Don’t Eat Plastic Apples

One of the classic tactics abusers use after they victimize a person is to further oppress them by condemning them as ‘gossips’  or ‘slanderers’ if they don’t cover up the abusers actions.

Abusers will create smoke and clamor to divert attention away from their abuse by pretending the ‘sin of gossip’ is the Sin of all Sins and is therefore sufficient grounds to discount any charge of real sin against them.

Another tactic is to preemptively accuse the victims of the sins they, themselves, are guilty of (calling them ‘gossips’, ‘vengeful’, ‘liars’, etc). They will bully the victim into silence and many times launch efforts to discredit them in case the victim ever does speak out.

Also, victims are generally isolated. There might be a sea of other victims, but they’ve been trained, and it’s been ingrained (by the abusers) ‘not to gossip’, so they clam up instead of seeking out help or solace from others who have been there. Victims like these have been beaten down and confused. They are told they are probably not saved when/if they disagree with the abuser. They are slandered and cut off from friends who are afraid to get involved. And what’s really distressing (if that’s not distressing enough) is that many of these people genuinely love God and long to do what’s right. They either fear the bullies or fear the title of ‘Gossiper’, so they stitch up their gashes by themselves and limp back into life, trying not to bleed on others, and thinking they’re the only one. In worse cases, some leave the church altogether.

Life in the ‘Christian realm’ can be a confusing minefield to tiptoe through. It is easy for people to be led astray. It always has been. When you get a strong authoritative personality, many are won over partly because they speak with such conviction. People are always looking for a leader. So if somebody is willing to lead, typically they will gain an audience, especially if many things they say are true and good.

Believers must be discerning. They need to be able to look at fruit and detect error when it springs up. If it looks like an apple, but  you take a bite and it’s plastic…don’t swallow it. Be especially careful of apples that have teeth and will try and bite you back.

Sometimes people will see red flags but make the decision to just ‘shake it off’ because ‘so many others trust these leaders’. Mob mentality.

Things to Watch Out For

Do not be deceived by leaders who are habitually divisive. This is a red flag. Generally, these people have very ‘biblical sounding’ reasons for casting off fellow believers (with one-sided -or long winded – explanations).

It’s a huge red flag if you see leaders dividing with people over secondary issues; if they are people who would rather ‘divide’ than ‘disciple’ take notice. Sometimes they will also encourage others not to speak with the one they cast out. Because if they do, “it’s gossip”. This is contrary to the gospel.

Avoid people who cover sins that are dangerous to others. I’ll just speak plainly here. If there are men who have sexually abused children (or are being investigated as child predators) and you are told to keep your mouth shut about it, then it’s time to do something. Leaving with your children is a good first step.

If you feel children may be in danger and speak out about it, you are not a gossip. If somebody gives you a long biblical treatise about how their view on how to handle child predators within the church is the only biblical one (and their view protects offenders and demands that other parents are not to be made aware) know they are flat wrong.  If you’re told that you’re ‘possibly unsaved’ if you disagree with their views, you need to know that is a lie.

Be discerning, church. We are to love all, but that does not mean to check your common sense at the door.

Incidentally, my pastor recently posted the following on facebook. I think it’s worth sharing:

“@DeepakReju: Are you prepared to fight child abuse in your church? Or are you not ready yet?  http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/on-guard-preventing-and-responding-to-child-abuse-at-church/ This is a resource to look into if this is an issue you’re currently dealing with.

Also, a healthy local body is vital. If you don’t have a local church, and don’t know where to look, see what you can find on this site:  9 Marks

*** I’m editing this post to add this. This morning our pastor preached on Matthew 18. I encourage you to listen to the message. Hugely helpful. The Church: Matthew 18: 10-20

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Don’t Eat Plastic Apples

  1. Paul and Gena Suarez started attending our home church in the summer of 2000 when our church experienced a devastating split and implosion. At first we met in a park in Roseville, but moved to our home in Sheridan when the weather turned cold. In the beginning, there were approximately 6-10 families attending our little fellowship. This fluctuated over the years from upwards of 15 families down to three. There was harmony and community, mostly born out of a unity over what had happened because of the last church split. Paul and Gena were an active family in our home fellowship. We enjoyed many months of worship, teaching, meals, and fellowship. Steve and I also facilitated a child training program called Growing Kids God’s Way, of which Paul and Gena participated in at one point.

