tips on how to silence a dog (or a person)

"Silence a Dog (or a person)" by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Silence a Dog (or a person)” by nakedpastor David Hayward

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Many dogs don’t have rights. They live in a world of masters. Like a lot of people.

There are many ways to silence a dog. Just like there are many ways to silence a person. Many of these techniques have been used on me and my friends. I’ve been threatened. Hurt. Muzzled. Ignored. Shamed. Banished. I was going to include “put down”, but that carried a double connotation I didn’t want to entertain.

Christianity Today ran a twitter chat last night called #CTshame. The issue was about how Christian chatter on the internet contains a lot of shaming. “Christians, too, can get wrapped up in an accusatory, reactionary, defensive mentality designed to ‘call out’ and ‘expose’ the people we interact with online.” There have been “harsh words between leaders and bloggers”. The question is: “How can we be open to critical discourse without resorting to shame-based campaigns against one another? How can we launch conversations designed at building up and honoring the Body of Christ, rather than bringing people down?”

I didn’t participate in the chat, but I’ve read through it. Even though some validate online critiquing, many believe that critiquing others online is not cool and is considered shaming or even bullying and destructive to the Body of Christ.

This is my observation: The “leaders” Christianity Today is talking about have all kinds of platforms from which to tell their story: books, blogs, social media, networks and connections, publishing houses, speaking gigs, conferences, fans, followers, social media, lawyers, money, and then their friends that exponentially multiply all these platforms for them. The victims of their abuse of power have little to nothing.

So when a victim of someone who abused power shares their experience online, it’s shaming. They are bringing someone down. Their words are a harsh, accusatory, reactionary, and defensive calling out and exposing of the leader. It is not honoring to the Body of Christ and embarrassment to the church.

Let me tell you a little story that happened to me a few years ago. I wrote a rather positive post about a very prominent and popular Christian leader. That same day I got a private message from a young woman claiming this man sexually assaulted her. I’ll admit… her voice sounded shrill, irrational, hysterical, and even unbelievable. I have no idea where that story’s going to go. I’m just telling you this because this Christian leader has tons of resources to protect himself, including my own socially constructed presumptions about him built up by years of his popularity. But this young, isolated, unbelievable woman has nothing. She’s a voice crying in the wilderness. What if she decided to start sharing her experiences on her Facebook? She would probably be ridiculed into a corner. Silenced. Which is why she won’t do it. She wouldn’t dare expose herself to the shame that would be unleashed on her.

So where is the shaming? Is it shaming to call out leaders on their abuse of power that is happening every single day? Or is it shaming to silence the victims of this rampant abuse?

  1. Why is it more shameful to call out abuse than to abuse?
  2. Why is critiquing the abuse of power more embarrassing to the church than the abuse of power?

These are the questions burning in the minds of victims everywhere!

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24 Responses

  1. “Why is it more shameful to call out abuse than to abuse?” Great question! Its’ just so awkward for everyone, eh. Good grief.

  2. Erik says:

    Wow. This is brilliant. I’ll be sharing!

  3. Rob Grayson says:

    Great post, David.

  4. AnnieBanannie says:

    Maybe CT just has sour grapes abou being scooped by the hoi polloi.

  5. Alistair says:

    We have nothing to fear from critique – it’s reasoned and confines itself to discussing ideas rationally. Criticism and criticising, however, are unhelpful and unproductive. We need to understand the difference.

  6. Bill Kinnon says:

    Perhaps we need a #shameCT hashtag to confront Christianity Today on their part in the Christian Industrial Complex and their protection of the powerful. (I think I’ll tweet this, actually.)

  7. link this post please. i’ll share.

  8. There’s a big difference between shaming and sharing info that is shameful. Some people should be ashamed, but in most cases, shaming is targeted toward people who should not be. Shaming is a tool of the powerful, while shameful info is the possession of the victim. Let them do with it as they will, and if others are ashamed of it, there’s likely good reason. Shaming is silencing the victim, compounding the shame of being a victim. #Reprehensible.

  9. Jill says:

    And until those two simple questions are answered honestly:

    1.Why is it more shameful to call out abuse than to abuse?
    2.Why is critiquing the abuse of power more embarrassing to the church than the abuse of power?

    … abuse will continue.

  10. Lydia says:

    “There’s a big difference between shaming and sharing info that is shameful.”

    Yes! Someone with a large twitter following needs to tweet this.

    Those with power, pulpits, books, conference stages get to decide what is shameful. That is also what bloggers have a problem with

  11. Ducatihero says:

    So what you are saying David, is that there there are times when shaming someone is not only OK, it is what is needed. I agree.

