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The Long Journey Home

Andrew Schmutzer:

We can identify several kinds of church resistance that are thwarting restoration and healing:

The resistance of … “sacred silence” (e.g., a faith-culture of selectively discussing the sins we want to face; ironically, this is accompanied by an avoidance of preaching and teaching biblical passages that already address rape, incest, and sexual betrayal; this resistance forces a teen to out their story first because the leadership won’t break the silence for victims).

The resistance of … happy-worship (e.g., a one-sided kind of praise that withholds the opportunity for survivors to engage in redemptive naming, lamenting, and weeping; this forces the sexually broken to worship in spite of pain rather than in pain—creating dishonesty and superficiality—and does not teach the larger faith-community to shoulder collective grief on behalf of their sexually broken brothers and sisters).

The resistance of … minimization (e.g., claiming that “all sin is the same” is a post-modern mantra that actually trivializes the evil of sexual abuse and does not understand that all sin is not equally devastating; this is particularly painful when the non-abused tell the abused how they should feel and respond; would we tell a returning soldier how to deal with their phantom limb?)

The resistance of … mandated forgiveness (e.g., while it sounds spiritual, it is a re-victimization for survivors that stems from not understanding the layers of trauma in sexual abuse, coupled with the common mistake of equating forgiveness with reconciliation; a jewel thief can be forgiven but should that person return to work for the store owner?)

The resistance of … avoiding wounded leaders (e.g., sometimes it takes wounds to heal wounds, but withholding wounded leaders from shepherding positions can leave the wounded sheep with no “safe” model to connect to  their form of sexual brokenness).

The resistance of … “victory” theologies (e.g., such theologies are not capable of addressing horrendous evil, have little patience for healing as a process, blame too much on the devil, typically search for some “silver bullet” to eliminate suffering, dismisses the candor of lament theology, and lack adequate integration with the disciplines of psychology and medicine that also speak into the trauma of sexual abuse; behind “victory” theologies is often a misunderstanding of how sexual abuse lives on within the relational ecosystem).

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2013

About the Author: Andrew J. Schmutzer, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL). He regularly writes and speaks about sexual abuse from a theological perspective, to help equip churches to care for the abused in their midst. Andrew is the editor of the collaborative book, The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (Wipf & Stock, 2011), a contributor to numerous books including Finding Our Way Through the Traffick: Exploring the Complexities of a Christian Response to Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking (Regnum Books, 2017), The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody, 2008), Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel, 2016), Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Moody, 2016), and Genesis: See Our Story Begin (NLT Study Series). He is one of the editors of The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody, 2013), and author of Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Wipf & Stock, 2009). He can be reached at aschmutz@moody.edu.

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