What Hope is There, Then, If Sexual Abuse is So Prevalent?

When I first started speaking openly about my story, and writing about it, I believed strongly that the particular ‘brand’ of Mennonite I was born into–the Russian/Mexican/Old Colony Mennonites–was infested with sexual abuse. And of the ‘white bonnet’ Mennonites, I believed the ‘brand’ we joined–a specific Conservative Mennonite group–and particularly the congregation we were in, was also affected to epidemic proportions.

For years already I knew it existed other places but couldn’t imagine that what happened in our church, community and family was familiar to others. We were the worst. The extreme. The exception. Or so I believed for those years. And even when I first started writing and speaking, I believed that to an extent.

Since then I have had individuals, from every congregation that I know of in Southern Ontario and a few further out, within our particular ‘brand’, come forward and expose it in their home congregation. And they are not all just the ‘I am a victim’ stories. These are stories of multiple victims, within one school, within one church. Occasionally told by the friend of a victim looking for ways to help that friend, and asking, “What do I do? How do I help?”, but most often told by the victims or a family member.

I will never forget the first ‘bold’ email that came through after I started ministry, from someone in my cultural background. I believe it was in 2010, before I had even blogged openly about my story. I read that email just before leaving for work and what the victim shared shook me up. I wept most of that half hour drive to work. I was aware already that there were other victims, because some had spoken to me, but I had not heard of even one victim in their congregation. That email exposed a case of multiple victims within that congregation and it overwhelmed me.

I do not know how bad it is in other ‘brands’ and ‘conferences’, as some call themselves. I know it’s there because I hear from them, but I don’t know to what extent. I did have a someone tell me in the last three days that, being of a less conservative Mennonite background, people ask her if what I write is true. Is it really that bad?

Being of very different Mennonite backgrounds, I wondered what the answer would be. In their family’s experience in the church, did it even exist? Was it unfathomable to them?

“So what do you say?” I asked.

“I say, ‘Yes, it is that bad!'”

I am very aware that it is not a Mennonite problem. It is a people problem, a ‘humanity’ problem, and it is ‘everywhere’, in every culture. But I stand by my claim that silence escalates that human problem, and therefore the rates increase in any closed culture where the topic is off bounds and victims are told not to talk, for the sake of image.

If it is true, as I believe, that at least 50% of the homes in my cultural background have been directly impacted by sexual abuse–meaning that there is at least one or more victims–then what hope is there? Should we all lay down and die, because the situation is hopeless, beyond redemption? Should we all turn a blind eye and live peacefully with them, and never dare to bring it to light? By no means! If there was no hope, I wouldn’t bother open this can of worms.

Jesus is the ‘hope’ for the epidemic. And I’m not talking only of the ‘neat and tidy’ Jesus we like to talk about. We need to know the Jesus who loved, who sacrificed, who had compassion. We need the gentle touch to heal as victims, and even to offer grace, forgiveness and hope to the perpetrators. It’s necessary for me, as a victim, to offer that to my perpetrators, and any other perpetrators with whom I meet.

But not without confronting the darkness of the sin and the crime. When it comes to confronting the hidden sin in the church, and the people who intentionally and blatantly cover it up, whether as leaders (accomplices through silence), or perpetrators, we need a bold Jesus who does not hesitate to confront religious pride. I’m talking about the Jesus who pulls the whip, chases out darkness, drives away evil and shouts boldly, “NOT IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE! HE ISN’T OKAY WITH THIS…. GET OUT!!”

We need the Jesus who calls out the religiously arrogant, those who are all about control and abuse of power, and image, while ignoring the broken hearts of people. (And it doesn’t matter whether that is 5%, or 30% or 80% of the church leaders or members.) We need Him because that Jesus isn’t afraid to expose generational sins. He doesn’t tiptoe around trying to make it sound palatable for the ‘well-meaning’ religious audience, who–God bless them–don’t know better.

No… That Jesus declares things boldly, and publicly in Matthew 23, and calls it as He knows and sees it where anyone within earshot can hear it. He didn’t take them aside for a private, one-on-one consult. He exposed evil and corruption and I have no doubt that He would do the same with the sexual abuse hidden in many of today’s evangelical and other churches.

