To be silent no more: #metooatGibeah


The Blog That Speaks: To be silent no more: #metooatGibeah

If you are a minister, you may have heard the adage:

When Scripture is silent, so should we be.

Such a general principle seems useful, and even necessary, when one recalls the variety of “unconventional” sermons that have been preached. Take for instance a sermon that my husband heard in the late 1980s, which was based on the story of the paralytic who was taken to Jesus by his friends (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). The preacher spoke of an old swayback mule on which the four friends placed the paralytic in order to transport him to Jesus. The thrust of the message was: If God can use an old swayback mule, God can use you. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it does not include an old swayback mule. Try as one might, it is not found lying hidden under some Koine Greek word’s meaning or located in an obscure ancient manuscript. Instead, it was simply an invention of that preacher’s imagination.

This example may cause some of us to roll our eyes or become aghast at this type of abuse in the handling of the scriptures, but it causes me to wonder if there is another kind of abuse that may at times be just as egregious. Perhaps it could be summarized as a different hermeneutical principle:

When Scripture is not silent, so should we not be.

While some ministers fail to remain silent where they should be (as seen above), others of us remain silent where we should not be. We sometimes may be quick to heartedly embrace the freedom to attribute motives to God or various persons in a narrative or even invent new characters in particular passages of scripture. But at the same time, we completely ignore pericopes that are not silent on subjects that are…well…uncomfortable…or disturbing…like those that contain sexual violence.

I should know. I have done it.

Approximately thirteen years ago, I was teaching stories from the book of Judges. Since my time was limited, I taught five lessons. I began with an overview of Judges and then continued with the stories of Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Delilah/Samson. However, I purposely avoided the final narrative of Judges due to my own uncomfortableness even though it was the climactic thrust of the entire book. The story? It is the narrative of a concubine who was repeatedly raped to the point of death, followed by her body being cut up into pieces, and the pieces distributed to the twelve tribes of Israel. This is followed by the Israelites slaughtering thousands of Benjaminites, the Israelite tribe responsible for this atrocity, and the Israelites then instructing the remaining Benjaminites to abduct 200 virgins to become their wives. While it is not exactly children’s Sunday School material, it was appropriate for that adult class, but I was too uncomfortable to speak of such things.

I will be silent no more.

When Scripture is not silent, so should we not be.

Judges contains two repeated phrases:

  1. “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (chapters 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, and 13); and
  2. “In those days Israel had no king”(chapters 17, 18, 19, and 21).

This story begins with a variation of one of these two phrases:

In those days, Israel had no king (19:1).

In considering these two frequently repeated phrases, we might draw the conclusion that Israel’s moral standards deteriorated because there was no king. This has caused some scholars to believe that the book of Judges is an argument for Israel to have a king, which they eventually receive in 1 Samuel.

Whether or not this is the case, Judges indicates a steady moral decline until the readers reach the end of the book. The lowest moral point of Judges is when a Levite hands over his concubine to a group of men at the village of Gibeah who repeatedly rape her until she dies. As Ailish Fergusen Eves comments, “Yet after the gang rape (Judg 19) even the most corrupted Israelites are appalled, as are the successive hearers of this tale” (see 19:30).[1] In essence, Israel, a nation that was to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength, had increasingly become so immoral that it no longer was distinguished from the culture surrounding it.

Could this be said of the contemporary church? What does it say of the church when Lifeway Research reports that “research from PRRI found 62 percent of Americans say churches aren’t responding well to issues like sexual assault”?[2] In the age of #metoo, #churchtoo, and #pentecostalsisterstoo, headlines frequently appear that speak of the sexually violent acts of ministers and denominations that transpire against women:

Or

I wonder if we as a church have chosen to be silent against the improper treatment of women for so long that such attitudes and behaviors are excused, or even deflected, by blaming and shaming women. Are we giving men power in the church until a woman is sexually assaulted at which time we conveniently portray the man without power as we echo the words of Adam, “It was the woman”? In so doing, have we as a church made ourselves absent in the space where the Spirit is actually present?  

For me, God is there during this horrific account in Judges 19. The very existence of this story of sexual violence in the inspired Word of God informs me that the Spirit sees and is present. Yet the Spirit’s presence is not for the purpose of watching in order to take pleasure in the pain of others, like some form of voyeurism. If God is present, what type of hermeneutic do we draw from in order to interpret this passage while avoiding silence? Do we simply gloss over it by saying, “Well, that was the culture of that day. That was how women were treated”? How can the Spirit speak to men and women from such a narrative? Pentecostal Cheryl Bridges Johns answers a similar question in her work, which I believe is helpful for the church.[3] Johns’ hermeneutic describes the Spirit’s presence in the scriptures, which invites the reader “into the mystery of the Spirit’s work” of grieving, brooding, and transforming.

