The Church Holocaust Through One Person’s Eyes

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Do you think I exaggerate about the seriousness of abuse in the church? Is it of holocaust proportions?

Read the first-hand story of a 16-year old girl who loved God and wanted nothing more than to please and serve Him. She was innocent, clean, and pure – until her youth pastor noticed her…

Warning: this post is triggering! If you have experienced abuse, you will need to be prepared for triggers.

(Christa begins this part of her story from her adult perspective as her childhood memories plague her, the way it does for many abuse victims…)

~~~~

…I went for a run, hoping it would get the pain…out of my system… Then from out of nowhere, I felt his breath on the back of my neck and heard his voice in my ear. “Don’t worry, you’ll still be a virgin.”

I hurled into the tall grass and wiped the last trail of vomit on my shirt. I stayed bent over, hands on my knees, trying desperately to breathe. My chest was clenched shut. I began to shake.

Memory fragments filled my head. They were all fragments that I had glimpsed before…this time, I decided to try to line them up – “one, two, three” – the way the music minister had done…

One: I’m at the church parsonage in the same bedroom where my two sisters and I slept when my mom stayed at the hospital after my dad’s back surgery.

Two: I go in the kitchen with Dunagan, and he takes a couple beers from the refrigerator. “But it’s against our religion,” I say. He just laughs. He says that’s another one of those rules for lesser, weaker believers, and not for people like us.

Three: He puts the can in my hand and insists I drink. I don’t want to, but he keeps pushing the can up to my mouth. Finally, I take a sip. It tastes awful. He keeps drinking from his can, and then starts on another…

Five: I’m naked on my stomach on the bed. He is on top of me. I am saying “no” and squirming. I hear my own crying. His voice is in my left ear, shushing me. “Don’t worry. You’ll still be a virgin.”

Six: I hear his laugh…

At this point, I smell his breath, as real as if he is with me on the running trail. I stop and vomit into the bushes again…

I keep hearing him. It’s an endless loop in my head. His voice is there with me on the trail. His laugh goes on and on…

Nine: As we’re going into the garage, his voice softens and he tells me how special I am. “God loves you, Christa.”

Ten: It hurts to walk.

Now I’m doubled over on the trail yet again…

(From earlier in the book)

“We’re already married in God’s eyes,” he proclaimed. “It’s pre-ordained.”

“But you’re already married to Patsy.”

“Christa, God has predetermined that we are to be together. It’s already written in His plan, and He will make a way for it to happen. Your task is to live by faith and to stop fighting it. His ways aren’t our ways, and it’s not for us to try to understand.”

He told me about how men in the Bible often had more than one wife and even had concubines. I knew this was true, but I still didn’t understand.

“I’ve prayed long and hard about this, Christa. God wants you to be a helpmeet for me. He wouldn’t make me feel this way if He didn’t intend for you to be with me.”

Then he said the three words I could never argue against.

“It’s God’s will…”

“We know that all thing work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to His purpose…”

“Christa, you should know this by now. You’re called of God, and this is your predetermined purpose. You need to start trusting that God will take care of it and will make all things work together. You have to live by faith. You have to trust that it’s all part of His plan…”

God was testing me, he said, and God wanted to see whether I would continue to insist on my own way, or whether I would be willing to trust in Him and “live by faith…”

I tried to be a good helpmate, but somehow, I was never good enough…

(Later…)

After the beer-drinking episode, Eddie went back to telling me about how I was harboring Satan… He said I had seduced him and that I was a terrible temptress.

One day he called me into his office and made me kneel. I cried and cried there on my knees while he stood over me. He prayed long and loud, beseeching God to cast Satan from me and to cleanse my soul.

I went home and did my own praying… I prayed without ceasing. I begged God to keep me safe from Satan. I begged for forgiveness.

I didn’t know how I had let Satan inside me. I didn’t mean to.

When did it happen? How did it happen? I didn’t understand.

I prayed and prayed and prayed, but it didn’t do any good. I was utterly and completely alone and empty. No longer was there any Spirit beside me or within me.

Before all this, God had been my constant companion, a presence as real as any physical being. But now, God had turned away from me.

Everything went dark inside me. The darkness was like another living creature. It breathed with me and through me. It was always there – every hour, every minute, and every second. I didn’t have a clue how to make the darkness leave me…

I was terrified…

(Later…)

“God loves you.” Lots of people seem to want to tell me that, and I hate it when they do. It’s a visceral response. Those words ring in my ears like a vile curse. I’d rather hear someone say “Go to hell” than “God loves you.”

Perhaps God does indeed love me, but I will never sense it in the sound of those words. For me, those words feel like words of hate.

People seem to also want to tell me that God will heal me if only I will put my faith in Him. I try to be polite… but to me, those are also hurtful words. Faith is what got me into this. Faith is where the path turned terribly wrong.

For most people of faith, their faith is a source of solace… But for me, faith is neurologically networked with a nightmare. Sexual trauma and faith are inextricably seared together in my brain.

This is what it means to be subjected to the force of faith unleashed by a clergy predator. It is not only physically, psychologically, and emotionally devastating, but it is also spiritual annihilating. It is soul-murder. It is why many experts talk about the unique nature of clergy abuse trauma and the devastation of its impact.

When faith has been used as a weapon, it becomes almost impossible to use it as a resource for healing…

