Tag Archive: GRACE

Quote of the Day: Evangelicals Have a Sexual Abuse Problem Says Boz Tchividjian

josh duggar

Excerpt from VICE interview with Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian. Tchividjian operates GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.

How big of a problem is child sexual abuse for Protestant churches?

It’s hard to answer that with any degree of certainty, because the research out there is pretty minimal. If you accept the general statistic that one in four women and one in six men will have been sexually victimized before they turn 18, then you have to acknowledge that those same people are inside of our churches and faith communities. So if you had 100 men and 100 women in your church, 20.5 percent of your church would be survivors of child sexual abuse.

How does the issue of sexual predators within Protestant churches compare with the massive scandal the Catholic Church as endured?

A few years ago, data was gathered from some of the top insurance providers for Protestant churches. It was found that they received 260 reports a year of minors being sexually abused by church leaders or church members. Similarly, the John Jay Report on the Catholic Church came up with 228 credible accusations by priests.

Again, sexual abuse is one of the most underreported criminal offenses. But if you just look at these numbers, they tell us that more children are being abused within Protestant churches than in the Catholic Church. One aspect of that is that there are way more Protestants and Protestant churches than there are Catholics. But for me, it’s important to share that statistic when speaking with Protestant audiences so that they stop pointing their fingers at the Catholic Church and engage more with their own church.

I have a friend who is a pastor in a Presbyterian church, and when she started at a new church, she preached six or seven sermons about abuse. She told me that since then, “I’ve had ten women approach me and tell me that they had been sexually abused as children, and that I was the very first person they ever told.” And this is a small church.

I think the reason they approached her was that in preaching about it from the pulpit, she created a safe space for them to talk about it. It’s a great example about how most of our churches aren’t creating safe spaces. Too often victims are afraid to say anything because they’re afraid of how people will respond.

How do the church leaders typically respond?

It’s such a spectrum. There are some that respond very well. The younger generation of pastors seem to get this issue more and are willing to talk about it. But we, unfortunately, do have a lot of pastors who don’t think it happens, and prefer to embrace a false narrative that makes them more comfortable.

It’s common to see a desire to protect the institution at the expense of the individual. Yet the gospel that Christians proclaim with their lips is all about a God who sacrifices himself in order to save [others], but when it comes to abuse, we often do the opposite.

So we have to educate our church leaders about this issue so we can try and eliminate victim blaming when disclosures are made. Telling the victim it was their fault because of how they were dressed or were acting, or forcing them to forgive the offender, just compounds the shame they are already going through.

Shame is a big issue with male victims of sexual abuse. They’re often the most silent of survivors inside the church. I’ve had male survivors tell me they didn’t want anyone in the church to know because they thought that they would be labeled a future offender and everyone would keep their kids away, or they would be accused of being gay.

….

Should there be any kind of support for potential abusers seeking help before they harm anyone?

We’ve intentionally focused on victims, because I’ve found that the perpetrators are often the ones with the most support from the church. Having said that, there are people who are earnestly struggling with this issue and are deathly afraid of telling anyone about it because of how they’ll respond. There should be resources for those who haven’t acted on those impulses to come forward and get help. But it’s tricky, because you see a lot of lying, manipulation, and narcissism with abusers. It’s difficult to know if they’re telling the truth when they say they’ve never acted on their impulses.

How has this line of work impacted you as a parent, and as someone who teaches at one of the largest Christian institutions in the US?

You don’t want to be paranoid and lock your kids in a room. But we also don’t let our kids do sleepovers, because I’ve met with too many victims who were victimized by a friend’s parent at a sleepover. I don’t tell other parents not to do that, but it’s our policy. Also, we talk about this issue a lot with our children. In many, ways it’s been good for them, and hopefully it will shape them when they become parents.

The years of doing this line of work has given me a pretty low view of the church. It has also given me a much higher view of Jesus, and that’s what allows me to go another day and keep my faith.

