An Interview at Panhandling Philosopher Blog

In the spirit of Abuse Awareness Month, I’m over doing a two-part Q&A on sexual abuse in the Church with Daniel McDonald of The Panhandling Philosopher. I hope you’ll head over there to check it out.

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A couple of months ago, when some high profile child abuse situations were appearing in the news, Tamara Rice’s writings on these cases caught my attention.  I decided during this year’s Lenten season to take a break from my blogging and decided to ask some guests to present blogs.  

Tamara and I decided to use an interview by email format in which on behalf of my readers I would ask questions for her to answer …

click to read part one
click to read part two

(Comments will taken over on Dan’s page.)

Because Creation Sings Truth to Weary Souls

A few weeks ago, something miraculous began to happen on my back patio. Potted plants I was sure had withered and died over winter began to flush with new green growth. Truly, I hadn’t expected their reappearance. I hadn’t expected any of the plants I displayed in pots last fall to survive the winter of frosts and periodic snow; and, indeeda few of them are mere carcasses nowmuch like some of last year’s hopesno matter how much I want them back.

But the pansies.

The pansies came back. And they didn’t just come back, they came back thicker, fuller, even more colorful and beautiful than they were the first time. One in the deepest purple and another in the most fabulous orangetruly, creation at it’s finest. I marveled each morning at more and more gorgeous flowers opening to traces of Pacific Northwest sunlight and singing to me through this still cool and damp spring that summer will eventually come.

pansy hopeI was mesmerized by them. My whole life pansies had been a flower I dismissed as “flimsy,” and the word itself had been overheard as an insult directed at those perceived to be less than. An inappropriate term. A slur, even. In fact, just last night as my daughter heard it used that way for the first time in a moment of reality show ugliness, she turned to us, confused. “Why would anyone call another person a pansy?” What, my little gardener wanted to know, could it possibly mean to call someone a beautiful flower … with that tone? And my husband explained. And she was sufficiently dismayed.

But I was baffled as I reflected back on our strange and ever-changing cultural lexicon, because when those pansies came back after a tough winter in which they were completely neglected by my daughter and I, their gardeners, I knew that pansies represented fortitude. Strength. Resilience. Nothing weak or flimsy about them. They’d blossomed against the odds, just like hope returning anew despite my jaded ambivalence and a cold winter of disappointment.

pansiesI’ve been simply enraptured by the surprise of this delightful flower I’d planted for the first time last year on a total whim. How could anything that seemed as fragile as hope itself spring to life again after what seemed like certain death?

So one morning last week, when I discovered my beautiful pansies were being slowly devoured by some ravenous beast, I was heartbroken. Seeing no evidence of slugs, I blamed our sweet but sneaky family of squirrels living in the narrow space between the back fences and getting fatter with every day that spring is birthing new goodies to swipe from neighboring gardens.

I decided it was war. No matter how adorable those squirrels are. I mean, really … my newly beloved pansies!

I immediately googled natural ways to keep squirrels away from enticing plants. I planted marigolds. (Painfully boring to me, but unpleasantly pungent to squirrelsor so I’m told.) I even deposited a bag of used cat litter right next to the pots to see if that theory would hold them off, since my cat is no longer allowed outside to do the intimidation himself. (And was that a disgusting tactic? Yes. And the jury is still out on its effectiveness, though I did catch a squirrel marveling at the bag today.)

The point is, I won’t let the pansies go without a fight. They fought winter alone. I will help them fight the scavengers of spring. And today at the grocery store, even more pansies were vying for my attention, marked 2 for $3 and singing up at me in the most heart-stopping shade of crimson. They had me at hello.

Still, part of me hesitated.

The squirrels could demolish them. They might not even be whole by morning.

Like the frequent elusiveness of hope, I knew their beauty might be difficult to hold onto. But I also knew as I stood over them, in awe of their tiny, delicate—but shockingly heartysplendor that I would buy them anyway. I would still choose the pansy. This precious, determined mirror of my heart. I would take them home and I would plant them in the front porch pots this time, effectively bookending our home with monuments to gentle strength. Because these little wonders inspire me. I choose them, I am choosing pansies, despite the odds, because I am choosing the beauty and inspiration they offer when I’m blessed with their emergence.

And I will continue to choose hope too. Despite the odds and its sometimes infrequent appearance. Despite the pernicious frost of of disillusionment. Despite the knowledge that it sometimes takes perseverance and sweat to keep it alive. Still, I will wait for hope when it fades. I will tend to hope when it reappears. I will revel in it when it flourishes. And I will fight like hell when life eats away at its glorious blooms.

Because E-Readers Are Our Friends

I know what many of you are thinking: But I love actual books. I love the smell. I love the feel. I love the way they look on my nightstand and the way they look on my shelf later.

And I know all of that, because I used to feel that way too. (Oops, there it is. I just broke one of the interwebs’ new rules of social engagement: We’re not allowed to say we recognize our former beliefs in someone else, because I guess it seems condescending … Oh, well. I break rules. Because I’m telling you: I used to feel that way too.)

When my wonderful husband surprised me with a Kindle Fire and sleek leather case for Christmas in 2011, I may have smiled big and said thank you, but inside I was lamenting the fact that I’d just never use it much. (Why? NOT REAL BOOKS.) Because I was a book snob, and in some ways I still am. I love a bookstore. I love the smell of new ink. The feel of a heavy hardback novel. And there is much to be said for holding your favorite books in your hands and underlining them with ink and bending corners to mark pages and writing in the margins. (I get it, I really do.) I was even a book reviewer (like, professionally) for six years, often reading and reviewing 70-80 titles a year just for work. I mean, I really, really love books. (Kittens! Er, I mean: Books!)

So, I didn’t expect to fall in love with that Kindle. I didn’t expect the entire family to begin referring to it as “Mom’s best friend.” I didn’t expect that it would make me a more voracious reader in my post-book-reviewer life or that it would expose me to new authors and new genres I might not have tried otherwise. To be sure, it’s different. The first week of January this year, when all the cool kids were Instagramming their awesome “look what I’m gonna read” stacks of books for 2014, I just couldn’t compete. A photo of thumbnail covers on my Kindle just wouldn’t look as … well, cool or awesome.

But here’s what I love about my e-reader:

  • The volume of books I now consume. It went up exponentially, because it’s so easy to find a new book, buy it and start it—even if it’s 11 o’clock at night and you’re in your jammies. I probably read six or seven books in 2011, my last e-reader-free year. In 2012, the Kindle-owning Tam read over 20 titles and that’s increased every year since. It’s called accessibility, which brings me to my next point …
  • That I can read my books anytime, anywhere. I don’t even have to have my Kindle with me. As long as I have my phone, every book I’m reading on my Kindle is at my fingertips no matter where I find myself or how unprepared I was for the fortuitous chance to read. My library is always with me!
  • The ease of looking up new and interesting words and recording them. No, for reals, you put your finger on the word and the definition pops up. (You can’t make this stuff up.) And then you put your finger on it again and it’s highlighted and stored for you where you can access all your highlighted phrases and words with one stinking click.
  • The ease of researching anything the author mentions on Wikipedia. At some point the Kindle gods heard my cry and now when you come across anything unfamiliar that lies outside dictionary territory (like an artist’s name or a city) you can highlight the word or phrase and choose to go straight to its Wikipedia page. (!!!)
  • The ease of noting my favorite parts. Just like with single words, you simply run your finger across the sentences and they are yours forever. Anytime you want to know: What were the parts I loved so much? You can open the book, click a button, and read your new favorite quotes all in one place—no searching, no flipping pages—and you can even make notes of your own!
  • The ease of finding new authors to love. What some people don’t realize is that you can get the first few pages—sometimes entire chapters—of a book for free … zero commitment, zero money, zero trips to the library, zero time fighting for the leather chair at Barnes & Noble so you can cheat. It’s called a “sample,” and it’s legal and lovely.
  • The ease of discarding books you start and then hate. That whole sample thing? It’s completely cured my “I bought this/made a special trip for this, so I better finish this” affliction that caused me to finish many a book I didn’t even like.
  • The price.* If you shop carefully, you’ll never pay full (print) price. Is it free like the library? No. (But 11,000 public libraries in the US do support e-readers—thanks for the reminder from Susan Irene Fox in the comments!) Is it dirt cheap like a thrift store? No. But unless you are buying brand new titles, you’ll often find it to be as inexpensive as buying used. (Particularly if you watch for deals.) Example: In 2013, I bought a 2012 bestseller (The Shoemaker’s Wife) on my Kindle for $2.18. (It’s tucked away for vacation reading.)
  • The size/weight/function. Okay, so those who spend time around me know my hands and wrists are very angry with me for my career choices. The arthritis feels worse every winter and probably is, thus my hands really don’t like holding heavy or cumbersome hardbacks for an hour at a time during my nightly reading. Now I just prop up my e-reader next to me in bed and I barely even move to turn the “page.”
  • The era of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. If you play your cards right, your e-reader will double as a tablet, which means entire seasons of Downton or West Wing or what-have-you, even while you are nestled, all snuggled in bed, and I gotta tell you: It’s a delightfully intimate experience to hold your favorite characters in your hands.

Now do you see why my family jokes that I might love my Kindle more than I love them? (Never!) But I do sleep with it. Every night. True story. (It’s called a white noise app.)

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What about you? Have you tried an e-reader yet? What did you like about the experience or not like about the experience?

*Note: This is where a few of you in the publishing industry are going to complain about how less money is made on e-book sales. To that I say with all sincerity: The arts never promised you a lucrative career. You are now free to become a physician’s assistant. (I hear they make good money.) But I also say, with much less snark: If your publishing house isn’t embracing the advantages of e-book marketing, pricing and sales, then there’s an awfully good chance your publishing house is doing it wrong.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: 

  1. How could I have forgotten that e-readers offer font size options? Set the font as big as you like and … done. I don’t wear glasses to read anymore. It’s brilliant. I’m so spoiled by this feature!
  2. Reading in the dark! (What??) If I wake up in the night, I roll over and grab the Kindle Fire and read until I fall back asleep … without ever flipping on a light. (This is not true of all e-readers. Buyer beware.)
  3. Amazon should be paying me for this post. (I only wish this were a paid promotion!)

What I’m Into | March 2014

Taking a break each month with the amazing Leigh Kramer to participate in her What I’m Into linkup is one of the most fun things I’ve done as a blogger—I highly recommend it!

ON MY KINDLE …

Divergent by Veronica Roth | So, I’m just gonna be honest and say, I’ve been tip-toeing through this one a little each night and it is just not grabbing me. I don’t find this particular dystopia very interesting, but I’m determined to finish.

Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther | Well, technically, this one was not on my Kindle. I got the real paper and ink thing signed by Elizabeth herself and wrote this review all about it. Unlike Divergent, this one sucked me in! You can read my full review here.

Oddly, this was a light-reading month. I blame that on an all-consuming work project and being sick for most of the month. I guess you could say this month I was ACTUALLY into Nyquil and early bedtimes.

ON SCREEN …

The Voice, Season 6 | I’m really glad Shakira and Usher are back. I liked Christina and Cee-Lo—who could be entertaining in their own ways, of course—but this chemistry feels right. (Have they finished the Battle Rounds? I wouldn’t know … we’re about four episodes behind!)

Resurrection, Season 1 | I’m pretty certain that like other mysterious sci-fi shows (Awake, anyone?), this one won’t get a second season, and therefor, we might never know why these people came back from the dead. Or (like Awake) we might get a rushed, unsatisfying one-episode explanation after cancellation that was never what the writers intended. However, I’m hooked anyway. It’s like a piece of chocolate, calling to me from the cupboard. Eventually it’ll be gone, and I’ll regret indulging … but I’ll just keep nibbling until that day.

House of Cards, Season 2 | How could I have left this off the first draft of this post?! We didn’t binge watch, despite the temptation, and it was worth savoring. I won’t give spoilers, but da-a-ang …

IN MY EARS …

Usher | Okay, so I blame The Voice, but I am in a major Usher (old Usher) mood. All the classics—like “Confessions Pt. 2″ and “U Got It Bad” … Come on. These songs are sung from his gut. Who else can tell a woman his “chick on the side got one on the way” and actually sound endearing? I mean, really. Wanna hear him break up with you and still make you want to sing along? “Burn”

Fleetwood Mac | We dug up our Rumours album on vinyl after American Horror Story featured so much Stevie Nicks this season, and it’s been getting a ton of play. If you don’t know much Fleetwood Mac, try this oldie featured in a recent Bank of America ad: “Never Going Back Again”

Clearly, I wasn’t into anything new as far as music this past month, but sometimes you just need to hear songs you know every note of and sing along with all your heart. Sometimes predictability is the greatest comfort.

AMONG OTHER THINGS …

camelliaMy son and I cannot get enough of Stacy’s Pita Crisps—sorta like the original chips, but lighter. Oh, heaven.

And who wouldn’t love the white camellias that surprised us in our garden this spring, pictured here? It’s the fun of living in a new home the first year and seeing what the yard already offers.

In keeping with the beauty of spring, I was also so pleased that the potted pansies I put on my patio last fall have come back in all their dark orange and deep purple glory, even fuller and thicker than they were in the fall.

Spring carries a particular sort of magnificence—a reminder that second chances can often be better than beginnings!

SO, WHAT ARE YOU INTO?
Tell me all about it in the comments or linkup your blog post over at Leigh’s place!

The Realist Speaks: Because It’s About Kids

Yes, that’s a World Vision link in my sidebar, and, yes, it’s been there since I did contracted writing for them last year. And, yes, it’s going to stay there.

Over the past 48 hours I have cringed as I’ve watched the fallout from this Christianity Today article, in which World Vision announced their plan to remove a hiring clause that prohibited married homosexual Christians from working in their U.S. offices. I’ve had so many emotions. I’ve started this post so many times. One version was called “Because They Are Being His Hands and Feet.” In it, I tried to show how people don’t have to be following a particular denomination’s definition of faith to be doing God’s work in the world, because His work is His work, period, no matter who is doing it. But I gave it up … because some people will just never be convinced of that, and I’m not going to change their minds.

Another version was called “Because Your Selective Outrage Is Deafening.” In it, I tried to talk about people like Albert Mohler condemning World Vision when they refuse to condemn or even address the pastors and churches within their own denomination who have protected child molesters, and how this is a horrifying example of selective separation, selective outrage, selective morality. In it, I tried to show how dropping the support of an innocent child who’s been committed to while at the same time refusing to drop support of a corrupt mission board that mishandles child abuse (“because innocent missionaries”) is hypocritical to a stomach turning degree. But I couldn’t write about these injustices without my anger dripping through every line, because seriously … why—no matter what the issue—are innocent children always last on the list of these big-time “gospel” priorities?

Another version was written just in my head. It was “Because Ecumenism Means Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.” But you know, Ben Irwin did it so much better.

So I’ve settled on the version that I can write in peace. That I can say with my whole heart. It is this:

Be careful what you say.
Be careful what you say tonight at the dinner table.
Be careful what you say today on the phone.
Be careful what you say this morning on Facebook.
Because  your children are listening and reading and watching.

And maybe they are struggling with who they are, and you can’t see it. You’re just too close.

But if they are, and if you are not careful, you could send them a clear message: You can never tell me the truth. If you do, I will reject you. I will turn my back on you. I will separate myself from you.

As an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, I’ve been trying to get the church to see this for several years now. When you dismiss victims, when you consider them an enemy of your ministry, when you bicker with them over “proof” in the blog comments section, you are sending a clear message to the youth currently abused inside your organization: Don’t tell. Don’t speak up. You’ll be rejected. You’ll be argued with. You’ll be hindering everyone else’s important work.

Because they are listening. They are watching. They are taking notes. Because they know a day will come when they can no longer hold it in, and they are trying to figure out if you will still love them.

And so are the kids struggling with their sexuality.

About kidsYou can believe that being gay is a sin. I’m not actually going to argue that with you today. I’m just here to remind you that young people struggling with their sexuality are anywhere from 2 to 3 and half times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers. And one of these young people might be living under your roof, whether you want to believe that or not.

And my heart just breaks when I think about the things they have heard said at home and online over the last 48 hours … and what they might even hear said from the pulpit this Sunday. Because what you say and how you say it can make all the difference to them.

They are listening. They are watching. They are taking notes. Because they know a day will come when they can no longer hold it in, and they are trying to figure out if you will still love them.

Be careful what you say.

______________

P.S. It would be remiss of me to write this post without linking to this one: When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me. You might believe that being a gay Christian is an oxymoron, but I invite you to read this post anyway. If a grown man feels this rejection so deeply, how much more a child who doesn’t understand the nuances of Southern Baptist separation theology and the “political implications” of recognizing gay marriage? Please. Be careful what you say.

Fair Warning: In the spirit of being careful what we say, I’ll be monitoring comments closely. 

UPDATE: It seems at some point today World Vision reversed their decision. I don’t have words for how baffling this is. Once again, the power of selective moral outrage is evident, and I can’t help but wonder where all that outrage goes when child abuse is the issue on the table.

Book Review: Girl at the End of the World

I know what some of us are thinking when popular blogger Elizabeth Esther talks about being raised in a cult. We’re thinking: Really? A cult? Is that what we’re calling fundamentalism now? 

And the answer, in this particular case, is a resounding yes. Yes, that’s what we call fundamentalism if and when it also involves the systematic abuse of children, including the tempting of infants with candy and subsequent spankings to “mat train” them like dogs—although most pet owners would consider that too cruel, even for an animal. It’s also what we call fundamentalism when inside that particular strain of fundamentalism the single and self-appointed leader is considered “prophet, priest and king” with absolute authority over his follower’s lives and marriages that comes “straight from God” and cannot be questioned without fear of retribution or shunning.

quote from elizabethSome of us might not like that cults exist within Christian fundamentalism, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do, just as they do within almost every religion. And we should also understand that this particular group—know simply as the Assemblies (no relationship to the Assemblies of God)—was being called a cult even before Elizabeth left it.

The sad truth, as readers will discover from the very first chapter, is that Elizabeth is not exaggerating or sensationalizing in the least when she talks about the fact that her childhood and young adulthood were spent deep inside a cult.

As readers, we first meet Elizabeth at age nine, preaching hellfire and brimstone on a street corner for her parents, who she would do anything to please, much like every girl that age. But by the end of the first chapter we’re seeing beyond the brainwashing. We’re seeing a little girl who doesn’t want to earn frozen lemonade by shouting Romans 3:23 at total strangers from atop a milk crate. She just wants “a television, a Happy Meal and a Christmas Barbie.”

I have to admit. The first chapters are a hard read because of the abusive, warped spirituality that was Elizabeth’s childhood—even when peppered with her brilliant (and, let’s face it, resilient) wit. Author and blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire has said that she just wanted to “hug that cowering desperate girl” from these pages, and I have to echo that sentiment with—as Elizabeth herself would say—my whole heart. I wanted a time machine as I read. I wanted to be God for just a moment. I wanted to run back into Elizabeth’s childhood and rescue her from countless moments of shame and, yes, torment that she was forced to endure in the name of becoming a purified, sinless, worthy follower of Christ.

Her story shifts as she grows older and stronger, and as readers we get glimpses of the Elizabeth we now know online, but we also get glimpses of what that kind of childhood does to a person. As she wrestles with panic attacks, self-harm and despair on her long, long road to a fuller, happier life—first as a teenager and then as a wife and mother—we see the reality of PTSD in all its awful glory as well as the incredible courage and the years of slow and steady determination it takes to leave that kind of toxic, authoritarian faction of faith.

I wish I could share with you how she finally made her way out of the cult her own grandfather started, but what would be the fun in that? I can only tell you that once Elizabeth reached her high school years I couldn’t put the book down. (Favorite chapter 9 quote: “I have no idea who Brandon, Brenda, Dylan and Kelly are, but is sounds as though they really need Jesus.”) The rest of the book I devoured—deliciously and satisfyingly—in one cozy, cookie-butter-fortified (natch) sitting, with an occasional Kleenex for my tears.

Her story is raw. Her story is painful. But her story is also redemptive and beautiful and encouraging in the best ways, and you don’t need to have been raised in a cult to relate to Elizabeth’s trials and triumphs. Her situation might have been unique, but her damaged emotions, her often unhealthy coping mechanisms, and her determination to find physical and spiritual healing are more universal. If you haven’t had a hard life, maybe you’ll pick up some empathy and new insights through the lens of these fascinating pages. And if you have walked a difficult road, I think you’ll see a new author to love, a new take on hope, and inspiration on your own path to freedom.

_______________________

The Girl at the End of the WorldMy advanced review copy of Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World was free, but I can honestly say I’d have bought it and written about it either way. I’ve been fascinated by (and waiting to read) Elizabeth’s full story since I first discovered her through this blog post, which chronicles a pivotal moment for her that she does, in fact, touch on in the book. I first found that post a year or two after it was written and have been following her writing ever since. Though her popularity has boomed, she remains approachable and friendly, always growing, always vulnerable and her recent Gentle Lent series and her personal commitment to encouraging others this month has been beautiful.

Girl at the End of the World can be pre-ordered today on Amazon.com or found in bookstores this Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

Because MK Safety Is More Than a Boarding School Issue

(PLEASE SEE UPDATE REGARDING RNS’ ABWE COVERAGE BELOW)

This Christianity Today article [CLICK HERE] has been out for several weeks now. It’s a good start in addressing mission field abuse (but should come with a trigger warning for its graphic opening paragraph).

I say “good start” because CT has been notoriously soft on these mission boards in the past, particularly ABWE and their firing of GRACE one year ago.

This new CT article does expose several key stories of abuse, but it also carries the hallmarks of most evangelical journalism, which is that the mission boards are allowed to weigh in (of course—I’d never suggest otherwise), but their answers that ring hollow are not questioned and instead allowed to hang there as the last word on the subject. What I mean is, specifically, when a representative of the CMA (Christian and Missionary Alliance) says “well we’ve apologized” and “if there was more I thought we could be doing, we’d be doing it,” the correct next sentence is to point out how they’ve failed to live up to those apologies.

And when the mission boards’ self-created, self-insulated, self-regulated “safety structure” (namely CSPN, Child Safety Protection Network) is touted as helpful to victims, that summation should probably be backed up by actual endorsements from victims themselves and not just a random claim by the CSPN board chairman Becky Leverington that their efforts have been “appreciated” by victims.

Another problem of the article is its focus on boarding school abuse. While I agree wholeheartedly that boarding schools are problematic, the more I talk to other MKs and missionaries from other mission boards through the incredible network for survivors that MK Safety Net (an MK-led, MK-created child safety advocacy group) has created, the more I see a common thread running through almost every account of abuse on the mission field.

It is not in fact boarding schools that is the biggest common denominator—though of course they often factor in—but rather the greatest common denominators are more often …

  • authoritarian religious environments
  • toxic leadership structures that are closed to outside accountability
  • extreme reputation management as standard operating procedure as opposed to transparency
  • abiding and cultivating untouchable “favorites” or “beloveds” among the missionaries (hint: often the most charismatic and charming person in the room is the one most likely to be the pedophile)
  • an inbreeding of leadership such that exposing Pedophile A is deemed inappropriate, because other members of Pedophile A’s family are on staff with that mission board (or another closely related one) and the protection of their feelings is deemed more important than the physical protection of other children who may have contact with Pedophile A

Truly, almost every single one of those five commonalities runs through the stories of MK abuse I have heard for the last three years from ABWE to New Tribes, to CMA, to SIM and so forth, and I wish that the CT journalist had tackled those issues instead of the easiest scapegoat for missions to shift the blame toward: boarding schools. Yes, they are a problem, but could there be an easier out for these mission boards than to just blame-shift the problem onto the boarding school and shut it down? In doing so, they become free from their personal responsibility for the mission culture that created, cultivated and then curated the sickness (which was, namely: the protection of abusers). Please understand, the abuse is only part of the problem. It’s what these mission boards have done about the abuse and abusers that must also be addressed.

