Anyway, this announcement has caused quite a stir in certain circles and has yet again polarised opinions regarding his fitness to lead. There are many people (no doubt many of the bodies MD left under the Mars Hill bus) who are decrying the move. Many feel that Mr Driscoll has not yet dealt with the mess he made the last time he headed up a church.
And yet, there seem to be plenty of believers who are applauding the development, loudly proclaiming that all "true christians" should support him because... forgiveness!
|Still from The Matrix|
Now, I've been pondering and exploring this concept of forgiveness for a long time, but never more so since an ex-elder and his wife from my ex-church (who have since started their own church) applied to the courts for a protection order against me late last year. The application alleged that I represented such a severe threat to their safety, I should be excluded from any place they might possibly be present, including my own sons' school.
Although it didn't actually make it to court, my family and I were put through hell for two months by two 'christian leaders' who had previously been part of the abusive experience which drove me out of the institutional church.
For me, the story has had a far better outcome than I would have dreamed possible, and I am profoundly grateful for that! However, once again, the response of many christians has been to focus on the requirement for me to forgive.
Each time I've experienced abuse or injustice or wrong-doing at the hands of christians, the response has been the same. I must forgive. Yet nothing is ever said about confronting the wrong-doer, addressing injustice, or preventing the same thing happening to others.
It seems the onus is always on victim to forgive, not on the wrong-doer to repent and make amends. It is the victim who faces the consequences - being judged 'bitter and unforgiving'. Meanwhile the perpetrator walks away - free from accountability; free from consequences; free to offend again. Nothing is acknowledged, nothing dealt with, nothing changes. History just repeats itself, but with a vengeance.
Why is it that christians take this line? Why do we show ourselves so unwilling to address wrong-doing and abuse in our midst? Because the victim is a soft target? Because we don't want to pay the price of getting involved? Rarely is the response to abuse one of seeking justice for the victim. Rarely is there a call for accountability of the perpetrator.
It seems the 'christian' response to intimidation or abuse is to push for the victim to forgive; not for the perpetrator to be brought to account for their actions; not for justice to be done; not for protection against future abuse; not for preventing a repeat of the injustice.
That is why there are so many people deeply concerned about Mr Driscoll resuming his 'ministry'. Why would this man change his behaviour - this man who has never faced those he's harmed, never said 'sorry' to them, never made reparation to them? Why would we expect to see change from a man who chose to turn walk away and start a new church rather than clean up the mess he'd made of the old one? Why would he act any differently this time?
Supposedly the 'christian' response is to simply forgive and give the man another chance to damage lives, without giving a thought to the people who are still hurting from the last time. (They are seen as the problem, not him!) And yet Jesus called out the bullying, abusive behaviour of the religious leaders in his day, calling them poisonous snakes, monuments to death, even sons of hell!
He told them they tied up heavy burdens on people's backs, but wouldn't lift a finger to help them carry those burdens. A bit like telling the victim of abuse they must forgive their abuser, while refusing to address and remediate the abuse itself!
So when people like us keep talking about the injustice we suffered, the abuse we endured, the wrong we faced, do not assume it is because we are "bitter and unforgiving". When we speak about the flaws and failures in the church system do not assume it is because we refuse to "move on". When we shine a light on the darkness of christian culture do not assume it is because we are "wanting revenge".
It is because we don't want the bus to run over even more victims. We don't want bullies and abusers to continue in their ill-health. We can see that the emperor is naked and we can't pretend otherwise!
So please stop shutting us down. Assuming we haven't forgiven. Throwing the religious cliches in our face. We have legitimate grievances. Valid concerns. And ignoring the problems will not make them go away. "Just concentrating of the positive" does not diminish or justify the wrong that has been done. There is still a need for the hard work of reparation, remediation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. Forgiveness is not a magic bullet!