The Long Term Effects of the January 6 Insurrection

As evangelicals, we are used to “revivals.” Big social and media events where hundreds to tens of thousands become Christian at one time.
I believe that what happened yesterday will cause a sort of reverse revival. It will be impossible to calculate. But I strongly suspect that in one day Christianity lost more than would have been gained in several years of Billy Graham crusades.
This event will become not just historic, but culture defining. Like the Crusades, this will become like a cultural anchor point, which will turn generation after generation away from Christianity.
This day was the bitter harvest of years of sowing idolatry to a political leader. It absolutely frustrates and angers me. It is so sad!

How Reasonable Christianity becomes Fundamentalism

1. Encounter new ideas, which threaten old beliefs and structures (and money)

2. Rather than engage with/integrate ideas, resolve situation through power by:

a) identifying new ideas as heresies

b) identifying previous beliefs as orthodoxy 

c) assigning punishments to those who believe wrong views (excommunication, loss of job, hell)

d) put money into organizations designed to protect old ideas

3. Create situations where information is controlled (homeschool, churches-that-don’t-communicate-with-broader-theological-community-because-only-they-have-the-answers, unaccredited Bible schools, parachuting organizations & publishing houses controlled by said churches)

4. When children raised in this system find out that the message “if you pursue free thought/science you will agree with us,” was a lie,

a) hopefully they are trapped by a pay check and a social circle. So they have to keep preaching it or be jobless and friendless in midlife. 

b) …if they do dare to get outside that bubble, remember to remove, exclude, excommunicate, fire, and purge them from the system

c) quote, “if they left us they were never a part of us” invalidate their entire Christian experience 

d) create fictional tales of the woes of those who leave (many of these “woes” were caused by the unhealthy messages of the religious group, the pressure of trying to live a double life, and the pain of being abandoned or actively attacked on the way out)

5. Double down. The problem was always too much free thought. 

a) create longer and longer lists of approved and unapproved doctrines 

b) purge all leadership positions of those who don’t agree

c) paint all those who left as dangerous heretics and apostates 

6. When “apostates” call out problems, identify these as heresy. Go back to step one and repeat, thus drawing the circle tighter and tighter. 

…sing to Jesus and say “amen”…

How reasonable Christianity becomes fundamentalism:

1. Encounter new ideas, which threaten old beliefs and structures (and money)

2. Rather than engage with/integrate ideas, resolve situation through power by:

a) identifying ideas as heresies

b) identifying previous beliefs as orthodoxy 

c) assigning punishments to those who believe wrong views (excommunication, loss if job, hell)

d) put money into organizations designed to protect old ideas

3. Create situations where information is controlled (homeschool, churches-that-don’t-communicate-with-broader-theological-community-because-only-they-have-the-answers, unaccredited Bible schools set up by said churches, parachuting organizations & publishing houses controlled by said churches)

4. When children raised in this system find out that the message “if you pursue free thought/science you will agree with us,” was a lie,

a) hopefully they are trapped by a pay check. So they have to keep preaching it or be jobless with kids in midlife. 

b) if they dare to get outside that bubble, remember to remove, exclude, excommunicate, fire, and purge them from the system

c) quote, “if they left us they were never a part of us”

d) create fictional tales of the woes of those who leave (many of these “woes” were caused by the unhealthy messages of the religious group, the pressure of trying to live a double life, and the pain of being abandoned or actively attacked on the way out)

5. Double down. The problem was always too much free thought. 

a) create longer and longer lists of approved and unapproved doctrines 

b) purge all leadership positions of those who don’t agree

c) paint all those who left as dangerous heretics and apostates 

6. When “apostates” call out problems, identify these as heretical thoughts. Go back to step one and repeat…

…sing to Jesus and say “amen”…

What would a reasonable Christianity look like?

Well, here’s a start…

1) A humble attitude towards knowledge. Leaders should be known for their generous and kind spirit, sense of wonder, and emotional health. Not their ability to memorize the previous generation’s list of heresies/orthodoxies)

2) Science should be welcomed. NOT as a new kind if religion, but AS SCIENCE. Real scientists ask questions, admit when their theories are incomplete but “the best I have right now,” and change their minds when presented with new information

3) Emotional health should be prioritized. Vital relationships maintained with secular mental health experts in the community. 

4) VERY. MINIMAL. CONTROL. STRUCTURES. Membership is completely voluntary. Leaders are not there to control the lives of members and certainly not to police thoughts. 

5) Know for active engagement in the community. Caring for the metaphorical “widows and orphans,” those who are marginalized and ignored in local community.

6) Very minimal infrastructure. NOT a huge heated building that has to be maintained 7 days a week for a few hours on Sunday. Not putting all of the energy if the religious community into making this service amazing. But rather, putting that energy into truly helping people. 

Phil Vischer on Ken Ham’s Creationism

So this was a really interesting podcast. In it, Phil Vischer (maker of veggie tales) lays out his research about how Young Earth Creationism became a “do-or-die” issue for many Evangelicals:

1. Through the course of the 1700’s and 1800’s, as science progressed, nearly all educated Christians came to believe in an old earth

  1. The one exception was Seventh Day Adventists, who believed in a young earth
  2. In the 1920’s, to 1940’s, many American Christians reacted against European Christianity by developing “Fundamentalism”
  3. None of the founders of Fundamentalism believed in a young earth, although several rejected evolution
  4. In the 60’s, Dr. Henry Morrison started writing books about creationism. He explicitly tied a certain view of Genesis 1-3 with Fundamentalist/Evangelical orthodoxy. Using the “slippery slope” argument (btw, a very weak argument in logic), he argued that if one did not agree with him on this point, they would soon not be a Christian anymore
  5. Ken Ham read Morrison, and dedicated his life to propagating Young Earth Creationism, eventually coming to the US, joining Morrison, then founding Answers in Genesis
  6. Answers in Genesis grew to twice the size of Morrison’s organization. As Evangelicals pulled back from society into homeschooling and private school in the 70’s and 80’s, Ham produced very well packaged homeschool curriculum, making his views incredibly popular in the “bubble” of American Evangelicalism. It is impossible to avoid noticing that Answers in Genesis has an incredible amount of money behind them, and are able to use media extremely well, including the internet.
  7. Today, it is very common for Evangelicals to not only deny Evolution, but also believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Further, to believe that this is the only Christian way to read the Bible, and that if anyone denies this, it will be a “slippery slope” to rejecting all of the Bible.

In my own experience and research:

  1. There are many views on the very complex passages of Genesis 1-3 (also Job and Psalms, etc.)
  2. Young Earth Creationism (as Ham explains it) is a modern and American belief. It is not common in Europe. It was not common before this time. (People did not believe in Evolution before Darwin, of course, but many Christians were open to an old earth, and there were many, many theories about the agency of creation. That was never identified as a key issue in any synod, council or creed)
  3. There are many great theologians today doing work on this topic, such as John Walton, Hugh Ross, and Willian Lane Craig.
  4. In my work as a campus pastor, Ken Ham’s strict choice of, “Either you believe in YEC or you’re not a Christian” was one of the chief reasons students left the faith, as Young Earth Creationism doesn’t square with many many fields of study
  5. A dogmatic statement of YEC is a big part of why I am on this journey now. Nipawin Bible College used to be a place where many types of conservative Christians could find a place and dialogue openly. But I was told that (despite fitting in nearly every other way) I could not be hired as a teacher because I would not teach a hard-line stance on this issue. I preferred to teach YEC as one option among many, but was willing to only teach YEC: but because I admitted that I did not believe this theory personally (for academic reasons), I could not teach there.

This is a very complex issue, and it is just sad that one man has made a living of reducing complexity down to two options: “my way or the highway.” I’m glad that Visher did this podcast, shining a light on the very recent nature of Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationism.

Podcast: My Wife Opens up about the Cult of ATI/IBLP


I invited my wife on my podcast to discuss her views on ATI, the bizarre and very conservative homeschool curriculum with which she was raised. Man, this podcast was a blast! She is great fun to have on the podcast!We will definitely do this again! 😀 Hope you can find the time to listen — you’re in for a treat!


#ATI#iblp#churchtoo#spiritualabuse#deconstruction#exvangelical#atisurvivor#gothart

Start listening here. This podcast has a sequel, here!

Podcast: My Wife Opens up About the Cult of ATI

I invited my wife on my podcast to discuss her views on ATI, the bizarre and very conservative homeschool curriculum with which she was raised. Man, this podcast was a blast! She is great fun to have on the podcast! We will definitely do this again! 😀 Hope you can find the time to listen — you’re in for a treat!


#ATI#iblp#churchtoo#spiritualabuse#deconstruction#exvangelical#atisurvivor#gothart

Start listening here. This podcast has a sequel, here!

Workplace Narcissism

With the rise of Donald Trump, there is a growing awareness of Narcissism. 

Here are some indications that you may be working for a narcissistic boss:

To listen to a discussion of workplace narcissism, see my podcast here!

Grandiose

  1. Cultivates a “larger than life” persona
    1. Exaggerated hand gestures
    2. Big voice (talks louder than necessary)
    3. All of his stories are “over the top” (sometimes a bit hard to believe)
    4. Can be very attractive, especially at first. There will almost always be someone who believes in this version of the Narcissist. When people begin to see through it, they may be discarded and replaced
  2. Showboating
    1. He has a captive audience, and he monopolizes on it 
    2. He tells jokes nobody finds funny, but people have to laugh
    3. He shares personal anecdotes and details that nobody cares about
    4. Comes in singing out of tune, jovial, as though he is a star, everyone’s happy to see him (they ARE happy he is in a good mood, rather than the alternative)
    5. He shares completely unnecessary health details, stories, etc., as though he is a star, and every tabloid in town (and every employee) would just love to know how he digested that chicken sandwich last night
    6. Does not care about others. When others try to also share personal pain, he uses religious language to downplay their problems, such as saying, “it could be worse,” “what are you complaining about? You dare young!” 
    7. Anything that others share on “good days” may be turned against them as leverage on “bad days.” If you share a weakness, he will consider you damaged goods: you will probably never recover in his eyes 

Power

  1. Holds all forms of power
    1. Purchasing, 
    2. Scheduling
    3. Training
    4. All important decisions
    5. Access to important parts of the workplace 
    6. Access to essential equipment 
  2. His critiques are put-downs, not constructive criticism
    1. Punitive, not restorative discipline
    2. Often public
    3. Often as joke or else as “blowing the lid” (“can’t take it with you guys anymore!”)
    4. No chance to understand how to do better. No warning, way to avert public shaming
    5. Causes one to “scurry” and be anxious (or else give up, exasperated)
    6. NOT training: refuses to take accountability 
  3. Confusing org chart
    1. Based on complex social rules of narcissism
    2. Based on golden child, scapegoat (see below)
    3. No clear line to promotion: need to suck-up to the leader (control)
    4. Leadership structures which are put into place purposely allowed to decay, so that narcissist can be “forced” to run everything 
  4. Takes no ownership/responsibility
    1. “I’m not the boss”
    2. “I didn’t train you”
    3. “You should know that by now!”
    4. “That’s not my department”
    5. Always manages to make things the responsibility of others

Asserting Dominance

  1. Micro-put downs (“Hen Pecking”)
    1. Like a hen, he is constantly obsessed with hierarchy, and will randomly “peck” at others to show his dominance
    2. Pet names
    3. Insults
    4. Jabs
    5. Jokes
    6. “Funny” stories at the expense of others 
  2. Collective guilt/put-downs 
    1. He will refer to everyone else (or everyone he considers beneath him) collectively. He will disparage “you guys” collectively, as responsible for all of the messes/problems. In so doing, excluding himself from the problem.
    2. “You guys never clean up!”
    3. “You guys always break stuff!”
    4. “You guys are so slow!”
    5. “I can’t believe you guys!”
    6. They seem angry, but this is actually what they want. 
    7. They want minions, not peers: they want others to make mistakes, as it makes them look good. 
    8. If others really shine, then the narcissist will create a crisis of some sort to bring the spotlight back onto himself. 
  3. Making a big deal of accomplishments/titles
    1. You know all of his titles, years of seniority, and accomplishments, because he has “let it slip” multiple times
    2. At times, uses his “status” to get his way, try to win arguments, (“If you were working here as long as I was, you would know…”)

Deception/Hypocrisy

  1. Pathological liar
    1. He usually does not tell outright lies, but subtly shifts all of the stories to tilt in his favour
    2. Will shift narrative: 
      1. He was the victim, you were the villain
      2. He was the hero, you were just a minor lackey
    3. It will always, always, always come down to this. He is always either the victim or the hero. His creativity will seemingly have no limits when it comes to recasting the story in such a way as to make himself the victim or the hero of every story. 
    4. If you let him, his story will become the narrative!
  2. Pretends to be friend: but not really your friend
    1. He may want something from you, and is recruiting you
    2. He has good days and bad days
    3. Uses info from good days against you on bad days
    4. People may say, “It takes a while for him to warm up to new people.” Actually, he just has no use for people with no training, as he refuses to ever give anything to anyone. Once you are trained, you are useful to him. When you are no longer useful, he will treat you like garbage again. 
    5. Constant threat of firing you: no regard for you personally 
  3. Two-faced
    1. How he is in private
    2. How he is in public, around superiors, from the pulpit

Narcissistic Rage

  1. Narcissistic Rage
    1. In a split second, narcissist can fly into an incredible rage, with fury so intense that it can mark people for life. However, narcissists are often careful to only show this rage in carefully chosen locations and to certain people. When called on it, they may say something like, “Oh, we were just having a discussion. I guess we remember things differently.”
    2. The root of narcissistic rage is the deep insecurity that rages inside of a narcissist
      1. They likely did not have healthy attachments as a child 
      2. They may have had significant traumas as a child
      3. They may have deeply internalized shame, and self-loathing
      4. They seem to have found that the only way to feel whole is to push others down, and force others to give them attention — both positive and negative — and distract them from their troubled internal world
      5. …at times, they can strategically allow their inner turmoil to “spill over” in a tremendous flood of anger, vitriol, and sometimes violent behaviours and profanity
    3. Behind the scenes, narcissistic rage is the unspoken organizing factor of the workplace:
      1. They have been told, “it is your fault” that the pastor flew into a rage
      2. Employees are very careful not to do the same things again
      3. Employees begin tip-toeing around the pastor, and become very fully controlled, as they fear awakening his rage

Structural Issues

  1. Poor communicator 
    1. Expects you to read his mind
    2. Likes having you off balance 
      1. Jokes/insults rather than giving clear instructions
      2. Teases you about a mistake. “Oh, do you want me to stop doing that?” “Oh no, I just though it was funny!” (Left wondering what he means. “Do you want me to do that or not…?”)
      3. Uses sarcasm, laughs when saying something serious, may use unnecessarily long words and otherwise uses confusing language to purposely confuse others. He will then blame the confusion on them. 
    3. Discourages people from asking him questions: he may be grumpy, or threaten to go into a rage if disturbed (this is particularly troubling because he has also set up the organization so that literally everything needs to go through him) 
    4. Does not prioritize basic communication (clear emails, texts, meetings, simple commands/statements)
    5. Secretly Enjoys chaos. Secretly enjoys it when communication breaks down to where he has to storm in “as the saviour,” yell at people, gesture emphatically, and put everyone and everything in its place. This is a very good day for his ego!
  2. Supplies: no consistency
    1. Big show of purchasing
    2. Waits until supplies run low
    3. Blames employees for “using them up”
    4. Grumbles, complains “I just bought a bunch!!”
    5. No system, no plan
    6. Encourages hoarding, materials from home

Creating a Toxic Workplace

  1. Divide workplace 
    1. Golden child
    2. Scapegoats
    3. Everyone in between
  2. Everything someone’s fault
    1. Never boss
    2. Forces hiding
    3. Forces blame shifting
    4. Punished self-reporting

Summary: A toxic workplace is

  1. Divided/cutthroat/gossipy
  2. Tense/on edge
  3. Performance driven (may lead to short-term gains, at the expense of company longevity and employee health)
  4. Poorly managed
  5. Quality goes down/nobody cares for “meta-structure”
  6. Those who can, leave
  7. Attracts narcissists and codependents. Affects long term culture. If there’s one, there will be others. Do you reward work or politics? You get what you design for. 

Is this a goood way to operate?

  1. It is a way to operate. It works. Better than no leadership. Probably best in some crisis situations (eg. military, short-term projects, competitive game-shows, or when one leader has significantly more experience than others/employees can’t be trusted)
  2. It could be much better, with healthy leader
    1. Less competition 
    2. Clear leadership
    3. Good training 
    4. Delegation
    5. No petty holding on to purchasing, schedule, etc.
    6. Longevity/Productivity/returns I Ruth long run. Long term employees 
    7. A team spirit/cooperation. A sense of pride 

Effects on self

  1. Second guessing lose confidence (gaslighting) 
  2. Questioning judgment, competency (“you never…” becomes “I never…)
  3. Angry, frustrated, rage, no outlet, (called over sensitive, pathetic, can’t take a joke)
  4. Trouble sleeping: overthinking the day, your narrative vs. pastor’s narrative. 
  5. Becoming catty, playing game. Obsessed with status, winning favour, avoiding blame, divisive.
  6. Performance driven issues: perfectionism, never satisfied, image-driven (body issues)

…a sort of death/rebirth…

  1. Lose yourself
  2. Question your mind
  3. Angry: learn to release anger (“submit”)
  4. Into your head: dreams, obsession, stress, “circle-thoughts”
  5. Begin playing the game: competing, seeing others as the problem, believing narrative
  6. Working harder than ever, serving, sacrificing, unsatisfied with self
  7. …eventual discard…

How to deal with it?

  1. Become strongest/best version of yourself
    1. Find healing: get what you need elsewhere 
      1. Counselling
      2. Great personal relationships
    2. Keep work at work, home at home (if it is a toxic workplace)
      1. Division between family and church if not healthy
      2. Seek health first!
  2. Stand up for yourself 
    1. Push back against silencing tools:
    2. Get some space
  3. …speak your own truth
    1. Not yelling match, but
    2. Careful records, mental notes
    3. Might be worth doing reports Do not let him control the narrative in your mind!
    4. Ways to present to superiors
    5. Need to play the game:
      1. Keep track of what you do. Shine
      2. Keep track of when things break, enough to say, “that wasn’t me” (may need yo report, but not helpful to make enemies)
    6. Ideally, he will come to
      1. Find you useful
      2. Find arguments are usually lost
      3. Fear you slightly (reports, documentation are powerful) but not TOO much
      4. Grudgingly accept you
      5. Find a niche in the organization 
  4. Don’t let him shift the narrative! 
  5. Speak truth (but cautiously)
  6. If possible, find way to transfer to better job

Want to hear more? Listen to my discussion of Narcissism on my podcast!

Then and Now: Some thoughts on Gender and the Bible

I have been a complimentarian most of my life, which means that I believe in a traditional reading of the Bible, that although men and women are equal in worth, they have different roles in the home, in society, and in the church.

As with many of my beliefs, I am just putting that up for review right now. I am asking, “Is that healthy?”

I got to thinking about some of the things that were different 2,000 years ago, to now. Since things were different, wouldn’t it be healthy and normal to also shift our views on gender roles…?

Some things that were different then:

  1. Men normally married around ten years younger. Times were hard. It was a way of matching optimal fertility with optimal ability to provide. 
  2. Everyone worked, including women. This meant that everyone was an asset: if a woman left the family/clan, her loss would be compensated for by a dowry, to help the clan that had lost an able-bodied worker. Times were hard. 
  3. Society had to hold together to survive. There were no contraceptives. A teenage pregnancy was a disaster, as it broke down the family/clan structure. Adolescent sex was tightly controlled, and women sometimes sequestered until they were given in marriage. Clans were organized around a male patriarchal head. Dissension was like treason, and treated as such. The only way to survive was to stick together. Times were hard. 
  4. There were no feminine hygiene products, and very minimal medical supplies. This very greatly limited the mobility and health of women: especially in cultures with strict rules on ceremonial cleanliness. 
  5. There was no birth control, and many children died in infancy. By necessity, the role of a married woman was to watch children, and tend to the very busy domestic chores of life. Times were very hard. 
  6. When there was education to be had, the men usually got it first, as they had more ability, they were probably older than their wives, society was organized patriarchally, and the education would seem to be more useful in the hands of the family/clan leader. Remember, times were hard. 
  7. Although Jesus broke down stereotypes by making a missionary out of a woman, having female followers, and teaching women, Paul knew these practices would not go over well in the general population. Paul’s great passion was to get the message of the Gospel out, and “not cause offense” to the Jewish and Greek audience. The Jews of Jesus’ day often saw women as spiritually inferior and incapable of receiving the law. The Greeks often saw women as “less spiritual,” more “fleshly,” and emotional vs. Intelligent 

…and so just keeping this in mind as we read Paul…

  1. When Paul said, “let wife’s learn from their husbands,” (1 Cor. 13:35) he was speaking into a situation where the women would have been less educated, had less experience outside the home, less religious training (if any), and usually were a decade younger than their husbands. 
  2. When Paul said, “it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly,” (1 Cor. 14:35) …he may have simply been pointing out a fact. It was shameful for women to speak publicly in that context. (He was not saying it was always a sin for women to speak in church because…)
  3. …when he said that a woman should have her head covered when prophesying (speaking) in church, clearly that meant something to them in their culture and context (1 Cor. 11). There is much discussion about short and long hair, and coverings in this passage. Some interpret this as timeless commands: but Paul may also be guiding a church in how to be culturally appropriate in their own time: a great principle to apply in our own.
  4. When he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man,” (1 Tim. 2:12) he may have been laying down a universal command, of he may have been sharing his personal rule in a private letter to his closest friend and protégée. If so, there were definite cultural reasons why this made sense at the time, but…
  5. …there were also Biblical examples of women with teaching capacity, such as Phoebe (Rom. 16:1), Acquilla (Acts 18:26), and others. 
  6. When Paul said that women should be “workers at home,” he was almost certainly not thinking of cooking and cleaning and looking pretty, with all of the modern conveniences, like a 1950’s “model woman.” The proverbs 31 woman bought fields, hired employees, and handled the finances for her (very fortunate) husband.
  7. In Titus 2:5, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands, “…so that the word of God will not be maligned.” Well folks, we have the opposite situation today. People are more likely to “malign” the word of God if wives are not allowed to pursue careers because of outdated mandates: does this mean that it is also time to update how we see this verse?
  8. …when Peter told husbands to live with their wives in and understanding way, “as the weaker vessel,” (1 Pet. 3:7) he was not speaking about a lower worth (as he goes on to immediately say that they have equal worth as “co-heirs” of the gospel) but teaching husbands to be compassionate for the difficult plight of women in that day. Times were hard. 

…this is not a definitive list. However, I think this is the first time that I have pulled together these bits of information to review as a whole the question of gender roles within Christianity. 

In our very different times, when age, education, health, hygiene, kids, and the difficulty of life are not such a crushing burden on us all….is it not time to upgrade our view of gender?

…or must we continue in exactly the same patriarchal holding pattern that our ancestors developed to solve very specific problems back then?

Paul’s words are…interesting. “So that the word of God will not be maligned.”

What is the #1 reason people turn away from our faith today? As a campus pastor, one objection came up over and over.

“I can’t be a Christian because of their outdated and sexist views on women.”

🤔 Interesting…

So what would it look like if we prioritized our witness, and cultural sensitivity on this issue, in 2020?

What is a Conspiracy Theory?

Yesterday I posted a meme on my facebook making light of conspiracy theories. Quite to my surprise, this post has caught quite a lot of attention. Much of the discussion has entered on the definition of the term, “conspiracy theory.” I thought that it would be helpful to write a post on the definition of that word, before discussing the possibility that there may in fact be some conspiracy theories about which are worth discussing.

Words Have Meanings

Incredibly, I feel the need to begin this post by defending the statement that “words have meanings.” Every language has words, and these words mean something. While that meaning can shift slightly or change over time, there is a meaning behind particular words. These meanings are found in dictionaries.

The statement, “the words, ‘conspiracy theory’ are just emotionally charged words meant to shame those who have seen the light,” sounds surprisingly like postmodern linguistic relativism. According to this view, words do not have any intrinsic meaning, but exist only as a means of exerting power over another. If we walk far down this road, anything that we say at all will be hopelessly lost in a sea of changing words and perceived power struggles.

I do not agree with this belief. Words have meanings.

A second confusion to set right is the difference between “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory.”

A conspiracy is a hidden plot or secret alliance.

“Conspiracy theory” is a compound noun, meaning that the two words together form a new meaning. The definition of “conspiracy theory” is different from the definition of the two words separately.

According to Dictionary.com, a “conspiracy theory is:

1. a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot: One popular conspiracy theory accuses environmentalists of sabotage in last year’s mine collapse.

2. a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a covert group: A number of conspiracy theories have already emerged, purporting to explain last week’s disappearance of a commercial flight over international waters.

3. the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of deceptive plots that are largely unknown to the general public: The more I learn about the activities of intelligence agencies, the less far-fetched I find many geopolitical conspiracy theories.

Wikipedia helpfully provides a list of conspiracy theories.

