A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 6E: What Makes Systemic Abuse and Historic Oppression Different from Isolated Incidents of Abuse?


What Makes Systemic Abuse and

Historic Oppression Different from

Isolated Incidents of Abuse?

Part 6E. This post on systems-related terms sets up the final segment in Part 6, where we will look at better ways of “restorative justice” for situations to situations involving systemic abuse and historical/societal oppression, through truth-finding before reconciliation.

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January 13. Year 13. Double-Lucky 13!

I’ve never been superstitious about 13s, at least not in a negative way. Kind of like them, actually, and often find fun in them, while seeking to create significance to them. I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. And today seems to be a double-lucky 13th.

Last night I was doing background research on Frank Herbert and his Dune saga, and ran across something I’d written in 2007 which I hadn’t reread in years. It was a discussion my friend Linda and I had. Revisiting her thoughts helped me reframe what’s turned into an extremely long-term writing task I’ve been plugging away at for 13 years.

Seeing this yesterday made such an impression that I even woke up this morning of January 13th thinking about it. Hopefully you’ll find it of some encouragement, too, especially my friends who are in something for the long haul.

[This originally appeared as some pre-amble thoughts to my 2007 essay on “Dune, Density, and Polymathology.”]

In July 2001, I had a most intriguing conversation with my church planting strategist friend Linda Bergquist. She identified me and two other people we know in the San Francisco Bay Area as “Christian philosophers.” Linda felt the Church doesn’t particularly like philosophers, but she believed it still needs them. Specifically, she sensed these three people were being raised up to help the Church transition into what we then were calling the post-postmodern era. Ahh, how terms change over time!

Anyway, Linda told me how she’d recently read that Thomas Jefferson was offered all kinds of military commissions and other strategic jobs during the Revolutionary War. Instead of taking any of those opportunities, he went back home and worked diligently on the background for creating the American Constitution. He had confidence the Revolution would succeed, and so he was free to do the philosophizing that was necessary for the establishment of long-term goals and sustainability of this new union. As a “renaissance man” and philosopher, Jefferson trusted that his abilities matched this historic opportunity, and he knew where he should invest his time in order for a larger payoff in the long run.

Similarly, Linda was convinced that these three church planting philosophers in the Bay Area need to NOT feel pressured to be “The Theologian” or “The Practitioner,” but to invest in the most important roles they could play right now for the future of the Kingdom – research and development, and philosophy. This encouraged me then, and it remains comforting now, while I am still working on the same massive set of trainings in paradigm and cultural systems for growing Kingdom Culture. I am a polymath; I am called to be a philosopher; I am stewarding something important for the long run of the Kingdom. It requires complex thinking and dense communicating. So, regardless of what may be published during my lifetime, I know at a deep level that pouring myself out in these tasks will have paid off in the long run for what God is doing in His world. It is a privilege, within God’s providence, even when at times I feel wearied from and worried for this project …

Why was this encouraging? Because, as my professor friend Sam Williams put it when introducing me for a guest lecture on culture and contextualization, “Brad works on answers to questions that no one else is asking yet.” I didn’t know it at the time of this conversation with Linda, but where I’d end up investing myself was in working on how to identify, challenge, and change “systemic abuse.” I was doing R&D on this before I even knew there was a term for what I’d experienced. Malignant ministers and toxic churches had tainted 20 years of my Christian experience as an adult. Where would I find the redemptive side?

Turns out, this is a task I was made for, interested in, internally motivated to finish, and trusted it would have impact. If spiritual abuse had happened to me, surely there were others this writing would reach and make sense to, even if it just mystified others. It is really wearying at times, and feels Frodo-ish like this:

But it is not without purpose. So, if I’m “wired” as a “Christian philosopher” in the ways Linda is talking about, so be it. I’ve owned it, been doing it, will be sticking with it. I’m about halfway through this writing project that will total half a million words in four book/workbook volumes plus a companion website and case studies.

I know I may only realize a fraction of this project’s significance while I’m producing it. But still, it’s important to download what I can as a legacy for whoever might need it later. Who knows … maybe it’s just one person who deeply needs it. But we who follow Jesus know that even just one person can spark a movement.

