GC2 and Questions to Evaluate Our Expertise on Systemic Abuse and Sexual Violence

This article was originally posted as a thread in my Twitter feed. I have edited it to remove abbreviations, embed links, and add bracketed words for understandability. Otherwise, it is the same as posted there.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

THREAD: QUESTIONS TO EVALUATE OUR EXPERTISE ON SYSTEMIC ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE. This is in response to a critical question posed by Wade Mullen, in a thread about the December 13th GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Violence.

While I wish GC2 well on their efforts, I did post concerns. The past few days, new articles have promoted GC2. Meanwhile, many abuse survivors, advocates, and activists have reiterated concerns about GC2 individual, institutional, and ideological issues. Continue reading

Advertisements

Annotated Reader’s Guide to Futuristguy on Abuse Recovery, Advocacy, and Activism

Issues Involving Individuals, Institutions, Leaders,

Relational and Systems Repair Work, and Technical Research

INTRODUCTORY NOTES: Since 2007, I have done research writing on issues related to individual, institutional, and ideological elements contributing to abuse and violence. The materials I’ve developed draw from two main sources: (1) Personal experiences of participation in organizations that turned out to have malignant leaders and so were toxic, and (2) extensive experiences working with non-profit agencies, churches, and start-ups since 1973. Many of these materials linked to here are technical, some are more personal. I have been reorganizing these and many other articles into four Field Guides to improve the logical flow, and editing them for consistency and accessibility. In the meantime, here are select articles that offer some help on particular aspects of systemic abuse issues.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Continue reading

Training Series Companion Website: Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes

Today I completed the first go-round for all pages on Futuristguy’s Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes. This is an important piece of progress in the overall Training Series system I’ve been developing. It’s the general research tools that go with the four Field Guides and its other companion website with resources specific to every chapter in the book series. So, things are pretty much ready to roll, once the first Field Guide has cover and interior design done.

Here’s some background and the purposes behind this Research Notes website, from one of the posts there:

Some of us bloggers in abuse survivor communities have periodically talked behind the scenes about our need for:

1. Some sort of research clearinghouse for resources on abuse and violence. We see the many underlying similarities among dynamics in all forms of abuse, and also the need for information sources on personal recovery, relational advocacy, and institutional accountability.

2. Some kind of listing about denominational policies, resources, and case studies. Both survivor experiences and research work show that situations of abuse and violence have emerged in every theological stream, every organizational form of church governance, and in both centralized and decentralized networks.

There have been some collaborate efforts toward those goals in the past, but getting a site together or maintaining it have been difficult. Since much of my work in survivor activism has involved research writing articles and case studies, I know the value of having go-to sources on the many complicated, interrelated issues that arise. I felt moved by the recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements that this was a providential moment when need #1 — creating a research/resource clearinghouse — was both urgent and important. (Need #2 is still important in the long run. But it would be a huge project, and I believe it would be more effective if core topics on systemic abuse get addressed first as a way to determine criteria to evaluate the efficacy of denominational resources.)

So, this is my attempt to set up a site that can serve as a comprehensive framework for crowd-sourcing additional resources on key research issues, and an accessible format for people to share the findings. (It won’t be a site for resources on recovery from specific types of abuse, violence, or trauma situations. I will leave that for others who feel called to take up that task.)

This new website updates and takes the place of some of the material that’s been on this Futuristguy blog for a while. Specifically:

Mars Hill Case Study main page and Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Research Guide – Part 1 – Research Guide to Mark Driscoll’s Personal Issues (the first post in the original article series that was later compiled into a page).

The “Pyramid of Abuse” section in the Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse (Compilation of Posts) page and the Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse – Part 2B – The “Pyramid of Responsibility” in Toxic Systems post.

Spiritual Abuse Legal/Media Research page.

I’ve put notes on those posts and pages to alert readers to these updates, but left the original post or page intact.

I hope that having all the key research, statistical, legal information, etc., in one site will make it easier to navigate. Check out the Table of Contents page to see what gets covered!

 

Set-Ups for Being Picked Off by Authoritarian Leaders – Part 2: Dynamics of Fatherlessness and Susceptibility to Substitutes

Part 2: Fatherlessness and the Longing for Connection and Affirmation

In an earlier post, I mentioned as a key vulnerability point “Fatherlessness that leaves ‘holes in the soul’ and a longing for connection with a father figure — which a charismatic authoritarian man will gladly step in to act as and act out as. I suspect the dynamics here often lead to learned passivity, learned helplessness, learned devaluation of personal worth — and a false elevation of authority systems, masculinity, and patriarchy.”

About three years ago, I commented on the history of various men’s movements when TWW posted an article on the movie *Courageous* and the “Resolution for Men” that was being promoted with it. See: Comment 1 on general background about men’s movements over the past 50 years, Comment 2 on Promise Keepers and Christian publishing during that era, Comment 3 on core issues in gender roles, and Comment 4 on some specific streams in the secular men’s movement of the 1980s and ’90s.

Because I was involved with recovery ministries for men starting back in the mid-1980s, I read many of the secular books dealing with men’s issues. (It would still be 5+ years until Promise Keepers started, and with it, the floodgates of Christian publishing on materials for men opened … with just as much debris in that flood as life rafts.)

Poet and storyteller Robert Bly was one of the more popular writers for men in the 1980s and early ’90s. His book Iron John was a bestseller, but I found his follow-up book on The Sibling Society even more helpful on the historical roots of the mess that men often found themselves in. In it, he addressed issues of fatherlessness and the imprint of generational dynamics left on Boomer men by fathers who came of age during the Depression and World War 2, and who came home as fathers who were typically physically present but emotionally absent.

The key idea in The Sibling Society is that when the older generations are not people that younger generations want to emulate, then the younger ones create connections with their peers as the influential “others” in their life. This action cuts them off from those who could/should call them forth into being adults, which in turn sets them up to extend adolescence and delay maturity. (It can also lead to “Lord of the Flies” type situations where influence by dominant peers leads others into conformity and, ultimately, evil.)

As it turns out, Robert Bly had written the foreword to a revised and updated edition of the monumental research work by Alexander Mitscherlich: Society without the Father: A Contribution to Social Psychology. (If I remember right, this was originally published in the early 1960s in German — my copy is currently hiding in a box somewhere.) Mitscherlich had studied the fallout of the Industrial Revolution, where fathers increasingly abandoned the home, and especially the specific dynamics of what happened in his native Germany after the loss of so many men during two world wars. What had happened to the children of the WW2 years, when a generation of fathers and grandfathers in families — and in society — did not return home? Continue reading

Set-Ups for Being Picked Off by Authoritarian Leaders – Part 1: Susceptibilities to Seduction by Those with No Conscience

Background

There has been an ongoing discussion about Douglas Wilson, about specific situations where there are allegations of abuse of authority, and about his leadership of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). Since I lived in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho, during the beginnings of what turned into CREC, I have been watching this current situation unfold and reflecting on its roots. For my observations and opinions on the history of ministries in these two towns, see these links on The Wartburg Watch: Comment 1, Comment 2, Comment 3, Comment 4. (There are other comments I made related to certain types of Reformed theology and Reconstructionism. To find them, search the comments section of this post for “brad/futuristguy.”)

The following comment is one I posted in response to mirele, who talked about the seductive nature of Mr. Wilson’s system. My general thoughts on what makes us susceptible to seduction by those with no conscience are here in Part 1. In Part 2, I focus in on some aspects of “fatherlessness” that makes us particularly vulnerable to authoritarian men with charisma who provide precise answers to our questions and presence to meet our father-longing. Continue reading

What Makes a Ministry “Safe”?

Introducing Four Core Questions

of “Safe” versus “Sick” Systems

OVERVIEW: I have long held the opinion that it is not enough to critique what is wrong with something, if you are not interested in figuring out what is right with it and extending that, or doing something to help fix and then keep improving what is deficient. Much of my research and writing for the past seven years on futuristguy has been about evaluating problems and moving toward solutions. This article on what makes a ministry or system “safe” versus “sick” introduces four core questions to guide our thinking. Detailed versions of the questions and contrasting responses are part of a forthcoming curriculum for social transformation agents, “Do Good, Plus Do No Harm.”

1. Are we treating people with humanization and hospitality, or objectification and hostility?

  • Humanization places objective value on people simply for their existence, regardless of what they may or may not be able to do for the institution. Objectification values people for what they can do for those in power or for the part they play in keeping the organizational machine going.
  • Hospitality welcomes people in and lifts them up. Hostility keeps people out or holds them down.
  • A good indicator of humanization and hospitality is how we divide people into categories or classes, and treated some differently based on those factors (e.g., age, race, marital status).

2. Are our leaders qualified, unqualified, or disqualified from service in a responsible public role of authority, influence, and decision-making?

  • Leaders are qualified by reason of mature personal character and consistent moral/ethical behavior.
  • Individuals who seek leadership are unqualified if they are personally immature, and/or are under-skilled for the specific requirements of the role sought.
  • Individuals who seek leadership are disqualified by reason of bad personal character and harmful/evil behavior (i.e., immoral/unethical).
  • A good project for figuring out what constitutes role-model-worthy maturity is to create “must-have” and “can’t-have” lists of character qualities and behaviors for leaders, based on Galatians 5:19-26 (the desires of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit), and leader profiling in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.

3. Are our organizations structured to dominate and control, or develop and give freedom?

  • With domination, the resources flow from people-as-pawns to their exploiters. With development, the resources flow from and among participants.
  • Control conditions people into functioning outside the demands of their personal conscience and the dreams of their personal direction, and puts the responsibility for directives of “good” versus “harm” on external/organizational sources and forces. Freedom releases people to function responsibly according to their personal conscience and direction, within communal norms of “good” without inflicting “harm.”
  • Very different kinds of organizational structures can still be used to dominate and control its members. For instance, control can be through compliance (like the former Soviet Union), chaos (like the Maoist Cultural Revolution), or charisma (Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple). Authoritarian leaders can control centralized, hierarchical organizations or can co-opt decentralized, “flat structure” networks. And it does not matter whether the scale of the dominated enterprise is small, medium, or large.

4. Are our collaborative social involvements designed for sojourners or colonizers?

  • Sojourners travel together as interdependent people of equal value who serve one another for the benefit of all. Colonizers take over with some people being more important/valuable, and make the rest subservient to those few.
  • Sojourners share, listen, and teach. Colonizers take, tell, and indoctrinate.
  • Either set of dynamics seem to be able to drive any scale of collaborative enterprises from the small and local (projects), or medium and regional (partnerships) to large and global (politics).

Summary

A “safe/healthy” space is one where people are treated with humanity, welcomed with hospitality, leaders are role models for their character and behavior, the organization serves to help people develop and find their wings, as the group travels the road of life together to the benefit of both individuals and the group as a whole. A safe space nurtures hope, helpfulness, and human flourishing.

An “unsafe/toxic” space is one where people are viewed with contempt and treated as cogs in the machine that benefit the few, where those in control consistently harm others, where the organization diminishes the personhood of the many to benefit the power-prestige-greed of the few, and it imposes its limited views and unlimited desire for control wherever possible. An unsafe space inflicts despair, learned helplessness, and abuse.

Mars Hill, Emergent Movement, Emergent “Meltdown”?

The last few months have brought some amazing contemporary case studies into the public realm of online scrutiny and also “digital dissent” with online push-back by survivors of spiritually abusive ministries and movements. This includes both Mars Hill Church and what I’ve been calling the Emergent movement that arose from the embers of what used to be Emergent Village. I’ve written far above my usual output because of how these two real-world examples illustrate the final material I’ve been writing for a forthcoming volume in my imprint on Do Good Plus Do No Harm. It’s a book for people associated with missional/social transformation endeavors, church plants, and non-profits.

Continue reading