Richard Clark and the Preemption of Anger

sundown on wrath cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
Click on this beautiful picture and you will be transported to my beautiful gallery!

I don’t get angry very often, but when I do I do. What made me want to post this cartoon today was this article by Richard Clark, “Stop Hate-Watching the Church”. This article made me angry.

People are angry with the church. This is a fact. A reality. And some have been angry for years. To pretend it’s not there or to insist that it shouldn’t be doesn’t change the fact that it is. Clark reflects the typical church attitude towards suffering: get over it already will you please so we can get on with the program?!

I want to critique Clark’s post.

  1. Clark says he used to critique a TV show and felt bad about it. Then he compares it to the church. Wait! We’re talking about a TV show that doesn’t harm anybody. The church harms people. There’s a big difference. Clark must realize that. So what he is really saying is that since he felt bad critiquing a TV show, we should feel bad critiquing a church. The sin of the TV show… bad writing… and the sin of the church… abuse… it doesn’t matter. No difference. The problem is criticizing. We shouldn’t criticize. That’s the message.
  2. He complains that Facebook pages like Stuff Christian Culture Likes “devote themselves entirely to delivering the latest missteps of evangelicalism straight to our newsfeeds”. What? Why do you like that page Mr. Clark? Why are you following it? If you didn’t follow it, it wouldn’t come up in your newsfeeds. Just like your TV, you can turn it off. They aren’t forcing themselves on anyone. It’s up to the reader to like the page. The fact that these sites are growing, as Clark acknowledges, is because nothing it being done about the abuse and the voice of the abused is not being heard. I have a novel idea: stop the abuse and the complaints will stop. But no, let’s continue blaming the victim because that’s far easier.
  3. Clark charges such sites with feeding their readers “disgust and frustration with the church”. My immediate response is, “So what is wrong with that?” What’s wrong with being disgusted with the church? What’s wrong with being frustrated with it? What are we supposed to do with these strong feelings that really do exist? Obviously the church doesn’t have a complaint department to process critique. So where else are people supposed to process it? Where else are people supposed to vent? Surely Clark isn’t suggesting that there should never be any disgust or frustration with the church. So what he must be suggesting is that these cannot be expressed. Anger is ugly but necessary and the church can’t handle it. I suggest, like any good government, that the church embrace these sites as a part of a healthy opposition that can provide a prophetic correction to the church’s abuses.
  4. In a typical church maneuver, Clark pulls out the scriptures, specifically Ephesians 4:29, that we should only speak words that are edifying, fitting and gracious. I get this all the time too. For some reason he, like the church in general, thinks building up only happens with compliments. When such people pull out such scriptures, I like to pull out my own, like Jeremiah for instance. He spent his entire life complaining with tears, railing against the powers that be. He was not a happy camper. There are a lot of people, in my opinion, who hold the same awareness of injustice in their chest and won’t shut up until something is done about it. Would Clark like to send them into exile like Jeremiah was?: If you don’t like it, move to Babylon!
  5. Clark expresses some sympathy for those who have been abused by the church, having been abused himself. But then, as is typical of the church, he basically says, “Time’s up!” on the suffering. He finally concludes that these online communities aren’t about healing, but about malice and mockery. He implies that even though he was really hurt by the church, he’s finally gotten over it and you should too. He could go back there, but he won’t. I suggest it’s because he’s under the employ of the church and it wouldn’t be in his best career interest to start critiquing the hand that feeds him again. I know what it’s like. I was accused of that all the time. To be employed by the church and to critique it at the same time is an impossible position to stay in. I struggled internally with biting the hand that fed me, but I also got a lot of people telling me the same thing. Impossible! I really don’t know how he is handling this difficult position he’s in, but the constant temptation to compromise in the interests of the organization are at times irresistible. Could that be happening here?
  6. Clark calls for “biblical healing”. What is that? We are supposed to heal like the bible tells us to? What does the bible know about my particular hurt and my particular need? I will heal in my own way, not as some old book tells me I should, thank you very much. He says that hate doesn’t solve problems. He says mocking doesn’t help. He says that what these people are criticizing are real people. Well… ya! These are real people, not imaginary characters inflicting imaginary wounds. They should be held accountable for what they’ve done. These institutions are creatures that must submit to our dominion. Our organizations should serve us, and those working for the organizations should be serving us as well. When they rule over us and abuse us, we should call them on it until they change. Of course!
  7. In a bold move, Clark says that those who have left the church actually “despise” the church and are “giving up”. In answer to that I often compare one’s relationship with the church to a marriage. Clark seems to believe that, sure, you were beaten and abused and your life may have been totally messed up, but to despise your spouse and to give up on your marriage is not an option. I don’t think he has totally taken in just how serious this issue is. People are leaving the church in droves because they will no longer put up with the abuse, control, manipulation and coercion. People have the right to be free and independent and they’re using that right. Spouses are walking out of abusive relationships. Church members are walking out of abusive churches. People are protesting abusive governments and crooked banks. There is a vocal revolt happening right now and it’s messing up the status quo. Remember: the bank of frustration with the church has been building up for centuries. It’s not just me with my anger, but the anger against the pervasive and long-term abuse that seems to imply that things are never going to change.
  8. Clark pretends to care. But he doesn’t. Not really. He says, “I wouldn’t want to make any claims about how you deal with your struggles. You may do whatever you want.” But he doesn’t mean this. The whole post is about how we have to deal with our pain. The whole post is that we shouldn’t do what we want, but what the bible says and in the best interest of the church and its leaders. It’s the typical passive-aggressive crap the church is expert in and people smell a mile away. He has a condescending and patronizing tone always recognized by those who have been abused and are angry as a result.
  9. Clark finally and clearly lays it out there: “But we, with all our flaws and frailty, were never meant to be God’s instruments of justice. We are to be instruments of God’s incredible redemptive grace.” What he means by this, I think, is that it is not our job to challenge authority. It is not our job to change things. It is not our responsibility to call out injustice and demand immediate change. We are to just be nice, get people saved, and keep the church alive and prospering. At least I think that’s what he means.
  10. As a pastor offline and online, I have seen the opposite to be true. Sure, some people might choose to be angry their whole lives. It’s their right to be. They can be angry for as long as they feel they need. But I have also seen, when people are given the right, the space and the opportunity to vent, that in time they find room to forgive and move on. And by moving on it could mean leaving the relationship altogether. They have that right as well. I’ve seen people take years to process stuff. Myself included. But eventually, if we are allowed to find our own way, we pass through the anger stage and move on to other stages on our way to healing and wholeness. To attempt to control or correct peoples’ feelings is doomed for failure and will only perpetuate the system’s evils and those who work for them.