When you grow up as an evangelical Christian, you have this nice neat view of God and the world. And when you start doing this work, that all gets shattered. Because how do you answer when someone asks you, “Where was God when my dad was coming into my room every night and molesting me? Was he watching? Why didn’t he stop him?” Those are questions I don’t have answers to. All I can do is grieve with them and maybe get a little angry.

But studying who Jesus was while he lived on this Earth has given me a greater appreciation for who he was in relation to this issue. There was no greater defender of children than Jesus.

You can read the entire interview here.

Is the Bible All About Love and Grace?

ignorance

Several weeks ago, a Christian fundamentalist by the name of Matt stopped by this blog to let me know what God and Matt thought about me. After a week of comments, I finally banned Matt. You can read his comments here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. After I banned Matt, he wandered over to the Quakers and Jesus: A Spiriruality of Love, the blog of my Australian friend John Arthur.

Watching John and Matt go back and forth has been quite entertaining. I’ve learned John is far more patient than I am and  Matt is an intractable fundamentalist who is certain he is absolutely right. (please read The Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists) In all the discussion on this site and John’s, Matt has not changed or moderated his viewpoint. He is certain he is right. Why? Because he can read the Bible for himself. He has no needs of books, because he has THE book.

Most of Matt’s comments can be found on a post titled Is Your Religion Kindness?  While there are any number of comments that I could respond to, I want to focus on one comment Matt left today:

The wrathful God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament is a false dichotomy. The love of God is the central feature of both.  The story of the entire Bible is a story of grace. It is a concept foreign to every other religious worldview, but central to christianity.

First, Matt lets it be known that there is one true religion, his. Now we don’t know for sure what that religion is because Matt refuses to say. My money is on Baptist or Church of Christ.

Second, Matt believes that the love of God is the central theme of both the Old and New Testament. This line of argument is often used in an attempt to negate the charge that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. According to Matt, there is one God, a God of love and grace. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is one long, sweet, and enduring love story. However, such a view is based on either a selective reading of the Bible or an attempt to make the Bible fit the love/grace paradigm. As I will clearly show, not only is the God of the Bible not a God of love and grace, he is actually a vindictive, temperamental, genocidal, son of a bitch. (John’s view is to reject the Old Testament God and embrace the Jesus of the New Testament)

One the reasons people deconvert is their inability to reconcile the Old Testament God with the Jesus of the New Testament. While Jesus is certainly a much improved God, particularly if one sticks to the gospels or the sermon on the mount, Jesus reverts to the God of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation. Revelation is 17 chapters of God/Jesus opening can after can of whoop ass and pouring it out on the earth. The slaughter and violence of God/Jesus far exceeds anything humanity, animals, and the earth has ever experienced. Billions of people will be killed, their only sin being the worship of the wrong God. Even the Jews, Jesus’s people, will face slaughter. Only those saved during the tribulation and subsequently martyred will escape the Lake of Fire.

Here’s a few of the things God/Jesus promises to do come the end of the world:

  • 1/4 of the inhabitants of earth will die of starvation
  • Earthquakes
  • Hail and fire mingled with blood will fall on the earth
  • 1/3 of  the trees will be destroyed
  • All the green grass will be destroyed
  • 1/3 of the seas will turn to blood
  • 1/3 of the ships will be destroyed
  • 1/3 of marine life will be destroyed
  • 1/3 of the waters will be made undrinkable
  • 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars will be darkened
  • Locusts that sting like a scorpion will sting earth’s inhabitants
  • 1/3 part of earth’s inhabitants will be killed by smoke, fire, and brimstone
  • Seas will be turned to blood and all marine life will die
  • Heat will scorch earth’s inhabitants
  • Earth’s inhabitants will be afflicted with painful sores
  • Islands and mountains will collapse
  • Large hail will fall on the earth
  • Everyone left?They will be slaughtered when Jesus returns to earth

I complied this list by briefly scanning the book of Revelation. There are many more things I could have added, but this list should suffice to prove that the God of “love” in the New Testament reverts to his Old Testament ways, killing everyone who does not worship him.

genocidal god

In the Old Testament, even a primary age Sunday school student could prove false the notion that the God of the Old Testament is a God of love and grace. The 39 books of the Old Testament are a testament to the genocidal rage and violence of the Judeo-Christian God. One need only read Genesis 6-8, Noah’s Ark and the Flood, to see how God responds to those who get on his bad side. God drowns millions of men, women, children, infants, and unborn babies, saving only Noah and his family. Where is God’s love and grace in this story? This is an ancient version of the modern airliner crash, 250 killed, 1 survived, story. Christians focus on the miracle of the one survivor, ignoring the fact that God killed 250 people.

