Writers, Readers, and Everyone Else 010

Larry Shallenberger has interesting article “When I Become Autistic” over at the BWC. He discusses William Stillman who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is a speaker and author about autism. Stillman says that the autism experience seems much like a paranormal episode. “For Stillman, autism is not a disease needing a cure, but an alternate human experience.”

Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers will be out in November. Here’s the Amazon description:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen

Part 1: Spiritual Abuse and Its Victims

Chapters 1-3 attempts to clarify what spiritual abuse is and what it is not. 

The authors say that, “Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment. (20)”

This of course is a very broad view so we’ll try to narrow it down some more.

“When your words or actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian–to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another–that is spiritual abuse. (23)”

“There are spiritual systems in which what people think, how they feel and what they need or want does not matter. People’s needs go unmet. In these systems, the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders: needs for power, importance, intimacy, value–really, self-related needs. These leaders attempt to find the fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion in the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse. (23)”

“First, there is the neglect of real needs in favor of the “needs” of authority; then legalism replaces rest in God with demands for spiritual performance. Abuse is perpetrated by people in positions of power…Not all Christian leaders are abusive, nor are all spiritual systems abusive. It’s also possible that healthy leaders and spiritual systems can sometimes, unintentionally, treat people in hurtful ways. There is no such thing as a perfect family or church where people don’t ever get hurt. But the difference between an abusive and a non-absuive system is that while hurtful behaviors might happen in both, it is not permissible to talk about problems, hurts and abuses in the abusive system. Hence there is no healing and restoration after the wound has occurred, and the victim is made to feel at fault for questioning or pointing out the problem. (32)”

Chapter 4 details ten characteristics of shame based relationships.

 • Out-loud shaming: This is the “shame on you” that comes from name calling, belittling, put-downs, comparing one person to another or asking, “What’s wrong with you?”

• Focus on performance: How people act is more important than who they are or what is happening to them on the inside.

• Manipulation: Relationships and behaviors are manipulated by very powerful unspoken rules.

• Idolatry: The “god” served by the shame-based system is an impossible-to-please judge, obsessing on people’s behaviors from a distance.

• Preoccupation with fault and blame: Since performance has so much power in these systems, much is brought to bear in order to control it. Reaction is swift and furious toward the one who fails to perform the way the system deems fit.

• Obscured reality: Members of shame bases systems have to deny any thought, opinion or feeling that is different than those of people in authority.

• Unbalanced interrelatedness: Member of shame-based systems are either under-involved or over-involved with each other. 

Chapter 5 describes the relationships between people in spiritually abusive systems. 

• Power-posturing: Where leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it as well.

• Performance preoccupation:  Where power is postured and authority is legislated. Obedience and submission are common used words.

• Unspoken rules: Where people’s lives are controlled from the outside by rules, spoken, and unspoken.

• Lack of balance: The first unbalanced approach is “Extreme Objectivism” which elevates objective truth to the exclusion of valid subjective experience. And “Extreme Subjectivism” where there is an extreme subjective approach to the Christian life.

Chapter 6 explains the characteristics of an abusive spiritual system that’s difficult to escape.

• Paranoia: A persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system.

• Misplaced Loyalty: Members must remain in the system if they want to be safe or stay on good terms with God. Scare tactics and humiliation are used to keep them within the system. 

• Secretive: People don’t hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate.

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss the way Scripture is used to abuse people or keep people in abusive situations. Pastors can do it from the pulpit when trying to advance their agenda and through proof-texting, the church community can do it when trying to keep truce instead of peace. Abused women often hear the verse that they’re supposed to submit to their husband, or people who are abused that they should turn the other cheek and not defend themselves, or endure the race and forget about the past even if there’s been abuse. 


Our next posts on this book will include:

Part 2: “Abusive Leaders and Why They Are Trapped” read here

Part 3: “Post-Abuse Recovery”

The Voice of Your Eyes

For he was old and his face nuzzled reluctantly against the carpet. Resigned he sighed. And with a spurt of youth, throwing out all four legs, he turned against gravity and the cushion from which he fell. He resigned again. Poor Fella. I helped him up and he wobbled and sneezed and shook out his fur.He was my comfort and I his. I paced and he paced with me. I was sitting, then standing, then shouting and he sat at my feet and I petted him until he laid down. I paced and he watched.

The air was warm with a little breeze and the sky moved sluggish spreading like fresh linens as the shadows leaned like old men against their canes, slanting in feverish hues across the sweating cement.

I walked fast. I walked fast through the crowds and the rising rumble. Bands setting equipment and groups handing out flyers. All kinds of groups. For anything imaginable. Groups for things you didn’t even know existed.

I walked fast up two flights, taking two steps at a time. Arriving early I sat down to read C.S. Lewis. He speaks to me like he’s in the room. I’d call him Old Chap. We’d smoke pipes together. He’d tell me about Tolkien. About writing. About his wife.

“It’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy,” he said. “Finally, dirty, and disgusting.”

I’d say puffpuff holding back tears.

“Meanwhile,” he said, “where is God?”

“We were interrupted by my class. Anne Tyler and E.E. Cummings. They spoke to me, but I didn’t speak back. I will though. I’m just chiseling my words.

“I really like your voice.” That’s what she said. “But I won’t give you an A until you say more.”

I wanted to say I don’t have anything more to say. She underlined the phrase: “The story has multiple refractions and implications,” and she said “Good Phrase”. I knew it was when I wrote it, but I didn’t know what it meant. I just meant there’s a lot of stuff here and it was more an excuse that I didn’t know what else to say.

I don’t have much to say I guess, but I say it well.

When it was over I left and I walked fast through the crowd, through the groups, through the colorless music. And then time slowed. And I tried to speak with the Old Chap but my eyes grew heavy and I closed them in the middle of the floor.

If I could give you words then I would never stop writing and all the poems and novels would be yours lying open at your feet. Pages spread reaching to hold your eyes in never ending sentences. No commas to separate us, just quotations to capture the sound of your voice, the voice of your eyes. Your beauty is the poet’s envy, scratched out in eager black that runs, does nothing to compare the sun of you, the moon and stars of you, the forever ocean of you.

The heavy door shut hard behind me and the sun lagged, looking lost. I walked fast again. The old men switched hands and leaned the other way, the cement perspired.

“Where you going so fast?” They asked.

“To see about a girl,” I said.

They said, “Don’t slow down.”

Poor Fella didn’t notice my entrance. He lifted his head from time to time from the cushion. A baby cried outside. I turned the volume down. My head hurt and I paced.

I remembered my earlier conversation with Old Chap.

“I was never less silly than as H’s lover,” he said. Helen he meant. Helen Joy.

The dog and I paced some more. I was screaming at the announcer on the television. Old Chap said: “Her voice is still vivid. The remembered voice — that can turn me at any moment to a whimpering child.”

Poor Fella looked up at me with sad eyes. The game was over and I left frustrated. I crossed the cement again.

“Where you headed?” The leaning shadows asked.

“To see about a girl.” I said.

“Don’t slow down.”

The big door closed behind me hard and the old men were resting now inside the building, resting like Poor Fella, with their canes to their side looking up at me and wondering with sad eyes.

I walked fast up the stairs to my flat. Two at a time.

Old Chap said, “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”

I lifted Poor Fella onto the cushion and I felt better. The pounding in my head lessened. The frustration fell. I paced and shouted at the television. The voice of your eyes is what I saw. What I heard. I remember it so clearly not long ago. Taking two steps at a time to the door.

“Where you headed?” the night shadows asked and I said I didn’t know. But the door opened and your eyes spoke. So sweet I melted, so loud it hurt. And then I knew where I was headed and I walked fast.

Nothing I say hasn’t been said before, or so it seems, some unoriginality I contain in small phrases. It feels like a children’s game I can’t win. The jacks I can’t grab with trembling hands. I sit with the lonesome background of white walls and brown tile, with dying light bulbs and mourning skies and winter hurts her heel and cries and curses at me. But now I walk fast as the seasons skips in millions of directions, trillions upon trillions, and infinite; infinite upon infinite.

Where you headed?

To see about a girl, I say.

Walk fast, says Poor Fella with sad old eyes.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings,” Old Chap said. “Let me try thinking instead.

I hear the voice of your eyes.

I think I’ll walk faster.


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