Some of the historic conspiracy theories included the idea that secret societies of Jews ritually drank the blood of Christian children and that Jewish banking families, such as the Rockefeller’s, controlled the world. A conspiracy theory which I have written against extensively is the theory that the events of Jesus’ life were staged by an elaborate conspiracy (as described in the Da Vinci Code) Other conspiracy theories centre around the death of JFK, princess Dianna, a flat earth, and the moon landing.

To help us understand better, I would like us to think of having a discussion with someone fully convinced that the would is flat. How would you convince them otherwise?

“What about space exploration?”

“Faked. It’s part of the conspiracy.”

“What about maps and globes?”

“Faked. It’s part of the conspiracy.”

“What about science?”

“Faked. It’s part of the conspiracy.”

…and on and on. If you don’t believe me, do a google search. There are people right now that believe this. There is no way to disapprove their thinking, because everything is explained away as a part of the conspiracy.

A theory which continues to manufacture elaborate explanations for new facts is called ad hoc arguments. These very elaborate explanations also are warning signs that the theory is false.

Those who wish to defend conspiracy theories usually use a number of arguments.

Black-and-White Thinking

These objections all come back to a form of black and white thinking. Black and white thinking is often wrong because there are usually more than two options. Here is a demonstration of white black and white thinking does not work:

One. All flowers are either red or white.

Two. This flower is not red.

Three. Therefore, this flower is white.

You will notice that this argument makes sense within itself (that is, it is internally consistent) the second premise is correct. The third premise flows logically from the first to premises. The problem lies with the first premise: all flowers are not either red or white. In actual fact, there is a wide diversity of colors. The argument fails because there are more than two options.

Let’s look at some arguments Which rely on black and white thinking:

1. “Since you don’t believe in conspiracy theories, you must believe all science is true.“

This is an example of black and white thinking because it assumes that one either completely rejects everything from main stream science, or else they completely except it. In reality, almost nobody excepts absolutely everything from mainstream science. That is not how science works! The academic community is a complex community of voices which are all pushing towards the best possible explanation for various questions. It is completely reasonable to say, “according to the best science we have today, X drug seems to be the best cure to treat Y disease.“ Journalism is different than science, but it would also be accurate to say, “according to the best information we have today, X theory is the best explanation of Y reality.“

Those who trust science trust it to give the best possible information. They are not expecting perfection, and they still will have to make up their own minds, from a diversity of studies on a topic.

2. Because science is imperfect, it is unreliable

This statement is, unfortunately, promoted by many Christians especially of the 6-day creationist camp. Many of us grew up with literature from speakers such as Ken Ham and Kent Hovind who gave example after example of scientific theories which have been overturned. Their take-away was always, “see? Science is not correct! It has so many mistakes!”

However, is a religious worldview that believes 100% in a certain claim. But science is always about a degree of certainty. Something can be more or less probable. Also, what these speakers conveniently fail to mention is that the whole reason that we know previous theories are incorrect is not because of religious ideas but because they have been disproven by further scientific advancement.

3. The peer review process is corrupt, therefore no science can be relied upon.

It is true that the peer review process is not perfect. Also, there have been some recent cases of abuse of the system – either publishing articles that should not have been published, or refusing to publish articles that should have been published. As well, there is something of a crisis in some fields of academia today, as ideas such as neo Marxism, postmodern linguistic theory, radical feminism, critical race theory, and hyper political correctness threaten to undermine the peer review process.

This is a very concerning trend, which many academics are speaking out about. However, even a corrupt peer review process is better than getting our information from random websites which have no way at all of justifying their validity.

Also, again, we know of the corruption because the peer review process has itself pointed out problem articles. We know of the problem of ideology in the peer review process because people are standing against it and speaking up about it. There is no secret society pulling the strings: these debates are happening very much out in the open, where public discourse should be had.

Before moving on from this point, it is very significant that journal articles, newspaper articles, and the like all have an author’s name, as well as that of the publishing company affixed to them. What this means is that these are people who are staking their career on their words. If they are proven to be a fraud, not only their employment, but their entire contribution as an academic or as a professional may be called into question. They may also discredit their organization, which can be sued for libel if the statements are not backed up with facts. This simple fact of affixing ones name to their words makes information in journalism very high stakes, and pushes people to a certain level of professionalism in writing.

I think that this is worth keeping in mind, as the era of anonymous news is on the rise. How brave is someone, really, if they are prepared to spout ideas, but will not tell us who they are, and will not put their own identity on the line…? Even Snowden was willing to expose himself in order to get the truth out.

4. “ people who believe the narrative are sheep.“

This is a case of using inflammatory language to try to win an argument. It is also an example of black and white thinking. There are some people who absolutely refuse to except anything tied by science or by the main stream media simply because it is popular. Then, there are some people who believe everything that a cult or conspiracy-theory leader tells them. In the middle are most people, who form opinions from a variety of sources and come to their own conclusions based upon their research.

Once again, there are not just two options: conspiracy theory vs. Conformism. There is also a wide middle ground of free-thinking citizens.

6. “Yes, but there are conspiracies out there!”

Believing that there are conspiracies is different than believing in conspiracy theories. Most people are aware that while politicians try to put on a nice face, sex power and greed are all too commonly their true motivations. There are corruption and back room deals. They are very rich and influential people to hold a lot of power behind the scenes. Also, many politicians feel that they are above the law, and engage in all manner of sexually deviant and criminal activities, as well as recently shown in their Epstein investigation.

However, understanding that the world is a complex place with many human and imperfect actors is far different than believing that one clandestine, very powerful and small group of people is running the entire world.

It is rational to believe that corruption exists. It seems irrational to believe that all of the corruption is actually organized by one powerful organization.

Since conspiracy theories are very common, and most of them have been found to be untrue, I believe that it is helpful to ask, “Is it possible that any popular views today could be described as conspiracy theories?”

What is the Appeal of Conspiracy Theories?

The tendency to observe patterns when none exist is called illusory pattern perception. It is similar to the brain’s ability to find recognizable shapes in ordinary objects — for example, a face or an animal in a fallen tree root. You may also notice that when very tired (for example, driving for far too long) this ability begins to heighten: one may begin to think they are seeing shapes everywhere. This is a simple way of reminding ourselves that when we are stressed or tired, our mind is not at its best, and it can start to play tricks on us. Other psychological factors which contribute to a conspiratorial mindset are apophenia, paranoia, and clustering illusion.

How can you Tell if a Conspiracy Theory is Wrong?

One way to prove that a conspiracy theory is likely wrong is that it is disproven by a multitude of separate, independent streams of evidence.

If news sources in the UK, Australia, and from both conservative and mainstream news outlets in the US all agree that a thing happened a certain way, it is likely that this is the best explanation for that event — even if some anonymous writer on the internet says the contrary.

Another way of realizing that one is truly committed to a conspiracy theory is unfalsifiable. Normal beliefs about the world can be falsified, or proven untrue. I may believe that it is raining outside, but when I step outside and observe the sun, I modify my beliefs. However, an unfalsifiable mindset is one which meets every new bit of information with, “That’s what they want you to think!” or “this too is a deception!”

What is the Harm of Conspiracy Theories?

It depends what the conspiracy theory is about. Many people believe that the moon landing was faked: but that does not seem to impact very much. However, when conspiracy theories name people as bad actors, they can cause immeasurable damage to their image and careers. When conspiracy theories radically redefine ones image of the world, it may cause them to behave in an irrational and even dangerous way, such as charging into a pizza parkour with a gun, or parking an armoured car on the Hoover dam.

Conclusioni:

I would like to reiterate that the world is a complex and often dark place. There is almost certainly more than meets the eye in politics, in technology, and in information. We need to be discerning and cautious in our perceptions, as we seek to understand the world.

One extreme reaction might be to simply accept and believe without question everything that one particular news outlet teaches. This would clearly be unhelpful. But another extreme would be to believe that one theory about a clandestine organization or conspiracy really explains all of the discongruent and chaotic elements in the world.

I hope that the reader can take a moment to re-evaluate their own beliefs, to se whether they are reasonable, or whether they have, in fact, fallen victim to a conspiracy-theory mindset.

Some Questions For Reflection 🤔
1) Is there any way that your theory can be proven wrong? (Falsifiability)
2) If I give you new information, will you make up new evidence to explain it away? (Ad hoc)
3) When predictions are false, do you admit you are wrong, or explain that away (ad hoc again)
4) Are there simpler ways to explain things than your theory? (Occham’s razor)
5) Is your theory becoming ridiculously large? (Eg involving ALL of the major news outlets of the world, the academic community, major world leaders, etc. Etc., etc..) (Occham’s razor, again)
6) Does your theory fit in with known facts about the world? (
7) Do the people proposing this theory have the guts to put their name to it? Can they prove their credentials? Or are these anonymous internet folks?

A “Satanist” Cabal? 🤔

There is a rising conspiracy theory, known as Qanon, which teaches that a cabal of pedophilic and child-eating satanist elites are controlling the world. This seems like a good time to talk about Satanism.

Satanism is:

  1. A Christian phenomenon in that the word “Satan” is a Christian term. “Satan” is a character derived from the judeo -Christian tradition. While present in the Abrahamuc religions, it is not usually found inside of it. Non-Christians do not usually call themselves “Satanists”
  2. The exception to this is the relatively small and recent religion of Satanism. Founded in 1966, this religion draws in Christianity and other sources, with their “Satanist Bible,” which seeks to teach the opposite of Christianity. Their core motto is “do as you please” (the opposite of “love God/your neighbour”). Satanism is not a world religion and is not large.
  3. Wicca is modern-day witchcraft (the closest to what Christians would call “Satanism”). It is a revival of the Druid religion which existed in Europe before Christianity. Modern day Wiccans live by the motto, “do as you will, but harm none.” They seek to restore order and harmony with themselves and nature. It is sometimes called paganism. Wiccans often call themselves witches and warlocks and meet in covens. They do not, however, call themselves “Satanists.”
  4. In the 80’s and 90’s, many Christians best-selling authors made claims that Satanist elites were brainwashing the young through cartoons such as Care Bears and the Smurfs. Mike Warnke was exposed as a fraud for his claims of the “true nature” of Satanism. Others made the false (and confusing) claim that the New Age movement was actually Satanism.
  5. The true issue here is that after enjoying a privileged position as the only religion in the West for centuries, Christians kind of forgot that there are other religions in the world. Ever since the Salem Witch Trials (1698), (when people were executed for practicing traditional African religion, imported by African slaves) American Christians have tended to call all non-Christian religion “Satanism” or (which is the same thing to them) “witchcraft.”
  6. While it is true that the Bible can legitimately be interpreted as saying that all other beliefs are wrong, and come ultimately from Satan (1 Tim. 4:1), this is not the same thing as believing that every religion other than Christianity is “Satanism.” Many authors purposely cause confusion on this point, misleading the readers, and leading to a fear-based-knee-jerk reaction.

This very narrow-sighted view of other religions has a dark past, and I do not see it providing much light in the future.

The next time someone shares with you a link exposing “a secret Satanist agenda,” remember: the word “Satanist” really only makes sense to Christians. There are many religions in the world, with many beliefs: but they do not call themselves Satanists.

Someone who is “exposing Satanism” is trying to get a reaction out of Christians and post-Christians. It is our equivalent of the “boogey-man.” But Satan is a figure which exists only within Christianity.

While it is entirely probable that there are many dark forces, world religions, ideologies and mysterious societies running our world — I find it very highly unlikely that “Satanism” is a word which could describe any of these, and I find it more than unlikely that a “cabal of pedophilic Satanists” is secretly running the world.

How to Spot Misinformation

There has been a lot of misinformation floating around the internet. This is nothing new: but now, false information may be influencing crucial decisions, and even affecting political policies. The death toll of certain countries and regions seems significantly affected by the early response of its citizens. The misinformation on the web is getting so bad, and the consequences so dangerous, many governments are now seriously considering putting laws in place to limit our freedom of speech.

I do not approve of this solution. But neither do I approve of the problem. Let’s talk about that…

How can you tell, at a glance, if an article is probably rubbish? Listen here, subscribe to my podcast, or keep reading below.

Appeal to Authority

1. If the author’s credentials are in the title, it is probably relying on an appeal to authority. An appeal to authority is a logical fallacy which takes this form: “So-and-so is an expert. So-and-so says x. Therefore, x must be true.” Legitimate sources base their information on studies, published papers, and the conclusions of medical experts, working in the field. No legitimate article will base their conclusions on the credentials of the person making the claim.

Ad Hominem Attack

2. If the author claims to “slam,” “shame,” “expose,” “humiliate,” or “blast” someone then the article is likely making an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem attack takes the form, “So and so says x, but so-and-so is an idiot for y reason. Therefore, x cannot be true.” This is a logical fallacy, because it is illogical to spend you time attacking the person, rather than the idea. It is also suspect because this is not how real academics talk. Real academics, scientists, and doctors talk about ideas. Their conversations may become heated, naturally, but they will always be pursuing truth. Their goal is never to shame someone. Rather, a person who is able to present a bad idea well, and whose ideas are overturned, has actually helped science progress. I go into more detail on this below.

Character Assassination

  1. If the author is attacking the internal motivations of various public figures, this is another form of ad hominem attack. It is doubly faulty because a) if something is true, it is true no matter the character of the person who says it, and b) nobody can truly know the motivations of a person anyways, except for that person (and even they may not know their own motivations). Judging people based on their supposed motivations is a complete waste of time.

Conspiracy Theory

4. If the author claims that big pharma, the WHO, or several governments are colluding together, then the article is making a conspiracy theory claim. A conspiracy theory takes the form, “The whole world is out to misinform you, I have informed you of this, therefore, everything that I say you should trust without question.” It is invalid on several counts. First, the evidence of a conspiracy is usually very lacking. This is a problem, because such a big claim needs some substantial proof: but usually, very little is given. Secondly, it does not follow that just because one is able to spot what they think is a conspiracy, that the next thing that they say will automatically be correct. Obviously, someone can be right about one thing, but wrong about another. But con-artists have long been duping people by pointing out a flaw in others, so that people will trust them implicitly. Many cults have started in just this way.
 I find it very interesting that Christians (rightly) reject “conspiracy theories” regarding the resurrection of Jesus, the authority of Scriptures, etc. as represented in the Da Vinci Code…yet when it comes to the present crisis, they often fall for conspiracy theories that follow the exact same pattern.

Anecdotal Information

5. If the author bases their ideas on the experiences of a few people (as opposed to a scientific study, or a professionally conducted survey) then they are basing their information on anecdotal experience. It has taken several millennia to develop a scientific method which is capable of organizing the complexities of human life down to an objective set of data points. Some of the very important questions to ask about any data shared in such an article are: a) was there a control group? (aka, were there people who received the treatment, and people who did not, so that you can see whether they would have gotten better anyway?) b) was this a “double-blind” test? (meaning, did the people receiving the treatment know they were receiving it? If so, the placebo effect may have temporarily made them feel better) c) how big was the sample-base? (Did you guess how many red jelly beans were in the jar based on the five that you pulled out? Or based on spreading half of the jelly beans on the floor, then putting them back in? Just how big is your sample base? A treatment that works on one person, may kill another. This is why widespread testing is necessary)

Secret Knowledge

  1. If the author claims that a secret agenda is at work to cover up information, they are probably out of touch with how information is actually processed and shared in our Western world. As an academic, I can tell you that it is really really hard to become recognized in a scientific or academic field. First, one must study — often for a decade or so post secondary school, passing very difficult exams and competing with other bright students for scholarships and bursaries. Then get employed in a specialized field, in the highly coveted position of research professor, doctor, professor, or the like. Then, one must find an original idea (a near impossible task). Then, one must study that idea long enough to speak cogently on it. Then, they are at the place of publishing their findings in a research journal. The idea (note: not the person, the idea) will be ruthlessly attacked, picked apart, and dissected by dozens or thousands of others in the field until the idea either falls, or else it stands and becomes part of recognized truth in that field. This is how scientific knowledge grows. What we have produced together is a truly remarkable way of thinking together. It is not perfect. The process works slowly. Some good ideas fall to the wayside because there is insufficient evidence, nobody to champion them, or because there is no way to prove it. But to say that the church or the government or big pharma or Bill Gates or the WHO has some secret agenda to keep knowledge down? Please. There is no force on earth stronger than a graduate student, hungry for a new idea.

This list is not exhaustive,

Nor am I claiming to have exhaustive information about the websites behind the articles I screen-grabbed as examples. I am not claiming to be an expert on this virus.

What I am fairly component on, however is logic and human thought. These are six very good ways that any professor would use to separate the truth from error in any article, research paper, or book.

I hope that highlighting these forms of bad arguments will help you as you continue to search for truth, in this difficult and complex time.

Forgiveness of Unrepentant Abuse is Enabling

Forgiveness of unrepentant abuse is enabling.

Reconciliation with an unrepentant abuser is placing ones self in harms way.

Forcing someone to forgive an unrepentant abuser is spiritual and emotional abuse.

Forcing someone to overlook abuse and go back to a situation of danger makes one complicit in the abuse. It may also be punishable by law.

It is time that we begin talking about domestic abuse in the church. It is time that there was more comprehensive training on the issues of abuse, narcissistic abuse, cluster-b personality disorders, sexual abuse, pedophilia, and domestic abuse within the church.

It is time that we started caring about about protecting victims of abuse more than we care about protecting the reputations of the abusers, and their organizations.

Search us Oh God…

Search us, O God, and know our church culture; Try us and know our anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in us,

And lead us in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

…we want health more than we need to be right

…we want justice more than we need power

…we want to truly help people: forgive our harm!

…we believe this is worth saving

…search us, oh a God!

…lead us in the way everlasting!

…Amen ❤️ 🙏 ✌️

Who are the Heretics?

What if…

…it’s really the conservative Christians who will only tolerate teachers who “tickle their ears”? 

What if only teachers willing to ignore the latest in research, shut down free though, and tell them exactly what they want to hear will have a job?

What if anyone who will not tell the story exactly how they remember it will be fired, blacklisted, and called a heretic?

What if “conservative congregations” are really scared boys and girls, afraid of change, and unwilling to hear and facts or evidence that might make the uncomfortable or force them to rethink cherished beliefs?

Paul, on “Judging Outsiders”

“What have I to do with judging outsiders?
…Remove the wicked man from among yourselves!”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I think that the above passage (full passage below) gets to the heart of what is wrong with evangelicalism today. We are focused:
1) On judging the behaviour of outsiders (especially LGBTQ and abortion) according to our standards, which they do not share
2) We have become so preoccupied with #1, we are willing to turn a blind eye to wickedness in our own camp (Trump, Jerry Falwell Jr., innumerable sexual and domestic abuse scandals), which everyone sees and is perplexed about.
…we claim to possess the moral high ground. But I don’t think that we do any more. There is only so much we can hide behind “media spin.” Are we secure enough in our faith and in our own selves to let people live their own lives? We are not. Are we committed enough to holiness to pay a costly price by holding our leaders to a high standard? We are not. We have lost the moral high ground, and the smoke from this culture war has so blinded our eyes that we are unable to see the true battles for justice and mercy happening right in front of us.

It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is suffering from our lack of focus, and we are losing our world, our witness, and the coming generation in our mad desire to have our way through coercion, rather than through influence.

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Jerry Falwell Jr (Initial Thoughts)

More is coming out about Jerry Falwell Jr. as we speak. It is so recent I am waiting until it settles down to get the facts. Here is a synopsis (and my commentary) on the “old news” of Mr Falwell. 

1) Jerry Falwell Sr. is a very prominent name in evangelicalism, and in politics 

2) His son Jerry Falwell Jr. now runs the school which his father founded 

3) Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the key leaders that swayed the Evangelical “voting block” (yes, they vote as a block) to vote for Trump

4) The school is the largest Christian school in America, perhaps the world. I seriously considered attending there, as their online classes are apparently cheap and very well taught. 

5) The school has extremely tough moral codes, including monetary fines for drinking, and “being caught in a state of undress” with a member of the opposite sex. 

6) Mr. Falwell has a very long history of both scandals, which the school has consistently ignored

6) He was finally fired after posting a photo (below) on social media of himself with his arm around a woman who was not his wife with a glass of black liquid in his hand, on his private Yacht (yes, he has a private yacht)

7) More scandals are coming out as we speak. Buckle your seatbelts. It sounds like another 1 Corinthians 5 situation. 

…commentary…

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know this guy. But I think that what this highlights is:

1) Evangelical institutions (seminaries, churches, radio stations, publishing houses, music & media, denominational headquarters) have a HUGE sway over the direction of evangelicalism

2) The control of these institutions is held by relatively few people

3) These people are not perfect, and sometimes they are in their position for no other reason than that they are rich, or that they inherited it

4) These people are often courted by politicians, who convince them to convert their spiritual authority into political power 

5) It is hard to hold these people accountable, because any critique of them would seem to weaken “the cause” (be that the pro-life cause, or promoting Christianity). 

6) The average church-going Evangelical is not aware of the “machine” of evangelicalism, nor of the people running it. Yet they are influenced by it. If Mr. Falwell has been convinced otherwise, perhaps all evangelicals would have voted for another candidate. 

What this story highlights is:

  1. Evangelicalism is a grassroots movement of several million Christians who express their faith a certain way
  2. Evangelicalism is also a financial, political, and religious “machine”

There is a complex relationship between the two. Both need each other. Neither is wrong in and of itself. But, both can be sinful and need to be called to account. 

It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. We are learning a lot about the institutions that have formed us, and some of those who lead them. 

I Don’t “Get” Pro-Life Politics…

Me: so I don’t really get the pro life argument. Could you explain it to me?

Every Evangelical Ever: unborn babies are humans, and their lives matter. 

Me: OK, yeah. I definitely get that. So what is your plan, exactly?

EEE: make abortions illegal. 

Me: OK, illegal for whom? The doctors or the women?

EEE: both. Or either. We are divided. 

Me: So if a woman wants to end her pregnancy, she should go to prison. And if a doctor wants to help her, he should go to. That’s it?

EEE: Something like that. But ideally, abortions would not be available at all. 

Me: Of course, the argument is that there will be unsafe and illegal abortions. 

EEE: yes, but far fewer. 

Me: yes, but very much more dangerous. 

Me: Does it bother you that most Americans and Canadians aren’t on board with this plan?

EEE: That is OK. We will just elect a very powerful politician to push our agenda. 

Me: So you want to make abortions illegal for people who want them, by electing a politician who won’t listen to the majority of his citizens?

EEE: Exactly. 

Me: But isn’t this anti-democratic?

EEE: No, because America was founded as a Christian nation. 

Me: I’m a Canadian. And also, weren’t the Natives here first?

EEE: Tish tosh. Western Culture is what really is responsible for America.

Me: But, the roots of Western Philosophy are actually more in Ancient Greece…but anyways…how will you impose your will on the rest of the population?

EEE: We are a strong voting block. As long as we all vote the same way, we can change policy on this issue. 

Me: OK, so I’m just wondering about some of the policies maybe we Christians should be attentive to…

EEE: like what?

Me: Like global warming. 

EEE: Oh, well that’s a myth. And if it’s true, there’s no way that humans are causing it. And if they are, there’d be no way to stop it. 

Me: We could try to work together to solve our problems. It has worked on other issues. 

EEE: You mean work with the UN?! Don’t you know they are the Antichrist? And don’t you know they are…

Me: pro-choice. Right. 

Me: So what about commercialism?

EEE: What do you mean?

Me: I mean what about the fact that our products were provided in unfair working conditions on the other side of the planet, by people not making a working wage? Shouldn’t we hold our politicians accountable? 

EEE: We can’t. It would dilute our voting power. 

Me: What about the crisis at the border? Do we care that kids are being permanently separated from their parents? That seems like something Jesus would care about…

EEE: We can’t talk about that, really. It would dilute our voting power. 

Me: Does it bother you that we now know that George bush secretly broke the Geneva Contract, by creating Guantanamo bay, and torturing prisoners of war, without a trial?

EEE: We can’t talk about that, really. It would dilute our voting power. 

Me: What about the fact that Bush brought in the patriot act, reneging basic human rights for anyone considered a “terrorist”?

EEE: Yes, but he was Gods man in the White House. 

Me: Is it a problem to you that they have now amended the Patriot Act to give the government the ability to track your online activities without a warrant?

EEE: Yes, but that was Trump. He’s pro-choice, so we can’t criticize him on anything. 

Me: Really? You can’t criticize him on anything?

EEE: No. that would dilute our voting base. 

Me: So you can’t critique him on his sexual immorality?

EEE: No. 

Me: His arrogance? 

EEE: Nope. 

Me: His blatant and chronicled racism?

EEE: That’s all media spin. 

Me: OK. I could go on. But it seems like this is redundant. Let me see if I can summarize. I definitely understand that an unborn child is a human, precious, made in the image of God. I think that knowing this is an excellent argument for yourself to decide not to have an abortion. However, I’m a little bit lost on why we are putting so much energy into controlling others. As Paul said, “those outside the church, God judges.” (1 Cor. 5:13)

It seems as though you are putting everything into a desperate attempt to elect somebody — anybody — into office who will go against the will of the majority, to outlaw abortions, that you are willing to give up anything to do it. Even your own freedoms, causes dear to Christ, and your own Christian values. 

