I recently watched the alarming documentary of child sexual abuse within a major Christian organization ‘No Place to Call Home.’ The pain shared in the video was real and heart breaking! The documentary opened up so many questions surrounding how a Christian community could foster a culture of sexual abuse.
This blog isn’t specifically about that organization but it does represent a picture of other ministries I have witnessed struggling with the same issue over my ministry of forty-seven years.
Someone said, “There’s no pain like the pain of parenting.” Something deeply disturbing happens to the psyche of humanity when our children are taken from our grasp and sexually abused. But, when the abuse happens within the family, there’s an additional tapeworm of evil that eats away at the soul’s identity, as helpless children become victims of an insidious breach of trust.
Then, there’s the struggle that involuntarily becomes a part of the abused child’s life. At risk of repeating the abuse and becoming the offender, blaming God for being absent and unwittingly attaching themselves to the control of the perpetrator, they often act out to fabricate a sense of personal power, or choose to overcompensate and/or over achieve to overcome the abuse. Also, instead of trying to survive, some think of and attempt suicide to get out of hopelessness and manage the one decision they think can be theirs. However the child handles the abuse, the outrage at being dehumanized is profound and the arduous journey to wholeness is an understatement, to say the least.
I would suggest, as others have, that systemically this tragedy starts with the failure of leadership involving a history of triangulation, emotional enmeshment, secrecy, willful naivety, and authoritarianism. However, I would like to go deeper to Mind This Gap if I may, into a belief system that opens the door to this horrendous sin.
Let me say, that at the core, this is not about the theological positions these ministries sincerely purport. It’s about hidden beliefs – possibly unrecognized by some – developing a life of their own in leadership and throughout the corporate community. But, whether those beliefs or patterns of thinking were recognized or unrecognized, the damage from the terror of this type of betrayal is still the same.
As I delve deeper into the nucleus of any current tragedy you may be familiar with, I approach this with an understanding that it can happen in and to any family, secular or religious community. And so, my intent is not to point fingers at a person or people but at a breakdown of four major hidden beliefs that set up any environment for this abuse to happen. After seeing these issues over my lifetime of forty-seven years of ministry and counseling rise up, my desire is to provide some understanding of how this could happen.
Below, are four major principles or beliefs that set up any community to offend each other. Systemically they create the domino effect to this abuse. You may take either principle as the top domino and get the same effect. I chose the first principle as questions that can’t be asked, because it so easily describes the place where this type of abuse starts; In secrecy.
I will spend time in the next four blogs to address each belief.
Thank you for weighing through this journey with me.
Four Major Beliefs Fostering a Culture of Child Sexual Abuse in Christian Ministries
Questions that can’t be asked
The Breakdown of the family concept
A distorted view of Grace