Of Elephants, Loud Speakers, And Thank God for the Mullet Family

So help me God, if I don’t say things I am supposed to keep to myself… Not confidential client things, but other things… Things that my inner being says should not be silent, and yet there sitteth a large and smothering creature on me…

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****

It arrived in my FB inbox, had I seen the Mullet’s blog? I had not, and then I had. I felt something rise inside of me – a feeling, a real true deep feeling – and not a happy one. I felt angry. There are things that make me ‘angry’, in the sense of knowing they are wrong, but even as I say that it ‘makes me angry’, I realize it is a ‘knowing the wrongnesss’, not a feeling. Well, tonight I felt it.

The author expresses deep anger – and I don’t know which party wrote it, because the whole thing never did load for me, and if the author signed it, I couldn’t see it. But whoever it was, sounded kind of ‘hoppin’ mad’ as we used to say. Like, some righteous indignation had found it’s way out, and there was no holding back. And as a reader, I felt their anger. Not as my own anger, but as their anger. Oddly, that part made me feel good. They were angry, and not afraid to say it.

Finally. Someone all Christian, and nice and put together. Not to mention  from my Anabaptist background. Finally, one of them tackling this whole thing of sexual abuse and cover up in the church with passion. There comes a certain satisfaction when I’ve been more less silent for a long time, and such a thing happens, because it feels like ‘they’re getting it’ on the inside, and not just the victims who can’t hold their (you know what) together. It’s the other talking – the one in the spotlight, one of the ‘stars’ if you please. (Can we have a hallelujah? Thank you very much!)

Even as I read that blog and felt a certain relief, I started to feel angry. Not their anger. But my anger. And it wasn’t anger at sexual abuse. It wasn’t even anger at the church’s mishandling of it, which was the tone of their blog, and put into their words what I’ve said for years. (And, no doubt they have known for years). This anger came from the realization that if a victim was that honest, they’d get labeled. I’d get labeled. (Actually, even without the anger, I am labeled. Behold, I careth not.) We would be bitter, unforgiving, have issues, not healed…

There is something brutally wrong with that picture. I have spent the past two falls and winters (meaning this present winter as the second) studying and investing in learning, preparing myself to make a bigger difference. People at university have listened. They have cared. They have encouraged me, launched me further. They have cared for and fought for victims… I am not two weeks into working with the ‘church’, and already am asking myself how I used to survive that part of it…  Working with clients is not the hard part. Watching the other religious stuff… that’s what wears a soul down.

There is something backwards about that. Or at least lopsided

Thank God people are rising up to acknowledge all this abuse carefully hidden. That’s long over due. But seriously, shaming and silencing victims, telling them they are reacting? And then applauding others when they explode? Encouraging fellow ministries while shaming those who actually lived the hell? The fault is not on those who do what Mullets did. But it does expose the bigger problem, and one of the horrible roots of this thing: Victims have no voice. I am one of the fortunate few who refuses to be silenced. I am one of those who has chosen to stay in a faith-based community, continue to fight for a relationship with God, and choose not to be stopped by those who stick out their feet to trip me, or try to put duct tape over my mouth. On that front I am incredibly fortunate.

But all around are victims who are silenced by the church. By ministries. By Christians. The previous generation hid their sins. No one talked about it then, and by pushing it way far away in the memory, many left a string of victims in their wake. They went on to do quite well, many of them, while the victims got lost in their pain. Then they turned around and silenced the cries of the victims because they reminded them of their own sins, and they refused to face that truth. Because that truth is too overwhelming.

Never mind that the victim cuts to feel anything at all, or to numb the overwhelming pain. And drinks too much alcohol. And does drugs. And hates God. And the abuser for robbing her…  Spiritually starving, she shrivels in the cold of church, without cover… and is scolded for lying naked and not eating, while the abusers grow fat and rich.

It ought not so to be. So tonight, I’m angry. Angry that victims are silenced, over and over and over again.

And I’m thankful. So very thankful that the Mullets are speaking out. I don’t know them, so this is not an endorsement of them or their ministry. (Anymore I feel like I have to throw in a disclaimer. Thank you, Andy Savage, et al., for making that necessary by hiding your sins behind the pulpit.)  But because they dared to show feeling and anger, I trust their motives. There’s little religious whitewashing in what they have to say. (Thank you for that! You give me hope. You can read their blog here.) [I’ve been made aware that the link does not lead to the post. This is the link: https://www.themullettfamily.com/when-life-hurts/suffering/how-the-church-often-fails-the-victimized/ If this does not work, enter “when life hurts suffering how the church often fails the victimized” in search bar and the blog is listed there).

So I’m angry and thankful, and a whole lot sad. With a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe…  One day victims will be heard in church, if enough of the compassionate ones, and especially those with power, start shouting for them…

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As for the Mullet’s friends’ case, I hope it is dealt with, and the victims are not blamed. There is an uncanny ability in the church to manipulate the law. (Read Shonda and Concealment by Michael Lesher). But there is hope, even on that front. There are law enforcement officials across USA who are starting to see it, and they are finding one another. As that number grows, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Tonight in spite of the frustration… And as always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

(Hypocrisy & Excommunication): The Woman, The Scraggly Few & The King’s Son

She stood to her feet, hands clammy, confessing her guilt.  Ashamed.canstockphoto13092176

She begged for mercy… admitting she could not pay for her crimes and outstanding debt… Without a pardon, she would be sentenced to death.

The judge sighed as he looked at the list of crimes she had committed. He looked about the courtroom, then back at the woman. “Is there anyone who will pay your debt?”

On the far side of the room sat a large audience of well-dressed onlookers, pointing and sneering. She had it coming to her. They sat, straight and tall, noses turned up, looking down at her.

“A disgrace,” one man muttered.

“Our world will be better without her,” huffed a woman, looking away, as if the very sight of the woman might contaminate her.

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A few among them looked uncomfortable, squirming. But not one spoke up.

A scraggly few supporters sat near the woman, silent. Tears flowed freely. It was almost as if each believed they were guilty, and deserved her sentence. One by one they fumbled through tattered bags, purses and pockets, pulling out what bits of valuables they might hold, if any.

One produced a pack of gum that appeared to have been carried too long in her coat. Another a comb, bent and with hair hanging from it. An old man pulled out a handkerchief but, alas, one corner was crumpled together, obviously used, dirty.

An old man, stumbled through the door, and walked forward. He looked like one of the filthy scraggly few. He held in his crippled hands a worn piece of paper.

“You intend to pay this woman’s debt with that… that… whatever it is you hold there?”

The old man smiled, exposing decayed teeth—the few he had—and raised bushy grey eyebrows. “No, shir, Your Honour” he said, mispronouncing ‘sir’. “I haven’t a penny to offer, shir, but I know Shomeone…

The well-dressed onlookers scoffed. One woman cackled, “He knows ‘shomeone’… I sure wonder who… probably ‘shome’ drunk ‘shtreet’ bum.”

“Order!!! Order in the court!!!” shouted the judge, his gavel pounding the block. He turned his attention to the old man. “Continue sir.”

The old man told of his life of crime, and the many lives he destroyed in that process, until one day, only  a few years earlier, it all caught up to him.

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“Your Honour, a man paid my debt that day, and I was pardoned. All He asked in return, was for me to share the good news, and tell others about Him. He will pay her debt.”

“And, just where might I find this generous man?” the judge asked.

“He’s waiting, just outside the door,” the old man said.

He shuffled to the rear of the court, opened the door and the generous man walked in. Jaws dropped throughout the courtroom.

Before them stood no ordinary man. He was the King’s son. With kind eyes and gentle smile, He walked to the condemned woman, and took her place, accepting her judgement.

She fell at His feet, weeping, too overcome for words. She was free. In one moment, she was released; thanks, not to some ability to correct or pay for her crime, but because of this man.

