There is too much silence.
There is too much silence from the church and from the Christian community as a whole on the issue of family violence, dating violence and abuse. It’s not that it is not happening, it is. Abuse is happening at an alarming rate around the world, in our country and in the homes and lives of Christians.
For five years I asked the seminary where I was teaching if we could have a chapel service that addressed family violence and abuse. I was dreaming of a service that offered hope for survivors and solidarity from those who had been impacted by violence directly or indirectly. For five years I was told in a variety of ways that abuse was not our concern nor an appropriate issue within a seminary. Some years it was a direct verbal message, other years I would be politely listened to and then would never hear a follow up or was told after the fact that all chapel times were already scheduled.
All of this despite the fact that recently one of the graduates from this seminary was convicted of murdering his wife and that every semester I had students in my office discussing their own past and current abuse. The abuse came from family members, friends and clergy. The abuse occurred when they were small children and for some was a recent or ongoing experience. It was the secret no one wanted to talk about as they were worried it would disqualify them (the victims) from leadership or ministry. And still, they wondered if anyone at all cared. If there was any Christian who wouldn’t judge them. They wondered if God had abandoned them allowing egregious acts to happen to their bodies and their psyche.
I spend most of my time thinking about those in the first third of life. Abuse is rampant in this season. Our most innocent are also our most vulnerable. The impact however lasts a lifetime. For more details and statistics check out RAINN, FTI and NCADV .
While the following is not the chapel service I dreamed of, I still believe there are things to be said. I want to say to the brave women and men who have survived abuse:
* You are precious and loved.
* You never did anything to deserve what was done to you.
* I am sorry that the church, our church leaders and seminaries have so woefully failed you in not speaking out more publicly and more often both for you own healing and for the protection of others in the future.
* This is NEVER what God would have desired and there is no excuse and no spiritual reason that any leader can concoct that warrants abusive actions or words.
* You are not crazy. Abuse really does happen and at times from the very people who claim to love you or be helping you in a variety of ways.
* There is life after abuse.
I cannot take away the pain, heartache, self doubt and lack of trust which can accompany every day after abuse but I can stand with you to remind you that not all people are like this. I can remind you first and foremost that Christ is not like this and the depths of your wounds have not gone unnoticed. I can listen, I can believe you and I can work to let abusers know they must stop.
Today is the first Monday of October, what has traditionally been the kick off day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While I am an advocate of talking about this topic all year long, there is no better time for a church to enter the conversation than right now. We can make a difference! For churches who are new to the conversation, check out Faith Trust Institute. They are an established ministry offering resources and trainings for the prevention of violence within your congregation.If you are wondering if this is a rare issue or not, check out Marie’s Blog. Be warned, it can be a little hard to take the steady stream of misconduct for those who care about others. A second stellar resource is spearheaded by Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark called The Rave Project. Spend some time wandering the web site but take note of the many resources for both emergencies and ongoing information. In particular, in the upper right hand corner you will see a link that says “Help Now”. When in need of information or a shelter locally, this is a place to look!
I invite you to the conversation. If you were to be a part of a chapel service during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, what would you want said, sung, prayed or confessed?