Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–The Book I Waited 45 Years for it to be Written!

Redeeming Power by trauma psychologist Diane Langberg is the best book I’ve seen that introduces, equips, and challenges Christian leaders to deal with systemic abuse and historic oppression. Buy it, savor it, share it!

I have survived multiple situations of spiritual abuse by people in positions of power in churches, ministries, and non-profits—starting from my early 20s in the mid-1970s, and going into my 50s in the mid-2000s. I’ve invested much time over the last 15 years processing those destructive experiences and writing about what helped me understand and heal from them, and that supports other survivors.

If it had been available in 1975, I know Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church by Diane Langberg would’ve given me great comfort and confidence in my observations about sick spiritual systems when my local church started spinning into a four-way split, each faction with abusive doctrines and practices. That three-year experience from 1975 to 1978 of devolution into division brought me to the brink of questioning whether to continue in my faith as a young Christian—or to ditch it. I wasn’t crazy, and we were being controlled by false authorities who demanded unconditional submission to them, not Jesus. But, if that was what “church” was, it was evil!

The only resources available to reset my spiritual GPS in the aftermath of that trauma were the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and a very few Christians I could trust enough to talk with about what happened. There would be NO books on spiritual abuse recovery for another 15 years. The first Christian books on identifying and dealing with religious toxicity go back to the early 1990s. Then and now, most of these aim to serve abuse survivors and their support networks. Far fewer targeted pastoral care and counseling professionals, or church and denominational leaders.

Thankfully, in the last 30 years we’ve seen a significant increase in knowledge about tactics and destructive impacts from various forms of abuse/violence. We have far more resources available on post-traumatic stress, recovery from abuse, and finding purpose beyond the trauma. There have been stronger, more focused critiques of malignant individuals and toxic institutions in both Church and community. Advocates from different kinds of survivor communities have gotten connected, especially since the #MeToo movement and its related Christian streams. More recently, we’ve started to see a better understanding about systems, power dynamics, and how people and processes interconnect—all crucial concepts if we are to discern, detail, and dismantle systemic abuse and generational oppression.

So many constructive changes for abuse survivors in three decades! But, still lagging far behind is the production of educational and training resources to bring leaders in Christian organizations. They desperately need to get up to speed on abuse identification, intervention, and prevention. Redeeming Power contributes greatly to filling in that gap.

It is the book I’ve waited 45 years for, but didn’t know at the onset that this is exactly what leaders and abuse survivors needed. I grew in my understanding of systemic abuse along the way, by those multiple toxic experiences over the 30-year period from 1990 to now. So now I have a sense of where this book fits in relation to what we need.

Meanwhile, overlapping with the timeframe of my first traumatizing church experiences in the 1970s, Dr. Langberg began her professional career. This means she was developing as a practitioner and theoretician at the same time the modern discipline of trauma psychology was emerging and deepening. A humble professional, she became a student of survivors of abuse/violence, learning via listening to grasp the scope and nature of trauma, health, post-traumatic growth. This unique history amplifies her credibility to speak to leaders about the impact of abuse and the importance of acting as Christ would to minister to survivors.

In her timely capstone work, Dr. Langberg shares the distillation of learnings from the span of her career. She’s gifted us with a Grand Tour volume—so expect an emphasis on big picture themes and key concepts, not a highly detailed textbook or visually-oriented training manual. Consider it more as one-to-one conversations with Dr. Langberg, sharing from the heart her experiences, conclusions from years of listening to survivors, and how those seeped to the surface gradually. Even with her personable narrative style, she interweaves material that is distinctively:

  • COMPREHENSIVE on sources of abuse: cultural, emotional, financial, physical, political, racial, sexual, social class, spiritual, systemic, verbal. Her case studies often show how perpetrators use multiple forms of abuse to entrap victims and then silence them.
  • BALANCED in examining both individual situations and institutional systems, “healthy/robust” versus “toxic/sick,” in congregation and community.
  • INTEGRATIVE so we see how people and processes, situations and structures, are all interconnected in systems. This systems perspective is crucial; without that framework we cannot identify “systemic abuse” or “historic oppression” and invest in constructive change.
  • PRACTICAL materials that are accessible and applicable for different target audiences: survivors, support/advocate people, and ministry leaders/professionals. She also references select case studies that are more commonly known and that represent typical issues, tactics, and consequences regarding abuse.
  • TIMELY for guiding us in this era of extreme social unrest that involves conflict between genders, races, cultures, political perspectives, and theoretical versus incarnational approaches to Christianity.

