Thursday, February 11, 2010

We nod and whisper "I know"

With Cheryl’s permission, I’m sharing her email below. I know there are also many of you who “will read it and will nod your head all the while and whisper ‘yes’ and ‘I know.’”

Dear Christa,

I have been reading your blog for over a year...I have never commented, but I appreciate so much the work you are doing and that you never give up. I am just now having the courage to come out of the shadows a bit and it is due in large part to your website and your seemingly tireless efforts to make the truth known.

I grew up in a “regular” Baptist church -- an independent Bible-believing church and was abused there. Nothing was done.

My husband left me four years ago due to the difficulties stemming from the abuse...I won't take the time to go into it, but I am sure the lingering effects are very similar for abuse victims and you could fill in most of the blanks. Sadly, I refused to deal with them. We were in a Baptist church at the time that he left and what happened the next four years is almost as horrific as the sexual abuse that I experienced as a child.

We had been at this Baptist church for 8 years. My husband had been a deacon until a week before he left. ... The good news is that because he left, I was forced to face all that I had been blocking out for so long and I found a godly, safe counselor outside the church that helped me. The bad news... because I would not open up to the counselor at the Baptist church I was attending... because I refused to submit to their authority as men... because I would not trust them with my tender, broken heart nor would I turn on my husband and reveal why he left... I was shut out of this church...horrible things were said about me...I lost all my friends...I could go on and on...all this because I chose to go outside of "them" to get help. Mind you, I was faithfully attending, serving, my kids were in the Christian school...I love the Lord...but the things they wanted me to submit to...it was wrong and again was a completely different kind of abuse, but oh...just as horrific. Oh, this is almost impossible to express or try to explain...but I am sure you understand how hard it is to tell one's story, but how desperately one wants to be heard?

After a year of trying, I received a final letter signed by all the pastors and all the deacons releasing me from church membership. They also released me “to Satan.”

I had very quietly and respectfully requested that I be removed from church membership. I had never breathed a word against the church or its leadership. After all that had happened in the 4 years since my husband had left, my children and I decided we needed to leave. This was very difficult as the church was our life: Christian school, youth group, etc. My kids are teens and we had been there for over a decade. It was a family decision made carefully, tearfully and prayerfully. What I didn’t know was this . . . when you request to be removed from church membership, the ONLY reason you would do this is because you are involved in sin . . .

The pastor hired a private investigator to follow me for a period of weeks to “prove” I was involved in an immoral relationship. Of course this could not be proved as it was not true.

My response from the beginning… was to categorically deny the allegations, request again that they release me from membership, and to ask them to please cease all contact with me. They continued to contact me… every time threatening public discipline.

I would love to say that I just let that roll off my back and that I didn’t care what was made public, but I did care a lot. I cared because of the injustice of it, the unfairness of it and the humiliation of it. The feeling of something being completely manipulated and out of your control . . . well, I can only liken that to the sexual abuse I experienced as a child.

This all culminated in the final letter. . . So I guess that’s the end of the story . . but not really. I am shunned in grocery stores and malls, my kids lost all their friends, I am anxious whenever I leave my house for fear of who I might run into. . . The hardest part is my kids. They are struggling with ‘’religion’ … with trust… with what they believe. I am barely hanging on myself after a lifetime entrenched in this . . . how do I help them?

We are in a new church, but most Sundays as we all get in the car I look around at my children and think . . . “what am I going to do?” I see the same look in all of our eyes that I see in pictures of victims of other atrocities . . . I know to a much lesser level . . . I would never say it’s the same only that I see similarities in the haunted looks.

It is hard for me to put this into words. It is easier to do it here though, because I know that you will read it and will nod your head all the while and whisper “yes” and “I know”. How do I know this? Because it is what I did when I read your story and what I continue to do when I read your blog and read the comments that follow.

Thank you!

I pray for you everyday.

Cheryl

21 comments:

heffalump said...

Cheryl,
If you read this please know that you are not alone. Please don't give up hope. Please don't ever doubt that you were in the right. Please don't ever give in to the bullies.
I really don't have any magic words for you that will make it all right. No one does. But I can tell you from personal experience, please hang in there, and someday it won't hurt as bad. You have every right to live your life with a smile and your head up.

gmommy said...

In spite of the Cheryl's wounds I believe she exercised courage and strength to the Baptist bullies!!!She refused to spill her guts to people she didn't trust. She refused to accept their inside counsel.She would not submit to their twisted church discipline. AND she asked for her membership to be removed until it was! She found good counsel outside of the church people!!
You did great Cheryl!!!
I probably would have gotten myself trapped and confused in a situation I wasn't expecting.
I'm so sorry your marriage broke up...I know you grieve for that loss. I'm sorry you had to have your eyes opened to the shallowness of your church and go thru that loss and sadness also. But you did a lot of very healthy things in an unhealthy situation!!!
Thank you for sharing and for being a part of the blog.

Lydia said...

Cheryl, YOu are free! And you were one smart cookie not to reveal your hurts to them. I admire that becuase I know the pressure was there.

You stood up to bullies!

Anonymous said...

