I saw this letter in the December issue of Sojourners. I share it here because it is often difficult to share our stories, yet can be helpful to others. Perhaps this letter will support someone else making a difficult decision. Thanks for writing, Lois Halley!
Ruth Everhart’s article “Even In Cases of Rape” in the August 2017 issue helped me with a difficult decision. For years, I hung in with the church of my roots where three generations of my family were christened, married, and died. As a child, I witnessed behaviors by some clergy that I now know were grievous sins. As an adult, I listened to a pastor who told us 9/11 was God’s punishment for homosexuals and women who had abortions. When I questioned at a meeting why our church would not permit women to attend seminaries or become deacons, I was snubbed by the congregation. Feeling that I was in a spiritual crisis, I sent a heartfelt letter to our bishop, our spiritual leader, but received no reply. Still, I remained tied to my church, albeit by a thin thread. Thank you, Pastor Everhart, for helping me to finally cut that thread and pursue a church that is more godly.
What a treat to spend an hour in conversation with Michelle McKormick! We hardly stopped for a breath — there’s not even a station break. Michelle is dynamic, curious, and a people-lover — exactly what a radio host needs to be.
“Sound Off West Michigan” is on WJRW 1340 AM in Grand Rapids — the city where the “Heritage Hill Rape Robbery” took place in 1978. Michelle and I talk about the crime that “ruined” me and the events that followed, including the faith journey that spanned a decade.
Here is a pdf of a Readers Theater version of the story of Tamar, found in 2 Samuel 13.
I took some time to respond to the #MeToo movement. I decided to focus on contempt and gender inequality in the church. You can read it over at Sojourners: I Am a Pastor and Rape Survivor. #MeToo Is an Opportunity for the Church.
Last weekend I led a workshop called Shame: Hope & Healing in Vancouver, BC. What timing! The topic of sexual assault has been all over the news lately — stories of powerful men held to account for past behaviors. Women have been emboldened by the #MeToo campaign and are coming forward with their stories of abuse.
Allegations may have begun with Harvey Weinstein, but they have extended beyond Hollywood. In politics, in business — and in churches — there are powerful men who have abused and assaulted women — and others who have colluded and enabled that abuse. The media saturation of #MeToo made for extra tenderness around the subject of our workshop, but it also brought immediacy to our work. One thing we did was wrestle with a scripture story about sexual assault by powerful men. Five intrepid volunteers performed a reader’s theater version of the story of Tamar (2 Samuel 13).
(To receive the Readers Theater manuscript in a free PDF, sign up in the right sidebar.)
A big thank you to these volunteers reading the parts (left to right): Jonadab, Tamar, Narrator, Absalom, Amnon.
Perhaps you remember the characters in Tamar’s story: Jonadab (the crafty colluder), Amnon (the rapist, a half-brother), and Absalom (the revengeful brother). All three of the men abuse Tamar: by setting up the abuse, by actively raping, or by silencing her afterward. Absalom uses Tamar’s trauma as an excuse for revenge in order to enlarge his own holdings. Certainly the legacy of David’s abuse of Bathsheba lives on through his sons.
Meanwhile, Tamar’s plea echoes: Where can I carry my shame? (more…)
When I talk to groups about my memoir, one of the topics I address is the role of outrage in the Christian life. After I was raped at gunpoint I was nearly crippled by fear, terror, and fury. The world I lived in seemed outrageous to me. It’s not surprising that most Christians shy away from experiencing, or expressing, outrage and other strong emotions. After all, these emotions are painful to experience and dangerous to express. (more…)
Everyone has to leave home eventually (although I do know one fella who never did, he just outlived his parents!). Perhaps what differs is the manner in which we leave.
What was it like when you left home? Did you launch happily, feeling supported and connected, or did you burn rubber on your way out? In my case, an unfortunate event — or yes, a series of them — catapulted me into the ether and sent me into free-fall.
Perhaps some of you have a story similar to mine — you found yourself loving Jesus, but not the church that introduced you to him, and you had to escape. (more…)
My Unpublished Chapter: Skin in the Game
One of the chapters in my memoir manuscript was pulled before publication because it mentions the “hot topic” of abortion. I was upset that the chapter was cut because it relates an important part of my story — the moment I decided to leave the church of my upbringing.
But eventually I understood that the publisher wanted to give my work its best chance. They knew their readers would be likely to boycott anything that was open to the possibility of abortion, even in the aftermath of sexual assault.
Now that my memoir has been out in the world for almost a year — wearing a sticker that says it won an award from the evangelical flagship, Christianity Today — it’s time to circle back to that missing chapter.
Sojourners, which is a Christian magazine from the progressive side of things (because there are many ways to be Christian), published the chapter as a stand-alone essay in their August issue. It’s titled “Skin in the Game.” Read it here.
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer. I just never imagined I would write about rape. Instead, I imagined traveling the world to research “The 25 Most Adventurous Vacations,” or maybe I’d create a brightly colored board book about baby hippos who wear polkadot tutus. I thought writing would be full of excitement, fun and whimsy!
But sometimes our life’s journey makes other choices for us. Choosing to be happy means choosing to embrace the unchosen topics that come our way. So here’s another unchosen topic that has grabbed ahold of me recently: menstrual hygiene in Africa.
We live at a time when sexual violence is commonplace and even sanctioned in subtle ways. The downfall of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly — followed immediately by his receiving a $25 million severance and new podcast — shows how slick and impenetrable a powerful man can be. Perhaps certain parts of a woman really are up for grabs in America. At the very least, her skin is much more vulnerable than the Teflon suit a high-profile abuser wears.
How does religion fit in? People of faith might hope that churches would respond to victims with compassion, but that is often not the case. Religious leaders tend to focus on the issue of purity — especially sexual purity. Their questions add pain to an already traumatized victim. What were you wearing? How much did you drink? Did you know him? Did you fight him? The underlying message is this: You were in some way culpable.