Truth or Toxicity? Part 1

Truth or Toxicity? Part 1
The Facebook ad caught my eye with its reference to "religious toxicity." The lengthy prose spoke in soothing tones, validating the feelings of those who have been hurt by the church, religious people, and/or specific religious doctrines. The author, an ex-Baptist preacher, offers his course on trauma-informed care to counselors who wish to serve people who have experienced religious trauma. The comments on this sponsored ad were both revealing and cynical...but most of all, heartbreaking.

I can't adequately explore every branch of thought that sprouts from the main trunk of Religious Trauma. It's difficult enough to put my own response into words, let alone dissect the ideas of other learned folks who have probably spent years researching and writing about this topic.

But I DO have thoughts stemming from my own foundation of Truth, the Word of God. And I offer them here because I think it's important to separate the wheat from the chaff, facts from feelings, and yes, lies from truth. Let's start with this first point...

1. Not all who claim to represent Christ do so with His blessing.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" - Matthew 7:21-23

It's tragedy that defies words, the abuses that have been inflicted upon the innocent under the guise of spiritual leadership. Recent exposés include failures of individuals (such as Ravi Zacharias) and denominations (such as Southern Baptists and Catholics). And sadly, these egregious wrongs surely go back through time and across continents and cultures. 

Make no mistake--these ARE wrongs, abuses, exploitation. In a word, SIN. And there is NO excuse for it. NONE. Not for the perpetrators, and not for those who covered it up. WOE to those who cause such suffering! (See Matthew 18:1-9.)

But here's the question: do these evildoers and their actions negate the truth that God exists? Are we forced, because of their toxic actions, to conclude that anything having to do with religion/spirituality is therefore toxic as well, simply because the evildoers claimed some kind of religiosity? 

I say no. I believe we can--and should--condemn those who do wrong (especially when they claim to have some kind of moral authority) while still believing in a loving, just, all-powerful God. 

The very fact that we define abuse and exploitation of the innocent as EVIL is, in itself, a moral judgment that (to me at least) indicates there IS an absolute standard of right and wrong!

So then, a practical (and biblical) response to a person who has experienced heartbreaking abuse by someone in a position of religious power and authority:

Love.
Compassion.
Listening without judgment.
Understanding (as much as possible) the pain and trauma he or she has undergone.
Helping the person find help and healing.
And...if it has not yet been done...telling the proper authorities about the abuse so as to hold the abuser accountable for his or her actions.

This is a start. I hope to share more thoughts in a follow-up post to this one.

Thanks for reading along with me as I process some of my own thoughts about this complex issue. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well; leave a comment or send me a message if this is something that you've thought about or experienced.
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Repentance & Fasting

Repentance & Fasting
Repentance is a turning away from the direction we are headed and turning toward God. As Ted and I dug into the book of Joel, our discussions sometimes centered around how little our culture knows, let alone talks about, the concept of repentance. Rationalization, yes. Accusations of someone else's wrongdoing, absolutely. (Let's not make this political, but we could all go there.) But honest, sincere, humble repentance? Never. 
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CASTing All Our Cares

CASTing All Our Cares
On Saturday the ladies from our church gathered for a mini-retreat. Current situation being what it is, we thought a one-day event would be easier to plan logistically than anything involving an overnight stay. And with the uncertainty of the times, our planning committee decided rather than bring in a speaker, we would spend the day in prayer and worship activities.

It turned out so beautifully! We organized the day's activities around 4 sessions: Confession, Adoration, Supplication, and Thanksgiving, which is a variation of the A.C.T.S. prayer model many of us have learned. The acronym led us to choose "CASTing All Our Cares on Him" as the theme for the day.

While the tone of the national scene threw a bit of a somber note in the background, there was much joy in being able to gather together (staying within current guidelines of course). Table activities provided the opportunity to get to know other ladies better and foster conversations.

Our Confession session began with some beautiful worship songs and Scripture, and then we took about 20-25 minutes to spend time alone with the Lord. I wrote in my prayer journal, using the Bible to shape some of my thoughts. We ended by reading portions of Daniel 9 to offer a national prayer of confession, closing with another song before the first break.

The Adoration portion was fun and interactive, mixing songs with activities that included listing as many attributes of God as we could A to Z and talking about the names of Jesus.

Panera delivered our pre-ordered lunches, so we got to enjoy more fellowship, with a game based on "The Price Is Right" which was silly and fun.

Supplication, or intercession, gave us the time to pray with a partner or two over personal concerns, and then we corporately offered prayers over marriages, families, our schools and community, the USA, the persecuted church, and the world, closing with the song "God of This City."

Closing the day with a session about thanksgiving was perfect! So many beautiful Scriptures and songs.

All in all, it was a wonderfully refreshing time with my sisters in Christ. I was privileged to help plan and lead this event and realized how very much I miss regularly gathering for intercessory prayer. Perhaps that is something that will grow out of this experience, especially since, as I type this, the election results are incredibly close and being contested even though a winner has been projected by some outlets. 

The need for prayer is ongoing. Therefore, we will continue to worship and pray, knowing the Lord is sovereign over all.
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Truth Has Stumbled in the Streets

Truth Has Stumbled in the Streets
From my Bible study with Ted this morning (complete with coffee sans sweetener, for my fellow sugar detoxers!), the passage below stood out to me. We have been doing an in-depth study of the book of Isaiah, and now more than ever it seems to reflect the reality of what is happening in our own time and place. Truly the Word of God is timeless!

For those who call themselves followers of Christ, I urge you to pray for our country. This is not a red or blue matter: this is literally a life-or-death issue, a matter of where we will spend eternity. Repentance is at the heart of change. And it MUST begin in our own hearts--not pointing at folks across the aisle and shouting for THEM to change. No, we must look inward, find and acknowledge the depths of the sin in our own hearts, confess, and turn away from that sin. 

Repentance and revival: this is the cry of our hearts. I rest in God's sovereignty even as I have strong opinions about government's role in our society. "Truth has stumbled in the streets," as the verse says, and THAT, my friends, is the REASON our nation is unrecognizable as the United States of America.

ISAIAH 59:12-15a
For our offenses are many in your sight,
    and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
    and we acknowledge our iniquities:
 rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
    turning our backs on our God,
inciting revolt and oppression,
    uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back,
    and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
    honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found,
    and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
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