A few blog posts on sharing Communion with your abuser

I found a blog post, Abusers at the Communion Table, written in response to a post by Sarah Moon about taking Communion at church with her rapist.

Quote:

If you have wounded someone, repented, and done what you can to repair with them (including serving your sentence in the case of abuse), then part of repairing is respecting the other person’s boundaries.

This is just common sense love for the person you have wounded. If you are repentant, do not show up in the place of worship of the one you sinned against.

And those counseling and pastoring repentant abusers need to lead on this as well. I understand the predicament if, for a 50 mile radius, there is only one assembly of believers. But that is rarely the case, at least in the US.

In the event that you do not live in the plains of Nebraska an hour away from the nearest congregation, then repentant abusers should find another congregation away from the person they wounded to receive communion. The Body of Christ is large. It’s expansive. It’s worldwide.

There really is no excuse for an abuser to stay in a local congregation in a way that his/her presence is felt regularly by the one he/she abused. Find another congregation, be honest about your history, and allow them to walk with you. —From Abusers at the Communion Table

I don’t recommend reading the comments, because some of the people don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be abused.

Or–maybe more likely–they (and the blogger) didn’t realize Sarah Moon’s blog post was about UNrepentant abusers.  The ones who will hurt you again if given a chance.  The ones whom the Church is actually directed in the New Testament to put out of fellowship and not even eat with.

For example, if my abusive exes and a few school bullies were at my Communion table, and they were Orthodox, I could share it with them with no problem, because apologies have been exchanged.  People have grown up, moved on.

However, if my abusive ex-friends were at my Communion table, even though they are (last I knew) Orthodox, I could NOT share it with them, because they chose mocking, stalking and intimidation over repentance.  For the safety of abuse victims, such things must not be allowed.

Now for Sarah Moon’s When my abuser is welcome at the [Communion] table, then I am not.  Quote:

EVERYONE is welcome. But more and more it seems the “EVERYONE” that Christians are really going after is abusers.

And why not? How radical and Jesus-like does that sound? Abusers and survivors, sitting at the same table. Sharing the same bread and wine. The lion lying down next to the lamb.

Sure. That sounds great. Excuse me while I go have a panic attack or two.

I don’t know how to respond to this trend anymore. When I express discomfort about calling a rapist my “brother in Christ,” people accuse me of being a  bitter,  grace-hating person.

When I say that I can’t get over the hurt my abuser caused me, people tell me to get over my “perpetual victimhood.”

When I ask for a safe space, people tell me I’m acting just like the exclusionary fundamentalists, and that I need to learn that Christianity isn’t about being uncomfortable [sic].

There’s no grace for me, as I try to work through all the festering hate toward my rapist that I don’t know what the hell to do with. There’s no grace as I try to figure out whether I ever want to forgive a man who hurts me more each day even though we haven’t spoken in six years.

Maybe they’re right and I am the bitter, hateful person they think I am, but what about all this talk of grace?

Faith Newport wrote in the comments about her own pastor,

She protects her people. If there was someone in my life or my past who was a danger to me, who had abused or harmed in me in any way, the minute they walked in the door all I would have to do is tell someone in leadership, and that person would be asked to leave. They would not make it to Communion.

This is an issue for those who have been abused by people who share a church with them.  Abuse victims really need to be allowed to deal with their various emotions without judgment or feeling pressured into “making nice” with their abusers.

How can you forgive someone who does not repent?  I have heard all sorts of definitions of “forgiveness,” but the only one that really sounds correct to me, is that forgiveness means reconciliation.  This is the definition used by God when WE repent.

And if you reconcile with an unrepentant abuser, they will only hurt you again.  And again.  And again.  While you paste on a Stepford Christian smile.

However, lack of forgiving does not mean we remain trapped in bitterness, anger, and desire for vengeance.  ESPECIALLY if we are not forced to push down our feelings during the healing process, or pretend that our abuser is innocent.  If we are allowed to process our grief and anger without judgment, then eventually it will pass.  Maybe once in a while we’ll remember and feel angry, but it won’t consume our thoughts and lives.  In other words, “letting go.”

But that does not mean we want to be in the same room (let alone church) with this person, or share Communion with them.  That would just lead to yet another abusive episode, over which to grieve and heal AGAIN.  Letting go is not the same as stupidity.

If Jesus is the head of the Church, shouldn’t His church be the greatest protector and supporter for the vulnerable and the hurting? Where is Jesus when churches fail to respond wisely to sexual abuse and then refuse to take responsibility or repent for such colossal failures?

Where is Jesus when churches make expedient decisions that affirm offenders, rather than making difficult decisions in the best interests of children and abuse survivors? Where is Jesus when churches go out of the way to advocate for offenders, while hurting victims watch in terror and isolation?

Where is Jesus when churches refuse to acknowledge their need for help from experts, thinking that they know best? Where is Jesus when churches simply aren’t teachable? Where is He? These are the painful questions I am asking all too often these days. –Boz Tchividjian, Churches That Are Making Good Decisions About Protecting Children and Responding to Abuse

 

Something is wrong when churches protect perpetrators and marginalize victims. In recent months, we’ve seen a bit of the underbelly of covering up sexual abuse, demanding victims forgive and forget instantly for the sake of the poor offenders whose lives might be ruined if they were found out.

Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry personality over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow. –Mary DeMuth, Churches That Prefer Perpetrators Are Being Contrary to Authentic Christianity

A few good blogs on abusers in church are:

Grace for my Heart

Spiritual Sounding Board

Samantha Field

The Wartburg Watch

Wondering Eagle

 

 

 

 

Juvenilia: Sink den Bismarck! (An Unwilling Time-Traveler becomes the Nazi’s assistant), Part 1)

I wrote this between my freshman and senior year of high school.  I believe I finished it early in 1990, during my junior year; the first part was written probably in 1987.

My favorite TV show at the time was Hogan’s Heroes; not only did it inspire me to take German, but I liked to imagine myself at the POW camp with Hogan’s group.  I wanted to write a story which explained how I would end up in a POW camp in the 1940s.

I wrote the first part while listening to the album Reconstructions by AD, a Christian band from the mid-80s which included two members of Kansas: Kenny Livgren and Dave Hope.  So now my story and this album are forever linked in my mind.

While researching the third part, I sat in front of my open bedroom window on an unseasonably warm night, listening to the local pop station, and looking through beautiful pictures of the Alps in an encyclopedia.  “Hippy Chick” by Soho came on.

Though I didn’t hear the song again until sometime in 1991 or 1992, I remembered it, and connected it with a warm evening and pictures of the Alps.

My BFF (senior year of high school) and my boyfriend (freshman year of college) loved this story.  Though they weren’t too happy with the ending of Part II (I won’t spoil it).  My boyfriend, a ninja who was really into the occult and science fiction, even pondered making an actual time card.

Since this is science fiction written by a teenager in the days before the Internet, when what I could learn about POW camps was mostly limited to television, it probably isn’t in the least plausible.

Also, both in college and now as I review it again, I can see that it desperately needs editing and lengthening: more scenes, more showing, less telling.  But that’s why I stuck this with my “juvenilia.”

I revised the story in college for a writing class.  Since there are three different versions, I’ll give you the best for each passage.

I do make changes here and there, where the original versions are egregiously bad, or an improvement screams at me.  But for the most part, this is as written.

Though after typing it up and reviewing it for this website, I start wanting to finally write that longer version, 28 years since I wrote Part I…..

Sink den Bismarck! 

Written by Madge on January 11, 1990

Who says time travel isn’t possible?  It has to be, or else I dreamed this whole thing, and I know I didn’t do that, since there’s proof it really happened.  My friends’ testimonies, for instance.

There’s also this great memory of mine that tells me there’s no possibility of it being just a dream.  I tell you, this was no dream.

I’ve got to get this all down on paper while it’s still fresh in my mind.  It began just a few months ago, during the last days before fall 1989.  After the nice, hot summer it was a little too cool for my taste.  I was a junior in high school in South Bend, Indiana.

Our cat’s not an outside cat, but she thinks she is.  I let her outside while I took out the trash, then found her on the lawn on the side of our corner house.  As I reached down to pick her up, a man appeared in front of me–in a flash, out of nowhere, just like a genie popping before me.  I straightened up and stared.

He was close to my dad’s height, which is six feet tall.  He had white hair, almost all there, but few wrinkles.  He wore small, round, wire-rimmed glasses and a white smock.

“Who’re you?” I said.

“Wilhelm von Bismarck, German inventor,” he said with a thick German accent.  Since I was in my third year of German, I hoped he would speak some.

“How’d you appear in front of me like that?”

“I traveled in time from the day of my fifty-first birthday–in December of 1941–to today.  This is my first experiment in time travel, but surely we have made great advancements in that technology by now which I can learn about.”

“No, we haven’t.”  I smiled.  “You’re putting me on.  You know as well as I do that no one knows how to time-travel yet.”

“What?”  His face scrunched up in confusion.  “What is today’s date?”

“September 14th, 1989.”

“Good.  That part works, at least.  What country is this?”

I laughed.  “America, of course.  How’d you do that trick, really?”

“Just how I said.  See this card?”

He showed me a metal card in his hand.  On it were many dials and a button about the size of his fingertip.

“I programmed in the date and coordinates I came from with these dials–” he pointed to the ones on the side labeled von— “and today’s date with these dials–” he pointed to the ones on the side labeled zu.

He pointed to a large red button.  “Then I pushed this button and was transported here.  I programmed it to go to Germany, but obviously it has a fault.”

“Prove it.”

“Give me your hand.”

I did this, holding my cat with the other hand, and he pushed the button.  What could be the harm in it?

With a flash of light, our surroundings changed to a street lined with half-timbered houses and German signs.

My cat squirmed.  The people on the street wore forties clothes and hair styles and spoke in German.  I let go of Mr. Bismarck’s hand and went up to a wall to touch it to see if it was real.  I returned to Mr. Bismarck and took his hand.

“All right, I’m convinced,” I said.  “You can take me back to my house now, Herr Bismarck.”

He took me back.  My cat looked confused, and squirmed to be let down.

“Is Hitler still alive, or has he been replaced?” said Mr. Bismarck.

“Huh?”

“Who is your country’s leader?”

“President George Bush.”

“An elected president?”

“Yes.”

“This is allowed?”

I snorted.  “What in the world are you talking about?”

“On what day did the Allies surrender?”

“Never!”

He frowned.  “So who won the war?”

“We did, of course.”

“You mean–Germany lost the war!”

He sounded like a Nazi sympathizer, but it was wrong to judge without knowing the facts.

I said, “Of course.  Hitler’s dead.  He didn’t get rid of all the Jews, and I even know several.  I guess I won’t tell you everything, so you can see for yourself what happens when you go back to your own time.  Enjoy your defeat.”

Mr. Bismarck stood speechless for a moment.  Then he glanced at my clothes and said, “This is what women wear in 1989?”

“Well, what teen-age girls wear,” I said.

“At least I see a girl’s hair is still worn the same.”

My long brown hair was in two braids wound around the top of my head.  “Oh, no, this is just how I wear it sometimes.”

“And what is that on your pocket, a radio transmitter?”

“No, it’s a Walkman: a radio and tape player.  It plays music just for me.”

“I don’t know what all this means, but I am anxious to learn.  What’s your name?”

“Madge Rush.”

“Would you like to be my assistant, Madge?  I’d like to stay in this time period for a while, find out what it’s like to live here, find materials I wouldn’t be able to get in my time.  I need an assistant for my time travel experiments.  I will pay you.”

My face lit up.  I’d always wanted to travel in time, and I had no proof that he sided with Germany.  “Sure.  But the card already works, doesn’t it?”

“Not all the time.  As I said before, I set it for Germany, not America.  I need to improve it.”

For several months I assisted Mr. Bismarck.  He spoke little about Nazi Germany, only hinting here and there about escaping Hitler’s hypnotic mind-games.

He traded in some coins and rented a house with the money.  The coins were part of a collection he started after 1910 for just such a situation.

Whenever I had nothing better to do–and even when I did–and he didn’t need my help in an experiment, I had domestic chores:

I mowed the lawn or cleaned house with all my parents’ “modern contrivances,” such as the power lawn mower.  I could have taught him how to use them, but he believed women should do all the housework.  I grumbled.

He often kept me up into the wee hours of school mornings helping him with experiments.

My lack of sleep, loss of concentration, and hours of work cleaning his house caused my grades to suffer.

My teachers talked with me or sent letters home.  My parents, of course, were not happy.

I tried to get Mr. Bismarck to lighten up his demands on my time, but I figured that even refusing to work would do no good.

But then one day as I put away Mr. Bismarck’s vacuum cleaner, working up the nerve to quit, he said to me, “Do you know any Jews?”

“Yeah, several,” I said, a little wary.

“I’d like to have them over for tea or dinner.  I want to make up to them for what Hitler did to their people–promote healing for the past.”

Relieved, I extended Mr. Bismarck’s invitation, for 5:00 a few days later.  Most could come.

As I dusted the coffee table just before the guests were to arrive, I found my guest list lying on it and, only thinking of neatness, put it in my pocket.

Mr. Bismarck hadn’t told me to make food or even tea for the visit, yet I saw him do nothing for it.  In the back of my mind burned a suspicion.

I finished my dusting and found Mr. Bismarck sitting at the desk in the research room.  I said, “Herr, am I supposed to make any tea or anything for the visit?”

“Don’t fret yourself.  I’ll take care of the refreshments.”

