Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Four – Challenge #1

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Four: Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.


Part of what I do in research writing focuses on analyzing paradigm systems. This means I am looking at multiple parts, how they work together, gaps and excesses that create inherent problems that turn the system toxic or otherwise prevent health and sustainability for the individuals and institutions aligned with that paradigm.

The aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections and the rancorous social media fights that ensued left me asking more questions than usual about social media. (And I have in mind primarily Facebook, Twitter, and blogs here.) I believe a series of generic problems can limit the usefulness of these communication forms. And, some of these flaws tend to get amplified in survivor blogging.

So, for this final topic in this series, I will present what I see as the general problem and then some of the ways this can work out to be more difficult in survivor communities posts. And, as I noted in Part Two, I’m speaking here at the big-picture level, which means there are likely many individual exceptions to the generalizations.

I’ll be splitting Part Four three segments, with one challenge in each:

  1. The problems of working with words.
  2. The need for critical thinking skills.
  3. The lack of a civil and conciliatory society.

Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Challenge #1 — We’re Working Mostly in Words

Although videos, gifs, images, and memes have been working their way into social media in recent years, we’re still working mostly in words. And that presents a major problem, because English is a language that is especially vulnerable to misinterpretation. (I have little doubt on this conclusion from my formal academic training in linguistics and ESL, and various experiences in cross-cultural communication.) I recently posted a series of seven tweets about this problem on a friend’s post where he talked about being “tone policed” for an article on his blog. Here’s what I wrote, put back into paragraph form and edited to restore wording that had to be condensed out for Twitter.

Many social media types are tough because they’re mostly just words in print. So, when the meaning of the words is ambiguous, the 40/60 rule helps us understand why social media is stressful. According to that rule, only 40% of intended meaning comes from (1) the words themselves, and the other 60% comes from the larger context, which includes (2) tone of voice, (3) facial expression, and (4) overall body language.

* Face to face offers all 4 forms of input to determine meaning.

* Skype, about 3.5 out of 4.

* Video phone calls 3.

* Much social media is just 1, maybe 2 if there is an image or illustration.

It is already easy to misinterpret meaning, or to project our own context onto communications when it’s just words in print. Compound the lack of communication elements via print-based media with a possible environment of toxicity/mistrust, and what could happen? Assumptions, reactivity, tone issues?

In print-words-only cases, it takes far more effort to ask others for details and listen to them if we want to have real dialog. This could help explain why there is “social media fatigue” and people taking breaks. It takes effort and discipline to process short info-bursts with limited context and high emotion, such as we especially encountered since the 2016 campaigns and election.

The last two paragraphs hint at a perennial problem in survivor blogging. We deal with topics that hit spiritual bruise spots where people have already been hurt. Many victims of those who abuse their power have suffered in silence. When we do find a website that addresses malignant leaders and toxic institutions similar to what they’ve experienced, they can find healing insights and emotional support. That may infuse us with a newfound sense of hope, perhaps even a level of greater control over our lives.

But reading and maybe participating in survivor blog threads doesn’t automatically fill in all gaps in our understanding, or correct any flaws in our paradigm. (For instance, as I’ve stated other times, it took me three years to finally get it about why survivor bloggers who’d been around a while said the issue in toxic churches was authoritarianism – not legalism.) Nor does it automatically heal our wounds, or end any ongoing symptoms of trauma we may be experiencing: the nightmares, the “daymare” flashbacks, the triggering words or situations or images that poke the soul and evoke emotional states like those from the abuse.

We who’ve been negated at the core of our being by spiritual bullies can have a tendency to be reactive – especially when we’ve endured periods where no one listened to our cries or took us seriously. On survivor blogs, our voice can (finally) be heard! We can express righteous outrage at those who perpetrate abuse, and those perpetuate systemic abuse by enabling those at the top of a power pyramid.