God continued his murderous ways when he slaughtered everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah, save Lot and his family. Then in the book of Exodus, we find God killing all the firstborn sons in Egypt. Only those whose had animal blood applied to their doorposts escaped God’s killing spree. When Israel left Egypt, headed for the Promised Land, God commanded them to kill almost everyone who stood in their way.  God especially had it out for the Canaanites, ordering the Israelites to kill them whenever they encountered them.

Shall I go on? If you want to read more about God the serial killer’s handiwork, please read Top 20 Evil Bible Stories by Luke Muehlhauser.

There is no possible way for a rational person to maintain that the Old Testament God is a God of love and grace. I know every argument used by Evangelicals in an attempt to make their God look good. All of them fail miserably. The God of the Old Testament, if he were human, would be sitting on death row awaiting execution for murder and genocide. If he were human, none of us would want him as a family member or friend.

The dichotomy between the Old Testament and New Testament Gods is one of the reasons I deconverted. I suspect the same could be said for many atheists and agnostics. If being a Christian requires embracing, accepting, and loving the God of the Old Testament, no thanks! I have often wondered whether the Christian church rues the day they decided to make the Old Testament part of the canon of Scripture. Imagine how simpler Christianity would be to defend if the Old Testament was tossed into the dustbin of human history. But, the Old Testament is a part of the canon, and Evangelicals are left with the task of defending their psychopath Father. Good luck with that.

Imagine a person having no exposure  to Christianity  one day stumbling upon a book called the Old Testament. Would this person, by only reading this book, come to the same conclusions as Evangelicals? Would they find the Christian God of love and grace? That a rhetorical,question, BTW. 

Bob Jones University Ignored Sexual Abuse for Decades

bob jones university

Under attack over their handling of sexual abuse and rape complaints, fundamentalist Christian university, Bob Jones University, hired GRACE (Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment), to do an investigation.  Towards the end of the investigation, Bob Jones ended its contractual arrangement with GRACE and refused to allow any report to be issued. The outrage over this was such that Bob Jones was forced to re-contract with GRACE and the report has now been released.

For those of us raised in Christian fundamentalism, this report tells us what we already know. I saw nothing shocking or surprising in the report, and anyone who is shocked or surprised has not been paying attention for the past 30 years.

I have often stated that the internet will be the undoing of places like Bob Jones University. They can no longer hide their sins. They no longer have the power to keep the stories from getting out. While my heart aches for those who have been abused, I am glad that these stories are being brought into the light of day.  As people tell their stories, preachers, professors, churches, and colleges are forced to confront the horrible, sickening abuse that has taken place on their watch. Just as the Catholic church has predator priests, so the Christian fundamentalist movement has their own predator preachers. It’s time to knock the halo off Christian fundamentalism.

From the recently released Bob Jones University GRACE  report:

In his book, Becoming An Effective Christian Counselor: A Practical Guide For Helping People, Dr. Fremont discusses counseling victims of incest and explains that the first objective is to ensure that blame is appropriately assigned to “the older person who took advantage of the younger innocent person.”However, Dr. Fremont states, “If the victim has deceived either parent or both parents, he needs to confess and repent of his own sin.” As an example, Dr. Fremont describes the case of a “teenage girl who takes a bath only when her mother is away from the home and leaves the bathroom door unlocked, inviting the father’s corruptness.” Dr. Wood similarly discussed the importance of a victim’s repentance if there is any wrongdoing. In his counseling training video, “Scriptural Principles for Counseling the Abused,” he teaches that, “If [abuse victims] have sinned, and some of them have not and some of them have, but you handle a guilty conscience always the same way: by confessing to God you are sorry for your failure and by not doing that same thing again and by asking forgiveness.” When asked what he thinks the spiritual impact is upon victims of sexual abuse, Dr. Wood told GRACE:

