ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS June 14, 2023 There are times in life when we need to be corrected and times when we need to be jolted into an awareness of how our language may have been triggering and painful for others. Since the 2018 Olympics, I have been using the phrase: Cypress Creek Christian Church is a Training Center for the Love First Life. In the lead-up to the Olympics that year, I saw all kinds of reports from the different Training Centers across the United States preparing athletes for their specific sports. It seemed like the perfect language for us to use here at Cypress Creek until yesterday. I started watching the documentary, "Shiny Happy People," on Prime. I knew some of what the Duggar family (TV show on TLC) was about—some of their fundamentalist beliefs, misogynistic attitudes, and the scandals that rocked the fascade of their family life. What I didn’t understand was the influence of IBLP and Bill Gothard. The Institute in Basic Life Principles (sounds rather harmless) has been the source of extraordinary damage to so many young people over the years, all in the name of good Christian values. It provided permission and cover for both all kinds of abuse, and one of the places where there were questionable child labor issues alongside the abuse was in IBLP’s “Training Centers” across the country. Millions of people attended IBLP seminars, and tens of thousands spent time at the Training Centers. Some folks may read this and suggest it is an overreaction, but when someone is in the process of recovering from a fear-based patriarchal system of abuse (and I am talking with these people on a nearly weekly basis), to have another church speak of a "Training Center" conjures up the painful memories. I’m not absolutely sure what I'm going to do in this moment, but the language we use is important. Sometimes language can be redeemed and used in a new way, but other times we need to tread lightly. The Apostle Paul, in his First Letter to the Church in Corinth, talks about meat sacrificed to idols. At first, he seemed dismissive of people’s concerns. There is only one God, and so the idea of good food being ruined/corrupted because it had been a part of a sacrifice at some temple to one of the Roman gods is nonsense. Then Paul pulled back and spoke with more compassion, suggesting that there are those who are vulnerable because of emotional and spiritual injury and that it really isn’t a big deal for those who do not know that pain to find some meat that wasn’t sacrificed to idols. Sometimes our language has been sacrificed at the altar of some very destructive gods, and we need to respect those who are trying to recover from the trauma and abuse.
Through your grace and mercy, O God, I pray for awareness and compassion as I think of those who have been injured and traumatized by religion. As we seek to offer an alternative, let us be mindful of how our language may in fact be triggering. May the Love First Life be about sanctuary for those seeking to heal. Amen.