Please, let’s do rid ourselves of boarding schools in missions work. But let’s not forget the problems of leadership and religious cultures within these mission boards that allowed the abuses to flourish in the first place.

_____________________________________

NOTE: It’s also not lost on me that ABWE is not even mentioned in the article by CT. Maybe because boarding schools weren’t part of our problem. However, ignoring ABWE has recently been a common theme in evangelical journalism. Religious News Services (RNS) has referenced ABWE in passing in two separate articles recently without actually naming them. They have become simply “an independent Baptist mission board” as if their identity is irrelevant (Article 1 / Article 2).

Truly, these evangelical “news outlets” do not know what they are contributing to by not naming such boards. Every time the boards are not named, their PR teams breathe huge sighs of relief and the victims weep that their pain isn’t worthy of mention. There is no reason in either RNS article not to name ABWE. Instead, RNS has chosen to be an active participant in ABWE’s reputation protection.

If you believe that RNS should be naming ABWE in relevant articles as opposed to referring to it as a nameless “independent Baptist mission board” then please drop a quick line to Kevin Eckstrom, the general editor of RNS. [EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED AT REQUEST OF KEVIN ECKSTROM.]

________________

This morning I received the following note from Kevin Eckstrom and I imagine all of you who wrote received it as well:

Ladies and gentlemen:

I’m writing to respond to the deluge of emails I’ve received from you in the past 24 hours about RNS coverage of Bob Jones and, indirectly, the ABWE. We always appreciate hearing from readers, even and especially when they think we’ve missed the mark.

A couple of points:

– I have asked my staff to insert the ABWE name into the articles you referenced. That has been done.

– I can assure you that there is absolutely zero attempt on our part to protect or expose anyone, ABWE or otherwise. We are not, as some of you have alleged, trying to “protect their reputation” or “giving them the gift of anonymity” or “saying that the victims do not deserve or need justice.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

– In fact, there was zero discussion on our staff about naming or not naming ABWE in our stories. Perhaps that was an oversight, but it was not an intentional one. In journalism —  where space, deadline and staffing pressure loom large — some decisions are made for no particular reason. Both of these stories were written on tight deadlines with minimal staff, and the focus of the stories was meant to stay on Bob Jones; the ABWE was mentioned only in passing, and nothing more.

– You should know we take your concerns seriously, and have responded appropriately. You should also know that RNS is the only mainstream media out with a paid writer (Boz Tchividjian) who is dedicated to writing about abuse in religious settings. So we take this matter seriously and respectfully.

I believe we have addressed your concerns to the best of our ability, and now I would ask you to remove my personal email address from your website–on the Internet, that’s like listing your personal cell phone number for people to call at any hour  of the night, and makes my inbox vulnerable to spam.

Thank you,

Kevin Eckstrom
Editor-in-Chief
Religion News Service
529 14th Street NW, Suite 1009
Washington, DC  20045

__________________________________________

A BIG THANK YOU TO THOSE OF YOU WHO HELPED RIGHT THIS. 

Yes, he’s right. It was mentioned only in passing. But it was mentioned, so it’s worth naming. Also, he is not addressing the fact that I wrote to him privately on two separate occasions immediately after the first article ran asking him to address it and my emails were ignored. My concerns were NOT “taken seriously.” And so I’m grateful for the myriad of voices who echoed mine in saying that it wasn’t right to mention ABWE–no matter how “in passing” it was–without naming them. THANK YOU, FRIENDS!