“I think that people internally are angry at God for allowing this to happen.So you have to get beyond that and it is a very difficult thing to get beyond because I can’t tell you why something like this happened. I can tell you it did happen but I can’t tell you why it happened or why the Lord allowed it to happen. I assume that there is some reason that this has happened and that you have to work it out within your own mind about why, and it is interesting that in many cases that it really is the root problem. The girl may have caused it to start and that is the root problem with her and she has to handle that somehow or another.”

GRACE asked Dr. Wood if he could offer any examples of when a girl might have caused abuse to start, and he stated, “I mean if she is aggressive with a man, then she may have caused it. It is pretty easy for things like that to get started between individuals. I think that generally a girl will feel guilty about it, she will feel that she shouldn’t have had anything to do with it, but she knows down in her heart that she did have something to do with it.” Dr. Wood further explained how the victim’s provocation is sin just as a perpetrator’s assault is sin. Both the victim and the perpetrator need cleansing from their sins, according to Dr. Wood.

The report details the story of a woman called 777:

In the mid-2000s, a disclosure of a rules violation to Student Life staff resulted in a victim’s “withdrawal at the request of the administration.” In this instance, 777 disclosed to her Assistant Prayer Captain, the Resident Counselor, and her Resident Supervisor that she “had been abused by her pastor since she was 15 years old and was expecting a child in January.” 777’s pastor, who was married with children, came to Greenville on several different occasions while she attended BJU. During these occasions, she said they went to Spartanburg and stayed in a hotel together. During one of the pastor’s visits when she was 20 years of age, she became pregnant. Upon learning that she was pregnant and believing she would be expelled, 777 began to pack up her belongings in the dorm. The residence life staff confronted her and asked why she was packing and leaving. At that point, she explained to them that the abuse began when she was 15. She also acknowledged to them that she had lied about her whereabouts when she obtained the overnight passes to leave campus.

Consequently, she was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying about the overnight passes. 777 wrote a letter to her prayer group explaining the reason for her departure, a copy of which was turned over to BJU officials. The letter describes their relationship, as well as the pastor’s manipulative use of biblical passages to facilitate and justify the ongoing abuse.

Due to these dynamics, 777 told GRACE, “I had to break rules to go off campus, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter.” According to administrative officials, 777 was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying on the overnight passes.Dr. Berg explained to 777 that her withdrawal was required, “because the offense was publicly known and because she did have some ethical responsibility in the matter, even though her pastor was very manipulative.”

Several months after 777 left BJU, she called Dr. Berg to ask if she could be allowed to take her final exams since she had been very near the end of the semester. This request was denied. 777 stated that in the letter to her prayer group that she “loved being loved and needed” and “[the pastor] said he wouldn’t make it if I walked away and he would walk out on his family and the church if I left. So, I stayed and kept my mouth shut.” 777 also stated that Dr. Berg said, “it was some sort of consensual relationship,”so he would not allow her to take her finals.

Dr. Berg agreed that the situation was “complicated” and “heartbreaking” but nonetheless defended the university’s decision to remove her from school because of the school’s policy about automatic expulsion for lying about overnight permissions. When GRACE brought this case to the attention of Dr. Jones, III, he acknowledged, “Well there is a case that is the kind of thing we wanted to know about that needed to be brought to our attention. Anyway, that is heartbreaking.”

Claire Jordan, writing for Al Jazeera, reports:

For decades, Bob Jones University (BJU), a self-described fundamentalist Christian college, has urged sexual abuse victims not to go to the police and counseled them to repent for the blame it said they share, according to an extensive independent investigation published Thursday.

