Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Letter to Tony Jones

Dear Tony Jones,

This morning I came across link to a letter from your lawyer telling your ex-wife, Julie McMahon, that she should remove any comments she may have made on the various social media sites which are mentioned in said letter. So I was very surprised to see this blog post I wrote and this one being listed in that letter.

Mine is a very minor blog in the scheme of things, and I'd be surprised if Julie is even aware of its existence. She has certainly never commented on it. So it puzzles me why my opinion pieces are even listed there. If there are no comments that need removing, why are my posts mentioned at all?

Some people might infer that you are trying to control the conversation regarding the experience of your erstwhile wife.

Some people might assume you want to expunge from the internet anything that refers to you in less than glowing terms.

Some people might even suspect that you are seeking to silence people who are protesting the silencing of people.

How ironic that would be!

I, myself, would never have even heard of you if it wasn't for the fact that the behaviour described in some of the posts I read sounded so familiar.

You see, I experienced bullying and abuse at the hands of 'church leaders'.

When I objected, they tried to silence me. When I said something was wrong with that, they tried to shut me down completely.

So I get a bit twitchy when I see people being silenced. And these days I say something about it.

Yours inconsequentially,
Living Liminal

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Deafness of Tony Jones & Friends

Why is it that Tony Jones & Friends seem to have adopted this pose?

Many people were disgusted when Rachel Held Evans, who had previously loudly denounced abuse of power, deleted multiple comments questioning her seeming support of Tony Jones. She assured everyone that she takes "abuse allegations very seriously" and that she'd made a "diligent investigation of this situation" (i.e. abuse claims by his ex-wife, Julie McMahon).

(Of course, some weeks later she did say, "I don’t want to overstate my knowledge of this situation... I have spoken with neither Tony nor Julie..."!?!)

And after writing a glowing review of Jones's latest book on her blog, Nadia Bolz Weber found that her husband had apparently accidentally deleted the 800 plus comments thread that had been generated there. Fortunately, they can still be found on Disqus ;)

Now Peter Rollins, who applauded the resistance against "ubiquitous, normalized violence operating in disavowed ways" in other contexts, has written a blog post which appears to be a defence of the abusive, narcissistic behaviour of Tony Jones.

And it seems he is joining the 'I'm Not Listening' club.

I left the following comment on his Facebook page:

I also tried to leave a comment on the blog itself, but it was failed (twice) in moderation. So I returned to Rollins' Facebook page and added it:

It lasted a whole minute before it was taken down, along with the original comment. As well as that, I  have been blocked from making any any further comments on his page.

So it would appear that this is standard behaviour for anyone (professionally) connected to Tony Jones. Avoid questions, delete comments, ignore the abuse.

I know what it is like to have to speak out about the toxic behaviour of people close to me. I know it seemed at the time that in doing so I'd lost everything that was important to me.

But I now realise that I had actually been set free!

I feel sorry for those people who are too afraid to hear the truth, let alone speak it. Their deafness is self-inflicted and they are enslaved - trapped in a cage of their own design.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Quick-Fix 'Repentance'

In his article, "Three signs of repentance every church leader should learn"Dr Phil Monroe addresses the question, "How do you know when an abusive person is adequately repentant, and therefore, capable of providing a safe environment for others to live in?"

"The answer," he says, "is found in the fruit they produce."

I would have thought this was fairly obvious, and yet I was castigated by a 'church leader' for asking to see fruit which lined up with the words he had spoken to me.

Several months after we'd left our church I asked board member D if he'd be prepared to meet with me. I was really hoping that we might be able to restore some measure of relationship between us.

Things were very strained between us as we met, but I really did want to restore relationship with this man and his wife, so I kept persisting - repeating the fact that the behaviour I'd experienced from him was, indeed, abusive. For some time it seemed we would get nowhere with the discussion. So when he suddenly looked at me in horror and said, "I spend half my time counselling people who've been abused by the church. I never thought I'd be the one to abuse", I was astounded, to say the least!

I looked at my husband to make sure he'd heard the same words I had, and sure enough, he was looking as stunned as I felt.

After that meeting, assuming that what had occurred was the starting point of a journey of restoration, I wrote to my brother. As he had told me he based his judgement against me on board member D's words, I wanted to ask him if D's current words made any difference.

Well, that was a mistake! According to D, I'd violated a private and sacred work of reconciliation by sharing what he'd said... or even that we had met at all. On top of that, he now claimed he'd never spoken those words, and he denied any responsibility for other people's actions - even when those actions were taken because of things he'd openly said (and preached) about me.

The icing on the cake was when he claimed that by saying his actions had had some pretty ugly consequences in the church, I was abusing him!

Now, this was my personal experience, but I see the same thing being played out by leaders and their followers all the time. The leader says a 'sorry' of sorts but never actually owns what he's done wrong. He makes no attempt to rectify the situation and there is no change in his attitudes or behaviour. He just keeps rolling on with his 'ministry', acting oh-so-wounded if anyone questions this, and playing the victim of the piece. And his loyal subjects defend him by attacking anyone who voices any concerns about this - condemning the very people who are, more often than not, the real victims.

Just look at the reaction when a petition was started asking that Mark Driscoll not be given any sort of platform at the 2015 Hillsong conference. There have been plenty of calls for grace and mercy and forgiveness from his supporters, but no recognition of the lives he's devastated, and certainly no suggestion that MD should produce fruit in keeping with his 'repentance'. The strong message is that he's said the word "sorry", and now he should just be allowed to get back to what he was doing before. Despite the fact that, by his own admission, there's at least a pile of dead bodies, if not a mountain, under the Mars Hill bus.

Grace and mercy and forgiveness are good and appropriate responses to sin, but they do not negate the need to see the fruit which comes from true repentance, especially where the offender has used his power and authority to abuse a fellow human. If you have been in an abusive relationship of any sort, and your abuser uses the word "sorry", please know that it is entirely reasonable to expect proof of that 'repentance'!