Such sin grieves the Spirit. Israel is to be an example to others around them, but their behavior is no different. While the gang of Benjaminites fail to see the vileness of their actions against the unnamed concubine, the Spirit sees, knows her name, and grieves, joining in her pain and the pain of those today who have experienced sexual violence. Johns states:

When the Levite opened the door and found his concubine lying in the dust at the doorstep, Skekinah was lying in the dust with her. In reading the text today Shekinah is there, calling for us to go deeper through the doors of suspicion and deeper through the gates of remembrance into the realm of grief. By the Spirit, an unnamed woman becomes our sister. By the Spirit, her abuse becomes our abuse. The Spirit joins the pain of this biblical narrative joined with the groaning of all creation. In the space of the text the Spirit carries us carried into the pathos found in the life of God.

However, as Johns notes, the Spirit’s work simply does not stop with grieving, but the Spirit also broods over the chaos, or the brokenness. Johns writes, “This movement within the life of God is perhaps the most difficult and the least understood for it calls for abiding and waiting in the darkness while attending to that which is coming.” Johns describes brooding as a word that is feminine by nature that creates the image of a bird spreading its wings over our sinfulness, our pain, and our brokenness. The Spirit (in Hebrew the word is feminine) spreads her wings over the sins against women in the scriptures and in today’s church. The Spirit tends to us and prays over us, whispering prayers of groanings on our behalf, working “for creation to be set free.”

But the Spirit’s brooding is not the end because the Spirit also brings forth a new world, or transforms. The Spirit is bidding us…pulling us toward a new creation. A time of equality, mutuality, dignity, and security for all humanity. Johns comments:

Within the sacred space of the word the light from the end streams into the present, making possible the impossible. In this light the broken and scarred tissue of the old creation is swallowed into the new order. It is in this sanctifying light that sexism and patriarchy are forced to give way.

Thus, we may participate in the ministry of the Spirit when we grieve, when we brood, and when we move toward healing transformation in our world. This is the story of scripture. This is the very character of the Spirit.

As I ponder the story from Judges in light of hashtag activism, I wonder what hashtag may be used by the church concerning sexual violence that includes the church’s view as scripture being inspired by God. Maybe it could be:

#metooatGibeah.

Like #metoo, #churchtoo, and #pentecostalsisterstoo, this text beckons to us to listen to the cries of the sexually assaulted…in this case, an unnamed concubine. Or to listen to those who did not give consent…the virgins taken. Like #metoo, Judges 19-21 reveals a narrative of sexual violence. It invites us to grieve and be empathic. It cries out for justice, equality, and change.

 #metooatGibeah #whenscriptureisnotsilent #neitherwillIbe

If you are a pentecostal/Charismatic survivor of sexual violence or a licensed counselor, I invite you to consider participating in a research project about healing from sexual violence. For more information, read “Tell Me the Stories of Sexual Violence.”


[1] Ailish Fergusen Eves, “Judges,” in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary, edited by Catherine Clark Kroger and Mary J. Evans (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 143.

[2] Aaron Earls, “Americans Distrust Churches’ Handling of Sexual Assault,” Lifeway Research, October 31, 2018, https://lifewayresearch.com/2018/10/31/americans-distrust-churches-handling-of-sexual-assault/.

[3] In this blog, I am drawing repeatedly from Cheryl Bridges Johns, “Grieving, Brooding, and Transforming: The Spirit, the Bible, and Gender,” a paper presented at Society for Pentecostal Studies 43rd Annual Meeting, Springfield, MO, 2014.

If I Had Known Then What I Know Now: Pastoring and #MeToo


The Blog That Speaks: If I Had Know Then What I Know Now: Pastoring and #MeToo


The statistics in the US are grim concerning sexual and domestic violence:

  • Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted;
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime;[1]
  • More than 20 percent of black women are raped during their lifetimes;[2]

  • American Indians are twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault compared to all races;[3]
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States;[4]
  • An estimated 51.3% of black adult female homicides are related to intimate partner violence;[5]
  • 55.5% of Native women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes; 66.6% experience psychological abuse.[6]

It may be easy for some to scan such figures and perceive them only as nameless, faceless numbers, having very little impact on their community and personal lives. Yet, as one who has pastored and who is also a survivor of sexual violence, these statistics have a definitive shape. They move from cold digits that are nameless and faceless to personal lives with real names, real faces, real wounds. In one particular church that my husband and I previously pastored, which averaged approximately 50 attendees on any given Sunday, I can recall the names and faces of seven congregants plus me, who had previously experienced sexual or domestic violence . . . And these were the ones that I knew.