The report, nearly two years in the making, is a catalog of grief stretching back four decades, based on hundreds of survey results, dozens of in-depth interviews and a wealth of corroborating documentation. It details a culture that shamed victims into believing they were ruined by their abuse. It also strongly criticizes the school’s brand of counseling, which rejects modern psychology and urges victims to look for the “sin” behind their rapes and view their continued trauma as a struggle with God.

More than half the alleged victims surveyed reported they felt the school’s response was hurtful or very hurtful. Some victims said they found counseling sessions worse than their abuse. But the vast majority of the 50 self-identified victims interviewed for the study said they loved Bob Jones University, that they wished it no ill and hoped sharing their experiences would bring much-needed change.

A nonprofit group, Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), conducted the probe at the request of Bob Jones, after revelations that one of the university’s trustees covered up sex abuse at his church. The scope of such a review would be extraordinary for any university, but BJU, a campus of about 3,000 in Greenville, South Carolina, known for its strict biblical teachings, is one of the most insular in the country.

The GRACE report not only indicts the culture and counseling philosophy at BJU but also names four individuals it considers the main architects of the school’s approach. Among its many policy recommendations, GRACE urges BJU to strip its campus bookstore of the works of these individuals, bar its onetime primary counselor from counseling and take action against Bob Jones III — the chancellor and a former president of university and a grandson of its founder, for whom it was named.

BJU has maintained an insular, conservative culture that prohibits drinking and television. Unmarried men and women may not touch. Opposite sexes may gather socially only in well-lit outdoor areas on campus until 10:20 p.m. Even Christian music is not permitted if it has a rock, pop, jazz or hip-hop beat. Much of the outside world — from “worldly friends” to websites, which are deemed un-Christian — is shunned.

On Wednesday, BJU President Steve Pettit released a statement on the report, writing on behalf of BJU, “I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering abuse or assault.” He promised victims “who felt we failed them” that school officials were thoroughly analyzing GRACE’s findings and recommendations.

Former BJU student Katie Landry, who spoke to ”America Tonight” as part of our exclusive investigation into Bob Jones earlier this year, recounted how when she reported her rape to then-Dean of Students Jim Berg, she was so devastated by a barrage of questions — Had she been drinking? Had she been impure? What was her root sin? — that she raced out of the administration building, dropped out of school and didn’t tell anyone else for five years.

He just confirmed my worst nightmare,” Landry said. “It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault.”

In candid remarks published in the report, Berg denied that the “sin behind every sin” was a concept he used and said he couldn’t remember the details of that session. But he acknowledged that the investigatory nature of his counseling, hurried schedule and “eagerness to bring real resolutions” may have made him brusque towards sex abuse victims in a way “that is probably more threatening than helpful.”

Berg, who was dean of students and chief counselor on campus for three decades, and is a current faculty member, estimated that he’s counseled 200 to 300 sexual abuse victims at Bob Jones. The report names Berg, along with former Dean of Education Walter Fremont, longtime Executive Vice President Bob Wood and Gregory Mazak, who oversees undergraduate and graduate degrees in biblical counseling as key figures in shaping  the university’s counseling philosophy, which was imparted to thousands of students, pastors, counselors, teachers and missionaries. But none of these men had any formal training in psychology, or a license to practice.

“What this report found was that the materials made available by these individuals had caused an incredible amount of damage in a large group of people,” said Boz Tchividjian, the head of GRACE. “The report didn’t find that any of it was intentional or malicious. But it did cause harm.”

Of 141 self-identified abuse victims who answered the question in the GRACE survey, more than 60 percent said Bob Jones’ culture was filled with messages that blamed and disparaged victims.

Some pointed to a fixation on women’s dress and teachings that seemed to imply that women were responsible for a man’s lust. Many interviewed by GRACE said the school’s sermonizing on sexual sin left them feeling like damaged goods, as it failed to differentiate between those who chose to have sex and those who had it forced upon them…

You can download the entire 244 page report here. (PDF file. It will start downloading when you click the link) When you are done reading it, feel free to

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