I'm part of some great online communities that help people process religious trauma, abuse, and fundamentalism. I've read a couple of great books based on people's experiences with these things as well. As we experienced trauma both inside and outside of the church, I find the way the brain processes trauma and how communities hold or let go of (repress) it to be fascinating, horrifying and redeeming. It makes you feel less crazy, which I think is something women in our culture need to experience daily as that seems to be the number one way to keep us quiet.
I had something connect for me that I found really insightful. Someone said the church confuses forgiveness with healing. BOOM. Brain exploded. When anyone ever talks about being abused in church, in particular when it occurred within the church community (not just the remote anecdote unrelated to the group), the reaction often comes down to forgiveness. Like the Christian solution to pain and horror is forgiveness and if we just find a way to forgive, the pain goes away or is made to be okay. And while I find forgiveness, true forgiveness not forced victim-silencing "forgiveness" to be beautiful and liberating and most definitely part of Christian community and faith, it does not equate healing. In fact, if we force forgiveness and skip holding the horror, grieving it, assigning blame, creating accountability (hello jail time), and lots of support and help (therapy, meds, support groups) for those harmed, this is the antithesis of healing. Healing must include some sort of reckoning. You can't skip to the end without doing the painful work. (I find one of the obnoxious things about harming others is that by acting out your own shit instead of facing it, you create shit for someone else to have to work through, thus perpetuating the cycle of shame and violation). Then, after all that work, can you imagine how gorgeous, how empowering, how HEALING forgiveness could be?!?! It could be amazing. But please don't call that shoving everything under the rug stuff forgiveness. You might just piss off the king of forgiveness (yea Jesus!) in the process. Ever think of that?
Abuse is not regular sin. We don't treat it like "well, everyone makes mistakes." It's predatory. It's violating. It's just different. Of course, it's sin. But it's sin on crack and we need to treat it differently. Please let your theology and how you handle abuse as a community reflect that. Because if you don't, you're part of the problem. You have little people in your care. If you don't take that seriously, you're putting a target for abusers on your back. I promise you that. They're looking for you, naive ones. And you've been found again and again.
There's a cool movement I just discovered on top of the #metoo movement. It's called #churchtoo. It's awesome to hear women sharing their stories. Don't get me wrong: the stories are awful. And I would add plenty of trigger warnings to it and ask that you give yourself a lot of self-care if you choose to dive in, because coupling sexual abuse with religious privilege (like having your youth minister force you to give him oral sex) is abuse on another level. BUT IT HAPPENS. And how the church deals with it matters. So far, our track record is not good. Maybe this is the beginning of hearing those voices cry out in truth and create the reckoning that is long overdue. These victims are brave. These victims have been greatly harmed. And many of their abusers have gone on to have successful ministry careers. Time to cause a ruckus, friends. Dear ones, speak your truth. It's time to clean house.