Friday, May 22, 2015

Sex Abuse and the Church

So, by now we've all heard the horrific news that Josh Duggar sexually abused several young girls, including some of his sisters. Why is this news? This happens all over the place in all kinds of families. This is news because the Duggar family presents themselves on a reality show as model of how living in a large, close, purity-culture family can result in children who grow up without the problems of the culture at large. Information of sexual abuse within the family negates this kind of assertion. It's also news in our culture because we are watching how poorly local churches and the Church writ large handle sexual abuse among our brothers and sisters.

Thank God, I've never been sexually abused, assaulted, or traumatized. Unfortunately, I've been affected by it in churches with which I've been associated throughout my life - and it hasn't been pretty. Churches are screwed up when it comes to sin - likely more so than the rest of the culture.

Churches don't want to admit any kind of sexual abuse has happened among our own because we don't want to admit to sin. We use phrases like "protecting the name of Christ". Honestly, do we want to be associated with a God who can't protect his own name? We are afraid to admit that something sinful might have happened among our sinful members!!

But, yet, the church is the one place where we say we can handle sin! We know Jesus who offers grace! I'm not suggesting that we offer "cheap grace" and that as soon as a sex offender says "I'm sorry" that we let the person back in church leadership, but I am saying that the church needs to get over "making Jesus look bad" by trying to keep our sin secret.

Many churches have also decided that they can handle everything within their own walls and don't need help from outside sources. Ummmmm, this is actually illegal when we're talking about sexual assault and minors being sexually abused. Clergy are mandatory reporters and are required to report illegal acts to law enforcement. It is also important for victims to get appropriate counseling, from someone with adequate training. Most churches don't have these resources in-house.

I've seen at least one church almost fall apart over a sexual victimization case. It didn't have to be that way. In another case, the church leadership listened to the victim and took the person seriously. 

But you know what? It's not like one case ended happily and the other didn't. One ended a little better, but sexual abuse and assault are never pretty. They are sin. One person is using their sexual power over another person. How awful!! The perpetrator requires much work in their life to deal with the sin. The victim, even with adequate counseling, is going to be affected for the rest of their life.

What can I do about this? What can you do about this? It depends on who you are. I'm a mom of two young adults. I've tried to raise them in a loving, open, non-legalistic environment to be compassionate adults. I pray for them daily. Otherwise, I can pray for the church (local and global) and our response to sexual abuse. And, when I find out about abuse, I can stand up about it and not let it lie. Victims deserve to be heard. They must be loved and cared for. Perpetrators must be exposed and not allowed to hurt anyone else. They require care of a very different kind.

What you can do depends on where you are in life and what you do. If you work with kids, keep your eyes and ears open! And believe the children! If you work in a church environment, stay sane and remember that hiding sin is never the answer! And, pray. Always, pray!!

P.S. Here are a couple of the best articles I've seen on the topic so far:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Miss Homeschooling - Kind of

Rosie Girl and Wild Man have both been primarily homeschooled. Rosie Girl was in 3 year old preschool and then took some middle school and high school classes at the public school. Wild Man did 3 year old and 4 year old preschool as well as taking middle school and high school classes.

Rosie Girl completed high school through twelfth grade by homeschooling and is finishing her second year at UW Stevens Point studying music. She's making all As&Bs (while being convinced that she's failing).  She wants to compose and is making her first forays into composition this semester. She's also going to be taking some jazz piano lessons. And she teaches tap dance at a local dance studio. And she's now on the market for a more steady job to add to the teaching. Ah, the life of an adult.

 Are there things I would do differently? Absolutely! Would I send her to full-time public school? Not unless she really wanted to go. I think homeschooling was a great choice for her. Rosie Girl is, by nature, introverted and creative. Home education gave her a great chance to pursue lots of her creative venues, including writing, poetry, drawing, and music. She played piano, ocarina, and guitar. She took and taught dance class and took piano lessons. She also took art class at the high school and was part of the poetry club. Being introverted certainly didn't mean she was bored! But, it appears that home education has pretty well prepared her for college and work.

This year, we sent Wild Man to Wega-Fremont High School for 11th grade. Can I be honest for a minute and tell you how worried I was? I wasn't worried about the social side of things? In fact, I wasn't sure he could be quiet enough to get through a class!! And, I was more than a bit stressed about the whole dyslexia thing - he reads and writes well, but not quickly.

So, he started in a pretty routine set of classes. But, for math, he was in Geometry instead of Algebra 2 because he got behind in math because we were working so hard on reading in late elementary and middle school. And, he isn't in American History since he's already had that class in homeschooling. However, he's in the National Honor Society!! He must be doing OK on the academics and social stuff and volunteer work at school! He also got the Musicianship Award for 11th Grade for Band this year! And was the lead in the school play - Pippin!! And got an Exemplary at State Solo and Ensemble for his Musical Theater Solo and a First for his Classical Solo and a Second for his Snare Solo and a Second for the Percussion Ensemble.

It's been a good year! He's thriving. And planning to study Algebra 2 over the summer so he can take Pre-Calculus next year along with Physics and AP English 12. And he has a couple of jobs. I think he'll be ready for college next year, too. And ready for the world after college, too.

But, I kind of miss homeschooling. I don't miss having to set up notebooks and make sure that the kids were actually doing the reading or watching the DVDs or lectures or whatever. I liked that they were home for more of the day with me. During practice for the play, Wild Man would get home at 8:30 or 9pm. I go to bed around ten, so we didn't get much time to just hang out. At least during the summer, even if he's working, he's at home for part of the day. We can just be with each other. And Rosie Girl will be with us again this summer. 

They're getting so old and are going to start having apartments where they live all the time. And I don't even want to think about the fact that they might need to move away from here to chase their dreams. But, PWM and I have loved our children and talked to them and prayed about our choices and prayed with our children as we launch them on the world.

I think so far, the choices have worked out well. The first two years of Rosie Girl at UWSP have been quite successful. The first year of Wild Man at Wega-Fremont has been also successful. And, I should add, that PWMs year at Wega-Fremont as a math teacher has also been successful. And we look forward to a happy and productive summer!!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Nepal, Doubt, Aquinas, Lament

There are days when I get overwhelmed by doubt about the whole God thing. I'm sure it happens to some of you. Of not. Maybe I have a weak faith.

Technically, I don't wrestle with the existence of God. I would never become a true atheist. I find Aquinas' "first cause" argument and teleological arguments very convincing. I don't think I could ever look at the world and think that it just came into existence without some supernatural help.

But, natural disasters like the earthquake in Nepal are my theological downfall. They make me want to be a deist. On my Facebook feed was posted a picture of a baby rescued over a day after the earthquake, which really is amazing. People were sharing the picture and commenting how God was really looking out for this little one. I just wanted to cry out, "But what about the thousand other little ones?! Was God taking a break then?"

I know that there's some mature, Christian answer to this about it all being God's plan, etc., etc., but I'm not a Calvinist for a reason. It makes God a monster. And the God described in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is a loving and merciful God, not a monster.

So, what is a reasonable response to this without going flat out agnostic or deist? I think it starts with lament. There are several places in the Bible that we see lament: Job, Psalms, and Lamentations (along with a few other places in the major and minor prophets). These are scriptures where humans are crying out to God for justice and mercy. This is a legitimate request. When are you going to restore Jerusalem? Yes, we broke the covenant, but have we paid enough yet? OUr enemies are crushing us, Lord; when will you save us?

I prefer the book of Lamentations. A bit more than halfway through, Jeremiah (the author) suddenly says this:
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
I'm not quite sure HOW he is able to say this, but he does. In the book of Job, Job is talking to his friends about how God has deserted him, but then he says this:25 
I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

Again, Job is hanging on to his faith in the midst of his crisis. But, he is doing so honestly, through his lament.

He is not presenting a triumphalism that isn't real. He isn't trying to say that life is great when it's not. This isn't the Evangelical "happy clappy" "let's show  the world how great life is because we're Christians" kind of airbrushing. He and Jeremiah and the writer of the Psalms are honest and open about how rotten life is. Yet, they cling to what they know.

And I will do the same thing. I am following Jesus. Even when the world around me is crumbling. Even when earthquakes kill thousands of people for reasons I will never fathom. Even when there are riots that I don't understand. Even when I have chronic illness and am stuck not doing what I thought was my calling in life. Because I know that my redeemer lives. And because of the Lord's great love, I am not consumed, his compassions are new every morning.

Join me in lament and prayer for all the horrible things that are going wrong in the world. And let's hang on to the truth of Jesus and not give up.