Dr. Langberg does not deal with every theology or denomination. And indeed, it is not necessary because EVERY theological stream has shown itself capable of promoting and protecting abusive people. Instead, she offers general principles for bringing light into any/all forms of darkness that attempt to cover abuse-inducing deficiencies and defects. She does address some systems, such as abuse in the Southern Baptist Church, Roman Catholicism, Willow Creek Association, Harvest Bible Church, and Sankey Orphanage—along with examples from American culture: Larry Nassar, Boy Scouts of America, Harvey Weinstein, and Jeffrey Epstein.

She also consistently brings our focus back onto basic truths that should motivate us in why we treat all people with dignity and respect:

  • God makes all people in His image.
  • That design makes each person sacred and of value to Him, and therefore to us.
  • Jesus entered our world to bring light into the darkness and love to benefit others.
  • No one deserves abuse or silencing; all deserve advocacy and protecting.
  • To support survivors of abuse and serve them requires us to listen and learn more than we speak.

I am grateful to have Redeeming Power for such a time as this. The past 25 years, I have spent a lot of time with seminary students and graduates, church planters, social change agents, and ministry leaders. I see the arrival of this book as an answer to long-time prayers of many abuse survivors to challenge and equip our leaders. If they master the concepts Dr. Langberg sets forth, they are far more likely to discern misuses of authority, avoid idolatrous deception, and engage in fruitful ministry through the congregations and organizations they are charged by the Great Shepherd to oversee.

And Dr. Langberg is quite pointed that Christians who serve as pastors, role models, and leaders have greater responsibility to guard against soul-hijackers who seek to co-opt and drain people for their own benefit. So, Christlike character is the measure of legitimate leadership—not charisma, gifts, skills, platform, or accomplishments.

With such an emphasis on Christ, no wonder it feels like her every paragraph has something for the heart worth highlighting. Her writing is theologically rich, devotionally deep, intellectually integrative, appealing to conscience, challenging our volition. Buy it, savor it, share it!

Note: I was on the launch team for Redeeming Power and received an advanced reader’s digital copy of Dr. Langberg’s book.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church is now available. Check out Dr. Langberg’s website or the Brazos Press webpage for additional information about the book plus links to sources for ordering.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

Facebook, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

Twitter, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–On Reversing Trauma and Evil

This quote from Dr. Langberg’s forthcoming book struck a chord for me. It’s worth reflecting on in this era of bitter polarization we’re experiencing, for considering what it means to be agents of support/healing instead of agents of abuse/damage.

Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church is available for pre-order. Check out Dr. Langberg’s website or the Brazos Press webpage for additional information about the book plus links to sources for pre-ordering. The book will be released Tuesday, October 20.

This futuristguy post on related thoughts on the significance of being agents of support/healing instead of agents of abuse/damage amplifies why I believe Dr. Langberg’s Christ-centered, redemptive approach is crucial in our times, which are riddled with anger, bitterness, and abuse.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

Facebook, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

Twitter, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Book Giveaway on Goodread

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of *Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church* by Diane Langberg. Drawing/release date of October 20th.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/308937

A little about the book: Power has a God-given role in human relationships and institutions, but it can lead to abuse when used in unhealthy ways. Speaking into current #MeToo and #ChurchToo conversations, this book shows that the body of Christ desperately needs to understand the forms power takes, how it is abused, and how to respond to abuses of power.

See the Brazos Press publisher’s webpage for details about Redeeming Power, plus links.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

Facebook, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

Twitter, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Overview Video

I feel privileged to serve on Dr. Langberg’s launch team for Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos Press; 2020). It is available for pre-order and the release date is scheduled for October 20th. I believe this book is certain to become a standard resource for vital, Christlike ministry to survivors of all forms of abuse, violence, and oppression. Watch for more videos, excerpts, and reviews on #redeemingpower

Meanwhile, check out this brief video by Dr. Langberg. In just over a minute, she eloquently summarizes themes and purposes of her book, distilled from 47 years serving survivors of abuse, violence, genocide, trafficking. It captures the book’s essence, plus her unique voice of Christlike advocacy for the vulnerable as presented in the Prelude section of her book.