So Clark’s post, rather than help me process my anger, only made me angrier.

Why is the church so excellent at this?

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85 Replies to “Richard Clark and the Preemption of Anger”

  1. Really, as a nurse who has worked with many dying people and the their families, you are speaking words about grieving. Despite Kubler-Ross, there is no time frame to process the grief of death. Some folks stay in the denial phase(that can be pretty effective), some people stay angry. I work with a group educating our denomination regarding the abuse that has been done to Indigenous people in our name. It is a process. Repentance doesn’t happen with a handshake and I’m sorry. Sometimes change must happen too. In fact, I believe that’s the only way that healing can occur.

  2. The disconnect definitely starts with item #1 – he does not seem to understand the difference between critiquing an entertainment and/or information venue and evaluating the performance of a real-life organization of people which has ability to significantly influence the substance of people’s lives. Would he have the same problem evaluating the performance of a student and grading appropriately? Does he have the same qualms about speaking his mind about government officials or practices? Perhaps his unease with critiquing TV and critiquing the church come from the same place – energy wasted on something that is trivial when compared to the very real substance of living life. Oh, but there I go, being all negative about the gloriousity of that which must not be criticized. Any person, group, or organization which has the ability to materially affect people’s lives and psyches should both expect to be critiqued and should welcome the criticism as an opportunity to learn and improve. If they’re unable to face the music, they shouldn’t be in the business.

  3. Thanks for this, David. Mr. Clark’s post is yawningly typical. I’m sure he doesn’t realize what a cliche he’s become. He argues from a position of privilege, defending the system from those whom the system has failed, abused, misled, and misrepresented. How utterly predictable.
    The system will always move to preserve itself. That’s what systems do. Whenever someone volunteers to become an enforcer for the system as he has done, I get the shivers on their behalf. I can’t help remembering the words of Psalm 18, the entire book of Jeremiah, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 24, and the entire book of Galatians. It seems to me that Jesus always stands against the system on behalf of the downtrodden. I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that argument.

  4. I walked away from the church and Christianity two years ago. Realizing how malleable the bible is and how it can be manipulated to justify any belief system, I no longer believe any of it. That’s my personal journey and I don’t wish to force others to draw the same conclusions.

