Dee's Blog
Wed 10/31/2007
The Big Question
Topic: spirituality

The second question, as posed last week, reflects new understanding:

So you aren't really out there trying to destroy the church? 

I suspect the person who asked that last week already knew this, but needed me to clarify it for some in the group who might not.  Maybe she already understood what most who ask this question, as more of an accusation, do not understand.

So many honestly believe that those of us who speak against inappropriate behaviors at church, past or present, are out to destroy the church.   Rather than keep it from further self-destruction. 

Or Church as you from Catholic roots may write.   Whether writing about the "Universal Catholic Church," the community of faith, a denomination, or a single autonomous congregation--it's all the same for these purposes.

Truth is the church, like a lot of families, has already self-destructed.  Meeting every Sunday morning presents a facade to the world.   One of the greatest spiritual principles is that we look at the fruits.  Or, in the case of pathology, we look at the symptoms and understand that the symptoms going away for a while is no indication that the disease has.  If the disease is still there, the symptoms will re-surface.  Or to put it another way:  Cancers in remission aren't necessarily cured just because one is symptom-free and things look good. 

I do not have the power to destroy the church and neither do any of you, just in case you are having delusions of grandeur.   There is sometimes enough health that preservation needs to be done, in spite of the problems. Though I certainly believe some churches and/or leaders are doing such harm that they would do better to close their doors and not declare themselves to be a church. 

We do have the power to wake folks up, though.  Even though waking sleeping giants is a hard job. 

It reminds me of a bunch of kids trying to wake up their father who has been sound asleep for hours, with the Sunday comics across his face and some football game blaring on the television.  The guy may be great at his job, but not the least bit interested in the kids or what they have say. 

Folks who use their money and prestige to keep up a facade of being in control and on top of things and the owners of the truth are not going to wake up for long, whether in the church or the family.  They only stir in their sleep long enough to scream:  "Just leave me alone."  After all, as they see it, it's the church that is the victim of the "little ones" trying to wake them up!  Some days the kids would be better off out in the yard just playing.

These sleeping giants "need" to be worshipped, along with the church that they pretend to serve.  Ignoring the patterns that have permeated the institution for so long, contributing to the ignorance and bigotry.

If we are to see where we are headed, we had better sit up and look at where we've been as an institution, whether it's church or family.  This requires that we change our individual ways that would bow and stay silent to the lack of accountability when people commit crimes and continue to act as if nothing has happened, leaving others vulnerable. 

As my husband Ron says:  "Destroy the church of Jesus Christ?  No worry there.  It never got off the ground!"

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 10/31/2007 11:17 AM CDT
Tue 10/30/2007
Questions about the Church
Topic: spirituality

I just heard them again last week.  Good questions, though often asked by people who have a limited understanding of the "little ones" or what it means to be standing up as a person speaking to the faith community.

1)  What's going to happen to the church if this continues?

2)  So you aren't really out there trying to destroy the church, then?

It helps to hear those questions voiced from time to time.  Otherwise, I forget just what people are thinking about, when they make obnoxious comments that reflect ignorance and bigotry.

To the first, I say:   "It's already happened.  People outside of the church who are free to talk when they don't think there is an insider around help us see that the church has already lost it's integrity.  Outsiders see the church as incompetent, filled with incompetent leaders.  Much of it because of these issues."

All that can be done now is to confess and make amends in the hopes that someday the church will be in better standing in the eyes of the world.  It's time to stop worrying about what WILL happen and face the fact that it has already happened while people sat back and ignored reality.  That worry needs to be replaced with a new worry, reflected by the question:  "How can we make amends and start leading people to see that we have truly repented?"  That question reflects a deeply spiritual health that the public expects real spiritual leaders to have. 

Let's save the second question until tomorrow.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:23 AM CDT
Mon 10/29/2007
Placing Church on the Journey
Topic: spirituality

My feelings change when it comes to church.  Sometimes there are other things that just feel a lot more spiritual.  Or I'm fed up and can't even stomach it, like a lot of you are.  I know that some of you are that way fullltime, and I understand.  As always, I support you in whatever decisions are right for you and believe you know in your heart.

Yet when I choose to go to church, I do so because I choose to, as well, knowing that I'm not going to find myself on a great high, no matter where I go.  Those days are gone, though there may some moments.  My spirituality doesn't come from the institutional church anymore, and I do not consider that to be a fault or sign of spiritual depravation, even though some may.  Church often reminds me of Egypt and bondage, more times than not now.

One church I attend reminds me more of Gilgal than any other, though.  It feeds my passion to reach out to the oppressed, even though this church is reaching out to different groups than I do through this work.  The principles are still the same.  They take stands, but not stands like the ones that condemn victims of injustice.

I have never been one who goes to church for much ritual or liturgy.  I didn't grow up valuing either very much.  No doubt that has a lot to do with it.  I was bored stiff, as a kid, with communion, especially since it always made the service longer.   My feelings haven't changed much there even though, in mainline churches, communion takes the place of some of the sermon.  We often just get a sermonette that suffices.

Problem is that I go to church to be intellectually fed--that's a big part of spirituality for a thinker.   I get weary of the emotional stuff unless it has a very practical application for my journey.  While I sometimes appreciate the connections and "fellowship" too, that's not my primary reason for going, as it is for many.

Sometimes I go to church to play a role, as pianist.  On those days, I have to often get lost in the music in order to stomach the theology that irks me, especially if it's heavy fundamentalism, laced with patriarchy.  Since I'm usually getting paid to provide the music, I consider enduring the sermon and other comments as a part of the job.  Even when the songs are full of what I consider faulty theology, I have learned to translate them even as I'm playing.  Like today:  I substituted the word "transformed" for "redeemed" and it seemed to fit my own spiritual journey so much better.  Suddenly, I found myself putting extra feeling into the music even as it seemed to transform my spirit.

Where are you on this spectrum?  Do you equate church with Egypt, Shittam, or Gilgal?  Or does it vary for you, as it does for me? 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sun 10/28/2007 8:42 PM CDT
Sun 10/28/2007
Remembering the Journey
Topic: spirituality

Interesting how I laugh at so many things that I didn't laugh at a quarter of a century ago.  Finding my sense of humor has been the silver lining in the dark clouds for me.

I laughed really hard twelve years ago, the day I discovered Micah 6:5, a very funny verse in the Bible, despite it's seriousness.  Read it aloud for the fullest benefit.  No offense intended--the meaning isn't lost in the laughter.  For people who have been through the nonsense of spiritual bondage imposed by people of power in the institutional church, this verse is profound.

"Remember your journey from Shittam to Gilgal," the bold prophet Micah told his listeners.  The first syllable of Shittam is what had me laughing, of course.  I'd skimmed over that verse many times, no doubt, and never seen it before.  I didn't even know exactly what it meant.  Figured there would be no real significance for the survivor's journey in the places of Shittam or Gilgal.  Was I ever wrong!  It was SO significant that I turned it into an article for the Linkup newsletter!!

Shittam was the place where the Israelites camped before they crossed the Jordan River in their final leg of the long journey from Egypt to Canaan.  They were still in the wilderness in Shittam, not sure what might lay ahead.  They'd never seen it. 

Gilgal was the place where they celebrated, when they realized they were no longer going to be wandering in the wilderness.  Nor did they have to ever worry about going back to Egypt.  They didn't need that place anymore.

I don't know just where your Shittam may be on the metaphorical scale.  Perhaps you haven't gotten to it yet.  You may be fortunate enough to have stumbled on this blog, having never experienced Shittam--at least not yet.  If you have been there or if it's yet to come, just remember how close it is to Gilgal, though you may not realize it you are in the vicinity.   Gilgal--a place to celebrate.  One to look forward to.  And not in the "sweet by and by" after death, as so many survivors even make the tragic mistake of believing just before suicide. 

Gilgal is the place of freedom.  Here on this earth.  We may sometimes walk back into the wilderness of confusion, but we know how to get to Gilgal.

If you haven't found it, I trust that you will.   If you have found it, that's something to celebrate.  Either way, I'd love to hear from you.   I want to know how this relates to your personal journey. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:29 PM CDT
Updated: Sat 11/14/2015 9:33 PM CST
Sat 10/27/2007
Overcoming Fear and Shame
Topic: spirituality

Recently I had a conversation with several women who are well-educated women still inside the Southern Baptist Convention.  I very much appreciated their time and interest in my work.  In the course of that conversation, someone suggested that an article was needed that shows how some survivors have managed to transcend the problems of abuse and collusion.

It was a great suggestion.  Truth is--and I said so immediately--that I had already written that article.  It's at  It has sprinklings all through it about people who have done just that, some staying at least somewhat active in the church while others are totally out of it.  The church folks would interpret that to mean they ARE "totally out of it." Wink

The suggestion wasn't that we find churches that have done all the right things.  I've had that one before, too.  This idea was much more in touch with reality.  For there are far more survivors who have managed to transcend the problems and gain insights than there are churches who have done so.  It is a long, difficult road for anyone in either group, of course.

So I went back to the Church Secrets article this morning and lifted out a piece that I believe could be helpful to that group, as well as to some of you:

"The questions I ask sometimes generate answers. At other times, they generate more questions as I look deeper and deeper into the complex issues. Yet Dr. Wilkinson's "Who are they really trying to protect?" continues to ring louder than all others. To it I have added a related question: "What unresolved feelings protect wrong-doers in the institutional church at the expense of the vulnerable?"

I believe the answer is complex, but boils down to two feelings: FEAR and SHAME. Ironically, these same emotions are what keep most survivors in hiding. Once the shame is gone, it is impossible to ignore the healthy anger. For many, overcoming the shame of being angry is yet another step. But once that anger is seen as God-given and useful, it starts to work for healthy change. Gradually the fear pales. The energy takes over, and Romans 8:28 has a new illustration!

Yet victims are under no obligation to take the risk of reporting, possibly inflicting on themselves much more painful abuse in the aftermath. Before doing so, it is essential to have a strong support system.

By contrast, persons in positions of leadership are ethically bound to protect victims from public exposure and to do everything possible to see that offenders are removed from positions of leadership. They, also, need strong support systems, but often fail to find them. They, too, may face double-binds, having to choose between compromising their convictions or enduring intense spiritual abuse from colleagues who shame them for their convictions."


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Fri 10/26/2007 8:36 AM CDT
Fri 10/26/2007
The Little Ones
Topic: spirituality

In the Hebrew, the word for "widow" is the same as "silent one" or "one unable to speak."  That's what I learned at church Sunday.   At a church where the minister often reframes the stories in the Bible to provide new understandings that stand in strong contrast, sometimes even opposition, to the traditional interpretations.

So that puts widows of the Mediterranean world in the same camp with the children.  In the Bible, children are referred to by Jesus as "the little ones."  My good friend Dr. Sarah Rieth, a pastoral counselor, is one of several friends who commonly use the "little ones" concept to refer to those without power or voice. 

So that includes survivors who are so often silenced unless they can speak very softly, humbly, and quietly, painting a picture that is much prettier, with a better outcome than many survivors.  This means that those of us who have been able to speak, whether softly or not, can only hope to be welcomed from a far distance.

Try telling most church leaders that little ones are scary people, though.  You'll get a strange look and will be lucky if they can see it that way.  At least, once you start to explain in full.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 10/25/2007
Topic: Making Changes

Some of my greatest frustrations have come when I’ve forgotten about the deeper problems that permeate the people or institutions where I want to see change. So I expect such a different set of results that my frustration just goes through the roof. I do that often--in this work and with people in my life.

Yet not nearly so often as I did twenty years ago when I was saying: “Any reasonable person would…..” The truth is that many people who appear so unreasonable are really quite reasonable and functional in areas that do not require as much courage as tackling abuse issues. This abuse stuff throws us all into a very high level of anxiety. That’s the part we forget.

On top of the fact that many people, even those in power, don’t stop to be very reasonable about many matters I consider practical issues, issues that seem to be a “no brainer.” Perhaps it’s just not convenient to stop and be reasonable. Or perhaps they just haven’t had enough exposure to life, even though they managed to get a lot more in other areas than I’ve had.  Especially in the education section--that's the part that always stumps me!   That’s the problem with specialization: sometimes the “specialists” get where they are going without taking the 101 courses of life.

Then, there are other problems that make life extremely complicated. Reverting back to one of last week’s blogs, if the structure isn’t prepared to handle the chaos, get ready for Panic. Every time. Same goes for the theology that may support perpetrators. Especially due to the proof-texting, where one verse is pulled away from it’s true meaning. Or is steeped in the patriarchal thinking of the ancient writer who is, theologically, considered to be a “ghost writer” for God.

Gosh, how convoluted it all becomes, this collusion thing. Not to speak of coping with it!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 10/25/2007 7:30 PM CDT
Wed 10/24/2007
Accepting Our Choices
Topic: Making Changes

So when you have the need to tell survivors or anyone else what they HAVE to do, please remember that life is about choices. Just as there are many luxuries in life, there are also many choices that can be good, when faced with the unexpected. Or, to put it another way, when faced with the chaos that life throws us. Rather than the chaos we purposely create when we take risks and find that we have new twists that require some further management.

Often I have to remind myself to be kind and patient with those who do not make choices that I consider to be good or best. To gain perspective, you may want to look again at

One of the surest ways to increase creativity is to make small changes in your environment or daily routine.  Things that really don't make a bit of difference in the big picture.  Moving things around on your desk, for instance.  Or just rotating some pictures in your home.  Or trying out a different grocery.  Or simply going around the store the opposite way than you normally do. 

Have fun as you develop flexibility. In your structure AND your chaos.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 10/18/2007 7:40 AM CDT
Tue 10/23/2007
Not Always in Control
Topic: Making Changes
Back in 1994, at a time when I’d already thrown my life into some purposeful chaos with writing How Little We Knew (see whose success, according to my standards, had pushed me to take another step of purposeful chaos by leaving my career in formal nursing. To explore others, all with the firm sense of direction that was formulated much by my readers, to do something more in advocacy writing. Back then in 1994.…unplanned chaos hit.