~~~~

These excerpts are from This Little Light, by Christa Brown and powerfully reveals just how insidious and devastating this problem is in the church. I’ll be excerpting and commenting on more from her book in subsequent posts.

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The Invisible Holocaust in Our Church

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

I just finished reading a book which is as profound as it is powerful. I honestly have no good words.

This book is so important to the church as an organization and to every individual who claims to be a Christian, a simple review is not adequate. EVERY believer, and I do mean EVERY believer, needs to read this book.

If you discovered there was a secret holocaust happening in our country, and no one appeared to want to admit it was going on, what would you do? You know what? I think just about everyone in the US finds the German holocaust appalling. We think that if that happened in our country, we would all stand up against it. It would be too horrific to contemplate tolerating or turning a blind eye. We think we would be the heroes to stand against the colossal outrage.

But we look on the history of the Holocaust through the eyes of after-sight. The fact of the matter is we would choose to turn a blind eye, give up our neighbors and friends to the Gestapo, and sign up to volunteer for the German army.

No? You think not? I’ll bet everyone who reads this will think there is no way they would participate in such behavior.

BUT THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS DOING JUST THAT. And, no, I am not exaggerating.

I am not intending to minimize the realities of the Holocaust of World War II. But, for all that, it lasted for a limited period of time. There was an end of the atrocities. The world rose up against tyranny and murder and sacrificed to stop it. And we all know that those who lives were personally touched by the Holocaust have lived with permanent scars that live on to this very day. We both acknowledge and continue in horror at the realities of what happened 70 years ago.

But there is a holocaust happening in the Christian church – and we are turning a blind eye. Yes, there IS a holocaust going on in churches all around this country, and around the world. Don’t believe me?

I don’t think the numbers equal the German holocaust yet, but at the rate it’s going they will get there because it is raging almost unchecked. And it certainly qualifies by definition:

Holocaust:

  • a great or complete devastation or destruction, esp. by fire.
  • a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
  • (usually initial capital letter ) the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually prec. by the).
  • any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.

Yes, there IS a “great or complete devastation or destruction” and “mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life” – and it is happening in church, a lot of people – especially church leaders – know about it, and people are either turning a blind eye or actively participating in the destruction.

If you think I’m exaggerating, and I’m sure you do, then you should try to prove me wrong. Do you dare? This Little Light, by Christa Brown tells the story. If you can read this book and not be deeply affected, I cannot imagine how.

I will be reviewing excerpts from this book over time so you can get a taste of just what I mean.

Making a Molehill out of a Mountain

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

One of the accusations hurled at me regularly regarding this blog is that I am over-exaggerating the seriousness of the situation of abuse in the church. I am told that the problems of both clergy sex abuse and domestic violence in the church are rare and limited to strange, extreme, non-mainstream churches.

I have addressed the fallacy of this assumption elsewhere on my blog, but another thought occurred to me today. To give a little bit of a picture of how big this “molehill” really is, here are some facts.

Click on the link in the right sidebar for “Protestant Clergy Sex Abuse in the News.” See how many pastors and church workers appear there. Now, remember that my collection is quite incomplete — I don’t find every news story. Also, by far, most instances of clergy sex abuse are never reported. Almost all of the ones I know about personally have never been reported.

Now, looking at the number of news stories about clergy sex abuse, consider that I talk to many people experiencing domestic violence in the church to every one of those clergy abuse news stories. And again, I’m only talking to the tiniest fraction of women and men experiencing domestic abuse in the church.

And every one of those people I talk to, and every one of those news stories, literally affects many, many other lives — and the well-being of future generations.

Now, there’s one other important step to this exercise. What is God’s perspective?

For just a tiny peak, here are a couple statements by Jesus.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! — Matt. 18:6-7

The one who is giving offense is the church! Not all the church is giving offense, obviously. But it includes a large segment of mainstream Christianity, not a small set of fringe weirdos.