However, it’s difficult to slow down when we’ve gotten worked up. So, there can end up being quite a bit of lashing out on survivor blog threads. We may not read articles and comments carefully. We may respond too quickly with a conclusion to what we thought we read, instead of seek more information. We may wrongly project motivations onto people. Or labeling them as abusive. Or be snarky or sarcastic at legitimate questions being asked.

But slash-and-dash to leave a mark, or one-upping the last clever commenter isn’t exactly instructive or constructive. Those are dialog stoppers or inflammatory starters, especially toward people who’ve been part of keeping a toxic organization going but may be in a change process. Perhaps we should even consider whether what we’re doing involves ourselves using control tactics …

Look – I can list all of these destructive responses because I’ve done all of them, many times. I’m not against protecting those who’ve been victimized. But how often are there times when there’s been piling on of someone who wasn’t clear, or simply said something that wasn’t liked by someone else? Are we exercising enough calm to make sure first we understood what others were actually trying to communicate in printed word?

That leads to a second and third general problem with social media, as I see it: We don’t always reason through facts, opinions, and speculations – and so we’re not even discussing from the same base of information; and, we lack commitment to a civil and conciliatory society, so it’s more about competition/debate than collaboration/dialog. I’ll share some thoughts on each of those challenges in separate posts.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Note: The “40/60 rule” is not something I made up. I ran across it years ago in my linguistics studies. Unfortunately, I cannot relocate the source of the material and so have drawn the details from memory. If I do find the source or online link, I’ll be sure to add it.

Watergate and the White House: Case Study Resources

Is America in a new kind of Watergate situation of corroded systems of government power, where checks and balances are being pushed to the limit — and perhaps beyond?

I recently completed a preliminary survey of primary sources from the Watergate era, and other resources that analyze and interpret those times in their historical context. The article below is excerpted from the chapter I wrote based on those studies. Check out some of these materials, and discern and decide for yourself whether comparisons between Watergate and contemporary American politics are justified, and if so, in what aspects and to what degree. ~ brad/futuristguy

Introducing the Wider Watergate Scandals

“Breaking and entering. Wiretapping. Destruction of government documents. Forgery of State Department documents and letters. Secret slush funds. Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the ‘law and order’ administration of Richard Nixon. Sounds bad when you put it like that, huh?” ~ Political commentator and TV show host Rachel Maddow, in Watergate 40th anniversary documentary, “All the President’s Men Revisited.”

For the Field Guide chapter I wrote on discernment and decision-making, I picked the Watergate scandals as the overarching situation for case studies. These could be used to highlight many topics about toxic leaders and their sick systems. I focused on investigations conducted by teams, compositing evidences and discernments, and addressing system corruption.

Initial news of the Watergate scandal broke the summer before my senior year in high school. And then, for the next two years, Watergate-related news became almost daily fare – it seemed inescapable! Maybe that’s because details came out in dribs and drabs, and took many months before they could be glued together into a larger picture. Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Three

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Three: Positive Trends in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.


Most of these trends are relatively brief. I’m seeing what I interpret as enough points of evidence to sense that something important is going on, even if the trend is still emerging from the fog and the direction it’s heading is uncertain.

The challenges, on the other hand, seem clear enough from a longer stream of online incidents. It also seems like they will always be with us in survivor blogging. Recent events that I mentioned in the Introduction to Part One have brought a few particular challenges to the forefront.

So, here are what I see as positive trends, for your consideration. Because a number of the cases I’ve drawn from involve behind-the-scenes activities, I won’t be mentioning specific details for them, or for the continuing challenges in Part Four. Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Two – Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Two: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs


Over the years, I’ve seen blogs that post supposedly “negative” articles about the Church critiqued as being self-authorized, self-centered, and self-congratulating watchdog operations. According to opponents, blogs dealing with abuse are just out to cause a ruckus and tear down the Church as the Bride of Christ.

One of the key problems for critics, though, is this: How many churches, denominations, and ministry networks authorize and protect whistle-blowers who warn leaders and members alike against internal malignancy and toxicity? What ongoing processes do you have to ensure those in roles of influence haven’t gone off the rails and are inflicting damage to Christ’s disciples by their own shepherding overlordship?

If prophetic voices must work from the outside because all internal checks have failed, so be it. Jesus Christ spoke up and acted in defense of those who were weak and harmed by others – and against those who misused their position and power to the detriment of others. How is He a role model to us in ways we should confront corrosion and corruption within the Church?

Part One in this series on Survivor Blogging Trends 2017 summarized five years of previous articles on trends. Part Two looks at two issues I’m seeing as coming into the foreground.

  • First, how critics of survivor bloggers seem to conflate them with discernment blogs when they’re not, and some thoughts on sources of conflict they have with survivor blogs.
  • Second, things known probably just by those who host survivor blogs and write for them, about the reflection and restraint that goes on behind the scenes.

Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part One – Past Articles (2012-2016) on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part One: Past Articles (2012-2016)

on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities


I have been blogging since 2003, and in 2007 I began addressing surviving spiritual abuse – mostly from the perspective of investigative research writing on malignant leadership and toxic systems. I’ve written a dozen or so case studies on spiritually abusive situations, scattered across the spectrum of theologies and organizational forms. So I’m not a newbie to blogging or survivor blogging, or to many issues of conflict that arise.

One of the most recent relates to a so-called “crisis of authority” (especially for women who post their views online) and “beware of broken wolves.”

Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere? (The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.) by Tish Harrison Warren, via Christianity Today. See also her response to critics, posted on her blog: New CT Piece on Authority in the Church and Social Media: A Response to Critics.

Beware of Broken Wolves, by Joe Carter, via The Gospel Coalition.

The fast and furious interchanges sparked by these posts brought up some reflections on survivor blogging. So, I decided it was time to add these to my occasional series that I started in 2012 on trends in spiritual abuse survivor communities. Here’s the plan:

  • Part 1: Past Articles on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2012-2016)
  • Part 2: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs
  • Part 3: Positive Trends and Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Final thoughts in introducing this year’s trends: I hope I am known as a reasonable researcher on abusive systems, and also as a relatively fair-minded critic of our own survivor communities. I’m sure not everything I write goes down well in both of those circles, but I see my role as calling people to consider the larger picture of the organizational cultures we create and ways we misuse power in them. The squishy business of identifying and tracking trends, and giving reasoned speculation to where their trajectories may lead, is part of that role. Before I launch into what I think I see unfolding in 2017, here is the series of articles on trends that I’ve posted in the past five years, to bring you up to date. Continue reading

Training Series: Next-to-Last Draft of Field Guide #1 is Done!

Yesterday I completed the last workbook segment that goes into Field Guide #1 of 4 on systemic abuse, recovery, advocacy, activism, and setting up organizations geared to intervene in/prevent abuse of power. Some beta-readers have been giving me valuable feedback, and there is more clean-up work to do until this next-to-final draft is ready for next steps.

I’ll be giving my brain a break while I catch up on other projects that need completion. But, milestone moments are also a good time to back away from details for a bit, take a look at the big picture again, and give thanks for the process. So, here’s an overview of the providential production of this Do Good Plus Do No Harm curriculum series. Continue reading

The Benedict Option: Sam Rocha’s Critical Review and Robert Webber’s Secular Saint

There’s been quite the discussion about Rod Dreher’s recently released book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. It seems to me there’s a lot of hype surrounding its content and applications. It reminds me of what we saw in the “emerging ministry movement” of 20 years ago, with leaders looking for The Next Big Idea that would supposedly change the playing field for relevant ministry. However, such answers often ended up being lists of glib tips and methods and models that supposedly worked anywhere — a nice bypass for the painstaking local work of cultural exegesis and careful contextualization.

I’m not a fan of hypeful answers to complex questions. I prefer figuring out the broader context as a better way to give a more reflective response instead of universal principles that easily slip into quick-fix programs. And, since I have been writing about many things post-modern, post-Christian, and post-Christendom for 20-plus years, I thought it might be helpful to post several resources and thoughts to contribute to the discussion. Continue reading