Now, life is filled with unplanned chaos. Certainly violence and abuse fall into that, along with job losses, death of loved ones, hurricanes, starvation, war, etc.

If we expect something to happen, we can prepare for it to some extent. Or we can do what a lot of people do--just hope it doesn’t happen. Like so many churches deal with abuse by clergy.

Well, this one totally threw me. It was something that I’d always known could happen. In fact, I’d followed all of the medical recommendations--that was the first thing my shocked doctor told me when she called to say, just days before Christmas, that she was almost certain that I had breast cancer.

“First You Cry” is the title of a well-known book by Nancy Reagan. I did.

Next thing you do is search for resources. For me, that was starting with a very good friend, who had already gone down the dreaded road and even written some about it, as a professional writer.

Right after the first set of horrible decisions, I got back to the structure, thanks to my son and his sweetheart, (now my daughter-in-law). They gave me the gift of changing their own plans to stay and support me, doing all of the routine structural things of housekeeping so that I could meet the expectations of the editors of three publications, each asking for articles on clergy sexual abuse. The editors would have patiently waited until I had recovered, I knew. Yet I couldn’t wait. This was my passion, and I needed to get it done “just in case” something else, worse than the cancer itself, occurred during the course of the 4-hour surgery ahead and whatever treatment might be entailed.

Along with the surgeon and the oncologist, I turned to recent co-workers who were therapists or psychiatric nurses. Talk about luxuries, having these people as friends!

“Here comes another book!” one therapist said, providing a bit of comic relief. I smiled, yet didn’t tell her that I’d already thought about this.

Thought, but didn’t pursue.  It wasn't where my heart led.  Those of you who know me well have often heard me say that survivors have choices with how to respond to what has happened.  This goes for cancer survivors, as well as any other kind.  Nothing gets me furious any faster than for a survivor to tell me that another survivor HAS to do such and such, as if there is a set of absolute rules.

I did write an article for a nursing magazine after I discovered a unique slant that nobody had yet tackled much, yet was being studied out in California (ie. Chronic pain that plagues 20% of survivors following surgery, due to neurological damage).  Once that was done, I was finished with using my writing skills for the purpose of the fight against breast cancer and all of the problems it creates.

Not that this wasn’t a worthy project--it was. Thankfully, many writers DO pursue, one that has made many quite successful in monetary terms and more. 

It’s just that this wasn’t for me. That’s because I was most angry about the fact that breast cancer had interrupted my life of writing already. Writing that was already moving the way I wanted it to go, in finding many people even in those pre-Web days and knowing that I had blazed trails because I had chosen to write about a massive problem that was just starting to make the news. Not the problem of abuse, though that was the more popular. The problem of Collusion WITH abuse, a subject that I continue to find much more intriguing.

So I have not done what many activists do--taking those Race for the Cure runs. I’m glad others have.  It's an honor that my daughter-in-law and dear male survivor-friend do the race every year and often report this to me.  I just haven’t had the time nor the interest in doing that.  I want to stay focused on doing what I love to do most, what I loved to do before this unplanned chaos came along--writing to make changes in my world, in areas where few others dare to tread.

That’s the missionary spirit in me, I suppose. It’s what makes me unique and allows me to encourage others to find their own paths, making unique choices that are fine. Not the choices that I would make, necessarily. Heaven forbid! What a boring life it would be if we all made the same choices! Yet choices that work well and contribute to our changing world in the most effective and fulfilling way that each individual can find. 

Even if it wasn't what you had planned in those pre-disastrous days.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 10/18/2007 7:35 AM CDT
Mon 10/22/2007
A Luxury We May Not Recognize
Topic: Making Changes

Some time ago, I suggested to a survivor that having one friend to whom she could talk about her survival journey each day is a luxury. She was offended, initially. She considered it to be a curse that she only had one. Especially since that one was also a survivor wounded by the same perpetrator.

While it would be nice to have many more, the truth is that most survivors until very recently have not had one. Many still do not. Because the vast majority of survivors have never known where to turn and the majority of people, whether survivors or not, still cannot really hear the deepest sorrows that survivors of abuse and violence and collusion have endured.  

So please put your situation in perspective--in our larger world.  Today. In history. I believe you may find many things, both tangible and intangible, to count as luxuries.

In so doing, you’ll realize that we are all in this together, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses even though some choose to remain silent.  You may find, as I have, that it's not necessarily bad company.  In fact, it's filled with a diverse bunch of people, many who are truly miracles of transformation!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 10/18/2007 7:19 AM CDT

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