My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Intimidation’

News story – must-see

Channel W5, on Canadian TV, has just done a 4 part investigation into Grenville Christian College and this report includes the connection with The Community of Jesus, Orleans,MA. Here is the link:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/former-students-allege-psychological-physical-and-sexual-abuse-at-ont-christian-school-1.2766446
It is a must-see. Finally the abuse is becoming known and the class action suit is going forward.

One person said that her faith was not affected by the “Christian” abuse she endured there. I am truly glad for her, but many others did have their faith shattered, as I had mine shattered by the C of J. When you believe whole-heartedly that the leaders you trust are speaking for God, and interpreting scripture as it was meant to be understood, and then realize the hypocrisy and harm that is going on, it is devastating. It takes time to heal, but I am also very glad that I can now sort things out for myself. No one knows the ultimate answers for sure, and anyone who says they do has too high an opinion of themselves. Now I am free to embrace the journey of life for myself, and to seek for the answers that work for me.

Love is the only thing that transforms the human heart. If a group is Christian, they will see Jesus as fully revealing this divine wisdom, which takes the shape of gentle understanding and radical forgiveness–which is just about all that Jesus does. Jesus, who Christians believe represents God, does not tell the vulnerable how bad they are. Look at Jesus’ interaction with the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He doesn’t belittle or punish Zacchaeus; instead, Jesus goes to his home, shares a meal with him, and treats him like a friend. He does not submit him to a “light session”.

Anyone who thinks fear, anger, divine intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love is on a power trip. Show me where that has worked. You cannot lead people to the highest level of fulfillment and creativity by teaching them they are the scum of the earth. The leaders at GCC and CJ were/are on a power trip and, from my experience, do not show any care for the lives of those they are supposedly caring for.

Advertisements

God-in-me sees God

This is a quote from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, https://cac.org/richard-rohr/daily-meditations

“For Jung, the God archetype is the whole-making function of the soul. It’s that part of you that always wants more. I don’t mean more in the greedy sense; I mean more in the spiritual sense. It is the inner energy within the soul of all things, saying, “Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you–more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.” Jungian analytical psychology calls such growth and becoming “individuation,” which I like to think of as moving toward the life wish instead of the death wish (the Biblical word for the death wish was “sin”). The life wish teaches you not to fragment, not to splinter, and not to split, but to integrate and learn from everything…the God archetype is quite simply love at work driving you toward every greater embrace and ever deeper union.”

This spoke to me, because it lines up with my sense of god as the Mystery of Life, and of how we as humans are always drawn to “something more”, we are always looking towards the next horizon. Life and health are wrapped up in growth and movement towards the next horizon, the next goal. Stagnation always brings sickness and unhappiness.

I used to worry that I was never at peace. My idea of peace came from my life at CJ, where lack of feeling was equivalent to peace. To not feel the constant humiliation, the lack of sleep, the degrading sense of never measuring up to the leaders’ standards was the only peace I could hope to find. Now I understand my search for “more” is a life force that brings peace and happiness. As the quote above says, it is not a quest for more driven by greed, but rather by the essence of life itself, which is one of growth and learning and expanding in experience. It is that desire to learn and to connect with others. And, ironically, abuse and dysfunctional experiences often increases our desire for that life of growth.

There is a season for all things. When I first left it was a time to protect myself and to give myself time to heal and adjust. Now is the time to expand. Now is the time to continue connectiong with people. It is an exciting time.

At CJ there was a demand to totally give myself to God. However, this was framed as a struggle to submit my will to the will of others, and to live an outwardly perfect life. It was a matter of will, not a matter of an inner dialogue of love and trust with god. It felt to me that god was invoked as the force to make me submit, not as a force of love and life that cared about me. Catholics believe in the Pope as the source of authority, Protestants believe in the Bible as the source of authority, at CJ I believed in the prophetic wisdom of the leaders as the source of authority. Now it all seems the same to me. That was about trying to believe in something outside of myself, instead of connecting with god in my spirit/soul/inner being. My faith life became dictated by the leaders, not something that was an integral part of myself.

That internal faith life is now something that I am in process of discovering for myself, and it doesn’t matter who is “right” about defining what the term “god” encompasses. Some people believe that there is nothing outside of the personal experience, there is no god “out there”. Others believe that God is an actual person, just one that is greater than we are. And some believe something inbetween those two poles. I don’t think it matters. The life energy drives us forward, and love is to be found in the interpersonal space between people.