Real people. Real stories. Real wounds.

Despite such daunting statistics on domestic and sexual violence, Lifeway Research found that only about half (55 percent) of the pastors surveyed were “familiar or very familiar with domestic violence resources in their community.” And half stated that they didn’t “have sufficient training to address sexual or domestic abuse.” [7] As one who teaches pastoral counseling for a pentecostal university, this is unsettling. Personally, I carry a sense of responsibility to ensure that my students are exposed to the subjects of domestic and sexual violence and develop a plan as to how they will respond. I guess you could say that I am teaching the course I wish I would have had prior to being ordained. If I would have known then what I know now, I would have done some things differently.

If I had known then what I know now. . .

I would have been among the 16% of pastors who had heard of #Churchtoo (and among even the smaller percentage of those who would have heard of #pentecostalsisterstoo). I also would have been among the 24% of pentecostal pastors (in comparison to 57% of Methodists and 52% of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors) who would have been more inclined to preach on sexual and domestic violence after being made aware of #metoo.[8]  

If I had known then what I know now . . .

I would have taught the congregation about domestic and sexual abuse. The congregants would have heard that rather than healing being a one-time event or even being completely finalized, healing for the sexual abuse survivor is a “long-term project.”[9] Dan Allender, a Christian counselor, seems to agree when he comments that in the survivor’s grief, which is part of the healing process, he/she faces his/her “irretrievable” losses, such as the inability to be completely comfortable “in another’s care without at least a hint of discomfort and anxiety.”[10] Grief is important, then, because, as Allender says, it “admits there are scars that can be removed only in heaven.”[11]

If I had known then what I know now . . .

I would have related how many survivors, be it domestic or sexual violence, have been silenced and are in need for someone to hear the stories of abuse. Many of both types of survivors have been threatened into silence, so they have refused to speak due to fear. In some families, the survivor would be breaking an unspoken rule to speak about the abuse. Both types of survivors may be filled with shame so that they are unable to communicate about the abuse. In childhood sexual abuse, this may result in the repression of it.[12]

If I had known then what I know now . . .

I would have invited congregants to help break the silence by becoming people who listen. I would have offered ways to cultivate the characteristic of listening, a path that demonstrates a power with the survivor instead of a power over the survivor. Such an invitation would have been framed theologically as participating in the ministry of Christ, being present to others as Christ is already ministering his presence to them in and through his very being.

If I had known then what I know now . . .

I would have taught that while cultures throughout the ages have asserted power over women, God demonstrates that the divine is with women in the person of Jesus, providing dignity, equality, and mutuality. This is repeatedly seen in and through the very being of Jesus Christ as portrayed in the Gospels.

Let’s take for instance the opening chapter of the first Gospel. Matthew begins with a genealogy, which may appear at first glance to be rather mundane, compelling us to bypass name after name after name, many of which we cannot pronounce. Like reading the above statistics, it is much easier to allow our eyes to gloss over the list of names without seeing real people with real faces. But if we do, we miss an important message.

Matthew uses this genealogy to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is a King within the Davidic royal line, but it also implicitly indicates that Jesus’ reign is in contrast to David’s. Unlike many genealogies of antiquity, Matthew includes four women, five if you include Mary. Their inclusivity is distinctive since women were not normally placed in genealogies, making them nameless and faceless in familial generations. Furthermore, these four women have less than honorable reputations in contrast to women of the patriarchs, such as Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel:[13]

1) they are of Gentile descent,[14] and

2) questionable sexual connotations are contained within their stories.

  • Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law, Judah, after he failed to give her his youngest son as a husband as was the custom when the first two sons had died; as a result, she bore her father-in-law a son, continuing Judah’s line (Genesis 38);
  • Rahab was a prostitute who preserved the lives of two Israelite spies (Joshua 2);
  • Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet (possibly legs) and laid down beside him (Ruth 3). The uncovering of feet is sometimes used as a euphemism for genitals. At the very least, Ruth may be seen as breaking the cultural gender rules by proposing marriage to Boaz through her actions;
  • The wife of Uriah (Bathsheba) was summoned by King David, who exerted power over her by having sex with her. When she became pregnant, he arranged to have her husband killed (2 Samuel 11-12).

The unique placement of these four women in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew bids to us to pay attention to their stories. The insertion of their names, thereby their stories of inequality, injustice, and even sexual violence, undercuts patriarchy. Their involvement in Jesus’ genealogy signifies, to use Carolyn Curtis James’ words, the “radical countercultural message of the Bible.”[15] As Anne Clements remarks, the incorporation of these women in Jesus’ line points towards a different kind of inclusion in the people of God. It challenges the commonly understood beliefs of patriarchy, ethnicity, and gender in the purposes of God, as exemplified in King David’s reign[16] while simultaneously inviting the reader to participate in God’s reign on earth—that is, one of equality, mutuality, dignity, and justice.

Such inclusivity of Gentile women in Jesus’ genealogy indicates Jesus’ identification with women. According to Matthew, Jesus is the King who is with them, Emmanuel (1:23). Their stories are a part of his story because their names and faces are part of his genealogy. Their wounds of injustice and inequality are a part of Jesus’ multigenerational family system and therefore a part of him. Because Jesus is fully human, their wounds echo down through the generations to him. Yet, these wounds are unable to have an intergenerational traumatic impact upon him because of his divinity. As when Jesus touches and heals a leper without becoming unclean (Matt. 8:2-3), so Jesus’ very being embraces and heals the intergenerational trauma of women throughout the ages without himself being marred. Since Jesus is fully divine, Jesus’ healing power ensues and surpasses each echo of inequality, injustice, and sexual violence against women.

By using the lens of a multigenerational family system then, I may say that Jesus takes within his very being the injustices against women, the power imposed over them while simultaneously healing them, by being a power that is with them—Emmanuel, God with us.

If I had known then what I know now . . .

I would have invited Christ’s followers to participate in this healing ministry. To sow equality, mutuality, justice, dignity, and inclusivity. To be present. To be with. To listen. As his followers, it is to this that he has called us, to be radical disciples by embracing the radical message of the Gospel.

If I had known then what I know now.[17]


If you are interested in assisting in a conversation among pentecostals/Charismatics, I am conducting a research/project on healing from sexual violence. For more information, please see the blog Tell Me the Story of Trauma.


[1] RAINN, “Scope of the Problem: Statistics,” https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem.

[2] Jameta Nicole Barlow, “Black Women, the Forgotten Survivors of Sexual Assault,” American Psychological Association, February 2020, https://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2020/02/black-women-sexual-assault.

[3] RAINN, “Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics,” https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence.

[4] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Statistics,” https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS.

[5] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Domestic Violence and the Black Community,” https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/dv_in_the_black_community.pdf.

[6] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Domestic Violence Against American Indian and Alaskan Native Women,” https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/american_indian_and_alaskan_native_women__dv.pdf

[7] Bob Smietana, “Pastors More Likely to Address Domestic Violence, Still Lack Training,” Lifeway Research, September 18, 2018, https://lifewayresearch.com/2018/09/18/pastors-more-likely-to-address-domestic-violence-still-lack-training/

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sheila A. Redmond, “Christian ‘Virtues’ and Recovery from Child Sexual Abuse,” in Christianity, Patriarchy, and Abuse: A Feminist Critique, eds. Joanne Carlson Brown and Carole R. Bohn, (New York:  Pilgrim Press, 1989), 72.

[10] Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1990), 228.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Sarah Rieth, “Scriptural Reflections on Deafness and Muteness as Embodied in the Healing Journeys of Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse,” Journal of Pastoral Theology 3, (1993): 39, http://www.luthersem.edu/library/auth_resource.aspx?resource_link=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000869829&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed March 4, 2013).

[13] Craig Keener writes, “Genealogies need include only men, so the unexpected appearance of four women draws attention to them . . . Had Matthew merely meant to evoke the history of Israel in a general way, one would have expected him to have named the matriarchs of Israel: Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel”; see Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999), 78.

[14] Ibid., 78-80.

[15] Carolyn Curtis James, “Dismantling Patriarchy and Discovering the Blessed Alliance,” March 25, 2021, as she quotes from her book, Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World, https://carolyncustisjames.com/2021/03/25/dismantling-patriarchy-and-recovering-the-blessed-alliance/.

[16] Anne E. Clements, Mothers on the Margin?: The Significance of the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2014), 275, Kindle.

[17] Parts of this blog will be published this summer in an article called “How Jesus Communicates #MeToo: A Perspective on Intergenerational Trauma and Healing in the Atonement,” in Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology, https://digitalshowcase.oru.edu/spiritus/.

#metoo #shametoo #healingtoo


The Blog That Speaks: #metoo #shametoo #healingtoo

“You Jerk.”

The child stood, stunned in the neighbor’s kitchen. Shame . . . ugliness . . . loneliness . . . engulfed her. In an instant, her shame grew exponentially, thereby becoming the most exaggerated part of her being.

She was bad.

She had led him astray.

She was to blame.

Unable to reconcile the wound that had been created, she attempted to forget all that transpired by burying the sexually abused and shamed parts of her. Little did she know, it oozed from her in a myriad of other ways. It manifested most distinctively by emotionally-overreacting; by people-pleasing; and/or by becoming perfectionistic. These ways of being grew as they increasingly began to serve as her protectors[1] while masking her profound longings for connection, safety, and security—the parched needs within her.

It would not be until ten years later when she was in a better place to face the wound, which reappeared from the shadows, from the dark recesses of her mind. When it emerged, it played frame by frame like a movie before her mind’s eye. Her adult part stared in shock and disbelief at the identity of that little girl: She was that girl. Yet, shame soon grabbed the stage, front and center, with its shoulds and should nots.

She should have stopped it.

She should not have let it continue.

She was not good enough.

Trapped within the enclosed walls of shame, her world shrank. She had to be punished . . . her perpetrator had implied as much, hadn’t he? She was the bad one . . . her abuser had insinuated that she had caused him to sin. Thus, she took his evil act into herself. She bore it. She owned it. It became hers. As Bessel van der Kolk notes, “One of the hardest things for traumatized people is to confront their shame about the way they behaved during a traumatic episode, whether it is . . . warranted . . . or not.”[2]

Unknowingly, the girl was living and breathing an age-old story told to and about women: The woman causes the man to sin.

The responsibility of men’s sexual violent acts has been repeatedly placed at the feet of women. Such responsibility is heard in the variations of the phrase: She was asking for it . . . by the way she dressed . . . by being in that place . . . by not stopping him . . . by the way she walked. Most recently this type of argument was given as a reason to kill when Robert Aaron Long blamed women at massage parlors for his sex addiction.

This story of blame and shame is not new. Genesis records Adam exclaiming, as the juice from the fruit remained fresh on his lips, “It was the woman you gave me.” Mary Stewart van Leeuwen comments how the healthy bond and connections among humans have been severed since that time: the man by dominating in all his relationships, thereby giving up authentic relationality, and the woman by being socially enmeshed in her relationships by being pleasing, thereby giving up her dominion.[3] In short, God’s image is diminished in both.

Such dominating and pleasing in our human relationships point toward the pandemic of shame that has been unleashed upon humanity since Genesis 3.

It is our shame that reveals our fear of authenticity. Like Adam and Eve, we continue to cover ourselves, not with actual leaves, but metaphorical leaves. Leaves of status. Achievement. Rank. Beauty. Busyness. Like rats in a maze, we run here and there, desperately attempting to be and do enough.

Shame plays a central role in our fallen relationships. Simply consider this common exchange between individuals:

Person #1: “How are you?”

Person #2: “Busy.”

In this exchange, it is what is not stated that I find most revealing. After all, how many of us would dare to admit that we enjoy watching television with our spouse in the evenings? Instead, our not-enoughness takes the driver’s seat as our one-word response of “busy” strives to convince the other and ourselves that we are important enough . . . matter enough . . . good enough . . . through our active and full lives. In the process, we avoid authenticity as we strive to prove our worth through our busyness.

It is an ongoing search to be good enough, to find acceptance, to be embraced for who we are. But meanwhile, our human relationships suffer as they are permeated with ongoing veiled attempts to be enough by covering up our shame.

As a Christian, I realize that the church is not immune to the powerful pull of shame.

The church frequently utilizes tools of the systems of the world to gain power over the other, thereby indirectly revealing its own struggle to matter—to be good enough.

  • It emerges in a summons by Christians to use violence to assert their way of life.
  • It appears when we blame the Liberals . . . the Conservatives . . . the Asians or the _____.
  • It may be seen in calls by denominational leaders to be bigger and better than _____.
  • It is evident in stories of those who have experienced sexual violence by church leaders.