In short, the pro-choice agenda seems to have become, for you, an idol before which you will sacrifice anything, even your own soul, to have and worship this god. 

For politicians, it seems a convenient chain. Politicians can yank that chain and you will all vote, without any thought at all to his or her flaws or other policies. And what has it accomplished? Even Trump could not abolish abortions. So what is the point of all of this…?

***

This is why — while I would never choose an abortion for myself — I am having a hard time right now being grouped in with the “pro-life evangelicals.”

I get their desire to protect life. But their desire for power scares me. 

Emotional Repression and Panic Attacks

“Our gut feelings signal what is safe, life sustaining, or threatening, even if we cannot quite explain why we feel a particular way. Our sensory interiority continuously sends us subtle messages about the needs of our organism. Gut feelings also help us to evaluate what is going on around us. They warn us that the guy who is approaching feels creepy, but they also convey that a room with western exposure surrounded by daylilies makes us feel serene. If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations—if you can trust them to give you accurate information—you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self. However, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves. The more people try to push away and ignore internal warning signs, the more likely they are to take over and leave them bewildered, confused, and ashamed. People who cannot comfortably notice what is going on inside become vulnerable to respond to any sensory shift either by shutting down or by going into a panic—they develop a fear of fear itself.

We now know that panic symptoms are maintained largely because the individual develops a fear of the bodily sensations associated with panic attacks.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk MD


The attack may be triggered by something he or she knows is irrational, but fear of the sensations keeps them escalating into a full-body emergency. “Scared stiff” and “frozen in fear” (collapsing and going numb) describe precisely what terror and trauma feel like. They are its visceral foundation. The experience of fear derives from primitive responses to threat where escape is thwarted in some way. People’s lives will be held hostage to fear until that visceral experience changes. The price for ignoring or distorting the body’s messages is being unable to detect what is truly dangerous or harmful for you and, just as bad, what is safe or nourishing. *Self-regulation depends on having a friendly relationship with your body.* Without it you have to rely on external regulation—from medication, drugs like alcohol, constant reassurance, or compulsive compliance with the wishes of others. Many of my patients respond to stress not by noticing and naming it but by developing migraine headaches or asthma attacks.”

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk MD

Perspective…

I’ve decided to change my perspective. 
Crazy stuff isn’t just happening to me this year. 
I am surviving crazy stuff. I’m making brave and decisive decisions in the midst of chaos. I’ll tell my grandkids about the things I lived through this year. Pandemic, economic crash, forest fire…
It’s kind of an adventure.
Still insane, and I’m giving myself full permission to feel all of the feelings right now. 
But my mindset is shifting. I am a survivor.

[A forest fire nearly burned down our town last week. We were evacuated and were refugees for seven days. Some very kind people and camps opened up their doors to us. The fire was stopped just two kilometres from town, enabling us to return home last night.]

Christianity and Rights (Phil. 2)

Just a gentle reminder about what our religion teaches about personal rights. ✌️

In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too. In your life together, think the way Christ Jesus thought. He was like God in every way, but he did not think that his being equal with God was something to use for his own benefit. Instead, he gave up everything, even his place with God. He accepted the role of a servant, appearing in human form. During his life as a man, he humbled himself by being fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8

Mirroring in Parenting

Being excited when our kids are excited, sad when they are sad, taking fear seriously, and reacting appropriately to anger is called “mirroring.” It is literally one of the most important things that we can do for our kids, because it is how a young brain learns empathy. Children whose parents are distant, not engaged, or out of touch with their own feelings to not have their emotions “mirrored” back to them. A crucial stage in their development is missed. They may grow up out of touch with their own emotions, and incapable of understanding the emotions of others. This is how narcissists and sociopaths are made. But parents of emotionally healthy, engaged parents have a huge advantage in life, and the gift of being in touch with their own emotions, and those of others.
“Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Rom. 12:15) It is important!

Trigger Warnings are Real

I used to laugh at “trigger warnings.” I think I may have even called people “snowflakes” a time or two and wondered why they couldn’t be tough like me?
…then I experienced real trauma, PTSD, and had real experience with triggers. It is stupid. It makes zero sense. It can be the smallest thing. Not even a word, but just a tone or infection, a smell or a thought, or a post on Facebook. Somewhere in my brain, alarm bells go off and it’s like I’m living my worst moments all over again.
Big, strong, fit, “have it all together” me starts feeling body pangs, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, irrational anger, and sleeping for hours.
Triggers are real. And people who experience them are not weak. They have been traumatized. Trauma is different for each person, and it often makes no sense.
Be kind to your friends. Use and respect trigger warnings. It doesn’t have to make sense to you: just be kind. Rather than feeling superior (as I used to) feel grateful that you don’t have to put up with the hell of ptsd.
Just…be kind. ✌️ ❤️ ✌️

Proof-Texting Ethics 😬

…just to be clear, there is a Bible verse for…

1. Burning witches

2. Castrating theological opponents

3. Cutting off women’s hands

4. Killing the babies of your enemies

5. Killing your own children if they disrespect you

6. Eating kosher

7. Kissing everyone in church 🤨

8. Being baptized for the dead (🤯🤷‍♂️)

9. Women being saved by having babies

…just pointing to one verse and saying, “see! See?! The bible says!” Is not enough. In fact, that is scary!

The bible is a coming together of the human and the divine. Do you understand the people of the time? Do you know what problems they were trying to address with these laws? Do you know the bigger story? Can you glean out some principles? Can you tie everything back to Jesus’ principle, that all commands should be hinged on love of God and neighbour? Do you know your OWN story? Do you know the history that brought you to the beliefs that you have? Do you know the culture in which you live? Do you know the real-life heartache and problems around you? Can you remember that true godliness is about purity of life, and care of the vulnerable and the outcasts? Can you balance biblical commands with mercy, as Jesus taught?

Interpreting the Bible is hard. Work. Which is why it is usually best done in community. It’s a long book with a lot of seeming contradictions. I think this is on purpose. We see ourselves in the story, but the Bible resists a rigid “black-and-white” interpretation. There’s always that one verse that doesn’t quite fit.

It’s complicated. It’s hard work. It’s heart work. We won’t always get it right. We may feel like we are living in the grey. It can be quite unsatisfying.

…and yet, God can guide us, and we can find ourselves in the story. The Bible can become a living book, to give us timeless help in our changing lives.

…but someone just studying alone, unreflective, cut off from culture, not reading any commentaries, and basing all their ethics on proof-texts? “The Bible says!” “I’ve got a verse for that!” “Look right here, it says…” 😬 Yeah…there’s a LOT of verses in there…😬😬

Proof-text ethics is just scary…

Be Awesome! 😎

Birds don’t sing because they are showing off. They are not proud, vain, self-centred, competitive, egocentric, or immature. They just want to sing. Because God made them that way, and it makes them feel alive!

What is it that God made you to do? What makes you feel alive? Have been afraid to do it, because someone might think that you are not being humble enough? Haters gonna hate. Ignore them. You be you. Because you are awesome, just like God made you.

Religious Shame

I think one if the very emotionally healthy aspects of Christianity is the emphasis that in Christ, ALL our sins will be not only forgiven, but really washed away. No shame!

…the problem is, this emphasis on grace has, in my opinion, encouraged some to condone, even encourage feelings of guilt and shame in all their forms: no matter how unfounded, no matter how damaging. It is as though we want more shame, so that grace may abound!

…but shame is bad, folks. Really, really bad. It causes you to hate the body that God gave you. It causes you to abstain from really beautiful things that God meant for you to enjoy. It causes you to hide parts of yourself from friends who care. It causes you to cut off parts of your life that God intended to sparkle, but that somebody shamed you for.

If you’ve done something legitimately wrong, walk to the cross and get that shame off of you. But don’t let people convince you that to be a good Christian is to walk under a cloud of self-deprecation.

Be proud of what you are, and live it out loud, because God made you to be awesome! 😎

14 Reasons I Do Not Discuss Motives

I would like to take a moment to explain why I do not think it is worthwhile to discuss motives — whether my own, or those of someone else.

1. Nobody can see motives, therefore there is no way to prove what someone’s motives really are. It is just a guessing (or accusing) game. 🤔

2. Motives are inside of someone. They are their own personal space. It’s like guessing whether someone is wearing boxers or briefs. ✋ Mind your own business!

3. Motives do not affect the truth or value of what a person says. Whether motivated by anger, love, or another emotion: if they are speaking truth, they are speaking truth 🤷‍♂️

4. Discussing motives contributes nothing substantive to a discussion.

5. Motives are very hard to discern, even for ones self. One often has several competing motivations, and may not completely know why they are doing what they do. This is a normal part of being human.

6. Trying to do things only from good motives can be paralyzingly. This is what one friend called “paralysis through self analysis.”

7. There is a time and a place to question someone’s motives: in the middle of an important debate is not one of those times. It may come across as an attempt to “paralyze” your opponent.

8. It is rude to try to tell someone that you think that you know their motives better than they know themselves. It is also somewhat silly — how could you possibly win this argument? They are the worlds leading expert on themselves! 😆

9. If someone is questioning motives of someone while disagreeing, this may be an ad hominem attack: a way to destroy the person by attacking their character, rather than discussing their ideas.

10. Questioning the motives of others conveniently distracts from the fact that you, too, are human. You too have all sorts of motives — some good, some bad. Who are you to invalidate the ideas of someone else, based on their supposed motivations? Are your motives always only pure…? 😇

11. Questioning motives can be a way of controlling others, sowing seeds of self-doubt, and shutting down their ability to function without you. Not cool.

12. Questioning motives may be a way of convincing yourself that all or many of your opponents are “stupid,” or “evil,” or “political clones” with absolutely nothing to contribute. This may prevents one from engaging in substantive dialogue, and leave one in an echo chamber of their own beliefs, with the smug conviction that they alone on planet earth are right.

13. Assuming that others have bad motives is at the heart of almost every fight or disagreement. Why not assume that someone who disagrees with you actually has really good motivations? Or, if you can’t go that far, why not just remove motivations from the discussion and focus on their ideas and actions, which are things that everybody can see?

14. Discussions about ideas, facts, and actions have the potential of really moving people and societies forward, overcoming difficulties, and moving closer together. But I have seen no good come out of discussions of people’s supposed motivations. It can sound like a witch hunt has begun, and a good conversation has turned bad. Count me out!

These are some of the reasons that I do not ever find it helpful to discuss motives.

I usually simply do not respond when someone asks me about my motives. I think the question is rude at best, and an attempt to destroy or silence me at the worst. I have found that the best response is polite silence.

When people question the motives of others I usually point out that this is not relevant to the discussion.

I created this blog post so that I can direct people here when they start critiquing peoples motives.

Let’s remember to discuss ideas, not people, and to avoid all forms of ad hominem attacks.

Have a great day, everyone! 😊

Fences Around the Law

Because the Pharisees believed that a person could go to Hell for breaking any of the 613 commandments in the Old Testament, they (along with the lawyers, teachers, and scribes) made more rules, which some called a “fence” around the law. The logic being: if you can fall into Hell for gathering sticks on a Sabbath, then let’s make a rule about not even walking more than x number of steps on a sabbath. Just in case.

Jesus comes along and just doesn’t give a hoot about their traditions. He walks through them like a bulldozer through barbed wire.

Furthermore, he says:

1) You have totally missed the spirit of the commands (which were supposed to be about love)

2) You teach as precepts of God the commandments of men (Mark 7:6)

3) You tie up heavy burdens on people

4) You very often use tradition to even disregard commandments entirely

5) You measure your spirituality by your ability to follow a lot of external, showy rules.

They seemed to think that the more rules the better: but Jesus seemed to think the opposite.

….so question…

What are some of the “fences around the law” that you were raised with? Let’s make a list! I’ll start:

…the Bible says “Don’t get drunk,” so tradition says, “don’t ever touch alcohol.”

…the bible says “don’t cross-dress,” so tradition says, “women must wear dresses” (even when they are outdated and fairly impractical at times, especially for sports!)

…tradition says rock music is bad. But nobody can seem to find the verse for it.

…there is one fairly confusing verse about men having short hair (despite many long-haired dudes in the Old Testament) and so good Christian men don’t have hair past their ears.

…now your turn…

…what “fences” did you see around the law, growing up? What did it feel like to have so many rules?

Review: Mary L. Trump’s, “Too Much, Never Enough”

This was a fascinating, and extremely well written book! Studying narcissistic dynamics can at times feel academic, confusing, and far removed. Writing as a psychologist, with a doctorate in psychology, author Mary L. Trump, PhD, (niece of Donald Trump) lays three generations of her family’s dysfunctional history bare. It is a fascinating case study in the effects of emotionally unavailable and sociopathic parents on their children, the selection (and later rejection) of the “golden child,” and dynamics like competition and conditional acceptance. Readers also get a front-row seat to sad and troubling instances of emotional, verbal, and financial abuse, and their devastating consequences on adult children. 

I am sure that this book will be spun as a “political book.” And that is fair, because the authors stated motivation in writing this book is exposing the truth that lurks behind the Trump image. I cannot comment on the historical or political relevance or accuracy of the book. 

But as a psychological case study, and as a memoir, I thought this book was one of the finest books that I have read this year. Five stars. I highly recommend it!

Why I no Longer Believe in the “Permanence View” Of Marriage

The “Permanence View” of marriage is the view that a marriage is always for life for Christians. Some believe that even divorce is a sin: all believe that remarriage is a sin. This belief is based largely on Jesus’ words:

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31-32

The Permanence View is common among Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians. Some of the most outspoken proponents of it are John Piper, Gordon J. Wenham, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I once firmly held this view. Here is a summary of my previous position: below, is my current position.

1. The most important thing about marriage is that it reflects Gods glory (John Piper)

2. God does not break His covenant with us: we should never break our covenant to our spouse

3. Jesus said, “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mat. 9:6, Mark 10:9)

4. Jesus said if anyone marries a divorced person, they are committing adultery (Mat. 5:32, Luke 16:18)

5. Paul said that if a divorced woman marries another man while her husband is still living, she is an adulteress (Rom. 7:1-3)

6. Paul said that a woman should not divorce her husband: if she does, she should remain unmarried or go back to him (1 Cor. 7:11)

7. In a fairly complicated (but convincing) argument, Heth and Wenham make a lengthy argument based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

a) the reason why a divorced couple could not remarry in the Old Testament is that marriage bound them together like family.

b) Therefore, remarriage would be like incest.

c) This also means that divorce does not break the marriage bond (they are still “like family,” this is why they cannot be remarried…do you understand the logic?)

d) …thus a divorced person is still married. This is why their second marriage counts as adultery

8. Jesus & Paul said that anyone who has sex, even with a prostitute “becomes one flesh” with that person. (Mark 10:8, 1 Cor. 6:16) Therefore, having sex with a second partner is being “one flesh” with three or more people, or committing adultery

9. It is OK that the “permanence view” of marriage consigns many spouses (especially women) to terrible, even abusive marriages, because life is supposed to be suffering. It is good character development. (Nancy Leigh Demoss)

10. It is also OK that this will result in a lot of singles. As John Piper once mentioned, “Such singles are honestly a great blessing to our church.”

…here is why I no longer hold to this view:

A Biblical Basis for Divorce and Remarriage:

1. According to Jesus, “man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man.” (Mark 2:27) This means that rules were meant to guide and aid human behaviour, not provide inflexible and painful boxes to limit expression and the fluidity of real life

But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

Matthew 12:7

2. He further said that God desires “mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mat. 12:7). The permanence view seems unmerciful, demands a very high sacrifice, and seems to condemn the innocent

3. Jesus, James, and Paul say that the Christian life should be about protecting the most vulnerable (Mark 12:40, 1 Tim. 5:16, Jam. 1:27): but the permanence doctrine seems to protect abusers, and force victims to go back to bad marriages. It provides no protection for abused spouses. Most churches have no singles ministries, and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of a “single mothers pastor” in a church. Divorced and separated people often have little support in the church.

4. Jeff Crippen argues that there are not many types of covenants in the bible, but only two: bilateral and unilateral covenants. Unilateral covenants are covenants where only one party fulfills all of the obligations of the covenant (eg. God to Christians) whereas in bilateral covenants, both parties have obligations.

5. Marriage is a bilateral covenant.

a) If a spouse commits adultery, they are breaking the covenant. If they abandon the other, they are breaking the covenant. If they abuse (the opposite of “love, cherish, have hold, in sickness and in health… “) then they are breaking the covenant.

b) Once the covenant is broken it is…broken. The party that broke it is responsible for the dissolution

c) It is not reasonable to expect one party to continue being bound to the covenant that the other has broken, because marriage is a bilateral covenant. This would be abusive and unreasonable.

d) Once one or both parties have broken it, the covenant is no longer in effect.

e) If one party choses to get a divorce, when the marriage is already “over,” that person is not necessarily guilty of breaking the covenant. Physically leaving one’s house is not the act of “breaking the covenant,” when said covenant has already been broken.

f) The words, “she should not leave” (1 Cor. 7:10) are not meant to prevent a spouse whose marriage covenant has already been broken from physically and legally leaving their marriage.

13 

Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

Malachi 2:13-16, NLT

6. It is clear that marriage is meant to be a lifelong union. The most common form of abuse is for a spouse to seek a divorce out of boredom or due to a desire for another person. This is the practice that was confronted in Malachi and in Matthew: religious men seeking a divorce to legally commit adultery by switching to another woman. When Jesus said, “What man has joined together, let man not put asunder,” he was saying that the marriage covenant should not be broken. It is cruel and ungodly to end the marriage for any reason, except if the covenant has already been broken, as in the case of adultery.

Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

Matthew 19:3, NASB

7. Paul also adresses this in 1 Corinthians 7, stating that a mixed marriage is not grounds for divorce: unless the unbelieving spouse breaks the covenant, the believer should stay. If she has left, she should return, lest the covenant be broken.

But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commitadultery.

Matthew 5:32, NASB

8. The person who broke the covenant bears the guilt of “adultery,” according to Jesus. (Mat. 5:32)

Now, dear brothers and sisters—you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living?For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.

Romans 7:1-3, NASB

9. Paul is using marriage as an illustration in Romans 7:1-3. He is using shorthand, and speaking in generalities: we understand what he means. Usually, marriage is until death. He is using marriage here to illustrate a theological point about covenants being broken in death.

a) This verse is not actually about the remarriage question, which is handled elsewhere. It is unreasonable to expect that every time Paul mentions an issue he will mention all of the exceptions and caveats. This verse needs to be interpreted according to the verses dealing more specifically with the topic. This verse should not be read as a once-for-all statement, which overrules the other passages

b) Taking this verse out of context would seem to say that any remarriage is a sin. This unreasonable, because actually Jesus has stated elsewhere that remarriage is clearly permitted in the case if adultery

10. The “incest argument” of Heth and Wenham (above) is…

a) A very recent argument with virtually no historical support. It has never enjoyed widespread support. Even John Piper says that not all of his elders at his own church agree with his position on this point. Furthermore…

b) The logic of the argument would seem to forbid a divorced couple from getting remarried (that is literally what the verse in question forbids). But this is exactly what such teachers are trying to mandate! They are actually saying the exact opposite of their own proof-text!

c) The “one flesh” argument would seem to say that anyone who is not a virgin when they marry is committing adultery. This would include rape victims. This seems unreasonable.

d) (Or) if previous sexual experiences are not a hindrance to marriage, but a previous marriage is a hindrance, then they are being inconsistent. The argument is supposed to be that sex creates a bond that divorce cannot sever. But in this case, previous sexual encounters are not the problem, but a previous marriage covenant is the problem. Which is it? Is it the marriage covenant, or physical sex which is permanently binding? They seem inconsistent on this point.

11. Requiring a second marriage to dissolve (as some do) would cause both parties to break their new vows. Calling these vows illegitimate is unfounded, because even unreasonable vows in the Bible are binding

12. Requiring a person to return to their divorced spouse or remain single may cause an abused person to return to, or never to leave, a situation of abuse. This is a terrible reality, which I don’t think is given nearly enough weight in these discussions

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:27, NASB

13. God maintains over and over that He has a heart for the oppressed and outcasts. The permanence view of marriage literally creates widows and orphans.

14. The Bible states over and over that humans are sexual beings, and that we are not meant to be alone

a) It was not good for the first human to be alone (Gen. 2:18)

b) Jesus said celibacy was not recommended, and should be only for those who had a biological necessity, or those who chose it (Mat. 19:12)

c) Paul recommended celibacy, in view of the terrible persecution the church was the experiencing: however, he recommended that those with strong sexual desires should disregard this advice and pursue marriage

The younger widows should not be on the list [to receive church support], because their physical desires will overpower their devotion to Christ and they will want to remarry. Then they would be guilty of breaking their previous pledge. [Apparently, receiving church support included a pledge to celibacy] And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t. So I advise these younger widows to marry again, have children, and take care of their own homes. Then the enemy will not be able to say anything against them. For I am afraid that some of them have already gone astray and now follow Satan.

1 Timothy 5:11-15, NLT

d) He encourages young widows to seek marriage, to prevent their becoming “busybodies” about the church, and also being lead into temptations (1 Tim. 5:11-15).

e) Requiring that a normal, sexually-active person live the whole rest of their lives without love or sexual fulfillment seems contrary to the design of God. It seems to be “tying up heavy burdens,” on people, without “lifting a finger to help.” (Mat. 23:4)

15. The Permanence View seems to place an incredible amount of power in the hands of abusers. Imagine. An abusive person can deceptively marry an innocent victim. They may abuse them physically, sexually, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and in other ways. But this doctrine makes the victim feel trapped. Do they really want to live their whole lives alone? If the abuser decides to leave, they can break the covenant, and have married or unmarried sex with whomever they want, and move on with their lives. Yet this doctrine ties a victim forever to their abuser. The victim is told that their only hope ever of sexual and romantic intimacy is with their abuser. Does this sound like God’s heart for the “widows and orphans” to you?

16. The Christian religion is centred on love (Mat. 22:37-38), and love involves consent.

a) Non-consensual intimate relationships are subjugation, not love

I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce.

Jeremiah 3:7-8, NASB

b) God allows Israel to enter into a bilateral covenant with Him. When they are unfaithful, He is patient but He finally divorced the northern state of Israel, as well as the Southern state of Judah. God takes Judah back, and makes a new spiritual covenant only with the faithful Israelites. God invites gentiles into this new covenant.

c) The fact that God divorced Israel proves that divorce itself cannot be a sin: because God is incapable of sin. (Jam. 1:13)

d) God allows people to leave this relationship. As CS Lewis famously explains: “Hell is locked from the inside,” and, “There are only two types of poeple, those who say to God, ‘thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘thy will be done.'” That is to say, God is willing to allow people to leave Him, and exit their relationship with Him.

e) But the permanence view seems to lock people into a relationship that they no longer chose, even if the covenant has already been broken by the other party

Does Rape Spiritually Taint the Victim?

According to Jesus, rape, molestation and sexual crimes of any sort do not defile a victim. Rather, it defiles the abuser.

“Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked. “Don’t you see? Nothing that *enters* a person from the outside can make them ‘unclean.’ He went on to say, “What *comes out of* a person is what makes them ‘unclean.’ Evil thoughts come from the inside, from a person’s heart. So do sexual sins, stealing and murder.

“Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked. “Don’t you see? Nothing that *enters* a person from the outside can make them ‘unclean.’ He went on to say, “What *comes out of* a person is what makes them ‘unclean.’ Evil thoughts come from the inside, from a person’s heart. So do sexual sins, stealing and murder.

Mark 7:18,20-21

Read the verse again. ❤️

*** IT. WAS. NOT. YOU. ***

You are not unclean. It was not you.

Worship Not Thy Abuser

To worship means to fear, venerate, prioritize, protect the reputation of, sacrifice for, adore, and to lay one’s life down for.

It is what abusers demand of their victims.

But victims cannot in good conscience worship any person in this way: because it is written, “you shall have no gods before me.” This is why children, wives, employees, and churchgoers are never told to obey unquestioningly, but to obey “in the Lord.” When someone appointed to Christ-like leadership begins to act like a false god, demanding absolute loyalty and submission, then there will be conflict. And there can only be one god in a person’s life.

At times, the most godly thing that one can do is to rebel against ungodly authority.

