Posts Tagged ‘ abuse ’

And Words Will Never Hurt Me

I was participating in a discussion the other day where it was asked,  How should we Christians Show Christ’s Love to Homosexuals? The person who posed the question for discussion said he felt he wanted to apologize to LGBTQ people for the horrid way that the church catholic has treated them. He was asking the best way to do this. Being a Christian forum, of mainly straight, white men, many were quick to say that such an apology is unwarranted because one cannot apologize for the church. Besides, the church has done nothing wrong.

This is where I tuned out. I become incensed at such notions and they inevitably lead to victim blaming, or are born of it. Either way there is no conversing with people that do this. No matter what is said tempers flare and the ad hominems begin to fly. To be honest I am not above slinging them myself while simultaneously touting the virtues of non-fallacious argument.

Of course the person that asked the question can and should apologize for the church’s despicable treatment of LGBTQ people. If I am a member of a group that has members, even a fringe, minority of the membership, that treats communities of people in such  dehumanizing and hurtful ways as some within the church have treated the LGBTQ community and individuals, it reflects upon every member of the group and the group itself. The group and all its members share in the guilt, so it is appropriate to apologize, to try to make amends to the injured. Just because I have personally done nothing wrong, have not harmed anyone (something I cannot personally claim, I have at one time or another held views, said things, made jokes that were homophobic, racist, sexist, etc. I do try to search myself for vestigial remnants. Being called on my privilege, when it appears, offers me that opportunity.) we still share the group’s guilt by choosing to associate with it. Christians should understand this concept of imputed guilt as it is at the core of many atonement theologies and the whole fallen nature thing, yet we deny it. But this isn’t really the topic of this post. My apologies for the digression.

I didn’t totally tune out, just avoided certain persons’ responses.

Somehow the topic of verbal abuse came up, this is what I actually came here to talk about. Someone came close to denying the existence of verbal abuse when he said that words cannot hurt, unless we choose to be hurt by them. He recited the lil ditty

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

When I look at bullying and how verbal abuse is a part of bullying, and other forms of abuse, I recall being taught this very same ditty as a child. It was our standard response when our children were being taunted, called names, etc. I was taught this by people I trusted as a child. I do not think they meant any harm, just don’t think that they thought it through. I know they had the best of intentions, to give us comfort, to help us stand strong in the face of abuse. But the idiom is false. Words do hurt, they can hurt very much. No, it is not just my choice to be hurt by a verbal assault. Verbal assaults are hurtful, they are meant to inflict pain, why else would we use them? Words become weapons the same way a baseball bat, or a steak knife can become weapons. I know, I’ve used them to this end. Have had them used against me as weapons.

This idiom, seems to me can lead to further abuse in the form invalidating someone’s feelings and victim blaming. “If you were stronger…” “If you weren’t a weakling…” then you wouldn’t choose to be hurt by simple words. This is fucking non-sense. Hurtful, dangerous non-sense. The words were strung together as a weapon, of course they hurt. You are not wrong for feeling hurt, you were. Your feelings are real, no one should deny you your feelings, tell you they are wrong. This idiom lends itself to doing just that. No people should be taught not to be abusers, verbal or otherwise.

This same person who recited the lil ditty said that verbal abuse can cause no real harm, not like physical abuse. I’d like to say that emotional abuse, of which verbal abuse is a part, is very much damaging physically. Negative emotions lead to the release of stress hormones which are rather toxic to the body. Verbal abuse harms people physically.

But, this isn’t the only harm that can come from this saying. Imagine what we would have to do in order to choose to not be affected by verbal assaults. It seems to require a hardening of the heart. I think we have to kill off a part of our humanity, Imago Dei for the Christian audience, to not be affected by verbal, emotional assaults. Actually I know this from experience. I internalized the idiom, tried desperately to live it out and in the process muted that part of me that would be hurt by what people said to or about me. I became less than fully human. I was missing the part of me that could truly love, feel sympathy for the other. Isn’t this what we are asking people to do when we insist that words will never hurt me?

Words can hurt, can be used as weapons. The good taken and used for evil. When we are beaten with words it is not our fault for “choosing” to be hurt, as that is only a choice that can be made from a hardened, less than fully human heart.

For all those who I have beaten with words I am truly sorry for abusing you. You did nothing to deserve that treatment. The pain you felt was not a result of your skin not being thick enough, but of my heart being too hard. I wish I could turn the clock back and undo the harm I caused you. All I can do, and I know it falls very short, is say, I am truly sorry.

Neo-Fundamentalism, Immaturity, Men, & Abuse of Women

I started reading Rachel Held Evans blog recently because of her questioning of her fundamentalist roots. Through reading this blogger I was impressed with some of the comments and began following the blogs of several young women. As these young women began relating their stories of abuse, self-mutilation, addiction I began to see a common thread, neo-fundamentalist upbringing.

These women relate stories of being taught that women are to be subservient to men, that there are specific gender roles that they must adhere to. For several of them the gender role issue made them feel less than because they did not possess the so-called female instincts and their interests were more in-line with male roles. The women who faced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were abused even further by their Christian communities when they told of their abuse. There seems to be a blame the female victim mentality within the neo-fundamentalist community. One young woman was told that being raped was no big deal and she should just get over it. What the fuck? Other women were as hard as the men.