Shame divides, dominates, wounds, withdraws. It seeks power over to prove I am good enough. It pleases to be seen as good enough. It hides because it believes, “I am not good enough.” It is the silent killer of relationships. And each of us, knowingly or unknowingly, longs for a place that is free from the strangling grasp of shame’s tendrils.

Coming off the heels of the church’s celebration of Easter, I believe this place of freedom has birthed forth in our world. Luke 24 is one such post-resurrection passage that indicates the presence of the freedom from shame.

In this pericope, Luke narrates the story of two men walking along a road that leads away from Jerusalem, away from the community of the other disciples of Jesus, when they are joined by the resurrected Christ. The two men are unable to recognize this mysterious stranger, who surprisingly seems unaware of the most recent events that have transpired. I personally cannot help but smile to myself as I read of Jesus’ feigning ignorance. As the reader, I know that Jesus is more intimately aware of recent events than these men are. But his playing dumb provides him with an opportunity to enter into the two men’s sadness and confusion by way of listening to their story. It is only when they are finished that Jesus takes the time to broaden their perspective. He begins “with Moses and all the prophets” and interprets “to them the thing written about himself in all the scripture” (24:27).

As Jesus spoke, I wonder if there was something about Jesus that continued to draw them to him that day. What was it that caused the two men to urge Jesus to stay with them as the trio approached the village? Could part of the burning in their hearts (v. 32) be the presence of genuine fellowship, an absence of shame? Luke seems to implicitly state as much when he speaks of the moment that they recognized Jesus. As they sat down to eat and Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, their eyes were opened (v. 31).

This expression calls to mind another time in Scripture when eyes were opened but with strikingly different results (thank you, Bob, for this insight). Genesis 3:7 records that after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, their eyes were opened—they knew they were naked, causing them to cover themselves with fig leaves, a.k.a. shame.

This phrase “their eyes were opened” invites the reader to notice a powerful contrast between these two narratives:

  • In Genesis, shame oppresses; in Luke, freedom heals.
  • In Genesis, the image of God is broken; in Luke, the image of God is restored.
  • In Genesis, facades are built; in Luke, authenticity springs forth.
  • In Genesis, blame disconnects; in Luke, fellowship connects.
  • In Genesis, creation dies; in Luke, a new creation dawns.

Luke’s story, then, portrays that humanity finds freedom from shame at Jesus’ Table—the place of genuine fellowship. But all too frequently, our yearning to abolish shame appears in our constant striving to be the best, to be recognized, and to matter, all in the hopes that someday, we will beat shame at its game, silencing it forever. It is easy for us to forget the true place where healing freedom from shame resides. Maybe this is the reason Jesus instructs his disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup until he comes: To find our freedom from shame in him once again. As Andrew Peterson sings:

and every Sunday morning
You can see the people standing in a line
They’re so hungry for some mercy
For a taste of the Communion bread and wine[4]

Hungry for some mercy in a world where shame is no respecter of persons.

Hungry for some mercy in a world where shame crushes the weak and the powerful alike.

Hungry for some mercy in a world where shame incessantly hisses, “You’re not good enough.”

On Sunday mornings, I too hear shame’s message whisper in my ear. Like Adam and Eve, I am tempted to hide from the gracious Healer. But I come, like the tax collectors and sinners with whom Jesus ate. Like them, I too am hungry for some mercy, for some acceptance, for some freedom from my shame. And as I come, I take to heart the words of the minister:

Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

And as I eat the bread and drink from the cup, I find this place without shame, a place of connection, safety, and security. Such is my place at the Lord’s Table.

#aprilissexualviolenceawarenessmonth

#metoo

#churchtoo

#pentecostalsisterstoo

#Iamthegirl

If you are a pentecostal/Charismatic who is on a healing journey from sexual violence, I invite you to consider participating in a research project. For more information, please read the blog Tell Me the Story of Trauma (simply click on the link to read or scroll down).


[1] This is drawing from Internal Family Systems, which describes protectors that emerge to guard us from the pain of the wound (the exile). See Jenna Riemersma, Altogether You: Experiencing Personal and Spiritual Transformation with Internal Family Systems Therapy. Jennifer Baldwin also notes that being a people-pleaser and/or a perfectionist are some of the socially acceptable ways that the effects of trauma emerge; see Jennifer Baldwin, Trauma-Sensitive Theology: Thinking Theologically in the Era of Trauma (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018), Kindle Edition, loc. 560-561.