I keep coming around to how important this is, to keep on keeping on, and find the internal motivation to continue even if external feedback is rare. Each piece I write adds to the composite of my ministry mosaic. And my mosaic is a piece in the larger picture that links mine with yours. Large and small, theoretical and practical – each personal piece matters, and each person-piece matters. We need to be diligent to contribute to the composited benefit of the larger community.

So – there it is. This isn’t really rocket science, although it is about what affects our trajectory, and adds to our legacy. Here’s hoping that this double-lucky 13th for me is an encouraging day for you, too!

A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 6D: Analyzing Misused Tools and Processes: What are Key Problems and Their System Impact?


Analyzing Misused Tools and Processes:

What are Key Problems and Their System Impact?

Part 6D. Overview of key problems in misuse of these legal tools and resolution processes; some ways their impact has affected (and disaffected) survivor communities; and some resources on pastoral care, survivor recovery, and building better perspective.

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A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 6C: Processes That Promise Resolution, But Instead Can Promote Silence


Processes That Promise Resolution,

But Instead Can Promote Silence

Part 6C. Initial exploration into three investigation/negotiation/resolution processes (arbitration, conciliation, and mediation), plus a case study from Willow Creek Community Church leaders hiring Crossroads Resolution Group and the women victims refusing to play by those rules, and why.

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A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 6B: Legal But Harmful Institutional Tools of Conformity and Control


Legal But Harmful Institutional Tools of Conformity and Control

Part 6B. Four legal-system tools (defamation lawsuits, non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreements, non-compete clauses, and church membership “covenants” that are legal contracts). Includes brief examples, plus a longer case study from The Village Church and its membership covenant.

A note up front: I am not a lawyer. The descriptions in Part 6 come from my work in research writing, and represent my lay person understanding of technical concepts involved. The following topics are here to inform readers about tools that may be built into agreements or covenants you may be asked to enter into.

If you are in a situation of interaction to resolve issues with abusive individuals or institutions that caused or covered up damage, I strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer for legal counsel.

We will look at the following four tools. They may be stand-alone actions/items, or part of a larger agreement or contract.

  1. Defamation lawsuit.
  2. Non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement (NDA).
  3. Non-compete clause.
  4. Church membership “covenants” that are legal contracts.

All of these tools and tactics have something to do with control of information and investigations. The net effects include stopping information that could come from victims, and skewing information that gets to the public. In the big picture of things, these tools are ultimately harmful both to the individuals and institutions involved, and do not serve the common good either. Continue reading

A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 6A: Introducing a Range of Institutional Responses Designed to Shut Down Survivors

Part 6. Legal-System Tools and Resolution Processes

That Prioritize Institutions Over Individuals

Having looked at different ways people integrate their beliefs and actions about abuse, we will now focus in on specific means that promote institutions instead of protect individuals. We need to do this because not all facets of so-called “investigations” or “reconciliations” are geared to serve survivors and the vulnerable by: (1) finding the truth, (2) rectifying the sources of abuse, and (3) dealing justly with the consequences.

Some tactics actually silence victims. Others effectively limit liability to individuals and organizations involved with abuse. Some purported resolution processes ultimately fail to prevent future abuse because they do not dismantle current systemic abuse.

This post describes common legal-system tools and resolution processes encountered by abuse survivors, and analyzes how these favor institutions instead of individuals. It offers frameworks, short examples, and case studies for evaluating the destructive net impact of these methods on survivors in recovery. It also lays out  a better way forward with an alternative path of “truth-finding before reconciliation.” Continue reading

A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 5: The Contours of “Watchblog” Communities

Part 5 – The Contours of “Watchblog” Communities

5 – The Contours of “Watchblog” Communities. In a recently filed defamation lawsuit, James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel labeled the people he’s suing as “attack bloggers.” Are they really just attacking him for reasons of revenge – or are they simply attempting to reveal individual and institutional actions that have harmed people whom the church should have helped, and shine a light on the ideologies that drove them?

Blogs have become a significant source of investigative information for survivor communities. So, they have sometimes been called “watchblogs.” But are all sites that engage in exposés of reported abuses actually survivor-friendly? What are the contours of blogging among survivor communities – along with subcategories and the distinctives of each? How does blogging relate to various types of abuse, and what are important patterns and trends that we see among them? This post maps out contours of the wider watchblog communities. Continue reading