End Times Conspiracy Theories… 🙄

I recently took a Christian seminary class on new religious movements. Jehovahs Witnesses were among the groups that we studied. One of the things that was pointed out was that a recurring recruitment strategy was predicting the end of the world. This was a successful strategy for getting people into motion: but it was a bit awkward when the end did not come. …and so the dates were adjusted. And adjusted. And then adjusted again.
The old books conveniently vanished, and the new ones made no mention of failed predictions.
“See!” My professor stated triumphantly, “that proves that the religion is false!”
That’s them.
We’re not like that at all, are we? 🤔
Can I be really honest here? When I was a kid, I was told in no uncertain terms that the world was ending within a few years. No joke. It was going to be bad. Really, really bad. I was sincerely terrified. Antichrist, pandemics, floods, governments tracking us through credit cards and cell phones, communism taking over, occultism (paradoxically) rampant in the secular governments. The Temple would be built in Jerusalem, Russia would come marching down (for some reason) to attack. There would be blood everywhere. Rocks would fall from the sky. Demons with scorpion tails stinging everybody. It was going to be bad, people. Really, really bad. Our only hope? “Tell people about Jesus! Then they can escape in the rapture! Otherwise they’ll be…🎶…left behind…🎶…” There were songs, movies, books, sermon after sermon after sermon. It was all there! Right there in the Bible! If you couldn’t see it, plain as day, were you even a Christian?
…🤷‍♂️…
It’s 2020. Communism is dead, credit cards aren’t the mark of the beast, the Temple hasn’t been built, and satanist/secular world leaders haven’t cut off a single Christian’s head, that I know of.
None of it happened!
🤔 Maybe we could take a moment to reflect that end times conspiracy theories are not the best use of our limited time and resources. 🤷‍♂️ Maybe we could admit that we were wrong. Maybe we could dare to hope that the world won’t explode in a ball of flames in oh, say, ten years or so? Maybe we could switch gears and start thinking about LONG TERM solutions for our planet. Like recycling, maybe? Hug a tree, for your great-great-great-great grandkid’s sake, for example? Maybe we could find other themes in the bible — I don’t know, love, inclusion, and kindness maybe..? — and focus on those for a change?
…or…we could just change the dates, change the predictions, and start all over. 🙄
I just saw this again today online. The guy seems to be deadly serious. I love Jesus and all, but some of this stuff from professing Christians is just 👎🏻.

Fences Around the Law

Because the Pharisees believed that a person could go to Hell for breaking any of the 613 commandments in the Old Testament, they (along with the lawyers, teachers, and scribes) made more rules, which some called a “fence” around the law. The logic being: if you can fall into Hell for gathering sticks on a Sabbath, then let’s make a rule about not even walking more than x number of steps on a sabbath. Just in case.
Jesus comes along and just doesn’t give a hoot about their traditions. He walks through them like a bulldozer through barbed wire.
Furthermore, he says:
1) You have totally missed the spirit of the commands (which were supposed to be about love)
2) You teach as precepts of God the commandments of men (Mark 7:6)
3) You tie up heavy burdens on people
4) You very often use tradition to even disregard commandments entirely
5) You measure your spirituality by your ability to follow a lot of external, showy rules.
They seemed to think that the more rules the better: but Jesus seemed to think the opposite.
….so question…
What are some of the “fences around the law” that you were raised with? Let’s make a list! I’ll start:
…the Bible says “Don’t get drunk,” so tradition says, “don’t ever touch alcohol.”
…the bible says “don’t cross-dress,” so tradition says, “women must wear dresses” (even when they are outdated and fairly impractical at times, especially for sports!)
…tradition says rock music is bad. But nobody can seem to find the verse for it.
…there is one fairly confusing verse about men having short hair (despite many long-haired dudes in the Old Testament) and so good Christian men don’t have hair past their ears.
…now your turn…
…what “fences” did you see around the law, growing up? What did it feel like to have so many rules?

The Bible, and Other Books…

The Bible is an amazing book. It is THE book: ancient, influential, powerful. But…not the ONLY book. And not the best book for some things.
Like mechanics. The Bible really doesn’t have a lot to say about fixing a rear differential.
…or cooking. The Bible isn’t the best recipe book (except for “Ezekiel bread,” I guess! lol)
You won’t learn much about chemistry in the Bible.
The botany and anatomy and cosmological statements are true to the time, but outdated by today’s standards.
The Bible is a tremendous book for what it is. But it is not the only book. We need to use other books as well.
…and so…someone who is an expert in reading the Bible…is not necessarily going to be an expert on every topic every, anywhere in the world.
This is just an important point to make.
A Bible teacher MAY have studied political theory, infectious disease theory, medicine, sociology, psychology, cosmology, archeology, palaeontology, chemistry, and a host of other disciplines. They MAY know what they are talking about. Or…they may just have their own private opinions on matters that really have nothing to do with the Bible. Because being a Bible teacher gives them a platform, sometimes these speakers feel the need to also share their private opinions on a host of other non-Bible-related topics.
…and that is fine. Sure. Go ahead!
But let’s just keep in mind: the Bible is one book among many. It is amazing, it is inspired, it is the Word of God (if you believe that, as I do). But…it’s a terrible manual for fixing your car, or making cinnamon rolls.
Listen to the Word, and listen to your pastor when he is explaining the Bible. But when he veers off into topics that really have nothing to do wth theology, it is just helpful to remember that these may just be private opinions, and disagreeing with him on these points is not a Bible issue: it is a personal disagreement like you would have with anyone at the coffee shop. Especially in these times, we need to let the experts be the experts, and remember the being an expert in one domain does not necessarily make you an expert in other domains. That is my opinion: apply it as you see fit! ✌️

My EMDR/PTSD Experience

I hope one day soon to restart my podcast. I would like to prioritize interviews, and begin with several interviews with the main counsellors who have helped me on my recent journey. I would like to talk to Bob, the counsellor from Alongside who helped me so sinficantly with my Post Traumatic Stress syndrome from my kidnapping in Africa through the technique called EMDR.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving home, I was thinking of this and running through a dialogue with Bob in my mind. However, I found that I did not really want to think of the specifics of the accident. I could talk about it in the actual interview, I thought, but I don’t want to right now.

This decision alone was huge. Before, making such a decision would have been pointless: the memories of my trauma were everywhere, and they popped up all of the time. Literally — all. of. the. time. But this time I just casually said, No, I don’t think I wan to open up that box.

I still wanted to continue with my mental interview, and so I created a metaphor. The interview went like this:

Myself: I just wanted to thank you so much for the difference that you made in my life through EMDR.”

Bob: Oh, you’re welcome!

Myself: I would like to talk more with you about how it works. But first, I thought it would be nice for listeners to hear from me just what a difference it made.

Bob: That would be great!

Myself: Well, as you know, something bad happened in Africa. My life was in danger, and for several hours I was a captive with no escape and was forced to do things (sign papers, etc) and go places (into dark rooms) that I did not want to.

Bob: Yes, this sense of intense danger and powerlessness is the precursor to PTSD. Your mind was overwhelmed, and stored the memories in a very jumbled way in your mind. Your mind also wanted to “fix” the trauma after it happened, by making sense of it, and making sure that it would not happen again. Most PTSD survivors find that they struggle with unwanted thoughts, nightmares, thoughts intruding into their regular lives, obsessing about the trauma, and very intense guilt.

Myself: Yes, that about sums it up. When they did a brain scan at your retreat centre, they found that a part of my brain was lit up almost all of the time. I often had headaches in that region. Part of me was still trying to escape from that small room in Africa.

Bob: OK, so what did that feel like? What did EMDR do for you?

Myself: Well, it was a bit like this. Imagine that there had been a very tragic death. Someone important to you had died. Not just died, but been dismembered. And now, their body parts were scattered everywhere.

Bob: OK…

Myself: So now, when I go to brush my teeth, I see a dismembered arm there next to my toothbrush. And my heart suddenly races, and I take a few deep breaths. Everyone around me is still talking and I’m trying to get the kids ready for bed. But inside, I am now trying to think how to put this person back together again.

Bob: Wow…

Myself: And then I go down to talk to my wife, but on the way I trip over a dismembered foot. No idea why it is there. These things don’t make sense. But rather than talk to her, I walk over to the kitchen. There is a dismembered leg on the table. I sit and spend about ten minutes thinking about the accident, and trying to put these two limbs back together. I feel like I’m getting somewhere, and put then in the corner for safe keeping. My wife asks me, “What were you thinking about?” and I say, “Nothing. How was your day?” I try hard to come back to reality, and feel normal.

Bob: And so these dismembered body parts you are talking about — these are images from your accident?

Myself: Yes. I don’t want to talk about the accident. It doesn’t feel nice, even now. And so I am making a metaphor. But in many ways it was like that. Like I kept tripping over dismembered body parts all over. They had the same effect on me as a rotting hand would have on a normal person: except that I was the only one who could see them. Sometimes it took a lot of effort to not be frustrated at the kids, or to pay attention to my wife as she talked about “boring normal life.” My trauma seemed very important to me, in a way, even though I just wanted to stop thinking about it.

Bob: And did you try to stop thinking about it?

Myself: All the time! Of course I did! I would shove the body parts anywhere that I could: under the mattress, in the garbage, buried in the garden, or thrown off a cliff. Somehow, they would always come creeping back in.

Bob: Spooky!

Myself: Yes, it was spooky. And the worst of it was the messages.

Bob: Messages?

Myself: Yes. They all had messages. Sometimes they would speak them, sometimes they were written in big black letters, and attached like an old-fashioned price tag to a finger or an eyeball or a femur.

Bob: What did the messages say?

Myself: Mostly, variations of, “It was your fault.” That was the worst message. Also things like, “What were you doing there?” “Your kids could have been orphans!” “You were in over your head!” “If you had’ve done xyz, you would have died! You were this close to a horrible death, and you didn’t even know it!” “You’re such an idiot.” “You’re such a fool!” “You always mess up.” “You’re never enough.”

Bob: Wow. Those are some pretty negative messages. How did it affect the rest of your life?

Myself: I knew, on some level, that the messages weren’t true. But it was very hard to go on with life sometimes. I felt like these messages were the truth, and I was just trying to delude myself that I was OK, and a good person. I felt like that accident tested me, and found me wanting. Really, I was a terrible person inside. I was a coward, I was weak, I was a bumbling fool that almost got himself killed. That is how I felt.

Bob: OK, so aside from trying to stop thinking about it, what else did you do?

Myself: Something that really didn’t help was the “testimony culture” of Christianity. I really felt like since this accident happened while being a missionary, I should weave that into a testimony somehow. And so in addition to the times when it popped up unannounced, I was trying to stick hands and arms and limbs together with bible verses, to make some sort of a sermon or testimony.

Bob: Gross

Myself: Yeah: that really cost me a lot of night’s sleep. It was really unhelpful to try to do that.

Bob: Did you end up talking about it to others?

Myself: I did. I used it as a sermon illustration once, in fairly great detail. It really wiped me out. It brought up a lot of emotion while I was speaking, which definitely communicated loudly to the audience, and made for a memorable sermon. But it was extremely taxing for myself. I remember leaving with a very strong headache. Then I had to teach for four hours: it was not a wise move.

Bob: Did you talk to counsellors as well?

Myself: The day after the accident, I talked to a director with my mission about it.

Bob: How did that go?

Myself: He meant well, but he listened to my side, then told me all of the things that I did wrong. Later he sent out an email to everybody else, earning them not do do what I did.

Bob: Did he mention you?

Myself: No, but everybody already knew about it. It was a tight community. It’s worth noting that I had not received specific training on handling traffic accidents in that country: they are handled completely different than in the west. Also, our office was in the territory of a very powerful gang. Almost nobody knew this before my accident. Those were some details shared in the email. I was glad others now knew, but the timing of it also made it feel (to me) like I should have known these things, and that I was out of line.

Bob: What was that like?

Myself: Not good. This time is really a blur to me. It felt like my brain liquified and was trying to find itself again. The story of “it was your fault” and “you’re such a bumbling fool!” Made sense to me. So my brain kinda ran with it. I started feeling a lot of guilt.

Bob: What did that feel like, in your body?

Myself: My wife tells me “you were not alright.” I’m not exactly sure what that meant. I was there, but not there. There were things that I had to do, and I did them, including facing my accuser and going to the police station again. Somehow I found the strength to be totally normal when I wanted to, but I was not seeking and things like casual conversation were totally impossible. My right eye began twitching and that stayed with me for three years. It still comes back.

Bob: What helps, when your eye twitches?

Myself: Oddly enough — eating bananas. Something I read online. I think it’s a potassium deficiency? But my eye never twitched before the accident.

Bob: Did you have any more helpful interactions?

Myself: I did several sessions. A few days after the accident, I talked with a therapist who listened to the details, and calmly said, “It sounds like you did your best. This accident really was not your fault, but you made good decisions for yourself and your family.” That really helped a lot. I think that my stress level went from about a nine to a four out of ten.

Bob: That is a big reduction!

Myself: Yes, but then it stayed there.

Bob: Did you try other types of counselling?

Myself: I tried some Christian visualization counselling called Caring for the Heart. I visualized Jesus there with me, and forgave everyone.

Bob: Did that help?

Myself: I’m not sure. It felt good while I was doing it. But I think that my stress still stayed at about a four. Strangely enough, although I forgave everybody and forgave myself and God and the whole works…I still struggled with feelings of both guilt and blame. The accident involved a motorbike, for example. I had a hard time not feeling feelings of rage towards reckless motorbikers after that. I think I felt less rage towards motorbikes after the counselling. But I still felt just as much internalized shame towards myself.

Bob: So how did EMDR help?

Myself: Well, as you know, you asked me what message summarized all of the other messages. I said something like, “I was a fat, ugly, white, incompetent fool. I got in over my head, and almost got myself killed.”

Bob: Yes, I remember.

Myself: Then, you asked me what message I would like to believe. This one took me longer to think of. But somewhere inside of me, I knew that those messages weren’t true. I know that a lot of people have analyzed the accident, and told me that I did very well, considering the impossible circumstances. I forget exactly what I wrote down. But it was something contrary to the “ugly and fat” message.

Bob: OK, and then what happened?

Myself: Well, you gave me those vibrating things in my hands. First the right, then the left would vibrate. When they did, a light would flash on top. This would get my eyes moving back and forth. I felt like as I moved my eyes like this, I went into a calmer and more meditative state of mind. We worked together to imagine a “happy and secure” place, which was for me running down a trail in a light rain. I guess so that I could mentally return there after the session. Then you asked me to think of the event for a few minutes, then pause and talk about it. I was not very good at it at first. I just ran around collecting all of the body parts, and reading the tags, and then everything that I had written onto the bottom of the tags. Like, “It was my fault…but it wasn’t really my fault, because of xyz, but also, this connects to that and there’s this bible verse and, and…”

Bob: I think I probably told you not to think rationally about the accident.

Myself: Yes, you told me just to hold the images in my mind. Just to let them pass by, like images going past the windows of a train.

Bob: How was that?

Myself: Hard! I had spent so much time dealing just with the jumbled “body parts,” I hadn’t really thought about the accident. I tried to bring up memories. The images were very strange. It was like there were two-dimensional slides of things from that time. They didn’t seem life-like, and didn’t always fit what I thought I remembered about the event.

Bob: Where did that take you?

Myself: Well, as we would do the vibrations, I slowly worked my way in my mind through the stages of the accident. It was all very familiar: and yet I noticed things that I hadn’t seen before.

Bob: What did that feel like, in your body?

Myself: It was taxing, and tiring. I went back to our dorm exhausted after that session. However, it was not traumatic.

Bob: How do you mean?

Myself: It is traumatic to find a toe in your coffee. It is not traumatic to attend a funeral. It was really sad, it really bothered me. All of me felt the pain of it. But it didn’t disturb me in the same way. It wasn’t “wrong,” if you know what I mean? It just felt like…you know, for the first time, it felt like I was feeling the right things at the right times for the right events.

Bob: (wisely) hm….

Myself: I think that the first thing that I said after we were done our first session was, “Well, that happened.” That was actually a very profound thing to say. It happened. I am honouring it. I am admitting that it happened. And it happened. It happened in the past. We are honouring the pain of it through grief. It was terrible, what happened. But now, it is in the past. It happened.

Bob: That makes sense. When we have a traumatic event, it overwhelms the brain’s systems. And the memory is not stored into long term storage correctly. It is scattered around the brain, and the brain tries to process it. This processing usually happens in the front part of your brain, responsible for rational thought, and things like guilt and shame. We do not exactly know why EMDR works. We only know that when we move our eyes rapidly back and forth (or stimulate the body bilaterally, for example through vibrating one hand, then the other) it turns all of our brains on. This enables our whole brains to process the event, and to gradually put it into its place.

Myself: That is really how I felt. I went back to our dorm that night, and quickly journaled out everything that we had discussed. (See my journal entry, here) It made me sad, but again — did not traumatize me. I did not feel “activated,” like I needed to solve a problem, or like my heart was racing. I did not feel guilty — just sad. When my wife read it, she commented that I had noticed many details I had not noticed before. Later, when I read this version of the accident and compared it to what I had written before (I have written the accident out a few times) what stood out to me was the calmness of it. In previous versions, I am so angry at some of the people that hurt me, and sometimes very defensive of my own actions, or ashamed. I did not ever feel like I could share the records with anyone. It came across as vindictive and spiteful. But this account was just…neutral. “Here lies the record of what happened.”

Bob: How did that look inside of you?

Myself: It was like there was an undertaker who came from deep inside. He was a quiet man: sad, but regal. He was very clean and professional, dressed in a suit. As we worked, he quietly moved around my mind, collecting body parts, and placing them in a casket. As he did, “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well,” and “When Peace Like a River,” rang out on the church organ, and purple and dim orange light filtered through the stain glass windows. When I left, I felt peaceful, sombre, and more whole.

Bob: Sometimes, when we do EMDR, there is something like a “deep wisdom” that comes up from deep inside and speaks to our issues. Did you have an experience like this?

Myself: Oh yes! For sure I did!

Bob: Would you like to share that?

Myself: Well, the ordering of things is a bit hard to reconstruct. As you recall, we had several sessions, and we kept getting distracted by all my other issues and things that I had always wanted to talk to a counsellor about. We talked about masturbation, Pink Floyd, and how to discipline children in an emotionally healthy way.

Bob: I remember!

Myself: …but once we got back to the actual event, I remember at some point, a strong message began to surface. A continual theme, as I reviewed the accident with fresh eyes was that actually, I did pretty damn good in how I handled things. I was there because I cared. I put myself in a very difficult country, in a difficult and dangerous situation. Not because I was a fool or selfish, but because I cared deeply — even for people I had never met. When the accident happened, I made a split-second decision to save my family, at the risk of my own safety. This decision cost me, and was what ultimately placed me in harm’s way: but it was a brave decision. I may have saved my wife’s life: and I may have aced my own children from significant childhood trauma. I had not been trained on how to handle traffic accidents in this country: I was doing the best that I could with the knowledge that I had. I saw how time and again, one tactic did not work, I shifted to another tactic. I eventually found the tactic (passivity and contrition) that worked to get me out of that dangerous situation.

Bob: How would you summarize that?

Myself: I remember the message, I am competent. That came very powerfully from inside. All of a sudden, the body part that I was holding now had the message attached to it, “You are competent.” The message was written in the same dark, permanent marker. I did not write it, but I knew that it was true. I handed it to the mortician as he soberly placed it in the coffin. The coffin was now becoming full of little white tags, all with the message, “you are competent,” “you are competent,” “you are competent.” I feel like crying. It was very true, that message! I still did not like looking into the coffin, obviously.

Bob: Obviously.

Myself: There was another message. Looking at it again, I began to see (becoming emotional) just how often God came to save me. I did not even realize it, but even when I thought I was completely alone, I was surrounded by deliverers.

Bob: Go on…

Myself: I found out later that even my main captor was secretly a Christian, who was pretending to be angry, to work for my release. God had gotten hundreds of people praying for me. Several people found their way into the room with me. I found out later that even the army was ready to pull me out if I needed it!

Bob: Wow!

Myself: God…(gentle sob)…God was there. Not just in a spiritual sense, like I was told to visualize by the Christian counsellor. But God was rescuing me. It is so true, I cannot deny it. I began to see many of the body parts had this message written on them as well. I feel like this message was written in red, so deep and so clear: “God is always coming to rescue you.” Over and over I saw this message (tears). As we kept talking, the coffin slowly filled with body parts. From my vantage point, I could not see the body parts anymore: but all of the tags stood up. They were black and red: “You are competent, and your God is always coming to save you!”

Bob: I think I remember that we ran out of time towards the end.

Myself: Yes, you said something when we were about half an hour overtime. Thank you for being generous with your time!

Bob: What did it feel like to be asked to wrap up quickly?

Myself: Well, there were kind of endless details after the accident that were also hard. Conversations with the mission (in themselves, traumatic). I had to go back to the police station. I had to face the person who had been in the accident, and had caused my kidnapping. There were lots of triggers that I did not have time to process with the same care.

Bob: Did these things stay “out of the coffin” after the fact?

Myself: Strangely, no. When you hinted that we were running out of time, I distinctly remember myself being pulled up from the scene. I saw all of it — in quite vivid detail, actually, I can still visualize it — from the air. I could see all the buildings, the street, the accident from above. All of this is in the past, I thought. I guess it went in the coffin too. I am not sure.

Bob: What did it feel like leaving the session.

Myself: Honestly, it was a bit weird. I feel like I could have handled 3-4 more sessions on the accident. I hate it when counselling sessions run out of time! But that is the reality of life.

Bob: Yes…

Myself: I do remember as we were wrapping up, I suddenly and very calmly said, “I almost died.” I think that was the first time that I really got it.

Bob: Yes, I remember you saying that.

Myself: I left, and I said it again, several times: “I almost died.” When I got back, I told my wife I was going for a run. I put music on and just cleared my mind and jogged through the woods.

Bob: Jogging is also bilateral stimulation. It can also stimulate the EMDR effect, especially if you are jogging through the woods, as your eyes will naturally be drawn back and forth.

Myself: I don’t remember the jog much. But I think that is when the mortician gathered up the last of the toes and swept up the fingernails and put it all in the coffin. I looked in for one last look, but he had already wrapped it up like an Egyptian mummy. The memory was all white and clean and together. In big black letters he had written very darkly and and in block letters on the wrapping, “You are competent,” and below that, in very full, curvy and vivacious letters it said, “…and my God is always coming to save me!” It made me happy and sad to see it. It makes me want to cry when I think about it, but in a good way. By the time that I got home, the mortician had closed the casket. The casket was an old Egyptian sarcophagus. It was made in the shape of the dead body, but all in gold and beautiful. On the chest was a small plate that read, “One day in Africa, there was an accident. The negotiations went sideways, and I was kidnapped for an afternoon, and had symptoms of post traumatic stress for four years, until they were resolved through EMDR.” Anyone who wants to can see the sarcophagus. It really is beautiful. It is kind of an elegant lie, in the way that all very true things are. Anytime that I want to, I can open the lid. Inside, I can read the message, “I am competent, and my God is always coming to save me.” This message is not for others, they would not understand. But I know that it is true. It is very true. It was written in strong marker: I did not write it, and cannot erase it.

Bob: That is really beautiful

Myself: On his way out the door (I’m speaking metaphorically)

Bob: Yes, I gathered that…

Myself: On his way out the door, the mortician handed me a card. It was from one of the body parts. It read the same message, in the same writing, “You are competent, and my God is always coming to save me.” I didn’t know where to put it, so I attached it to my left index finger. It flutters about from time to time, and sometimes when I get scared, it catches my attention. Then, the mortician went out the door, and I think he climbed down a deep well to go to sleep. He is happy down there and will come back anytime that he is needed.

Bob: It has now been six months since your EMDR session. How has your experience been since?

Myself: Well, now that I think about it, the weeks right after the session were a bit messy still. I think the mortician and I were still working to find all of the “body parts” from all the parts of the brain. After the funeral, we had to keep opening up the casket to put in one more piece.

Bob: Few things in the mind are completely cut-and-dried.

Myself: Yes, but the EMDR really gave me a great tool. Once I learned what it felt like, I could give myself a hug, bow my head, and tap my shoulders alternately. I could drop pretty quickly into an EMDR state, and invite my brain to fix itself.

Bob: Really? What was this like?

Myself: Well, for example, maybe I was bothered about something, but didn’t know what. Maybe I only knew that I felt irritable, or my stress level seemed high.

Bob: So what did you do?

Myself: I learned to find a quiet place — usually in the shower, actually — and to do this self-EMDR practice on myself. I would ask myself questions. “Why are you stressed,” or “What fo you want to say to me, body?” I learned to talk to myself as though there were a small boy living inside. This boy was not very articulate, but had very strong emotions.

Bob: Yes, that is a common way of describing our unconscious and emotional minds.

Myself: I learned that when I felt “off,” I could often ask my inner child what the problem was. If I listened, he would tell me.

Bob: What did that feel like?

Myself: It would usually be one or two words, but accompanied with a lot of emotions. It was always something that surprised me, but instantly made sense. Something that I had not been paying attention to, but should have. Like, “I am scared,” and I had a mental picture of a person or situation that my rational mind thought was normal, but parts of me felt uneasy. Or else “I am lonely,” and I realized that I have been working very hard, and not taking adequate time for self care.

Bob: That sounds like a really powerful tool.

Myself: Yes, it has been! EMDR not only helped me to resolve this very significant trauma, but also helped me to see myself as a whole person, composed of body, soul, and mind. It helped me to get in touch with the deep wisdom of my mind, and it enabled “all of me” to begin speaking and communicating once again. Really, it has boosted me onto a journey of becoming a whole, and integrated person.

Bob: That is really wonderful! I am so glad that I was able to be part of this experience.

Myself: When it came to EMDR, you were just the facilitator. My own brain did all of the work.

Bob: I know. This is how it usually is.

Myself: …but when it came to other topics, your wisdom was incredible!