If it is not found in any particular relationship, then don’t continue that relationship. Be drawn to light and love and do not allow the darkness/sickness in others infect you.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not sentimentality. Forgiveness demands justice. In order to forgive, both parties need to acknowledge the wrong that has been done, and the offending party must show some repentance, some desire to right the wrongs, to address the harm that has been done and to make amends.

When someone has been hurt, violated, abused, they are exercising the willingness to forgive when they make the attempts to re-enter relationships. If a woman has been raped, for example, she is exercising a form of forgiveness, within her own psyche, to men in general, when she is ready and willing to open herself up to a new relationship. If a person has experienced spiritual abuse by a group or person, s/he is exercising a degree of forgiveness to those who betrayed her trust when she is willing to enter a new relationship with another group or person on a spritual or ethical basis.

However, full forgiveness towards the abuser cannot happen until the evil that was done has been acknowledged and dealt with. Forgivenes does not mean ignoring the past or moving prematurely to attempted reconciliation with the abusers. Only when those on the other side of the equation, the ones who did the wrong, are ready to admit their wrong-doing and to make amends does the possibility of full forgiveness enter the arena.

In the absence of repentacne on the part of the perpetrator, forgiveness is morally objectionable because it involves an abandonment of justice.

Forgiveness also does not mean that you necessarily re-enter a relationship with the perpetrator, even if they do repent of their wrong-doing. It will free both parties into new relationsips, but does not require re-committment to the old one.

 

Deep within myself

Freud seemed to think that the sexual, pleasure drive was underlining everything that we do.
The version of Christianity that I learned at CJ taught that sin was the underlining motive of everything I did.
Jung on the other hand talks about the very depth of us being where we connect with god (however you define that concept).

Within our depths are things we are afraid of, thoughts and desires that we have been taught to label as “bad”. We are a mixture, but in that same “darkness” live the angels, the wisdom, the truth of our capabilities. Denying your shadow self allows you to unknowingly do very selfish and evil things–and even call it virtue (John 16:2-3). This is what I think went wrong at CJ. The leaders, and to some degree all of us, bought into denying our true selves. “Deny your self” was a constant invocation. But in constant denial there is no accountability, first and foremost to yourself.

If I want to be accountable to myself, it means accepting myself, not labelling myself as “bad”, and learning to sort out what is healthy for me and what is not. God, life, growth and happiness are wrapped up in acceptance of myself and others, not in condemnation and constant denials.

Here is a quote from Richard Rohr’s Meditations:

“Jung believes we can do damage, therefore, by “petrifying” our spiritual experience when we try to name it, to express God as an abstract idea. Before you explain your encounter with the Divine as an idea or a name that then must be defended, proven, or believed, simply stay with the naked experience itself–the numinous, transcendent experience of allurement, longing, and intimacy within you… This is both a transcendent God and also my deepest me at the same time. To discover one is to discover the other. This is why good theology and good psychology work together so well. You have touched upon the soul, the unshakable reality of my True Self, where “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).”

The place of the wound becomes the place of the greatest gift. It is in our sorrow and pain that we are transformed, if we will not turn away from being aware. ‘Wounded Healer’ is an icon for me. It speaks of not only my own healing, but of the return of meaning, of purpose in my life, of reaching out to be connected with others, which is healing for both of us. Jesus was wounded and killed, and he is the icon of healing and love. (Don’t think Christianity here, just think Jesus) If we are meant to see his life as an example, then surely those of us who have also been wounded can take hope from his life. Our life is grounded in our common vulnerability, not in the power structures that try to tell us how to live and what to believe..

Public Writing

There is no real protection. In America anyone can sue anyone for anything. They may not win their case, but they can open one against you, and guess what, you have to pay your lawyer.

Whatever you write is public. All your emails are public. Even after you delete them, they are on a Google server somewhere. Google is a private company. The law can subpoena them to provide your emails. It’s up to Google, not you, how they respond to that. Your texts are public and can end up in court. Your written letters are public and can be subpoened.

A phone call didn’t use to be recorded. You can be called upon to try to remember, and to give the gist of your phone conversatons, but everyone knows memory is not infallible, and you can only do your best with it.