[2] Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (New York: Viking, 2014), 13.

[3] Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, Gender & Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World (Downers Grove, IVP, 1990), 46-47.

[4] Andrew Peterson, “Windows of the World,” on the album Resurrection Letters: Volume II (Franklin, TN: Centricity Music, 2010).

Tell Me the Story of Trauma

INTRODUCTION:

The statistics are grim. RAIN reports:

  • Every 73 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.[1]

But rather than only nameless, faceless statistics, the #MeToo movement has assisted in bringing to light stories of sexual assault. These types of stories have appeared in all sectors of life from Hollywood to the Olympics; from politics to religion; from universities to seminaries; and among pentecostals. It is a part of pentecostal history as in the public story of Recy Taylor, a young black woman who was walking home from a pentecostal church service when she was kidnapped by seven white teenagers and raped by six of the seven in 1944.[2] More recently, many stories were heard at the first gathering of #pentecostalsisterstoo at the 2018 meeting of Society for Pentecostal Studies as many women and young men indicated that they, too, had been sexually violated. Some women indicated that such violations continue in actions and innuendos as well as through the lack of respect from their male counterparts. These stories may be called “countertestimonies,” as described by Stephen Torr. According to Torr, these are laments that are aided by the Holy Spirit.[3] It is necessary to lift up these voices in our cultures and churches for we as a culture and a church remain incomplete without them. For too long, survivors of sexual violence have been silenced, their voices marginalized as the perpetrators continued to remain in power. Today these voices are beginning to be heard.

With that being said, it is now time for stories that speak of the courage to heal from sexual violent acts. In an interview, Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too movement, states she wants to move beyond the stories of trauma to stories of healing.[4] It is here that I believe pentecostal theology may be helpful. It goes without saying that pentecostals are known for their theology of healing, and they are also known to be people of stories. This is evident as some pentecostals have begun to relate their stories of healing (whether these stories be miraculous or ongoing) from sexual violence.

  • Amy, a Classical Pentecostal missionary, was brutally raped in her home in Senegal in 2014. After spending time in daily counseling for eight months, she now continues to serve on another field. She stated, “I’m not the person I was before the attack, even through all the grief and pain. I like much better who I am now. My love for the Father is so much deeper, my love for people is so much greater, and my faith is so much stronger.”[5]
  • Another pentecostal, Jeanette Salguero, who is an associate senior pastor and chief operation officer at Calvario City Church in Orlando, speaks of ongoing healing: “As a Pentecostal pastor, I know about the laying on of hands and the sprinkling and the handkerchiefs and all that good stuff. But it’s a lot more than that . . . We cannot link hands and say, ‘Woman you are healed go.’ ‘Man you are healed, go on your merry way.’ This is a process.” About her own healing process she said, “I’m not denying the power of the Holy Spirit, but I do know, as a thriving victim, that therapy is a must.” [6]
  • For others, there is healing that includes a divine intervention as I presented in Who Is Present in Absence?: A Pentecostal Theological Praxis of Suffering and Healing. One of the participants of my study experienced theophastic prayer, receiving a powerful experience of healing as he envisioned Jesus Christ being present during the abuse that he experienced as a child.[7]

It is in the spirit [Spirit] of this type of healing, that I am seeking out stories (testimonies, if you will) of healing from sexual violence, be it an ongoing process and/or a supernatural divine intervention. If you are reading this, I am requesting your help.

WHAT:

Seeking personal stories of pentecostals/Charismatics who have experienced/are experiencing healing from sexual violence. That is, they may be on a journey of ongoing healing and/or they may have experienced a miraculous encounter of healing.

WHY:

  • Recently, the MeToo Movement has assisted in bringing to light a silent epidemic of sexual violence that permeates our country, and this movement is now spread internationally.
  • In response, other groups have been started, such as #MeTooChurch #PentecostalSistersToo.
  • The MeToo Movement also is calling us to hear stories of healing as Tarana Burke, the founder of MeToo Movement, stated in an interview, published in the New York Times, that she wants to move beyond the stories of trauma to stories of healing.
  • For pentecostals/Charismatics, such a call for healing stories beckons for us to inquire, “In what manner is healing demonstrated in the lives of pentecostals who have experienced sexual violence?” and “How may we participate in Christ’s healing ministry to those who have been sexually assaulted?”
  • These stories may include experiences of healing that are ongoing OR those that are the result of an instantaneous divine intervention.