Bob: Oh, thank you!

Myself: Now that we’ve talked bout Pink Floyd, there is a song from Queen that I really would like to discuss sometime.

Bob: I hope that we can make it happen!

Myself: Sometime soon, I hope!

Bob: OK, well, glad that I could help. God bless!

****

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a clinically proven therapy technique for resolving post traumatic stress and other traumas. It is non-obtrusive, and simply involves moving one’s eyes back and forth while thinking about the trauma. I have also found that it can be helpful in “mindfulness,” or in the journey of becoming more aware of one’s own emotions, or the feelings that one is feeling in their body.

Christians should not feel afraid of EMDR. Unlike talk therapy, there is very very little “talking” in an EMDR session: the person simply relives the event. It feels very normal, like having a conversation. No matter what your theology, it does not seem like EMDR should be objectionable: you won’t get demons, and you won’t get led astray. This is just your mind healing itself.

People who have been through a deeply painful trauma (such as I was) may rightly feel that “they just don’t want to go there.” I totally get that. There is a wisdom in each person that will not allow them to face a mental trauma that they are not able to endure. I will not tell anyone to ignore that voice. EMDR is hard work, and it is emotionally draining. It is just wise to be in a place where you can handle it. However, considering the enormous relief of having trauma “put to rest,” one may consider that it is worth the short-term pain for long-term gain. I would say, from experience, that EMDR does not feel like reliving your trauma. It feels more like attending a funeral about your trauma. To put it another way: your anxiety, fight-or-flight, adrenaline responses are not triggered (at least, they weren’t for me). Rather, what I experienced was profound sadness, and feelings of loss. Afterwards, I felt sad for a while, and also felt like, “wow, I did a lot of hard work!” I wanted to sleep, and do “sad things,” like drinking coffee and staring out a window into the rain would have been perfect. It was a sad time, but “grief means something is moving into the past.” Grief is not all bad. I understand that some people may not want to do EMDR because they do not want to face their trauma. That is your own decision to make; I hope my thoughts here can help you make that decision.

People who have been traumatized over a long-term relationship, or a childhood of moderate to extreme domestic abuse or dysfunction can also find relief through EMDR. As I found towards the end of my session, it seems that the mind is able to “summarize” things: as I flew at around 300 ft above, I could see most of the city in which I was kidnapped. My mind told itself, all of that is in the past. And really, it was. And so it seems hopeful that EMDR could help a person realize that all of that is in the past, as it relates to a difficult person or relationship in their past.

For a more detailed look at the event in question, and for a record of what I wrote after the EMDR session, you can read my post, “I Almost Died in Africa.

20 Reasons Masturbation Is Not A Sin

1. The story of Onan in the bible is not actually about masturbation. It is about coitus interruptus. Onan was having sex with his brothers widow, as the law required. However, he was pulling out and “spilling his seed on the ground” at the last minute, so that she would not be one pregnant and bear a son to inherit her estate and protect her in old age: he wanted her property for himself. It was a cruel and dastardly action, which is why God killed him for it. He was not struck down for masturbating. 🙄 (Gen. 38:6-10)

2. The Catholic arguments that “spilling seed” is wasteful or even murderous is completely unscientific and wrong.

3. “Seminal emissions” are mentioned in the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. If one has such an emission, they are to wash, and they are unclean until evening. This is exactly the same as regular sex, menstruation, and a host of other bodily functions. Ceremonial cleanliness is not about sin: it’s about “being clean.” These passages do not condemn masturbation.

4. True enough, the pagan nations around Israel worshipped fertility gods, and the Ashera poles were giant phalluses. But their worship involved temple prostitution, and masturbation is not mentioned. This should not be brought up in the current discussion.

5. Both men and women have natural build ups in their bodies, which crave release. Without sex or masturbation, these buildups can make it hard to concentrate, hard to keep ones mind off of sex, hard to resist illicit lustful thoughts, hard to sleep, and can sometimes (for men) become physically painful

6. Making it a sin to masturbate seems to place many people in a “no way to win” situation. If they resist throughout the day, they may have very vivid and potentially troubling “wet dreams,” often with very vivid sexual images, leading to deep shame and confusion.

7. If they find it impossible to resist the urge to masturbate, they may feel that, “well, I am sinning anyways. I might as well enjoy it!” …causing them to engage in lustful thoughts, pornography, or other sinful or unhelpful practices

8. If such a person finds that they are thus caught in cycles of irresistible temptation, they may become far too comfortable with the temptation—sin—shame—repent—feel forgiveness—repeat cycle. This cycle may start to excuse greater and greater sexually deviant behaviours

9. Feelings of shame surrounding ones sexuality may lead to feelings that “sex is dirty,” and that it should be divorced from ones life. Like in Jeckyl and Hyde, ones sexuality could become something hidden, ugly, and shameful. In the darkness, it may grow very dark and twist towards the perverted, the selfish, and even the criminal. Or, perhaps equally devastating, the person may become successful in really killing their sexuality, thus destroying an integral part of what makes them human

10. …it seems like a far better option would be to simply masturbate — with no shame, and without lust or pornographic images — to release the “pressure,” and go on with ones life. Far from encouraging lust, it seems that such an action could be essential in fighting lustful thoughts and porn addiction

11. It is true enough that the more that one masturbates, the more the body will adjust to increase the bodily desires. Excessive masturbation is a problem recognized by psychotherapists and others. This seems to be a reason to have adult conversations with trusted friends or therapists about “how much is too much?” A person may perhaps find the need to work out some guidelines, even rules for themselves. By way of illustration, it may not be a sin to eat the whole box of Oreo cookies…but it may be unwise and unhealthy. Similar guidelines could be made for ones personal practices, without any shame. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

12. One important factor for Christians to weigh is that masturbation can create powerful links to seemingly unrelated images, thoughts, and even objects. These may also be things to discuss and weigh out carefully in ones own conscience. “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

13. It is true enough that in marriage, ones body belongs in part to the other, and that masturbation may dissipate important sexual energy that should be directed at ones spouse. 1 Cor. 7:4-5 If a spouse is not comfortable with masturbation, the other probably should not engage. However, this is not a reason to forbid it for all singles. When travelling, masturbation may be a much needed escape from temptation. These are matters to be worked out as a couple.

14. Some have argued that masturbation before marriage will “defile the marriage bed.” Heb. 13:4. There is no indication in the context of this passage that masturbation is being referenced: the danger here is almost certainly adultery.

15. In her book, Pure, author Rebecca Davis did research and extensive research on people raised within the evangelical subculture of the 1980’s-1990’s, which tended to teach a hard line view on masturbation, sex, and even romantic thoughts. She found a very high prevalence of sexual dysfunction in marriage, including erectile dysfunction and vaginismus. One couple who shared their story were only able to achieve sex a handful of times in a decade, and were considering a divorce, since their “love life” had never really worked out. Although not talked about, she found that similar stories were very common. Anecdotally, she reports that health nurses who deal with vaginismus say that there is a very high correlation to religious upbringings. It turns out that attempting to “shut down” ones sexuality during ones formative years, cloaking it in layers of shame, and divorcing sexual thoughts from other positive feelings in life is not necessarily the best formula for the “fireworks” that our pastor promised would happen after marriage.

16. Calling a natural function a “sin” with no biblical basis seems in keeping with the warnings against legalism in the Bible. “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines….men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:1-5

17. It seems to “tie up heavy burdens” on people, especially singles. (Mat. 23:4) One notices that it is mostly married people making these harsh rules.

18. The argument, “We’re not sure if it’s sin. It’s kind of grey. So let’s err on the side of caution and call it a sin.” Is a stupid argument. Grey issues are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8-10, Romans 13-14. We are to consider them carefully and make up our own minds, using our consciences. Those with more rules are called “weak in conscience,” those who can live their life “in of the Spirit” with a minimum of rules are called “strong” Christians

19. Making black-and-white pronouncements on matters of conscience is warned against in Scripture. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for “teaching as precepts the doctrines of men.” (Mat. 15:9) Paul warned his readers “not to let anyone take you captive through…the basic principles of men…acting as your judge [in regards to disputed matters]” (Col. 2:8-23).

20. Rather, he encourages people to weigh matters, and come up with their own convictions. “Each person should be fully convinced in their own minds.” (Rom. 14:5)

…now that you’ve seen my examination of the topic, what do you think? Is masturbation a sin for you, or not? What guidelines might you need to bring into play to make it healthy for yourself? What does your spouse think?

I pray that God’s spirit gives you wisdom, as you seek to honour God with the beautiful and powerful and sexual body that He has gifted you with.

Protecting the Church’s Reputation…?

It occurs to me that Jesus really didn’t seem to care much about protecting the reputation of the synagogues (proto-churches) or the religious leaders of his day. He pointed out their crooked financial practices, their hypocritical way of dressing, their ridiculous prayers, their pretentious religious paraphernalia, and their hard-hearted domestic lives. He called the temple a “den of thieves,” and the religious leaders “snakes,” “brood of vipers,” “sons of satan,” “white-washed tombs,” and “destined for hell.” Phew.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were far more careful. They had a lot of private meetings about Jesus, but never called him out publicly. They were very tactful. They just asked him a lot of questions. They did not want to cause trouble or be seen as taking sides. They were very proper and correct. They would not have wanted to cause disrepute or lose esteem in the eyes of the public. They tried to deal with their problems internally, and probably would have killed Jesus secretly, if they could.

…and yet the Bible says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the unbelievers on account of you!” Whereas Jesus said, “I honour my father.”

In this day and age, I don’t think we are fooling anybody. With media shining an unfavourable light behind the doors of the church, sex scandals rocking the evening news, and situations close to home sending ripples through our communities…everyone knows that there are real people with real problems in the church.

…so tell me, what is more honourable? What brings more disrepute on the church, and glorifies God best? Being silent about abuse, sin, hypocrisy, legalism, and failures in the church, “to protect our testimony”? Or calling them out? And daring to point the way towards something better?

What do you think? What would Jesus do?

Abusive or Servant Leadership?

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mat. 10:42-45)

…abusers love positions of authority. Whether it’s pastor, father, husband, or boss: they love being in control of others. Religion seems to provide just that excuse to have unquestioned authority over others. Except…for Jesus. Jesus said that a true leader is a servant of all. Jesus washed His disciples feet. A true leader, according to Jesus, changes diapers, takes out the trash, and sets his own goals and dreams aside to prioritize the needs of those under him. …but people who demand absolute allegiance, demand that people serve them, and demand that those under them sacrifice *their* lives, wishes, wants, and needs in service of the leader are not leading as Jesus did. It doesn’t matter if they claim to be Christians: maybe they even are. But in their leadership, they are leading “like the rulers of this world,” and not at all like Christ.

If Immodesty Caused Rape…

As I continue to read Rebecca Davis’ book, “Pure,” on purity culture she continues to lay out the devastating psychological consequences of being told, as a young teenager, that her body would cause other men to sin, and could even cause them to rape her.

“This is such utter nonsense!” I kept thinking, “Does anybody actually believe this?” As she gave example after example, I began to recognize some messegase that sounded all to familiar. Yes, we do communicate this message. Maybe not always in so many words: but women are often told in the church, “Be modest, or you might get raped!”

…but this is ridiculous!

If immodesty really caused rape, what we would see is:

  1. Rape happening all the time at public beaches, right out there in public. After all, men can’t control themselves, can they? But actually, strangely, we find that men can control themselves rather well when other people are watching.
  2. Rape would dramatically diminish during the winter time, and dramatically increase during the summer, due to the wearing of more clothing. Rather, it seems that it stays pretty stable.
  3. Rape would be virtually non-existent in in Muslim and Amish and other communities. Tragically, rape seems to be just as present in very religious communities.

…if we really cared about girls getting raped, here are some suggestions:

  1. Teach them basic safety, such as “don’t walk down dark alleys at night.” Seriously — do we even tell girls this in our religious subculture? Or are we afraid that it will be too naughty to say?
  2. Teach them basic self defence. Are we teaching girls that the best thing they can do is to hit an attacker hard in the groin? Or will they be confused in a situation of violence, frozen by hours of teaching about “turning the other cheek”?
  3. Teach them that their “body” is their best friend: often, that feeling “in your gut” that a person or a situation is not safe is your first and best defence. Teach them to listen to that and to never, ever, ever put yourself in a vulnerable situation with someone who makes you feel unsafe. …or are we teaching them that their bodies are evil, and their “hearts” are “deceptively wicked,” that “women are emotional, and emotions deceive people,” and that it is an act of witchcraft to “listen to your heart”?
  4. Are we creating an atmosphere of trust with our children, and giving them the vocabulary for the human body, and for healthy sexuality, so that they can determine what is appropriate and what is not? Or is “sex” a dirty word in our homes — and “penis,” “vagina,” and “breast” equally forbidden? Will she even know how to explain to her parents or a police officer what has happened? Can she explain her great discomfort with inappropriate conduct which may have preceded a rape? Or has she been gagged into silence by a culture afraid of their own bodies?
  5. Teach that most rape does not happen by a stranger, but by a trusted friend, authority figure, or family member. This should not lead to mistrusting everybody, but there should be discussions of what is normal and what is not normal for a man to ask a young girl. A man of any age, and no matter their status or relationship, should not seek to be alone with a girl. Period. Do they know that? Or have they been taught that “women are weak,” “women need men to help them make decisions,” and that a girl should (I have actually heard this taught) always listen to the oldest male in the room, as though he were giving her instructions from God.

…and if we really cared about young girls, we would teach them safety. Basic, common sense, idiotically simple safety.

Rape is not about temptation: any woman with a vagina is a temptation to a wicked man. Rape is about availability, and the belief that they can get away with it.

Let’s face it: this doctrine tends to make girls vulnerable, and makes it far less likely that they will successfully flee or report the crime.

And if we really cared about victims — knowing that despite our very best attempts, a very large percentage of girls will be violated before they reach adulthood — we would be sure to tell them that rape is never, ever, ever a girl’s fault.

Pathological shame and guilt follows all traumatic events. This is because traumatic events overwhelm a brain: it cannot cope. It stores the event in fragmented, terrorizing portions all over the brain. (I will write more about this in future posts). The brain become obsessed with thoughts like, “I could have done more,” and “how can I prevent this from happening again?” These thoughts are not a weakness, and they are not the fault of the victim. They are as a result of a basic survival instinct: it happens because when the brain feels as though it has come in contact with a , the most important thing is to figure out why that happened, and to stop it from happening again.

…but this shame is a profoundly destructive force. Many victims of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome report that when they realized that it was not their fault, most of the debilitating symptoms of PTSD diminished. They were able to find their peace with their trauma, without blaming and punishing themselves.

…and yet this horrendous teaching of purity culture not only locks victims of rape into a never-ending hell of PTSD, but it also seems to have the effect of traumatizing them before the fact, by presenting them with impossible situations.

…they are made to feel as though there is literally no way that they can avoid stirring up lust in others, and causing themselves to be raped.

This feeling of powerlessness, and hopelessness, and intense danger takes its toll. It is profoundly dangerous psychologically.

It is this phenomenon that Rebecca Davis continues to talk about, in her book “Pure.”

Churches: Ill Equipped to Help Survivors

Churches and Christians often seem ill equipped to help abuse survivors. This is because our religion has trained them to ask, “Is it right? Is it Biblical? Is it sinful? Will it harm our community?”

Whereas an abuse survivor needs to be asked, “Are you safe? Are you healthy? Are you speaking your own truth (and not just hiding behind a false self)? Are you taking steps that are right for you, (as opposed to living life to please everyone else)? What does your “gut”/heart say? Are you sure you are SAFE?

It’s not that most Christians are bad people. These are not even bad questions to ask: in certain contexts, these are exactly the questions to ask. For example, if a person is tempted to run off with his secretary, he aught to think long and hard about whether that would be right, or biblical, and what harm it would have in the larger community.

This is where our religion shines: in the black and white moments of average people tempted to sin. “The Bible says don’t do it.” That clarity has been helpful for many.

But these are not the right questions to ask survivors of abuse. In fact, they are exactly the wrong questions to ask. These questions will tend to re-trigger the deep shame that accompanies trauma. That shame will activate crippling self-doubt and brain fog, causing them to question themselves, doubt the survival instincts that are leading them out of a dangerous situation, and can cause them to robotically shut down and mechanically go back to their abuser.

And when the Christian community has these questions primarily in their minds, they will prevent them from caring adequately for an abuse survivor.

The more combative Christians will seek to silence or argue with the victim. The more thoughtful will withdraw to re-evaluate whether or not leaving is a sin. (This will take some time). Others will just not know what to say, since they lack the time or ability to render judgment on the matter, and they would not want to be caught aiding and abetting a sinner.

All this with the result that the simplest and most profound human gesture — simply being there, in a non-judgmental way, in a time of need — is precisely what many churches and Christians have such difficulty in giving.

Externalization

The problem with externalizing your problems is that you cannot fix them.
“You make me so angry.”
“Why do women have to be so immodest?”
“Elevators make me so anxious!”
These are not problems that you can fix, because they are not within your circle of influence. They will only make you angry, frustrated, and powerless. (You will feel THOSE emotions inside of you, and act aggressively or defensively to protect yourself from this perceived external threat)
“His actions reminded me that I have an anger problem.”
“Her body reminded me that I have a lust problem.”
“Elevators remind me that I may have a problem with enclosed spaces.”
…these are all problems that you can work on, because they are located within your circle of influence: yourself. Don’t blame your 💩 on others. Own it. Work on it. That is the only way that you can begin to change for the better!

The Body Keeps the Score: Citations

I am reading The body keeps the score: the body keeps the score brain mind and body in the healing of trauma. This is one of the most important books on PTSD and trauma out today. It is long and detailed, but not difficult to read. Written by a clinical psychologist who has spent a lifetime studying trauma, and being on the forefront of the evolving face of trauma research over the 20th century, here is a summary of what he found:
1. Traumatic responses used to be labelled as “hysterics,” and generally dismissed as “the weakness of women” up until the 20th century.
2. Freud found that actually, many women who suffered from bouts of uncontrolled emotions were actually molested as children, causing very complex reactions later in life. Other phenomenon were also noted, such as mind-induced paralysis and illnesses as a result of trauma.
3. Freud (the father of modern psychology) developed the “talking cure,” and found that often, when someone was able to describe their traumatic event in exact detail, they were able to put it to rest and their physical symptoms subsided
4. After WWI, tens of thousands of war vets came home, displaying symptoms of “shell shock”: an inability to cope with life, irritability, moodiness, flash-backs, depression, a tendency towards substance abuse, and intense guilt. Even “the talking cure” was often not adequate for helping veterans. Psychologists began trying in earnest to find a cure for “shell-shock.”
5. WWII erupted, causing even more cases of “shell-shock.” Both the Germans and the English military repressed the term “shell-shock” because it caused soldiers to be sent home early from the front, and cost them too much in medical discharges. Psychologists continued to study the issue, eventually labelling it, “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.”
6. What was discovered is that when the body experiences extreme stress, the brain can become overloaded. Memories of the event are stored in a chaotic and jumbled way. These memories come back in pieces to torment the victim of PTSD, often for their entire lives.
7. During and after the Vietnam war, the issue was once again studied in depth. One helpful therapy which was developed was group therapy sessions, where survivors of similar traumas would share their stories together. Like the “talking cure,” it was helpful for many, but not all
8. Since that time, advances in neuroscience have unlocked many of the mysteries of PTSD. When asked to recount the events of a traumatic car accident while under a brain scan, for example, it was found that the mind of the person re-activated in exactly the same way as a person currently experiencing a trauma. What scientists discovered is that PTSD survivors are in their own personal hell: they mentally re-experience the worst moments of their lives over and over and over again
9. Scientists also found that these episodes of reliving trauma can be “triggered” by sights, sounds, seeing their abuser, smells, or sometimes by no cause at all.
10. Scientists also discovered that certain portions of the brain light up, and certain portions shut down during such episodes. The speech centres shut down, making it hard for people to put into words what they are experiencing. The “time-keeping” portions also shut down, causing people to experience the flash back “as though I am still there.” The visual portions of the brain are activated literally as though they are seeing the same things over and over.
11. In the case of one car accident, two responses were recorded by a husband and wife in the same car. The husband displayed typical PTSD symptoms: flash-backs, anxiety, high heart rate, and hyper vigilance. The wife, on the other hand, went completely numb. She experienced the accident as though it happened to someone else. This numbness continued after the accident. She felt like she was floating, and had a hard time describing experiences in her own body. This response is called “disassociation.” It was found that this woman had had a difficult childhood, in which she was often screamed at by her mother. She learned the coping skill of disassociation (becoming a stranger in her own body) to cope with the abuse
12. As PTSD became more widely understood, it was observed in other places as well. Especially children raised in dysfunctional homes. Often, such children displayed all of the same symptoms of war veterans. Because the trauma occurred in childhood, and was usually due to multiple events and not just one trauma, the term “complex PTSD” was developed to describe it.
13. Sufferers of complex PTSD may appear “shy,” or hyper-agressive. They perceive the world as being filled with threats. They usually perform much lower than their peers, and have lifelong difficulty “fitting in.”
14. The issue of molestation in girls was particularly studied, finding that young girls who are molested have lifelong difficulty coping, and often have symptoms of PTSD.
15. Complex PTSD was often mis-diagnosed as bipolar, depression, and a host of other conditions.
16. In the 1970’s, various drugs were prescribed to treat PTSD. SSRI drugs such as Prosac were found to have a “miraculous” curative powers for people with PTSD. However, without therapy the gains that they received when on the medications did not last when they went off of them. Other types of medications were also developed which had stronger short-term effects (especially in calming the brain), but may have caused more harm than good due to their addictive nature.
17. Over the course of the 20th century, a wealth of knowledge, and a host of tools was developed to understand and address PTSD and complex PTSD. Most contemporary therapists are well versed in these skills.
18. In the late 1980’s, the technique of EMDR was developed. This is simply the technique of moving one’s eyes slowly back and forth (often just watching the therapist’s finger) while reliving a traumatic event in one’s mind. The activity of moving one’s eyes in this way activates both hemispheres of one’s brain, enabling chaotic memories to be analyzed, categorized, and finally put to rest. Although initially greeted with suspicion, the technique of EMDR has been found to be the most effective technique in the treatment of PTSD, and is now recommended by the US departement of defence, and is widely available today.

The body keeps the score: the body keeps the score brain mind and body in the healing of trauma.

Wilful Sin

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-27,31

This is not written for “unbelievers.” This is written for believers who think grace means they can get away with bad behaviours, “because God will forgive me anyways.”
No. It doesn’t work that way.

Abusers & Victims in the Church

It seems to me that the church has a much better history of protecting abusers than it does in protecting victims.

Among other things, this comes down to the fundamental nature of our religion. Showing grace, forgiveness, and “one more chance” to sinners is at the core of the Christian message. But verses about protecting the vulnerable from attack, leaving a wicked person, refusing to forgive an unrepentant sinner, and calling attention to sin — while they exist — are not front and centre in the Gospel story. It takes significant work and thought to integrate these ideas into our theology. That work is rarely done.

In the mean time, victims are made to feel that they have no voice, that they aught to just put up with abuse, (“submit”) and shamed if they end abusives relationships. If they bring up the debilitating pain of trauma, the PTSD, the flashbacks, the triggers, the anger, the confusion, the intense shame, the loss of joy, the hyper-vigilance, the loss of hope, the lost sense of sense of security, and the loss of hope in humanity that comes with trauma, they are often told to “pray through it,” and forgive. If they find forgiveness hard (especially if “forgiveness” seems to mean reconciling with the abuser, and not holding them accountable for their actions, and being placed in harms way all over again), they are at risk of being called “bitter,” even a dangerous “root of bitterness” to infect others. 😳

Our commitment to show grace and love to everyone is commendable.

But many times, our support of survivors could use some work.

[I see you. I care. Keep holding on. You’ll get through this. One day at a time. ❤️]

“Be Modest or Men Will Stumble!” — False!