And God has more to say about what He thinks of this problem, in this same context…

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. — Matt. 18:10-14

So, does it matter? Am I over-exaggerating the seriousness with which God views this?

Rather than me making a mountain out of a molehill, the church is making a molehill out of a mountain. We are so busy picking the splinter out of the world’s eye, we have utterly neglected the beam blinding our own.

Quivering Daughters – Another Voice Speaks Out

God has raised up another voice in the growing army of those speaking out against abuse in Christian families. Quivering Daughters powerfully addresses abuse within the Quiverfull movement, and associated issues.

Hillary speaks with clarity and wisdom about the roots and fruit of the theological philosophies behind the Quiverfull movement. She writes from the perspective of someone who has experienced the movement first hand, and her authority and the truth she speaks are compelling.

I’m so grateful to God for raising up Hillary to this place!

Should You Speak Out?

Do you know of injustice but feel you are powerless to make a difference?

Are you a victim but think you can’t change anything?

Do you see abuse but not know what to do so you don’t do anything “this time,” with good intentions for “some other day?”

I had a major revelation recently. It is one of those — so incredibly small it’s incredibly huge — things.

All the power anyone has is the power of ONE.

You may think that someone else has more power than you do, but that is only because he or she uses their power differently than you use yours.

But the fact is this, all the power anyone has is the power of ONE.

Where the power of one becomes greater is when the power of one becomes one plus one, plus one, plus one..

Margaret Mead, the famous American anthropologist said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

YOU can change a life. Because you have the power of one.

You can change your life.

You can change one other person’s life.

You can change many other people’s lives, simply by doing what you can do – you have no idea how much one person can do who will just do what is within their grasp to do.

And when you join hands with others, there are no limits to how much you can do.

If you know of abuse, speak out.

If you are being abused or have been abused, speak out.

If you do not know who to speak out to — e-mail me. I can help you. And then we can join our power of one and become one plus one.

Yes, you can. Because God made you one – in His image.

Church Hosts Sex-Abuse Awareness Event

“Don’t tell anyone or I’ll disown you as a daughter,” — that’s what one father told his teenage daughter after he sexually assaulted her. And that’s what she publically shared at a church-sponsored awareness event in Naperville, IL. This victim eventually got the courage to tell a neighbor who believed her and the guilty father served a year in prison, followed by two years of probation and two years of counseling. But all too often, victims are not believed when they tell.

Awareness events like this are so important for multiple reasons. Victims need the validation of knowing that what happened to them matters and other people care. The rest of the community needs to know how often this tragedy happens and needs to learn how to recognize it and what to do when it happens to someone they know. Perpetrators need to know their community will not turn a blind eye to their hideous misdeeds.

This event was sponsored by the DuPage Universalist Church. I’d love to see Protestant churches get on board with this issue which affects so many people sitting in their pews!

Is it Rape When Your Husband Does It?

A cyber friend from the other side of the world sent me a link last night about partner rape. I’ve added it to my list of “Related Websites.” Little did she know the storm she would set off for me.

This is a subject I’ve known I need to write about, but have persistently procrastinated. There are so many other things in the world to talk about. I can talk forever without ever mentioning this subject, surely. Right?

First, I opened her e-mail with the link. I got tense, but added the link to my site; responded to her e-mail. Whew. Made it through OK. Then there was another e-mail from her with an attachment. I opened the attachment. It was an excerpt from the site. Oh, darn. Only one page. OK. I made it through the page. By the end of the page I was physically ill. I almost had to leave the room. I sat back and concentrated on deep breathing and not throwing up.

I got up, unplugged my computer and brought it outside to the patio where I am now, and my stomach is back where it belongs. I guess I really do have to write about this. Because I know I’m not the only one. There are others reading this who know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

It happens in Christian marriages. Sometimes it is forcible violent rape. Mine wasn’t. In some ways I wish it was. Just like I used to wish he would hit me. If he would just hit me I could call the police and everyone would finally believe me. If I just had some visible bruises everyone else would know I wasn’t lying.

After our daughter was born, in one of his screaming rages, Gary swore he would never come near me in an intimate way again. And he proceeded to denigrate me so horribly that I could certainly not initiate anything and retain a shred of self respect. I remained calm, as I had learned to do, and asked him if he realized what he was saying. He affirmed that he did and didn’t care. He meant it. And he did. He stayed away.