I think Jesus would still say, “…all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments…. woe to you… hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you… hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. ….Woe to you… hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. …Woe to you… hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. …Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes:some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Jesus confronts boldly, so the victims will know whose side He is on. Only those who had bought the lie of religiosity were offended by His boldness. Only those who had something to hide had cause to silence Him. He was, without question, on the side of those who were abused.

And Jesus is still the hope for healing. He is the hope for truth to be revealed and lies to be exposed. He is the source of our identity, our value, our worth. In every situation, in every experience, He is the truth that transforms. He is the One who breaks those chains, and takes the shame on Himself. But the truth of our experience must be brought to light so that the lies are exposed, and the Truth of our real identity can be restored.

To that end I will continue to speak and give voice to those who cannot speak, so that hope is kept alive.

© Trudy Metzger

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5 thoughts on “What Hope is There, Then, If Sexual Abuse is So Prevalent?

  1. Myron Horst November 11, 2012 / 9:21 am

    Trudy,

    Thank you for what you have been sharing about sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is a big problem in Amish and Mennonite churches. However it is not the main problem, it is a symptom of a much bigger problem. About the beginning of this year, God lead me to write a research report that I have titled, “The Failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment”. In July, I thought I was finished with about 40 single spaced pages. I was anxious to publish it on our websites. Then God led me to your blog and showed me a number of other sources and insights in scripture. It is now 67 pages of heavily documented research and insights into scripture that most people have probably never seen before. I know I had not seen them until God showed them to me as I wrote the paper.

    Sexual abuse is a main failure, but it is not the only failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment. I do not know how soon the report will be finished. I have learned that it is important to wait on God’s timing and not push things through in my haste and desire to get things done. “He who waits on God wastes no time.” Our family has a number of song clips that we are going to record and integrate into the paper as well. I will let you know when we publish the report on our website.

    While the darkness of the sins of sexual abuse is so great and oppressive, God is raising up people who are lighting candles to get rid of the darkness. It only takes one candle, one person, to dispel darkness. Then it is no longer dark and every one can see the truth. It does not take a million candle power light ( a million people) to dispel darkness. Little is much when God is in it! There is hope!

    Myron Horst
    BiblicalResearchReports.com

    • Trudy Metzger November 11, 2012 / 10:16 am

      Myron, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you, fully. I understand that breaking the silence is only one small step in acknowledging a symptom of a much deeper need. If it was the root problem, it would be an easier ‘fix’. When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Whenever people shift their main focus and attention from Jesus (God) to their own beliefs… whenever constitutions and rules get the centre stage and Jesus is not given that place, these things will become more and more prevalent. Along with sexual immorality of every kind, not excluding homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, abortion, and bestiality. These, too, are merely symptoms that Jesus no longer has His rightful place. When we look at OT we see that the Children of Israel constantly fall into these immoralities when they turn from God. So, while I recognize that there is a root problem, I see it a bit like cancer. If you ignore the lumps, they grow. The lumps that you see are not the root problem and the fatigue that follows is also a symptom. The cancer is the problem but the symptoms bring it to light. My prayer is that by exposing the symptoms, there will be some who cry out to God and turn their hearts back to Him as the One True God, and give Him His rightful place. And it is indeed happening for some!

      Having said that, I want to acknowledge that I know many, many within the culture who have a close and sincere walk with God. I want to be careful to say this as I mean it, and to speak specifically to those within the culture who have become corrupt. Those who hide these things for the sake of pride, and those who live these things while pretending to be the most holy and righteous, even preaching.. it is those who have lost sight of God. And then one could take it from there, and analyze each specific item that gets so much focus and unravel some very dark beliefs.

      When you are ready to put your research paper out there, I would love to read it. My response here is a surface glimpse at a very deep and troubling problem. I cringe to even start on this whole thing (she says some 200 blogs later) but it is time… Bless you in your work.

  2. wellcallmecrazy November 11, 2012 / 9:30 am

    Sometimes, all we have is hope. Keep on going.

  3. the king's daughter November 11, 2012 / 9:43 am

    wellsaid!

  4. jritterbrunson January 2, 2013 / 9:08 pm

    Jesus IS the hope for healing. I believe He cries to see what happens to innocent children and vulnerable adults in His house. Yet it is not new. It happened in Jesus’ time with vulnerable women. 2 Timothy 2:6-8

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