There’s a curtain of silence which sits in both the church and the culture-at-large. It is a curtain that shields horrifying realities which I have not experienced personally, but which over time I have been invited into by a growing number of people I know who have and are experiencing the horror and its fallout firsthand.
Perhaps you are one who has been on the receiving end of the horror. Statistics tell us that there are more of you out there than we know or imagine. The curtain of silence can fool us into believing it’s nowhere near as widespread as it really is. Add to that the fact that perpetrators of the horrors of abuse are masterful at hiding it, and it can remain invisible to everyone but the victims. . . which of course sets those victims on a course into a lifetime of deep pain, hurt, and shame. And when the systems that should be coming to the aid of the victims are complicit in perpetration of abuse through silence, denial, or even blind-eyed-support of perpetrators. . . the horror only increases.
My personal story is one where I had never to my knowledge known an abuser or one who was abused. I realize now that even though I can’t name perpetrators or victims from those early naive years, they had been there. My eyes were opened just over 35 years ago when a living and breathing young victim came into our lives as the curtain of silence was being pulled back on her difficult story. Since then the stories have snowballed in number as the curtain of silence, thankfully, is being pulled back. Sadly, some of the most high-profile stories reveal the presence of abuse in the church. . . perpetrated by leaders in the church.
Earlier this year I read Rachel Denhollander’s What Is A Girl Worth?, a difficult but necessary read. Later, I read Dr. Diane Langberg’s brand new book, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church. I don’t know of anyone in the church who has a better understanding of perpetrators and victims than Diane Langberg. Her decades of counseling victims of abuse has given her a position of prominence from which to pull back the curtain of silence in ways that are not only necessary, but which will put us all on a path to understanding and confronting the horrors of abuse, along with the horribly inept and even sinful ways we’ve addressed/not addressed the issue in the church. In no uncertain terms she tells us about the presence of wolves in sheep’s clothing who use the church to indulge their sin. . . and the systems that all-too-often defend the wolves. With all we know now, we cannot deny this to be the case.
All of us would do well to read Diane Langberg’s book, especially if we are pastors, youth workers, and church leaders who no-doubt have many victims of abuse as part of our flocks. . . whether we know it or not. But that isn’t the only reason we should read her book. Our positions of power and authority make us especially susceptible to indulging our own broken and sinful selves through the abuse of those under our care. I know too many of those stories as well. And if you’re foolish enough to think that this would never be you. . . well, you’ve already taken one big step in that direction.
Earlier this week we posted the latest episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast which features a compelling conversation with Diane Langberg about abuse and her new book. Having known Diane for several decades now, I knew that this conversation would wind up being one of the most important podcast conversations I’ve ever had. Since the episode dropped, I’ve had a few people reach out to say “Thanks.” Some have listened through tears. . . care-givers and victims of abuse alike. One has even told me that listening has launched a journey onto the path of healing.
On this week when we celebrate the coming of The Good Shepherd into the world, it is appropriate that we ponder the reality and reach of some of the ugliest sin which has gripped our world. It is in knowing the truth depth of our sin that we come to appreciate the One who willingly came to save us from ourselves. Take some time to listen in to our conversation with Diane Langberg. . .