    My anger was not so much at the church, but at myself for being “duped” for so long. I know others who still go who share exactly the same beliefs, but being “fake” or half-into it doesn’t work for me. I guess I actually abhor hypocrisy.
    Sites like the one you mentioned are necessary and serve a purpose. People can use it and walk away when they no longer need that safe space.
    But I agree with you – this whole “Christian persecution” meme diminishes the sacrifices they believe their predecessors made, and tries to equate itself with the actual persecution, by their own institution, of LGBT’s, women, Muslims, and their own parishioners.

  5. Well when churches stop hating women, the LGBT community, non-Christians and anyone they may not like and covering for corrupt and sick leaders who have so many in different ways, then maybe people won’t be so angry at the Church. Of course, the excuse is that what they do it out of love and wanting everyone to come to Christ. Not going to work.

    And I must say David you do a good job of critiquing what is said or a person’s actions and not criticizing the person.

    And btw, the attitude in number 9 is sad.

  6. “People who leave the Church despise the Church and are giving up” Clark is completely false here, their leaving because, it’s no longer a Church in practice,and doesn’t want to change. From my 40 years experience, their led out by the Holy Spirit. Clark and his ilk, are worried that the gravy train of living off the money of other peoples hard work and sweat is coming to a end.The reason most people leave is that they awaken to the Holy Spirit. Many experience tremendous Spiritual growth after leaving and live out Christ’s grace in a truth, that builds his kingdom and is visible to everyone. The most evident part of their Spiritual maturity comes with the calling by the Holy Spirit to warn others of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Silence to sin is sin.

  7. The difference between me and Clark is that I freely admit I’m angry. Clark is angry too, at people who refuse to submit to the church, but he won’t cop to it.

  8. his attitude reminds me of some of my fellow Americans who, after our country has spent hundreds of years either enslaving or discriminating against people of color, don’t want to hear about racism anymore.

  9. David, you have mischaracterized my actual piece so horrifically I don’t know where to start. But I hope you had fun tearing down that straw man! He seems awful.

  10. I think it is a fair critique… coming from one who used to dish it out and is now at the other end of it having it dished to him. I know all about it. I’m not speaking as an outsider here as you suggest in your post. Look at the reaction your post is getting. It should signal something.

  11. Oh. Wait. Did you actually read the original post, or just see that SCCL slammed it on Facebook?

    Coming from someone who has experienced my own fair share of pain at the hands of the church and regularly laughs at and gets ticked off with the church, I think you’re deeply misrepresenting the heart of the original piece.

    This stuff is emotional, I think we all get that. I didn’t even agree wholeheartedly with everything that was said in the original post. But his purpose was a far cry from what you’re making it out to be.

    Be mad at the church – I’m right there with you. But your anger with this post is misguided in my opinion, and is harshly shutting down a chance for level headed dialogue about a sensitive subject.

    Just my two cents.

  12. I’ll just chime in and say that I know Richard. He’s a good guy and this post deeply missed the point of his post. He is constantly concerned for the abuses and marginalized in church culture. No, he is not just some shill, working for a church, trying to protect his job. When he quotes the Bible, it’s not a “typical church maneuver” for him, but flows from a real trust in what it says to bring healing and wholeness. He, like many others, thinks that the Scriptures probably have more to do with your particular pain and hurt than you think it does. (Of course, we don’t like hearing that, especially if we’re someone who has been hurt by someone with a Bible.) He’s not telling people not to be angry, but yes, that there are better and worse ways to heal. And yes, he’s telling people that, like a marriage, its worth not giving up on it, because, as crappy as your church was, there are other churches. And, ultimately, as crappy as the Church in general is, Christ isn’t giving up on it.

    Beyond that, for myself I’ll say that some venting is healthy. Space is needed for that. Other venting just leads to more hate and contempt. And some venting and pain turns into a weapon to be wielded against anybody who would dare question you about anything. I’ve seen this before too. Somebody gets hurt, in any kind of relationship, or has a hard life, and then down the road, past the healthy, real anger they should experience, the seed of contempt creeps in. Or, the seed that says, “I’ve been hurt, you can’t understand me, so screw off, don’t tell me what to, I’ll say and do what I want.”

    That is not a healthy, Jeremiah, holy anger at corruption and sin. (There is a real place for that, and if you’ve seen the pieces over at CaPC, you’ll know that they often criticize things in the Church that need to be.) It is contempt sometimes laced with entitlement, and after a good while, self-righteousness. And well, actually, simple anger feels good too. All I’m saying is, yes, anger and venting can be super healthy. AND, it can go bad. The idea that no one’s reactions in their anger ought to be challenged or questioned is a therapeutic myth that doesn’t actually help people, but leaves many wallowing in muck that they need help getting out of because it’s not good for them.

