#Churchtoo is a universal problem | Naked Pastor cartoon
Reading Time: 4 minutes via Naked Pastor; used with permission Credit: David Hayward (aka Naked Pastor

Progressive and mainline churches, like the SBC, have a problem with #churchtoo abuses in their midst.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

To: Progressives, liberals, mainliners, emergents, ex-Christians who market themselves as bridge builders to the Christian market

From: Becky Garrison

Re: #Churchtoo

Kindly refrain from gloating about the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was caught with its pants down, literally. Yes, I’m glad there seems to be some semblance of justice  in this case, but why are you silent with regards to the abuses in your midst? 

Before damning the specks in the eyes of conservatives, please look at the logs in progressive settings. If anything, the conservative church is doing a much better job when it comes to  addressing #churchtoo abuses. 

You ream me every time I try to point out the Mr. Hyde side present in both progressive-minded Christian and spiritual but not religious celebrities, who get elevated by the Christian industrial complex to guru status. I get it. The buzz you get from their charismatic Dr. Jekyll persona is indeed intoxicating. They are telling you exactly what you want to hear. Unlike those “other” Christians, these gurus affirm that you are part of God’s chosen clique, the few who are actually doing the “real” work of the Gospel. And for those of you who left the Christianity, you get the warm fuzzies as you reflect on how if there were more of these types of “caring” leaders, you might have never left the faith.

Let me suggest you peel back the curtain. Come on you can do it. What’s this I hear? You’re telling me that God can do good through flawed people. So what? I know Apostle Paul had quite the prickly personality. Yes, not every bestselling author or celebrity pastor is an abuser.

The world is filled with jerks for Jesus, A-holes for the Almighty, and the like. I know I’ve fit that bill on more than one occasion. We can all get somewhat full of ourselves at times. Also, when we’re under considerable stress, we can behave in a self-centered manner as a means of self-preservation.  

But I’m talking about those in the power pulpit who exhibit signs of extreme spiritual narcissism that veer into sociopathy. At their core, they are very deeply wounded. 

Yes, I agree that works like Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer offer hope that we can use our wounds to help heal others. (That is once we tended to our wounds). But rather than seeking to be the wounded healer, they inflict their deep woundedness on others instead.      

Be mindful that every time you dismiss the claims of abuse made against those in the media spotlight, you are sending a very clear sign to victims that it’s not safe to trust you with their pain. You’ve shamed them into silence, thus giving the green light for their abusers to continue. Bear in mind that abuse doesn’t have to be sexual or physical though that’s the only type of abuse that makes the headlines. Verbal, spiritual, financial, emotional, and other forms of abuse can be just as soul-crushing even though they leave behind no physical marks.  

Once again, I’ve said all I can regarding #churchtoo within progressive Christian circles. For those of you demanding evidence, I cannot name specific dates and places along with the names of those abused unless victims feel safe coming forward. 

Check out She Said or To Catch and Kill to understand the ethics of reporting on sexual abuse cases. Also, these books illuminate why victims’ statements do not often make cognitive sense (disassociation is a powerful coping mechanism) and why their abuse often causes them to act in ways that do not appear to be logical (Trauma bonding and other trauma-informed responses when one is abused are common).

As of now, those victimized in progressive circles remain too afraid of the professional impact that speaking out will have on their career, not to mention the personal attacks they endure for trying to tell their truth. This situation will remain SNAFU until the focus shifts from defending the professional reputations of those in power to hearing the voice of those in the pews being abused.  

Yes, those of us in the media bear some responsibility for penning puff pieces rather than investigating signs when we sense something is amiss. Instead of just labeling someone controversial, cutting edge, edgy, revolutionary, and other marketing memes, we need to do a bit of digging to see what’s actually behind their carefully crafted public persona. See Julia C. Duin’s piece highlighting the need for us to look beyond the PR spin and do some actual reporting when covering the latest shiny spiritual thing.

The next time you see a meme highlighting your favorite spiritual shaman, please hit pause instead of post. Do the same whenever you get an enticing message to purchase their latest wares. Just say no. Every time you buy into this unbiblical buzz by promoting their work, purchasing their products, or paying to see them play in person, you give this spiritual guru both the means and motive to continue abusing others. 

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Here’s a handy guide I prepared to help one identify the range of spiritual narcissists present in Christian (and other spiritual settings that attract ex-Christians). And for those looking for a deeper dive into church abuses, I recommend Brad Sargent’s work along with David Hayward’s cartoons. Naked Pastor‘s work appears prominently in this series for a very good reason. His cartoons nail the narcissistic tendencies of the institutional church.

As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School/Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith &...