, the victim won’t speak up.”

Many Bible stories offer lessons about abuse, Easter pointed out.

“The lessons are there. If we could delve into what the Bible says about abuse, how it hurts lives and the trauma that ensues, it would make people feel safer about coming to church and disclosing abuse,” she said. “Jesus is an abuse survivor-he was abused on the cross. If that message was preached loud and clear, it would go a long way to making the church safe for survivors.”

When churches do discuss abuse, it tends to be in the context of national or international news stories like those that have occurred in recent months, said Jennifer Roach, who is a counselor and pastor at Advent Anglican Church in Kirkland, Washington. Instead, abuse should be a regular part of church conversation, and that conversation should be curated with abuse victims and survivors in mind, she said.

“Have a message for victims: The cross applies not just to sin you’ve committed, but to sin committed against you,” she said. “You can talk about it freely and you won’t be punished or shushed or told you’re ruining someone’s reputation”.

Church leaders should also do more to make sexual harassment law clear. This can be accomplished through sermons, readings, and pointing church members towards online resources such as the Dhillon Law Group website for example that explains how to take legal action in suspected cases of gender-based discrimination.

  1. Protect the vulnerable.

According to Tchividjian, churches tend to side with powerful individuals against the abuse victim-intentionally or not-when they close ranks to protect the church. Easter agreed, saying that when abuse victims do speak up and seek advice from pastoral staff, they are often told to stay in abusive marriages and other relationships.

Church staff sometimes try to handle the accusation and investigation in-house instead of bringing in police and other authorities, resulting in victims who feel silenced and are unlikely to bring their cases to church leaders for help. Churches should take steps immediately to involve authorities outside the church. In many US states, churches are required to report abuse if they find out it is happening. In addition to the legal obligation, involving authorities signals transparency and openness, which are essential messages to send to abuse victims and survivors. Even when a church might not be legally obligated to involve law enforcement-for instance, if an abuse is alleged to have occurred in the past and is beyond the legal statute of limitations-involving law enforcement can send an important message, said Roach-and if the person accused of abuse is still at the church, he or she should turn themselves in.

The experts quoted in this piece agree that churches should be transparent when abuse is alleged and involve outside authorities who publicly investigate the allegations. While few people lie about being abused, churches should avoid passing judgment on a situation immediately. According to Langberg, however, churches should always make such situations public by announcing the allegations, involving authorities like police and investigators like those at GRACE, and inviting victims to come forward.

Instead, church leaders, like many people, assume they can tell whether a person accused of a crime is really responsible.

“Research shows over and over again that we can’t tell who’s lying. We all like to think we can, but we’re inevitably wrong,” Langberg said. “There’s a lack of humility to think we would know. We say, ‘I trust so-and-so because I know him.’ Jesus says, ‘I don’t trust so and so because I know him.'”

The result of churches hushing up accusations is that victims don’t feel they will be heard if they speak.

“Ultimately, the victim isn’t receiving the care they need, so it doesn’t feel safe due to the church’s historical response,” Easter said. “There are good churches that have a great handle on this, but it’s all too common for [churches] to shame survivors, not take things seriously, and not go through the proper channels to get justice for the victims.”

Church leaders’ first response to abuse claims and revelations is particularly important, said Tchividjian, because it sets a tone of trust or distrust in the victim’s story.

“We’re beginning to recognize how prevalent abuse is, and people are beginning to step forward, which are positive signs,” he said. “But we have a long way to go in responding to those disclosures in a way that doesn’t minimize and dehumanize those who have stepped forward, and that doesn’t convey support for and circle the wagons around the leader who has been accused of misconduct.”

  1. Admit what you don’t know and acknowledge that abuse happens.

While many churches have a plan in place to help abuse victims, research shows that pastors tend to underestimate the number of abuse victims or survivors likely to attend their church.

According to a LifeWay Research survey, 76 percent of churches have a referral list for professional counselors, 64 percent have money available to assist abuse victims, and about half can refer victims to legal help or to a church member who has experienced domestic violence. However, pastors are also likely to underestimate the likelihood of abuse occurring among church members: Nearly half of the pastors surveyed said they did not know whether anyone in their church had been a domestic violence victim in the past three years.

In reality, it is statistically likely that most churches-even small ones-have members who are abuse victims or survivors. Statistics show that one in four women and one in seven men in the US have been physically abused by an intimate partner. But because churches rarely discuss abuse, many abuse victims stay silent because they feel isolated and out of place, said Easter.

“Rarely do you hear sermons or messages or teachings on abuse,” she said. “When you don’t bring this conversation to the surface, it’s scary for someone who is a survivor to speak up about their experiences.”

When the topic of abuse does come up, it tends to be as something that happens “out there,” not within the congregation-which leaves abuse victims feeling isolated, Langberg said.

“The church has fooled itself about many things, saying, ‘They’re out there, not in here,'” said Langberg. “I have literally heard pastors say that domestic abuse is not in Christian homes, and I’m thinking, Okay-all these women all these years who have shown me their bruises don’t exist?