    Finally, I think in your own anger you imposed your experiences onto him, misreading him and didn’t hear him for what he was saying. And, well, since you probably already hate this comment, do you think that maybe, just maybe, your own identity “as a as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church” got threatened just a little bit with this post? I mean, might that not explain some of the anger? Could that be happening here?

  13. Ahahaha, this is an amazing misreading. I’m sorry you’re angry bro, and Clark’s piece isn’t perfect. But you could have at least started by capturing his argument. Have fun shadowboxing a stereotype.

  14. Of course I read the post. If you read my post you should be able to see that. And I feel his post shuts down communication because it tells us to stop feeling or at least stop expressing strong emotions.

  15. “But we, with all our flaws and frailty, were never meant to be God’s instruments of justice.” The more I think about this line, the sadder I get. I think there was a time that many believed their faith drove them to seek justice-abolitionists, civil rights leader, healthcare, etc. but now it just seems many want to isolate themselves from the “others” who won’t “turn to Christ” and deny them rights in the name of religious liberty.

    When I was a Christian, I was taught it was my duty to seek social justice in supporting the downtrodden and marginalized. Then I started to realize that the Church itself was creating a lot of hurt and angry people who felt marginalized and doing all it could to save face. Many in the church are too focused on creating a theocracy that really does not focus on any kind of social justice.

    My motivations as a human being are the same but I realize that the church is not going to change at this point. Now it seems that be a Christian is about protecting the Church at all costs. Gotta keep people under your thumb and keep the money rolling in. . .

  16. Thank you for telling me what my feelings are. There is no dialogue here. Clark wants people to stop hurting and be graceful. By telling us how to be angry and how to behave. ENOUGH.

    His anger is exactly where it should be. What if I told you, KielH, that you haven’t really felt pain from the church. It was only one person. You should be angry at that one person.

  17. There were no straw man statements. He is expressing his anger at your piece. Ask him questions. Ask him what he means by certain points one by one. That is how you open discussion and develop relationships.

  18. open discussion assumes both parties are listening to one another. David only heard what he wanted to hear in order to rail against it. The arguments he accuses me of making in my post are simply not there.

  19. “Clark wants people to stop hurting and be graceful.”

    While I’ll concede that he would want people to be graceful in general, I in no way see where people are getting that he wants people to stop hurting. It’s not there.

    I’m sorry you feel that way, because I can understand how someone telling you to stop hurting when something hurts is extremely frustrating, inconsiderate and downright painful. But that’s not the case in this instance. Not at all.

    As for the second half of your comment, I don’t even really know what you’re getting at.

  20. You’re saying, the only venting allowed is up to the point where it doesn’t threaten your ivory tower. This movement is being led by Christ, of course he’s not giving up on the Church; he is the Church. He is the one pulling out the lampstand on what you call the Church and the Pharisee’s are howling in agony.

  21. I definitely relate as well, Bonnie. I walked away from the church over 30 years ago when the priests started saying, “This is how you should vote…”. We human beings have free will and if that happens to contradict church teachings, so be it.

  22. I posted a comment on his blog asking if he’s spoken publicly about spiritual abuse. Because if he hasn’t, he discredits himself as one having compassion and empathy for victims.

    It’s interesting how church leaders are quick to publicly tell victims how to behave, but fail to publicly call out their peers who have abused by their high-controlling leadership. Why is that? Because their peers are their friends? Well, even more of a reason because they are shepherding many people’s souls.

    The last thing a victim needs is to be re-victimized by another church leader.
    I offered to send him some survivor stories. I hope he takes me up on my offer.

  23. I think it’s the music that kept me there so long. I love old hymns, and the church I went to still sang them, and not the boring praise choruses that so many do now.
    You can imagine, however, that the population is dwindling, as I am in the minority on that one.
    I’ve never had a pastor tell me how to vote, but I definitely left this particular church just in time. My former pastor was actually quite progressive and pro-gay, but the guy there now is not at all.

  24. Reading this I’m now thinking of the passage in Amos where the prophet (speaking for God) is saying how fed up he is with their meetings and everything because of their mistreatment of the poor, the “least of these”. I think it reads best in The Message.

    “I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
    I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
    I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
    I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
    Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
    I want fairness—rivers of it.
    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (Amos 5:21-24)

  25. Telling people to surpress their anger or frustration or whatnot is encouraging them to lie. Lying is a sin. So, really, by telling people to surpress their true emotions, you’re encouraging them to sin. (That’s an in-general “you’re”, btw.)

    Not to mention telling marginalized people how they “should” react to something is tone policing.