To all of you...

This is Cheryl. I am new at this so please forgive me if I am not following protocol. I don't even understand all the google/blogger/account stuff, but I will figure it out =)

As I have said to Christa...thank you. I am smiling today for the first time in a long time...truly. Why? Because I can feel the support and because I could tell my story and feel safe...not doubted...or questioned...not at a loss for words for how to help you understand. You already do and I thank you so very much for your encouragement.

It has been a long road and will be still. I am only 2 months out of my "situation". How thankful I am that I wrote Christa to thank her and that she shared my story. I am happy to be supported by people like you yet so saddened because I know what your comments mean...you have been there and you have felt and continue to feel what I feel. Our stories differ I'm sure in some ways, but we have all suffered loss of some kind... What is to be gained? How is any of this for good? I don't know. But I do know that I will support Christa and those like her in any way I can even if they never know. I hope they/we never give up...ever.

I watched a documentary last night called Forgiving Dr. Mengele...it was one woman's story of surviving his awful experiments during the Holocaust. I have wrestled much with the matter of forgivness these past several months. I am not there, but I found this statement she made interesting. "Forgivëness to me means that whatever was done to me is no longer causing me such pain that I cannot be the person I was meant to be." Again, I am still pondering this, but I hope this one day to be true that what happened to me...and all of us will not prevent us from being who God meant us to be. Man cannot thwart God's purpose for us.

God bless all of you...

Lydia said...

Cheryl, Please do not think you have to rush forgiveness. This is a much misunderstood doctrine. And it amazes me how many folks will accuse people of being in sin for not rushing to gush forgiveness all over evil doers. Esp those in the church!

A big part of forgiveness is not seeking revenge. That does NOT include warning folks about wolves. That is not revenge but love.

But forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation or even fellowship if there is no true repentance. And lets face it, it takes a long time to know if folks are really repentent.

We are not to be fools. We are to be wise as serpents and gentle as Doves.

But when folks claim to follow Christ and are actually hurting others, it is best to get far away from them and stay away.

What you experienced from the church was spiritual abuse. I highly recommend this book: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. by Jeff VanVanderen (or something like that). He has another book called "When God's People Let You Down"

I cannot praise these books enough. And I hardly ever recommend reading anything except the Word. Because the Word has been so twisted we must read it for ourselves and let the HOly Spirit teach us.

YOur healing and wholeness in Christ is in my prayers

gmommy said...

Cheryl,
I didn't know what a blog was until my wounds were ripped open by a sexual predator cover up at my church. I lost so many things I wrote at first by clicking the wrong thing:)
I support Lydia's words to you about forgiveness. Please don't be rushed or carry a burden about this. We've talked a lot about forgiveness on this blog. It's not a weapon for others to beat you with. Healing and forgiving is a slow process. I think the words you are pondering are good words!!
Welcome!!

G. Casey said...

Such hypocrites and sloppy proof texters....don't they know that it was the MALE that was handed over in that affair and NOT the wife of the father for that reason!!! Paul was trying to restore the right marriage. This is the only way to break the bond on the affair.

Anonymous said...

In reading the other entries....you can tell when you have an ego maniac in the pulpit. Go suggest a correction on a matter...and see how they respond...Paul did not get indignant when the Bereans did this to him.

Elisabeth said...

Cheryl,

When I read this my first thought was "This harassment can't be legal!" My second thought was "It takes church leadership with HUGE egos to think that they are SO Godly that the ONLY reason why someone would want to leave is they are in sin!"

I myself was sexually abused by a pastor, but as a young adult, not a child. And the pastor was a control freak and used his position and power to take advantage of me. So the church where I was sexually abused was also very spiritually abusive. And when I finally got to the point of being able to deal with the abuse, the pastor of the church I was going to at the time TOLD me to go to a professional counselor, not one in the church, as he and the staff members weren't trained specifically in counseling, and he felt that sexual abuse needed a trained counselor. And sexual abuse issues do. For church leadership to say "only counsel with people in the church," well, that's also showing ego. And was it a male counselor he was wanting you to see in the church? If so, that also isn't right. I mean, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with a woman seeing a male counselor about sexual abuse issues - I did - but it does have to be her choice.

I also thought of some words from an old Rod Stewart song - "Don't let them push you down, don't let them push you around, don't ever let them change your point of view."

Anonymous said...

Hi...Cheryl here again,

I will try to be brief. I appreciate so much your thoughts in response to my comment. I know exactly what you mean about forgivness. In dealing with the sexual abuse I experienced as a child, while we all know you never just get over it and forgive and forget, I know that I spent 30 years struggling...being bitter...angry...going round and round in my mind wanting to just be done with it and then wanting to "get back at" the men who did this. I just wanted that one confrontation where I could get it all out and finally let go of all the anger, pain, and confusion. I wasted so much time in that pit and it cost me so very much.

