In a response to my post Social Media Speaks, a therapist (Scott) made a comment that I’d like to draw out a bit. (I will refer to him as commenter because I’d like to make sure folks don’t confuse us. Not all people perceive the difference between Scot and Scott. Ha.)
Thank God for theologians like you and for Scott. I discern sexual and spiritual abuse are co-opted in many environments in the body of Christ. I am currently faced with the co-opting of both abuses in our ministry helping vulnerable people. I realise after reading this, that some in the ministry have been subjecting people to abusive teachings but had not directly linked the two. There are men, and also some women under the influence of these men, who have pushed this 'complementary' agenda. Yes, that word is important and relevant on many levels. Some men who have been or are in powerful positions, and some women under the influence of the use of these abusive powers have been supporting this coercion. Standing for truth has caused a considerable amount of pain in the developing organisation. As change to expose unhealthy practices and teaching develops there is a lot of pain. I have suffered personally. As these abusive powers are challenged there is scapegoating and the pain of the resulting personal trauma is awful for women and those supporting women in leadership. May God help us all through this and I pray the coercive powers will be brought down.
The idea that sexual and spiritual abuse are often co-opted, especially within evangelical circles, is accurate and profound. So profound that I need to take a few days to wrap my brain around this article. This is much deeper than theology, to be sure. Thank you for recognizing the value of 'Scott's' comment, expounding on it, and sharing it with us.
This is so good. I appreciate so much the recognition that so much of what parades itself as theology is actually just really unhealthy emotional states trying to think their way out of a problem rather than developing self-awareness. My husband really likes Iain McGilchrist and his work on the brain hemispheres - his take is that the left hemisphere is the one that deconstructs and analyzes, and the right is the one that integrates and takes the analysis of the left brain and then brings it back into wholeness. We see this everywhere now! I see it here in that reason/analysis gets elevated as the highest good, so some theology focuses on intellectual prowess to the expense of actual people (or, I would say, God Himself). Healthy theology, healthy thinking in general, takes the analysis of the details and brings it back into the whole picture, emotions and spirit and body and all.
Scot, thank you for all the good you do and the work you’re putting out. Books like Jesus and John Wayne, Beth Alison Barr’s work, MaryKate Morse’s work are important, and I want to add that male, evangelical allies like you and Nijay Gupta and, it sounds like, others are playing/will play an integral role in opening up opportunities of mutual leadership for women like me in the evangelical world. I’m grateful and ridiculously excited to hear about these upcoming books. I will definitely add them to my reading list. And it sounds like they will be key voices in the conversation surrounding these new opportunities for mutual leadership that will likely be coming available. Essentially I’m just here to say thanks and keep talking.
Thank you Scott for sharing this important information.
I so appreciate both you and Scott’s perspective here. As a therapist, I wholeheartedly agree that the theobros need therapy. Have you heard of Thomas Oord’s recent compilation of therapists on this subject?
Full disclosure, I have a chapter of my own in this book.
There is a major systemic issue of spiritual and sexual abuse in the Body that isn’t being treated as such. The majority of pastors are porn users preying on and consuming image-bearers of God to satisfy their lust, wrapped in all the deception that comes along with it. They have kept the depths and breadth of this reality secret from women, their sisters in Christ, pointing the finger at every other explanation for its fruit other than the actual reality. These shepherds have led much of the flock into captivity and left the rest dismayed at what’s going on because they failed to walk in the light and warn of the enemy that has token hold of so many. There is no porn use without deep deception and dehumanization of fellow human beings so we can’t be surprised at the fruit we are seeing across denominations when leaders have been shaped by participating in this darkness over decades. The pain and destruction of this reality is incalculable yet so many people suffer individually either trapped or subjected to living with someone who is trapped not understanding how we got here. Until there is a reconning on this issue with deep confession, repentance, truth-telling and repair from the top down, we can spin our wheels looking at every other issue just like the enemy wants but we will get nowhere. This is a betrayal of the Body of Christ by its leaders on a scale that most cannot yet fathom. This is a matter of spiritual and sexual abuse so pervasive that we cannot continue to carry on ignoring it as the systemic issue that it is. Leaders LEAD. Where have they led us without us knowing and understanding reality? We are called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests. How can we step into the reality of that identity when our leaders have aligned themselves with secrets and darkness? We have the power of the Holy Spirit to make us new and whole and holy but we can’t be that if our leaders aren’t choosing to align with Him and what He is- truth, light, goodness, honesty.
As I wrap up at Northern, I'm considering next steps. I wonder if you, Kris, or commenter ScotT might know of online therapy/psych/spiritual directors programs that empower people to become the kind of good therapists or spiritual directors you mention here?