The Revealing, Exposing & Redemptive Truth of Our Heritage

I’ve made an interesting observation, as word gets out that I have written my story and that it reveals some less than noble truths of my cultural upbringing. That observations is:

We are comfortable with telling the ‘ugly truth’ of redemptions stories, as long as they don’t incriminate ourselves, our culture, our belief systems and expose things we are not willing to look at.  We protect tenaciously that ‘exposing truth’ that makes our lives uncomfortable… 

Some years ago, when my mother found out I was writing, she said something, gently, about not telling the ‘evil things’ that happened, that it is best to forget those things and move on.  This led to a heart to heart discussion, and it is the first time I recall thinking the whole thing through, and the beginning of this observation that the telling harsh truth is only comfortable when it doesn’t incriminate us.

That mention is not disrespect for my mother. In fact, quite the opposite is true.  Over the past few years some of the deepest, most meaningful and honest discussions I’ve had with anyone, have been with my mother. That day was one of them.

I asked her why the Bible tells ‘bad stories’, and I named some for her.  She thought about that for a moment. I then asked her how we can tell accurately the amazing redemption of God, and the wonder of who He truly is and what He has done, if we don’t tell the stories of what He has redeemed us from, saved us from, and the tragedies and sins He has helped us overcome.

Again, she thought about it, and said she sees what I’m saying, that God really didn’t hide the dark truths of Bible stories.  It was a new thought.

Many of us have been programmed to believe that ‘family secrets’ should ‘stay in the family’ and not be shared. And within our churches and cultures, the same thing is true, for many of us. It is one of the most crippling realities, in that it holds people hostage in silence.

It leaves us with no place to turn, no one to reach to for help–beyond those who are ‘approved’, whose agenda is often more about self-preservation than it is about truth, healing or redemption.  The result is generation after generation of enslavement to the same corruption, sins, addictions and strongholds.

Those ‘within’ who do ‘rise up’ and try to address things, are labelled as unforgiving, rebellious, or some other thing that justifies silencing them.  Some surrender to this control, others walk away. Of those who walk away, many remain in bondage to that silence, terrified of the cost that comes with telling the truth.

And those of us who begin to tell it are quickly ‘tackled’ on our motives, our methods and  judged as having ‘an axe to grind’ or being bitter, and again encouraged to retreat into respectful silence.

canstockphoto12269207

One of the things that alerted me to the hypocrisy in this whole thing–since one can argue that the Bible is written under God’s authority, and no human has that right–is the stories that go back to our Anabaptist beginnings.  We are taught the evil of our ‘oppressors’ and ‘adversaries’–particularly the Catholics–and in these stories our heritage is shamelessly protected. Never, in all my studying or listening to our history, do I recall the dark side of our heritage and fore-fathers mentioned. And never do I hear the ‘good side’ of our oppressors and adversaries mentioned either. To share both, creates a richness that a one-sided story will never tell.

Perspective is a fascinating thing…

We mostly like to be ‘saints and heroes’ working against the bad guys. And to get that position, we tell their ‘bad’ stories to show our good. But what if telling our bad stories could show the goodness of God, through Jesus? What if our identity wasn’t wrapped up in keeping our ‘name’ untarnished?

The truth is, there was and is much good in our Anabaptist heritage, going all the way back to the beginning.   But there was also much corruption.  When I read in the Complete Works of Menno Simons, some time ago, something about how people should be dealt with, who murder, I was a bit bewildered. Most of our churches don’t have explicit instructions on how to deal with murderers, and we might be inclined to find a new church if such instruction was a necessity.

It wasn’t until I began discovering Anabaptists like Bernhard Knipperdolling, Jan Van Leiden, Jan Matthys,  Bernhard Rothmann among other less-than-noble-Anabaptists, particularly by the standards of my upbringing, that I started to see both sides had corruption, and both sides carried rich heritage and values.

Knipperdolling, a  follower of Rothmann–who came from very wealthy stock, and a ‘proud and bold Protestant–sued the Catholic Munster town council, in 1528. A few years later he became mayor of Munster and played a part in the Munster Rebellion.

Rothmann, if my memory is accurate, was very disturbed by the sexual indiscretions he saw in the priesthood, and spoke against it and,  after being censured by the Catholic church, he aligned himself with the Reformed faith in  1531. A few years later he joined the Anabaptist movement and in 1535 fought in the reconquest of Munster, where he is believed to have died, though his body was never identified.

