The abuse and trafficking conference hosted by Biblical concluded by hearing from Dr. Diane Langberg about the problem of sexual abuse in Christian communities and a panel discussion of the speakers.You may order DVDs here for a ridiculously low price.
Diane began her talk by acknowledged that the very title of her talk, abuse in christian communities ought to be “the king” of oxymorons, something that makes no sense to us. But sadly, abuse does happen in our midst. She provided several examples, from missionary kids being abused, to pastors abusing counselees and camp counselors their children.
While the abuse is horrific, what is even more problematic is the way the Christian community often covers up and protects the “head” or their reputation at the cost of the victim’s right to justice and protection.
People in power are protected because they are gifted, important, and successful or considered necessary to the furtherance of the work of the kingdom of God. Vulnerable sheep, who have not found it safe to graze, have been thrown out, silenced, slandered and frankly, abused yet again by the power structure of the body that is not following its Head
How does this happen? Diane listed several contributing factors
1. a culture of systems.While systems are not inherently bad, they do have a tendency to be self-preserving over against rooting out sickness. Families have ways of tolerating great sicknesses via denial:
No system – family, church, community or institution – is God’s work unless it is full of truth and love. Toleration of sin, pretense, disease, crookedness or deviation from the truth means the system is in fact not the work of God, no matter the words used to describe it. We have a tendency as humans to submit ourselves to some command or idea of men, of the past, of tradition, of a systemic culture and in so doing, refuse to listen to and obey the living and ever present God.
2. Deception. “Sexual abuse requires both deception and coercion or an abuse of power. The deception must first be of the self and then of the victim and the community.” Diane pointed out that a significant problem happens in the Church when abusers use spiritual language to deceive.
3. Power. There are various types: positional, verbal, theological, emotional, etc. We have the power to speak up for those who have been silenced. Our failure to do so is complicity with the crime of abuse.
4. Misunderstanding of repentance. Quoting a convicted abuser, Diane told us that many see Christians as easy to dupe…with a few tears and emotions. But repentance must take time and bear the fruit of acceptance restrictions, seeking the welfare of others (not the end of punishment). Anyone who asks for trust and believes he/she is worthy of it (after abuse) does not understand the Scripture’s teaching on deception and is therefore at risk for further abuse.
Finally, She ended with some principles to remember. Some of them included remembering that sexual offenses against minors are crimes and therefore we are to utilize the criminal justice system. Sex between a leader and a parishioner is NOT an affair but an abuse of power. Systems are not to be protected but the weak and God’s name. God is glorified by truth, not lies and cover-ups.
May we, who are already in positions of power and influence, lead the way by falling down on our faces, imploring God to make us like Himself no matter the cost to our positions, our programs, our organizations, our ministries, or our traditions so that His precious sheep may safely graze.