I love blogging. One of the big reasons I love writing is because I get to use my voice to support good things and use it to counter things that I perceive as bad or dangerous.
At some point along my blogging journey, one of my many passions became speaking up for people who were silenced, ignored, and/or dismissed by the church or the church establishment.
Sometimes these stories are easy to share, straight-forward and profound stories that everybody reads and is grateful for its telling. However, most of the time, sharing a victim’s story isn’t easy at all. It’s time consuming. It’s emotionally draining. It requires writing and interviewing and research and fact checking and an ability to tell a story. Sometimes, telling these kinds of stories come with a great deal of risk and telling them often has a cost.
Over the years, because of the abuse stories I’ve shared, I’ve received threats, I’ve been called every name in the book, I’ve gotten hate mail from Christian celebrities and Christian trolls, and I’ve lost friendships. But as a writer, I’ve always said that I would not be controlled by the powerful and rich Christian gate keepers who seek to silence the stories of those who have been abused and dismissed.
In theory, I still live and write by that rule.
But in my becoming known as a Christian writer mostly uncontrolled by the Christian establishment’s power list and one who longed to uplift and project the stories of those who have been silenced, I eventually realized a very tragic truth: that despite my ability to ignore the veiled threats, the gatekeepers’s critiques, and a potential loss of friendships in order to share a victim’s story, the truth is my writing wasn’t nearly as fearless and unaffected as I would have liked to believe. If I’m honest, I’d traded in one flavor of fear for another, and this one was far more potent than anything the establishment ever tried to use.
Who was I afraid of? Not my enemies or people with conservative theologies or people with no theologies. The people I feared the most ended up being a portion of those who were some of my loudest cheerleaders, people who celebrated my “truth telling,” people who said they identified closely with the stories that I shared.
In the beginning, I wasn’t afraid of these readers. In fact, I loved this Internet-savvy bunch because they seemed to possess big hearts for making change and a strong desire for engaging in rich and thoughtful dialogue. Many members of this group were also survivors of their own devastating stories of abuse. They were a welcomed group of readers, the kind of readers that every blogger hopes for and/or needs. In some cases, these individuals became lifesavers and encouragers amid times when I was receiving great criticism from outside forces.
However, as much as these vocal and cause-conscience few supported my blogging efforts, they also became my biggest critics, a group of people who began to feel entitled to challenge me on every one of their disagreements. Sometimes, they treated me like their students, sending me emails to let me know what’s what about an issue or idea. Their instruction always seemed friendly at first—hey, just letting you know that…—but it quickly turned passive aggressive if I didn’t respond to or at least acknowledge their edits. I didn’t mind at first, but even though I didn’t realize it at first, their constant emails and comments, overtime, began to change how I told a story and how and when or if I offered an opinion. Most of these people are self-proclaiming experts on the proper (and more importantly, the improper) ways to dialogue about abuse.
Over time, this group of readers grew in numbers. It was manageable when it was 10, but when it swelled to 50, then 100 or more, it became anxiety inducing, stressful, a reason to just post another Jesus Picture of the Day as opposed to a real blog post.
It’s one thing when friends and family challenge you, it’s often easier to understand and compartmentalize the thoughts and opinions of people you know in real life. But it’s very different when its coming from people you’re in pseudo relationship with, and they’re telling you how and what you should write and think regarding a story or they’re constantly challenging your wording and/or conclusions, or they’re upset that you haven’t told somebody’s story or upset about how you shared somebody else’s story.
Combine that reality with the fact that I’m a human who possesses just enough of a people-pleasing mentality to make me codependent-prone and what exists is a reality that slowly exhausted me, edited me, and sometimes, it silenced me.
Because I became overwhelmed with this group’s social doctrines, their lengthy list of dos and don’ts, and their assumed desire to suffocate the Internet with their strict personal methodology for how stories about abuse are supposed to be told. Some of these folks are more consistent than others. Some are more confrontational than others. Some of them start out offended and cool down while dialoguing. Some of them start out kind and turn into angry, disappointed critics while dialoguing. Some of them seemed to follow me online in hopes that all of my content—from my jokes, to my politics, to my stories—would somehow always fit into the context, language, and worldview that was comfortable for them.
The more familiar with me they became, the more often they’d reach out to talk to me about my opinions, my wording, my acronyms, and my theories. Sometimes they skipped all of that and just went to the public expression of shame/disappointment for my lack of attention to this story or my forgetting somebody in a joke’s punch line or how somebody somewhere may perhaps on a day when hell is really really cold find my Facebook update to feel unsafe.
It’s often very exhausting. Anything that seemingly ventures outside of their personal comfort zones is fair game to send me “just a little note” about how I might become better (or just like them) at advocacy on behalf of the abused.
The thing is, I didn’t mind being challenged, at least, not as long as I had the freedom to challenge back. But this group’s core members quickly become unreasonable or defensive anytime somebody dares to challenge to their challenge.
Rather than being open to discussion, I was either quickly shut down, deemed unsafe, or told that I was triggering them. And when you’re one of the Internet’s few Christian writers willing to share the stories of those who are silenced because of abuse, the last thing you want to be called or proclaimed is “unsafe” or a “trigger.”
Which is why I often I found myself writing with their expectations in mind, peppering my thoughts/words with their long list of rules for what is the proper way to stand up for victims. Why? Because they’d write me long emails telling me how my approach to a topic caused them to feel silenced or vulnerable or unsafe, each of their limitations/stories/personal tragedies editing me, even silencing me or resisting saying anything for fear of waking the social media beast.
In 2013, I made the mistake of pissing off one of this group’s ringleaders. I’m not sure how they are connected but my god, they are, perhaps they gather in a Secret Facebook Group or in a den somewhere. Either way, when you piss off one of this group’s leaders, you piss off the whole group, at least publicly. They might still love me privately but for the sake of their community, publicly they do not. After that 2013 incident, my Twitter stream quickly became filled up with RTs from one person who declared that they no longer “felt safe” promoting my posts. I apologized for causing them to feel that way, assuring them that it was never my heart to unintentionally cause somebody to hurt or feel unsafe.
I’ve apologized a lot to these readers because this group is so easily offended and will turn on you in a dime. It doesn’t matter that you’ve always stood by them or shared their stories or engaged their conversations or are their personal friends, they have no qualms deeming you unsafe for not providing the proper, well-placed disclaimers. Personally, I’ve been deemed unsafe when I didn’t share what they believed I needed to share or when I disagreed with their conclusions. I’m sure I’ll be deemed unsafe once more because of this blog post. I don’t want to make anybody feel unsafe, but I’m also exhausted by the passive aggressive manipulation tactics that hurt people use to hurt other people.
It took me a long time before I realized that the only way you can become a safe place for the individuals who share this ideology is to either join them or shut up and say nothing. The only way to quiet the online ranting is to apologize, confess your “sin,” tell them you were wrong and they were right. They won’t apologize in return. But they’ll stop using your Twitter handle in aggressive manners. Anything else is met with vile attack. It’s seemingly impossible to offer any story or idea or question that will satisfy their quest to shut you down.
I’m afraid of this group of people.
And that’s why I’m writing this post. Because I will not live in fear of this small but boisterous group’s retribution. I will not be silenced or edited by their madness or controlled by their standards any longer.
It’s not that I don’t care. I do. But I refuse to let their expectations of what and who they think I’m supposed to support or shame cause me one more sleepless night.
Just like I refuse to live in fear of the Christian brigade who wants to silence abuse victims, I will not be silenced or manipulated by people who have no shame using the word “victim” as a sword/weapon in which to attack, control, or silence those they deem their prey.
The saddest part of all of this is that amid all of their irrational methods, the story–the real story of the one they are championing for–gets lost, overshadowed by their mob mentality and inability to see any point of view besides their own. They dismiss anybody who doesn’t backdown or agree.
I will always be a champion for telling stories about those who have been abused and/or silenced. Not because it gets me blog traffic or because I feel obligated or because it sells books. But because that’s long been a part of my calling as a writer and because I believe it’s the right thing to do.
But just as I will not be quieted by threats and the Christian establishment in my intent to tell somebody’s truth, I will also not be bullied by an Internet mob of people who think they’re the judge and jury on all things abuse.
I’m not going to be pushed into silence for fear of their social media name calling and Twitter-shaming. Telling the stories of abuse victims and challenging a culture’s desire to silence those victims has nothing to do with hashtags, RTs, and destroying the names of bystanders. Nobody silences abuse victims more than a small mob of cheer-leading Tumblr users with no patience, tact, or ability to think outside of their own prejudices.
Because no matter what cause you’re standing for, when you use that cause to manipulate, control, bully, attack, and silence people for either not agreeing with you or not joining you or not doing what you say they should do, you become an image of the very thing you’re fighting against, an abusive cluster of noise that’s slowly drowning out the very story you say you’re all about.