“Then shouldn’t you get them ready now?  It’s almost five.”

“It is ready.”

“It is?”  Wait a minute–it?  My eyes wandered to the desktop as I turned to leave.

There lay a box of bullets.

“Um, Herr, what is that?”

“What is what?”

“Have you decided to take up hunting or protect the house from burglars?”

He stared at me without blinking.  “Are you loyal enough to me to do anything I say?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” I said.  I had no courage to defy him, no matter how much I grumbled.

“Good.  I have something for you to do.  I will show our guests into the basement.  Then you will close the door and blindfold them as I bind their wrists.  Line them up, then we will all play a little game.  A nice, simple, fun game.”

Fun for whom?  My voice quivering with terror, I said,

“You’re going to shoot them, aren’t you?  You’ve just been putting up a front, haven’t you?  You said you hated Hitler, but you’re really a Nazi after all, and you want to carry Hitler’s reign of terror into this time frame since he lost.  I should’ve known, since you’re a taskmaster like the Germans in the prison camps!”

Mr. Bismarck, unruffled, just gazed silently at me.

“I won’t be your assistant anymore, and especially not in this.  I’ll take your time card away and report you to the police and–”

He sprang up and snatched my arm.  With his free hand he opened a desk drawer and pulled out a revolver.

“You little Ally,” he hissed, twisting my arm.  “This gun is loaded, so don’t think I’m bluffing.  You are going in the basement.  Now move.”  He pointed the gun at me and I moved.

Soon after he locked me in the basement, I heard him let in the guests.  I began to form a plan.

I crept down the stairs and hid in the darkest shadows in the basement, under the staircase.  I prayed and prayed that God would help me carry out my plan.

The door opened.  The guests trudged down the stairs, followed by Mr. Bismarck.  He called for me.  I didn’t answer, so he furrowed his brow.

He made the guests tie each other’s wrists, except for the last one.  He cradled the gun in his arm and swiftly tied her up.  He made them all line up along the wall opposite me, and stood facing them.

“Now, which side should I start on?” he said, slowly moving his arm until the gun pointed at the freshman girl at the right end of the line.  She gasped.  “This side?”

I shifted into a crawling position.  Mr. Bismarck moved his arm just as slowly until the gun pointed at the junior boy at the left end of the line.  “Or this side?”

I crept up behind him and stood up.

“I think the right side will do,” he said.  “I wish I had a machine gun.  It would be so much better: I could just sweep the bullets along the line and this world would be rid of your pollution in a second.”

The junior boy caught my eye and gave me a hard look.  I mouthed the words, “Distract him.”  He said in a pleading voice,

“Mr. Bismarck, whatever you do, please don’t start with me.  I don’t want to die first.  I wouldn’t have any chance to escape–Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Mr. Bismarck pointed the gun at him.  “Is that so?  You’re first, then.”

I grabbed Bismarck’s wrist.  With a strength I didn’t know I had, I squeezed until he dropped the gun.

I let go of him and snatched up the gun before he could.  I pointed it at him and stood up.  He reluctantly put up his hands.

“Do you have your time card with you?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Then get back to your own time or I’ll shoot you.”

“Will you really?”

“Yes.  If I could get up enough courage to take your gun away, I can get up enough to shoot you.  Now get back to where you belong.”

Wait–If he had the card he’d be free to travel anywhere in time.

“I’ve got a better idea: Give me the card.”

“I’ll get back at you for this,” he said, taking the card out of his pocket.  “Don’t worry, you little Ally, I’ll find a way.  It’ll give me more pleasure than killing Jews, so I might give that up and just concentrate on you.”

“You can’t if I’ve got the card.”

As I put out my hand to take it, Mr. Bismarck punched the button and popped out to safety.

I sadly turned to the guests, rubbing my sore arm.

“I guess you guys are safe now,” I said, “but I’m not.  Anyone have a lighter or a knife?”

I cut the ropes from the guests’ wrists with a knife I found upstairs.  I took the list of names from my pocket, and burned it.

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Repost of “Losing Your Best Friend?–Or, Narcissistic Webs (Original Version)”

Excerpts from this post:

[Originally a Facebook note, meant to explain to my friends (including mutual ones with my abusers) why it was so hard for me to just forget Richard and move on.  It turned into a much larger blog post when I began adding more and more to the note.  At that time, my blog did not have the details of my story publicly posted, as it does now.  Written Tuesday, December 27, 2011.]

Some friends just drift in and out of your life.  Some hurt when they drift away, but you deal with it and move on.  Some may anger you so much that losing them doesn’t bother you.  Losing a friend is not easy in any case, but it’s far more difficult when it was that one extra-special friend, the kind that’s so rare.