The stories are too complex to paint a bigger picture accurately, without a lengthy dissertation, however, these realities give us a glimpse into a side of the truth that is often overlooked. I look at it, not with judgement for Anabaptists, or even for these men. They seem sincere men in their pursuit of God. But their behaviour matches closely, if not exactly, the very thing we have used against the Catholics.

I’ve heard the argument, “Ah, but they were not true Anabaptists. We mustn’t align ourselves with them in history, by acknowledging them as part of our heritage”–or some similar statement. Fair enough. I can grant that.

But then, should we not also offer the Catholics the same grace? Is it possible that there is good and evil in both? That their ‘corrupt ones’ are just as corrupt as our corrupt ones, and ours as corrupt as theirs?

Going back to the two examples I use–Knipperdolling with his ‘power’, thanks to money and prestige, and Rothmann with is ‘concerns’, which were legitimate, over abuse of sexuality–I find it intriguing that the two things that most corrupt our Anabaptist churches today, from what I have seen, are the abuse of power (and money) and the abuse of sexuality.  I have seen three cases of litigation–brother going to law against brother–in our local conservative churches, completely defying the ‘non-resistance’ we profess, and I have watched countless times as power and prestige sway the direction of leadership.

And the sexual abuse I’ve written about and made abundantly clear in past writings, so I won’t start into that, other than to go back to Menno Simons. In his writings, Menno Simons addressed immorality among Mennonite men with their daughters, maids and neighbours wives, after hearing it happened, saying he could not believe it would be among Anabaptists, and that was the reason he had not addressed it sooner. He had a higher expectation, and seems devastated to discover that ‘godly’ men would do this. Even this exists in our early history.

From Menno Simons, Complete Works, Excommunication:
“I would earnestly admonish the reader, that about 18 years ago I published an admonition , in which I made no distinction of sin; […] I say inexperience; for to the best of my knowledge I neither heard nor knew at that time, any thing of fornication, adultery, and such like. […] it is evident that […] concerning such gross, offensive abominations, we would make many great hypocrites; for I hear that there were some within a few years who carried on their horrible roguery and infamy in secret, till time and circumstances could no longer conceal them; yea, as I have understood, if some of them had not been detected by great wisdom, they would, I fear, have continued on their old course; but as soon as it was disclosed they began to wail and weep. Who could ever be so blinded, that when he has disgraced his neighbour’s wife, daughter or maid… that he would not say “I am sorry that I did so”.’

And finally, our silence surrounding our own corruption in Anabaptist history, and ‘picking and choosing’ which part of our heritage we will acknowledge, in order to make ourselves look like saints, has opened doors to corruption, in some ways.

(Granted, this all exists in other churches too. But they are not my history, my heritage or my struggle. I feel no need to make myself feel better about our heritage by saying it exists everywhere. I am only interested in facing the truth about myself, my people, and my heritage.)

I have believed for a long time that the answers to the roots of some of our strongholds lie with our early forefathers, and am more convinced now than ever. I also believe that if we name the name of any other person or movement, apart from Christ, and take pride in it and try to protect it, then we live in idolatry, and should repent. Furthermore, that makes us accountable for all things associated with that name, and we would do well to repent on behalf of our forefathers, as we see done by Nehemiah, in the first chapter, when he repents of his sins, and his fathers.

And to do that, bringing this full circle, we must be willing to tell the painful truth of our sinful past and present. Until we face our own corruption–as individuals and as ‘the Anabaptists’–and stop investing our energy in trying to silence those speaking truth, we will remain in bondage to sin.

Truth that reveals and exposes is not evil. It was never meant to be protected in a shroud of silence or secrecy. It was meant to be brought to the cross of Jesus, for forgiveness and redemption, and then declared as a victory on the mountain of God’s people.

We overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, and by sharing the word of our testimony, the story of sins forgiven, addictions broken, sexual abuse buried, leadership used for manipulation, and any other thing that Jesus has done for us.

There is no shame in the truth. There is only shame in hiding it.

When we strip ourselves of all our pride, the image of perfection, the pretence of sinlessness, and stand naked before God, then we are in a position to have Jesus look on us with compassion, and slip on us the cloak of His righteousness.  Then, and only then, does God see us as holy and acceptable.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Dirty Laundry that Stinks to High Heaven: Sexual Abuse in Christian Cultures (Part 2 of 2)

There is a cost associated with hiding corruption, or turning our heads the other way, and plugging our ears, so that we can say, We did not see, did not know. Not the least of the cost is the ongoing sacrifice of our children on the altars of Molech.