Throughout the next couple years I regularly let him know he was welcome back when he changed his mind. He didn’t change his mind. Then I was diagnosed with cancer. Once we had the details of the type of cancer I had and knew the cancer was highly hormone receptor positive, and I opted for a reconstructive surgery that permanently re-routed my Rectus abdominis muscles (those “6-pack” ab muscles) which support the uterus during pregnancy, we knew getting pregnant could kill me and would be at best, extremely difficult. We discussed this many times, and I told him repeatedly after that, he was welcome back when he changed his mind AND bought condoms. When he didn’t buy them, I finally did because the risk was just too great for a spur of the moment decision to cost me my life.

Digressing slightly, one of the many side-effects of chemo and the steroids that go with it, is insomnia. Like everyone else who takes chemo, I was prescribed a sleep aid. I attempted to go off it a few months after completing chemo, but my body wasn’t ready yet and I had to go back on the medication. It was a very big deal that everyone in the family was aware of because of the dramatic effects of the attempt. (There’s a reason for that little digression. 😉 ) I was finally able to go off the sleep aid about a year after completing chemo.

Meanwhile, however, the last summer we were together, about one year after starting chemo, there were three times when I woke in the night to find Gary having his way with me. Due to the medication I was unable to remain awake (I was in and out of wakefulness throughout), participate deliberately, tell him to stop, or refuse to do anything he told me to do as long as it didn’t require any coordinated action on my part. One time he did something I had repeatedly asked him not to do throughout our marriage, but he had done a few times anyway. One time he “forgot” to use a condom. And once he did something I had always refused to let him do because I felt it was derogatory within the nature of our relationship. He crowed about it for days afterwards and I felt completely ashamed.

And I could say nothing. I was very confused. On one hand, I had told him he was welcome back anytime he changed his mind. But I didn’t mean in the middle of the night when I didn’t know about it. Did he somehow think that was OK? Or did he think because I was in and out and didn’t stop him, I was agreeing to it?

But I knew if I said anything about any of these events three things would happen. One, he would fly into a rage. He was already doing that on an almost daily basis. Two, he would immediately call his parents (he tattled to his parents about everything constantly) and tell them I was “again” denying him sex, which was one of his favorite (unfounded) complaints. Three, he would use this as another mark against me with all his friends and our pastors – another favorite thing to do.

For the next 8 months I had terroristic nightmares every single night, even after I left him, which was 2 months after the last time it happened. I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I didn’t know what would happen. Every night I dreamed he was either trying to rape me, kill me, or had lost our daughter and blamed me (because that sort of thing actually happened). Frequently I woke up sobbing out loud or shaking so hard the whole bed rattled. Three or four days a week I woke up with a screaming migraine.

I will always believe that at least subconsciously he wanted to kill me when he “forgot” to use a condom. How do you “forget” to use a condom when it’s been two and a half years and you know it can kill your wife if she gets pregnant? And you’re sneaking it in when she’s asleep? I also know that when I first told him the doctor told me the biopsy was positive for cancer his response was, “Now I’ll have to find a new wife.” He wanted out of our marriage but his code of ethics wouldn’t let him admit it to himself much less be the one to actually pull the plug.

The only way I eventually got relief was with the help of a psychologist. And I don’t know why it helped. But it did. [NOTE: After I originally wrote this I remembered why this helped; but it’s not relevant; and much too detailed for this venue, so we will draw a curtain here. If anyone really needs to know, e-mail me.]

There were a whole pile of last straws in our relationship. The escalating aggression. Realizing that the verbal and emotional abuse were just as deadly as the physical violence. Realizing that I was just as worth saving as my children were. Getting cancer – I believe from the stress of living in the abuse. Realizing I was setting an example for my daughter to marry an abuser. Seeing him start to treat our daughter the way he had started with the boys when they were her age.

But this was definitely another of the “last straws.” And it was one of the hardest ones. It was one of the ones I “felt” the strongest about, but could least express. I told my attorney about it and I told my pastors. But it was certainly not something I could bring up in court. They would have made mincemeat out of me, and at that point I was definitely not strong enough emotionally to bear it. Gary could completely deny any evil intention. And he would have been absolutely believable. I would have looked like a raving lunatic out to destroy an innocent man.

But inside I was destroyed. At the time, I was sure I could never marry again. I was convinced there was no way a man was ever getting anywhere close to me in this lifetime. Three years later, I think I’ve gained enough distance that it won’t be an impossible hurdle.

At the same time, with the way the church deals with abuse, I am quite sure in the normal way of things, if a wife were to take a situation like this to her pastors she would get no consideration at all. And that would be profoundly wrong, because what happened to me was a gross violation. I don’t really know what to call it. Do you call it rape? I don’t know. It was certainly sexual assault. I wasn’t a willing participant. It was “taken” without my consent, and cruelly at that – without leaving a mark on me. Just because he was my husband did not give him that right.