    One of the families that joined us in the home fellowship was the Ballards: Roy, his wife, their son, and three daughters. We enjoyed many Sundays together and everything went well for the first year. One day (I don’t remember exactly what month it was) Roy Ballard called Steve and asked if they could meet. Roy came to our house and had a two hour, private meeting with Steve, at which time he revealed that he was a convicted child molester. He assured Steve that he had changed his ways, was positive that there would be no problems in our fellowship, and could Steve hold him accountable. He also asked Steve to keep this information confidential. Steve told him that, although he appreciated his candor and honesty, he would remain cautious as to whom he told or didn’t tell about Roy’s history. He made no promises that he would tell no one. He also admonished Roy that he would, at no time, under no circumstances, be allowed to be alone with any of the children in our fellowship. Roy readily agreed to this. There was no formal deacon or elder board in our fellowship but there was a group of men who were, and continue to be, natural leaders in their homes, workplaces, previous churches, and communities. All of these men were, and are, men of impeccable character and integrity. They were Steve Hauser, Mr. W, Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. Three out of the five are retired from decorated careers in law enforcement. A little while after Steve’s meeting with Roy, he told the rest of the men in “leadership” of the fellowship about Roy’s criminal history. None were shocked or mortified, just very cautious.

    Some months after that meeting, on a Sunday, all of the adults of the fellowship were in our living room, talking. Roy was with us but, at some point in time, he went outside, to the front yard, where the children were playing. One of the girls in the fellowship either came into the house or called her mother outside to tell her that “Mr. Ballard picked me up and slid my body against his and it made me feel weird.” or some statement to that effect. It was obvious that young Miss H. was extremely uncomfortable and didn’t like it. I don’t remember how old she was, maybe 10 or 11? Mr. Ballard was taken aside by the men and asked for his side of what Miss H said happened. He admitted to hugging the girl but that there were no improprieties. The men of the group then asked him to leave and told him he would, until further notice, stay away from the group. The men and the parents of the girl would find out exactly what had happened. At this point in time, my timetable is fuzzy. I don’t remember exactly how much time passed before Paul Saurez took it upon himself to come to Roy’s defense. There was a lengthy meeting in our garage between Paul and the men listed above, with Paul stating that it was wrong, unbiblical, and unloving in the approach the men were taking with Roy. Paul said he respected the men and their wisdom but quickly changed his tune when the men stuck to their guns and said Roy would NOT be allowed to join the group again until further notice. Meanwhile, Gena called me into my daughters’ bedroom to tell me that the girl’s mother is “out of control” and “blowing this way out of proportion”. Gena made statements to the effect that “she (young Miss H) dresses too old for her age and acts very sexy for her age”, of course insinuating that it was the girl’s fault. Gena intentionally tried to intimidate Mrs H and turn the whole group against her by continuing to state that Mrs. H was overreacting, blowing things out of proportion and making the fellowship turn against Mr. Ballard. Gena even wondered, out loud to me, why Mrs. H would believe the words of a 10 year old over those of a grown man. Gena stated that kids “make stuff up all the time”. By the end of this day, Mrs. H was in tears, almost hysterically, because of the incident with her daughter, at the hands of Mr. Ballard, and the subsequent treatment of her, at the hands of Gena. At this point, Paul and Gena left and we didn’t hear from them for a couple of weeks. We continued to meet at our home, sans the Ballard family. One Sunday, Paul and Gena showed up to our home and asked if they could speak to the group. Steve was reluctant but said okay. Paul assured everyone that he would be only 45 minutes. He intentionally had everyone sit on the floor or in chairs while he boosted himself onto a tall bar chair, physically elevating him above everyone else. He proceeded to lecture us on how the collective wisdom of every man in the room was ankle deep and could fit in the end of his little finger. He accused us of gossip, slander, character assassination, defamation of character, lying, embellishing, head hunting, causing panic, sinning and causing division. He berated especially Steve Hauser for even telling the other men about Roy’s criminal history and that he was acting like a renegade or Roy Rogers or John Wayne in the wild west or something, just looking to lynch someone, and poor Roy Ballard was the victim. These are only the statements I can remember, there were many more because it went on and on. This took place sometime in 2002, I believe. During this whole time in our living room, NO ONE else was allowed to talk or interject. On several occasions some of the men would try to correct Paul on a fact or false assumption that he had made and they were told adamantly that he was talking and no one else had the floor. Finally, after 3 hours of this running diatribe, Steve, in a raised voice but not yelling, told Paul and Gena that we had heard enough and to leave our home. Paul insisted on continuing to talk and went on for perhaps 2 more minutes before Steve said once again, but with a little more emphasis this time, to “leave my home and don’t let the door hit you in the ass”, to applause. When they eventually did leave, the rest of us were left dumbfounded and speechless, to say the least.

