A lot of names like these have been tossed in my general direction in the last month, and I’m fully expecting that they will continue to be hurled at me. Calling me a liar and telling me that I’m writing about these things just so I can be internet famous for 15 mintues isn’t going to stop me from talking to survivors and collating their stories. It doesn’t scare me.
However, I’ve been in a few conversations recently where I’ve been accused of going about this an entirely wrong way. I should never have published that article about PCC. I’m stooping. I’m stirring up controversy for no reason. I have an agenda and I’m attacking an institution with nothing more to gain than making them look bad.
When I explain that no, the only reason I had for publishing that article was to help make sure these things don’t keep happening, most of the time I’m told well, if you actually want things to change than this was the worst way to do it. All you’ve done is made them defensive– now they’re simply going to entrench themselves deeper. Their only response to anything you say from now on will be damage control or dismissal. You’ve accomplished nothing– you’ve made it worse. You had a real opportunity to make things better and you blew it. If you keep publishing stories, you’ll be nothing more than a bitter gossip.
If you wanted things to change, you should have approached the administration privately. You should have engaged in conversation with them, shown them gently and lovingly how they were failing, and worked with them in Christ to make things better.
You should have followed Matthew 18.
If you’re not familiar with Matthew 18:15-17, it’s the go-to passage on how Christians are supposed to handle confrontation. If you have a problem with someone, go to them in private first and tell them; don’t just sit there and stew about it. If they don’t listen to you, go back with a moderator. If they still don’t listen, that is when you can bring what they did into public.
However, Matthew 18 isn’t the only thing the Bible has to say about confrontation (and I also have problems with forcing Matthew 18 to be about confronting power systems, hierarchies, and institutions). There’s also Ephesians 5:
Let no one deceive you with empty words … Therefore do not be partners with them … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them … everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
What PCC has been doing for decades and that they are continuing to do today are the deeds of darkness. They have done wrong, damaging, hurtful, and evil things in order to protect themselves as an institution, and they are still doing them. I will have nothing to do with it, but will rather expose them. If there’s another institution or system that hurt people, I will do my best to expose that, too.
It’s the difference between being a table-sitter and a table-flipper– or a table-burner, in some cases.
I’ve slowly worked my way into becoming an activist, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it takes all kinds is especially true of activism, no matter what sort of activism you’re a part of. Movements need Martin Luther King Jr.– and they need Malcolm X and Huey Newton.
The problem is, most of the MLK-types I’ve encountered want everyone else to be MLK-types and they tell the Malcolm Xs of the world that we’re wrong. That what we’re doing is counter-productive and we’re hamstringing our own cause. We need to be nicer, calmer, more logical, more compassionate; otherwise, the institutionalized power will never listen to us. We have to talk to them the way they want to be talked to, or it’s pointless. Anger and rage, they say, is fruitless. You’re screaming into the wind. We all need to sit down at the same table and talk. Take the time to discuss our differences politely and respectfully.
There’s actually a word for that in conversations about race: respectability politics.
Another term is tone policing.
I will never, ever tell someone that they can’t sit down at the table that I’d sometimes prefer to burn to the ground. So please stop telling me that I should not expose the deeds of darkness that an institution has been committing for decades. Don’t tell me that if I talk about the rampant abuse present in the IFB movement I’m “sowing dissension.” Don’t tell me that it’s more important for us to engage with our oppressors than it is to expose their oppression. My activism and my writing isn’t for the institutions– it’s for the oppressed. Sometimes, it’s simply to let other hurting people know that they’re not crazy and not making it up, that it happened to other people, too, and they have a right to their fury.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
There can be no peace as long as injustice and marginalization and silencing are daily experiences.
Peace-making doesn’t have to be peaceful.