Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Stories that I'm trying to Make Sense of

Last week, while my body was occupied with pulling off Heartwood Gallery's Grand Re-Opening event, my mind was clouded over with two stories that dominated my thoughts.

The first story surrounds Rob Bell and his new book, entitled Love Wins, wherein he questions the way many churches I have been a part of view heaven and hell and who goes there. I am half way through the book myself, and like his other work (Velvet Elvis, Nooma videos, Sex God, Drops Like Stars)  it's more poetically and conversationally, "Hey, what if...."    Predictably, a lot of well-known church leaders (and a lot of nobodies) are having a fit, calling names (like heretic) and wagging their heads in fake sadness that Rob Bell is no longer orthodox and they have to part ways with him.  Except they probably weren't really with him before, anyway.

My Robb, always the theologian, was excited to read the book the first minute he could and promptly wrote a review on his blog, The Grenzian.  Which was pretty much like putting out a hunk of fresh meat in our backyard in July....it drew the flies.  People who had read the book wanted Robb's take on it. People who hadn't read the book wanted Robb's take on it. And people who just wanted to piss on the book in as many forums as possible showed up too. 

The second story was this blog: http://bangladeshmksspeak.com, which was created by a group of missionary kids who were sexually abused by a Missionary doctor serving in Bangladesh in the late 1980s.  Frustrated by the lack of justice and action on the part of the mission agency that terminated this missionary,  the victims created the blog.

I wanted to turn away from this train wreck.  It has very little to do with me, I suppose. Except that I have friends at this mission agency.  That in our past church affiliations, ABWE was THE mission agency.  And it appears that ABWE could have done more, but they didn't.

This is at least the fourth time I have heard a story like this in my years in this association of churches.  Different characters, same hideous plot.  Criminal activity covered up, muffled, or just plain ignored by administrations that claimed they feared it would "hurt the gospel."   I could go into detail that would curdle your blood.  I could tell you that these are situations that deeply wounded people very close to me.  And I can tell you that we have very little vocabulary to talk about it.  We don't know how to talk about it, so we don't.

So are these two stories related?  For me, they are.  Because many of the people who are having a fit about Rob Bell and his book are the same people who are NOT throwing a fit about the way this abuse is being handled. They wouldn't touch Rob's book with tongs and they criticize Mars Hill and other churches like it.  They pride themselves on their good theology and their orthodox belief.  But in their relentless attention to the details of every theological i dotted and t being crossed, they have created an environment where hideous crimes against children can happen and be covered up.   It's not just one bad missionary in an isolated event. It's a way of doing church and thinking about the Bible that lets evil grow like a mold right along side it.  I have seen it happen. And I am disgusted by it.  I am angry.
And I want nothing to do with that kind of Christianity ever again.

I still have friends at ABWE. I still love them.  But I hope they understand that I have taken a different path for some extremely serious reasons. Rob Bell is asking some serious theological questions.  But so are the missionary kids.


12-arrows said...

we have many friends who are missionaries with ABWE, and your right, they "were, are" THE mission board. Also yesterday I did see that ABWE did hire G.R.A.C.E! Did they have a choice? nope!

These women will live with deep deep scars the rest of their lives. . .its hard to make sense of this and even harder to know that this man is still practicing medicine today....WRONG~

Sara said...

sexual abuse is one of the crimes that get least reported in our world today. For some of the same reasons these victims listed. They (and their parents) get guilted into thinking that they were the ones that "caused" such a terrible thing to happen. Sometimes women can "rationalize" away what happened but will forever live with the scars. Sometimes it's just so hard to believe that ..."so and so" could do such a thing.

unfortunately, I think for a long time the church in general has handled the situations wrongly...but It's not only the church that has handeled it wrong but our society in general. Victims don't get the justice they are looking for, criminals get sent to jail -where, yes, they are hindered for a moment for commiting another crime, but then they are realesed from a rehabilitation that often fails to rehabilitate and so the cycle continues.

Sexual sins always seem to try to be covered up whether or not they are done in a public or in a private institution, both secular, and christian a like. And I can't help but think how these cover ups would change if we truly came to loath the things that God loathed. If we were to truly hate sin and not just say "well your a sinner so it happens." while at the same time extending grace and compassion towards all of us that, well, sin.

I too am saddened and angry.

ness said...

Cindy, I recognize some names, too. I'm glad that ABWE is using the independent counsel GRACE that was recommended. I hope the board continues to open their eyes to the enormity of this situation.

Sara, I wonder if it isn't so much that they don't take is seriously as much as it is that they don't know how to categorize it, literally what to call it. I think that is because they get so far burrowed into their church world and church bubbles that they don't realize what the larger world is doing. In this case, many un-churched people have acted more righteously than the church, naming it criminal and not just an embarrassing glitch in the church's almost factory-like obsession with cranking out a particular kind of "product" Christian. Certainly not all churches, but I think you know what I mean. To many of these institutions are trying to produce a product and these sex offenders are an unforeseen bi-product.

Example? How many years did I hear message after message on not questioning authority, but rather that I should be submissive to those that God had placed over me. Is it any wonder that many of these victims didn't even know how to speak out?

stephanie garcia said...

As an MK myself and now a mother of MK's, the latter situation has weighed very heavily on my heart and been constantly on my mind. I know it is not unique to one organization or even to Christians, yet it is infinitely more heartwrenching and heinous when attributed to one who claims the name of Christ.

In the midst of it all I have been studying Beth Moore’s “The Patriarchs” and have appreciated her thoughts. Just two examples which have been good reminders to me: “For God to strengthen our faith, He must allow us to find cause to doubt.” –and– “The weaknesses of God’s children do not strain the strength of God.”

Considering that she writes from the perspective of also having suffered abuse, her words (based of course on God’s Word) have been an encouragement to my heart.

Holly said...

I hate all of this kind of stuff too. I agree that love would be better served if we were more focused on helping and preventing in general than freaking out about an author asking "what if". And it's a good reminder to us to choose where we spend our thinking time, either getting more angry at these "losers" or perhaps pushing ourselves to focus on something that is worthy of our thoughts. All the while remembering we are all in God's hands.

Matthew Carpenter said...

Just starting to introduce the church here in Jersey to some of this stuff. Heard about ABWE and some of the stuff that had been going on behind the scenes and scheduled a meeting with the director there (phone meeting but I digress)
I'll have to check out G.R.A.C.E. Just recently we partnered with W.A.R. International.
Until the Jesus community prioritizes orphans, widows, and the helpless poor we'll continue to fall short of the Kingdom of heaven mindset that Bell deals with In "Love Wins"
Rage on Vanessa... I love it. Going to send this link to my wife later too. She needs to find some sister solidarity from the women who fill the ranks of pastor's wives. Couldn't ask for a better partner and support system than Julie.

Tamara L. Rice said...

All I can say is thank you for so eloquently putting this to words. You are so very right. All this fuss about a book ... where is the fuss about a crime?

Thank you so much for what you've said. I may link to it on the blog--provided the readers agree that it is not an excuse to discuss whether or not Rob Bell is "in or out." ;)

Tamara L. Rice said...

BTW, I just realized I didn't make it clear that I'm one of the Bangladesh MKs you are talking about with ABWE, and that's why I am so grateful to you for writing this. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Matt...
You just recently partnered with the organization started and run by the perps daughter? Hmmmm.

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