I want you to read the above Tweet. Really read it. Soak it in. Let it sit. When you've had ample time to understand what she's saying, continue reading here.
That Tweet became the final piece for me to understand Zombie Church. I wanted to write this post weeks ago, and connect what I've been saying to Undead churches, but her account is private. It would have been crossing a boundary to share her Tweet without her permission. So, I messaged Jen Coles and asked for permission to share her words. Just recently she gave it and now I can finally continue.
The Fragile Nature of Brokenness
What I'm about to share is deeply personal and raw. You will see me differently after reading it. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse below.
When I was much much younger, my mom and stepdad took me to the hospital to see if I'd been raped. (As far as I'm aware, I hadn't, but my stepdad was grasping at straws, and he was a bad man..) They were trying to keep custody of my sister and myself. It was for those sweet child support payments. I would hear stories years later of my stepdad approaching my father and telling him, "We'll let you take the kids, and you won't have to fight it in court. All you have to do is keep paying the payments."
This all led to my first remembered sexual experience being me lying on a cold metal table. The doctor coming in with someone else and asking ME, an underage minor, if he could educate the other doctor about my private parts. I was a little girl suffering with mental abuse and neglect at home (yes, related to the same above stepfather) and I was afraid to say no. So as the doctor checked me to see if I'd been raped, they treated me like a lab specimen- naming off my parts that I didn't even know I had at that age.
To top it all off- after they'd finished, they took me to a room and questioned what my dad had done. I honestly told them he'd done nothing. I felt the moment gave me the space to tell how bad my stepdad had been. I began recounting stories of his late drunk nights. I began telling how he'd threaten to murder me. But I never really told, because that's when my stepdad threw the door open, called me a liar and dragged me to the car. It was no wonder, when months later the judge would have my sister and I in a private room asking for our testimony, I'd stare at the door wondering if he was on the other side. (Adults don't get it.)
We are not specimens.
I was turned into an object at 8 years old, because of an asshole that wanted money, and a jock that wanted to show his buddy girl parts. From the brokenness that already littered my tiny existence, new brokenness arose from being turned into a specimen.
Adults really don't get it. There are two terribly wrong things we do to victims of any kind of abuse.
To ignore. Most of us can just continue. Out of sight; out of mind. If we pretend the atrocity didn't happen, then it didn't happen. Only, the person who suffered the abuse can't do that. It did happen, and they're bleeding out, and no one seems to care because everyone has decided it didn't really happen. In church, this is part of Zombie Churches, and broken systems as a whole. It's a "flee" response built into our DNA. We see damage and our first instinct is to run. We can't run anymore.
To kill and examine. "You may be a wounded healer; just don't bleed all over them." Those were words spoken to me directly after my ordination. I took them to heart. My passion was drained out and taken away. I pinned my experience to a dissection table, and explained the parts. I was no better to myself than those stupid doctors years before. But I did it for every one else. If I turned myself into a specimen, then the others didn't need to be in my place. Fine! Kill me! Autopsy me! Now save them! Only, my failing was in believing they would want to go save anyone else. They want us all dead. If we're dead they could be sad for a moment, while they examine the corpses and move on. Just don't bleed all over them. Blood is a sign of life, and they don't want us living.
Read that tweet again.
Read the tweet again.
Read the testimonies of Kristy and Jessica again.
Read my stories I've been sharing throughout the years again.
I'm sorry we're bleeding all over the place, but we're still alive. It happened and it's happening.
If you examine our stories and walk away, you're treating us like specimens. You're breaking us further. You're making things worse.
If you ignore and walk away, you're treating us like we don't exist. You're breaking us further. You're making things worse.
For God's sake, stop acting like there's nothing there and the need isn't urgent!
Help! For God's sake, help!