The other day, Christianity Today posted an outrageous interview with Saeed Abedini concerning his ministry, his marriage, and the allegations of abuse against him made by his wife, Naghmeh.
My primary concern as her friend is for the safety and happiness of Naghmeh.
But my other concern is the response of the church to her claims that Saeed was abusive to her.
I believe her. I believe Saeed is lying. I also believe he’s being instructed to lie and to withhold the truth. Even in the interview he clumsily reveals Franklin Graham told him to be quiet about the abuse allegations. The interview, for those who have eyes to see, is such a compromised piece of work that it simply can’t stand with any integrity. CT should be embarrassed that it published such obvious propaganda filled with Saeed’s pompous self-adulation, outrageous claims, and hollow denials.
Naghmeh and I are friends. We talk. I know her side of the story. And I believe her.
The church in this case, led by Franklin Graham, wants her silenced so that its story with Saeed at the center will prevail.
I want to get personal for a second because this has some bearing on what my argument. I’ve been here before. It began in earnest in October of 2014 with my most popular post ever, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology? All I did in that post was to allow a woman, Julie McMahon, to share her version of events. Little did I know the pain it caused me and other advocates as well as survivors. I was naive to think people that would believe a victim and that the church would rally to her support! But no. I’ve learned my lesson. Almost every single Christian leader withheld support, remained silent, or chastised the victim and her advocates. Like with Julie and Naghmeh and other women survivors, the church and its leaders want us to agree that it’s a private marital problem rather than an individual’s abusiveness. The price paid for writing that post plus not taking it down was dear. It still is! I and other advocates lost a lot of friends and important connections… people who obviously wish to align themselves more with the church, authority, leaders, and success stories, rather than victims. The destructive aftershocks of that post are still felt to this day by many people.
The other day Lisa told me that what gets me in more trouble than anything else, including LGBT issues or my more in-your-face cartoons, is advocating for women. She’s right. Nothing brings more suffering than providing a space for women to tell their stories.
It’s hard not to be jaded.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about women. Especially women and the church, and women survivors. Like Naghmeh! The church prefers success stories rather than dealing with basic and fundamental issues like the rights and safety of its members, especially women and other marginalized people. The exact opposite of the gospel’s message!
When Naghmeh and I started talking months ago I felt sad and concerned for her because I knew how this was going to go down. I predicted to her exactly what would happen, and it has. I’m no prophet. I’m just observant and remember things. She would be painted a liar, a disgruntled spouse, a complaining whiney woman, a bad Christian wife, a woman with questionable morals, a neglectful mother, an indiscreet woman who should’ve kept her marital problems private, demonized as a Jezebel undermining the gospel. She’s on her own against a huge institution with famous leaders, money, and lawyers stacked against her. And now with CT, the press.
She asked me what she could do. I was lost for words. Silenced. I said, “Keep telling your side of the story. Don’t stop talking!” But I don’t think anyone’s asked her. She might be afraid by now to say anything even if asked. It’s already cost her so much. Threats are still thrown her way. The future looks uncertain.
I want to be clear: my concern is not only for victims themselves, but how the church responds to them and their stories.
So why do we do this? In hopes that the church will change? That would be awesome. But right now, I doubt it will. I confess my waining hope. Imagine a survivor’s!
So… we do it for the survivors. Maybe it will encourage them. Right now I hope it will.
So I’m going to click “post” because what do I have to lose? And what might survivors have to gain? We’ll see.
Here’s to you Naghmeh!
(*** EDIT: The monolog in the cartoon is not a quote from Naghmeh, but a compilation of things she has said or would say.)
UPDATE: CT has made the interview available to subscribers only… a strategy to contain the heat they’re getting over this disappointing interview?