Saturday, March 2, 2013

Of Trolls and Hate Mail

I’ve had this blog for nearly seven years and there have been times when I have been very tempted to stop writing. None of these moments were very recent… in fact, most took place six months to three years ago and that’s why I can talk about them now. To be honest, I’ve received a lot of hate mail from multiple sources (some published, some not) and even several uncomfortable threats because of the things that I’ve challenged on this blog. Honestly, there’s been a few times when I was so scared, I wanted to stop. At times, it’s been really hard to keep blogging. I get the idea that people think I’m some kind of sarcastic nut with a lot of time on my hands (I’m not!)… I’ve had commenter’s question my salvation, I’ve had barrages of 10+ angry comments within an hour, and I’ve been told by complete strangers that I need to repent. It’s crazy! I don’t mind when people ask intelligent questions and politely disagree or want to discuss, heck, I actually like it, but this is wrong on so many levels. It’s not always easy to keep working on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I like being able to help people and provide resources for those who need them, and I’m not meaning to complain. But I have to be honest and tell you that it’s really hard sometimes. For the record, over the last seven years, I’ve been called: a worker of iniquity, immature, cynical, caustic, angry, deceiving, lying, conniving, “so mean,” lacking in humility and love, bitter in heart, accused of being Jennifer Epstein (that made me laugh actually), and told that I am glorifying satan. I didn’t make any of those up and believe me, there are lots more.

I talk about a lot of upsetting stuff on this blog. Do you honestly think I enjoy this? I used to like Vision Forum and Doug Phillips and Little Bear Wheeler. I read Josh Harris books and thought Emotional Purity was the way to go. But then I learned it was all a lie. And I don’t want anyone else to be deceived. Do you think I like having to write about Kelly Bradrick’s near death experiences or that men in many churches abuse their authority? Because I don’t. It makes me sad. Things aren’t meant to be this way and I can’t believe that the name of Jesus Christ is being used for such evil purposes. I can’t understand how people can act like this in the 21st century. But if I don’t say anything, who will? There’s a lot of sheep out there who can’t seem to think critically about the right things and there are a lot of people, some of them even my friends, who fail to notice important issues and take a stand. Sometimes, I feel like Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring when he speaks of his efforts to protect the Northern part of Middle-Earth, “And less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us and countryman give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin if he were not guarded ceaselessly” and sometimes I also feel like Sherlock, “Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing.”

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years and read a lot of “woe is me posts” written by leaders in the patriarchy movement. Frankly, I think people should be aware that it is hard to keep up an anti-legalism blog and the tactics resorted to by followers of patriarchy and legalism. Not every follower of patriarchy has been like this, but unfortunately, the majority have been.

So, here’s a list of the things that Patriarchy followers tend to do as they comment on my blog:

1. Question my salvation. This. Makes. Me. So. Mad. Who are you to judge my salvation? I may criticize the teachings and actions of people like Peter Bradrick and Doug Phillips but I will never question their salvation. Only God can see a person’s heart and know where they are with Him. I can jolly well evaluate their teachings, words, and actions, but I can’t see anyone else’s heart. You can evaluate my words and decide you don’t agree with me but that doesn’t give you a right to play god and declare that I’m not a Christian or need to repent. It absolutely disgusts me when this happens. Therefore, I expect that those who consider themselves Christians will treat me with the respect that is owed to another believer. So, don’t be like this…just don’t do it. It weakens your credibility. And if you're saying I'm not a Christian just so you can be mean to me... wow. Like, really, wow. That is some perverted theology there. I can only imagine how you treat non-Christians.

2. Claim to be persecuted or spiritually abused while actually dealing out persecution and spiritual abuse. See #3. This is so annoyingly hypocritical. So it’s okay to be horrible to me and say all kinds of nasty things but when someone so much as questions you, you’re all up in arms? Oh and you should know: people questioning your beliefs is not a form of persecution. It’s perfectly okay to have legitimate questions and concerns and if you’re a Christian, you should have an answer for your faith. However, treating me and other bloggers terribly and then being very sensitive about how you’re treated is just nauseating.

3. Threaten me. Threatening to call my pastor(s), bring me before church councils, take me to court, have me kicked out of my church, or thrown to the lions is not okay. In fact, it was horrible. There have been times when commenters have been so vicious and intrusive that I’ve been afraid of physical harm. Lying awake worrying about knife attacks is not something that I should have to deal with… frankly; it reminds me of the persecutions that the early church faced from the Jewish religious authorities. I should probably note that it wasn’t really the government persecuting the early church, it was another religious organization. Come to think of it, a lot of persecution in the past has come from other religious bodies trying to correct or “save” one another. (Jews/Christians, Catholics/Protestants, Puritans/Quakers, etc.) It’s a pretty ugly past. So knock it off and don’t be like them.

4. Love-bombing. Try to act loving and write things about being kind and loving towards you when they are clearly so angry that they cannot see straight. Maybe it would be better to just say, “I’m feeling very angry with this right now!” instead of “I’m lovingly trying to discuss this with you.” You don’t love me, you really don’t, so don’t try to act as if you do. Why don’t you cool off a bit and find some perspective before you write to me.

5. Patronizing and/or accusing me of gossiping. This happens all the time… commenter’s act like I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I cannot possibly be credible so they have to explain things to me in small words. Look people, I have a college degree in research and I’m really good at it. I use lots of credible sources, check it a half-dozen times, and make sure it’s right. If I’m wrong, I admit it and I’ll correct it. Stop telling me I’m making all of it up and gossiping. All of the information I found is well documented, still available in multiple palaces, and/or posted by the people themselves. If they didn’t want it discussed, they shouldn’t have put it out there.

6. Defend people they don’t know/barely know. This boggles my mind. Why would you defend Doug Phillips, the Botkins, or etc. when you don’t even know them! I’ve had people who know me actually take the side of the person whom they’ve never met and probably never will meet. What is it that makes these distant pastors/teachers more important than someone you’ve known for years? Don’t you have any respect for your friends? Any loyalty that drives you to try to understand my concerns? Haven’t I been there for you? This is just so disappointing. And may I say that the sin of partiality is a very real issue in the church today. (See James 2.)

7. Think that just because they are Christians, their motives are pure and right and therefore, it is okay to harass me. Prefacing scathing comments with “it’s for your own good!” and “I’m writing because I want to lovingly correct you!” does not make them okay. On several occasions, I’ve had barrages of angry comments that were really consistent with stalking and harassment but when this was pointed out, those responsible could not believe that their actions were, in fact, criminal. Being a Christian does not make you above the law and certainly does not exempt you from practicing common decency and respect. If an abusive husband is a Christian, he’s still an abuser and he’s still accountable for his actions. No matter how good you think your motives, you’d better consider your actions from several angles before proceeding. As C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

8. Enlist other people to help you when you think you’re losing a discussion/argument. Bringing in other random people to yell at me doesn’t help your case at all. And trying to involve my parents (or significant other when he appears) is just silly. I’m an adult and I can take care of my own problems.

9. Don’t take the time to organize their thoughts and end up word vomiting every incoherent, sleep-deprived thought in their head into a comment. I’ve gotten lots of angry comments that were submitted late at night and, from what my stat counter tells me, immediately after reading a post. If you’re upset about something, it’s a good rule of thumb to wait at least one day before commenting. You’ll be more coherent and rested and maybe I’ll actually learn something from you instead of wondering a: why you’re so impulsive and b: if you were drunk, in pms, high on caffeine, or a professional hit-man.

10. Flounce after leaving a scathing comment or conversely, constantly monitoring my blog so you can leave nasty comments on every new post. My stats reveal a lot and I can tell if you come back or don’t come back. Why bother to leave a comment that requires a response if you’re never going to read my response? You might be wrong you know and maybe you should listen to my side, even if just to be polite. Goodness knows, I read every comment I receive, no matter how awful may be. On the flip side, constantly checking my blog so you can critique me is creepy. You’re turning into a stalker so just stop it.

11. Misquote scripture and/or take it out of context in a desperate attempt to validate your beliefs. This happens all the time, to the point that it would be funny if it weren’t so serious. Sometimes I wonder if patriarchy followers even read their bibles because many of the ones who comment do not understand/apply scripture correctly at all.

12. Think that teachers/leaders cannot possibly be questioned. Ever. But then again only certain leaders who have been deemed worthy (mostly due to celebrity status, wealth, and/or number of books/cds sold). Hate to break it to you but Jesus made it clear that it is perfectly acceptable to question religious leaders and hold them accountable. He even called them snakes, hypocrites, and broods of vipers. (Please don’t decide to call me that! :-) I already know I’m vicious and conniving *rolls eyes*) He told us how to judge the teachings of others. Multiple passages in scripture speak of holding teachers to account for their actions and teachings. (1 John 4, James 3, Luke 12:47-49). I take this very seriously because I think that includes me too. Plus, all Christians are supposed to be wary and act as Bereans so my questioning shouldn’t be this big of a shocker to you.

13. Not catching sarcasm and/or completely lacking a sense of humor. I’ve had commenter’s take my jokes and sarcasm seriously. This is usually followed by a very awkward, condescending lecture by comment on their part and hysterical laughter on mine. Seriously people, learn to laugh at yourselves. Life is hard enough already without taking ourselves and our lives so darn seriously.

14. Claim and cling to a lofty ideal or vague hurt while dishing out a steaming personal attack. Focus on the problem, not me. Calling me names does not make you seem like a victim to anyone, it just makes you a bully. Clinging to your own faith and idealism while attacking me is also very wrong, not to mention disturbing. As a matter of fact, stay away from personal attacks all-together, it’s not fighting fair and will not accomplish anything. If I’ve hurt you personally, talk to me about it calmly in one coherent e-mail, devoid of threats, patronizing, and the like, and I will be willing to listen.

15. Jump to conclusions/extreme thinking. This ties into #1 and it happens all the time. Why is it that when you point out one fault in a leader, patriarchy followers assume that you’re a horrible, vindictive person? Just because I discuss Peter Bradrick or the Botkin sisters and point out their errors, does not mean I viciously hate them, am scandalously trying to tear them down, ruin their testimony, or blah, blah, blah. (They’re doing a pretty good job of ruining things on their own; I’m just making it more visible.) Sorry to disappoint you but I actually just believe that their teachings are wrong and that this should be pointed out. I’m also very concerned for them and wish that I could help them escape from their controlling influences. Please stop acting like a hormonal teenager and realize that there is indeed a middle ground.

16. Trying to sidetrack me with another issue or little, nit-picky details that don’t matter. This isn’t fighting fair, in fact, it’s called kitchen-sinking in communication terms. You say you’re a Christian, so please act like one and focus on the gospel and the issue at hand.

17. Throw out all logic, reason, and common sense in their desperation to justify their leaders. I got this a lot with my post about Kelly Bradrick. Several commenter’s seemed to think it was okay for Kelly to be emotionally and physically abused as long as it was okay with her. NO! It’s NOT okay! Stockholm Syndrome is a real thing! Abuse is wrong, it has been wrong, and will always be wrong. Your desperate attempt to justify Scott Brown and Peter Bradrick is extremely disappointing and pathetic.

18. Tell me to just contact that person or just go meet with them and it will all be okay. *insert cynical laugh here* Yes, because it’s so easy to go out to lunch with Doug Phillips or Kelly Bradrick. Most of these people never respond to e-mails or phone calls that question them, if you can even find an e-mail address or phone number at which to contact them. I wrote to Shelley Noonan nearly two months ago, she isn’t even that high on the ladder, and I still haven’t gotten a response. These people are very insulated and not accessible at all. It’s not that simple. Plus, these teachings are very public and if no one refutes them publicly, how will anyone know they are wrong and/or realize that there are others who do not follow them?

19. An incredible, passionate, furious desire to defend their favorite leader(s) from any and all criticism and questioning. Seriously people, if these leaders were upset with me for calling them out, they would have taken care of it themselves and contacted me directly. It is truly astonishing how sensitive patriarchy followers and even evangelical Christians can be. Quit acting like these people are your “gifted” children and protecting them. They are all adults, with lawyers no doubt, and can take care of themselves. So, save all these defensive instincts for protecting your family and real, close friends. And maybe you should examine why you’re so darn protective and touchy about these people. Perhaps you’re making an idol out of them and that’s what makes you so very sensitive to my criticism of their actions?

Honestly patriarchy followers, you’re a pretty vicious bunch. Who would have known that so much venom lies behind those sweet facades and pretty pictures! I’m not impressed with you. You should be secure and cemented in what you believe, not flying into a mad panic at the slightest bit of questioning. If you’re so secure in your beliefs, why do you lash out like you’re afraid of something? And if someone asks you something that makes you question or makes you mad, why do you flounce? What are you afraid of? Of finding out that the people you admire and/or follow are sinners and maybe even false teachers? Jesus never lets you down… if you’d just focused on Him in the first place, you wouldn’t be so scared, confused, and angry now. Try thinking critically and taking a step back to see things from other people’s perspectives for a change and stop lashing out like a bunch of wounded tigers. A couple years ago, I decided one thing, even if I have been scared sometimes; I’m not going to stop writing. I began this blog to protest the injustices of courtship. That was the main goal. I was personally injured by the courtship movement and I’ve seen the inside of all of it. It’s not the pretty, little picture they try to sell and it doesn’t work all the time. I do have to remind myself to deal with the message and not the messenger. That’s why I’ve edited some posts over the years to remove nitpicky things, though sometimes those lines blur and you have to discuss a few issues that are more personal. There’s a place for standing up for what you believe in but it should still have a sense of decency and respect. And if you don’t like something on my blog, that’s okay. I never expected everyone to agree with me or see things exactly the way I do. My articles are open to discussion but my personal life is not. You can disagree with anything I write but if you’re attacking me personally, save your fingers. I’ll probably post it and I’ll respond if I feel it is worth the fight. If only one thing has come from this, I am more interested in my blog than ever and more determined to keep fighting against rules and formulas and legalism―and arguing for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Honestly, I don’t really mind that I’ve faced name-calling and threats as I’ve pointed out false teachings. It doesn’t worry me anymore and truthfully, I’ve moved on. It’s made me a lot stronger and even more willing to stand up for truth. And be warned, God keeps on giving me the strength to write and thanks to all of you, I have developed a very, very thick skin. So don’t expect me to stop anytime soon.


P.S. Don't think I am the only anti-Patriarchy writer who deals with hate-mail. All of the people I know who have blogs and/or help those caught in Patriarchy movement have endured similar situations. Some have even dealt with lawsuits and far worse attacks than those that I have experienced. We just don't talk about it a lot and we definitely do not mean to complain.