She stayed there a long while, weeping.

The King’s son looked at the scraggly supporters, then at the well-dressed, arrogant crowd. “Each of you owes the same debt this woman owed.”

The scraggly few bowed their heads, nodding. Some wept. The man pulled out his stained handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. A woman sobbed shamelessly.

 

“Some of you are familiar with your crimes, and carry that debt with great shame,” He said, looking at the scraggly few. “Bring me any debts you owe, I will pay them.”

One by one they shuffled forward, tears flowing, praying. Reaching for mercy.

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The King’s son continued, looking now at the well-dressed crowd, “Some of you are oblivious to your debt, and choose to ignore it. You justify your crimes, and believe that as long as you present well, and hide your crimes, you are justified. What’s worse… you do this claiming allegiance to my Father and His country.”

The well-dressed crowd listened stoically… Most of them…. A few shifted in their seats.

The King’s son spoke again. “You were quick to judge, but every one of you, if you take off those fine clothes, will find a layer of tattered rags. Hidden in the pockets you will find unpaid debts. If you strip back those layers and acknowledge your need, I will pay your debts too.” He paused, looked over the well-dressed crowd.

The woman who taunted earlier, squirmed. The man who scoffed, looked at his feet. Several others shifted, unable to look the King’s Son in the eye. A few tore off their outer garments, exposing filthy, stained rags. In humble acknowledgement, they joined the scraggly few.

“Yes, I will pay your debts, but only if you strip yourself of image, prestige and religious pride, and acknowledge your need, as these have.”

***

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

Do Not Judge

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Often we ‘Christians’ judge others harshly, while hiding our secret sins. We proclaim the name of God, and yet defy the way and words of Jesus–Emmanuel, ‘God with us’–as we toss rocks in arrogant self-righteousness.

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In the same church where a man has an affair and his wife is ordered by leaders to keep silent and never mention it again because he is repentant…. the same church where child molesters are treated with ‘grace’–aka cover up and their crime is down-played… there repentant sinners get the left foot of fellowship for some hidden agenda.

Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

The evidence speaks for itself. Too long, too many good men (and women) have done nothing. There have always been a faithful few, but it is time for the people of God to rise up together and stand for Jesus, and for what He taught and exemplified. He lived truth fearlessly, judged by the most religious and ‘self-righteous’ of His day, to the point that they sought to kill Him.

To be named with Him, we will need to be willing to face the same abuse and judgement from many religious folks–leaders and laity, alike–who live in pretentious holiness. If there is one place the devil has a stronghold today, it is with those who preach God, hell fire and brimstone, while defying Jesus Christ.

Until we are willing to face the wrath of the enemy and these people, by confronting this stronghold, exposing the evil–yes, even publicly–the body of Christ will remain crippled and ineffective. Jesus warned us about these false teachers and, unfortunately, they exist in every denomination. Coincidentally, the warning comes in the same chapter as the instruction on judging:

Matthew 7:15-19 (NKJV)

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

For those who will take the challenge, and turn to Jesus Christ, abandoning every other thing for His sake–including leaders and churches that blatantly misrepresent God and live for personal agenda–there is grace for the difficult journey ahead. (If you find yourself ‘stuck’ in such a place, don’t be afraid to search for a life-giving fellowship. None are perfect, but many are passionate about Jesus and biblical truth, and compassionate toward people.)

It is not easy to stand up against evil in religious settings–against spiritual wickedness in high places. But it is the way of true holiness, to set ourselves apart from the world of sin, as well as the sin of religious arrogance that all but replaces the need for the Atonement of Christ.

Rise up! Stand for Truth; Unadulterated, pure, simple Truth!

© Trudy Metzger

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All Mennonites are Not Sexual Predators…

…any more than all Christians are hypocrites,  all Germans are Nazi’s, all blacks are gangsters and all priests are paedophiles.  Those statements are stereotypical and false.