All my life I had wanted the elusive bosom friend that Anne Shirley spoke of.  The friend who sticks with you for life, not a romance, not sex or marriage, which I already have, but a platonic friend.  Frodo/Sam.

….

It just seems impossible to replace him.  These were elements of our friendship which I found especially valuable and important, especially appealing, and these were the reasons I was so attached to his friendship…..

Where else am I to find someone like this?  I try to remind myself of all the violence, the self-seeking, the betrayal, yet I’m left with this gaping hole that it’s impossible to fill with anyone else, as if he were a car or a computer that can just be exchanged for something new and better.

And that, more than anything, is why I just have not been able to get over our friendship.

That’s why I still haven’t let go of the hope that one day, somehow, some way, he will repent and come back to my husband and me, ready to abandon the violence and arrogance that pushed Jeff and me away, ready to start anew.

That’s why I’m filled anew with grief every time I see him at church, he says not a word to me, and I feel I must avoid him, push him away, because of his violence and betrayal, because I can’t trust him.

….

And the most tragic thing is, I have no clue what happened.  The winter of 2009-2010, everything was fine between us all.  I don’t recall much bullying of me going on at that time, I was led to believe that the wife had long since stopped holding her inexplicable and irrational grudges against me, and everything was fine. 

But somehow, over the spring of 2010, for no reason I ever knew, they just both started being mean to me.

But as for him–I don’t know that I’ll ever get over what he did, unless he stops justifying his behavior and comes to me, and repents.  Forgive perhaps, eventually, but lose the hurt feelings?  Stop feeling betrayed by my best friend?  Stop wishing that he would do the right thing?  Probably never…..

Continue Reading: Losing Your Best Friend? Or, Narcissistic Webs (Original Version)

The Burning of St. Louis Church Distresses Fond du Lac

Please note: This is NOT about the churches burning in St. Louis, MO.  This was written years ago when Fond du Lac’s St. Louis Church, a beloved landmark, burned down.  This post was prepared and scheduled MONTHS AGO to post in October.

Details:

Story.

Story and Photo.

Video of Burning and Aftermath:

Video Tour of Church Before it Burned:

If you watch the videos, you’ll hear that St. Louis Church meant a lot to this town.  The flag on Johnson Street nearby appears to be at half-mast.

When the congregation was about to be moved into another building and the church demolished, a local group worked tirelessly to preserve the church.

And it is right across the street from my church!  When I went to Pre-Sanctified Liturgy last night, I heard all sorts of stories.  The streets were barricaded, but local traffic could get through.

The night of the fire, the police called one of our churchwomen, who was on their contact list.  She rushed to our own church to fetch various items from the office and the altar.

She wasn’t supposed to go behind the iconostasis, where the altar is, but she did anyway because it was an emergency.

She had to be allowed in the church by a policeman because they were afraid the fire would spread and/or the other steeple would come down across the street, crushing the buildings there.

Apparently she was alone for a while, because Alliant Energy cut the power (in case the church fell on a nearby power line), so there was no phone service.  She didn’t know who to call before she went, because it was very late and the Parish Council President keeps early hours.  Our priest lives in another county.

Another churchwoman who lives nearby saw the fire when she took her little dog for a walk.  She went into our church, and so did one other person.  All three worked that night to salvage what they could.

Our priest said it’s a good thing the wind wasn’t going the other direction, or else the fire would have spread to the nearby houses, the Salvation Army, and our church.  Incidentally, I used to go to the Salvation Army to help with the youth group when I went to a different church.

When our priest spoke about it at the end of the Liturgy, I saw a first-generation Greek immigrant who looked on the verge of tears.  She is a very pious woman, wears her heart on her sleeve.

Our priest said that 90 years ago, the Greek Orthodox community bought our building from the St. Louis congregation and converted it; it used to be a school.

Last night, there was police tape all the way across the street, blocking off half our parking lot, and a policeman on guard.  And the police cars were patrolling Johnson Street, which is right next to Macy St., where the churches are. I kept hearing sirens after church, and it got me jumpy because I’m afraid what’ll happen when the steeple falls.

One guy said at church that he checked behind our altar for soot, and there was none, but there was a lot of dust.  One of the ladies said, “If women were allowed back there, there wouldn’t be any dust.  You know who made that rule?  Men!”  😀

(Of course, I’ve read that the rule is actually, no laity are allowed back there without a blessing–and if a woman has a good reason and the blessing of a priest, bishop or abbess, she can go back there.)

This was adapted from an e-mail written to my close college friends and Richard on March 21, 2007.

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