what prophets, justice advocates & abuse survivors have in common

blog what prophets justice advocates and abuse survivors have in commonone thing i’m more convinced of than ever is that on the whole people don’t like to hear criticism.  we don’t like pain or raw honesty.  we don’t like it when people say things that make us uncomfortable.  we really don’t like the status quo disturbed.  even if it’s messed up & broken, at least it’s predictable and comfortable and we know what to expect.

please know i’m definitely not only pointing fingers at those who like the status quo; i struggle with many of the same feelings, and it has got me thinking about so many wider conversations about change in the church, the world, our own lives.

while i was walking the other day, i had a random thought that there are some common themes between prophets, justice advocates & abuse survivors. 

i definitely know a lot of amazing, wise, beautiful, brave people who somehow fall into these 3 groups:

  • prophets – men & women who are stirring the pot, calling the church to something more, revealing disparities that need to be revealed, saying hard things that others want to say but might not have the courage to.
  • justice advocates – those working their tails off to raise awareness, gain support, and infuse practical change on important issues surrounding the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
  • abuse survivors – dear people across all demographics who are healing from different forms of abuse.  for a long time, the primary categories of abuse i intersected with tended to be sexual, physical or emotional; however, over the years i know more and more who are victims of church or spiritual abuse, too.  many of the dynamics are the same.

the circumstances between these 3 kinds of people may be different, but there are similarities between them, too.

here are some off the top of my head:

1. what they say is often minimized, ignored, and dismissed.  when a prophet calls out brokenness in the church, they are quickly labeled divisive, angry, or bitter.  when a justice advocate speaks about injustices they observe, they are often told “you need to focus on oneness in Christ” or “it’s not that bad” or “at least we’re doing x or y.”  when an abuse survivor speaks out and tells the truth, they are often told “well it could have been worse” and “you need to forgive and move on.”

2. they feel tired (and sometimes ashamed) and often want to give up.  it gets old–speaking out, raising awareness, telling hard stories.  prophets, justice advocates & abuse victims wonder “does it even matter?” “why do i have to be the one?” “why can’t i just be satisfied and happy with the way things are like everyone else?” i think of prophet elijah in 1 kings 19, hiding in a cave, worn out and wanting to die.  almost every prophet, justice advocate or abuse-survivor-who-speaks-out has been in that spot–more than once–wishing they could just shut up but somehow knowing they can’t.

3. their own people turn against them (and that usually hurts the worst).   we have the best example of this in Jesus, the biggest stir-the-pot-and-turn-the-world-upside-down prophet of all time.  his people literally crucified him, but many prophets, justice advocates & abuse survivors have been hung out to dry in other ways.  the prophetic men & women i know are usually labeled, cast-out, or deemed crazy by the groups they were once part of for their challenging words.  many justice advocates, especially those who come from a christian background, have had to find their way outside the systems they started in.  abuse victims who are finally honest about what happened to them in families & workplaces & churches are usually rejected, fired, silenced out, or asked to leave. unhealthy systems rarely tolerate others getting healthy.

4. they long for support & encouragement & to feel-less-alone.   oh, what a gift it is to even have a couple of people who stand alongside people in any of these three groups!  prophets desperately need people who say “i hear you and i will support you when others try to ruin you.” justice advocates long for others who come alongside with “i am with you and want to help strengthen & sustain you for the work you are doing.”  and abuse survivors need safe friends who remind them, “i believe you.  don’t give up on this healing path.  keep telling your story and finding freedom.”

5. they are compelled.  it’s a stirring from God somehow and can’t be dismissed no matter how hard they might try to shake it, run from it, or find a way around it.

as i think through these 5 things i am reminded that, like me, most of you who read this blog probably fall into one or all these 3 categories.  maybe that’s why i love you so much!

thank you for your courage to call us to something more, to stand on behalf of the poor & marginalized, and to tell your painful stories of abuse and find freedom.

you may be dismissed, ignored, tired, rejected, and often feel alone, but i do know this:

God is working through you and in you.  through us and in us.  with us and despite us. 

so keep the faith.  keep singing your song.  keep stirring the pot.  keep bravely and honestly saying what needs to be said.

you’re in good company.

* * * * *

ps:  i’ve got a post up today at sheloves magazine called don’t go back to sleep.  i originally wrote this 5 years ago and it was so fun revisiting it & reworking it & remembering how important it is to stay awake!

it also actually fits perfectly into another thing i wanted to let you all know about  this fall that you or someone you know might be interested in.  my wise & amazing friend & partner in walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church online class, phyllis mathis, and i are hosting a new online class starting october 1st called the ex good christian women’s club online.  oh it’s going to be a fun one!  we’ll explore these four words each week–ex, good, christian, woman.  if you are looking to get some strength & encouragement & have some fun with other women on a similar path toward freedom, join us. all of the details are here:

Ex Good Christian Women's Club. Register now.

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

24 Comments

  • What great encouragement, Kathy. I think of how each of those categories had their worldview shifted by something, enabling them to see the world in a new way: prophets’ worldviews were shifted by God, advocates’ worldviews were shifted by seeing oppression, and survivors’ worldviews were shifted by experiencing oppression.

    Reply
  • I “stood up” last Sunday in the Sunday School class I attended. It was the right thing to do. I couldn’t have done otherwise. But I somewhat worry about the consequences… And although I relate to all of what you’ve said, one line seemed particularly poignant.
    Because I am one who
    “long[s] for support & encouragement & to feel-less-alone”. Thank you for caring enough to minister online. You are a lifeline for many of us!

    Reply
  • “stood up” last Sunday in the Sunday School class I attended. It was the right thing to do. I couldn’t have done otherwise. But I somewhat worry about the consequences… And although I relate to all of what you’ve said, one line seemed particularly poignant.
    Because I am one who
    “long[s] for support & encouragement & to feel-less-alone”. Thank you for caring enough to minister online. You are a lifeline for many of us!

    Reply
    • oh it’s so hard to be brave and “stand up”….so much love coming your way as you keep walking all of this out. it is so true, there are consequences to speaking out and standing up and that’s hard, the risk. but you are definitely not alone in longing for more & trying to be part of creating something better despite the costs.

      Reply
  • I know this is going to sound so dumb, haha, but I never realized other people thought this exact same thing – “why can’t i just be satisfied and happy with the way things are like everyone else?”
    This is so encouraging and helpful.

    Reply
    • it’s not dumb at all, it’s this nutty thing inside of us that we often feel like we’re the only ones when there are a whole bunch of other people thinking the same thing!

      Reply
  • Obviously you’ve not only “been there” but also you know others who have and are.

    My friend likes to write. She is part of a writer’s critique group. She wrote an autobiographical story of abuse she endured as a child at the hand of church “leaders”. Most of the people in the group cried as they read the story. One woman, let’s call her the “church lady”, however, became extremely angry and declared “This story should never be told, even if it’s true. You just need to forgive and get on with your life.”

    Of course I radically disagree. We need to make every effort to eradicate abuse from the church. It is very naive to think that none remains.

    Reply
    • thanks my friend. i can’t tell you the number of times i’ve heard people say “you just need to…..” when i hear those words, look out, that means that something not helpful is coming!

      Reply
  • Your self-flattery seems never-ending. Kathy, you may have survived some abuse, I don’t know but if you are a prophet you are a false one. What you advocate is not justice but a world in which your personal agenda can be more easily realized.

    Reply
    • holy crap! are you nuts? why would you be so mean? i have worked with kathy for almost 8 years and it is clear you do not my friend kathy. please think of maybe a nicer way to make your point.

      Reply
    • What are you talking about? Your comment is unrelated to this
      post, and definitely does not describe the Kathy the rest of us know.
      If you have a personal axe to grind, contact her by e-mail. Your
      comment reflects very poorly on you, whoever you might be. Then again, I doubt we’ll ever know.

      Reply
      • The subtext of most of Kathy’s posts is that the church is dominated by a bunch of frightened, retrograde dummies who love the “status quo” more than they love God. Who then will stand up in this situation? Who will champion love and justice? Kathy Escobar, that’s who.

        The whole point of these posts is to show how wonderful she and other leftists like her are. This blog is a catalog of self-flattery and little else.

        Of course, there really is no such thing as the “status quo” in the church, but Kathy and other leftists have to have something against which to depict themselves as heroes. Otherwise, how would people know how wonderful they are?

        Reply
        • so why lurk here, then, Flaherty? Is the policing of others’ lives and opinions your personal responsibility?

          Reply
        • Flaherty, based on the points you make, I assume you are part of “the church” that you feel is being criticized. Your attitude, especially your lack of kindness and inaccurate generalizations are good examples of why so many of us have parted ways with your tribe. If you don’t like this place you can find others who see things as you do and you can hang out with those people (at your megachurch).

          Reply
    • it is always fascinating–and troubling–to see how people can treat others online, in such a mean and rude way. here’s my only response to your very unkind words–i don’t have any trouble with disagreeing and seeing things differently but i will not tolerate people being mean in this space. there are ways to communicate that are kind and respectful. there are a lot of tender souls here and when one person starts spouting mean words, it’s very easy for others to think “i’m next and i don’t want to risk it.” safety matters. just because it’s online doesn’t mean anything goes. if you post again this way, i will delete it.

      Reply
  • I was just discussing with a friend how by definition a prophet is not going to be liked, because they always want change. You are spot on, no one likes change.
    it is good to remember your encouragement today “do not be weary in doing good”

    Reply
    • thanks karl. yeah, i have been thinking so much more about this recently and that reality–yet again, we’re hosed, ha ha! but alas, it’s who we are meant to be, each with these different passions that God put in us that we can’t shake….yet, that verse does really go hand in hand with all 3.

      Reply
  • I hear you and I will support you when others try to ruin you. I am with you and want to help strengthen & sustain you for the work you are doing. I believe you. Don’t give up on this healing path. Keep telling your story and finding freedom. Thank you for all your words, all your actions, and all your loving support and courage. You are such an inspiration to me to have courage and speak out and help to make life better for others the way God intended.

    Reply
  • Oh Kathy…I don’t have to tell you how much I identified with this. Funny how I haven’t read your blog in awhile (brain tumors and such) and when i do….this one! And when it comes to that Flaherty guy…remember, “those who have no enemies have never stood for anything.” Your words…kind, thoughtful words, are a gift…not a threat.

    Reply
    • love you my friend, i will call you tomorrow, it’s been so nutty here with losing our kitty & the always-how-it-is-craziness but sending lots of love & prayers your guys’ way.

      Reply

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