But it is difficult to write about the crimes and cover ups in a particular people group, and be a voice for the victims, without making the whole lot of them look party to the crime, without naming names, one way or the other. If the telling of every story is required to justify those who are not party to the crimes and cover ups, it is just another way of downplaying the pain of victims, and taking away their voice. And that, in my opinion, is just as corrupt.

I wrote this blog in response to very particular ‘challenges’ I received, privately, from several ministers in conservative Mennonite settings concerned over how I make the Mennonite church look by sharing the stories of Mennonites. Both were respectful, for the most part. And my response was intended to validate their views, that all Mennonites are not Sexual Predators, and the stories I post misrepresent the culture.

My most recent blog post “Mennonite Woman Responds to Recent Column: My abusers are my church leaders” , which received almost 4000 views in just over 24 hours,  was met with a sprinkling of similar criticism while many messages of support, appreciation, compassion, concern and identification poured in. And I say ‘sprinkling’ because, less than a handful of messages expressed frustration at the misrepresentation of the culture also arrived. Even ‘sprinkling’ is exaggerated.

So this blog, which was originally inspired by several church leaders–appropriately follows the most recent blog exposing abuse in the culture. (Though I challenge readers to take note that, beyond mentioning the victim to whom I am giving a voice, the culture is not mentioned. It was, and still is, intended as a challenge to ‘the church’, not ‘a culture’.)

Reflecting over the past several years of writing, in telling my story, I am keenly and painfully aware of this in my writing, that sharing the stories of Mennonite victims, and giving them a voice, casts a shadow over the entire culture. (And have been aware as I wrote. It is not a new thought.)

I have tried to balance the harsh realities with the good in the culture, and the beauty of certain aspects of it–particularly the sense of community. I have also shared of how my healing began at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, when Howard and Alice reached out and helped me, and Glen Jantzi, one of the ministers, reached out to my one brother. This care, on behalf of my brother and myself, had a powerful impact on my healing journey.

Furthermore, while I was always ‘different’, and never fit into the cultural mould, I felt loved and accepted by many friends at Countryside, right up until the time we left, and even after.

It was at Countryside where I first felt I had something of value to offer, and that I could make a difference in the Kingdom of God. This was thanks to the bishop’s wife, Florence Martin, who saw something in me, after she and I had a shared incident, in which she encouraged me to reach out to a young girl. She gave me a card with a thank you note. Placed inside was the calendar page from a little inspirational calendar from that day, it read: “November 9  Who knows but that may want to use you this day… ” and I don’t recall the rest. (Though I do have the note stored with memorabilia, because it had such influence in my life.)

Lena Martin, the deacon’s wife sat with me in a  coffee shop and answered hard identity questions, when I first started working through abuse. I can’t think of anything more she could have done. Years later, while watching a video of Lisa Bevere with a handful of other women, she said, “Trudy, I could see you do this one day.”  To which I responded with a laugh, “In a light blue suit?” because that is what Lisa had on at the time.

Countryside was, for me, a very safe place to begin healing. We loved the people, we appreciated and cared for the leaders–all of them. Not once did I feel unkindness, even when Joe and Esther had to ask me to tone it down on the make-up, and Glen and Elly asked me to scale back my heals, and Leighton sat me down, in a most fatherly way, and asked me not to skip service and go cruising with a bunch of rambunctious youth instead of attending special meetings.  In fact, Leighton, the bishop, spoke with such understanding and gentleness, even when chiding me, that my heart-felt completely safe.

Yes, some tragic events took place, rocking the church we knew. And we all grieved. Many of us, if not all of us, went through inner chaos and confusion. Why did God let the accident happen, and allow three children to be orphaned? Why did it seem no one knew how to handle the tragedy and grief left in its wake? There were no answers. Only pain, turmoil and disappointment.

Still our love for Countryside, and all the people we knew there, never faded. It lives on to this day, and always will. Because it was the place God took me, in a culture that had deeply wounded me–though a very different ‘brand’ of Mennonites within that culture–and began to reveal himself to me. I sat in that church, in God’s presence and shed many a healing tear, as I discovered a God of grace. And it was only the beginning of that discovery of God’s love and grace.