And, having done so, we are shocked, confused and horrified when our children abandon God. We fall on our knees and cry out, heartbroken, that they would leave their faith–not to be mistaken with leaving their cultural upbringing–and worship other gods.

Many turn from the living God because we have corporately misrepresented Him in leaving them willingly vulnerable by not exposing sin and protecting them. We have hidden the evil done against them, while judging harshly their failures, regardless of their efforts. Failures that are often born out of struggles resulting from the very sins committed against them. And until we acknowledge that we have sinned against them in this, our prayers will continue to echo from the walls of our homes and our churches, empty and meaningless.

But if we repent, and cry out to God for forgiveness for our sins, and if we stop hiding behind cloaks of righteousness that have holes exposing our own evil, then, the God of heaven will hear our prayers for our children and our nation. Only then will we see revival of spirit and soul.

2 Chronicles 7:14

New King James Version (NKJV)

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I urge us to repent and stop stuffing our filthy laundry in a corner, in pretence that it does not exist. It stinks to high heaven, creating a stench before the very presence of God.

Isaiah 65:1-9

New Living Translation (NLT)

Judgment and Final Salvation

65 The Lord says,

“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
to a nation that did not call on my name.[a]
All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.[b]
But they follow their own evil paths
and their own crooked schemes.
All day long they insult me to my face
by worshiping idols (of greed, religion, image, lust and pride) in their sacred gardens.
They burn incense on pagan altars.
(…)
Yet they say to each other,
‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me!
I am holier than you!’
These people are a stench in my nostrils,
an acrid smell that never goes away.

“Look, my decree is written out[c] in front of me:
I will not stand silent;
I will repay them in full!
Yes, I will repay them—
7 both for their own sins
and for those of their ancestors,”
says the Lord.
“For they also burned incense on the mountains
and insulted me on the hills.
I will pay them back in full!

But I will not destroy them all,”
says the Lord.
“For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones
(and someone will say, ‘Don’t throw them all away—
some of those grapes are good!’),
so I will not destroy all Israel.
For I still have true servants there.
I will preserve a remnant of the people of Israel[d]
and of Judah to possess my land.
Those I choose will inherit it,
and my servants will live there.

On behalf of ourselves, our fathers and mothers, and the generations past, we must repent. And for the sake of the generations to come, we must stand and break the silence of corruption, and pray that God will have mercy on us. Not only on those who have committed these heinous acts, but on us for our silence, and not fighting to the death for the little children. For this evil, I pray that God will have mercy.

The next generation is already paying the price with the prevalence of sexual immorality, in the guise of abstinence, and abortions, and homosexuality, and more sexual abuse. All this, and more, is happening right under the noses of leaders who chose to look the other way. That blindness has empowered evil. And, were they to discover it, the sword would fall swiftly.

But that is not the biblical response of leaders. A true leader does not judge harshly and quickly the sins of those he or she leads, while shouting, “You have sinned!” A true leader falls to his knees and asks God, “Where have I sinned that your people are doing this under my leadership?”

We see in Ezra 9, when sin is revealed in the congregation, how he responds by taking personal ownership, as though he was the one who committed the sins. Only after personal repentance does he call for public, corporate accountability for those sins. Oh how such leadership would change the Body of Christ!

Ezra 9:3-8

King James Version (KJV–with edits)

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to you, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we… been delivered into … confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace has been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.

© Trudy Metzger

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Dirty Laundry that Stinks to High Heaven: Sexual Abuse in Christian Cultures (Part 1 of 2)

What inspired me to share the information in yesterday’s blog, Age of Consent & Sexual Assault, and the links I will provide over the next several posts, is several sexual abuse cases that took place in my cultural background.

Two in particular have my attention. One is more recent, the other a bit longer ago, but less than fifteen years ago. They appear to be linked through generational chains. I have not pursued information on this case (yet), nor have I spoken to any of the victims directly… what I know has recently come to me.

It is very likely that some of my readers will recognize the story, and if you find yourself feeling responsible to report the case, because you know too much…. Well, follow your conscience…

The case most influencing me is that of a 14-year-old having sexual relations with an adult Mennonite teacher, who also molested other children. (Of this type of scenario, I have been made aware of several separate cases, in Ontario, and in USA. I will write here only based on Canadian laws, as I am not familiar with USA laws, or state laws.)