Unbiblical sermons #1
“Women need to dress modestly so that their weaker brothers will not be caused to stumble.”
Well, actually…
1) “Stumbling stones” normally refers to adults corrupting or harming little children. It is not about grown men shaming others for their sins. Matt. 18:5-10, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2
2) The discussion of “weaker brothers” is not gender specific, and is in regards to the ancient question of eating meat sacrificed to idols. This has nothing to do with lust or modesty. (1 Corinthians 8 )
3) Modesty is only explicitly adresses once in the Bible. The purpose of modesty here stated is contrasting inner vs. outer beauty, staying that a beautiful spirit and a kind life are better adornments than braided hair and jewels. Male lust is mentioned nowhere in this book. 1 Tim 2:9-10
4) Men are specifically addressed by Jesus, told that if they are “lusting,” they are sinning. Period. The modesty of the woman after whom they may be lusting is not mentioned. (Mat. 5:28)
5) We are told that “pornea” (sexual sin) comes “out of the heart,” and not from externals (Mark 7:21)
6) Using figurative language, Paul tells men to “possess their own vessel in sanctification and honour.” (1 Thess. 4:3) He does not add an addendum, “…unless she’s really hot” or, “…unless she’s immodestly dressed,” or, “…unless you’re really tired, or feeling entitled.”
7) Paul tells the young Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts,” (2 Tim. 2:22) and “treat younger women as sisters in all purity.” (1 Tim. 5:2) And to be an example of purity (1 Tim 4:12)
8“) “Yes, but what about very provocative women who are really trying to seduce men? What if alcohol is involved?” In Proverbs 7, the question of seduction is looked at in depth. There are three men, and one seductive woman in the scenario. The seductive woman is out seducing. A man goes to her, becomes intoxicated, and commits adultery with her. He is held completely liable for his actions, called a fool, and the commentary is that he did not know that her steps lead down to death. There is also a father and son in the scenario. The father resists “going down” to the seductrice. He instructs his son to avoid situations like this, and warns him of the mortal danger that they represent. Elsewhere, he tells him of the joys of married love, prays he finds a good wife, and blesses him: “may her breasts always satisfy you! May you always be intoxicated with her love!” (Prov. 5:19) Lesson: even if a prostitute is flaunting her wares, men are still responsible for their eyes, for their “vessels,” and for how they model integrity to the next generation. Sex is beautiful, and desireable. We should tell our daughters and sons how wonderful it is, so that they can be motivated to save it for the person of their dreams! What a beautiful gift! ❤️
…but telling women that unless they dress modestly, they will become a victim of male lust, (or even responsible for their own rape! 😵) is a form of victim shaming. It is wrong, it is unhealthy, it is abusive, and nobody can show me where it is in the Bible. This verse does not exist.

From Good To Great

In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins says that the secret to a great business is “getting the right people on the bus, the right people off the bus, and moving people to the right seats on the bus.”
That metaphor also works for your life. Every life is lived in community, which also affects your mind and thoughts. not every person will help make your life “great.” You need to invite some new people onto your “bus,” move some people around (“excuse me, actually, I am the driver, not you”) and…some people need to be moved out of you life. Or, at least, out of your inner circle and out of your daily life and mind.
…once you get people on, off, and in the right seats (you in the drivers seat!)…then you’re really ready to get your life rumbling down the road in the right direction!

The Body Speaks

It can be tempting to shut off our emotions, and experience life only through our minds. From ancient times to the present, people have propose this as a solution to our problems. Certainly, life seems easier without emotions, passions, or unwanted desires. Sometimes the body (with all its messy desires, inconvenient needs, and conflicting emotions) seems like the enemy of the tranquility of the soul.

But if we lock ourselves in our heads, how will we be able to, “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength”? And how can we truly “love thy neighbour as thy self”, if we have become a stranger to our own bodies?

Jesus Was Not a Doormat

Jesus was not a doormat.
Jesus stood up to bullies.
Jesus walked away from mobs and false teachers.
Jesus left situations of harm.
Jesus never apologized for something he didn’t do.
Jesus did not back down and was not intimidated.
Jesus hurt people’s feelings. Really often.
Jesus damages people’s property and pride.
Jesus caused controversy and divisions.
Jesus didn’t loose sleep over lost followers or people being “disappointed in” Him.
Jesus never really fit in anywhere. He was ok with that.
Jesus spoke his mind, even when it meant losing followers, and rebuking his own friends.
Jesus spoke up to authority when he was wrongfully slapped.
Jesus was willing to suffer for a cause, even if it cost him everything.

Be like Jesus. Don’t be a doormat.

[Note: I posted this to my Facebook, and a friend replied that, in effect, we aught not to walk around smashing things and being mean. I agree. To clarify, I wrote the following…]

🤔 I’m thinking you all may have pointed out a needed corrective. Jesus was…Jesus. His motivation was love. He was on a mission of love, truth, and divine appointment. He was not a bully, he did not go around doing random acts of violence.

What I am speaking against is the extreme of people pleasing (“codependent” in psychological terminology). People pleasing is a coping skill often learned in childhood to survive a situation of ongoing rage and/or harsh discipline. People pleasing is not a good thing, and it blunts our ability to speak effectively in the world.

…but we also wouldn’t want to swing over to the other extreme of being a self-centred, unreasonable, heard-hearted bully. (In psychological terms, a “narcissist”). This is another response to trauma. “OK then. If I will be treated like that, I will just stop feeling. I will look out for #1 Nobody will tell me what to do.

Jesus was in between these two. He was a fully integrated human being. He could be moved to tears and actions from compassion. And he could be sparked to rage at injustice. He cared deeply for people and made close friends, but He also knew His is mind and moved clearly in a direction.

As Pastor Merle said one time, “the problem with backing away from something is that one cannot see where they are going.”

Perhaps I should have written this post in the positive, and concluded, “Be like Jesus.”

Thank you all very much for your feedback

“Turn the other cheek” — Not a Reason to Allow Abuse!

Jesus said to “turn the other cheek.” Here are twenty reasons why that does not mean that a spouse or child should overlook physical abuse.
1) In the original context, Jesus was speaking to men, in a world of men. The implied audience was people who had the ability to strike back, not women or children.
2) Jesus told His followers to flee from persecution and physical danger.
3) Jacob, David, Abigail, and many other saints fled from authority figures, when they became physically dangerous.
4) Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. A temple was the most sacred possible place in anceint times: your body is THAT precious! God promises to destroy anyone who destroys your body (1 Cor. 3:17).
5) Jesus said, “let the little children come to me,” and “if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he be thrown into the sea.” Children need to be protected from harm. So do you.
6) “I’m sorry…you just made me so angry” is not an apology. It is a lie that their evil actions were the fault of their victim. If a person is not able to restrain their violence unless people around them “walk on eggshells,” that person should not be around vulnerable people until they find help.
7) “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t control myself,” is a lie. After all, they controlled themselves just fine in public.
8) “This is normal/all men do it/everyone slips up” is not true. Most spouses do not hit or abuse one another. The Bible tells us to love and care for our spouses as we would our own bodies (Eph. 5). Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and laid down His life for the church. Care is normal, harm is abnormal.
9) “You have to forgive me,” is a lie. You do not need to forgive them if they do not repent. (Luke 17:3…notice “IF he repent…”) Repentance means bringing their actions to the light to people who can provide tough accountability (James 5:16). It means getting help, and making sure that it does not happen again.
10) “The Bible says ‘forgive and forget'” No it does not. This verse does not exist. You can release bitterness in your heart while still remembering. Memories are there to remind us of danger, and to keep us safe.
11) The Bible says, “Do not be deceived, whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” The natural consequence of violence is the loss of intimacy. “Do not make friends with an angry man, and do not associate with a hot-tempered man” (Prov. 22:24)
12) “This punishment is unreasonable! I miss you! I need you! People will be mad at me if they find out!” …is exactly what Cain complained to God after he murdered his brother. Truly repentant people (like David, Peter) are sad about their sins. Evil people (like Cain) are sad about the CONSEQUENCES of their sins. Know the difference.
13) “I love you….” saying the words, “I love you” does not mean the person loves you. Love is patient, kind, and unselfish. It is not provoked, does not hold a grudge, and does not act unbecomingly (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If their words say “love,” but their actions say “hate,” that is hypocritical love (Rom. 12:9). “Let us love not in word and speech, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18) “You will know them by their fruits.” (Mat. 7:16)
14) “The Bible says don’t gossip.” That is true. Gossip is untrue or uneccesary tidbits, spread around to harm someone. But telling appropriate authority figures about abuse is exactly what Jesus told us to do (Mat. 18:15-17)
15) “You have to keep our secret.” Is impossible. The Bible says that all sins will be brought to light (1 Tim. 5:24). One of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family is secrecy. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20) But “the truth shall set you free,” (John 8:32). Good people have nothing to hide.
16) “I don’t trust the police/social workers/authorities.” …is a telling statement. “rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing.” (Rom. 13:3-4)
17) “You are wrecking the family!” is a lie. The one who is unrepentantly harming others, and not seeking help for their issues is wrecking the family. Those who protect themselves and others are salvaging what remains of the family.
18) “You hurt my feelings when you told me that I abused you. You always complain so much! Why are you so negative? You are always so mean to me. YOU should apologize to ME.” …is a gaslighting. Gaslighting is a technique of changing the facts, in order to confuse the victim. A typical attack is blaming the victim for the actions of the abuser. This is a form of psychological abuse: it is an attempt to break down your mind, confuse you, and weaken your most powerful defence: your trust in your own sanity. If reading this post causes you to feel dizzy, confused, anxious, an upset stomach, extreme fatigue, a headache, or an unexplained ache in a part of your body, you may have been a victim of psychological abuse.
19) “You can’t report this because I am your spiritual head,” is a lie. People in positions of leadership are held to a *higher* standard in the Bible: “judgment begins with the house of God” 1 Peter 4:17, and “If a church elder continues in sin despite being warned, rebuke him in the presence of all so that others will be warned not to sin” (1 Tim. 5:19)
20) “God forgives me, so should you” is not true. Nowhere does God forgive unrepentant sinners. God also does not forgive people who use grace as an excuse to continue sinning. Neither should you. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
If you believe that you are the victim of physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or financial abuse, please find a safe person and/or the appropriate authorities with which to share your story. If you believe that you are in physical danger, please leave now or call the police. Yes, Christians are allowed to call secular authorities: in fact, I would recommend that you start there.
You were meant to thrive, not just survive. And the Bible was never meant to keep you in a cage!

Is EVERYTHING Either a Sin or a Virtue?

If you take something simple, like say an apple: there are a lot of different ways of looking at it. It can be round, or red, or expensive, or sweet, or heavy, or healthy, or ethically sourced, or GMO-free, or stolen, or cursed, or poisoned, or tasty. None of these descriptions are contradictory: they may all be true at the same time. (Hopefully not, for the one tasting them! lol)
When it comes to humans, as well, there are many different ways of looking at people, and at problems. It seems as though one common problem is that we tend to see people only through one lens: in the church, we tend to think of people as only spiritual, and their problems as only moral. But there are other ways of looking at the same problems. Say a person is struggling with anxiety. Is this a sin problem? Well, that is one way of looking at it. Maybe we should wag our fingers at them and say, “stop being scared.” We could try that. But there are also other options: maybe the problem is past trauma, which needs to be delicately unravelled. Maybe the subconscious is trying to warn them of something in the present: a person or situation that their conscious mind cannot face rationally. Maybe they are out of sync with their bodies. Maybe they have an illness, or a chemical deficiency. …or there could be many other explanations.

The problem with seeing all issues through one lens is mislabeling things, and labeling things poorly. Imagine if the only thing that you cared about were apples that looked good. You could end up with some tasteless ones, some not ethically sourced, and some that were poisoned!

Imagine labelling everything a sin, or a faith issue. Now, anyone who is sick feels a sense of shame. Anyone who has emotions and thoughts that they cannot control now tries to buckle down and repress them even harder, and adds shame to the mix.

The solution is not to remove the ethical component. Some things really are wrong, and sin is a word we need in our vocabulary. But it is not the only word.

I propose another word: health.

What is healthy for you?

God made your body, and He loves you, and He wants you to thrive. Why not try living for a while by asking, “What will be the most healthy thing I can do for myself today?”

…just see where that takes you. Maybe that could be a better starting place than, “How can I avoid sinning today?”

The Dangers of “Biblicism”

Reading the Bible, all by yourself, with no commentaries and no input from others is the ultimate in confirmation bias. A person can conveniently ignore or explain away anything that challenges them, while finding “biblical support” for all of their personal prejudices and ideas. If no support is given directly from scriptures, the person can simply say, “the Holy Spirit told me…” and put some very outlandish spin on a verse. It happens all the time!
“Bible teachers” like this can be very attractive. “Wow, he only quotes the Bible!” “Wow, he is self-taught! He wasn’t corrupted by some dirty seminary!” “Wow, God seems to speak to him so much!” …but the person isn’t really speaking to them about Gods way, but their own private ideas, wrapped in Biblical language. The effects of such teachers can be devastating: among other things, it can make it seem like anybody can make the Bible say anything that they want. Which of course, they can. So how can we avoid this confirmation bias? We cannot. We are only human. That is why we need one another. “Let one or two speak, and the rest pass judgment.” “But the Bereans were more noble, because after Paul spoke, they searched the Scriptures, to see if these things were so.” “*Study* to show yourself as a workman approved, able to *accurately* handle the word if God.” “You Pharisees…teach as doctrines the ideas of men…” “see to it that no one takes you captive through the…basic principles of men…”
The believing community is:
1) A local church of people who can respond in some way to the “teacher.” If the teacher is never told that they were wrong, and never revises their views, they have no such community
2) Commentaries and other pastors. You don’t know it all! The Bible wasn’t written in your language — or your millennia! You need help understanding some things! Be humble enough to ask for and receive help!
3) The wider faith community. Not every good Christian agrees with you. Some have very good Biblical reasons for what they believe. Learn from them! Learn to sit with the fact that there are more than one way to see many issues. Gradually, you will begin to see that while *some* issues in the Bible are black and white, many are grey. And some things you were taught to believe aren’t even in the Bible at all!
…as you emerge from under the dictatorial cloud of one narrow minded teacher, into the light and colour of the family of God, you may begin to find that the Bible is more like a grand story, where we can all find meaning and purpose and direction for our own lives. It is less like an instruction manual, telling us how to conform to the ideas and biases of one narrow minded “Bible teacher.”

Chantelle Neufeld: Online Therapist

Hello, friends! I would like to introduce you to my therapist. She works from home, through video or phone calls. She also does therapy via private messages/chat. I find her prices very reasonable. She is very available and kind.
She is a former ATI member (for those who have been through that), and understands Christianity and the ways we can be harmed by religion. She considers herself “spiritual” but not “Christian,” and also sees the good in Christianity. I can share from experience that she is very respectful of anyone’s belief systems, and will work with your beliefs, rather than trying to convert you. “Hypnotherapy” is not hypnosis: it is a way of relaxing, and telling a story, which becomes a way of communicating powerfully with our subconscious mind. I find it to be a very poetic and natural way to rewrite our stories. It is a bit different, but I have found incredible healing and health from it. She also does just normal talk therapy.
I recommend her strongly: I would not be where I am today without her.
PM me for more information. She’s great!

Chantelle Neufeld

Raised in the IBLP Cult?

I recently shared an interview from my therapist Chantelle Neufeld, entitled, “Raised in a Cult.” I commented that this would give my friends a window into what it was like to be raised in IBLP/ATI under the teachings of Bill Gothart, as my wife was.

I have had significant responses to posting this and other videos. I have decided not to share these responses, as most of them were made in private messages.

In summary, I have had quite a few women — mostly in their mid thirties — either simply “like” the interview, or reach out to me to say that my comments on this and related subjects really encouraged them.

I had two lengthy discussions with men in their fifties. They both were incredulous that I would call ATI a “cult.” When I encouraged them to watch the interview, they responded that the specific issues cited were clearly wrong, but that an entire system should not be thrown out due to “a few slip ups” of the leader. (For those who don’t know, there is compelling evidence that Bill Gothart was using his organization to groom and systematically rape young girls). When asked for evidence as to why ATI was such a wonderful system, they both responded that, “I had a great experience,” and “it is Biblical.”

The difference between these two responses is very striking to myself. Yes, the experience was great to the men who were told that “head of your home” meant that they basically had absolute control over the lives of their children, for life. However, that was not a good experience for the children — particularly the girls, but also the boys — who were trying to figure out how to grow up and learn to thrive under such harsh parenting.

I hope to look more at IBLP, ATI, and Bill Gothart in future posts.

Shaming Apostates?

I take serious issue with this meme. What it seems to imply is that if anyone leaves the faith, even due to legitimate harms caused by others, the guilt still lies conveniently on the victim. But there are victims of physical abuse that will never walk again. There are victims of sexual abuse that may never learn to love. There are victims of psychological abuse that have truly lost their minds. And those who have participated in spiritual abuse are not innocent in God’s eyes. In fact, Jesus said, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)
Spiritual abuse is a very serious cause of pain, and the damage can be life-long. I do not think that we should shame victims in this way.

Obey thy Parents…?

An important key in Biblical interpretation is distinguishing between principles and “magic formulas.” It is a good principle that if we raise our kids right, they will turn out well. That usually works: and it is certainly better than the alternative. However, Proverbs 22:6 is not a magic formula. It’s not telling parents: 1) if you find just the right technique, your kids will be perfect, or, 2) if your kids “destroy” their lives, that was because you didn’t get the formula right. It’s a principle: love and guide your kids. It is important for their future well-being. As a principle, it is good wisdom.
Another principle is that if one honours parents and authority figures, and obeys them when appropriate, life will go well for them. This is good wisdom: you won’t get far in life by disrespecting every authority figure you find. However, it does not mean: 1) honouring is equivalent to obeying, 2) adult children need to keep obeying their parents, 3) children who do not obey will be cursed, and the universe will conspire to destroy them, 4) children who make adult decisions and have an adult life apart from their parents are rebelling or dishonouring them.
As a principle, Ephesians 6:3 is good. But as a “magic formula,” this same passage can be used to try to cross boundaries (which are already tough to navigate) between adult children and their parents: as though parents should still be making decisions for their adult children — sometimes even when they are married! This teaching very unhelpfully goes against the teaching (established in Genesis 3) that adult children should “leave” their parents and “cleave” to their spouse (or, just leave if they will remain single). It even makes some people feel like they will be “cursed with bad luck” if they go against their parents: a very unbiblical idea. It places undue pressure on the parents, and can be weaponized to place an incredible amount of control on the children.
Taken this way, this passage of ancient wisdom can be turned into a powerful tool of spiritual abuse.

A Clinical Definition of Narcissism (NPD)

“Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.”

— Definition of Narcissism, from the Mayo Clinic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/…/n…/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

Debate: Can a Victim Leave an Abuser?

I have been posting more on narcissism and spiritual abuse on my Facebook. Yesterday, I posted the following meme:

I wrote:

Words like “submit,” “obey,” “honour,” “forgive,” “reconcile,” “love”…were never meant to be used as chains. ⛓ You have permission to end a relationship with someone who is unrepentantly harming you. No matter how they are related to you, and no matter what they tell you God wants you to do. You have permission to protect yourself from abuse. Always.

This sparked a discussion with a friend I will refer to as Etienne, who started off the discussion by saying:

You didn’t find that teaching in the Bible. 
To find what love looks like look at how God treated Israel through the old testament, right up until He died to save those who were/are literally abusing Him.
If you want to see what selfishness and “toxic” look like, view the same passages from the opposite perspective.
The love God commands us to give, constantly requires us to set aside the justice we was to receive in order to give mercy and grace.

As I often do, I took a moment to write out my candid thoughts to myself in long form on notes, before taking a few breaths and responding to him. What I wrote to myself was:

“You did not find that teaching in the Bible”

…actually, I did. All throughout the Bible, we see God’s people following Jesus’ teaching, “whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next,” (Mat. 10:23). Jacob left his emotionally abusive father in law Laban. The Israelites fled from the deceptive and abusive king, Pharaoh. David fled from his verbally and physically abusive king and father in law, Saul. Abigail went behind the back of her stubborn and un-listening husband Nabal. Elijah fled from the unrepentant and moody King Ahab.

God instructs us to forgive our enemies. Forgiveness is something that happens inside. But reconciliation cannot happen when there is not true repentance. Repentance means a change of behaviour: and a change means at a certain point, harmful behaviours need to stop happening. Like David, there’s a time to just get out of town when one fears one too many times for their own safety.

Your choice of God as a symbol of someone who puts up with abuse is poorly chosen. Here is what God did in His relationship to Israel: he pointed out their sins; he stated that there would be consequences for their sins; he followed through on those consequences; when they repented, He forgave and reconciled; this cycle continued numerous times; eventually God identified that they were not truly repenting (no change in behaviours) but only trying to avoid consequences; His warnings became more severe, and he saw less and less hope in the cycle; Finally, God told Israel that He was formally divorcing it; God enacted a separation, by sending them to Babylon; when some repented, God made a new covenant with only the faithful Israelites; God sent His Son to make a way of salvation for those who repent; God follows through on His final consequence, of Hell, for those who persist in wounding Him by their sins and self-destructive actions. We are told that the same applies to Christians: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27).

Properly read, the Bible is on the side of victims, not abusers.

***

When I decided to talk with Etienne, I decided that it was actually best for him to clarify his rather confusing post first. I was not entirely sure what he was advocating. And so I gave him an invitation to make himself more clear by writing:

Myself: So it would seem that you do not agree with the statement, “You have permission to end a relationship with someone who is unrepentantly harming you.” Do you find this unbiblical, or incorrect, or both? Thank you for your comment.

Etienne: First, I’m not saying that abuse is ok. Abuse is not ok.
Second “love, respect, submit, unity, etc are not chains to hold one to bad relationships, if they are treated that way, that’s a great sign that there is abuse or at least very wrong thinking going on.
I am suggesting that pursuing ones “rights”, “protecting myself”, etc are the real chains in this scenerio.
Look at what the Bible teaches about how God thinks relationships work, it’s never pursuing justice for self. Pursue justice for those around you, but for yourself, pursue learning to give grace and mercy.
This is a hard lesson for every believer, but if it can be learned; they will be free of the chains that put themself first. That’s a lot of freedom.
Another way to describe it, don’t think of God’s commands as chains that restrict out freedoms, think of them as fences that protect us from harm that we don’t fully understand. Inside that fence we are completely free, and far safer than going beyond the fence.

***

At this point, it was bedtimes for my family, and I had work in the morning. I did not pick up this discussion until the afternoon. This gave a few other people a chance to chime in.

***

Sally (One of my friends): But you still haven’t answered whether a person should be able to leave an abusive relationship. I’ve seen people weaponize those commands to shame a person for leaving an abusive spouse. You didn’t pray hard enough, you didn’t trust God enough, you didn’t follow the commands correctly. Instead of acknowledging their abusive partner didn’t follow God’s guidelines for a relationship, how God never wanted his child to suffer at the hands of someone who is supposed to be a partner and love and care for and with them, they put the blame on the victim.

Etienne: I’m not going to answer that, God has already answered that, if you care what He thinks, you can find His words pretty easily.
All I’m saying is that responding to sin with sin, is sin.

Sally: So if a woman is being beaten by her husband, you would shame her for fleeing to safety because God would want her to stay?
I am honestly trying to understand.

Sally: Also to ask me to find the proof to your point is lazy. In no other discourse it is acceptable to say I’m right, look up the evidence to prove my point yourself. You are required to provide the scripture that explains your points.
If your lawyer goes to court and says “Your honor, the evidence is all there. Just look yourself.” You’d loose. If your doctor said “This is what your disease is, the evidence is all there. Research it youself.” You’d upset.
If a cop pulled you over and gave you a ticket and said “what you did all just happened. Remember it youself” you would fight that ticket.
It is the responsibility of the person asserting a notion to defend it, not the person questioning it.

Etienne: The answer to your question is, no. I would not shame her.
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong question.
The right question is, “if a woman is being beaten by her husband, what does the Bible teach?”
Then you must break it down into its parts,
One, what does the Bible teach about abuse, and how husbands should treat their wives?
Two, what does the Bible teach the believers response should be when someone is sinning against them?
In regard to “look it up yourself”, if you want an opinion poll, Facebook is the place to bring your problems; however, if you want to know what God says, that’s best by far if read yourself.
If you’re new to the Bible, an easy way to start is a Google search with something like “Bible passage abuse” or “Bible passage response to sin”.
After you have the relevant Bible passages in mind, reading some commentaries is helpful to some, talking about them with some mature believers is helpful to others.
Looking for people who tell you what you want to hear or else you’ll reduce their statements ad absurdum is not going to be helpful to you in finding the truth.

Myself (when I resumed the conversation the next day): I am glad to hear you say that “abuse is not OK,” and that Biblical commands to love, forgive, etc. should not be used to legitimize staying in an abusive relationship. 
…however, I am a bit confused, because you seem to be saying exactly the opposite in the rest of your comment, and elsewhere. You are saying that “rights” and “self protection” are really a form of bondage. You seem to be saying that an abused Christian has no rights, and should not flee, even to protect themselves. This stance should be understood as “freedom” I am just repeating your words back to you. Is this not what you meant to say?
You seem to be trying to have it both ways. What do you actually believe? Can an abused person leave an abuser? Or not?

Etienne: what I’m trying to say is, responding to sin with sin, is not ok.
So, find what God says is the correct response not what popular option says is right.
You have the tools, you probably have the relevant passages memorized.
After the Bible is read, it’s just a matter of interpretation and application.

Myself: OK, so what you are saying is that it is a sin for an abused person to leave their abuser? I disagree with that. 

Let me show you some biblical examples of Godly people leaving situations of danger and abuse by the person in authority over them:

Jacob left his emotionally abusive father in law Laban. The Israelites fled from the deceptive and abusive king, Pharaoh. David fled from his verbally and physically abusive king and father in law, Saul. Abigail went behind the back of her stubborn and un-listening husband Nabal. Elijah fled from the unrepentant and moody King Ahab. On several occasions, Jesus left an angry mob, sometimes mid-sentence. Paul left cities before he was killed. The early Christians fled Jerusalem, and from there, city to city. These godly people followed Jesus’ teaching: “whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next,” (Mat. 10:23).
These people did not “return evil for evil.” David in particular had reason and opportunity to exact revenge, but he did not. However, he also did not stick around to see if next time Saul’s aim would be better. Christians are not to retaliate: but there is a time to leave. It is not sinful or evil to simply walk away. In fact, this is what we are told to do.
I re-affirm that it is not a sin for a victim to leave an abusive relationship. I think these passages are a strong support of this pattern, and can provide others if you would like.

