Tamar and Amnon

Tamar and Amnon


Hope wrote a posting on the forum about the deep betrayal of the church today both in its response to the abuse she experienced as a child and in how it dealt with her perpetrator. Someone replied to Hope, saying, "Perhaps you've heard this before, it is something that took me a while to really understand, but God is not in any institution - and institutions can't nurture and/or care. They are all about power and protecting something they call 'order.' God is good because God doesn't care about the institution or its order, but sits with us and cries and laughs and encourages, and hopes when we can't hope anymore."

The following is Hope's response:

I agree with you to a point when you said that "God is not in any institution" and that "institutions can't nurture and/or care," but I am not talking about a generic institution. I am talking about an institution called a mission sending organization. We should hold them to a higher standard of accountability, and may I be arrogant enough to say, "as I believe God does."

When my parents were "called by God" to go to the mission field, the organization became the moral authority and the authoritarian leadership in my parents' lives, and consequently in my life as a child. The mission board dictated doctrine, dictated decisions to the missionaries and dictated how they should think and feel. Now, my parents made the choice to give up big parts of themselves to allow such authoritarian leadership and they are culpable for that. That is how I came to grow up in the boarding school that was under the same authoritarian leadership and that was staffed by employees of the organization. That authoritarian leadership fostered the secrecy, the rigid thinking, the blatant disregard of a child's needs which promoted abuse of children at many levels. I would argue that the organization became more than just an institution to me and my family - it became our extended family, with the leaders as the authoritarian patriarchs and the missionary families as "the children" whose role was to obey without questioning.

The "missionary family" fits the profile of a rigid, fundamental structure in which members who are evil can perpetrate their evil while easily hiding behind the outward appearance of being good. That is how a staff member could preach to the school on Sunday morning and rape the girls that night. I am a survivor of this "family". I did not choose to be a part of this larger missionary family and I do not have to participate in the family as an adult. But there is still a longing for truth and mercy and justice within the context of the family.

In II Samuel 13 a story is told of a similar family - a family that was in spiritual leadership of Israel, but there was violence and sexual predators within the ranks. David was patriarch. Son Amnon preyed on sister Tamar. Typical of an abusive family, Amnon schemed with a cousin to trap Tamar and he raped her. As the predator, Amnon then turned on Tamar and vilified her. She was despairing and here is the worst part of all for Tamar: she did not hide the evil that was done to her. She told the world by going into mourning. BUT NO ONE DID A THING ABOUT THE EVIL PERPETRATED AGAINST HER. It says that brother Absalom actually asked her about what happened, but told her to forget it since a family member was the perpetrator and told her to get over it. Even her father, David, found out all that happened. Yes, he was angry, but he didn't do a damn thing to pursue justice or to extend mercy to his daughter. The outcome? Tamar lived out the rest of her life "desolate" - she lived without hope, without any joy in her heart, living in the shadows of despair.

The worst thing that happened to Tamar was not the rape. As deep a trauma as that is, a woman has an amazing capacity to heal. She told her story - she was even believed, BUT SHE WAS NOT EXTENDED MERCY. Her family did not weep with her. KEEPING FAMILY SECRETS WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN STATING TRUTH. The evil of her brother was not exposed to the world because the family had a reputation to maintain. THERE WAS NO PURSUIT OF JUSTICE FOR THE EVIL DONE. That is what doomed Tamar to a life of despair.

This story illustrates, for me, how crucial it is that mission boards and denominations be proactive when victims come forward. Their utmost, first priority, needs to be the needs of the victim. That is sadly lacking in any response I have experienced from the denomination. Yes, I have found healing for my soul from many different sources, but there is a part of my soul that is bruised, and sometimes bleeds, because "the family" has not done the right thing. I am most concerned for the many victims who have not sought out the resources I have and who need a good response from the church, but are not getting it. How many Tamar's are there? Only God knows.

Written by: Hope, Survivor of Mamou Alliance Academy,
December 2000