    About a week later, all of the men at the initial meeting in the garage received a manila envelope from Paul containing a ten page document, rebuking them and calling them unbelievers, sinners, gossips, slanderers, home wreckers, renegades, carelessly causing division and acting like a lynch mob. Each man got a copy of the letter but received an individual cover page listing their specific sins and shortcomings.

    Some weeks later, when Jessica escaped their home, Paul emailed and called Steve to ask for counseling on how to get their “daughter” back into their home. Paul stated that he still stood firmly on everything he had said the weeks before in our home and in the letter mailed to us later however, he respected us as parents and wanted counsel to get their rebellious “daughter” back. Steve told Paul that under NO circumstances would he meet with Paul and that if his wisdom in how he handled the Roy Ballard situation was only ankle deep, then he had nothing to offer Paul and Gena on how to get Jessica back. We never heard from Paul and Gena again.

    Some years later, I found Gena on Facebook. I messaged her and inquired about her kids, life in Tennessee, how she was doing, etc. Gena told me that, until I repented of my sins and apologized for telling them to leave our home and embarrassing her husband, she was not the least bit interested in speaking with me. EVER. She reminded me that my husband and I were guilty of sin and that we needed to be shunned.

    A postscript….Mrs. Ballard called me out of the clear blue sky about 5 or 6 years ago. I had lost touch with her and had no idea where they were living. She told me that she was living in Illinois and that Roy was in prison for harming their children. We were on the phone for two hours and she told me the whole story of why he was in prison. She asked our forgiveness and that she was sorry for everything that Steve had gone through for doing what she now sees as the right thing.

    These are the events as best as we can recall them. Our recollection of the exact dates may not be correct but the events, conversations, and actions are accurate and true. This happened approximately 13 years ago and, although we don’t believe that time heals all things or erases sin, we do believe in forgiving those who have sinned against us. We believe to this day that what we did was right in God’s eyes. We have forgiven Paul and Gena for the events of 2000/2001 and would forever welcome true reconciliation.

    Humbly and in His service,

    Steve and Julie Hauser

  2. Jen, I really appreciate this post and as you know, it hits home in a very real way for me. After abuse caused me to flee the home at age 17 (for those who don’t know, our mom had died years earlier leaving me to the care of this family), I was slandered, gossiped about and silenced for the subsequent 13 years. Ironically, each time I attempt reconciliation with these individuals who caused such pain and suffering in my life, I’m told that I’m a pathological liar and what I experienced and witnessed is all in my head…. and that perhaps I’m not even saved. Furthermore, I’m told that restoration of relationships will only happen when I publicly admit that I am a pathological liar, was not abused, and never witnessed abuse”, consequently removing any idea or possibility that they’ve wronged me or treated me inappropriately. Over the years I observed that outside the family, many others have also been hurt and victimized, and then we are silenced by being told that if the abuse we experienced is discussed with authorities, we are out of line Biblically. We are ‘gossiping’. So I’ve remained relatively quiet. Conversely, people who I care about and have very close relationships with are still being contacted out of the blue and told that I’m a pathological liar. This even happened as recently as last week. But two things give me courage. God is still on the throne and I have eye witnesses that attest to the abuse I underwent. I’m not a liar, but I am finally standing up, hoping that in doing so, others will have the courage to also come forward and know they’re not alone.