  26. My view is that Christianity is evolving. It has been evolving since it started two millennium ago. That is why Christianity has not already become extinct. Things evolve when they are in an unstable, unsustainable form. To continue to exist, Christianity will need to further evolve or people (over a few generations) will leave it entirely. The current criticisms of church culture are an inevitable consequence of the current instabilities within Christianity. Ultimately these instabilities come down to problems in doctrine and interpretation of and relevance of scripture. It is perhaps with some irony that those who criticize Christianity the most may play the largest part in the ultimate evolution and survival of Christianity and those who discourage criticism may be the ones that contribute the most to the possibility that Christianity may ultimately become extinct among the world’s religions. The religions that survive are the ones that work and can change with the times.

  27. I think he’s got pretty it much spot on. I felt much the same reading your piece. If he’s mischaracterized your points, perhaps you didn’t make them as well as you’d intended.

  28. Yes, that’s exactly what I said from the ‘ivory tower’ of my massive college ministry, that pays me a huge paycheck, and invests me with obscene amounts of cultural authority and power over people. Yup, you’ve nailed it.

  29. seriously, how does this help? how does this help?! you two sound like those guys in the locker room in high school that resort to making fun of a guy for his stutter instead of patiently listening to what he has to say.

  30. I shouldn’t even respond, but, the “WORST” thing is an inside joke we have with Richard.
    That said, the fact that David called him Randy is a bit of a tip-off that maybe he didn’t read him as carefully as he says he did. David isn’t a poor helpless kid in a locker room. He’s a grown man with a very big blog, who named Richard, misrepresented him, and tore into him.

    So, yeah.

  31. My problem with your article, Richard, is that you refuse to give those of us who left the church after decades in it the space to be angry about what happened. We’re supposed to gut it up, get over it–and then go back to church so we can get another heaping helping of church-instigated and church-mediated abuse. To quote the prophet Billy Joel: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners / Than cry with the saints.”

  32. Gee that’s the first time it was brought to my awareness about calling him “Randy”… I fixed that. Thanks. I meant no disrespect there.

  33. I don’t need someone to tell me to be graceful when I am not. I’m still processing a lot of raw emotion, even after several years away. It would help if the church was willing to listen to the church alumni association, but it’s not. We’re instead pushed away as failures.

  34. hey jtheory, if you could put your condescension aside for a second, what do you mean all i had to do was tell him and not make fun of it? i used the wrong name. it was an accident. i corrected it. i didn’t do it to make fun of him.

  35. oops! sorry, I was saying that in reply to Derek and Alan, sorry, that came out like I was talking to you!

  36. one CaPC writer’s takeaway from the article (that he also helped edit.” was not that Richard was stifling anger, but that there are right and wrong ways to deal with anger, that there are unhealthy and toxic ways to deal with it, and healthier ways.

    I think Richard’s main mistake, and my hugest problem was not that point. In general it’s a good point. I think the mistake was holding up Stuff Christian Culture Likes as an example of how he feels anger can be handled toxicly and unhealthily.

    Then it became about the people of SCCL and how they deal with their anger, suddenly he was trying to tell them that they don’t handle it healthily, and there are better ways, and they need to be nicer about it.

    This automatically invalidates their anger because it tells them, “you’re not being angry right.” therefore their anger doesn’t get listened to, or understood, or defended because it’s being done “wrongly.”

    When asked how it should be done right, another CaPC writer said, “well, the Bible.” as if this was answer enough. The failure here is that many people at SCCL don’t believe the Bible, and don’t follow its precepts. So how are they supposed to know how to be angry according to your Biblical principles.

    But really that’s not the point of all. The point is the anger. The point is needing to heal. Telling a person they’re not being angry right doesn’t help that healing at all. It doesn’t calm them down and it doesn’t give them a chance to stop being angry.

    So really, I just don’t think the article was really helpful in making its point, because it went past generalities and entered into telling a specific group of people that they aren’t being angry right.

  37. I have yet to figure it out . . . why I get angry. All I know is that out here where the Earth is not terribly torn up from our abuse of Her, there is peace and a unity that encompasses all that is. There is a beauty and a recognition that Deity does not wear only one face, but has many, is not only one sex but is both Mother and Father, Sister and Brother, and manifests where your spirit walks, not in the cold, sterile confines of buildings. What better “church” than the beauty of creation.

  38. The second half I was trying to explain how I bet you wouldn’t like it if someone came along and told you how you “should” be feeling or how you should grieve.”

    Because you wrote this: “But your anger with this post is misguided in my opinion” which is telling someone else how you think they should be angry or grieve.

