Posted by: Botolff | July 6, 2009

Missing the Point of Exposure

I think the church has something really bass-ackwards.  (As if much of this blog isn’t already about that).  But I wanted to talk about exposure for a minute.  How many times have you seen people who are already ashamed of and repentant for their “sin” chastised for it; even at times drug before the whole congregation to make a public spectacle of them.  I remember when I was in high school youth group, a 16 year old girl got run across the sanctuary stage before the whole church, with her unbelieving boyfriend I might add, and forced to publicly confess that they had sex and got pregnant before they were married.  As if they owed the people of the congregation something for sinning against God, if they did sin against God.  (Please don’t assume I’m pro pre-marital sex now).  My point is, that I believe I know something of that young woman’s heart back then, and she was scared, ashamed…and repentant.  Which may be why she allowed them to do that to her.  I think she figured that was the only way to get absolution with God, her parents and the people of the church.  On the other side of that day she just got pissed…and rightfully so.  I never saw her back in the church again, and frankly, for her sake, I’m glad.  Mean ass people who refused to see how violent they were, and most of them still refuse.

What’s the point of exposure?  Well, right now I hold to the opinion that it is to shed light on the problem.  Isn’t that why Jesus exposed people?  (By the way, Jesus exposed the problem and people all the time, and then he cared for and restored the repentant on the other side.  The rest he just kept on exposing.  Later they crucified him.)  Here is where I get a little angry out loud, so please bear with me.  The church sucks at exposure.  First of all, the meeting of the masses that we have turned church into already throws the whole exposure idea way off from what I think it was intended to be.  Exposure was much more personal and relational, and had better accountability, back in the days of the New Testament church.  Secondly, usually we expose the sin of people who are already ashamed of their sin and trying to repent of it.  That’s called shooting our wounded.  Is that what God did with Adam and Eve?  No, he embraced them.  Yes there were consequences, but the consequences weren’t punishment, they were consequences.  And death even became a gift to them in the end.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people expose other people’s “sin” in order to deflect the attention from their own.  Frankly it wasn’t the 16 year old girl’s sin I was scared of.  It was the sin of the controlling leadership who tried to wring the spirit out of a girl who had already lost heart as a result of what she had done.  We have far less to worry about with repentant people who can acknowledge their own shame and deal with it, than we do with people who will demand control at the cost of anyone who stands in their way.  I think we need to remember though, that even when we are that arrogant, we can still repent, and we need to give people the space to do so, as we should hope they would do with us.

So, you might be wondering why I am exposing what happened to me.  I have no simple response, because life just doesn’t make that much sense.  However, if I had to sum it up, I would say that when you are up against the movement of evil, the only way to press in to it is to address what it’s throwing at you.  The way to do that is based on the details of your own situation.  If people are already repentant, then evil has already lost it’s grip.  Unless of course you have people who are acting repentant just to try and avoid the consequences, or gain sympathy and loyalty.  That’s not repentance.  That’s another form of control.  Like so many forced terminations, my situation was wracked with arrogance, manipulation, deception and secrecy.  Evil loves to play in that sandbox.  And as long as all those things are alive and well, the chance of helping usher in redemption is significantly hindered.  And we are called as image bearers of God to do harm to evil and help usher in redemption. 

Frankly, what many of us are doing by telling our stories, with the help and accountability of others, is taking evil’s Tonka trucks away.  What, you didn’t have a Tonka truck?  If you did, then you know what I’m talkin’ about.  You also know how pissed off a child gets if he wants to run his Tonka truck over everyone else’s matchbox cars in the sandbox, and you take it away from him.  If the illustration didn’t land anywhere, sorry.  Anyway, in telling our stories, we are helping to clear the polluted air that people have been breathing by shedding light on the arrogance, straightening out some of the manipulation and deception, and pulling the plug on the secrecy.  As if I’m not sharing words that teeter on the edge of arrogance right there.  The bottom line is that if the leadership of the church I confronted a number of times would have been willing to address what they were doing, I wouldn’t even be writing this.  But instead, they ejected me and then chose to try and cover it all up.  Cover-ups…not good for redemption.  Ejections…usually abusive, but mind you…sometimes necessary if you’re trying to address unrepentant people.  The problem is that if ejection is based on a lack of repentance in my particular situation, they chose the wrong person.

To close out this post, here’s one key piece to exposure.  Once the truth is out, don’t expect the victims of people’s abuse to take the initiative to address their abusers and “work it out.”  I had one person tell me, after the church leadership threw me out, that I needed to “talk directly to the leadership.”  When I said that I had already tried, she still insisted that’s what I needed to do.  That’s like telling a domestic violence victim that he/she needs to go back in the house alone where they just had the crap kicked out of them, and see if the person with the raised baseball bat wants another shot.  In that instance, the person telling the victim to go back in is just as willing to sacrifice the victim as the perpetrators are.  That makes them a co-conspirator in the problem.  When they are willing to risk what they are asking the victim to risk, that’s when they can be part of redemption.  Until then, they are just protecting themselves.  But most of the time, that’s one of the core problems of the whole forced termination issue to begin with.  That’s really at the core of the human condition don’t you think? 

Tomorrow, the last letter I sent the head elder calling for repentance and another clue I was being framed…


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