The Good Place: Sexual Abuse, Church, and Why Everything is NOT Fine

Netflix cheating and shows about Hell. 

My husband and I have a very strict rule in our marriage:

No Netflix cheating.

If you do not know, Netflix cheating is when you watch episodes of certain series without your significant other present. I struggled with remaining Netflix faithful during summer vacation; I just had so much free time.

My solution to keep myself Netflix monogamous is to get deep into shows my husband has no interest in watching; I can binge watch in peace, and the hubs isn’t subjected to watching 8 seasons of The Gilmore Girls.

My new alone-time binge series is “The Good Place.”

To serve the purpose of a rant I am going to go on shortly, here are a few spoilers from the show. You have been sufficiently warned.

“The Good Place” is about a woman named Eleanor Shellstrop who, in the pilot episode, dies and goes to The Good Place. However, a problem arises when Eleanor realizes she doesn’t actually belong there. She has lived a terrible life, and has accidentally taken the place of another Eleanor who was in turn sent to The Bad Place. In an attempt to remain in The Good Place, Eleanor begins taking ethics lessons from her friend (and soul mate) Chidi.

Okay, so all of this info is in the general description of the show, but here’s the spoiler: at the end of season one, Eleanor makes a frightening discovery:

The Good Place is actually The Bad Place! 

Michael, the architect of The Bad Place, created a unique form of torture for Eleanor and three others, to put them through mental and emotional torment.

The show is downright hilarious, and actually quite thought provoking, so even though I have kind of ruined the big plot twist, you should watch it anyway.

I promise I have a good reason for the spoilers.

Fake news and a real shame

Over the last week, I wish Trump was right, and everything I was reading in the local news was fake.

*Side note: Should be the only time I ever utter the words, “I wish Trump was right.”

This past week, news broke of a local pastor and his wife who have been charged with 28 sexual abuse related charges. Sadly, these charges were no surprise to my household because, for a short time, my husband and I attended the church in question.

My husband and I had left the church by the time these charges came to light. Several other issues had came to our attention regarding the leadership and the treatment of the congregation which urged us to leave. We were upset to hear the stories from the girls, and about the charges laid, but we were by no means taken aback. The behaviour described by the girls, and inferred by the charges, are in line with behaviour we witnessed when we attended the church.

I have no doubt in my mind; these are not false accusations.

I watched interviews with the senior pastor (the accused’s father) on local news stations whilst screaming, “LIES,” at the television screen. He stood in front of his church building, claiming all these charges were a huge surprise to him, and included that he’s refusing to choose sides. He said this while also lamenting about how his son’s education will now be rendered useless.

*I interrupt this broadcast for a dose of reality: Hey, guess what? If a teacher, who went to school for teaching, started beating their students, they would no longer be permitted to teach. This kind of behaviour would be considered inappropriate and they would have to find a new profession. I would say the same should be true for a pastor who sexually assaults and spiritually manipulates their congregants. If you want a job where this kind of behaviour is appropriate, become a pirate, not a pastor.

As news came out, I had two conflicting thoughts:

  1. Good! These people should not receive anymore anonymity or enabling for their crimes.
  2. Bad! Why is the “church” so often the hub for this nonsense?

“Wait a second, THIS is The Bad Place!”- Eleanor Shellstrop 

tenor
https://tenor.com/view/nbc-the-good-place-the-good-place-gifs-holy-mother-forking-shirt-balls-kristen-bell-gif-9684992

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize this situation. I attended the church in question long enough to witness this Christian-Phenomena happen many times. When the accused were arrested, their pastor/father took to Facebook to write, “If you know us and our church please pray. We are under attack like never before and we need the accuser of the saints to be silenced and Truth prevail.”

Two days later he wrote, “Thank you to everyone who is praying for us and expressing love at this time. You are making a difference. This is a time when we must not believe with our eyes and ears but with our spirits. Let God be true and every man a liar. Can’t be specific at this time but your prayers are making a difference.”

Other news posts on Facebook were peppered with comments from people saying things like, “The devil is running rampant,” and “These pastors are under attack.”

It can be easy for Christians to over-spiritualize things. But what if we didn’t?

Young girls were spiritually manipulated and sexually assaulted by their pastor and his wife.

This couple has also been enabled to behave like this for many years by their parents (and senior pastors), which also points to their abuse of spiritual authority.

There is no need to find flowery Christian language to frame this situation in an effort to protect the church.

What if we just said it? THIS is a Bad Place!

Pobody’s Nerfect!

170105_3449893_What_s_My_Motivation___Extended_Cut_anvver_1
http://www.spoilertv.com/2017/01/the-good-place-whats-my-motivation.html

I have never been so critical of my own discernment before. How could I have been friends with these people? How did we attend this church for any amount of time? How did I let myself be so manipulated by this couple? Because I was all of those things, as painful and embarrassing as it is to admit. I was their friend, I was a volunteer in their church, and I was spiritually manipulated by them.

My experience at this church was particularly painful as it was my grand return to church after several years. The pastors appeared compassionate and welcoming to me when I was at a personal “church-low,” and so, despite several red-flags, I stuck around. When it came time for my husband and I to step down from leadership, we were slandered and gossiped about. Instead of announcing our stepping down from leadership on a Sunday while we were still attending, the pastors waited until we were gone to proclaim to the congregation, “Well, we thought we heard from God about those two, but I guess we were wrong.”

The church is never going to be perfect, because people, in general, are a mess. There are churches with good protocol, safe leaders, healthy accountability, and trustworthy financials. There are some churches that, may not be perfect, but they are good places. However, let us not be so naive or so proud to think that because we are in a church, it is a safe, healthy place to be.

Welcome. Everything is Fine. 

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/09/the-good-place-review-kristen-bell-ted-danson-nbc-season-1-1201726723/
THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

In the finale episode of “The Good Place,” Eleanor thanks her friend Chidi by telling him, “It’s like I was dropped in a cave, and you were my flashlight.”

Throughout scripture, Jesus is referred to as a “light,” and it is true, He is. It is not “the devil” who reveals sins. The darkness is about lies, and hiding. It is the light which reveals sin and creates opportunities for the sinner to either seek repentance or a darker corner to hide in.

Spiritual manipulation can really leave a person grappling with their faith in God; wondering what “side” Jesus will be taking: the victim or the pastor. Some Christians would say that Jesus is not taking sides; he’s somewhere in the middle. I would have to disagree with this sentiment. It sounds a lot more like Jesus’ character to seek justice for those who are oppressed than it is to believe He is passively standing in the middle shrugging his shoulders.

The ladies who have stepped forward about their abuse and their abuser, who had the bravery to say everything is NOT fine, are the flashlights in the dark cave. They have not only revealed the sins of the pastors, but they have also lit a path for others who have not yet been able to step forward and name what has happened to them.

Being the first ones to come forward, to be the whistle blowers, is not an easy place to be in. It is a hard place to be, it is a vulnerable place to be… but it’s a good place.

How To Forget Where You Live

Hi.

My name is Ashley,

And I’m a stalker.

*Insert many other voices greeting me in unison*

Don’t worry; there is not some poor schmuck somewhere whose unrequited love has driven me into hysteria. No, the object of my stalking is actually a house, to be more specific, the house I grew up in.

My family moved into our house when I was about three years old, and we didn’t move again until I was ten. Almost every fond childhood memory I have took place in or around that house. I learned how to swing on the swing set in the backyard. I fell in love with the boy across the street. I had Christmas’, birthdays, and Easter egg hunts in that house. I did homework, playtime, family dinners, and jumping on the bed in that house. I loved that house. I don’t think we would have ever moved out if it hadn’t have been for my parents divorce, but that is neither here nor there. We moved and since then I have moved over 15 times.

So yes, on lonely days, lost days, cold days, or if I just happen to be in the neighborhood, I stalk my old house.

I say stalk because I always feel supremely creepy when I’m doing it. I don’t peek in the windows or sneak around the side or anything, I just drive by… really slowly. Like, imagine slow, and then go slower, that is how slowly I drive by the house. I do not mean to make it look as creepy as I imagine it looking, I just get lost in thought and can’t help but linger.

I envision what my adolescence would have looked like in my house. I scoff at how poorly the new owners have kept up the lawn, and can almost hear my father’s voice saying, “All the time I put in, and look at what a mess they’ve made.” My eyes drift across the street, and I think about the little boy I loved for so many years. I think of my summers with him jumping through sprinklers, and eating watermelon popsicles. I see the shed in the backyard I was convinced had monsters in it for an embarrassingly long time. I smell my mom’s cooking and remember her as did when I was little. I even drive down the back alley to peak at where my tree house use to stand, and am still flabbergasted as to why anyone would want to tear down such a magnificent structure. I see my mom and dad sitting on the patio on a sunny morning, my mom with a book, and my dad with his smokes.

And for just a moment, I feel like I am home. Then I drive back to real life.

In Between Addresses

“What do you mean you don’t know your address?” says a judgmental sounding voice on the other side of the phone from a bridge toll company that shall remain nameless.

“Well, I just moved, so I don’t know my new address.”

“Well, what was your last address?”

“I don’t think I ever got around to giving you my last address, so I think what you’re actually looking for is the address before last.”

“Fine, give me that address.”

“Yeah, I can’t remember that one.”

“Well isn’t that the address on your drivers license?”

“No, no, my drivers license has the address from before that on it. Do you want that one?”

*Insert stunned, frustrated silence*

This conversation and others like it are the reasons why, “Can I have your address?” has become a remarkably challenging question for me. Every short-term address I hand out is just another piece of mail I’ll have to redirect later, and it’s strangely exhausting. It makes me feel like I’m floating in between where I am, and some mysterious place I will be 6 to 12 months from now. With every piece of mail that gets lost in between addresses, it just reminds me that I’m wandering, and suddenly I become terribly unsettled.

Hopeless Wanderer

“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”- Mumford and Sons

Life has changed a lot for me over the past few years. I have lived on another continent, I have adjusted back, I have gotten engaged, I have gotten married, I have been fired, I have been hired, I have lost old friends, gained new friends and, of course, I have moved.

With all of the changes, my biggest struggle has been to refrain from stalking my past. It is so easy to look back on what could have been, how I would have hoped to be treated by people, how I would have liked to end or start something, or the homes I wish I hadn’t moved out of, but there’s no use in dwelling on my shoulda, coulda, wouldas’. I can do a drive-by every now and again, but at the end of the day, it is just a waste of time and gas.

Instead I just need to learn to love the skies I’m under. Thank God for the lovely things I’ve had, the ridiculous crap I’ve endured, and the feet He has allowed me to keep wandering with.

A Prayer for the Hopeless Wanderers

I pray not that you stop moving, but that the Lord gives you sturdy shoes to travel in.

I know that when it rains, it pours, so I pray for umbrellas, rubber boots, and an internal knowing of how to clean up after a flood.

I pray that the Lord accompanies you on all your journeys, so that no matter how far away you go (and even if you’ve forgotten the address that gets you there), you always feel at home.