Finally, Langberg noted, it’s all right for church leaders to admit it when they don’t know much about abuse. Acknowledging this can even send an important, positive message to abuse victims and survivors.

“The church needs to be humble enough to say, ‘We don’t do a good job about this, and we don’t know what to do, so we need to learn.’ Hearing that as a victim would be a gift,” she said. “Then, you need to do the learning.”

Ruth Moon is a doctoral candidate in communication at the University of Washington and editor of Response at Seattle Pacific University.

Dear Church: Hear the Word of the Lord

Dear Church: Hear the Word of the Lord

The church is suffering greatly – by her own hands. Self-injury, whether by individuals or institutions, invariably involves faulty thinking that is born out of self-deception. Many of us are grieved at the wreckage in the church that occurs when victims are silenced, abusers are protected, power is abused and “truth” is disseminated to the less powerful. The body of our Lord is sick. Here are some thoughts for her.

To begin with, it is important to remember that all power is derivative. The power that is inherent in one’s position, gifting, knowledge, verbal ability, or spiritual authority has one source – all power comes from Christ. He said, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth…” It is not ours; it is his and is to be used in accord with his word and his character. He who had all power never used it to feed on a vulnerable person, to increase his stature or to protect himself. Any power we have is his and is to be used to bless others with his grace and truth.

Second, God is ever and always, with no shadow or turning, both light and truth. He is truth. He is light. Light exposes the truth. It exposes beauty and horror. Clean and filthy. And truth always calls what is exposed by its right name. “White-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones” is both exposure and truth. To cover-up or even slightly shade, deceive or rename anything the light exposes is ungodly. The Light does not flinch. The Truth does not water down. You see it is only light and truth together that expose the cancer; call it by its right name and enable healing to occur.

Third, light and truth require transparency- which simply means letting light pass through so that what is hidden can be distinctly seen. Transparency is the opposite of complicity which means to be folded up with. That means when sin is named light is needed. We do not like it. Neither did Adam and Eve whose immediate response was to hide. We prefer hiding and damage control. God calls us to the truth and light of transparency. Transparency protects both alleged victims and alleged predators from the horrific burden of lies. A transparent process protects truth for all. When those in power attempt to dissemble in order to protect an institution they are no longer accomplishing damage control. They are causing damage – damage to God’s precious sheep and damage to the name of our God –this, in the name of protecting the house of the Lord. That is what the Israelites said in Jeremiah – “the Temple of the Lord” – all the while throwing their children, the vulnerable ones, into the fire of Moloch. God’s response was to destroy the temple system he ordained and designed and cast his people across the earth.

Fourth, words matter significantly. To call alleged victims liars is an attempt to determine outcome without knowledge. We are to call things by their right name. And as people of the Book we acknowledge that the human heart is utterly deceitful and our own is incomprehensible to us. That means we do not trust our own motives and hearts. It means we do not automatically assume our leaders, no matter how beloved, are telling the truth. And we certainly do not assume the vulnerable ones are liars.

Fifth, oh we say, but what about God’s grace and mercy? It is indeed vast and I am utterly grateful that I can stand in that myself. However, grace and mercy never, under any circumstances, tolerate sin – for it is the terminal illness that is slaughtering humanity – people God knit together, loves and died for. He will not budge an inch when that disease has a toehold in any human being. Cancer multiplies and spreads and kills. One cell is too much. Tearful apologies are not sufficient – only radical surgery. We fail to love those who abuse when we do not grasp this truth. Sin, like cancer, starts small and spreads and treatment knocks a life over. God’s love and mercy, like that treatment, will do the same.

Sixth, God’s people are called to humility. That means church leaders must recognize the potential for bias that is inherent in their positions. A fundamental understanding of our own capacity for self-deception requires that we avail ourselves the independent scrutiny of those that are not part of the institution .That also means we see that all power is derivative and that any power used to feed the self in some fashion is not godly – no matter the attendance numbers, the money coming in, the books published, the gifting, the brilliance or any other thing. Humility bends down, becomes like, leaves glory, washes feet and ever and only listens to the voice of the Father no matter the cost.

Finally, dear vulnerable ones, those used, silenced, and cast aside – know that Jesus is often not like his church. He loves and calls us to truth and light, transparency and right naming. He himself is the one who bends to tend and care for you when his church does not. He weeps – not only over you and your suffering at the hands of those who name his name – but also over his church saying, as he did over Jerusalem: “If you had known the things that make for your peace…my house has become a den of robbers.”


When The Church Becomes Complicit In Sin: Lessons On Preventing and Combatting Sexual Abuse

Originally posted:

Just a month ago Elie Wiesel, survivor of Auschwitz and a voice for justice, died. His words remain: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

In reading through the Professional Investigators International (Pii) report regarding sexual abuse in the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), it is clear that the Christian world needs to give heed to the words of Dr. Wiesel. Donn Ketchum, a missionary doctor in Bangladesh, allegedly abused those under his care.