WHO MAY PARTICIPATE:

  • A male or female adult over the age of 21. Please note that this research is not limited to those in the West.
  • Those who currently classify themselves as Pentecostal/Charismatic
  • Those who have experienced sexual violence (such as rape, sexual childhood abuse, etc.)
  • Those who have started their healing journey

HOW: 

If you meet the above criteria and if you are interested in participating in this research/writing project, there are two ways you may participate:

1) Tell your story of healing via 90-minute interview on a video call.

Those interested in participating via this method would begin by contacting me at: healing101.research@gmail.com

at which point they will be asked to engage in a screening process that includes a questionnaire, which is followed up with a short phone conversation. If you are selected as a participant, you will be invited to tell your story in an extended interview via a video call (such as Zoom, FaceTime, etc.). Participants will be given the main questions in advance to assist in providing a sense of safety and security. You are telling your story during the interview, so you may say as much or as little as you desire or refuse to answer a question if you so choose. You may also stop the interview at any time. The focus is on your healing journey. Any information that is obtained in connection with this process, which can be identified as you will remain confidential and will not be disclosed. This includes the use of pseudonyms for such information as names, dates, and locations.

2) Tell your story of healing by taking a survey that contains open-ended questions.

This method invites pentecostal/Charismatic survivors of sexual violence to tell their healing stories via a survey. The survey begins with several questions to determine if you are eligible to participate in this research project. If you meet the criteria, you will be invited to continue with the survey by answering open-ended questions about your healing journey. If need be, a participant may pause the survey and return to it at a later time. I will not know the specific identities of the participants in this survey unless participants choose to inform me.

This survey is only available for a limited amount of time—it will close on July 30, 2021. Click on the following link to begin the survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/healing101

WHAT IF I’M NOT A PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC AND/OR HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED SEXUAL VIOLENCE:

You can:

  • Pray
  • Spread the word

As a matter of integrity and due to the sensitive nature of this study, I will not be approaching individuals and personally asking them to participate. Instead, I am making a general announcement about this research project, hoping that people will volunteer. This also means that I am relying on the assistance of others to help spread the word about this research/writing project; therefore, I request that you share this post on social media or with other friends and family members so that a wider audience may learn of this research.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: healing101.research@gmail.com

WHO AM I:

My name is Pam F. Engelbert, PhD, and I am ordained with the Assemblies of the God and am currently a pastoral caregiver/teacher/researcher/author. I previously interviewed Classical Pentecostals who had experienced extended suffering while hoping/expecting/praying for a divine intervention that did not come to pass and published their stories in a book Who Is Present in Absence?: A Pentecostal Theological Praxis of Suffering and Healing.

Regardless of your interest in being a part of this study, I appreciate the attention that you give to this request. I look forward to hearing from you.

#metoo #pentecostalsisterstoo


[1] “Scope of the Problem: Statistics,” RAIN, https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem (accessed March 18, 2021).

[2] Sewell Chan, “Recy Taylor, Who Fought for Justice after a 1944 Rape, Dies at 97,” The New York Times December 29, 2017, accessed April 5, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/obituaries/recy-taylor-alabama-rape-victim-dead.html?fbclid=IwAR27MauSvas3wKCpuPK2BN4hsHyx_t3r3e4cFDfgtfU5CU34d0z9Kyipyyo.

[3] Stephen C. Torr, Dramatic Pentecostal/Charismatic Anti-Theodicy: Improvising on a Divine Performance of Lament (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013).

[4] Aisha Harris, “She Founded Me Too. Now She Wants to Move Past the Trauma,” The New York Times, October 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/arts/tarana-burke-metoo-anniversary.html (accessed May 27, 2019).

[5] John W. Kennedy, “Back from a Traumatic Experience,” News, Assemblies of God (August 1, 2019) https://news.ag.org/News/Back-from-a-Traumatic-Experience, (accessed August 16, 2019).

[6] Morgan Lee, “ Max Lucado Reveals Past Sexual Abuse at Evangelical #MeToo Summit,” Christianity Today (December 13, 2018) https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/december/metoo-evangelicals-abuse-beth-moore-caine-lucado-gc2-summit.html (accessed August 16, 2019.

[7] Pamela F. Engelbert, Who Is Present in Absence?: A Pentecostal Theological Praxis of Suffering and Healing (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2019), 112-113.