Etienne: great biblical examples!
Now keeping in mind the context and culture we’re in, how many of those examples apply to husband and wife divorcing, or friends ditching former friends at the first sign of trouble?

Myself: ”first sign of trouble”? No, we’re talking about abuse here. 
I would see them all as applying. As I said, these are examples of godly people leaving situations of chronic mistreatment and unrepentant abuse by civil or familial authority figures.

Etienne: ok, then at the interpretation level you and I differ slightly, as long as you’re being diligent before the Lord, God bless.
I will leave you with one reminder, in all interpersonal problems, the goal needs to be reconciliation; and reconciliation starts with forgiveness, not with making amends nor with justice (as the world likes to believe).

Myself: That is not correct. We are only responsible to reconcile “so far as it depends on you.” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes, as in the cases of abuse I mentioned above, that was not possible. We are to let go of bitterness every time that we pray. That happens in the privacy of our own hearts. But we only forgive and reconcile our brother/sister if they repent first. (Luke 17:3-4). We are not only allowed, but instructed to separate from those who continue to sin against us, and are not open to Godly rebuke. (Mat. 18:15-17).
I want to thank you for this interaction. God bless you on your journey, as you seek to honour Him in all things.

***

Clearly, there is much to be parsed out in the conversation. Among other things, we see fairly clearly that some people do indeed think that the Christian message states that an abused person should stay with their abusive partner, no matter what. These people seem to think vaguely that, “that’s what the Bible says,” and “that’s how God treats us”…but when pressed for specifics, they punt, go on the offensive or say, “well, you must know all the verses by now!” He shifted his position numerous times, but it seemed clear that he was still unchanging in his belief that an abused person should go back to their abuser, no matter what.

Another thing that is interesting is that I kept coming back to the word “abuse,” while he kept shrinking from it, trying to replace the word in our discussion with, “at the first sign of trouble.” This is gaslighting: our conversation was not about people giving up on one another “at the first sign of trouble.” It was about abuse. Abuse is a word in the English language that means something like, “ongoing, significant harm caused to a person.” It is not the same as, “minor annoyance.” When people try cheap tricks like this in debates, they show their true colours. I knew then that Etienne was not interested in learning anything: rather, he only wanted to justify himself and win an argument to prove that he was right.

He demanded that I do the work to prove that his view was right: which as “Sally” pointed out, was unreasonable. He was the one making a claim, and yet he provided no evidence for it. I also had made a claim, and so I provided logical and Biblical evidence for it. He retorted that my logic was not Biblical, and so I provided more Biblical evidence. He responded that these examples did not apply because the culture and times were different. Strange how culture and time only applies to verses that we find inconsistent with our beliefs. But I responded that actually, I think that these verses all spoke directly to the question at hand, at which point Etienne simply said that we had a “difference of opinion” about that.

The technique of asking for proof, then changing one’s demands when proof is given is called “moving the goal-posts.” This is another deceptive debate tactic.

Also, notice, Etienne never stated how he himself would interpret these passages. While trying to posture as someone who based their interpretations on the Bible, Etienne actually did not cite one single Bible passage. He referred broadly to “how God treats Israel,” but did not provide any specific Bible verses to analyze: this is because he had none on his side.

In a way, I should not have let him off the hook so easily. I certainly could have pressed him. How would he justify his belief that an abused person must remain with their abuser? What does he mean by that? And if he choses not to use the word “abuse,” what word would he use for continual, unrepentant, serious harm caused by an individual?

…but this is not my first rodeo. And I learned long ago that in online discussions, if someone choses to excuse themselves from a discussion, then it is just best to let them go. It is childish to try to get in the last word.

“if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” 1 Corinthians 7:15

These topics will be a major topic of discussion in future posts.

For a great resource on domestic abuse in the church, see Rev. Jeff Crippen’s carefully researched and groundbreaking book, Unholy Charade, Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church.

Forgive and Forget?

Abusers rely on “forgive and forget.” It is their bread and butter, the lifeblood of their dysfunction.
When things are bad, victims duck and hide, disassociate from the pain, blame themselves, or blame others. But when the storm is over, the victim is so relieved they may confuse this relief for genuine happiness, even love. They would often do anything to have this peace, even forgiving the abuser, absolving him/her of all guilt, and promising to “watch their behaviour” ever more closely so that the abuse doesn’t happen again: accepting the blame for the abuse, and walking deeper into bondage so that the current storm ends.
So long as they forget what they have been through, the abuse can continue.
But if they start keeping track, stop listening to the false apologies (which have no repentance in them), and begin to see the overall pattern…the jig is up.
Forgiveness means many things to many people. It is important not to hold on to bitterness. But any version of forgiveness which includes enabling abuse for ones self or others is wrong.
But so long as good church people keep telling them to “forgive and forget,” there is little danger of this happening…
Note: The dynamic of forgetting about abuse in order to cling to the “good times” is sometimes called, “trauma amnesia.”

A Psalm for Victims of Abuse

👇 my commentary below 👇
O Lord, You have searched me and known me . You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such  knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:1-24

  1. A constant theme in narcissistic abuse is NEGLECT. Because narcissists are so self-centred, they train others to serve them, fear them, to “love” them, to hate them, to need them, to listen to them, to become obsessed with them, and to live for them. The victim learns that their life does not matter. When the abuser needs them, the victim MUST be there. But nobody is there for the victim. Nobody sees them. But…God reminds her…God sees. He is there. In every way that the abuser has ignored them, this psalm remind the victim of how thoroughly they are *seen* by their Heavenly Father. He thinks about them, knows them, cares for them, sees them, is THERE. Wherever they are. Up? Down? Extatic? Suicidal? At home? Lost? He is there. He sees. He is there.
  2. Another theme is minimization and excusing. The victim feels they need the abuser, and so they put up with the mistreatment, and excuse it all away when the abuser throws in a pale apology, or shows some fleeting kindness. But at a certain point, the abuser sees things in a new light. This behaviour is not an accident, but a premeditated pattern. It is intended to harm and destroy for selfish ends. It is wicked: there is no other word for it. No excuse. None. Suddenly, the victim sees their abuser for the enemy that they are. In language that some would find shocking, the victim cuts ties with their abuser, and calls down curses on them, and prays against any attempt to cause them harm
  3. The victim is now free from the abuser: but pain still lingers in their hearts. Anxious thoughts trouble them. They pray for their Heavenly Father to know them still more, and to seek out and heal all of the wounded and broken places inside of them.
…a wonderful prayer for survivors to memorize, tape to their mirrors, or pray through in conjunction with guided breathing (deep breath in, pray a line of the psalm out) as relaxation/centring when anxious or troubled.
These are true and healing words.

The Coal Miner’s Dirge

It was summer when they found him,

And he still knew how to grin,
“Come and work and sing with us”
That is how these things begin.
And at first the work was pleasant
Working hard and hardly sore
But that day has come and come again
When he wanted to say more
For his friend was bright and cheerful too
Buried under miles of coal
And the lie that made it bearable
Was was the profit to his soul
And another who was old and grey
Coughing big black globs of goo
And the lie that made it bearable
Was “he chose to work there too”
But the loudest lie of aching soul
As he shoveled through the clay
Was the way they made him cover up
And they paid him not to say
For the man was bright and clever,
And a useful sort of chap
Bright mind for sorting numbers,
Bright mind for setting traps
Not traps to kill men instantly
Tell me, where is gold in that?
But traps that killed them shamelessly
From the negligence and draft
And ways to turn a profit
And to round out boys and dimes
As the fellas toiled on fearlessly
And his silence was his crime
And the working stole his soul away,
And the silence stole his joy
And the lie that made it bearable?
“I am silent for my boy.”
But one day he came home sheepishly
As he struggled to make sense
Of his aching sense of dignity
And his mischief to his friends
And that day turned brightly crimson,
When his eldest turned to say,
“I will work with you tomorrow,
I am old enough today!”
And then what oh what, I ask you
Could his bright and good heart do?
Could his silence hold the bloodshed
Would his son be buried too?
It was autumn when he said it,
Said it clear and said it grim
“Men,” he said, “it’s time we strike”
And the men, they stood with him
Stood and watched that is, they watched
As the scabs all broke the line
Working hard and hardly sore
And they whistled as they mined
But the man could not be silent,
And his fury did not dim
And his clever mind and bitter whit
Made him strong enough to win
It was winter when he wrote it
Bound it tight with miners twine
Sent it off to be a book
Sealed in black a dying mine
And some say his hairs grew whiter,
And some say his ears grew dim
And they said it was his anger
And his selfish way to win
But then win he did,
In a sorry sort of way
For the trying times could roll no dimes
And it all shut up one day
It was springtime when they found him
With an arrow through his heart
And a note in blood attached to it
“Thanks a lot, you bloody lark!”
And his son was crimson bitter
For the way his old man died
And his friends they turned to mourners
And his widow wailed and pined
But that message that he spoke that day
Bound with twine and inked in truth
Sent an arrow to their dragon heart
For his sacrifice was proof
And in time the story changes
From a martyr to a friend
And his son took up the banner
And the workers made an end
Of a tyrant of silence
Overcheerful ever gay
Of the dark and ill-found riches,
Of their narrow, crafty ways
It was summer when he found himself
And he knew his dad not dead
Beat within him, speaking through him
As with flaming heart he said:
“No lie could make it bearable
To suffer on in dread
Be the man and break the silence
Tremble not but write instead!”
Tremble not,
but write.
Instead…

Review: A Christian’s Guide to No Contact

As I have mentioned before, this blog was birthed out of my private journals. For that reason, a lot of my earlier posts have important gaps in them, and some important steps of the journey go undocumented.
Perhaps the most important step is my reading A Christian’s Guide to No Contact

This was one of the first books that I read, and it had a profound impact on me. At the time, I thought that her words were very good, but perhaps her language was bit harsh. She kept referring to her parents as “narcissistic psychopaths.” At the time, I did not know what these words meant, and so I thought she was simply calling them names. I now understand that these are technical terms for real psychological conditions. I have recently discovered that both of my parents are narcissists, and my father is a psychopath, with “dark triad” characteristics. 

As I had a recent dream about my parents, I realized that parts of me are still struggling with feelings of attachment to them. I decided that I would reread this book, after the research and progress I have made in the last five months, I was able to understand her much more clearly.
The first statement that really stood out to me was: 
It is a basic human right of every person to be left alone if they want to be. (Page 5)
As I read it again, this sentence rocked me. In the days since reading it, this sentence has become like a bedrock in my thinking. Yes, I do have a right to be left alone if I want to be. And I do want to be. How could anyone argue with this? Well, how could they?
It reminds me of the early days of my journey, some eight months ago. In the tangle of confusion of my mind, I played through scenario after scenario of my angry father or manipulative mother confronting me in a variety of ways and saying, “Why haven’t you called? Why haven’t you contacted us?” I felt frozen, stunned, confused. All I could think of to say was, “I didn’t feel like it.” 
…and yet, strangely, this response seemed incredibly powerful. 
I didn’t want to. I’m a grown man. And I don’t want to talk to you. So why should I?
It is revolutionary thinking, for someone raised to believe that their life is owned by their parents, and that their own will does not matter.
“I don’t want to.” 

Who cares what you want. We have legal, Biblical, and societal rights: and our rights trump your desires. They always have, and they always will!

“No. I don’t want to, and that is that.”

This journey (which has now topped 200 posts) is really no more complex than that: I wish to be left alone. And I’m allowed to make that call if I feel like it.
Were these people not related to me, there would be no question: I am not in the habit of letting narcissists and psychopaths close to me. And simply sharing some genetic material and giving birth to me does not give a lifelong privilege of hurtful access to my life. I am allowed to cut out people that are not being nice to me. 
I am allowed to be left alone if I want to be. And I want to be.
The second principle that really stuck out to me was how to identify an unfixable relationship. People and relationships are moving in a direction. And based on the past, we can make a reasonable guess about what the future will be. Pitelli writes:

Usually we stay in a bad relationship because we think there’s a chance that things will get better. We need to ask ourselves what exactly are the chances that this person will change? It may be possible, but is it likely? It might happen, and it might not. For that matter, our relative might come to his senses after we leave, and change his ways. Nothing is stopping him from doing that, either. Probably the best way of judging whether there is actually a realistic possibility of our relative ever changing is to think back on our past experiences with this person. We need to ask ourselves the four most important questions: Does this person ever admit it when he is wrong? Does this person ever apologize (sincerely apologize)? Have I ever seen this person change his behavior after being told it was hurtful or upsetting to others? Has this person ever shown true remorse or tried to make amends for anything he’s done? If our abusive relative or friend has never done any of these things, then he is not likely to start now. And if he very rarely or grudgingly does one of these things, then he is also unlikely to make a sincere effort to modify his behavior. (pp. 32-33). 

The third thing that spoke to me was writing a divorce notice. Pitelli writes:  

Another possibility for going No Contact is to write your abusive friend or relative a note. Again, this can be short and sweet, as in “Our relationship is not enjoyable (and/or healthy) and I am ending it. Do not contact me or my children again.” Remember, the more you say, the more you are giving your narcissist ammunition to argue over. Send this certified mail, return receipt requested…in case you need it for evidence in the future. (pp. 35-36)

The final thing that really really spoke to me was the many Bible verses that Pitelli found about loneliness and families. However, the most powerful part of this book, I believe was her simple concept of abstaining from evil. Her logic is something like this: 1) there are evil people in this world, 2) the Bible has a lot to say about evil people, including having nothing to do with them, and completely being separate from them, 3) if you are reading this book, it is very possible that your parents are evil, and these verses apply. 
That is simple Bible exegesis, and when you see it laid out like that, it is hard to deny that going “No Contact” with an evil person is at times a Biblical mandate. 
Some of the verses that especially spoke to me were:

WHEN MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER FORSAKE ME, THEN THE LORD WILL TAKE ME UP… Psalm 27:10 KJV. 

Our Abba Father will never leave nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 37:25; Hebrews 13:5). The Lord sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and his grace is always sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). (p. 9).   

He will replace every relationship that has caused us sorrow and pain with a healthy, loving relationship- often in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places: AT MY FIRST DEFENSE NO ONE STOOD WITH ME, BUT ALL FORSOOK ME. MAY IT NOT BE CHARGED AGAINST THEM, BUT THE LORD STOOD WITH ME AND STRENGTHENED ME, SO THAT THE MESSAGE MIGHT BE PREACHED FULLY THROUGH ME, AND THAT ALL THE GENTILES MIGHT HEAR. ALSO I WAS DELIVERED OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE LION. AND THE LORD WILL DELIVER ME FROM EVERY EVIL WORK AND PRESERVE ME FOR HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM. TO HIM BE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN!… 2 Timothy 4:16-18 NKJV. Thank you, Father! (p. 10) 

FROM MY EARLIEST YOUTH MY ENEMIES HAVE PERSECUTED ME, BUT THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO FINISH ME OFF. MY BACK IS COVERED WITH CUTS, AS IF A FARMER HAD PLOWED LONG FURROWS. BUT THE LORD IS GOOD; HE HAS CUT THE CORDS USED BY THE UNGODLY TO BIND ME.…. Psalm 129:2-4 NLT. (p. 11) I feel as though this is my new life verse.

I WILL SET NO WICKED THING BEFORE MINE EYES: I HATE THE WORK OF THEM THAT TURN ASIDE; IT SHALL NOT CLEAVE TO ME. A FROWARD HEART SHALL DEPART FROM ME: I WILL NOT KNOW A WICKED PERSON. WHOSO PRIVILY SLANDERETH HIS NEIGHBOUR, HIM WILL I CUT OFF: HIM THAT HATH A HIGH LOOK AND A PROUD HEART WILL NOT I SUFFER…..HE THAT WORKETH DECEIT SHALL NOT DWELL WITHIN MY HOUSE: HE THAT TELLETH LIES SHALL NOT TARRY IN MY SIGHT. I WILL EARLY DESTROY ALL THE WICKED OF THE LAND; THAT I MAY CUT OFF ALL WICKED DOERS FROM THE CITY OF THE LORD…. Psalm 101:3-5, 7-8 KJV. 

BE YE NOT UNEQUALLY YOKED TOGETHER WITH UNBELIEVERS: FOR WHAT FELLOWSHIP HATH RIGHTEOUSNESS WITH UNRIGHTEOUSNESS? AND WHAT COMMUNION HATH LIGHT WITH DARKNESS? AND WHAT CONCORD HATH CHRIST WITH BELIAL? OR WHAT PART HATH HE THAT BELIEVETH WITH AN INFIDEL? AND WHAT AGREEMENT HATH THE TEMPLE OF GOD WITH IDOLS? FOR YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD; AS GOD HATH SAID, I WILL DWELL IN THEM, AND WALK IN THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. WHEREFORE COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YE SEPARATE, SAITH THE LORD, AND TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING; AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU, AND WILL BE A FATHER UNTO YOU, AND YE SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAITH THE LORD ALMIGHTY…. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 KJV. 

FOR MEN SHALL BE LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES, COVETOUS, BOASTERS, PROUD, BLASPHEMERS, DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS, UNTHANKFUL, UNHOLY, WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION, TRUCEBREAKERS, FALSE ACCUSERS, INCONTINENT, FIERCE, DESPISERS OF THOSE THAT ARE GOOD, TRAITORS, HEADY, HIGH-MINDED, LOVERS OF PLEASURES MORE THAN LOVERS OF GOD; HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY….. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 KJV. 

REJECT A DIVISIVE MAN AFTER THE FIRST AND SECOND ADMONITION, KNOWING THAT SUCH A PERSON IS WARPED AND SINNING, BEING SELF-COMDEMNED… Titus 3:10-11 NKJV. 

DO NOT BE MISLED: “BAD COMPANY CORRUPTS GOOD CHARACTER.”… 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV. 

HE THAT WALKETH WITH WISE MEN SHALL BE WISE: BUT A COMPANION OF FOOLS SHALL BE DESTROYED… Proverbs 13:20 KJV. 

THROW OUT THE MOCKER, AND FIGHTING, QUARRELS AND INSULTS WILL DISAPPEAR… Proverbs 22:10 NLT. 

MAKE NO FRIENDSHIP WITH AN ANGRY MAN; AND WITH A FURIOUS MAN THOU SHALT NOT GO: LEST THOU LEARN HIS WAYS, AND GET A SNARE TO THY SOUL… Proverbs 22:24-25 KJV. (pp. 11-14)  

SHORT-TEMPERED PEOPLE MUST PAY THEIR OWN PENALTY. IF YOU RESCUE THEM ONCE, YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN…. Proverbs 19:19 NLT.
(p. 14)  

GOD WILL JUDGE THOSE ON THE OUTSIDE; BUT AS THE SCRIPTURES SAY, “YOU MUST REMOVE THE EVIL PERSON FROM AMONG YOU”… 1 Corinthians 5:13 NLT. (p. 14)  

BUT NOW I AM WRITING YOU THAT YOU MUST NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ANYONE WHO CALLS HIMSELF A BROTHER BUT IS SEXUALLY IMMORAL OR GREEDY, AN IDOLATER OR A SLANDERER, A DRUNKARD OR A SWINDLER. WITH SUCH A MAN DO NOT EVEN EAT…. 1 Corinthians 5:11 NIV.
(pp. 15-16)

Sister Pitelli has a Facebook page that I have been following, and several other books. I am very interested in her book on forgiveness, as this is something that my wife and I have discussed at length. Forgiveness has been a cornerstone of my ministry for over a decade. But I now feel like I may have been teaching it slightly wrong. I would like to read and analyze this book in the near future.

Review of the book, A Christian’s Guide to No Contact

The first statement that really stood out to me from this book was: 
It is a basic human right of every person to be left alone if they want to be. (Page 5)
As I read it again, this sentence rocked me. Yes, it does seem like a person should have a right to be left alone if they want to be. How could you argue with that? “You have to let this person into your life, even though you don’t want them there.” I’m sorry, that is not a loving relationship. That is domination and captivity.

A healthy adult can be left alone if they so chose.

The second principle that really stuck out to me was how to identify an unfixable relationship. People and relationships are moving in a direction. And based on the past, we can make a reasonable guess about what the future will be. Pitelli writes:

Usually we stay in a bad relationship because we think there’s a chance that things will get better. We need to ask ourselves what exactly are the chances that this person will change? It may be possible, but is it likely? It might happen, and it might not. For that matter, our relative might come to his senses after we leave, and change his ways. Nothing is stopping him from doing that, either. Probably the best way of judging whether there is actually a realistic possibility of our relative ever changing is to think back on our past experiences with this person. We need to ask ourselves the four most important questions: Does this person ever admit it when he is wrong? Does this person ever apologize (sincerely apologize)? Have I ever seen this person change his behavior after being told it was hurtful or upsetting to others? Has this person ever shown true remorse or tried to make amends for anything he’s done? If our abusive relative or friend has never done any of these things, then he is not likely to start now. And if he very rarely or grudgingly does one of these things, then he is also unlikely to make a sincere effort to modify his behavior. (pp. 32-33). 

The third thing that spoke to me was writing a divorce notice. Pitelli writes:  

Another possibility for going No Contact is to write your abusive friend or relative a note. Again, this can be short and sweet, as in “Our relationship is not enjoyable (and/or healthy) and I am ending it. Do not contact me or my children again.” Remember, the more you say, the more you are giving your narcissist ammunition to argue over. Send this certified mail, return receipt requested…in case you need it for evidence in the future. (pp. 35-36)

The final thing that really really spoke to me was the many Bible verses that Pitelli found about loneliness and families. However, the most powerful part of this book, I believe was her simple concept of abstaining from evil. Her logic is something like this:

1) there are evil people in this world,

2) the Bible has a lot to say about evil people, including having nothing to do with them, and completely being separate from them,

3) if a person came to mind when reading the above section about unfixable people and relationships, there is a good chance that this person qualifies as a “wicked” person, as in the Bible. Thus, the Biblical commands about “separating” from wicked people would apply to them.

That is simple Bible exegesis, and when you see it laid out like that, it is hard to deny that going “No Contact” with an evil person is at times a Biblical mandate. 
Some of the verses that especially spoke to me were:

He will replace every relationship that has caused us sorrow and pain with a healthy, loving relationship- often in the most unexpected ways and from the most unexpected places: AT MY FIRST DEFENSE NO ONE STOOD WITH ME, BUT ALL FORSOOK ME. MAY IT NOT BE CHARGED AGAINST THEM, BUT THE LORD STOOD WITH ME AND STRENGTHENED ME, SO THAT THE MESSAGE MIGHT BE PREACHED FULLY THROUGH ME, AND THAT ALL THE GENTILES MIGHT HEAR. ALSO I WAS DELIVERED OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE LION. AND THE LORD WILL DELIVER ME FROM EVERY EVIL WORK AND PRESERVE ME FOR HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM. TO HIM BE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN!… 2 Timothy 4:16-18 NKJV. Thank you, Father! (p. 10) 

FROM MY EARLIEST YOUTH MY ENEMIES HAVE PERSECUTED ME, BUT THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO FINISH ME OFF. MY BACK IS COVERED WITH CUTS, AS IF A FARMER HAD PLOWED LONG FURROWS. BUT THE LORD IS GOOD; HE HAS CUT THE CORDS USED BY THE UNGODLY TO BIND ME.…. Psalm 129:2-4 NLT. (p. 11) I feel as though this is my new life verse.

I WILL SET NO WICKED THING BEFORE MINE EYES: I HATE THE WORK OF THEM THAT TURN ASIDE; IT SHALL NOT CLEAVE TO ME. A FROWARD HEART SHALL DEPART FROM ME: I WILL NOT KNOW A WICKED PERSON. WHOSO PRIVILY SLANDERETH HIS NEIGHBOUR, HIM WILL I CUT OFF: HIM THAT HATH A HIGH LOOK AND A PROUD HEART WILL NOT I SUFFER…..HE THAT WORKETH DECEIT SHALL NOT DWELL WITHIN MY HOUSE: HE THAT TELLETH LIES SHALL NOT TARRY IN MY SIGHT. I WILL EARLY DESTROY ALL THE WICKED OF THE LAND; THAT I MAY CUT OFF ALL WICKED DOERS FROM THE CITY OF THE LORD…. Psalm 101:3-5, 7-8 KJV. 

BE YE NOT UNEQUALLY YOKED TOGETHER WITH UNBELIEVERS: FOR WHAT FELLOWSHIP HATH RIGHTEOUSNESS WITH UNRIGHTEOUSNESS? AND WHAT COMMUNION HATH LIGHT WITH DARKNESS? AND WHAT CONCORD HATH CHRIST WITH BELIAL? OR WHAT PART HATH HE THAT BELIEVETH WITH AN INFIDEL? AND WHAT AGREEMENT HATH THE TEMPLE OF GOD WITH IDOLS? FOR YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD; AS GOD HATH SAID, I WILL DWELL IN THEM, AND WALK IN THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. WHEREFORE COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YE SEPARATE, SAITH THE LORD, AND TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING; AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU, AND WILL BE A FATHER UNTO YOU, AND YE SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAITH THE LORD ALMIGHTY…. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 KJV. 