When it was exposed, the system of ABWE used its power to ignore, silence, and cover-up that abuse. Although the investigation was invited by ABWE, it was significantly hindered early on by a lack of cooperation and ongoing lies. The Christian world would do great honor to the victims of this tragedy, and many others in the evangelical world, if we would heed the lessons inherent in this grievous situation.

Lesson One: Sexual Abuse Can Happen Anywhere

The first lesson is recognition that sexual abuse is not a problem out there; it is in here. It sits in our pews, it happens in our homes and schools. It occurs in churches, on mission fields, and within our organizations. We need to know how to speak about it, teach truth about it, and protect the vulnerable and care for those whose lives have been shattered by it.

Abuse means to misuse, force, deceive, or humiliate. It includes lying, coercing, and shaming humans by complicity with wrongdoing. Abuse is the misuse of the vulnerable by the powerful—powerful in position, size, age, verbal capacity, or knowledge. Scripture is clear that we are defiled by what comes out of us. Abuse is fruit borne by the abuser. It is never caused by the victim. All victims, child or adult, need understanding and protection, not blame. A grown man or woman can be abused. There are countless ways to coerce another human being into something they do not want.

Lesson Two: It Is Never Okay to Cover Up The Crime of Abuse

As Christians, we often fail to report the crime of abuse because we think we are protecting a family or some part of the Body of Christ. Family and church are God-ordained institutions worthy of our protection. However, there is nothing sacred about an institution full of hidden sin.

When the people of Israel were going to the temple full of sin, God sent their enemies to destroy that God-ordained holy place. Our God does not protect those institutions that He has designed when they are enterprises full of evil. God regards sin—not loss of reputation, or loss of institution—as the worst thing in the world. He wants those institutions that bear His name to be holy in the secret places. Only then are they truly His.

The ABWE report underscores the fact that Christian leaders are not trained to investigate sexual abuse or do forensic interviews. Leaders are not trained to manage the level of deception in offenders.

Lesson Three: We Must Humbly Admit Our Limitations

We need to have the humility to acknowledge these limitations so that when someone alleges that a serious crime has occurred—in their home, school or our own beloved Christian institution—we can immediately call the civil authorities who are trained to pursue the allegation and determine its truth. To fail to do this is arrogant and inevitably damages the victim and endangers others. Our choice to handle a crime ‘in house’ is never a choice on behalf of the victim. It is a choice made to protect the perpetrator and the institution.

Studies of deception have repeatedly shown that we cannot tell who is lying. Yet when we are told someone is abusing another person, we think, I know the character of that person; it cannot be true!

Scripture warns us that our hearts are utterly deceitful. We do not even know our own! Scripture says that Jesus trusted no person because he knew what was in us. We say, “I know him; I trust him!” Scripture tells us God does not judge by what His eyes see or His ears hear, but according to righteousness. Scripture says the tares grow right beside the wheat and they look exactly alike until the fruit is born.

When we trust the likeness and say the fruit cannot be so, we abandon victims and leave perpetrators in bondage to habituated sin. None of this looks like our God.

Lesson Four: Both Systems and Individuals Can Be Perpetrators

The Pii report demonstrates that systems, as well as individuals, can abuse. A system exists for a purpose (e.g., to teach, evangelize, disciple). An allegation of sexual abuse threatens the system. Unfortunately, that system often marshals its considerable power to silence, lie, and cover-up or protect the perpetrator so that the ‘godly’ works can continue.

When this occurs, godly words may be used to cover ungodly deeds; victims are crushed and we add ourselves to the list of their betrayers. An institution meant to serve others in the name of God clings to darkness rather than light and fails to defend the rights of the afflicted. In doing so, we ignore the potentially malignant lump, because to face it will disrupt the system we call “good.” Thus, the cancer spreads and ultimately destroys the victims, the perpetrator, and the system. In our denial, we become complicit with evil in the name of God.

What Have We Really Learned?

The failures of ABWE and other Christian institutions are a call to the people of God, reminding us that He says we are to live so as to make Him real to others. He came to bind up the broken-hearted and set captives free. Too often, we abandon the victims and support perpetrators in entrenched deception and its resulting evil.

God says He is our Refuge, and yet we frequently fail to be a safe harbor for those victimized by evil that is damaging to body, mind, and soul. Victims of abuse have, too often, found no refuge with us.

God is our Father and nourishes His children. He does not feed us lies, complicity, isolation, and darkness. Yet, often, we prefer to preserve our systems and reputations rather than follow Him.

He is the avenger for the vulnerable against the workers of iniquity who say God will not see (Ps. 94). Too frequently, we are avengers for our own names, positions, and places of power, telling ourselves we do it for Him while looking nothing like Him.

The psalmist says, “Holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore” (93:5). As His body, we are to be a dwelling befitting our God as we care for the abused. May it be so.