I didn’t get to know many of the other churches much in the Midwest setting. Only a few, and only a little.  Tim’s aunt and uncle served as leaders at Woodlawn, Abner and Almeda Martin and, to this day, are among the Mennonites I respect most for their genuine faith.

None of these realities have escaped me, or lost appreciation in my heart during this past two-year stretch of addressing sexual abuse in Mennonite and plain cultures.  And  those who have taken time to read the blogs I wrote before focusing on exposing the corruption, will know that I have said many, if not all of these things in the past. Hopefully you have not lost sight of them. I could not, however, go back to constantly reaffirming these things, while speaking the truth about the corruption.

And then there is the small matter of knowing people I respect would not necessarily wish to have me applaud them here. It creates a tie to me, and establishes in the mind of the reader, a relationship with them, and they may not wish to be identified in any way back to me. (There are those whom I admire and respect from my time in the Mennonite church, who would as soon not be associated with me, and I try to honour that, though I may have crossed that line in this post.)

I am not sorry for exposing the things I exposed. I’m mostly not sorry for how I said them, most of the time. (There’s a time or two, when a deep breath and a long pause would have served me well, when leaders refused to face truth. I regret not taking a deep breath and a long pause first, but also trust God to redeem my humanity. Therefore I will not live in regret.)

I am sorry that some wonderful people in the culture, who sincerely love God and fight for truth, were hurt in the process and feel their name and identity have been tarnished with my telling the truth of victims, and being their voice.

It is the thing with ‘carrying a name’, that becomes the price tag for that name. We hold it dear, even idolize it, until the image crumbles because too much corruption lies buried by those whose hearts are evil. And then we struggle to deal with the consequence of that name. That is true whether the name is Menno Simons, or Jesus Christ. Whichever name we carry close in our hearts, that is the name that will cause us the greater anguish, when not held up to the extent that we revere it. 

Even Jesus generalized and spoke out against the Scribes and Pharisees for their corruption as leaders. He didn’t go about saying things like, “a few of you… or ‘some of you’ or some other softening of the blow. No, He said it boldly, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees!”  And then each one had to decide in his own heart if he was guilty.

Amazingly, some of them were His inner circle. How could Jesus do this so boldly, and not risk losing the hearts of these men? Or were they so lost in Him, that the truth of the evil attached to their ‘other identity’ no longer frightened them? Even when it came so close to home that it could have been interpreted as an attack on their own identity? Had the name and title lost its meaning, with no idolatry left in their hearts, so that they no longer worshipped that identity? 

Is this the biggest problem many in the culture have with me?  That the painful truth of buried sexual abuse and sin, connected with my cultural background, is too personal because too much faith has been placed in a name–the name of a man, Menno, who would be mortified at that idolatry–and that identity has been a source of great pride, but is now a source of shame? (And this could also be said of Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Fellowship, Non-denominational, Inter-denominations, and every other religious identity where corruption lies hidden, and the name is protected.)

Is it possible that God wants to unravel that cultural pride, and bring us all back to one identity–Jesus Christ?

If we were to embrace His identity as the only one that matters, and openly acknowledged the wickedness within, would that not open the door for healing, restoration and allow the Body of Christ to thrive? I would no longer be a threat with my truth-telling, but an opportunity to rise up. And only if I defamed the name of Christ would there be any need for personal offences, hurt feelings and emails challenging my message.

The truth is that the name of Jesus is the answer to this problem. Many a Christian has left me wanting for another name to identify myself by, because of the damage they have done to the name of Christ, and still, I carry the name of Jesus Christ with honour, boldness, and without apology. Because His is one name that, no matter how close I carry it to my heart or how wrongly people use it, does not bring shame to me. Christians shame Him. Religion does also. But not Jesus. He restores my honour, just by embracing His name, regardless of how He is misrepresented.

That is a name worth holding on to. 

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© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church  (Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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