I recently read about a home for wayward girls in Indiana, The Horrors of Hephzibah House. Seems that most of the girls in this “Christian” school are not really wayward, but that most of them had been sexually molested in their own homes. Rather than focusing on the criminal, the perpetrator, oft the girl’s own father, the idea here is that it was the victims fault. These girls are then beaten and psychologically tortured to get the harlot out of them. Yes, girls as young as 12 who have been raped by their fathers are convinced that they, not dear ol’ daddy are the real criminals. Go to the links in the article and learn what former “students” have to say. In the name of being a “good” “Christian”. I use quotes around Christian because I seriously have my doubts about both the people at the school and the parents who would send their daughters there. Some will say it is not my place to judge whether or not these people are actually Christian or not,and they’d probably be right. I can judge the behavior and ideas and they are definitely do NOT represent any Christian teaching or fruit that can be derived from the Bible. This is more in line with those forms of extremist Islam (I am coming to the conclusion that extremist Christianity is no different than extremist Islam except for a name) than Christianity.

Sarah Moon published a blog on the use of the label and slur, “slut”, That’s Not A Slut, That’s A Person. Sarah tells of the instances in which she has seen this slur hung on women and girls. None of the instances she relates does the woman in question fit any definition of the word. Sarah, rightly in my not so humble opinion, says that the use of this slur is abusive and is an example of the ages old and continuing war on women. Sarah calls for us to quit using this word against women, to remove it from the vocabulary, not unlike the use of the word nigger (Sarah doesn’t say this, it is my analogy) because it is hurtful, abusive, and anti-Christlike.

As I read these blogs and articles and the stories of girls who have resorted to cutting, starving themselves, been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused I have to wonder about the culture in which these things arise. All the young women I am talking about have fundamentalist/neo-fundamentalist upbringings. They all faced further abuse when they dared to tell of their abuses. Abuse in the form of, “Oh it wasn’t so bad,” “Well you should’ve done this to your attacker,” “It’s all part of God’s plan,” “Well he IS the man,” “Boys will be boys,” “You need to submit to the males in your life.” When the women told them these things I could only thing of one thing, “The hypnotized never lie,” from We Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. But that would excuse them? If they are adolescents or children, but it sure as Hell doesn’t get an adult off the hook.

Where does the attitude come from that makes it okay to perpetuate the war against women? Some will say that their attitudes are biblical. Have you ever even READ the Bible? I think not. Well, that’s not true I think that they have read it. I think that they have read it with presuppositions about God and the Bible and seeing what they are looking for, which isn’t all that hard. What they are not doing, because it is not possible to approach the Bible for the first time without presuppositions, is not letting the Bible and the Holy Spirit remove those presuppositions. They are not being shaped by their engagement with the Bible (maybe they are reading without engaging). These people lack maturity, Maturity of faith and intellectual maturity, many also lack emotional maturity as well. They hang on to cultural views of women and ignore the biblical view, worse and so very dangerous they bend the biblical view to fit their narrow, immature ideas. Their ideas are their idols and “I’ve got my reasons and to me they’re all true, and I wouldn’t change them, not even for you” Jesus, (quote from Mona Bone Jakon by Cat Stevens). They are stuck because they are immature and cannot engage their faith, cannot ask questions of it, they fear that they will lose it. It would be far better that they lose this narrow, bigoted, hateful, immature faith than to continue in anti-love, anti-Christlike behavior that arises out of such a faith. People will cite a couple Pauline passages to rationalize their beliefs, ideas, and idols. If you are telling me this, I am telling you that you are reading it wrong! Nothing in the Pauline corpus validates your ideas. The Corinthians passage is dealing with a situation specific to that church at that place in that time. The Ephesians passage, do not forget that most evangelical English translations wrongly places a section heading between 5:21 and :22 when in Greek the verb is in verse 21 not in 22. Verse 22 cannot stand alone, it continues from verse 21 where we are all instructed to submit to one another. The charge for wives is no more than it is for every believer. Look how Jesus treated women in the Gospels. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, did you know that the place of a disciple was at the feet of their rabbi? Mary was a disciple. Martha comes along complaining that Mary is not following the custom of the time, not submitting to the traditional place of women, in the kitchen, what does Jesus tell her? Mary chose the better thing, to break tradition, to subvert the societal cultural structure and be a disciple. Paul in Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, neither Free nor slave, neither male not female. What is he doing here? The same thing that John does in relating the story of Mary and Jesus and Martha, he is subverting the social structures that separate. The three main areas of society are dismantled, the religious with no Jew or Greek, the political with no free or slave, and the social/biological with there is no male or female. In this and the narrative from John we see that our common understandings are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. So why do we persist in supporting the structures of this world? Satanic influence? Maybe, but I’m going with immaturity.

Men, when you think that women were created to serve you you are in grave error. Women are not your slaves! They are people endowed with Imago Dei. When you reduce them to objects, when you try to subjugate them you do violence to their Imago Dei. You do this because of your lack of self-respect, lack of self-confidence, because you feel so fucking small that you have to pick on those you deem weaker. Make somebody feel bad so you can feel good. Go get some therapy. And until you can change your attitude towards women you are not capable of a relationship so stay away from the women. And by all means stop abusing them in word, deed, and attitude.