FOR MEN SHALL BE LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES, COVETOUS, BOASTERS, PROUD, BLASPHEMERS, DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS, UNTHANKFUL, UNHOLY, WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION, TRUCEBREAKERS, FALSE ACCUSERS, INCONTINENT, FIERCE, DESPISERS OF THOSE THAT ARE GOOD, TRAITORS, HEADY, HIGH-MINDED, LOVERS OF PLEASURES MORE THAN LOVERS OF GOD; HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY….. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 KJV. 

REJECT A DIVISIVE MAN AFTER THE FIRST AND SECOND ADMONITION, KNOWING THAT SUCH A PERSON IS WARPED AND SINNING, BEING SELF-COMDEMNED… Titus 3:10-11 NKJV. 

DO NOT BE MISLED: “BAD COMPANY CORRUPTS GOOD CHARACTER.”… 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV. 

HE THAT WALKETH WITH WISE MEN SHALL BE WISE: BUT A COMPANION OF FOOLS SHALL BE DESTROYED… Proverbs 13:20 KJV. 

THROW OUT THE MOCKER, AND FIGHTING, QUARRELS AND INSULTS WILL DISAPPEAR… Proverbs 22:10 NLT. 

MAKE NO FRIENDSHIP WITH AN ANGRY MAN; AND WITH A FURIOUS MAN THOU SHALT NOT GO: LEST THOU LEARN HIS WAYS, AND GET A SNARE TO THY SOUL… Proverbs 22:24-25 KJV. (pp. 11-14)  

SHORT-TEMPERED PEOPLE MUST PAY THEIR OWN PENALTY. IF YOU RESCUE THEM ONCE, YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN…. Proverbs 19:19 NLT.
(p. 14)  

GOD WILL JUDGE THOSE ON THE OUTSIDE; BUT AS THE SCRIPTURES SAY, “YOU MUST REMOVE THE EVIL PERSON FROM AMONG YOU”… 1 Corinthians 5:13 NLT. (p. 14)  

BUT NOW I AM WRITING YOU THAT YOU MUST NOT ASSOCIATE WITH ANYONE WHO CALLS HIMSELF A BROTHER BUT IS SEXUALLY IMMORAL OR GREEDY, AN IDOLATER OR A SLANDERER, A DRUNKARD OR A SWINDLER. WITH SUCH A MAN DO NOT EVEN EAT…. 1 Corinthians 5:11 NIV.
(pp. 15-16)

Sister Pitelli has a Facebook page that I have been following, and several other books. I am very interested in her book on forgiveness, as this is something that my wife and I have discussed at length. Forgiveness has been a cornerstone of my ministry for over a decade. But I now feel like I may have been teaching it slightly wrong. I would like to read and analyze this book in the near future.

Other books by Pitelli include:

Narcissistic Dynamics in the Simpsons

Because I was raised a strict fundamentalist Christian, I was never allowed to watch the Simpsons. Actually, I was not allowed to watch any TV at all. I have since become very interested in culture, and music, and most art forms (modern art still eludes me). Knowing their cultural significance, I have always been interested in the Simpsons. Since we got Disney plus, I asked my wife if she’d be interested in watching them, and she’s game.
Four episodes in, I can’t believe how clearly the telltale signs of a narcissistic family are on display!

Episode one:

In the first episode, Homer is distressed because he cannot buy presents for his family. This distress is understandable, but his reason for the distress is classic narcissism. He says at several points, “I’m the worst father ever!” At the climax at the end of the episode, his wife’s family is over, making snide remarks about him while he is out desperately trying to make some money. He is worried about impressing the family. He is not (especially) concerned with the children. He cares about what people will think about him. At one point, when he feels snubbed by his sister-in-law, he (in a rage) goes out and steals a Christmas tree, just to prove he is a provider.
At one point, his son Bart finds out that he does not have the money. They have a last desperate plan to gamble what little money they have. Bart is discouraged, but Homer is excited. “C’mon son! Be excited for me! Sometimes your faith in me is the only thing that keeps me going!” That line felt like an arrow to my heart. I turned to my wife and said, “That is emotional incest. A parent should never make their child responsible for their emotions!”
Through their adventures, Bart and Homer end up adopting a “failed” race dog. “Why would we adopt him?!” Objects Homer, “Why, he’s a loser, a last place, a nobody…a Simpson” He concludes, petting the dog. This speaks to the incredible low sense of self worth at the core of every narcissist. They secretly see all of life as a competition, and constantly feel that they are losing.
However, it was the second episode that was incredibly revealing…
Episode two:
Bart is engaged in vandalism, spray-painting a characeture of the school principal on the school wall. This leads to his parents being called into the office. His mother marge is mortified, but Homer secretly admires his son, and lets it be known that he also thinks that the principal is a doofus, and that there should be no real punishment for the actions. Bart’s miscreant actions should be no surprise, as they are the only thing that get a positive reaction from his dad (causing him to secretly laugh, play along, or “team up” with Bart), until…
Bart cheats on a test, and is invited to join a private school “for smart kids.” This becomes a turning-point in the relationship with Bart and his father. Up ‘till this point, his sister Lisa has been the “golden child.” Narcissist parents always select a golden child, for a variety of reasons. They see the children as an extension of themselves, so when Lisa does something impressive, it is really like Homer is doing something impressive. And so narcissistic parents will select the most promising child, and choose to live life through them. The other child (in this case, Bart) will constantly be compared to the golden child. (In the first episode, for example, Marge wrote a Christmas letter, “…all the family is well…Lisa got straight “A’s in school. And Bart…well, we love Bart…) A lot of Bart’s acting out is because he longs for the affection the this sister is shown, but the only way to get it is to get in trouble of some sort. BUT all of that changes when he is called a genius.
“You might actually do it!” says his father, Homer, “You might do what all Simpsons have ever dreamed of…outsmart another person!” That line really stood out to me. It could have been the motto of my narcissistic upbringing. “Outsmart someone.” Not…be smart to better the human race. Not…be smart because you are talented, and have a lot to offer. No. Outsmart someone else. Life is a competition. You can tell how well you are doing by how many people you have passed. So outsmart someone. This is important because down inside, we all feel like absolute filth. So be better than someone, so we can forget about that sad fact for a short while…
At this point, the episode became so realistic it was difficult to watch. The dad started spending time with his son, playing catch, staying up late…showing a genuine interest in him. However, Homer’s pride in his son does not extend to helping him be a better person, or helping him integrate better into society. While at a classical concert, Homer and Bart try to outdo one another in being crude and disruptive during the performance — to the point that several other concertgoers are looking at them with disapproval, and Marge is mortified again. Homer wants his son to outsmart people: but he seems unwilling (or incapable) of teaching him manners, and respect for others — two very key lessons for any young boy, which will unlock society before them. Without these, Bart is doomed to a dead-end job, just as his dad is. But these matters aside, the affection that Homer is lavishing on Bart is making these days some of the best of his life.
But alas, all was not well at the school for the gifted. Bart knew that he did not belong. However, knowing this was the only way to hold on to his father’s approval, he toughed it out as long as he could. Finally, he does the right thing, and confesses. A repeated theme we will see is that when Bart does the right thing, but it reflects poorly on Homer, he is punished, and not rewarded.
In this case, Bart (who came home covered in green chemicals, due to a failed chemistry experiment) is being lovingly scrubbed off in the bathtub by his dad when he opens up and reveals the truth. He adds quickly, “But I wanted you to know that these last few days with you have been amazing. You have spent time with me, played ball with me…it has been really special! So I really want that to continue.”
…This part is achingly realistic…
Homer hears none of that. He completely ignores the fact that his son is opening his heart to him. He does not notice the pain in his voice. He is blind to the tears that Bart wipes away. All that he cares about is that he has lost his chance to outsmart people (and maybe, he is offended that his son lied to him). He says, “Why you little…” and Bart says, “uh oh!” and jumps naked out of the bathtub, runs to his room and locks the door. For his own safety.
He then sits and reads a comic book naked while his father beats on the door. This powerful image says a number of things to me:
  1. Bart opened up to his dad, and was hurt deeply: now he is closed, and no amount of beating will let his father into his “room” (heart) again
  2. Bart now has an “I don’t care” attitude. He is looking at a cartoon naked while (I believe) eating some snacks
  3. Bart perhaps remembers at this point that the only thing that really caught his fathers attention was breaking the rules. This will be his method for getting his attention in the future.
Episode three:
There is less depth in this episode. Except that Homer is fired, and rather than take responsibility for his own emotions, he lazes around the couch, demanding that others accommodate him, provide for him, etc. He finally becomes so depressed he becomes suicidal. He writes a suicide note in which he instructs his family, “always be brave, and face life with courage. I only hope I can be a better example to you in death than I was in life.” The sad irony of this is that he is a lousy example in both (attempted) death and life: he never takes ownership of his own emotions, but forces his family to come running out int he night to find him, and convince him that life is worth living after all.
The act of threatening suicide, in order to force others to convince you to live, is, in my estimation, one of the lowest and most manipulative things that someone can do to another.
Episode four:
Homer takes his family to a work party, and becomes extremely ashamed of them when he compares them to another family, whom he deems to be essentially perfect. In his imagination, his family all turn to devils and tell him, “you belong with us!!” We notice that Homer is not concerned for the individuals of his family. He does not care about Marge and her drinking, or the kids and their fighting. He cares about their image, and about how that reflects on him. This desire to “win the competition” of being “perfect family” has them sneaking around the neighbourhood spying on other families, trying methods at home, and finally attempting an expensive therapist and shock therapy.
His proudest moment is when Homer gives up on having a perfect family and decides to just buy them a gift of a large TV. This is a proud moment (and it really feels right when you watch the episode) because 1) Homer is giving up on his selfish idea of a perfect family, 2) Homer is deciding to love and accept the people that he actually has in his family, as they are, 3) he is buying them a gift. Granted, the gift is a TV that Homer will probably use more than any of them. But still. For a narcissistic parent, one needs to take what they can get, in terms of love.
Episode five:
In episode five, Bart runs into a school bully. What I found interesting about this episode was how often Bart cries. He is really surprisingly in touch with his emotions, and he tells his dad very clearly how he is feeling, and sends a clear appeal for help. This is not the “wild-skater-boy” image we often have of Bart. The second thing I found interesting was the advice that his father gave him. Homer advises that it would be against the school-yard code to report the bully. Rather, he should try dealing with the problem on his own.
Why do narcissists refuse to use legitimate authority structures to protect their children, when in need? I suspect because that would imply some form of a need for someone else. Also, perhaps, because it breaks what I have called, “The victim’s code.”
At any rate, his mother suggests compassion and understanding, while his father suggests fighting back. Neither strategy works.
At this point, the episode becomes “silly tv” instead of real-life, as Bart raises an army of students to deal with the problem. In real life, the children of narcissists just get picked on, because they have been made to be outsiders by parents who don’t teach them to behave and study and be themselves, and also because these same parents don’t have their backs when times are hard.
*** this is as far as I have watched in the Simpsons so far **

I Nearly Died in Africa

In Africa, my wife’s body rebelled against her, and against the heat. She was in constant physical distress: always in heat exhaustion, and often close to heat stroke. This caused us a lot of stress. One thing I particularly worried about was, “what if we have an accident, and the car is stuck immobile for hours?” She could not survive without AC, and I could imagine her dying in front of our children, with an angry mob outside.

One day, my fears seemed to be realized. I was turning in to our compound. To do so, I needed to turn through oncoming traffic. Traffic was not the same there as it is here. Motorcycles wizzed by at incredible speeds, cars drove by not much slower, bicycles passed, camels plodded along, pedestrians wandered about, and cows chewed cud and garbage watching the whole thing.

On this very corner, a missionary had been involved in a fatal accident a few years ago: by my accident was not fatal, because God delivered me from that.

As I was turning left, a reckless motorcycle passed on the left. I had to hesitate in my turn for just an instant as his zoomed by, which closed the small window I had between fast cars and slow pedestrians. Another motorbike came hurtling towards me, on a collision path. Trying to get out of his way, I lurched forward into my turn: he chose the same direction, and clipped the front of my car, cartwheeling over the hood and into the ditch.

This was it. What could I do? I knew I needed to keep my wife and family safe above all.

“Take the car home, I’ll deal with this.” I told her. We were at the corner of our compound. I took water for myself, and let my wife drive off.

The man was angry. Very angry. Also, I knew, full of adrenaline from the fall. He had been driving in sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt, with no helmet. He had skinned his toes, parts of his elbows, and a place on his head. He was very angry.

He was pacing back and forth, very angry at me. I did not really know how to assess the situation. I went to the motorbike, and we could see that there was black oil coming out of it. Later I would find that one of the shocks was broken: a minor repair. At the time, we both thought the engine was cracked, and the motorcycle was scrapped.

What I would only find out later was that this man was driving without insurance, on a borrowed motorcycle. If the police became involved, he could lose the bike. Later I went to the police station, and saw behind the building a huge mountain of impounded motorcycles. Apparently, many vehicles had gone this way before. And so I did not know that his anxiety was not only caused by myself: no matter how I handled the situation, he did not want the police involved.

My phone battery was dead, and I did not know the number of the police. Soon, some other missionaries came, since it was a baseball tournament just then. This was God’s deliverance, because if it wasn’t for this, I would have had no help, since my phone was dead and I could not call anyone.

Around this time, I asked a fellow-missionary to go back and get my car. The car was parked just around the corner. I was expecting him to be back in a minute: but it took him a very long time. He did not seem to see the seriousness of the situation, and left me exposed.

None of my friends knew the number of the police, and so I asked the injured man to call: he said he would, and took out his phone. I trusted him. But what I did not know was that I was next to the university, and the university had their own version of the police: a student-lead militia named Kazo.

Soon, the crowd became larger. I was trying not to talk to the injured man, but it was hard because he kept engaging me. He would come and yell that I was a bad driver, and clearly had not passed my driving exam, as he had done. I do not remember all of our interactions, but do remember that I told him that he had been driving too fast. He took offence to this, and said he was a very good driver. He seems to have taken from this that I was blaming him entirely, and perhaps was trying to get out of paying for the accident.

At this time, I took out a sum of money amounting to about $20. I was intending to give it to him, and say, “Whatever happens, just keep this. I am sorry for the accident, and want you to know I will take care of it.” This was a good thought, but I did not know if this would be considered illegal there.

I did not know how to behave in an accident, because I had received no training on the subject. My mission did not protect me: but my God was a shield to me.

I was talking with fellow-missionaries when I heard the man say to his friends, “il se-moque de nous!” (“He mocks us/scorns us”) It was then that I knew things were moving in a very bad direction. I tried to deliver myself through anger. But anger would not be my salvation. I tried to tell them that I respected them, and their country. But it fell on deaf ears. Suddenly, he realized that my car was not there. I told him it was coming back: but I did not tell them why I had moved it, because I did not want them to know where I lived, or anything about my family. And so they did not understand, and began accusing me of breaking the law. Things were going very wrong.

I told them that I would wait for the police, and if I needed to go to jail, I would. They told me that they were the police, but I did not believe them.

I thought at this time a few times of running away. I was very close to our compound, and we had guards. However, if I had ran, I learned later, they likely would have attacked and killed me, and “your blood would have been on your own head,” said the police sergeant.

But I did not run: my God protected me from that possibility.

Then my first deliverer arrived. He was very muscular, and people clearly respected him. He had a baby-blue t-shirt on. He came, and everyone began to fill him in. After apprising the situation, he became visibly angry, and began accusing me. He pointed his finger in my face and began asking me rhetorical questions, all variations of, “Isn’t this a human being? Do you respect our laws?”

I stammered some responses, then said, “I am waiting for the police.” He said that he was the police. I said angrily that he was not the police, and turned my back to him.

They conferred more, and the crowd grew more. I did not know the danger I was in, but the man in blue knew. He came to me at some point and said, “did you call the police?” I said I had not: the injured man had called. “OK,” he said, “you need to come with us.” It was for my protection. I did not know it at the time, but the man meant to protect me. He was actually a Christian, and the president of a local gang, who called themselves “the police.” He needed to keep up appearances to appease the crowd, but he was a deliverer.

I said I would not go with these men. And some of the missionaries with me also said I would not go. “Kim,” a missionary from South Korea, made moves like he was ready to fight: but there were over 50 strong men.

As I tried to resist, five men grabbed me, lifting my legs so that I was powerless. I raised my hands in defeat: “OK, I will go with you.” I could see I had no choice. Maybe they were the police? But as we walked, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “These men are kidnapping me! I am a tourist here! These men are kidnaping me! Help me! I am being kidnapped!” The men with me said nothing. The men on the street said nothing. The men in many cars said and did nothing. No one stood with me to save. My voice and whits were not able to save me.

And yet my God was working, to save me.

We came to the gates of the university, and went in. It was very still: there were no people there. I had just said, “Will no-one save me? Will you do nothing?” Darkly, as we turned the corner, one of the students said, “Bien sur, ils ne font rien…” (“Damn right, they’ll do nothing…”)

I was alone with them now.

I was lead towards a nondescript building. I noticed there was no sign above the door.

“That is not the police station!” I said, “You are not police! I am not going in there!”

My memory blanks out here. I think I fought as hard as humanly possible, but do not remember it. I think I can see a man hanging on to the door-frame with both hands, as men drag him in, but I may be imagining it.

I had a bruise on my arm which mystified me for days, because I could not remember where it came from.

My memories restart in a very small dorm room. Someone had told me to kneel, and so I did. They told me to take off my glasses.

“Are you going to beat me?” I asked them.

“Bien sûr on va vous frapper” (“Damn straight we’re going to beat you.”) came the reply behind me: but he did not speak for everyone.

Kneeling, powerless, trapped, I began to pray, and God began to deliver me.

“God, am I going to die?”

“Your story is not yet over.”

So that was that. I knew I could relax, because I would not die today.

Suddenly remembering something I had heard in a movie, I asked, “May I have my water?” (I had brought along my water-jug). They granted it to me. I drank, then offered it to the man by me. He was off-put, and refused. “You have been working hard in the sun — surely you are thirsty!” I said. The man turned away, and would not take any. But I had made myself a “real human being” with needs, and generosity. It would be harder to harm me now.

Invisible to myself, some missionaries were following me. Kim from South Korea followed, and was ready to fight: but they would not let him enter. Another Tom, from Germany, also came. But he was very calm. He did not try to stop them men: rather, he found a man of peace among them. This man turned out to be the second-in-command of the Police. As they walked, they talked. “Some of these students are trying to make this into a marxist, class struggle sort of situation. But it is not that. It is just a traffic accident. They are blowing things out of proportion…” As they talked, they came to the gate. Tom said, “would you mind if I come in?” “Not at all,” the man answered. They sat for a while in the room outside my own, as people came and went. “Why don’t we just go in there?” Tom asked, “And just get this all dealt with?” “Sure, why not,” came the reply.

Suddenly, Tom came walking in. Soon, we were both sitting on a bed together. People came and went, much was said. I could not say anything, or else everyone would cry and accuse me at the tops of their voices with frightening intensity. But Tom was able to calmly speak on my behalf.

I abandoned my anger, and took on a submissive stance. I would not argue with anyone: I just wanted to appease them, so that I could get out of there.

Then, Sam came in. He was the acting director of our mission at the time: a very experienced missionary. He told me later that he had been detained by this very group, in this very room, a year before. While driving through the University property on his daily commute, he had not respected a Police check-point, and they became furious, brought him here, and threatened him. After paying a small fine, he was let go.

Sam was quickly brought up to speed on the situation. The students were fairly disorganized: with some saying one thing, some saying another.

Then another deliverer entered. He was an older man, wearing the clothes of an imam. He instantly commanded respect from the students around. I was later told that he was a professor at the university. Like all professors, he had the power to expel any student instantly and without any explanation from university. Even if it is the last day of a multi-year degree, such a person could say, “You are done,” and the student would leave with nothing. Some students were very angry, but God had sent me a mighty deliverer.

We stood up then. Tom and Sam on one side and the other. The Imam face to face with me, with the man in baby blue beside him, and students swirling all around. Everyone seemed to be speaking at once, as they tried to fill in the Imam with the worst possible version of the events.

“This man was the cause of the accident.” I did not respond.

“The other man is hurt very severely” I did not respond.

“The motorcycle is damaged a lot.” “Yes, it is,” I replied.

“This man moved his vehicle! He broke the law!”

“Oui. J’ai fait tort.” — It was an expression I had learned not much earlier than this, and it seemed to speak very powerfully to them when I said it. “I did wrong.”

The imam was getting the information that he needed, and the students were sensing a change in the tides. The man in baby blue took out his phone and said, “look at me — I will take your picture.” I tried to look away, but he would not let me. He took my picture. He said, “We will share this picture all over, and ____” I do not remember what he said. But I had the sense that I would not be safe on the streets any more.

Negotiations were made on my behalf. At one point, the imam told a student, “Go out and tell the students out there to calm down. They are really exaggerating out there!” He left. I had a feeling of an angry mob outside.

What I did not know was that it was the mob that was the real danger. On the street, in front of my house, I could have been killed on the spot by the angry mob. I found out much later that the man in baby blue was actually a Christian, and the leader of the Police. When he saw that the police were not on their way, and the mob anger was rising, he had feigned anger to get me to Police headquarters where at least there would be some modicum of justice. This is what he told my guide much later: although he really was mad, and so I cannot know how much of his story was true. But one thing I do know: I was saved from the mob on the street by the Police, and saved from the mob at the university by the imam.

Discussions continued. It was clear that the imam wanted me to settle things legally at the police station, which is what myself and my two advocates also wanted. But the students wouldn’t agree to let me go until I signed something. They wrote something out, and forced me to rewrite it word for word, so it was all in my own handwriting. John read it over with me. There were sections that we did not agree to write. But they were very firm on the wording. I remember that I wrote it, but modified some of the terms slightly. I purposely misspelled some words, because I knew this would invalidate a document, in French court. However, one line that I was not able to avoid was, “This accident was my fault. If I do this again, I know that I must pass through the procede dure — (the hard way).” And I had to sign it.

Noticing the changes I had made, they were not happy: but they accepted it, and agreed to let me go.

That experience of signing something against my will was extremely difficult. I told someone later that this was as close as I had ever come to being raped: I felt like my basic rights were violated.

….

[I wrote this in my journal after a session of EMDR. This is as far as the EMDR session took us that day. For the rest of the story: from there, I was released to the police station, and final details were worked out over the next couple days. However, I had very serious PTSD symptoms for several days, which became moderately severe for months, and continued in the back ground of my mind until my EMDR session, four years later. As I write this, these memories are not pleasant, but are not as traumatic to discuss as they were before the EMDR session]

When is the “Perfect Time” To Leave a Ministry?

When is a perfect time to leave?
When the ministry is failing, you are fading, and everything has dragged on too long?
Or when the ministry is healthy, competent people are in place, and you feel a call to move on?

Where is the perfect place to move to, from a long-time ministry?
Into another long-term, deep, hard-working ministry?
But then, where is the space to mourn the passing of one season into that of another?
Or is it better to move out of ministry for a time — into a season of rest, sabbatical and “normal life”?
To have space and time in which to heal, refresh, and recalibrate,
Before moving into the next ministry?

When is the perfect time to leave support?
When support drops, when there is no money left, and nobody left to call?
When desperate calls and arrangements must be made, and it takes years to dig out of the hole?
Many there are who have walked that road.
Or do we leave when support is still strong, when there are means to make a change,
and when God is calling us on?

When is the perfect time to leave a country that is clamping down on homeschoolers?
When a case is opened on your family? When they begin formally investigating your ability to parent?
Or when you still have your freedom, they have not yet flagged you, and you don’t have a case open on your family?

We are strong, and we are guided by a few principles, that we hold very dear:
1. We will not keep a ministry alive longer than it serves a purpose (or, in this case…)
2. We will not stay in a ministry longer than it needs us
3. We will not sacrifice our spiritual or physical health by continuing to do something that people think we should do, simply to save face
4. We will never cling to a ministry as a source of employment, simply because we are afraid of secular work

We are free and thinking clearly. We know that usually, people leave ministries because:
1. They found one which was “better” in some way, or
2. They are fleeing one which is failing in some way

….but we are leaving for neither reason. We are leaving because,

3. It is the perfect time to leave. It is perfect for us, and for our ministry. And it is perfect to go into a season of sabbatical, and then to look to the future

This may not make sense to some people. But that is not the most important thing. What is important is that we are 100% united as a couple — we really are! — and that we both feel very strongly that this is the right decision.

We are not compelled by anything outside of us to make this decision.
We have come to a decision together, after much thought and through deep prayer:
Many of our closest friends and mentors are also in agreement with us here:
And now we are confidently putting into motion what we believe that God is calling us to do.