  39. You can start by asking him why he came to those conclusions. I said on the SCCL thread that David’s view was exactly how someone of the others took it.

    Start by asking those whom disagree rather than agree. Asking, not saying “you’re wrong.” Just because you don’t like the reflection isn’t only the fault of the mirror.

  40. Derek, if attending a church is like a marriage, then bring on “no-fault divorce” in this jurisdiction!

    Seriously, though: on the Internet, people read blogs without context, and without getting to know their authors. This means that diverse reactions can be expected, and can be accepted as valid.

    I don’t know Richard. I don’t understand what drives him. I don’t know what motivated this particular blog.

    But when I read it, I felt like I was being told how I should feel. I felt like my experiences and reactions were being criticised. I felt more angry, and less likely to forgive.

    And if Richard’s post was genuinely written to (people like) me, then this is a failure of communication, and probably a failure to achieve his objective in writing it.

  41. I felt shut down by Richard’s post. Even if he said that he wasn’t trying to do that.

    While logically, Richard said he wasn’t trying to do that, emotionally, that was how it felt.

    So was Richard intending to have his post processed logically, or emotionally? And given his audience, does this make sense?

  42. Oh, Richard, please stop hate-watching people who are angry at the church!

    “I also know how incredibly hard it is to speak edifying language into those situations when you’re the one affected by them. … I don’t intend to shame and blame [critics] for finding it difficult to [hold back] when confronted with very real [“opportunities”].”

    “Here’s why I find this trend so frustrating and distasteful: … healing doesn’t happen this way. Hate doesn’t solve spiritual problems, and God’s Church isn’t sanctified by [“biblically” criticising] those who have done us wrong. … But these characters are human beings, whom the Bible refers to as neighbors.”

    “But groups like these have engendered a culture that identifies as Christian, yet despises the [victims and the oppressed]. They have led fellow Christians to hate and despise their brothers and sisters for the sake of [preserving church institutions.]”

    “Scripture … has a realistic and tender approach to emotional suffering, and in fact commands Christians to weep when others weep. God knows the Church could use some help with this principle: …”

    “Turn over all the tables you want, but in the end, all you’ll have to show for it is a God-forsaken mess.”

    From all the responses I’ve seen, Richard, you have made a bit of a mess…

    So, because it is a mess, I invite us all to “weep with those who weep”, whatever their griefs, backgrounds, or stories. Because that’s how healing really starts…

  43. Tim,

    Well, honestly, we kind of already have “no-fault divorce” for most people with regard to church. All you have to do is decide you don’t like what the pastor says one week and go to the church up the street. At least in some neighborhoods. 😉 Actually, this is one of the ways the culture has crept into the church. We have a much weaker sense of covenantal bond. But, that’s neither here nor there. There are clearly situations where leaving a church is warranted, especially in the case of abuse.

    On the internet: not all interpretations are valid, nor sound. Authors have the responsibility of trying to write clearly and readers have the responsibility of trying to read charitably and not simply run it through the meat-grinder of their own experience. Richard was actually doing something with the words he wrote. Just because somebody felt that he was doing something else with them, it doesn’t mean that he did what they said. You might hear me make a statement that you take to be a promise, but if I’m not actually promising then there is a disconnect.

    Here’s the thing, when you read it, you felt something. I get that. I have a lot of initial reactions to articles, but then, once I’ve calmed down I go back, re-read it, and realize I kinda over-reacted. People do that sometimes and I’m no different. With this article, though, a lot of people read it and clearly got that he wasn’t telling people not to be angry, or that your experiences were your fault.

    What it is, is a plea about not doing one thing with your anger: let it turn into contempt. Woundedness is not a carte-blanche excuse to do whatever you want. Paul tells us to not sin in our anger (I know, I know, typical move to pull out the Bible). We may have been wronged and wounded, but that doesn’t mean that anything and everything I do with my pain and anger is okay. It’s like a physical injury–sometimes, when I’m hurt I can lash out and make things worse. Still, when the physical therapist tells me I shouldn’t make certain movements and I should work on other exercises, they’re not being insensitive, but trying to help the healing and preventing me from further harm.

    Well, hey, I hope I’m not pushing back too hard here. Hope you find healing and a good church community to process with.



  44. Derek, I don’t know how I can say it any more clearly:

    My reaction is real and lasting, and my interpretation is one that many others shared. And yes, this is a disconnect, and for a significant number of people. I think we both agree on that!

    But what I’m more interested in asking is: Why is there this disconnect?

