Showing posts from 2018

Finding Support in Haystacks

Support for whistle-blowers seldom comes directly. People are afraid to speak out against unethical behavior by people of greater or equal power. This is especially true when "down one" in gender, age, tenure, race, or sexual orientation since few systems are free of prejudicial action when these factors are involved. Even more so when one has been personally victimized or tried to blow a whistle previously. Stepping into the darkness, taking on the role of an outsider, is what whistle-blowers do. It doesn't matter how much they've been an insider previously. Speaking out puts one in an adversarial position unless the system is prepared to hear. Nowhere is this truer than with gender-based violence. Even if one turns to another system, such as the court system, the prejudice is still there. None of this dirty little secret had anybody bothered to teach me. It's something many hesitate to acknowledge even today. Far more so decades ago. Joe Trull, wh

Three Reasons Catholics Still Struggle with Abuse

A front page article, last week in USA Today, attempted to tell us  why the Catholic Church still struggles  with sexual abuse. Having watched closely and worked with survivors in two very fine organizations for years, I propose that there are at least three reasons. The first, which I came to understand from Andrew Greeley many years ago as "the clerical culture," is referred to in a quote by passionate advocate Anne Barrett Doyle, sister of Father Tom Doyle who received  SNAP's  first-ever award for advocacy this year, honoring him for more than thirty years of courageous, persistent service as a powerful spokesman. His sister explained the persistent refusal to act with compassion by describing one characteristic of this culture as "an entrenched infrastructure of secrecy." Lawyer Michael Dolce offered a second reason that keeps so many survivors from seeking compensation for their life-long injuries:  the Church has fought efforts to reform state statu

The Meaning of #MeToo Advocacy

I was at my dentist this morning over an old issue. Simple compared to what I deal with each day as an advocate in the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. I was prepared to hear that I need a crown to save a cracked tooth. The hope is the crown will do the job. What the dental assistant needed to talk to me about was much more complicated and took twice as long as the visit with the dentist. It started out being about suicide, but quickly turned into the reason for the self-inflicted tragedy. All having to do with a recent case of major collusion in sexual assault, where the perpetrator committed suicide as soon as his latest victim went to police. The victim is an elected official in a mid-size city here in KS that would still qualify as a small town in most states. In spite of her being in a position of political power, people are blaming the victim for causing the suicide of their friend, a guy she assumed was her friend, too. That's what happens in small towns where incest

Discovering the Biological Cause for Collusion with Abuse

Any community mental health nurse worth her salt knows that each of the problems of human behavior--every mental health diagnosis included-- can be traced back to problems with one or more of the five components of health. Often all five in one diagnosis. When it comes to prevention or intervention—treatment, that is—those same components come into play. There’s the emotional, the social, the cognitive or intellectual, the spiritual values which seldom boils down merely to religion, and almost always physical and biological manifestations. When the patient is an individual, it’s fair game to think about addressing each one of these types of health. Anti-intellectuals, on the contrary, usually speak only of the physical when a person’s health is being evaluated. That’s why we do not give credence to untrained individuals to do a good assessment. The vast majority of Americans, most certainly, will leave out 80% of the factors that determine an individual’s health. Same goe

A Message to Southern Baptist Women from #LongB4MeToo

"The women of the Southern Baptist Convention are finally waking up," I said to myself sometime last week when I heard more than 1000 SBC women had been joined by a group of like-minded men, calling for the resignation of the most infamous of my husband's classmates from the 1960's at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Yet, according to Wade Burleson , that number soon grew to over 3200! At last, Paige Patterson, along with his old friend Paul Pressler, has done himself in. Or so it seems, and the two may be taking a significant portion of the Southern Baptist Convention with them, as most bystanders can't help noticing,  if the trend to honor and defend these guys  continues .  Pressler, whose image is encased along with his wife's in the chapel of the same seminary that his old friend Paige has ruled over for years, will soon be facing multiple men in court, who allege he is a sexual predator. These guys have provided me with more writing material

In the Service of Full Disclosure

The opportunity to talk on scores of live radio programs about a controversial, cutting-edge topic that most people still considered "a private issue for churches only" in the mid-90's never unnerved me until I started getting requests, much to my surprise, to appear for Christian interviews. I braced myself for an inquisition each time, and they came often. Though not nearly as often as I'd expected. It was the highest number of interviews ever requested of one author, the publicist at Huntington House in Lafayette, Louisiana, told me one day, as she called to report the degree of receptiveness she sensed from the newest inquirer. Most of all, each talk show host was fascinated by what they'd read of our family's story , now eager to hear more of how six years earlier two missionary careers--mine and my husband Ron's--had ended after we'd persisted in confronting some of the most powerful men in the religious world, insisting that they cease their b

The Gift of Sharing Sacred Stories

"Bernice, you don't have to tell everything you know," my patronizing father often said to my mother, with the same sarcastic chuckle he might use for a child who was embellishing a wild story of some creature from outer space. These moments were always awkward, especially for Mom if she was just getting to the critical point or punch line of a narration she was sharing with dear friends who had never heard that specific episode from her past. Story-Telling, a Lost Art Form As the second oldest of four daughters, all who had learned early to embrace the traditional Deep South way of passing along life's stories, there was a sacredness to most every story she told, even  without the mention of any form of deity. Even today, my mother, at ninety-two, doesn't know how to talk without telling stories. Same as I don't know how to write without doing so. Nor do I like to read anything that's not chunked full of stories. Because those closest to her

Denzel Washington Sets the Stage for Responding to Sexual Abuse in the Church

"What an opportunity you have! Don't be depressed by it because we have to go through this, we're here now." These words, spoken recently by Denzel Washington, as he talked about the challenges his faith walk brings to millennials, are simply an enhancement of the stand he recently took by deciding not to be present to speak at the Global Leadership Summit, a gathering that also drew Bill Clinton as a guest speaker in times past. Why would anybody turn down such an opportunity? If you’ve kept up with what’s going on in Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago lately, you might instantly know. Willow and its pastor Bill Hybels, now accused by a growing number of sexual abuse of congregants, has been the model for many a young pastor for how to grow a thriving church. Without Willow, it’s hard to imagine what the Global Leadership Summit would be now, even if it survives. Yet Hybels is daring to use the same word I’ve used for thirty years to describe what c

Be Angry--the Commandment Most Ignored

I was talking over lunch today with Nancy, a wise friend and collaborator of mine, who worked with many special needs' children, as a reading specialist, for 30 years. As usual in our conversation, issues related to justice-seeking and conflict in the church came up. I told her that one of my greatest concerns is the  discomfort with anger , which so many seminary graduates have told me nobody ever dealt with even in seminary.  "No wonder it's difficult to abide with conflict," I also wrote in an email to my pastor this morning, after last Sunday he'd so eloquently addressed anxieties going on here in Lawrence, Kansas, in the community of faith right now because of divisions about how to set priorities and spend massive amounts of money: some seeing no better way than to double the size of our county jail thru increased sales taxes, which are already oppressively-high and do not even provide mercy to the poorest among us by exempting food! The mercy, as t