People (Not) Like Us

There is great joy in being a follower of Christ. And yet, the more I study the Gospel of Luke the more I am reminded that to be serious in such discipleship will occasion moments of great tension. The Kingdom Jesus brings is different in many key ways from the worlds in which we have been immersed. It should not surprise us, therefore, that his words can bring DIScomfort as easily as comfort.

In Luke 14, for example, Jesus attempts to remove the blinders from a man who had hosted a dinner party.

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

My wife and I like to think of ourselves as hospitable. But, if I’m honest, I must say that it is HARDER for me to be hospitable to those unlike me. And what is hard, I often avoid. I live with that tension.

I was reminded of the call toward those not like us in the comments from a friend who was reflecting on the movie Spotlight which I’ve referenced here, here, and here. She challenges us to the uncomfortable task of loving, listening to, and trying to understand those different from us, particularly those damaged by abuse and other forms of injustice. Her comments (shared in part here, and with permission) encourage reflection.

They need our love and our support and the only way they are going to have it is when we aren’t afraid to confront the elephant in the room [abuse]. Unfortunately, it’s easier to close our eyes and disassociate from everything that makes us uncomfortable. And I realize this is part of human nature. But I also believe that often so called non-Christians stand up for far more than those of us who call ourselves Christian. We get so focused on historical facts of the church and we are quick to debate theology but we change the subject and refuse to discuss the real issues at hand. We don’t want to discuss abuse, depression, addictions, family issues, or things that aren’t ‘churchy’. This drives people towards hopelessness for where else can they go? We tend to shy away from people that we view as weird or different, and although we claim to love everyone and be grace filled, we avoid those with big issues.

Christians just want to play it safe, to stay in the comfort zone where everything is peachy and…happy all the day. The reality is that there are some not so wonderful things transpiring under our very noses, marriages that are falling apart, children who are hurting because of a divided family, people who contemplate suicide or those that have addictions, people who have been victims of sexual and domestic abuse. We call ourselves family, and promise to stand beside them, to be a ‘hope’ to the community. So, why not discuss it? I think if we got more comfortable with transparency, and tried to get to know the story of those that may be different, we would see an extremely positive affect on our communities.

As one who finds it easier to close my eyes to everything that makes me uncomfortable I need, and am grateful for, these words.

Roman Catholic Response to Spotlight

Steven Greydanus (decentfilms.com) is a film reviewer whose point of view I greatly respect. I commend him to you. He is also a Roman Catholic. His take on Spotlight (a movie we’ve discussed here and here) as a Roman Catholic is worth noting.

Recently, this was posted to Twitter by a Father Kevin Cusick:

Spotlight places in @DecentFilms top 10: I found it a bit shallow on abuse cause, superficial in treatment of Church

Greydanus (@DecentFilms), over several tweets, responded with this:

FWIW, Catholic response to #Spotlight has been positive. http://bit.ly/1RNfhC7

As with any historical film, one can take issue with Spotlight on individual points (I do).

It’s important to recognize that Spotlight presents subjective experiences/opinions of characters…

…who helped expose abuse/coverup. Sadly, these journalists etc. were mostly alienated from the Church…

…because church leaders and others in the Church didn’t take responsibility for cleaning up our own house.

If church leaders had done their job, we would control the narrative. They didn’t and we don’t.

Despite their anti-Church animus, the [Boston] Globe reporters did us a service. The film is their story, not ours.

His full review is here.

More on Spotlight

My comments on the movie Spotlight last week spawned a thoughtful and articulate response from a reader. I did not want all her effort and insight to get lost buried in a comment and so she consented to allowing the comment in it’s entirety to be posted here. Thanks, Suzanne, for your contribution to this conversation!

I appreciate your willingness to address ‘the elephant in the room’. This is huge!

You make an excellent point, that abuse is not a Catholic issue, but rather a problem in Protestant churches as well. Whether is it physical abuse, sexual abuse, or verbal abuse, our churches, and our country, is filled with it. I think it has become a problem within the church for several reasons, it is rarely addressed, predators have unsupervised access to children, parents are blind to the facts, (or they ignore them) and when predators do confess, members are not informed of the potential threat. I also believe that we tend to turn off our ‘intuitions’ and so the signs go undetected. If we did happen to suspect something suspicious, we would probably ignore it in the belief that God will protect our children, or that we shouldn’t think bad thoughts about our fellow brothers/sisters. Sadly, the abuse goes on and it takes years before the victims come forward, usually after much anguish and turmoil of feeling like perhaps it was their fault. Even more pathetic is the fact that when they finally come forward, they are met by leaders who want to cover it up. Leaders inflict additional damage by reinforcing the fact that it must have been something they had done to cause the person to ‘lust’ after them. In the countless cases I have known, when the abuse was exposed, the emphasis was to ‘love’ and ‘forgive’ the abuser. Oddly, those who preach unconditional love and forgiveness for all, withdrew from the victim, leaving them helpless and hurting. I personally have NEVER seen where the ‘victim’ was wrapped in love and supported. Actually, I have NEVER seen where the victim was shown the ‘grace’ that the abuser was shown, but rather the opposite. This results in a victim wondering why God abandoned them and why the church abandoned them. The scars are carried throughout their life.

The thing about being abused, is that you know the signs and you can sense a predator almost upon first observance. Perhaps the awareness helps by saving a victim or two. I think predators know when someone can see through them. Perhaps we should all tune into our intuitions and be more vigilant. I don’t think Christ would stand silently by while predators attacked the children he loved so much, nor do I think he would have been silent at the men/women who abuse either verbally or physically.

Thank you for reminding us that we must not get complacent and that we must address these issues. I am grateful for Marci Preheim and Sarah Taras, and for movies like “Spotlight’ that bring about awareness. I am very grateful that you are willing to bring to light the ‘hidden’ things. I appreciate your transparency for it says to every victim that there is someone who cares, and someone who will be their advocate. This is a tremendous aid in their healing process.

Some alarming stats below.

“Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children. The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.” -National Child Abuse Hotline