See the Brazos Press publisher’s webpage for details about Redeeming Power, plus links:

  • Overview.
  • Contents.
  • Dr. Langberg’s bio.
  • Endorsements from people representing a wide range of theological, professional, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Downloadable excerpt of the Prelude and Chapter 1 on “The Source and Purpose of Power.”
  • Source options for book pre-order/purchase.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Details & Launch Team Application

Today I applied for the launch team of the forthcoming book from Dr. Diane Langberg, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos Press; 2020). It is available for pre-order and the release date is scheduled for October 20th. See the publisher’s webpage for details about the book and links:

  • Overview.
  • Contents.
  • Dr. Langberg’s bio,
  • Endorsement.
  • Downloadable excerpt.
  • Source options for book pre-order/purchase.

Dr. Langberg is well known among abuse survivor communities for her work globally on complex situations of trauma, resilience, and recovery. Her quotes and comments are frequently reposted/retweeted on social media. This is sure to be a significant book for survivors of abuse/violence — whether involving gender, race, religion/spiritual authorities, and/or social institutions–as well as for survivor advocates and advocates.

One of her primary target audiences includes pastors, other kinds of ministers, and church/denomination leaders. This book will fill a crucial need they have for understanding systems, systemic abuse and how to challenge it, and what this has to do with dynamics of power and how to bring redemption to situations where power has been abused.

If you are interested in being considered to participate on the publisher’s launch team for Redeeming Power, this link goes to the application. The launch team runs from September 21 to October 30. You’ll need to pre-order the book in order to apply for the launch team.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Update 2020 on Abuse Survivor Communities: Patterns of Progress Amplify Hope

My extended series on Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities took a year to write. I completed it December 31, 2019. Much has happened since then. We’ve seen some leaps forward, some steps backward.

In an August 20th Twitter thread about what’s going on in our various communities and denominations, the issue of abuse solutions that scale came up. This sparked a lot of thoughts for me on where we are at and where we are going. I posted 20 tweets throughout the day.

The way my brain usually works, I don’t necessarily know what I’m thinking until I get it out of my head by either saying it aloud or writing it down. Partway through this bunch of tweets, I surprised myself at a conclusion that was forming: I realized I was relatively hopeful about the progress and trajectory of abuse survivor communities, and that this sense of a constructive pathway forward was based in patterns I could see in concrete actions–not mere “I hope so …” musings attached to imagined concepts.

Here is the Ruth D. Hutchins’ tweet that set up the consideration of scale, and a compilation of my responses. I have edited this slightly for clarity and to change abbreviations back to their full form. Continue reading

Update on Field Guide Training Series

It has been almost 3 months since I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, following a 6-month period of preparation and packing. I’m still recuperating from the physical exhaustion of it all. Thankfully, the bulk of the transition work is done.

But I’ve been antsy to get going again–restarting my writing projects (especially my Field Guides series) which have mostly lain dormant the last 9 months. However, there’s been purpose in the pauses and a major shift in the production of my Field Guide series. Namely, it looks like I’ll be developing my own layout templates to produce and print my books, charts, flashcards, games, and other training resources. I’ve been immersing myself in textbooks like The Non-Designers Guide to Design, Thinking with Type, Layout Workbook, Typography Workbook, Color Design Workbook, Thinking in Icons, Design is Storytelling, and Book Design Made Simple. Kind of fun, figuring out what I’ve got and what I’ve not, when it comes to proficiencies and possibilities for creating templates.

I don’t have formal training in graphic design, but I do have relevant experience in phototypesetting, paste-up (the old-fashioned way, where you waxed the back of the photos and print sections), layout, graphics selection, game design and production. In the 1980s, a Bible translation ministry wanted me to join their team as a typeface designer, to adapt existing fonts to newly-written languages that needed an alphabet system. That didn’t work out, but I’ve always had an interest in scripts and calligraphy and different kinds of types. Also, periodically, I’ve picked up materials on color theory because I find color systems and mixing fascinating. And I’ve long been an admirer and a sometimes collector of transmedia–novels, movies, or TV series turned into various kinds of visual and concrete media (DVDs, trading cards, comics, games, action figures).

All of this reflection on print production and design work has boomeranged back into mind details of experiences that brought me to this point. Where did this all begin? Continue reading

Book Review and Resources: Emerging Gender Identities by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky

How do we show Christlike hospitality to gender sojourners? This valuable, nuanced resource brings clarity, elicits compassion, and defuses contempt on gender dysphoria and emerging gender identities.

Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth, by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky (Brazos Press, 2020). Paperback: ISBN 9781587434341. E-Book: ISBN 9781493423811.

REVIEW

How do we show Christlike hospitality to gender sojourners? On that question, we all could use constructive frameworks and practical wisdom …

As a futurist, I am always scouring the horizon for resources that focus in on paradigms, paradigm shifts, and the most preferable ways forward in the midst of what is possible. As a Christian who strives to be a person of peace, I seek resources that display hospitality and dignity toward all people; advocate for social righteousness/justice and against abuse of power; and promote mutual, Christward transformation in our relationships. As a Christian futurist, my radar is tuned in to what provides people genuine hope and meaning in the midst of suffering and change. Emerging Gender Identities scores high on all those counts.

This book fills a unique need created by an era of cultural polarization and cancellation–to rise above the fray in order to analyze fairly what’s happening on the ground with opposing views, then find a peaceable pathway in between these paradigms that seeks for common ground. Creating an accessible, intermediate introduction like this calls for a saturation of knowledge from multiple academic disciplines, skilled ministry practices, and sophisticated processing to ensure it is both orthodox in approach and irenic in tone.

The team of Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky already showed their skill set for responding to this need by their presentation and responses to other authors in the book, Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views (Baker Academic, 2019). They role-model listening and processing that is active, empathic, and critical. In the case of emerging gender identities, this task requires familiarity with both personal and social realms: (1) the range of people whose lives have been affected; and (2) historical events, social dynamics, language changes, and cultural trends that have influenced the trajectory that got us to this point.

  • Relating with individuals navigating gender dysphoria and that represent a range of pathways to and through their sense of not fitting conventional versions of masculine and feminine, and whose identity is primarily at the private, public, or political level.
  • Relating with others in the circles of connection with those navigating gender dysphoria: parents, other family members, friends, ministry workers, counselors.
  • Identifying their typical questions and concerns, and responding with theological and psychological resources that will be of particular help to inform, equip, and encourage them.
  • Engaging with representatives from the range of competing views about gender dysphoria and transgenderism that we encounter in church and community.
  • Listening to adherents of these views carefully, to describe their assumptions, beliefs, and values accurately.
  • Sharing the critiques those from various views have with their polar opposite view.
  • Analyzing the set of views for where each falls short of or goes counter to biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy, scientific and social research standards, and common courtesies for a civil society.

This gives them a solid base of information to develop a credible, biblically integrated approach that emphasizes relationship, discipleship, and mentoring—and demonstrates “wisdom, prudence, and discernment”–terms they mention repeatedly. Equipping elements include stories of different kinds of people and how they deal with gender issues; lists of real-world questions that help draw out personal narratives; and powerful metaphors (like navigating and being a trail guide) that bring together abstract principles with concrete practices.

Yes, it’s messy, because these are complex issues with difficult questions and personal discomforts to deal with. But Drs. Yarhouse and Sadusky ultimately developed a reasoned and workable process for customizing how we accompany any particular individual in their navigating of emerging gender identity concerns, while acknowledging our own level of discomfort, for the purposes of mutual learning and growth.

I believe they’ve presented a template for embodying Christlike love in our interactions with image-bearers on what are some of the most contentious of culture-current issues. Even if we may disagree with some of the authors’ analyses and conclusions, I don’t know where else we’d find such a comprehensive catalog with careful treatment on various views, relevant questions for reflection and action, and wide-ranging knowledge for effective ministry. Emerging Gender Identities provides a valuable resource for polarized times that can help bring clarity, elicit compassion, and defuse contempt on gender dysphoria and emerging identities.

NOTE: I received a digital Advanced Readers Copy of this title in exchange for my commitment to post a review, and no compensation or print copy of the book.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

RESOURCES

Continue reading

Book Review: Running for Judge — Tim Fall’s “Mental Health Memoir”

Running for Judge is a vividly written and practical book for the 1-in-4 of us who suffer from anxiety and/or depression – to know we’re not so different and that we’re not alone.

It also serves as an accessible introduction for people in our circles of support, to understand and empathize with what we’re going through.

