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