The problem here was that, since the relationship with the teen was consensual, so the church treated it as fornication and a mutual consent affair. This allowed them, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to quickly treat it as sin for both parties, and apply church laws to ‘take care of it’. (To my knowledge the teacher who abused the children and engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with the student has not been reported or brought to legal justice That is a matter I still need to confirm. Those who have spoken with me about it, did not know for certain. But that is not really the point I am trying to make, it is about putting responsibility on the student, when the teacher has the power.)

Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put this on a 14-yr-old child, nor would it stand up in court. It would not stand in defense of the teacher, who is in a position of authority and would be held accountable even if it was an older student, because it is an abuse of power. Nor would the law accept that church leaders and others in positions of authority, who were aware of the inappropriate sexual relations, are innocent.

I am still in the process of determining my own moral/legal obligations, having recently been made aware of these details. When I know what I am required to do, I will do it. And in the event that it has already been reported and dealt with, my understanding is that I am not required to do anything further. However, because of the situation with the teen, there may still be a legal obligation on my part, and, again, I will do it if that is the case.

It is a tragedy that numerous similar scenarios are coming to light, and, even with multiple victims, it appears as though it has been quietly swept under the carpet of the church. It is important, and it cannot be stressed enough, that a perpetrator of sexual abuse be reported. To apply church discipline is a matter completely separate from the law, and in no way overrides the laws of our land, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.

There are questions surrounding consequences for children who abuse children. According to the information I posted yesterday, children, ages 13 and under, are not charged unless they are in a position of authority and trust. My understanding is that if they are 12 or 13, they still need to be reported, so that they can get appropriate help, and it is just common sense to find help for all children who display obsession with sexualized behaviour.

In the case of 14 to 17 yr olds, they are typically charged as juveniles, and those 18 and over are charged and tried as adults.

Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.

In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had recommended a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in all institutions, to determine how much cover up is happening. This includes, but is not limited to churches. If this were to happen in Canada, I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.) I am saddened that this is the case.

I pray that we do some serious house cleaning before it comes to this. It would result in serious, and justified, attacks on Christianity.  And, undoubtedly, we would cry ‘Persecution’, but it would not be that at all.

Persecution is when we suffer for the sake of Christ, not for the sake of evil, corruption and iniquity hidden in the walls of the church, while declaring our own righteousness. That kind of attack is the result of our own godlessness.

1 Peter 3:13-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

Suffering for Right and Wrong

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[a] 15 But sanctify the Lord God[b] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[c] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

God forbid that we would continue to hide our sin and crimes, while judging the world for their ungodliness, and then pretending to suffer for the name of Christ when they judge our lies and abominations. That is blasphemous, at best.

If we continue to do this, we will stand in judgement for such pretences, I believe, far more than the ungodly who have never known Christ. We have known Him, and willingly defiled His name and His church–the body of Christ–to protect our pride.

And to those leaders who declare, “I didn’t know”, my question is, “Why? Why did you not know? What door are you afraid to open, for fear of the consequences?”

Ask God to show you the true state of things, and then be prepared to act on that, both biblically, and according to the laws of our land. God isn’t much for turning a blind eye, so He will show you if you are willing to know.

I could name numerous leaders who have been approached by victims, who have been told how bad it is, but have not gotten their hands bloody to ‘know’ the truth. They have chosen not to believe, and each time they hear it again, they do the same thing.

But God is calling some, including some who have done this in the past, to rise up, hear hearts, face the truth and be the channels for God’s grace and forgiveness to flow out to His people. It is a call to all Christian leaders who will hear and respond, not only those in my cultural background, but every denomination.

God is not pleased with what has been done. He is giving us this opportunity, as believers, to deal with our sins appropriately and according  to the Bible and the laws of the land. (None of the laws of the land, regarding Child Sexual Abuse, violate our biblical call to repentance and God’s justice, therefore we are bound biblically, to live in submission to those laws.)

If we do not obey those laws and repent, God will expose our sins and the cost will be far greater than anything we can imagine.

We can pretend that we are ever so holy, that we have it together and our life is a picture of true holiness, but as long as we hide sin in our churches, and refuse to protect our children, we are nothing more than a spiritual slum…

(c) Can Stock Photo

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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