I am feeling some of those same feelings now in regards to what has happened to me over the past several months and what this pastor and his henchmen/deacons have done to me. It is so disheartening to once again be going round and round in my mind over the details of what they have done...the lies...the manipulation...to be wanting that one confrontation where I can face them...for them to hear me...they never, ever will. When I found out I had been followed and that even the worst accuser agreed they could prove nothing...I asked ...nearly begged the pastor to please just make sure that was known...I didn't even care at that point if they ever "released me from membership". All I received in response to that was a letter releasing me to Satan.

I don't want to be here again and I don't want it to cost me any more than it already has. I know that forgivness is a part of stopping this cycle. I certainly could never reconcile with them...ever. An apology might be accepted, but never would there be any relationship.

I could go on and on, but in the end I guess it is just such a stark realization of the similiarites between being 7 and 8 and being sexually abused and being 30 something and being bullied by men who are supposed to be watching for your soul.

I know the answers are found in God's word and in Him alone...He is Truth and the Truth will set you free.

Thank you for the book suggestions...I haven't read any yet, but I know they're out there. Thank you for the encouragment.

Again...God bless all of you.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl indeed forgiving spirit is important but you could release the names of all involved....this is very blasemphous to suggest such a "release". The way they did this, this is a curse basically.....

Christa Brown said...

Cheryl,
Obviously I'm someone who is all for getting as much information into the public domain as possible. However, I've also seen the sort of repercussions that this can have in people's lives. It can get worse. So . . . regarding Anon's suggestion about "releasing the names," I'd recommend that you consult with a lawyer first. I'd also recommend that you have good counseling and support systems in place.

Anonymous said...

Well, when I see 76% of SB can't even prooftext the tithing issue I can see your point Crista, the head speaker of SC Convention this yeat insinuates as well that if you don't agree with the 10% issue to falls into the same error as the elders did with Cheryl.

Anonymous said...

More Luthers are needed
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5P7QkHCfaI

Jim said...

Cheryl's story made me sad and angry.
Seems like we hear about some "bad actor" clergyman almost every day. It is beyond my ability to understand how persons calling themselves servants of God can act in such demonic ways. They certainly didn't teach that when I was in seminary...guess times have changed. Regardless, Cheryl, don't waste a minute of your life trying to "forgive" those jokers. You don't have to forgive their bad behavior to be in right relationship with God. This calls for acceptance, not forgiveness...unless they come to you, and in repentance for their sin against you, ask you to forgive them. Otherwise, I pray you can put them and their kind in your rear-view mirror and get on with your life. As for the shunning, when they frown at you just smile and say "hello." You'll drive those deluded sheep nuts. Bless you, Sister, I believec with all my heart, that God loves you and will sustain you.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl,

Thank you for sharing your story. I hear your hurt, embarrassment and loss. It sounds like through your experience, the true character of those involved could be seen. I can relate to many feelings that you shared and can tell you that your hurt will decrease and your joy will increase in time. Hold your head up. God knows your heart. You were strong and courageous to tell your story. Don't allow anyone to quiet your voice. You just might be helping to minister to others and not even know it.

Kaye

Christa Brown said...

"You just might be helping to minister to others and not even know it."

I told Cheryl something very similar by email. There will be others, whom she may never know about, who will see her words here, and will be quietly strengthened by them and feel less alone.

For still another voice whose words have strengthened others, be sure to see the recent comment of Lora under the prior "Baptist Bill and the Courage of Lora" posting.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, As we recently discovered over the past 2 1/2 years....Satan is alive and working in the "so called" Christian (Baptist) churches..Satan has a hold of some of them as entire groups.It has just happened in a little town near Austin this week.A deacon sharing porn, etc,with whom he thought was a 12 girl on the internet. This man taught children at that church as well.And he is being supported by those members.
Some times people"in power" inside those churches will stop at nothing to remain in power.
Keep you head up and be proud you belong to the Lord.HE knows the real story and we will pray for you and your children.

gabriella422001 said...

Its great to go to a counselor for healing and to try to get over trauma, although I don't believe you ever do. I just no longer think its a good idea to go for counseling at the church you attend, and if you get in the wrong place and somebody betrays your confidence or turns on YOU for trying to share your story, it can be one miserable experience and turn you on counseling forever. Baptist churches, in my opinion, are the leaders in making the innocent suffer for trying to talk about what happened to them. I believe you and I believe they did everything you said they did. And I'm sorry that happened to you. Congratulations for standing up to them.

Christa Brown said...

"Baptist churches, in my opinion, are the leaders in making the innocent suffer for trying to talk about what happened to them."

I could not possibly agree more!

John Doe said...

It is a sad story and one where God will avenge one day. I struggle daily with EVIL and I know I am hypersensitive to injustice and fairness.

Stories like this just infuriate me and it makes me want to take action - But to do what? I am one man who, believe me, has tried.

Baptist clergy have lost contact with WHO they worship. It is not God. If it is not God, then is it money? Is it Ego? Is it Power? Is it all the above?

When humans keep getting beat up, beat down, and outright thrown away - accused of horrible things for which they never did, I ask where God is? Oh how I would LOVE to see just rewards befall the guilty in this lifetime.. It hasn't happened yet and maybe it never will.

My faith is hanging by a thread. There is just so much hate to deal with.

My thoughts are with you, Cheryl.

John Doe