    Richard’s post failed to communicate his stated intention to me. And I believe I was in his target audience, so if Richard considered the kinds of reactions he would get, from the audience he anticipated, then this didn’t work in this particular post. This is a charitable interpretation which validates my experience.

    A less charitable interpretation, which validates my reaction, is that Richard doesn’t understand how the people he addressed the post to feel right now. He doesn’t know what it’s like to read his post feeling that way. He identifies with the oppressor in this instance, not the oppressed.

    An alternate, even less charitable interpretation which validates my reaction is: Richard’s post was directed at the institutional church, and was intended to validate it by criticising those who criticised it. Addressing SCCL was a rhetorical device, not a genuine attempt at reconciliation.

    Most people will disagree with a number of these interpretations. Even I don’t believe them all!

    No doubt, Derek, you will want to try and critique some of these interpretations. Feel free, but I’d prefer you held back, because that’s not why I posted them.

    My point is that they are all possible interpretations, given the obvious disconnect between the post and some of its readers. And critiquing someone’s interpretation, when they’re already disconnected from the original post, often leads to more misunderstanding, not less.

    Derek, I can’t help feeling that I’m not allowed to have any other interpretations when I read your comments here. If this isn’t your intention, then I’d encourage you to find ways of communicating that there is more than one valid interpretation of any one blog post.

  45. “Christianity” [churchianity] has become America’s civil religion. Jesus challenge to “be holy as your Father in Heaven is holy” has become “be nice.”
    Jesus was not “nice” to the Pharisees, which is why they manipulated the Roman authorities into executing him.
    Of course, the “be nice” commandment does not extend to those who oppose one’s political ideology or stand in the way of the pursuit individual self-interest or “happiness” at the expense of others.
    The American Jesus is often more like a small child’s “invisible friend” who is always on his/her side whenever there is a conflict with others than the biblical Jesus who challenges our egoistic predatory selfishness.

  46. If Jesus came back, I’m sure the Second Coming would be female, dark skinned, gay, poor, a pre-existing medical condition, and strange (to us) religious beliefs. You can guess how things will play out.

  47. I want to thank everyone for their comments. I would hope that we all have, in our best interests, the people. I think of the story of the Jews in captivity in Egypt for hundreds of years, and it says that God finally heard their complaint and responded by sending Moses. My point being that anger and complaints shouldn’t have a time limit.

  48. I think it’s interesting that many of the comments on the original article were critical as well.

  49. i accidentally called him Randy once in the original post but i corrected that. there is a randy clark who is a pastor in the USA… just my mistake corrected now.

  50. About 30 years ago a member of the church, and a leader, a pastor, found out that his 14 year old daughter was pregnant. He stripped her naked and tied her to the kitchen table, and walked around the table with a chainsaw (running) and threatened to remove the evil. Her younger brother was hiding in the pantry. The baby was born, and sent away to live with relatives. The mother of that baby took her own life the next year. Sixteen years later the baby took her own life and died in the arms of her uncle who had been hiding in the pantry. How do I know this story, because I sat with the homeless man, horribly afflicted with guilt for not having been man enough to stand up to the God man.

    So who is the church? is it the God man? He was a God man because nobody called him out, and the damage of not saying anything critical caused at least 3 deaths.

    We should be very careful before we stand up to defend the church. We should be very careful when we prescribe best healing practices for situations we know nothing about. We should be very careful when we show concern about the hurt inflicted on Mark Driscoll. There are 14 campuses hiding in the pantry as Driscoll screams at his children, “Who do you think you are?”

    So Richard you’re concerned about what?

  51. If you don’t want people to read and respond and disagree with your articles, then maybe don’t post them. What you are saying here just sounds like you’re saying “you just don’t get it.”
    That helps no one.

  52. I guess what angered me the most was the level of paradigm over people. When your religious values become more valuable than people they’ve become of no value.

  53. yeah, basically telling someone what direction & the limits of their anger should be is exactly equal to trying to control someone else’s feelings. why do you give so much of a shit how other people feel?

  54. Quick response: If people shouldn’t care about how other people feel, why do you care about how I feel about the way other people feel? 😉

    More seriously though, what we’ve been trying to say is precisely that some ways of expressing feelings actually damage people. They don’t result in healing, but rather in more harm. Why do I care? Well, people are important, that’s why.

  55. Tim,

    I’m going to lay my cards out and say that I think communication is a two-way street. Authors have a responsibility to try to be clear. Readers have a responsibility in this as readers as well. Given this, I think there is at least one more interpretation of the situation and that is that people aren’t doing the best job as readers of Richard’s piece. That’s kind of the angle I’m coming from.

