Consideration — For the Well-Meaning Christian

The #MeToo cam­paign has tak­en hold once again in the wake of yet anoth­er laud­ed celebrity’s crim­i­nal activ­i­ty being dis­missed for the sake of the good they do. Peo­ple — over­whelm­ing­ly cis women, but includ­ing peo­ple of all gen­ders — have been using the hash­tag to relay their sto­ries of harass­ment and assault. They want to make sure peo­ple know that their abusers are friends, fathers, babysit­ters, employ­ers, employ­ees, part­ners. Their … our … abusers are peo­ple that you … and we … admire.

But let’s talk about some­thing beyond that abuse. Let’s talk about what hap­pens when we gath­er togeth­er as vic­tims and sur­vivors to sup­port one anoth­er as we work towards heal­ing.

I was recent­ly sur­round­ed by a group of peo­ple, talk­ing about the large­ly-shared trau­ma we’d gone through and how we move through those expe­ri­ences to heal and live a life less-inca­pac­i­tat­ed by PTSD. As we talked, there was an asser­tion that we will come to a point where we no longer need to tell our sto­ry because we’ve achieved peace … through a High­er Pow­er.

My breath caught in my chest. I looked around the room, hop­ing some­one would com­ment. But all I saw were nod­ding heads and peace­ful, know­ing smiles. I paused a moment, then asked, “Would it be con­trar­i­an for me to touch on the High­er Pow­er point?”

Imme­di­ate­ly — almost before I could get the words out — some­one respond­ed with a strong, deci­sive, “Yes.” I stared in dis­be­lief. I was told that it was some­thing very per­son­al, and I shouldn’t say any­thing about it. Some­one else thanked me for ask­ing, and thanked the oth­er per­son for being hon­est, and the rest of the group moved on.

Except for me.

I was shocked. (I don’t know why I was shocked.) I pulled my arms tight­ly around myself, began bit­ing the inside of my cheek as hard as I could, and (unsuc­cess­ful­ly) willed the tears to stay at bay. I man­aged to make it through the rest of our get-togeth­er before leav­ing on shaky legs and falling into a pan­ic attack the moment I reached my car.


did ask if I could say some­thing. And I didn’t push it when told “no,” because that wouldn’t have been an okay thing to do. By ask­ing, I accept­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of not being per­mit­ted to speak. I don’t know whether trau­ma drove this per­son to so hasti­ly and strong­ly respond in such a way. I don’t know why no one else in the room com­ment­ed on (what seemed to me to be) the glar­ing prob­lem of tying heal­ing to the super­nat­ur­al. I rec­og­nize that my trau­ma response doesn’t mean oth­ers had such a response. But, even after sleep­ing on it and accept­ing they had a right to say “no,” I still feel like this is an impor­tant thing for me to share.

Words mean things.

I know you know that. You’ve got to know that, right? I mean, your sav­iour is lit­er­al­ly called The Word.

But, if heal­ing is only pos­si­ble through the help of a High­er Pow­er … what does that say to the peo­ple who don’t share your faith?

I’ve said over and over again in this series: I know you mean well. But you have got to think about your words. Think about what you’re say­ing when you say, “It’s only through the grace of God that I’m heal­ing.” Think about the impli­ca­tions of your words to peo­ple who aren’t like you. Think about how what brings you com­fort has been used as a base­ball bat against oth­ers.

Want some per­son­al exam­ples? Here, allow me to open my veins and show you my wounds, anew.

  • The peo­ple who molest­ed me as a child were almost cer­tain­ly Chris­tians.
  • Grow­ing up in church and Chris­t­ian school, I was shown through teach­ing and exam­ple that I was respon­si­ble for how male-cod­ed peo­ple treat­ed me.
  • One per­son who harassed and assault­ed me as a teen was the son of an evan­ge­list, and peo­ple only spoke up because I fought back every time and told any­one who would lis­ten that it wasn’t okay.
  • A men­tor of mine told me that I was sin­ning because I was suf­fer­ing from PTSD. After all, “God hasn’t giv­en us a spir­it of fear.” So being trau­ma­tized was proof that I wasn’t trust­ing the Lord enough.
  • A friend, upon hear­ing that I’d been assault­ed, respond­ed with, “Praise the Lord!” and expressed his desire to be able to suf­fer for the Lord as He’d clear­ly cho­sen me to.
  • A fel­low rape sur­vivor told me that I need to ask God for­give­ness for my part in — well, I’m not sure what. Either my part in peo­ple sex­u­al­ly abus­ing me, or for how I respond­ed to the abuse.
  • I’ve been ter­ri­fied every time I talk about being raped last year, because I know beyond a shad­ow of a doubt that some will assert rape is some­thing I deserved because I’m not a Chris­t­ian and also some­thing God might use to bring me back to Him.

Apart from all of that, think about what it says to peo­ple like me when you imply that the same God who allowed and watched us be abused is the God we’re sup­posed to turn to for heal­ing.

But, you know what, let’s say you do believe I can’t heal with­out com­ing to Jesus. You do believe I must some­how accept child­hood molesta­tion, life-long sex­u­al harass­ment and assault, domes­tic vio­lence at home, and being raped as an adult as all some­how Part Of His Plan.

Beyond the utter lack of com­pas­sion and empa­thy in those state­ments, such an approach is utter­ly unprac­ti­cal. Is this real­ly the best way to bring me to Him? Mak­ing sure that I know I can’t heal with­out Him?

When my presence is an affront.

What broke me the most, though, was being asked to not even com­ment. As if any­thing I had to say would be inap­pro­pri­ate. As if my exis­tence was inap­pro­pri­ate.

Hon­est­ly, a big part of me feels like I should be used to this. I’m quite often the only athe­ist in the room, and that always brings with it a ten­sion — even with peo­ple who know me, who ought to know bet­ter. Because I nev­er speak against Chris­tian­i­ty itself. I always focus on the prob­lem­at­ic cul­tur­al appli­ca­tion. And even then! I have nev­er tried to take someone’s faith away. I express­ly affirm their faith, espe­cial­ly when it’s clear­ly help­ful to them in times of strug­gle. I go out of my way to not offend wher­ev­er I am as a gen­er­al prac­tice, because I hate con­fronta­tion. So I’m espe­cial­ly con­scious when I’m around Chris­tians.

And yet, that ten­sion is always there. I always feel it, though I try to pre­tend it’s not there. But then some­thing hap­pens where it’s express­ly acknowl­edged.

I’m the one who’s dif­fer­ent. And that, some­how, is dan­ger­ous.

Oh, the humanity.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m human too, damn it. I have feel­ings just as real and valid as you do. I expe­ri­ence the same kind of life that you do, the same kind of expe­ri­ences. I deserve respect, same as you do. The very same respect I con­stant­ly work to make sure I pay you. Espe­cial­ly when you claim to have the Spir­it of God inside of you for guid­ance, when you’re sup­posed to fol­low the exam­ple of Jesus when He was on earth.

This shouldn’t be nor­mal. And while I accept that this per­son had a right to say “no” to my request to share, I think it’s indica­tive of a deep­er prob­lem in Chris­tian­i­ty, where the exis­tence of anoth­er voice is seen as an inher­ent threat to their faith. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in a group set­ting like this, specif­i­cal­ly brought togeth­er to dis­cuss trau­ma. The pos­si­ble dis­cus­sion of reli­gious trau­ma was some­thing about which I was expect­ed to remain silent. As if only some kinds of trau­ma are allowed air­space.

As if there is no space for me.