It’s difficult for me to go to church these days. Not just because I’m so physically tired from working from 6 am to 10 pm the day before but because I live in fear of what I’m going to hear next.
Let me back track slightly to explain…
Since I left Zelena I have started to listen to sermons using a different litmus test. While I still examine the pastor’s words in light of Scripture, I also examine them in light of how the sermon affects victims. And that can be victims of pretty much anything, not just spousal or child abuse at the hands of supposed Christians (my specific niche). Victims of adultery, victims of rape, victims of racism, victims of, well, like I said, pretty much anything.
How do the pastor’s words convey Christ’s love and compassion toward those who, through no fault of their own, have suffered great evil?
It’s just easier to skip the sermon these days. It’s not always bad, but it has become evident to me that most pastors have no idea how to speak to victims, or how to engage with them on a personal level. Some are better than others, but most…well, this is not something we are taught growing up in Christianity, and it’s not something pastors are taught in seminary. Add to this our natural tendency to speak before we think (hey, I definitely know about that one), and it’s not hard to imagine that this is actually a problem not just for Christian pastors.
This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook feed because my stupid body is programmed to wake up at 6 and even utterly exhausted it apparently can’t rebel.
I was at first surprised when I came across the following:
I posted my reply:
When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you will be cold-hearted and unsympathetic. What other people say and do can hurt. As soon as we claim there is a way to not be hurt by painful things, we make the victim the problem.
It doesn’t surprise me that all the other replies are actually in agreement with the original statement. It’s not just Christians (conservative or liberal) who teach that “words can never hurt me,” this is pretty much a worldwide thing. The surprising thing is that this is supposed to be an abuse recovery group, but the words are actually victim blaming.
Upon further examination of the original statement I found another problem:
Nothing others do is because of you.
Um, gosh that would be nice, except that’s simply not true. Whether it’s because a person is evil and they decide to make you the focus of their hatred based on their predetermined qualifications for their victim (I’m currently in a nearly inescapable situation where a person treats me like crap because I stood up to her treating me like crap. The others she treated this way tolerated it, and she loves them. I think you can see where my problem lies.), or because the person is reacting to an evil done to them, many, many things others do is because of another person. Words like “nothing” and “no one” and “never” should cause us to instantly react with a deeper examination of what is being said because, well, to be ironic, it’s never “nothing.” 😀
(If you’re American and you don’t understand that reference, I pity you.)
The level of victim blaming here is in every corner of every culture, from the notion that “there’s always someone out there who has it worse than you so shut up and be thankful for (insert your problem–ie he only hits you at least he hasn’t killed you), to the idea that you can somehow become so stoic that other people’s words and actions just roll off you. Instead of the truth, that some people’s words and actions are the equivalent of them hitting you with a semi at 65mph.
The sermons I’ve heard and the essays I’ve read on how your reaction is your own fault are multitudinous (what a freaking ostentatious word, but it fits eh?), and they are all crap. Sure, you shouldn’t kill someone, and you shouldn’t hurt them back (well, unless you are fighting ultrons, then it’s OK).
(Shameless Captain America *sigh* moment.)
But if you cry because someone is cruel to you, or if you get angry at the evil around you, or if you have PTSD because some perv decided to make you his sex toy when you were a child, let me say this as clearly as I can…
For f***** sake, it’s THEIR damn fault, not yours.
Victim blaming is inexcusable, whether done by religious people or not, but when it’s done by groups or people who are claiming to help victims, it is a horror.