Denial and Ignorance Hinder Answers to Severe Problems
"Oh, we've always had these little squabbles." My father said to some of his church members who came to visit him on his deathbed.
Dad was not speaking of himself or the cancer that was rapidly destroying his body. He was commenting on questions arising in the laity about the crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention. It was 1984.
Dad - like the vast majority of people in the SBC in 1984 - was exhibiting what I have come to call DIM (Denial, Ignorance and Minimization) thinking about the ocean-size problems that readers of BAPTISTS TODAY have come to know so well. Dad was not alone in his thinking.
My father did not know I had embarked on another journey, not of my own choosing, six months earlier. I had no way of knowing that for the next decade (and beyond), I would be studying the problems of the SBC and those of the community of faith in facing the seriousness of sexual violence in his profession.
Today, more than 10 years later, I frequently look at my own belief system, which has evolved dramatically. I look at where I have come in understanding, and I look at all the questions with which we must all wrestle as we face a problem which will either kill us or make us stronger.
Sometimes, in the late hours of the evening, I pick up the phone to hear the voice of a frightened survivor who has just found her or his voice enough to call a stranger who speaks what I call "survivorese."
As I listen, I glance at the wall behind my desk and review my personal belief system, which reminds me why I continue working for something I will never see in this lifetimeósafety in the community of faith.
Although I realize many readers may not fully understand what I am saying at the point, I want to give it to you as food for thought. It will provide the framework from which I hope to continue this series of articles.
I believe the community of faith should be the safest place on the face of the earth.
I believe it can be.
I believe the community of faith has a right to demand more than approximate justice.
I believe obtaining more than approximate justice can be a given for the majority of victims, but it will likely come only after generations of struggle.
I believe it is very difficult for a profession strongly educated and accomplished in extending grace and mercy to feel comfortable with "tough love."
I believe a seminary education sprinkled with generous portions of "tough love* thinking can help to facilitate justice in the community of faith.
I believe committees dealing with violence in a professional setting must have an equal balance between peer professionals and laity, as well as male and female.
I believe there should be required reading and extensive training for all committee members.
I believe a violation of professional ethics is a violation of the community, and the community of faith has a right to know when such occurs.
I believe that in order to stay committed to justice people of the community of faith must lace everything done with believing prayer.
I believe full justice will only be achieved when we have a grassroots movement
of informed advocates ready to join courageous survivors in speaking out.
Other articles in this series:
Article 1: Struggles with Cancer Teach Disciplines of Patience, Hope
Article 2: Churches Must Be Honest to Confront Sexual Abuse
Article 4: 'Hold Hands in the Dark' with Victims of Violence
Article 5: The Kingdom Is Not Served by Self-Seeking Secrecy
Article 6: Christians Need Courage to Break the Silence Barrier
Article 7: Victim Asks: "What If's?" about Clergy Sexual Abuse
Article 8: 'A Mistake of the System' Calls Out for Compassion
Dee Ann Miller is the
author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993)
The Truth about Malarkey (2000)
Dee Ann Miller is the author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993) and The Truth about Malarkey (2000)