I’ve navigated long periods of depression in my adult life, and have multiple family members and friends who deal with depression, anxiety, and/or panic attacks. So, I read Tim Fall’s book with questions sparked by both an insider/sufferer and outsider/supporter perspective.

  • What are these afflictions, and how do they manifest in our mind, body, and relationships?
  • Why do we who suffer often feel the added weight of combating “impostor syndrome”?
  • What should we do when we identify an episode in ourselves or others?
  • What practical responses can help lessen negative impact and heighten positive possibilities?
  • How do we persevere when things don’t seem to change as quickly as hoped … don’t go as deep as desired?

These are the kinds of real-world questions Tim Fall responds to in Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success (Resource Publications, 2020). The main time frame for Tim’s self-described “mental health memoir” is the campaign to keep his seat as a Northern California Superior Court Judge. Don’t be put off by thinking it’s about an election – although getting this rare glimpse into the world of the American judiciary is fascinating. That backdrop created a situation of amplified stress that made difficulties caused by anxiety and depression more apparent. And his unusual vocation reinforces that mental health issues can affect anyone.

Tim’s engaging style SHOWS what it looks like to be weighed down by anxiety and depression. The pacing and descriptions of his remarkable writing style had me feeling his racing-pulse angst and his emotional-ambivalence sluggishness right along with him. He is so specific in detailing physical, emotional, mental elements of this that it helped me identify episodes of intense anxiety I’ve had that I hadn’t labeled as such before. He also describes responses by family, friends, and co-workers to his experiences and to his mixed-result attempts to deal with symptoms and sources. I was taking notes or underlining sections on 90% of the pages!

Tim is vulnerable, real, helpful, and hopeful – the same as he is online in social media. That’s why I began following him on Facebook and Twitter a few years ago, and how I found out about his book. And these days, to review a book also involves checking out whether the author treats people with kindness and respect, or not. Tim does, no question. He is a role model of embodying the Golden Rule, and that makes it easy to want to read what he writes.

So, if you’re reaching out for input on mental health concerns, for yourself or to support someone you care about, you’ll find a lot of wisdom from multiple angles in this short (120 pages), easy-to-read book. And through it, may you discover deep wells of refreshing grace along your pathway forward …

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

LINKS

To follow Tim Fall, here are links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Click here for the publisher’s webpage for Running for Judge. It includes book information, purchase details for book and eBook versions, author bio, and endorsements.

Here is an earlier blog post I wrote about why I wanted to read and review Tim’s book.

Emerging Gender Identities — Check out the trailer for the book …

I am currently reading an advance copy of Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth, by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky. This book is being published by Brazos Press, and it launches in mid-August 2020. I’ll be posting my review on release day, plus some other background and thoughts between now and then.

When I saw a notice on Twitter about the launch team, I took a few days to consider applying. The topic of gender identity has been something I’ve researched periodically since the 1980s – primarily because my own experiences of gender didn’t match with cultural or Christian norms. I’m also connected with family and friends who deal with gender identity, sexuality, and/or intersexual issues.

I hadn’t read a book by Mark Yarhouse before – only occasional excerpts, or comments in passing by or about him on social media. That material left a positive impression. Dr. Yarhouse especially seemed to be appreciated for his researched and reasoned approach to concerns about gender identity and our current culture.

I watched the book trailer from Brazos, where he describes what he covers in the book and why. One of his main purposes is to equip for ministry that is nuanced, measured, and nimble when it comes to connecting with young people and “emerging gender identities” (for instance, pangender, bi-gender, agender, gender creative/expansive).

Check out the trailer on YouTube. Here’s a quote that reflects his thoughtful, balanced approach.

I think all of us come to this conversation with the language that we’re familiar with around sex and gender, and so when someone uses different language and different categories, rather than react to that, I think it’s better to understand how that language has made sense to that person, why they’re drawn to it. It doesn’t mean that by being conversant, you’re agreeing with all of the language and categories, but you’re a little bit more attuned to how that functions for them and what it means for them as you love them well.

The publisher’s page at Brazos Press has a series of endorsement quotes. I found these particularly intriguing for showing kinds of readers interested in this topic in terms of understanding it, living it out, and walking alongside those with concerns.

It also includes a link for a PDF excerpt of Chapter One – which includes a glossary of “Key Terms and Emerging Gender Identities” that introduces the range of categories and vocabulary younger generations are using in reference to gender.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *