Dee's Blog
Sat 11/10/2007
Dr. Phil Blows It

If any of you saw Dr. Phil, you were probably disappointed with the confusion that the show created in exposing the teacher vs. students with allegations last week.   I was certainly disappointed to get the reports, though I didn't see the show myself. 

Rather than clearly showing what he led me to believe he'd be showing in the program, this icon of wisdom for so many left the multitudes confused by bringing on kids who may very well have been acting out of immaturity in even bringing the allegations.  It strengthened the myth that victims, in general, are not to be trusted.  The public will see this story, I fear, as a typical abuse story.

I apologize for leading any of you astray who may have watched in horror.   Please understand that Dr. Phil and CBS together led me astray, along with a lot of others who had issues clarified well on the Early Show only to be left with no clarity in the end.

What a missed opportunity for this man!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Fri 11/09/2007
The Fog Thickens
Topic: Aliens

Studies like “The Enemy Within” give us an opportunity to look deeply within ourselves to see that we may also become “the enemy within" to others, whether we are perceived to be the terrorist or the people of the status quo. This can happen in families and churches alike.

We can even become enemies to our cause. It happens all the time when we make poor choices that sabotage our personal fulfillment or the fulfillment of goals in advocacy. Staying rational is a difficult task. It can be made even more difficult at times by, of all people, therapists who may not understand the more complex problems or issues related to the spiritual abuse we have sustained.

There’s a paradox that is often missed in survivor groups. So often the establishment and its leaders (ie. Church and its leaders) are viewed as “the enemy.” Sometimes they behave like the enemy, too, when they start becoming more afraid and angry and full of hate toward survivors who are speaking out than they are toward the perpetrators who started the real problems that threaten to destroy the organizations, as well as the direct victims.

Sadly, the real enemy within when we have such role reversal IS the irrational fear, anger, and hate that keep apart people who otherwise might be considered very docile. It’s so hard to see what’s real and how large the threat of DIM thinking is, because of the fog that is created by perpetrators. Perpetrators, in their addiction to power and control, create a fog--just as all addicts do. It’s a fog that works to distort facts, confounds scientific research, and keeps us focused on evil, both the real evil and some that may be imagined. So often, though, our fears are real but those who really know the truth (the eye witnesses) and can bring it to light are suffering from their own irrational fears so that they deny the truth, even when they may have once spoken it behind closed doors.

When that fear becomes a fear of losing something considered to be essential or valuable, especially if that "something" is an old belief system, then it complicates life immensely and takes time to sort it all out.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Mon 11/05/2007 10:24 AM CST
Thu 11/08/2007
When Emotions Become the Enemy
Topic: Aliens

What are the emotions that fill terrorists to the point of acting violently? They are fear, anger, hatred, that all become irrational, leading to rage. Eventually this leads to irrational behavior because the fear, anger, and hatred become more and more irrational and escalate into a paranoia as the counterintelligence groups are filled with exactly the same emotions!

Survivors and advocates have these emotions, as well.   We have a choice, just as those we consider to be the enemy have choices.  We must choose whether we are going to destroy precious things in others or ourselves.  This involves deciding what is truly precious and worthy of preservation.  All the while knowing that our choices may not be the choices of others we love.  Not the choices of old friends either. 

As a young person, living through the 60's and 70's, I often was convicted that some of the old status quo thinking I'd been taught to treasure wasn't really a treasure.  The internal conflicts had to do with racism and the status of women and children.  I wasn't ready to always consider that my old religious beliefs needed to be challenged as I examined my thinking.  Deciding that was a very slow and painful process, "helped along" by running into the brick wall of collusion with violence, as it played out in the faith community.  What I chose to do back in my youth and how I choose to approach these matters today has been changed by my own life experience, my sense of security and ability to risk having a closer look.  I'm very much still in process myself.

It's a formidable task, deciding how best to navigate the rough waters of such intense emotions.   Especially when the emotions themselves sometimes seem to threaten our own well-being. 

What an ethical dilemma!  What a spiritual challenge!   What a journey!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 11/07/2007 8:28 AM CST
Wed 11/07/2007
Deciding Who to Consider the Real Enemy
Topic: Aliens

At “The Enemy Within” presentation, I was especially drawn toward studies of the KKK, being from the South and having endured plenty of conversations as a kid, from relatives who were definitely racist while they denied this fact. Though, fortunately, none of them were in the KKK nor seemed to think this to be a fine organization.

Then, there was the section showing the most dramatic events in the 60’s and 70’s. Not long before that era, the KKK had revived itself in full force. Yet the FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, had sort of ignored this threat to human rights within our borders. The KKK was given much power because it wasn’t perceived to be a threat to the nation. Plus it would be impossible to get involved without destroying the right of free speech, our nation’s leaders told one another as the KKK was methodically preparing for some of the most violent days in it’s history.

The FBI chose instead to concentrate on what the FBI called the “New Left” groups, using counterintelligence activities.  That included the Black Panthers and People's Liberation Army, people with beliefs diametrically opposed to those of the KKK, yet with tactics just as violent.

Hoover left a legacy of power and abuse of power. Some considered him to be the hero during those days. Others considered him to be the enemy.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 11/07/2007 8:14 AM CST
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

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