    Tim, when you talk about feeling like you’re not allowed to have any other interpretations when you read my comments–I kinda have trouble knowing what to do with that statement. I mean, I disagree with these other interpretations. I think they miss Richard’s point, mistake his character, and close themselves off from the very valid point he’s making. Am I not supposed to say that? I’m not trying to hurt others by pointing out that I think their interpretation is flawed. I’m trying to bring about an understanding of the truth of the situation. Is that what communication is about?

    At this point, part of the issue is that we seem have different hermeneutics. You’d rather I not critique these various interpretations that I believe to be at odds with the text in question because these interpretations are, what?, valid expressions of others feelings? But writing as a piece of communication isn’t just an opportunity for different people to try and come up with their own interpretations of texts. It’s not primarily about people being “allowed” to have different ideas about the post. It should, at least, start with an attempt to try and understand what the author was saying before moving on to any kind of analysis. My point is that people’s analysis is flawed because they have been misunderstanding what he’s saying.

    Well, at this point, we’ve probably reached an impasse, so, best wishes to you.


  56. I’m happy for you to feel however you want to. Appreciate it if you wouldn’t confuse your freedom to feel as you want with prescribing to others what is and isn’t helpful in a process that is their own.

  57. There is no formula in the Bible how one is to heal. Each person was made differently and has to find their own way. If anger is involved for that person there is no reason to condemn. Yes from personal experience I realized I would never be healed but I do keep getting better over the decades. That is exciting and I enjoy those who share were they are in their life long journey. I found when I accepted my anger mush of it disappeared, but I still have times of anger.

  58. Derek,

    Both you and Richard seem to begin with the assumption that victims who have been damaged by the church have a responsibility to understand and react appropriately. The message of Richard’s post requires it, the means of communication (tone, attitude, assumptions) requires it, and your responses here require it.

    I’m suspicious of any hermeneutic which results in victims having to make more effort to understand those who claim some connection with their oppressors. This raises the standard of proof of intent (and quality of communication) significantly, because it can be perceived as oppressive in itself. And, pragmatically, it’s unrealistic to expect victims to “go the extra mile” when they already feel they’ve been driven too far…

    While there is a truth to Richard’s intent, we also disagree on how many reactions are valid, or could even have reasonably been anticipated (and therefore the post adjusted for them). Go ahead and critique them – it doesn’t worry me – but I will continue to defend the reality that people of diverse experiences will have diverse reactions, and therefore interpretations.

    Personally, Richard’s tone and attitude were speaking so loud in the post; that I found it difficult to hear the underlying message. It seems, Derek, that this was not your experience. And that’s ok. But it was mine. So while I could understand the underlying message, my main issue was with the attitude – one that placed the onus on the victims to respond appropriately (and, I think that was the message, too!)

    So, as long as the victims are the ones who need to take action, to understand, to forgive, to react appropriately; then yes, I agree, we’ve reached an impasse.

  59. Clark reflects the typical church attitude towards suffering: get over
    it already will you please so we can get on with the program?!


  60. In a typical church maneuver, Clark pulls out the scriptures,
    specifically Ephesians 4:29, that we should only speak words that are
    edifying, fitting and gracious. I get this all the time too.

    Standard response to any disagreement — pull out the Holy Ghost Machine Gun and start spraying those Bible Bullets.

    Ever notice this only happens when some Dissident needs to be Silenced?

    There’s a reason the word “Scripture(TM)” makes me want to puke. During my time in-country, when I heard the term “Scripture(TM)” most often it was being used as a beatdown weapon.

  61. Clark pretends to care. But he doesn’t. Not really. He
    says, “I wouldn’t want to make any claims about how you deal with your
    struggles. You may do whatever you want.” But he doesn’t mean this.

    That anything like “I’ll Pray For You(TM)”?

    Clark finally and clearly lays it out there: “But we, with all our flaws
    and frailty, were never meant to be God’s instruments of justice. We
    are to be instruments of God’s incredible redemptive grace.” What he
    means by this, I think, is that it is not our job to challenge authority.

    “We are but the creature and He is the Creator. AL’LAH’U AKBAR! AL’LAH’U AKBAR! AL’LAH’U AKBAR!” (And by extension, “AYATOLLAH AKBAR!”)

  62. To attempt to control or correct peoples’ feelings is doomed for failure
    and will only perpetuate the system’s evils and those who work for

    Which is the whole idea.
    “I Got Mine,
    I Got Mine,
    — Glenn Frye

  63. Thank you, Bonnie, for putting my own feelings in perspective! That’s exactly what I felt, anger at myself for being duped for so many years. I still get annoyed at my old self!

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