    The apostle Paul has some serious words to say about these type of people in Romans 16:17-18: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.…”.

    My prayer is that sin is exposed, hearts are laid bare, and true reconciliation and healing can take place. Anyone is welcome to contact me. I’m happy to share my statement (privately) about what I witnessed and abuse I underwent in the home, or if I can be of some help or comfort in any way, I’m willing.

    Thanks Jen. love you

  3. As a personal friend of the Suarez family, for over 7 years, I was concerned when they unbiblically separated from so many people, including Gena’s sisters. However, I thought they might have legitimate concerns and never probed into the matter. I was wrong not to look into thing further, an upon hearing the full stories, I was shocked to learn what was actually happening. Then I found myself in the same boat.

    Two year ago, they divided with their son over some very small, secondary issues. Even though he tried to reconcile with them, and begged to be considered their son, and be allowed to see his siblings, they legally disowned him, until the time that he, “repent of his sin.” Unfortunately, since I was friend with Paul and Gena’s son and encouraged reconciliation, they separated with me as well.

    The best way I can describe it, is like this:

    “High-control parenting happens when we leverage the weakness of our personality or our position against our child’s weakness to get them to meet our selfish agenda. This form of parenting is filled by combination of toxic fear, toxic anger, toxic bondage, toxic shame, and toxic strength. What’s sad is how prevalent this form of parenting is in Christian homes. What makes it so difficult address is the fact that the last people to see themselves as parenting this way are the very parents were most guilty of using it as a primary mode of overseeing their kids. […] High control parents are blind to how they are treating their children because high controllers can always morally justify every move they make, because they’re so convinced their controlling tendency is right, they can’t see how destructive its effect is on their children.” -Grace Based Parenting, Dr. Tim Kimmel

    While this is specifically true for parents and parenting, it is even more true for people in leadership positions. Replace child with friend/coworker/employee/follower and parent with leader, and you’re accurately dealing with a powerful, controlling, personality.

    I stand with Steve, Julie, and Jessica in the comments above, they are trustworthy people, telling the truth, and there are many more people who are are in their same position.

    I’m praying that God will continue to destroy idols in the homeschool/Christian community, and that people would turn their faces toward him, instead of the standard bearers that they seek.

    -Eric Novak

  4. I also stand with the above, and as witness to Jessica’s testimony. The most painful thing to witness over the years has been the devastation of the abused, yet their humble and courageous desire to be reconciled to those that hurt them. While I was not a direct victim of abuse, the effects hit very close to home and I was sinfully angry against the perpetrators. All the while, the abused would remind me (and their fellow wounded), “we want to be restored, we need to love them, we cannot let anger rule.”

    As they prayed for their abusers and protected their [abusers] public image, they were ground further into the dirt. Only now, they are starting to raise their heads and see that they weren’t the only ones wrongfully beaten down yet still longing for true, beautiful restoration. I am encouraged to see them shake off the dirt and band together to make a difference, for God’s glory.

    I hope and pray to see reconciliation between ALL families that have been divided with over the years. This is not about calling out and bringing down another public figure for personal satisfaction. There have been private pleas for restoration for YEARS (that have been refused) but as more instances come to light, it has become necessary to stop a very dangerous pattern being seen in the lives of these abusers.

