It started when I was a child. This underlying buzz of frustration. It was, in hindsight, directly related to the religious ideal of Truth.
In Christianity, at least, Truth is supposed to be paramount. Only that isn’t what I saw from childhood on.
I’m not talking about those little lies and big fish stories everyone tells. Those actually are hardly important. I’m talking about blatant untruths and overt suppression of the truth that Christians claim to care about so much. Truth is, they don’t.
Truth is, from what I’ve seen, hardly anyone cares about it. Again, I’m not talking about small things, I’m talking about the big ones like voting for a guy who brags about grabbing women by the pussy while you judge the unwed mother. That kind of truth.
Christians claim that God’s Word is Truth. Yet going from one church to the next you have to realize that what Christians really believe is that their interpretation of God’s Word is Truth. The truly horrifying thing is that almost none of them will admit that.
As I watched over the years I saw pastors, elders, leaders, and lay people, all engaged in outright lies and suppression of truth. I saw women and men who were victims of what the Bible itself called sins, turned away from the church by people who were actively trying to keep anyone from the truth.
I would talk with these people and I couldn’t reconcile what they were telling me with what the preachers said about Truth. It didn’t make sense that people who would rail against members of their congregation for using speed radar detectors and fudging on their taxes would turn around and ask someone to keep quiet about their spouse’s adultery or abuse.
After I began studying abuse a few years ago, the list of stories grew and that frustration began to turn to anger. I saw that it wasn’t just one church, or one type of church, that was participating in this suppression, it is every single church. And, even worse, it is almost every single member of those churches that assist this suppression. In fact, it is a rare thing to find people in a church who want the truth to be known. When I find them now, I am utterly amazed.
After I renounced all religion I still had these same frustrated feelings. It was still difficult to deal with religious people and their outright lies and their intentional ignorance.
Then one day I was watching a video of Donald Prothero on the evidence for evolution and in the part of the discussion about the Right’s opposition to it he said something that changed my view of everyone and everything:
“They don’t care about truth, they care about redemption.”
While everything else he said was helpful and informative, this statement finally explained everything I’ve ever seen in the church, and even outside it.
People don’t care about truth. They care about their own survival. And people attach their religion to their ability to survive so closely that to say something against their religion is to threaten their lives. It’s why Muslims freak out about people speaking against Allah. It’s why Christians claim to be suffering persecution here in the US. But for my purposes I will stick with how this affects victims.
In our society, which in America has been formed by the Protestant church, and to a lesser extent, the Catholic church, victims have almost no rights. It’s in our constitution, actually. Now, I understand the intent of the framers, but it doesn’t diminish how it has reinforced a culture in which a person who is a victim of a crime is looked on as having something wrong with them.
That view was always in place. With or without the constitution we’d still feel there must have been something the victim, or the victim’s parents, did to deserve or bring upon themselves what happened.
Rape? Well, she was probably being suggestive or wearing the wrong clothing.
Child rape? Well, the parents should have known there was something off about that person they trusted with their child. Or, in the case of a father raping a child, well, obviously the wife wasn’t pleasing him sexually so he couldn’t help himself.
If you think I’m kidding, you have lived your life either very sequestered from church people or you have chosen to ignore what people are saying.
When I first started speaking out about abuse I was contacted by several women within my own church about their own stories. Most of them were still married to their abuser. Many of those women still are married to their abuser.
I did not name names as I spoke with others but over time I got the very strong feeling that nobody cared. On the few occasions I spoke with pastors about it, they couldn’t get away, or make excuses, fast enough.
It made me confused and angry. Didn’t these people who say they love God and His Word want the truth to be told?
See, victims are useless in the Christian narrative. The best people for a Sunday morning sermon illustration, are those who have been the ones who caused all the pain in the first place. The rapist who came to Christ in his prison cell, the child molestor who realized the error of his ways, the death row inmate who “prays the prayer” before he goes to the chair. THOSE are the only stories that interest religion.
The woman whose husband has been abusing her their whole marriage, whose children ended up in abusive relationships because they know no better, who has a strained relationship with her children because her husband has treated her with contempt and made her crazy, there is no space for her story in the sermon.
The rape victim, be they female, child, or male, has no place in the narrative, unless they somehow brought their rapist to Christ. Then they have place on a podium in a stadium.
The addict’s family that has suffered for decades because of that person’s actions, they only have a place in the story if they have no hard feelings for the evil done to them. The spouse of the addict who has watched his or her children follow in the addict parent’s footsteps…well, it’s probably their fault somehow.
This is really how you think if you are the ones in the majority who have done absolutely nothing about victims in the church. If you ignore the fact that child rapists are treated better in the church than the child victims, if you think that it’s something happening at other churches, not at yours, if your answer to everything is “I’m praying for you” or, sickeningly, a la God’s Not Dead movie, “God is good all the time.” (Said over the body of someone who just died a painful death.) Then you are a suppressor of truth.
But, that’s how it’s bound to happen because we only want to hear how our god, our method of living, our teachings, are working.
Ultimately, it’s not just the truth of science that people don’t want, it’s all truth that would interfere in what we consider redemption. This is true of your pastor, and it’s true of motivational speakers. If it doesn’t work for people, then we don’t want to hear it. Because then it becomes a threat to our way of living. We might have to actually question and examine whether or not we are right, and if we are wrong, what then?
There are only a slim number of people who care about the truth. I, myself, have fallen into this mindset at times where if it doesn’t match with what I think is true, I’m going to ignore it or I’m going to fight against it, even if there are facts to prove me wrong.
It’s not easy to set aside what we believe for the sake of truth. But the alternative is to hurt the suffering and Christians claim that Jesus told them to help the suffering. It’s high time you do.