    Sounds a lot like what Jesus did.

  12. Ducatihero: I have no idea how you got that idea from my post.

  13. “There’s a big difference between shaming and sharing info that is shameful.”

    So true! My motivation for speaking out about the abuse I experienced was to reach out to other survivors and give them hope and encouragement. To say that the way they were treated was not ok. That they are not “crazy”, “bitter” or “unforgiving”. And that they are not alone!

  14. Shazza tha dazzla says:

    Succinct and very thought provoking David. Why IS it more shameful to call out abuse than to abuse? What a great question.

    Why are the abused expected to be more accountable than the abusers?

  15. My hope is that if we keep pressing the question some might be forced to think about it.

  16. Ducatihero says:

    Hi David,

    I hear that you have no idea why I have got that there there are times when shaming someone is not only OK, it is what is needed from your post. Perhaps I misunderstood what you intended.

    You wrote: “So when a victim of someone who abused power shares their experience online, it’s shaming.”
    What I understood from that is that you wanted to say in support of the victim was that those either abusing or in support of abuse dishonour victims stories by calling it shaming being harsh accusatory etc. and therefor it being embarrassing to the church and not honouring to the body of Christ.

    Therefore in agreement with you I expressed what I did in order that shame be brought on those who would cause dishonour and embarrassment rather than the victim for sharing their story.

    The idea of shaming someone in contemporary language perhaps carries with it a negative connotation that anyone doing the shaming is acting inappropriately. I am in favour of recovering the biblical understanding of shaming in the sense that “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” 1 cor 1:27.

    So what I said was intended as an encouragement to anyone who is a victim (and therefore considered weak in the eyes of the world) that there is a greater power to call on in order to shame what the world considers to be strong including any person in a position of power in the church that is using their power to oppress rather than serve.

    Does that help or hinder?

  17. I think that helps. But that’s a lot of words.

  18. Ducatihero says:

    Then if it helped, why not just leave it at that without criticising the amount of words?

    You didn’t understand why I commented as I did before and I gave that consideration as I did with checking I understood you as you intended. Surely it took some amount of words to ensure clarification and ensure no further misunderstanding?

    With all due respect, it’s a little discouraging after showing support for your post and taking time for understanding to receive that.

  19. I meant that tongue-in-cheek. Sorry. Sometimes my sense of humor is understood only by me. Yes, I understand where you’re coming from.

  20. Ducatihero says:

    Ok no worries, thanks for your explanation that it was meant as humour. Oh the joys of social media with tongue in cheek comments. If I could have seen you face to face and a twinkle in the eye and a friendly smile, then I guess I might have picked up on the humour and returned with something similar.

    Thanks again. Hopefully we understand each other a little better now?

  21. Last time I checked, Jesus called His followers to live in the light. You are not a follower of Jesus if you hate the light of truth. Jesus Himself taught us this principle (see John 3:19-21).

    Is it shaming or not? Honestly, I am not all that interested in that debate here. Christ taught us to to walk in the light of truth (see John 3:19-21). What is the truth? That’s the important question here. If the truth makes one party look bad, then maybe that party ought to have acted better. And if the truth makes one side look like a victim, then we as followers of Christ ought to care about that side’s wounds.

    To those who claim speaking the truth is shaming, I ask: “Do you prefer we lie?” And trust me, we can lie by omission and silence as well as saying untrue things.

    Yes, we need to speak the truth in love. But sometimes situations call for tough love. Love can also mean exposing evil and lies. A kid running into a busy street might think dad is mean for grabbing him roughly to avoid the oncoming semi-truck. But I say that is an act of love.

    Well, that’s my two cents.

  22. Serena says:

    This is such an important post. Thank you, David. These so-called leaders need to be called-out for their bad behavior especially if it is chronic and ongoing. Sometimes it is the only way to level the playing field and make them stop what they are doing. If that causes shame and they don’t like it, than they should have behaved better. You know what can sometimes make shame dissipate quickly?: a simple, humble and authentically delivered apology to the person who has been wronged. Here’s how it sounds for those who have trouble finding the words: “I apologize. What I did was wrong. I am deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused you. What can I do to make it up to you and to earn your forgiveness?” Sometimes these apologies need to be made in public. Obviously, not every instance of abuse can be resolved as simply as this but very many can and, almost always, it at least offers a starting point for healing. Unfortunately, too few church leaders today seem capable of the sort of humility a simple and sincere apology requires.

  23. Tamara Rice says:

    This is so good and sadly so true. It is somehow viewed as worse to shine a light than to be the one who brought darkness. And shining a light is called shaming or denounced because of tone. And bringing darkness or allowing it to continue is called a private matter.

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