  5. Just wanted to pass these along. The Suarez issue would be solved a LOT easier if the child sex abuse cover ups were the ONLY thing that happened. Unfortunately, people know that there are other things that have happened in the background and I think they are too shocked by this to really believe the glaring sin that is now being announced. They have been brainwashed for far too long to write off what the shunned say, because we are simply “bitter liars”.

    Anyways, these recent dealings with CJ Mahaney and Josh Harris stepping down from The Gospel Coalition and other leadership positions really shed some light on whether or not protectors of child abusers should be called to account (especially leaders). They were not the abusers, but they were aware of sexual abuse in their church and did not step up and report these to authorities or properly deal with the matter. Now they are rightly being held accountable to those decisions.

    http://www.religionnews.com/2014/05/18/megachurch-pastors-leave-reformed-evangelical-network-amid-child-abuse-scandal/

    http://www.worldmag.com/2014/05/mahaney_harris_leave_gospel_coalition_council

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/05/24/why-we-have-been-silent-about-the-sgm-lawsuit/

    This quote from a commenter also stands out: “There is plenty of attention given to preventing abuse, and even towards teaching parents to recognize signs of abuse… But I think a neglected aspect is reinforcing how leadership should properly handle abuse once it is recognized. Sadly, it seems this usual response is all to common: silencing, minimizing, and failure to report.”

    “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

    Honestly, I wish my family and the Hauser’s would have spoken up sooner. It could have prevented sexual assault against other children.

  6. I also have come into the sad story of the Suarez’s disowning their own son, which is so heart breaking. To see this son, who really loved his parents, and tried to please them being cut off from the family for very minor issues that families should be able to work out was hard to watch. I tried to help them reconcile by communicating to Gena via facebook and was pretty basically told by Gena that I am a horrible parent, I was leading Paulie into sin by letting him stay at our house over Christmas season (even though they would not let him come home and he had no where to go) and I needed to repent. I honestly could never read the email she sent me again as it made me sick. But I did keep it for evidence in case any sort of lies on her end ever arised. I also watched Paulie drop everything in his life to fly to be his brother who was in a motorcycle accident and hear about how Gena and Paul treated him at the hospital and still not even letting him see his siblings. I could not imagine having a child and treating any of them this way. I am sad it has come to this. I have hoped and prayed for reconciliation and have kept me mouth shut for over a year but now it the time to come out and let the “church” and homeschool community know that what they are purporting in their magazine is the opposite of what is happening on their lives.

  7. And just one more comment. Paulie is a great person. Yes, he has made mistakes but who has not? He is humble, kind and loves the Lord. And he has a great sense of humor. He is authentic and loving. Just the other day I talked to a man who we had some things that Paulie left at our house for him from North Dakota. He said his wife died when Paulie was there in North Dakota and Paulie took care of him and he is pretty much the only reason the guy made it through this horrible time. Paulie never even mentioned doing this to me. I was like, “I just love Paulie and can see him being the hands of Jesus to this guy”. This is what true love, that Jesus talked about is.

  8. Jenefer, I found your post through Hermana Linda’s whynottrainachild.com. Thanks for these important words about not following man and saying “no” to abuse, especially to leaders who protect abusers. My heart goes out to your family and the others who commented here who have suffered from this trauma.

    I was home schooled K-12, but as far as I remember my family never used TOS materials. I don’t think I’d heard of Paul and Gena Suarez by name before reading this post. The more I learn about the “dark side” of many home school movement leaders, the more thankful I am that my family stayed for the most part on the fringes of the movement.

    I was puzzled to see you recommend that someone looking for a healthy local church check out 9Marks, since the 9Marks model seems to encourage heavy-handed leadership (http://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2013/08/05/9marks-church-authority-over-church-members/). Some 9Marks churches use shunning as “discipline” (http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/05/29/9marks-and-meaningful-church-membership/). That type of church doesn’t sound like the best environment for someone who is fleeing an abusive fellowship or a controlling family.

    I definitely have not been in your shoes, but just wanted to mention this in case you weren’t aware of the red flags with 9Marks. Again, I’m so sorry for everything your family has gone through.

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