If you send off a draft of an article, or whatever, to a journalist, or a book company, or anywhere, even to a friend, it is in the public domain and can end up in court. Did you think it was only a draft, and it was meant to be edited before it got published? No protection there. The unedited draft can be used against you if you were not careful and named names or said anything that can’t be proven.

We do still have freedom of speech, but think before you write.

Oh yes, what I receive in written form is also in the public domain. Did a friend write me in confidence and ask me to not publish it? I have regretfully found out that the fact that you emailed it to me makes it already public. I will certainly keep it in confidence as far as my actions are concerned, but again, Google still has it.

Anonymity certainly helps. I’ve been told by reporters that people can tell their stories anonymously, but I do not know what the law says about their right to not reveal their sources. We know from popular media that sources are sacrosanct and not to be shared, but I don’t know how the real world works.

One thought in our favor is that organizations, groups, leadership, usually do not want the spotlight and probably will take no action publicly as an entity. However there is always the possibility that an individual within a group may take action in the hopes of shutting us up.

Freedom of Speech

I’ve been doing a little reading about freedom of speech. More is allowed than I had realized. Public figures are expected to be in the public scrutiny, so even caustic remarks are allowed. Private citizens are more protected from harm to their reputations. Intent is important. A charge of Defamation has to prove that the statements were made with the intent to harm.

“Defamation law tries to balance competing interests: On the one hand, people should not ruin others’ lives by telling lies about them; but on the other hand, people should be able to speak freely without fear of litigation over every insult, disagreement, or mistake… A defamatory statement must be false…People who aren’t elected but who are still public figures because they are influential or famous — like movie stars — also have to prove that defamatory statements were made with actual malice, in most cases. ” nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/

What to do about Cults?

How does one grapple with the phenomenon of cults, and the harm that they do?

We are all human, and if we are going to try to live in a larger sphere than our own self-seeking, there seems to be a call on our lives to care about others, and this is indeed the case. Everywhere you see people helping people. Many professionals give most of their lives to the service of others, and bless and are blessed in doing so. I am in no way saying that nothing is being done. However, I do wonder how we are to grapple with the situation we find ourselves in, in regard to cults.

I want to start this discussion by focusing primarily on religious cults, and even to narrow the field further, Christian cults. Those who know me find that as no surprise, for it was a Christian cult that I lived in and have been affected by. What responsibilities do the individual players in this scene have? What is my responsibility as an ex-member. What responsibility does the cult carry, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not? And to cast the net further out, does the rest of the Christian world carry any responsibility? Do other churches have any responsibility for harm done by a group that calls itself Christian? And if so, what form would that responsibility take?

When I talk about responsibility, many images come to mind. It probably is not realistic to think that mainstream Christian groups are going to set up a task force to monitor and “watch-dog” other fringe groups that call themselves Christian. Not only do thay have their own lives to live, but what moral standing would they have to do that? And yet, without that kind of responsibility for our “neighbors”, where does that leave the victims?

One answer, and a very good one, is that the victims have recourse to a lot of very good help for recovery. I have been the recipient of such help. And yet, I long for a world where we could go a step further. I would like to see two things happen. Prevention, and Accountability.

Prevention: ICSA and other groups are very visible, and do fantastic work. But how visible are they? To themselves and those who know of them, visible. To an ex-member fresh out of a cult? I did not know about them. I did not know recovery groups existed. As far as I knew, I was on my own. I finally did hear about a support group, but I long to make this a well-known issue that everyone knows about. I think every college campus needs a cult awareness course. Every town hall should have a flyer up.

Accountability: I realize the court system is not set up to judge cases of emotional or psychological abuse. However, the abuse is real, and in some cases is worse than physical abuse. If the country’s law system cannot deal with this kind of abuse, can other Christians raise their voice publicly, and bring public opinion to bear? Can people, and perhaps the media, become those who seek for accountability?

Responsibility: I feel a responsibility to speak out. If I remain silent, I am saying in essence that what goes on in the daily lives at the Community of Jesus doesn’t matter, that what happened to me and my family, and many friends, and continues to affect those who live there, doesn’t matter. If I remain silent, I am turning my back on harm being done, and ignoring it. I cannot do that. It would be no different than walking past a rape or robbery and not at least calling the police. I may not have much power, but I have a voice.