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These Are The Times

July 2017
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I ran across an article on Patheos.com yesterday published on July 19, 2017 titled, Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About,” by Benjamin L. Corey, author, cultural anthropologist and theologian. I must admit that I had never heard of the term “Christian ghosting” before I read this article, but the description of it is nothing new. Perhaps you’ve never heard of “Christian ghosting” either. Here is what Corey wrote about his own personal experience with it in his article (quote source here):

I don’t think I believe in ghosts–I suppose I’m open to the possibility, but never in my life have I seen an apparition of anything ghost-like.

But while I don’t believe in ghosts, I have been “ghosted” and it remains one of the more painful and destructive experiences in my whole life.

Ghosting is something that can happen to anyone, in any social circle, or from any particular social group. However, we American Christians seem to have perfected this to a finely crafted art.

What is ghosting? You might not know the term, but you probably know the action: ghosting is when someone abruptly ends a friendship with limited or no explanation, and when they proceed to quickly disappear from your life.

For me, I was ghosted by my best friend– and my entire social circle quickly followed without saying a word.

My family and I went from having what felt like a strongly bonded group of people to do life with, to waking up one morning and discovering we were now alone, and had no friends or natural support system. Before we were ghosted, we’d meet on a weekly scheduled evening for “small group” where we’d share meals together, talk about life together, pray for one another, and where we did life together.

On Sundays we worshipped together. Between those scheduled times we’d all hang out, help one another with projects or needs, our kids would play with one another… we’d celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together. Life was good.

And then one day, the world stopped.

I was a teaching elder at our church, and made the critical error of pushing back on folks when they challenged my fitness for serving as an elder when it was said in a meeting, “We have a deep concern that you’re not truly the head over your wife.”

I made the error of saying we shouldn’t force two of our most committed, reliable, and spiritually mature community members to be re-baptized as a condition of being a full voting member of our church.

I made the error of advocating for a higher minimum wage in a television interview (which led to someone literally yelling and walking out of church).

I made the error of preaching a sermon on Matthew 5 and what it means to love our enemies– which got me cornered and rebuked by the other elders because the sermon was, ironically, “unloving” to preach to a bunch of gun owners, apparently.

I made the error of suggesting we should have a policy against people bringing weapons into our place of worship, prompting some folks to threaten leaving the church.

I made many “errors,” and the net result was the tension in our little group continued to increase until my best friend bailed instead of navigating conflict–taking the rest of our social circle with him. We went from texting countless times a day and spending individual and family time together, to… nothing.

Quiet. Silence. Distance. Nonexistence.

It was like a magician showed up in my life, covered everything with a blanket, and then with a whisk of the wand it all disappeared–leaving me just holding a blanket.

The damage wasn’t just something I suffered–I also had to navigate hard discussions with my then 12-year-old daughter as to why she lost all her friends as well. I still wake up every morning and try to extend grace for the sin of ghosting, but the fact my daughter had her closest friends ghosted from her as well, is something I still struggle to forgive.

Ghosting can happen to anyone, but we Christians sure know how to do it well.

It’s as if for us, loving people simply because they are people made in the image of God is not enough. Instead, we become only willing to love people who we are in harmonious agreement with. As long as we are in agreement, the relationship is solid–but the minute one person begins to grow and shift on this belief or that one, we bail.

We ghost people. We disappear from their lives. We abandon them. We sever ties.

And we do it in the cruelest way possible: with silence.

Sometimes I have to pray like Jesus did and say, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they do.” Because honestly, I don’t think they understand the damage they’ve done.

I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted my family, my daughter lost the only close friendships she had.

I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted me, it was the day that my marriage started to seriously unravel.

I don’t think they realize how painful it was to experience three failed adoptions in the months after their disappearance–driving home the reality that we had no one to grieve with us, no one to check in on us, and no one who cared if we survived as a family, or not. Every waking morning was a reminder that none of them actually gave a shit about us.

I don’t think they realize that years later, the idea of going to church again or having Christian friends I can trust, is outside of what would be healthy or plausible for me.

I don’t think they realize that when they see us at the department store and turn to walk away before we see them, they’re not quick enough.

I don’t think they realize that I never fully recovered from that life event, and that it still impacts me on a daily basis. I felt it yesterday, I feel it today, and I fear I’ll feel it tomorrow, too.

I don’t think they realize any of those things. Sadly I don’t think they care, either–because if they did, they would have attempted to bind up the wounds they inflicted without letting years go by and life fall apart.

And now, it’s too late–there can be forgiveness, but there will never, ever, be reconciliation. It’s done. It’s finished. There is no reversing the damage, and no returning to what once was.

The destruction from the practice of Christian Ghosting, quite honestly, is often irreparable.

For those of us who have tried to live out the Christian life while being open to allowing new information to shape and stretch what we believe, the reality is that at one time or another, we have friends who will ghost us.

Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.

And so, when theological agreement is not in harmony, there’s always at least one family who feels like some evil magician made their life disappear without notice or even a preemptive “abracadabra” to give us a bit of warning that life is about to change.

We can refuse to be the ones who do the ghosting.

And when it happens, we can practice praying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t have the slightest clue as to the damage they’ve done.” (Quote source here.)

Regarding “ghosting,” Corey stated that “we Christians sure know how to do it well,” but the point in his story that is missing is that most of those who were doing the “ghosting” were most likely aware of the damage they were doing to him and his family as that many people don’t just “disappear” from a person’s life overnight without some major planning behind the scenes going on by those doing it. He and his family were targeted but those in his church who were unhappy with him. Here’s a link to another article (the author references this post by Corey above in her post) published on July 23, 2017 titledThe Different Types of Christian Ghosting,” by Captain Cassiday.

While this particular incident happened within a Christian setting, it isn’t something that is done only in Christian settings by “Christians.” This type of behavior/betrayal is planned out and orchestrated by the people doing it. And it is not dissimilar to the same type of planning and orchestration required in workplace bullying. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as follows:

Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:

This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Its national prevalence was assessed. Read the Survey results.

Workplace Bullying…

  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
  • Requires consequences for the targeted individual
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll. (Quote source here.)

Whether it’s “ghosting” or “bullying” the end result is often the same–destruction in the life of the targeted individual whether it’s social (losing family or friends and/or social standing in the community), economic (losing a job, chronic unemployment causing financial havoc, etc.), or destroying a reputation (other reasons are also involved). If a Christian is targeted it often has to do with trying to destroy that person’s faith in a loving and just God due to what is being done to them, as well as including other factors already noted. Or the targeting could be caused by discrimination from other religious groups that are hostile toward Christians or other religions. Some of it could involve racism, whether it’s black on white or white on black, and includes other racial groups, too.

It’s hard to know exactly why a specific individual has been targeted, but I found a list of the types of people targeted, and it includes:

Government and corporate whistleblowers
Protesters and Civil Rights activists
Highly intelligent people from a wide range of professions
Women who are independent, intelligent and confident professionals
Men who are nonconformists with a sense of self-esteem and pride
People who have had a bad breakup with an ex-spouse who has influence
Criminals (targeting known offenders)
Gays and Lesbians
Minorities
Inventors awaiting a large payoff
Mentally disabled
People awaiting a large insurance claim or settlement
Convenient targets of opportunity
People with special talents or abilities
Independent freethinkers
People who are perceived as vulnerable or weak

The pattern that is unfolding indicates that many targets are people who tend to be emotionally developed, self confident, independent, freethinkers, artistic–people who don’t need the approval of others, and those not prone to corruption. They are people who don’t need to be part of a group to feel secure. (Source: “The Hidden Evil,” 2009, by Mark Rich.)

Again, whether it’s “ghosting” or “bullying,” it is behavior that is often hidden from the general public by the perpetrators which makes the target appear to be crazy when (as in the case of workplace bullying) the targeted individual files a complaint in the workplace or in some other way tries to stop the harassment. As Rich also noted in his book, the main objective in the harassment of targeted individuals “appear to be to separate the targeted person from friends and family, keep them unemployed, induce homelessness, and reduce the quality of life so much that they suffer a nervous breakdown, end up medicated, or hospitalized.” For example, regarding targeted individuals in the workplace, “according to a 2012 WBI large-sample study, an alarming 77% of targets lost their jobs: 28% quit, 25% terminated involuntarily, 25% forced out by constructive discharge. In a 2011 WBI study, we asked bullied targets if they found a job after displacement from bullying. A quarter of those bullied never replaced their lost jobs. For those who found a job, 53% earned less money in their post-bullying position” (quote source here). And, according to Rich, it is a global phenomenon.

“These are the times that try men’s souls” as stated by Thomas Paine, 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author, back on December 23, 1776. And, indeed, they still are today, too. The full quote by Paine, written in The American Crisis,” is this . . .

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” (Quote source here.)

The summer soldier and sunshine patriot . . . both shrink in a crisis. Soft living and “status quo” makes us shrink, too. And we want accolades and success without paying any price for it. We want an easy salvation, too, but it is not so. We want life on our terms and Heaven waiting at the end, but life can change on a dime, and that is when we find out that we are not the captain of our own ship after all. The storms come and prove that to us, and Benjamin Corey found that out when he was “ghosted” by his “friends.” I found it out when I lost that job over eight years ago, too. We can take nothing for granted in this life.

The apostle Paul stated the following in Philippians 2:1-13 (ESV):

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

It’s time to get back to the basics . . . faith, hope, love . . . .

Faith makes all things possible . . .

Hope makes all things work . . .

Love makes all things beautiful . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

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