A Woman, A Whip, And A Walnut Tree?
“Families can be extremely resilient but there’s nothing like a visit from the police and national headline news to test its strength. There’s also nothing like knowing your father would attack you for crying over wanting to go to a party and not wanting to talk to him about it because you know you’re too upset. He knows he crossed the line, evident by the fact that he encouraged his older daughter to falsify her police report. Protecting his public image cannot be more important than providing a home where the women in his life feel safe.” So said Bella in her post: The Blurry Line for Creflo Dollar Between Discipline and Abuse.
We’ll never get all the facts on this sad story but that won’t stop a lot of people appointing themselves as judge-and-jury. What supercharges this apparent abuse is the dad’s position as pastor of a mega-church and the damage this incident brings to his ministry. It’s a reasonable guess that all the actions were expressions of anger in the heat of the moment but it’s also likely that the situation had been building for a while. These things don’t just happen.
Did the daughter win?
She succeeded in establishing her rights as an emerging (adult) person with sustainable independence from her dad and her ability to assert control. She now has new status and will be treated differently. Part of the price of this new-found independence is the damage she has succeeded in bringing to her father’s ministry and reputation. The judge-and-jury group will decide who is right etc, but there’s no escaping that he has suffered a significant blow.
So has she. There will be some (perhaps her dad’s strongest supporters) who will see her as the enemy, maybe even as the devil, and they will do their best to destroy her credibility and reputation, even as they try to rebuild his. The world needs scapegoats and she may have unwittingly volunteered for the role. Going back to church as a labelled person will be tricky. Expect her relationship with dad to be strained for a long time.
She might have learned another important lesson about relationships and dealing with “power” people. Many years of observation and attempting to resolve messy relationships leads to the conclusion that it takes two to tango. We generally agree that the abuser has a problem which needs urgent and specific attention; but we often neglect to notice that the recipient of the abuse isn’t always squeaky clean either. Baiting bulls is not usually a particularly intelligent thing to do (although it may qualify as fun, all that changes when the bull charges.) Escalating a hot-button situation isn’t so smart either. It is not necessary to win every battle the moment the lines are drawn. Because teenagers are still invincible it can take them a while to catch on to this. Add in personality issues and long-running battles between teenagers and parents, with the usual doses of teenage belligerence and voilà, we have fire. She’s really won if she’s worked out it’s better to back off, let everyone cool off, clue in to what’s really happening and come back to it later (in a better time and place.) Not every battle is worth winning so choose carefully. Adults have to learn to not behave like kids.
Did Dad win?
He’s just worked out she’s too old for spankings, that she can fight back with incredibly damaging results which bust his credibility, reputation, and example. This will bring a new focus to his ministry while he lives this event down and tries to rebuild what he suddenly lost.
His daughter is now in a delicate position regarding her faith – it may not show for a while, but, depending on how his church treats her, she may be driven away from faith. Imagine the impact of a daughter who openly abandons her faith and adopts the lifestyle of a non-Christian (the sort of thing that makes many pastors castaways – He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect . If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how will he take care of God’s church?” ) There’s relationship repair required – urgently. The price tag is high. this is no time for mounting high horses.
If his daughter is out of control, it didn’t just happen. It all began years ago and has accumulated over time until it emerges in her demands and resistance. That means it is now too late for resolution with a whip (if it ever could have been resolved that way.) Maybe it can be fixed, maybe it will have to run its course, but his greatest service to her now is to restore his relationship with her – whatever it takes. Pastor’s kids get a raw deal: can’t do what other kids can do, have to share their parents with dysfunctional people, always expected to be perfect, constant criticism, used as pawns by sick people in their constant power struggles, church and church issues always come home, . . . it’s a long list which makes you wonder how any survive with faith intact. Dad has received his warning: it’s time to leave the office and show up at home for quality time. Time to drop the “authority” and “power” mindset. Time to rebuild whatever you can in a few short years.
The Gift to the Church.
Going back to church is hard. He has to save face and many in the church need to find a way to put him back on his pedestal (for their own sake, not for his.) This is the ultimate test of credibility for the church: can they deal with this situation equitably and without making anyone a scapegoat? Can they resist blaming and creatively rehabilitate both father and daughter? Can they respond by developing solutions and using their resources to foster restoration and growth? They have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate grace and reality, to apply faith to real life, to inspire others who have teenagers to lose the whip and build the relationship. They’re facing a powerful ministry opportunity.
Here’s some of their choices:
- dad’s right; the kid is bad. This one justifies the dad, vilifies the girl, back to business as usual. Denial.
- dad’s wrong; the kid is bad. Slap dad’s hand but he’s still justified. Fails to grasp the issues.
- dad’s a dad: the kid’s a kid. No blame, no contest, no winner, let’s work out how to do better.
- Someone is lying. Raises trust issues especially concerning dad. Crisis simmers.
- Both are lying. Bigger trust issues, no one is justified. Crisis builds head of steam.
- dad’s wrong; kid is right. He’s an abuser and this needs to be addressed, it will also run through the church and its ministries. Need to trace all the tentacles, deal with them and establish victim support. Significant ministry potential makes a disaster an opportunity.
The way of faith demands we mute our criticism and judgment, pray for these people in their time of trouble, consider ourselves and what we do, reach out and support families around us. Dollar’s crisis alerts us to an all too common struggle, it can inspire us to more effective ministry to teens and their families, to parents and their struggles. How will we use the opportunity?
- Local NAACP investigates pastor’s arrest (newblackwoman.com)
- Atl 2012: Pastor Creflo Dollar Arrested for Abusing 15yr Old Daughter; Gone Too Far? (brittaj17.wordpress.com)
Posted on June 20, 2012, in Communicating faith, Relationships and tagged child abuse, Creflo Dollar, faith, Family, Father, healthy relationships, power struggles, raising teens. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.