Dee's Blog
Tue 11/06/2007
The Enemy Within
Topic: Aliens

One of the most wonderful museums in the Midwest is located in Omaha, only 20 minutes from my home. It’s called Durham Western Heritage Museum. I sometimes take visitors there. Sometimes when I really want to concentrate on a special exhibit, I like to go alone. Such was the case recently. In fact, I made two trips in for an exhibit done in collaboration with the Smithsonian. It’s called “The Enemy Within.”

What a study on terrorism in America! Terrorism, as defined by this massive undertaking, is the “use of unlawful force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce government, the civilian population or any segments of society in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The displays were set in a large room that I know well, yet it didn’t feel like the same room at all since it was very dark to match the subject matter and filled with a backdrop of sounds that I wanted to turn off at times, sounds that reminded me of a haunted house. This was nothing like the haunted house, though. It wasn’t set up for anyone’s fun. Nor for tots or even elementary-age kids either. It would have gotten at least a PG-13 rating in the movies, and there were plenty of warning signs about its content not being suitable for children.

One purpose of this project seemed to be to get us to look deeper than the terror of 9/11, to see the history of terrorism in America, that actually started the very year the nation was born. Yes, even in 1776, when the Loyalists plotted to kidnap George Washington and assassinate his chief officers.

My mind kept going back to the days when we kids were told that the enemies were the communists who were living among us. Everyone was suspect, and we frequently had drills in school to protect ourselves under these flimsy desks and tables, where we were to stay quietly for as long as we were told. What a plan! Smacks of duct tape in recent years.

It reminds me of the belief that having a few convicted child molesters in a data base, so everyone can know where the problem sex offenders are, is going to be the magical solution to protecting us. “We can stop our vigilance. Just go in and check to see if you have one in your community. We all know where they are now.” As if they all get turned in or that all situations get reported and justice is always served. Not that data bases are bad. It's just such nonsensical thinking to believe they are the magical solution.  Such thinking creates a false sense of security, of course. Though I have to admit that I wish it was all that simple.

What is simple is teaching kids and adults alike that it's okay to talk.  Not just to talk, but to find ways of keeping us all focused on the rational concerns.  Getting that message across continues to be the biggest challenge as I see it.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 11/13/2007 1:05 PM CST
Mon 11/05/2007
The Value of Dreaming
Topic: Power

Recently, I was delighted to find a message from a very dear friend who is a survivor of collusion after discovering evidence of abuse on the church computer of a very conservative United Methodist church.  I was privileged to walk with Amy during those days of horror and loss.

Like many mainline denominations today, there is plenty of politics going on surrounding the issues of what is really downright fundamentalism, pulling on the right.   All while those on the far left are pulling the other direction.  In this case, those issues were probably a part of the reason for the collusion.  Not to justify the collusion at all, just to understand how complex it can be to understand the "justification" for it, often an unspoken agenda on top of the more common agenda.

So the bishop played politics, despite the persistence and great concern of my good friend Amy, in the city that has been the hub of so much of this work (ie. Chicago).   Of course, Amy had power that the bishop did not, in a sense.  Just not power to get anything done.  She had the power of the story. 

While having a scary story to tell may be a great thing on Halloween, it's not a good thing at all if the story is about the church.  Especially not if you are speaking TO political powers in the church!  That's more like a Queen Esther story, except the queen had more of a hearing.

OK, back to my delightful e-mail.  Amy wrote:

"I dreamt that you had a hotel/retreat place, an older building that you had cleaned up, painted and fixed up quite nice - and it was so booked that people had to wait to get in! There was a good positive energy and spirit there that I sensed with you and all the people there." 

Well, it was a nice dream, except I'm not sure I liked the fixing up part.  Done enough of that on our old house to last a lifetime lately.  For now, this blog has to be the closest to the gathering she describes.  It's practical, and I trust is being read by more than a few people who have a positive energy and spirit.

Dreams are powerful.  For warming our spirits.  For getting us to think outside the box.  For giving us vision.  They are great, as long as we realize that they ARE dreams that may never be realized, just fun to entertain as we move forward, creating new dreams and finding some of them fulfilled.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Mon 11/05/2007 7:26 AM CST
Sun 11/04/2007
An Example
Topic: Power

Ted Sorenson, a writer and journalist who was especially active as he worked with President John F. Kennedy during the Bay of Pigs crisis in the early 1960's, spoke last week on NPR.  It was chilling to hear some of the behind-the-scenes stories that showed just how close we came to all being wiped off the face of the earth because of uncontrolled nuclear war that was close to being sparked.

I was in high school and remember how scared we all were.  So scared that the school allowed teachers to keep the radio going during class, just turned down so the teachers could adjust the volume whenever any breaking news came. 

Kennedy didn't rush to action.  He used the utmost diplomacy, insisting on waiting until he got some answers before trying other communication.  In that, he thought like a person from  Eastern cultures.

Sorenson identified several factors that gave Kennedy the advantage.  He respected history and took a long look at the present in light of the past.  He had a marvelous sense of humor, even in the midst of the crisis.  When someone commented that he stood ten feet tall the day that the crisis was averted, he pointed out in a spirit of humility that he'd be small again very soon.  He had the distinct advantage of living abroad for an extended period of time.  As Sorenson says, that international experience just gives one a different perspective.

All of this worked together to make Kennedy a very powerful President even though his life was cut short.

Anyone attempting to bring about change will do well to look at the history of the problem being studied and how slow change has come.  Humor helps deflect dysfunctional anxiety, and humility keeps us from expecting to work miracles.  Getting outside the rigid system, to learn new approaches to the problem in order to break up the rocks of resistance a little better, is probably the greatest move we can make.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 10/31/2007 11:35 PM CDT
Fri 11/02/2007
Topic: Power

Mphamvu is the Chichewa word for power.  It is used as the equivalent of our English word "strength," as well.  It usually speaks of a positive quality.  Like having the ability to do something because one is strong.

Power is a paradox.  It is possessed by politicians, but also by prophets.  At times, prophets are politicians, as well.  And politicians can have a strong prophetic voice. 

Either political or prophetic power is a strength that can be used for good.  To have power is to have an advantage.  Parents, care-givers, ministers and teachers all possess this.  Those who are trying to be the exceptional voice need our encouragement.

Next time you are talking with someone who isn't versed in concepts of power or a person who may be threatened by that word, perhaps you'll remember to talk about advantage, status, privilege, or responsibility or duty that is held because of a position that one holds.

Helping people see that they do have the strength to stand up and be counted--that's what will turn the tide so that the mis-use of power is arrested or challenged.  When you can do this, you too show strength and a creative power, no matter how small you are. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 11/01/2007
When a Word Becomes a Roadblock
Topic: Power

Before I get to the topic, have an important media announcement, happening TODAY: 

Dr. Phil was on the CBS Morning Show today, giving a pre-show interview about his exposure of teacher-student abuse this afternoon.  I don't particularly like the format, hope these students are ready for this.  He is putting the teacher who has allegations from three students (and denies her guilt) up against the students on live TV!  From the clear way he laid out what he believes about the issues, I don't think he is going to have a problem doing a lot of teaching and exposing the issues, though.  Certainly a show worth watching.

 Now, on with the topic of power: 

If you logged in early yesterday morning for the blog, you found a simplified version.  I was inspired to add to it, rather than just expound on it.  So please go back and re-read anything that you haven't read since yesterday at 11:15 a.m.

Now, that leads me into a new topic that is very much related to what I wrote yesterday.  Power-that's the topic.  The single language that I once understood, when I only knew "one language" didn't accept what my "bilingual" world does today when using the word "power."

It used to be, in my youth, that to put the word "power" in any sentence without the word "God" or "Gospel" was considered total heresy.  Unless you were talking about some evil power.  If it was about people, it couldn't be a positive word.  The old fundamentalist theology of my history didn't allow that.   That theology is still very much around, and it's very important to understand a person's theology when talking about such matters as abuse and violence. 

If a nation, especially a "Christian" nation like the United States, has power of any kind, it is only because "God has blessed us."  The implication, often unspoken, is that we have found favor or have somehow earned that blessing.  Like Noah who "found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

People who were not raised in this theology of conservativism don't even seem to grasp what I mean when I say that using the word "power" can be counter-productive.   Fundamentalists understand "influence" and "authority" and "responsibility" and "obligation" and "duty"--all of these words do not have to be translated like the word "power."  Neither is a person who uses those words likely to have to prove her(him)self in order to not be immediately cast into the outsider role.

If "power" is considered to be a 4-letter word, then how do we talk more fluently with those on more fundamental levels about what we understand, without appearing arrogant, because we have dared to understand the concept more fully ourselves?  That's the challenge to think about as we examine the dynamics in depth.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thu 11/01/2007 8:02 AM CDT
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

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