“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere.  When human . . . dignity is in jeopardy . . . sensitivities become irrelevant.  Wherever men and women are persecuted . . . that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”  Elie Wiesel, The Night Trilogy: Night/Dawn/The Accident

Maybe it’s why I have often run headlong into trouble.

Because I don’t fear doing (or saying) “the right thing.”

Doing “the right thing” is “the right thing” so why should anyone fear doing it or need courage to do it?

I often do “the right thing” and it makes people mad.  Especially when “the right thing” sheds light on “the wrong thing” that needs to be corrected (intention being that it will cause others to do or say “the right thing”).

If you don’t have the courage to do “the right thing,” then you are either doing “the wrong thing” or you are doing nothing – which is, as Elie Wiesel points out, still “the wrong thing.

Take for example, a certain person in my church who wrote a couple of blog posts that were her take on the pastor’s sermon which he preached only two days after we were told to leave the church.  The sermon and the blog are all about extending grace toward the scandalous in our world.  Recognize that there was scandal when Mary, mother of Jesus became pregnant.  Recognize that the woman caught in adultery was scandalous and Jesus admonished the Pharisees that “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

What fascinates me about the sermon is that it speaks so directly to the “scandal” that was taking place at that time – the leadership finding out that I had “told” my life story – which included their part in my spiritual abuse.  Yet, while the pastor preaches about being “scandalous” as Jesus was by hanging out with and being “a friend of sinners,” they have not in any way attempted to reach out to us.

But this was common.  It is the main reason we stayed in the church – because what was being preached and how I was being treated were not the same – and I believed what was being preached.  I believed there is grace and forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.  This is what is taught and I did my best to reconcile it with what was being done to me.

Even now, my heart is in my throat as I think about how much I want his words to be true – that he and other leaders, and my (former) friends would call, email, come knocking on my door.  Because the most scandalous action of all is to reach out to the one who created the scandal.

But my phone is silent. My email is empty.  As is my doorstep.

When I read the blog posts, I replied with: Perhaps the scandal would be in stepping between the men with the stones and the woman caught. That’s where Jesus would be. Of course, referring to my own ostracism.

The blogger replied: “I agree. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ I’m praying for the courage and opportunities to be scandalous.”

And I’m just wondering . . . if you have to have “courage” to speak up (‘Silence in the face of evil is evil itself’) doesn’t that say something about those church leaders – pastors – you need to speak to?  If you are too afraid to do the right thing because you fear someone’s wrath or retribution or, heaven forbid, becoming the problem for pointing out the problem, could it be that the problem is not in saying or doing “the right thing,” but in those whom you fear should you do or say “the right thing”?

  1. 4gilbert1 says:

    Ugh. So sorry. I KNOW what you’re going through. I left church six months ago (after being faithfully active for five years), and have not received a single phone call…nothing. Most people don’t know what happened to cause me to leave and have made assumptions about why I want nothing to do with church. So disheartening. Sorry you’re experiencing the deep hurt church can cause.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for your kind words. While I would never wish it upon anyone, it is encouraging to find people who understand. I’ve had people wonder at how I could still be hurting after 6 weeks. Those who haven’t been through it cannot begin to understand.

  2. Scarlett says:

    “She replied: “I agree. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’”

    Amen sisters….been there, done that, had that happen to me also “in the house of my friends”. But be encouraged in this…the Lord is teaching us something. It’s like Jesus taught about the Pharisees, “Do as they say, but NOT as they DO.” Why? Because of the hypocrisy in it.

    Silence in the “church” when there is evil doing going on, such as this hypocrisy and spiritual abuse………..is nothing more than collusion, and has become the “churches best kept secret”. But the Lord is allowing the hidden places to become manifest.

    • Ellen says:

      Scarlett, you are right – I am learning a great deal. I am confident that God has brought me through this to bring me closer to Him, and to be a friend to those who suffer abandonment by their churches and Christian friends – those they thought of as spiritual brothers and sisters.

  3. I look back on situations with people who went through the church wringer before us. I did what I could to encourage them in person, but I grieve over that face that I was publicly silent. Sometimes I think that it was only fair that the hammer of rejection and abuse fall on us next. We didn’t speak up when it wasn’t us; why should others speak up when it was?

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